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Library 
of  the 

University  of  Toronto 


Digitized  by  the  Internet  Archive 
in  2018  with  funding  from 
University  of  Toronto 


https://archive.org/details/historyofbritish03macg_0 


HISTORY 


OF 

BRITISH 


BIRDS 


INDIGENOUS  AND  MIGRATORY. 


A 


HISTORY 

OF 

B  RITISH  BIRDS, 

INDIGENOUS  AND  MIGRATORY: 


INCLUDING 


THEIR  ORGANIZATION,  HABITS,  AND  RELATIONS  ; 
REMARKS  ON  CLASSIFICATION  AND  NOMENCLATURE; 

AN  ACCOUNT  OF  THE  PRINCIPAL  ORGANS  OF  BIRDS,  AND 
OBSERVATIONS  RELATIVE  TO  PRACTICAL 
ORNITHOLOGY. 


ILLUSTRATED  BY 

NUMEROUS  ENGRAVINGS. 


BY  WILLIAM  MACGILLIVRAY,  A.  M., 

MEMBER  OF  THE  WERNERIAN  NATURAL  HISTORY  SOCIETY  OF  EDINBURGH,  OF  THE  NATURAL 
HISTORY  SOCIETY  OF  PHILADELPHIA,  OF  THE  LYCEUM  OF  NEW  YORK,  OF  THE 
LITERARY  AND  PHILOSOPHICAL  SOCIETY  OF  SOUTH  CAROLINA; 

CONSERVATOR  OF  THE  MUSEUM  OF  THE  ROYAL  COLLEGE  OF  SURGEONS  OF  EDINBURGH, 
AND  LECTURER  ON  BOTANY  TO  QUEEN’S  COLLEGE. 


VOL.  III. 

REPTATORES,  CREEPERS;  SCANSORES,  CLIMBERS;  CUCULIN.E; 
RAPTORES,  PLUNDERERS,  OR  RAPACIOUS  BIRDS; 
EXCURSORES,  SNATCHERS;  VOLITATORES,  GLIDERS; 
JACULATORES,  DARTERS. 


LONDON : 

PRINTED  FOR  SCOTT,  WEBSTER,  AND  GEARY, 

36,  CHARTERHOUSE  SQUARE. 

1840. 


\\\  BCRNESS,  PRINTER,  EDINBURGH . 


PREFACE. 


It  is  under  circumstances  peculiarly  pleasing  that  1  now  pre¬ 
sent  myself  to  the  public.  I  have  accomplished  half  of  my 
task,  having  completed  the  history  of  the  entire  series  of  British 
Land  Birds.  The  few  feeble  sounds  indicative  of  disappro¬ 
bation,  that  were  elicited  by  the  appearance  of  my  beautiful 
Cooers  and  Songsters,  died  away  without  an  echo,  and  the  rich 
burst  of  applause  with  which  my  charming  favourites  were 
hailed,  still  resounding  in  my  ears,  has  inspired  me  with  fresh 
energy.  I  am  therefore  confident  that  the  present  volume  is 
in  no  degree  inferior  to  its  predecessors,  and  hopeful  that  it 
will  be  received  with  equal  favour. 

Several  keen  observers  of  birds  have,  to  my  sure  knowledge, 
received  from  the  information  conveyed  in  these  volumes,  an 
impulse  which  will  effectually  prevent  them  from  ever  pervert¬ 
ing  nature  by  forcing  her  into  quinary  or  ternary  arrangements, 
or  from  dwindling  into  mere  describers  of  skins,  and  indiscri- 
minating  compilers  of  correct,  doubtful,  and  erroneous  observa¬ 
tions.  Of  such  pupils  I  am  proud,  and  if  my  exultation  should 
be  held  as  an  indication  of  vanity,  I  cannot  help  it,  for  I  am 
constrained  to  speak  the  truth.  Should  any  man  conceive 
himself  injured  thereby,  I  hope  he  may  consider  that  in  mat¬ 
ters  of  science  there  ought  to  be  perfect  freedom  of  thought, 
and  that  a  very  obscure  individual,  like  myself,  may  sometimes 
fall  upon  truths  subversive  of  theories  invented  by  men  of  the 
highest  intellect. 


t 


H 


PREFACE. 


In  my  efforts  on  the  present  occasion  I  have  been  aided  by 
several  kind  friends  and  successful  observers.  May  they  live 
to  see  my  labours,  in  which  they  have  taken  so  lively  an  inte¬ 
rest,  completed,  and  their  object  accomplished  !  From  the 
south  and  the  north,  the  east  and  the  west,  information  has 
flowed  in.  Scarcely  was  my  second  volume  published,  when 
I  received,  from  a  gentleman  resident  in  Leicester,  who  has 
long  dedicated  part  of  his  time  to  the  study  of  birds,  an  offer 
of  assistance,  which  I  gladly  accepted,  and  congratulations, 
which  excited  the  most  lively  emotions,  seeing  they  came  from 
a  man  of  kindred  sentiments,  whose  heart  warmed  toward  one 
whose  writings  had  afforded  him  pleasure.  Well  lias  that 
honourable  and  kind-hearted  Englishman,  Mr  Harley,  per¬ 
formed  his  promises,  as  the  pages  of  this  volume  will  shew. 
From  the  sea-girt  rocks  of  Zetland,  the  voice  of  an  old  and 
dear  friend  has  come  to  assure  me  of  his  sympathy  and  esteem. 
That  friend,  Dr  Lawrence  Edmondston,  well  known  as  an 
enthusiastic  observer  of  birds,  who  has  added  much  to  our 
knowledge  of  those  of  his  native  country,  has  supplied  me 
with  several  important  articles,  and  will  enrich  the  remaining 
volumes  with  the  results  of  his  investigations  respecting  the 
habits  of  the  feathered  denizens  of  his  semi-Scandinavian  Isles. 
A  gentleman  familiarly  known  to  my  readers,  Mr  Th.  Durham 
W eir, — one  of  whose  most  strict  and  scrupulous  adherence  on 
all  occasions  to  truth,  of  whose  almost  unrivalled  perseverance 
and  lyncean  acuteness  of  observation,  every  one  acquainted  with 
him  is  well  assured, — one  who  personifies  honesty  and  integrity, 
those  most  precious  but  most  rare  qualities, — has  not  intermitted 
his  benevolent  efforts  to  forward  my  views.  While  he  has  thus 
poured  in  his  contributions  from  the  west,  an  Anglo-Norman 
in  the  east,  my  equally  enthusiastic  and  most  estimable  young 
friend,  Mr  Hepburn,  has  favoured  me  with  a  mass  of  interest¬ 
ing  observations,  of  which  I  have  been  obliged  to  select  only  a 
part,  otherwise  I  should  have  extended  the  present  volume 
much  beyond  its  legitimate  magnitude.  Dr  Robertson  of  Dun- 
keld,  to  whom  I  am  personally  unknown,  has  most  generously 
presented  me  with  specimens,  and  offered  his  aid  in  procuring 
more,  as  well  as  in  supplying  observations.  The  Rev.  Mr 


PREFACE. 


in 


Gordon  of  Birnie,  Mr  Barclay,  Mr  Brown,  Mr  Duncan,  and 
Mr  Mactier,  I  feel  pride  in  adding  to  the  list  of  ornithological 
friends.  With  them  too  I  must  associate  on  this  occasion  one 
who,  having  finished  his  task  of  depicting  and  describing  the 
birds  of  another  and  more  extensive  portion  of  the  globe,  has 
returned  to  his  native  land,  Mr  Audubon,  to  whom  I  am  in¬ 
debted  for  specimens  of  several  of  our  rarer  feathered  visitants, 
and  of  stragglers  from  America,  of  which  I  have  failed  in  pro¬ 
curing  permission  to  examine  those  in  Edinburgh. 

To  Mr  Macduff  Carfrae  I  again  offer  my  warmest  thanks 
for  his  liberal  supply  of  bodies  for  dissection,  and  of  recent  and 
prepared  specimens  for  description.  To  Mr  Fenton  also  I  am 
in  like  manner  indebted ;  as  well  as  to  various  individuals,  far 
and  near,  from  Oxford  to  Elgin,  who  have  sent  me  eggs,  nests, 
and  birds.  In  short,  circumstances  are  now  very  different  with 
mo  from  what  they  were,  when,  among  the  wild  rocks  of  the 
Hebrides,  I  commenced  my  labours,  without  aid  or  sympathy, 
or  when,  twenty  years  ago,  I  first  visited  Edinburgh,  where  I 
was  unknown  to  a  single  individual. 

In  this  volume  are  contained  descriptions  of  the  birds  to 
which  I  have  given  the  ordinal  names  of  Creepers,  Climbers, 
Cuckoos,  Plunderers,  Snatchers,  Gliders,  and  Darters,  amount¬ 
ing  to. fifty-six  species,  together  with  two  birds  omitted  in 
their  proper  places,  and  a  species  now  first  added  to  the  British 
Fauna. 

An  Appendix  contains  observations  supplementary  to  the  three 
volumes  now  published ;  and  at  the  end  is  a  systematic  Index 
to  the  Land  Birds,  in  which  they  are  disposed  in  families,  in 
the  order  in  which  I  conceive  they  may  be  most  advantageously 
arranged.  With  regard  to  what  I  have  called  Practical  Orni- 
thology,  1  have  found  it  necessary  on  this  occasion  to  be  some¬ 
what  less  discursive  than  I  could  have  wished.  The  anatomi¬ 
cally  disposed  student  however  will  find  an  account  of  the  exten¬ 
sile  tongue  of  the  Woodpeckers,  the  organs  of  sense  of  the  Ra¬ 
pacious  birds,  instructions  for  making  skeletons,  and  the  usual 
information  respecting  the  alimentary  canal  of  all  the  species 
of  which  I  could  obtain  bodies,  illustrated  by  numerous  figures. 
In  one  of  the  chapters  or  Lessons  under  this  head,  is  a  valuable 


IV 


PREFACE. 


Catalogue  of  the  Land  Birds  of  the  County  of  Leicester,  by  Mr 
Harley. 

The  Engravings  on  W ood,  which  I  think  superior  to  those  in 
the  preceding  volumes,  have  been  executed  by  Mr  Bkuce,  with 
the  exception  of  a  few  by  Mr  Sclater  ;  and  those  on  steel,  in 
the  present,  as  well  as  the  other  volumes,  by  Mr  Gellatly. 
The  drawings  for  both  have  been  made  by  myself,  in  every 
case  from  the  objects  which  they  are  intended  to  represent. 

Notwithstanding  the  labour  and  expense  of  preparing  these 
volumes  for  the  public,  I  am  authorized  to  say  that  the  fourth, 
containing  the  Waders,  a  great  part  of  which  is  ready  for  the 
compositor,  will  be  published  before  the  third  has  been  well 
dispersed.  In  it  and  the  fifth  or  last,  I  promise  descriptions 
equally  correct,  and  probably  more  interesting,  as  many  of  the 
aquatic  birds  have  been  very  carefully  studied  by  me,  under 
the  most  favourable  circumstances. 


W.  MACGILLIVRAY. 


Edinburgh,  1,  Wharton  Place, 
June  1840. 


TABLE  OF  CONTENTS. 


Essential  Characters  of  the  Orders,  and  Incidental  Remarks  on 
Birds,  -  1 

ORDER  YI.  REPTATORES.  CREEPERS. 
Characters  of  the  Reptatores,  9 

FAMILY  I.  CERTHIANH5.  TREE-CREEPERS  AND  ALLIED  SPE¬ 
CIES,  _  12 

Genus  I.  Anorthura.  Wren,  -  -  13 

1.  Anorthura  Troglodytes.  The  European  Wren,  15 

Genus  II.  Certhia.  Tree-Creeper,  -  -  31 

1 .  Certhia  familiaris.  The  Brown  Tree-Creeper,  33 

Genus  III.  Upupa.  Hoopoe,  -  -  40 

1.  Upupa  Epops.  The  European  Hoopoe,  -  41 

FAMILY  II.  SITTING.  NUTHATCHES  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES,  45 

Genus  I.  Sitta.  Nuthatch,  -  -  -46 

1.  Sitta  europsea.  The  European  Nuthatch,  -  48 

PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY.  SEVENTH  LESSON,  .  56 

Remarks  on  Woodpeckers.  Structure  of  tlie  Tongue  of  Picus  viridis, 
and  explanation  of  the  manner  in  which  it  is  extended  and  retracted. 

Its  Trachea  and  Digestive  Organs. 

Description  of  part  of  the  County  of  Leicester,  including  Charnwood 
Forest. 

ORDER  VII.  SCANSORES.  CLIMBERS. 


Characters  of  the  Scansores, 


65 


VI 


CONTENTS. 


FAMILY  I.  P1CIN.E.  WOODPECKERS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES,  09 
Synopsis  of  the  British  Genera  and  Species  of  Picinae,  71 

Genus  I.  Picus.  Woodpecker,  -  -  -  73 

1.  Picus  martius.  The  Great  Black  Woodpecker,  77 

2.  Picus  Pipra.  The  Pied  Woodpecker,  -  80 

3.  Picus  striolatus.  The  Striated  Woodpecker,  80 

4.  Picus  viridis.  The  Green  Woodpecker,  -  91 

Genus  II.  Yunx.  Wryneck,  -  -  -  98 

1.  Yunx  Torquilla.  The  Wryneck,  -  -  100 

ORDER  VIII.  CUCKOOS. 


CUCUL1NTL  CUCKOOS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES,  _  105 

Genus  I.  Cuculus.  Cuckoo,  -  -  108 

1 .  Cuculus  canorus.  The  Grey  Cuckoo,  -  109 

Genus  II.  Coccyzus.  Cowcow,  -  130 

1.  Coccyzus  americanus.  The  Yellow  -billed  Cowcow,  137 

PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY.  EIGHTH  LESSON,  ..  HI 


Eagle-shooting.  Organs  of  sensation  of  the  Rapacious  Birds  ;  structure 
of  the  Eye,  Nasal  Passages,  Ear,  and  Tongue.  Organs  of  Respir¬ 
ation  of  Vultures,  Hawks,  and  Owls. 


ORDER  IX.  RAPTORES.  PLUNDERERS. 

Characters  of  the  Raptores,  -  -  -  101 

FAMILY  I.  VULTURIN^E.  VULTURES  &  ALLIED  SPECIES,  1(33 

Genus  I.  Neophron.  Neophron,  -  -  105 

1.  Neophron  Pcrcnopterus.  The  White  Neophron,  100 

FAMILY  II.  FALCONING.  FALCONS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES,  1  70 
Synopsis  of  the  British  Genera  and  Species  of  Ealconiiue,  174 


CONTENTS.  vii 

Genus  I.  Buteo.  Buzzard,  -  -  180 

1 .  Buteo  fuscus.  The  Brown  or  Common  Buzzard,  183 

2.  Buteo  lagopus.  The  Rougli-legged  Buzzard,  193 

Genus  II.  Aquila.  Eagle,  -  201 

1 .  Aquila  Chrysaetus.  The  Golden  Eagle,  -  204 

Genus  III.  IIaliaetus.  Sea-Eagle,  -  -218 

1.  IIaliaetus  Albicilla.  The  White-tailed  Sea-Eagle,  221 

Genus  IV.  Pandion.  Osprey,  -  -  237 

1.  Pandion  Haliaetus.  The  Fishing  Osprey,  -  239 

Genus  V.  Pernis.  Bee- Hawk,  -  -  252 

1.  Pernis  apivora.  The  Brown  Bee-ITawk,  -  254 

Genus  VI.  Milvus.  Kite,  -  -  263 

1.  Milvus  regalis.  The  Red  Kite,  -  -  264 

Genus  VII.  Nauclerus.  Swallow-Kite,  -  276 

1 .  Nauclerus  furcatus.  The  White-headed  Swallow- 

Kite,  -  -  277 

Genus  VIII.  Falco.  Falcon,  -  -  281 

1.  Falco  Gyrfalco.  The  Gyr  Falcon,  -  284 

2.  Falco  peregrinus.  The  Peregrine  Falcon,  294 

3.  Falco  Subbuteo.  The  Hobby  Falcon,  -  309 

4.  Falco  vespertinus.  The  Orange-legged  Falcon,  313 

5.  Falco  iEsalon.  The  Merlin,  -  -  317 

6.  Falco  Tinnunculus.  The  Kestrel,  -  325 

Genus  IX.  Accipiter.  Hawk,  -  338 

1.  Accipiter  Palumbarius.  The  Goshawk  -  340 

2.  Accipiter  Nisus.  The  Sparrow  Hawk,  -  -  346 

Genus  X.  Circus.  Harrier,  -  -  363 

1.  Circus  cyaneus.  The  Ring-tailed  Harrier,  366 

2.  Circus  cineraceus.  Montagu’s  Harrier,  -  378 

3.  Circus  aeruginosus.  The  Marsh  Harrier,  -  -  382 

FAMILY  III.  STRIGINT:.  OWLS,  -  -  -  388 

Synopsis  of  the  British  Genera  and  Species,  -  397 


Yin 


CONTENTS. 


Genus  I.  Syrnia.  Day-Owl,  -  -  401 

1 .  Syrnia  funerea.  The  Hawk  Day-Owl,  -  404 

2.  Syrnia  Nyctea.  The  Snowy  Day-Owl,  -  -  407 

3.  Syrnia  psilodactyla.  The  Bare-toecl  Day-Owl,  417 

Genus  II.  Scops.  Owlet,  -  -  421 

1 .  Scops  Aldrovandi.  The  Aldrovandine  Owlet,  422 

Genus  III.  Bubo.  Eagle-Owl,  -  -  425 

1.  Bubo  maximus.  The  Great  Eagle-Owl,  -  -  428 

Genus  IV.  Ulula.  Hooting-Owl,  -  -  435 

1.  Ulula  Aluco.  The  Tawny  Hooting-Owl,  438 

2.  Ulula  Tengmalmi.  Tengni aim’s  Iiooting-Owl,  445 

Genus  V.  Asio.  Tufted-Owl,  -  -  450 

1.  Asio  Otus.  The  Mottled  Tufted-Owl,  -  453 

2.  Asio  brachyotus.  The  Streaked  Tufted-Owl,  461 

Genus  VI.  Strix.  Screech-Owl,  -  -  469 

1.  Strix  flammea.  The  European  Screech-Owl,  477 

De  Ululis,  -  480 

ORDER  X.  EXCURSORES.  SNATCHERS. 

FAMILY  I.  LANIIN7E.  SHRIKES  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES,  486 

Synopsis  of  the  British  Genera  and  Species,  -  488 

Genus  I.  Lanius.  Shrike,  -  -  489 

1.  Lanius  Excubitor.  The  Great  Cinereous  Skrike,  492 

2.  Lanius  Rutilus.  The  TVoodchat  Shrike,  -  502 

3.  Lanius  Collurio.  The  Red-backed  Shrike,  505 

FAMILY  II.  MYIOTHERIN.E.  FLYCHASERS  AND  ALLIED 

SPECIES,  _  522 

Synopsis  of  the  British  Genera  and  Sjiecies,  -  515 

Genus  I.  Muscicapa.  Flycatcher,  -  -  516 

1.  Muscicapa  Grisola.  The  Spotted  Grey  Flycatcher,  518 

2.  Muscicapa  luctiiosa.  The  Pied  Flycatcher,  524 


CONTENTS. 


IX 


FAMILY  III.  AMPELINiE.  CHATTERERS  AND  ALLIED 

SPECIES,  -  529 

Synopsis  of  the  British  Genera  and  Species,  -  530 

Genus  I.  Bombycilla.  Waxwing,  -  -  531 

1.  Bombycilla  garrula.  The  Black- throated  Waxwing,  533 

FAMILY  IV.  PSARINyE.  THICK-BILLS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES,  537 


Synopsis  of  the  British  Genera  and  Species,  -  533 

Genus  I.  Coracjas.  Roller,  -  -  539 

I.  Coracias  garrula.  The  Garrulous  Roller,  540 

PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY.  NINTH  LESSON,  -  543 


Scene  from  the  Fifeshire  coast  in  March.  Velvet  Ducks,  Cormorants, 
Larks,  Lapwings,  Shells,  and  a  Sea-Devil.  Various  observations. 
Modes  of  preparing  Skeletons  and  Digestive  Organs  of  Birds.  A 
steam-boat  in  a  storm.  Recollections  of  the  Hebrides. 

ORDER  XI.  VOLITATORES.  GLIDERS. 

FAMILY  I.  HIRUNDIN.E.  SWALLOWS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES,  553 

Synopsis  of  the  British  Genera  and  Species,  -  554 

Genus  I.  IIirundo.  Swallow,  -  -  555 

1 .  IIirundo  rustica.  The  Red-fronted  or  Chimney 

Swallow,  -  -  -  558 

2.  Hirundo  urbica.  The  White-rumped  Swallow,  573 

3.  Hirundo  riparia.  The  Bank  Swallow,  -  593 

FAMILY  II.  CYPSELTNyE.  SWIFTS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES,  606 


Synopsis  of  the  British  Genera  and  Species,  -  608 

Genus  I.  Cypselus.-  Swift,  -  609 

1.  Cypselus  Melba.  The  White-bellied  Swift,  611 

2.  Cypselus  murarius.  The  Black  Swift,  -  614 


X 


CONTENTS. 


FAMILY  III.  CAPRIMULGIN.E.  GOATSUCKERS  AND  ALLIED 


SPECIES,  -  -  -  627 

Synopsis  of  the  British  Genera  and  Species,  -  629 

Genus  I.  Caprimulgus.  Goatsucker,  -  636 

1 .  Caprimulgus  europteus.  The  European  Goatsucker 
or  Nightjar,  -  633 

PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY.  TENTH  LESSON,  646 


Catalogue  of  the  Land  Birds  of  Leicestershire.  By  Mr  James  Harley. 


ORDER  XII.  JACULATORES.  DARTERS, 

FAMILY  I.  ALCEDINtE.  KINGFISHERS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES,  667 

Genus  I.  Alcedo.  Kingfisher,  -  -  669 

1.  Alcedo  Ispida.  The  Halcyon  Kingfisher,  671 

Genus  II.  Merops.  Bee-eater,  -  683 

1.  Merops  Apiaster.  The  Yellow-throated  Bee-eater,  685 


SUPPLEMENT, 

Containing  omitted  Species,  -  -  689 

Loxia  leucoptera.  The  White- winged  Crossbill,  -  689 

Genus.  Calamophilus.  Pinnock,  -  693 

1.  Calamophilus  biarmicus.  The  Bearded  Pinnock,  694 

APPENDIX. 

Additional  Observations  relative  to  the  Birds  described  in  the 
First,  Second,  and  Third  Volumes,  -  -  700 


Corvus  leucophaeus,  Pied  or  Ferroe  Raven, 


745 


LIST  OF  ILLUSTRATIVE  FIGURES. 


PLATES. 


XIV.  Digestive  Organs  of  Creepers  and  Woodpeckers. 

XV.  Tongue  and  Trachea  of  the  Green  Woodpecker,  Picus  viridis. 

XVI.  Digestive  Organs  of  the  Grey  Cuckoo,  Cuculus  canorus. 

XVII.  Organs  of  Sensation  of  Rapacious  Birds.  The  Eye  and  the  Tongue. 
XVIII.  Organs  of  Sensation  of  Rapacious  Birds.  The  Nasal  cavity,  and  the  Ear. 

XIX.  Tracheae  of  Vultures,  Hawks,  and  Owls. 

XX.  Digestive  Organs  of  the  Sea-Eagle  and  Golden  Eagle. 

XXI.  Digestive  Organs  of  Hawks  and  Owls. 

XXII.  Digestive  Organs  of  Shrikes,  Flycatchers,  Chatterers,  Swallows,  Swifts, 
Goatsuckers,  and  Kingfishers. 


WOOD  CUTS. 


Fig.  186.  Heads  of  two  species  of  Dendrocolaptes.  Reduced,  .  page  10 

187.  Foot  of  Dendrocolaptes,  .  .  .  .  ]i 

188.  Head  of  European  Wren,  Anorthura  Troglodytes,  .  ].*> 

189.  Head  of  Brown  Tree-creeper,  Certhia  familiaris,  .  33 

190.  Foot  of  Brown  Tree-creeper,  .  .  .  .34 

191.  Wing  of  Brown  Tree-creeper,  ...  34 

192.  Tail  of  Brown  Tree-creeper,  .  •  35 

193.  Head  of  European  Hoopoe,  Upupa  Epops.  Reduced  .  41 

194.  Foot  of  European  Hoopoe,  ...  44 

195.  Head  of  European  Nuthatch,  Sitta  europaea,  .  48 

196.  Foot  of  European  Nuthatch,  .  .  .  .55 

197.  Wing  of  European  Nuthatch,  .  .  .  55 

198.  Foot  of  Ivory-billed  Woodpecker,  Picus  principalis.  Red.  one-third,  68 

199.  Sternum  of  Pileated  Woodpecker,  Picus  pileatus, 

200.  Bill  of  Picus  robustus.  Reduced  one-third, 

201.  Tail  of  Picus  robustus, 

202.  Head  of  Great  Black  Woodpecker,  Picus  martius, 

203.  Head  of  Pied  Woodpecker,  Picus  Pipra, 

204.  Foot  of  Pied  Woodpecker,  .... 

205.  Head  of  Striated  Woodpecker,  Picus  striolatus, 

206.  Head  of  Green  Woodpecker,  Picus  viridis.  Reduced  one-third, 

207.  Head  of  Wryneck,  Yunx  Torquilla, 

208.  Foot  of  Eudynamis  orientalis, 

209.  Head  of  Grey  Cuckoo,  Cuculus  canorus, 

210.  Head  of  White  Neophron,  Neophron  Percnopterus.  Reduced, 

211.  Sternum  of  Turkey-Vulture,  Cathartes  Aura.  Red.  one-half, 

212.  Head  of  Brown  Buzzard,  Buteo  fuscus.  Reduced  one-third, 

213.  Foot  of  Rough-legged  Buzzard,  Buteo  lagopus.  Red.  one-third, 

214.  Foot  of  Golden  Eagle,  Aquila  Chrysaetus.  Half-size, 

215.  Head  of  Golden  Eagle.  Half-size, 

216.  Foot  of  White-tailed  Sea-Eagle,  Haliaetus  Albicilla.  Half-size, 

217.  Head  of  White-tailed  Sea-Eagle,  Haliaetus  Albicilla.  Half-size, 

218.  Head  of  Fishing  Osprey,  Pandion  Haliaetus.  Red.  one-third, 

219.  Foot  of  Fishing  Osprey,  Pandion  Haliaetus.  Red.  one-third, 

220.  Head  of  Brown  Bee-Hawk,  Pernis  apivora.  Reduced  one-third, 

221.  Head  of  Red  Kite,  Milvus  regalis.  Reduced  one-third, 


70 

73 

•  •  7  6 

Red.  one-third,  77 
80 
81 
86 
91 
100 
105 
109 
166 
169 
183 
194 

203 

204 
220 
221 
239 
251 
254 
265 


Xll 


LIST  OF  ILLUSTRATIVE  FIGURES. 


Fig.  222.  Head  of  White-headed  Swallow-Kite.  Reduced  one  third,  page  277 

223.  Head  of  Gyr  Falcon,  Falco  Gyrfalco.  Reduced  one-third,  284 

224.  Head  of  Peregrine  Falcon,  Falco  peregrinus.  Red,  one-third,  294 

225.  Foot  of  Peregrine  Falcon.  Reduced  one-third,  .  308 

226.  Heads  of  Merlin  Falcon,  Falco  TEsalon.  Reduced  one-third,  317 

227.  Head  of  Female  Kestrel,  Falco  Tinnunculus.  Red.  one-third,  325 

228.  Heads  of  Sparrow  Hawk,  Accipiter  Nisus,  Reduced  one-third,  346 

22.9.  Foot  of  Sparrow  Hawk.  Reduced  one-third,  .  362 

230.  Head  of  Hen  Harrier,  Circus  cyaneus.  Female.  Red.  one-third,  365 

231.  Head  of  Hen  Harrier,  Circus  cyaneus.  Male.  Red.  one-third,  366 

232.  Foot  of  Hen  Harrier.  Reduced  one-third,  .  .377 

233.  Head  of  Montagu’s  Harrier,  Circus  cineraceus.  Red.  one-third,  378 

234.  Head  of  Marsh  Harrier,  Circus  aeruginosus.  Red.  one-third,  382 

235.  Foot  of  Mottled  Tufted-Owl,  Asio  Otus.  Full  size,  .  390 

236.  Sternum  of  an  Owl.  Full  size,  .  .  .  392 

237.  Ears  of  Falcon,  Day-Owl,  Hooting-Owl,  Tufted-Owl,  and 

Screech-Owl.  Reduced,  ....  396 

238.  Ear  of  Syrnia  nyctea.  Full  size,  .  .  403 

239*  Head  of  Snowy  Day-Owl,  Syrnia  nyctea.  Reduced,  .  407 

240.  Foot  of  Bare-toed  Day-owl,  Syrnia  psilodactyla.  Full  size,  420 

241.  Head  of  Scops  Owlet,  Scops  Aldrovandi.  Half-size,  .  422 

242.  Ear  of  Great  Eagle-Owl,  Bubo  maximus,  .  .  427 

243.  Head  of  Great  Eagle-Owl.  Reduced  one-half,  .  .  428 

244.  Ear  of  Tawny  Hooting-Owl,  Ulula  Aluco.  Reduced  one-half,  437 

245.  Head  of  Tawny  Hooting-Owl.  Reduced  one-half,  .  438 

246.  Ear  of  Mottled  Tufted-Owl,  Asio  Otus.  Reduced  one-half,  452 

247*  Head  of  Mottled  Tufted-Owl.  Reduced  one-half,  .  453 

248.  Ear  of  European  Screech-Owl,  Strix  flammea.  Reduced  one-half,  472 

249.  Foot  of  European  Screech-Owl,  .  .  .  472 

250.  Wing  of  Great  Cinereous  Shrike,  Lanius  Excubitor.  Reduced,  491 

251.  Head  of  Great  Cinereous  Shrike,  .  .  .  492 

252.  Head  of  Woodchat  Shrike,  Lanius  Rutilus,  .  .  502 

253-  Head  of  Red-backed  Shrike,  Lanius  Collurio,  .  .  505 

254.  Head  and  Foot  of  Tyrannus  crinitus,  .  ,  513 

255.  Head  of  Spotted  Grey  Flycatcher,  Muscicapa  Grisola,  .  517 

256.  Foot  of  Spotted  Grey  Flycatcher,  .  .  517 

257.  Head  of  Spotted  Grey  Flycatcher,  .  .  .  518 

258-  Head  of  Pied  Flycatcher,  Muscicapa  luctuosa,  .  524 

259.  Wing  of  Black-throated  Waxwing,  Bombycilla  garrula,  .  532 

260.  Plead  of  Black-throated  Waxwing,  .  .  533 

261.  Foot  of  Black-throated  Waxwing,  .  ,  ,  530 

262.  Head  of  Garrulous  Roller,  Coracias  garrula,  .  540 

263.  Wing  of  White-rumped  Swallow,  Hirundo  urbica,  .  552 

264.  Wing  of  Black  Swift,  Cypselus  murarius,  .  .  552 

265.  Wing  of  European  Goatsucker,  Caprimulgus  europaeus,  .  552 

266.  Head  of  Red-fronted  Swallows  Hirundo  rustica,  .  558 

267.  Head  of  White-rumped  Swallow,  Hirundo  urbica,  .  573 

268.  Head  of  Sand  Swallow,  Hirundo  riparia,  .  .  595 

269.  Sternum  of  Black  Swift,  .  608 

270.  Head  of  White-bellied  Swift,  Cypselus  Melba,  .  611 

271.  Heads  of  Black  Swift,  Cypselus  murarius,  .  .  614 

272.  Foot  of  Black  Swift,  Cypselus  murarius,  .  .  626 

273.  Foot  of  European  Goatsucker,  Caprimulgus  europaeus,  .  632 

274.  Head  of  European  Goatsucker,  .  .  633 

275.  Head  of  European  Kingfisher,  Alcedo  Ispida,  ,  .  671 

276.  Head  of  \  ellow-throated  Bee-eater,  Merops  Apiaster,  6 85 

277.  Head  of  White-winged  Crossbill,  Loxia  leucoptera,  .  689 

278.  Plead  of  Bearded  Pinnock,  Calamophilus  biarmicus,  .  694 


( 


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ESSENTIAL  CHARACTERS  OF  THE  ORDERS. 


ORDER  VI.  REPTATORES.  CREEPERS. 

Bill  of  moderate  length  or  elongated,  slender,  more  or  less 
arched,  compressed,  acute  ;  upper  mandible  with  moderate 
basal  sinuses,  filled  by  the  nasal  membrane,  which  is  covered 
by  short  feathers,  its  edges  slightly  overlapping,  with  a  small  or 
obsolete  notch  on  each  side,  close  to  the  pointed  tip.  (Eso¬ 
phagus  narrow,  without  dilatation ;  proventriculus  oblong, 
with  cylindrical  glandules.  Stomach  roundish,  somewhat 
compressed,  with  moderate  lateral  muscles,  and  dense  rugous 
epithelium.  Intestine  short  and  rather  wide ;  coeca  reduced 
to  very  small  cylindrical  adnate  tubes.  Feet  rather  short; 
tarsus  compressed ;  toes  much  compressed,  the  first  large,  the 
anterior  three  little  separated  ;  claws  very  long,  moderately 
arched,  extremely  compressed,  very  acute.  Wings  of  mode¬ 
rate  length,  broad,  concave,  rounded,  with  the  first  quill  very 
short.  PL  XIV. 

ORDER  VII.  SCANSORES.  CLIMBERS. 

Bill  large,  strong,  nearly  straight,  angular,  compressed  and 
generally  cuneate  at  the  point ;  upper  mandible  with  the  nos¬ 
trils  concealed  by  the  reversed  bristly  feathers  of  the  narrow 
basal  sinuses.  Tongue  extensile.  (Esophagus  of  moderate 
width,  without  crop,  but  dilated  below  into  a  very  large  sac, 
on  which  the  proventricular  glands  are  dispersed.  Stomach 
roundish,  of  small  or  moderate  size,  a  little  compressed,  with  a 


VOL.  III. 


A 


2 


ESSENTIAL  CHARACTERS  OF  THE  ORDERS. 


thick  muscular  coat,  and  thin,  dense,  longitudinally  rugous 
epithelium.  Intestine  of  moderate  length,  and  very  wide  ;  no 
coeca  ;  cloaca  very  large  and  elliptical.  Legs  very  short ;  tar¬ 
sus  short ;  first  toe  very  short,  sometimes  wanting,  directed 
backwards,  as  is  the  fourth  or  outer,  which  is  equal  to  the  third 
or  longer,  the  second  and  third  united  at  the  base  ;  claws  re¬ 
markably  large,  much  curved,  extremely  compressed,  broadly 
grooved  on  the  sides,  and  with  the  tips  very  acute.  Wings 
large,  much  rounded,  the  first  quill  very  small.  Tail  short 
or  of  moderate  length,  often  rigid,  of  ten  or  twelve  feathers. 
PI.  XI Y. 

OLDER  VIII.  CUCULIN/E.  CUCKOOS. 

Bill  of  moderate  size  or  large,  wide  at  the  base,  much  com¬ 
pressed  toward  the  end,  somewhat  arched  and  pointed ;  upper 
mandible  with  the  ridge  more  or  less  arcuate,  the  edges  notch¬ 
less  at  the  end,  the  tip  decurved,  acute.  Tongue  moderate, 
flattened,  tapering.  (Esophagus  wide,  without  crop  ;  proven- 
triculus  large  ;  stomach  very  large,  round,  with  its  muscular 
coat  thin,  and  the  epithelium  soft  and  rugous.  Intestine  of 
moderate  length  and  width,  with  large  oblong  coeca.  Toes 
broad  beneath,  first  small,  fourth  directed  backwards,  second 
and  third  united  at  the  base ;  claws  moderate,  curved,  com¬ 
pressed,  acute,  that  of  the  first  toe  sometimes  much  elongated. 
Wings  long  or  moderate,  much  rounded.  Tail  long,  graduated 
or  rounded,  of  twelve  broad  feathers.  PL  XVI. 

ORDER  IX.  RAPTORES.  PLUNDERERS. 

Bill  short  or  moderate ;  upper  mandible  cerate  at  the  base, 
without  sinus,  but  with  the  nostrils  perforated  in  the  cere,  the 
tip  decurved,  elongated,  and  pointed.  Tongue  short,  concave, 
fleshy,  rounded  or  emarginate.  (Esophagus  wide,  dilated  into 
a  crop  in  the  diurnal  species  ;  proventriculus  wide  ;  stomach 
very  large,  round,  with  its  muscular  coat  very  thin,  and  the 


ESSENTIAL  CHARACTERS  OF  THE  ORDERS. 


3 


epithelium  soft  and  rugous,  or  very  thin.  Intestine  short  and 
of  moderate  width,  in  a  few  species  which  feed  on  fish  very 
long  and  extremely  slender  ;  coeca  in  the  diurnal  very  small 
or  obsolete,  in  the  nocturnal  oblong  and  large.  Feet  strong, 
with  four  toes,  of  which  the  outer  is  versatile  in  the  nocturnal 
species ;  claws  long,  curved,  tapering,  very  acute.  Wings 
always  large,  but  varying  in  length.  Tail  of  twelve  feathers. 
PI.  IV,  V,  XX,  XXI. 

ORDER  X.  EXCURSORES.  SNATCHERS. 

Bill  short  or  of  moderate  length,  very  broad  at  the  base, 
compressed  only  at  the  tip ;  upper  mandible  with  rather  wide 
basal  sinuses,  filled  by  the  nasal  membrane,  which  is  feathered, 
the  edges  notched  close  to  the  decurved  acute  tip.  Tongue 
narrow,  flat,  thin-edged,  with  the  point  slit  or  lacerated. 
(Esophagus  wide,  without  crop ;  proventriculus  oblong ;  sto¬ 
mach  elliptical  or  roundish,  moderately  muscular,  with  the 
lateral  muscles  distinct,  and  the  epithelium  dense  and  rugous. 
Intestine  short  and  wide,  with  very  small  coeca.  Feet  of  mo¬ 
derate  size  or  very  small  ;  tarsus  slender  ;  hind  toe  long  and 
stouter,  lateral  toes  nearly  equal,  anterior  moderately  spread¬ 
ing  ;  claws  rather  long,  curved  or  arched,  much  compressed, 
laterally  grooved,  very  acute.  Wings  generally  rather  long, 
more  or  less  rounded,  with  the  first  quill  very  small.  Tail  of 
twelve  feathers.  PL  XXII. 


ORDER  XI.  V OLIT ATORES.  GLIDERS. 

Bill  very  short  in  proportion  to  its  breadth  ;  mouth  extremely 
wide ;  upper  mandible  with  the  tip  very  small,  and  the  nasal 
sinuses  feathered.  Tongue  short,  flattened,  sometimes  very 
small.  (Esophagus  wide,  somewhat  funnel-shaped,  but  with¬ 
out  crop  ;  proventriculus  moderate.  Stomach  broadly  ellipti¬ 
cal,  moderately  compressed,  in  the  diurnal  species  muscular, 
with  thin  broadly  rugous  epithelium,  in  the  nocturnal,  very 


4 


ESSENTIAL  CHARACTERS  OF  THE  ORDERS. 


large,  with  the  muscular  coat  thin,  the  epithelium  hard  and 
rugous.  Intestine  short  and  wide,  with  small  or  obsolete  cceca 
in  the  diurnal,  but  in  the  nocturnal  large  and  oblong.  Feet 
extremely  small,  with  four  toes,  the  anterior  spreading ;  claws 
rather  large,  arched  or  curved,  acute.  Wings  very  long  and 
pointed.  Tail  of  twelve  feathers.  PI.  XXII. 

ORDER  XII.  JACULATORES.  DARTERS. 

Bill  large,  angular,  tapering,  straight  or  arched,  pointed  ; 
upper  mandible  with  very  short  feathered  nasal  sinuses,  and 
without  notches.  Tongue  very  small.  (Esophagus  very  wide, 
funnel-shaped,  without  crop.  Stomach  large,  round,  with  a 
very  thin  muscular  coat,  and  a  soft  rugous  epithelium.  Intes¬ 
tine  of  moderate  length,  very  slender ;  no  coeca ;  cloaca  very 
large  and  globular.  Feet  remarkably  small  and  feeble  ;  tarsus 
very  short ;  toes  short  and  very  slender,  the  first  small,  broad 
and  flattened  beneath,  the  anterior  three  parallel  and  united 
in  part  of  their  length ;  claws  arched,  compressed,  acute. 
Wings  broad,  rounded,  with  the  first  quill  extremely  small. 
Tail  of  twelve  feathers.  PI.  XXII. 


In  commencing  a  new  volume,  in  which  there  will  neces¬ 
sarily  be  much  of  the  formality  essential  to  the  accurate  de¬ 
scription  of  organs,  whether  internal  or  external,  one  may,  not 
inaptly,  indulge  in  a  little  preliminary  recreation.  A  walk 
into  the  fields  cannot  fail  to  refresh  our  feelings,  enliven  our 
sympathies,  and  prepare  us  for  the  task,  not  altogether  one  of 
unmixed  delight,  of  composing  or  perusing  eight  hundred  pages 
of  ornithology.  A  history  unembellished  by  fiction  cannot  be 
so  entertaining  as  one  in  which  facts  are  modified  and  accom¬ 
modated  to  favourite  theories,  inferences  drawn  from  loose 
statements,  precise  details  represented  as  unimportant,  and 


PREPARATORY  WALK  INTO  THE  COUNTRY. 


5 


mellifluous  sentences  constructed  with  little  regard  to  common 
sense.  There  remains  for  me,  then,  only  one  method  of  giving 
a  general  interest  to  my  descriptions,  namely  that  of  occasion¬ 
ally  digressing  from  the  subject,  to  connect  it  with  those  to 
which  it  naturally  bears  reference.  If  in  the  following  pages 
some  slight  attempts  at  ornament  may  sometimes  be  made, 
the  reader  will  not  discover  in  them  any  fabulous  incidents, 
or  any  facts  so  decorated  as  to  lose  their  proper  character. 

Making  a  general  inspection  of  our  aerial  and  terrestrial 
birds,  I  might  present  some  statements  respecting  their  distri¬ 
bution,  and  the  proportion  of  resident  to  migratory  species  ;  or, 
from  facts  supplied  by  observation,  I  might  calculate  how 
many  bushels  of  grain  are  annually  devoured  by  one  set  of 
birds,  and  how  many  millions  of  insects  and  worms  by  an¬ 
other  ;  but,  leaving  such  matters  to  the  ingenuity  of  specula¬ 
tive  minds,  I  prefer  a  visit  to  the  fields,  the  woods,  and  the 
moors,  on  this  beautiful  day  in  the  beginning  of  summer.  Some 
pleasing,  if  not  important,  observations  may  be  made,  in  the 
course  of  a  long  walk,  in  any  part  of  the  country,  for,  although 
not  a  single  bird  may  occur  that  has  not  been  often  seen  be¬ 
fore,  a  lover  of  living  nature  is  hardly  ever  tired  with  watch¬ 
ing  them. 

What  first  attracts  our  notice  is  a  colony  of  Rooks  in  the 
tall  trees  of  the  garden.  In  the  hole  of  that  broken  limb  of 
the  old  sycamore  is  a  starling's  nest,  as  you  may  be  assured  by 
the  loud  cries  of  its  greedy  young  ones.  These  will  suffice  to 
remind  us  of  the  Vagatores.  A  few  Sparrows  are  seen  on  the 
road,  a  beautiful  Chaffinch  chants  his  not  unpleasing  song  on 
the  beech-tree,  two  Green  Linnets  are  flying  about  the  hedge, 
and  on  the  stone-wall  a  Corn  Bunting  creaks  out  its  curious 
cry.  These  and  other  Deglubitores  have  already  received  our 
attention.  Leaving  the  city,  we  enter  a  highly  cultivated  dis¬ 
trict,  in  which  the  fields,  covered  with  corn  and  grass,  are 
separated  from  each  other  by  hawthorn  fences  and  stone-walls. 
The  rains  which  have  lately  fallen  in  profusion  have  imparted 
a  healthy  vigour  to  the  vegetation.  The  merry  carol  of  the 
Lark  comes  from  on  high,  and  the  lively  Whitethroat,  flitting 
along  the  hedge,  sings  its  more  cheerful  than  melodious  ditty 


6 


PREPARATORY  WALK  INTO  THE  COUNTRY. 


as  it  flies  before  us,  then  hovers  a  while,  still  singing,  plunges 
into  the  bush,  and  emerges  at  a  little  distance.  Scarcely  two 
birds  of  this  species  have  the  same  song,  or  at  least,  the  voices 
of  individuals  differ  greatly,  and  the  parts  of  the  performance 
are  variously  arranged.  Although  Larks  also  differ  somewhat 
in  this  respect,  there  seems  more  uniformity  in  their  song,  so 
that  an  inattentive  listener  would  scarcely  perceive  any  differ¬ 
ence  between  one  individual  and  another.  From  among  the 
trees  by  the  brook  issues  the  simple  but  finely  cadenced  song 
of  the  Willow  Wren.  The  restlessness  and  frequent  cheep  of 
that  Pied  Wagtail,  as  it  now  runs  along  the  pebbly  beach, 
then  betakes  itself  to  a  tree,  and  presently  darts  over  head, 
betray  its  anxiety  for  its  young.  From  the  plantation  on  the 
hill  side  come  at  intervals  the  loud  and  mellow  notes  of  the 
Blackbird,  and  now  the  delightfully  modulated  strain  of  the 
Garden  Warbler.  Other  sounds  mingle  with  these,  but  we 
have  heard  enough  to  remind  us  of  our  former  observations  on 
the  Cantatores.  In  the  border  of  the  grassy  field,  you  may 
see  running  along  a  solitary  Partridge,  and  several  Wood- 
pigeons  wend  their  way  toward  the  distant  wood.  At  present 
we  have  little  chance  of  meeting  with  any  other  Rasores  or 
Gemitores. 

On  that  columnar  crag  is  the  nest  of  a  Kestrel,  of  which  the 
situation  is  marked  by  a  white  spot,  and  in  the  wood  beneath  it 
one  sometimes  meets  with  the  Tawny  Owl.  How  beautifully 
these  Swallows  skim  over  the  pool,  now  and  then  dipping  as  it 
were  into  the  water  !  Some  of  them  have  fixed  their  nests  in 
the  window-corners  of  the  farm-house,  while  others  inhabit  the 
holes  of  that  sand-pit.  To  the  Raptores  and  Volitatores,  of 
which  these  birds  are  representatives,  our  labours  will  present¬ 
ly  be  directed.  On  the  bank  of  the  stream,  at  the  commence¬ 
ment  of  that  beautiful  wood,  there  used  to  be  the  nest,  or  at 
least  the  hole,  of  a  Kingfisher,  the  only  permanently  resident 
representative  of  the  group  which  I  name  Jaculatores  ;  and 
on  the  trunks  of  those  tall  trees,  should  one  look  sharply,  he 
might  discover  the  Creeper,  which  belongs  to  our  Reptatores  ; 
but  the  Scansores  are  so  rare  in  this  part  of  the  country  that 
wTe  have  no  chance  of  meeting  with  a  Woodpecker. 


PREPARATORY  WALK  INTO  THE  COUNTRY. 


l 


How  beautiful  those  green  woods  of  beech  and  lime,  inter¬ 
mingled  with  stately  pines,  elms,  and  sycamores  !  The  lilac 
with  its  lovely  thyrsi,  the  bird-cherry  with  its  white  racemes, 
the  laburnum  profuse  of  pendulous  yellow  flowers,  decorate  the 
thickets.  On  the  banks  and  in  the  shade  of  the  woods  are  an 
hundred  species  of  plants,  the  examination  of  which  affords 
delight  to  that  botanist,  who,  with  trowel  in  hand,  and  three 
tin  boxes  slung  to  his  person,  rummages  among  the  tangled 
roots.  The  blue  hyacinth,  the  broad-leaved  garlick,  the  pur¬ 
ple-spiked  orchis,  the  wild  strawberry,  the  goldilock  ranuncu¬ 
lus,  the  creeping  bugle,  the  wliorled  woodruff1,  the  delicate 
oxalis,  the  granulated  saxifrage,  and  many  more  are  seen 
around  us.  But  see,  flitting  from  the  tree  to  the  rock,  are  two 
small  birds,  which  from  their  peculiar  cry  of  c/iack ,  chack ,  we 
know  to  be  Grey  Flycatchers.  They  represent  our  Excur- 
sores,  not  inaptly,  as  you  observe,  for  one  of  them  has  sprung 
into  the  air,  seized  an  insect,  and  returned  to  the  pinnacle  on 
which  it  had  perched. 

With  the  exception  of  the  Woodpeckers,  we  have  thus  met 
with  representatives  of  all  our  larger  groups  of  land  birds,  un¬ 
less  we  consider  the  Cuckoo  as  meriting  a  place  for  itself  and 
its  companions.  As  yet  not  a  single  bird  has  occurred  of  those 
which  will  form  the  subjects  of  my  fourth  and  fifth  volumes, 
namely  the  Wading  and  Swimming  Tribes.  But  now  we 
leave  the  shade  of  those  beautiful  woods,  and  enter  on  an  open 
moor,  partly  covered  with  furze  and  heath.  Were  we  to  extend 
our  walk,  we  should  meet  with  the  Lapwing,  the  Curlew,  and 
the  Snipe ;  but  to  observe  the  Swimmers,  we  should  have  to 
betake  ourselves  to  the  shores  of  the  distant  estuary,  whose 
blue  waters,  and  projecting  headlands,  form  so  conspicuously 
beautiful  a  portion  of  the  extensive  landscape  presented  to  our 
view. 

Let  us  seat  ourselves  on  this  mossy  knoll,  inhale  the  pure 
air,  and  gaze  upon  the  blue  hills  that  skirt  the  horizon,  the 
extended  plains,  the  green  woods,  and  the  brown  moors.  It  is 
a  beautiful,  nay,  a  happy  world,  although  filled  with  sin  and 
sorrow.  How  lovely  then  must  be  that  in  which  grief  has  no 
place, — in  which  the  purified  soul  lives  in  the  eternal  sunshine 


8 


PREPARATORY  WALK  INTO  THE  COUNTRY. 


of  God's  love  !  Without  gratitude  for  mercies,  humility  on 
account  of  frailties,  hope  for  happier  days,  trust  in  providence, 
and  an  earnest  desire  to  do  good  to  our  fellow  men,  our  world, 
beautiful  as  it  may  be,  would  not  be  worth  living  in,  and  all 
our  ornithology,  however  scientific  and  orderly  we  might  make 
it,  however  pompously  we  might  talk  of  it,  and  whatever 
applause  it  might  elicit  from  admiring  crowds,  would  be  of  no 
real  advantage  to  us.  Even  as  it  is,  the  science  that  has  refer¬ 
ence  merely  to  the  things  of  time,  seems  to  me  a  very  small 
matter,  hardly  worth  disputing  about.  And  yet,  when  I  de¬ 
scend  from  this  mound,  which  to  me  is  the  temple  of  God,  and 
shut  myself  up  in  my  closet,  to  pen  the  pages  of  a  History  of 
British  Birds,  I  shall  sometimes  forget  to  exercise  that  moder¬ 
ation  toward  opposing  writers  which  conscience  might  approve. 

But  the  sky  is  blackening  in  the  west,  large  drops  are  be¬ 
ginning  to  fall,  a  thread  of  yellow  light  lias  shot  across  the 
gloom,  and  as  heavy  rain  and  thunder  may  be  expected,  let  us 
betake  ourselves  to  the  Hunters'  Tryst,  and  await  the  issue. 
I  always  feel  excited  and  nervous  during  a  thunder-storm.  The 
glory  of  the  dazzling  flash,  the  pomp  of  the  rolling  mass  of 
sound,  the  thick  darkness,  and  the  deluge  of  waters,  impress 
me  with  terror  and  delight,  wonder  and  dread.  It  is  like  the 
valley  of  the  shadow  of  death.  When  the  clouds  are  past, 
and  the  bow  of  promise  gladdens  the  eye,  and  the  glorious  sun 
shines  in  the  clear  blue  sky,  a  gladness  tempered  with  awe 
comes  on  the  soul,  a  feeling  like  that  which  I  hope  may  be 
mine  and  thine,  good  reader,  when  the  last  trumpet  shall  sum¬ 
mon  us  before  the  judgment-seat. 


9 


VI.  REPTATORES.  CREEPERS. 


By  the  ordinal  name  of  Reptatores,  or  Creepers,  may  be 
designated  an  extensive  group  of  birds,  which  agree  in  possess¬ 
ing  certain  forms  of  the  bill  and  feet  that  render  them  pecu¬ 
liarly  adapted  for  procuring  insects  and  larvae  in  the  crevices 
of  the  bark  of  trees.  But  the  habits  of  creeping  and  climbing 
are  not  confined  to  those  birds  which  have  the  tail-feathers  so 
stiffened  as  to  be  used  for  the  purpose  of  supporting  them  while 
they  cling  to  the  surface.  For  example,  the  Black-and- White 
Creeper  of  America,  Mniotilta  varia  of  Vieillot,  Certliia  varia 
of  Wilson,  is  described  as  precisely  similar  in  its  mode  of  life  to 
our  Common  Tree-Creeper,  Certliia  familiaris.  That  bird  how¬ 
ever  belongs  to  the  family  of  Sylvicolinae,  and  differs  little  from 
Sylvicola  coronata,  unless  in  having  the  bill  considerably  longer, 
and  the  claws  much  stronger.  This  latter  species  is  said  to  feed 
on  insects,  caterpillars,  berries,  and  seeds,  but  does  not  climb 
and  creep  in  the  manner  above  described. 

The  species  to  which  collectively  I  give  the  name  of  Creepers 
are  intimately  connected  on  one  hand  with  the  Sylvianse  and  Syl- 
vicolinse,  some  of  which,  as  may  be  seen  from  the  above  state¬ 
ment,  are  actually  creeping  and  climbing  birds,  on  another  with 
the  Parinae,  some  of  which  also  creep  and  climb,  and  again  with 
the  Paradiseame,  which  belong  to  the  order  V agatores.  They 
may  be  generally  described  as  having  a  more  or  less  elongated, 
slender,  acute  bill,  well  adapted  for  being  insinuated  into  the 
fissures  of  the  bark  of  trees ;  the  tarsi  short  and  slender ;  the 


VOL.  III. 


c 


10 


REPTATORES.  CREEPERS. 


toes  also  slender,  the  anterior  parallel  or  more  or  less  syndacty- 
lous,  the  hind  toe  very  stout ;  the  claws  large,  extremely  com¬ 
pressed,  arched,  and  very  acute.  It  must  here  however  be  stated 
that  in  this  order  the  form  of  the  bill  varies  extremely.  There  is 
a  small  group  or  genus  of  South  American  birds,  to  which  the 
name  of  Dendrocolaptes  has  been  given.  The  different  species  of 
this  genus  are  so  like  each  other  in  form,  proportions,  plumage, 
and  colour,  that,  in  so  far,  one  description  might  almost  answer 
for  all.  Their  feet  are  syndactyle,  and  adapted  for  climbing, 
the  toes  being  long,  with  strong,  curved,  acute  claws.  But  the 
bill,  which  commonly  affords  the  best  generic  character,  is  so 
different  in  the  different  species,  that  while  in  one  it  is  not  very 
unlike  that  of  a  Flycatcher,  in  another  it  resembles  that  of  an 
Epimachus,  as  may  be  seen  from  the  accompanying  engravings. 


Fig.  186. 


In  defining  this  genus,  then,  nothing  more  explicit  can  be  said 
of  the  bill  than  what  wTe  find  in  Temminck's  character  of  it : — 
“  The  form  of  the  bill  difficult  to  be  indicated  by  general  cha¬ 
racters  ;  depressed  and  trigonal  at  the  base,  compressed  or  slen¬ 
der  at  the  point ;  without  notch ;  straight  or  more  or  less 
curved,  with  scarcely  any  nasal  groove.”  Seeing,  then,  that 
in  a  very  natural  genus  of  this  order,  the  form  of  the  bill  varies 
so  much,  we  must  expect  to  find  in  the  different  families  and 
genera,  variations  more  remarkable  than  in  most  other  orders. 
The  only  universal  character  is  that  of  the  syndactylous  feet, 
having  long  slender  toes,  of  which  the  three  anterior  are  as  it 


REPTATORES.  CREEPERS. 


11 


were  pressed  close  together,  the  third  and  fourth  actually  united 
in  a  great  part  of  their  length,  the  first  always  long  and  directed 
backwards,  the  claws  strong,  extremely  compressed,  and  acute. 


Fig.  187. 

Now,  the  birds  which  exhibit  this  character  in  the  greatest 
perfection,  may  be  arranged  so  as  to  form  several  natural  groups 
or  families.  Those  of  which  the  bill  approaches  nearest  in 
form  to  that  of  the  smaller  Sylvianae,  and  which  in  the  same 
manner  have  the  peculiar  characters  of  the  feet  less  developed, 
are  the  Mellipliagince  and  the  Certhiance ,  the  latter  including 
among  others  the  genera  Anortliura,  Certhia,  Thyrothurus, 
Ticliodroma,  and  Upupa.  One  of  these  genera,  namely  Certhia, 
composed  of  a  few  species,  has  the  feathers  of  the  tail  depress¬ 
ed,  and  stiffened.  This  character  is  common  to  all  the  mem¬ 
bers  of  another  family,  although  in  some  genera  the  shafts  do 
not  protrude.  It  is  composed  of  the  genera  Dendrocolaptes, 
Sclerurus,  Oxyurus,  Furnarius,  Synallaxis,  Anabates,  and 
others,  and  may  be  named  Dendrocolaptincc.  The  genera 
Promerops,  Epimaclius,  Cinnyris,  Nectarinia,  and  others  con¬ 
stitute  the  family  of  Cinnyrince.  Lastly,  the  Sittinw  formed  of 
the  genera  Sitta,  Climacteris,  and  a  few  others,  lead  us  back  to 
the  Parinse,  which  they  greatly  resemble  in  form  and  habits, 
while  they  are  also  in  several  respects  assimilated  to  the  Wood- 

Not  being  satisfied  as  to  the  accordance  of  this  association  of 
species  with  rational  principles  of  classification,  because  I  have 
not  enjoyed  opportunities  of  making  myself  acquainted  with 
the  structure,  and  especially  the  digestive  organs  of  a  sufficient 
number  of  these  birds,  I  shall  not  offer  any  extended  remarks 
on  the  different  families  above  indicated,  but  proceed  as  direct¬ 
ly  as  is  consistent  with  the  method  which  I  have  adopted,  to 
give  the  history  of  the  very  few  species  that  occur  in  Britain- 


12 


.  CERTHIAN^E. 

TREE-CREEPERS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES. 


The  Certhianse  are  birds  of  small  size,  having  the  body  short, 
ovate,  and  compact ;  the  neck  generally  short ;  the  head  rather 
large  and  ovate ;  the  bill  of  moderate  length  or  elongated,  slender, 
in  some  degree  arched,  with  the  notches  obsolete,  the  tip  acute. 
Internally  both  mandibles  are  very  narrow,  concave,  with  a  cen¬ 
tral  prominent  line.  The  tongue  is  usually  very  slender,  emar- 
ginate  and  papillate  at  the  base,  channelled  above,  tapering, 
with  the  point  tliin-edged,  bristly,  and  rather  obtuse.  The 
digestive  organs  differ  little  from  those  of  the  Sylvianse,  the 
oesophagus  being  of  moderate  width  and  nearly  uniform 
diameter  ;  the  proventriculus  oblong ;  the  stomach  elliptical, 
moderately  muscular,  the  epithelium  dense,  with  large  longi¬ 
tudinal  rugae  ;  the  intestine  rather  short  and  wide  ;  the  coeca 
very  small,  the  cloaca  globular.  The  trachea  is  also  similar  to 
that  of  the  Cantatores,  having  four  pairs  of  distinct  inferior 
laryngeal  muscles.  Plate  XIV,  Fig.  1,  2. 

The  nostrils  are  linear  or  oblong,  exposed  ;  the  eyes  of  mo¬ 
derate  size  ;  the  aperture  of  the  ear  large,  and  roundish.  The 
plumage  soft  and  blended  ;  no  bristle-feathers  at  the  base  of 
the  bill.  Wings  rather  short,  broad,  concave,  much  rounded, 
the  first  quill  short ;  tail  short  or  of  moderate  length,  rounded. 
Anterior  toes  spreading  little,  coherent  at  the  base,  extremely 
compressed,  the  outer  longer  than  the  inner,  the  hind  toe  very 
long ;  claws  long,  arched,  extremely  compressed,  acute. 

To  this  group  belong  the  genera  Troglodytes,  nearly  allied  to 
the  Sylvianse,  Thyrothurus,  Certhia,  Tichodroma,  and  Upupa. 
Only  three  species,  Anorthura  Troglodytes,  Certhia  familiaris, 
and  Upupa  Epops,  occur  in  Britain. 


]3 


ANORTHURA.  WREN. 


Bill  of  ordinary  length  or  rather  long,  slender,  tapering, 
acute,  slightly  arched,  subtrigonal  at  the  base,  compressed 
towards  the  end :  upper  mandible  with  its  dorsal  outline 
slightly  arched,  the  ridge  narrow,  obtuse,  the  sides  sloping  at 
the  base,  towards  the  end  slightly  convex  and  erect,  the  edges 
sharp,  direct,  and  overlapping,  without  notch  ;  lower  mandible 
with  the  angle  narrow  and  rather  acute,  the  dorsal  outline 
straight,  the  back  narrow,  the  sides  convex,  the  edges  sharp 
and  inflected,  the  tip  very  narrow ;  the  gape-line  very  slightly 
arched. 

The  upper  mandible  within  is  concave,  with  a  central  pro¬ 
minent  line  ;  the  lower  deeply  channelled.  The  tongue  sagit¬ 
tate,  very  slender,  tapering,  concave  above,  slightly  jagged 
towards  the  tip.  The  oesophagus  of  moderate  width,  without 
dilatation  ;  the  stomach  roundish,  very  muscular,  with  a  dense 
longitudinally  rugous  epithelium  ;  the  intestine  short  and  rather 
wide,  the  coeca  very  small.  Plate  XIV,  Fig.  1. 

Nostrils  linear-oblong,  wider  at  the  proximal  extremity,  ex¬ 
posed,  with  an  oblong  operculum  ;  the  nasal  depression  rather 
large,  narrow,  feathered  at  the  base.  Eyes  of  moderate  size  ; 
eyelids  feathered.  External  aperture  of  ear  large,  roundish. 

The  general  form  is  full  and  short,  the  body  ovate,  the  neck 
short,  the  head  ovate  and  of  moderate  size,  the  wings  and  tail 
short ;  the  feet  of  ordinary  length ;  the  tarsus  compressed,  an¬ 
teriorly  covered  with  seven  scutella,  of  which  the  upper  are 
indistinct,  posteriorly  edged ;  toes  rather  large,  compressed  ; 
first  large,  and  longer  than  the  two  lateral,  of  which  the  inner 
is  a  little  shorter,  the  third  much  longer  ;  the  third  and  fourth 
coherent  as  far  as  the  second  joint  of  the  latter.  Claws  long, 
arched,  extremely  compressed,  laterally  grooved,  acute. 

Plumage  soft  and  blended,  the  feathers  ovate,  loose,  with  a 
very  slender  elongated  plumule.  There  are  no  bristle-pointed 


14 


ANORTHURA.  WREN. 


feathers  at  the  base  of  the  bill.  Wing  shortish,  broad,  con¬ 
cave,  semi -ovate,  much  rounded,  first  quill  half  the  length  of 
the  second  ;  third,  fourth,  fifth,  and  sixth  longest,  and  nearly 
equal  ;  primaries  ten,  secondaries  nine,  all  rounded.  Tail 
short  or  of  moderate  length,  rounded,  generally  raised,  and 
of.  twelve  weak,  rounded  feathers. 

The  Wrens  are  nearly  allied  on  the  one  hand  to  the  Phyllo- 
pneustse  and  Reguli,  and  on  the  other  to  the  Certhiae,  differing 
however  in  several  essential  respects  from  all  these  genera. 
Their  bill  is  more  compressed  and  arched  than  that  of  the 
Phyllopneustse  and  Reguli,  but  less  so  than  that  of  the  Certhiae. 
Their  feet  are  stouter  than  those  of  the  Reguli,  but  otherwise 
very  similar ;  and  the  claws  of  both  genera,  although  long,  are 
proportionally  shorter  than  those  of  the  Certhiae.  In  Anor- 
thura,  the  tail  is  usually  but  not  always  raised  or  cocked, 
whereas  in  Certhia  it  is  just  the  reverse.  Nevertheless  all 
these  genera  are  very  nearly  allied,  and  their  food  is  the  same, 
although  their  haunts  are  somewhat  different.  The  Reguli 
search  for  insects  and  pupae  upon  the  twigs  and  among  the 
leaves  of  trees  and  shrubs ;  the  Certhiae  in  the  chinks  of  the 
bark  of  the  stems  and  larger  branches  ;  and  the  Anorthurae 
among  stones  and  on  low  shrubs. 

From  the  form  of  their  body,  and  the  shortness  of  their 
wings  and  tail,  their  flight  is  direct,  being  performed  by  rapidly 
ideated  flaps.  They  inhabit  both  continents,  some  of  the 
species  extending  as  far  north  as  any  other  small  birds  of  a 
similar  nature.  Their  colouring  is  generally  dull,  or  at  least 
not  in  any  case  remarkable  for  brilliancy.  They  construct  a 
very  bulky  nest,  of  which  the  interior  is  composed  of  moss  and 
other  soft  materials,  and  often  lined  with  feathers.  The  eggs 
are  numerous,  that  is  from  five  to  eight,  or  even  more,  generally 
white  or  very  light  coloured,  more  or  less  dotted  or  spotted. 

Only  a  single  species  occurs  in  Britain,  where  it  is  a  perma¬ 
nent  resident,  and  generally  distributed.  It  is  the  only  species 
hitherto  found  on  the  continent,  although  the  existence  of 
another  in  Italy  is  conjectured.  In  North  America  however, 
there  are  several  species,  whose  liahits  generally  resemble  those 
of  ours,  and  of  which  one  is  so  similar  that  it  can  scarcely  be 
distinguished. 


15 


ANORTHURA  TROGLODYTES.  EUROPEAN  WREN. 


Fig.  188. 


Motacilla  Troglodytes.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  337. 

Motacilla  Troglodytes.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  IL  547. 

Wren.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Troglodyte  ordinaire.  Sylvia  Troglodytes.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  233. 

Troglodyte  ordinaire.  Troglodytes  vulgaris.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  III.  160. 

Common  Wren.  Troglodytes  Europseus.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  390. 

Troglodytes  Europseus.  Common  Wren.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  153. 

Upper  parts  reddish-brown ,  lower  light  greyish-brown ;  a 
hrownisli-white  streak  over  the  eye ,  the  hind  parts  of  both  sur¬ 
faces  barred  with  dusky ,  two  transverse  bands  of  white  dots  on  the 
wincts. 

Male. — The  Wren  is  one  of  the  most  familiarly  known  of 
our  small  birds,  being  rendered  remarkable,  not  less  by  its  pecu¬ 
liar  form  than  by  the  liveliness  of  its  motions.  Next  to  the 
Robin,  it  is  perhaps  the  least  liable  to  molestation  from  boys  and 
idle  people  ;  and  for  this  security  it  is  indebted  partly  to  its 
small  size,  and  partly  to  its  cheerfulness  and  innocence.  Its 
aspect  is  so  peculiar  that  every  person  must  have  taken  notice 
of  it  as  differing  from  that  of  other  small  birds,  the  body  being 
short  and  full,  the  tail  elevated  or  erected,  the  wings  short,  the 
head  of  moderate  size,  the  bill  very  slender,  and  the  feet  mode¬ 
rate.  The  various  parts  having  been  described  in  the  generic 
character,  and  there  being  no  other  species  of  the  genus  in  this 


16 


ANORTHURA  TROGLODYTES. 


country,  it  is  unnecessary  to  repeat  here  the  details  already 
given.  The  tongue  is  four- twelfths  and  three-fourths  in  length. 
The  oesophagus  is  an  inch  and  eight-twelfths  in  length  ;  the 
stomach  five-twelfths  long,  and  of  the  same  breadth,  with  the 
lateral  muscles  very  distinct ;  the  intestine  five  inches  long, 
two-twelfths  in  width  in  the  duodenal  portion,  one-twelfth  to¬ 
ward  the  coeca,  which  are  only  one-twelfth  long.  The  trachea 
has  four  pairs  of  inferior  laryngeal  muscles.  On  the  first  toe  are 
twelve,  on  the  second  eleven,  on  the  third  thirteen,  on  the 
fourth  twelve  scutella.  When  the  toes  are  brought  together, 
the  first  is  nearly  as  long  as  the  third,  the  claws  included,  and 
the  lateral,  of  which  the  outer  is  very  slightly  longer,  are  much 
shorter.  The  plumage  is  soft,  tufty,  unglossed,  the  feathers 
ovate,  with  loose  barbs,  and  very  slender  elongated  plumules. 
The  wing  is  shortish,  broad,  considerably  curved  or  concave, 
and  much  rounded,  of  nineteen  quills,  which  are  all  rather 
broad  and  rounded,  the  first  about  half  the  length  of  the  second, 
which  is  rather  more  than  a  quarter  of  an  inch  shorter  than  the 
third ;  the  fifth  is  longest,  but  the  fourth  and  sixth  are  nearly 
equal ;  the  rest  diminish  very  slowly,  and  the  inner  secondaries 
are  not  elongated.  The  tail  is  short,  much  rounded,  of  twelve 
slightly  curved,  narrow,  very  weak,  feathers.  PL  XI V,  Fig.  1. 

The  bill  is  dusky-brown  above,  the  edges  of  the  upper  mandi¬ 
ble,  and  two-thirds  of  the  lower  brownish-yellow,  the  tip  of  the 
lower  greyish-brown.  The  inside  of  the  mouth,  the  tongue, 
and  the  soft  skin  at  the  commissure  of  the  mandibles,  bright 
orange.  The  irides  dark  brown,  the  tarsi  and  toes  pale  greenish- 
brown,  as  are  the  claws.  The  general  colour  of  the  upper  parts 
is  reddish-brown,  darker  on  the  head,  brighter  on  the  tail- 
coverts,  quills,  and  tail.  There  is  a  white  spot  near  the  tips 
of  the  posterior  dorsal  feathers,  which,  however,  is  hardly  per¬ 
ceptible  when  they  are  laid.  The  secondary  coverts,  and  the 
first  small  coverts,  have  each  a  white  spot  at  the  tip.  The 
wing-coverts  and  quills  are  banded  with  deep-brown  and 
brownish-red ;  the  margin  of  the  reddish  bands  of  the  five 
outer  quills  reddish- white.  The  tail  is  undulatingly  barred  in 
the  same  manner  ;  the  dorsal  feathers  and  tail-coverts  very  ob¬ 
scurely  so.  A  brownish- white  line  passes  from  the  upper  man- 


EUROPEAN  WREN. 


17 


dible  over  the  eye,  the  cheeks  are  brown,  obscurely  spotted  with 
paler.  The  fore-neck  and  breast  pale  greyish-brown  ;  the  sides 
and  abdomen  barred  with  brownish- white  and  dusky ;  the  lower 
tail-coverts  brownish-red,  barred  with  dusky,  and  having  the 
tip  white. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  4J  inches ;  extent  of  wings  65  ;  bill 
along  the  ridge  ft,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  ft  ;  wing 
from  flexure  lft  ;  tail  ft  ;  tarsus  ft  ;  first  toe  ft,  its  claw 
ft  ;  second  toe  ft,  its  claw  ft  ;  third  toe  ft,  its  claw  ft  ; 
fourth  toe  ft,  its  claw  ft. 

Female. — The  female  is  considerably  smaller,  and  less 
brightly  coloured,  with  more  brown  on  the  lower  parts,  but 
otherwise  similar  to  the  male. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  4  inches ;  extent  of  wings  6^  ;  bill 
along  the  ridge  ft. 

Variations. — Very  considerable  differences  occur  in  the  size 
of  individuals,  and  some  have  the  bill  much  longer  and  more 
curved  than  others,  insomuch  that  I  was  at  one  time  impressed 
with  the  idea  of  our  having  two  species  of  W ren  ;  but  more 
extended  observation  and  comparison  have  convinced  me  that 
these  differences,  and  others  seen  in  the  tints  of  the  plumage, 
are  neither  so  constant  nor  so  decided  as  to  afford  specific  char¬ 
acters.  When  the  feathers  are  worn  in  summer,  the  small 
white  spots  on  the  wings  become  obliterated.  Old  individuals 
have  the  upper  parts  of  a  redder  tint,  and  the  lower  with  more 
white. 

Habits. — Excepting  the  Kinglets,  the  Creeper,  the  Chiff- 
chaff,  and  the  smaller  Tits,  the  W ren  is  the  least  of  our  native 
birds.  Its  flight  is  effected  by  a  rapid  and  continuous  motion 
of  the  wings,  and  therefore  is  not  undulated,  but  direct ;  nor  is 
it  sustained,  for  the  bird  merely  flits  from  one  bush  to  another, 
or  from  stone  to  stone.  It  is  most  frequently  met  with  along 
stone-walls,  among  fragments  of  rocks,  in  thickets  of  whins, 
and  by  hedges,  where  it  attracts  notice  by  the  liveliness  of  its 
motions,  and  frequently  by  its  loud  chirring  noise.  When 

VOL.  III. 


c 


18 


ANORTHURA  TROGLODYTES. 


standing,  it  keeps  its  tail  nearly  erect,  jerks  its  whole  body 
smartly  ;  then  hops  about  with  great  alacrity,  using  its  wings 
at  the  same  time,  and  continually  enunciating  its  rapid  chit. 
Although  it  seldom  ascends  a  tree  directly,  like  the  Creeper, 
it  may  often  be  seen  climbing  sidewise  to  some  height,  and  on 
fences  or  bushes  it  usually  makes  its  wTay  to  the  top  by  hopping 
from  one  spot  to  another.  If  usually  pleased  with  a  low  station, 
it  yet  sometimes  ascends  even  to  the  higher  branches  of  very 
tall  trees,  and  may  occasionally  be  seen  there  in  company  with 
Kinglets  and  Tits.  In  spring  and  summer,  the  male  has  a  very 
pleasing,  full,  rich,  and  mellow  song,  which  it  repeats  at  in¬ 
tervals  ;  and  even  in  autumn,  and  on  fine  days  in  winter,  it 
may  occasionally  be  heard  hurrying  over  its  ditty,  the  loudness 
and  clearness  of  which,  as  proceeding  from  so  diminutive  a 
creature,  is  apt  to  strike  one  with  surprise,  even  after  it  has 
long  been  familiar  to  him. 

During  the  breeding  season,  Wrens  keep  in  pairs,  often  in 
unfrequented  parts,  such  as  bushy  dells,  mossy  woods,  the 
banks  of  streams,  and  stony  places  overgrown  with  brambles, 
sloes,  and  other  shrubs  ;  but  towards  the  end  of  autumn  they 
approach  the  habitations  of  man,  and  although  never  decidedly 
gregarious,  sometimes  appear  in  small  straggling  parties.  They 
are  not  properly  speaking  shy,  as  they  seem  to  conceive  them¬ 
selves  secure  at  the  distance  of  t  wenty  or  thirty  yards,  but,  on 
the  approach  of  a  person,  conceal  themselves  in  holes  between 
stones,  or  among  the  roots  or  bushes.  In  liveliness  and  ac¬ 
tivity,  the  Wren  rivals  the  Kinglets,  Tits,  and  Creepers,  as  in¬ 
deed  might  he  expected  from  its  diminutive  size,  birds  as  well 
as  quadrupeds  being  generally  more  slow  in  their  motions  the 
larger  their  bulk. 

Small  as  the  Wren  is,  it  seems  to  receive  as  little  injury  from 
severe  weather  as  any  of  the  larger  birds,  although  after  long- 
continued  frosts,  it  is  said  that  individuals  have  often  been 
found  to  have  perished.  For  myself,  I  have  never  met  with  a 
dead  Wren  at  all,  and  should  conceive  such  an  occurrence  as 
extremely  rare,  as  the  birds  would  in  all  probability  die  in  their 
holes.  In  the  midst  of  winter  I  have  met  with  it  in  the  val¬ 
leys  of  the  Grampians,  among  the  wild  woods,  where  no  other 


EUROPEAN  WREN. 


19 


small  birds  were  to  be  seen,  unless  a  few  Tits  and  Creepers. 
Yet  it  is  not  the  less  true  that  at  this  season  it  prefers  the  vi¬ 
cinity  of  houses.  But  the  W rens  do  not  all  in  summer  remove 
to  the  wilds,  any  more  than  the  Robins,  many  individuals  of 
both  species  remaining  in  gardens,  shrubberies,  and  such  shel¬ 
tered  places,  where  they  breed,  as  well  as  in  sequestered  spots. 

A  pleasant  little  fable,  of  which  the  Wren  is  the  hero,  is  told 
by  the  Hebridians.  At  an  assembly  of  the  birds  the  Eagle 
was  boasting  of  his  strength,  asserting  that  he  could  mount 
higher  in  the  air  than  any  of  earth’s  inhabitants  ;  when  up 
started  the  little  Wren,  and  flatly  contradicted  the  tyrant,  chal¬ 
lenging  him  to  a  trial  of  speed.  The  eagle  regarded  his  puny 
rival  with  contempt,  but  accepting  the  challenge,  or  desirous 
of  displaying  his  powers,  spread  out  his  huge  wings,  and 
launched  into  the  air.  Up  rose  the  royal  bird  in  majestic  gy¬ 
rations,  over  the  assembled  tribes,  up  beyond  the  mountain 
tops,  up  beyond  the  streaks  of  grey  vapour,  up  beyond  the 
specks  and  lines  of  the  white  cirri  and  cinocumuli  that  floated 
in  the  blue  ocean  of  ether,  up  until  he  seemed  but  a  point  in 
the  eye  of  the  Goshawk  and  Peregrine,  who  watched  his  pro¬ 
gress  with  more  envy  than  admiration,  and  of  the  Raven,  who 
thought  he  could  mount  as  high  himself, — still  up,  until  he 
vanished  entirely  from  the  sight  of  most  of  the  other  birds, 
who  were  not  accustomed  to  look  so  far  into  the  sky.  But 
where  was  the  little  AY ren  all  this  time  ?  Had  he  crept  with 
shame  into  some  hole,  or  been  unwittingly  trampled  to  death 
by  the  broad  foot  of  some  gazing  gander,  or  the  still  broader 
of  the  pillar-legged  pelican  ?  At  length  the  eagle  stops,  gasp¬ 
ing  for  breath,  with  swollen  eyes  and  palpitating  heart,  un¬ 
able  to  ascend  a  foot  farther,  and,  spreading  wide  his  wings 
and  tail,  floats  in  the  dazzling  light.  The  little  vain-glorious 
thing  that  had  defied  him  he  knows  has  been  left  at  least  a 
mile  behind.  But  lo  !  up  again  starts  the  Wren,  who  had 
nimbly  perched  on  the  eagle’s  back,  and  kept  himself  concealed 
among  the  feathers.  With  a  hop,  and  a  jerk  of  his  tail,  and 
a  glance  of  pride,  up  springs  the  little  wren  into  the  region  of 
vacuity,  and  fluttering  there  for  a  moment  sings  his  song  of 
triumph.  The  eagle  casts  a  glance  of  mortified  pride  upon  him, 


20 


ANORTHURA  TROGLODYTES. 


which  he  heeds  not,  but  seizing  a  feather  of  his  rival’s  neck, 
descends  in  safety  to  the  ground,  to  receive  the  prize  to  be  im¬ 
partially  adjudged  by  the  astonished  conclave.  The  moral  of 
the  fable  is,  that  cunning  may  supply  the  lack  of  power. 

