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Why do the wedge-like forms of flocks of wild-geese so often change during their flight?
Because, it is conjectured, of the leader of the van quitting his post at the point of the angle through fatigue, and leaving his place to be filled by another, himself dropping into the rear.
Why is the pied oyster-catcher so called?
Because it feeds on oysters and limpets, and its bill is so well adapted to force asunder the valves of the one, and of raising the other from the rock, that 'the Author of nature,' as Derham says, 'seems to have framed it purely for that use.'
Why has it been thought that the tropical regions are deficient in birds of song?
Because, from the abundance of the pice tribe, such as parrots, and some others of harsh note, it is probable that their sounds, in the tropical woods, often overpower and confound the more soft and sweet modulations of the warbler tribe. Still, it is a very unfounded notion that in the New World the brilliant hues of the birds take the place of the power of song. On the contrary, it would appear, from Wilson's American Ornithology, that the American song-birds are infinitely more numerous than those of Europe, and many of them superior to our most celebrated songsters.
Why was the vulture held sacred by the Egyptians? Because it was extremely serviceable in destroying mice, lizards, &c; whence they have frequently represented it in the hieroglyphics on their obelisks, the coverings of their mummies, &c. -- Blumenbach.
Why is a certain species called 'the King of the vul
Because it has been placed at the head of the vulture tribe, on account of the superior beauty of its external appearance. Waterton, a recent traveller, asserts, that when the king of the vultures is present, the inferior species do not attempt to touch the prey til! the king is satisfied.
Why are marine shells to be found buried in the plains, or in the sides of the mountains, of South Africa?
Because they have been carried there by birds, and not, as has been generally supposed, by eruptions of the sea. Mr Barrow, who is of this opinion, tells us, in confirmation of it, that 'there is scarcely a sheltered cavern in the sides of the mountains that rise immediately from the sea, where living shell-fish may not be found any day in the year. Crows even, and vultures, as well as aquatic birds, detach the shell-fish from the rocks, and mount with them into the air: shells, thus carried, are said to be frequently found on the very summit of the Table Mountain. In one cavern, at the point of Mussel Bay,' he adds, 'I disturbed some thousands of birds, and found as many thousands of living shell-fish, scattered on the surface of a heap of shells, that, for aught I know, would have filled as many thousand wagons.' The story, therefore, of the ancient philosopher, whose bald pate one of these unlucky birds mistook for a stone, and dropped a shell upon, thereby killing at once both fish and philosopher, is not so tramontane as to stumble all belief.
Why have parrots, in general, striking peculiarities in their manners?
Because they have the power of using their feet almost like hands; as for carrying food to their mouths, scratching behind their heads, &c. When they walk on the ground, they tread not merely on the claws,like other birds, but on the whole of the foot. Their hook
shaped upper mandible is articulated, very moveable, and serves the purpose of a third foot in climbing. Why is the Guinea parrot, in French, called 'l'insé- ` parable'?
Because it has been said, but untruly, that they must always be kept in pairs, a single one not surviving the loss of its mate.
Why are many families of parrots found only in districts of very limited extent?
Because their wings are short, and unfitted for long flights. This is, at least, one cause. In the Philippines, for instance, many families of parrots are confined to particular islands, and never met with on others lying in the immediate vicinity. — Blumenbach.
Why is the toucan also called the 'Egg-sucker'?
Because it chiefly feeds on the eggs found in other birds' nests.
Why has the toucan a broad and long bill, covered with branches of nerves?
Because the nests in which it finds its food are often very deep and dark, and this provision enables the bird to feel its way as accurately as the finest and most delicate finger could.
Why is the downy wood-pecker so destructive to the orchards of North America?
Because it makes one hole close to another, in a horizontal line, till it has completed a circle of holes all round the tree.
Why is the hook-billed red-creeper so highly-prized in the Sandwich Isles?
Because the ingenious natives manufacture various articles of ornament and dress, as helmets, and even entire mantles, with its carmine red feathers.
Why are humming-birds so called?
Because they are almost continually on the wing, fluttering like bees, and making a humming noise. They are so small as to be worn as ear-rings by the Judian ladies. When dried, the least of them weigh only about twenty grains each. The nest is of cotton, and about the size of a walnut, with two eggs about as big as peas.
Why does the carrion-crow of America differ materially from the bird so common in England?
Because of its greater rapacity as well as tameness. Thus,in the cities where they are protected,they enter the very kitchen, and feed on whatever is thrown to them,even vegetables. Ifunmolested they will remain in the same premises for months, flying to the roof at dusk to spend the night. Six or seven are often seen standing,in cold weather, round the funnel of a chimney, apparently enjoying the heat from the smoke. Notwithstanding the penalties imposed by law, a number of these birds are destroyed on account of their audacious pilfering. They seize young pigs as great dainties. They watch the cackling hen, in order to get the fresh egg from her nest; and they will not hesitate to swallow a brood of young ducks. In order to keep them from the roofs of houses, where their dung is detrimental, the inhabitants guard the top with broken pieces of glass fastened in mortar; and they often kill them by throwing boiling water upon them. No fewer than two hundred of these birds are daily fed by the city of Natchez.-Audubon.
BIRD OP PARADISE.
Why were birds of paradise formerly thought to be without feet?
Because they were and are worn as ornaments in 11*
India, on account of their beautiful plumage; and when sold for this purpose, the Passous still cut, off the feet. -- Blumenbach.
Why is the indicator also called the 'honey-cuckoo'? Because, like the honey-bear,* it obtains its food from the nests of the wild bees.
Why is the indicator protected by the Hottentots? Because, by its notes, it is said to conduct them to the nests of the wild bees.
Why is the pensile loxia of the Cape and Madagascar so called?
Because it builds a remarkable nest, in the vicinity of water, in shape almost like a retort, with a depending neck for ingress and egress, and so disposed that - Blumenbach. the aperture is close to the water.
Why do many birds of warm climates build pendulous nests, which are attached to the extreme branches of trees?
Because there only are they secure from their enemies, the snakes and monkeys.
Why is the mocking-bird so called?
Because, in addition to the fulness and melody of his original notes, he has the faculty of imitating the notes of all other birds, from the humming-bird to the eagle. In measure and accent he faithfully follows his originals, while in force and sweetness of expression he greatly improves upon them. A bystander might suppose that the whole feathered tribes had assembled together on a trial of skill, each striving to produce his utmost effect, so perfect are his imitations. He often deceives the sportsman, and even
*See Quadrupeds, p. 18.