صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

brane, called cere; and on each side, towards the tip, is a projection, forming a kind of tooth, and serving to tear the prey. The wings are large and strong, and the whole body stout and muscular; the legs strong and short, the claws much curved and sharp-pointed. The accipitres are generally remarkable for building a negligent or slightly-formed nest in lofty situations, and laying from two to four eggs. The female in this order is always larger than the male; and the whole tribe, in the language of Linnæus, may be considered as analogous to the order fere among quadrupeds. They are naturally warlike and destructive; and when tamed, a few of them claim importance from their subserviency to our pleasures in the field; a subserviency which laid a foundation for the now neglected art of falconry. But they are otherwise of no immediate utility to man. The genera of this order, known in Great Britain, are:-1. Falco, eagle, falcon, hawk, kite. -2. Strix, owl.-3. Lanius, shrike or butcher bird.

The golden eagle (f. chrysaetos) is met with in the northern parts of England, Ireland, Scotland, and some of the Scottish isles, and sometimes in North Wales. Kids, lambs, hares, and rabbits, are its usual food, and it has been known to carry away an infant in its talóns. This eagle lives to a great age, and to attempt to take it, or molest its young, is a service of great danger: it measures from tip to tip of the wings somewhat more than eight feet, and is three feet six inches in length. The golden eagle builds its aërie in elevated rocks, ruinous and solitary castles and towers, and other sequestered places. Some of its habits have been well described in the following lines, by the poet of nature:

High from the summit of a craggy Cliff,
Hung o'er the deep-such as amazing frowns
On utmost Kilda's shore, whose lively race
Resign the setting sun to Indian worlds
The royal eagle draws his vigorous young,
Strong pounced, and ardent

with paternal fire;

Now fit to raise a kingdom of their own,
He drives them from his fort, the towering seat,

For ages, of his empire. The eagle has always been considered as the symbol of majesty and dominion, and is usually seen at the feet of Jupiter Tonans, grasping the lightning. The eagle of Jove is thus finely described by Gray, as being soothed by the power of harmonious numbers :

Perching on the sceptred hand
Of Jove, thy magic lulls the feathered king,
With ruffled plume and flagging wing,
Quepched in dark clouds of slumber lie

The terrors of his beak, the lightning of his eye!
From the eagle, Lord Byron, in his lines on Kirke
White, has taken the following' exquisite simile:-

So the struck eagle stretched upon the plain,
No more through rolling clouds to soar again,
Viewed his own feather on the fatal dart,
And winged the shaft that quivered in his heart:
Keen were his pange, but keener far to feel
He nursed the pinion which impelled the steel,
While the same plumage that had warmed his nest

Drank the last life-drop of his bleeding breast. The peregrine falcon (falco peregrinus) frequents the rocky parts of our coasts, and usually builds in the most inaccessible cliffs; it was formerly much used in falconry, and being a bold and powerful bird, was held in great esteem: it was principally employed for the taking of ducks and other waterfowl; from which circumstance it attained the name of duck-hawk. The merlin (f.esolon), the smallest of the British hawks, will attack partridges, quails, and young hares and rabbits; it was formerly used in hawking, principally for taking larks, which it pounces upon, and kills at a blow. The ben-harrier (f. cyaneus) is one of the most formidable enemies to young partridges, pheasants, and domestic poultry. It skims lightly along near the surface of the ground in search of prey, and on the ground makes its nest.

As in the mountains, fleetest fowl of air,
The hawk darts eager at the dove ; she scads
Aslant; he, screaming, springs and springs again
To seize her, all impatient for the prey:
So fell Achilles constant to the track
Of Hector.