I  know  not  a  more  pleasant  object  to  look  at  than  the  Wren  . 
it  is  always  so  smart  and  cheerful.  In  gloomy  weather,  other 
birds  often  seem  melancholy,  and  in  rain  the  Sparrows  and 
Finches  stand  silent  on  the  twigs  with  drooping  wings  and 
clotted  plumage  ;  but  to  the  Wren  all  weathers  are  alike. 
The  big  drops  of  the  thunder-shower  no  more  wet  it  than  the 
drizzle  of  a  Scotch  mist ;  and  as  it  peeps  from  beneath  the 
bramble,  or  glances  from  a  hole  in  the  wall,  it  seems  as  snug 
as  a  kitten  frisking  on  the  parlour  rug. 

It  is  amusing  to  watch  the  motions  of  a  young  family  of 
Wrens  just  come  abroad.  Walking  among  furze,  or  broom, 
or  juniper,  you  are  attracted  to  some  bush  by  hearing  issue 
from  it  a  lively  and  frequent  repetition  of  a  sound  which  most 
resembles  the  syllable  chit.  On  going  up  you  perceive  an  old 
wren  flitting  about  the  twigs,  and  presently  a  young  one  flies 
off,  uttering  a  stifled  chirr ,  to  conceal  itself  among  the  bushes. 
Several  follow  in  succession,  while  the  parents  continue  to  flut¬ 
ter  about,  in  great  alarm,  uttering  their  loud  chit,  chit ,  chit, 
with  indications  of  varied  degrees  of  excitement.  On  open 
ground  a  young  Wren  might  easily  be  run  down,  and  I  have 
heard  it  asserted  that  an  old  one  may  soon  be  tired  out  in  time 
of  snow,  when  it  cannot  easily  conceal  itself.  And  yet,  even 
in  such  a  case,  it  is  by  no  means  easy  to  keep  it  in  sight,  for 
on  the  side  of  a  bank,  or  by  a  wall,  or  in  a  thicket,  it  will  find 
a  hole  where  one  least  expected  it,  and,  creeping  in  some  crevice 
beneath  the  snow,  re-appear  at  a  considerable  distance. 

The  food  of  birds  can  be  determined  only  by  opening  their 
crops  and  stomachs,  or  by  observation  directed  to  living  indi¬ 
viduals,  the  former  method  however  being  the  only  sure  one. 
The  wrens  which  I  have  opened  generally  contained  remains 
of  insects  of  various  kinds,  with  larvae,  and  sometimes  pupae  ; 
but  I  have  also  found  in  them  seeds,  and  Mr  Neville  Wood 
states  that  they  sometimes  eat  red  currants.  In  the  stomach 
of  an  individual  examined  in  December  1830,  I  found  “  many 


EUROPEAN  WREN. 


21 


small  hard  seeds,  an  entire  pupa,  and  numerous  fragments  of 
the  shells  of  pupae  and  elytra  of  coleopterous  insects."”  So 
small  a  bird  having  so  slender  a  bill,  might  doubtless  be  taken 
as  a  typical  entomophagist  ;  but  it  is  probable  that  no  species 
of  this  order  confines  itself  exclusively  to  insects. 

The  Wren  pairs  about  the  middle  of  spring,  and  begins  early 
in  April  to  construct  its  nest,  which  varies  much  in  form  and 
composition,  according  to  the  locality.  One  brought  me  by 
my  son,  and  which  he  found  while  gathering  plants  in  a  wood 
near  Melville  Castle,  is  of  astonishing  size  compared  with  that 
of  its  architect,  its  greatest  diameter  being  seven  inches,  and 
its  height  five.  It  presents  the  appearance  of  a  rude  mass  of 
decayed  vegetables,  of  an  irregularly  rounded  form.  Having 
been  placed  on  a  flat  surface  under  a  bank,  its  base  is  of  a  cor¬ 
responding  form,  and  is  composed  of  layers  of  decayed  ferns  and 
other  plants,  mixed  with  twigs  of  herbaceous  and  woody  vege¬ 
tables.  Similar  materials  have  been  employed  in  raising  tlio 
outer  wall  of  the  nest  itself,  of  which  the  interior  is  spherical, 
and  three  inches  in  diameter.  The  wall  is  composed  of  mosses 
of  several  species,  quite  fresh  and  green,  and  it  is  arched  over 
with  fern  leaves  and  straws.  The  mosses  are  curiously  inter¬ 
woven  with  fibrous  roots  and  hair  of  various  animals,  and  the 
inner  surface  is  even  and  compact,  like  coarse  felt.  To  the 
height  of  two  inches  there  is  a  copious  lining  of  large  soft 
feathers,  chiefly  of  the  Wood  Pigeon,  but  also  of  the  Pheasant 
and  Domestic  Duck,  with  a  few  of  the  Blackbird.  The  aper¬ 
ture,  which  is  in  front,  and  in  the  form  of  a  low  arch,  two 
inches  in  breadth  at  the  base,  and  an  inch  and  a  half  in  height, 
has  its  lower  edge  formed  of  slender  twigs,  strong  herbaceous 
stalks,  and  stems  of  grasses,  the  rest  being  felted  in  the  usual 
manner.  This  nest  is  a  magazine  of  botany,  there  entering  in¬ 
to  its  composition,  leaves  of  Fagus  sylvatica,  fronds  of  Aspidium 
dilatatum  and  A.  Filix-mas,  blades  of  Phalaris  arundinacea, 
stems  of  several  grasses  and  other  herbaceous  plants,  some 
twigs  of  the  larch  and  other  trees,  and  four  or  five  species  of 
Hypnum.  It  contained  five  eggs,  of  an  elongated  oval  form, 
averaging  eight  lines  in  length,  and  six  lines  in  breadth,  pure 
white,  with  some  scattered  dots  of  light  red  at  the  larger  end, 


22 


ANORTHURA  TROGLODYTES. 


one  of  them  with  scarcely  any,  and  another  with  a  great  num¬ 
ber.  Of  three  nests  presented  to  me  by  Mr  Weir,  one  is  ex¬ 
tremely  beautiful,  being  composed  entirely  of  fresh  green 
hypna,  without  any  internal  layer,  although,  no  eggs  having 
been  found  in  it,  it  possibly  had  not  been  completed.  It  is  of 
an  oblong  form,  seven  inches  in  length,  and  four  in  its  transverse 
diameter.  The  mouth  measures  an  inch  and  eight-twelfths 
across,  one  inch  and  a  twelfth  in  height.  Its  lower  part  is 
formed  of  small  twigs  of  larch  laid  across  and  interwoven,  so 
as  to  present  a  firm  pediment.  The  longitudinal  diameter  of 
the  interior  is  three  inches  and  a  half.  Another,  formed  on  a 
decayed  tuft  of  Aira  csespitosa,  is  globular,  six  inches  in 
diameter,  and  compossed  of  moss,  with  a  lining  of  hair  and 
feathers,  chiefly  of  the  domestic  fowl.  The  third  is  globular, 
and  externally  formed  almost  entirely  of  ferns,  like  that  de¬ 
scribed  above.  In  all  the  nests  of  this  species  which  I  have 
seen,  the  lower  part  of  the  mouth  was  composed  of  twigs  of 
trees,  or  stems  of  herbaceous  plants,  laid  across,  and  kept  to¬ 
gether  with  moss  and  hair. 

The  nests  are  found  in  a  great  variety  of  situations : — 
very  often  in  a  recess  overhung  by  a  bank,  sometimes  in 
a  crevice  among  stones,  in  the  hole  of  a  wall,  or  of  a 
tree,  among  the  thatch  of  a  cottage  or  out-house,  on  the 
loft  of  a  shed  or  barn,  the  branch  of  a  tree,  whether  grow¬ 
ing  along  a  wall  or  standing  free,  among  ivy,  honeysuckle, 
clematis,  or  other  climbing  plants.  When  the  nest  is  on  the 
ground,  its  base  is  generally  formed  of  leaves,  twigs  and 
straws,  and  its  exterior  is  often  similar ;  but  when  otherwise, 
the  outer  surface  is  generally  smooth,  and  chiefly  composed  of 
moss. 

Several  authors  have  spoken  of  the  nests  frequently  con¬ 
structed  by  this  bird  in  spring,  and  afterwards  abandoned,  and 
have  indulged  in  various  conjectures  respecting  them.  I  should 
suppose  that  a  nest  may  occasionally  be  partially  or  entirely 
built,  and  then  deserted  because  its  owners  find  it  unsafe,  or 
have  been  frightened  from  it.  The  Magpie  often  commences  a 
nest  and  leaves  it  unfinished,  probably  for  the  same  reason ;  and 
the  same  remark  maybe  made  as  to  the  Blackbird  and  Thrush. 


EUROPEAN  WREN. 


23 


But  Mr  Wood  relates  a  very  curious  fact  respecting  the  Wren, 
which  is  that  it  “  often  builds  itself  a  dwelling  in  autumn,  and 
lodges  in  it  on  cold  nights.  These  nests,11  he  continues,  <e  are 
mostly  constructed  in  the  usual  localities,  though  I  once  found 
one  situated  in  an  old  Garden  Thrush’s  nest,  in  a  Portugal 
laurel.  Frequently,  also,  the  nests  in  which  one  or  two  broods 
had  been  reared  in  summer,  are  tenanted  every  night  through¬ 
out  the  winter.11 

On  this  subject  Mr  Weir  has  sent  me  the  following  remarks. 
“  ‘  During  the  period  of  incubation,  the  male1  (says  an  anony¬ 
mous  writer  in  Mr  Loudon’s  Magazine)  ‘  apparently  from  a  de¬ 
sire  to  be  doing  something,  constructs  as  many  as  half  a  dozen 
nests  in  the  vicinity  of  the  first,  none  of  which  are  lined  with 
feathers ;  and  whilst  the  first  nest  is  so  artfully  concealed  as  to 
be  seldom  found,  the  latter  are  very  frequently  seen.1  With 
respect  to  the  use  of  these  structures,  or  cock-nests,  as  they  are 
called  in  England,  if  we  believe  that  birds,  like  some  insects, 
have  foresight,  a  more  ingenious  theory  might  be  advanced. 
During  the  severity  of  winter  they  may  be  intended  as  houses 
of  refuge  for  them  and  their  families.  Whether  this  be  always 
the  case  or  not,  it  will  be  difficult  to  ascertain.  That  they  arc 
however  sometimes  employed  for  this  purpose  I  can  affirm,  as 
the  whole  of  those  in  my  neighbourhood,  during  the  late  severe 
frosty  weather  (of  1837-8)  were  occupied  by  them.  I  have 
one  of  these  nests  in  my  possession,  in  which  they  lodged,  and 
in  which  there  was  a  quantity  of  their  droppings.”  The  Wren 
being  a  very  diminutive  bird  might  be  supposed  to  require  this 
kind  of  shelter  in  winter,  were  it  not  that  the  Kinglets  and 
Tits,  equally  small,  are  not  known  to  lodge  in  their  nests.  Our 
little  friend  is  a  Troglodyte,  a  frequenter  of  holes  and  caverns, 
and  as  it  always  reposes  at  night  in  some  sheltered  retreat,  it 
may  occasionally  or  often  betake  itself  to  its  old  nest  as  well  as 
to  any  other  place,  as  that  nest  is  well  fitted  for  its  purpose  ; 
but  there  seems  no  reason  for  supposing  that  this  is  habitual 
with  all  wrens,  many  of  which,  in  the  wilder  parts  of  the 
country,  and  in  the  Hebrides,  desert  their  summer  habitations 
and  in  winter  reside  about  the  farm  yards. 

On  the  21st  of  February  1839,  he  again  writes: — “  1 


24 


ANORTHURA  TROGLODYTES. 


mentioned  that  during  the  last  severe  winter,  1837-8,  all 
the  nests  of  the  kitty-wrens  which  wanted  the  lining  of 
feathers,  were  occupied  by  them  as  their  places  of  repose. 
I  have  this  winter  paid  a  little  more  attention  to  this  curious 
fact.  In  June  last,  in  a  plantation  in  my  neighbourhood, 
a  pair  of  wrens  built  three  nests  at  no  great  distance  from 
each  other.  The  one  in  which  they  reared  seven  young  ones  had 
a  lining  of  feathers,  the  other  two  had  none.  Every  night  this 
winter,  when  the  ground  was  covered  with  snow,  or  the  wea¬ 
ther  was  very  cold,  one  of  the  nests  without  the  feathers  was 
inhabited,  I  suppose,  by  the  same  family,  as  one  of  the  wrens 
a  little  after  sunset  stood  within  a  few  inches  of  the  nest  and 
continued  chirring  until  the  other  eight  arrived.  It  was  amus¬ 
ing  to  observe  with  what  astonishing  rapidity  they  answered 
the  call,  and  flew  from  all  quarters  to  their  tight  little  dormitory. 
Their  instinct  was  wonderful.  When  the  wind  was  from  the 
west,  they  occupied  the  nest  which  had  its  mouth  to  the  east, 
and  when  the  wind  was  from  the  east  they  took  possession  of 
the  other  one  which  had  its  aperture  to  the  west.11 

The  same  gentleman,  whose  observations  enrich  this  volume, 
has  transmitted  to  me  an  account  of  the  building  of  a  nest,  as 
extracted  from  his  note-book  :  44  May  30,  1837. — I  this  day 

had  a  favourable  opportunity  of  observing  the  erection  of  one 
of  the  neatest  of  our  British  nests.  Yesterday  a  pair  of  com¬ 
mon  Wrens  flew  about  for  a  considerable  time,  in  a  particular 
spot  in  my  shrubbery,  as  if  in  search  of  a  proper  situation  for 
constructing  the  dwelling  which  should  contain  their  intended 
brood.  About  a  quarter  past  six  o'clock  this  morning,  they 
aj)peared  to  be  engaged  in  the  most  serious  consultation.  They 
hopped  up  and  down  amongst  the  branches  of  a  Spanish  juni¬ 
per,  each  of  which  they  surveyed  with  particular  attention. 
At  seven  o'clock,  in  one  of  its  clefts,  about  two  feet  from  the 
ground,  with  the  decayed  leaf  of  a  lime  tree,  the  female  began 
to  lay  the  foundation  of  her  building.  Although  two  men  were 
casting  a  drain  within  seven  yards  of  it,  yet  she,  like  a  steady 
and  active  workman,  was  so  bent  upon  the  completion  of  her 
design,  that  she  laboured  as  if  unaware  of  their  presence.  Her 
perseverance  was  indeed  astonishing,  for  she  sometimes  carried 


EUROPEAN  WREN. 


25 


in  bundles  of  leaves  nearly  as  bulky  as  herself.  To  her  beloved 
partner  she  seemed  to  give  ecstatic  delight,  for  he  sat  upon  the 
branch  of  a  Portugal  laurel  a  few  feet  above  her,  viewing  most 
anxiously  her  operations,  and  now  and  then  having  mounted 
to  the  top  of  a  plane  tree,  he  poured  forth  his  distinct  and 
sweetly  modulated  notes,  which  during  the  day  he  continued 
to  do  almost  incessantly.  To  her  he  gave  but  little  assistance, 
thinking  no  doubt  that  his  song,  c  with  all  the  little  blandish¬ 
ments  and  soothing  arts,"  was  sufficient  to  alleviate  her  fatigues, 
and  to  support  her  under  them.  That  singing  produces  general 
excitement,  and  a  power  of  more  energetic  performance  in  all 
the  labours  which  the  birds  can  undertake,  is  indeed  an  opinion 
entertained  by  some  naturalists.  Between  eight  and  nine 
o'clock  she  was  most  actively  employed,  for  during  the  space 
of  ten  minutes,  she  sometimes  carried  in  four,  five,  and  even 
six  bundles  of  leaves,  in  the  selection  of  which  she  seemed  to 
be  very  careful,  for  I  observed  that  after  she  had  minutely 
examined  them,  when  they  did  not  seem  to  suit  her  purpose, 
she  let  them  drop.  I  was  surprised  at  the  quantity  which  she 
collected  for  the  foundation  of  her  nest.  After  having  rendered 
it  compact  by  pressing  the  leaves  with  her  breast,  and  turning 
herself  round  upon  them  in  all  directions,  she  began  to  rear  its 
sides.  In  this  operation,  however,  she  was  not  so  expeditious, 
as  she  was  under  the  necessity  of  flying  to  a  greater  distance 
for  materials,  in  the  search  of  which  she  sometimes  remained 
out  eight  and  ten  minutes.  F rom  the  inside  she  built  the  under 
part  of  the  aperture  with  the  stalks  of  leaves  which  she  felted 
together  very  ingeniously  with  moss.  The  upper  part  of  it 
was  constructed  solely  with  the  last  mentioned  material.  To 
round  it,  and  give  it  the  requisite  solidity,  she  pressed  it  with 
her  breast  and  wings,  and  turned  her  body  in  different  direc¬ 
tions.  Most  wonderful  to  tell,  about  seven  o'clock  in  the  even¬ 
ing,  the  whole  external  workmanship  of  this  snug  little  build¬ 
ing  was  almost  complete.  Being  very  anxious  to  examine  the 
interior  of  it,  I  went  out  for  that  purpose  at  half-past  two 
o'clock  next  morning.  I  introduced  my  finger,  and  so  close 
was  it,  that  it  resisted  some  very  heavy  showers  of  rain.  Should 
any  one  wish  to  have  his  ears  delighted  with  the  sweet  melody 


26 


ANORTHURA  TROGLODYTES. 


of  the  songsters  of  the  woods,  he  must  awake  and  roam  about 
at  this  early  hour.  It  is  then  that  they  seem  to  be  in  ecstacy, 
and  strive  to  rival  one  another  in  the  richness  and  variety  of 
their  notes.  At  ten  minutes  past  three  o’clock,  the  male  hop¬ 
ped  round  and  round,  and  if  I  may  judge  from  his  appearance, 
surveyed  with  satisfaction  the  commodious  fabric,  in  the  erec¬ 
tion  of  which  his  consort  had  taken  the  active  part.  He  then 
flew  to  the  top  of  a  tree,  and  sung  in  the  most  animated  strains. 
At  half-past  three  o’clock,  the  female  went  into  her  nest,  in 
which  she  remained  for  five  minutes,  and  rounded  the  entrance 
into  it,  by  pressing  it  with  her  breast,  and  the  shoulders  of  her 
wings.  Between  half-past  three  and  half-past  four  o’clock,  she 
went  in  five  times,  with  very  fine  moss  in  her  bill.  With 
the  greatest  care  she  surveyed  the  whole  of  her  edifice.  At 
half-past  four  she  went  in  twice  with  very  tender  moss,  with 
which  she  adjusted  a  small  depression  in  the  fore  part  of  it. 
After  having  remained  out  for  twenty  minutes,  she  returned 
with  a  bundle  of  leaves  to  fill  up  a  vacancy  which  she  had  ob¬ 
served  in  the  back  of  the  structure.  Although  it  was  an  ex¬ 
ceedingly  cold  morning,  accompanied  with  a  boisterous  wind 
and  rain,  the  male  sang  most  delightfully.  Between  seven  and 
eight  o’clock,  he  having  either  received  a  reproof  from  his  wife, 
or  regretting  his  former  remissness,  assisted  her  more  frecpiently 
than  he  had  done  yesterday.  During  the  space  of  ten  minutes 
they  went  into  their  abode,  generally  two  and  three  times,  with 
moss  in  their  bills.  At  eleven  o’clock,  she  flew  off  with  him 
to  some  distance,  in  order,  I  suppose,  to  enjoy  a  little  relaxa¬ 
tion  from  her  labours.  They  did  not  return  until  a  quarter 
past  one  o’clock.  From  one  to  four  o’clock,  they  went  into 
their  nest  twenty-seven  times,  at  different  periods,  sometimes 
only  once  in  ten  minutes,  and  at  other  times  more  frequently, 
with  fine  moss  in  their  hills.  From  four  to  nearly  five  o’clock, 
the  female  carried  in  a  feather  three  times,  and  brought  to  a 
conclusion  the  operations  of  the  day. 

“  Thursday,  1st  June. — I  went  out  a  little  past  six  o’clock. 
They  had  not  however  as  yet  visited  their  residence,  which  I 
knew  from  having  put  a  very  slender  stalk  of  a  leaf  in  front  of 
the  door,  which  they  were  obliged  to  remove  before  they  could 


EUROPEAN  WREN. 


27 


get  admittance.  They  commenced  their  work  at  half-past  eight, 
between  which  time  and  ten  o'clock  they  went  in  at  the  rate  of 
five  times  in  eight  minutes.  The  male  frequently  assisted  the 
female  this  morning,  and  every  time  that  he  did  it,  he  mounted 
to  the  top  of  the  nearest  tree,  and  proclaimed  aloud  his  note 
of  self-approbation.  From  ten  till  a  quarter  past  eleven  o'clock, 
they  went  in  about  three  times  in  the  course  of  ten  minutes, 
carrying  very  small  quantities  of  fine  moss.  She  then  flew  off 
with  her  husband,  and  remained  almost  the  same  space  of  time 
that  she  had  done  yesterday,  for  she  did  not  return  to  her 
nest  until  about  half-past  one  o'clock.  From  this  time  until 
half-past  two  o'clock,  when  they  ceased  from  their  labour,  they 
frequently  brought  in  fine  moss  and  feathers. 

“  Friday,  2d  June. — This  morning,  between  five  and  seven 
o'clock,  the  male  sang  almost  incessantly.  They  did  not  begin 
to  build  until  half-past  nine  o'clock,  when  they  went  in  with  fine 
moss  and  feathers,  sometimes  once  in  ten,  at  other  times  once 
in  fifteen  and  twenty  minutes.  About  half-past  eleven,  she  flew 
off  with  the  male,  and  did  not  return  until  about  a  quarter  be¬ 
fore  two  o'clock.  They  carried  in  fine  moss  and  feathers  only 
a  few  times  after  this.  Whilst  I  was  anxiously  watching  their 
motions  in  the  midst  of  a  very  thick  arbor-vitae  tree,  about  nine 
feet  from  their  nest,  the  female,  which  was  sitting  at  the  door 
of  it,  having  noticed  me,  set  up  her  cry  of  alarm.  The  male 
upon  hearing  it  appeared  to  be  in  a  state  of  great  irritation.  I 
immediately  ran  off  to  some  distance,  pursued  by  the  little 
creatures,  which  were  scolding  me  with  great  vehemence. 

“Saturday,  3d  June. — Between  six  and  eleven  o'clock,  they 
brought  in  a  few  feathers  and  some  moss.  They  then  dis¬ 
appeared  until  half-past  one  o'clock,  when  they  took  in  a  few 
more  feathers,  and  then  rested  from  their  work. 

“  On  Sunday  morning,  4th  June,  between  eight  and  nine 
o'clock,  as  I  was  going  to  feed  a  pair  of  goldfinches  which  I 
kept  in  the  tool-house  of  my  garden,  I  saw  the  female  fly  in 
twice  with  feathers. 

“  On  Monday  morning  I  examined  the  nest.  They  appeared 
to  have  carried  in  the  same  quantity  of  materials  as  they  had 
done  on  Saturday.  This  morning,  5th  June,  they  did  not  be- 


28 


ANORTHURA  TROGLODYTES. 


gin  to  build  until  twenty  minutes  before  eight  o'clock.  Be¬ 
tween  eight  and  nine  they  went  in  at  the  rate  of  two  times  in 
ten  minutes,  with  fine  moss  and  feathers.  From  nine  until 
half-past  eleven  o'clock,  they  went  in  nine  times  at  different 
intervals,  carrying  feathers.  After  this  they  were  not  seen  for 
two  hours  and  a  quarter,  and  brought  in  only  a  few  feathers  in 
the  afternoon. 

“  Tuesday,  6th  June. — This  morning,  between  seven  and  ten 
o'clock,  they  carried  in  feathers  ten  times,  at  different  intervals, 
sometimes  once,  at  other  times  twice,  in  ten  minutes,  and  a 
very  few  of  them  after  ten  o'clock. 

“  Wednesday,  7tli  June. — This  morning,  between  eight  and 
ten  o'clock,  they  flew  in  with  a  few  feathers,  and  then  left  off 
working. 

“  Thursday,  8th  June. — This  forenoon  the  nest  was  finished. 
It  was  by  far  the  neatest  of  the  kind  that  I  have  seen  ;  and 
little  wonder,  when  we  consider  the  long  time  which  they  took 
in  the  erection  of  it.  I  regret  that  it  was  torn  down  by  a  cat 
that  frequented  the  neighbourhood.  The  female,  which  had 
gone  into  it  to  lay  her  first  egg,  had  attracted  its  notice,  and 
had  in  all  probability  been  devoured,  as  I  never  saw  her  again." 

What  energy  and  activity  on  the  one  hand,  enthusiasm  and 
resolute  perseverance  on  the  other!  No  man  ever  before  so 
gave  us  the  history  of  the  erection  of  a  Wren's  nest,  and 
certainly  none  ever  watched  birds  with  half  the  firmness  of 
my  esteemed  friend,  who  thus  concludes  the  letter  containing 
the  above.  “  If  you  have  glanced  over  these  remarks,  which 
were  taken  out  of  my  note-book,  I  am  sure  that  you  must 
have  exclaimed,  Alas  !  alas  !  I  am  afraid  that  my  west-country 
correspondent,  poor  fellow  !  is  now  labouring  under  ornitlio- 
mania."  Truly  I  made  no  such  exclamation,  for  I  have  long 
been  aware  of  Mr  Weir's  “  affection,"  which  I  believe  is  in¬ 
curable. 

The  following  statement  with  which  also  I  have  been  favour¬ 
ed  by  him,  is  of  great  importance  as  elucidating  the  habits  of 
the  Wren  in  a  matter  not  previously  made  a  subject  of  observa¬ 
tion,  namely  the  feeding  of  its  young.  The  number  of  eggs 
which  it  lays  has  been  variously  stated  by  authors.  Mr  Weir 


EUROPEAN  WREN. 


29 


says  that  although  it  is  commonly  seven  or  eight,  so  many  as 
sixteen  or  seventeen  have  been  found  in  its  nest :  “  Robert 

Smith,  weaver  in  Bathgate,  told  me,  that  a  few  years  ago,  he 
saw  in  a  nest,  which  was  built  on  the  bank  of  a  rivulet  about 
two  miles  from  Linlithgow,  seventeen  eggs  ;  and  J ames  D. 
Baillie,  Esq.  informed  me  that  in  June  last,  he  took  out  of 
one  which  he  discovered  in  a  spruce  tree  near  Polkemmet 
House,  sixteen  eggs.  He  put  them  in  again,  and,  on  return¬ 
ing  sometime  afterwards,  found  them  all  hatched.1’ 

“  On  Saturday,  the  l7tli  of  June  1837,”  Mr  Weir  con¬ 
tinues,  “  the  following  observations  respecting  the  habits  of 
the  W ren  were  made  in  a  hut  formed  of  the  branches  of  trees, 
about  the  distance  of  six  feet  from  a  nest.  Shortly  after  I 
had  put  my  finger  into  it,  to  ascertain  whether  or  not  the 
young  were  ripe,  their  mother  arrived,  and  perceiving  that 
the  entrance  to  it  had  been  touched,  set  up  a  doleful  lamenta¬ 
tion,  carefully  rounded  it  with  her  breast  and  wings,  and  with 
her  partner  commenced  her  natural  attention  to  her  offspring, 
which  consisted  of  six  young  ones.  Between  three  and  four 
o’clock  in  the  morning,  they  fed  them  ten  times ;  and  from 
four  to  five  twenty-one  times.  The  female  now  went  into  the 
nest,  and  remained  a  few  minutes.  F roin  five  to  six  o’clock,  they 
fed  their  young  twenty-one  times;  from  six  to  seven,  also  twenty- 
one  times.  The  female  went  into  the  nest  twice,  and  the  male 
sang  almost  incessantly  during  the  last  two  hours.  From 
seven  to  eight  o’clock,  they  fed  them  twenty-two  times ;  and, 
although  they  were  ripe,  the  female  sat  upon  them  nearly  ten 
minutes.  From  eight  to  nine  o’clock,  they  fed  them  fifteen 
times ;  from  nine  to  ten,  twelve  times ;  from  ten  to  eleven, 
fourteen  times ;  from  eleven  to  twelve,  eighteen  times ;  and 
from  twelve  to  one,  fifteen  times.  The  female  went  into  the 
nest  for  a  short  time.  From  one  to  two  o’clock,  they  fed  them 
eleven  times  ;  from  two  to  three,  eighteen  times.  The  female 
went  into  the  nest,  and  remained  a  few  minutes.  From  three 
to  four  o’clock,  they  fed  them  thirteen  times,  and  from  four 
to  five,  seventeen  times.  During  the  greater  part  of  this  hour, 
there  was  a  heavy  fall  of  rain,  accompanied  with  a  great  deal 
of  loud  thunder.  The  female  entered  the  nest,  and  continued 


30 


ANORTHURA  TROGLODYTES. 


in  it  a  quarter  of  an  hour.  From  five  to  six  o’clock  they  fed 
them  fourteen  times.  The  female  went  into  the  nest  for  five 
minutes.  From  six  to  seven  o’clock,  they  fed  them  ten  times  ; 
and  from  seven  to  eight,  seventeen  times.  The  female  went 
into  the  nest,  and  remained  a  short  time.  From  eight  to 
nine  o’clock,  they  fed  them  eight  times  ;  and  about  ten  minutes 
after  this,  having  again  fed  them,  the  female  went  into  the 
nest  and  remained  for  the  night.  From  the  slender  branch  of 
a  larch,  they  supplied  with  a  great  variety  of  flies  and  insects 
their  young,  whose  craving  appetite  seemed  never  to  be  satis¬ 
fied,  no  less  than  278  times  in  the  course  of  the  day.  As  the 
number  of  insects  carried  in  by  them  varied,  it  was  impossible 
to  calculate  exactly  how  many  were  destroyed.” 

Young.— The  young  in  their  first  plumage  differ  considera¬ 
bly  from  the  old  birds.  The  basal  margin  of  the  bill,  and  the 
lower  mandible,  are  yellow,  the  upper  mandible  pale  brown  ; 
the  feet  brownish-yellow.  The  upper  parts  are  reddish-brown, 
the  head  darker  ;  the  wings  and  tail  barred  with  blackish  ;  the 
lower  parts  pale  yellowish -brown,  the  tips  of  the  feathers  darker, 
the  lower  tail-coverts  slightly  barred.  The  wing-coverts  are 
destitute  of  the  white  tips  conspicuous  in  old  birds. 

Progress  toward  Maturity. —After  the  first  moult,  the  bill 
is  more  dusky,  the  feet  darker ;  the  upper  parts  more  or  less 
undulated  ;  as  are  the  abdominal  feathers  and  sides  ;  but  the 
lower  parts  are  still  of  a  dull  greyish-brown  colour. 

Remarks. — I  have  preferred  retaining  the  specific  name  Tro¬ 
glodytes,  bestowed  by  Linnaeus,  to  converting  it  into  a  generic 
name,  because  the  hiding  in  caves  or  holes,  like  the  ancient 
Troglodytae,  is  not  a  character  common  to  all  wrens,  although 
it  belongs  to  the  present  species  in  a  remarkable  degree.  As 
a  generic  name,  Anortliura,  proposed  by  Mr  Rennie,  seems  to 
me  not  merely  unobjectionable  but  very  appropriate. 


31 


CERTHIA.  TREE-CREEPER. 

Bill  rather  long,  very  slender,  subtrigonal,  tapering,  much 
compressed,  arcuate,  acute  :  upper  mandible  with  its  dorsal 
outline  arcuate,  the  ridge  very  narrow,  the  sides  rapidly  sloping, 
the  edges  sharp,  without  notch  ;  lower  mandible  with  the 
angle  very  narrow  and  sharp,  the  dorsal  outline  decurved,  the 
ridge  narrow,  the  sides  erect,  the  edges  sharp,  the  tip  acute  ; 
the  gape -line  arcuate. 

The  upper  mandible  concave  beneath,  with  a  central  promi¬ 
nent  line  ;  the  lower  deeply  channelled.  The  tongue  long, 
narrow,  decurved,  sagittate,  tapering,  its  margins  lacerate 
toward  the  tip,  which  is  acute  ;  oesophagus  of  moderate  width  ; 
stomach  elliptical,  muscular ;  intestine  very  short,  of  moderate 
width;  coeca  very  small.  Plate  XIV,  Fig.  2. 

Nostrils  linear-oblong,  exposed,  with  an  oblong  operculum  ; 
the  nasal  depression  of  moderate  size,  feathered  at  the  base. 
Eyes  of  moderate  size  ;  eyelids  feathered.  External  aperture 
of  the  ear  large  and  roundish. 

The  general  form  is  slender,  although  the  body  is  very  short, 
the  wings  and  tail  being  elongated  ;  the  neck  short ;  the  head 
ovato-oblong  and  of  moderate  size ;  the  feet  of  ordinary  length,  the 
tarsus  slender,  compressed,  anteriorly  covered  with  seven  broad 
scutella,  of  which  the  upper  are  indistinct,  posteriorly  edged  ; 
toes  rather  large,  extremely  compressed  ;  first  very  large,  being 
with  its  claw  longer  than  the  third,  the  second  much  shorter 
than  the  fourth,  the  anterior  united  as  far  as  the  second  joint ; 
claws  very  long,  arched,  slender,  extremely  compressed,  later¬ 
ally  grooved,  very  acute. 

Plumage  very  soft,  blended,  and  elongated,  especially  on  the 
back  ;  the  feathers  ovato-oblong,  with  very  loose  barbs,  and  a 
long  slender  plumule  of  few  filaments.  Wing  rather  long,  con¬ 
vex,  much  rounded ;  of  nineteen  quills  ;  the  first  nearly  half 


32 


CERTHIA.  TREE-CREEPER. 


the  length  of  the  second,  the  fourth  longest,  the  fifth  almost 
equal,  the  third  and  sixth  nearly  of  the  same  length.  Tail 
long,  of  twelve  slightly  arcuate  pointed  feathers,  of  which  the 
shafts  are  rather  strong,  and  the  extremities  of  the  webs  worn. 

The  transition  from  the  bill  of  Anorthura  to  that  of  Certhia 
is  very  direct,  the  latter  being  merelymore  elongated  and  curved. 
The  plumage  of  the  two  genera  is  similar  as  to  texture  ;  but 
while  the  tail  of  the  former  is  short  and  generally  raised,  it  is 
in  the  latter  elongated,  and  employed  in  supporting  the  bird  as 
it  ascends  the  trunks  of  trees.  The  toes,  and  especially  the  claws, 
are  longer  in  Certhia. 

The  Tree-Creepers  resemble  the  Woodpeckers  in  their  mode 
of  progression,  which  is  by  extremely  rapid  short  hops  or  starts 
against  the  bark  of  trees,  to  which  they  cling  with  their  sharp 
claws.  Their  bill  however  is  so  slender  and  weak  that  they 
cannot  employ  it  in  perforating  the  bark  or  decayed  wood, 
and  they  are  therefore  content  with  searching  the  chinks  for 
their  food,  which  consists  of  small  insects  and  larvae.  They 
nestle  in  holes,  and  have  a  rather  numerous  progeny. 

Very  few  species  of  this  genus  are  known,  and  only  one  oc¬ 
curs  in  Britain,  the  history  of  which  will  afford  a  good  idea  of 
the  habits  of  the  rest. 


33 


CERTHIA  FAMILIARIS.  THE  BROWN  TREE- 

CREEPER. 

CREEPER.  TREE-SPEELER.  BROWN  WOODPECKER.  SNAIGEAR.  MEANGLAN- 

STREAPACH. 


Fio.  189. 

Certhia  familiaris.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  184. 

Certhia  familiaris.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I,  280. 

Common  Creeper.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Le  Grimpereau.  Certhia  familiaris.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  410. 
Common  Creeper.  Certhia  familiaris.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  388. 
Certhia  familiaris.  Common  Creeper.  Jen.  Brit,  Vert.  An.  152, 


Upper  part  of  the  head  dark-brown ,  neck  and  back  yellowish- 
brown ,  each  feather  with  a  median  whitish  streak  ;  rump  yellowish- 
red ;  icings  with  a  transverse  whitish  band ;  lower  parts  silvery. 

Male. — The  Tree-creeper,  which  is  one  of  the  smallest  of 
our  native  birds,  weigliingonly  about  two  drams,  is  of  a  slender 
elongated  form,  with  the  neck  short,  +he  head  ovato-oblong,  and 
of  moderate  size.  The  bill  is  nearly  as  long  as  the  head,  arcuate, 
somewhat  triangular  at  the  base,  much  compressed  toward  the 
end,  both  mandibles  acute,  with  the  edges  sharp,  and  the  upper 
destitute  of  notch.  The  tongue  is  slender,  sagittate  and  papil¬ 
late  at  the  base,  horny  toward  the  end,  concave  above,  pointed 
and  bristly.  The  oesophagus  is  narrow,  without  dilatation,  an 
inch  and  nine-twelfths  in  length  ;  the  stomach  elliptical,  com- 

VOL.  in. 


D 


34 


CERTHIA  FAMILIARJS. 


pressed,  five-twelfths  of  an  inch  long,  its  muscles  of  moderate 
strength ;  the  intestine  five  inches  long,  with  very  small  cylin¬ 
drical  coeca,  half  a  twelfth  in  length,  and  a  quarter  of  a  twelfth 
in  breadth.  See  Plate  XIV,  Fig.  2.  The  feet  are  of  moderate 
length  and  slender  ;  the  tarsus  compressed,  with  seven  anterior 
scutella ;  the  hind  toe  large,  with  ten  scutella,  the  second  with 
eight,  the  third  ten,  the  fourth  twelve  ;  the  anterior  toes  parallel 
and  united  as  far  as  the  second  joint ;  the  claws  very  long, 
moderately  arched,  extremely  compressed,  and  very  acute  ;  that 
of  the  hind  toe  extending  beyond  the  claw  of  the  third.  The 
mobility  of  the  toes  is  very  extraordinary  :  the  hind  toe  may  be 
turned  outwards  until  it  forms  a  right  angle  with  its  ordinary 
direction,  and  all  the  other  toes  may  be  so  twisted  as  to  reverse 
the  position  of  the  claws.  Fig.  190. 


Fig.  190. 


The  plumage  is  full,  very  soft,  and  blended,  on  the  back  much 
elongated,  with  the  barbs  separated,  the  feathers  there  being 
an  inch  long,  and  thus  greatly  exceeding  the  diameter  of  the  body. 
There  are  no  bristle-feathers  at  the  base  of  the  bill.  The  wings, 
Fig.  191,  are  of  moderate  length,  concave,  with  nineteen 


quills,  of  which  the  outer  is  scarcely  half  as  long  as  the  second, 
which  is  four-twelfths  of  an  inch  shorter  than  the  third  ;  the 
fourth,  which  is  the  longest,  exceeds  the  fifth  only  by  half  a 


BROWN  TREE-CREEPER. 


35 


twelfth,  and  the  third  by  one  twelfth,  while  the  second  and 
eighth  are  nearly  equal.  The  tail  is  long,  arched,  much  rounded 
at  the  end,  of  twelve  stiff-shafted  acuminate  feathers,  of  which 
the  lateral  is  eight-twelfths  shorter  than  the  middle.  Fig.  192. 


Fig.  192. 

The  upper  mandible  and  the  extremity  of  the  lower  are 
dusky-brown,  the  basal  portion  of  the  latter  whitish  ;  the  irides 
hazel ;  the  feet  pale  flesh-colour  tinged  with  brown,  the  claws 
light  yellowisli-grey.  The  upper  part  of  the  head  is  dark- 
brown,  with  linear-oblong  brownish-white  streaks  ;  the  rest  of 
the  upper  parts  light  brown,  with  similar  streaks,  the  feathers 
on  the  rump  becoming  dull  yellowish-brown.  The  small 
wing-coverts  are  variegated  with  dusky,  light  brown,  and 
brownish- white ;  the  primary  coverts  blackisli-brown,  with  a 
whitish  spot  at  the  tip  ;  the  secondary  coverts  lighter,  with  a 
larger  whitish  spot  at  the  end,  but  only  on  the  outer  web.  The 
quills  are  dusky,  but  the  inner  pale  greyish-brown  on  the  inner 
web,  dusky  on  part  of  the  outer  ;  all  except  the  outer  three  have 
a  whitish  spot  at  the  end ;  the  wing  is  crossed  by  a  band  of 
pale  brownish-yellow,  which,  however,  does  not  include  the 
outer  three  quills  or  the  inner  three  secondaries  ;  the  outer 
webs  of  most  of  the  quills  are  light  yellowish-grey  toward  the 
end.  The  tail  is  light  yellowish-grey,  the  inner  webs  dusky, 
the  shafts  yellowish-brown.  A  white  streak  extends  over  the 
eye,  and  the  lower  parts  are  of  a  dull  but  glistening  silvery 
white.  The  concealed  part  of  the  plumage  is  greyish-black. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  5t5«j  inches;  extent  of  wings  8;  bill  along 
the  ridge  jA,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  T8§  ;  wing  from 
flexure  2T\  ;  tail  2T62  ;  tarsus  x7|  ;  first  toe  T\,  its  claw  T5| ; 
second  toe  x|,  its  claw  T3|  ;  third  toe  x|,  its  claw  ;  fourth 
toe  t4|,  its  claw  TV 


36 


CERTHIA  FAMILIARIS. 


Female. — The  female  is  similar  to  the  male,  but  somewhat 
less,  and  having  the  colours  of  the  upper  parts  paler. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  5j%  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  7i  ;  bill 
along  the  ridge  6^  ;  wing  from  flexure  2T5^  ;  tail  2T45  ;  tarsus 
t7|  ;  hind  toe  T\,  its  claw  ;  middle  toe  T5g,  its  claw  T\. 

Variations. — In  adult  individuals  I  have  not  observed  any 
remarkable  variations  in  colour ;  but  the  bill  varies  considera¬ 
bly  in  length  and  curvature,  as  do  the  claws,  some  individuals 
having  the  hind  claw  a  third  longer  than  others.  Towards  the 
end  of  summer,  before  the  moult  has  commenced,  the  colours 
are  usually  much  faded.  The  tint  of  the  lower  parts  varies, 
being  often  much  soiled  with  matters  rubbed  from  the  trees. 

H  abits. — On  the  4th  December  1816,  while  on  an  excur¬ 
sion  in  quest  of  zoological  subjects,  I  happened  to  stroll  into  a 
fir  wood,  about  four  miles  distant  from  my  residence  in  the  Old 
Town  of  Aberdeen,  and,  being  a  novice,  was  quite  astonished 
at  seeing  a  swarm  of  extremely  small  birds  of  different  species, 
moving  about  among  the  twigs,  and  apparently  searching  for 
food  with  incessant  activity.  Having  succeeded  in  shooting 
two  of  them,  I  found  them  to  belong  to  the  genus  Motacilla, 
and  the  species  Regulus  ;  but  being  persuaded  that  I  had  seen 
other  small  birds  in  the  flock,  I  returned  next  day,  and  pro¬ 
cured  six  Reguli,  five  specimens  of  Parus  ater,  a  Motacilla 
Troglodytes,  and  a  Certliia  familiaris.  Such  was  the  nomen¬ 
clature  in  those  days,  but  now  the  names  of  only  two  of  these 
birds  remain  as  they  were.  The  pleasure  which  I  experienced 
must  have  been  greater  than  that  which  the  sight  of  a  flock  of 
these  tiny  and  most  interesting  creatures  could  now  impart ; 
but  still  it  affords  no  slight  gratification  to  watch  the  motions 
of  these  wanderers  of  the  wild  woods,  so  intent  on  their  search 
for  food  that  they  take  little  heed  of  the  near  approach  of  one 
who  may  be  bent  on  thinning  their  swarms. 

At  this  season,  should  you  fall  in  with  a  flock  of  Reguli  and 
Pari,  scouring  a  wood,  you  may  be  pretty  well  assured  that  a 
few  Tree-creepers  will  he  found  at  no  great  distance.  There, 
clinging  to  the  rough  bark  at  the  base  of  that  old  elm,  you  see 


BROWN  TREE-CREEPER. 


37 


one,  advancing  upwards  by  short  jerks.  At  each  movement  it 
emits  a  shrill  but  feeble  cry.  See  how  it  climbs,  searching 
every  crevice,  now  proceeding  directly  upwards,  now  winding 
round  the  trunk,  presently  passing  behind  it,  and  in  a  short 
time  appearing  on  the  other  side.  Observe  it  well,  and  you 
will  see  that  it  crouches  close  to  the  surface,  presses  its  tail 
against  it,  now  and  then  picks  something  from  a  cleft,  jerks 
itself  forwards,  never  rests  for  a  moment,  but  seems  in  utmost 
haste,  and  expresses  its  anxiety  by  continually  emitting  its 
lisping  cry.  Yet  its  efforts  are  not  laborious  :  it  seems  to  hold 
on  with  perfect  ease  and  unconcern,  and  although  it  is  now 
half  way  up,  it  exhibits  no  sign  of  fatigue.  There,  it  passes  off 
from  the  trunk,  creeps  along  a  nearly  horizontal  branch,  wind¬ 
ing  round  it,  adhering  even  to  its  lower  surface,  with  its  back 
toward  the  ground.  Having  gone  as  far  as  it  finds  convenient, 
it  flies  back  to  the  trunk,  which  it  ascends,  until  you  lose  sight 
of  it  among  the  twigs  at  the  top.  What  next  l  will  it  creep 
down  again  l  No  ;  there  it  comes  with  headlong  flight,  glancing 
like  an  arrow,  curves  as  it  comes  near  the  ground,  alights  at 
the  very  root  of  the  next  tree,  and  commences  its  ascent.  You 
may  watch  it  for  an  hour,  and  you  will  find  it  as  fresh,  as  lively, 
and  as  keen  as  ever.  Should  it  happen  to  observe  you,  and 
suspect  that  you  mean  it  no  good,  it  will  run  up  the  back  of 
the  tree,  appearing  now  and  then  at  the  sides,  until  it  is  per¬ 
haps  half  way  up,  when  it  will  search  all  parts  alike,  being  free 
of  the  apprehension  of  injury.  But  now,  hearing  its  friends 
the  Tits  and  Reguli  at  a  distance,  it  looks  abroad  fora  moment 
from  the  top  of  the  tree,  and  uttering  a  few  cries,  sweeps  away 
in  a  curving,  somewhat  undulatory  course. 

Such,  in  fact,  is  the  ordinary  course  of  action  of  the  Creeper, 
which  is  thus  of  very  peculiar  and  remarkable  habits.  It 
alights  at  the  bottom  of  a  tree,  clinging  to  the  bark  with  its 
claws,  and  without  a  moment's  delay  begins  to  ascend,  which 
it  does  by  short  starts,  leaping  forward  as  it  were,  and  sup¬ 
porting  itself  by  pressing  the  tail  against  the  bark.  In  this 
manner  it  proceeds,  diligently  searching  for  insects,  which  it 
picks  out  with  the  greatest  dexterity.  Should  a  person,  curious 
to  observe  its  motions,  go  very  near,  it  winds  round  so  as  to 


38 


CERTHIA  FAMILIARIS. 


keep  on  the  further  side  of  the  tree,  but  seldom  flies  off.  Should 
it  meet  with  a  horizontal  branch,  it  can  easily  proceed  along  its 
lower  surface,  although  in  that  case  it  usually  prefers  the  sides 
or  upper  part.  When  it  has  searched  the  branch,  it  flies  off  to 
another,  or  continues  to  ascend  the  stem ;  and  when  it  has 
attained  the  higher  branches,  it  flies  off*  to  the  base  of  a  neigh¬ 
bouring  tree,  and  thus  proceeds  unceasingly.  Indeed  I  have 
seldom  observed  one  a  single  minute  at  rest.  Yet,  like  other 
birds,  it  has  its  periods  of  cessation  from  labour,  and  in  the 
breeding  season  it  is  amusing  to  observe  the  gambols  of  a  pair, 
which  may  be  seen  chasing  each  other  along  the  trunk  of  a 
tree,  perching  for  a  moment  on  the  branches,  and  then  scudding 
along,  all  the  while  emitting  their  shrill  and  feeble  cries. 

These  birds  are  easily  shot,  for,  like  the  Gold-crested  King¬ 
let  and  Coal  Tit,  they  seem  to  pay  little  attention  to  a  person 
approaching  them,  insomuch  that  I  have  been  within  six  feet 
of  one,  which  yet  did  not  fly  off,  but  merely  crept  round  to  the 
other  side  of  the  tree.  While  thus  employed,  it  utters  every 
now  and  then  a  very  low  cheep,  and  when  flying  from  one  tree 
to  another,  repeats  this  cry  more  frequently,  and  somewhat 
more  loudly.  I  suppose  that  it  is  destitute  of  song,  never  having 
heard  it  emit  modulated  sounds.  Its  flight  is  generally  short 
and  rapid,  from  the  top  of  one  tree  to  the  base  of  another  ;  but 
it  may  sometimes  be  seen  traversing  a  space  of  several  hundred 
yards,  which  it  does  with  a  quick  and  undulatory  motion,  at 
a  considerable  elevation. 

It  is  a  permanent  resident,  occurs  in  all  the  wooded  parts  of 
the  country,  but  is  nowhere  numerous,  and  never  appears  in 
flocks.  In  winter  it  shifts  about  from  place  to  place,  generally 
accompanying  a  flock  of  Tits  or  Kinglets,  but  sometimes  seek¬ 
ing  for  its  food  solitarily,  seldom  entering  small  gardens,  but 
often  appearing  in  woods  near  houses,  hedgerows,  or  even  on 
large  single  trees.  It  pairs  in  April,  and  about  the  beginning  of 
May  begins  to  construct  its  nest,  which  it  places  in  some  hole 
in  a  tree,  or  rock,  or  among  the  roots  in  a  mossy  bank.  It  is 
composed  of  withered  stalks  and  blades  of  grasses,  moss,  fibrous 
roots,  and  other  materials,  and  is  lined  with  feathers.  The 
eggs,  from  five  to  seven  or  eight  in  number,  are  seven  and  a 


BROWN  TREE-CREEPER. 


39 


half  twelfths  of  an  inch  in  length,  five-twelfths  in  breadth,  of 
a  regular  ovate  form,  glossy,  white,  sprinkled  with  dots  and 
small  patches  of  brownish-red,  often  disposed  in  a  broad  belt 
near  the  larger  end,  and  leaving  the  narrower  half  unspotted. 
Montagu  states  that  “  during  the  time  of  incubation,  the  fe¬ 
male  is  fed  by  the  other  sex,  whenever  she  quits  her  nest  in 
search  of  food.”  The  young  are  abroad  by  the  middle  of  June, 
and  I  have  reason  to  think  that  a  second  brood  is  frequently 
reared. 

Although  the  epithet  familiar  has  been  given  to  this  little 
bird,  it  cannot  be  said  to  deserve  it,  for  its  seeming  familiarity 
results  merely  from  its  close  attention  to  the  objects  of  its  search, 
and  the  moment  it  becomes  sensible  of  the  proximity  of  a  per¬ 
son  it  glides  out  of  his  sight.  Of  all  our  native  birds,  the 
Robin  is  that  which  reposes  most  confidence  in  man.  It  will 
often  stand,  looking  at  him,  until  he  approaches  within  two  or 
three  yards,  and  even  then  exhibit  little  alarm  ;  nay,  it  will 
sometimes  enter  his  dwelling,  and  seem  quite  at  home  there. 
But  the  Creeper  is  in  no  sense  a  familiar  bird. 

This  species  is  generally  distributed  over  Europe,  as  well  as 
North  America.  I  have  compared  specimens  from  both  con¬ 
tinents,  and  found  them  in  all  respects  similar  ;  Mr  Audubon 
is  of  the  same  opinion  ;  yet  the  Prince  of  Musignano,  without 
assigning  a  reason,  or  giving  distinctive  characters,  chooses  to 
consider  the  American  bird  as  a  species  different  from  the 
European. 

Youno. — The  young  when  fledged  are  similar  to  their  pa¬ 
rents,  but  with  the  feathers  more  loose,  and  the  colours  duller. 


40 


UPUPA.  HOOPOE. 

Bill  longer  than  the  head,  slightly  arcuate,  very  slender, 
compressed,  angular,  pentagonal  at  the  base,  four-sided  toward 
the  end,  the  point  sharp,  or  somewhat  blunted  from  use  ;  upper 
mandible  with  its  dorsal  line  slightly  arcuate,  the  ridge  very 
narrow,  the  sides  sloping  and  flattened,  the  edges  sharp,  with¬ 
out  notch,  the  tip  flattened,  rather  acute ;  lower  mandible 
with  the  angle  rather  long  and  narrow,  the  dorsal  line  slightly 
decurved,  the  ridge  sharp,  the  sides  at  the  base  erect  and  flat, 
toward  the  end  inclining  outwards,  the  edges  sharp,  the  tip 
acute,  the  gape-line  slightly  arcuate.  Fig.  193. 

The  mouth  of  moderate  width  ;  the  palate  convex,  the  upper 
mandible  very  slightly  concave  beneath,  the  lower  almost  flat. 
Tongue  very  short,  fleshy,  flattened,  as  in  Alcedo.  Nostrils 
oblong,  basal.  Eyes  of  moderate  size. 

The  general  form  is  rather  slender ;  the  body  ovate ;  the 
neck  of  moderate  length  ;  the  head  ovato-oblong,  rather  small. 
The  feet  very  short,  and  of  moderate  strength ;  tarsus  very 
short,  roundish,  with  seven  anterior  broad  scutella,  somewhat 
sharp  behind,  with  two  rows  of  scales  ;  toes  moderate,  com¬ 
pressed;  the  first  with  its  claw  longer  than  the  tarsus  and  nearly 
equal  to  the  middle  toe,  the  outer  adnate  at  the  base,  and  some¬ 
what  longer  than  the  inner.  Claws  of  moderate  length,  stout, 
that  of  the  hind  toe  slightly  arched,  compressed,  with  the 
tip  acute  and  abruptly  deflected ;  the  rest  well  arched,  com¬ 
pressed,  very  acute,  all  laterally  grooved.  Fig.  194. 

The  plumage  soft  and  blended,  the  feathers  elliptical,  with¬ 
out  plumule  ;  those  on  the  top  of  the  head  oblong,  much  elon¬ 
gated,  forming  a  large  crest ;  no  bristle-feathers  at  the  base  of 
the  bill.  Wings  rather  long,  very  broad,  much  rounded  ;  the 
first  quill  about  half  the  length  of  the  fourth,  which  is  longest ; 
the  quills  nineteen,  all  rounded.  Tail  nearly  even,  often  rounded 
soft  feathers. 


41 


UP  UP  A  EPOPS.  THE  EUROPEAN  HOOPOE. 


Fig.  193. 

Upupa  Epops.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  183. 

Upupa  Epops.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  277. 

Hoopoe.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

La  Huppe.  Upupa  Epops.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  415. 

Hoopoe.  Upupa  Epops.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  393. 

Upupa  Epops.  Hoopoe.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  153. 

Head  and  neck  light  red ,  crest- feathers  tipped  with  black  ;  fore 
part  [of  back  light  purplish-red ,  middle  part  barred  with  black 
and  reddish- whit e,  rump  white ,  tail-coverts  black ,  barred  with 
white  ;  wings  and  tail  black ,  the  former  with  several ,  the  latter 
with  a  single  band  of  white. 

Male. — This  elegant  bird,  which  is  an  irregular  visitant  in 
Britain,  is  about  the  size  of  a  Missel  Thrush,  but  of  a  more 
slender  form,  with  an  elongated  attenuated  bill,  and  very  short 
feet.  Not  having  met  with  it  alive,  or  obtained  a  recent  spe¬ 
cimen  for  dissection,  I  can  only  describe  it  from  skins.  The 
generic  description  already  given,  will  be  found  to  agree  with 
it  in  every  particular,  so  that  here  there  is  only  to  be  added 
what  belongs  to  the  species.  The  elongated  feathers  on  the 
head  are  disposed  in  several  series  on  each  side,  the  largest 


42 


UPUPA  EPOPS. 


being  about  two  inches  in  length,  and  are  capable  of  being 
erected  from  their  ordinary  position,  in  which  they  are  recum¬ 
bent.  The  first  quill  is  an  inch  and  five-twelfths  shorter  than 
the  second,  which  is  seven-twelfths  shorter  than  the  third,  the 
fourth  a  twelfth  and  a  half  longer,  being  the  longest ;  the 
secondary  quills  are  very  long,  broad,  and  rounded ;  the  tail  is 
almost  even.  The  rest  of  the  plumage  is  very  soft  and  blended. 

The  bill  is  black,  with  the  base  flesh-coloured  ;  the  feet  dusky 
brown,  the  claws  paler  beneath.  The  crest-feathers  are  light  red, 
largely  tipped  with  bluisli-black,  succeeding  a  white  band  ;  the 
rest  of  the  head,  and  the  neck  all  round,  light  purplish-red  ;  the 
fore  part  of  the  back  and  anterior  wing- coverts  of  the  same  colour, 
tinged  with  greyish-brown ;  the  feathers  on  the  middle  of  the 
back  and  the  scapulars  are  black,  with  a  broad  bar  of  pale  red  or 
reddisli-white  ;  on  the  rump  is  a  white  patch  ;  and  the  upper 
tail-coverts  are  white,  with  a  black  terminal  band.  The  tail 
is  black,  with  a  broad  band  of  white  disposed  in  the  form  of  a 
crescent,  its  distance  from  the  tip  of  the  middle  feathers  being 
an  inch  and  a  half,  from  that  of  the  lateral  feathers  scarcely 
half  an  inch,  the  outer  feather  on  each  side  with  an  additional 
white  band  toward  the  base  ;  the  smaller  wing-coverts  are 
black,  with  a  white  band  ;  the  larger  also  black,  the  primary 
without  white  markings,  the  secondary  with  two  bands  of  red- 
dish-wliite  ;  the  primary  quills  are  glossy  bluish-black,  with  a 
broad  band  of  white  toward  the  end,  the  band  of  the  first  being 
only  on  the  inner  web  ;  the  secondary  quills  gradually  become 
tinged  with  brown,  and  assume  two  additional  bands  of  white, 
tinged  with  red  on  the  inner,  which  are  margined  with  pale 
red.  The  light-red  of  the  fore-neck  becomes  paler  on  the 
breast ;  some  of  the  feathers  on  the  sides  are  streaked  with 
dusky  ;  and  the  abdomen  and  lower  tail-coverts  are  white. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  12  inches;  bill  along  the  ridge  2^  ; 
wing  from  flexure  5T5¥  ;  tail  4q%  ;  tarsus  \%  ;  hind  toe  |h,  its 
claw  ;  second  toe  |h,  ^s  claw  ;  third  toe  ,  its  claw  T4|  ; 
fourth  toe  T75,  its  claw  {\. 

Female. — The  female  is  similar  to  the  male,  differing  only 
in  having  the  bill  and  crest  shorter,  and  the  plumage  paler. 


EUROPEAN  HOOPOE. 


43 


Habits.— -The  Hoopoe  has  been  met  with  in  most  parts  of 
England,  as  well  as  in  several  districts  in  Scotland,  even  as  far 
north  as  Caithness  and  Orkney,  although  not  on  the  western  coast 
beyond  the  Frith  of  Clyde.  It  is  not  however  a  regular  summer 
visitant,  but  makes  its  appearance  here  and  there  unexpectedly, 
more  frequently  in  autumn  than  in  summer,  and  in  the  latter 
case  seldom  breeding.  On  the  continent  it  appears  to  be  gene¬ 
rally  distributed,  arriving  in  the  beginning  of  summer,  and 
departing  in  small  flocks  in  September.  The  form  of  its  tarsi 
and  claws  would  lead  us  to  suppose  it  to  be  a  climbing  or 
creeping  bird ;  but  although  it  resides  chiefly  in  woods,  it  is  said 
also  to  betake  itself  to  the  fields  in  their  vicinity,  and  to  walk 
about  in  search  of  its  food,  which  consists  of  insects  and  larvae. 
Its  very  short  tarsi  however  are  obviously  not  well  adapted 
for  walking,  and  were  its  habits  for  the  most  part  terrestrial, 
its  claws  could  not  fail  to  be  in  some  measure  blunted,  whereas 
they  are  remarkably  acute  in  all  the  specimens  that  I  have  ex¬ 
amined.  Ploughed  land,  pasture-ground  interspersed  with 
cow-dung,  sandy  soil,  and  muddy  places  by  streams,  are  said 
to  be  its  favourite  haunts.  It  breeds  in  hollow  trees,  forming 
its  nest,  according  to  some,  of  dry  cow-dung  and  roots,  or,  ac¬ 
cording  to  others,  of  decayed  wood,  or  of  grass  and  feathers. 
The  eggs  are  said  to  be  from  two  to  five,  a  little  more  than  an 
inch  in  length,  and  of  a  uniform  light  grey  or  bluish-wliite. 
It  appears  that  the  excrements  of  the  young  are  allowed  to  re¬ 
main  in  the  nest,  which  accordingly  is  described  as  having  an 
extremely  fetid  odour,  similar  to  that  of  the  Kingsfisher,  which 
the  Hoopoe  further  resembles  in  the  construction  of  the  bill, 
and  especially  in  the  form  of  the  tongue.  The  shortness  of 
the  latter  organ  however  does  not  render  necessary  a  diet  of 
fish  or  frogs,  as  some  have  supposed,  for  Ibises  and  other 
birds  having  equally  short  tongues  can  pick  up  small  insects 
and  larvae  with  ease. 

This  bird  has  been  named  Hoopoe  from  the  crest  or  tuft,  huppe 
in  French,  with  which  its  head  is  adorned.  Some  however 
derive  its  name  from  its  ordinary  cry,  which  is  said  to  resem¬ 
ble  up-up ,  or  pu-pu.  It  is  said  to  be  shy,  although  it  allows 
one  to  approach  within  shot,  and,  when  obtained  young,  to  be 


44 


UPUPA  EPOPS. 


easily  reared  on  flesh,  which  however,  Bechstein  remarks,  it 
cannot  pick  up  well,  because  the  tongue  is  too  short  to  turn 
the  food  into  the  throat,  so  that  it  is  obliged  to  throw  it  up 
into  the  air,  and  receive  it  with  open  bill.  The  same  author, 
in  his  “  Cage  Birds,”  states  that,  independently  of  its  beauty, 
it  is  attractive  by  the  drollness  of  its  actions,  making  a  conti¬ 
nual  motion  with  its  head,  and  tapping  the  floor  with  its  beak. 
M.  Von  Schauroth,  in  a  letter  addressed  to  M.  Bechstein,  gives 
an  account  of  two  young  Hoopoes,  which  he  took  from  a  nest 
placed  at  the  top  of  an  oak.  They  were  exceedingly  tame, 
climbed  on  his  clothes  until  they  reached  his  shoulders  or 
head,  and  caressed  him  very  affectionately.  They  were  fond 
of  beetles  and  May-bugs,  which  they  first  killed,  and  then  beat 
them  into  a  ball,  which  they  threw  into  the  air,  and  caught 
lengthwise. 

It  does  not  appear  that  the  peculiar  habits  of  this  bird  have 
been  wTell  described,  for  the  brief  notices  given  in  books  are 
not  sufficient  to  enable  us  to  ascertain  its  character.  In  exter¬ 
nal  form  it  is  very  nearly  allied  to  the  Wall-Creeper,  Ticho- 
droma  muraria,  and  for  that  reason  chiefly  I  have  placed  it 
in  the  family  of  Certhianae  ;  but  if  not  intimately  allied  to  the 
Alcedinae,  it  certainly  indicates  a  transition  to  them. 

An  individual  of  this  species  was  shot  near  Edinburgh  iu 
the  autumn  of  1832,  and  Mr  Binnie,  farmer  at  Avon  Bank, 
about  a  mile  and  a  half  from  Linlithgow,  states  that  in  1835, 
one  was  seen  in  his  neighbourhood  for  seven  or  eight  weeks, 
residing  chiefly  in  Kinneil  Wood,  hut  occasionally  coming  very 
near  his  house. 


Fig.  194. 


4r> 


SITTING. 

NUTHATCHES  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES . 


The  birds  of  this  family  are  of  small  size,  the  largest  not 
exceeding  a  domestic  Sparrow,  and  agree  in  having  the  body 
short  and  compact,  the  neck  short,  the  head  of  moderate  size, 
or  rather  large ;  the  bill  shorter  than  the  head,  sometimes 
almost  as  long,  straight,  or  even  slightly  bent  upwards,  slender, 
pentagonal  at  the  base,  four-sided  toward  the  end,  with  the  tip 
acute,  or  somewhat  cuneate.  The  tongue  is  slender,  very  thin, 
with  the  point  abrupt,  and  furnished  with  several  bristles  ;  the 
oesophagus  rather  wide,  tapering,  without  crop ;  the  proven- 
triculus  oblong ;  the  stomach  rather  large,  broadly  elliptical  or 
roundish,  muscular,  with  a  dense  rugous  epithelium  ;  the  intes¬ 
tine  rather  short  and  wide  ;  the  coeca  very  small.  Plate  XIV, 

Fig-  3- 

The  plumage  is  very  soft,  full,  and  blended  ;  the  wings  long, 
very  broad,  with  the  first  quill  very  small,  but  the  second  not 
much  shorter  than  the  third  and  fourth,  which  are  generally 
longest ;  the  tail  short,  broad,  and  soft.  The  tarsi  are  short, 
or  of  moderate  length,  and  slender  ;  the  toes  long,  slender, 
compressed,  the  anterior  coherent  at  the  base,  the  inner  much 
shorter  than  the  outer,  the  hind  toe  elongated ;  the  claws  long, 
well  arched,  compressed,  acute. 

In  the  form  of  the  feet  and  claws  the  Sittinae  resemble  the 
Certliianae,  while  in  the  structure  of  the  bill  they  are  allied  to 
the  Woodpeckers,  and  in  their  aspect  and  colouring  exhibit  an 
affinity  to  the  Tits.  Their  habits  accordingly  present  a  com¬ 
bination  of  those  of  all  these  birds.  Of  the  few  genera  form¬ 
ing  this  family,  only  one  occurs  in  Europe. 


46 


SITTA.  NUTHATCH. 

Bill  of  moderate  length,  straight,  slender  but  strong,  some¬ 
what  conical,  slightly  higher  than  broad,  pentagonal  at  the 
base,  four-sided  toward  the  end,  with  the  point  sharp,  or  some¬ 
what  wedge-shaped  from  use  ;  upper  mandible  with  its  dorsal 
outline  very  slightly  arcuato -decimate  or  nearly  straight,  the 
ridge  rather  obtuse,  the  sides  sloping,  a  little  convex  toward 
the  end,  the  edges  sharp,  sloping  outwards  and  overlapping, 
the  point  narrow,  acute,  or  blunted,  somewhat  depressed, 
without  notch  or  sinus  ;  lower  mandible  with  the  angle  rather 
short  and  of  moderate  width,  the  dorsal  outline  ascending  and 
slightly  convex,  the  sides  sloping  outwards  and  flat  at  the  base, 
convex  towards  the  end,  the  edges  thin  and  directed  outwards, 
the  tip  acute  ;  the  gape-line  straight. 

The  mouth  narrow  ;  the  upper  mandible  slightly  concave 
internally,  with  three  parallel  central  prominent  lines,  and  two 
lateral  grooves ;  the  lower  moderately  concave,  with  a  strong 
central  prominent  line.  Nostrils  oblong,  in  the  fore-part  of  the 
short  nasal  membrane,  which  is  feathered.  Eyes  rather  small ; 
eyelids  feathered.  External  aperture  of  ear  large  and  roundish. 

The  general  form  is  short  and  robust ;  the  body  and  neck 
very  short ;  the  head  ovate,  rather  large.  The  feet  rather 
short  and  strong ;  tarsus  very  short,  compressed,  with  seven 
very  broad  anterior  scutella,  sharp  behind ;  toes  large,  much 
compressed ;  the  first,  with  its  claw,  longer  than  the  tarsus  or 
the  middle  toe,  the  three  anterior  united  at  the  base  as  far  as 
the  second  joint,  the  fourth  longer  than  the  second.  Claws  long, 
much  arched,  extremely  compressed,  high,  laterally  grooved, 
very  acute. 

The  plumage  soft  and  blended,  the  feathers  ovate,  those  of 
the  back  elongated,  about  the  base  of  the  bill  short  and  bristle- 
tipped  ;  but  there  are  no  bristle-feathers.  Wings  long,  very 
broad,  rounded ;  quills  nineteen  ;  the  first  very  small,  being 


SITTA.  NUTHATCH. 


47 


scarcely  a  third  of  the  length  of  the  second,  the  fourth  longest, 
but  the  third  and  fifth  almost  equal ;  the  third,  fourth,  fifth, 
and  sixth  cut  out  on  the  outer  web ;  the  secondaries  long  and 
rounded.  Tail  short,  generally  even,  of  twelve  moderately 
broad,  weak,  rounded  feathers. 

The  genus  Sitta  is  composed  of  small  birds,  varying  in  size 
from  that  of  a  Coal  Tit  or  Regulus  to  the  length  of  six  or  seven 
inches.  They  inhabit  the  warmer  and  temperate  parts  of  both 
continents,  but  are  more  numerous  in  America,  only  one  species 
occurring  in  Europe.  In  the  form  of  their  bill,  in  that  of  their 
feet,  but  more  especially  in  their  general  appearance,  and  in 
their  colouring,  as  well  as  in  their  habits,  they  present  a  con¬ 
siderable  affinity  to  the  Tits,  between  which,  on  the  one  hand, 
and  the  Creepers  and  Woodpeckers  on  the  other,  seems  to  be 
their  station  in  a  natural  arrangement. 

The  Nuthatches,  according  to  the  observation  of  persons 
who  have  studied  their  habits,  are  remarkable  for  restless 
activity,  move  with  extreme  quickness  up  and  down  the 
branches  and  trunks  of  trees,  searching  for  insects  in  the  cre¬ 
vices  of  the  bark  and  among  the  leaves,  cling  and  hang  to  the 
twigs,  turning  with  astonishing  agility  in  all  directions,  utter 
every  now  and  then  a  loud  shrill  note,  fly  from  tree  to  tree  in 
the  woods,  visit  the  gardens  occasionally,  and  associate  with 
Creepers,  Tits,  and  small  Woodpeckers.  Their  flight  is  rapid, 
generally  short,  but  sometimes  protracted  ;  their  food  consists 
of  insects,  pupae,  and  larvae  of  various  kinds,  as  well  as  of 
acorns,  chestnuts,  and  other  hard  fruits,  which  they  split  or 
perforate  with  their  bill,  after  fastening  them  in  a  crevice. 
Not  unfrequently  they  betake  themselves  to  the  ground  in 
search  of  food,  and  come  into  the  immediate  vicinity  of  houses 
in  winter.  They  nestle  in  holes,  generally  formed  by  them¬ 
selves  in  decayed  trees.  They  have  the  singular  habit  of  sleep¬ 
ing  with  their  head  downwards,  as  they  cling  to  the  surface 
of  a  tree,  and,  unlike  the  Creepers,  which  can  only  ascend,  they 
are  equally  expert  at  descending  a  trunk  or  branch  ;  nor  do  they 
require  to  aid  their  ascent  by  pressing  their  tail  against  the  sur¬ 
face. 


48 


SITTA  EUROPE  A.  THE  EUROPEAN  NUTHATCH. 


Fig.  195. 


Sitta  europsea.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  177. 

Sitta  europsea.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  II.  261. 

European  Nuthatch.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Sittelle  Torchepot.  Sitta  europaea.  Teram.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  407. 

Sitta  europaea.  Nuthatch.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  154. 

Nuthatch.  Sitta  europaea.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  385. 

Upper  parts  bluish-grey  ;  throat  and  cheeJcs  white  ;  lorctl  space 
and  a  band  behind  the  eye  black  ;  lower  parts  light  reddish-yellow, 
sides  brownish-red. 

Male. — This  beautiful  and  lively  little  bird,  which  occurs 
in  various  parts  of  England,  remaining  all  the  year,  is  one  of 
the  largest  species  of  the  genus.  Its  general  appearance  may 
be  learned  from  the  generic  character,  which  applies  to  it  in 
every  respect ;  the  body  being  short  and  rather  full,  the  neck 
very  short,  the  head  rather  large  ;  the  bill  longisli,  moderately 
stout,  straight,  tapering,  and  towards  the  end  four-sided ;  the 
tarsi  very  short,  the  hind  toe  very  long,  with  eight  scutella, 
the  second  with  eight,  the  third  with  twelve,  the  fourth,  which 
is  considerably  longer  than  the  second,  with  ten ;  the  claws 
long,  much  arched,  that  of  the  hind  toe  very  large  and  curved 
in  a  semicircle. 


EUROPEAN  NUTHATCH. 


49 


The  plumage  is  very  soft  and  blended.  The  wings  rather 
long,  with  nineteen  quills,  the  first  about  a  third  of  the  length 
of  the  second,  which  is  four-twelfths  of  an  inch  shorter  than 
the  third,  the  fourth  longest,  but  scarcely  exceeding  the  third 
and  fifth.  The  tail  is  short,  broad,  straight,  even,  of  twelve 
moderately  broad,  rounded  feathers. 

The  upper  mandible  is  internally  almost  flat,  with  a  median 
ridge ;  the  lower  somewhat  more  concave.  The  tongue  is 
nearly  half  an  inch  in  length,  emarginate  and  papillate  at  the 
base,  slender,  thin,  with  the  point  abrupt  and  furnished  with 
strong  bristles,  like  that  of  a  Tit.  The  oesophagus  is  two 
inches  and  a  quarter  in  length,  rather  wide,  its  diameter  be¬ 
ing  two  and  a  half  twelfths  ;  the  stomach  large,  roundish,  ten- 
twelfths  in  length,  seven-twelfths  and  three  fourths  in  breadth, 
very  muscular,  with  the  epithelium  dense  and  longitudinally 
rugous  ;  the  intestine  nine  inches  long,  wide,  having  a  dia¬ 
meter  of  from  two  and  a  half  to  one  and  a  half  twelfths ;  the 
coeca  extremely  small,  being  scarcely  one-twelftli  long,  and  of 
an  oblong  form ;  the  rectum  one  inch  long,  dilated  into  an  ob¬ 
long  sac.  The  tongue  and  digestive  organs  are  thus  similar  to 
those  of  the  Tits.  The  trachea  is  an  inch  and  eight-twelfths 
long,  one-twelfth  in  breadth,  of  seventy-six  rings ;  the  bronchi 
of  fifteen  rings ;  the  inferior  laryngeal  muscles  forming  a  small 
knob,  and  apparently  single.  PI.  XIV,  Fig.  3. 

The  upper  mandible  is  greyish-blue  at  the  base,  dusky  in 
the  rest  of  its  extent ;  the  lower  pale  grey,  with  the  tip  dusky. 
The  iris  is  brown.  The  feet  are  greyish-yellow.  The  upper 
parts  of  the  plumage  are  light  bluish-grey.  The  quills  and 
coverts  are  greyish-brown,  margined  with  the  same  colour  as 
the  back,  the  primaries  more  narrowly,  excepting  the  outer 
two,  which  have  no  coloured  margins.  The  two  middle 
feathers  of  the  tail  are  bluish-grey,  the  rest  dusky  brown,  and 
tipped  with  grey,  diminishing  from  the  outer  inwards,  the 
outer  with  a  white  spot  on  each  web,  the  next  two  with  one 
on  the  inner  web  only.  There  is  a  brownish-black  band  on 
the  lore,  and  another  proceeds  from  the  eye  down  the  neck. 
The  cheeks  and  throat  are  white,  the  rest  of  the  lower  parts 
light  reddish-yellow,  excepting  the  sides,  which  are  of  a  rich 


VOTj.  III. 


E 


50 


SITTA  EUROPiEA. 


brownish-red,  and  the  lower  tail-coverts,  which  are  white, 
with  a  broad  edging  of  brownish-red. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  10^  ; 
wing  from  flexure  3T42  ;  tail  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  t9j,  along 
the  edge  of  lower  mandible  \\  ;  tarsus  ||  ;  hind  toe  /2,  its 
claw  ;  second  toe  ;  its  claw  ^  ;  third  toe  its  claw 

;  fourth  toe  T%,  its  claw 

Female. — The  female  is  similar  to  the  male,  but  with  the 
tints  paler,  and  the  size  somewhat  less. 

Variations. — This  bird  is  very  little  subject  to  change  of 
colour.  An  individual  almost  white,  with  only  a  few  light 
chocolate  feathers  at  the  vent,  and  here  and  there  a  dark  fea¬ 
ther  intermixed  with  the  rest  of  the  plumage,  the  legs  and  bill 
quite  white,  is  mentioned  in  Mr  Loudon's  Magazine,  Vol.  VIII, 
p.  112,  as  having  been  obtained  in  Suffolk. 

Habits. — The  Nuthatch  is  not  generally  distributed  in  Bri¬ 
tain,  being  of  rare  occurrence  in  the  northern  parts  of  Eng¬ 
land,  and  not  hitherto  observed  in  Scotland.  It  is  found 
chiefly  in  the  wooded  parts,  but  is  nowhere  very  common,  and  is 
seldom  seen  in  companies  of  more  than  seven  or  eight  indivi¬ 
duals.  Like  the  Creeper  and  Woodpeckers,  it  ascends  the 
trunks  and  branches  of  trees  by  means  of  its  long  curved 
claws,  but  without  employing  its  tail  as  a  support,  and  it 
descends  in  the  same  manner  head-foremost,  in  which  re¬ 
spect  it  differs  from  all  the  birds  that  occur  in  our  island. 
In  this  manner  it  searches  the  bark  for  insects  and  larvae, 
sometimes  betakes  itself  for  the  same  purpose  to  thatched 
roofs,  and  occasionally  alights  on  the  ground,  where  it  pro¬ 
ceeds  by  short  leaps.  Besides  insects,  it  feeds  on  the  kernels 
of  nuts,  which,  having  fixed  in  a  convenient  crevice  in  the 
bark,  it  hammers  with  its  strong  pointed  bill,  until  it  perforates 
the  shell,  pivoting  itself  on  its  legs,  and  jerking  its  whole 
body  forwards.  All  its  actions  are  abrupt  and  lively  ;  it  climbs 
by  short  jerks,  perches  with  ease  on  the  twigs,  throws  itself 
into  various  postures,  and  is  often  seen  with  its  head  down- 


EUROPEAN  NUTHATCH. 


51 


wards,  in  which  position  it  is  even  said  at  times  to  sleep.  Its 
flight  is  rapid,  protracted  on  occasion,  hut  usually  short.  It 
has  no  song,  being  furnished  with  only  a  single  pair  of  inferior 
laryngeal  muscles,  but  utters  a  shrill  cry  at  intervals. 

