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THE RED-BACKED PELICAN-THE DARTER TRIBE.
this manner they supply a very plentiful table; but still their natur : gluttony cannot be reclaimed even by education. They have always a string fastened round their throats while they fisb, for the purpose of preventing them from swallowing their prey; as they would otherwise at once satiate themselves, and discontinue their pursuit.
THE RED-BACKED PELICAN,
Mr. Lewis, a navy surgeon, described to Dr. Latham the mode in
which a Red-backed Pelican, that had been bro::ght up tame, stowed its food into its pouch. Like others of its race, it was very voracious. A number of different sized fishes were laid before it on the ground. The bird first attempted to take up one that weighed ten pounds, but the bill was much too weak for this exertion; it, however, picked up as many as ten others, each of which weighed about a pound, arranged them in rows, with their heads
towards the throat; and after this, it walked off in a stately manner, with the bag hanging down to its feet. The pouch held about two gallons of water.
OF THE DARTER TRIBE IN GENERAL.
THESE birds have a small head, and a very long and slender neck. Their bill is long, straight, and sharp-pointed, and, at its base, are the nostrils, situated in a long and conspicuous fissure. The face and chin are bare of feathers. The legs are short, and the four toes are all well webbed together.
There are but three ascertained species of this tribe, and these are confined to the hot latitudes; two to America, and the third princi. pally to Ceylon and Java. They live almost entirely on fish, which they take by darting forward their bill. They generally build their nests and roost in the trees.
THE BLACK-BELLIED DARTER, AND THE WHITE-BELLIED DARTER.
In countries where every one's ideas run on poisonous animals, any person who sces only the head and neck of the Black-bellied Darter, while the rest of the body is concealed among the foliage, would naturally mistake it for one of those serpents accustomed to climb into and reside in trees. And the illusion is increased by its
THE BLACK AND WHITE-BELLIED DARTERS,
having all the tortuous motion of those reptiles. In whatever situa. tion it happens to be, whether swimming, flying, or at rest, the most apparent and remarka. ble part of its body is its long and slender neck, which is constantly in motion, except during flight, when it be.
imniovable and extended, und forms, with the tail, a perfectly straight and horizontal line.
The principal food of the Black-bellied Darter is fish, which, if small enough, it swallows entire; but, if they are too large, it flies off with them to some rock or stump of a tree, where, fixing them under one of its feet, it tears them to pieces with its bill.
Though water is its principal element, yet this bird builds its nest and rears its offspring on rocks and trees; but always on those that are so near to the rivers, that it can, either in case of danger, or when the young ones are old enough to swim, precipitate them into it.
There are few birds that exceed these in sagacity and cunning, particularly when surprised on the water. In this situation it is almost impossible to kill them. Their head, which is the only part exposed, disappears the instant the flint touches the hammer of the gun; and, if once missed, it is in vain to think of approaching them a second tiine, as they never show themselves more than once, unless at very great distances, and then only for the moment necessary for breathing. In short, so cunning are they, that they will often baffle the sportsman, by plunging at the distance of a hundred paces above, and rising again to breathe at the distance of more than a thousand below him; and if they have the good fortune to find any reeds, they conceal themselves there, and entirely disappear.
These birds are found in several parts of the south of Africa, an: in the islands of Ceylon and Java.
The Whitc-bellied Darters, according to the account of Mr. Bartram, are natives of America. He states, that they have a peculiar manner of spreading out their tail, like an unfurled fan. They delight to sit in little peaceable communities, on the dry limbs of trees, hanging over the still waters, with their wings and tail expanded; and, when
approached, they drop from the limb into the water, as if dead, and
for a minute or two are not seen, when, on a sudden, at a vast distance, their long slender heads and decks are raised, and have inuch the appearance of spakes, as no other parts of the body are to be seen when swimming, except sometimes the tip of the tail. In the heat of the day they are often seen in great numbers
sailing high in the air over the rivers WMTE-BELLIED DARTER.
In the Divers the bill is slender, pointed, and nearly straight; the nostrils are linear, and situated at the base. The tongue is long and slender; and the legs are placed backwards near the tail.
