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· The bill of the grallæ or waders is generally rather long, the legs lengthened, and the thighs always bare of feathers above the knee. Their chief residence is in watery situations, and their food consists of various kinds of aquatic animals, though some feed also on vegetable substances. Their nests are often on the ground, but sometimes on tall trees. Though incapable of launching out into the ocean, many kinds venture into the lakes and rivers by swimming. Some of them, as the coots and grebes, reside upon the water almost constantly, being incapable of walk. ing to any distance on the shore. In the power of flight they are almost as defective as in walking. In consequence of these limited powers their journeys are commonly short, being only from one lake to another; they are performed, too, mostly during night, with great effort and difficulty.
Several of the pinnated tribes are endowed with a capacity of seeing in the night, like owls. At that season they gather their food, and perform the most important functions of their economy. This quality is not peculiar to them alone; for it is shared, in a greater or less degree, by almost the whole of the water-fowls. Thus accomplished, they issue forth from the reeds along the lakes and shores, when the finny tribes are at rest, and plunder and devour them without molestation. The different genera of these birds are variously endowed with aquatic powers: while some are confined to rivers and lakes, others venture into the sea, and engage in a wider range of depredation upon the shores.
As the duck tribe is the most useful of all the inhabitants of the water, so nature has happily multiplied this genus more than any other aquatic tribes. It appears in a thousand varieties; and the numbers of each species far exceed all computation. The water-fowls, of which this forms the chief, that frequent the shores of Europe, are prodigious: but still they bear no proportion to those immense flocks that swarm upon the shores of the American continent; where the numbers of the human race are fewer, and their dominion over the animal world far less extensive before they became acquainted with the use of fire-arms. ,
The water-fowls are generally fit for food, though the flesh of none of them is so palatable as that of the gallinaceous or passerine orders. It uniformly contracts a rancid and fishy taste, from the nature of the food upon which these birds subsist. This taste still, in some measure, remains in the flesh of the goose and the duck, which all the arts of domesticas, tion are not able to remove. It is, however, much lessened by confining these birds to the land, and feeding them with grain,
The aquatic tribes seem not even bounded in their residence by the limits of the land itself. The float: ing mountains of ice towards the poles afford them a retreat during tempestuous weather, and a cradle for their young. They require no grain or vegetable food, which nature in these frozen regions cannot produce. Hence they have been seen fixing their residence upon these islands of ice in the same manner as upon land. There they sleep; there too they sometimes hatch their young'.
Who the various nations can declare
From all the lesser tyrants of the air. BARBAULÓ. The genera of the order Grallæ are:-1. Ardea, crane, heron, bittern.--2. Numenius, curlew.3, 4. Tringa and Charadrius, snipe, plover, and dotterel 2 tribe.
See' PANTOLOGIA,' art. Zoology. 2 See T. T. for 1819, p. 1SS.
The crane (ardea grus ) formerly appeared in vast flocks in the fenny counties of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. It soars to a great height, and on the approach of winter wings its way to the more genial regions of Africa and Asia. They generally form themselves, in the air, into the shape of a wedge, in order to cut the adverse winds with greater facility. Milton expresses this circumstance with his usual superiority :-
Part more wise
Floats, as they pass, fanned by unnumbered wings. The common heron (ardea major) is an elegant bird, its pendent crest waying in the wind, as, standing near some unfrequented pool or pond, it remains patiently waiting for fish, which, with frogs and aquatic vegetables, are its food. It builds on high cliffs or trees, making a large nest with sticks, of which one tree has sometimes held a hundred nests, as they associate together in the breeding season. Formerly a heronry was sometimes seen like a rookery near a nobleman's or gentleman's house. Though by no means numerous, heronries are still to be met with in some of our northern counties; one in particular may be familiar to persons travelling the high North Road, where the trees in which many of the nests are placed, and under which the coaches pass daily, nearly cross the road.
The bittern (ardea stellaris), though not numerous, is dispersed through the whole of this country; but its habits are solitary, seldom more than a pair frequenting an extensive marsh. When full grown it feeds on eels, small fish, frogs, mice, moles, and the smaller species of reptiles; and sometimes on the roots and seeds of aquatic plants. While they
have young, they seem quite devoid of fear; neither the sportsman nor his dog is able to make them quit their charge;--but, if wounded, will 'eye them with keen; undaunted looks,'-and, when closely pressed, defend themselves with the greatest vigour, often in flicting severe wounds with the bill, and almost al* ways aiming at the eye of the person who attacks them'. In the spring, the bittern may be discovered at a great distance by its note: Goldsmith happily describes this circumstance in his ‘Deserted Village:
Along thy glades a solitary guest,
THOMSON. The common curlew (numinius arquata) visits our coasts by thousands in the cold months; in the spring, it retires to the extensive moors and lakes in the northern parts of the kingdom to breed': those taken inland have a very fine flavour, while those on the sea-shore are rank and fishy. The woodcock (s. rusticola) arrives in England from October to December, and haunts small copses and hedgerows near little rivulets; they feed on worms, which they procure by inserting their long bill into the earth. The common snipe (s. gallinago) frequents Wet grounds, feeds like the woodcock, and is very attractive to the sportsman. In the breeding season snipes play over the moors, piping and humming. They always hum as they are descending. · The ruff (tringa pugnax), so named from its fighting like a game cock, arrives in the beginning of spring in the fen countries to breed, where it is caught in great numbers. The males have a ruff of feathers round the neck; females have not this distinction, and are called reeves. This bird is much coveted by the lovers of good eating. Ruffs are
s Graves's British Ornithology, vol. i.'
sometimes pinioned and confined in a walled garden, to destroy the insects. The lapwing ft. vanellus) is also made a prisoner for the same purpose; its eggs are considered a great delicacy. The voice of this bird resembles the sound of pewit, or tewit, and hence its name in several parts of Great Britain; it is also calļed the green plover by several ornithologists. This bird is one of those who attract the fowler's attention in winter sports:
With slaught'ring gun th' unwearied fowler roves,
The land-rail (rallus çrex) takes up its abode in wild heaths, or among corn and grass lands, and is often concealed among furze and fern. The waterrail (r. aquaticus) is found in low wet situations, near water-courses; and in the vicinity of small running streams, overgrown with grass or sedge. In Siberia, we are told, that all the water-fowl on the lakes of that inhospitable region begin their journey to the south as soon as the frost sets in; the Rail alone remaining, which becomes torpid, and sleeps under the snow. The poet personifying the mons, (moschus corallinus), which is the food of the reindeer, and therefore the most valuable gift bestowed on the inhabitants of these northern climates, breaks out in this beautiful apostrophe :
Awake, my love! (enamoured Moschus cries)