My  excellent  friend,  Mr  Harley,  writes  me  on  the  subject  of 
the  Nuthatch  as  follows: — “  This  bird  remains  with  us  through- 
out  the  year,  inhabiting  the  park  and  old  inclosure  more  than  the 
hedge-row  tree  or  the  dense  umbrageous  wood.  In  fact,  I  have 
never  seen  it  upon  our  hedge-row  trees,  although  I  have  often 
sought  for  it  when  I  have  been  watching  the  haunts  of  the 
Woodpeckers,  which  so  much  resemble  it  in  their  habits.  In 
winter  it  is  not  quite  mute,  hut  has  a  small  piping  note,  not 
unlike  that  of  the  Creeper.  This  is  a  call-company  note,  inas¬ 
much  as  the  Nuthatch  in  winter  feeds  in  little  companies  or  fa¬ 
milies  of  four  or  six  individuals.  On  the  21st  November  (1839) 
I  went  after  a  pair  of  the  Greater  Spotted  Woodpecker  and  a 
pair  of  Nuthatches,  in  Ganendon  Park  (near  Leicester),  the 
weather  being  mild,  but  gloomy,  and  the  wind  south.  It  was 
not  without  difficulty  that  I  found  the  Nuthatches,  which  in¬ 
variably  feed  where  the  trees  are  most  protected  from  the  wind. 
Thus,  when  the  south  or  forest  wind  is  playing  upon  the  park, 
the  Nuthatches  are  to  be  found  amongst  the  large  oaks  and  elms 
on  the  north  side  of  it  ;  and  when  a  north-easter  is  blowing, 
these  birds  are  found  feeding  on  the  beeches,  chestnuts,  and 
pines  which  grow  on  the  south  side.  I  know  of  no  birds  whose 
habits  and  manners  are  so  operated  upon  by  the  movements  of 
the  wind.  Whether  this  arises  from  their  being  so  much  ex¬ 
posed  to  the  weather,  in  consequence  of  their  being  almost  con¬ 
stantly  on  the  bark  of  trees  at  all  seasons  of  the  year,  I  cannot 
say.  The  Nuthatch  searches  the  bark  like  the  Creeper,  but 
without  deriving  aid  from  its  tail,  and  is  able  to  descend  with 
as  much  ease  as  it  climbs.  You  see  it  now  ascending  spirally 
the  bole  of  an  oak,  then  creeping  horizontally  along  an  arm, 
now  above,  now  beneath,  and  again  hanging  like  a  Tit,  as  it 
gains  the  thickened  foliage,  to  examine  every  crevice  of  the 
bark,  and  the  young  buds.  It  proceeds  by  short  leaps,  jerks, 
or  notches,  and  during  its  progress  droops  its  wings  somewhat 
after  the  manner  of  the  Hedge  Sparrow.  At  this  season  (No- 


52 


SITTA  EUROPiEA. 


vembor)  it  generally  keeps  toward  the  middle  and  topmost 
branches  of  the  trees  it  inhabits  ;  but  as  the  spring  advances  it 
not  only  feeds  lower  down  on  the  bark,  but  may  then  be  ob¬ 
served  occasionally  betaking  itself  to  the  ground.  The  note  in 
spring  is  quite  different,  having  in  the  vernal  months  a  soft 
flute-like  sound,  which  it  gets  in  February,  but  somewhat 
earlier  or  later  according  to  the  nature  of  the  season.  The  flight 
of  the  Nuthatch  is  very  short,  and  in  fact  is  only  made  from 
one  tree  to  another,  or  from  branch  to  branch.  When  the  bird 
is  flying,  it  moves  its  wings  very  rapidly,  and,  during  these 
short  flights,  its  course  is  not  undulating.  In  its  mode  of  flying 
it  bears  a  great  resemblance  to  the  Wren.  The  pair  which  I 
have  forwarded  for  your  inspection  were  shot  from  the  bark  of 
an  oak.  You  may  fire  several  times  into  the  same  tree,  with¬ 
out  causing  the  birds,  which  at  this  season  are  in  families,  to 
leave  it,  although  one  or  two  should  be  killed.  When  these 
two  were  obtained,  four  shots  were  fired,  and  yet  all  this  can¬ 
nonading  did  not  drive  off  the  other  four  birds,  which  remained 
until  we  departed.*' 

In  the  stomach  of  these  individuals  I  found  fragments  of 
small  coleoptera,  several  small  white  pupae  contained  in  very 
hard  elliptical  shells,  some  farinaceous-looking  matter  in  small 
pieces  or  chips,  a  few  husks  of  grasses,  and  several  particles  of 
quartz,  the  largest  two-twelfths  in  their  greatest  diameter.  The 
figure  and  description  of  the  alimentary  canal  is  taken  from  one 
of  these  specimens,  a  male,  as  are  the  measurements  of  the  bill, 
feet,  and  other  parts. 

The  Rev.  W.  T.  Bree,  in  Loudon’s  Magazine,  Yol.  II,  p.  243, 
states  that  “  it  fixes  the  nuts  in  a  chink  or  crevice  of  the  bark 
of  a  tree,  or  the  like,  and  commences  a  vigorous  attack  upon 
the  shell  by  forcibly  and  repeatedly  striking  it  with  its  beak. 
This  knocking  may  be  heard  to  a  considerable  distance.  Dur¬ 
ing  the  operation,  it  sometimes  happens  that  the  nut  swerves 
from  its  fixture,  and  falls  towards  the  ground  ;  it  has  not  de¬ 
scended,  however,  for  the  space  of  more  than  a  few  yards,  when 
the  Nuthatch,  with  admirable  adroitness,  recovers  it  in  its  fall, 
and  replacing  it  in  its  former  position,  commences  the  attack 
afresh.  The  fall  of  the  nut  in  the  air,  and  its  recovery  by  the 


EUROPEAN  NUTHATCH. 


53 


bird  on  the  wing,  I  have  seen  repeated  several  times  in  the 
space  of  a  few  minutes.” 

A  correspondent,  J.  D.,  in  the  same  very  useful  work,  Vol. 
V,p.  489,  has  the  following  notice.  “  In  observing  the  Nut¬ 
hatch  climbing  tall  trees,  as  the  lime  and  the  elm,  when,  of 
course,  insects,  not  nuts,  were  the  objects  sought,  I  noticed  that 
the  bird  ascended  in  a  very  zigzag  manner,  as,  at  the  end  of 
every  few  inches  of  its  progress  upwards,  it  diverged  either  to 
the  right  hand  or  to  the  left ;  this,  it  may  be  presumed,  was 
less  for  the  purpose  of  rendering  ascent  easy,  than  for  that  of 
enlarging  its  field  of  search,  and  so  increasing  the  chances  of 
amplifying  its  meal.  During  the  winter  the  Nuthatch  was 
very  shy,  and  as  far  as  my  observation  went,  quite  silent.  By 
the  I Oth  of  April  and  before,  it  had  become,  I  think,  less  shy, 
and  rather  frequently  uttered  one  or  the  other  of  its  two  notes  : 
these  are  a  short  broken  twitting,  and  a  short,  unmodulated, 
yet  mellow -toned  whistle.”  Another  correspondent  states  that 
it  “  has  only  a  few  short  notes,  one  of  them  peculiar,  and  so  loud 
that  it  may  be  heard  to  a  considerable  distance.  It  is  at  all 
times  a  busy  and  cheerful  bird,  and  particularly  before  breed¬ 
ingtime.  Its  favourite  food  is  nuts  of  any  kind,  and  tree  seeds. 
It  builds  and  roosts  in  hollow  trees,  and  is  seldom  seen  in  the 
open  fields,  unless  when  in  quest  of  the  stones  of  white-thorn. 
It  may  be,  therefore,  properly  called  a  forester.  Its  dexterity 
in  opening  nuts  and  the  stones  of  fruits  is  curious  ;  it  fixes  the 
nut  in  a  crack  on  the  top  of  a  post,  or  on  the  bark  of  a  tree, 
and,  placing  itself  above  it,  head  downwards,  strikes  with  great 
force  and  rapidity  with  its  strong  wedge-shaped  bill  on  the 
edge  of  the  shell  till  it  splits  it  open.  When  the  food  of  these 
birds  is  plentiful,  they  have  a  favourite  crack  for  unshelling 
the  kernels,  as  sometimes  a  peck  of  broken  shells  may  be  seen 
under  this  crack.” 

According  to  Montagu,  “  it  chooses  the  deserted  habitation 
of  a  Woodpecker  in  some  tree  for  the  place  of  its  nidification. 
This  hole  is  first  contracted  by  a  plaster  of  clay,  leaving  only 
sufficient  room  for  itself  to  pass  in  and  out.  The  nest  is  made 
of  dead  leaves,  most  times  that  of  the  oak,  which  are  heaped 
together  without  much  order.  The  eggs  are  six  or  seven  m 


54 


SITTA  EUR0PA5A. 


number,  white,  spotted  with  rust  colour,  so  exactly  like  those 
of  the  Great  Titmouse  in  size  and  markings,  that  it  is  impossi¬ 
ble  to  distinguish  a  difference.  If  the  barrier  of  plaster  at  the 
entrance  is  destroyed  when  they  have  eggs,  it  is  speedily  re¬ 
placed  ;  a  peculiar  instinct  to  prevent  their  nest  being  destroyed 
by  the  Woodpecker  and  other  birds  of  superior  size  who  build 
in  the  same  situation.  No  persecution  will  force  this  little 
bird  from  its  habitation  when  sitting ;  it  defends  its  nest  to 
the  last  extremity,  strikes  the  invader  with  its  bill  and  wings, 
and  makes  a  hissing  noise ;  and,  after  every  effort  of  defence, 
will  suffer  itself  to  be  taken  in  the  hand  rather  than  quit.” 

Like  the  American  species,  it  appears  from  the  testimony 
of  several  writers,  that  the  European  Nuthatch  sometimes 
makes  a  hole  for  itself;  and  it  would  seem  that  the  plaster  is 
only  used  when  the  entrance  is  unnecessarily  large.  Mr  Harley 
informs  me  that  he  has  known  it  to  nestle  in  a  gate-post,  and 
keep  its  station  although  the  gateway  was  often  used.  In 
Ganendon  Park,  where  it  is  pretty  common,  it  nestles  in  elm, 
thorn,  and  maple  trees. 

In  a  state  of  captivity  the  Nuthatch  is  fed  on  hemp-seed, 
oats,  barley,  and  nuts,  all  of  which  it  cracks  or  splits  with  its 
bill.  Its  activity,  cunning,  and  drollery,  render  it  an  agreeable 
pet,  but  it  must  be  kept  in  a  cage  entirely  of  wire,  as  it  de¬ 
stroys  wood  with  its  bill.  Pechstein,  in  his  Cage  Birds,  relates 

“  A  lady  amused  herself  in 
winter  with  throwing  seeds  on  the  terrace  below  the  window, 
to  feed  the  birds  in  the  neighbourhood.  She  put  some  hemp- 
seed  and  cracked  nuts  even  on  the  window-sill,  and  on  a  board, 
particularly  for  her  favourites,  the  Blue  Tits.  Two  Nuthatches 
came  one  day  to  have  their  share  in  this  repast,  and  were  so 
well  pleased  that  they  became  quite  familiar,  and  did  not  even 
go  away  in  the  following  spring,  to  get  their  natural  fond  and 
to  build  their  nest  in  the  wood.  They  settled  themselves  in 
the  hollow  of  an  old  tree  near  the  house.  As  soon  as  the  two 
young  ones,  which  they  reared  here,  were  able  to  fly,  they 
brought  them  to  the  hospitable  window  where  they  were  to  be 
nourished,  and  soon  after  disappeared  entirely.  It  was  amus¬ 
ing  to  see  these  two  new  visitors  hang  or  climb  on  the  walls 


an  instance  of  its  familiarity 


EUROPEAN  NUTHATCH. 


55 


or  blinds,  whilst  their  benefactress  put  their  food  on  the  board. 
These  pretty  creatures,  as  well  as  the  tits,  knew  her  so  well, 
that  when  she  drove  away  the  sparrows  which  came  to  steal 
what  was  not  intended  for  them,  they  did  not  fly  away  also, 
but  seemed  to  know  that  what  was  done  was  only  to  protect 
and  defend  them.  They  remained  near  the  house  for  the  whole 
summer,  rarely  wandering,  till  one  fatal  day,  at  the  beginning 
of  the  sporting  season,  in  autumn,  when  on  hearing  the  report 
of  a  gun  they  disappeared,  and  were  never  seen  again.’1 

Young. — The  young  when  fledged  differ  from  the  adult  in 
having  the  colours  paler  and  the  plumage  more  loose. 


Fig.  197. 


56 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


SEVENTH  LESSON. 

REMARKS  ON  WOODPECKERS.  STRUCTURE  OF  THE  TONGUE  OF  PICUS 
VIRIDIS,  AND  EXPLANATION  OF  THE  MANNER  IN  WHICH  IT  IS  EX¬ 
TENDED  AND  RETRACTED.  ITS  TRACHEA  AND  DIGESTIVE  ORGANS. 
DESCRIPTION  OF  PART  OF  THE  COUNTY  OF  LEICESTER,  INCLUDING 
CHARNWOOD  FOREST. 

More  than  half  a  year  has  elapsed  since  we  had  one  of  our 
pleasant  lessons  in  practical  ornithology,  and  all  that  time  I 
have  been  anxiously  expecting  a  Green  Woodpecker  from  some 
correspondent.  One  wrote  to  a  friend  to  procure  a  specimen, 
another  made  inquiries  in  London,  a  third  engaged  three  diffe¬ 
rent  persons  who  were  sure  of  obtaining  a  supply,  a  fourth,  on 
being  apprized  of  my  wishes,  went  out  directly  and  shot  one. 
Here  it  is,  preserved  in  spirits,  along  with  two  Nuthatches. 

The  birds  of  the  family  of  Picinse  are  remarkable  for  their 
habit  of  ascending  the  trunks  and  branches  of  trees,  while 
clinging  to  which  with  their  curved  and  sharp  claws,  they  derive 
considerable  aid  from  their  very  stiff  and  strong  tail,  the  tips 
of  the  feathers  of  which  are  pressed  against  the  bark.  Another 
peculiarity  is  seen  in  the  form  of  their  straight,  tapering,  angu¬ 
lar,  wedge-tipped  bill,  with  which  they  perforate  or  chip  off 
the  bark  and  wood,  in  search  of  insects  and  their  larvae.  A 
third  striking  character  which  they  possess,  although  it  is  not 
peculiar  to  them,  is  exhibited  by  their  slender,  stiff-pointed 
and  bristled  or  prickly  tongue,  which  they  have  the  power  of 
suddenly  thrusting  out,  in  order  to  draw  with  it  into  their 
mouth  the  small  insects  on  which  they  feed.  All  the  species 
of  Woodpecker,  about  twenty  in  number,  which  I  have  exa¬ 
mined,  present  this  structure,  with  slight  modifications. 

The  examination  of  organs  is  certainly  the  most  pleasing  and 
important  part  of  zoology,  and,  whatever  superficial  observers 


TONGUE  OF  THE  GREEN  WOODPECKER. 


57 


may  say,  must  soon  be  generally  practised ;  but  as  we  have  a 
good  opportunity,  we  may  take  the  measurements  of  the  bird: — 
Length  134  inches,  extent  of  wings  20  ;  wing  from  flexure  64  ; 
tail  4t82  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  1T8?,  along  the  edge  of  lower  man¬ 
dible  144,  width  of  mouth  ;  tarsus  1  ;  hind  toe/g ,  its  claw  ; 

second  or  inner  toe  T6?,  its  claw  T72  ;  third  1  inch,  its  claw  ; 
fourth  or  reversed  toe  T92,  its  claw  I7^.  There  are  six  scutella  on 
the  tarsus,  four  on  the  first  toe,  nine  on  the  second,  twelve  on 
the  third,  and  eleven  on  the  fourth.  Now  for  our  dissection. 
Here  the  bird  is  laid  on  its  back,  the  integuments  are  removed 
from  its  breast,  neck,  and  head ;  and  the  parts  are  before  us  : 
the  mandibles,  the  tongue,  the  hyoid  bones,  the  salivary  glands, 
the  trachea,  and  its  muscles.  See  Plate  XV. 

Our  principal  object  is  to  trace  out  the  apparently  complex 
apparatus  by  which  the  tongue  is  protruded  and  retracted. 
Two  slight  diagrams  will  afford  a  sufficiently  correct  idea  of  the 
mechanism  employed,  which  is  extremely  simple.  Let  Fig.  ], 
a  b,  be  an  object  or  instrument,  which  is  to  be  carried  forward 
a  certain  distance,  and  then  drawn  back.  All  that  is  neces¬ 
sary  is  to  lengthen  it  behind,  a  c ,  fix  a  cord  to  the  end  or  to 
some  part,  c  d ,  pull  this  cord,  and  by  means  of  another  cord, 
a  e ,  restore  it  to  its  original  position.  As  the  elongated  part 
or  appendage  cannot  in  a  bird  project  straight  backwards,  for 
then  it  would  pass  through  the  vertebrae  and  spinal  marrow, 
it  must  be  split  into  two,  one-lialf  passing  along  each  side  of 
the  neck  ;  and  as  the  length  of  this  part  must  correspond  to 
the  distance  to  which  the  tip  of  the  tongue  is  to  be  protruded, 
it  becomes  necessary  to  dispose  of  it  so  as  not  to  impede  the 
functions  of  the  neighbouring  parts,  and  thus  it  may  conveni¬ 
ently  be  curved  over  the  head,  between  the  skull  and  the  skin. 
Fig.  2  represents  such  an  instrument,  it  being  merely  Fig.  1 
modified  :  a  b,  the  tongue  ;  a  c ,  its  double  appendage  ;  d  c, 
the  muscles  or  cords  by  which  it  is  pulled  forward ;  a  e ,  those 
by  which  it  is  brought  back. 

Now,  the  tongue  of  this  Green  AVoodpecker,  when  examined 
superficially,  in  its  retracted  state,  presents  the  appearance  of  a 
slender,  cylindrical,  somewhat  tapering,  fleshy  body,  termi¬ 
nated  by  a  slender,  flattened  horny  point,  of  which  the  upper 


58 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


surface  and  sides  are  covered  with  very  delicate  acicular,  stif- 
fish,  reversed  bristles  or  prickles.  These  prickles  assist  in  at¬ 
taching  the  insect  or  larva  to  be  seized,  but  the  object  is  not 
transfixed,  as  some  have  imagined,  otherwise,  being  so  delicate, 
the  bristles  would  be  broken,  or  at  all  events  would  render  it  im¬ 
possible  to  disengage  the  insect  for  the  purpose  of  swallowing  it. 
The  fleshy  part  of  the  tongue  is  1^  inch  in  length,  its  horny 
tip  J  ;  but  it  may  be  drawn  out  so  that  the  tip  shall  be  pro¬ 
truded  nearly  2  inches  beyond  the  tip  of  the  bill ;  it  being  in 
this  state  inches  long.  The  protrusion  is  seen  to  be  effect¬ 
ed,  not  by  any  elasticity  or  extensility  of  the  tongue,  but  in 
consequence  of  its  basal  part  sliding  forwards  from  within  a 
sheath,  which  is  lined  with  a  smooth  membrane,  continuous 
with  that  which  covers  the  tongue,  of  which  the  basal  part 
when  retracted  is  withdrawn  by  a  kind  of  intussusception,  or 
as  if  by  turning  the  finger  of  a  glove  partly  within  itself.  Be¬ 
sides  its  general  covering,  and  some  delicate  muscles,  the  tongue 
has  internally  a  very  slender  bone,  not  thicker  than  a  strong 
hog's  bristle,  1^-  inch  in  length,  tipped  by  a  broader,  some¬ 
what  sagittiform  bone,  long,  which  is  the  basis  of  the  horny 
part.  The  long  bone  is  the  basi-hyal,  and  the  small  terminal 
one  the  glosso-liyal.  Appended  to  the  base  of  the  former  are 
two  filiform  bones,  1^  inch  long,  to  which  are  appended  two 
still  more  slender  bones,  5J  inches  in  length.  These  bones, 
the  apohyal  and  ceratohyal,  are  flattened  and  tapering,  and 
diverging  as  they  proceed  backward,  curve  on  the  sides  of  the 
neck,  ascend,  converge  on  passing  the  neck,  meet  on  the  top 
of  the  head,  leave  the  median  line  when  opposite  the  eyes, 
digressing  to  the  right  side,  and  terminate  near  the  base  of  the 
upper  mandible,  being  attached  by  two  slender  ligaments  to  the 
outer  side  of  the  depression  in  which  the  right  nostril  is  si¬ 
tuated.  The  length  from  the  tip  of  the  bill  to  that  of  the  hyoid 
bones  is  8T5?  inches.  We  have  thus  the  solid  parts  represented 
by  the  diagrams  Figs.  1  and  2. 

A  tongue  of  this  kind  may  be  protruded  in  t  wo  ways.  Either 
the  elongated  apohyal  and  ceratohyal  bones  may  be  made  to  slide 
in  a  sheath,  so  that  their  tips  shall  pass  from  the  forehead  to  the 
occiput,  or  even  as  far  as  the  base  of  the  lower  jaw,  in  which 


TONGUE  OF  THE  GREEN  WOODPECKER. 


59 


case  the  tip  of  the  tongue  would  advance  to  a  corresponding 
distance.  Or,  the  tips  of  the  ceratohyal  bones  being  fixed,  or 
having  only  a  little  motion  by  means  of  an  elastic  ligament, 
these  bones  may  form  a  very  large  curve,  passing  down  the 
sides  of  the  neck  to  a  great  distance  from  the  base  of  the  skull, 
in  which  case  the  straightening  of  this  curve  would  carry  for¬ 
ward  the  tip  of  the  tongue.  In  very  many  Woodpeckers,  the 
whole  ceratohyals  with  their  muscles  slide  backwards  and  for¬ 
wards  in  a  sheath  ;  but  in  this  species  the  tips  of  these  bones 
being  nearly  fixed,  the  protrusion  of  the  tongue  is  effected  by 
the  contraction  of  the  muscle  straightening  the  lower  part,  or 
that  nearest  the  mouth,  which  moves  in  a  sheath. 

A  slender  muscle  proceeds  from  the  lower  jaw  pretty  far 
forward,  on  each  side,  passes  backwards,  soon  attaches  itself  to 
the  corresponding  ceratohyal  bone,  runs  along  its  whole  length, 
covering  or  enclosing  it,  and  is  attached  to  its  tip.  This  muscle, 
by  contracting,  suddenly  thrusts  out  the  tongue.  To  the  basi- 
hyal  bone  in  the  cylindrical  part  of  the  tongue,  is  attached  on 
each  side  a  muscle,  which  proceeds  downward  in  front  of  the 
bones  of  the  larynx,  on  passing  which  it  turns  aside,  winds 
round  the  trachea  behind,  reappears  on  the  other  side,  and  is 
twice  wound  round  the  trachea,  to  which  it  finally  adheres. 
This  muscle  and  its  fellow,  the  trachea  being  fixed  by  other 
muscles,  draw  back  the  tongue  when  it  has  been  protruded. 
In  all  W oodpeckers  these  muscles  necessarily  exist,  and  are  at¬ 
tached  to  the  trachea,  but  are  specially  twisted  round  it  only  in 
the  Green  Woodpecker  among  the  European,  and  the  Golden¬ 
winged  Woodpecker,  among  the  North  American  species. 

To  complete  the  apparatus,  two  very  large,  elongated  glands, 
analogous  to  the  parotid  and  sublingual  in  man,  secrete  a  viscid 
saliva,  conveying  it  each  by  a  single  tube,  which  opens  into 
the  mouth,  at  the  angle  or  point  of  meeting  of  the  crura  of  the 
lower  jaw.  The  fluid  thus  copiously  secreted,  fills  the  place 
where  the  tip  of  the  tongue  lies  when  retracted,  so  that  the 
prehensile  bristly  tip  of  that  organ  is  always  bedewed  with  it. 
Thus  a  perfectly  efficient  instrument  for  seizing  the  small  and 
often  agile  objects  on  which  the  Woodpecker  feeds,  is  provided 
by  a  very  simple  contrivance. 


GO 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


Three  different  views  of  our  W oodpecker’s  head  and  neck  will 
render  the  structure  very  obvious.  In  the  lateral  view  of  the 
parts,  Fig.  3,  are  seen  a  b ,  the  two  horny  mandibles;  the  tongue, 
c  d  e,  its  terminal  barbed  portion,  c  d ,  the  fleshy  part,  d  e  ;  the 
elongated  parts  of  the  hyoid  bones,  with  their  muscles,  f  g  ;  the 
eye  and  orbit,  h ;  the  salivary  glands,  i  i ;  the  neck,  j ;  the 
oesophagus,  k  k  ;  the  trachea,  1 1 ;  the  lateral  or  contractor  mus¬ 
cles  of  the  trachea,  mm;  its  cleido-tracheal  muscles,  n  n ,  attached 
to  the  furcular  bone  or  clavicle,  o. 

Viewed  from  before  or  beneath,  the  parts  seen  are  :  the  lower 
mandible,  b ;  the  salivary  glands,  i  i,  turned  a  little  aside ;  the 
hyoid  bones  with  their  muscles,  f  g,  f  g  ;  the  oesophagus,  k  k  ; 
the  trachea,  1 1 ;  its  lateral  muscles,  m  m  ;  the  cleido-tracheal 
muscles,  n  n ;  the  glosso-laryngeal  muscles,  p  p,  which,  being 
twisted  round  the  trachea  at  one  end,  and  attached  to  the  base 
of  the  tongue  at  the  other,  draw  that  organ  backwards  into 
the  mouth ;  and  lastly,  the  muscles,  q  q ,  which,  arising  from 
the  sides  of  the  lower  jaw,  attach  themselves  to  the  apohyal 
bones,  f  g,  are  continued  to  their  extremity,  and  on  contract¬ 
ing  thrust  out  the  tongue. 

Fig.  5  represents  the  apohyal  bones  and  their  muscles,  a  a , 
curving  over  the  occiput,  meeting  on  the  top  of  the  head,  run¬ 
ning  forward  in  a  groove,  deviating  beyond  the  eyes  to  the 
right  side,  and  attached  to  the  upper  jaw  near  the  right  nos¬ 
tril,  b. 

Several  modifications  of  these  parts  will  be  seen  in  the  fifth 
volume  of  Mr  Audubon's  Ornithological  Biography,  of  which 
the  anatomical  descriptions  and  drawings  were  made  by  me. 

The  trachea  is  3/2  inches  in  length,  from  three  to  two 
twelfths  in  breadth,  and  composed  of  about  80  rings,  of  which 
the  upper  are  circular,  the  rest  flattened  ;  the  last  entire  ring 
bipartite,  and  succeeded  by  two  dimidiate  rings.  The  lateral 
or  contractor  muscles  are  strong,  as  are  the  sterno-tracheal ; 
and  there  are  two  very  slender  inferior  laryngeal  muscles. 

The  digestive  organs  may  now  be  examined.  See  PI.  XIV, 
Fig.  5.  The  oesophagus,  a  b  c,  is  5J  inches  long,  its  width 
from  half  an  inch  at  the  commencement  to  three-twelfths, 
but  in  the  proventricular  portion,  b  0 ,  dilated  so  as  to  form  an 


SCENERY  OF  LEICESTERSHIRE. 


61 


oblong  sac,  an  inch  and  three  quarters  in  length,  and  ten  and 
a  half  twelfths  in  its  greatest  breadth.  The  stomach,  cd ,  is  small, 
of  a  roundish  form,  considerably  compressed,  nine  and  a  half 
twelfths  in  length,  ten-twelfths  in  breadth  ;  its  lateral  muscles 
of  considerable  strength,  one  being  four  and  a  half  twelfths 
thick,  the  other  three  twelfths  ;  the  lower  muscle  prominent, 
but  very  thin  ;  the  tendons  large  ;  the  cuticular  lining  dense, 
longitudinally  rugous,  and  yellowish-red.  The  proventricular 
glands,  which  are  very  small,  form  a  belt  an  inch  and  a  quarter 
in  breadth.  The  intestine,  d  e  fg,  is  rather  short,  but  extremely 
wide,  and  destitute  of  coeca  ;  its  entire  length  sixteen  inches  ; 
the  duodenal  portion  two  inches  and  three  quarters  in  length, 
and  seven-twelfths  in  width  ;  the  rest  of  the  intestine  contract¬ 
ing  to  five-twelfths  ;  the  cloaca,  ij,  a  very  large  elliptical  sac, 
ten-twelfths  and  a  half  in  width.  There  is  no  gall-bladder.  The 
contents  of  the  proventriculus  are  638  insects  and  pupae,  most 
of  them  ants,  four  muscae,  and  a  few  coleoptera.  In  the 
stomach  is  a  mass  of  the  same  comminuted,  probably  200  more. 
Consider  how  many  insects  a  Green  Woodpecker  would  at  this 
rate  devour  in  the  course  of  a  year.  Making  the  above  num¬ 
ber  the  daily  average,  we  find  the  annual  amount  to  be  305,870, 
and  that  of  twenty  years  6,117,400.  Very  possibly  the  num¬ 
ber  may  be  double.  How  many  muscular  motions  of  climb¬ 
ing,  creeping,  pecking,  tongueing,  and  swallowing,  one  cannot 
even  imagine.  What  say  the  skin-and-featlier  ornithologists 
to  all  this  ?  “  A  knowledge  of  anatomy  is  not  necessary  to  the 
naturalist.' ”  No  truly,  not  to  such  naturalists,  to  whom 
not  even  a  knowledge  of  habits  is  of  much  importance.  How 
is  it  that  the  proventriculus  and  stomach  of  a  Woodpecker 
should  bear  so  considerable  a  resemblance  to  those  of  a  Petrel? 

The  gentleman  who  has  sent  me  the  specimen  which  we 
have  now  examined,  Mr  Harley,  of  Leicester,  has  also  favoured 
me  with  observations  relative  to  the  birds  of  his  neighbourhood, 
and  prefaces  them  with  a  brief  account  of  the  district,  to  which 
it  will  be  useful  to  refer  on  occasion. 

“  The  small  river  Soar  winds  its  course  hard  by  the  town, 
turning  numerous  mills  in  its  progress.  After  irrigrating  many 
a  mead,  and  refreshing  many  a  field,  it  falls  into  the  Trent 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


02 


about  twenty-two  miles  north  of  Leicester.  The  town  is  situ¬ 
ated  on  a  bed  of  fine  red  clay,  which  is  covered  with  a  thick  bed 
of  gravel.  In  many  parts  the  soil  is  deep,  but  in  others  scanty. 
The  north-western  side  of  the  town  is  in  general  very  low,  with 
much  water,  caused  by  the  river  being  turned  for  navigation, 
and  its  water  made  available  for  manufacture  and  other  pur¬ 
poses.  On  each  side  of  the  Soar  are  low  meadows,  in  many 
places  wet  and  marshy,  but  generally  very  productive  of  fine 
grasses,  which  are  I  believe  rather  celebrated  for  fodder.  The 
part  of  the  county  which  I  mean  to  describe  lies  between  the 
town  of  Leicester  and  the  south  eastern  verge  of  Charnwood 
Forest,  about  six  miles  distant.  After  leaving  the  town,  and 
proceeding  about  two  miles  due  west,  we  come  to  a  sort  of  blue 
clay,  and  find  detached  and  scattered  pieces  of  limestone,  often 
containing  belemnites.  The  vegetation  here  is  very  scanty,  the 
trees  are  stunted,  and  ranpikes  are  very  common.  The  land 
intervening  between  this  clayey  tract  and  Bradgate  Park,  or 
the  Forest  of  Charnwood,  is  decidedly  woodland,  broken,  and 
often  picturesque,  particularly  about  the  pretty  villages  of  Austy, 
Grooby,  and  Newtown  Linford.  Both  the  red  and  blue  clays  are 
conspicuous  here,  but  we  find  them  abruptly  lost  in  the  granite 
of  Grooby  or  the  schist  of  Bradgate  Park  or  Charnwood.  Two 
most  beautiful  streams  pass  through  the  villages  of  Newtown 
Linford  and  Grooby.  The  former  rises  near  to  Ulverscroft 
Priory,  winds  its  way  through  some  picturesque  scenery,  down 
a  lovely  valley,  shaded  by  alders,  and  passing  on  to  Newtown 
Linford,  runs  through  Bradgate  Park,  to  join  the  Soar  near 
Quorndon.  The  other  meanders  through  a  rich  and  beautiful 
part  of  the  country,  and  falls  into  the  stream  just  mentioned 
six  miles  from  Leicester.  The  woods  here  are  rather  extensive, 
particularly  Martinshaw,  Ulverscroft,  and  Sheet  Hedges.  They 
chiefly  consist  of  oak,  ash,  and  aspen,  intermixed  with  birch, 
and  mountain-ash,  the  underwood  being  almost  invariably  com¬ 
posed  of  hazel,  white  willow,  holly,  and  honeysuckle.  In  the 
vernal  months,  these  woods  are  bestudded  with  the  beautiful 
Blue  Hyacinth,  Primrose,  Wood  Anemone,  Sweet-scented 
Violet ;  and  as  the  season  advances,  the  Stitcliwort,  with  its 
white  starry  flowers,  and  the  little  Germander  Speedwell  are 


SCENERY  OF  LEICESTERSHIRE.  63 

conspicuous  in  every  walk.  These  woods  also  abound  in  some 
places  with  the  Bear's  Garlic,  the  Red  Campion,  Ragged  Robin, 
and  Herb  Robert. 

44  I  ought  not  to  omit  mentioning  Groohy  Pool,  which  is  de¬ 
scribed  by  Leland,  a  distinguished  antiquary  of  the  sixteenth 
century,  as  a  4  faire  and  large  pole.1  He  says,  4  there  is  a  faire 
and  large  parke  by  the  place,  a  vi  miles  in  circumpasse,  there 
is  also  a  poor  village  by  the  place,  (Grooby,  this  place  gives  title 
to  the  Greys,  the  present  Earl  of  Stamford  is  Lord  Grey  of 
Grooby) — and  a  little  broke  by  it,  and  a  quarter  of  a  mile  from 
the  place  in  the  bottom,  there  is  a  faire  and  large  pole  as  lightly 
is  in  Leycestreshire,  there  issuetli  a  broket  out  of  this  lake  that 
after  committs  by  Grooby  and  there  dryvitli  a  mylle  and  after 
resortith  to  the  Sore  River.1  Grooby  Pool  in  its  present  state 
contains  about  forty  acres,  and  is  somewhat  less  than  a  mile 
in  circumference.  It  was  formerly  much  larger,  containing 
between  seventy  and  eighty  acres,  and  extending,  it  is  supposed, 
to  the  Ashby-de-la-Zouch  road  ;  but  successive  encroachments 
of  reeds  and  other  aquatic  plants  have  reduced  it  to  its  present 
size.  It  is  of  an  oval  form,  with  a  few  slightly  indented  bays 
and  projecting  points  of  syenitic  rock  on  its  margin.  Its  ut¬ 
most  length,  drawn  in  a  line,  from  the  flood-gates,  through  the 
island,  to  the  opposite  shore,  is  about  380  yards.  It  is  in  few 
places  more  than  ten  or  twelve  feet  deep,  and  the  greater  por¬ 
tion  is  much  more  shallow.  In  the  dry  summer  of  1826,  it 
was  drained  very  low,  for  the  purpose  of  cleaning  it  out  to  the 
extent  of  two  or  three  acres,  where  the  water-plants  had  nearly 
choked  it  up. 

44  Bradgate  Park  forms  the  south-eastern  boundary  of  Cham- 
wood  Forest,  and  was  in  early  times  commonly  called  the 
4  Waste.1  Leland  says  it  is  4  a  forest  of  xx  miles  or  more  in 
cumpasse,  having  plenty  of  woode,  the  most  part  belonging  to 
the  Marquisse  of  Dorset,  the  reste  to  the  King,  and  the  Earl 
of  Huntingdon.1  The  park  in  its  present  state  is  about  seven 
miles  in  circumference,  and  formed  into  several  divisions  by 
means  of  stone-walls,  the  materials  of  which  are  found  upon 
the  spot.  It  is  mostly  covered  with  fern,  Pteris  aquilina,  and 
the  projecting  bare  and  abrupt  rocks,  rising  out  here  and  there, 


64 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


with  a  few  scattered  gnarled  oaks,  shivered  and  blasted,  in  their 
last  stage  of  decay,  present  a  scene  of  wildness  and  desolation 
highly  contrasted  with  some  of  the  adjoining  beautiful  valleys 
and  fertile  country.  The  rocks  are  in  a  great  measure  schistose, 
being  of  primitive  slate  or  greywacke,  and  referred  by  modern 
geologists  to  the  Cambrian  system. 

“  The  Forest  of  Charnwood,  which  this  park  abuts  upon,  has 
had  an  extent  of  fifteen  or  sixteen  thousand  acres.  The  ln- 
closure  Act  passed  in  1811,  when  it  soon  became  disafforested, 
and  was  shorn  of  its  ancient  glory.  Now,  it  is  only  in  the 
more  elevated  parts,  to  which  the  plough  is  denied  access,  that 
any  traces  of  its  pristine  condition  remain.  I  may  however 
mention  a  tract  of  land  situate  amongst  the  Whitwick  Rocks, 
which  overhang  Grace  Dieu  Priory,  as  having  escaped  cultiva¬ 
tion.  Here  the  gorse  blooms  in  its  golden  beauty,  the  Fox¬ 
glove,  loveliest  of  our  forest  flowers,  gladdens  every  dell,  and 
enamels  every  rock,  and  the  Blue  Bell,  Campanula  rotundi- 
folia,  nods  to  the  passing  breeze.  Here  too  we  find  occasion¬ 
ally  a  patch  of  brown  heath,  sometimes  tenanted  by  the  Dottrel, 
the  Grey  Plover,  and  the  Ringed  Thrush.  I  suppose  this  tract 
of  table-land  may  extend  to  a  thousand  or  fifteen  hundred  acres. 
The  Trappist  monks  have  a  monastery  here,  and  are  cultivat¬ 
ing  a  part  of  the  ground. 

“  I  shall  not  attempt  further  description  of  our  forest  range, 
lest  I  should  become  tedious.  Yet  I  ought  to  say,  for  your 
guidance,  that  Charnwood  F orest  is  free  from  timber,  and  was 
so  at  the  time  of  its  inclosure  in  1811.  But  the  recently  plant¬ 
ed  clumps  of  trees  and  coppices  are  growing  very  rapidly,  so 
that  in  another  generation  there  will  remain  very  little  of  its 
present  bareness,  except  the  rugged  rocks,  and  everlasting  hills. 
Around  Charnwood  Forest,  unless  in  the  park  and  wood,  and 
very  old  inclosure,  the  Elm,  Ulmus  campestris,  is  the  principal 
tree  ;  and  even  for  miles  south  of  Leicester  it  prevails.” 


65 


VII.  SCANSORES.  CLIMBERS. 


In  the  arrangements  of  Cuvier  and  many  other  naturalists, 
a  vast  number  of  birds  differing  from  each  other  in  form, 
structure,  and  habits,  but  agreeing  in  having  their  outer  or 
fourth  toe  directed  backwards,  are  brought  together  to  consti¬ 
tute  an  order,  destitute  of  any  other  common  character  than 
that  just  mentioned,  and  to  which  the  names  of  Scansores  or 
Climbers,  and  Zygodactyli  or  Yoke-footed  Birds,  have  been 
applied.  On  the  same  principle,  all  birds  having  only  the 
first  toe  directed  backwards  ought  to  constitute  a  single  order, 
in  which  Eagles,  Pheasants,  Pigeons,  Finches,  and  Creepers 
should  be  arranged  side  by  side.  In  truth,  a  Parrot,  a  Toucan, 
a  Cuckoo,  a  Trogon,  and  a  Jacamar,  are  as  essentially  different 
from  each  other  as  a  Falcon,  a  Raven,  a  Nightingale,  a  Goat¬ 
sucker,  and  a  Humming-bird ;  and  as  the  groups  of  the  so- 
called  order  Scansores  present  strongly  marked  differences  in 
their  digestive  organs,  as  well  as  in  their  habits,  I  must,  in 
consistency  with  the  principles  which  I  have  adopted,  reject 
the  opinions  of  those,  however  esteemed,  who  choose  on  occa¬ 
sion  to  shut  their  eyes  on  the  truth. 

“  The  third  order  of  birds,  or  the  Climbers,”  says  Cuvier, 
“  is  composed  of  birds  of  which  the  outer  toe  is  directed  back¬ 
wards  like  the  hind  toe,  whence  there  results  a  firmer  support, 
of  which  some  genera  avail  themselves  for  clinging  to  the 
trunks  of  trees,  and  climbing  upon  them.  The  common  name  of 
Climbers,  Scansores,  has  therefore  been  given  to  them,  although 


VOL.  III. 


F 


SCANSORES.  CLIMBERS. 


66 

in  strictness  it  does  not  apply  to  all,  and  although  several 
birds  truly  climb  without  belonging  to  this  order  by  the  dis¬ 
position  of  their  toes.”  Mr  Swainson  however  adds  these 
birds  to  the  Scansores,  from  which  on  the  other  hand  he  ejects 
many  which,  although  zygodactylous,  do  not  climb  or  even 
walk,  although  he  retains  a  very  great  number  of  species  which 
no  person  has  ever  seen  climbing.  His  Climbers  are  not  an 
order,  but  a  tribe  of  the  Perchers,  and  are  composed  of  Toucans, 
Parrots,  Woodpeckers,  Creepers,  and  Cuckoos,  “  the  junction  of 
the  last  with  the  first  being  effected  by  the  great  hollow-hilled 
genus  Phoenicophaeus,  and  by  Scythrops,  the  Australian  genus 
of  Toucans;”  but  he  wisely  refrains  from  attempting  to  give 
any  general  character  of  the  group.  M.  Temminck  defines  his 
Zygodactyli  thus:  “  Bill  of  varied  form,  more  or  less  arched,  or 
much  hooked,  often  straight  and  angular.  Feet  always  with  two 
toes  before  and  two  behind,  the  outer  hind  toe  often  reversible.” 
M.  Lesson  observes  :  “  Every  bird  of  which  the  toes  are  dis- 
posed  two  before  and  two  behind,  is  of  the  order  of  Climbers. 
The  manners  of  most  of  the  species  which  belong  to  it  are  not 
known  ;  besides  they  vary  in  almost  every  genus.  This  is  also 
the  case  with  their  food,  their  habits,  and  the  climates  in 
which  they  live.  Nothing  general  can  be  said  with  respect  to 
them.”  It  is  quite  unnecessary  to  offer  any  remarks  on  state¬ 
ments  like  these,  for  the  folly  of  forming  such  heterogeneous 
associations  must  be  apparent  to  all. 

The  Parrots  differ  from  the  other  birds  of  this  artificial  group 
in  many  essential  respects.  Their  tongue  is  short,  thick,  fleshy, 
and  rounded,  or  emarginate ;  their  oesophagus  is  enlarged  to 
form  a  crop  similar  to  that  of  the  gallinaceous  birds  ;  their  pro- 
ventriculus  is  very  large  ;  their  stomach  very  small,  hut  mus¬ 
cular  ;  their  intestines  of  moderate  length  and  width.  Their 
mode  of  climbing  is  by  grasping  the  branches,  and  they  aid 
their  ascent  with  their  bill.  From  these  and  other  circum¬ 
stances  I  should  conceive  that  they  form  a  very  distinct  order. 

The  digestive  organs  of  the  Woodpeckers  differ  from  those 
of  the  Parrots,  as  will  presently  be  seen,  and  those  of  the 
Cuckoos  differ  as  much  from  both.  With  the  internal  struc¬ 
ture  of  the  other  groups  I  am  not  sufficiently  acquainted  to  be 


SCANSORES.  CLIMBERS. 


67 


able  to  form  any  reasonable  idea  of  the  manner  in  which  they 
ought  to  be  arranged.  But  this  is  of  little  consequence  in  the 
present  case,  as  in  Britain  there  are  only  representatives  of  two 
of  the  groups,  the  Woodpeckers  and  the  Cuckoos,  the  former 
of  which,  with  the  Toucans  and  Barbets,  I  would  consider  as 
forming  the  order  Scansores. 

The  order  Scansores,  or  Climbers,  as  here  instituted,  is  cha¬ 
racterized  by  a  large,  strong,  nearly  straight  bill,  a  long  or  ex¬ 
tensile  tongue,  and  narrow  zygodactyle  feet.  Certain  other 
birds  also  climb  much  in  the  same  manner,  as  the  Certhise, 
Tichodromae,  and  Dendrocolaptre,  already  spoken  of,  but  their 
feet  differ  in  having  only  one  toe  directed  backwards  ;  and  as 
we  name  Raptores  birds  which  are  peculiarly  rapacious,  al¬ 
though  species  of  other  groups  are  equally  so,  and  apply  to  a 
certain  series  the  name  of  Cantatores  or  Songsters,  although 
birds  of  other  groups  sing,  so,  with  equal  reason,  we  may  de¬ 
signate  as  Climbers  the  species  of  the  present  group. 

The  feet  of  the  Climbers  are  short  and  of  moderate  strength ; 
their  tarsi  more  or  less  compressed,  anteriorly  scutellate,  pos¬ 
teriorly  with  two  series  of  scales ;  the  toes  compressed,  of 
moderate  size,  excepting  the  first,  which  is  short,  and  some¬ 
times  rudimentary  or  even  wanting,  the  second  and  third  united 
at  the  base,  the  fourth  directed  backwards,  and  longer  than  the 
second;  the  claws  strong,  much  arched,  high,  compressed,  later¬ 
ally  grooved,  and  very  acute.  The  bill  is  straight,  or  slightly 
curved,  usually  about  the  length  of  the  head,  sometimes  much 
longer,  strong,  tapering,  and  compressed  toward  the  end.  The 
tongue  is  long,  slender,  flattened  and  fringed,  or  cylindrical,  fleshy, 
with  a  horny  tip,  of  which  the  sides  are  furnished  with  reversed 
denticulations,  spicula,  or  bristles.  In  the  latter  case,  the  horns 
of  the  hyoid  bone  being  elongated  so  as  to  curve  over  the  head, 
as  far  as  the  base  of  the  upper  mandible,  or  even  to  stretch  round 
the  right  orbit,  the  tongue  is  extensile  in  a  degree  corresponding 
to  the  space  traversed  by  the  tips  of  these  bones,  which  can  be 
drawn  backwards  over  the  occiput,  and  again  forwards  to  be¬ 
neath  the  ears.  See  Plate  XV.  The  oesophagus  is  rather 
narrow,  and  without  dilatation  ;  the  proventriculus  extremely 
large,  the  stomach  roundish,  its  muscular  coat  moderately  thick, 


68 


SCANSOllES.  CLIMBERS. 


and  its  epithelium  hard  and  longitudinally  rugous ;  the  intes¬ 
tine  of  moderate  length,  and  rather  wide,  without  any  traces 
of  coeca,  and  the  cloaca  enormously  large.  See  Plate  XIV, 
Figs.  4,  5,  6. 

They  cling  to  the  bark  of  trees  by  means  of  their  strong 
curved  and  acute  claws,  ascend  vertically  or  obliquely,  fix 
themselves  against  the  surface  by  their  claws,  tap  the  loose 
bark  of  decayed  trees  with  their  bill,  or  detach  it  in  frag¬ 
ments,  or  break  up  the  rotten  wood,  to  obtain  the  larvae  and 
insects  which  shelter  there.  They  nestle  in  holes  bored  by 
themselves  in  decayed  trees,  are  generally  of  solitary  habits, 
and  reside  at  all  seasons  in  woods  and  forests.  Their  food  is 
not  entirely  composed  of  insects  and  larvae,  for  berries  and 
other  soft  fruits,  as  well  as  seeds,  are  greedily  devoured  by  them. 

The  Scansores  thus  characterized,  are  composed  of  three 
families;  the  Picinae  or  Woodpeckers,  Rhampliastinae  or  Tou¬ 
cans,  and  Bucconinae  or  Barbets.  They  are  connected  with 
the  Cuculinae  by  the  Wrynecks,  which  have  the  digestive  or¬ 
gans  and  tongue  similar  to  those  of  the  Woodpeckers,  but  in 
most  other  respects  agree  with  the  Cuckoos.  The  Jacamars 
seem  to  connect  them  with  the  Ivingsfishers,  while  the  Trogo- 
ninae  and  Bucconinae  are  in  some  measure  intermediate  between 
them  and  the  Parrots. 

The  great  differences  in  the  organization,  habits,  food,  and 
distribution  of  the  birds  forming  the  order  Scansores  of  authors, 
seem  clearly  to  indicate  that  the  zygodactylous  foot  is  not  a 
feature  of  primary  importance,  and  that  consequently  the  cha¬ 
racters  of  the  orders  or  larger  groups  must  be  derived  from  some 
more  essential  circumstance. 


Fio.  198. 


69 


PICIN  JE. 

WOODPECKERS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES. 

Like  tlie  Psittacinae,  the  Picinae  form  a  well-defined  group, 
of  which  the  affinities  are  not  obvious.  Their  more  essential 
characters  are  to  be  found  in  their  straight,  tapering,  angular 
bill,  which  is  wedge-shaped  at  the  end,  and  constructed  for  the 
purpose  of  splitting  or  perforating  bark  and  decayed  wood  ;  and 
their  graduated  decurved  tail,  of  which  the  feathers  have  very 
strong,  elastic  shafts,  with  attenuated  webs  ;  together  with 
their  short,  strong,  zygodactylous  feet,  and  stout,  compressed, 
curved  acute  claws.  The  peculiarities  of  their  tongue  and  di¬ 
gestive  organs  have  already  been  described.  The  skeleton  pre¬ 
sents  several  remarkable  peculiarities  as  compared  with  that  of 
a  Jay  or  other  bird  of  that  family. 

The  skull  is  of  moderate  size,  roundish-oblong,  the  orbits 
with  very  prominent  margins,  which  are  nearly  complete,  and 
thus  approach  to  those  of  the  Psittacinae.  A  double  groove  for 
the  horns  of  the  hyoid  bone  is  apparent  in  the  median  part  of 
the  skull,  and  there  is  a  deep  and  broad  cavity  on  the  forehead, 
between  the  anterior  parts  of  the  orbits.  The  jaws  are  straight 
and  rather  long,  the  lower  very  deep  at  the  base.  There  are 
twelve  cervical  vertebrae,  eight  dorsal,  twelve  lumbar  and  sacral, 
and  eight  caudal.  The  ribs,  eight  in  number,  are  stout,  the 
two  anterior  incomplete.  Of  the  caudal  vertebrae  the  last  or 
eighth  is  extremely  large,  presenting  a  broad  plate  beneath  ; 
the  seventh  is  anchylosed  with  it ;  the  eighth  has  a  deep  notch 
behind  at  its  lower  part,  into  which  is  received  the  very  strong 
inferior  spinous  process  of  the  sixth,  when  the  tail  is  depressed. 
The  downward  curve  of  the  tail  is  performed  chiefly  at  the 
joints  between  the  fifth  and  sixth,  and  the  sixth  and  seventh. 
At  the  latter  the  tail  may  be  curved  upwards,  so  as  to  lie  flat 


70 


PICINJE. 


on  the  back.  This,  however,  is  not  peculiar  to  Woodpeckers. 
The  lateral  processes  of  the  caudal  vertebras  are  very  large,  so 
as  to  prevent  much  lateral  motion.  In  the  accompanying 
figure,  which  represents  the  sternum  of  Picus  pileatus,  the 


Fig.  199. 


body  is  seen  to  have  two  notches  on  each  side  behind,  a  rather 
low  crest  or  ridge,  which  however  is  much  prolonged  anteriorly, 
a  slender  furcula,  of  which  the  crura  are  extremely  compressed, 
and  not  widely  separated,  long  coracoid  bones,  and  scapulae 
singularly  curved  downwards  and  enlarged  at  the  end,  in 
which  respect  they  differ  from  those  of  any  birds  known  to  me. 
The  humerus  is  large,  and  has  a  small  bone  in  its  articulation. 
The  metacarpus  consists  of  two  undivided  bones ;  there  are, 
besides  the  pollex,  two  digits,  one  of  two  phalanges,  the  other 
of  one.  The  pelvis  is  of  moderate  size.  The  femur  also  mode¬ 
rate.  There  is  a  small  patella.  The  tibia  is  rather  stout,  and 
the  fibula  extends  to  half  its  length  ;  the  tarsal  bone  is  slender ; 
the  phalanges  are  two,  three,  four,  and  five,  as  usual ;  the  last 
phalanx  of  each  toe  large,  compressed,  with  a  deep  lateral 
groove. 

As  the  Woodpeckers  seem  to  be  analogous  to  the  Parrots,  it 
appears  reasonable  that  they  should  form  several  genera,  and, 
accordingly,  some  authors,  perhaps  for  the  purpose  of  making  or 
finding  the  necessary  number  of  groups  for  their  circles,  have  con¬ 
structed  numerous  subgenera,  of  which  the  characters  are  derived 
from  very  slight  differences  in  the  form  of  the  bill,  and  the  length 


WOODPECKERS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES. 


71 


of  the  tarsus  and  fourth  toe.  After  a  careful  examination  of 
numerous  species,  I  feel  convinced  that  the  Picinte  are  formed 
of  several  genera,  which,  however,  exhibit  so  little  variation 
in  structure,  that  in  presenting  the  history  of  the  few  which 
occur  in  Britain,  it  is  quite  unnecessary  to  perplex  the  reader 
with  insignificant  distinctions.  The  groups  into  which  the 
Woodpeckers  might  be  disposed,  cannot  be  recognised  by  marks 
in  any  degree  approaching  in  prominence  to  those  of  the  genera 
of  the  Falconinae,  Psittacinse,  Columbinse,  Gallinse,  and  other 
natural  and  equivalent  families.  The  only  one  of  the  proposed 
genera  that  would  seem  to  a  beginner  to  have  some  right  to 
stand  apart,  is  Colaptes,  of  which  however  the  characters  are 
derived  from  very  slight  variations  in  the  bill,  which  has  the 
culmen  a  little  more  arched  than  is  usual,  and  the  wings  with 
stronger  or  at  least  more  conspicuous  shafts. 

The  genus  Yunx,  which  differs  in  having  the  bill  shorter 
and  more  depressed,  and  the  tail  soft,  may  be  appended  to  the 
Picinae,  as  the  tongue  and  digestive  organs  are  nearly  similar  ; 
and  Yunx  minutissimus  of  authors  is  certainly  more  of  a  Wood¬ 
pecker  than  a  W ryneck,  although  its  tail  is  not  stiff. 


SYNOPSIS  OF  THE  BRITISH  GENERA  AND  SPECIES. 

GENUS  I.  PICUS.  WOODPECKER. 

Bill  about  the  length  of  the  head,  strong,  compact,  with  its 
horny  covering  very  thick,  straight,  pentagonal  at  the  base, 
four-sided  towards  the  end,  tapering  to  an  abrupt,  laterally  be¬ 
velled,  point.  Tail-feathers  stiff,  decurved,  attenuated  at  the 
end. 

1.  Picus  Martins.  Great  Black  Woodpecker.  Brownish- 
black  with  red  on  the  head. 

2.  Picus  Pipra.  Pied  Woodpecker.  Male  with  the  upper 
part  of  the  head,  the  hack,  and  a  band  on  the  neck,  bluish- 
black,  the  occiput  crimson  ;  the  abdomen  and  lower  tail-coverts 
red.  Female  similar,  but  with  the  occiput  black. 

3.  Picus  striolatus.  Striated  Woodpecker.  Male  with  the  crown 


72 


PICINiE. 


bright  red,  the  hind-neck  and  forepart  of  the  back  black,  the 
hind  part  barred  with  white,  sides  of  the  head  and  neck  white, 
with  a  black  band  ;  lower  parts  brownish- white,  longitudinally 
streaked  with  dusky.  Female  similar,  but  with  the  crown 
brownish- white. 

4.  Picas  mridis.  Green  Woodpecker.  Upper  parts  yellowish- 
green,  with  crimson  on  the  head. 

GENUS  II.  YUNX.  WRYNECK. 

Bill  shortish,  slender,  straight,  tapering,  acute.  Tail-feathers 
soft  and  rounded  at  the  end. 

1.  Yunx  Torquilla.  Wryneck.  Upper  parts  brownish-grey, 
spotted,  undulated,  and  dotted  with  blackish-brown. 


73 


PICUS.  WOODPECKER. 

Bill  rather  long,  stout,  conical,  pentagonal,  straight,  later¬ 
ally  bevelled  at  the  tip  so  as  to  present  an  edged,  abrupt,  wedge¬ 
like  termination  :  upper  mandible  with  the  dorsal  outline  de¬ 
cimate  and  straight,  the  ridge  sharp,  the  sides  flat  and  sloping, 
with  a  longitudinal  ridge,  the  edges  a  little  inflected,  the  tip 
narrow  and  truncate  ;  lower  mandible  with  the  angle  short  and 
rather  narrow,  the  dorsal  line  ascending  and  straight,  the  sides 
flattened  and  nearly  erect  at  the  base,  but  beyond  the  angle 
sloping,  and  more  or  less  convex,  the  edges  slightly  inflected, 
the  tip  slightly  truncate  ;  the  gape-line  straight. 


Fig.  200. 


The  upper  mandible  within  is  slightly  concave,  with  three 
longitudinal  prominent  lines,  the  lower  more  deeply  concave, 
with  a  median  prominent  line.  The  tongue  is  extensile,  long, 
slender,  subcylindrical,  fleshy,  with  a  horny,  tapering  point, 
of  which  the  margin,  and  usually  part  of  the  upper  surface 
are  covered  with  acicular  reversed  prickles.  The  oesophagus 
is  of  moderate  width,  without  crop,  but  dilated  at  the  lower 


74 


PICUS.  WOODPECKER. 


part  into  a  large  sac,  on  which  the  proventicular  glands  are 
dispersed.  Stomach  of  moderate  size,  roundish,  a  little  com¬ 
pressed  ;  its  muscular  coat  thick  and  composed  of  large  fasci¬ 
culi,  the  epithelium  thin,  dense,  longitudinally  rugous.  In¬ 
testine  of  moderate  length  and  very  wide  ;  no  coeca  ;  cloaca 
very  large,  globular  or  elliptical.  Plate  XIV,  Figs.  4,  5,  6. 

Nostrils  elliptical  or  oblong,  in  the  forepart  of  the  short  nasal 
groove,  and  concealed  by  reversed  bristly  feathers.  Eyes  of 
moderate  size.  Aperture  of  ear  also  of  moderate  size,  roundish, 
the  inner  opening  like  a  transverse  slit. 

The  general  form  is  rather  slender,  the  body  somewhat  elon¬ 
gated,  the  neck  of  ordinary  length,  the  head  oblong,  and  of 
moderate  size.  The  feet  very  short ;  the  tarsus  very  short,  not 
robust,  with  eight  anterior  scutella,  and  numerous  small  scales 
on  the  sides  and  behind  ;  the  first  toe  very  short  and  directed 
outwards  and  backwards  ;  the  second  of  moderate  length,  and 
united  as  far  as  the  second  joint  to  the  third,  which  is  much 
longer,  and  generally  about  equal  to  the  fourth,  which  is  se¬ 
parated  and  directed  backwards,  so  that  the  first  and  fourth 
toes  are  in  grasping  placed  in  opposition  to  the  second  and  third. 
Claws  remarkably  large,  much  curved,  extremely  compressed, 
their  outline  forming  nearly  a  semicircle,  their  sides  broadly 
grooved,  the  tips  extremely  acute. 

Plumage  generally  soft  and  blended,  the  feathers  ovate,  with 
a  very  slender  plumule  of  few  filaments,  on  the  head  oblong  or 
linear  ;  no  bristles.  Wings  large,  being  broad  and  of  mode¬ 
rate  length,  much  rounded,  of  nineteen  quills  ;  the  first  very 
small,  being  about  a  third  of  the  length  of  the  longest,  which 
is  the  fourth  or  fifth,  the  second  about  as  long  as  the  seventh. 
Tail  short  or  of  moderate  length,  rounded  or  wedge-shaped, 
of  twelve  feathers,  of  which  the  lateral  are  very  short,  and 
lie  over  the  next,  the  rest  but  especially  the  central,  decurved, 
with  very  strong  elastic  shafts,  and  tapering  extremities,  of 
which  the  barbs  or  filaments  are  deflected,  strong,  elastic,  and 
by  being  pressed  against  the  bark  afford  the  bird  a  strong 
support.  Fig.  201. 

The  Woodpeckers  search  the  trunks  and  branches  of  trees, 
especially  those  which  are  decayed,  for  insects  and  larvae,  to 


PICUS.  WOODPECKER. 


7  5 


procure  which  they  drive  off  chips  of  the  bark,  or  dig  into  the 
wood.  The  structure  of  all  birds  is  of  course  admirably  adapt¬ 
ed  to  their  mode  of  life,  and  of  none  more  so  than  of  any  other  ; 
but  sometimes  we  are  able  to  trace  the  connection  between  a 
curious  mechanism  and  its  results,  as  in  this  case,  where  the 
form  and  firmness  of  the  bill  are  obviously  so  well  fitted  for 
the  purpose  of  digging,  while  the  strong,  curved,  extremely 
fine-pointed  claws,  enable  the  bird  to  cling  with  ease  to  the 
bark,  and  its  stiff  tail,  by  being  pressed  against  its  surface, 
steadily  supports  it  while  thus  engaged.  If  a  person  apply  the 
lower  surface  of  the  tail  of  a  woodpecker  to  his  hand,  he  will 
find  that  it  requires  a  vast  force  to  make  it  slip  backwards, 
such  a  force  as  can  never  be  overcome  by  the  weight  of  the 
bird.  Lastly,  the  curious  but  simple  apparatus  by  which  the 
tongue  is  extended,  so  that  it  can  be  thrust  into  a  hole  or  fis¬ 
sure  far  beyond  the  point  of  the  bill,  while  its  tip  is  barbed 
with  small  filaments,  which  like  the  teeth  of  a  rake,  serve  to 
pull  up  the  larva  or  insect,  is  not  less  beautiful  than  easily 
intelligible. 

These  birds  are  generally  distributed,  but  more  abundant  in 
the  warmer  regions,  although  some  live  on  the  borders  of  the 
frigid  zone.  Their  residence  is  in  the  forests  and  woods.  Be¬ 
sides  insects  and  larvae,  they  eat  seeds  of  various  kinds,  berries, 
grapes,  and  other  soft  fruits,  but  their  stomach  is  not  formed  for 
grinding,  and  seeds  which  they  may  have  swallowed  entire  are 
passed  undigested.  Their  flight  is  powerful.  When  they  pro¬ 
ceed  to  a  distance  they  fly  in  an  undulating  manner  ;  but  other¬ 
wise  directly,  or  in  a  single  curve,  descending  from  the  higher 
branches  of  a  tree  to  the  lower  part  of  a  trunk,  which  they 
ascend  as  if  by  starts,  sometimes  in  a  spiral  manner,  tapping 
with  their  bill,  as  they  proceed,  in  order  to  discover  the  parts 
that  are  unsound,  on  finding  which  they  dig  assiduously  into 
them,  driving  off  the  bark  and  chips  of  rotten  wood  with  great 
energy,  until  they  have  succeeded  in  obtaining  the  insects  and 
larvse  which  have  sheltered  in  them.  They  nestle  in  a  hole  dug 
by  themselves  in  a  decayed  tree,  and  deposit  the  eggs  in  its 
bottom,  without  generally  interposing  anything  between  them 
and  the  wood.  The  eggs  are  not  numerous,  and  are  generally 


76 


FICUS.  WOODPECKER. 


white.  Woodpeckers  are  for  the  most  part  unsocial  birds,  as 
regards  their  own  species  ;  but  frequently  they  may  be  seen 
in  company  with  Nuthatches,  Creepers,  Tits,  and  some  other 
birds  of  similar  habits. 

Four  species  occur  in  Britain,  but  of  these  one  has  been 
seen  only  in  a  very  few  instances,  and  the  species  which  is 
most  common  in  some  districts  is  not  generally  distributed. 


Flo.  201. 


77 


PICUS  MARTIUS.  THE  GREAT  BLACK 

WOODPECKER. 


Fig.  202. 


Picus  martius.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  173. 

Picus  martius.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  224. 

Great  Black  Woodpecker.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet, 

Pic  noir.  Picus  martius.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  390. 

Great  Black  Woodpecker.  Picus  martius.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  375. 
Picus  martius.  Great  Black  Woodpecker.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  151. 


Plumage  brownisli-black  ;  the  male  with  the  upper  part  of  the 
head ,  the  female  with  only  the  occiput ,  crimson. 

Male. — The  Great  Black  Woodpecker  is  one  of  the  largest 
species  of  the  genus,  being  about  equal  in  size  to  the  Ivory- 
billed,  Picus  principalis,  of  America.  Its  body  is  moderately 
full,  the  neck  slender,  the  head  rather  large,  oblong,  and  com¬ 
pressed.  The  bill  is  somewhat  longer  than  the  head,  straight, 
strong,  broader  than  high  at  the  base,  tapering,  heptagonal, 
compressed  toward  the  tip,  which  is  cuneate  and  vertically  ab¬ 
rupt.  The  upper  mandible  has  the  dorsal  line  almost  perfectly 


78 


PICUS  MARTIUS. 


straight,  the  ridge  sharp,  the  slope  concave  to  the  lateral  ridges, 
which  are  parallel  to  the  dorsal  ridge,  and  nearer  it  than  the 
edges,  until  towards  the  end,  the  sides  externally  of  these  ridges 
sloping  and  convex,  the  edges  overlapping  and  strong,  at  the 
end  worn  flat,  the  tip  truncate  ;  the  lower  mandible  with  the 
angle  rather  long  and  narrow,  the  ridge  linear,  the  sides  at  first 
gently  sloping,  then  convex,  at  the  base  erect  and  somewhat 
concave,  the  edges  broad  and  blunt,  the  tip  truncate. 

The  eyes  are  of  moderate  size,  the  diameter  of  their  aper¬ 
ture  three-twelfths  and  a  half ;  the  nostrils  very  small,  linear- 
elliptical,  twro-twelfths  long,  basal,  concealed  by  bristly  feathers. 
Feet  short ;  tarsus  very  short,  feathered  more  than  half  way 
down,  and  having  six  anterior  scutella.  The  first  toe  very 
small,  with  four  scutella,  and  several  series  of  small  scales ; 
the  second  toe  short,  with  nine  scutella  ;  the  third  much  longer, 
with  sixteen  scutella  ;  the  fourth  a  little  shorter  than  the  third, 
and  with  twelve  scutella.  Claws  very  large,  high,  compressed, 
laterally  grooved,  curved,  acute  ;  that  of  the  third  toe  largest, 
of  the  fourth  next,  of  the  first  smallest. 

The  plumage  is  soft,  moderately  glossy,  rather  blended  ;  the 
feathers  oblong  and  rounded.  The  short  nasal  membrane  is 
covered  with  stiff  reversed  bristle-feathers.  The  wings  are 
very  long  and  rounded  ;  the  quills  nineteen  ;  the  primaries 
straight,  tapering,  stiff ;  the  first  less  than  a  third  of  the  length 
of  the  fifth,  and  pointed  ;  the  second  an  inch  and  a  half  shorter 
than  the  third,  which  is  five-twelfths  of  an  inch  shorter  than 
the  fourth ;  the  fifth  one-twelfth  longer  than  the  latter,  and 
the  sixth  about  as  much  longer  than  the  fifth  ;  the  secondaries 
are  broad,  rounded,  and  very  long.  The  tail  is  rather  long,  of 
ten  stiff  decurved  feathers,  having  the  groove  of  their  shaft  very 
deep  and  wide,  and  their  tip  emarginate,  the  terminal  filaments 
extending  beyond  the  end  of  the  shaft.  Besides  these,  there 
is  on  each  side  an  incumbent  small,  soft,  rounded  feather. 

The  bill  is  bluish-white,  with  the  tip  bluish-black.  The 
eyes  are  said  to  be  yellowish-white.  The  feet  and  claws  black. 
The  general  colour  of  the  plumage  is  brownish-black,  on  the 
sides  of  the  head  glossed  with  blue  ;  the  whole  upper  part  of 
the  head  bright  crimson. 


GREAT  BLACK  WOODPECKER. 


79 


Length  to  end  of  tail  19  inches  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  2r\, 
along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  2f  ;  wing  from  flexure  9^  ; 
tail  7i  ;  tarsus  1T52  5  first  toe  its  claw  T53  ;  second  toe  T|,  its 
claw  \  \  ;  third  toe  its  claw  \\  ;  fourth  toe  x§,  its  claw 

Female. — The  female  is  scarcely  smaller,  with  the  plumage 
more  tinged  with  brown,  and  only  a  small  crimson  patch  on 
the  occiput. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  18i  inches  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  2j%, 
along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  2T82  ;  wing  from  flexure  9i ; 
tail  7XV 

H  abits. — This  species  has  been  met  with  so  seldom  in  Bri¬ 
tain,  that  nothing  has  been  recorded  of  its  manners  as  observed 
there.  M.  Temminck  states  that  it  “  inhabits  the  north  of 
Europe,  extending  to  Siberia  ;  is  less  abundant  in  the  great 
mountain  forests  of  Germany  and  France  ;  feeds  on  perforating 
larvae,  bees,  wasps,  ants,  and  caterpillars ;  and  when  these  fail, 
on  nuts,  seeds,  and  berries  ;  nestles  in  the  holes  which  it  bores, 
as  well  as  in  the  natural  hollows  of  trees  ;  and  lays  three  eggs, 
of  a  shining  white.”  It  is  said  to  frequent  the  pine  forests  of 
the  Swiss  and  Tyrolese  Alps,  and  to  extend  as  far  as  Asia 
Minor. 

Dr  Latham  informs  us  that  it  has  been  sometimes  met  with 
in  Devonshire  ;  Dr  Pulteney,  that  two  or  three  specimens  have 
been  shot  in  Dorsetshire  ;  Lord  Stanley  is  said  to  have  shot 
one  in  Lancashire ;  and  another  is  reported  to  have  been  killed 
in  Battersea  Fields,  in  1805.  Mr  Yarrell  states  that  he  has 
been  told  of  two  instances  of  its  having  been  killed  in  York¬ 
shire,  and  mentions  its  occurrence  in  Lincolnshire,  Norfolk, 
and  Hampshire.  Although  Sir  Bobert  Sibbald  includes  it 
among  the  birds  of  Scotland,  it  has  not  been  obtained  in  that 
country  for  many  years.  The  above  descriptions  are  taken 
from  two  specimens  in  my  collection,  a  male  and  a  female, 
which  I  purchased  from  Dr  Madden,  to  whom  they  had  been 
sent  by  their  owner,  as  having  been  shot  near  Nottingham. 
That  gentleman  afterwards  obtained  for  me  a  certification  of 
the  fact  by  the  person  who  had  procured  them. 


80 


PICUS  PIPRA.  THE  PIED  WOODPECKER. 

GREATER  SPOTTED  WOODPECKER.  WHITWALL.  WOOD-PIE.  FRENCH-PIE. 

SNAGAN-DARAICH. 


Fig.  203. 


Picus  major.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I. 

Picus  major.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  II. 

Greater  Spotted  Woodpecker.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Pic  £peiche.  Picus  major.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  395. 

Greater  Spotted  Woodpecker.  Picus  major.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  376. 

Picus  major.  Greater  Spotted  Woodpecker.  Jen.  Brit.  Yert.  An.  150. 

Male  with  the  upper  part  of  the  head,  the  hack ,  and  a  hand  on 
the  side  of  the  neck ,  bluish-black  ;  a  patch  of  crimson  on  the  hind- 
head  ;  a  hrocid  band  of  icliite  over  the  forehead  and  under  the  eye , 
a  patch  on  the  side  of  the  neck ,  a  narrow  line  over  the  eye ,  and 
the  scapulars ,  white  ;  the  lower  parts  brownish- white,  excepting 
the  abdomen  and  lower  tail-coverts,  which  are  crimson.  Female 
similar,  but  with  the  occiput  black,  the  white  parts  tinged  with 
yellow,  and  the  lower  pale-brown.  Young  with  the  black  parts 
tinged  with  brown ,  and  the  top  of  the  head  crimson. 

Male. — This  species,  which  is  about  the  size  of  the  Missel 
Thrush,  is  rare  in  all  parts  of  Britain,  although  very  exten- 


PIED  WOODPECKER. 


81 


sively  distributed.  The  individuals  from  which  my  descrip¬ 
tions  are  taken  were  killed  in  the  northern  part  of  the  middle 
division  of  Scotland  ;  and  I  have  examined  skins  of  many 
others  shot  in  various  parts  of  England,  as  well  as  in  France. 

The  form  is  rather  slender,  the  body  elongated,  the  neck  of 
moderate  length,  the  head  oblong.  The  bill  is  straight,  strong, 
conical,  angular,  and  considerably  shorter  than  the  head.  The 
upper  mandible  has  the  dorsal  line  almost  perfectly  straight, 
the  ridge  sharp,  the  sides  flat  and  sloping,  an  oblique  angle  or 
prominent  line  from  the  nasal  groove  to  the  edge  near  the  end, 
the  tip  truncate.  The  lower  mandible  also  has  the  ridge  sharp, 
and  almost  straight,  the  sides  nearly  flat,  but  towards  the  in¬ 
flected  edges  rounded,  the  tip  truncate  in  a  slight  degree.  The 
mouth  is  of  moderate  width.  The  tongue  vermiform,  termi¬ 
nated  by  a  narrow,  flat  horny  point,  which  is  ciliated  back¬ 
wards  with  short  bristles.  The  oesophagus  is  four  inches  long, 
rather  narrow,  the  proventricular  part  however  very  wide  ;  the 
stomach  roundish,  a  little  compressed,  its  muscular  coat  thin, 
and  its  cuticular  lining  smooth,  somewhat  villous,  and  without 
rugae  ;  the  intestine  fifteen  inches  long,  its  duodenal  portion 
four-twelfths  in  diameter  ;  no  coeca.  Plate  XV,  Fig.  4. 


Fig.  204. 

The  tarsus  is  very  short,  moderately  stout,  with  seven  ante¬ 
rior  scutella,  and  numerous  small  scales  behind.  The  first  toe 
is  very  short,  with  five  scales  ;  the  other  toes  gradually  longer 
and  larger,  the  fourth  directed  backwards  and  outwards,  the  se¬ 
cond  with  nine,  the  third  with  eleven,  the  fourth  with  fifteen 
scutella.  The  claws  are  much  arched,  deep,  extremely  compressed, 
broadly  grooved  on  the  sides,  and  somewhat  abruptly  pointed. 

The  plumage  is  soft,  blended,  and  somewhat  silky.  The 


VOL.  HI. 


a 


82 


PICUS  PIPRA. 


wings  are  large,  broad,  and  rounded  ;  tlie  quills  nineteen  ;  the 
first  very  small,  the  fourth  longest,  the  fifth  next,  the  third 
longer  than  the  sixth,  the  second  nearly  as  long  as  the  seventh  ; 
the  secondaries  broad,  rounded,  and  incurvate.  The  tail  is  of 
ordinary  length,  much  rounded  or  cuneate,  of  ten  feathers, 
having  very  strong  shafts,  which  are  decurvate  at  the  end,  ex¬ 
cepting  the  lateral,  and  worn  to  a  double  point,  the  barbs  ex¬ 
tending  beyond  the  end  of  the  shaft;  besides  which  there  is 
on  each  side  a  very  small  incumbent  soft  rounded  feather. 

The  bill  is  dark  purplish-grey,  darker  at  the  end,  the  lower 
mandible  paler.  The  feet  and  claws  dusky-grey.  The  upper 
part  of  the  head  is  glossy  bluish-black,  with  a  scarlet  band  on 
the  occiput.  The  forehead,  and  a  broad  band  under  the  eye, 
including  the  ear-coverts,  with  a  narrow  line  over  it,  white, 
the  former  tinged  with  brown,  the  latter  with  yellow  ;  there 
is  a  roundish  patch  of  the  same  colour  on  the  side  of  the  neck, 
and  an  oblong  one  on  the  scapular  region.  The  fore-neck, 
breast,  and  sides  are  brownish- white.  A  bluish-black  band 
proceeds  from  the  lower  mandible  down  the  side  of  the  neck, 
and  joins  a  patch  of  the  same  at  its  lowTer  part.  The  hind- 
neck,  back,  rump,  and  upper  tail- coverts  are  bluish-black,  the 
former  mottled  with  white.  The  wings  are  brownish -black  ; 
the  inner  secondary  coverts  white  ;  there  are,  speaking  gene¬ 
rally,  four  bands  of  white  spots  on  the  outer  and  inner  webs 
of  the  quills,  some  of  the  longer  primaries  having  a  spot  more 
on  the  outer,  and  two  less  on  the  inner  web,  and  the  inner 
secondaries  unspotted,  but  with  a  white  tip  ;  the  first  quill 
also  is  without  spots,  but  is  white  towards  the  base  on  the 
inner  web  ;  the  second  has  only  two  spots  on  the  outer,  and 
three  on  the  inner  web.  The  four  middle  tail-feathers  are 
black  ;  the  two  next  are  black  at  the  base,  but  white  with 
two  black  bands  in  the  rest  of  their  extent ;  the  lateral  feathers 
white  in  their  distal  half,  with  two  black  bars  ;  the  small  in¬ 
cumbent  feathers  black.  The  abdomen  and  lower  tail-coverts 
are  vermilion. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  9f  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  17  ;  wing 
from  flexure  5i  ;  tail  8f  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  l/2,  along  the 
edge  of  lower  mandible  1T5?  ;  tarsus  1  ;  first  toe  its  claw 


PIED  WOODPECKER. 


83 


t42  ;  second  toe  its  claw  ;  third  toe  x8^,  its  claw  Tq  ; 
fourth  toe  T92>  its  claw  Tv«7. 

Female. — The  female,  which  is  slightly  smaller,  has  the 
colours  distributed  in  the  same  manner ;  but  the  red  on  the 
occiput  is  wanting,  the  whole  upper  part  of  the  head  being 
glossy  bluish-black,  excepting  the  white  band  on  the  forehead. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  9i  inches;  extent  of  wings  16i  ;  tail 
3X2  5  wing  from  flexure  5^  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  l^,  along 
the  edge  of  lower  mandible  1  ;  tarsus  { \  ;  fourth  toe  1  i  ; 

horny  part  of  the  tip  of  the  tongue 

Variations. — I  have  not  met  with  any  remarkable  variations 
in  adult  specimens,  beyond  a  little  difference  in  the  number  of 
white  spots  on  the  quills,  and  black  bands  on  the  lateral  tail- 
feathers.  The  lower  parts  are  often  much  soiled  by  matters 
rubbed  from  the  trees. 