These birds walk awkwardly, and with great difficulty ; but they fly very swiftly along the surface of the water, and swim and dive with remarkable dexterity. One division of them, the Guillemots, chiefly inhabit the sea; but the rest seldom frequent any but rivers and fresh-water lakes. They all live on fish.
THE NORTHERN DIVER, OR LOON.
Every part and proportion of this bird is so incomparably adapted
to its mode of life, that in no instance do we see the wis. dom of God in the creation to more ad. vantage. The heart is sharp; and smaller than the part of the neck adjoining, in order that it may pierce the water: the wings are placed forward, and out of the centre of grav. ity; for a purpose
which will be noticed hereafter: the thighs are quite backward, in order to facilitate diving; and the legs are flat, and almost as sharp backwards as the edge of a knife, that, in striking they may easily cut the water: while the feet are broad for swimming; yet so folded up, when
OF THE GULLS IN GENERAL. ..''}
advanced forward to take a fresh stroke, as to be full as narrow as the shank. The two exterior toes of the feet are longest; and the nails are flat and broad, resembling those of the human body; which give strength to the bird, and increase its power of swimming. The foot, when expanded, is not at right angles to the leg; but the exterior part, inclining towards the head, forms an acute angle with the body: the intention being, not to give motion in the line of the legs themselves, but by the combined impulse of both in an intermediate line, the line of the body.
M jst people who have exercised any degree of observation, know that the swimming of birds is nothing more than walking in the water, where one foot succeeds the other as on the land ; but no one, as far as I am aware, says the Rev. Mr. White, has remarked that diving-fowls, while under water, impel and row themselves forward by a motion of their wings, as well as by the impulse of their feet: yet such is really the case, as auy one may easily be convinced, who will observe ducks when hunted by dogs in a clear pond. Nor do I know that any one has given a reason why the wings of diving.fowls are placed so forward: doubtless, not for the purpose of promoting their speed in flying, since that position certainly impedes it: but probably for the increase of their motion under water, by the use of four oars instead of two; and were the wings and feet nearer together, as in land birds, they would, when in action, rather hinder than assist one another. w
OF THE GULLS IN GENERAL.
THEIR bill is strong, straight, and slightly hooked at the point. On the under part of the lower mandible there is an angular promi. nence. The nostrils are oblong and narrow, placed in the middle of the bill; and the tongue is somewhat cloven. The legs are short, and naked above the knees; and the back toe is small.
The Gulls frequent chiefly the northern countries, and their habits differ from those of most other water-fowl. They do not dive so much as others; but they usually feed on the gregarious species of fish and their fry, which they catch near the surface of the water. When the sea is rough they come into the harbors, where they feed on worms. They are exceedingly voracious; and, when terrified, throw up their undigested food. By the lightness of their body, and the length of their
wings, they are enabled to fly with considerable rapidity. The young.ones do not become of the same color with the old birds, until their third year. The eggs are eatable, but their flesh is generally tough and unpleasant.
THE SKUA GULL.
The Skua Gull inhabits Norway, the Feroe islands, and other parts
of the north of Europe. It is the most formidable bird of its tribe; its prey being not only fish, but (what is won. derful in a web-footed biru) all the lesser sorts of water-fowl, and (according to the account of Mr. Schroter, a surgeon of the Feroe Isles) Ducks, Poultry, and even young Lambs.
In defending its offspring it has the fierceness of the Eagle. When the inhabitants of the Feroe islands visit the
nest of the Skua Gull, he parent birds attack them with such force, that, if they hold a knife perpendicularly over their heads, the Gulls will sometimes transfix themselves in their fall on the plunderers.
In Foula, the Skua Gulls are privileged; being said to defend the flocks from the attacks of the Eagle, which they beat off and pursue with great fury; so that even that rapacious bird seldom ventures to approach the places which they inhabit. The natives of Foula on this account impose a fine upon any person who destroys one of these useful defenders: and deny that they ever injure their flocks or poultry; but imagine them to live only on the dung of the Arctic Gull and other larger birds.
This species very common in most parts of America, is also
frequent in Europe, particularly in the warmer parts, as the coasts of Sicily, Spain, and
and the islands of the Med. iterranean; else. where, in that continent it is rare and accidental. In America it is found as far south as Cay. enne and Mexico but does not appear to inhabit far tortb of the limits of the Union. On the