Abbildungen der Seite

birds themselves are sometimes imposed upon by this, admirable music. In confinement he loses little of the power or energy of his song. He whistles for the dog: Cæsar starts up, wags his tail, and runs to meet his master. He cries like a hurt chicken, and the hen hurries about, with feathers on end, to protect her injured brood. He repeats the tune taught him, though it be of considerable length, with great accuracy. He runs over the notes of the canary, and of the red-bird, with such superior execution and effect, that the mortified songsters confess his triumph by their silence. His fondness for variety some suppose to injure his song. His imitations of the brown thrush are often interrupted by the crowing of cocks; and his exquisite warblings after the blue-bird, are mingled with the screaming of swallows, or the cackling of hens. During moonlight, both in the wild and tame state, he sings the whole night long. The hunters, in their night excursions, know that the moon is rising the instant they begin to hear his delightful solo. Rennie.

Mr Southey, in his notes to Madoc, says, ' A negress was once heard to exclaim, 'Please God Almighty, how sweet that mocking-bird sing! he never tire.' By day and night it sings alike; when weary of mocking others, the bird takes up its own natural strain, and so joyous a creature is it, that it will jump and dance to its own music. This bird is perfectly domestic, the Americans holding it sacred. Would that we had more of these humane prejudices in England, if that word may be applied to a feeling so good in itself, and in its tendency.'


Why is the snow-bunting so called?

Because it is the only living creature that is found at the height of 2000 feet above the limit of perpetual


The snow-finch is found on Caucasus and the European Alps.


Why is the red-eyed fly-catcher in the West Indies called Tom Kelly"?


Because his notes are in short emphatic bars of two, three, or four syllables; and on listening to his song, you may fancy you hear the words, Tom Kelly whip! Tom Kelly!' very distinctly. -- Rennie.



Why is the tailor-bird so called?

Because of the art with which it makes its nest; sewing some dry-leaves to a green one at the extremity of a twig, and thus forming a hollow cone, which it afterwards lines with feathers. It is found in India, and is smaller than a wren.


[ocr errors]


Why is the sea-swallow also called 'the gull teazer' ? Because it is frequently seen to pursue and persecute the lesser guils, till they disgorge their food, which it dexterously catches before it reaches the



Why are the wild pigeons of America so celebrated? Because of their great power of flight, which enables them, when in need, to survey and pass over an astonishing extent of country in a very short time. This is proved by facts known to the greater number of observers in America. Pigeons, for example, have been killed in the neighbourhood of New York, with their crops still filled with rice, collected by them in the fields of Georgia and Carolina, the nearest point at which this supply could possibly have been obtained; and as it is well ascertained, that, owing to their great power of digestion, they will decompose food entirely

in twelve hours, they must have travelled between 300 and 400 miles in six hours, making their speed at an average of about one mile in a minute; and this would enable one of these birds, if so inclined, to visit the European continent, as swallows undoubtedly are able to do in a couple of days.

Such are their numbers, that the air is described as literally filled with pigeons; the light of the noon-day becomes dim, as during an eclipse.'

It may not, perhaps, be out of place to attempt an estimate of the number of pigeons contained in one of those mighty flocks, and the quantity of food daily consumed by its members. The inquiry will show the astonishing bounty of the Creator in his works, and how universally this bounty has been granted to every living thing on the vast continent of America.

We shall take, for example, a column of one mile in breadth, which is far below the average size, and suppose it passing over us without interruption for three hours, at the rate mentioned above, of one mile per minute. This will give us a parallelogram of 180 miles by 1, covering 180 square miles; and allowing two pigeons to the square yard, we have 1,115,136,000 pigeons in one flock; and as every pigeon consumes fully half-a-pint of food per day, the quantity must be 8,712,000 bushels per day, which is required to feed such a flock. Audubon.


Why is a certain American bird called the 'Whippoor-Will' ?

Because its notes seem pretty plainly to articulate the words whip-poor-will; the first and last syllables being uttered with great emphasis, and the whole in about a second to each repetition; but when two or more males meet, their whip-poor-will altercations become much more rapid and incessant, as if each was straining to overpower or silence the other.

On or about the 25th of April, if the season be not uncommonly cold, the whip-poor-will is heard in Pennsylvania, in the evening, as the dusk of twilight commences; or in the morning, as soon as the dawn has broke. The notes of this solitary bird, from the ideas which are naturally associated with them, seem like the voice of an old friend, and are listened to by almost all with great interest. At first they issue from some retired part of the woods, the glen, or mountain; in a few evenings, perhaps, we hear them from the adjoining coppice, the garden fence, the road before the door, and even the roof of the dwelling-house, hours after the family have retired to rest. Some of the more ignorant and superstitious consider this near approach as foreboding no good to the family, nothing less than the sickness, misfortune, or death, of some of its members. Every morning and evening his shrill and rapid repetitions are heard from the adjoining woods; and when two or more are calling at the same time, as is often the case in the pairing season, and at no great distance from each other, the noise,mingling with the echoes from the mountains,is really surprising. Stran gers, in parts of the country where these birds are numerous, find it almost impossible for some time to sleep; while,to those acquainted with them,the sound often serves as a lullaby, to assist their repose. Towards midnight they generally become silent, unless in clear moonlight, when they are heard with little interruption till morning. — Rennie.


This is one of the goat-suckers, which are chiefly American birds. The European species has been mentioned at p. 102. Besides the whip-poor-will, Waterton mentions four kinds that have each a peculiar set of notes. One utters, Who are you, who, who, who are are?' another, 'work away, work, work away; another, Willy come go;' and another, a large bird, the size of the English wood-owl, Ha,ha,


ha, ha, ha, ha, ha;' which sounds are uttered like a person in deep distress, the departed voice of a night-murdered victim. The plaintive cries of all these are uttered throughout the night.


Why is the negro-fonl so called?

Because it has a black skin. It is principally from St Jago, in the Cape de Verd Islands, where other species of birds are said to present the same peculiarity. — Blumenbach.


Why is the curassow improperly so called? Because it has been corrupted from Curaçoa, the name of an island where the bird is found in great abundance.


Why is the ostrich enabled to run with such celerity? Because his bones, like those of other birds, are hollow; he has also air vesicles similar to other birds, which, notwithstanding he cannot leave the earth, enable him, by the assistance of his muscular legs, to run with astonishing swiftness.

Why do the feathers of the ostrich differ from those of other birds?

Because they have their shaft exactly in the middle, whereas the feathers of other birds have the webs broader on one side than the other.

Why does the ostrich lay and hatch her eggs in the sand?

Because her form being ill-adapted to that process, she has a natural oven furnished by the sand, and the strong heat of the sun.

Why has the ostrich been so long-known for its stupidity?

Because of its mention in the book of Job, xxix,

« ZurückWeiter »