Habits. — The  Pied  or  Greater  Spotted  Woodpecker  is  ex¬ 
tensively  distributed  in  England  and  Scotland  ;  but  in  all 
parts  is  rare,  although  specimens  are  not  very  unfrequently  ob¬ 
tained.  It  is  a  permanent  resident,  and  has  been  found  breed¬ 
ing  in  various  districts.  The  most  northern  tracts  in  which  it 
is  met  with,  are  the  neighbourhood  of  Loch  Ness,  whence  I 
obtained  the  female  described  above,  in  January  1834;  the 
extensive  fir  woods  on  the  Spey,  from  a  specimen  shot  in 
which,  in  October  1836,  I  have  taken  my  description  of  the 
male  ;  and  those  in  Braemar.  In  all  these  tracts  it  is  not 
extremely  unfrequent ;  but  in  other  parts  of  Scotland  it  is  very 
rarely  met  with.  In  England  it  has  been  found  from  the 
northern  counties  to  those  bordering  the  channel,  and  is  more 
common  than  in  Scotland,  although  less  numerous  than  the 
Green  Woodpecker.  Its  food  consists  of  larvae  and  insects  of 
various  kinds.  The  stomach  of  one  killed  in  January  I  found 
filled  with  small  white  worms,  some  of  them  three-fourths  of 
an  inch  long,  and  a  line  and  a  half  in  breadth,  while  others 
were  scarcely  an  eighth  of  an  inch  in  length.  Its  habits  are 
similar  to  those  of  Picus  pubescens,  P.  villosus,  and  the  other 
variegated  Woodpeckers  of  North  America;  its  flight  being 


84 


PICUS  PI Pll A. 


rapid  and  undulated,  its  motions  abrupt,  and  its  cry  loud  and 
shrill.  In  ascending  a  tree  it  advances  by  short  jerks,  directly 
or  spirally,  taps  with  its  bill  as  it  proceeds,  and  on  finding  a 
place  likely  to  shelter  its  prey,  drives  off*  the  bark,  and  per¬ 
forates  the  wood.  Although  a  person  may  approach  it  while 
it  is  actively  engaged,  it  flies  off  on  perceiving  him,  or  glides 
round  to  the  other  side  of  the  tree,  sometimes  remaining  still 
for  a  time,  as  if  to  conceal  itself. 

Montagu  states  that  “  it  rarely  descends  to  the  ground  in 
search  of  food,  and  more  frequently  makes  that  jarring  noise 
for  which  the  Woodpeckers  are  distinguished  than  either  of 
the  other  species,  especially  when  disturbed  from  the  nest, 
which,'’1  he  continues,  “we  had  an  opportunity  of  observing.  It 
was  with  difficulty  the  bird  was  made  to  quit  her  eggs  ;  for 
notwithstanding  a  chisel  and  mallet  were  used  to  enlarge  the 
hole,  she  did  not  attempt  to  fly  out  till  the  hand  was  intro¬ 
duced,  when  she  quitted  the  tree  at  another  opening.  The 
eggs  were  five  in  number,  perfectly  white  and  glossy,  weighing 
about  one  dram,  or  rather  more.  They  were  deposited  two 
feet  below  the  opening,  on  the  decayed  wood,  without  the 
smallest  appearance  of  a  nest.  As  soon  as  the  female  had 
escaped,  she  flew  to  a  decayed  branch  of  a  neighbouring  tree, 
and  there  began  the  jarring  noise  before  mentioned,  which  was 
soon  answered  by  the  male  from  a  distant  part  of  the  wood, 
who  soon  joined  his  mate,  and  both  continued  these  vibrations, 
trying  different  branches,  till  they  found  the  most  sonorous.1’ 

Mr  Harley,  of  Leicester,  who  has  generously  and  spon¬ 
taneously  aided  me  with  observations  made  on  the  birds  of 
the  midland  counties,  writes  respecting  the  present  species  as 
follows: — “  We  have  the  Greater  Spotted  Woodpecker  here 
also,  but  it  is  not  quite  so  common  as  the  Green  one.  It 
affects  the  deep  umbrageous  woods  of  Oakley  and  Piper.  In 
Worcestershire  and  Herefordshire  I  have  seen  it  upon  the 
moss-grown  apple  trees,  particularly  the  very  aged  ones.  From 
the  attention  I  have  paid  to  its  habits,  I  think  I  say  the  truth 
when  I  affirm  that  it  affects  the  tops  of  trees  more  than  its 
congener  does.  The  common  people  here,  who  have  a  know¬ 
ledge  of  the  bird,  call  it  French  Magpie  ;  and  in  the  counties 
of  Salop  and  Stafford  it  is  called  the  Woodpie.” 


PIED  WOODPECKER. 


85 


The  eggs  are  of  an  elliptical  form,  pure  white,  glossy,  an 
inch  and  a  twelfth  in  length,  and  nine-twelfths  in  breadth. 

Young. — When  fledged,  the  young  resemble  the  adult,  with 
the  following  differences.  The  plumage  is  looser  and  less 
glossy ;  the  black  of  the  upper  parts  is  tinged  with  brown  ; 
the  feathers  on  the  upper  and  fore  part  of  the  head  are  tipped 
with  crimson  ;  the  white  on  the  sides  of  the  head  and  neck,  as 
well  as  that  of  the  scapulars  and  inner  large  wing-coverts, 
soiled  with  brown  ;  the  longitudinal  dark  band  on  the  sides  of 
the  neck  is  narrower  and  blackish-brown,  and  the  lower  parts 
are  brownisli-wliite,  while  the  red  on  the  abdomen  is  duller 
and  of  much  less  extent.  In  this  state,  it  has  been  mistaken 
for  Picus  medius. 

Progress  toward  Maturity.  —  After  the  first  autumnal 
moult,  the  young  assume  the  colours  of  the  adult. 

Remarks. — A  great  number  of  Woodpeckers,  such  as  Picus 
Canadensis,  P.  Martinse,  P.  Harrisii,  P.  villosus,  P.  pubescens, 
P.  querulus,  P.  medius,  and  P.  minor,  which  resemble  the 
present  in  having  the  upper  parts  black,  patched  with  white, 
may  equally  be  named  Spotted  Woodpeckers.  The  older  au¬ 
thors,  Brisson  for  example,  named  it  the  Larger  Spotted  Wood¬ 
pecker,  Picus  varius  major,  to  distinguish  it  from  the  other 
pied  European  species  ;  and  Linnaeus,  agreeably  to  the  binary 
nomenclature  which  he  employed,  rejected  the  term  varius  or 
spotted,  and  gave  it  the  specific  name  of  major.  This  appella¬ 
tion,  however,  is  obviously  inadmissible,  as  the  bird  is  not  the 
largest  of  the  spotted  or  pied  species,  and  much  less  is  it  the 
largest  of  the  W  oodpeckers  in  general,  as  the  name  would  imply. 

I  have  therefore  changed  the  specific  name  to  Pipra,  which  is 
said  by  Aldrovandi  and  others  to  have  been  that  given  it  by 
Aristotle.  It  is  difficult  to  find  a  good  English  name  for  it, 
but  that  which  I  have  employed  may  answer  our  purpose,  and 
has  the  advantage  of  not  being  new.  The  name  “  Red-bellied,11 
which  might  distinguish  it  from  our  other  species,  has  been 
given  to  an  American  Woodpecker,  and  I  am  acquainted  with 
eight  or  ten  species  which  are  equally  red  beneath. 


8(j 


PICUS  STRIOLATUS.  THE  STRIATED  WOOD¬ 
PECKER. 

LESSER  SPOTTED  WOODPECKER.  HICKWALL.  CRANKBIRD. 


Fig.  205. 


Picus  minor.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  176. 

Picus  minor.  Lath.  Inch  Orn.  I.  229. 

Pic  ^peichette.  Picus  minor.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  399. 

Lesser  Spotted  Woodpecker.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Picus  minor.  Lesser  Spotted  Woodpecker.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  379. 
Picus  minor.  Lesser  Spotted  Woodpecker.  Jen,  Brit.  Vert.  An.  151 . 


Male  with  the  forehead  white ,  the  crown  crimson ,  margined 
with  black ,  the  back  and  scapulars  transversely  barred  with  black 
and  white  ;  sides  of  the  head  and  neck  white ,  with  a  black  band  ; 
lower  parts  brownish-white ,  breast  and  sides  with  longitudinal 
dusky  lines.  Female  similar ,  but  with  the  crown  white. 

Male. — This  species,  which  is  of  less  frequent  occurrence  than 
the  last,  being  confined  to  the  southern  and  middle  parts  of 
England,  is  much  inferior  in  size  to  that  species,  its  length 
being  little  more  than  five  inches.  The  bill  is  short,  tapering, 
with  the  point  bevelled  and  abrupt ;  the  lateral  ridges  of  the 
upper  mandible  nearer  the  margins  than  the  central  ridge.  The 
head  is  rather  large,  ovato -oblong ;  the  neck  short ;  the  feet 
short,  with  the  outer  toe  about  the  same  length  as  the  third ; 


STRIATED  WOODPECKER. 


87 


the  claws  strong,  well  arched,  and  very  acute.  The  plumage  is 
soft  and  blended  ;  the  wings  large,  broad,  rounded,  with  nine¬ 
teen  quills,  of  which  the  first  is  very  small,  the  fourth  longest; 
the  tail  rather  short,  rounded,  of  twelve  feathers,  the  lateral 
small  and  incumbent,  the  rest  with  strong  shafts  and  emargi- 
nate  tips. 

The  bill  is  greyish-blue,  darker  at  the  end  ;  the  iris  reddish- 
brown  ;  the  feet  leaden-blue,  the  claws  dusky.  The  forehead 
brownish- white  ;  the  crown  of  the  head  crimson,  with  a  black 
band  on  each  side,  the  occiput  of  the  latter  colour ;  the  sides 
of  the  head  and  neck  are  white,  with  a  black  band  from  the 
lower  mandible  to  the  wing ;  the  rest  of  the  lower  parts 
brownish-white,  the  breast  and  sides  longitudinally  streaked 
with  dusky.  The  hind-neck  and  fore  part  of  the  back  are 
glossy  black  ;  the  rest  of  the  back  and  the  scapulars  trans¬ 
versely  barred  with  black  and  white  ;  the  wings  black,  the 
secondary  coverts  with  two  white  bands,  the  quills  marked 
with  white  spots  on  both  webs,  except  the  first  which  has  the 
inner  web  white  at  the  base ;  the  four  middle  tail  feathers 
black,  the  rest  white  toward  the  end,  the  third  from  the  centre 
with  the  tip  obliquely  white,  the  next  with  two  black  bars 
on  the  inner  webs,  the  outer  with  three  bars  on  both  webs, 
the  small  incumbent  feathers  black. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  5|  inches;  extent  of  wings  10  ;  bill 
along  the  ridge  T72,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  ; 
wing  from  flexure  34  ;  tail  2 ;  tarsus  T7|  ;  hind  toe  T\,  its  claw 
24  ;  second  toe  its  claw  T4^  ;  third  toe  Ts|,  its  claw  T5|  ; 
reversed  toe  T\,  its  claw  T5|. 

Female. — The  female  differs  from  the  male  in  having  the 
upper  part  of  the  head  white. 

Habits. — This  species,  which  is  said  to  be  more  abundant 
in  the  northern  parts  of  Europe  than  in  France  and  Germany, 
has  not  hitherto  been  met  with  in  Scotland,  or  even  in  many 
parts  of  England,  although  it  occurs  in  most  of  the  southern, 
eastern,  and  midland  counties,  extending  as  far  north  as  Derby, 
and  westward  to  Shrewsbury  and  Hereford.  Tt  is  said  by  several 


88 


FICUS  STRIOLATUS. 


observers  to  be  not  uncommon  in  some  districts.  Thus,  Mr 
Gould,  in  his  beautiful  Illustrations  of  the  Birds  of  Europe, 
says,  “  In  England  it  is  far  more  abundant  than  is  generally 
supposed ;  we  have  seldom  sought  for  it  in  vain  wherever  large 
trees,  particularly  the  Elm,  grow  in  sufficient  numbers  to  in¬ 
vite  its  abode  :  its  security  from  sight  is  to  be  attributed  more 
to  its  habit  of  frequenting  its  topmost  branches  than  to  its 
rarity.”  The  Reverend  Mr  Bree  states  that  “  it  is  by  no  means 
of  rare  occurrence  in  his  neighbourhood,  where,  however,  it  is 
more  readily  heard  than  seen.  Its  loud,  rapid,  vibratory  noise, 
most  extraordinarily  loud  to  be  produced  by  so  small  an  animal, 
can  hardly  fail  to  arrest  the  attention  of  the  most  un observing 
ear.  Though  I  have  watched  the  bird  during  the  operation, 
and  within  the  distance  of  a  few  yards,  I  am  quite  at  a  loss  to 
account  for  the  manner  in  which  the  noise  is  produced.  It 
resembles  that  made  by  the  boring  of  a  large  auger  through  the 
hardest  wood  ;  and  hence  the  country  people  sometimes  call 
the  bird  the  c  pump-borer.1 11  Mr  Dovaston  informs  us  that 
it  is  a  very  frequent,  but  uncertain,  visitor  to  the  woods  near 
Shrewsbury,  never  failing  in  April  to  astonish  him  “  with  his 
prodigiously  loud  churr  on  the  ranpikes  of  trees,  which,  the 
atmosphere  being  favourable,  may  be  heard  more  than  a  mile. 
It  much  resembles  the  snorting  of  a  frightened  horse,  but 
louder  and  longer.”  He  then  states  that  the  bird,  in  performing 
this  sound,  “  vibrates  its  beak  against  the  tree  ;  the  motion  is  so 
quick  as  to  be  invisible,  and  the  head  appears  in  two  places  at 
once.  It  is  surprising  and  to  me  wondrously  pleasing,  to  ob¬ 
serve  the  many  varieties  of  tone  and  pitch  in  their  loud  churry, 
as  they  change  their  place  on  boughs  of  different  vibration,  as 
though  they  struck  on  the  several  bars  of  a  gigantic  staccato. 
When  actually  boring  they  make  no  noise  whatever,  but  quietly 
and  silently  pick  out  the  pieces  of  decaying  wood,  which,  lying 
white  and  scattered  beneath  on  the  ground  and  plants,  leads 
the  eye  up  to  their  operations  above.  They  have  several  fa¬ 
vourite  spots,  to  which  they  very  frequently  return.  Their 
voice  is  a  very  feeble  squeak,  repeated  rapidly  six  or  eight 
times,  ee ,  ee,  ee,  ee,  ee.  They  bore  numerous  and  very  deep 
holes  in  decayed  parts,  where  they  retire  to  sleep  early  in  the 


STRIATED  WOODPECKER. 


P9 

evening  ;  and,  though  frequently  aroused,  will  freely  return. 
Whatever  be  the  purpose  of  this  enormous  noise,  they  certainly 
do  very  nimbly  watch,  and  eagerly  pick  up,  the  insects  they 
have  disturbed  by  it.  They  fly  in  jerks  like  their  congeners, 
and  always  alight  on  the  side  of  a  tree.1'’  These  notices  are 
extracted  from  the  earlier  volumes  of  Mr  Loudon's  Magazine 
of  Natural  History,  a  work  replete  with  information  respect¬ 
ing  our  native  birds. 

Mr  Harley  informs  me  that  it  occurs  about  Leicester,  hut  is 
not  a  resident  all  the  year  round,  as  are  the  Green  and  Greater 
Spotted  Woodpeckers,  remaining  only  during  the  vernal,  sum¬ 
mer,  and  part  of  the  autumnal  months. 

Montagu  states  that  it  has  all  the  habits  of  the  Greater  Spot¬ 
ted  Woodpecker,  as  well  as  a  similar  but  less  strong  note. 
“  The  eggs  are  white,  and  weigh  about  thirty-three  grains  ; 
five  of  them  we  took  out  of  a  decayed  tree,  deposited  on  the 
rotten  wood,  without  any  nest,  and  at  a  considerable  distance 
below  the  entrance.  The  aperture  corresponded  with  the  size 
of  the  bird,  but  did  not  appear  recently  made.  It  is  probable, 
however,  it  is  able  to  perform  this  work  for  itself ;  and  in¬ 
stinct  points  out  the  insecurity  in  making  choice  of  a  larger 
opening  to  their  place  of  incubation,  as  they  would  then  be  lia¬ 
ble  to  be  dislodged  by  the  larger  species,  the  daw,  and  the  stare.11 

This  curious  little  bird  appears  to  be  peculiar  to  Europe, 
where  it  is  generally  distributed.  It  usually  prefers- the  higher 
branches  of  trees,  although  it  by  no  means  confines  itself 
to  them,  and  is  so  intent  on  searching  for  its  food  that  it 
pays  little  regard  to  a  person  coming  to  watch  or  shoot  it. 
Like  the  other  species,  however,  as  well  as  the  Creeper,  if  it 
perceive  its  observer,  it  moves  round  to  the  other  side  of  the 
branch  to  conceal  itself.  The  loud  noise  above  described  is 
supposed  by  some  to  be  an  amatory  performance,  as  it  is  heard 
only  or  chiefly  in  spring,  while  others  conjecture  it  to  be  pro¬ 
duced  by  a  rapid  tapping  of  the  bill,  for  the  purpose  of  disturb¬ 
ing  insects  that  are  lodged  in  the  bark.  This  latter  opinion  is 
more  probable,  for  in  spring  it  besides  emits  its  ordinary  notes 
so  much  more  frequently  and  loudly  than  usual,  that  they  may 
well  pass  for  a  love  song. 


00 


PICUS  STRIOLATUS. 


All  that  I  have  here  given  respecting  its  habits  is  downright 
compilation,  for,  if  I  have  ever  seen  the  bird  alive,  I  have  no 
recollection  of  its  having  afforded  me  any  information. 

Young. — When  fledged,  the  young  are  similar  to  the  adult, 
the  males,  according  to  Montagu,  having  the  red  on  the  head 
before  they  leave  the  nest. 

Remarks. — Although  a  small  bird,  this  is  by  no  means  the 
smallest  of  even  the  Pied  or  Spotted  Woodpeckers,  and  there¬ 
fore  I  have  changed  its  name  to  striolatus ,  expressive  of  the 
manner  in  which  its  breast  and  sides  are  marked. 

A  small  Woodpecker,  Picus  villosus,  intermediate  in  size 
between  the  present  and  the  last,  but  with  the  upper  part  of 
the  head  in  the  male  black,  with  a  transverse  red  occipital 
band,  and  a  white  streak  over  the  eye,  the  red  band  wanting 
in  the  female,  has  been  stated  to  have  been  shot  near  Halifax 
in  Yorkshire.  It  is  supposed,  however,  that  the  specimens 
had  come  from  Halifax  in  North  America.  Its  habits,  accord¬ 
ing  to  Mr  Audubon,  are  similar  to  those  of  our  own  species. 
It  is  found  at  all  seasons  in  the  woods,  orchards,  and  fences  ; 
feeds  on  larvae,  insects,  seeds  of  maize,  grapes,  and  other  fruits  ; 
breeds  in  holes  which  it  bores  in  trees,  laying  from  four  to 
seven  eggs  ;  and  emits  a  sharp  loud  note,  as  well  as  a  rolling 
noise  similar  to  that  produced  by  the  other  small  species. 

According  to  Donovan,  Picus  tridactylus  of  Linnaeus  has 
been  shot  in  the  north  of  Scotland,  but  I  am  not  aware  of  its 
having  been  met  with  in  any  part  of  Britain. 


01 


PICUS  VIRIDIS.  THE  GREEN  WOODPECKER. 

HEWHOLE.  WOOD  WALL.  WOODSPITE.  YAFFLER.  YAPPINGALE.  POPINJAY. 

RAINBIRD. 


Fig.  206. 


Picus  viridis.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  175. 

Picus  viridis.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  234. 

Green  Woodpecker.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Pic  vert.  Picus  viridis.  Temm.  Man.  d'Orn.  I.  391. 

Green  Woodpecker.  Picus  viridis.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  372. 

Picus  viridis.  Green  Woodpecker.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  148. 

Male  with  the  upper  parts  yellowish-green ,  the  rump  greenish- 
yellow  ;  the  upper  part  of  the  head  and  hind-neck  crimson ,  the 
loral  and  orbital  spaces ,  and  a  mystachial  band ,  black ,  the  latter 
with  a  crimson  patch  ;  the  lower  parts  pale  greenish-yellow , 
tinged  with  grey ,  faintly  barred  behind  with  dusky.  Female 
similar ,  but  without  red  on  the  cheek.  Young  greyish-green 
above ,  the  upper  part  of  the  head  grey ,  spotted  with  crimson ,  the 
lower  parts  greenisli-wliite ,  transversely  barred  with  dusky. 

Male. — The  Green  W oodpecker,  which  is  about  the  size  of 
a  Jay,  and  remarkable  for  its  lively  colours  and  great  activity, 
is  of  a  moderately  stout  and  rather  elongated  form,  with  the 


92 


1TCUS  VIIIIDIS. 


neck  of  ordinary  length,  and  the  head  ovato  oblong  and  rather 
large.  The  bill  is  longish,  somewhat  slender,  straight,  angular, 
and  tapering.  The  upper  mandible  has  the  dorsal  outline 
slightly  convex,  the  ridge  sharp,  the  sides  sloping,  the  elevated 
longitudinal  line  from  over  the  nostrils  distinct  and  close  upon 
the  ridge,  the  edges  sharp  and  slightly  overlapping,  the  tip 
vertically  truncate  and  laterally  bevelled.  The  lower  mandible 
has  the  angle  long  and  narrow,  the  dorsal  line  straight,  the 
sides  sloping  upwards  and  a  little  convex,  the  edges  inflected, 
thick  and  blunt,  especially  in  the  middle,  the  tip  slightly  trun¬ 
cate.  The  mouth  is  narrow ;  the  upper  mandible  moderately 
concave,  with  three  prominent  lines  ;  the  lower  more  deeply 
concave,  with  a  median  prominent  line.  On  the  palate  are  two 
longitudinal  ridges,  and  the  posterior  aperture  of  the  nares  is 
linear-oblong,  margined  with  papillae.  The  tongue  is  vermi¬ 
form,  terminated  by  a  narrow  flat  horny  point,  which  is  fringed 
with  reversed  bristles.  The  oesophagus  is  six  inches  long,  of 
which  the  very  large  proventriculus  occupies  an  inch  and  a 
quarter  ;  the  stomach  roundish,  rather  small,  an  inch  in  dia¬ 
meter,  somewhat  compressed  ;  its  muscular  coat  thin,  its  cuti- 
cular  lining  slightly  rugous;  the  intestine  twenty  inches  long, 
its  duodenal  portion  five-twelfths  in  width  ;  no  coeca ;  the 
cloaca  very  large. 

The  eyes  are  rather  small,  their  aperture  three  and  a  half 
twelfths  in  diameter.  The  nostrils  oblong,  two  twelfths  and  a 
quarter  long,  and  covered  over  by  the  reversed  bristly  feathers  of 
the  moderately  large  nasal  membrane.  The  external  aperture  of 
the  ear  is  transversely  oblong,  its  greatest  diameter  four-twelfths. 
The  tarsus  is  very  short,  feathered  anteriorly  about  a  third  down, 
with  six  scutella,  behind  with  numerous  scales.  The  first  toe 
is  very  small,  and  directed  outwards  and  backwards,  with  six 
scutella,  the  second  of  moderate  length,  united  to  the  third  as 
far  as  the  second  joint,  and  having  ten  scutella  ;  the  third 
much  longer,  with  fifteen  scutella  ;  the  fourth  a  little  shorter 
than  the  third,  directed  outwards  and  backwards,  with  twelve 
scutella.  The  claws  are  much  arched,  deep,  greatly  com¬ 
pressed,  broadly  grooved  on  the  sides,  and  extremely  acute  ; 
the  first  smallest,  the  third  largest,  the  second  larger  than  the 
fourth. 


GREEN  WOODPECKER. 


<J3 


The  plumage  is  soft  and  blended  ;  the  feathers  ovate,  with 
a  rather  large  plumule  ;  those  of  the  nasal  membrane  stiff, 
bristly,  and  directed  forwards  ;  of  the  head  ovate  and  downy, 
with  a  narrowed  stiff  glossy  extremity.  The  wings  are  rather 
long,  broad  and  rounded ;  the  quills  nineteen ;  the  primaries 
tapering  to  a  roundish  point,  the  secondaries  broad  and  rounded; 
the  first  quill  less  than  a  third  of  the  length  of  the  longest, 
the  second  one  inch  shorter  than  the  third,  which  is  two  and 
a  half  twelfths  shorter  than  the  fourth,  the  fifth  almost  as  long 
as  the  latter.  The  tail  is  rather  short,  cuneate,  of  ten  feathers, 
all  pointed  and  slightly  decurved,  except  the  lateral,  together 
with  two  small  incumbent  feathers. 

The  bill  is  greyish-black,  the  lower  mandible  with  a  yellow¬ 
ish  longitudinal  band  near  the  base.  The  irides  are  white. 
The  feet  are  dull  bluish-grey,  the  claws  light  greyish-brown, 
with  a  tinge  of  blue.  The  upper  part  of  the  head  and  the  nape 
are  bright  crimson,  the  tips  of  the  feathers  only  being  of  that 
colour,  while  the  downy  parts  are  bluish -grey.  The  lower 
part  of  the  forehead,  the  loral  space,  the  parts  about  the  eye, 
at  the  base  of  the  lower  mandible,  and  a  mystachial  band,  black, 
but  the  latter  having  a  patch  of  crimson.  The  upper  parts  in 
general  are  yellowisli-green,  the  rump  and  upper  tail-coverts 
greenish  or  lemon-yellow  ;  the  wing-coverts  of  a  somewhat 
less  pure  green,  being  slightly  tinged  with  brown.  The  edge 
of  the  wing  is  white  ;  the  alula,  primary  coverts  and  primary 
quills  greyish-black,  their  outer  webs,  excepting  towards  the 
end,  barred  with  yellowish- white,  the  inner  with  transversely 
oblong  white  spots  ;  the  secondaries  and  their  coverts  barred 
with  whitish,  but  that  colour  not  apparent  externally,  the  outer 
webs  being  green,  with  faint  light  spots,  as  are  the  margins  of 
the  primaries  at  the  base,  except  on  the  outer  three.  The  tail 
is  dusky,  faintly  barred  with  brownish  or  greenisli-wliite,  the 
margins  greenish-yellow.  The  lower  parts  are  pale  greenish- 
yellow,  tinged  with  grey,  the  throat  and  sides  lighter ;  the 
abdomen,  and  part  of  the  sides,  and  lower  tail-coverts,  faintly 
undulated  with  dusky. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  13i  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  21  ;  wing 
from  flexure  6^  ;  tail  4^  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  1T%,  along  the 


94 


PICUS  VIRIDIS. 


edge  of  lower  mandible  1^  ;  tarsus  1T22  ;  first  toe  T3|,  its  claw 
j%;  second  toe  T82,  its  claw  ;  third  toe  1,  its  claw  {§;  fourth 
toe  if,  its  claw 

Female. — The  female  differs  little  from  the  male.  The 
mystachial  band  is  entirely  black  ;  the  red  extends  less  along 
the  hind-neck ;  and  the  lower  parts  are  of  a  more  yellowish 

grey- 

Length  to  end  of  tail  13  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  21  ;  wing 
from  flexure  6T52  ;  tail  44  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  1TS2  ;  tarsus 
;  middle  toe  1,  its  claw  T92. 

Variations. — In  adult  birds  I  have  not  observed  any  re¬ 
markable  variations  ;  but  it  is  stated  that  individuals  of  a  white 
or  whitish  colour  are  sometimes  met  with. 

Changes  of  Plumage. — The  plumage  is  completed  by  the 
end  of  autumn,  when  the  tail-feathers  are  acuminate,  but 
rounded,  the  shaft  suddenly  attenuated.  When  worn  by  use, 
they  present  the  appearance  of  being  slit  at  the  extremity,  the 
barbs  extending  beyond  the  tip  of  the  shaft. 

Habits. — The  Green  Woodpecker  does  not  occur  in  any  part 
of  the  northern  or  middle  divisions  of  Scotland.  None  of  the 
birdstuffers  in  Edinburgh  with  whom  I  am  acquainted  have 
ever  had  a  recent  specimen  ;  and  if  it  exist  in  the  southern 
parts  of  that  country,  it  must  be  extremely  rare.  Speaking  of 
the  valley  of  the  Clyde,  which  is  remarkably  well  adapted  for 
Woodpeckers,  the  Reverend  Mr  Patrick  says  expressly,  “  No 
species  of  Picus  or  Woodpecker  lias  ever  been  observed  in  this 
part  of  Scotland  and  I  have  had  no  success  in  my  endeavours 
to  find  a  locality  for  the  Green  Woodpecker  north  of  the 
Tweed.  Mr  Yarrell,  I  think,  must  have  somehow  erred  in 
alleging  it  to  be  u  found  over  a  great  portion  of,  if  not  all,  the 
wooded  districts  of  England  and  Scotland/'1  Even  in  the 
north  of  England  it  is  of  very  uncommon  occurrence,  but  as 
we  proceed  southward  it  increases  in  frequency,  and  in  some 
districts,  especially  the  southern  and  midland,  is  by  no  means 


GREEN  WOODPECKER. 


95 


uncommon.  It  is  permanently  resident,  and  does  not  appear 
to  shift  its  quarters  much,  remaining  at  all  seasons  in  the  woods, 
and  occasionally  betaking  itself  to  orchards  and  gardens.  Its 
flight  is  rapid  and  undulated,  when  protracted,  and  all  its  mo¬ 
tions  are  lively  and  indicative  of  great  vigour. 

It  ascends  in  a  vertical  or  spiral  direction  the  trunks  and 
branches  of  trees,  tapping  with  its  bill  as  it  proceeds,  to  dis¬ 
cover  the  parts  in  which  the  bark  or  wood  is  decayed.  Having 
found  a  place  likely  to  yield  a  supply  of  food,  it  strikes  the 
bark  smartly,  or  drives  it  off  with  repeated  blows,  and  seizes 
by  means  of  its  exsertile  tongue  the  insects  that  have  been  dis¬ 
turbed  in  their  retreat.  The  decayed  and  worm-eaten  wood  it 
perforates  for  the  same  purpose,  its  food  consisting  not  only  of 
coleopterous  insects,  but  of  larvae  of  all  kinds  that  harbour  in 
trees,  and  especially  of  that  of  the  Cossus  ligniperda,  the  dis¬ 
agreeable  smell  of  which  is  said  to  be  frequently  communi¬ 
cated  to  it.  Often  in  summer  and  autumn  it  betakes  itself  to 
the  ground,  to  search  for  insects,  and  particularly  ants  and 
their  eggs,  which  it  picks  up  with  its  clammy  tongue,  after 
demolishing  the  nests  with  its  bill.  It  is  even  said  by  some  to 
extend  its  tongue  in  the  paths  of  the  ants,  and  when  several  of 
them  have  adhered  to  it,  to  retract  it.  Should  this  statement  be 
correct,  it  might,  in  the  estimation  of  the  analogical  ornitholo¬ 
gists,  entitle  the  Woodpeckers  to  hold  a  station  parallel  to  the 
edentulous  anteaters  among  the  mammalia  ! 

It  is  thought  to  announce  the  approach  of  rain  by  a  peculiar 
cry,  which  may  be  likened  to  the  syllables plen-pleu  ;  but  its  or¬ 
dinary  note  is  rather  harsh,  and  in  the  breeding  season  it  emits 
a  noise  resembling  a  shout  of  laughter,  whence  its  name  Yaffler. 
In  spring,  like  the  other  species,  it  produces  a  remarkable  sound, 
which  has  been  considered  an  intimation  to  its  mate,  by  tapping 
with  its  bill,  strongly  and  rapidly,  on  some  decayed  and  sonorous 
branch,  thus  causing  a  noise  that  may  be  heard  in  calm  wea¬ 
ther  to  a  great  distance.  About  the  beginning  of  April,  having 
paired,  it  begins  to  prepare  a  place  for  the  reception  of  its  eggs, 
by  digging  into  the  decayed  wood  of  a  beech,  elm,  or  other 
tree,  a  hole,  which  is  carried  obliquely  downwards  to  the  depth 
of  more  than  a  foot,  being  at  the  mouth  perfectly  round  and 


96 


V1CUS  VIRIDIS. 


just  sufficient  to  admit  the  body,  but  at  the  lower  part  enlarged. 
Both  the  male  and  tlie  female  work  alternately,  and  when  the 
cavity  is  completed,  it  receives  no  lining  of  straws  or  feathers, 
but  the  eggs,  to  the  number  of  five,  of  an  elliptical  form,  white, 
an  inch  and  a  quarter  in  length,  are  deposited  on  the  bare  wood. 
The  young  often  leave  the  nest  before  they  are  able  to  fly, 
creep  along  the  stem  and  branches,  and  return  to  it  at  night. 

In  winter  it  is  often  seen  in  the  neighbourhood  of  houses, 
and  betakes  itself  for  repose  to  hollow  trees.  At  all  seasons  it 
is  shy,  although  when  busily  engaged  in  searching  for  food,  it 
will  allow  a  person  to  approach  very  near  it.  In  autumn, 
when  it  is  fat,  it  is  frequently  eaten,  and  is  sometimes  seen  in 
the  markets,  although  usually  its  flesh  is  rank  and  tough. 

Mr  Harley,  of  Leicester,  has  favoured  me  with  the  follow¬ 
ing  characteristic  account  of  its  habits,  as  observed  in  his  neigh¬ 
bourhood.  4‘  The  ornithologist  desirous  of  becoming  acquainted 
with  the  habits  of  the  Green  Woodpecker  in  this  part  of  the 
country,  must  repair  to  the  hedge-row  tree,  the  elm,  the  de¬ 
cayed  ash,  and  the  ranpikes  of  the  solitary  forest  oak,  and  not 
to  the  verdant  shades  of  Grooby  or  Newtown,  or  the  more  im¬ 
penetrable  woods  of  Sheet  Hedges.  It  sometimes  approaches 
the  habitations  of  man,  and  I  have  seen  it  within  a  few  yards 
of  the  buildings  of  our  populous  town.  On  the  16th  of  April 
183d,  at  five  o'clock  in  the  morning,  I  had  a  good  view  of  a 
pair  of  these  birds,  as  they  were  at  work  on  an  ant-liillock,  at 
the  foot  of  some  lofty  elms.  I  remarked  the  loud  sonorous 
note  of  the  male  to  proceed  from  him  equally  when  on  the 
hillock  as  when  on  the  bole  of  the  tree,  to  which  both  he  and 
his  partner  always  resorted  when  the  least  danger  was  appa¬ 
rent,  or  any  unusual  noise  was  made. 

“  The  elm  is  the  most  common  tree  within  a  few  miles  round 
Leicester,  and  on  its  bark  the  Green  Woodpecker  appears 
happy  and  at  home.  Its  flight  is  undulating,  but  the  last  un¬ 
dulation,  before  the  bird  alights  on  the  bole  of  the  tree,  is 
much  longer  than  the  first.  I  have  never  seen  it  descend  the 
tree  after  the  manner  of  the  Nuthatch,  nor  have  I  reason  to 
think  that  it  ever  does  so.  Some  authors,  in  their  history  of 
this  bird,  speak  of  its  carrying  away  the  chips  from  the  foot  of 


GREEN  WOODPECKER. 


97 


the  tree  in  which  it  has  been  preparing  a  place  for  its  offspring ; 
but,  although  such  may  be  the  case,  I  have  never,  after  a  very 
minute  search,  seen  either  male  or  female  removing  the  chips, 
which,  on  the  contrary,  I  have  always  found  in  profusion  near 
their  holes.  This  bird  never  uses  masonry,  as  the  Nuthatch 
does,  at  the  mouth  of  the  holes  which  it  chooses  for  nidifica- 
tion.  I  have  never  found  any  appearance  of  nest,  excepting 
the  decayed  wood,  on  which  were  laid  from  five  to  seven  deli¬ 
cate  and  beautiful  white  eggs. 

“  I  am  not  aware  of  any  seasonal  difference  in  the  note  of  the 
male,  save  and  except  in  the  vernal  months,  when  he  is  more 
clamorous,  and  much  more  frequently  repeats  his  shout.  The 
loud  laugh,  the  plui-plui-plui  is  the  same,  not  varying  in 
cadence,  throughout  the  spring,  and  perhaps  the  summer 
months.  I  never  saw  it  scratch  when  on  the  ground,  even  on 
the  most  sandy  soils,  but  I  have  repeatedly  noticed  it  thrust  its 
powerful  bill  into  the  ant-hillocks,  after  the  manner  of  the 
Rook,  and  most  probably  to  obtain  the  eggs  as  well  as  the  per¬ 
fect  ants.  This  habit  of  the  bird  will  account  for  its  bill  being 
often  found  covered  with  earthy  and  miry  substances.’"1 

On  the  continent,  it  is  said  to  be  generally  dispersed,  from 
the  Scandinavian  peninsula  to  Greece  ;  and,  according  to  Pro¬ 
fessor  Jameson,  occurs  in  the  Himalayan  range. 

Young. — When  fully  fledged,  the  young  resemble  the  adult, 
with  the  following  differences  : — the  upper  parts  are  of  a  duller 
green,  each  feather  on  the  back  with  a  yellowish-white  spot, 
and  the  tip  pale  ;  those  of  the  rump  and  the  tail-coverts  barred 
with  dusky  and  yellowish -white ;  the  feathers  of  the  head  are 
bluish-grey,  with  a  dusky  bar,  and  the  tip  crimson ;  the  lower 
parts  are  dull  yellowish-wliite,  transversely  undulated  with 
dusky;  the  sides  of  the  head  and  fore-neck  streaked  with  dusky, 
and  the  mystachial  band  small,  and  brownish-black,  with  small 
white  spots. 


VOL.  III. 


n 


98 


YUNX.  WRYNECK. 

Bill  shortish,  slender,  straight,  tapering,  acute,  rather  broader 
than  high  at  the  base  ;  upper  mandible  with  its  dorsal  outline 
almost  straight,  the  ridge  very  narrow  at  the  base,  convex  to¬ 
wards  the  end,  the  sides  sloping,  but  towards  the  end  convex, 
the  edges  sharp  and  sloping,  the  tip  acute,  without  notch  or 
sinus  ;  lower  mandible  with  the  angle  very  long  and  rather 
narrow,  the  dorsal  outline  ascending  and  straight,  the  sides 
sloping  outwards  and  flat,  the  edges  inflected,  thick  and  blunt, 
the  ridge  convex,  the  tip  acute  ;  the  gape-line  straight. 

Mouth  rather  narrow  ;  the  upper  mandible  concave,  with  a 
central  prominent  line,  the  lower  more  deeply  concave,  with  a 
similar  line.  Tongue  extremely  extensile,  vermiform,  with  its 
terminal  part  horny,  flat,  and  tapering,  without  bristles. 

Nostrils  linear  in  the  upper  edge  of  the  membrane,  filling 
up  the  large  anteriorly  rounded  nasal  groove,  and  anteriorly 
bare.  Eyes  of  moderate  size.  Aperture  of  the  ear  large  and 
roundish. 

The  general  form  rather  slender ;  the  neck  short ;  the  head 
oblong,  flattened  in  front.  The  feet  short,  and  rather  slender; 
the  tarsus  feathered  anteriorly  a  little  below  the  joint,  com¬ 
pressed,  with  seven  anterior  broad  scutella,  and  an  equal  num¬ 
ber  of  smaller  ones  behind.  Toes  two  before,  parallel,  and 
united  at  the  base  ;  two  behind  ;  the  first  very  small,  and 
much  more  slender  than  the  rest,  the  fourth  directed  back¬ 
wards,  and  almost  as  long  as  the  third.  Claws  of  moderate 
length,  arched,  extremely  compressed,  broadly  grooved  on  the 
sides,  acute. 

Plumage  very  soft  and  blended ;  the  feathers  of  moderate 
length,  ovate,  and  rounded.  Wings  moderately  long,  straight, 
rather  acute,  of  twenty  rounded  feathers ;  the  first  quill  ex-  * 
tremely  small  and  acute ;  the  third  longest ;  the  second  almost 
as  long,  the  other  primaries  gradually  diminishing.  Tail  rather 


YUNX.  WRYNECK. 


99 


long,  straight,  rounded,  of  ten  broad  rounded  feathers,  of  ordi¬ 
nary  structure. 

The  genus  Torquilla  has  generally  been  associated  with 
the  genus  Picus,  to  which  it  undoubtedly  bears  a  great 
affinity.  The  extensibility  of  the  tongue  is  the  principal 
common  character,  but  that  organ  differs  in  being  barbed  in  the 
one  genus  and  smooth  in  the  other.  The  fourth  toe  in  the 
Picinag  is  directed  somewhat  outwards  and  backwards,  whereas 
in  Torquilla  its  natural  position  is  directly  backwards,  parallel 
to  the  first.  The  bill  in  Torquilla,  however,  more  closely  re¬ 
sembles  that  of  the  Picinae  than  of  the  Cuculinae,  although  it 
is  not  wedge-shaped  at  the  point.  On  the  other  hand,  the 
tail  has  no  resemblance  to  that  of  the  Woodpeckers.  In  truth, 
the  genus  stands  on  the  limits  of  the  two  groups,  and  forms 
their  connecting  link.  The  common  or  European  species  is 
the  only  one  with  which  I  am  acquainted,  so  that  the  above 
generic  character  has  been  taken  from  it  exclusively.  It  ap¬ 
pears  that  there  is  only  another  species  as  yet  known,  which  is 
a  native  of  Southern  Africa,  and  has  been  named  Yunx  pecto- 
ralis  by  Mr  Vigors. 

M.  Temminck  states  that  “  the  first  quill  is  a  little  less  long 
than  the  second,  which  is  the  longest Mr  Selby  that  “  the 
first  feather  is  a  little  shorter  than  the  second,  which  is  the 
longest  in  the  wing  and  Mr  Jenyns  that  “  the  first  quill  is 
a  little  shorter  than  the  second,  which  is  longest.1'’  The  first 
quill  I  find  extremely  short,  being  about  a  sixth  only  of  the 
length  of  the  second,  which  is  very  slightly  shorter  than  the  third. 


100 


YUNX  TORQUILLA.  THE  WRYNECK. 

EMMET-HUNTER.  LONG-TONGUE.  CUCKOO’S  MAID  OR  MATE.  SNAKE-BIRD. 

BARLEY-BIRD.  TURKEY-BIRD 


Fig.  207. 


Yunx  Torquilla.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  172- 

Yunx  Torquilla.  Lath  Ind.  Orn.  I.  223. 

Wryneck.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Torcol  ordinaire.  Yunx  Torquilla.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  403. 

Wryneck.  Yunx  Torquilla.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  381. 

Yunx  Torquilla.  Wryneck.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  152. 

Plumage  of  the  upper  parts  brownish-grey ,  spotted ,  undulated , 
and  dotted  with  blackish-brown ;  a  longitudinal  band  of  dark 
brown  on  the  hind-neck  ;  the  fore-neck  and  sides  greyish-yellow , 
with  transverse  narrow  bars  of  brown  ish-black. 

Male. — The  Wryneck  is  one  of  the  most  beautiful  of  our 
native  birds,  being  of  an  elegant  form,  and  having  its  colours, 
which  however  are  not  brilliant,  disposed  in  a  curiously  intri¬ 
cate  manner.  As  it  is  the  only  species  of  the  genus  that  occurs 
in  this  country,  or  indeed  in  Europe,  it  is  unnecessary  to  de¬ 
scribe  those  parts  which  have  supplied  materials  for  the  generic 
character.  Unfortunately  I  have  neglected  the  examination  of 
the  intestinal  canal ;  and  my  note-books  supply  descriptions  of 
the  exterior  only. 


WRYNECK. 


101 


The  bill,  feet,  and  claws  are  pale  greyish-brown  ;  the  iris 
light  brown.  The  upper  parts  are  brownish-grey,  with  small 
transverse  pointed  spots,  and  numberless  undulated  dots  of 
blackish-brown,  and  greyish-white  markings.  A  broad  band 
of  elongated  brownish-black  spots  extends  from  the  occiput  to 
the  middle  of  the  back.  The  tail,  which  is  dotted  and  mottled 
like  the  back  and  wings,  has  five  transverse  undulated  bands 
of  brownisli-black,  the  last  narrowest  and  subterminal.  The 
quills  are  brown,  marked  on  the  outer  webs  and  inner  margins 
with  broad  bars  or  spots  of  pale  red.  The  fore  part  and  sides 
of  the  neck  are  pale  greyish-yellow,  marked  with  transverse 
narrow  bars  of  brownish-black  ;  the  sides  of  the  body  similarly 
coloured;  the  breast  paler  or  whitish,  with  fewer  sagittate  dusky 
spots ;  the  lower  tail-coverts  yellowish-white,  with  transverse 
bars  of  dusky. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  7  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  11,  bill 
along  the  ridge  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  T82  ;  wing 
from  flexure  3T7g;  tail  3jJ;  tarsus  first  toe  its  claw  ; 
second  toe  T4|,  its  claw  ;  third  toe  T8|,  its  claw  ;  fourth 
toe  its  claw 

Female. — The  female  differs  very  little  from  the  male,  the 
tints  being  merely  somewhat  duller,  and  the  longitudinal  band 
on  the  neck  and  back  of  less  extent.  An  individual  shot  about 
eight  miles  from  Edinburgh,  in  the  beginning  of  May  1824, 
was  as  follows.  Bill  and  feet  pale  brownish-grey.  The  upper 
parts  brownish-grey,  with  transverse  markings  of  blackish- 
brown  and  whitish,  the  latter  terminal ;  the  whole  plumage 
minutely  dotted  ;  a  line  of  brownish-black  spots  from  the  occi¬ 
put  to  the  middle  of  the  back  ;  a  few  roundish  spots  of  whitish 
on  the  wing-coverts ;  tail  yellowisli-grey,  barred  with  five  un¬ 
dulated  black  bands  ;  the  quills  brown,  their  outer  webs  and 
inner  margins  with  a  broad  bar  of  pale  red ;  the  fore-neck  and 
sides  pale  greyish-yellow,  transversely  barred  with  brownish- 
black,  the  rest  of  the  lower  parts  yellowish-white,  with  triangu¬ 
lar  dark  spots  ,  excepting  the  lower  tail-coverts,  which  are  simi¬ 
larly  barred. 


102 


YUNX  TORQUILLA. 


Length  to  end  of  tail  6  J  inches ;  extent  of  wings  1 1  ;  bill 
along  the  ridge  i  ;  tarsus  f  ;  third  toe  and  claw  l/g. 

Habits. — The  W ryneck  arrives  from  the  middle  to  the  end 
of  April,  generally  preceding  the  Cuckoo,  to  which  it  is  nearly 
allied  in  form  if  not  in  habits,  and  disperses  over  the  country, 
extending  northward  as  far  as  the  middle  division  of  Scotland, 
in  which  country,  however,  it  is  extremely  rare.  The  late  Mr 
George  Carfrae  brought  me  for  examination  one  shot  near 
Currie,  in  Mid-Lothian,  in  May  1824,  and  his  brother  Mr  Mac¬ 
duff  Carfrae  obtained  a  specimen  from  Fifeshire  in  1835.  In 
many  of  the  southern,  eastern,  and  midland  districts  of  Eng¬ 
land,  it  is  not  very  uncommon,  but  according  to  Montagu  is  of 
rare  occurrence  in  the  western  parts. 

This  beautiful  bird  seems  to  be  precisely  intermediate  be¬ 
tween  the  Woodpecker  and  the  Cuckoo,  but  in  its  habits  and 
the  structure  of  its  tongue  it  is  more  allied  to  the  former.  That 
organ  is  slender,  with  a  horny  point,  and  is  capable  of  being 
thrust  out  to  a  great  length  in  consequence  of  the  extreme  elon¬ 
gation  of  the  horns  of  the  hyoid  bone,  which  curve  over  the 
head  and  extend  to  the  base  of  the  upper  mandible.  Two 
long  salivary  glands,  situated  beneath  the  tongue,  open  into  the 
mouth  by  two  ducts,  and  pour  forth  a  copious  viscid  fluid, 
which  covers  the  tongue,  and  thus  causes  insects,  larvse,  ants 
and  other  small  objects  forming  the  food  of  this  species  to  ad¬ 
here  to  it,  when  it  is  ejected  for  the  purpose.  “  We  were 
enabled,11  says  Montagu,  “  to  examine  the  manners  of  this 
bird  minutely  by  taking  a  female  from  her  nest,  and  confining 
her  in  a  cage  for  some  days.  A  quantity  of  mould  with  emmets 
and  their  eggs  were  given  to  it ;  and  it  was  curious  to  observe 
the  tongue  darted  forward  and  retracted  with  such  velocity, 
and  with  such  unerring  aim,  that  it  never  returned  without  an 
ant  or  an  egg  adhering  to  it,  not  transfixed  by  the  horny  point, 
as  some  have  imagined,  but  retained  by  a  peculiar  tenacious 
moisture,  by  nature  provided  for  that  purpose.  While  it  is 
feeding  the  body  is  motionless,  the  head  only  is  turned  to  every 
side,  and  the  motion  of  the  tongue  is  so  rapid  that  an  ant’s  egg, 
which  is  of  a  light  colour,  and  more  conspicuous  than  the 


WRYNECK. 


103 


tongue,  has  somewhat  the  appearance  of  moving  towards  the 
mouth  by  attraction,  as  a  needle  flies  to  a  magnet.  The  bill  is 
rarely  used  except  to  remove  the  mould  in  order  to  get  more 
readily  at  these  insects  ;  where  the  earth  is  hollow,  the  tongue 
is  thrust  into  all  the  cavities  to  rouse  the  ants ;  for  this  pur¬ 
pose  the  horny  appendage  is  extremely  serviceable,  as  a  guide 
to  the  tongue.  We  have  seen  the  Green  Woodpecker  take  its 
food  in  a  similar  manner  ;  and  most  probably  every  species  of 
that  genus  does  the  same/1 

“  Shy  and  unusually  timid,11  says  Mr  Knapp,  “  as  if  all  its 
life  were  spent  in  the  deepest  retirement,  away  from  man,  it 
remains  through  the  day  on  some  ditch-bank,  or  basks  with 
seeming  enjoyment,  in  any  sunny  hour,  on  the  ant  hills  nearest 
to  its  retreat ;  and  these  it  depopulates  for  food,  by  means  of 
its  long,  glutinous  tongue,  which,  with  the  insects,  collects 
much  of  the  soil  of  the  heaps,  as  we  find  a  much  larger  portion 
of  grit  in  its  stomach  than  is  usually  met  with  in  that  of  other 
birds.  When  disturbed,  it  escapes  by  a  flight  precipitate  and 
awkward,  hides  itself  from  our  sight,  and,  were  not  its  haunts 
and  habits  known,  we  should  never  conjecture  that  this  bust¬ 
ling  fugitive  was  our  long-forgotten  spring  visitant,  the  Wry¬ 
neck.11 

But  although  it  thus  frequents  the  ground  in  quest  of  food, 
it  also  searches  the  trunks  and  branches  of  trees,  and  has  been 
observed  clinging  to  walls.  “  I  once,'1  says  a  correspondent  in 
the  Magazine  of  Natural  History,  Yol.  IV,  p.  450,  “  saw  it 
climb  the  perpendicular  face  of  an  old  tall  wall  in  the  botanic 
garden  at  Bury  St.  Edmund’s  ;  it  was  seeking  either  insects 
or  grit,  and  proceeded  as  if  in  neither  haste  nor  fear,  but  uttered 
its  hawk-like  note  at  intervals.11  This  note  is  a  shrill  cry, 
which  has  been  compared  to  the  scream  of  the  Kestrel,  and 
which  is  more  frequently  heard  in  the  earlier  period  of  its  so¬ 
journ  with  us. 

From  its  appearing  about  the  same  time  as  the  Cuckoo,  it  is 
named  in  various  parts  of  England,  the  Cuckoo’s  mate,  maid, 
attendant,  or  messenger.  The  name  of  Wryneck  is  derived 
from  its  habit  of  moving  its  head  and  neck  in  various  direc¬ 
tions,  and  probably  was  originally  Writheneck,  corresponding 


J  04 


YUNX  TORQUILLA. 


to  Torquilla  and  Torticollis.  When  surprised  in  its  nest,  it  is 
described  as  making  a  hissing  noise,  which  some  compare  to 
that  of  a  Turkey-cock,  others  to  that  of  a  snake,  erecting  the 
feathers  of  its  head,  which  it  moves  to  either  side,  stretching  it¬ 
self  at  full  length,  and  sometimes  so  frightening  the  intruder 
as  to  make  its  escape.  It  has  thus  obtained  the  names  of 
Snake-bird  and  Turkey-bird. 

The  nest  is  merely  the  rounded  bottom  of  a  cavity  or  hole 
in  a  tree,  which  the  bird  adapts  to  its  purpose  by  means  of  its 
bill,  the  small  chips  of  wTood  answering  in  place  of  straw  or 
feathers.  The  eggs,  which  are  generally  seven  or  eight  in 
number,  are  pure  white,  ten  twelfths  of  an  inch  in  length,  and 
seven  twelfths  in  their  greatest  breadth. 

“  The  Wryneck,”  says  M.  Manduyt,  “  is  remarkable  for  the 
habit  which  has  given  it  its  name,  that  of  twisting  the  neck 
with  a  slow  undulatory  movement,  like  that  of  a  snake,  turn¬ 
ing  its  head  back  and  closing  its  eyes.  When  caught,  it  never 
ceases  this  motion,  which  it  also  performs  when  at  liberty,  and 
even  the  young,  while  yet  in  the  nest,  have  the  samefliabit. 
If  one  should  go  near  a  male  Wryneck  confined  in  a  cage,  it 
immediately  ruffles  up  the  feathers  of  its  head,  spreads  out  those 
of  the  tail  and  raises  them,  advances  and  retires,  striking  the 
bottom  of  the  cage  with  its  bill.'” 

It  is  said  to  be  generally  distributed  on  the  Continent,  and 
to  be  common  among  the  Himalayan  Mountains. 

Young. — The  young  when  fledged  are  coloured  in  the  same 
manner  as  their  parents. 


]  0;j 


CUCULIIsME. 

\ 

CUCKOOS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES. 


Of  the  extensive  series  of  zygodactylous  birds,  the  most 
isolated  groups  seem  to  be  the  Parrots  and  Woodpeckers, 
which  might  therefore  be  considered  as  forming  two  distinct 
orders.  Feet  of  this  kind  are  not  necessarily  scansorial,  and 
we  have  seen  that  the  more  or  less  syndactylous  feet  of  Creepers 
and  Nuthatches  are  as  well  adapted  for  climbing  as  those  of 
Woodpeckers;  large,  well-curved,  much  compressed,  and  ex¬ 
tremely  acute,  short-tipped  claws,  whether  two  only  or  three 
of  the  toes  be  directed  forwards,  forming  the  essential  charac¬ 
teristic  of  a  scandent  foot.  Now  many  of  the  zygodactylous 


Fig.  208. 


birds  have  the  feet  somewhat  differently  formed  from  those  of 
the  Woodpeckers,  inasmuch  as  the  toes  are  very  broad  and  flat 
beneath,  so  as  evidently  to  be  formed  for  grasping  a  branch  or 
twig  with  security,  while  the  claws  are  not  very  different  from 
those  of  the  Vagatores  and  other  perching  birds ;  and  in  some 
the  toes  and  tarsi  are  so  very  small  and  feeble  that  they  could 
not  support  a  bird  in  climbing.  These  latter,  such  as  the 


106 


CUCULINiE, 


Jacamars,  may  be  referred  to  the  aerial  birds,  or  those  which 
fly  chiefly  in  procuring  their  food,  but  neither  climb  nor  walk 
much  ;  and  the  Cuckoos  and  An  is  may  be  considered  as  form¬ 
ing  an  order,  to  which,  however,  I  refrain  from  giving  a  name, 
because  I  have  not  studied  the  manners  of  more  than  a  single 
species,  nor  read  a  good  account  of  any  other  than  the  three 
that  occur  in  North  America.  The  digestive  organs  of  these 
four  species  are  very  similar  to  those  of  the  Owls,  and  their 
cceca  are  large,  while  those  of  the  Woodpeckers  and  Toucans 
are  entirely  wanting. 


The  Cuculince  form  a  pretty  extensive  family  of  birds,  gene  • 
rally  inhabitants  of  the  warmer  regions  of  the  globe,  and  of 
which  none  permanently  reside  in  countries  subject  to  severe 
winter  cold.  They  feed  on  insects,  worms,  and  soft  fruits,  in 
procuring  which  they  glide  among  the  twigs  and  foliage,  leap¬ 
ing  from  branch  to  branch,  but  never  climbing  in  the  manner 
of  Woodpeckers  or  Creepers,  nor  even  after  the  fashion  of 
Parrots,  which  ascend  by  grasping  the  branches  and  aiding 
themselves  with  their  bill.  The  general  characters  of  the 
Cuculinae  are  as  follows. 

Bill  of  moderate  size  or  rather  large,  wide  at  the  base,  much 
compressed  toward  the  end,  somewhat  arched  and  pointed  ; 
upper  mandible  with  the  ridge  obtuse  and  arcuato-declinate, 
the  edges  sharp  and  overlapping,  the  tip  decurved,  notchless, 
acute ;  lower  mandible  with  the  dorsal  line  straight  or  decur- 
vate,  the  sides  nearly  erect,  the  edges  thin  and  somewhat  in¬ 
volute,  the  tip  narrow,  hut  obtuse.  Tongue  of  moderate  size, 
flattened,  tapering.  (Esophagus  wide,  without  crop  ;  proven- 
triculus  large ;  stomach  very  large,  round,  somewhat  com¬ 
pressed  ;  its  muscular  coat  thin,  the  epithelium  soft  and  rugous; 
intestine  of  moderate  length  and  width,  with  large  oblong  coeca. 
PI.  X  Y .  Trachea  with  a  single  pair  of  inferior  laryngeal  muscles. 
Nostrils  linear,  oblong,  or  circular,  direct,  in  the  short  bare  nasal 
groove.  Eyes  of  moderate  size.  Feet  short,  of  moderate 
strength  ;  tarsus  short,  with  a  few  very  large  anterior  scutella, 
edged  behind  with  two  series  of  scales.  Toes  four,  scutellate, 


CUCKOOS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES. 


107 


broad  beneath  ;  first  small ;  second  shorter  than  fourth,  and 
united  at  the  base  with  the  third,  which  is  very  long ;  the 
fourth  or  outer  reversed  so  as  with  the  first  to  oppose  the  rest 
in  grasping ;  claws  moderate,  compressed,  curved,  acute. 

Plumage  moderately  full,  generally  compact,  but  various  ; 
the  feathers  ovate,  with  a  very  short  plumule,  but  having  the 
downy  filaments  numerous  and  close.  Wings  long  or  of  mo¬ 
derate  length,  much  rounded,  the  first  quill  short,  the  third 
and  fourth  longest.  Tail  long,  ample,  graduated  or  rounded, 
of  twelve  broad,  rounded  feathers. 

In  their  digestive  organs  the  Cuculinm  bear  a  striking  re¬ 
semblance  to  the  Owls  and  Goatsuckers.  They  are  for  the 
most  part  of  an  elongated  form,  having  the  body  rather  slender, 
the  neck  short,  the  head  rather  small  and  oblong,  the  tail  very 
long,  and  the  wings  in  no  instance  short.  They  fly  with  rapidity, 
glide  among  the  foliage  with  great  celerity,  advance  among  the 
twigs  with  ease,  but  on  the  ground  walk  in  an  awkward  man¬ 
ner,  on  account  of  the  shortness  of  their  tarsi. 


SYNOPSIS  OF  THE  BRITISH  GENERA  AND  SPECIES. 

GENUS  I.  CUCULUS.  CUCKOO. 

Bill  of  moderate  length,  rather  slender,  arcuato-declinate. 
Nostrils  roundish,  with  a  prominent  margin.  Feet  very  short, 
slender;  tarsi  feathered  more  than  halfway  down.  Wings  and 
tail  very  long. 

1.  Cuculus  canorus.  Grey  Cuckoo.  Bluish-grey  above,  fore 
part  and  sides  of  neck  ash-grey ;  body  beneath  transversely 
barred  with  white  and  dusky.  Young  with  the  upper  parts 
barred  with  light-red  and  brown,  the  lower  with  brownish- 
white  and  dusky. 

GENUS  II.  COCCYZUS.  COWCOW. 

Bill  of  moderate  length,  slender,  arcuato-declinate.  Nostrils 
linear.  Feet  very  short,  slender;  tarsi  bare.  Wings  of  moder¬ 
ate  length  ;  tail  very  long. 

1.  Coccyzus  Americanus.  Yellow-billed  Cowcow.  Upper  parts 
greyish-brown  tinged  with  olivaceous  ;  lower  silvery  white. 


108 


CUCULUS.  CUCKOO. 

Bill  of  moderate  length,  rather  slender,  arcuato-declinate, 
broader  than  high  at  the  base,  compressed  toward  the  end, 
acute  ;  upper  mandible  with  the  dorsal  line  arcuato-declinate, 
the  ridge  narrow  but  obtuse,  the  sides  sloping  at  the  base,  con¬ 
vex  toward  the  end,  the  edges  sharp,  with  a  slight  sinus  close 
to  the  declinate,  acute  tip  ;  lower  mandible  with  the  angle 
short,  the  dorsal  line  slightly  decurved,  the  ridge  rather  narrow, 
the  sides  sloping  outwards,  toward  the  end  convex,  the  edges 
thin,  the  tip  narrow  and  obtuse  ;  the  gape-line  arcuate. 

Tongue  rather  short,  slender,  thin,  emarginate  and  minutely 
papillate  at  the  base,  the  tip  acute.  (Esophagus  wide,  taper¬ 
ing  ;  proventriculus  rather  large  ;  stomach  large,  round,  with 
the  muscular  coat  very  thin,  and  composed  of  large  flattened 
fasciculi  ;  the  cuticular  lining  soft  and  rugous ;  intestine  of 
moderate  length,  rather  wide  ;  coeca  large,  oblong. 

Nostrils  elliptical,  with  a  prominent  margin.  Eyes  of  moder¬ 
ate  size.  Feet  very  short ;  the  tarsus  feathered  halfway  down, 
anteriorly  scutellate,  scaly  behind,  and  rather  sharp.  Toes 
small,  broad  beneath  ;  the  first  very  small,  the  third  longest ; 
the  fourth  longer  than  the  second,  and  reversed.  Claws  rather 
small,  arched,  much  compressed,  laterally  grooved,  rather  acute. 

Plumage  soft  and  blended  ;  the  feathers  ovate,  with  a  short 
plumule  ;  those  on  the  rump  elongated  and  rather  stiff.  Wings 
long,  straight,  and  pointed,  with  twenty  quills  ;  primaries  taper¬ 
ing  and  rounded,  the  first  a  third  shorter  than  the  second,  the 
third  longest;  secondaries  short,  broad,  abrupt,  the  inner 
rounded.  Tail  long,  graduated,  of  twelve  rounded  feathers. 

This  genus  is  especially  remarkable  for  containing  birds  which 
deposit  their  eggs  in  the  nests  of  other  and  smaller  birds  of 
various  genera,  leaving  them  there  to  be  hatched,  and  thus 
committing  their  offspring  to  the  care  of  strangers.  Only  one 
species  visits  this  country  in  summer. 


CUCULUS  CANORUS.  THE  GREY  CUCKOO. 


Fig.  20[). 


Cuculus  canorus.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  168. 

Cuculus  canorus.  Latli.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  207. 

Common  Cuckoo.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Coucou  gris.  Cuculus  canorus.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  381.  HI.  272. 
Common  Cuckoo.  Cuculus  canorus.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  397. 

Cuculus  canorus.  Common  Cuckoo.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  154. 


In  both  sexes  the  upper  parts  bluish-grey ,  the  fore  part  and 
sides  of  the  neck  ash-grey ,  the  breast  and  sides  of  the  body  bluish- 
white,  transversely  barred  with  brownish-black ,  the  quills  dusky- 
brown,  tinged  externally  with  grey,  their  inner  webs  barred  with 
white ;  the  tail-feathers  greyish-black,  spotted  along  the  shafts  and 
on  the  inner  web,  and  tipped  with  white.  Young  with  the  upper 
parts  transversely  barred  with  light  red  and  clove-brown,  the 
lower  with  brownish-white  and  dusky . 

Male. — This  general  favourite,  whose  cry  is  familiar  to  all, 
either  in  the  original,  or  through  the  medium  of  imitations,  is 
one  of  the  most  elegantly  formed  and  agreeably  coloured  of  our  na¬ 
tive  birds.  The  singular  circumstances  connected  with  its  mode 
of  propagation  have  moreover  rendered  it  an  object  of  peculiar 


110 


CUCULUS  CANORUS. 


interest.  In  shape  it  bears  some  resemblance  to  the  Kestrel, 
and  in  colour  to  the  Sparrow-hawk.  The  body  is  rather 
small  in  proportion  to  the  plumage,  the  head  ovate,  and  of 
ordinary  size.  The  bill  is  shorter  than  the  head,  at  the  base 
rather  broader  than  high,  compressed  toward  the  end,  and 
somewhat  arched.  The  upper  mandible  has  its  dorsal  outline 
arcuato-declinate,  the  ridge  rather  narrow,  the  sides  sloping 
and  becoming  gradually  more  convex  towards  the  end,  the  tip 
a  little  decurved,  narrow,  sharp,  with  slight  indications  of 
notches,  the  edges  sharp  and  a  little  overlapping.  The  lower 
mandible  has  the  angle  short  and  wide,  the  dorsal  outline  con¬ 
cave,  the  ridge  narrow,  the  sides  sloping  outwards,  flat  at  the 
base,  convex  towards  the  end,  the  edges  sharp,  the  tip  narrow. 
The  gape-line  is  considerably  arched,  and  the  mouth  wide. 

The  upper  mandible  is  internally  flat,  with  a  slightly  promi¬ 
nent  central  line  ;  the  whole  roof  of  the  mouth  is  also  flat,  as 
in  Goatsuckers  and  Swifts.  The  posterior  aperture  of  the  nares 
linearand  papillate.  The  tongue,  PI.  XV,  Fig.  1 ,  a,  rather  short, 
slender,  thin,  oblong,  slightly  concave  above,  emarginate  at  the 
base,  with  minute  papillae,  and  a  large  pointed  one  at  each 
angle,  the  tip  acute,  but  varying  considerably,  as  will  be  after¬ 
wards  explained.  The  aperture  of  the  glottis  has  numerous 
flat,  pointed  papillae,  and  two  large  acuminate  ones  behind. 
The  mouth  measures  ten  and  a  half  twelfths  of  an  inch  across. 
The  oesophagus,  fr,  c ,  is  five  and  a  half  inches  long,  and  tapers 
from  a  diameter  of  ten  twelfths  to  that  of  five  twelfths,  so  as 
to  be  somewhat  funnel  shaped  in  its  extra-thoracic  part.  Its 
walls  are  extremely  thin,  the  inner  coat  longitudinally  plicate 
when  not  distended,  and  plentifully  supplied  with  mucus. 
The  proventriculus,  d ,  is  elliptical,  about  an  inch  long,  its 
greatest  diameter  seven  twelfths  ;  its  glandules  large,  generally 
half  a  twelfth  in  diameter,  the  upper  oblong  and  inclined  down¬ 
wards,  as  is  seen  in  Fig.  2,  a,  b ,  and  c,  the  lowest  ovate  and 
directed  upwards,  those  about  two-thirds  down  roundish  and 
direct,  all  simple  or  unlobed.  The  stomach,  Fig.  1 ,  e,f  is 
large,  round,  an  inch  and  three  twelfths  long,  an  inch  and 
two  twelfths  broad,  nine  twelfths  in  thickness ;  its  muscular 
coat  is  very  thin,  and  composed  of  distinct  flattened  fasciculi, 


GREY  CUCKOO. 


Ill 


so  that  there  is  no  division  into  lateral  muscles  ;  its  middle 
coat  very  thin  ;  the  inner  or  cuticular,  Fig.  2,  c ,  d ,  slightly 
rugous,  frequently  stuck  all  over  with  hairs,  as  in  Fig.  3,  but 
sometimes  quite  free  of  them,  varying  from  a  twelfth  to  half 
a  twelfth  of  an  inch  in  thickness,  and  exceeding  the  other 
coats.  The  pylorus  is  an  oblong  slit,  without  knobs  or  valves, 
but  closed  by  a  thick -edged  fold  of  the  inner  coat.  The  intes¬ 
tine,  Fig.  1,  c ,  /*,  i,  j,  1\  which  is  seventeen  inches  long,  is 
rather  wide,  its  diameter  varying  from  four  and  a  half  twelfths 
to  two  and  a  half,  enlarging  towards  the  coeca  to  tliree-eightlis  ; 
the  rectum,  Fig.  4,  a ,  6,  two  and  a  half  inches  long,  enlarging 
to  a  diameter  of  nine-twelfths.  The  coeca,  c ,  d ,  are  about  an 
inch  and  a  half  long,  but  very  frequently  unequal  in  length, 
cylindrical,  about  two-twelfths  in  diameter,  but  contracted  at 
the  base.  The  walls  of  the  intestine  are  thin  and  translucent ; 
the  duodenal  fold,  Fig.  1,  c,  li ,  «,  villous  internally,  the  lower 
part,  «,  /?,  j,  with  shallow  scrobiculi.  The  intestine  runs  at 
first  along  the  right  edge  of  the  stomach,  as  usual,  returns  and 
ascends  behind  the  right  lobe  of  the  liver,  receives  the  biliary 
ducts,  descends  on  the  right  side,  forming  several  short  con¬ 
volutions,  then  a  second  fold,  which  is  contorted,  ascends  on 
the  left  side  as  far  as  the  middle  of  the  proventriculus,  and 
then  passes  along  the  middle  of  the  sacrum. 

The  nostrils  are  elliptical,  a  twelfth  and  a  half  long,  with 
a  prominent  margin,  and  placed  in  the  lower  and  fore  part  of 
the  short  and  broad  nasal  membrane,  which  is  anteriorly  bare. 
The  eyes  are  of  moderate  size,  their  aperture  three-twelfths. 
That  of  the  ear  elliptical,  and  four-twelfths.  The  feet  are 
very  short ;  the  tarsus  feathered  halfway  down,  anteriorly  with 
four  large  scutella,  posteriorly  rather  sharp,  with  eight  small 
scutella.  The  first  toe  is  very  small,  with  six  scutella ;  the 
second  much  longer,  with  eight ;  the  third  longest,  with 
eleven ;  the  fourth  considerably  shorter,  reversed,  with  eleven 
scutella.  The  claws  are  rather  small,  arched,  much  compress¬ 
ed,  laterally  grooved,  rather  blunt. 

The  plumage  is  soft  and  blended ;  the  feathers  generally  ovate, 
with  a  short  plumule  ;  those  on  the  rump  elongated  and  rather 
strong,  the  upper  and  lower  tail-coverts  stronger  than  usual. 


112 


CUCULUS  CANORUS. 


The  wings  are  long,  straight,  and  pointed,  with  twenty  quills ; 
the  primaries  tapering  and  rounded  ;  the  first  about  two-tliirds 
of  the  length  of  the  second,  the  third  longest,  the  fourth  next, 
the  second  a  little  longer  than  the  fifth,  the  rest  graduated ; 
the  secondaries  rather  short,  broad,  the  outer  abrupt,  the  rest 
obliquely  rounded,  with  a  very  short  acumen.  The  tail  is  long, 
straight,  broad,  graduated,  of  twelve  feathers,  the  outer  an  inch 
and  a  quarter  shorter  than  the  next,  whch  is  eight  twelfths 
of  an  inch  shorter  than  the  longest. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  14  inches;  extent  of  wings  23;  bill 
along  the  ridge  f  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  If  ;  wing 
from  flexure  8T8g  ;  tail  ;  tarsus  J  ;  first  toe  ^1,  its  claw  T3g  ; 
second  toe  T6f ,  its  claw  T35  ;  third  toe  lf|,  its  claw  ;  fourth 
toe  t92,  its  claw  T3|. 

The  bill  is  greyish-black,  the  basal  margins  and  part  of  the 
lower  mandible  orange.  The  bare  margins  of  the  eyelids  are 
gamboge  yellow  ;  the  iris  orange.  The  tarsus  and  toes  are 
orange,  the  claws  ochre  yellow.  The  general  colour  of  the  upper 
parts  is  bluisli-grey,  lighter  on  the  head,  tinged  with  green  on 
the  back  and  wings,  more  blue  on  the  rump.  The  quills  are 
dusky  brown,  their  outer  webs  tinged  with  grey  ;  the  inner 
webs  of  the  primaries  marked  with  oblong  transverse  white 
bands.  The  tail  is  greyish-black,  glossed  with  green,  the 
feathers  tipped,  and  along  the  shafts  and  inner  edges  spotted 
with  wdiite.  The  throat  and  fore  part  of  the  neck  are  light 
asli-grey  ;  the  breast  and  sides  white,  transversely  barred  with 
brownish-black,  each  feather  having  three  bars ;  the  lower 
tail-coverts  yellowisli-white,  and  similarly  barred  ;  the  abdomen 
with  faint  bars.  The  concealed  part  of  the  plumage  is  light 
ash-grey. 

Female. — There  is  no  such  difference  between  the  male  and 
the  female  as  to  colour  or  size  as  could  enable  one  to  decide 
the  sex  of  an  individual  without  opening  it.  The  brown  tints 
and  reddish  markings  alleged  by  Montagu  and  others  to  be 
peculiar  to  the  female,  occur  in  both  sexes  only  in  their  earlier 
years. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  134  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  23  ;  wing 


GREY  CUCKOO. 


113 


from  flexure  8T82  ;  tail  6i  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  ;  tarsus  y'34 ; 
middle  toe  and  claw  Ij;. 

Variations. — In  adult  individuals  the  variations  of  the  ex¬ 
terior  are  slight,  some  being  more  glossed  with  green  on  the 
back,  and  some  tinged  with  brown  on  the  wings  and  fore-neck. 
Old  birds  I  have  found  invariably  as  above  described.  The 
variations  in  size,  and  in  the  proportions  of  the  parts,  are  not 
important ;  nor  are  those  in  the  length  and  diameter  of  the  di¬ 
gestive  organs  considerable.  The  following  are  some  of  the 
measurements  of  five  individuals. 


MALE. 

M. 

M. 

F. 

F. 

Length . 

14 

— 

— 

13i 

14 

Extent  of  wings. 

23 

— 

— 

23 

22 

(Esophagus . 

5^ 

si 

5J 

51 

Proventriculus... 

1 

1  0 
l  2 

9 

12 

1 

1 

T 

Stomach . 

-1  8 

1  2 

1  2 

1 12 

1  2 

1 1  2 

Intestine . 

HtN 

00 

rH 

19 

17 

18 

18 

Coeca . 

1i  14 

1lS 

9  1  5 

G  II2 

1  10J  11 

9  lio 

il2 

— 

Changes  of  Plumage. — I  have  found  individuals  in  fresh  and 
perfect  plumage  immediately  after  their  arrival,  so  that  they 
must  have  moulted  in  their  winter  quarters.  Thus,  one  sent 
to  me  by  Captain  Graham  in  May  183d  had  its  feathers  quite 
new.  In  the  wings  were  three  secondary  quills  barred  with 
dusky  and  light  red,  which  were  ragged  from  wearing,  shew¬ 
ing  that  it  was  in  its  second  year.  In  individuals  obtained  at 
a  later  period,  I  have  not  observed  much  difference  in  the 
plumage,  and  therefore  I  believe  that  the  moult  does  not  take 
place  in  this  country. 

Additional  Observations. — The  tongue  varies  considerably 
with  respect  to  the  form  of  its  tip,  as  represented  by  PI.  XVI, 
Fig.  5,  a  b  c  <7,  taken  from  four  specimens  which  I  had  kept 
in  spirits  for  dissection.  One  has  the  tongue  acutely  pointed ; 
the  second  has  it  narrow,  with  a  slight  slit ;  the  third  shorten¬ 
ed,  emarginate,  the  tips  blunted  and  bristly  on  the  edges;  the 

VOL.  III.  i 


114 


CUCULUS  CANORUS. 


fourth  rounded  without  slit,  hut  with  the  edges  and  tip  bristly. 
These  differences  appear  to  be  produced  by  use,  the  first  or 
pointed  form  being  the  normal.  Similar  changes  are  exhibited 
in  the  bill,  claws,  and  feathers  of  many  birds. 

The  oesophagus  and  stomach,  in  fact  the  digestive  organs  in 
general,  are  very  similar  to  those  of  the  Owls.  It  is  a  very  re¬ 
markable  circumstance  that  when  the  bird  arrives  at  first,  its  food 
consisting  of  coleopterous  and  other  insects,  the  cuticular  lining 
of  its  stomach  is  smooth;  whereas  some  time  after,  when  the  bird 
lives  chiefly  on  hairy  caterpillars,  it  is  often  completely  covered 
with  their  hairs,  which  are  thrust  in  and  arranged  in  a  circular 
manner,  so  as  exactly  to  resemble  the  pile  of  some  quadrupeds. 
This  disposition  of  the  hairs  shews  that  the  action  of  the  sto¬ 
mach  causes  the  mass  of  food  contained  in  it  to  move  in  a  rota¬ 
tory  manner.  It  also  shews  that  the  epithelium,  although  very 
soft,  is  destitute  of  blood-vessels  and  nerves,  otherwise  inflamma¬ 
tion  would  be  induced  by  so  many  punctures.  Coccyzus  Ameri¬ 
cans,  a  species  of  a  nearly  allied  genus,  which  I  have  dissected, 
presents  the  same  circumstance.  “  In  examining  this  bird  by 
dissection,1’’  says  Wilson,  “  the  inner  membrane  of  the  gizzard, 
which  in  so  many  other  species  is  so  hard  and  muscular  (horny), 
in  this  is  extremely  lax  and  soft,  capable  of  great  distension  ; 
and,  what  is  remarkable,  is  covered  with  a  growth  of  fine  down, 
or  hair,  of  a  light  fawn  colour.  It  is  difficult,11  he  continues, 
“  to  ascertain  the  particular  purpose  which  Nature  intends  by 
this  excrescence  ;  perhaps  it  may  serve  to  shield  the  tender 
parts  from  the  irritating  effects  produced  by  the  hairs  of  cer¬ 
tain  caterpillars,  some  of  which  are  said  to  be  almost  equal  to 
the  sting  of  a  nettle.11  This  down,  of  course,  is  nothing  else 
than  hairs  of  caterpillars,  and  it  is  amusing  to  observe  the  idle 
ingenuity  perpetually  displayed  in  assigning  reasons  for  facts 
and  phenomena  of  which  people  have  no  adequate  knowledge. 
On  this  subject  the  author  of  the  article  Cuckoo  in  Parting¬ 
ton's  Cyclopaedia  remarks  that  “  the  same  has  been  said,  first 
probably  by  some  compiler  who  had  read  Wilson's  article,  and 
who  thought  he  might  safely  enough  infer  it  from  analogy,  of 
the  stomach  of  the  European  Cuckoo,  but  the  writer  of  this 
has  dissected  several,  and  never  observed  anything  of  the  kind.11 
Then,  let  him  dissect  several  more,  and  learn  the  truth. 


GREY  CUCKOO. 


115 


In  examining  a  female  I  found  not  less  than  twelve  eggs 
that  were  in  the  progress  of  development.  They  were  disposed 
in  separate  clusters,  one  of  which  contained  three,  another  six, 
and  the  third  three.  One  of  them  had  a  diameter  of  nearly 
five  twelfths  of  an  inch,  and  therefore  was  ready  to  pass  into 
the  oviduct,  which  was  of  course  highly  developed  and  curious¬ 
ly  contorted  ;  the  inner  surface  of  its  upper  part  longitudinally 
rugous,  the  lower  transversely  and  spirally.  This  observation 
is  of  course  decisive  as  to  the  Cuckoo's  laying  more  than  one 
egg  in  the  season,  or  at  a  time.  Fig.  6  represents  the  parts  in 
question  :  a,  the  eggs  ;  6,  the  oviduct,  entering  into  the  cloaca, 
c.  Fig.  7  shews  the  internal  surface  of  part  of  the  oviduct  cut 
open.  From  the  size  of  the  oviduct  it  would  appear  that  one 
or  more  eggs  had  already  been  laid,  and  it  is  probable  that  the 
bird  continues  to  lay  at  intervals  from  the  middle  of  May  to 
near  the  period  of  its  departure ;  for  Montagu  states  that  he 
found  a  fully  developed  egg  in  one  shot  on  the  26tli  of  June. 