HOMER. The white or barn-owl (strix flammea) takes up its residence in barns or out-buildings, where, by devouring the vermin, it amply repays the farmer for shelter; its principal food is mice and small birds. During dark and cloudy weather, this species may frequently be seen abroad in the day-time, when it preys on small birds, previously to swallowing which, it holds them with one claw, and with its bill crushes the principal bones, beginning with the head, and shifting its position till it arrives at the other extremity: it generally swallows its food without plucking or separating; and ejects the skin, fur, feathers, and bones, in the form of pellets, large quantities of which may often be found in the places where this bird breeds. The note of this species is remarkably discordant in the spring, being a loud harsh scream, uttered while on the wing: when pressed by hunger, it frequently squeaks in the manner of the common mouse, which may serve as a decoy to allure them within its reach; it also utters a loud hissing noise during a greater part of the night: when displeased or alarmed, it snaps its bill with great force.--See MR. GRAVES'S BRITISH ORNITHOLOGY, vol. i, with coloured plates, the beauty and fidelity of which are strong recommendations to this excellent work, which treats at large of the numerous interesting feathered wanderers that frequent the shores, or ornament the woods and fields, of Britain. See likewise T. T. for 1814, p. 162. · The shrike or butcher-bird (lanius) is so courageous, that he will attack, combat, and kill much larger birds than himself; and, to manage his tearing them with more ease, he hangs them on a thorn, as a butcher does his meat on a hook, and dilaniates

them at pleasure; from which circumstance the French call him the lanier, from the Latin lanius, ' a butcher.'

ORDER II.-Picae.

Ten thousand warblers cheer the day, and one
The live-long night; not these alone, whose notes
Nice-fingered art must emulate in vain,
But cawing rooks and kites that swim sublime,
In still repeated circles screaming loud;
The Jay, the Pie, and e'en the boding owl,
That hails the rising moon, bave charms for me.


The bill of the birds which compose this order is commonly of a slightly compressed and convex form, and they build their nests in trees, lofty buildings, or among rocks; and a few deposit their eggs in holes in decaying trees. The pies comprehend a numerous assemblage, and are so various in their form and habits, that hardly any characters, however general, will apply to them all. They live upon fruits, grains, insects, and flesh. As an article of food, they are generally reckoned impure: their feathers are of little use for any of the purposes of human life. Though they are fond of the vicinity of man, they are the least profitable of his servants ; for they live upon the fruits of his industry, while their death makes no compensation for the mischiefs they have committed. They are noisy, restless, and loquacious; some of them possess the faculty of imitating the human voice; and instructing them in the art of speaking, frequently constitutes the amusement of the idle.

Though useless or hurtful to man, birds of this order are, by their remarkable ingenuity and active habits, well fitted for society.

[ocr errors]

Both male and female unite their labours in building their nests; and in general, both are employed alternately in the duty of incubation. When the young are produced, they are abundantly supplied by the joint labours of both parents. Some kinds are peculiarly distinguished for establishing a kind of government for the general safety of the society. One bird watches for the whole flock, while it is feeding; and among the rooks, there has been observed a sort of distributive justice, by which every individual is punished for his offences against the laws of the society.

As they in general live by pilfering from the property of man, most of the tribes are marked by a look of archness and cunning; they are able to elude more successfully than other birds all the efforts of man to destroy them; efforts, which, from their frequent pillages, he is continually obliged to practise. In the jackdaw the habit of thieving seems to be instinctive; for, even in his domestic state, when placed above the reach of necessity, he carries off to his nest every toy or glittering substance which he can find. A whole family has been alarmed at the loss of a ring ; every servant has been accused; and all in the house, conscious of their own innocence, have been sus pecting each other, when, to their surprise, the abstracted goods have been found in the nest of a tame magpie or jackdaw, which, though alone guilty, had alone escaped suspicion.

Among the genera of the order Picæ are:-- 1. Picus, woodpecker.—2. Alcedo, king-fisher'.-3. Cuculus, cuckoo .-4. Corvus, crow, raven, jackdaw, magpie, jay.


Her emerald neck
With changing hues, reflects the setting rays,
Wbịch, levelled to the wat’ry plain, gild o'er

The gently rising bosom of the waves.
See T.T. for 1817, p. 112. .


« السابقةمتابعة »