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- The common green woodpecker (picus viridis) is larger and longer than a missel thrush, of an olive green colour, and has a cap of glossy crimson foathers. The woodpecker receives its name from the facility with which it pécks the insects from the chinks of trees and holes in the bark. They are often seen hanging by their claws, and resting upon their tails against the stem of a tree; and after darting with strength and noise their beak against the bark, to rouse the insects there, they turn round with great alacrity and feed upon them. When the insects do not answer this call, the birds, by means of their long tongues, bring out their reluctant prey. Picus, king of the Latins, was, by the spolls of Circe, changed into a woodpecker.
On the lost youth her magic power she tries;
Of Picus nothing but the name remains'.
**See T.T. for 1815, p. 67; for 1820, p. 64; and fig. 4, in our Frontispiece.
frained from disturbing the calmness of the waves, and Halcyon days were, for navigators of old times, à most secure moment to perform their voyages'. The term Halcyon blue is used to describe any object of the peculiar hue of this beautiful bird. Shenstone applies it to the eyes of his Nancy of the Vale:
The little Halcyon's azure plume
Was never half so blue.
As when from shelter of an arching rock
Attests her grief: she soars, and quits the scene.
The crow (corvus cornix) builds a solitary nest in woods, and these nests are destroyed whenever they can be found and got at; because the crow is
Description of three hundred Animals, p. 138. See the interesting fable of Ceyx and Halcyone, in Ovid's Met. xi, 10; and Charlotte Smith's Natural History of Birds, for this and other stories of heathen mythology, relative to the feathered race.
extremely destructive to young poultry, and even to lambs, the eyes of which it will sometimes pick out; and these dispositions, as well as its feeding on carrion, make it universally obnoxious. It is found almost every where.-On the depredations of the carrion crow, see p. 78.
The rook (corvus frugilegus) is found in every part of Europe. Nothing is more amusing than to observe these birds when they are building, which happens so early as the end of February and beginning of March, when the high trees on which they establish their colonies being leafless, their progress, and their contentions one with another, for the materials of which their nests are made, may be easily seen. Far from shunning the habitations of man, these birds seem fond of his society; and formerly scarce an old house in the country was without a rookery near it. Indeed, the avenues that have almost universally fallen, in compliance with the fashionable attempts to imitate nature, which certainly never plants in parallel lines, were often extensive rookeries. We cannot however help regret. ting the loss of the avenues, and their ci-devant people, the rooks, which once answered so well the following description:
Should I my steps turn to the rural seat,
And ceaseless caws amusive'. The magpie (corvus pica) is noisy and mischievous, and yet these birds are agreeable objects in lone woods and copses, flying after each other. Ovid has a fable relating to the magpie. The Pierides were nine sisters, and daughters of the king of Pella. Elated by the praises they received for their skill in singing and reciting, they had the presumption to
C. Smith's History of Birds, vol. i, p. 54; and on the mischief done by rooks, in T. T. for 1816, p. 86, and for 1820, p. 186.
challenge the muses to contend with them for preeminence in these arts. The muses, though indignant, would not decline the competition. The nymphs were to be the judges. The muses were the victors, and enraged at the taunting insolence of the pretenders, changed them, as a punishment, into magpiés.
Beneath their pails
Now only noise, and nothing then but words. The jay (corvus glandarius) is one of the most beautiful birds that inhabit the British Islands. But the gardeners, among whose labours it makes great havoc, are its bitter enemies. Its harsh screaming note is not displeasing where it is most frequently seen, and in the glens of the forest adds much to, the interest of the scene.
ORDER III.—Passeres. The birds belonging to this order have their bill so formed as to operate in the manner of a forceps: their limbs are rather weak; their flight quick, with a frequent repetition of the movement of the wings, and they chiefly build in trees or shrubs. They excel in the art of nidification, or constructing their nests. Their food is either animal or vegetable ; some live mostly on insects, some on seeds, and some on both.
The order of passeres, or small singing birds, is by Linnæus considered as analogous to the order glires among quadrupeds. For the most part they are remarkable for their beauty and agility. They are continually in motion, and endowed with the powers of song. They enliven the retired and shady grove by
the melody of their voices. Those birds, of the superior order, that interest us by their usefulness, or the fierceness of their habits, such as the poultry, or rapacious kinds, have all harsh and screaming voices. The plaintive accents of the pigeon, on the contrary, are of a soothing tendency, while most of the other beautiful little families we are now to review, insinuate themselves into our affections by their delightful songs, their external beauty, and the familiarity of their manners.
Conscious of enjoying the favour of man, they live with him in some degree of confidence; and while the larger birds, from a suspicion dictated by ill treatment, or suggested by guilt, fly to the depth of the forest, and dread the vicinity of man, these hop about the hedges and sides of the woods, seldom removing far from his habitation. This alliance is indeed interested on their part; for it is only on the cultivated fields, and even around houses and gardens, that they can find, in abundance, those seeds and insects upon which they subsist. In the extensive wilds, or in the depths of the forest, none of those kinds of food that are congenial to their natures is to be found. “As we enter (says Goldsmith) deeper into the uncultivated woods, the silence becomes more profound: there are none of those warblings, none of those murmurs that awaken attention, till you draw near the habitations of men; there is nothing of that confused buzz, formed by the united though distant voices of quadrupeds and birds; but all is profoundly dead and solemn. Now and then, indeed, the traveller may be roused from this lethargy of life by the voice of a heron, or the scream of an eagle; but his sweet little friends, the warblers, have totally forsaken him.'
The want of food is not the only reason why the small birds do not penetrate into the forest. They avoid these dreary retreats also from the principle of self-preservation. Almost all the rapacious kinds,