The  stomach  is  so  large  that  when  distended  it  almost  en¬ 
tirely  fills  the  anterior  or  lower  part  of  the  abdomen,  with  the 
walls  of  which  it  is  in  contact ;  and  this  circumstance  has  been 
adduced  as  furnishing  a  reason  for  the  parasitic  habits  of  the 
species,  it  being  imagined  to  prevent  incubation.  But  in  many 
other  birds,  the  Owls  and  Goatsuckers,  for  example,  the  sto¬ 
mach  is  similarly  situated,  and  equally  large.  Indeed,  the 
connection  of  the  two  facts  is  merely  one  of  the  many  hundreds 
of  false  reasonings  with  which  natural  history  is  encumbered. 
The  coeca,  as  I  have  already  mentioned,  vary  in  size,  and  are 
generally  unequal,  the  left  being  smaller.  Fig.  8  represents 
those  of  another  individual. 

Habits. — The  Cuckoo  arrives  in  the  south  of  England  about 
the  20th  of  April,  in  the  south  of  Scotland  towards  the  end  of 
that  month,  and  in  the  northernmost  parts  of  Britain  soon  after 
the  beginning  of  May.  The  periods  of  arrival,  however,  vary 
considerably  according  to  the  character  of  the  season,  and  as 
the  birds  do  not  always  announce  their  return  by  emitting  their 
well  -known  cry,  they  may  sometimes  be  met  with  at  a  time 
when  their  presence  is  not  suspected.  There  seems  to  be  hardly 


116 


CUCULUS  CANORUS. 


any  part  of  the  country  which  they  do  not  visit;  for  while  some 
remain  in  the  southern  counties,  others  settle  in  the  remotest 
islands  of  the  north,  and  although  they  are  met  with  in  the 
most  cultivated  districts,  they  also  frequent  the  valleys  of  the 
wildest  of  our  hilly  and  mountainous  tracts.  Perhaps  the  most 
favourite  resorts  of  the  species  are  parks  and  plantations  bor¬ 
dered  with  fields  and  pasture-grounds,  or  the  woods  and  thickets 
of  the  upland  glens  ;  but  on  the  rocky  hills  of  the  most  treeless 
regions,  and  the  bleak  moors  or  ferny  braes  of  the  interior,  it 
is  found  often  in  great  numbers,  although  never  in  flocks,  for  if 
gregarious  during  its  migrations,  as  some  suppose,  it  manifests 
no  social  disposition  during  its  residence.  Whether  it  be  more 
numerous  in  the  south  than  in  the  north  I  cannot  affirm,  for 
while  it  is  stated  that  they  abound  in  the  Malvern  Hills, 
making  the  whole  circuit  of  them  resound  with  their  note,” 
they  are  as  plentiful  in  the  wooded  valleys  of  the  counties  of 
Ross  and  Inverness. 

In  the  maritime  Highlands  and  Hebrides,  about  the  time  of 
the  arrival  of  the  Wheatear,  every  one  is  on  the  look-out  for 
the  Cuckoo.  Both  birds  are  great  favourites  with  the  Celts,  the 
latter  more  especially,  but  both  may  be  the  harbingers  of  evil 
as  well  as  of  good  ;  for  should  the  Wheatear  be  first  seen  on  a 
stone,  or  the  Cuckoo  first  heard  by  one  who  has  not  broken 
his  fast,  some  misfortune  may  be  expected.  Indeed,  besides 
the  danger,  it  is  considered  a  reproach  to  one  to  have  heard  the 
Cuckoo  while  hungry,  and  of  such  a  one  it  continues  to  be  said 
that  the  bird  has  muted  on  him,  “  cliac  a  chuaig  air.”  But 
should  the  Wheatear  be  seen  on  a  turf  or  on  the  grass,  or  should 
the  Cuckoo  be  heard  when  one  has  prepared  himself  by  replen¬ 
ishing  his  stomach,  all  will  go  well.  Such  at  least  was  the 
popular  creed  twenty  years  ago,  when  I  began  in  earnest  to 
look  after  birds.  The  Highlanders  have  perhaps  become  wiser  ; 
at  least  they  are  now  poorer,  and  poverty  gives  rise  to  reflection. 
The  Saxons  of  the  south,  it  would  appear,  were  wont  to  think 
differently  of  the  Cuckoo,  and  to  listen  with  no  friendly  feeling 
to  its  cry.  But  the  lover  of  nature,  whether  Saxon  or  Celt, 
gladly  hails  the  bird  of  summer. 


GREY  CUCKOO. 


117 


“  Cuckoo  !  Cuckoo  !  O  !  welcome,  welcome  notes  ! 

Fields,  woods,  and  waves  rejoice 
In  that  recover’d  voice, 

As  on  the  wind  its  fluty  music  floats. 

At  that  elixir  strain, 

My  youth  resumes  its  reign, 

And  life’s  first  spring  comes  blossoming  again.” 

Early  in  the  sunny  mornings  of  May,  and  towards  the  close 
of  day,  he  who  wanders  along  the  wooded  valleys  will  be  sure 
to  hear  the  ever-pleasing  cry  of  the  Cuckoo,  unvaried  though 
it  be,  as  the  bird,  perched  on  a  rock,  or  lichen-clad  block,  or 
balancing  itself  on  the  branch  of  some  tall  tree,  cooes  aloud  to 
its  mate.  Let  us  pause  and  listen  :  the  bird  is  not  far  distant, 
and  we  may  describe  its  song,  such  as  it  is.  You  hear  nothing 
but  the  same  hu-hu ,  or  if  you  please  so  to  syllable  it  coo-coo , 
repeated  at  short  intervals  ;  but  if  you  attend  better  you  will 
find  that  these  two  loud  and  mellow  notes  are  preceded  by  a 
kind  of  churring  or  chuckling  sound,  which,  if  you  creep  up 
unseen,  you  will  hear  to  consist  of  a  low  and  guttural  inflec¬ 
tion  of  the  voice,  during  which  the  throat  seems  distended. 
But  the  Cuckoo,  ever  vigilant  and  shy,  has  observed  you,  and 
flies  off,  followed  by  two  small  birds,  which,  by  their  mode  of 
flying  and  incessant  cheeping  notes,  you  know  to  be  Meadow 
Pipits.  They  keep  pace  with  it,  and  when  it  alights  on  the 
grassy  bank,  they  alight  too,  and  take  their  stand  in  its  vicinity. 
You  have  heard  that  Cuckoos  lay  their  egg  in  the  nest  of  a 
Pipit  or  other  small  bird,  and  you  at  first  suppose  these  to  be  its 
foster-parents.  This,  however,  is  not  a  young  Cuckoo,  but  an  old 
grey  male  just  arrived  from  the  sunny  south.  Then  what  have 
the  Pipits  to  do  with  it  ?  I  cannot  tell,  for  although  I  have 
rarely  in  the  hilly  parts  of  the  country  seen  a  Cuckoo  unattend¬ 
ed  by  one  or  two  of  them,  I  have  not  observed  that  it  was  fed 
by  them,  or  that  they  molested  it  otherwise  than  by  hovering 
about  it.  They  attend  upon  it,  fly  after  it,  stand  beside  it,  and 
seem  to  be  concerned  about  it,  to  be  distrustful  of  it,  to  watch 
its  motions,  and  to  indicate  their  dislike  to  it  by  their  con¬ 
tinued  cheepings.  It  seems  to  me  that  they  take  it  for  a  hawk. 
But  the  Cuckoos  are  not  always  followed  by  Pipits,  for  often 
you  may  see  them  gliding  among  the  trees  without  any  attend- 


118 


CUCULUS  CANORUS. 


ants ;  yet  so  generally  are  these  birds  seen  together  on  the  open 
moors  and  pastures,  that  44  the  Gowk  and  the  Titling  ”  is  a 
common  saying  in  Scotland.  But  it  is  sadly  misapplied  to  a 
person  following  and  fawning  upon  his  patron,  or  to  two  indi¬ 
viduals  of  disproportionate  size  whose  friendship  keeps  them 
continually  together.  The  name  which  the  Scots  give  to  the 
Cuckoo  they  also  apply  to  a  foolish  person,  no  doubt  on  account 
of  his  continued  and  silly  babble.  Later  in  the  season,  you 
may  see  a  young  Cuckoo  followed  and  fed  by  Pipits  ;  but  its 
colours  are  very  different  from  those  of  the  old  bird.  Some¬ 
times  also  you  may  find  it  surrounded  by  Swallows  and  other 
small  birds,  which  are  intent  on  molesting  it  to  the  utmost  of 
their  power. 

The  flight  of  the  Cuckoo  is  swift,  gliding,  even,  rapid  on 
occasion,  generally  sedate,  usually  at  no  great  height.  In  the 
hilly  parts  it  may  be  seen  skimming  over  the  ground,  alighting 
on  a  stone  or  crag,  balancing  itself,  throwing  up  its  tail,  de¬ 
pressing  its  wings,  and  then  perhaps  emitting  its  notes.  In 
woody  districts  it  glides  among  the  trees,  perches  on  their 
boughs,  and  makes  occasional  excursions  into  the  thickets 
around.  On  the  ground  I  have  seldom  seen  it  unless  when 
cooing,  and  there  it  can  scarcely  walk  with  more  ease  than  a 
Swallow  ;  but  on  trees  it  alights  with  facility,  clings  to  the 
twigs  with  firmness,  glides  among  the  foliage,  and  by  the  aid 
of  its  tenacious  grasp  and  ample  tail,  throws  itself  into  various 
and  always  graceful  postures,  as  it  searches  for  its  prey.  Its 
food  consists  of  coleopterous,  lepidopterous,  and  dipterous  in¬ 
sects,  in  procuring  which  it  must  visit  a  variety  of  places,  and 
very  much  of  hairy  caterpillars,  which  it  picks  from  among  the 
grass  and  heath,  where,  however,  it  cannot  search  by  walking, 
like  the  plover  or  curlew,  as  its  feet  are  too  short,  and  its  toes 
misplaced  for  such  a  purpose.  Yet  it  can  hobble  round  a  bush 
to  pick  the  worms  from  it,  as  well  as  cling  to  its  twigs.  44  The 
great  quantity  devoured  by  the  Cuckoos  in  a  short  space  of 
time, says  Mr  Weir,  44  is  truly  astonishing,  and  would  scarcely 
be  believed,  except  by  those  who  have  been  witnesses  to  the 
fact.  They  have  for  several  years  been  the  means  of  prevent¬ 
ing  the  gooseberry  bushes  in  my  garden  from  being  destroyed.” 


GREY  CUCKOO. 


119 


The  substances  which  I  have  usually  found  in  the  stomach 
of  the  Cuckoo  were  insects  of  various  kinds,  hairy  caterpillars, 
and  smooth  larvae  ;  but  I  have  also  found  in  it  vegetable  mat¬ 
ter.  Thus,  it  is  recorded  in  one  of  my  note-books  respecting 
a  male  examined  in  June  1836,  that  the  cuticular  lining  of  the 
stomach  is  “  smooth,  soft,  in  this  instance  without  hairs,  it 
being  filled  with  vegetable  fibres  and  blades  of  grasses.”  I  have 
never  met  with  a  fragment  of  the  elytra,  the  articulation  of  a 
limb,  or  any  other  hard  part  of  an  insect  in  the  intestines,  the 
contents  of  which  are  a  uniform  pulpy  and  impalpable  mass  of 
a  light  red  colour.  Of  course,  the  remains  of  insects  in  the 
stomach  must  be  thrown  up  in  pellets,  as  in  Hawks  and  Owls. 
Hairs  and  other  matters  I  have  several  times  found  in  so  great 
a  mass  as  to  distend  the  stomach  nearly  to  its  greatest  capacity. 
It  has  been  conjectured  that  the  Cuckoo  occasionally  feeds  on 
eggs,  especially  those  of  the  small  birds  in  the  nests  of  which 
it  deposits  its  own  ;  but  I  am  not  aware  of  its  having  been 
caught  in  the  act.  It  has  also  been  accused  of  eating  young 
birds,  but  no  one  has  found  bones  or  feathers  in  its  stomach. 

The  Cuckoo  is  a  very  shy  bird,  so  that  one  cannot  follow  its 
motions ;  but  facts  in  its  history  and  organization  lead  to  infe¬ 
rences,  which  may  be  correct,  if  carefully  educed.  Thus,  it  may 
be  heard  cooing  at  most  hours  from  sunset  to  dawn,  and  I  have 
listened  to  its  notes  at  midnight,  when  they  have  a  very  singular 
effect.  This  circumstance  has  been  noticed  by  others  as  well  as 
myself.  Thus,  in  the  third  volume  of  the  Magazine  of  Natural 
History,  p.  466,  Mr  White  makes  the  following  statement : — 
44  During  the  summer  of  1830,  the  days  were  wet  and  chilly, 
and  the  nights  clear  and  calm  ;  so  that  the  night  was,  in  fact, 
more  pleasant  than  the  day :  so  much  so,  that  I  frequently 
walked  out  after  supper,  and  as  frequently  heard  both  the 
Cuckoo  and  the  Nightingale  from  ten  till  eleven  o'clock  ;  but 
on  two  succeeding  evenings,  the  4th  and  5th  of  June,  the  moon 
being  about  full,  and  shining  with  4  unclouded  majesty,'  1 
heard,  about  4  the  witching  hour  of  night,'  both  the  Cuckoo 
and  the  Nightingale  ;  and  on  the  9th,  as  I  was  returning  from 
a  party  of  friends,  with  the  fair  partner  of  my  pleasures  and 
pursuits,  a  little  after  midnight,  we  were  highly  gratified  in 


120 


CUCULUS  CANORUS. 


hearing  a  trio,  with  all  the  native  melody  of  the  grove,  perform¬ 
ed  by  the  Cuckoo,  the  Nightingale,  and  the  Sedge- Warbler. 11 

It  is  frequently  seen  abroad  at  early  dawn,  and  sometimes 
very  late  in  the  evening  ;  while  at  mid-day  you  seldom  meet 
with  it  unless  in  woods,  or  perched  on  a  stone  in  the  moors. 
Is  it  not  then  somewhat  nocturnal  \  Then,  its  mouth  is  wide, 
bedewed  with  a  viscid  fluid,  and  the  flat  form  of  its  palate  re¬ 
minds  you  of  that  of  the  Goatsuckers  and  Swallows,  as  well 
as  of  the  Owls.  Its  digestive  organs  are  like  those  of  the  for- 
mer  and  latter  of  these  birds,  and  its  food  is  similar,  bating 
mice  and  birds.  It  is  therefore  probable  that  it  takes  a  part  of 
its  prey  on  wing,  more  especially  in  the  twilight. 

Now,  if  we  seek  for  analogies  and  affinities,  we  may  feel  dis¬ 
posed  to  think  that  Cuckoos  are  “  in  their  own  circle  analo¬ 
gous11  to  what  ? — according  to  Mr  Swainson,  to  the  Tenuiros- 
tres  among  the  Insessores,  and  to  the  Rasores  or  Gallinaceous 
birds  in  the  series  of  orders.  You  will  naturally  think  that 
their  nearest  allies  are  Goatsuckers  and  Owls ;  but  if  you  will 
have  all  things  by  fives  or  threes  you  must  not  scruple  to  prefer 
remote  to  direct  affinities  when  it  suits  your  purpose  to  do  so. 

The  Grey  Cuckoo  is  not  necessarily  and  therefore  not  essen¬ 
tially  a  bird  of  the  woods,  like  a  Woodpecker  or  a  Parrot ; 
nor  is  it  therefore  a  climber.  Its  haunts  are  more  especially  the 
open  pastures,  and  although  it  perches  on  a  tree  or  a  stone,  and 
has  feet  like  a  Woodpecker  in  this  one  respect  that  the  outer 
toe  is  turned  backwards,  it  is  not  therefore  anymore  a  climber 
than  a  Thrush  or  a  Swallow,  certainly  less  so  than  a  Siskin 
or  a  Redpoll  Linnet.  But  many  birds  of  similar  form  are  de¬ 
scribed  by  authors  acquainted  with  their  habits  as  sylvicolous 
and  as  climbing,  not  indeed  in  the  manner  of  Woodpeckers, 
but  somewhat  like  Parrots,  that  is  by  grasping  the  twigs  or 
branches,  and  young  Cuckoos  kept  in  captivity  have  been  ob¬ 
served  occasionally  to  employ  the  same  action.  The  feet  of  the 
Cuckoo  however  do  not  present  the  very  strong  curved  claws  pe¬ 
culiar  to  the  truly  climbing  birds,  or  rather  to  those  which  are 
capable  of  clinging  to  a  perpendicular  surface.  Some  species  of 
this  family  have  the  claws  elongated  and  little  curved,  and 
having  also  tarsi  of  considerable  length,  are  thus  enabled  to  walk 


GREY  CUCKOO. 


121 


with  ease  over  the  grass  or  other  herbage.  As  to  our  bird,  it 
no  doubt  can  cling  to  the  branches  with  firmness,  but  it  is  no 
more  a  climber  in  any  sense  than  the  Jay  or  the  Blackbird, 
which,  although  they  often  resort  to  woods,  also  frequent  the 
open  grounds.  In  fact,  the  order  Scansores  of  authors  is  a  most 
heterogenous  association.  Greater  differences  than  there  are 
between  the  feet  of  a  Cuckoo  and  those  of  a  Linnet,  occur  in 
even  the  most  possibly  natural  family,  namely  in  the  Cheli- 
dones  ;  and  if  a  certain  arrangement  of  the  toes,  without  re¬ 
gard  to  their  strength  and  the  form  of  the  claws,  were  so  im¬ 
portant  as  some  ornithologists  would  have  us  to  believe,  the 
Swifts  and  Swallows  ought  to  stand  in  different  orders  ;  the 
common  Gull  and  the  Kittiwake  in  different  genera. 

The  most  remarkable  trait  in  the  character  of  the  Cuckoo 
is  its  confiding  the  charge  of  hatching  its  eggs,  and  rearing  its 
young,  to  some  other  bird,  always  much  smaller  than  itself. 
The  species  on  which  it  thus  imposes  its  progeny  is  gene¬ 
rally  the  Meadow  Pipit,  Anthus  pratensis.  In  Scotland  I 
have  never  heard  of  its  laying  in  the  nest  of  any  other  bird, 
but  in  England  its  egg  has  been  found  in  those  of  various 
species  : — the  Hedge  Chanter,  White  Wagtail,  Sky  Lark, 
Nightingale,  Garden  Warbler,  and  others.  The  egg  is  small 
in  proportion  to  the  size  of  the  bird,  being  generally  not  much 
larger  than  that  of  its  foster  parent,  its  average  length  from  ten 
to  eleven  twelfths  of  an  inch,  its  greatest  diameter  from  eight 
to  nine  twelfths,  its  colour  white,  greyish- white,  or  reddish- 
white,  speckled  with  ash-grey  or  greyish-brown.  Various  con¬ 
jectures  have  been  hazarded  as  to  the  cause  of  the  dispropor¬ 
tionately  small  size  of  the  eggs.  If  we  say  that  as  the  Cuckoo 
is  physically  constrained  to  deposit  its  egg  in  the  nest  of  some 
small  bird  of  the  insectivorous  kind,  its  egg  must  be  nearly  of 
the  size  of  those  of  its  dupe,  we  may  state  a  truth,  but  we  afford 
no  explanation  of  the  phenomenon.  Why  should  it  be  so  con¬ 
strained  \  why  does  it  not  form  a  nest,  hatch  its  eggs,  and  rear 
its  young  ?  Because,  as  some  say,  it  leaves  its  summer  resi¬ 
dence  early  in  J uly,  and  as  it  remains  only  two  months  there, 
it  could  not  leave  its  young  in  a  sufficiently  advanced  state  to 
shift  for  themselves.  But  why  should  it  hurry  away  so  fast  ? 


122 


CUCULUS  CANORUS. 


lias  it  not  abundance  of  food  ?  does  it  not  go  away  at  the  very 
time  when  insects  and  larvae  are  most  abundant  ?  If  it  dreads 
the  cold  of  early  autumn,  is  not  that  of  April  or  even  May 
much  greater  ?  and  if  its  tender  young  find  enough  of  heat  un¬ 
til  September,  how  is  it  so  much  more  sensitive  ?  It  has  been 
alleged,  conjecturally  I  believe,  that  the  ovary  is  less  plentifully 
supplied  with  blood  than  that  of  other  birds  of  similar  size,  and 
therefore  the  eggs  are  not  developed.  I  can  see  no  difference 
in  this  respect  between  the  Cuckoo  and  the  Magpie  or  Jay; 
but  if  there  were,  although  the  smallness  of  the  eggs  might  be 
accounted  for  in  so  far,  how  is  it  necessary  that  they  should  be 
small  ?  In  short,  all  that  we  know  about  the  matter  is  just 
this  :  The  Cuckoo  arrives  in  the  end  of  spring,  and  departs  in 
July  ;  it  forms  no  nest,  but  deposits  its  eggs  singly  in  the  nests 
of  various  small  birds,  which  hatch  them,  and  rear  the  young. 
The  latter  not  being  well  fledged  until  September,  remain  two 
months  behind  their  parents. 

The  eggs  of  birds  are  not  proportioned  to  their  size.  The 
single  egg  of  the  Auks  is  enormously  large ;  the  three  eggs  of 
the  Cormorant  very  small ;  the  numerous  eggs  of  the  Geese 
moderate ;  those  of  the  Wren  very  large.  It  is  as  incompre¬ 
hensible  that  a  Guillemot  should  lay  only  one  egg  of  extrava¬ 
gant  size,  as  that  a  Cuckoo  should  lay  twenty  of  the  opposite 
kind.  Were  we  to  suppose  that  eggs  few  in  number  are  pro¬ 
portionally  large,  observation  would  convince  us  that  this  is 
not  always  and  regularly  the  case.  The  Curlew  lays  four  eggs ; 
and  the  Hooded  Crow  five  ;  but  although  these  birds  are  nearly 
equal  in  size,  one  of  the  eggs  of  the  former  weighs  more  than  all 
those  of  the  latter.  The  Rock  Pigeon  and  Jackdaw  are  about 
the  same  size  ;  so  are  their  eggs  ;  but  the  former  lays  only  two, 
and  the  latter  five.  It  must  not  therefore  be  said  that  the 
Cuckoo's  eggs  are  very  small,  because  they  are  very  numerous. 

A  ccording  to  the  statement  of  M.  Temminck,  the  phenomena 
in  question  have  been  explained  as  follows  : — “  M.  Schlegel, 
one  of  the  assistant  naturalists  of  the  museum,  has  furnished, 
in  an  essay  crowned  by  the  Natural  History  Society  of  Harlem, 
details  of  the  greatest  interest  as  to  the  very  probable  causes  which 
1  uce  t  le  Gii  G^uckoo,  as  well  as  all  the  species  which  lay 


GREY  CUCKOO. 


123 


in  the  nests  of  small  insectivorous  birds,  not  to  hatch  and  rear 
its  young ;  and  he  considers  as  a  principal  cause  of  this  pecu¬ 
liarity  the  choice  of  their  ordinary  food.  The  nourishment  of 
the  Cuckoo  consists  almost  entirely  of  very  hairy  caterpillars, 
as  Bombyx  caja,  &c.,  the  great  bulk  of  which  overloads  and 
singularly  inflates  the  stomach,  affording  at  the  same  time  very 
little  nourishment.  From  this  nutrition  results  a  great  de¬ 
velopment  of  the  whole  organ,  and  an  unceasingly  returning 
hunger.  The  development  of  the  stomach  appears  to  influence 
that  of  the  eggs  in  the  ovary,  which  are  known  to  be  very 
small,  and  which  the  bird  lays  at  intervals  of  from  six  to  eight 
days.  The  sum  of  the  author's  observations  is,  that  the  Cuckoo 
cannot  attend  to  incubation,  as  it  is  incessantly  occupied  in 
pursuing  its  prey ;  that  it  cannot,  by  means  of  the  food  which 
it  prefers,  satisfy  the  wants  of  from  four  to  six  voracious  young 
ones,  which  grow  with  an  astonishing  rapidity.  The  position 
and  great  size  of  the  stomach  would  hinder  digestion  during 
the  act  of  incubation ;  should  incubation  take  place,  the  con¬ 
stantly  recurring  need  of  food  would  be  injurious  to  the  neces¬ 
sary  development  of  the  young  in  the  egg ;  to  lay  from  four  to 
six  eggs,  the  Cuckoo  would  take  so  many  weeks,  and  the  first 
egg  would  be  addled  before  the  last  were  laid.  Lastly,  the 
young  could  not  be  developed  in  time  to  perform  their  migra¬ 
tion,  for  want  of  the  food  necessary  for  themselves  and  their 
parents.  If  such  is  actually  the  cause  of  this  phenomenon  in 
some  species  of  Cuckoos,  which  I  am  inclined  to  believe  it  to 
be,  it  would  follow  that  certain  species,  which  are  not  sub¬ 
jected  to  this  same  mode  of  nourishment,  may  nestle  and  attend 
to  incubation  exactly  like  other  birds.11 

Now,  I  have  found  by  dissection  that  the  two  common  Cuckoos 
of  North  America  have  the  stomach  capable  of  great  distension, 
and  covered  internally  with  hair,  so  as  to  be  precisely  similar  to 
that  of  the  Grey  Cuckoo.  What  then  comes  of  all  the  above 
reasoning?  Moreover,  the  Barn  Owl  has  a  stomach  when 
collapsed  an  inch  and  a  quarter  long,  and  when  distended  three 
inches,  and  it  occupies  precisely  the  same  place  as  in  the  Cuckoo, 
and  is  larger  in  proportion  to  the  size  of  the  bird.  Yet  the 
Owl  incubates,  and  although  it  has  but  a  short  time  to  look  for 


124 


CUCULUS  CANORUS. 


food,  and  therefore  fills  its  stomach  as  full  as  it  can,  and  swal¬ 
lows  hair,  down,  and  feathers,  hatches  its  eggs  and  digests  its 
food  quite  efficiently. 

It  appears  from  the  observations  of  various  persons,  that  the 
Cuckoo,  having  found  a  nest,  watches  for  the  absence  of  its 
owner,  then  deposits  its  egg,  and  flies  off* ;  that  in  general  the 
nest  in  which  it  places  its  egg  contains  none  or  few  eggs  ;  that 
the  owners  of  the  nest  sometimes  eject  the  intruded  egg ;  and 
that  in  a  few  instances  two  Cuckoos'1  eggs  have  been  found  in 
the  same  nest.  It  is  also  stated  that  the  Cuckoo,  on  depositing 
its  egg  in  a  nest  already  containing  eggs,  sometimes  carries  off* 
one  or  more  of  them  ;  but  frequently  nests  have  been  found 
containing  the  ordinary  number  of  eggs  along  with  that  of  the 
Cuckoo.  Pipits  and  other  small  birds  finding  a  Cuckoo  at  or 
near  their  nest  manifest  alarm,  anxiety,  and  hatred  towards  it, 
just  as  they  would  toward  a  Jay  or  other  suspected  bird. 

It  was  known  to  the  ancients  that  this  bird  leaves  its  e<2f£f 

i 

to  be  hatched  by  another,  but  they  mingled  the  real  with  the 
fabulous,  believing  that  the  young  devoured  not  only  those  of 
its  foster-parents,  but  finally  the  latter  themselves.  The  man¬ 
ner  in  which  the  young  Cuckoo's  fellow-lodgers  disappear  from 
the  nest  is  perhaps  as  marvellous  as  anything  else  in  the  his¬ 
tory  of  this  strange  bird.  A  pair  of  Pipits,  Wagtails,  or  Hedge 
Chanters,  would  find  it  a  sufficient  task  to  provide  their  own 
young  with  food,  and  probably  would  be  unable  to  satisfy  in 
addition  the  incessant  cravings  of  the  young  Cuckoo,  which 
grows  very  rapidly,  and  as  it  soon  completely  fills  the  nest, 
would  crush  to  death  or  suffocate  its  feebler  fellow-lodgers. 

o 

The  young  Cuckoo,  as  if  in  order  to  obtain  sufficient  nourish¬ 
ment,  and  prevent  the  protracted  misery  of  its  foster-brethren, 
ejects  them  from  the  nest,  and  their  parents,  unable  to  replace 
them,  or  failing  to  recognise  them,  leave  them  to  perish.  The 
exclusive  occupation  of  the  nest  by  the  young  Cuckoo  was  first 
satisfactorily  accounted  for  by  Dr  Jenner,  the  discoverer  of 
vaccination,  who,  in  the  Philosophical  Transactions  for  1788, 
states  that  having  found  a  nest  of  the  hedge-sparrow  contain¬ 
ing  a  cuckoo's  egg  and  three  of  the  hedge  sparrow's,  but  the  day 
following  a  young  cuckoo  and  a  young  hedge-sparrow,  two  of 


GllEY  CUCKOO. 


125 


the  eggs  having  disappeared,  he  “  saw  the  young  cuckoo,  though 
so  lately  hatched,  in  the  act  of  turning  out  the  young  hedge- 
sparrow.  The  little  animal,  with  the  assistance  of  its  rump 
and  wings,  contrived  to  get  the  bird  upon  its  back,  and  mak¬ 
ing  a  lodgement  for  its  burden  by  elevating  its  elbows,  clam¬ 
bered  backwards  with  it  up  the  side  of  the  nest  till  it  reached 
the  top,  where,  resting  for  a  moment,  it  threw  off  its  load  with 
a  jerk,  and  quite  disengaged  it  from  the  nest.  It  remained 
in  this  situation  for  a  short  time,  feeling  about  with  the  ex¬ 
tremities  of  its  wings,  as  if  to  be  convinced  whether  the  busi¬ 
ness  was  properly  executed,  and  then  dropped  into  the  nest 
again.  With  these,  the  extremities  of  its  wings,”  he  conti¬ 
nues,  66  I  have  often  seen  it  examine,  as  it  were,  the  egg  and 
nestling  before  it  began  its  operations  ;  and  the  nice  sensibilities 
which  these  parts  seem  to  possess,  seemed  sufficiently  to  com¬ 
pensate  the  want  of  sight,  which  as  yet  it  was  destitute  of.  I 
afterwards  put  in  an  egg,  and  this,  by  a  similar  process,  was 
conveyed  to  the  edge  of  the  nest  and  thrown  out.  These  ex¬ 
periments  I  have  since  repeated  several  times,  in  different  nests, 
and  have  always  found  the  young  cuckoo  disposed  to  act  in  the 
same  manner.”  He  then  states  that  its  shape  is  well  adapted 
for  this  purpose,  as  its  back  is  very  broad,  with  a  depression  in 
the  middle,  which  is  not  filled  up  until  it  is  about  twelve  days 
old.  When  two  cuckoos1  eggs  happen  to  be  deposited  in  the 
same  nest,  a  severe  contest  takes  place  between  the  newly- 
fledged  young,  and  continues  until  the  weaker  is  ejected. 

These  observations  have  been  verified  by  Montagu,  who,  in 
the  Introduction  to  his  Ornithological  Dictionary,  makes  the 
following  statement.  “  I  first  saw  it  (the  young  Cuckoo)  when  a 
few  days  old  in  the  Hedge-Sparrow's  nest  in  a  garden  close  to  a 
cottage,  the  owner  of  which  assured  me  the  Hedge-Sparrow  had 
four  eggs  when  the  Cuckoo  dropped  a  fifth;  that  on  the  morn¬ 
ing  the  young  Cuckoo  was  hatched,  two  young  Hedge-Sparrows 
were  also  excluded,  and  that  on  his  return  from  work  in  the 
evening,  nothing  was  left  in  the  nest  but  the  Cuckoo.  At  five 
or  six  days  old  I  took  it  to  my  house,  when  I  frequently  saw 
it  throw  out  the  young  Swallow  (which  was  put  in  for  the  pur¬ 
pose  of  experiment)  for  four  or  live  days  after.  This  singular 


126 


CUCULUS  CANORUS. 


action  was  performed  by  insinuating  itself  under  the  swallow, 
and  with  its  rump  forcing  it  out  of  the  nest  with  a  sort  of 
jerk.  Sometimes,  indeed,  it  failed  after  much  struggle,  by 
reason  of  the  strength  of  the  Swallow,  which  was  nearly  full- 
feathered,  but  after  a  small  respite  from  the  seeming  fatigue, 
it  renewed  its  efforts,  and  seemed  continually  restless  till  it  suc¬ 
ceeded.  At  the  end  of  the  fifth  day  this  disposition  ceased, 
and  it  suffered  the  Swallow  to  remain  in  the  nest  unmolested.” 

Similar  observations  made  by  Mr  Black  wall,  are  recorded 
in  the  Manchester  Memoirs,  2d  series,  Vol.  IV.  “  On  the 
30th  of  June,”  he  relates,  “  I  took  a  young  Cuckoo  that  was 
hatched  in  a  Titlark’s  nest  on  the  28th,  seven  days  after  the  old 
birds  had  quitted  the  neighbourhood ;  and  this  nestling,  while 
in  my  possession,  turned  both  young  birds  and  eggs  out  of  its 
nest,  in  which  I  had  placed  them  for  the  purpose,  and  gave 
me  an  opportunity  of  contemplating  at  leisure  the  whole  pro¬ 
cess  of  this  astonishing  proceeding,  so  minutely  and  accurately 
described  by  Dr  Jenner.  I  observed  that  this  bird,  though  so 
young,  threw  itself  backwards  with  considerable  force  when 
any  thing  touched  it  unexpectedly.” 

Beyond  this,  there  is  nothing  marvellous  in  the  history  of 
thejyoung  bird,  which,  carefully  fed  by  its  foster-parents,  who 
no  doubt  believe  it  to  be  their  own  progeny,  grows  apace.  It 
appears  that  very  many  species  of  birds  having  hatched  the  eggs 
of  other  birds,  consider  the  produce  to  be  really  their  own ; 
and  that  many  also  without  having  incubated  will  adopt  a 
helpless  youngling  and  feed  it.  It  is  not  more  wonderful  that 
the*  Pipits  or  Wagtails  should  harbour  no  suspicion  of  the  alien 
character  of  the  great  bird  which  fills  their  nest,  than  that  a 
hen  should  continue  to  perform  a  motherly  part  toward  the 
ducklings  which  manifest  the  difference  of  their  nature  by 
gladly^betaking  themselves  to  the  water  of  which  she  has  a 
salutary  dread.  While  the  young  Cuckoo  remains  in  the  nest, 
it  is  plentifully  supplied  with  food  by  its  friends,  who,  ignorant 
of  the  destruction  of  their  own  young,  and  having  their  parental 
feeling  excited  by  its  continued  demands,  cheerfully  labour  in  its 
behalf.  When  it  can  fly,  and  has  left  the  nest,  they  continue  to 
provide  for  and  protect  it  to  the  best  of  their  power,  and  this 


GREY  CUCKOO. 


127 


conduct  of  theirs  seems  the  more  strange  that  it  contrasts  with 
that  of  other  little  birds,  even  of  the  same  species,  but  espe¬ 
cially  Swallows,  which  fly  after  and  endeavour  to  molest  it. 

Mr  Durham  Weir  has  sent  me  the  following  notes  having 
reference  to  this  subject :  44  4  There  is  one  point,'  says  a  modern 
naturalist,  4  in  the  anomalous  history  of  the  Cuckoo,  which  has 
not  been  so  well  authenticated  as  the  rest,  and  that  is,  whether 
the  male  falls  into  the  same  dupery  as  the  female,  and  aids  in 
rearing  the  Cuckoo  V  That  he  sometimes  assists  the  female,  in 
giving  food  to  her  adopted  young  one,  I  can  affirm,  as  several 
instances  have  occurred  to  my  knowledge.  In  June  1835,  the 
following  one  came  under  my  notice.  Upon  the  top  of  Mony- 
foot  Hill,  Linlithgowshire,  I  knew  a  Titlark’s  nest  built  under 
a  bush  of  heath.  It  contained  five  eggs,  one  of  which  had  been 
deposited  in  it  by  a  Cuckoo.  The  rightful  owners,  a  few  days 
after  they  had  been  hatched,  were  lying  dead  on  the  ground, 
having  been  turned  out  by  the  intruder,  who  became  the  solo 
occupant  of  the  nest.  One  afternoon,  I  observed  the  male  and 
female  Titlarks  repeatedly  flying  in  with  worms  and  flies  in 
their  bills,  and  feeding  the  nestling  with  the  greatest  care  and 
anxiety.  When  I  went  near  the  nest,  they  hovered  about  me, 
uttering  their  cry  of  alarm.  They  always  flew  off  together,  and 
returned  with  the  food  which  they  had  obtained.  When  about 
three  weeks  old,  this  young  Cuckoo  assumed  an  air  of  boldness, 
and  when  I  handled  it,  it  ruffled  its  feathers,  and  put  itself  in 
an  attitude  of  defence.  I  took  it  home  with  me,  and  kept  it 
between  four  and  five  months.  It  soon  became  very  tame  and 
even  familiar.  It  was  at  times  fierce  and  pugnacious,  and  when 
teased,  it  came  out  of  its  cage  and  fought  with  my  fingers,  spar¬ 
ring  and  buffeting  with  its  wings,  like  a  game-cock.  Its  vo¬ 
racity  was  insatiable.  The  Cuckoo  for  some  weeks  after  it  is 
fully  fledged,  is  fed  by  its  foster  parents.  When  they  see  any 
one  approaching  their  charge,  they  give  it  instant  warning,  on 
which  it  flies  off  to  some  distance.  These  young  birds  are  so 
very  shy,  that  although  I  have  pursued  them  for  hours,  I  have 
seldom  been  able  to  get  within  shot  of  them.” 

In  a  subsequent  communication,  dated  the  16th  July  1838, 
he  presents  the  following  very  interesting  account  of  a  young 


128 


CUCULUS  CANORUS. 


Cuckoo,  which  is  fairly  worth  all  the  notions  of  the  closet  na¬ 
turalists  from  Pliny  to  the  present  day. 

“  In  this  part  of  the  country,  the  nest  of  the  Titlark  is  the 
one  almost  invariably  selected  by  the  Cuckoos  for  depositing 
their  eggs.  Indeed,  I  have  never  seen  them  in  any  other.  In 
Balgornie  Moor,  situate  in  the  extremity  of  the  parish  of  Bath¬ 
gate,  on  Saturday  the  19th  of  May  1838,  a  pair  of  Titlarks 
finished  their  nest.  The  female  laid  an  egg  upon  Sunday,  Mon¬ 
day,  and  Tuesday.  During  one  of  these  days,  a  Cuckoo  took 
the  opportunity  of  dropping  her  egg  amongst  those  of  the  Tit¬ 
lark.  How  she  succeeded  in  doing  this,  I  know  not,  as  the  nest 
was  built  upon  the  side  of  a  deep  perpendicular  ditch,  the  top 
of  which  was  thickly  covered  over  with  strong  heath  in  the 
shape  of  a  dome,  and  the  entrance  into  it  was  very  narrow. 

“  Nearly  the  same  period  of  incubation  seems  to  be  required 
for  hatching  both  kinds  of  eggs.  Upon  Wednesday  morning 
the  23d,  the  female  Titlark  began  to  sit  upon  the  eggs,  and 
upon  that  day  fortnight,  the  6th  of  June,  they  were  all  hatch¬ 
ed.  I  saw  them  a  short  time  after  this  had  taken  place.  The 
young  Cuckoo  appeared  to  be  about  one-third  larger  than  the 
Titlarks,  and  of  a  dark  colour.  It  was  constantly  gaping  for 
food.  Upon  its  back,  from  the  shoulders  downwards,  there  was 
a  particular  depression,  which  I  do  not  recollect  of  having  seen 
in  any  other  young  bird.  On  the  afternoon  of  the  10th,  two  of 
the  Titlarks  were  found  lying  dead  at  the  bottom  of  the  ditch. 
The  other  one  had  disappeared. 

“  On  Wednesday  afternoon  the  13th,  the  feathers  of  this  young 
bird  had  a  strong  resemblance  to  the  prickles  of  the  hedge-hog, 
and  it  had  grown  so  fast  that  it  nearly  filled  the  whole  nest. 
When  any  thing  touched  it  unexpectedly,  as  has  been  remarked 
by  Mr  Blackwall,  it  threw  itself  back  with  considerable  force. 
It  was  bold  and  fierce.  When  I  put  my  finger  near  its  bill,  it 
ruffled  its  feathers,  stood  upon  its  legs,  struck  at  it  with  its  wings, 
and  even  attempted  to  bite.  For  several  hours  I  watched  the 
motions  of  the  foster  parents  in  order  to  ascertain  whether  they 
were  still  kind  to  the  charge  committed  to  their  trust,  and  they 
continued  to  pay  it  the  same  unwearied  attention.  During  the 
space  of  an  hour  they  fed  it  generally  ten  or  twelve  times.  The 


GREY  CUCKOO. 


129 


female  occasionally  remained  in  the  nest  several  minutes.  Both 
were  exceedinglyshyand  cunning.  So  long  as  I  was  within  sight 
of  them  they  would  not  feed  the  Cuckoo.  I  was  therefore 
obliged  to  conceal  myself  in  a  plantation  with  the  branches  of 
the  Scotch  fir.  When  they  brought  food  they  always  alighted 
at  the  distance  of  about  fifteen  or  twenty  yards  from  their  nest, 
and  stole  softly  amongst  the  grass  at  the  bottom  of  the  ditch, 
and  now  and  then  stood  still  and  looked  around  them  with  a 
jealous  glance  to  see  if  their  motions  were  watched.  So  art¬ 
fully  was  their  retreat  concealed,  that  no  one  to  whom  it  was 
not  pointed  out,  would  have  had  much  chance  of  discovering  it. 
As  it  was  at  a  distance  from  my  residence,  I  found  it  inconve¬ 
nient  to  watch  the  habits  of  this  Cuckoo  so  frequently  as  I 
wished.  I  therefore  put  it  into  the  nest  of  a  Titlark  in  my  im¬ 
mediate  neighbourhood,  in  which  were  five  young  ones  about 
six  days  old,  three  of  which  I  allowed  to  remain.  I  went  next 
day  in  the  expectation  of  seeing  the  young  Cuckoo  lying  dead. 
To  my  astonishment,  however,  the  female  was  covering  it  most 
carefully,  with  outstretched  wings,  from  a  very  heavy  shower 
of  rain  which  was  then  falling.  ITow  she  devoted  her  care  to 
this  surreptitiously  introduced  stranger,  while  her  own  young 
ones  had  in  the  meantime  been  expelled  by  the  Cuckoo,  and 
were  at  that  moment  lying  lifeless  within  two  inches  of  her 
nest,  is  a  mystery  in  the  economy  of  nature,  which  it  would  be 
extremely  difficult  to  solve.  I  do  not  recollect  having  seen  it 
mentioned  in  any  book  which  I  have  perused,  that  the  cry  of 
the  Cuckoo  when  young  resembles  that  of  the  titlark.  This 
perhaps  was  the  reason  why  the  foster  parents  were  so  sud¬ 
denly  reconciled  to  their  newly  adopted  nestling.  They  fed  it 
most  assiduously.  On  the  afternoon  of  Thursday  the  21st,  it 
pursued  my  fingers,  when  I  teased  it,  nine  or  ten  inches  beyond 
the  nest,  sparring  with  its  wings,  and  crying  like  a  hawk.  As 
has  been  noticed  by  Colonel  Montagu,  when  about  fourteen 
days  old,  the  restless  disposition  of  these  birds  appears  to  cease, 
for  after  that,  this  Cuckoo  suffered  young  birds  to  remain  un¬ 
molested  in  the  nest. 

“  From  a  hut  formed  of  heath,  within  sixteen  feet  of  the 
same  nest,  on  Saturday  the  30th  of  June,  I  made  the  follow- 


vol.  in. 


Iv 


130 


CUCULUS  CANORUS. 


ing  observations.  The  male  Titlark  had  disappeared  for  two 
or  three  days,  having  been,  in  all  probability,  destroyed  by  a 
Sparrow  Hawk,  which  had  young  ones  in  the  neighbourhood. 
The  female,  notwithstanding  the  loss  of  her  partner,  continued 
to  shew  to  the  Cuckoo  the  same  unremitting  kindness.  Before 
she  went  to  feed  it,  she  always  alighted  upon  the  top  of  a 
Scotch  fir,  where  she  remained  for  some  minutes  looking 
anxiously  around.  She  then  flew  down  upon  the  ground  at 
the  distance  of  several  yards  from  the  nest,  making  zig-zag 
windings,  and  occasionally  standing  still.  She  brought  to  it 
sometimes  snails,  at  other  times  a  mouthful  of  large  worms, 
some  of  which  w^ere  more  than  three  inches  in  length.  One 
might  have  almost  been  inclined  to  believe  that  she  was  aware 
of  the  nature  of  the  intruder  and  the  voracity  of  its  disposition, 
for  I  have  never  seen  any  of  them  bring  such  quantities  of  meat 
when  feeding  their  own  young.  At  the  regularity  with  which 
she  supplied  its  wants,  I  was  truly  surprised.  For  nine  suc¬ 
cessive  hours,  during  which  I  had  watched  her,  she  gave  it 
food  exactly  four  times  in  each  hour.  I  remained  until  nine 
o’clock.  She  however  left  off  her  parental  duties  at  a  quarter 
past  eight  o’clock.  In  the  morning  she  attempted  to  satisfy  its 
craving  appetite  more  frequently,  generally  seven  or  eight  times 
within  the  hour. 

“  I  shall  now  give  you  a  short  account  of  the  manner  in  which 
the  egg  that  I  lately  sent  you  wTas  discovered  to  have  been  depo¬ 
sited  in  the  nest  of  the  titlark.  In  its  size,  tint,  and  markings 
it  was  the  same  as  the  one  out  of  which  the  Cuckoo  was  hatched, 
wdiose  habits  I  have  just  now  described.  Two  sons  of  Mr  David 
Tripeny,  farmer  in  Coxmuir,  asserted  to  me,  that  upon  Sun¬ 
day  forenoon  the  24th  of  June  183S,  when  they  were  sitting 
in  a  plantation  tending  their  cattle,  they  saw  a  Cuckoo  alight 
at  no  great  distance  from  them,  upon  a  hillock  of  moss.  It 
picked  up  an  egg  with  its  bill,  and  after  having  looked  round 
about  as  if  to  ascertain  whether  there  was  any  one  in  sight,  it 
hopped  down  with  it  amongst  the  heath.  The  lads  immediately 
ran  to  the  place  into  which  they  had  observed  it  descend,  and 
when  at  the  distance  of  about  six  feet,  they  saw  it  rise  from 
the  side  of  a  titlark’s  nest  into  which  it  had  introduced  its  head. 


GREY  CUClvOO. 


131 


In  the  nest,  which  was  arched  over  with  strong  heath,  and  had 
a  narrow  entrance  from  the  side,  there  was  a  newly  dropped 
Cuckoo’s  egg  along  with  one  of  the  titlark’s  own.  As  I  have 
no  reason  to  doubt  the  accuracy  of  this  observation,  it  confirms 
the  statement  of  the  celebrated  Vaillant  with  respect  to  the 
Gilded  Cuckoo,  although  the  correctness  of  it  is  questioned  by 
some,  namely,  that  she  puts  her  eggs  into  different  kinds  of 
nests  by  conveying  them  with  her  bill,  and  satisfactorily  ac¬ 
counts  for  the  way  in  which  the  Common  Cuckoo,  in  some 
instances  at  least,  is  enabled  to  deposit  her  eggs. 

“  Two  eggs  of  the  Cuckoo  are  sometimes  dropped  in  the  same 
nest.  One  forenoon  about  the  middle  of  June  last,  in  the  nest 
of  a  Titlark  in  my  neighbourhood,  built  amongst  heath,  and 
which  contained  three  eggs,  there  were  two  Cuckoo’s  eggs.  In 
this  nest  it  was  observed  that  the  Cuckoo’s  eggs  were  hatched 
fully  a  day  sooner  than  those  of  the  Titlark.  On  the  third 
or  fourth  day  after  this,  the  young  Titlarks  were  found  lying 
dead  on  the  ground,  and  the  Cuckoos  were  in  possession  of  the 
nest.  They  remained  together  in  it  nearly  five  days.  On  the 
morning  of  the  sixth  day,  however,  one  of  them  had  disap¬ 
peared,  and  the  other,  which  was  the  strongest,  was  brought 
up  by  its  foster  parents  until  it  was  able  to  provide  for  itself. 
It  is  very  probable  that  the  young  birds  which  so  soon  dis¬ 
appear  after  they  have  been  ejected  from  their  nests,  are  car¬ 
ried  away  by  mice,  as  these  animals  prowl  about  at  night  in 
pursuit  of  their  food.  I  have  heard  the  old  Cuckoos  crying 
during  every  hour  of  the  day  and  night.  They  cease  to  emit 
their  notes  about  the  middle  of  July,  and  are  seldom  seen  be¬ 
yond  that  time.  The  young  disappear  about  the  middle  or  end 
of  September.” 

It  has  been  supposed  that  Cuckoos  do  not  pair,  but  live  in 
promiscuous  concubinage,  the  fruits  of  which  are  consigned  to 
the  charge  of  other  birds  ;  and  the  supposition  may  prove  cor¬ 
rect,  although  as  yet  observations  are  wanting  to  confirm  it. 
The  old  birds  arrive  in  full  plumage,  and  depart  without  hav¬ 
ing  moulted.  The  young  also  take  their  departure  previously 
to  moulting,  which,  as  in  the  old  birds,  takes  place  in  winter. 
A  young  Cuckoo  kept  by  the  late  Mr  George  Carfrae,  being 


132 


CUC ULUS  CANORUS. 

fed  on  flesh,  continued  alive  until  the  end  of  the  following 
spring,  when  it  had  assumed  the  colours  of  the  old  bird,  only 
that  the  fore-neck  and  breast  were  tinged  with  red,  and  the 
back  with  brown.  Mr  Richardson,  engraver,  in  Preston 
Street,  Edinburgh,  obtained  in  the  summer  of  1838,  a  young 
Cuckoo  unable  to  fly,  which  he  fed  chiefly  with  meat.  It 
lived  through  the  winter,  having  been  kept  near  the  fire,  and 
is  now,  on  the  20th  of  October  1839,  in  good  health.  It  moult¬ 
ed  in  spring  for  the  first  time,  and  then  assumed  the  plumage 
of  the  adult.  It  is  very  seldom  however  that  one  can  be  rear¬ 
ed  in  captivity  and  brought  through  the  winter.  Another  in¬ 
dividual  which  I  have  seen  had  not  moulted  in  November 
when  it  died,  and  one  kept  by  Montagu  from  July  till  the 
14th  of  December,  underwent  no  change  of  plumage.  I  am 
therefore  not  inclined  to  credit  the  assertion  of  INI.  Temminck 
and  others,  that  when  the  young  depart  in  autumn,  “  they 
have  all  the  upper  parts  of  a  uniform  very  dark  olivaceous  grey ; 
some  faint  reddish  bands  on  the  nape  ;  broader  bars  of  the 
same  colour  on  the  secondary  quills  ;  the  throat  and  breast 
transversely  barred  with  reddish-grey  and  black  ;  but  all  the 
rest  of  the  plumage  precisely  as  in  adult  individuals.'” 

In  speaking  of  the  Song  Thrush,  I  adduced,  as  related  by 
Mr  Weir,  an  instance  of  its  feeding  a  young  Cuckoo.  An¬ 
other  of  the  same  nature  is  related  by  the  Bishop  of  Norwich, 
in  his  Familiar  History  of  Birds.  The  case  was  this  : — A 
young  Cuckoo  was  taken  from  the  nest  of  a  Hedge-Sparrow, 
and  a  few  days  afterwards,  a  young  Thrush,  scarcely  fledged, 
was  put  into  the  same  cage.  The  latter  could  feed  itself,  but 
the  Cuckoo,  its  companion,  was  obliged  to  be  fed  with  a  quill ; 
in  a  short  time,  however,  the  Thrush  took  upon  itself  the  task 
of  feeding  its  fellow  prisoner,  and  continued  so  to  do  with  the 
utmost  care,  bestowing  every  possible  attention,  and  manifest¬ 
ing  the  greatest  anxiety  to  satisfy  its  continual  cravings  for 
food.  “  The  following,”  he  continues,  “  is  a  still  more  extraor¬ 
dinary  instance,  corroborating  the  above,  and  for  the  truth  of 
which  we  can  vouch  in  every  particular.  A  young  Thrush, 
just  able  to  feed  itself,  had  been  placed  in  a  cage  ;  a  short  time 
afterwards  a  young  Cuckoo,  which  could  not  feed  itself,  was 


GREYr  CUCKOO. 


133 


introduced  into  the  same  cage,  a  large  wicker  one,  and  for  some 
time  it  was  with  much  difficulty  fed ;  at  length  however  it  was 
observed  that  the  young  Thrush  was  employed  in  feeding  it, 
the  Cuckoo  opening  its  mouth  and  sitting  on  the  upper  perch, 
and  making  the  Thrush  hop  down  to  fetch  food  up.  One  day 
when  it  was  thus  expecting  its  food  in  this  way,  the  Thrush 
seeing  a  worm  put  into  the  cage  could  not  resist  the  tempta¬ 
tion  of  eating  it,  upon  which  the  Cuckoo  immediately  descend¬ 
ed  from  its  perch,  and  attacking  the  Thrush,  literally  tore  one 
of  its  eyes  quite  out,  and  then  hopped  back  :  the  poor  Thrush 
felt  itself  obliged  to  take  up  some  food  in  the  lacerated  state  it 
was  in.  The  eye  healed  in  course  of  time,  and  the  Thrush 
continued  its  occupation  as  before,  till  the  Cuckoo  was  full 
grown.11 

A  case  of  a  like  nature,  but  referring  to  the  Cow  Bunting,  a 
small  bird  whose  mode  of  propagation  is  similar  to  that  of  the 
Grey  Cuckoo,  is  related  by  Wilson,  in  his  American  Ornitho¬ 
logy.  Having  taken  from  the  nest  of  a  Maryland  Yellow- 
throat,  a  young  male  Cow  Bunting,  he  “  placed  it  in  the  same 
cage  with  a  Red  Bird,  Loxia  cardinalis ,  who  at  first,  and  for 
several  minutes  after,  examined  it  closely,  and  seemingly  with 
great  curiosity.  It  soon  became  clamorous  for  food,  and  from 
that  moment  the  Red  Bird  seemed  to  adopt  it  as  his  own,  feed¬ 
ing  it  with  all  the  assiduity  and  tenderness  of  the  most  affec¬ 
tionate  nurse.  When  he  found  that  the  Grasshopper  which  he 
had  brought  it  was  too  large  for  it  to  swallow,  he  took  the  in¬ 
sect  from  it,  broke  it  in  small  portions,  chewed  them  a  little 
to  soften  them,  and,  with  all  the  gentleness  and  delicacy  ima¬ 
ginable,  put  them  separately  into  its  mouth.  He  often  spent 
several  minutes  in  looking  at  and  examining  it  all  over,  and  in 
picking  off  any  particles  of  dirt  that  he  observed  on  its  plum¬ 
age.’1  But  this  assumption  of  the  office  of  a  nurse  has  been 
manifested  by  many  birds  of  the  orders  Cantatores,  Deglubi- 
tores,  and  Vagatores,  with  regard  to  helpless  individuals,  not 
only  of  their  own  but  of  other  species  ;  insomuch  that  it  would 
seem  to  result  from  the  excitement  of  the  parental  instinct  ef¬ 
fected  by  the  solicitations  of  the  destitute  orphan. 

Young.— The  young  Cuckoo  when  fledged  may  bo  described 


134 


CUCULUS  CANORUS. 


as  follows.  The  bill,  which  is  much  shorter  and  less  curved 
than  that  of  the  adult,  is  dusky,  with  the  sides  of  both  mandi¬ 
bles  yellowish  ;  the  iris  brown,  the  feet  and  claws  dull  yellow, 
the  latter  a  little  dusky  towards  the  end.  The  upper  parts  are 
transversely  banded  with  light  red  and  dark  greyish-brown, 
most  of  the  feathers  being  also  tipped  with  reddish -white.  The 
alula,  primary  quills  and  their  coverts  are  clove-brown,  narrow¬ 
ly  tipped  with  reddish-white,  marked  along  their  outer  webs 
with  squarish  spots  of  light  red,  and  on  their  inner  with  bars 
of  paler  red,  the  spots  and  bars  not  extending  to  the  shafts  ;  the 
secondary  quills  and  their  coverts  are  like  the  back.  There  is 
more  red  on  the  rump,  and  the  tail-feathers  are  diagonally 
banded  with  light  red  and  blackisli-brown,  with  a  white  tip, 
the  part  of  each  red  band  close  to  the  shaft  being  also  white. 
On  the  occiput  are  generally  some  partially  white  feathers. 
The  fore-part  and  sides  of  the  neck  are  transversely  banded 
with  blackish-brown  and  white,  more  or  less  tinged  with  red. 
The  rest  of  the  lower  parts,  including  the  wing-coverts,  are 
white,  with  narrower  and  more  distant  bands  of  dusky  ;  the 
lower  tail  coverts  reddish-white,  with  dusky  spots  and  imper¬ 
fect  bars. 

The  above  description  is  taken  from  a  bird  shot  in  Forfar¬ 
shire,  and  having  the  bill  two-twelfths  of  an  inch  shorter  than 
that  of  an  adult,  with  the  tail-feathers  not  fully  developed.  M. 
Temminck  is  therefore  in  error  when  he  describes  this  state  of 
plumage  as  characteristic  of  the  bird  when  a  year  old  Top  of 
the  head,  nape,  back  and  all  the  coverts  of  the  wings  transverse¬ 
ly  barred  with  deep  red  and  black ;  quills  blackish,  terminated 
by  a  small  white  spot  ;  the  ovoidal  spots  of  the  inner  barbs  of 
a  reddish- white  ;  on  the  outer  barbs  red  square  spots  ;  feathers 
of  the  tail  red,  marked  with  diagonal  black  bands  ;  a  broad 
transverse  band  towards  the  end,  and  all  tipped  with  white  ; 
on  the  shafts  small  white  spots  ;  sides  and  fore  part  of  the 
neck  of  a  reddish-white  with  numerous  blackish-bands.” 

A  young  bird  having  the  tail  and  wings  yet  so  short  that  it 
was  unable  to  fly,  and  which  was  found  in  the  King's  Park 
near  Edinburgh,  was  similar  to  the  above,  but  with  the  upper 
parts  darker,  and  an  individual  sent  to  me  by  Mr  Weir  in  1838 
was  coloured  in  the  same  manner.  At  this  early  age  M.  Tern- 


GREY  CUCKOO. 


135 

minck  describes  it  as  follows: — At  the  period  of  leaving  the  nest, 
the  young  have  all  the  upper  parts  of  a  greyish-brown  ;  the  fea¬ 
thers  and  quills  terminated  by  a  white  band  ;  red  spots  disposed 
upon  the  wings,  and  those  of  an  ovoidal  form  on  the  inner  barbs 
of  the  quills,  equally  red  ;  a  large  white  spot  on  the  occiput ;  fore¬ 
part  of  the  neck  and  breast  marked  with  very  close  blackish 
bands ;  belly,  thighs  and  abdomen  whitish,  with  black  bands 
as  in  the  adults.”  It  is  only  however  when  the  feathers  aro 
yet  short  that  the  upper  parts  are  greyish-brown,  with  whitish 
bands,  for  when  they  elongate,  the  red  bars  appear.  Mr  Selby’s 
figure  of  an  individual  a  little  more  advanced  is  very  inaccurate, 
for  the  black  bands  on  the  tail  are  transverse,  which  is  never 
the  case  in  any  young  Cuckoo,  and  the  markings  in  general  arc 
very  rudely  represented. 

M.  Temmi nek’s  account  of  44  the  young  at  the  time  of 
leaving  the  nest”  is  thus  sufficiently  correct;  but  his  44  Cuckoo 
at  the  age  of  one  year,”  is  merely  the  young  fully  fledged  ;  and 
his  44  young  such  as  they  are  when  they  emigrate  in  autumn” 
either  imaginary,  or  birds  in  the  first  spring,  and  indeed  he 
elsewhere  states  that  the  young  do  not  moult  before  their  de¬ 
parture.  His  statements  as  to  the  44  Coucou  roux,  or  Cuculus 
hepaticus  of  the  systems,”  are  therefore  partly  incorrect.  In 
this  state,  as  I  have  shewn,  it  is  merely  the  fully-feathered 
young  bird,  and  not  44  the  common  grey  Cuckoo  in  its  second 
year.”  He  is  aware  that  this  rufous  bird  is  never  seen  in  spring 
in  the  northern  countries,  and  therefore  he  supposes  that  the 
Cuckoo  during  its  second  year  remains  in  the  southern  and 
eastern  parts  of  Europe,  where  he  has  often  followed  them  for 
hours  in  the  beginning  of  spring.  The  fact  appears  to  bo 
merely  this.  The  young  Cuckoo  departs  in  its  first  plumage, 
moults  in  the  south  in  early  spring,  revisits  its  native  country 
in  the  beginning  of  summer,  when  it  is  grey  glossed  with  green 
on  the  upper  parts,  but  has  brownish  bars  on  the  sides  of  the 
neck,  and  frequently  a  few  of  the  feathers  of  the  first  plumage 
remaining.  In  this  state  many  authors  have  described  it  as 
the  adult  female  ;  but  the  latter  I  have  found  of  the  same 
colours  as  the  male  ;  and  these  grey  Cuckoos  tinged  with  red 
or  brown,  are  both  male  and  female. 


136 


COCCYZUS.  cowcow. 


Bill  nearly  as  long  as  the  head,  slender,  arcuato-declinate, 
broader  than  high  at  the  base,  compressed  toward  the  end, 
acute  ;  upper  mandible  with  the  dorsal  line  arcuato-declinate, 
the  ridge  narrow  but  obtuse,  the  sides  sloping  at  the  base,  con¬ 
vex  and  erect  toward  the  end,  the  edges  sharp,  with  a  slight 
notch  close  to  the  declinate  acute  tip  ;  lower  mandible  with 
the  angle  short,  the  dorsal  line  slightly  decurved,  the  ridge 
rather  narrow,  the  sides  nearly  erect,  toward  the  end  convex, 
the  edges  sharp,  the  tip  narrow  and  rather  obtuse  ;  the  gape¬ 
line  arcuate. 

Tongue  very  slender,  thin,  emarginate  at  the  base,  with  long 
slender  papillae,  the  edges  toward  the  end  lacerated,  the  tip 
rather  acute.  (Esophagus  rather  wide,  tapering ;  proventri- 
culus  rather  large  ;  stomach  large,  roundish,  with  the  muscu¬ 
lar  coat  very  thin,  and  composed  of  a  single  series  of  small 
fasciculi ;  the  cuticular  lining  soft ;  intestine  of  moderate 
length,  rather  wide  ;  coeca  large,  oblong. 

Nostrils  linear-elliptical  or  oblong,  half-closed  by  a  membrane. 
Eyes  of  moderate  size ;  eyelids  bare,  unless  at  the  margin. 
Feet  short;  tarsus  feathered  one-third  down,  rather  stout, 
with  seven  very  broad  scutella.  Toes  small,  broad  beneath ; 
the  first  very  small,  the  third  longest,  the  fourth  longer  than 
the  second,  and  reversed.  Claws  rather  small,  arched,  much 
compressed,  laterally  grooved,  acute. 

Plumage  soft  and  blended  ;  the  feathers  ovate,  with  a  short 
plumule.  Wings  of  moderate  length,  pointed,  with  twenty 
quills  ;  primaries  tapering  and  rounded,  the  first  a  third  shorter 
than  the  second,  the  third  longest ;  secondaries  short,  broad, 
rounded.  Tail  very  long,  graduated,  of  ten  feathers. 

This  genus  differs  from  Cuculus  chiefly  in  having  the  bill 
more  arched,  the  nostrils  linear  in  place  of  elliptical,  and  with¬ 
out  a  prominent  margin,  and  the  tail  composed  of  ten  instead 
of  twelve  feathers. 


COCCYZUS  AMERICANUS.  THE  YELLOW- 

BILLED  COWCOW. 


CAROLINA  CUCKOO.  COWBIRD.  RAIN-CROW. 

Cuculus  americanus.  Lirm.  Syst,  Nat.  I.  170. 

Cuculus  americanus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  219. 

Cuculus  carolinensis.  Wils.  Amer.  Orn.  IV.  13. 

Coccyzus  americanus.  Audub.  Synops.  187. 

Coccyzus  americanus.  Carolina  Cuckoo.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  155. 


Bill  brownish-black  above ,  yellow  beneath  ;  plumage  of  the 
upper  parts  light  greenish-brown ,  the  head  tinged  with  grey ,  of 
the  lower  parts  silvery  white ;  tail-feathers ,  the  middle  excepted , 
brownish-black ,  tipped  with  white. 

Male. — This  elegantly  formed  but  plainly  coloured  bird  lias 
occurred  so  seldom  in  Britain,  that  I  am  obliged  to  have  re¬ 
course  to  specimens  from  its  native  country,  for  its  form  and 
plumage,  and  to  the  works  of  Mr  Audubon,  for  its  habits.  It 
is  considerably  inferior  in  size  to  the  Grey  Cuckoo,  and  of  a 
more  delicate  form,  having  the  body  slender,  the  neck  of  mo¬ 
derate  length,  the  head  rather  small.  The  bill  is  slender, 
considerably  arched,  and  in  all  respects  as  described  in  the 
generic  character.  The  roof  of  the  mouth  is  flat ;  the  upper 
mandible  very  narrow  toward  the  end,  slightly  concave,  with 
three  longitudinal  ridges,  the  lower  deeply  channelled.  The 
tongue  is  very  slender,  ten  and  a  half  twelfths  long,  horny  in 
the  greater  part  of  its  length,  with  the  edges  lacerated,  and  the 
tip  rather  acute.  On  the  tarsi,  which  are  short,  and  rather 
stout,  are  seven  very  large  scutella,  which  almost  meet  behind  ; 
the  first  toe  has  six,  the  second  eight,  the  third  twelve,  the 
fourth  sixteen  scutella  ;  the  toes  are  small,  and  the  claws 
slender  and  somewhat  bluntly  pointed.  The  plumage  is  blended, 
on  the  upper  parts  somewhat  compact  and  glossy.  The  third 


J  38 


COCCYZUS  AMERICANUS. 


quill  is  longest,  the  second  and  fifth  are  nearly  equal,  and  the 
first  is  as  long  as  the  seventh.  The  lateral  tail-feathers  are 
two  inches  and  a  quarter  shorter  than  the  middle. 

The  upper  mandible  is  brownish-black,  its  basal  margins 
and  nearly  the  whole  of  the  lower  mandible  yellow,  of  which 
colour  also  is  the  bare  space  about  the  eye.  The  iris  is  hazel, 
the  tarsi  and  toes  are  greyish-blue,  the  claws  black.  The  gene¬ 
ral  colour  of  the  upper  parts  is  light  greenish-brown,  the  head 
tinged  with  grey  ;  that  of  the  lower  greyish  or  silvery  white, 
the  inner  webs  of  the  quills  are  brownish-orange.  The  tail- 
feathers,  the  two  middle  excepted,  which  are  coloured  like  the 
back,  are  brownish -black,  tipped  with  white,  of  which  colour 
is  nearly  the  whole  outer  web  of  the  lateral  feathers. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  12  J  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  16  ;  bill 
along  the  ridge  Tf  ;  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  1T%  ; 
wing  from  flexure  5T82  ;  tail  oT8^  ;  tarsus  1  ;  hind  toe  T\,  its 
claw  ;  second  toe  T7g,  its  claw  '■>  fourth  toe  T95,  its  cla'w 

;  fifth  toe  Ji,  its  claw  j u • 

Female. — The  female  resembles  the  male  in  colour,  and  is 
little  inferior  in  size.  One  which  I  examined  for  Mr  Audubon 
had  the  oesophagus  three  inches  and  seven  twelfths  long,  six 
twelfths  wide  at  the  commencement,  gradually  diminishing  to 
four  twelfths  ;  the  proventriculus  five  twelfths  in  breadth  ;  the 
stomach  very  large,  broadly  elliptical,  compressed,  an  inch  and 
two  twelfths  long,  one  inch  in  breadth  ;  its  walls  extremely 
thin,  its  muscular  coat  being  formed  of  a  single  series  of  small 
fasciculi.  Being  distended  with  remains  of  insects,  and  a  great 
quantity  of  hairs,  it  seemed  to  occupy  almost  the  whole  cavity 
of  the  abdomen  beyond  the  sternum.  The  inner  coat,  or  epi¬ 
thelium  was  soft,  destitute  of  rugae,  red,  and  stuck  over  with 
some  of  the  same  kind  of  hairs  as  those  intermixed  with  the 
remains  of  the  insects.  The  proventricular  glands  large,  cylin¬ 
drical,  forming  a  belt  about  nine  twelfths  broad.  The  pylorus 
extremely  small,  with  a  thickened  margin  ;  the  intestine  four¬ 
teen  inches  and  three  quarters  long,  its  width  from  three  and 
a  quarter  twelfths  to  two  and  a  half  twelfths  ;  the  coeca  one 
inch  and  eight  twelfths  long,  oblong,  narrow  at  the  commence- 


YELLOW-BILLED  COWCOW. 


139 


ment ;  the  cloaca  oblong.  The  digestive  organs  are  thus  in 
all  respects  precisely  similar  to  those  of  the  European  Grey 
Cuckoo. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  Ilf  inches;  to  end  of  wings  9  ;  extent 
of  wings  1 5| ;  wing  from  flexure  ;  tail  5j\. 

Habits. — The  Yellow-billed  Cowcow  is  distributed  over  the 
United  States  of  America  from  Texas  to  Nova  Scotia,  and  ex¬ 
tends  into  the  interior  as  far  as  the  Rocky  Mountains.  It  breeds 
in  all  these  districts,  which  it  visits  from  March  to  May,  re¬ 
tiring  about  the  middle  of  autumn,  although  some  remain  in 
Florida  through  the  winter.  Its  habits  have  been  described 
by  Wilson,  and  Mr  Audubon ;  but  in  the  works  of  the  latter 
observer  are  found  many  particulars  relative  to  its  manners  and 
organization  not  contained  in  that  of  the  former.  To  him 
therefore  I  have  recourse  for  the  following  condensed  notice 
respecting  it.  Moving  with  a  rapid  and  silent  flight  from  one 
place  to  another,  it  wends  its  way  with  ease  among  the  bran¬ 
ches,  occasionally  inclining  its  body  to  either  side.  When 
migrating  southward,  it  flies  high,  in  loose  flocks,  but  arrives 
singly  in  spring,  the  males  preceding  the  females.  Its  notes 
resemble  the  word  cozv ,  repeated  eight  or  ten  times,  whence  its 
name  of  Cowcow  or  Cowbird.  It  feeds  on  insects  and  larvae, 
occasionally  on  eggs  of  small  birds ;  and,  in  its  turn,  often  falls 
a  prey  to  the  Pigeon  Hawk.  Berries  of  many  kinds,  as  well 
as  grapes,  afford  an  abundant  supply  of  food  in  autumn.  On 
the  ground  “  they  are  extremely  awkward  at  walking,  and 
move  in  an  ambling  manner,  or  leap  along  sidewise,  for  which 
the  shortness  of  their  legs  is  ample  excuse."  The  nest  is  flat, 
formed  of  sticks  and  grass,  and  placed  on  a  horizontal  branch, 
often  not  far  above  the  ground.  The  eggs,  four  or  five,  are 
bright  green,  and  of  an  elongated  oval  form. 

In  June  1837,  Mr  Audubon  visited  at  Charleston,  the 
grounds  of  Mr  Rliett,  to  examine  a  nest  of  this  species,  in  which 
were  found  two  young  birds  nearly  able  to  fly,  which  scrambled 
off  among  the  branches,  but  were  caught ;  three  others,  all  of 
different  sizes,  one  apparently  just  hatched,  another  probably 
several  days  old,  the  third,  covered  with  pin-feathers  ;  lastly, 


HO 


COCCYZUS  AMERICAN  US. 


two  eggs,  one  containing  a  chick,  the  other  newly  laid.  Mr 
Rhett  stated  that  in  another  nest  “  eleven  young  birds  had 
been  successively  hatched  and  reared  by  the  same  pair,  in  one 
season,  and  that  young  birds  and  eggs  were  to  be  seen  in  it  at 
the  same  time  for  many  weeks  in  succession. Dr  T.  M. 
Brewer,  of  Boston,  corroborates  this  statement,  observing  that 
“  the  female  evidently  commences  incubation  immediately 
after  laying  her  first  egg.  Thus  I  have  found  in  the  nest  of 
both  our  Cuckoos  one  egg  quite  fresh,  while  in  another  the 
chick  will  be  just  bursting  the  shell ;  and  again,  I  have  found 
an  egg  just  about  to  be  hatched,  while  others  are  already  so, 
and  some  of  the  young  even  about  to  fly.” 

Now  the  stomach  of  both  this  species  and  the  Black-billed, 
which  incubate  and  rear  their  young,  being  as  large  as  that  of 
our  European  Cuckoo,  and  their  food  the  same,  namely  hairy 
worms  and  insects,  the  reasoning  founded  on  these  facts  to  ex¬ 
plain  the  peculiar  habits  of  the  latter  bird,  is  obviously  false. 
This  succession  of  eggs  and  young  in  the  same  nest  at  consi¬ 
derable  intervals,  is  one  of  the  most  curious  phenomena  in  the 
history  of  birds,  and  nearly  as  marvellous  as  that  which  has 
rendered  so  celebrated  the  Grey  Cuckoo. 

An  individual  of  this  species  was  killed  in  the  preserves  of 
Lord  Cawdor,  in  Wales,  in  the  autumn  of  1832,  and  is  now 
in  the  museum  of  the  Zoological  Society  of  London.  Another 
is  stated  to  have  been  obtained  in  Cornwall,  and  Ireland  has 
furnished  two  more.  The  species  thus  merely  ranks  with  us 
as  a  very  rare  straggler. 

RexMarks. — Mr  Jenyns  calls  the  tarsi  of  this  bird  “  long,” 
although  by  his  own  statement  they  measure  not  quite  an  inch. 
In  the  second  part  of  a  popular  compilation  entitled  “  The 
Natural  History  of  the  Birds  of  Great  Britain  and  Ireland,” 
published  in  October  1839,  it  is  said  that  “  for  all  that  we 
know  of  its  habits  we  are  indebted  to  Alexander  Wilson.” 
On  the  contrary,  all  that  is  related  above  of  its  habits  is  derived 
from  John  James  Audubon. 


.141 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 

EIGHTH  LESSON. 

EAGLE-SHOOTING.  ORGANS  OF  SENSATION  OF  THE  RAPACIOUS  BIRDS  ; 

STRUCTURE  OF  THE  EYE,  NASAL  PASSAGES,  EAR,  AND  TONGUE.  OR¬ 
GANS  OF  RESPIRATION  OF  VULTURES,  HAWKS,  AND  OWLS. 

Having  examined  the  series  of  land  birds  characterized  by 
their  habit  of  walking  or  leaping  on  the  ground  or  on  trees, 
when  searching  for  their  food,  we  now  come  to  those  which,  in 
pursuing  their  prey,  are  incapable  of  advancing  through  the 

instrumentality  of  what  anatomists  call  their  sacral  extremi- 

•> 

ties,  but  trust  entirely  to  those  named  the  atlantal,  although 
generally  they  can  lioj)  or  hobble  on  the  ground,  and  a  few 
perform  there  a  kind  of  locomotion  not  altogether  unworthy  of 
being  called  walking. 

It  is  now  the  early  part  of  summer,  and  we  have  anticipated 
the  sun,  for  while  with  our  guns  we  advance  along  the  hill  side, 
he  still  lingers  behind  the  grey  mass  of  granite  that  obstructs 
our  View  of  the  Minsli.  The  sandy  pastures  have  assumed  a 
lively  tint  of  green,  the  yellow  pile  wort  and  pink-tipped  daisy 
are  scattered  profusely  around,  and  the  Draba  verna  strives, 
half  in  vain,  to  ornament  the  turf  of  the  rude  stone-wall,  on 
which  are  seen  a  pair  of  Wheatears,  anxious  for  the  safety  of 
their  not  yet  finished  nest.  Although  the  Golden  Plovers 
have  betaken  themselves  to  the  moors,  and  the  Redwings 
have  fled  to  the  north,  the  mellow  notes  of  the  gentle  Ring 
Dottrel  come  from  the  pebbly  beach,  the  cry  of  the  Cuckoo 
is  heard  on  the  hill,  the  Snipe  drums  away  on  rapid  wing, 
and  the  little  bays  are  filled  with  flocks  of  Terns,  screaming 
joyously  as  they  pursue  the  shoals  of  sand-eels.  Hark  to  the 
cry  of  the  Corn  Crake  issuing  apparently  from  that  patch  of 


142 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


yellow  iris,  whose  light  green  leaves  are  scarcely  yet  long 
enough  to  conceal  it ;  and  now  bursts  from  the  summit  of  that 
moss-clad  crag,  projecting  from  the  granite  vein,  the  mellow 
song  of  the  ever-welcome  Thrush. 

Here  on  the  shore  the  rocks  are  clad  with  a  profusion  of 
scurvy-grass,  rose-root,  and  beautiful  tufts  of  sea-pink.  Flocks 
of  Ilock  Doves,  mixed  with  Starlings,  issue  from  the  coves  at 
the  base  of  the  tall  cliff,  which  seems  to  frown  in  scorn  on  the 
sullen  waves  that  in  vain  strive  to  scale  its  sides,  as  they  rush 
gloomily  in  from  the  Atlantic.  The  sun  now  shoots  its  bright 
beams  across  the  shelves  of  the  gneiss  rock ;  having  reached 
the  margin  of  which,  let  us  ascend  some  hundred  yards,  and 
cast  our  eyes  over  the  wide  waste  of  waters.  Far  away  in  the 
north-west  are  the  dimly-discovered  hummocks  named  the 
Flannan  Isles ;  nearer  is  the  rock  of  Gaskir,  the  resort  of 
multitudes  of  seals  ;  and  still  nearer,  though  yet  many  miles 

i 

distant,  the  little  group  of  the  Glorik  Hocks,  on  which  thou¬ 
sands  of  Gulls  and  Terns  rear  their  young,  usually  in  security, 
though  sometimes  plundered  by  the  prowling  crew  of  one  of 
the  few  boats  that  venture  far  upon  those  desolate  seas,  where 
the  sight  of  a  ship  is  a  phenomenon  that  calls  forth  the  admi¬ 
ration  of  the  shepherd,  as  he  rests  by  the  mountain  cairn.  The 
frolicsome  lambkins  chase  each  other  around  their  dams  that 
are  quietly  grazing  among  the  heath.  See,  here  is  a  skin, 
with  the  skull  and  legs  appended, — all  that  has  been  left  by 
some  hungry  polecat  or  raven.  Take  care,  good  pupil,  for 
being  literally  on  the  brink  of  a  precipice,  with  about  a  hun¬ 
dred  feet  below  you  the  nest  of  an  Eagle,  which  is  itself  at 
least  four  hundred  feet  from  the  water,  should  you  slip,  you 
will  spoil  our  sport. 

