صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

Down the white hills dissolving torrents pour,
Green springs the turf, and purple blows the flow'r.
His torpid wing the Rail exulting tries,
Mounts the soft gale, and wantons in the skies.


ORDER VI.-Anseres.

Others on silver lakes and rivers bathe
Their downy breast :-yet oft they quit
The dank, and, rising on stiff pennons, tower
The mid aëreal sky.

The birds belonging to this order have very strongly or conspicuously webbed feet, and are, from their general structure, calculated for swimming. The feet, in all, are very widely webbed, the legs strong and short, and the whole body stout, fat, and muscular. Their food consists of fish and other wateranimals, and frequently of water-plants. Their nest is generally on the ground, but sometimes on lofty rocks. ' .

The genera are:-1. Colymbus, glebe, guillemot. 2. Larus, gull.-3. Procellaria, petrel.-4. Pelicanus, cormorant.-5. Anas, swan”, duck?, goose.-6. Mergus, goosander.-7. Alca, awk, puffin.

The common gull (larus canus), so constantly seen on our shores, feeds on all kinds of animal matter thrown up by the tide, or discovered floating on the surface of the ocean. Its nest is formed of sea-weed, Smith's Natural History of Birds, vol. i, p. 144.

2 The stately sailing swan
Gives out his snowy plumage to the gale,
And, arching proud his neck, with oary feet
Bears forward fierce, and guards his osier isle,

Protective of his young.
3 On the taking of wild-fowl, See T. T. for 1814, p. 275.

at the distance of a few feet from the water, and is mostly placed on a shelving rock. In winter it associates with rooks and crows, and is frequently seen at a great distance from the sea, searching for worms and insects. The cormorant or coryorant (pelecanus carbo) was formerly tamed in England for the purpose of catching fish, as the falcons and hawks for chasing the fleet inhabitants of the air. We are told that the custom is still practised in China. This bird, although of the aquatic kind, is often seen, like the pelican, perched upon trees; and Milton tells us that Satan,

On the tree of life,
The middle tree, and highest there that grew,

Sat like a cormorant. The puffin awk (alca arctica) appears in some parts of our coast in the beginning of April. Their first employment is the forming of burrows in the earth or sand for their young, frequently dispossessing rabbits of their holes for this purpose. Priestholme, or Puffin's Island, about three quarters of a mile from the Isle of Anglesea, abounds with these birds, and their flocks, for multitudes, may be compared to swarms of bees. Mr. Bingley saw upwards of fifty acres literally covered with puffins. The first young are hatched the beginning of July, and the old birds show much affection towards them; but this ceases at the time they leave England, which is about the 11th of August. The young puffins are pickled in vinegar with spices, and when packed in small barrels, each containing twelve birds, sells for four or five shillings. We have visited Priestholme a week after the period of migration, and have not been able to discover a single puffin; so much punctuality is observed by these winged wanderers.-See further respecting the puffin, in T. T. for 1814, p. 215, and the present volume, p. 256.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Flight and Plumage. It is remarked by a skilful naturalist, that, to be a complete ornithologist, one should be able to distintinguish birds by their air, as well as by their colours and shape; on the ground as well as on the wing, and in the bush as well as in the hand. For though it cannot be said that every species of birds has a manner peculiar to itself, yet there is somewhat, in most genera at least, that at first sight descriminates them. Put a bird in motion, and the judicious observer can pronounce upon it with certainty,

Nam vera incessu patuit. Thus the kites and buzzards sail round in circles, with wings expanded, and motionless; and it is from their gliding manner that the former, in the north of Britain, have obtained the name of gleads. There is a peculiarity in ravens, that must strike the most incurious observer; they spend all their leisure time in diving and cuffing at each other on the wing in a playful manner; and, when they move from one place to another, frequently turn on their backs with a loud croak, as if about to fall to the ground. When this accident happens, they are scratching themselves with one foot, and thus lose their centre of gravity. Parrots, like all other hook-clawed birds, walk awkwardly, and make use of their bill as a third foot, climbing and descending with ridiculous caution. All the order of gallinæ (poultry) parade and walk gracefully, and run swiftly; they ily, however, with difficulty, and in a straight line, with an impetuous noise. Most of the smail birds fly by jerks, and hop when on the ground. The sky, lark rises and falls perpendicularly while it sings; the woodlark hangs poised in the air; and the titlark rises and falls in large curves, and is melodious only while descending.

all foot, climb the ordernd run svaig

Several observations worthy the notice of the na-, turalist are obtained from the flight of birds, and their uniform appearance in particular places at stated seasons. A considerable part of the superstitions in the polytheism of antient Greece and Rome had no other foundation than the accidental flights of birds, or their manner of taking their food. A great body of their priests were called haruspices, from their being employed to watch the motions of these animals. An enterprise was deemed auspicious, or the contrary, according as their motions were reported favourable or otherwise. · But superstition apart, the experienced sailor derives information from the flight of birds, in which he is deeply interested. The man-of-war bird has a very different flight at sea from what it has when near the land: in the former case, it soars high in the regions of the air, and its motion is slow; in the latter, it flies much quicker, and nearer to the surface of the water. Hence sailors, by observing its manner of flight, can conjecture pretty nearly their distance from land. The phæton ætherius, the tropicbird, is another bird whose appearance is useful to navigators. It is always found within the tropics, never venturing to the north or south of either; whenever, therefore, this bird is observed, the seamen are with certainty inforined of their being in'an intratropical latitude. There is also a bird of a peculiar nature found always within a short distance of the Cape of Good Hope, and hence called procellaria Capensis. As the appearance of this bird indicates to the sailor his approach to the Cape, it is often'useful to Indiamen in doubling that promontory. As often as the procellaria pelagica approaches a ship, and gets into the wake, the sailor, by constant observation, finds that he is invariably overtaken by a storm. This fowl is called by the English the stormy petrel: from its being thus a bird of bad omen, the mariners have denominated it the devil's chicken.

In the northern parts of Scotland, the people em

in questo engaged in surest cu

ployed in the herring fishery are often indebted to the larus parasiticus, and the solan goose, for discovering the shoals of fishes. The birds that feed upon herrings are indeed the surest guides of the fisherman; both are engaged in the same employment; both are in quest of the same object. Nature, however, to compensate for the want of reason, has endowed the former with the means of attaining their end, much more certain and efficacious than the lords of the creation can command, after all their boasted improvements in science and arts.

From the appearance in this island of birds natives of the interior and more northerly regions of the world, we judge of the severity of the winter and intenseness of the frost. When swans and snowflecks abound in the north of Scotland, they are deemed to infallibly predict a great storm. The woodcock too, and fieldfare, are the regular harbingers of winter; while the cuckoo and the rail never fail to innounce the approach of summer.

From their food, their manner of life, and their locomotive powers, birds seem destined to become inhabitants of every part of the globe. The cold and barren regions of the north, and the sultry deserts of the warmer latitudes, have equally, a share in supporting the feathered tribes; and in some instances, these distant climes become alternately the residence of the same bird at different seasons of the year. Some dwell with man, and seem proud of becoming tenants under the same roof with their superiors, as the swallow and the sparrow. The rapacious birds, of a more shy and independent spirit, are happy in being far from his haunts, and hence choose their residence in high rocks: others are of an alpine nature, inhabiting the lofty mountains, as the snowfleck and ring ouzel. The bustard and plovers prefer extensive fields. The whole order of passeres delight in thick groves, which they enliven by their melodious strains.

The various regions which birds inhabit, subject

« السابقةمتابعة »