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flies, which he catches alive at night, and confines with moist clay or cow-dung?
Because such flies are often found in his nest, where pieces of cow-dung are also stuck; but, as their light could be of little service to him, it seems probable that he only feeds on them.
Why has the jacana the epithet of 'faithful?'
Because it is kept by the natives of South America to wander with the poultry, and defend them from birds of prey, which it does by the spurs on its wings; it never deserts its charge, but brings them home safely at night.
Why is the variegated chatterer of South America also called the bell-bird?
Because its voice is, for about six weeks only, in December and January, like the noise of a cracked bell. The carunculated chatterer is also called the bell-bird, from its notes being composed of two syllables--in an, uttered in a drawling tone, which (Mr Waterton says) may be heard three miles distant.
Why is the Chilian sawing bird so called? Because, with its straight, and serrate, or notched bill, it cuts down fresh vegetables, as with a saw.
Why is the cat bird so called?
Because it mews like a cat, or rather, like a young kitten. It also imitates the notes of other birds, and attacks snakes. Wilson.
Why is the rice bird so called?
Because, in Cuba, it is found in great numbers dur
ing the season of the rice crop; but no sooner is the rice gathered, than it removes to Carolina, and meets the same harvest in that country, where it remains till the rice season is past.
Why do coolies differ from other birds?
Because they do not perch, nor leap from branch to branch, nor do they even walk nimbly; for, resting on the whole length of the leg, they drag the belly after them. At the Cape of Good Hope they are called Mouse Birds, from their soft plumage, and their frequently creeping about the roots of trees. — Jennings.
Why is the booby so called?
Because it is an indolent, senseless, and cowardly bird, submitting to all sorts of depredations upon its happiness with indolent imbecility; yet it is occasionally, when much excited, ferocious. The manof-war bird no sooner perceives it in the air, than it pounces upon it, not to destroy it, but to make it disgorge the fish which it has swallowed, which is caught by the voracious plunderer before it reaches the water. Jennings.
Why has the pelican a pouch attached to her bill? Because it answers the purpose of a crop, and is used by the bird to contain food both for herself and her young, which, when hatched, are fed with the fishes that have been for some time macerated in the pouch; this, when distended, will contain ten quarts. Great numbers of pelicans are killed for their pouches, which are converted by the native Americans into purses, &c. When carefully prepared, the membrane is as soft as silk, and sometimes is embroidered by the Spanish ladies for work-bags, &c.
It is used in Egypt by the sailors, whilst attached to the two under chaps, for holding or bailing water. Why was the pelican formerly thought to feed her young with her blood?
Because, in disgorging the food from the pouch for the young, the bird presses the bottom of the sack upon her breast, and thus the contents are discharged.*
Why has the cormorant a small sabre-shaped bone at the back of its vertex?
Because this bone may serve as a lever in throwing back the head, when the animal tosses the fishes which it has taken into the air, and catches them in its open mouth. This conjecture is by Blumenbach, who, however, observes, that the same motion is performed by some other piscivorous birds, which are not provided with this particular bone.
Why was the cormorant formerly domesticated in this country?
Because it was trained to fish for its owner; it is still used in China for this purpose,
Why is the man-of-war bird so called?
Because it is one of the most formidable tyrants of the ocean. When in flocks, they attack sometimes even man himself. It is said that a cloud of them attacked a crew of French sailors upon the Island of Ascension, and, till some of them were struck down, endeavoured to snatch the meat from their hands. Jennings.
Why is the ornithoryncus said to form the connecting link between the bird and beast?
Because it has a bill like a duck, and paws webbed similar to that bird, but legs and body like those of a quadruped, covered with thick, close hair, with a broad tail to steer by. It is believed to lay eggs; it bears a claw on the inside of its foot, with a tube therein, through which it emits a poisonous fluid into the wounds which the claw inflicts.*
Why have birds a gizzard?
Because it may answer the purposes of teeth to masticate their food; the gizzard being composed of thick and tough muscular substance, small in size, but more powerful in its action than the strongest jaw-bone, It consists of four distinct muscles large hemispherical pair at the sides, and a small pair at the two ends of the cavity. By their alternate action these muscles produce two effects; the one, a constant friction on the contents of the cavity, the other, a pressure upon them. These muscles are lined with a cuticle which is extremely callous, and which often becomes cartilaginous, and even horny, Reaumur and Spallanzani compelled geese and other birds to swallow needles, lancets, and other hard substances; in a few hours after which,the birds were killed and examined;-the needles and lancets were uniformly found broken off and blunted, without the slightest injury having been sustained by the stomach. Swallowing pebbles also aids the action of the gizzard upon the food, the stones in some measure serving the purpose of teeth. Mr Hunter observed that the size of the pebbles is always in proportion to that of the gizzards. In the gizzard of a turkey he counted two hundred; in that of the goose, a thousand. (See page 84.)
* Cunningham's Sketches of New South Wales. See also Quadrupeds, page 58 of the present volume,
Why does the gastric juice, in its effects, differ in different animals?
Because of the varieties of food on which they subsist. Thus,in birds of prey, as kites, hawks, owls, it only acts upon animal matter, and does not dissolve vegetables. In other birds, and in all animals feeding on grass, it dissolves vegetable matter, as grass, but will not touch flesh of any kind. This has been ascertained by making them swallow balls with meat in them, and several holes drilled through, to let the gastric juice reach the meat: no effect was produced upon it.
We may farther observe that there is a most curious and beautiful correspondence between this juice in the stomach of different animals, and the other parts of their bodies, connected with the important operations of eating and digesting their food. The use of the juice is plainly to convert what they eat into a fluid, from which,by various other processes, all their parts, blood, bones, muscles, &c, are afterwards formed. But the food is first of all to be obtained, and then prepared by bruising, for the action of the juice. Now, birds of prey have instruments, their claws and beak, for tearing and devouring their food, (which is animals of different kinds,) but those instruments are useless for picking up and crus seeds; accordingly they have a gastric juice which dissolves the animals they eat; while birds which have only a beak fit for pecking, drinking, and eating seeds, have a juice that dissolves seeds, and not flesh. Nay more, it is found, that the seeds must bruised before the juice will dissolve them: this is found by making the experiment, in a vessel with the juice; and accordingly, the birds have a gizzard, and animals which graze have flat teeth, which grind and bruise their food before the gastric juice is to act upon it.
Why have some birds more air-cells than others?