Surely  this  heap  of  stones  must  be  artificial,  and  yet  of 
what  use  can  it  be  l  That  you  will  find  out  presently,  but  in 
the  meantime  pull  from  its  side  the  bunch  of  heather  and  get 
in,  while  I  expose  the  dead  sheep  that  lias  been  left  here  on 
purpose.  Now,  good  pupil,  here  we  are,  in  the  bosom  of 
mother  earth  ;  sit  thee  down,  put  thy  gun  in  trim,  rest  its 
muzzle  on  the  edge  of  that  hole,  point  it  at  the  dead  sheep, 


EAGLE  SHOOTING. 


143 


and  fall  not  asleep,  while  I  read  a  page  or  two  of  this  choice 
hook.  The  eagle  has  not  yet  come  abroad,  and  possibly  the 
first  thing  to  attract  his  notice  may  be  this  very  carcass. 

“  The  Golden  Eagle  has  ever  been  associated  with  majesty 
or  nobility  ;  in  ancient  mythology,  an  eagle  was  alone  thought 
worthy  to  bear  the  thunder  of  Jove.  By  rude  and  savage 
nations  he  is  combined  with  courage  and  independence.  The 
young  Indian  warrior  glories  in  his  eagle’s  plume  as  the  most 
distinguished  ornament  with  which  he  can  adorn  himself.  The 
dress  of  the  Highland  chieftain  is  incomplete  without  this 
badge  of  high  degree.  And  if,  by  the  trammels  of  system 
(which,  nevertheless,  is  indispensable,  when  the  number  of 
objects  to  be  arranged  exceeds  eight  thousand)  we  are  forced 
to  place  him  in  an  aberrant  or  less  honourable  situation,  yet, 
when  met  with  on  his  native  mountains,  free  and  uncontrolled, 
we  cannot  refuse  the  tribute  which  has  been  rendered  to  him 
by  our  predecessors.”  That  we  shaVt.  Let  him  but  present 
himself,  and  he  shall  have  a  tribute  of  buckshot.  But  here  in 
the  bag  are  some  remaining  leaves  of  another  valuable  book, 
and  as  fortune  favours  the  brave,  so  here  we  have  a  sketch  of 
the  Golden  Eagle.  “  Their  feathers  are  tinted  and  tempered 
in  the  fury  of  the  blast ;  and  they  acquire  not  their  full  depth 
and  lustre  till  they  have  borne  that  for  four  successive  winters  ; 
and  so  it  would  be  vain  to  hope  that  we  could  either  obtain  or 
preserve  them  in  confinement.”  Come,  mind  your  gun,  and 
don’t  stare  at  me.  I  read  fairly.  “  Her  strength  of  endurance 
also  enables  her  to  keep  her  footing  and  preserve  her  existence, 
under  circumstances  to  which  the  powers  and  the  life  of  almost 
any  other  animal  would  be  obliged  to  yield.  The  same  elastic 
ligament,  which,  of  its  own  nature,  and  without  effort  from 
the  bird,  compresses  her  toes  in  clutching,  enables  her  to  cling 
to  the  pinnacle  of  the  rock,  and  to  cling  the  more  firmly  the 
ruder  the  blast.  The  claws  are  not  used  in  those  cases,  as  that 
would  injure  their  points  and  unfit  them  for  their  proper  func¬ 
tions  ;  but  the  pads  and  tubercles  hold  on  upon  places  where 
the  foot  of  all  else  would  give  way ;  and  the  Eagle  sits  with 
closed  wings  and  close  plumage,  as  if  part  of  the  rock  itself, 
while  the  wind  roars  and  the  snow  drives,  tearing  the  bushes 


144 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


from  tlieir  roots,  sending  them  rolling  over  the  precipices,  and 
literally  scourging  the  wilderness  with  ruin.  The  strength  of 
the  hill  ox,  the  fleetness  of  the  mountain  deer,  and  the  re¬ 
sources  of  the  mountain  traveller,  are  often  unavailing ;  and 
when  the  storm  breaks,  the  signal  of  the  raven  and  the  crow 
points  out  the  place  of  their  bones  ;  but  the  bones  of  the  eagle 
are  not  thus  given  by  nature  to  be  tugged  at  by  ignoble  birds. 
Queen  of  the  tempest,  she  rides  as  secure  amid  its  fury,  as 
when,  on  a  cloudless  and  breezeless  day,  she  floats  down  the 
valley  with  easy  and  almost  motionless  wing.'1  This  may 
be  poetry,  but,  sure  I  am,  it  is  not  natural  history.  I  have 
seen  an  Eagle  abroad  in  a  tempest,  on  this  very  coast,  and  a 
sad  time  she  had  of  it,  for  when  the  blast  came  upon  her  una¬ 
wares,  she  was  driven  about  by  it,  with  ruffled  feathers,  until 
she  recovered  her  position  and  faced  the  wind.  While  all  the 
time  a  Raven  and  some  Gulls  seemed  to  enjoy  the  exercise  of 
labouring  with  strong  beats  against  the  breeze,  then  with  up¬ 
turned  side  giving  way  to  it,  bearing  up  again  in  an  eddy, 
now  shooting  high,  then  slanting  downward,  the  Eagle  was 
glad  to  make  the  best  of  her  way  to  a  shelf  of  the  rock.  I 
have  seen  storms  here,  that  constrained  the  very  Cormorants 
and  Rock  Doves  to  remain  for  days  in  their  caves,  and  then, 
be  assured,  no  Eagle  was  abroad. 

A  Black-backed  Gull  has  alighted  near  the  carcass.  How 
prettily  it  walks  with  its  small  steps  as  it  eyes  the  carrion 
with  apparently  some  apprehension.  Do  you  think  it  smells 
us  ?  Shall  I  fire  ? — No,  it  will  help  to  entice  the  Eagle, 
which  may  observe  it  from  a  distance.  The  Gull  sees  some¬ 
thing,  as  you  may  perceive  by  its  turning  its  head  to  one  side, 
and  looking  wistfully  upwards.  Heard  you  not  the  croak  of 
the  Raven  ?  Ah  !  there  thou  art,  thou  old  prowler  !  Many 
hard  winters  hast  thou  struggled  through,  and  yet  there  thou 
art  as  grave  and  fierce  as  ever,  with  thy  glossy  plumes  glit¬ 
tering  in  the  morning  sun.  Approach,  fear  not,  for  thou 
slialt  receive  no  harm.  There  he  stands  on  a  tuft,  eyeing  the 
dead  sheep,  and  now  bending  his  body  forward,  he  croaks 
aloud.  Presently  his  mate  will  be  here.  The  Eagle  too, 
knows  the  signal  croak  of  the  Raven.  Should  he  come,  let 


EAGLE  SHOOTING. 


14.) 

him  settle  on  the  carcase,  and  then  let  fly.  In  the  meantime 
it  is  amusing  to  watch  the  carrion  birds.  The  Gull  walks 
about,  scarcely  venturing  a  tug,  but  the  Raven,  alighting  on 
the  head,  strives  to  pick  out  an  eye,  which  he  has  now  done. 
Having  gulped  it  down,  he  croaks  again,  and  is  joined  by  an¬ 
other.  They  tear  up  the  flesh  in  morsels,  and  seem  to  enjoy 
their  good  fortune,  yet  not  without  fear,  for  every  now  and 
then  they  listen  and  cast  a  glance  around. — There,  they  are 
all  off.  Some  sudden  alarm.  Have  they  not  smelt  us  ? — No, 
they  have  seen  a  dog,  or  a  shepherd,  or  an  Eagle  ;  they  have 
not  gone  far. — Beautiful  bird  !  thou  wert  worthy  of  being 
the  thunder-bearer  of  Jupiter  !  There  thou  standest  perched 
on  the  ribs  of  that  dead  sheep,  and  gatherest  up  thy  large 
wings,  and  erectest  thyself,  casting  a  glance  of  pride  on  those 
birds  which  thy  presence  has  awed. — But  the  explosion  puts 
an  end  to  admiration,  and  the  smoke  has  obscured  the  view  ; 
let  us  out,  and  see  what  the  buckshot  has  done  to  those  “  mus¬ 
cles  which  are  as  firm  as  pieces  of  cable,  and  their  tendons 
almost  as  rigid  as  dried  cat-gut  J 

Returning  from  this  imaginative  digression,  we  may  now  ex¬ 
amine  the  organs  of  sense  in  a  bird  of  the  rapacious  family. 

One  well  suited  for  this  purpose  is  the  common  Buzzard, 
which  is  sufficiently  large  to  enable  us  to  see  the  different  parts 
of  the  organs  in  a  satisfactory  manner,  and  not  so  rare  but  that 
a  person  desirous  of  verifying  our  observations  may  contrive  to 
procure  a  specimen.  In  the  head  of  this  bird,  of  which  one 
has  just  arrived  from  Dr  Robertson  of  Dunkeld,  Plate  XVII, 
Fig.  1,  we  observe  externally,  the  upper  mandible,  a  ;  the 
lower  mandible,  b ;  the  tongue,  c ,  with  the  aperture  of  the 
windpipe  at  its  base ;  the  palate,  d ,  having  in  its  median  line, 
the  long  slit,  placed  opposite  the  aperture  of  the  glottis,  and 
into  which,  when  the  mouth  is  shut,  the  air  passes  into  the 
canal  of  the  nose ;  the  cere,  e,  or  bare  skin  at  the  base  of  the 
upper  mandible,  in  which  are  perforated  the  nostrils ;  then  the 
eyes,  over  which  are  the  supraocular  ridges ;  and  lastly,  the 
external  aperture  of  the  ear,  concealed  among  the  plumage. 
Let  us  now  examine  these  parts  in  succession. 

L 


VOL.  III. 


146 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


The  Eye. — The  aperture  left  between  the  eyelids,  when  the 
bird  is  awake,  is  of  a  circular  form,  half  an  inch  in  diameter. 
There  are  two  cantlii,  or  angles,  slightly  marked,  an  anterior 
or  inner,  and  a  posterior  or  outer.  Of  the  eye  itself  the  cornea, 
or  transparent  part,  projects  considerably,  and  through  it  we 
perceive  the  iris,  an  annular  membrane  of  a  yellow  colour, 
surrounding  a  circular  space,  the  pupil,  through  which  the 
black  colour  of  the  interior  of  the  eye  is  seen.  The  eye  is  de¬ 
fended  externally  by  the  Eyelids ,  of  which  there  are  two,  an 
upper  and  a  lower.  Over  the  latter  is  a  thin  ridge,  projecting 
horizontally,  and  named,  from  its  position,  the  Supraocular 
Midge.  It  is  produced  by  a  thin  flat  bone,  appended  to  the 
frontal,  and  at  its  outer  edge  is  covered  by  a  dense  bare  skin, 
like  the  cere.  The  Upper  Eyelid  is  formed  externally  of  skin, 
covered  with  small  soft  feathers,  internally  of  a  thin  layer  of  a 
fibrous  structure,  and  a  delicate  membrane  continuous  with 
that  of  the  anterior  surface  of  the  eyeball,  and  therefore  named 
the  conjunctiva.  It  has  a  bare  crenate  margin,  fringed  exter¬ 
nally  with  small  bristles,  which  are  the  prolonged  shafts  of  fea¬ 
thers.  This  eyelid  is  very  thin,  having  no  cartilage,  and  so 
narrow  as  not  to  cover  more  than  a  fourth  of  the  eye  when 
closed.  The  Lower  Eyelid  is  much  larger,  covers  three-fourths 
of  the  eye,  and  is  similarly  constructed,  but  on  turning  it  out, 
Fig.  2,  so  as  to  examine  its  inner  surface,  we  find  interposed 
between  the  fibrous  layer  and  the  conjunctiva,  a  concave, 
yellowish- white,  dense,  thin,  flexible,  cartilaginous  plate,  of  a 
circular  form,  which,  when  the  lid  is  raised,  exactly  covers 
the  cornea  or  transparent  part  of  the  eye.  Its  principal  object 
seems  to  be  to  give  firmness  to  the  eyelid ;  but  may  it  not  also 
be  intended  to  prevent,  when  the  bird  is  asleep,  the  transmis¬ 
sion  of  light  through  it  ?  The  eyelids  are  closed  by  means  of  a 
thin  orbicular  muscle,  which  surrounds  the  eye,  and  is  attached 
to  the  inner  edge  of  the  orbit.  A  small  muscle,  the  levator 
palpebrw  superior  is,  arising  from  the  upper  part  of  the  orbit 
internally,  and  attached  to  the  hind  part  of  the  upper  eyelid, 
raises  it  up.  The  lower  eyelid  is  depressed  or  drawn  down  by 
a  corresponding  muscle,  the  depressor  pal pebrce  inferioris , 


STRUCTURE  OF  THE  EYE. 


147 


Removing  these  parts,  we  come  next  to  a  membrane  lying 
in  its  folded  state,  Fig.  4,  along  the  upper  and  fore  edge  of  the 
eye,  but  capable  of  being  stretched  out  so  as  entirely  to  cover 
the  external  surface  of  the  organ.  Fig.  3  represents  this  organ, 
the  Membrana  nictitans ,  which  is  formed  by  a  reduplication  of 
the  tunica  conjunctiva,  and  is  frequently  designated  by  authors 
as  a  third  eyelid.  The  lower  eyelid  turned  down  is  seen  at  a  ; 
the  posterior  bony  edge  of  the  orbit  at  b ,  the  eyeball  covered 
by  the  conjunctiva  at  c,  the  cornea,  through  which  are  seen 
the  iris  and  pupil,  at  d.  The  nictitant  membrane,  e  f  g ,  is 
drawn  over  two-thirds  of  the  eye.  It  is  seen  to  advance  back¬ 
wards  in  an  oblique  manner,  with  a  semicircular  edge,  and 
having  at  its  lower  part  a  very  slender  tendon,  which  passes 
over  the  edge  of  the  eyeball,  in  a  sheath.  But  to  understand 
this  mechanism,  we  must  remove  the  eye,  carefully  separating 
its  muscles.  In  Fig.  6  is  seen  a  small  triangular  muscle,  a , 
named  the  pyramidalis ,  arising  from  the  lower  and  fore  part 
of  the  back  of  the  eyeball,  and  of  which  the  tendon  curves  over 
the  optic  nerve,  and  passing  downwards  over  the  edge  of  the 
eyeball,  ascends  in  front,  and  is  found  to  be  that  of  the  nicti¬ 
tant  membrane,  which  we  were  tracing.  This  position  of  the 
pyramidalis  is  perhaps  rendered  necessary  by  the  great  extent 
of  the  movement  of  the  nictitant  membrane,  the  tendon  of 
which,  unless  curved,  would  be  too  long  to  be  conveniently 
disposed  of.  But  the  optic  nerve,  being  immediately  below 
the  curve  of  the  tendon,  would  be  liable  to  be  injured  by  it, 
were  it  not  for  a  peculiar  contrivance.  A  broad  thin  muscle, 
b ,  of  a  somewhat  square  shape,  and  therefore  named  quadratus , 
arises  from  the  upper  part  of  the  posterior  surface  of  the  eye¬ 
ball,  proceeds  downwards  and  backwards,  and  terminates  in  a 
thin  edge,  of  ligamentous  tissue,  in  which  is  a  sheath,  for  the 
reception  of  the  tendon  of  the  pyramidalis.  The  quadratics 
muscle  acting  simultaneously  with  the  pyramidalis,  the  tendon 
of  the  latter  is  carried  in  an  arch  quite  clear  of  the  optic  nerve. 
The  nictitant  membrane  being  attached  by  its  upper  and  ante¬ 
rior  margin  to  the  eyeball,  and  folding  up  in  consequence  chiefly 
of  its  elasticity,  and  partly  by  the  action  of  some  muscular  fibres, 
forms  no  impediment  to  the  motions  of  the  eyeball.  To  bring 


148 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


it  over  the  eye  effectually  and  expeditiously,  so  as  not  to  obstruct 
vision  for  an  instant,  the  tendon  attached  to  its  free  or  poste¬ 
rior  edge  might  he  placed  high  toward  the  outer  edge  of  the 
orbit ;  but  when  the  membrane  was  retracted,  the  tendon  would 
be  across  the  eye,  or  would  require  some  mechanism  inconsis¬ 
tent  with  the  free  use  of  these  parts.  The  tendon  is  therefore 
carried  over  the  edge  of  the  eyeball,  and  as  it  must  be  drawn 
upwards,  it  is  attached  to  a  muscle,  the  quadratus,  placed  high 
on  the  eyeball ;  but  as  this  direct  connexion  wculd  leave  the 
tendon  too  short,  it  is  continued  farther,  curves  downward,  and 
ends  in  another  muscle  placed  near  the  lower  and  anterior  edge 
of  the  eyeball.  The  uses  of  the  membrana  nictitans  are  to 
clear  the  eye  of  extraneous  objects,  as  dust,  accidentally  intro¬ 
duced,  to  moisten  its  surface  by  diffusing  the  lachrymal  fluid 
over  it,  and  occasionally  to  protect  it  from  the  light. 

Having  removed  from  the  orbit,  or  cavity  in  which  it  was 
contained,  the  Eyeball ,  we  observe  that  it  is  of  enormous  size 
in  proportion  to  that  of  a  quadruped,  being  an  inch  and  one 
eighth  in  diameter.  Its  form  is  not  globular,  but  composed  of 
two  segments  of  unequal  spheres,  and  an  intermediate  portion. 
Viewed  anteriorly,  Fig.  5,  it  presents  the  transparent  con¬ 
vex  cornea,  the  iris  and  pupil ;  a  dark  coloured  rim  to  which  the 
cornea  is  attached,  like  a  watch-glass  in  its  case,  then  a  circle  of 
bony  plates,  included  in  the  fore  part  of  the  rough  glistening 
membrane,  or  sclerotica,  which  bounds  the  posterior  part  of 
the  eye.  Viewed  from  behind,  Fig.  6,  it  presents  a  small 
segment  of  a  large  sphere  formed  by  the  sclerotic  coat,  the  optic 
nerve,  cut  across  at  its  entrance  into  the  eye,  and  the  muscles 
by  which  the  eyeball  is  moved.  Of  these  there  are  six,  four 
straight,  and  two  oblique.  The  recti ,  or  straight  muscles, 
arise  from  the  bottom  of  the  orbit,  around  the  aperture  for 
the  passage  of  the  optic  nerve,  and  are  attached  to  the  eye  by 
thin  tendons,  of  which  the  fibres  blend  with  those  of  the  scle¬ 
rotic  coat.  The  rectus  superior ,  marked  c ,  by  pulling  down  the 
upper  edge  of  the  eyeball,  directs  the  axis  of  the  eye  upwards, 
and  is  thus  named  attollens  oculi .  The  rectus  inferior ,  or  depri- 
meus ,  6?,  has  the  opposite  effect.  The  rectus  posticus ,  exter- 
nus ,  or  abducens ,  e ,  directs  the  axis  of  the  eye  outwards,  while 


STRUCTURE  OF  THE  EYE. 


149 


the  rectus  anticus,  interims ,  or  adducens ,  f  directs  it  forwards. 
Acting  simultaneously,  these  muscles  would  by  compressing 
the  sclerotic  coat,  produce  an  effect  upon  the  internal  parts 
which  will  be  afterwards  explained.  The  two  oblique  muscles 
arise  from  the  inner  or  fore  part  of  the  walls  of  the  orbit,  and 
are  inserted  in  the  same  manner  as  the  recti  :  the  obliquus 
superior ,  g ,  and  obliquus  inferior ,  h,  of  which  the  action  is  to 
direct  the  eye  forwards. 

Viewing  the  eyeball  laterally,  as  in  Fig.  7,  we  observe  that 
its  posterior  surface  forms  the  segment  of  a  sphere,  of  which 
the  radius  is  seven  and  a  half  twelfths  of  an  inch,  while  the 
anterior  or  transparent  part  forms  the  half  of  a  sphere,  of  which 
the  radius  is  three  twelfths  and  a  half.  These  two  segments 
are  united  by  an  intervening  portion,  convex  in  the  greater 
part  of  its  extent,  but  concave  toward  the  anterior  part.  We 
have  now  to  examine  the  structure  of  the  ball  of  the  eye. 

The  dense  membrane  or  coat  which  inverts  the  posterior  part 
of  the  eye,  as  far  as  the  cornea,  b  b,  is  named  the  Tunica  scle¬ 
rotica,  on  account  of  its  comparative  hardness.  It  is  rather 
thin,  firm,  somewhat  elastic,  and  of  a  glistening  bluish  white 
colour.  Although,  according  to  authors,  divisible  into  three 
layers,  it  seems  to  me  to  be  separable  into  two  only,  of  which 
the  inner  is  transparent,  and  of  an  almost  horny  hardness.  But 
at  its  anterior  part,  c  c ,  it  is  strengthened  by  a  broad  belt,  com¬ 
posed  of  a  series  of  distinct  flat  bones,  overlapping  each  other 
by  their  edges,  and  interposed  between  the  inner  and  outer 
membranes.  At  the  anterior  edge  of  this  bony  circle,  the 
membranous  structure  is  resumed  ;  and  lastly,  there  is  a  thick¬ 
ened  margin  of  the  same  nature,  but  of  a  dark  colour,  b  b ,  to 
which  the  remaining  convex  part  of  the  outer  coat  of  the  eye 
is  attached. 

Before  describing  the  sclerotic  bones,  we  may  examine  this 
anterior  membrane,  b  b  b,  which,  on  account  of  its  bearing  some 
resemblance  to  clear  horn,  is  named  the  Tunica  cornea.  It  is 
of  considerable  thickness,  and  has  its  outer  and  inner  layers  of 
denser  structure  than  the  intervening  portion.  Being  per¬ 
fectly  transparent,  it  allows  the  free  transmission  of  the  rays 
of  light  to  the  interior  of  the  eye.  It  is  so  firmly  attached  to 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


150 

the  anterior  edge  of  the  sclerotica  as  to  seem  continuous  with 
it ;  but  some  have  supposed  it  to  be  inserted  as  if  into  a  groove. 

The  Sclerotic  Bones ,  represented  by  Fig.  8,  are  in  this  eye 
fifteen  in  number,  and,  although  not  precisely  ecpial  in  size, 
arranged  in  a  particular  manner.  The  lowermost,  «,  overlaps 
those  next  to  it  with  both  its  margins ;  the  next  on  the  right 
hand  overlaps  by  its  right  margin  its  successor,  and  all  the  rest 
lie  in  the  same  relative  position,  to  the  number  in  all  of  nine, 
exclusive  of  the  first,  until  we  come  to  that  marked  c,  which 
is  analogous  to  <z,  being  overlapped  by  those  on  each  side  of  it. 
From  a  to  c,  there  are  only  four,  exclusive  of  these  two,  which 
overlap  it  in  the  same  manner  as  the  nine  on  the  other  side, 
hut  in  the  contrary  direction.  The  bone  opposite  to  a  is  5,  and 
were  the  arrangement  symmetrical,  ought  to  be  the  central ; 
but  the  two  key-bones  of  the  arch,  a  and  c,  are  not  opposite  to 
each  other. 

Let  us  now  make  a  vertical  section  of  the  eyeball,  and  take 
note  of  the  appearances  disclosed,  Fig.  9.  Here  we  observe 
first  the  external  coat,  the  sclerotica ,  a ;  within  it  a  delicate  layer, 
the  choroid  coat ,  covered  with  a  dusky  substance,  the  pigmentum 
nigrum ,  b ;  anteriorly,  and  commencing  at  the  posterior  edge 
of  the  sclerotic  hones,  a  zone  having  a  plaited  or  fibrous  ap¬ 
pearance,  c,  which  at  its  anterior  margin  is  attached  to  the 
lens ,  d,  a  round,  considerably  flattened,  transparent  body ;  then 
another  zone  coming  oft'  near  the  base  of  the  cornea,  or  the  iris , 
e ,  having  a  circular  hole  in  its  centre,  the  pupil ;  and,  lastly, 
the  anterior  transparent  coat  of  the  eye,  or  the  cornea ,  f 
The  optic  nerve  is  seen  at  g ,  penetrating  the  sclerotic  coat,  en¬ 
tering  an  oblique  sheath,  and  reappearing  internally  in  a  nar¬ 
row  slit,  h  ;  from  the  side  of  which  rises  an  elongated  plaited 
membrane,  i}  named  the  pecten.  The  optic  nerve,  on  entering 
the  eye,  expands  into  a  very  delicate  pulpy  layer  named  the 
retina ,  or  net,  which  however  is  not  a  very  appropriate  term, 
it  being  not  a  piece  of  net-work,  but  a  delicate  pulpy  substance. 

This  internal  cavity  of  the  eyeball  is  filled  with  fluid  con¬ 
tained  in  a  filmy  transparent  membrane.  The  space  behind 
the  lens,  d ,  is  occupied  by  a  fluid  named  the  vitreous ,  er  glassy  ; 
and  that  anterior  to  the  lens  is  filled  by  another  named  the 


STRUCTURE  OF  THE  EYE. 


151 


aqueous ,  or  watery,  which  is  divided  into  two  portions  by  the 
iris  ;  the  space  from  which  to  the  cornea,  f  is  named  the  an¬ 
terior  chamber  of  the  aqueous  humour,  while  that  from  the  cor¬ 
nea  to  the  lens,  c?,  is  named  its  'posterior  chamber.  Let  us  now 
examine  these  parts  a  little  more  minutely. 

The  Choroid  Membrane ,  b  5,  is  a  filmy  layer,  which  lies  im¬ 
mediately  within  the  sclerotic,  and  extends  as  far  forward  as 
the  ciliary  circle ,  c.  It  is  profusely  covered  with  a  substance 
of  the  colour  of  China  ink,  named  the  pigment. 

Within  the  choroid  coat  is  the  Retina ,  which  is  the  pulpy 
expansion  of  the  optic  nerve,  and  the  seat  of  the  sensation  of 
sight.  It  extends  over  the  greater  part  of  the  choroid  coat, 
but  being  extremely  delicate,  is  apt  to  be  in  a  great  measure 
destroyed  in  examining  the  parts.  As  already  mentioned,  the 
optic  nerve,  g ,  in  entering  the  eye  becomes  suddenly  attenuated, 
and  presents  itself  internally  of  a  linear  form,  in  a  fissure  of 
the  membrane,  h,  from  which  the  retina  expands. 

At  this  point  is  a  body  or  part  peculiar  to  the  class  of  birds, 
varying  in  form  and  extent  in  the  different  species  ;  but  in  the 
Buzzard,  presenting  the  appearance  of  a  delicate  membrane, 
nearly  four-twelfths  of  an  inch  long,  three-twelfths  in  height, 
and  composed  of  twenty  plaits,  disposed  in  the  manner  of  a 
frill  or  ruffle.  On  this  membrane,  once  considered  as  muscular, 
and  named  the  musculus  pectinatus ,  are  ramified  the  branches 
of  the  ophthalmic  artery,  which  enter  along  with  the  optic 
nerve.  Its  uses  are  not  known. 

Opposite  the  posterior  margin  of  the  circle  of  sclerotic  bones, 
the  choroid  membrane  divides  into  two  laminae,  of  which  the 
inner  becomes  much  thicker,  and  forms  a  broad  zone  of  radi¬ 
ating  fibres  or  plicae,  covered  with  black  pigment,  and  of  which 
the  central  extremities  adhere  to  the  lens.  This  zone,  c,  is 
named  the  Ciliary  Circle.  The  outer  layer  of  the  choroid  mem¬ 
brane  proceeds  forward,  and  unites  with  the  Iris ,  <?,  which  is  a 
broad  zone,  composed  of  fibres,  of  which  those  of  its  outer  part  ra¬ 
diate  toward  the  pupil,  while  the  inner,  or  those  surrounding  the 
pupil,  are  circular.  This  membrane  is  extremely  contractile  and 
dilatable.  When  the  radiating  fibres  contract,  the  pupil  isenlarg- 
ed,  and  when  the  circular  fibres  contract,  it  is  reduced  in  size. 


152 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


We  have  still  to  examine  the  fluids  or  humours  of  the  eye, 
of  which  there  are  three. 

The  vitreous  humour ,  which  fills  the  space  behind  the  lens  and 
ciliary  zone,  is  a  transparent,  somewhat  gelatinous  watery  fluid, 
enclosed  in  a  membrane,  named  the  hyaloid ,  and  intersected  by 
filmy  laminae  or  cellules,  so  that  an  incision  into  the  mem¬ 
brane  does  not  cause  the  whole  of  the  fluid  to  escape.  The 
pecten  projects  into  the  midst  of  this  humour,  generally  termi¬ 
nating  somewhat  behind  the  lens,  but  sometimes  reaching  it. 

The  chrystalline  humour  is  that  which,  with  its  capsule,  con¬ 
stitutes  the  lens.  This  body  is  of  a  round,  somewhat  flattened 
form,  its  posterior  surface  more  convex  than  the  anterior. 
Fig.  10,  a,  represents  it  as  viewed  laterally;  6,  as  seen  from 
before.  Its  capsule,  or  coat,  is  much  denser  than  that  of  the 
other  humours.  Although  the  contents  of  this  capsule  are 
fluid,  the  central  parts  are  much  denser  than  those  toward  the 
exterior. 

The  aqueous  humour ,  or  that  which  fills  the  part  anterior  to 
the  lens,  is  perfectly  limpid,  and,  like  the  vitreous,  enclosed  in 
a  delicate  capsule  or  membrane. 

Omitting  here  any  account  of  the  blood-vessels  and  nerves 
with  which  the  eye  is  supplied,  I  may  briefly  explain  the  man¬ 
ner  in  which  vision  is  effected.  The  retina,  or  expansion  of 
the  optic  nerve,  at  the  bottom  of  the  eye,  is  the  part  which 
gives  the  sensation  of  light ;  and  the  other  parts  of  the  eye  are 
intended  for  collecting  and  modifying  the  rays  emanating  from 
objects,  so  as  to  produce,  through  the  retina,  an  image  of  these 
objects.  Rays  of  light  being  deflected  from  their  course  in 
passing  from  a  rarer  into  a  denser  medium,  those  proceeding 
from  an  object,  and  passing  through  the  cornea,  are  made  to 
converge  in  a  small  degree.  If  the  rays  are  too  numerous  or 
intense,  they  are  diminished  by  the  contraction  of  the  pupil, 
which,  on  the  other  hand,  enlarges  when  the  rays  are  scanty 
and  the  light  feeble.  The  rays  to  which  the  pupil  gives  ad¬ 
mittance  now  penetrate  the  chrystalline  lens,  which  being  a 
dense  body  with  two  convex  surfaces,  refracts  them  so  as  to 
cause  them  rapidly  to  converge  as  they  traverse  the  vitreous 
humour.  The  parts  of  the  organ  are  so  adjusted  that  the  focus 


STRUCTURE  OF  THE  EYE. 


153 


or  point  at  which  the  rays  meet  falls  exactly  on  the  surface  of 
the  retina  at  the  bottom  of  the  eye.  The  whole  surface  of  the 
posterior  chamber  of  the  eye  being  lined  with  a  black  sub¬ 
stance,  absorbs  all  the  rays  that  would  otherwise  by  being  re¬ 
flected  cause  an  indistinctness  in  the  image  produced.  The 
objects  placed  within  the  range  of  vision  are  represented  on  the 
retina  in  an  inverted  position  ;  and  many  physiologists  have 
supposed  that  it  is  the  picture  on  the  retina  that  is  perceived 
by  the  sensorium  ;  hence  they  have  puzzled  themselves  to  ac¬ 
count  for  the  erect  appearance  of  erect  objects  ;  but  there  is  no 
reason  whatever  for  imagining  that  the  picture  which  we  per¬ 
ceive  formed  on  the  retina  of  an  eye  of  which  a  portion  of  the 
sclerotic  and  choroid  coats  have  been  cut  out,  is  what  in  the 
natural  state  of  the  organ  is  observed  by  the  mind.  All  that 
can  be  safely  said  on  the  subject  is  simply  that  the  rays  of 
light  reflected  from  objects  are  in  the  eye  arranged  so  as  to 
produce  on  the  delicate  expansion  of  the  retina  an  impression 
which  is  conveyed  by  the  optic  nerve  to  the  sensorium. 

The  eyes  of  birds  vary  considerably  in  form,  the  convexity 
of  the  cornea  and  lens  being  greater  or  less,  and  the  proportions 
of  the  other  parts  undergoing  alterations.  Thus  in  Owls,  the 
sclerotic  zone  is  so  large  as  to  occupy  more  than  a  third  of  tho 
length  of  the  eyeball,  to  which  it  gives  somewhat  of  a  cylin¬ 
drical  form.  In  the  Pelicans,  the  sclerotic  zone  is  narrow,  and 
the  cornea  much  less  convex  than  in  Hawks  and  Owls.  But  the 
manner  in  which  the  focus  of  distinct  vision  is  adapted  to  dis¬ 
tant  and  near  objects  is  not  well  understood,  and  at  all  events 
does  not  at  present  require  our  attention.  The  degree  of  con¬ 
vexity  of  the  cornea  cannot  have  much  effect,  and  does  not 
appear  to  be  liable  to  much  alteration  in  the  same  individual ; 
but  if  the  convexity  of  the  lens  may  be  increased  or  diminished, 
or  its  distance  from  the  retina  altered,  the  eye  can  obviously  be 
thus  adapted  to  various  distances. 

There  still  remain  to  be  noticed  some  glandular  organs, 
which  are  situated  within  the  orbit.  The  lachrymal  gland , 
which  is  situated  near  the  outer  angle  of  the  eye,  is  of  a  some¬ 
what  elliptical  form,  and  small  size.  The  fluid  which  it  secretes 
having  moistened  the  surface  of  the  cornea,  is  received  into  two 


154 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


minute  apertures  at  the  inner  angle,  which  lead  to  a  short  duct 
that  conveys  it  to  the  nasal  cavity.  The  Harder ian  gland  is 
larger,  composed  of  a  cluster  of  lobules  or  mucous  follicles,  and 
is  situated  near  the  inner  angle  of  the  eye.  Its  fluid,  which  is 
poured  out  by  a  single  duct  opening  beneath  the  nictitant  mem¬ 
brane,  also  serves  to  moisten  the  eye. 

The  Organ  of  Smell. — Let  us  now  make  a  vertical  section 
of  the  head,  in  the  direction  of  its  middle  line.  We  thus  obtain 
a  view  of  the  brain,  the  walls  of  the  cranium,  the  septum  be¬ 
tween  the  eyes,  the  cavity  of  the  nose,  and  the  cells  of  the  man¬ 
dible,  together  with  some  other  parts.  The  olfactory  or  first 
pair  of  nerves  are  those  by  which  the  impressions  of  odorous 
particles  are  conveyed  to  the  brain.  Their  filaments  are  dispersed 
over  a  delicate  vascular  membrane,  which  lines  the  interior  of 
the  nose,  and  is  enlarged  by  being  extended  over  certain  pro¬ 
minences  named  the  turbinated  bones. 

In  this  section  then,  Plate  XVIII,  Fig.  1,  we  observe  the 
walls  of  the  cranium,  varying  greatly  in  thickness,  abed ; 
the  brain ,  divided  into  the  cerebellum  situated  below  and 
seeming  to  form  the  larger  portion,  from  a  to  b  ;  the  cerebrum , 
or  upper  portion  b  c  ;  and  the  optic  lobe  in  front,  between 
these  two  portions,  e.  The  cerebrum  is  by  far  the  largest  por¬ 
tion  of  the  brain,  it  being  more  extended  in  breadth  than  the 
cerebellum.  Besides  these  parts  are  seen :  the  pharynx  or 
passage  from  the  mouth  into  the  gullet,  f ;  the  aperture  of  the 
glottis ,  g  ;  the  tongue ,  h ,  with  the  right  branch  of  the  hyoid 
bone  at  its  base  ;  the  median  outline  of  the  palate,  i  j  k.  The 
passage  from  the  posterior  aperture  of  the  nares,  i j,  opening- 
opposite  the  glottis,  g,  is  seen  extending  obliquely  upwards 
and  forwards,  taking  a  somewhat  winding  direction,  to  the 
nostril,  l.  In  the  upper  part  of  this  cavity,  which  is  enlarged, 
and  recedes  backward  from  the  nostril,  are  three  prominences  : 
one  of  a  somewhat  roundish  form,  m,  hollow,  membranous, 
nearest  the  brain,  and  placed  opposite  the  anterior  part  of  the 
orbit ;  one  of  an  elongated  form,  lying  in  the  direction  of  the 
nasal  passage,  formed  of  a  somewhat  cartilaginous  plate,  «, 
once  rolled  upon  itself,  and  by  its  upper  edge  attached  to  the 


ORGAN  OF  SMELL. 


155 


outer  wall  of  tlie  nasal  cavity ;  and  a  very  small  fold,  o,  close 
upon  the  nostril. 

On  the  surface  of  these  parts  is  extended  a  delicate  vascular 
membrane,  bedewed  with  a  mucous  fluid.  The  nasal  cavities 
are  separated  by  a  septum,  which  is  covered  with  the  same 
membrane.  The  prominences,  m  n  o,  are  attached  to  the  outer 
wall,  not  to  the  septum.  Although  the  analogous  parts  in  the 
mammalia  are  supported  by  osseous  plates,  named  turbinated 
hones,  these  prominences  being  always  membranous  or  cartila¬ 
ginous  in  birds,  ought  to  be  named  turbinated  bodies ,  rather 
than  bones.  The  olfactory  nerve  comes  off  from  the  anterior 
prominence  of  the  cerebrum,  at  p,  proceeds  directly  forwards 
in  a  bony  tube,  and  entering  the  cavity  of  the  nose  at  m,  is 
distributed  upon  the  upper  turbinated  body,  and  the  septum 
of  the  nostrils.  The  passage  from  the  posterior  nares  to  the 
anterior  is  subservient  to  respiration.  Its  upper  part,  from  m 
to  c,  being  formed  as  in  the  mammalia,  in  which  observation 
and  experiment  have  shewn  it  to  be  the  seat  of  smell,  must  be 
subservient  to  the  same  purpose.  But  although  the  parts  are 
thus  obviously  adapted  for  the  perception  of  odours,  it  does  not 
appear  that  birds  possess  that  faculty  in  a  very  remarkable 
degree.  It  is  indeed  doubtful  whether  it  be  of  any  use  to  them 
in  discovering  their  food. 

No  bird  is  destitute  of  eyes,  or  furnished  only  with  imper¬ 
fect  organs  of  sight ;  but  there  are  birds  in  which  the  nostrils 
are  wanting,  as  I  have  ascertained  by  careful  dissection.  Such 
are  the  Gannets  and  Cormorants. 

Besides  the  olfactory  nerve,  there  is  seen  passing  across  the 
nasal  cavity,  a  nerve,  e  m  k,  much  larger  than  the  olfactory.  It 
is  a  branch  of  the  fifth  pair,  which  coming  off  from  that  nerve 
presently  after  it  emerges  from  the  brain,  passes  obliquely  up¬ 
wards  and  forwards,  crosses  externally  the  olfactory  nerve  at 
its  entrance  into  the  nasal  cavity,  then  descends,  crosses  that 
cavity,  and  entering  amidst  the  cellules  of  the  upper  jaw, 
divides  into  numerous  filaments,  which  are  distributed  chiefly 
to  the  roof  of  the  mouth.  It  is  probably  subservient  to  the 
sense  of  taste. 


156 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


The  Ear. — In  the  Buzzard,  as  in  all  the  birds  of  the  Fal- 
eonine  family,  the  external  aperture  of  the  ear  is  of  an  elliptical 
form.  Its  margin  is  fringed  with  slender  feathers,  of  which 
the  anterior  lie  over  and  protect  it  from  injury,  or  prevent 
the  entrance  of  dust  or  other  objects.  From  this  external 
fringed  aperture,  Fig.  2,  a  b ,  which  we  slit  open  behind,  there 
proceeds  obliquely  backwards  a  short  passage,  the  Meatus 
auditorius  externus ,  having  at  its  base  anteriorly  an  elliptical 
space,  c,  covered  with  skin.  Immediately  behind  this,  and 
placed  obliquely  so  as  to  incline  backwards  and  outwards,  is  a 
delicate,  semitransparent  membrane,  cZ,  of  an  elliptical  form, 
about  four  and  a  half  twelfths  of  an  inch  in  its  greatest  dia¬ 
meter,  convex  externally,  or  rather  presenting  the  appearance 
of  a  short  cone,  its  apex  being  supported  by  a  small  bone  placed 
internally.  In  the  natural  state  of  the  parts,  this  membrane  is 
concealed  by  a  muscle,  e,  inserted  into  the  lower  jaw,  and  here 
cut  across  and  put  aside.  From  its  resemblance  to  the  parch¬ 
ment  of  a  drum  or  tambour,  stretched  in  a  circular  frame,  it  is 
named  the  Membrana  tympani.  Behind  it  is  a  cavity,  of  the 
same  width  at  first,  but  gradually,  though  irregularly  narrow¬ 
ing.  This  cavity,  named  the  Tympanum ,  or  drum  of  the  ear, 
is  lined  with  a  delicate  membrane,  and,  although  closed  by  the 
membrana  tympani  externally,  communicates  with  the  external 
air  by  means  of  a  bony  canal,  the  Eustachian  tube ,  which  opens 
into  the  hind  part  of  the  posterior  aperture  of  the  nares.  It 
also  communicates  by  three  apertures  with  the  cells  in  the  sub¬ 
stance  of  the  cranium,  and  by  two  is  connected  with  the  more 
internal  parts  of  the  organ.  The  cavity  of  the  tympanum  con¬ 
tains  air.  There  is  situated  in  it  a  slender  bone,  of  which  the 
base,  a  roundish  flattened  disk,  fills  one  of  the  two  apertures 
above  mentioned,  while  the  tip,  having  three  cartilaginous  pro¬ 
cesses  attached  to  it,  rests  against  the  membrana  tympani,  and 
causes  it  to  protrude.  It  is  moved  by  a  slender  muscle  attached 
to  its  outer  extremity,  and  counteracted  by  two  tendinous  cords. 
The  internal  cavitv  of  the  ear,  which  is  filled  or  bedewed  with 
an  aqueous  fluid,  is  of  an  irregular  form,  and  communicates 
with  three  curved  bony  tubes,  lined  with  a  membrane,  and 


ORGANS  OF  TASTE  AND  TOUCH. 


157 


filled  with  fluid.  These  are  named  the  Semicircular  Canals ,  of 
which,  in  this  bird,  the  largest  is  the  posterior,  or  superior,  f 
and  has  a  vertical  position  ;  the  anterior,  g,  is  next  in  size, 
and  in  crossing  the  middle  one,  h,  communicates  with  it.  At 
their  entrance  into  the  vestibule  these  canals  have  an  enlarged 
space,  named  the  Ampulla.  In  man  and  the  mammalia,  there 
is  moreover  a  large  spiral  cavity  divided  longitudinally  by  a 
partition  into  two  cavities,  which  communicate  at  the  tip ;  but 
in  the  Buzzard  all  that  represents  this  part  is  a  small  oblong 
space,  having  internally  two  cartilaginous  cylinders,  which 
divide  it  into  two  cells,  one  of  which  opens  into  the  vestibule, 
while  the  other  communicates  with  the  membrane  closing  the 
foramen  rotundum  of  the  tympanum. 

As  in  the  eye  the  retina  or  expansion  of  the  optic  nerve  re¬ 
ceives  and  conveys  to  the  brain  the  impression  of  light ;  so  the 
delicate  fibrils  of  the  auditory  nerve  distributed  over  the  inner 
surface  of  the  internal  cavity  of  the  ear,  receive  and  impart  to 
the  brain  the  impression  of  sounds.  Bodies  which  emit  sound 
by  being  thrown  into  a  state  of  vibration,  communicate  to  the 
air  impressions  causing  a  peculiar  motion  of  its  particles.  The 
air  thus  acted  on  is  admitted  by  the  external  aperture  of  the 
ear,  and  strikes  against  the  membrane  of  the  tympanum,  the 
slender  bone  attached  to  which  communicates  the  impression 
to  the  internal  ear,  in  which  the  extremities  of  the  auditory 
nerve  receive  it,  and  convey  it  to  the  brain.  But  of  the  man¬ 
ner  in  which  the  perception  of  sounds  is  effected  we  know 
very  little.  Fig.  3  represents  the  external  aperture  of  the  ear 
in  the  Peregrine  Falcon. 

Having  thus  partially  examined  the  organs  of  sight,  smell, 
and  hearing,  we  may  now  advert  to  those  of  Taste  and  Touch. 
In  man  and  the  mammalia  generally,  the  tongue  is  the  Organ 
of  Taste  ;  and  in  birds  it  must  be  so  too  ;  but  they  seem  to  pos¬ 
sess  the  faculty  only  in  a  very  imperfect  degree.  As  birds  do 
not  masticate  their  food,  but  the  moment  the  object  or  morsel 
is  seized,  swallow  it  entire,  their  tongue  is  more  an  organ  of 
prehension  than  of  taste,  and  is  generally  more  or  less  sheathed 


158 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


with  a  horny  substance,  and  at  the  base  furnished  with  conical 
papillae  similarly  sheathed. 

As  to  the  Organs  of  Touch ,  there  seems  to  be  no  other  part 
than  the  hill  that  can  he  specially  referred  to  as  subservient  to 
this  faculty.  The  skin  is  sentient,  hut  receives  impressions 
only  through  the  medium  of  the  feathers.  The  hare  skin  of 
the  feet  and  cere  is  never  employed  as  an  organ  of  touch,  for 
which  purpose  it  is  obviously  ill  adapted,  being  generally  much 
thickened  and  callous.  In  all  birds  the  bill  is  more  or  less 
employed  as  an  organ  of  touch,  and  in  many,  as  Snipes  and 
Ducks,  is  abundantly  supplied  with  filaments  of  a  branch  of 
the  fifth  pair  of  nerves. 

These  observations  will  suffice  to  introduce  the  organs  of 
sense  to  the  notice  of  the  student  of  Ornithology,  who,  with 
the  aid  of  the  treatises  on  Comparative  Anatomy,  and  multi¬ 
plied  dissections  made  by  himself,  may  easily  acquire  a  suffi¬ 
cient  knowledge  of  the  subject. 

The  Respiratory  Organs  of  the  Rapacious  Birds  may  now 
be  briefly  alluded  to.  I  find  nothing  in  the  lungs  that  differs  in 
any  remarkable  degree  from  what  is  observed  in  the  other  land 
birds.  The  trachea  is,  in  all  the  species  examined  by  me,  con¬ 
siderably  flattened,  of  nearly  uniform  diameter,  or  somewhat 
tapering,  with  numerous  rings,  which  are  usually  slender,  and 
rather  cartilaginous  than  osseous.  In  the  Vultures,  the  infe¬ 
rior  larynx,  Plate  XIX,  Fig.  1,  cc,  is  much  flattened,  and  the 
trachea  bifurcates,  h ,  without  having  its  last  ring  furnished 
with  a  partition;  the  bronchial  half-rings,  cd ,  are  few  and 
very  slender,  and  the  lower  portion  of  the  bronchi,  d  e ,  is  en¬ 
tirely  membranous.  The  lateral  muscles,  ff  of  the  trachea 
are  large,  and  terminate  in  the  sterno-tracliealis,  fg,fg ,  with¬ 
out  being  prolonged  in  part  so  as  to  form  a  pair  of  inferior 
laryngeal  muscles.  In  three  respects,  then,  the  trachea  of  the 
Vultures  differs  from  that  of  the  Hawks  and  Owls  ;  namely, 
in  having  no  bone  of  divarication,  in  being  destitute  of  inferior 
laryngeal  muscles,  and  in  having  a  large  portion  of  the  bronchi 
membranous. 


RESPIRATORY  ORGANS. 


159 


In  the  Falconine  Birds,  or  Eagles  and  Hawks  of  all  kinds, 
the  last  entire  ring  of  the  trachea,  Fig.  3,  is  furnished  with  a 
septum  ;  the  lateral  muscles,  ij,  which  are  generally  strong, 
terminate  in  two  slips,  one,  j  h,  forming  the  sterno-tracliealis, 
the  other,  jf  passing  to  the  last  tracheal  ring,  or  the  mem¬ 
brane  intervening  between  it  and  the  first  bronchial  ring.  The 
bronchi  are  furnished  with  slender  half-rings  in  their  whole 
length,  g  h.  The  upper  larynx,  Fig.  8,  has  on  each  side  of 
the  aperture  of  the  glottis,  an  external  muscle,  the  apertor, 
and  a  smaller  inferior  muscle,  b ,  the  constrictor.  In  this  re¬ 
spect  it  does  not  differ  from  that  of  the  Vultures  and  Owls. 

In  the  latter  birds,  the  trachea  is  very  short  and  wide,  with 
remarkably  slender,  cartilaginous  rings,  Fig.  9.  The  lateral 
muscles,  ij,  which  are  rather  slender,  divide,  as  in  the  Hawks, 
into  two,  the  sterno-traclieal,  j  k,  and  inferior  laryngeal,  j f 
The  last  entire  ring  lias  a  septum,  and  the  bronchi  are  very 
short  and  wide,  with  slender  half-rings  in  their  whole  length. 

It  seems  difficult  to  conjecture  why  the  Vultures  should  be, 
properly  speaking,  destitute  of  inferior  larynx.  What  is  there 
in  their  voice  or  respiration  that  renders  an  inferior  laryngeal 
muscle,  or  a  division  of  the  last  tracheal  ring,  inexpedient  l 
Such  questions  tend  to  shew  that  much  remains  to  be  studied 
in  the  anatomy  and  physiology  of  birds. 

Observations  like  these  may  appear  unnecessary  to  the  per¬ 
sons  who  view  birds  merely  as  composed  of  skin  and  feathers ; 
but  to  them  I  now  cease  from  addressing  myself.  They  will 
gradually  disappear  from  the  earth,  and  their  place  will  be 
occupied  by  men  who  will  study  birds  as  organic  beings.  The 
attempt  which  I  have  made  to  establish  a  rational  method  of 
study  in  this  most  interesting  department  of  science,  however 
feeble  it  may  be,  will  yet  form,  I  am  well  persuaded,  the  com¬ 
mencement  of  a  new  era  among  my  countrymen,  whom  I  hope 
yet  to  see  perfecting  my  favourite  study  to  such  a  degree  as  to 
render  these  volumes  antiquated  and  effete.  For  my  own  part, 
I  am  well  pleased  to  think  that  my  labours,  however  little  ap¬ 
preciated  by  such  of  my  contemporaries  as  evidently  conceive 
themselves  to  be  the  sole  depositaries  of  ornithological  know- 


160 


PRACTICAL  ORNITHOLOGY. 


ledge,  will  be  productive  of  beneficial  results,  inasmuch  as  they 
will  stimulate  to  increased  exertion  some  of  those  young  and 
ardent  naturalists  who,  to  my  certain  knowledge,  have  derived 
pleasure  from  even  the  rude  attempts  at  observation  of  so  hum¬ 
ble  an  individual  as  myself. 

Let  us  now  proceed  to  examine  the  Rapacious  Birds  of  our 
beloved  country.  On  that  bleak  pinnacle  of  columnar  green¬ 
stone  is  perched  the  ever-watchful  Sea-Eagle,  while  that  mis¬ 
named  the  Golden  sails  in  widening  circles  over  the  summit  of 
the  snow-patched  hill.  The  shrill  cry  of  the  Kestrel  issues 
from  the  ivied  crag,  and  the  Sparrow  Hawk  glides  like  a  me¬ 
teor  over  the  green  thicket.  Forms  of  beauty  present  them¬ 
selves  on  every  side,  and  behind  them  is  a  band  of  nocturnal 
plunderers,  which  we  must  endeavour  to  see  in  more  animated 
postures  than  those  assumed  by  them  now,  when  the  glare  of 
day,  hateful  to  their  eyes,  is  to  us  reflective  of  all  the  loveliness 
of  nature. 


K>1 


IX.  RAPTORES.  PLUNDERERS. 


By  the  term  Raptores  may  be  designated  an  order  of  birds, 
the  predatory  habits  of  which  have  obtained  for  them  a  renown 
exceeding  that  of  any  other  tribe,  with  the  exception  of  those 
species,  essentially  differing  in  disposition,  and  more  important 
in  an  economical  point  of  view,  which  are  known  collectively 
as  the  Rasores  or  Gallinaceous  Birds.  All  the  species  of  this 
great  class  are  in  some  sense  plunderers,  but  those  which  we 
now  have  to  examine,  being  characterized  by  a  form  and  com¬ 
bination  of  organs  adapting  them  for  seizing  and  devouring 
quadrupeds,  birds,  reptiles,  and  other  animals,  seem  peculiarly 
entitled  to  the  appellation.  The  most  obvious  peculiarities  by 
which  they  are  distinguished  from  other  groups  are  observed 
in  their  hook-pointed  bill,  and  long,  curved,  acuminate  claws. 
In  form  and  magnitude  they  vary  exceedingly,  some  being  of 
great  size  or  very  robust,  while  others  are  remarkably  slender 
or  diminutive.  In  the  proportions  of  their  wings  and  tail,  as 
well  as  in  the  texture  and  development  of  their  plumage,  they 
have  scarcely  any  common  character  besides  that  of  being  in 
every  case  furnished  with  powerful  organs  of  flight.  Even 
their  digestive  apparatus,  although  in  some  essential  respects 
uniform,  presents  several  striking  modifications. 

In  general,  the  tongue  is  short,  fleshy,  concave  above,  rounded 
or  emarginate  ;  the  oesophagus  very  wide ;  the  proventricular 
glandules  forming  a  complete  belt ;  the  stomach  large,  round¬ 
ish,  with  a  thin  muscular  coat,  composed  of  a  single  series  of 

VOL.  III. 


M 


RAPTORES.  PLUNDERERS. 


162 

large  fasciculi  of  fibres,  and  a  soft  epithelium  ;  the  intestine  of 
moderate  length  and  width,  or  very  long  and  narrow,  with  the 
coecal  appendages  rudimentary  or  wanting,  but  in  one  of  the 
families  large  ;  the  cloaca  always  globular  and  of  great  size. — 
See  Plates  IV,  V,  XX,  and  XXI. 

The  tarsi  vary  much  in  length  and  thickness  ;  and,  being 
sometimes  feathered,  more  frequently  bare,  with  either  small 
scales  or  large  scutella  in  front,  present  no  common  character. 
The  toes  are  always  four,  placed  on  the  same  level,  padded 
and  papillate  beneath  ;  but  they  vary  in  length,  thickness, 
relative  size,  and  direction  ;  and  the  claws,  although  generally 
large,  very  acute,  and  well  curved,  differ  considerably  in  the 
different  genera. 

o 

Birds  of  this  order  occur  in  every  country,  but  of  the  three 
families  into  which  they  may  be  arranged,  one,  that  of  the  Vul¬ 
tures,  is  peculiar  to  the  warmer  regions,  so  that  in  Britain  the 
appearance  of  such  birds  is  merely  accidental,  and  as  yet  only 
a  single  instance  is  on  record.  The  Vulturince ,  characterized 
by  a  bill  of  moderate  length,  having  the  base  cerate  and  the 
tip  decurved,  an  ovato-oblong  head,  which,  with  part  of  the 
neck,  is  destitute  of  feathers,  very  ample  wings,  anterior  toes 
webbed  at  the  base,  claws  large  and  moderately  curved, 
gradually  pass  into  the  second  family,  or  that  composed  of 
Eagles  and  Hawks.  In  this  family,  the  Falconince ,  the  bill  is 
short  and  stout,  with  the  base  cerate,  the  tip  elongated  and 
decurved  ;  the  head  large,  broad,  and  feathered ;  the  wings 
very  long  and  broad  ;  the  claws  very  large,  much  curved,  and 
extremely  acute.  The  Strigince  or  Owls  are  for  the  most  part 
nocturnal,  and  are  distinguished  by  their  excessively  large 
roundish  head  ;  very  short  cerate  bill,  of  which  the  tip  is  elon¬ 
gated  and  decurved ;  extremely  developed  eyes  and  ears  ;  very 
soft  plumage,  long,  broad,  and  rounded  wings,  and  feathered 
tarsi  and  toes. 


163 


VULTURIN^. 

VULTURES  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES. 

The  occurrence  of  birds  of  this  family  in  Britain  being 
limited  to  a  single  instance,  it  is  not  expedient  to  enter  into 
very  minute  details  respecting  tlieir  structure  and  habits.  The 
only  species  which  I  have  had  an  opportunity  of  examining  as 
to  their  digestive  and  respiratory  organs,  are  the  two,  among 
the  smallest  of  the  order,  which  occur  in  the  southern  parts  of 
North  America.  Three  other  species  peculiar  to  that  conti¬ 
nent,  and  four  of  those  belonging  to  Asia  and  Africa  have  come 
under  my  observation  in  the  living  state  or  in  the  form  of  pre¬ 
pared  skins.  The  general  characters  derived  from  the  com¬ 
parison  of  these  are  as  follows. 

The  body  robust ;  the  neck  rather  long ;  the  head  rather 
small,  ovato-oblong,  and,  with  part  of  the  neck,  destitute  of 
feathers.  Bill  of  moderate  length,  generally  stout,  sometimes 
rather  slender  ;  the  upper  mandible  with  a  bare  skin  or  cere 
at  the  base,  compressed,  with  the  tip  elongated,  decurved,  rather 
obtuse,  but  thin-edged  ;  lower  mandible  rather  slender,  with 
the  extremity  rounded  and  thin-edged.  Tongue  of  moderate 
length,  concave  above  or  induplicate,  rounded  or  slightly  emar- 
ginate.  (Esophagus  very  wide,  and  dilated  into  an  enormous 
crop ;  proventricular  glandules  forming  a  broad  continuous 
belt ;  stomach  large,  moderately  muscular  or  very  thin,  with 
a  soft  rugous  epithelium  ;  intestine  of  moderate  length  and 
width  ;  coeca  wanting. 

The  trachea  of  the  V ultures  dilfers  from  that  of  the  Eagles 
and  Hawks  in  several  respects,  while  it  agrees  with  them  in 
being  considerably  flattened,  somewhat  tapering,  and  composed 
of  slender  rings.  The  inferior  larynx  is  remarkable  for  being 
much  flattened,  and  for  bifurcating  without  having  a  septum 


164 


VULTURINiE. 


to  its  last  entire  ring,  while  the  bronchi  are  partly  membranous. 
The  lateral  muscles,  which  are  large  and  of  great  breadth,  so 
as  to  cover  the  anterior  surface,  terminate  in  the  sterno-trache- 
ales,  so  that  there  are  no  inferior  laryngeal  muscles.  In  PI. 
XIX,  Fig.  1  represents  the  inferior  portion  of  the  trachea  of 
Cathartes  Aura  of  the  natural  size,  a  b  ;  the  bifurcation,  b  ;  the 
last  entire  ring,  c  c  ;  the  ringed  part  of  the  bronchi,  c  d,  c  d ; 
the  membranous  portion,  d  e,  d  e ;  the  lateral  or  contractor 
muscles,/*/,  ending  in  the  sterno-tracheales,  g  g. 

The  sternum,  Fig.  211,  p.  169,  as  represented  by  that  of  Ca¬ 
thartes  Aura,  has  two  notches  on  each  side  behind,  the  crest 
more  elevated  in  the  middle  but  less  so  anteriorly  than  in  the 
Hawks. 

Eyes  of  moderate  size,  without  projecting  superciliary  ridges. 
Aperture  of  ears  rather  small  and  simple.  Tarsus  stout,  bare, 
shorter  than  the  middle  toe  ;  hind  toe  small ;  second  a  little 
shorter  than  the  fourth  ;  claws  large,  moderately  curved,  acute, 
or  blunted  by  use.  Plumage  full,  rather  compact,  the  feathers 
ovate,  those  on  the  neck  lanceolate.  Wings  very  long,  broad, 
with  the  third,  fourth,  and  fifth  quills  longest ;  tail  of  moderate 
length. 

These  birds  inhabit  the  tropical  and  temperate  regions  of 
both  continents,  seldom  extending  into  the  colder.  Feeding 
on  animal  substances  of  all  kinds,  they  render  important  ser¬ 
vice  to  the  inhabitants  of  those  countries,  where  putrefaction 
takes  place  with  great  rapidity,  for  which  reason  they  are  fos¬ 
tered  in  the  neighbourhood  of  cities.  Many  of  the  larger 
species,  however,  capture  their  prey  in  the  manner  of  Eagles 
and  Hawks,  although  in  general  they  are  timid  and  compara¬ 
tively  inactive.  Whether  by  smell  or  by  sight,  probably  the 
latter,  they  descry  their  prey  at  a  great  distance.  They  soar 
to  a  vast  height,  sail  in  circles,  and  on  ordinary  occasions  fly 
with  moderate  rapidity.  The  smaller  species  are  gregarious, 
the  larger  solitary.  They  nestle  on  the  ground,  or  in  rocky 
places,  forming  a  rude  bed  for  their  eggs,  which  vary  from  two 
to  four.  The  young  are  at  first  covered  with  down,  and  remain 
in  the  nest  until  fully  fledged,  being  at  first  fed  with  animal 
substances  disgorged  from  the  crops  of  their  parents. 


165 


NEOPHRON.  NEOPHRON. 


Bill  nearly  as  long  as  the  head,  straight,  slender,  slightly 
compressed  ;  upper  mandible  covered  to  beyond  the  middle 
with  the  cere,  its  dorsal  line  slightly  declinate,  a  little  convex 
above  the  nostrils,  at  the  end  decurved,  the  ridge  broad  and 
convex,  the  sides  convex,  the  edges  straight,  toward  the  end 
sharp,  the  tip  decurved,  tliin-edged,  and  pointed  ;  lower  man¬ 
dible  with  the  angle  long  and  narrowed,  the  dorsal  line  con¬ 
vex,  the  back  rounded,  the  sides  nearly  erect,  the  tip  obtuse, 
with  its  edge-line  decurved. 

Nostrils  large,  medial,  oblong,  nearer  the  ridge  than  the 
margin.  Eyes  and  auditory  apertures  of  moderate  size.  Feet 
rather  short  and  stout ;  tarsus  roundish,  with  small  angular 
scales  ;  toes  scutellate  only  toward  the  end,  being  covered  with 
transverse  series  of  scales  in  the  rest  of  their  extent ;  the  first 
toe  very  small,  the  third  very  long,  the  second  shorter  than  the 
fourth ;  the  anterior  toes  webbed  at  the  base.  Claws  rather 
long,  arched,  strong,  moderately  compressed,  blunted. 

Fore  part  of  head  and  throat  without  feathers,  but  having 
scattered  over  them  very  small  downy  or  bristly  plumelets. 
Plumage  full  and  dense.  Wings  very  long,  ample,  concave  ; 
primaries  rather  pointed,  the  third  longest,  the  first  short.  Tail 
of  moderate  length,  much  rounded,  of  fourteen  feathers. 

This  genus  differs  from  Cathartes  only  in  having  the  bill 
more  slender,  the  third  quill  longest  in  place  of  the  fourth  and 
fifth,  and  the  tail  of  fourteen  instead  of  twelve  feathers.  Were 
it  not  for  geographical  considerations,  these  differences  would 
not  be  of  much  importance. 


166 


NEOPHRON  PERCNOPTERUS.  THE  WHITE 

NEOPPIRON. 

EGYPTIAN  VULTURE.  PHARAOH’S  CHICKEN. 


Fig.  210. 


Vultur  Percnopterus.  Gmel.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  249.  Adult. 

Vultur  fuscus.  Gmel.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  248.  Young. 

Vultur  Percnopterus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  2.  Adult. 

Vultur  leucocephalus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  2.  Adult. 

Vultur  fuscus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  5.  Young. 

Vultur  ginginianus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  16.  Adult. 

Catharte  alimoclie.  Cathartes  Percnopterus.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  8  ; 

III.  6. 

Egyptian  Neophron.  Neophron  Percnopterus.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  4. 

Neophron  Percnopterus.  Egyptian  Neophron.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  79. 

Adult  with  the  plumage  white ,  excepting  the  primary  quills  and 
basal  part  of  the  secondaries ,  which  are  black.  Young  dark 
brown ,  spotted*  with  brownish-yellow ,  subsequently  of  the  latter 
colour. 

Male. — This  Vulture,  the  smallest  of  the  European  species, 
is  somewhat  larger  than  the  American  Cathartes  atratus  or 
Black  Vulture,  which  it  greatly  resembles  in  form.  Its  bill 


WHITE  NEOPHRON. 


167 


is  slender,  and  nearly  of  the  same  length  as  the  head  ;  the  fore¬ 
head,  sides  of  the  head,  and  a  small  portion  of  the  throat  are 
denuded  and  smooth  ;  on  the  rest  of  the  head  and  neck  the 
feathers  are  lanceolate  and  acuminate,  on  the  body  ovate,  ob¬ 
tuse,  and  compact.  The  wings  are  very  large,  and  extend 
when  closed  nearly  to  the  end  of  the  tail,  which  is  much 
rounded  or  graduated,  and  composed  of  fourteen  feathers.  The 
tarsi  are  of  moderate  length,  reticulated  with  hexagonal  scales  ; 
the  hind  toe  short,  with  four  scutella,  the  second  shorter  than 
the  fourth,  and  having  three  scutella,  the  third  very  long,  with 
four,  the  outer  with  six.  The  claws  are  moderate,  compressed, 
arched,  concave  beneath,  bluntly  pointed. 

The  bill  is  dusky,  toward  the  base  flesh-coloured  ;  the  cere 
orange-yellow  ;  the  bare  part  of  the  face  and  throat  pale  yel¬ 
low  ;  the  iris  red ;  the  feet  greenish-yellow,  the  claws  black. 
The  plumage  is  yellowish- white,  excepting  the  primary  quills, 
and  the  basal  portion,  with  a  great  part  of  the  inner  webs  of 
the  secondaries,  which  are  black. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  27  inches  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  2<J, 
along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  2j%  ;  wing  from  flexure  18 ; 
tail  8  ;  tarsus  3|  ;  hind  toe  its  claw  ;  second  toe  lT8g, 
its  claw  ;  middle  toe  3,  its  claw  \\  ;  outer  toe  1}§,  its 
claw  j\. 

Female. — The  female  is  similar  to  the  male,  but  somewhat 
inferior  in  size. 

Young. — In  its  first  plumage,  the  young,  according  to  M. 
Temminck,  has  the  bare  part  of  the  head  of  a  livid  hue,  and 
thinly  covered  with  grey  down  ;  the  cere  and  feet  ash-grey  ;  all 
the  plumage  of  a  dark  brown  colour,  variegated  with  yellowish- 
brown  spots  ;  the  quills  black  ;  the  iris  brown.  Subsequently 
the  plumage  is  of  a  lighter  tint,  and  assumes  its  white  colour 
in  the  third  or  fourth  year. 

Habits. — Very  little  is  known  respecting  the  habits  of  this 
bird,  beyond  what  is  common  to  it  and  most  other  vultures  of 
small  size.  It  appears  to  be  generally  distributed  in  Africa, 


168 


NEOPHRON  PERCNOPTERUS. 


being  found  at  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope,  in  Abyssinia,  Egypt, 
and  Barbary.  In  Asia  it  is  also  very  extensively  dispersed, 
having  been  met  with  in  Arabia,  India,  and  Persia.  In  Eu¬ 
rope,  it  is  abundant  in  Turkey,  Spain,  and  Portugal,  and  occurs 
in  the  south  of  F ranee  ;  but  beyond  this  to  the  northward  its 
appearance  is  accidental.  It  is  said  to  live  in  pairs,  and  to 
become  temporarily  gregarious  only  when  attracted  to  a  parti¬ 
cular  spot  by  the  presence  of  food.  Although  it  feeds  chiefly 
on  carrion,  offal,  and  refuse,  it  attacks  lizards,  serpents,  and 
small  quadrupeds. 

In  October  1825,  an  individual  was  killed  in  Somersetshire, 
and  was  obtained  by  the  Rev.  A.  Mathew,  of  Kilve,  in  that 
county,  who  lent  it  to  Mr  Selby,  by  whom  it  has  been  figured 
and  described  in  his  Illustrations.  “  When  first  discovered,  it 
was  feeding  upon  the  carcase  of  a  dead  sheep,  and  had  so  gorged 
itself  with  the  carrion  as  to  be  unable  or  unwilling  to  fly  to  any 
great  distance  at  a  time :  it  was  therefore  approached  without 
much  difficulty  and  shot.  Another  bird,  apparently  of  this  spe¬ 
cies,  was  seen  in  the  neighbourhood  a  few  days,  but  could  never 
be  approached  within  gunshot :  this  was  supposed  to  be  the  mate 
of  the  one  killed.  It  measured  two  feet  seven  inches  in  length, 
and  in  extent  of  wing  five  feet  nine  inches.  Its  bill  from  the 
forehead  to  the  tip  is  two  inches  and  a  half  long,  the  tarsus 
three  inches,  and  the  middle  toe  with  its  claw  the  same.  The 
bill  is  brownish-black  or  horn-coloured.  The  cere,  which  is 
somewhat  bulging  at  the  base,  and  occupies  half  the  length  of 
the  bill,  wine-yellow.  Nostrils  situated  on  the  middle  of  the 
cere,  large  and  open.  Crown  of  head,  cheeks  and  throat,  cover¬ 
ed  with  a  naked  skin,  of  a  livid  flesh-coloured  red,  with  a  few 
straggling  bristly  feathers  between  the  bill  and  eyes,  and  upon 
the  margins  of  the  mandibles.  Ears  round,  open,  and  large. 
Occiput  and  nape  covered  with  a  close  thick-set  white  down, 
with  small  black  feathers  intermixed.  Neck  clothed  with  long 
arched  and  acuminated  feathers,  forming  a  kind  of  ruff  of  a  deep 
umber  brown,  tipped  with  cream-yellow.  Back  and  scapulars 
cream-wliite,  the  latter  intermixed  and  varied  with  umber- 
brown.  Lesser  wing-coverts  nearest  the  body  deep  umber- 
brown,  margined  with  a  paler  shade :  these  are  succeeded  by 


WHITE  NEOPHRON. 


169 


two  rows  of  cream-coloured  sharp-pointed  feathers.  Greater 
coverts  umber-brown,  varied  w7ith  cream -white.  Secondaries 
pale  umber-brown,  their  tips  and  margins  yellowish-white. 
Quills  black.  Tail  cuneiform,  umber-brown  at  the  base,  the 
tip  yellowish- white.  Upper  parts  mixed  with  umber-brown. 
Legs  strong  and  fleshy,  of  a  pale  yellowish-grey.  The  tarsi 
covered  with  a  rough  reticulated  skin :  the  middle  toe  with 
four  entire  scales  upon  the  last  phalange  ;  the  exterior  and  inte¬ 
rior  each  with  three ;  hinder  toe  short  and  strong.  Claws 
blackish-brown,  strong,  but  not  greatly  arched.  Its  sex  unfor¬ 
tunately  was  not  ascertained.  From  the  above  description  it 
would  appear  that  this  individual  had  not  acquired  its  ma¬ 
ture  plumage,  which,  in  the  perfect  adult,  is  of  an  uniform 
white,  except  the  greater  quills,  which  are  black,  and  in  which 
state  it  is  recognised  as  the  Yultur  ginginianus  of  Latham  and 
other  authors.1’’ 


F/g.  211. 


170 


FALCONIN/E. 

FALCONS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES. 


Assuming  the  Falcons  properly  so  called  as  presenting  the 
more  distinctive  characters  of  the  great  family  composed  of  the 
birds  commonly  known  as  Eagles,  Hawks,  Buzzards,  and 
Kites,  we  may  designate  these  species  by  the  general  name  of 
Falconince.  Although  they  exhibit  numerous  and  well-marked 
modifications  of  the  various  organs,  they  are  easily  defined  as  a 
group,  and  individually  distinguished  from  all  other  birds.  Of 
compact  form,  with  a  rather  large,  roundish,  feathered  head, 
hooked  bill,  eyes  of  moderate  size  directed  laterally,  and  long, 
curved,  very  acute  claws,  they  are  equally  distinct  from  the 
Vultures  and  the  Owls,  although  closely  allied  to  both. 

The  hill,  Plate  IV,  Fig.  1,  is  short,  stout,  compressed  to¬ 
ward  the  end,  the  upper  mandible  with  its  dorsal  line  more  or 
less  convex  from  the  base,  and  decurved  toward  the  end,  its 
sides  convex,  the  edges  sharp,  and  with  a  sinus  or  notch  near 
the  tip,  which  is  elongated,  trigonal,  and  acute  ;  the  lower 
mandible  with  the  angle  wide,  the  dorsal  line  convex,  the  edges 
sharp  and  decurved  or  emarginate  close  to  the  rounded  tip. 
The  mouth  is  wide  ;  the  palate  flattened,  with  two  longitudinal 
papillate  ridges,  and  an  anterior  median  ridge.  The  posterior 
aperture  of  the  nares  is  oblong,  with  an  anterior  slit,  and  two 
transverse  papillate  flaps.  The  tongue  is  of  moderate  length, 
fleshy,  deeply  emarginate  and  papillate  at  the  base,  with  one 
of  the  lateral  papillae  on  each  side  larger,  the  sides  nearly  paral¬ 
lel,  the  tip  rounded  and  horny  beneath.  The  oesophagus  is 
very  wide,  and  about  the  middle  of  the  neck  is  dilated  into  a 
large  sac  or  crop  lying  towards  the  right  side,  the  trachea  pass¬ 
ing  along  the  other.  At  its  upper  part,  it  has  a  layer  of  in¬ 
conspicuous  longitudinal  muscular  fibres,  and  in  its  whole 


FALCONS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES. 


171 


length  a  distinct  coat  of  transverse  fibres,  while  the  inner  coat 
is  smooth,  but,  when  the  organ  is  empty,  arranges  itself  into 
longitudinal  folds.  The  proventricular  glands,  which  are  small 
and  very  numerous,  form  a  broad  belt.  The  stomach  is  large 
or  of  moderate  size,  roundish,  with  its  muscular  coat  thin  and 
composed  of  a  single  series  of  fasciculi,  converging  toward  two 
thin  circular  tendinous  spaces  ;  its  inner  coat  or  epithelium 
soft,  dense,  and  more  or  less  rugous.  The  intestine  is  gene¬ 
rally  rather  short  and  of  considerable  width,  but  sometimes 
very  long  and  extremely  narrow ;  the  coeca  are  always  ex¬ 
tremely  small,  and  the  rectum  has  a  very  large  globular  dila¬ 
tation  or  cloaca. 

The  trachea  differs  from  that  of  the  Vultures  in  having  a 
pair  of  inferior  laryngeal  muscles,  and  a  septum  in  the  last 
entire  ring.  Its  structure  will  be  best  understood  by  referring 
to  Plate  XIX,  of  which  Fig.  2  represents,  a ,  the  tongue,  &, 
its  basal  portion,  covered  with  apertures  of  mucous  crypts  ;  c , 
aperture  of  the  glottis ;  d  e ,  the  trachea,  flattened,  tapering, 
and  composed  of  sixty-six  rings,  of  which  one  at  the  bifurca¬ 
tion,  when  taken  out  and  viewed  from  beneath,  is  seen  to  have 
a  median  septum,  Fig.  3,  or  in  other  words,  to  be  composed  of 
two  united  rings.  Beyond  it  are  two  half  rings,  Fig.  1,  ff. 
The  bronchi,  g  k,  g  h ,  are  composed  of  about  sixteen  half  rings. 
The  lateral  muscles,  ij ,  ij,  are  strong,  and  terminate  partly,  as 
usual,  in  the  sterno-tracheales,  j  k,j  k,  and  partly  in  a  single  pair 
of  inferior  laryngeal  muscles,  jf  jf,  inserted  into  the  mem¬ 
brane  interposed  between  the  last  ring  of  the  trachea  and  the 
first  of  the  bronchi.  This  muscle  is  better  seen  in  the  lateral 
view,  Fig.  4  ;  and  the  septum  of  divarication  in  Fig.  5,  which 
represents  a  median  longitudinal  section.  Fig.  6  also  shews 
the  inferior  laryngeal  muscles  separated.  Fig.  7  represents  the 
anterior  aspect  of  the  upper  larynx,  in  which  are  seen  the  two 
hyo-tliyroid  muscles,  a  a  ;  the  thyroid  bone,  b  b  ;  and  the  com¬ 
mencement  of  the  contractor  muscles,  c  c.  Fig.  8  shews  the 
upper  larynx  viewed  from  behind,  with  the  apertor  muscle, 
and  the  constrictor,  b. 

The  eyes  are  always  large,  lateral,  but  more  or  less  inclined 
forwards  ;  both  eyelids  equally  mobile.  Nostrils  small  or  of 


172 


FALCONiNiE. 


moderate  size,  varying  from  circular  to  linear,  and  opening  near 
the  anterior  margin  of  the  cere.  The  aperture  of  the  ear  is 
round  or  elliptical,  and  rather  large. 

The  legs  are  of  moderate  length  or  elongated  ;  the  tibia  very 
muscular ;  the  tarsus  sometimes  feathered,  generally  bare, 
usually  scutellate  in  front  and  behind,  sometimes  scaly  all 
round.  The  toes  are  four  ;  the  first  large  and  stout,  the  third 
longest,  the  second  larger  than  the  fourth  ;  the  anterior  some¬ 
what  webbed  at  the  base  ;  all  scutellate  toward  the  end,  some¬ 
times  in  their  whole  length,  padded  and  tuberculate  or  papillate 
beneath.  The  claws  are  long,  moderately  compressed,  tapering, 
very  acute,  and  with  a  great  range  of  motion,  although  not  re¬ 
tractile,  as  usually  alleged. 

The  plumage  is  generally  full ;  the  feathers  compact  on  the 
upper  parts,  those  on  the  outer  side  of  the  tibia  elongated  ;  but 
great  variations  are  observed  in  their  form  and  texture.  The 
skin  is  entirely  covered  with  soft  down,  which  on  the  fore  part 
of  the  breast,  on  the  sides  under  the  wings,  and  on  part  of  the 
abdomen,  is  usually  not  intermixed  with  feathers,  although 
more  or  less  covered  by  them.  Individually  the  feathers  are 
very  downy  at  the  base,  with  a  large  plumule  ;  the  tube  is 
short,  but  enlarged,  the  shaft  slender. 

The  wings  are  of  great  size,  but  vary  in  form,  being  very 
long  or  of  moderate  length,  pointed  or  rounded.  The  tail, 
which  is  always  of  twelve  feathers,  is  never  small,  but  varies 
extremely  in  length  and  form,  being  even,  graduated,  emargi- 
nate,  or  forked. 

The  cranium,  PL  I,  is  generally  roundish,  with  the  orbits  ex¬ 
tremely  large,  their  septum  with  a  vacuity  in  the  centre  ;  the 
nasal  cavity  rather  large  ;  a  distinct  superciliary  bone  projecting 
from  the  edge  of  the  orbit ;  the  jaws  short.  The  vertebras  vary 
in  number,  but  are  generally  thus  :  twelve  cervical,  nine  dorsal, 
twelve  sacral,  eight  caudal.  The  ribs,  seven  in  number,  are 
rather  stout ;  the  pelvis  large.  The  sternum  is  usually  of  great 
size,  deeply  convex,  with  a  very  prominent  keel,  the  posterior 
margin  even,  the  coracoid  bones  very  large  and  spreading,  the 
furcula  very  wide  and  of  great  strength  ;  the  scapulae  of  mode¬ 
rate  size  and  slightly  curved.  The  bones  of  the  inferior  extre- 


FALCONS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES. 


173 


mities  vary  in  length  and  thickness  according  to  the  species. 
The  phalanges  of  the  toes  are,  as  usual,  two,  three,  four,  and  five. 

The  Falconinae  prey  on  quadrupeds,  birds,  reptiles,  fishes, 
and  insects,  which  they  pursue  by  flying,  not  by  walking. 
Indeed  most  of  the  species,  owing  to  the  form  of  their  feet, 
are  incapable  of  progression  on  the  ground,  and  when  they  have 
to  move  to  short  distances,  are  obliged  to  leap,  with  the  aid  of 
their  wings.  They  seize  their  victims  with  their  talons,  thrust 
into  them  their  long  acuminate  claws,  and,  when  of  suffici¬ 
ently  small  size,  carry  them  off  to  some  secure  retreat.  The 
bill  is  not  generally  used  for  inflicting  wounds,  but  with  it  they 
remove  the  hair  or  feathers,  previously  to  eating  the  flesh,  which 
they  tear  up  with  ease,  often  swallowing  the  bones.  Having 
filled  the  oesophagus,  which  is  always  capable  of  being  much 
dilated,  they  retire  to  some  sequestered  place,  and  remain  quiet 
until  the  food  is  digested.  The  insoluble  parts  are  vomited  in 
roundish  pellets,  in  which  the  bones  are  enveloped  by  the  hair 
and  feathers.  Their  sight  is  very  acute,  as  is  their  sense  of 
hearing.  Their  flight  presents  modifications,  according  to  the 
species,  being  strong  and  rapid  in  the  Falcons,  more  buoyant 
in  the  Harriers,  light  and  gliding  in  the  Hawks,  heavier  in  the 
Buzzards  and  Eagles  ;  but  in  all  it  is  remarkably  powerful. 
They  perch  with  ease,  and  when  at  rest  on  a  branch  or  pin¬ 
nacle,  keep  the  body  nearly  erect,  and  the  neck  much  retracted. 
On  a  level  surface,  they  incline  the  body  forward,  and  draw  up 
their  claws. 

These  birds  are  for  the  most  part  solitary,  and  although  some 
species  at  times  congregate  when  food  is  abundant,  none  of 
those  that  occur  in  Britain  are  gregarious  in  the  slightest 
degree.  Their  cries  are  loud  and  shrill,  with  little  modulation  ; 
their  trachea  being  of  nearly  uniform  width,  its  rings  generally 
cartilaginous,  and  the  inferior  laryngeal  muscles  reduced  to  a 
single  pair.  They  pair  early  in  spring,  and  form  a  rude  flat  nest 
of  sticks,  twigs,  and  other  materials,  lined  with  wool  or  hair, 
the  eggs  vary  from  two  to  seven  or  eight,  the  larger  species 
having  fewer  than  the  smaller,  and  are  of  a  roundish  or  ellip¬ 
tical  form.  The  young  are  at  first  clothed  with  light-coloured 
down,  and  remain  in  the  nest  until  fully  fledged,  when  they 


174 


FALCON  I NiE. 


differ  considerably  in  colour  from  their  parents,  it  not  being 
until  the  third  or  fourth  year  that  the  adult  plumage  is  com¬ 
plete.  When  the  old  birds  have  transverse  bands,  the  young 
generally  have  longitudinal  spots  ;  in  many  species,  the  spots 
and  streaks  of  the  young  disappear  with  age  ;  the  tints  usually 
become  purer  and  lighter  the  older  the  individual ;  and  on  the 
other  hand  many  which  are  patched  or  spotted  with  white  when 
young,  gradually  assume  a  darker  tint.  In  consequence  of 
these  variations,  great  errors  have  been  committed  in  naming 
and  distinguishing  the  species.  The  moult  commences  in  the 
end  of  summer,  and  is  completed  by  the  beginning  of  winter ; 
but  in  some  species,  the  Eagles  in  particular,  new  feathers  are 
found  at  all  seasons. 

The  males  are  always  much  smaller  than  the  females. 
When  the  sexes  differ  in  colour,  the  young  resemble  the  female, 
which  is  generally  darker  and  more  variegated  than  the  male. 

Of  the  nineteen  species  that  occur  in  Britain,  some,  as  the 
Kestrel,  Sparrow  Hawk,  and  Hen-harrier,  are  generally  dis¬ 
tributed,  while  others,  as  the  Eagles,  are  confined  to  the  nor¬ 
thern  and  more  mountainous  tracts,  and  several,  as  the 
Honey  Buzzard  and  Red-legged  Falcon,  are  rare  or  irregular 
visitants. 


SYNOPSIS  OF  THE  BRITISH  GENERA  AND  SPECIES. 

GENUS  I.  BUTEO.  BUZZARD. 

Bill  short,  compressed  toward  the  end,  with  the  upper  out¬ 
line  sloping  a  little  to  the  edge  of  the  cere,  then  decurved,  the 
sides  rapidly  sloping,  the  edges  with  a  distinct  rounded  festoon  ; 
nostrils  elliptical,  oblique  ;  head  large,  broad,  flattened ;  feet 
short,  robust ;  tarsus  roundish,  feathered  in  front  halfway  down, 
anteriorly  and  posteriorly  scutellate,  or  feathered  in  its  whole 
length ;  wings  long,  broad,  rounded,  the  fourth  quill  longest, 
the  outer  four  with  the  inner  web  abruptly  narrowed. 

1.  Buteo  fuscus.  Brown  Buzzard.  Tarsus  bare  ;  upper  parts 
chocolate-brown,  lowTer  variegated  with  white  ;  tail  barred 
with  dusky  and  greyish-brown. 


FALCONS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES. 


175 


2.  Buteo  lag  opus.  Bough-legged  Buzzard.  Tarsus  feathered  ; 
upper  parts  brown,  variegated  with  yellowish  ;  lower  yellowish, 
with  a  large  brown  patch  on  the  breast ;  tail  white  to  beyond 
the  middle,  the  rest  brown. 

GENUS  II.  AQUILA.  EAGLE. 

Bill  shorter  than  the  head,  very  deep,  compressed  ;  its  upper 
outline  nearly  straight  and  sloping  to  the  edge  of  the  cere,  then 
decurved,  the  sides  slightly  convex,  the  edges  nearly  straight, 
with  a  slight  festoon ;  nostrils  oval,  oblique,  head  large, 
roundish,  flattened  above ;  feet  rather  short,  very  robust ; 
tarsus  roundish,  feathered  to  the  toes ;  wings  long,  the  fourth 
quill  longest. 

1.  Aquila  Chrysaetus.  Golden  Eagle.  Plumage  dark-brown ; 
occiput  and  hind-part  and  sides  of  neck  and  legs  light  brown¬ 
ish-yellow  ;  wing-coverts  light  brown ;  tail  dark  brown.  Young 
with  the  basal  three-fourths  of  the  tail  white. 

GENUS  III.  HALIAETUS.  SEA-EAGLE. 

Bill  nearly  as  long  as  the  head,  very  deep,  compressed, 
with  its  upper  outline  nearly  straight  to  beyond  the  cere,  then 
decurved,  the  sides  sloping  and  slightly  convex,  the  edges 
nearly  straight,  with  a  slight  festoon  ;  nostrils  oblong,  oblique; 
head  large,  oblong,  flattened  ;  feet  rather  short,  very  robust ; 
tarsi  roundish,  bare  for  two-thirds,  scaly,  with  about  six  scu- 
tella  in  front ;  claws  large,  curved,  flat  beneath  ;  wings  long, 
the  third  quill  longest. 

1.  Haliaetus  Alhicilla.  White-tailed  Sea-Eagle.  Adult  with 
the  head  and  neck  light  brownish-grey ;  the  tail  pure  white. 
Young  with  the  head  and  neck  dark-brown,  streaked  with 
paler,  the  tail  brownish-black,  irregularly  varied  with  white. 


GENUS  IV.  PANDION.  OSPREY. 

Bill  short,  as  broad  as  deep  at  the  base,  its  upper  outline 
straight  to  the  edge  of  the  cere,  then  decurved,  the  sides  con- 


176 


FALCON  I  NiE. 

vex,  the  edge  with  a  slight  festoon  ;  nostrils  oblong,  oblique, 
large  ;  head  of  moderate  size,  ovate  ;  legs  with  the  feathers 
short,  tarsus  very  short,  remarkably  thick,  covered  all  round 
with  scales  ;  toes  very  thick,  with  conical  papillos  beneath,  the 
outer  versatile  ;  claws  long,  curved,  convex  beneath  ;  wings 
extremely  long,  and  rather  narrow. 

1.  Pandion  Haliaetus.  Fishing  Osprey.  Brown  above, 
white  beneath,  with  a  brown  patch  on  the  breast.  Young 
with  the  feathers  tipped  with  white. 

GENUS  V.  PERNIS.  BEE-HAWK. 

Bill  short,  rather  small,  compressed  toward  the  end,  its 
upper  outline  gently  curved  from  the  base,  the  edge  with  a 
very  slight  festoon  ;  nostrils  large,  oblong,  oblique  ;  head  of 
moderate  size,  ovate ;  feet  short  and  strong ;  tarsus  short, 
roundish,  feathered  anteriorly  for  half  their  length,  covered  all 
round  with  hexagonal  scales ;  claws  long,  little  curved,  slender, 
concave  beneath  ;  space  before  the  eyes  covered  with  very 
small  compact  feathers  ;  wings  and  tail  very  long. 

1.  Pernis  apivora.  Brown  Bee- Hawk.  Umber-brown 

above. 

GENUS  VI.  MILVUS.  KITE. 

Bill  short,  stout,  compressed  toward  the  end,  its  upper  out¬ 
line  convex  and  sloping  to  the  edge  of  the  cere,  then  decurved, 
the  sides  convex,  the  edge  with  a  distinct  festoon ;  nostrils 
elliptical,  oblique  ;  head  large,  ovate  ;  legs  very  short,  strong  ; 
tarsus  roundish,  feathered  for  half  their  length  ;  wings  very 
long,  the  fourth  quill  longest ;  tail  very  long,  forked. 

1.  Milvus  regalis.  Salmon-tailed  Kite.  Reddisli-brown 
above,  with  narrow  dusky  streaks,  lower  parts  of  a  lighter  tint. 

GENUS  VII.  NAUCLERUS.  SWALLOW-KITE. 

Bill  short,  wide  at  the  base,  much  compressed  toward  the 
end,  its  upper  outline  decurved  from  the  base,  the  sides  slightly 
convex,  the  edge  with  a  slight  festoon  ;  nostrils  round,  with  a 


FALCONS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES. 


177 


central  papilla ;  head  rather  large,  roundish,  flattened  ;  feet 
short ;  tarsus  very  short,  thick,  scaly  all  round ;  toes  with 
pointed  papillae  beneath  ;  wings  extremely  long,  pointed,  with 
the  third  quill  longest ;  tail  long,  and  very  deeply  forked. 

1.  Nauclerus  furcatus.  White-headed  Swallow-Kite.  Head, 
neck,  and  lower  parts  white ;  back,  wings,  and  tail  black. 

GENUS  VIII.  FALCO.  FALCON. 

Bill  short,  robust,  with  the  upper  outline  decurved  from 
the  base,  the  sides  very  convex,  the  edge  with  a  festoon  and  a 
prominent  angular  process  ;  nostrils  round,  with  a  central  tu¬ 
bercle  ;  head  large,  roundish  ;  feet  strong ;  tarsi  moderate, 
reticulate  ;  claws  long,  well-curved  ;  wings  long  and  pointed, 
the  second  quill  longest ;  tail  rather  long,  nearly  even. 

1.  Falco  islandicus.  Gyr  Falcon.  White,  spotted  with 
dusky.  Young  brownish-grey  or  light  grey  above,  beneath 
yellowish-white,  with  longitudinal  dusky  streaks. 

2.  Falco  peregrinus.  Peregrine  Falcon.  Wings  nearly  as 
long  as  the  tail.  Adult  greyisli-blue  above,  beneath  whitish, 
with  transverse  dusky  spots  ;  head  and  a  band  on  the  cheek 
black.  Young  blackish-brown  above,  beneath  reddish,  with 
longitudinal  dusky  spots. 

3.  Falco  Subbuteo.  Hobby  Falcon.  Wings  longer  than  the 
tail.  Adult  greyish  or  brownish-black  above,  whitish  beneath, 
longitudinally  spotted  with  dusky ;  a  black  band  on  the  cheek. 

4.  Falco  vespertinus.  Orange-legged  Falcon.  Wings  as  long 
as  the  tail.  Male  deep  bluish-grey,  with  the  abdomen  and 
legs  yellowish-red.  Female  with  the  crown  yellowish-red, 
the  back  greyisli-blue,  the  tail  grey,  both  barred  with  black. 

5.  Falco  JE salon.  Merlin  Fcdcon.  Wings  shorter  than 
the  tail.  Male  greyish-blue  above,  with  dusky  lines,  reddish- 
yellow,  with  oblong  dusky  spots  beneath.  Female  greyish- 
brown  above,  yellowish- white,  with  large  dusky  spots  beneath. 
Young  with  the  upper  parts  brown,  spotted  with  light  red. 

6.  Falco  Tinnunculus.  Kestrel  Falcon.  Wings  shorter  than 
the  tail.  Male  light  red,  spotted  with  black  above  ;  the  head, 
hind-neck,  rump,  and  tail  bluish -grey.  Female  and  young 


VOL.  in. 


N 


178 


FALCONJNJE. 


with  the  upper  parts  and  tail  light-red,  spotted  and  barred 
with  black. 


GENUS  IX.  ACCIPITER.  HAWK. 

Bill  short,  robust,  with  the  upper  outline  sloping  and  nearly 
straight  to  the  edge  of  the  cere,  then  decurved,  its  sides  con¬ 
vex,  the  edges  with  a  prominent  festoon  ;  nostrils  elliptical, 
oblique  ;  head  of  moderate  size,  roundish  ;  feet  of  moderate 
length  ;  tarsi  moderate  or  rather  long,  slender,  feathered  for 
at  least  a  third,  broadly  scutellate  before  and  behind  ;  claws 
long,  well-curved  ;  wings  of  moderate  length,  very  broad,  much 
rounded,  the  fourth  and  fifth  quills  longest ;  tail  long,  rounded, 
much  exceeding  the  wings. 

1.  A  ccipiter  Palumbarias.  Goshawk.  Male  dark  bluish-grey 
above,  with  the  head  greyish-black,  the  lower  parts  white, 
narrowly  barred  with  grey.  Female  greyish-brown  above, 
beneath  like  the  male.  Young  brown  above,  with  the  head 
and  neck  pale  red,  streaked  with  dusky,  the  lower  parts  yel¬ 
lowish-white,  with  longitudinal  dusky  spots. 

2.  Accipiter  Nisus.  Sparrow  Hawk.  Male  dark  bluish-grey 
above,  reddish- white,  with  transverse  bars  of  yellowish-red 
beneath.  Female  greyish-brown  above,  beneath  greyish- white, 
barred  with  dark-grey. 

CJ  4/ 


GENUS  X.  CIRCUS.  HARRIER. 

Bill  short,  compressed,  attenuated,  with  the  dorsal  line  slop¬ 
ing  to  beyond  the  cere,  then  decurved,  the  sides  sloping,  the 
edge  with  a  slight  festoon  ;  nostrils  large,  ovato-oblong,  with 
an  oblique  ridge ;  head  oblong,  of  moderate  size  ;  legs  long, 
slender  ;  tarsi  long,  compressed,  scutellate  before  and  behind  ; 
claws  long,  slender,  moderately  curved,  flat  beneath  ;  plumage 
very  soft ;  a  distinct  ruff  from  behind  the  eye  to  the  chin  ; 
wings  long,  much  rounded,  the  fourth  quill  longest ;  tail  long, 
slightly  rounded  ;  quills  and  tail-feathers  downy  as  in  owls. 

1.  Circus  cyane us.  Bing -tailed  Harrier.  Tail  about  two 
inches  longer  than  the  wings.  Male  light  bluisli-grey.  Female 
brown  above,  light  yellowish-red  with  brown  streaks  beneath. 


FALCONS  AND  ALLIED  SPECIES. 


179 


2.  Circus  cineraceus.  Montagu's  Harrier .  Wings  as  long 
as  the  tail.  Male  light  bluish-grey,  the  wings  with  a  black 
band.  Female  umber-brown  above,  pale-red  beneath. 

3.  Circus  wruginosus.  Brown  Harrier.  Dark  umber  or 
chocolate,  with  the  bead  whitish  or  yellowish. 

Of  the  species  here  enumerated  two  are  common  and  gene¬ 
rally  distributed  :  the  Sparrow  Hawk  and  the  Kestrel.  Two, 
less  common,  are  extensively  dispersed  :  the  Common  Buzzard, 
and  the  Common  Harrier.  Some  are  common  in  particular 
districts,  but  not  of  general  occurrence  :  the  Merlin,  which  in 
many  parts  of  Scotland  and  the  north  of  England  is  nearly  as 
plentiful  as  the  Sparrow  Hawk,  the  Kite,  which  is  not  rare  in 
the  West  Highlands,  the  Sea-Eagle,  which  is  still  numerous  in 
the  Hebrides,  and  along  the  north-west  coast,  and  the  Golden 
Eagle,  which  is  scattered  over  a  great  part  of  the  northern  and 
middle  divisions.  Of  the  rest,  the  Osprey,  although  very  scarce 
is  extensively  distributed,  the  Goshawk  is  so  rare  that  a  native 
specimen  is  hardly  to  be  seen  in  our  museums,  the  Ash-coloured 
Harrier  is  confined  cliiefiy  to  the  south  of  England,  the  Moor 
Harrier  is  very  scarce  anywhere,  as  is  the  Hobby,  while  the 
Peregrine  Falcon  is  seen  in  pairs  scattered  at  wide  intervals, 
and  the  Jer  Falcon  is  confined  to  the  extreme  north.  The 
Honey  Buzzard  occurs  as  a  straggler,  which  is  also  the  case 
with  the  Rough-legged  Buzzard,  the  Orange-legged  Falcon, 
and  still  more  with  the  Fork-tailed  Kite,  of  which  only  two 
individuals  are  recorded  as  having  been  seen. 


180 


BUTEO.  BUZZARD. 


This  genus  is  composed  of  species  for  the  most  part  of  large 
size,  or  from  fifteen  to  twenty-five  inches  in  length,  and  having 
an  obvious  affinity  on  the  one  hand  to  certain  species  of  the 
genus  Accipiter,  and  on  the  other  to  the  smaller  Eagles.  Be¬ 
tween  the  Buzzards  and  the  latter  birds  there  is  in  truth  no 
well-marked  distinction,  and  the  Rough-legged  Falcon,  so 
called,  is,  I  think,  exactly  intermediate  between  the  two  genera. 
The  Buzzards  are  not  remarkable  for  elegance  of  form,  or  for 
courage  and  activity.  They  are  generally  robust,  having  the 
body  full  and  compact,  the  neck  rather  short,  the  head  large, 
roundish,  and  flattened  above. 

The  bill  shorter  than  the  head,  moderately  stout,  broad  at 
the  base,  compressed  toward  the  end  ;  uj^per  mandible  with 
the  cere  of  moderate  size,  the  dorsal  line  slightly  convex  and 
considerably  declinate  to  the  edge  of  the  cere,  then  decurved 
in  the  fourth  of  a  circle,  the  ridge  broad  and  somewhat  flattened 
at  the  base,  narrowed  and  convex  toward  the  end,  the  sides 
rapidly  sloping  and  slightly  convex,  the  edges  with  a  slight 
sharp-edged  rounded  festoon,  succeeded  by  a  shallow  sinus 
ending  in  the  curve  of  the  tip,  which  is  deflected,  trigonal, 
slightly  concave  beneath,  acute,  and  at  the  end  nearly  perpen¬ 
dicular  ;  lower  mandible  with  the  anffie  of  moderate  length, 
wide,  the  dorsal  line  slightly  convex,  the  ridge  broadly  con¬ 
vex,  the  sides  rounded,  the  edges  a  little  inflected,  at  the  end 
decurved,  the  tip  broad  and  rounded. 

Mouth  wide  ;  palate  flat  anteriorly,  having  a  broad  soft 
ridge,  from  the  posterior  part  of  which  proceed  backwards 
two  very  prominent,  nearly  parallel,  soft  ridges,  bearing  small 
pointed  papillae.  Between  these  ridges  is  a  depression  which 
corresponds  to  the  tongue.  A  transverse  papillate  edge  pro¬ 
ceeds  inwards  from  the  middle  of  these  ridges,  and  they  ter- 


BUTEO.  BUZZARD. 


181 


minate  in  a  similar  curved  edge  behind.  Posterior  aperture 
of  the  nares  narrow-elliptical  behind,  linear  before,  with  papil¬ 
late  margins.  Tongue  short,  fleshy,  rather  narrow,  concave 
above  ;  its  sides  nearly  parallel,  the  tip  rounded  and  emargin- 
ate,  its  free  part  beneath  horny  ;  the  lower  surface  of  the  sides 
toward  the  base  furnished  with  large  mucous  crypts  ;  the  base 
concave,  and  fringed  with  pointed  papillae  directed  backwards. 
Space  between  the  base  of  the  tongue  and  the  aperture  of  the 
glottis  covered  with  mucous  crypts,  of  which  there  is  also  a 
lateral  series  on  each  side  ;  the  posterior  part  of  the  pharynx 
supplied  with  similar  bodies  irregularly  disposed.  Aperture 
of  the  glottis  defended  behind  by  a  number  of  papillae  directed 
backwards,  and  arranged  in  two  lateral  lobes,  with  a  small  in¬ 
termediate  lobe.  (Esophagus  very  wide,  and  about  the  middle 
of  the  neck  dilated  into  a  large  sac  or  crop,  inclining  to  the 
right  side.  At  the  upper  part  it  has  a  slight  outer  layer  of  in¬ 
conspicuous  longitudinal  muscular  fibres,  and  in  its  whole 
length  is  encircled  by  transverse  fibres  ;  its  inner  coat  is  smooth 
and  even  when  dilated,  but  when  contracted  is  thrown  into 
longitudinal  rugae.  At  the  lower  part  is  a  broad  belt  of  cylin¬ 
drical  crypts,  constituting  the  proventricnlar  glands.  The 
stomach  is  large,  round,  a  little  compressed  ;  its  muscular  coat 
thin,  and  composed  of  a  single  series  of  fasciculi  converging 
toward  two  roundish  thin  tendinous  spaces  ;  the  inner  coat 
smooth  and  very  thin.  The  pylorus  with  three  or  four  pro¬ 
minent  rugae.  The  intestine  of  moderate  length,  rather  wide  ; 
the  coeca  very  small ;  the  rectum  wide,  and  dilated  into  a 
globular  cloaca. 

Nostrils  broadly  elliptical,  oblique,  lateral,  nearer  the  ridge 
than  the  edge.  Eyes  large  ;  eyelids  fringed  with  bristly  fea¬ 
thers  ;  a  thin  projecting  superciliary  ridge.  Aperture  of  the 
ear  roundish,  and  rather  large. 

Legs  of  moderate  length,  stout ;  tibia  rather  long  and  mus¬ 
cular  ;  tarsus  roundish,  feathered  anteriorly  for  half  its  length, 
with  broad  scutella  before  and  behind,  scaly  on  the  sides.  Toes 
of  moderate  size  ;  the  first  and  second  stoutest,  the  latter  a  little 
longer,  the  third  much  longer,  the  fourth  longer  than  the  second, 
and  connected  at  the  base  by  a  pretty  large  web  ;  all  scutellate 


182 


BUTEO.  BUZZARD. 


unless  toward  the  base.  Claws  long,  well  curved,  tapering, 
very  acute,  convex  above,  compressed,  flat  beneath  ;  the  first 
and  second  largest,  the  fourth  small,  the  third  internally  edged. 

Plumage  full,  very  soft  and  elastic,  but  somewhat  compact, 
and  rather  glossy.  Cere  bare  ;  space  between  the  eyes  and  bill 
with  radiating,  very  small,  bristled-tipped  feathers,  with  downy 
barbs  at  the  base.  Feathers  of  the  head  narrow  and  pointed, 
of  the  neck  broader,  of  the  other  parts  broadly  ovate  and 
rounded.  Wings  long,  very  broad,  rounded  ;  the  third  and 
fourth  quills  longest,  the  first  very  short,  the  outer  four  with  the 
outer  web  attenuated,  and  the  inner  abruptly  cut  out ;  secondary 
quills  very  broad  and  rounded.  Tail  of  moderate  length,  or 
rather  long,  broad,  rounded,  of  twelve  broad  feathers. 

The  Buzzards  are  considered  as  among  the  least  active  birds 
of  this  family;  yet  their  flight  is  strong  and  buoyant,  very  simi¬ 
lar  in  character  to  that  of  the  Eagles,  which  they  resemble  in 
form,  although  many  of  them  are  very  intimately  allied  to 
some  species  of  the  genus  Accipiter,  while  others  approximate 
to  the  Circi.  They  sail  in  circles  like  the  Eagles,  mounting  to  a 
great  height,  seek  out  their  prey  by  flying  low  over  the  fields, 
seldom  pursue  birds  on  wing,  but  pounce  upon  them  on  the 
ground,  and,  besides  these  animals,  feed  on  small  quadrupeds, 
reptiles,  insects,  and  worms.  Species  of  this  genus  are  found 
on  both  continents.  In  Britain  two  are  met  with,  the  Com¬ 
mon  or  Brown  Buzzard,  and  the  Rough-legged  Buzzard. 


183 


BUTEO  FUSCUS.  THE  BROWN  OR  COMMON 

BUZZARD. 

GLEAD.  GLADE.  KITE.  PUTTOCK. 


Fig.  212. 


Falco  Buteo.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  127. 

Falco  Buteo.  Latli.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  23. 

Buzzard.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

La  Buse.  Falco  Buteo.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  G3  ;  III.  35. 
Common  Buzzard.  Buteo  vulgaris.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  55. 
Buteo  vulgaris.  Common  Buzzard.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  87. 


Male  with  the  upper  parts  deep  brown ,  the  feathers  margined 
with  paler ,  the  lower  parts  yellowish- white,  with  longitudinal  ob¬ 
long  brown  spots ,  the  tail  with  numerous  brown  and  pale  bands. 
Female  deep  brown  above  and  beneath ,  the  throat  streaked  with 
whitish ,  the  breast  spotted  with  the  same.  Young  with  the  fea¬ 
thers  margined  with  light  red. 

The  Buzzard,  although  the  most  common  of  our  larger  Plun¬ 
derers,  has  been  very  unsatisfactorily  described  by  authors,  most 


184 


BUTEO  VULGARIS. 


of  whom  merely  state  that  it  varies  exceedingly  in  colour,  in¬ 
somuch  that  two  similar  individuals  can  hardly  be  found,  with¬ 
out  attempting  to  disclose  the  cause  or  method  of  this  varia¬ 
tion.  I  cannot  say  that  I  have  completely  solved  the  mystery  ; 
but  the  following  descriptions  will,  I  hope,  he  found  to  throw 
considerable  light  on  the  subject.  I  shall  begin  with  a  pair, 
an  adult  male  and  female  shot  in  Ayrshire  in  May  1837. 

Male. — In  size  this  species  is  rather  larger  than  the  Pere¬ 
grine  Falcon  or  Goshawk,  but  of  a  less  compact  form.  It  is 
a  robust  bird,  with  the  body  full,  the  neck  rather  short,  the 
head  large,  roundish,  and  flattened  above.  The  tarsi  roundish, 
anteriorly  feathered  halfway  down,  with  twelve  anterior  and 
fifteen  posterior  scutella,  the  sides  covered  with  angular  scales, 
the  digital  joint,  and  the  basal  part  of  the  toes  with  transverse 
series  of  small  scales,  besides  which  there  are  on  the  first  toe 
four,  on  the  second  five,  on  the  third  eleven,  on  the  fourth  six 
scutella.  The  toes  are  strong,  of  moderate  length,  the  first 
stouter,  the  second  next,  the  outer  proportionally  much  smaller, 
and  connected  by  a  pretty  large  web.  The  claws  are  long,  well 
arched,  and  finely  pointed. 

The  digestive  organs  being  in  all  respects  as  described  in  the 
generic  character,  it  may  suffice  here  to  state  that  the  oesopha¬ 
gus  is  six  inches  long,  the  crop  three  inches  wide ;  the  sto¬ 
mach  two  inches  in  diameter ;  the  intestine  four  feet  four 
inches  in  length,  with  a  diameter  varying  from  five  and  a  half 
twelfths  to  two  and  a  half  twelfths ;  the  coeca  three  twelfths 
long ;  the  rectum  five. 

The  plumage  is  full  and  soft,  rather  compact  and  glossy 
above ;  the  upper  and  fore  part  of  the  cere  is  bare,  the  space 
between  the  bill  and  eye  covered  with  bristly  feathers,  which 
are  slightly  downy  at  the  base ;  the  superciliary  ridge  bare,  the 
eyelids  ciliated.  On  the  head  the  feathers  are  small  and  lan¬ 
ceolate,  on  the  neck  larger,  broader,  and  more  rounded,  on 
the  back  broadly  ovate,  on  the  lower  parts  ovato-oblong,  on 
the  outer  part  of  the  leg  elongated.  The  wings  are  large  and 
rounded,  with  twenty-five  quills,  the  first  four  primaries  abruptly 
cut  out  on  the  inner  web,  the  first  six  attenuated  on  the  outer ; 


BROWN  OR  COMMON  BUZZARD. 


185 


the  first  quill  four  inches  shorter  than  the  third,  which  is  long¬ 
est,  but  exceeds  the  fourth  only  by  one-twelftli  of  an  inch, 
the  fifth  very  little  shorter,  the  second  intermediate  between 
the  fifth  and  sixth,  the  first  equal  to  the  eighth.  The  tail  is 
rather  long,  broad,  and  slightly  rounded,  the  middle  feathers 
being  about  three  quarters  of  an  inch  shorter  than  the  lateral. 

The  bill  is  black,  at  the  base  greyisli-blue,  its  soft  margins 
at  the  base  yellow ;  the  cere  and  bare  space  over  the  eye 
greenish-yellow ;  the  irides  brownish-yellow ;  the  feet  bright 
yellow  ;  the  claws  black,  tinged  with  blue  at  the  base.  The 
general  colour  of  the  upper  parts  is  umber-brown,  glossed  with 
a  tinge  of  purple  ;  but  on  the  head  and  hind  neck  streaked  with 
yellowish-white,  the  bases  and  margins  of  the  feathers  being  of 
that  colour.  The  feathers  of  the  hack  and  wings  with  the  mar¬ 
gins  pale,  or  brownish  grey  ;  they  and  the  scapulars  barred  with 
white  in  their  concealed  part ;  the  bases  of  all  being  white, 
which  becomes  apparent  on  the  hind-neck  when  they  are 
raised  ;  the  upper  tail-coverts  are  barred  with  whitish.  The 
primary  quills  are  brownish-black  toward  the  end,  the  secon¬ 
daries  brown,  a  great  part  of  the  inner  webs  toward  the  base 
white,  barred  with  brown,  the  bars  more  extended  on  the 
secondaries.  The  tail  is  marked  with  ten  or  twelve  brown 
bars,  alternating  with  others  of  a  pale  greyish- brown,  the  tips 
whitish.  The  cheeks  and  sides  of  the  neck  are  yellowish- 
white,  with  brown  linear  or  oblong  markings  ;  the  throat, 
fore-neck,  and  middle  of  the  breast  yellowish-white,  with  the 
shafts  brown ;  the  ground  colour  of  the  other  parts  the  same, 
but  each  feather  with  an  oblong  brown  longitudinal  mark ; 
the  lower  tail-coverts  barred  ;  the  feathers  of  the  leg  tino-ed 
with  reddish,  and  barred  or  patched  with  brown.  The  lower 
wing-coverts  yellowish- white,  spotted  and  barred  with  brown  ; 
and  the  white  of  the  inner  webs  of  the  primaries  forming  a 
conspicuous  patch. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  19  J  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  49;  wing 
from  flexure  16|  ;  tail  9  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  lT7f,  along  the 
edge  of  lower  mandible  ;  tarsus  ;  hind  toe  T%,  its 
claw  1  ;  second  toe  1,  its  claw  1TV;  third  toe  lx6|,  its  claw  }§; 
fourth  toe  1,  its  claw  r72. 


186 


BUTEO  VULGAR]  S. 


Female. — The  female  is  considerably  larger  than  the  male, 
and  although  similar  in  colouring  differs  in  several  respects. 
The  colours  of  the  bill,  iris,  and  feet  are  the  same  as  in  the 
male.  The  upper  parts  are  of  a  darker  and  more  uniform 
brown,  the  bases  of  the  feathers  dull  grey,  and  only  white  on 
the  hind-neck ;  the  whitish  bands  on  the  scapulars  more  ob¬ 
scure.  The  wings  and  tail  are  coloured  as  in  the  male,  only 
the  last  brown  bar  on  the  latter  is  much  broader  than  the  rest. 
The  predominant  colour  of  the  lower  parts  is  cliocolate-brown; 
but  the  cheeks  and  throat  are  streaked  with  dull  brownish- 
white  ;  the  fore-neck  obscurely,  the  middle  of  the  breast  con¬ 
spicuously  transversely  spotted  or  barred  with  yellowish-white, 
intermixed  with  reddish  ;  the  inner  and  anterior  feathers  of 
the  legs  barred  with  brownisli-red ;  the  lower  tail-coverts 
white  barred  with  brown  ;  the  lower  surface  of  the  wing  as 
in  the  male  but  much  darker,  the  white  patch  consequently 
more  conspicuous. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  22  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  51  ;  wing 

o  7  o  7  £3 

from  flexure  17  ;  tail  9f  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  lj\  ;  tarsus  3  ; 
first  toe  1,  its  claw  1^;  second  toe  its  claw  1|  ;  third 
toe  1^,  its  claw  lfi^  ;  fourth  toe  lfl^,  its  claw 

Another  individual  shot  in  Aberdeenshire,  in  May  1817, 
was  similar  to  the  above  ;  the  whole  upper  surface  rich  brown, 
on  the  upper  part  of  the  back  the  feathers  laterally  margined 
with  light  ferruginous,  the  scapulars  and  wing-coverts  with  that 
colour  and  white ;  the  primary  quills  nearly  black,  glossed 
with  purple  toward  the  end  ;  the  secondaries  nearly  of  the 
general  tint ;  all  with  the  inner  webs  edged  with  white,  and 
barred  with  a  deeper  shade  of  brown ;  on  its  lower  surface, 
the  wing  much  lighter,  there  being  a  white  patch  including 
part  of  the  inner  webs  of  the  five  outer  quills  ;  the  coverts 
barred  with  white,  their  ground  colour  being  toward  the  base 
light  ferruginous,  toward  the  end  deep  brown  ;  the  tail  deep 
brown,  barred  with  grey  and  reddish,  or  marked  with  alter¬ 
nate  bars  of  brown  and  brownish-grey,  the  last  dark  bar  being 
the  broadest,  and  the  tips  reddish- white ;  nine  dark  bars  on 
the  middle,  and  ten  on  the  lateral  feathers ;  on  the  lower 
surface  the  prevailing  colour  brown,  of  a  lighter  shade  than 


BROWN  OR  COMMON  BUZZARD.  187 

the  upper ;  on  the  fore-neck  spotted,  on  the  breast  barred  with 
white  ;  the  tibial  feathers  brown,  tipped  with  ferruginous. 

Length  21  i  inches;  extent  of  wings  50. 

These  differences  between  the  adult  male  and  the  adult 
female  I  have  found  to  be  very  constant,  although  individuals 
of  each  sex  vary  considerably. 

Variations. — Males  vary  in  having  the  white  of  the  lower 
parts  more  or  less  extended,  and  the  streaks  and  spots  of 
greater  or  less  breadth.  Sometimes  the  white  is  so  extended 
on  both  surfaces  that  it  might  be  said  to  form  the  ground 
colour,  which  is  then  merely  spotted  with  brown.  Females 
differ  also  in  the  extent  of  the  white  spots  and  bars  beneath, 
but  they  are  always  darker  and  more  uniformly  coloured  than 
the  males.  Great  differences  are  observed  in  the  number  of 
the  scutella,  and  I  have  seen  a  male,  which  had  none  on  the 
fore  part  of  the  tibia,  it  having  been  covered  with  small  scales. 

The  following  tables  shew  the  variations  in  the  scutella  and 
digestive  organs. 


M. 

M. 

M. 

M. 

F. 

F. 

F. 

Scutella  of  tarsus  ...  1 1 

12 

13 

11 

14 

12 

10 

First  toe .  4 

4 

3 

3 

4 

4 

4 

Second  toe .  4 

4 

4 

5 

4 

4 

4 

Third  toe  . 10 

11 

11 

14 

12 

14 

13 

F ourth  toe .  5 

4 

6 

8 

7 

7 

6 

M. 

M. 

F. 

F. 

F. 

F. 

(Esophagus  in  length,... 

Crop  in  width . 

Stomach  . 

..  71 

..  3 

6 

3 

2 

8 

2 

2 

6 

8 

3 

3 

8 

8 

3 

Intestine . 

..51 

52 

56 

52 

54 

55 

Coeca . 

3_ 

3 

1  2 

2 

1  2 

3 

12 

3 

I  2 

Changes  of  Plumage. — The  moult  sometimes  commences 
very  early,  so  that  even  by  the  middle  of  May  I  have  seen  it 
far  advanced  ;  but  in  general  it  is  not  completed  until  the  be¬ 
ginning  of  winter.  When  the  feathers  are  old  they  become 
very  ragged  and  pointed,  change  from  deep  glossy  brown  to 


188 


BUTEO  VULGARIS. 


greyish-brown,  with  the  edges  yellowish  or  even  whitish- 
brown  ;  so  that  individuals  in  this  state  seem  very  different 
from  those  of  which  the  plumage  is  fresh,  and  in  those  which 
are  moulting  the  contrast  between  the  old  and  new  feathers  is 
very  conspicuous. 

Habits. — The  Buzzard  is  generally  distributed  in  Britain, 
in  the  southern  parts  inhabiting  the  wooded  tracts,  and  in  the 
northern  preferring  the  wilder  and  more  hilly  districts.  Its 
food,  as  disclosed  by  the  substances  which  I  have  found  in 
its  oesophagus  and  stomach,  consists  of  small  quadrupeds, 
the  mole,  short-tailed  and  long-tailed  field  mice,  shrews,  young 
birds,  the  red  grouse,  the  grey  partridge,  various  small  birds, 
lizards  especially  aquatic  species,  beetles,  larvae,  and  not  un- 
frequently  large  earthworms.  In  one  instance  I  found  the 
stomach  filled  with  the  latter;  and  in  another,  with  leaves  of 
plants  and  roots,  along  with  beetles  and  an  earthworm.  The 
mole,  large  as  it  is,  I  have  sometimes  found  swallowed  entire, 
and  animals  of  smaller  size  it  seldom  tears  to  pieces. 

When  searching  for  food,  the  Buzzard  flies  low  over  the 
ground,  advancing  quietly  with  an  equable  and  moderately 
buoyant  flight,  and  occasionally  wheeling  to  either  side.  It 
seldom  pursues  a  bird  on  wing,  but  prefers  pouncing  on  its 
prey  as  it  reposes  or  cowers  on  the  ground,  and  it  is  said  some¬ 
times  to  devour  carrion.  When  merely  proceeding  from  one 
place  to  another,  it  flies  in  a  direct  course,  and  with  great  speed, 
shooting  along  at  times  without  apparently  moving  its  wings, 
in  the  manner  of  the  Eagles ;  and  although  it  cannot  in  this 
respect  be  compared  with  the  Sparrow  Hawk  or  the  Peregrine 
Falcon,  it  by  no  means  deserves  the  opprobrious  epithets  of 
lazy  and  sluggish  and  indolent  which  have  been  conferred 
upon  it.  At  times,  whether  for  amusement  or  gentle  exercise, 
it  gradually  ascends  in  the  air  to  a  great  height,  and  sails  along 
in  a  circling  manner  with  widely  extended  wings.  When  thus 
engaged  it  so  much  resembles  an  eagle  that  the  observer,  not 
being  able  to  calculate  its  distance  with  certainty,  might  mis¬ 
take  it  for  such,  although  the  large  white  patch  on  the  lower 
surface  of  the  wing,  which  is  very  conspicuous,  suffices  to  dis¬ 
tinguish  the  bird. 


BROWN  OR  COMMON  BUZZARD. 


189 


The  history  of  the  Buzzard  is  less  remarkable  than  that  of  many 
other  birds  of  this  family,  and  as  it  is  not  apt  to  attract  attention, 
little  can  be  said  of  it.  After  procuring  a  sufficiency  of  food,  it 
retires  to  some  large  tree  in  a  secluded  place,  or  to  the  ledge  of 
some  rock,  and  there  reposes  until  digestion  is  far  advanced.  It 
is  this  circumstance  which  has  induced  many  persons  to  consider 
it  as  of  a  remarkably  indolent  disposition  ;  but  in  this  respect 
it  does  not  differ  from  the  Eagles,  or  indeed  any  other  species 
of  the  same  family.  Toward  the  commencement  of  the  breed¬ 
ing  season  it  assumes  more  activity,  and  is  more  frequently  seen 
soaring  in  circles.  Its  cry,  which  is  loud  and  shrill,  is  also  more 
commonly  heard  at  this  season. 

In  the  wooded  districts  of  England  it  is  said  to  nestle  on 
trees  ;  but  in  Scotland  it  chooses  for  its  nest  a  shelf  of  a  rock, 
or  the  edge  of  a  steep  scar  or  bed  of  a  hill  torrent,  and  forms  it 
of  sticks,  twigs,  and  heath,  with  a  rude  lining  of  wool  and 
grass.  The  eggs,  three  or  four  in  number,  are  broadly  ellip¬ 
tical,  two  inches  and  a  quarter  in  length,  an  inch  and  ten- 
twelfths  in  breadth,  dull  white,  spotted  and  patched  with 
yellowish-brown.  During  incubation,  the  male  brings  food  to 
the  female,  and  sometimes  takes  her  place  on  the  eggs.  The 
young  are  at  first  covered  with  whitish  down,  and  after  leaving 
the  nest  are  assisted  by  their  parents  until  able  to  shift  for 
themselves. 

“  The  Common  Buzzard,’1  as  Mr  Hepburn  informs  me,  “  is 
a  rare  bird  in  Haddingtonshire.  No  one  can  help  remarking 
its  sluggish  habits  compared  with  those  of  the  other  Raptores 
found  in  the  Lothians.  It  hunts  the  fields  in  a  wavering  direc¬ 
tion,  often  turning  and  twisting,  about  a  dozen  or  sixteen  feet 
from  the  ground,  dropping  down  on  the  unsuspecting  mouse, 
and  seizing  the  unwary  bird  perched  on  the  hedge.  So  far  as 
I  have  seen,  it  does  not  come  near  the  dwellings  of  man  in 
search  of  its  food.  One  of  these  birds  daily  hunted  our  fields 
from  August  to  November  1837,  and  again  during  the  same 
period  in  1838.  Besides  devouring  mice,  the  Buzzard  is  of 
great  service  to  the  farmer  in  effectually  driving  off  the  Ring- 
Doves  from  the  corn.  Here  you  may  see  them  feeding  in  flocks, 
often  containing  as  many  as  500  or  sometimes  above  1000.  He 


190 


BUTEO  VULGARIS. 


is  accused  of  killing  game,  and  suffers  accordingly ;  but  the 
gleanings  of  the  fields  are  not  left  to  maintain  game  alone,  be¬ 
ing  shared  by  mice  and  small  birds,  and  yet  the  poor  Buzzard 
is  shot  when  endeavouring  to  fulfil  one  of  the  great  ends  for 
which  he  was  created,  namely,  setting  bounds  to  their  increase. 
When  will  our  senators  see  the  errors  of  game-laws,  and  the 
moral  evils  tliev  inflict  on  the  lower  orders  ?  Not  till  then 
will  the  farmer  and  nurseryman  experience  the  full  benefit  of 
our  rapacious  birds.'” 

This  species,  which  is  permanently  resident,  is  still  pretty 
numerous  in  many  of  our  wilder  districts.  In  Edinburgh, 
next  to  the  Sparrow  Hawk,  Kestrel,  and  Merlin,  it  is  that 
most  frequently  sent  to  the  bird-stuffers.  It  is  more  plentiful 
in  the  interior  than  along  the  coast,  and  although  it  occurs  in 
the  larger  Hebrides,  it  is  rarely  seen  there,  and  in  the  Shet¬ 
land  Isles,  as  Dr  Edmondston  informs  me,  ranks  merely  as  a 
straggler. 

Young. — I  have  not  examined  a  young  bird  taken  from  the 
nest,  nor  one  that  could  with  certainty  be  said  to  be  in  its  first 
plumage,  and  have  failed  in  my  endeavours  to  obtain  an  account 
of  one  in  this  state,  as  no  person  of  my  acquaintance  has  paid 
attention  to  the  subject.  A  male  shot  in  October,  having  its 
plumage  complete,  and  known  to  be  a  young  bird  by  the  soft¬ 
ness  and  vascularity  of  its  bones,  was  as  follows. 

The  cere  and  soft  margins  of  the  bill  greenish-yellow,  the 
iris  hazel,  the  tarsi  and  toes  yellow  with  a  tinge  of  green,  the 
bill  and  claws  black.  The  upper  part  of  the  head  and  the 
liind-neck  are  dark-brown,  longitudinally  streaked  with  yel¬ 
lowish-white,  the  lateral  margins  of  the  feathers  being  of  that 
colour.  The  rest  of  the  upper  parts  deep  brown  glossed  with 
purple,  all  the  feathers  laterally  margined  with  light-red ;  the 
scapulars  and  some  of  the  large  wing-coverts  with  several  bands 
of  white  on  their  inner  webs,  of  which  the  ed^e  is  mottled  with 
reddish.  The  hind  part  of  the  back  is  of  a  uniform  dark  brown  ; 
but  the  upper  tail-coverts  are  barred  with  light  red.  The  pri¬ 
mary  quills  are  brownish-black,  with  the  outer  webs  tinged 
with  grey  toward  the  end,  the  inner  white  from  the  base  to  be- 


BROWN  OR  COMMON  BUZZARD. 


191 


yond  the  middle,  and  having  several  irregular  dusky  bands. 
Tail  banded  with  brownish-grey  and  blackisli-brown,  there  be¬ 
ing  ten  bands  on  the  middle  feathers,  and  twelve  on  the  outer, 
the  last  dark  band  little  larger  than  the  next,  the  tips  whitish. 
The  sides  of  the  head  and  throat  are  yellowish-white,  streaked 
with  brown  ;  the  rest  of  the  lower  parts  yellowish-white  lon¬ 
gitudinally  marked  with  oblong  brown  spots,  the  sides  chiefly 
brown  ;  the  lower  tail-coverts  with  a  brown  spot ;  the  plumage 
of  the  legs  and  tarsi  irregularly  banded  with  brown  and  light 
red.  The  dull  light- red  edgings  of  the  feathers  are  character¬ 
istic  of  the  young,  as  is  also  the  case  in  the  Sparrow  Hawk, 
Merlin,  and  many  other  species. 

A  female  of  the  same  age  differs  chiefly  in  having  less  white 
on  the  lower  parts,  the  breast  being  of  a  nearly  uniform  brown, 
although  on  many  of  the  feathers  are  large  reddish- white  spots. 
The  feathers  of  the  legs  and  tarsi  are  variegated  with  brown, 
white,  and  light  red,  as  are  those  of  the  abdomen,  and  the 
lower  tail-coverts  are  yellowish,  barred  with  brown. 

Progress  toward  Maturity. — At  the  next  moult  the  bird 
assumes  a  more  uniform  brown  colour  on  the  upper  parts,  the 
light  red  markings  becoming  light  brown,  or  brownish- white. 
It  appears  that,  as  it  advances  in  age,  the  marginal  white  of 
the  feathers  extends,  until  the  lower  parts  in  the  males  become 
nearly  white,  there  being  merely  an  oblong  brown  spot  on  each 
feather,  and  the  white  predominates  over  the  brown  on  the 
upper  parts.  In  the  females  similar  changes  take  place,  but 
the  lower  parts  are  always  more  brown  than  in  the  males.  I 
have  seen  some  individuals  that  had  the  plumage  white,  with 
the  exception  of  the  quills,  tail,  and  some  oblong  spots  on  the 
upper  parts  and  breast.  It  thus  appears  that  at  first  the  co¬ 
lours  of  the  plumage  are  darker  than  when  the  bird  has  attain¬ 
ed  maturity,  and  that  the  white  predominates  over  the  brown 
in  old  age  ;  but  it  must  be  confessed  that  sufficiently  correct 
observations  have  not  been  made  on  this  subject,  and  that 
much  remains  to  be  done  before  the  variations  of  colour  in  this 
species  are  well  understood.  The  iris  in  young  birds  is  brown, 
in  adult  birds  yellow  ;  and,  as  corroborative  of  the  view  which 


192 


11UTEO  VULGARIS. 


I  have  taken  above,  Mr  Fenton  informs  me  that  in  all  the 
very  light-coloured  birds  which  he  has  prepared  the  iris  has 
been  yellow. 

M.  Temminck  states  that  in  adult  individuals,  the  upper 
parts,  the  neck  and  breast,  are  dark  brown  ;  the  throat  and 
belly  brownish-grey,  but  variegated  with  spots  of  a  darker 
brown,  the  tail  with  twelve  transverse  bands,  the  bill  lead- 
colour,  the  cere,  iris,  and  feet  yellow.  Very  old  individuals, 
he  says,  have  the  plumage  very  deep  brown  or  chocolate  co¬ 
lour,  the  throat  whitish  with  small  longitudinal  brown  streaks, 
some  white  transverse  bands  on  the  belly,  and  yellowish  bands 
toward  the  abdomen.  The  young  of  the  year,  according  to 
him,  have  the  general  colour  light  brown,  variegated  with 
whitish  and  yellowish,  the  throat  white  with  longitudinal  spots, 
the  feathers  of  the  breast  bordered  with  white,  the  middle  of 
the  belly  whitish  with  large  longitudinal  oval  or  cordate  spots. 
Birds  of  this  latter  kind  I  think  are  old  males,  those  described 
in  the  preceding  sentence  old  females. 

In  the  third  part  of  his  Manual  he  however  alleges  that  all 
this  has  been  confirmed  by  observations  subsequently  made, 
and  yet  inconsistently  states  that  both  the  Common  Buzzard 
and  the  Bougli-legged  Buzzard  shew  as  many  varieties  of  plu¬ 
mage  as  the  Ruff.  “  No  birds  are  more  numerous  in  Holland 
than  these  two  species  of  Buzzard  ;  they  come  to  us  on  their 
migration  in  autumn,  and  remain  part  of  the  winter  in  our  cli¬ 
mates.  They  all  vary,  without  regard  to  sex,  in  size,  without 
its  being  possible  to  find  any  regular  difference  in  the  colours 
of  the  plumage,  which  may  be  more  or  less  variegated,  barred, 
spotted,  patched,  or  whitish  with  large  brown  markings.”  On 
the  contrary,  I  think  there  is  method  in  the  colouring  of  these 
birds  ;  and  have  no  doubt  that  a  few  good  observers  might  soon 
discover  the  order. 


193 


BUTEO  LAGOPUS.  THE  ROUGH-LEGGED 

BUZZARD. 

ROUGH-LEGGED  FALCON. 

Falco  lagopus.  Gmel.  Syst,  Nat.  I.  2G0. 

Falco  lagopus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  19. 

Rough-legged  Falcon.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Buse  pattue.  Falco  lagopus.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  65  ;  III.  37. 

Rough-legged  Buzzard.  Buteo  lagopus.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  58. 

Buteo  lagopus.  Rough-legged  Buzzard.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  87. 

Tarsi  feathered  to  the  toes  ;  upper  parts  brown ,  the  head  and 
neck  streaked  with  white ,  lower  parts  yellowish-white,  with  a  broad 
patcliof  brown  on  the  breast ;  the  tail  white  for  more  than  half  its 
length.  Old  birds  almost  entirely  chocolate  brown ,  the  forehead 
and  base  of  the  tail  white ,  the  latter  barred  with  white  and  brown? 

In  form,  proportions,  and  plumage,  the  “  Rougli-legged 
Falcon””  so  closely  agrees  with  the  Common  Buzzard,  that, 
although  it  differs  in  having  the  tarsi  feathered  to  the  toes,  in 
place  of  being  feathered  for  half  their  length,  I  cannot  con¬ 
sider  it  necessary  to  refer  it  to  a  separate  genus.  This  spe¬ 
cies  exhibits  great  variation  in  the  tints  of  the  plumage,  and 
especially  in  the  proportion  of  brown  to  yellowish-white,  some 
individuals  being  almost  entirely  of  the  former  colour,  while 
in  others  the  latter  predominates. 

Male. — Although  females  of  this  species  often  equal  and  some¬ 
times  exceed  in  size  those  of  the  Common  Buzzard,  the  male  is 
usually  smaller  than  in  that  species.  The  general  form  is  ro¬ 
bust,  the  body  being  full,  the  neck  rather  short,  the  head  very 
large,  roundish,  and  flattened  above.  The  bill  is  short  and 
comparatively  small,  broader  than  high  at  the  base  ;  the  dorsal 
line  of  the  upper  mandible  declinate  and  slightly  convex  to  the 
edge  of  the  cere,  then  decurved  in  the  fourth  of  a  circle,  its 

o 


VOL.  III. 


194 


BUTEO  LAGOPUS. 


edges  with  a  very  slight  festoon,  the  tip  trigonal  and  descend¬ 
ing  obliquely  ;  the  lower  mandible  with  the  angle  wide,  the 
dorsal  line  convex,  the  sides  rounded,  the  edges  sharp,  inflected, 
and  decurved  at  the  tip,  which  is  rounded  and  thin-edged.  The 
nostrils  are  large  and  ovate  ;  the  eyes  also  large.  The  feet  are 
rather  short  and  robust ;  the  tarsi  roundish,  feathered  in  their 
whole  length  ;  the  toes  short  and  proportionally  smaller  than 
in  the  Common  Buzzard  ;  the  hind  toe  considerably  shorter 
and  scarcely  stronger  than  the  second,  the  fourth  of  about  the 
same  length,  much  more  slender,  and  connected  by  a  small 
web  ;  the  toes  with  transverse  series  of  scales  at  the  base,  the 
first  with  five,  the  second  with  four,  the  third  with  seven,  the 
fourth  with  four  scutella.  The  claws  are  long,  moderately 
curved,  rather  slender,  very  acute,  that  of  the  third  toe  with  a 
thin  edge  along  the  inner  side. 

o  o 


The  plumage  is  full,  remarkably  soft  and  rather  blended. 
The  space  between  the  bill  and  the  eye  is  covered  with  small 
bristle-tipped  downy  feathers.  On  the  head  and  neck  the  fea¬ 
thers  are  lanceolate,  on  the  back  and  breast  broadly  ovate  and 
rounded  ;  on  the  legs  short  and  narrow,  those  on  the  outer  side 
of  the  tibia  however  being  elongated  and  of  an  oblong  form. 
The  wings  are  long,  reaching  to  the  end  of  the  tail,  and  much 
rounded  ;  the  first  four  quills  with  the  inner  web  abruptly  at¬ 
tenuated,  the  first  six  with  the  outer  also  narrowed  ;  the  secon- 


ROUGH-LEGGED  BUZZARD. 


195 


daries  broad  and  rounded  ;  the  first  quill  two  inches  and  ten 
twelfths  shorter  than  the  second,  which  is  an  inch  and  a  twelfth 
shorter  than  the  third,  the  fourth  slightly  longer  than  the  lat¬ 
ter  ;  the  first  and  seventh  about  equal.  The  tail  is  long,  broad, 
slightly  rounded  and  slightly  emarginate. 

The  cere  and  toes  are  yellow,  the  superciliary  ridge  greenish, 
the  iris  yellow  ;  the  bill  and  claws  black,  greyish-blue  at  the 
base-  The  radiating  loral  bristles  black,  their  downy  base 
white.  The  head  and  neck  are  yellowish-white,  with  linear- 
oblong  streaks  of  umber-brown,  the  central  part  of  each  feather 
being  of  that  colour  ;  the  back  umber-brown  tinged  with  grey, 
the  feathers  glossed  with  purplish  toward  the  end,  margined 
with  yellowish-white  and  light  reddish-brown,  and  having 
their  concealed  parts  white.  The  edge  of  the  wing  is  whit¬ 
ish,  the  brown  feathers  close  to  it  margined  with  light  red  ; 
the  quills  and  larger  coverts  are  brown,  the  primaries  blackish- 
brown  toward  the  end,  the  outer  webs  of  the  first  six  tinged 
with  grey,  and  the  base  of  all  white,  that  colour  being  apparent 
on  the  outer  edge  of  the  outer  four  or  five,  and  extending  to 
the  narrowed  part  of  the  inner  web  of  all.  The  upper  tail- 
coverts  are  white,  with  a  large  brown  spot  near  the  end  ;  the 
tail  white  for  nearly  two-thirds  from  the  base,  the  remaining 
or  terminal  part  brown,  but  with  a  small  portion  of  the  tip 
brownish-white.  The  ground-colour  of  the  fore-neck  and  the 
rest  of  the  lower  parts  is  yellowish-white  or  pale  ochre,  the 
throat  with  linear,  the  neck  with  lanceolate,  the  breast  with 
obovate  brown  spots  ;  but  the  sides  and  middle  of  the  breast 
are  brown ;  the  abdomen  and  lower  tail-coverts  unspotted  ; 
the  short  plumage  of  the  legs  and  tarsi  reddish-yellow,  mottled 
with  dark  brown  ;  the  elongated  tibial  feathers  paler,  with  an 
oblong  brown  spot.  The  lower  wing-coverts  are  yellowish- 
white,  each  with  a  narrow  brown  mark,  but  the  larger  or  pri¬ 
mary  coverts  chiefly  brown  ;  almost  the  whole  under  surface 
of  the  quills  white,  the  attenuated  part  of  the  primaries  being 
greyish-black,  and  the  ends  of  the  secondaries  pale  grey. 

The  alimentary  canal,  as  examined  in  an  American  speci¬ 
men,  belonging  to  Mr  Audubon,  is  in  all  respects  similar  to 
that  of  the  Common  Buzzard  ;  the  tongue  being  ten  twelfths  of 


196 


BUTEO  LAGOPUS. 


an  inch  long,  fleshy,  concave  above,  rounded ;  the  oesophagus 
six  and  a  half  inches  long,  expanded  into  a  crop  two  inches 
and  eight  twelfths  in  width ;  the  stomach  roundish,  somewhat 
compressed,  two  inches  and  a  quarter  in  diameter ;  its  muscu¬ 
lar  coat  thin ;  the  pylorus  with  three  knobs  ;  the  intestine 
three  feet  seven  inches  in  length,  from  five  twelfths  to  a 
twelfth  and  a  half  in  width ;  the  rectum  four  inches  long,  five 
and  a  half  twelfths  wide  ;  the  cloaca  globular ;  the  coeca  three 
twelfths  long. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  21  inches;  extent  of  wings  51  ;  wing 
from  flexure  17  ;  tail  9J  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  lT4g  ;  along  the 
edge  of  lower  mandible  1T72  ;  tarsus  2J  ;  hind  toe  its  claw 
ITV  ;  second  toe  T9|,  its  claw  1  ;  third  toe  1T32,  its  claw 

It  ;  fourth  toe  ~§,  its  claw 

Female. — The  female,  which  is  much  larger,  resembles  the 
male  in  colour ;  an  adult  individual  in  my  collection  differing 
only  in  having  the  light-coloured  parts  more  tinged  with  yel¬ 
low,  the  small  wing-coverts  more  largely  edged  with  brownish- 
red,  the  scapulars  and  larger  wing-coverts  broadly  margined 
with  yellowish- white ;  but  as  scarcely  two  adult  individuals 
agree  in  every  particular,  it  is  inexpedient  to  enter  into  a  very 
minute  description. 

In  an  individual  killed  in  Fifeshire  in  December  1839,  the 
oesophagus  was  seven  inches  long,  the  crop  two  inches  and  a 
half  in  width ;  the  stomach  two  inches  in  diameter ;  the  in¬ 
testine  four  feet  one  inch  lon^ ;  the  coeca  three  twelfths,  and 
the  cloaca  an  inch  and  a  quarter  in  diameter. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  23  i  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  56  ;  wing 
from  flexure  18 ;  tail  10  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  1T52  ;  tarsus  2T82  ; 
first  toe  its  claw  1T52  ;  second  toe  1°|,  its  claw  1T22  ;  third 
toe  H,  its  claw  {  \  ;  fourth  toe  l-^,  its  claw  T8|. 

Variations. — Although  the  individuals  commonly  met  with 
present  a  considerable  diversity  of  colouring,  I  do  not  find  that 
the  differences  are  of  much  importance,  being  confined  to  changes 
in  the  relative  extent  of  the  white  and  brown  markings,  stronger 
shades  of  yellow  on  the  white,  and  the  presence  or  absence  of  red- 


ROUGH-LEGGED  BUZZARD.  197 

dish  margins.  Indications  of  bars  on  the  tail  are  usually  met 
with,  and  its  broad  brown  band  is  darker  or  lighter. 

Habits. — The  Rough -legged  Buzzard,  which  is  a  native  of 
the  colder  regions  of  both  continents,  now  and  then  makes  its 
appearance  in  Britain,  toward  the  end  of  autumn  or  in  winter  ; 
but  if  it  ever  remains  to  breed  with  us,  the  instances  must  be 
extremely  rare,  and  I  am  unable  to  find  any  description  of  its 
nest,  eggs,  or  young,  as  observed  in  this  country.  In  the 
southern  division  of  Scotland  it  has  several  times  been  pro¬ 
cured,  and,  as  Mr  Yarrell  remarks,  “  it  has  been  killed  once 
or  oftener  in  every  county  in  England A  Yet  Mr  Selby,  I  be¬ 
lieve,  is  the  only  person  who  has  described  its  habits  from  per¬ 
sonal  observation,  he  having  had  an  opportunity  of  watching 
two  birds  that  had  settled  in  his  neighbourhood.  “  Their 
flight,’1  he  says,  “  was  smooth,  but  slow,  and  not  unlike  that 
of  the  Common  Buzzard,  and  they  seldom  continued  for  any 
length  of  time  on  the  wing.  They  preyed  upon  wild  ducks 
and  other  birds,  which  they  pounced  upon  on  the  ground  ;  and  it 
would  appear  that  mice  and  frogs  must  have  constituted  a  great 
part  of  their  food,  as  the  remains  of  both  were  found  in  the 
stomachs  of  those  that  were  killed.11 

On  the  continent,  according  to  M.  Temminck,  it  inhabits 
the  borders  of  woods,  in  the  vicinity  of  water;  in  autumn  and 
winter  is  frequent  in  the  northern  countries,  and  sometimes 
makes  its  appearance  in  Holland,  usually  in  company  with  the 
Common  Buzzard.  Its  food,  he  says,  is  composed  of  water- 
rats,  hamsters,  moles,  young  rabbits,  hares  and  birds,  often  of 
serpents  and  frogs.  From  the  Scandinavian  Peninsula  and 
other  northern  parts  it  is  seen  as  far  south  as  the  shores  of  the 
Mediterranean,  and  is  even  said  to  have  been  met  with  at  the 
Cape  of  Good  Hope. 

In  America  it  is  confined  to  the  northern  parts.  According 
to  Dr  Richardson,  “  it  arrives  in  the  fur  countries  in  April  or 
May,  and,  having  reared  its  young,  retires  southward  early  in 
October.  It  winters  on  the  banks  of  the  Delaware  and  Schuyl¬ 
kill,  returning  to  the  north  in  spring.  It  is  by  no  means  an  un¬ 
common  bird  in  the  districts  through  which  the  expedition 


198 


BUTEO  LAGOPUS. 


travelled,  but,  being  very  shy,  only  one  specimen  was  procured. 
A  pair  were  seen  at  their  nest,  built  of  sticks,  on  a  lofty  tree, 
standing  on  a  low,  moist,  alluvial  point  of  land,  almost  encir¬ 
cled  by  a  bend  of  the  Saskatchewan.  They  sailed  round  the 
spot  in  a  wide  circle,  occasionally  settling  on  the  top  of  a  tree, 
but  wrere  too  wary  to  allow  us  to  come  within  gun-shot ;  so 
that,  after  spending  much  time  in  vain,  we  were  fain  to  relin¬ 
quish  the  chase.  In  the  softness  and  fulness  of  its  plumage, 
its  feathered  legs,  and  habits,  this  bird  bears  some  resemblance 
to  the  owls.  It  flies  slowly,  sits  for  a  long  time  on  the  bough 
of  a  tree,  watching  for  mice,  frogs,  & re.,  and  is  often  seen  skim¬ 
ming  over  swampy  pieces  of  ground,  and  hunting  for  its  prey 
by  the  subdued  daylight,  which  illuminates  even  the  midnight 
hours  in  the  high  parallels  of  latitude." 

Mr  Audubon  found  it  plentiful  in  winter  in  the  neighbour¬ 
hood  of  Boston,  and  observed  it  in  various  places  from  the  Bay 
of  Fundy  to  the  eastern  parts  of  North  Carolina,  beyond  which 
it  seldom  proceeds.  “  It  is  a  sluggish  bird,"  he  says,  “  and 
confines  itself  to  the  meadows  and  low  grounds  bordering  the 
rivers  and  salt-marshes,  along  our  bays  and  inlets.  In  such 
places  you  may  see  it  perched  on  a  stake,  where  it  remains  for 
hours  at  a  time,  unless  some  wounded  bird  comes  in  sight, 
when  it  sails  after  it  and  secures  it  without  manifesting  much 
swiftness  of  flight.  It  feeds  principally  on  moles,  mice,  and 
other  small  quadrupeds,  and  never  attacks  a  duck  on  the  wing, 
although  now  and  then  it  pursues  a  wounded  one.  When  not 
alarmed,  it  usually  flies  low  and  sedately,  and  does  not  exhibit 
any  of  the  courage  and  vigour  so  conspicuous  in  most  other 
hawks,  suffering  thousands  of  birds  to  pass  without  pursuing 
them.  The  greatest  feat  I  have  seen  them  perform  was  scram¬ 
bling  at  the  edge  of  the  water,  to  secure  a  lethargic  frog.  They 
alight  on  trees  to  roost,  but  appear  so  hungry  and  indolent  at 
all  times,  that  they  seldom  retire  to  rest  until  after  dusk.  Their 
large  eyes  indeed  seem  to  indicate  their  possession  of  the  faculty 
of  seeing  at  that  late  hour.  I  have  frequently  put  up  one,  that 
seemed  watching  for  food  at  the  edge  of  a  ditch,  long  after  sun¬ 
set.  Whenever  an  opportunity  offers,  they  eat  to  excess,  and, 
like  the  Turkey  Buzzards  and  Carrion  Crows,  disgorge  their 


ROUGH-LEGGED  BUZZARD. 


199 


food,  to  enable  them  to  fly  off.  The  species  is  more  nocturnal 
in  its  habits  than  any  other  hawk  found  in  the  United  States.” 
Although  it  has  not  been  met  with  between  the  Alleglianies 
and  the  Rocky  Mountains,  Dr  Townsend  found  it  breeding  on 
the  banks  of  Bear  River,  westward  of  the  latter.  “  Its  nest  wTas 
placed  in  a  willow,  ten  feet  from  the  ground,  and  formed  of 
large  sticks.  It  contained  two  young  almost  fledged.” 

Remarks. — A  hawk  precisely  similar  in  every  respect,  except¬ 
ing  colour,  to  the  Rough-legged  Falcon,  was  described  by  Pen¬ 
nant  and  Wilson  under  the  names  of  Falco  Sancti-Johannis  and 
Falco  niger.  This  bird  Mr  Audubon,  by  an  extensive  compari¬ 
son  of  specimens,  found  to  be  identical  with  that  species,  and  it 
lias  been  referred  to  by  Nillson  as  the  young  of  the  Buteo  lagopus. 
Mr  Audubon,  however,  is  positive  as  to  its  being  the  old  bird, 
and  gives  analogical  and  other  reasons  in  support  of  his  opinion, 
young  birds  taken  from  the  nest  not  having  been  seen  by  him. 
These  reasons  will  be  found  in  the  second  and  fifth  volumes  of 
his  Ornithological  Biography.  The  state  of  plumage  alluded 
to  is  chocolate  or  blackish-brown,  but  with  some  of  the  charac¬ 
teristic  markings  of  the  species,  such  in  particular  as  the  white 
bases  of  the  quills,  remaining. 

No  person,  however,  has  seen  these  black  individuals  breed¬ 
ing  ;  but  on  the  contrary,  Dr  Richardson,  as  mentioned  above, 
observed  a  pair  of  the  usual  colour  having  a  nest;  and  Dr  Towns¬ 
end,  in  stating  the  fact  mentioned  above,  concludes  with  saying 
“  the  birds  were  in  the  same  plumage  as  that  figured  by  you” — 
that  individual  then  figured  being  an  ordinary  Buteo  lagopus.  It 
is  thus  clear  that  the  light-coloured  birds  breed,  and  therefore 
must  be  considered  adult,  unless  the  black  be  also  found  breed¬ 
ing,  in  which  case  some  additional  circumstance  would  be  re¬ 
quired  to  settle  the  question.  If  the  old  birds  are  black,  how  is  it 
that  none  have  ever  been  seen  in  Britain,  or  in  Holland,  although 
these  countries  are  not  by  any  means  on  the  limits  of  their 
migration,  the  species  occurring  as  far  south  as  the  Mediterra¬ 
nean  l  On  the  other  hand,  if  the  young  birds  are  black,  how 
do  they  not  appear  in  these  countries,  since  in  the  southward 
migration  of  an  arctic  bird  the  young  generally  proceed  far¬ 
thest  ?  There  are  two  ways  of  solving  the  difficulty.  The  dark- 


200 


BUTEO  LAGOPUS. 


coloured  birds  are  those  in  their  first  or  nestling  plumage  ;  or 
they  may.  on  a  more  minute  examination,  and  on  being  kept 
some  years  in  captivity,  turn  out  to  be  of  a  different  species. 

The  birds  alluded  to  above  are  as  follows  : — Bill  bluish- 
black  ;  cere  and  basal  margins  orange ;  feet  orange ;  iris 
hazel,  superciliary  ridge  dull  green ;  general  colour  of  the 
plumage  blackish-brown  or  chocolate-brown  ;  the  inner  webs 
of  the  quills,  the  nape  under  the  surface,  and  the  forehead, 
white  ;  the  feathers  of  the  legs  barred  with  reddish  ;  the  tail 
deep  black,  with  five  narrow  white  bands,  and  tipped  with 
brownish-white.  A  male  in  this  state  in  Air  Audubon’s  col¬ 
lection  had  “  the  general  colour  of  the  plumage  deep  blackish- 
brown  ;  the  forehead  and  a  large  patch  on  the  hind-neck  white, 
streaked  with  blackish-brown ;  all  the  feathers  of  the  back, 
the  scapulars,  the  wing-coverts,  the  quills,  and  the  tail-feathers, 
are  white  toward  the  base,  and  more  or  less  barred  with  whitish, 
or  light  grey,  or  pale  brown  ;  in  consequence  of  which  the 
upper  parts  are  obscurely  mottled  ;  the  axillar  feathers,  some 
of  those  on  the  sides,  and  some  of  the  tibial  feathers,  with  the 
lower  tail-coverts,  are  similarly  marked  ;  the  white  forms  a 
conspicuous  patch  on  the  under  surface  of  the  wing,  as  it  occu¬ 
pies  the  greater  part  of  the  primaries  as  well  as  part  of  the 
inner  webs  of  the  secondaries  ;  the  tail  brownish-black,  barred 
with  greyish- white,  tinged  with  brown,  there  being  on  the  mid¬ 
dle  feathers  six  of  these  black  bands,  the  last  very  broad,  the 
tips  brownish-white. 

If  these  really  belong  to  this  species,  we  might  suppose 
that  the  young,  at  first  of  a  nearly  uniform  dark  brown,  but 
with  the  bases  of  all  the  feathers  white,  gradually  become 
lighter,  the  brown  colour  contracting  so  that  the  edges  of 
the  feathers  become  white  or  yellowish  until  the  brown  is  re¬ 
duced  to  mere  streaks  on  the  head  and  neck.  The  tail,  at  first 
banded  with  blackish-brown  and  white,  ultimately  becomes 
brown,  the  basal  part  being  white  at  all  ages  ;  or,  in  other 
words,  the  bands,  at  first  numerous,  are  ultimately  reduced  to 
one  ;  as  is  the  case  with  Buteo  borealis,  Falco  sparverius,  and 
F.  Tinnunculus,  and  to  a  less  extent  with  Buteo  pennsylvani- 
cus,  in  which  the  young  has  seven  dusky  bars,  while  the  adult 
has  only  three. 


201 


AQUILA.  EAGLE. 


Bill  shorter  than  the  head,  very  high,  at  the  base  of  nearly 
the  same  breadth  and  height,  gradually  compressed  :  upper 
mandible  with  the  cere  broad  and  bare,  the  dorsal  line  nearly 
straight  along  the  cere,  then  decurved  in  about  the  third  of  a 
circle,  the  ridge  broad  and  convex  on  the  cere,  narrowed  but 
convex  in  the  rest  of  its  extent,  the  sides  sloping,  toward  the 
end  slightly  convex,  the  edges  soft  to  beneath  the  nostrils, 
then  sharp,  with  a  slight  festoon,  the  tip  prolonged,  slightly 
curved  inwards,  trigonal,  acute,  concave  beneath  ;  lower  man¬ 
dible  with  the  angle  of  moderate  width,  and  rounded,  the 
edges  soft,  obtuse  and  straight  for  half  their  length,  towards 
the  end  sharp,  inflected,  and  decurved,  the  dorsal  line  convex, 
as  are  the  sides,  the  tip  rounded  and  tliin-edged. 

Mouth  wide  ;  palate  flat,  with  two  longitudinal  soft  pro¬ 
minent  papillate  lines  ;  upper  mandible  slightly  concave  within, 
the  lower  more  deeply  concave ;  posterior  aperture  of  nares 
oblong,  with  an  anterior  slit.  Tongue  fleshy,  deeply  emar- 
ginate  and  papillate  at  the  base,  with  one  of  the  lateral  pa¬ 
pillae  large,  concave  above,  the  sides  nearly  parallel,  the  tip 
rounded,  slightly  emarginate.  (Esophagus  very  wide,  dilated 
into  a  very  large  crop  lying  toward  the  right  side.  A  broad 
belt  of  proventricular  glands.  Stomach  large,  roundish,  its 
muscular  coat  thin  and  composed  of  a  single  series  of  fasciculi ; 
the  tendinous  spaces  round  and  thin.  The  intestine  rather 
short,  wide,  at  the  anterior  part,  very  narrow  toward  the 
rectum,  the  duodenum  forming  a  single  loop;  coeca  very  small, 
cloaca  very  large  and  globular.  Plate  XX,  Fig.  2. 

Nostrils  broadly  elliptical,  oblique,  subbasal,  in  the  fore  part 
of  the  cere.  Eyes  large,  with  a  broad  projecting  superciliary 
ridge ;  eyelids  bare,  edged  with  bristly  feathers  having  a  few 
filaments  at  the  base.  External  aperture  of  ear  large,  round, 


202 


AQUILA.  EAGLE. 


with  a  broadish  dermal  margin,  beset  with  linear-lanceolate 
feathers. 

The  body  is  robust  and  compact,  of  great  breadth  anteriorly  ; 
the  neck  of  moderate  length  ;  the  bead  large,  roundish,  very 
broad  behind,  flattened  above.  The  feet  of  moderate  length, 
extremely  muscular ;  the  tarsus  very  short,  thick,  round,  fea¬ 
thered  to  the  tarso-digital  .joint,  in  some  species  partially  bare 
and  scaly.  The  toes  of  moderate  length,  very  stout ;  the 
first  and  second  shortest  and  thickest,  the  fourth  next  in 
length,  but  the  most  slender ;  the  third  and  fourth  connected 
by  a  pretty  large  web,  the  third  and  second  by  a  very  slight 
one  ;  all  covered  above  by  transverse  series  of  roundish  scales, 
scutellate  toward  the  end.  Claws  strong,  tapering,  curved, 
rounded  above,  laterally  flattened,  very  acute,  concave,  and 
marginate  beneath  ;  the  first  and  second  largest,  the  fourth 
remarkably  small,  the  third  with  an  edge  and  a  broad  groove 
on  the  inner  side. 

Plumage  compact  and  imbricated.  The  space  from  the  eye 
to  the  cere  covered  with  very  small  bristle-feathers,  which  are 
downy  at  the  base.  On  the  head  and  neck  the  feathers  are 
lanceolate  and  pointed,  on  the  body  broadly  ovate ;  the  scapu¬ 
lars  large  and  strong ;  outer  tibial  feathers  elongated,  the  rest 
short.  The  fore  part  of  the  breast  in  the  region  of  the  furcula, 
the  abdomen  and  part  of  the  sides  covered  with  downy  feathers 
only  ;  but  a  large  tuft  from  the  thorax  overlaps  the  abdomen. 
Wings  very  long,  broad,  and  rounded,  with  twenty-seven 
quills,  and  six  strong  humerals.  The  first  quill  of  the  same 
length  as  the  eighth,  the  second  shorter  than  the  fifth,  the  fourth 
longest,  the  third  almost  as  long  ;  the  first  six  are  abruptly  cut 
out  on  the  inner  web,  and  narrowed  on  the  outer,  leaving  large 
intervals  when  the  wing  is  expanded  ;  the  primaries  pointed, 
the  secondaries  very  broad,  broadly  obtuse,  with  a  minute  tip. 
Tail  of  moderate  length,  or  rather  long,  rounded,  extending 
considerably  beyond  the  tips  of  the  wings,  broad,  of  twelve  very 
broad  feathers. 

This  genus  is  composed  of  birds  of  large  or  moderate  size, 
some  of  which  approach  the  Haliaeti  in  form,  while  others 
manifest  a  direct  affinity  to  the  Buzzards.  In  Haliaetus,  the 


AQUILA.  EAGLE. 


203 


bill  is  longer  and  higher,  the  feet  larger,  and  the  tarsi  bare. 
A  still  more  distinctive  character  exists  in  the  intestinal  canal, 
which  is  extremely  elongated  and  narrow,  with  a  singularly 
convoluted  duodenum  in  Haliaetus,  whereas  in  Aquila  it  is 
short,  rather  wide,  and  with  the  duodenum  of  the  usual  form. 
The  Eagles  are  powerful  and  vigorous  birds,  rather  heavy  and 
somewhat  slow,  like  the  Buzzards,  but  differing  from  the  Hali- 
aeti  in  feeding  less  on  carrion  than  on  animals  killed  by  them¬ 
selves.  They  nestle  in  rocks,  whether  on  the  sea  shore  or  in 
the  interior,  prefer  mountainous  regions,  and  are  generally  dis¬ 
tributed,  one  or  more  species  occurring  in  every  known  region. 
In  Britain  only  one  is  met  with,  which  is  now  almost  entirely 
confined  to  the  northern  parts. 

I  have  ascertained,  by  comparing  birds  shot  in  winter  with 
those  newly  fledged,  that  the  young  retain  their  first  plumage 
until  the  following  spring,  or,  at  least,  that  the  colouring  of 
their  winter  plumage  is  similar  to  that  of  their  first  state.  The 
Foot  here  represented,  and  the  Head  on  the  following  page, 
are  those  of  a  young  male  shot  in  winter. 


Fig.  214. 


204 


AQUILA  CHRYSAETUS.  THE  GOLDEN  EAGLE. 

BLACK  EAGLE.  RING-TAILED  EAGLE.  BROWN  EAGLE.  IOLAIR  DHUBII. 


F/g.  215. 


Falco  Chrysaetos.  Linn,  Syst.  Nat.  I.  125.  Adult. 

Falco  fulvus.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  125.  Young. 

Falco  Chrysaetos.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  12.  Adult. 

Falco  fulvus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  10.  Young. 

Golden  Eagle.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet.  Adult. 

Ring-tail  Eagle.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet.  Young. 

Aigle  F.oyal.  Falco  fulvus.  Teram.  Man.  d’Orn.  38. 

Golden  Eagle,  Aquila  Chrvsaetus.  Selb.  Tllustr. 

Falco  Cbrysaetus.  Golden  Eagle.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An. 

Tail  slightly  rounded ,  longer  than  the  icings  ;  the  general 
colo  ur  bro  wn  ;  the  feathers  of  the  head.,  neck ,  tarsus ,  and  in  ner 
part  of  tibia  light  yellowish-brown ,  the  tail  brownish-black ,  more 
or  less  car  legated  with  grey.  Young  dark-brown ,  with  the  basal 
half  of  the  tail  white. 

The  Golden  Eagle,  which,  with  the  exception  of  the  White- 
failed  Sea-Eagle,  is  the  largest  of  our  Kaptores,  is  the  only 


GOLDEN  EAGLE. 


205 


bird  of  its  genus  that  occurs  in  Britain.  The  disparity  be¬ 
tween  the  male  and  the  female  is  as  great  as  in  any  species  of 
this  family,  some  individuals  of  the  former  measuring  only 
two  feet  and  a  half  in  length,  while  many  of  the  latter  extend 
to  three  feet  two  inches.  If  not  the  most  celebrated,  it  is  at 
least  the  most  esteemed  of  its  tribe,  and,  through  the  misre¬ 
presentations  of  poets  and  amateur  naturalists,  possesses  a  char¬ 
acter  for  courage  and  generosity,  which  a  more  intimate  ac¬ 
quaintance  with  it  than  such  persons  usually  acquire,  soon 
suffices  to  dispel.  Yet  the  Eagle  is  a  magnificent  bird,  and 
when  met  with  on  some  grim  alpine  crag  projecting  from  the 
grey  mist,  inspires  a  kind  of  respect,  of  which  some  degree  of 
fear  is  an  essential  ingredient.  Even  in  the  menagerie  he  has 
a  truculent  aspect,  with  those  bright  but  overshadowed  eyes, 
that  harmonizes  with  his  wild  nature  ;  and,  here,  extended 
dead  on  the  table,  as  just  arrived  from  the  Braes  of  Lochaber, 
his  broad  chest  and  brawny  limbs  indicate  a  power  capable 
of  giving  effect  to  those  death-dealing  talons  and  expansive 
wings. 

Male. — The  body  is  robust,  compact,  ovate,  very  broad 
anteriorly ;  the  neck  of  moderate  length  ;  the  head  short, 
very  broad  behind,  and  flattened  above.  Bill  shorter  than 
the  head,  very  deep,  compressed  toward  the  end  ;  the  cere 
large,  the  edges  of  the  upper  mandible  with  a  slight  festoon, 
its  tip  trigonal  and  decurved.  The  legs  are  rather  long,  and 
very  muscular ;  but  the  tarsi  short,  stout,  roundish,  and 
feathered  to  the  joint.  The  toes  are  covered  above  with 
transverse  series  of  roundish  scales,  padded  beneath,  with  soft 
conical,  generally  flattened  papillae.  On  each  of  the  toes  are 
four  terminal  scutella.  The  claws  are  strong,  tapering,  acu¬ 
minate,  curved,  rounded  above,  laterally  flattened,  concave 
beneath  ;  the  first  and  second  largest,  the  fourth  comparatively 
very  small. 

The  upper  mandible  is  concave  within,  and  has  a  median 
ridge ;  the  palate  flat,  with  two  longitudinal  papillate  ridges. 
The  posterior  aperture  of  the  nares  oblong  behind,  linear 


20(J  AQUILA  CHRYSAETUS. 

before,  margined  with  minute  papillae.  The  tongue  is  an 
inch  and  a  quarter  in  length,  concave  above,  emarginate  and 
papillate  at  the  base,  horny  beneath,  with  the  tip  rounded  and 
slightly  emarginate.  The  oesophagus  is  thirteen  inches  long, 
at  the  commencement  an  inch  and  a  half  in  width,  but  pre¬ 
sently  enlarging  to  form  a  great  sac  or  crop  three  inches  in 
width,  and  four  in  length  ;  it  then  contracts  on  entering  the 
thorax,  and  again  enlarges  to  the  width  of  an  inch  and  a  half. 
Its  transverse  muscular  fibres  are  conspicuous  in  its  whole  ex¬ 
tent,  and  on  its  inner  surface  open  numerous  mucous  crypts.  The 
stomach  is  roundish,  a  little  compressed,  two  inches  and  a  half 
in  diameter,  its  tendons  seven-eighths,  its  muscular  coat  thin, 
and  composed  of  a  single  series  of  fasciculi.  The  proventri- 
cular  glandules,  which  are  cylindrical,  form  a  continuous  belt 
an  inch  and  a  half  in  breadth.  The  intestine  is  four  feet  eight 
inches  in  length,  at  its  anterior  part  seven  twelfths  in  width, 
toward  the  rectum  only  two-twelfths.  The  coeca  are  two- 
twelfths  and  a  half  loii£f.  The  rectum  is  six  inches  and  a  half 
in  length,  about  nine-twelfths  in  width,  but  enlarges  into  a 
globular  sac  two  inches  in  diameter.  Plate  XX,  Fig.  2. 

The  nostril,  which  is  broadly  elliptical,  oblique,  with  a 
soft  ridge  internally  from  the  upper  side,  is  five-twelfths  long, 
and  three-twelfths  in  breadth.  The  aperture  of  the  eye  is 
eight-twelfths,  that  of  the  ear  five-twelfths. 

The  cere  is  bare  above,  but  its  sides,  and  a  broad  space  from 
the  bill  to  the  eye,  are  covered  with  bristle-feathers,  having  a 
few  downy  filaments  at  their  base ;  the  supraocular  ridge  is 
bare,  as  are  the  eyelids,  which  however  are  ciliated.  On  the 
head  the  feathers  are  small,  narrow,  lanceolate,  and  acumi¬ 
nate  ;  on  the  neck  similar,  but  larger  and  broader  ;  on  the 
back  ovate  and  acuminate,  those  before  larger  ;  the  scapulars 
large  and  strong ;  on  the  lower  parts  also  ovate,  on  the  tibia 
and  tarsus  short  and  blended,  on  the  outer  side  of  the  former 
elongated.  The  feathers  of  the  abdomen  are  loose  and  downy. 
The  wings,  which  when  closed  reach  nearly  to  the  end  of  the 
tail,  are  very  long  and  broad ;  the  primaries  ten,  the  secon¬ 
daries  seventeen,  the  humerals  six  of  large  size  ;  the  outer 


GOLDEN  EAGLE. 


207 


six  quills  abruptly  cut  out  on  the  inner,  and  gently  attenuated 
on  the  outer  web  ;  the  fourth  longest,  the  third  a  quarter  of  an 
inch  shorter,  the  second  an  inch  and  a  third  shorter  than  the 
fourth,  the  first  five  inches  and  a  half  shorter,  and  of  the  same 
length  as  the  eighth.  The  tail  is  of  moderate  length,  nearly 
straight,  broad,  and  slightly  rounded,  the  lateral  feathers  being 
only  three  quarters  of  an  inch  shorter  than  the  longest. 

The  bill  and  claws  are  black,  shaded  toward  the  base  into 
greyish-blue ;  the  cere  and  soft  skin  at  the  base  of  the  bill  rich 
yellow ;  the  bare  part  of  the  eyelids  flesh-colour  ;  the  iris  hazel ; 
the  toes  rich  pure  yellow,  their  soles  of  the  same  colour  but 
paler.  The  bristly  feathers  about  the  base  of  the  bill  are  black. 
The  feathers  of  the  upper  part  of  the  head,  the  hind  part  and 
sides  of  the  neck  light  yellowish-brown  ;  those  of  the  inner  and 
fore  part  of  the  tibia,  and  of  the  tarsus  all  round,  of  alight  reddish- 
brown  ;  as  are  the  lower  tail-coverts.  The  general  colour  of  the 
rest  of  the  plumage  is  deep-brown,  glossed  with  purple ;  the 
edges  of  the  wings  pale  brovvnisli-grey  ;  most  of  the  wing-coverts 
and  the  inner  secondaries  umber-brown,  margined  with  paler. 
Alula,  primary  coverts  and  primary  quills  brownish-black ; 
their  inner  webs  irregularly  barred  with  greyish-white,  as  are 
both  webs  of  most  of  the  secondaries.  The  tail  is  dark  brown, 
blackish  toward  the  end,  but  toward  the  base  paler,  with  irre¬ 
gular  pale  greyish-brown  markings.  On  all  parts  of  the  body 
the  bases  of  the  feathers  are  white ;  the  down  on  the  breast, 
abdomen,  and  sides  pale  grey,  on  the  latter  intermixed  with 
brown. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  33  inches ;  extent  of  wings  72  ;  bill 
along  the  ridge  2X\,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  2X62, 
cere  ;  wing  from  flexure  2d  ;  tail  12  J  ;  tarsus  4  ;  first  toe 
1t82,  its  claw  2X| ;  second  toe  1T7|,  its  claw  2^  ;  third  toe 
2t52,  its  claw  li  ;  fourth  toe  1|§,  its  claw  lx|. 

Female. — The  female  greatly  exceeds  the  male  in  size,  but 
scarcely  differs  in  colouring.  One  from  Inverness-shire,  which 
weighed  twelve  pounds  fourteen  ounces,  had  the  fifth  quill 
longest,  the  fourth  next,  the  third  and  sixth  scarcely  shorter, 


208 


AQUILA  CHRYSAETUS. 


the  first  four  inches  and  a  half  shorter  than  the  second,  which 
was  half  an  inch  shorter  than  the  third ;  the  tail  very  slightly 
rounded,  the  lateral  feathers  only  ten-twelfths  shorter  than  the 
longest.  The  general  colour  of  the  plumage  dark-brown  ;  the 
upper  part  of  the  head,  hind  part  and  sides  of  the  neck,  inner 
tibial  feathers,  those  of  the  tarsus,  and  the  lower  tail-coverts, 
yellowish-brown.  The  edge  of  the  wing  greyish-brown  ;  the 
wing-coverts  and  inner  secondaries  edged  with  brownish- white  ; 
the  primary  quills  brownish-black,  their  inner  webs  mottled 
with  greyish  ;  the  secondaries  brown,  with  their  inner  and  part 
of  their  outer  webs  variegated  with  grevish-white.  The  tail 
brownish-black  at  the  end,  greyish-brown  in  the  rest  of  its  ex¬ 
tent,  with  faint  irregular  bars  of  grey.  The  base  of  the  plumage 
white,  conspicuous  on  the  liind-neck,  when  the  feathers  are 
raised. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  87  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  87  ;  wing 
from  flexure  264  ;  tail  Id  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  2T9?,  along  the 
edge  of  lower  mandible  2d,  cere  !§  ;  tibia  74  ;  tarsus  4 4  ;  first 
toe  1t9£,  its  claw  ;  second  toe  1T95,  its  claw  2T25  ;  third  toe 
2t5j,  its  claw  lj°|  ;  fourth  toe  1{£,  its  claw  lj%. 


Variations. — Adult  individuals  differ  little  in  colour.  Males 
vary  from  two  feet  six  inches  to  thirty-four  inches  or  somewhat 
more ;  females  from  two  feet  ten  to  three  feet  two  or  three 
inches.  Males  generally  measure  about  six  feet  in  alar  extent, 
and  females  about  seven  ;  the  smallest  male  measured  by  mo 
was  only  five  feet  six,  and  the  largest  female  seven  feet  three 
inches;  but  larger  measurements  have  been  given.  The  fol¬ 
lowing  tables  of  variations  in  the  number  of  scutella,  and  in  the 
dimensions  of  the  digestive  organs,  may  be  useful : — 


M. 

Scutella  on  first  toe  4 


Second  toe .  8 

Third  toe .  4 

Fourth  toe . .  8 


M.  M.  M.  F.  F.  F. 

4  8  8  4  4  4 

5  3  8  8  4  8 

3  4  8  4  4  3 

3  3  3  3  4  3 


F.  F. 

8  4 

4  4 

5  8 

4  3 


GOLDEN  EAGLE. 

209 

M. 

M. 

M. 

F. 

F. 

F. 

Tongue  in  length.... 

i—i 

— 

— 

A13 

— 

— 

CEsophagus . 

13 

12 

12 

12J 

13 

14 

Crop  in  width . 

Si 

3 

3 

3 

3 

— 

Stomach . 

2i 

91 

"  2 

— 

91 

^4 

— 

2 

Intestine . 

50 

56 

51 

66 

68 

65 

Length  of  duodenum 

— 

— 

9 

14 

— 

— 

Greatest  width . 

ry 

7 

3 

4 

— 

1  0 

13 

— 

— 

Least  width . 

2J 

13 

1 

4 

— 

3 

13 

— 

— 

Coeca  in  length . 

3 

13 

2 

1  3 

3 

13 

4 

1  3 

— 

3 

13 

Rectum . 

— 

6i 

— 

7 

7 

— 

Cloaca  in  diameter... 

2 

— 

— 

9 

2 

91 

4 

Changes  of  Plumage. — The  moult  appears  to  commence  about 
the  middle  of  spring  and  to  be  completed  in  December ;  but 
I  have  never  examined  an  Eagle  at  any  season  without  finding 
new  feathers.  When  old  the  feathers  are  generally  ragged,  irre¬ 
gularly  pointed,  and  of  a  light  greyish-brown  colour  ;  when  new 
of  a  rich  brown  glossed  with  purple,  many  of  them  brownish- 
black.  The  wing-coverts  seem  to  be  the  feathers  last  renewed. 

Habits. — The  Golden  Eagle  is  not  seen  to  advantage  in  the 
menagerie  of  a  zoological  society,  nor  when  fettered  on  the 
smooth  lawn  of  an  aristocratic  mansion,  or  perched  on  the  rock- 
work  of  a  nursery-garden  ;  nor  can  his  habits  be  well  described 
by  a  cockney  ornithologist,  whose  proper  province  is  to  concoct 
systems,  “  work  out”  analogies,  and  give  names  to  skins  that 
have  come  from  foreign  lands  carefully  packed  in  boxes  lined 
with  tin.  Far  away,  among  the  brown  hills  of  Albyn,  is  thy 
dwelling-place,  chief  of  the  rocky  glen  !  On  the  crumbling 
crag  of  red  granite  that  towers  over  the  fissured  precipices  of 
Loch-na-gar  thou  hast  reposed  in  safety.  The  croak  of  the 
Raven  has  broken  thy  slumbers,  and  thou  gatherest  up  thy  huge 
wings,  smoothest  the  feathers  on  thy  sides,  and  preparest  to 
launch  into  the  aerial  ocean.  Bird  of  the  desert,  solitary  though 
thou  art,  and  hateful  to  the  sight  of  many  of  thy  fellow  crea¬ 
tures,  thine  must  be  a  happy  life.  No  lord  hast  thou  to  bend 
thy  stubborn  soul  to  his  will,  no  cares  corrode  thy  heart,  seh 

p 


VOL.  in. 


210 


AQUILA  CHRYSAETUS. 


dom  does  fear  chill  thy  free  spirit,  for  the  windy  tempest  and 
the  thick  sleet  cannot  injure  thee,  and  the  lightnings  may  flash 
around  thee  and  the  thunders  shake  the  everlasting  hills,  with¬ 
out  rousing  thee  from  thy  dreamy  repose.  Thou  hast  a  good 
conscience,  and  what  shouldst  thou  dread,  although  a  thousand 
victims  have  been  sacrificed  to  thy  lust  of  rapine,  and  even  now 
the  blood  of  that  helpless  fawn  which  thy  keen  eye  discovered 
among  the  long  heath  crusts  thy  hooked  bill.  Thou  hast  a 
commission  to  plunder  ;  thou  art  a  robber  by  right ;  mercy  and 
peace  are  not  of  the  elements  of  thy  nature ;  like  the  ancient 
Gael  of  those  wild  glens  thou  goest  about  armed  for  strife  ;  even 
thy  love  is  fierce,  and  thy  nurslings  are  nurtured  with  blood. 
Proud  bird  of  the  desert,  how  joyous  must  thou  he,  when  on 
strong  wings  thou  glidest  over  the  mountain-tops,  and  soarest 
away  into  the  blue  sky,  until  the  clouds  are  beneath  thee,  and 
thou  floatest  in  the  ether,  nearer  to  heaven  than  living  thing 
has  ever  been.  Oh  that  I  too  had  the  wings  of  an  Eagle,  that 
I  might  visit  the  place  of  thy  rest,  and  perch  on  a  pinnacle  be¬ 
side  thy  mate  as  she  broods  over  her  young  ones  on  the  rocks 
of  Glen  Dee.  But  thou  art  now  almost  readv,  and  before  thou 
startest,  let  me  take  thy  portrait. 

See  how  the  sunshine  brightens  the  yellow  tint  of  his  head 
and  neck,  until  it  shines  almost  like  gold  !  There  he  stands 
nearly  erect,  with  his  tail  depressed,  his  large  wings  half  raised 
by  his  side,  his  neck  stretched  out,  and  his  eye  glistening  as  he 
glances  around.  Like  other  robbers  of  the  desert,  he  has  a 
noble  aspect,  an  imperative  mien,  a  look  of  proud  defiance  ; 
hut  his  nobility  has  a  dash  of  clownishness,  and  his  falconsliip 
a  vulturine  tinge.  Still  he  is  a  noble  bird,  powerful,  indepen¬ 
dent,  proud,  and  ferocious,  regardless  of  the  weal  or  woe  of 
others,  and  intent  solely  on  the  gratification  of  his  own  appe¬ 
tites ;  without  generosity,  without  honour,  hold  against  the  de¬ 
fenceless,  hut  ever  ready  to  sneak  from  danger.  Such  is  his 
nobility,  about  which  men  have  so  raved.  Suddenly  he 
raises  his  wings,  for  he  has  heard  the  whistle  of  the  shepherd 
in  the  corry,  and,  bending  forward,  he  springs  into  the  air. 
Oh  that  this  pencil  of  mine  were  a  musket  charged  with  buck¬ 
shot  !  Hardly  do  those  vigorous  flaps  serve  at  first  to  prevent 


GOLDEN  EAGLE. 


211 


his  descent ;  but  now,  curving  upwards,  lie  glides  majestically 
along.  As  lie  passes  the  corner  of  that  buttressed  and  battle- 
mented  crag,  forth  rush  two  ravens  from  their  nest,  croaking 
fiercely.  While  one  flies  above  him,  the  other  steals  beneath, 
and  they  essay  to  strike  him,  but  dare  not,  for  they  have  an  in¬ 
stinctive  knowledge  of  the  power  of  his  grasp,  and  after  follow¬ 
ing  him  a  little  way  they  return  to  their  home,  vainly  exulting 
in  the  thought  of  having  driven  him  from  their  neighbourhood. 
Bent  on  a  far  journey,  he  advances  in  a  direct  course,  flapping 
his  great  wings  at  regular  intervals,  then  shooting  along  with¬ 
out  seeming  to  move  them.  In  ten  minutes  he  has  progressed 
three  miles,  although  he  is  in  no  haste,  and  now  disappears 
behind  the  shoulder  of  the  hill.  But  we  may  follow  him  in 
imagination,  for  his  habits  being  well  known  to  us,  we  maybe 
allowed  the  ornithological  license  of  tracing  them  in  continu¬ 
ance.  Homeward  bound,  his  own  wants  satisfied,  he  knows 
that  his  young  must  be  supplied  with  food. 

Over  the  moors  he  sweeps,  at  the  height  of  two  or  three  hun¬ 
dred  feet,  bending  his  course  to  either  side,  his  wings  wide¬ 
spread,  his  neck  and  feet  retracted,  now  beating  the  air,  and 
again  sailing  smoothly  along.  Suddenly  he  stops,  poises  him¬ 
self  for  a  moment,  stoops,  but  recovers  himself  without  reach¬ 
ing  the  ground.  The  object  of  his  regards,  a  Golden  Plover, 
which  he  had  spied  on  her  nest,  has  eluded  him,  and  he  cares 
not  to  pursue  it.  Now  he  ascends  a  little,  wheels  in  short 
curves,  presently  rushes  down  headlong,  assumes  the  horizon¬ 
tal  position  when  close  to  the  ground,  prevents  his  being  dashed 
against  it  by  expanding  his  wings  and  tail,  thrusts  forth  his 
talons,  and  grasping  a  poor  terrified  ptarmigan  that  sat  cower¬ 
ing  among  the  grey  lichens,  squeezes  it  to  death,  raises  his 
head  exultingly,  emits  a  clear  shrill  cry,  and  springing  from  the 
ground  pursues  his  journey. 

In  passing  a  tall  cliff  that  overhangs  a  small  lake,  he  is  as¬ 
sailed  by  a  fierce  Peregrine  Falcon,  which  darts  and  plunges 
at  him,  as  if  determined  to  deprive  him  of  his  booty,  or  drive 
him  headlong  to  the  ground.  This  proves  a  more  dangerous 
foe  than  the  Haven,  and  the  Eagle  screams,  yelps,  and  throws 
himself  into  postures  of  defence  ;  but  at  length,  the  hawk,  see- 


212 


AQU1LA  CHRYSAETUS. 


ing  the  tyrant  is  not  bent  on  plundering  his  nest,  leaves  him  to 
pursue  his  course  unmolested.  Over  woods  and  green  fields 
and  scattered  hamlets,  speeds  the  Eagle,  and  now  he  enters  the 
long  valley  of  the  Dee,  near  the  upper  end  of  which  is  dimly 
seen  through  the  thin  grey  mist  the  rock  of  his  rest.  About  a 
mile  from  it  he  meets  his  mate,  who  has  been  abroad  on  a  simi¬ 
lar  errand,  and  is  returning  with  a  white  hare  in  her  talons. 
They  congratulate  each  other  with  loud  yelping  cries,  which 
rouse  the  drowsy  shepherd  on  the  strath  below,  who  mindful 
of  the  lambs  carried  off  in  springtime,  sends  after  them  his 
malediction.  Now  they  reach  their  nest,  and  are  greeted  by 
their  young  with  loud  clamour. 

Let  us  mark  the  spot.  It  is  the  shelf  of  a  rock,  concealed  by 
a  projecting  angle,  so  that  it  cannot  be  injured  from  above,  and 
too  distant  from  the  base  to  be  reached  by  a  shot.  In  the 
crevices  are  luxuriant  tufts  of  Rliodiola  rosea,  and  scattered 
around  are  many  alpine  plants,  which  it  would  delight  the  bo¬ 
tanist  to  enumerate.  The  mineralogist  would  not  be  less  pleased 
could  he  with  chisel  and  hammer  reach  that  knob  which  glit¬ 
ters  with  crystals  of  quartz  and  felspar.  The  nest  is  a  bulky 
fabric,  five  feet  at  least  in  diameter,  rudely  constructed  of  dead 
sticks,  twigs,  and  heath,  flat,  unless  in  the  centre,  where  it  is 
a  little  hollowed  and  covered  with  wool  and  feathers.  Slovenly 
creatures  you  would  think  those  two  young  birds,  clothed 
with  white  down,  amid  which  the  larger  feathers  are  seen  pro¬ 
jecting,  for  their  fluid  dung  is  scattered  all  over  the  sticks, 
and  you  see  that  had  the  nest  been  formed  more  compactly 
of  softer  materials  it  would  have  been  less  comfortable.  Strewn 
around  too  are  fragments  of  lambs,  hares,  grouse,  and  other 
birds,  in  various  stages  of  decay.  Alighting  on  the  edges  of 
the  nest,  the  eagles  deposit  their  prey,  partially  pluck  off  the 
hair  and  feathers,  and  rudely  tearing  up  the  flesh,  lay  it  before 
their  ever -hungry  young. 

The  nest  of  the  Golden  Eagle  is  sometimes  plundered  by 
letting  a  person  down  to  it  on  a  rope,  and  more  rarely  by  climb¬ 
ing  to  it.  This  species  is  bolder  than  the  Sea  Eagle,  and  has 
been  known  to  attack  individuals  thus  occupied.  In  Suther¬ 
land,  two  young  men  having  plundered  a  nest,  were  returning 


GOLDEN  EAGLE. 


213 


with  the  spoil,  when  they  were  assailed  by  one  of  the  eagles, 
which  repeatedly  struck  at  them  with  her  wing.  In  Forfar¬ 
shire,  a  farmer  in  ascending  to  an  eagle’s  nest,  was  encoun¬ 
tered  by  the  old  bird,  which  had  returned  with  food  for  the 
young,  and  escaped  only  by  throwing  to  her  his  bonnet,  after 
which  she  flew  to  the  ground,  and  on  returning  was  shot  by 
him.  If  any  of  the  stories  told  respecting  children  that  have 
been  carried  off  by  eagles  be  true,  it  is  probable  that  the  feat 
has  been  performed  by  this  species.  Should  one  of  the  birds 
be  shot  during  the  breeding  season,  it  has  been  observed  that  the 
survivor  generally  procures  a  mate  in  a  very  short  time,  and  that 
even  after  the  young  have  been  hatched.  The  eggs  are  usually 
two,  sometimes  only  one,  and  very  rarely  three.  They  are  infe¬ 
rior  in  size  to  the  egg  of  a  domestic  goose,  of  a  broadly  oval  shape, 
three  inches  in  length,  two  inches  and  four-twelfths  in  breadth, 
yellowisli-white,  clouded  and  spotted  with  light  brown,  some¬ 
times  white,  with  a  few  reddish  dots.  One  in  my  possession, 
which  was  taken  from  the  oviduct,  is  pure  white,  but  probably 
it  would  have  received  some  colouring  matter,  which  is  depo¬ 
sited  after  the  shell  is  completed,  had  the  bird  not  been  shot. 

The  food  of  the  Golden  Eagle  consists  of  the  flesh  of  hares, 
rabbits,  lambs,  fawns,  moles,  black-grouse,  red-grouse,  ptar¬ 
migans,  partridges,  curlews,  plovers,  lapwings,  and  probably 
other  species.  I  have  seen  one  carry  oft'  a  lamb  several  weeks 
old,  and  have  been  informed  by  the  shepherds  in  the  Hebrides 
that  it  thus  commits  great  liavock  in  the  beginning  of  summer. 
One  of  them  also  told  me  that  he  had  seen  two  eagles,  but 
whether  of  this  or  of  the  other  species  he  did  not  know,  attack 
a  doe  in  winter,  which  they  would  probably  have  destroyed  had 
he  not  interfered.  Although  it  does  not  much  frequent  the 
sea-shore,  it  does  not  disdain  a  dead  fish,  and  in  winter  it  often 
eats  carrion.  I  have  seen  several  Golden  Eagles  hovering  over 
and  around  a  dead  sheep,  and  in  the  Hebrides  they  are  often 
shot  on  carcases  placed  near  a  covered  pit  in  which  the  gun  nel¬ 
lies  concealed.  The  substances  which  I  have  found  in  the 
crops  and  stomachs  of  Golden  Eagles  from  the  Highlands  that 
were  sent  to  the  bird -stutters  in  Edinburgh,  were  portions  of 
hares,  ptarmigans,  grouse,  wool,  and  once  a  mole. 


214 


AQUILA  CHRYSAETUS. 


In  searching  for  prey,  it  flies  at  no  great  height,  sometimes 
only  a  few  yards  from  the  ground,  generally  two  or  three  hun¬ 
dred  feet,  advancing  with  regular  flaps  of  the  wings  and  alter¬ 
nate  sailings,  often  wheeling  in  circles  wide  or  narrow  accord¬ 
ing  to  circumstances.  It  never  balances  itself  in  a  particular 
spot,  hovering,  in  the  manner  of  the  Kestrel,  with  a  rapid  un¬ 
dulating  motion  of  the  wings,  its  weight  and  the  great  length 
of  those  members,  rendering,  I  suppose,  such  a  mode  of  explor¬ 
ing  the  ground  beneath  it  impracticable.  On  such  occasions  it 
moves  in  silence,  and  often  solitarily,  but  I  have  many  times 
seen  a  pair  flying  together.  Should  they  meet  another  bird  of 
the  same  species,  or  a  White-tailed  Sea-Eagle,  they  usually 
emit  their  loud  yelping  cries,  and  maintain  a  proper  distance. 
These  cries  are  louder  and  clearer  than  those  of  the  species  just 
mentioned,  but  precisely  similar  in  character. 

It  is  chiefly  in  the  Outer  Hebrides  that  I  have  studied  the 
habits  of  the  Golden  Eagle,  which,  however,  is  less  common 
there  than  the  other  species,  although  by  no  means  rare.  It 
occurs  in  all  the  mountainous  parts  of  the  northern  and  mid¬ 
dle  divisions  of  Scotland,  both  in  the  maritime  and  inland  dis¬ 
tricts,  but  is  far  more  numerous  in  the  western  than  in  the 
eastern  portions  of  these  divisions.  Individuals  are  now  and 
then  met  with  in  the  southern  division,  and  in  various  parts  of 
England,  but  it  seems  doubtful  that  any  now  breed  to  the 
south  of  the  Friths  of  Clyde  and  Forth.  Vast  numbers  have 
of  late  years  been  destroyed  in  consequence  of  the  extension  of 
sheep-farming  in  the  Highlands  ;  and  upwards  of  twenty  indi¬ 
viduals  appear  to  be  annually  prepared  in  Scotland  as  domestic 
ornaments. 

In  a  state  of  captivity  the  Golden  Eagle  usually  retains  all 
its  original  ferocity,  and  cannot  be  much  trusted,  although  per¬ 
haps  somewhat  more  generous  than  the  White-tailed  Sea- 
Eagle.  One  or  two  instances,  however,  are  mentioned  of  its 
having  been  perfectly  tamed,  and  even  trained  to  hunt.  It  is 
commonly  reported  to  attain  a  very  old  age. 

On  the  Continent  of  Europe  its  distribution  extends  from 
Norway  to  the  Alps  and  Pyrenees  ;  and  in  North  America  it 
has  been  observed  from  Labrador  to  Pennsylvania. 


GOLDEN  EAGLE. 


215 


Mr  Low,  in  his  Fauna  Orcadensis,  has  the  following  state¬ 
ment  respecting  this  species  : — “  It  is  very  frequent  in  the  hills, 
where  it  makes  its  nest  in  the  rocks,  which  is  often  placed 
within  reach,  and,  when  this  is  the  case,  always  becomes  a 
prey  to  destruction.  These  birds  are  very  strong,  and  make 
vast  havock  (in  breeding  time  especially)  among  lambs  and 
young  and  old  swine,  which  they  often  destroy  in  the  moun¬ 
tains,  rabbits,  and  poultry.  A  clergyman  some  time  ago  told 
me  he  met  with  one  of  them  mounted  in  the  air,  with  a  pretty 
large  pig  in  her  talons,  which  she  dropt  alive  upon  his  firing 
at  her.  We  have  even  a  tradition  here  of  an  eagle's  having 
taken  up  a  child  from  behind  some  reapers,  in  the  Parish  of 
Orphir,  and  carried  it  to  her  nest  in  Hoy  ;  but  by  the  assiduity 
of  the  people,  who  immediately  followed  her,  the  child  was 
rescued."  In  the  island  of  Harris  there  is  a  similar  tradition 
of  an  eagle's  having  carried  a  child  across  the  Minsh  to  the 
island  of  Skye,  a  distance  of  more  than  sixteen  miles.  Mr 
Dunn  states  that  in  Orkney  the  Golden  Eagle  breeds  among 
the  cliffs  on  the  west  side  of  Hoy  Hill,  but  is  so  scarce  that  he 
only  saw  a  single  pair.  In  Shetland  it  ranks  in  the  account  of 
the  birds  of  that  country  sent  to  me  by  Dr  Edmondston  as  a 
very  rare  visitant. 

Amon'T  the  “  vulgar  errors"  which  the  light  of  truth  has 

O  o  o 

not  yet  entirely  dispelled,  is  the  notion  of  eagles  soaring  to  a 
great  height  that  they  may  have  the  pleasure  of  gazing  on  the 
unclouded  glory  of  the  sun,  for  which  purpose  it  is  said  their 
eyes  are  furnished  with  a  semi-transparent  membrane,  that  is 
drawn  over  the  cornea  to  prevent  the  injury  likely  to  result 
from  too  great  a  blaze  of  light.  But  all  birds,  the  red  grouse, 
for  example,  the  domestic  goose,  the  sparrow,  which  no  one 
suspects  of  a  peculiar  or  poetical  propensity  to  admire  the  sun¬ 
beams,  have  a  membrane  of  the  same  kind  as  that  of  the  Eagle. 
Another  error  is,  that  Eagles  soar  to  a  vast  height  for  the  pur¬ 
pose  of  surveying  the  subjacent  lands  and  sea,  in  order  to  dis¬ 
cover  their  prey.  I  have  never  seen  an  eagle  descend  upon  an 
object  from  such  a  height,  and  when  obviously  searching  for 
food,  eagles  always  fly  low  over  the  surface,  just  as  Buzzards, 
Harriers,  and  Sparrow  Hawks  do. 


21(5 


AQUILA  CH11YSAETUS. 


Young. — When  fully  fledged  the  young  bird  has  the  bill 
brownish-black,  paler  at  the  base  ;  the  cere  greenish-yellow  ; 
the  iris  dark  brown ;  the  feet  lemon-yellow;  the  claws  brownish- 
black.  The  feathers  of  the  head  and  hind-neck  are  brown, 
tipped  with  light  yellowish-brown  ;  the  back  and  breast  deep 
brown,  the  wing- coverts  and  inner  secondaries  paler  and  tipped 
with  whitish  ;  the  feathers  of  the  inner  and  fore  part  of  the 
tibia,  and  those  of  the  tarsus,  white  at  the  end ;  the  lower  tail- 
coverts  white,  with  a  brown  spot ;  the  primaries  brownish- 
black,  the  secondaries  dark  brown,  with  their  bases  white, 
mottled  with  greyish-brown  ;  the  tail  white,  with  a  broad  ter¬ 
minal  band  of  brownish-black.  The  white  bases  of  the  feathers 
appear  in  patches  on  the  back  and  hind-^neck. 

A  newly  fledged  bird  from  Norway,  remarkably  beautiful  on 
account  of  the  mottled  state  of  its  plumage,  I  may  with  j3ro- 
priety  describe,  as  the  precise  markings  of  the  young  of  this 
family  have  never  been  accurately  given  by  any  author.  The 
horny  part  of  the  bill  is  blackish-brown,  yellowish  at  the 
base,  the  cere  and  basal  margins  yellow  ;  the  feet  yellow, 
the  claws  deep  black.  The  down  and  bases  of  all  the  fea¬ 
thers  pure  white.  The  forehead  is  brown,  the  hind-head 
and  back  part  of  the  neck  dull  yellowish-brown  ;  the  plu¬ 
mage  of  the  other  parts  is  dark  chocolate,  but  the  white 
is  apparent  everywhere,  unless  on  the  smaller  wing-coverts  ; 
the  feathers  on  the  edge  of  the  wing  vellowisli-brown,  with  a 
central  dusky  streak.  The  basal  half  of  the  quills  and  larger 
wing  coverts  being  white,  that  colour  is  very  conspicuous  on 
the  wing  ;  the  terminal  portion  of  the  quills  brownish-black, 
of  which  dots  and  small  spots  encroach  on  the  white  part.  The 
tail  is  white,  with  a  terminal  band  of  brownish-black,  four 
inches  in  breadth  on  the  outer  webs  of  the  outer,  and  three  on 
those  of  the  inner  feathers,  being  narrower  on  the  inner  webs. 
The  large  tufty  feathers  on  the  abdomen,  as  well  as  the  inner 
tibial  and  tarsal  feathers,  are  white  ;  the  lower  tail-coverts 
greyish-white,  with  a  light  brown  patch  at  the  end. 

Progress  toward  Maturity. — A  Scottish  male  of  the  first  year 
examined  in  the  end  of  December  was  as  follows.  The  soft  skin 
at  the  base  of  the  bill,  the  cere  and  feet  rich  pure  yellow ;  the 


GOLDEN  EAGLE. 


217 


bill  and  claws  light  blue  at  the  base,  brownisli-black  at  the 
end.  The  basal  or  concealed  part  of  the  whole  plumage,  as 
well  as  the  down,  is  pure  white.  The  preocular  region  whit¬ 
ish,  the  bristles  black  ;  the  head  and  hind-neck  umber-brown, 
each  feather  tipped  with  light  yellowish-brown  ;  the  general 
colour  of  the  plumage  is  a  rich  deep  brown,  on  the  back  and 
scapulars  highly  glossed  with  purple.  The  primary  quills, 
their  coverts  and  alula,  deep  black  towards  the  end  ;  the  secon¬ 
dary  quills  deep  brown,  obscurely  mottled  with  greyish ;  the 
tail  white,  with  a  broad  brownish-black  terminal  band,  on  the 
middle  feathers  three,  on  the  lateral  four  inches  in  breadth ; 
upper  tail-coverts  similar,  having  only  a  terminal  band  of 
brown.  All  the  feathers  are  more  or  less  tipped  with  whitish 
or  pale  brown  ;  and  on  the  short  feathers  of  the  legs  the  white 
tips  are  so  large  as  to  form  the  principal  colour ;  the  white 
base  of  the  dorsal  feathers  appears  here  and  there,  and  that  of 
the  primary  quills  is  also  apparent. 

As  the  bird  advances  in  age,  the  light  yellowish-brown  of 
the  head  and  hind-neck  assumes  a  richer  tint,  sometimes  ap¬ 
proaching  to  chestnut ;  the  short  feathers  of  the  legs  acquire  a 
similar  tint ;  the  deep  brown  of  the  body  undergoes  little 
change,  but  the  wing-coverts  become  of  a  lighter  hue  and  the 
breast  often  more  brown ;  the  whitish  tips  disappear  on  the 
body ;  the  white  of  the  basal  portion  of  all  the  feathers  and 
quills  gradually  diminishes  from  the  enlargement  of  the  brown, 
so  that  the  white  patches  on  the  back  and  hind-neck  disappear ; 
the  quills  ultimately  being  brownish-grey,  irregularly  banded 
or  mottled  with  darker  ;  and  the  tail  becoming  banded  and 
mottled  with  dark  brown  on  a  brownish-grey  ground,  while  its 
upper  coverts  are  deep  brown,  and  the  lower  chestnut. 

After  examining  about  fifty  individuals,  alive,  newly  killed, 
or  preserved,  I  think  that  the  plumage  is  darker  in  early  than 
in  old  age,  many  young  birds  having  the  back  and  breast 
blackish-brown,  and  the  ends  of  the  quills  deep  black  ;  but  the 
yellowish-brown  parts  become  of  a  richer  tint.  The  diminu¬ 
tion  of  the  basal  white  of  the  feathers  is  perfectly  analogous  to 
what  we  observe  in  the  Sea-Eagle,  in  which  however  the  tail 
ultimately  becomes  white,  the  change  commencing  near  the  tip. 


218 


HALIAETUS.  SEA-EAGLE. 


Bill  nearly  as  long  as  the  head,  very  high,  at  the  base  of 
nearly  the  same  breadth  and  height,  gradually  compressed ; 
upper  mandible  with  the  cere  large  and  bare,  the  dorsal  line 
nearly  straight  along  the  cere,  then  decurved  in  the  fourth  of 
a  circle,  at  the  end  slightly  incurvate,  the  ridge  along  the  cere 
broad  and  flattened,  in  the  rest  of  its  extent  convex,  gradually 
narrowed  to  the  tip,  the  sides  flattish  and  nearly  erect,  the  edges 
thin,  nearly  straight,  with  a  slight  festoon  anterior  to  the  cere, 
then  decurved,  the  tip  elongated,  trigonal,  acute,  concave  be¬ 
neath  ;  lower  mandible  scarcely  a  third  of  the  height  of  the 
upper,  its  angle  long,  of  moderate  width,  and  rounded,  the 
edges  soft,  obtuse,  and  straight  for  more  than  half  their  length, 
then  sharp  and  gradually  decurved,  the  ridge  broad  and  con¬ 
vex,  the  sides  ascending  and  convex,  the  tip  rounded  and  thin- 
edged. 

Mouth  wide,  palate  flat,  with  two  longitudinal  prominent 
lines  ;  upper  mandible  slightly  concave  within,  the  lower  more 
deeply  concave,  posterior  aperture  of  the  nares  oblong,  with  an 
anterior  slit.  Tongue  fleshy,  deeply  emarginate  and  papillate 
at  the  base,  with  one  of  the  lateral  papillae  large,  concave  above, 
the  sides  nearly  parallel,  the  tip  rounded.  (Esophagus  very 
wide,  with  a  very  large  crop  lying  toward  the  right  side.  A 
broad  belt  of  proventricular  glands.  Stomach  large  or  of  mo¬ 
derate  size,  roundish,  its  muscular  coat  thin  and  composed  of 
a  single  series  of  fasciculi  ;  the  tendinous  spaces  round  and  thin. 
The  intestine  very  long  and  narrow  ;  the  duodenum  extremely 
elongated,  and  instead  of  forming  a  single  loop  as  usual,  dis¬ 
posed  into  a  coil  of  several  folds,  in  which  respect  it  differs  from 
that  of  any  other  British  genus.  The  coeca  are  very  small,  the 
cloaca  very  large  and  globular.  Plate  XX,  Fig.  1. 

Nostrils  oblong,  oblique,  sub-basal,  near  the  ridge,  in  the 


HALIAETUS.  SEA-EAGLE. 


219 


fore  part  of  the  cere.  Eyes  large,  with  projecting  superciliary 
ridge  ;  eyelids  edged  with  bristly  feathers.  Aperture  of  ear 
rather  large,  and  roundish. 

The  body  is  robust  and  compact,  of  great  breadth  anteriorly ; 
the  neck  of  moderate  length  ;  the  head  large,  roundish,  ovate. 
The  feet  short,  very  strong ;  the  tarsus  very  short,  feathered 
halfway  down,  scaly  in  the  rest  of  its  extent,  with  anterior  and 
posterior  scutella,  the  latter  small.  The  toes  are  very  stout ; 
the  first  and  second  about  equal,  the  fourth  a  little  longer  than 
the  second,  the  third  or  middle  toe  much  longer,  all  scaly  at 
the  base,  and  scutellate  toward  the  end.  Claws  very  large, 
curved  in  the  third  of  a  circle,  higher  than  broad,  flattened  on 
the  sides,  broadly  convex  above,  concave  and  marginate  be¬ 
neath,  acute  ;  the  first  and  second  largest,  the  third  with  an 
ed^e  and  a  broad  groove  on  the  inner  side. 

Plumage  compact  and  imbricated.  The  space  from  the 
eye  to  the  cere  thinly  covered  with  very  small  bristle-feathers. 
On  the  head  and  neck  the  feathers  are  lanceolate  and  acumi¬ 
nate  ;  on  the  upper  parts  broadly  ovate  and  rather  obtuse  ; 
on  the  lower  parts  ovate,  on.  the  outer  part  of  the  tibia  elon¬ 
gated,  on  the  tarsus  small  and  soft.  In  the  furcular  region, 
the  feathers  do  not  meet,  but  leave  a  space  covered  with 
very  soft  down.  Wings  very  long,  broad,  and  rounded, 
with  thirty  quills,  of  which  the  first  is  a  little  shorter  than 
the  seventh,  the  second  than  the  fifth,  the  third  and  fourth 
longest ;  the  first  seven  with  the  outer  wreb  attenuated,  and 
the  first  five  with  the  inner  web  emarginate ;  the  primaries 
pointed,  the  secondaries  very  broad,  and  broadly  obtuse,  with 
a  minute  tip.  Tail  of  moderate  length,  extending  consider¬ 
ably  beyond  the  tips  of  the  wings,  broad,  rounded,  of  twelve 
very  broad  feathers. 

This  genus  is  composed  of  birds  of  large  size,  which  fre¬ 
quent  the  shores  of  the  sea,  lakes,  and  rivers,  nestling  in  rocks 
or  on  high  trees,  and  feeding  on  carrion,  fish,  small  quadru¬ 
peds  and  reptiles.  They  are  less  bold  and  vigorous  than  the 
true  Eagles,  somewhat  sluggish,  but  yet  possessed  of  great 
strength,  and  when  impelled  by  hunger  they  attack  animals 
of  considerable  size.  Fish  forms  a  great  portion  of  their  diet, 


220 


HALIAETUS.  SEA-EAGLE. 


and  it  is  curious  to  observe  how  in  this  genus,  as  in  the 
Ospreys,  the  intestine  becomes  elongated  and  attenuated,  like 
that  of  the  ichthyophagous  Ferae.  The  singular  curvature  of 
the  duodenum,  Plate  XX,  Fig.  1,  i,  which  I  have  found  in 
the  White-headed  Sea-Eagle  of  America,  as  well  as  in  our 
own,  affords  a  character  by  which  the  genus  Haliaetus  is  dis¬ 
tinguished  from  Aquila,  which  moreover  has  a  very  different 
physiognomy,  and  is  intimately  allied  to  Buteo. 

The  accompanying  figure  represents  the  foot  of  Haliaetus 
Albicilla,  and  may  be  compared  with  that  of  Aquila  Chrysaetus, 
given  in  p.  203,  when  it  will  be  seen  that  the  two  genera  are 
as  well  distinguished  by  their  feet  as  by  the  form  of  the  bill. 


Fig.  216. 


221 


HALIAETUS  ALBICILLA.  THE  WHITE-TAILED 

SEA-EAGLE. 

CINEREOUS  EAGLE.  GREY  EAGLE.  SEA-EAGLE.  ERNE.  OSPREY. 
IOLAIR  BHUIDHE.  IOLAIR  RIAMHACH. 


Fig.  217. 


v  imxsm. 


Yultur  Albicilla.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  123.  Adult. 

Falco  Ossifragus.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  124.  Young. 

Falco  Albicilla.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  9.  Adult. 

Falco  Ossifragus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  12.  Young. 

Cinereous  Eagle.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet.  Adult. 

Sea  Eagle.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet.  Young. 

Aigle  Pygargue.  Falco  Albicilla.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  49* 
Cinereous  Sea-Eagle.  Ilaliatitus  Albicilla.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  18. 
Aquila  Albicilla.  Cinereous  Eagle.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  80. 


Adult  with  the  bill,  feet ,  and  irides  yellow ;  the  plumage  of 
the  head ,  neck,  and  part  of  the  back  and  breast,  greyish-yellow, 
or  pale  brown,  tinged  with  grey  ;  of  the  hind  part  of  the  back 
darker,  the  abdomen  and  legs  chocolate  brown  ;  the  quills  brown¬ 
ish-black,  the  tail  white.  Young  with  the  bill  brownish-black ,  the 
irides  brown,  the  feet  yellow  ;  the  plumage  pale  brown,  with  elon¬ 
gated  dark  brown  spots ;  the  tail  dark  brown,  variegated  with 
white. 


222 


HALIAETUS  ALBICILLA. 


Male. — The  White-tailed  Sea-Eagle,  the  only  species  of 
its  genus  that  occurs  in  Britain,  and  the  largest  of  our  rapa¬ 
cious  birds,  not  excepting  the  Golden  Eagle,  although  inferior 
in  grace  and  activity  to  the  smaller  species  of  this  family, 
exhibits,  when  excited,  an  appearance  of  power  and  ferocity 
calculated  to  inspire  that  kind  of  respect  which  we  pay  to  men 
endowed  with  similar  qualities.  In  its  ordinary  attitude,  with 
its  body  inclined,  its  large  wings  hanging  by  its  side,  with  the 
secondary  quills  and  coverts  projecting  over  the  primaries,  its 
feathers  ruffled,  and  its  neck  retracted,  it  presents  in  some  mea¬ 
sure  the  aspect  of  a  vulture,  which  Linnaeus  erroneously  con¬ 
ceived  it  to  be.  Its  body  is  large,  firm,  and  muscular ;  the 
neck  of  moderate  length ;  the  head  broadly  ovate,  the  bill 
larger  and  higher  than  in  any  species  known,  excepting  Hali- 
aetus  Washingtoni;  the  legs  exceedingly  strong,  and  widely 
separated,  the  toes  robust,  and  the  claws  very  formidable. 

The  tongue  of  an  individual  supplied  by  Mr  Carfrae,  is  an 
inch  and  seven-twelfths  long,  its  average  breadth  eight-twelfths, 
its  base  deeply  emarginate  and  beset  with  fine  pointed  papillae, 
of  which  two  of  the  lateral  are  large,  its  sides  nearly  parallel, 
its  upper  surface  concave,  its  tip  rounded.  The  oesophagus  is 
twelve  inches  long,  at  the  middle  and  lower  part  of  the  neck 
dilated  into  an  enormous  crop,  three  inches  in  width,  then  con¬ 
tracted  to  an  inch  and  a  quarter,  and  again  gradually  enlarged 
to  two  inches  and  a  quarter.  The  stomach  is  round,  a  little 
compressed,  two  inches  and  a  quarter  in  diameter ;  its  walls 
extremely  thin,  the  muscular  layer  being  composed  of  a  single 
series  of  parallel  fasciculi ;  the  epithelium  thin,  soft,  and 
smooth ;  the  tendinous  spaces  round,  very  thin,  and  eight- 
twelfths  in  diameter.  The  intestine  is  very  long  and  slender, 
its  entire  length  being  twelve  feet  three  inches,  its  width  at 
the  commencement  four-twelfths,  the  widest  part  five-twelfths, 
and  the  narrowest  only  two-twelfths.  The  duodenum,  instead 
of  forming  a  simple  loop,  as  usual,  is  greatly  elongated,  so  as 
to  measure  twenty  inches,  and  is  bent  upon  itself  from  left  to 
right,  presenting  the  appearance  of  a  coil  of  rope.  The  coecal 
appendages  are  slight  knobs,  three-twelfths  in  length.  The 
rectum,  which  is  five  inches  long,  has  a  width  of  ten-twelfths, 


WHITE-TAILED  SEA-EAGLE. 


223 


and  dilates  into  a  globular  cloaca,  two  and  a  half  inches  in 
diameter,  into  which  it  opens  by  an  aperture  of  half  an  inch. 
The  lobes  of  the  liver  are  very  large,  the  right  being  three 
inches  and  a  half  in  length,  the  left  three  inches ;  the  gall¬ 
bladder  elliptical,  and  an  inch  in  length.  Plate  XX,  Fig.  1. 

The  trachea  is  ten  inches  long,  considerably  flattened,  some¬ 
what  tapering,  its  breadth  ten-twelfths  at  the  commencement, 
at  the  middle  seven  and  a  half  twelfths,  at  the  lowest  part  six 
and  a  half.  The  rings  are  all  cartilaginous,  a  hundred  and 
twenty-five  in  number ;  the  bronchi  wide,  short,  with  twenty 
half-rings.  The  lateral  muscles  are  moderate,  the  sterno-tra- 
cheal  very  strong,  and  there  is  a  single  pair  of  inferior  laryngeal 
muscles  going  to  the  last  dimidiate  ring  of  the  trachea. 

The  space  between  the  bill  and  the  eye  is  thinly  covered 
with  bristle-like  feathers,  which  are  downy  at  the  base.  The 
feathers  on  the  head  are  of  moderate  length,  those  on  the  neck 
long,  all  lanceolate  and  acuminate,  with  loose  margins  ;  on  the 
upper  parts  of  the  body  they  are  broadly  ovate  and  acute,  on 
the  lower  ovate  and  rather  obtuse.  The  wings,  which  when 
closed  reach  nearly  to  the  end  of  the  tail,  have  thirty  quills,  of 
which  the  first  is  a  little  shorter  than  the  seventh,  the  second 
about  the  same  length  as  the  fifth,  the  third  and  fourth  longest. 
The  tail  is  of  moderate  length,  broad,  and  much  rounded,  the 
lateral  feathers  being  three  inches  shorter  than  the  middle. 

The  cere  and  bill  are  pale  yellow  ;  the  iris  bright  yellow ; 
the  tarsi  and  toes  gamboge,  the  claws  black,  with  a  tinge  of 
greyisli-blue.  The  plumage  of  the  head,  neck,  fore  part  of  the 
back  and  breast,  with  the  upper  wing-coverts  greyish-yellow, 
the  feathers  all  greyish-brown  at  the  base  ;  of  the  other  parts 
greyish-brown,  edged  with  yellowish-grey  ;  the  scapulars  and 
feathers  of  the  rump  glossed  with  purple ;  those  of  the  abdo¬ 
men,  tibiae,  and  subcaudal  region,  inclining  to  chocolate  brown ; 
the  quills  and  alular  feathers  brownish-black,  with  a  tinge  of 
grey,  the  inner  secondaries  inclining  to  greyish-brown  ;  the 
shafts  of  all  white  toward  the  base ;  the  lower  surface  of  the 
quills  and  the  large  coverts  tinged  with  greyish  blue.  The 
upper  tail-coverts  and  the  tail  are  white  (generally  freckled 
with  dusky  grey  at  the  base).  The  down  on  the  breast  is  pale 
grey,  that  on  the  sides  darker. 


224 


HALIAETUS  ALB1CILLA. 


Length  to  end  of  tail  36  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  72;  bill 
along  the  ridge  3T5g,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  3,  its 
height  1^  ;  wing  from  flexure  24  ;  tail  11|  ;  tarsus  4;  first 
toe  1  its  claw  2T%  ;  second  toe  lf^,  its  claw  ;  third  toe 
3,  its  claw  1T%  ;  fourth  toe  its  claw  1T\. 

Female. — The  female  does  not  differ  from  the  male  in  colour, 
and  her  superiority  in  size  is  often  not  very  remarkable. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  40  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  80  ;  bill 
along  the  ridge  3^,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  3T4?,  its 
height  1t82  ;  wing  from  flexure  27i;  tail  12;  tarsus  4  J  ;  first 
toe  1^,  its  claw  2\  ;  second  toe  1T92,  its  claw  2T42  ;  third  toe 
3t42,  its  claw  1T92  ;  fourth  toe  1^,  its  claw 

Variations.- — In  adult  individuals  the  colouring  varies  in  a 
considerable  degree,  older  birds  having  the  tints  lighter.  In 
some  instances  the  plumage  is  of  a  purplish-grey,  or  bluish- 
grey,  but,  I  think,  never  in  the  wild  state.  Great  differences 
are  also  observed  in  size.  Thus  I  have  examined  one  that  mea¬ 
sured  seven  feet  four  inches  between  the  tips  of  the  wings,  and 
saw  in  South  Uist  the  skin  of  one  which  measured  nine  feet, 
while  others  do  not  much  exceed  six. 

The  variations  which  I  have  noticed  in  the  digestive  organs 
of  this  species  will  be  best  exhibited  in  a  tabular  form  : 


M. 

M. 

M. 

M. 

F. 

F. 

Tongue  in  length . 

8 

12 

1  7 

J~l  2 

— 

— 

— 

— 

(Esophagus  in  length. 

15 

12 

12 

12 

12| 

15 

Width  of  crop . 

il 

^<2 

3 

3 

— 

3^ 

4 

Diameter  of  stomach . 

1  -9 

J  1  2 

91 

2 

— 

91 
**  2 

2 

Length  of  intestine  ...  1 80 

cj 

147 

143 

170 

— 

120 

Length  of  duodenum. 

24 

20 

21 

— 

— 

■ 

Greatest  width . 

4i 

T  2 

5 

T  2 

5 

12 

3 

12 

5 

12 

i 

4 

Smallest  width  . 

2 

12 

2 

T  2 

3 

12 

2 

12 

2 

1  2 

n 

12 

Length  of  coeca . 

4 

12 

3 

12 

3 

12 

— 

3 

12 

4 

12 

Length  of  rectum . 

6 

5 

5 

— 

5 

— 

Cloaca  in  width . 

2 

91 

-2 

2 

_ _ _ 

_ 

2 

WHITE-TAILED  SEA-EAGLE. 


225 


On  comparing  these  measurements  with  those  of  the  Golden 
Eagle,  differences  will  be  seen  sufficient  to  indicate  more  im¬ 
portant  distinctions  than  those  derived  from  the  form  of  the 
bill. 

The  tracheae  of  several  individuals  were  as  follows : 


M. 

M. 

F. 

F. 

Length  . 

.  10 

10 

10 

104 

Width  above . 

1  0 

1  0 

1  2 

1  0 

12 

1  0 
12 

Width  below . 

3 

6 

T  2 

6J 

12 

6 

12 

Rings . 

. 125 

120 

135 

137 

Bronchial  rings . . . . , 

.  20 

18 

16 

16 

Similar  differences  are  found  in  the  number  of  scutella  : — 


Adult. 


Young. 


Anterior  tarsal  7-5  6  7  7  3 
Posterior  tarsal  0  -  1  0  7  3  0 

Hind  toe .  3  3  3  2  4  5  4 

Second  toe .  4  3  3  4  4  5  4 

Third  toe  .  12  12  14  11  12  12  11 

Fourth  toe  ...  .  6  6  6  7  4  7  6 


38667674 
0  4  0  16  10  0  10  0 
44444454 
44545544 
11  12  12  13  13  14  13  12 
67777675 


These  differences  will  serve  to  shew  what  degree  of  depend¬ 
ence  may  be  had  on  the  scutella  as  affording  specific  distinc¬ 
tions. 


Change  of  Plumage. — The  moult  is  not  completed  until 
the  end  of  autumn,  when  the  feathers  are  of  a  deeper  tint  than 
in  summer.  The  change  is  very  gradual,  and  new  feathers 
may  be  seen  at  any  period,  as  in  the  Golden  Eagle. 

Habits. — The  White-tailed  Sea-Eagle  usually  chooses  for 
its  retreat  the  shelf  of  some  lofty  precipice  overhanging  the  sea, 
and  there  in  fancied  security  forms  its  nest,  and  reposes  at  night. 
Individuals  have  been  known  to  remain  attached  to  the  same 
spot  for  many  years,  nor  does  it  appear  that  this  bird  ever  relin¬ 
quishes  its  residence  to  its  young,  but  drives  them  off  to  find  a 

VOL.  in.  Q 


1IALIAETUS  ALBICILLA. 


22(3 

habitation  for  themselves.  For  this  reason,  most  of  the  wan¬ 
dering  individuals  that  have  been  shot  at  great  distances  from 
the  breeding  places,  have  been  young  or  immature  birds.  The 
male  and  female  remain  together  through  the  winter,  when 
they  generally  search  for  food  in  company.  Toward  the  middle 
of  spring,  they  begin  to  construct  their  nest,  which  is  of  great 
size,  being  about  five  feet  in  diameter,  flat,  and  composed  of 
sticks,  twigs,  heath,  often  dried  sea-weeds,  as  well  as  tufts  of 
grass,  wool,  and  other  materials.  The  eggs,  two  in  number, 
rarely  one,  are  about  the  size  of  those  of  a  domestic  goose,  but 
broader,  pure  white,  or  yellowish-white,  generally  with  some 
pale  red  dots  or  spots  chiefly  at  the  larger  end.  From  never 
finding  the  eggs  exposed,  I  have  thought  that  the  male  sits 
upon  them  in  the  absence  of  the  female,  although  this  is  mere 
conjecture,  and  I  am  not  aware  of  any  positive  observations 
that  have  been  made  on  the  subject.  The  young  make  their 
appearance  about  the  beginning  of  J une,  and  are  then  covered 
with  down  of  a  greyish -white  colour.  They  are  plentifully 
supplied  with  food,  and  grow  rapidly,  but  do  not  leave  the 
nest  until  the  middle  of  August,  when  they  are  enticed  abroad 
by  their  parents,  who  continue  to  supply  them  with  food  for 
many  days. 

During  the  breeding  season,  these  birds,  in  places  where 
they  are  numerous,  are  subjected  to  much  annoyance,  and  fre¬ 
quently  fall  victims  to  the  vengeance  of  shepherds  and  farmers. 
There  are  few  places  that  can  be  selected  by  them  altogether 
beyond  the  reach  of  man ;  for  even  when  the  nest  has  been 
built  on  the  face  of  a  precipice,  it  may  usually  be  got  at  by  let¬ 
ting  down  a  person  on  a  rope,  or  even  by  creeping  along  some 
crevice  or  sheep-path,  or  it  may  be  within  shot  from  the  base 
of  the  rocks,  or  some  projecting  crag.  I  have  been  within 
three  yards  of  an  eagle  upon  her  nest,  and  yet,  from  the  peculiar 
nature  of  the  spot,  was  unable  to  shoot  it,  and  indeed  hardly 
escaped  with  my  life,  for,  after  the  bird  had  flown  off,  and  the 
excitement  of  hope  was  over,  1  began  to  consider  how  I  should 
return,  and  finding  myself  on  the  brink  of  a  perpendicular  rock 
five  hundred  feet  high,  with  an  abrupt  slope  above  me,  and  a 
dangerous  slanting  descent  of  several  hundred  yards  to  accom- 


WHITE-TAILED  SEA-EAGLE. 


227 


plisli,  I  sat  down  in  despair,  and  might  have  remained  there 
for  hours,  had  not  a  shepherd  opportunely  come  to  my  aid. 
Sometimes  the  breeding  place  is  easily  accessible,  being  in  a 
small  rock  by  the  side  of  a  lake,  and  I  have  seen  one  that 
could  have  been  reached  with  a  fishing-rod.  On  a  flat  islet 
in  a  small  lake  in  Harris,  one  of  the  Hebrides,  a  pair  of  these 
birds  bred  for  many  years,  although  there  are  lofty  crags  in  the 
neighbourhood. 

In  these  islands,  where  the  Sea-Eagles  are  still  numerous, 
the  nests  are  sometimes  destroyed  by  letting  down  into  them  a 
bundle  of  heath  and  straw  inclosing  a  burning  peat ;  or  an 
adventurous  person  is  lowered  in  the  same  manner.  On  such 
occasions  the  parent  birds,  although  they  evince  the  greatest 
distress,  seldom  attempt  to  molest  their  enemy,  but  fly  in  circles 
at  a  distance,  giving  expression  to  their  rage  by  loud  screams, 
and  frequently  stretching  out  their  feet  and  expanding  their 
talons,  as  if  to  intimidate  him.  Yet  it  appears  that  they  will 
sometimes  hazard  an  attack,  for  in  the  island  of  Lewis  I  was 
told  of  two  such  instances,  a  pair  having  assaulted  a  woman 
who  was  descending  a  rock  on  her  way  home  from  the  moors, 
and  inflicted  some  severe  scratches  on  her  neck  and  shoulders, 
and  another  individual  having  unexpectedly  struck  with  its  wing 
a  man  who  was  watching  its  arrival  on  the  edge  of  a  cliff  over¬ 
hanging  its  nest. 

When  the  breeding  season  is  over,  the  young  disperse,  and 
although  these  birds  are  not  of  social  habits,  several  indivi¬ 
duals  may  often  be  seen  at  no  great  distance  traversing  the  hills 
or  shores,  when  there  is  plunder  to  be  obtained.  At  seasons  of 
mortality  among  sheep,  as  in  the  end  of  autumn,  when  the 
braxy  commits  its  ravages,  or  in  the  end  of  spring,  when  severe 
weather  often  causes  the  death  of  the  young  lambs,  they  are 
not  uncommonly  seen  hovering  about.  Their  food  consists  of 
carrion  of  every  description,  for  which  they  search  the  moors 
and  pastures,  stranded  fish,  young  sea-birds,  and  small  quad¬ 
rupeds.  Their  sight  must  be  keen,  like  that  of  other  birds  of 
prey,  but  in  looking  for  food  they  do  not  soar  to  a  vast  eleva¬ 
tion,  as  has  been  alleged  by  many,  but  fly  at  the  height  of  a  few 
hundred  yards,  sweeping  along  the  hill  sides  with  a  steady 


228 


HALIAETUS  ALBICILLA. 


motion,  or  winding  in  curves  with  outspread  wings.  I  have 
often  seen  them  far  out  at  sea,  hovering  and  sailing  in  this 
manner,  and  several  persons  have  told  me  that  they  sometimes 
clutch  up  fishes  that  happen  to  come  to  the  surface.  They 
may  also  occasionally  be  observed  watching  on  the  banks  of  a 
lake  or  river,  and  attacking  the  salmon  or  trouts  when  they 
come  into  shallow  water.  That  they  fare  well  is  evinced  by 
the  abundance  of  provision  which  they  bring  to  their  young  ; 
but  their  courage  and  address  do  not  seem  to  be  equal  to  their 
powers,  for,  unless  pressed  by  famine,  they  scarcely  venture  to 
molest  an  animal  larger  than  a  hare.  When  an  otter  has 
caught  a  fish,  and  is  eating  it  on  some  rock,  an  eagle  has  been 
seen  patiently  waiting  its  departure,  in  order  to  obtain  the 
refuse.  Grouse  are  sometimes  destroyed  by  this  species,  and 
instances  have  been  known  of  its  carrying  oft*  a  domestic  fowl 
that  has  strangled  to  a  distance  from  the  house.  But  the  Sea- 
Eagle  has  more  of  the  Vulture  than  of  the  Falcon  in  its  cha- 
racter,  and  at  all  times  would  be  well  content  with  mere 
carrion. 

It  is  no  easy  matter  to  approach  an  Eagle  so  near  as  to 
obtain  a  distinct  view  of  it,  and  yet  I  once  crept  to  within  fif¬ 
teen  yards  of  one,  and,  after  all,  missed  it.  Once  too,  in  the 
mist,  on  the  top  of  a  high  hill,  another  swept  close  over  my 
head.  At  a  distance,  and  with  the  aid  of  a  glass,  one  may 
often  in  the  Hebrides  observe  their  attitudes,  as  they  repose  on 
some  pinnacle  or  shelf,  basking  in  the  sun,  with  partially  ex¬ 
panded  wings  and  tail,  somewhat  in  the  manner  of  Cormorants. 
On  a  level  surface,  such  as  an  extensive  sand,  where  I  have 
often  seen  them,  they  stand  with  the  body  inclined  forwards,  the 
wings  gathered  up,  and  the  head  elevated.  Owing  to  their  great 
weight,  and  the  vast  size  of  their  wings,  they  rise  from  such 
a  place  with  difficulty,  first  throwing  themselves  forward,  and 
then  spreading  out  and  flapping  their  wings,  so  as  to  strike 
their  points  on  the  ground. 

But  the  Sea-Eagle  is  now  on  wing,  and  as  he  gradually 
mounts  in  wide  curves,  sailing  at  invervals,  you  cannot  fail  to 
gaze  on  him  with  delight.  With  his  feet  concealed  among  the 
feathers  of  the  abdomen,  his  head  drawn  close  to  his  shoulders, 


WHITE-TAILED  SEA-EAGLE. 


229 


and  his  magnificent  wings  spread  out  to  their  full  extent,  and 
even  seeming  to  curve  upwards  at  the  points,  he  sweeps  along 
the  sides  of  the  hills,  advancing  with  apparently  little  effort, 
and,  should  he  spy  a  carcase,  hovers  over  it  in  short  curves  until 
satisfied  as  to  his  security  should  he  alight  upon  it.  Very  fre¬ 
quently  he  is  led  to  the  spot  by  seeing  the  Raven  there,  for  that 
bird  is  more  quick-sighted  than  even  the  Eagle.  On  alighting, 
he  stands  for  a  time,  then  clumsily  leaps  up  to  the  carcase, 
perches  upon  it,  and  begins  to  tear  open  the  abdomen,  the 
eyes  having  already  been  removed  by  the  Crows.  Should  a 
dog  come  up,  the  eagle  retires  to  a  short  distance,  or  sweeps 
overhead,  making  a  pretence  of  pouncing  on  the  intruder,  who, 
while  he  allays  his  hunger,  keeps  an  eye  on  the  foe,  and  snarls 
when  threatened  with  a  visitation. 

A  beautiful  sight  it  is,  on  some  sunny  day,  when  two  Eagles 
are  seen  floating  lazily  in  the  blue  sky,  far  above  the  tops  of 
the  brown  hills.  Slowly  and  majestically,  with  wide-spread 
wings,  they  sail  in  wide  circles,  gradually  ascending,  until  at 
length  you  can  scarcely  perceive  them.  They  may  continue 
this  exercise  for  more  than  an  hour,  and  should  you  enquire 
the  object  of  it,  you  may  be  satisfied  that  it  is  not  for  the  pur¬ 
pose  of  spying  their  prey,  for  no  one  ever  saw  an  Eagle  stoop 
from  such  a  height.  On  ordinary  occasions,  when  proceeding 
from  one  place  to  another,  they  fly  in  the  usual  manner,  by 
slowly  repeated  flaps.  In  the  breeding  season,  should  two 
males  encounter  each  other,  they  sometimes  fight  in  the  air, 
throwing  themselves  into  singular  postures,  and  screaming 
loudly.  The  cry  of  this  species  is  so  shrill,  that  in  calm  wea¬ 
ther  one  may  hear  it  at  the  distance  of  a  mile,  and  it  often 
emits  a  kind  of  clear  yelp,  which  resembles  the  syllable  Micky 
Mick ,  Mick,  or  queek ,  queek ,  queek ,  and  which  seems  to  be  the 
expression  of  anger  or  impatience. 

In  its  own  class,  the  Sea-Eagle  has  few  enemies  capable  of 
injuring  it,  the  Golden  Eagle  being  the  only  bird  powerful 
enough  to  contend  with  it  effectually  ;  but  it  is  often  molested 
by  the  Raven,  the  larger  Gulls,  and  sometimes  by  Hawks, 
especially  when  it  happens  to  come  near  their  nests.  On 
this  subject,  Mr  Dunn  has  the  following  statement : — “  I 


230 


HALIAETUS  ALBICILLA. 


once  saw,  while  shooting  on  Rona’s  Hill,  a  pair  of  Skua 
Gulls  chase  and  completely  beat  off  a  large  Eagle  :  the  Gulls 
struck  at  him  several  times,  and  at  each  stroke  he  screamed 
loudly,  but  never  offered  to  return  the  assault.  He  was  sailing 
along  close  to  the  steep  part  of  the  cliffs  near  the  breeding- 
places  of  these  Gulls,  and  was  most  probably  looking  out  for  a 
repast,  which  he  would  doubtless  have  secured  had  he  not 
received  the  hint  that  his  company  could  be  dispensed  with. 
I  have  also  seen  from  ten  to  fifteen  of  the  Arctic  Gulls  attack 
an  Eagle  and  beat  him  from  their  habitations.’1  From  the 
attacks  of  quadrupeds  it  is  perfectly  secure,  and  if  a  weasel 
ever  destroyed  an  eagle,  the  story  has  been  repeated  so  often 
by  travellers  and  other  romancers,  that  no  credit  can  now  be  at¬ 
tached  to  it.  Its  great  enemy  is  man,  who  destroys  its  nest, 
breaks  its  eggs,  kills  or  carries  off  its  young,  traps  it  in  various 
ways,  or  by  lying  concealed  in  a  covered  pit  or  hut,  shoots  it 
as  it  feeds  on  the  carcase  laid  out  to  attract  it. 

Owing  to  the  persecution  to  which  it  is  thus  subjected,  it 
has  been  almost  entirely  extirpated  in  England.  In  the  sou¬ 
thern  division  of  Scotland,  or  from  the  borders  to  the  Friths  of 
Forth  and  Clyde,  it  is  probable  that  half  a  dozen  pairs  are  not 
now  to  be  found.  In  the  middle  division,  it  is  still  rare ;  but 
in  the  northern,  and  especially  in  the  Hebrides,  it  is  in  many 
places  not  uncommon.  Stragglers,  however,  especially  young 
birds,  are  now  and  then  killed  in  all  parts  of  the  country,  even 
in  the  south  of  England ;  and,  although  its  numbers  have  thus 
been  reduced,  it  is  probable  that  it  will  never  be  entirely  extir¬ 
pated.  It  does  not  appear  to  be  necessarily  or  essentially  mari¬ 
time,  but  rather  to  frequent  the  sea-coast  because  of  the  facility 
of  finding  secure  resting-places  on  the  cliffs  ;  for  it  is  met  with 
in  the  interior,  even  in  Braemar  and  about  Lochlagan.  But 
*  in  such  places  it  is  less  frequent  than  the  Golden  Eagle,  which, 
on  the  other  hand,  also  breeds  on  maritime  rocks.  In  Orkney, 
as  I  am  informed  by  Mr  Forbes  of  South  Ronaldshay,  it  breeds 
on  several  of  the  headlands  ;  and  Dr  Laurence  Edmondston  has 
favoured  me  with  the  following  account  of  it  as  observed  in 
Shetland. 

“  This,  1  believe,  is  the  only  species  of  Eagle  that  breeds  in 


231 


WHITE-TAILED  SEA -EAGLE. 

Shetland,  where  however  it  is  rare.  Perhaps  the  whole  of  the 
islands  could  not  produce  more  than  a  dozen  of  pairs.  It  is 
generally,  unless  at  the  breeding  season,  found  in  single  indi¬ 
viduals.  It  feeds  chiefly  on  rabbits  and  sea  birds,  especially 
the  young  of  the  larger  gulls  ;  but  it  does  not  neglect  carrion, 
if  it  is  to  be  had,  in  lonely  places,  and  before  it  becomes  very 
putrescent.  It  is  not  very  destructive  to  sheep.  In  spring,  it 
often  sweeps  along  the  cottages  very  early  in  the  morning,  to 
the  flital  experience  of  the  poultry.  During  summer  and  har¬ 
vest,  large  flocks  of  geese  pasture  among  the  most  retired  hills, 
without  any  protection,  and  in  the  vicinity  of  its  favourite 
haunts,  yet  its  depredations  on  them  are  rare.  This  abstemious¬ 
ness  must  not,  however,  be  taken  for  amiable  self-denial,  but 
for  a  most  uneagle-like  pusillanimity.  The  wing  of  the  gan¬ 
der,  which  not  unfrequently  is  uplifted  in  defence  of  his  young, 
has  a  moral  if  not  a  physical  power,  which  the  robber  Erne 
seems  to  quail  under. 

u  Occasionally,  during  warm  weather,  skate  and  liolibut  bask 
on  the  surface  of  the  water,  and  the  Eagle  pounces  on  them  ; 
but  several  instances  have  occurred  of  this  aquatic  hunt  being 
fatal  to  him.  Indeed,  I  am  inclined  to  think  that  this  habit 
is  one  chief  way  in  which  his  numbers  are  kept  down.  If  the 
fish  is  not  so  large  as  to  be  able  immediately  to  drag  him  under 
water,  he  elevates  his  wings,  and  in  this  way,  if  the  wind 
happens  to  be  blowing  on  the  land,  he  often  manages  to  reach 
it  in  safety.  An  instance  of  this  once  occurred  to  my  grand¬ 
father,  who,  concealing  himself  until  the  bird  had  thus  sailed 
ashore,  seized  both  him  and  his  victim,  a  small  liolibut. 

“  It  is  not  to  be  supposed,  whatever  the  natives  may  say,  that 
the  Eagle  in  this  case,  regards  his  wings  as  sails.  He  keeps 
them  as  long  as  he  can  in  the  air,  because  this  is  their  natural 
element,  and  because  he,  finding  he  has  c  caught  a  Tartar,’ 
wishes  to  disengage  himself.  And,  whatever  be  the  intention 
of  spreading  his  canvass  to  the  breeze,  it  as  often  destroys  as 
saves  him  by  carrying  him  from  as  to  the  land.  After  reach¬ 
ing  the  shore,  the  first  thing  he  does  is  to  extricate  his  claws 
with  his  beak,  and  by  repeatedly  stroking  his  feathers  to  dry 


232 


HALIAETUS  ALBICILLA. 


himself  sufficiently  for  flight,  and  then,  and  not  before,  he 
feasts  on  his  slippery  victim  if  he  perceives  the  coast  clear  of 
danger  and  detection. 

“  The  account  given  by  Von  Bucli  of  the  mode  in  which 
Eagles  in  Norway  sometimes  attack  cattle,  may  be  more  ap¬ 
parently  than  really  improbable.  Granting  the  fact  however, 
it  is  not  likely  that  it  relates  to  the  Albicilla,  a  bird  by  no 
means  remarkable  for  courage  ;  though,  like  the  wolf,  there  is 
no  saying  to  what  lengths  hunger  may  impel  him.  Nor  would 
the  attack  be  probably  made  with  so  reasona!51e  and  politic  a 
calculation  of  means  as  that  of  throwing  dust  in  the  eyes  of  his 
victim.  A  fact  however  may  be  very  commonplace,  while  its 
theory  may  be  marvellous  enough.  In  this  way,  perhaps,  it  may 
be  accounted  for  : — Eagles  are  numerous  in  Norway ;  so  are 
fish.  In  their  attempts  to  catch  them,  their  plumage  may  be 
wetted,  and  in  drying  it  they  may  roll  themselves,  like  poultry, 
in  sand  or  mould,  and  soon  after  may  be  seen  to  attack  the 
diminutive  cattle  of  these  regions,  as  the  Golden  Eaffie,  I  be- 
lieve,  sometimes  assails  deer,  by  striking  at  their  heads  and 
eyes.  And  why  might  not  the  Erne  attack  a  weak  horse  or 
ox,  as  well  as  the  Raven  ?  or,  it  may  be  their  habit,  like  that 
of  Crows  and  Ravens,  during  warm  weather,  especially  when 
annoyed  by  vermin,  or  during  the  moulting  season,  to  wash 
themselves,  and  then  roll  amongst  the  sand  or  dry  earth. 

“  He  is  attacked,  or  rather  molested,  by  every  bird,  ofreat  or 
small,  when  he  approaches  their  nests.  Gulls,  Lestres,  Oyster - 
catchers,  Terns,  all  repeatedly  dash  up  to  him,  but  yet  not  dar¬ 
ing  contact,  their  clamours,  not  their  blows,  being  the  weapons 
to  which  they  prudently  have  recourse,  and  they  thus  literally 
scold  him  from  his  propriety,  and  their  territories  ;  for  with  a 
very  rustic  awkwardness,  and  want  of  self-possession,  he  makes 
his  obeisance,  and  decamps. 

“  He  breeds  on  the  most  inaccessible  cliffs,  remote  from  the 
vicinity  of  other  birds,  unless  it  may  be  a  pair  of  Ravens  ;  lays 
two  eggs,  sometimes  three,  it  is  said  ;  and  generally  has  two 
young  ones.  He  is  seldom  shot,  being  very  circumspect,  but 
if  wounded,  is  very  tenacious  of  life.  1  have  seen  one  fly  a 


WHITE-TAILED  SEA-EAGLE. 


233 


mile  with  a  musket  ball  through  his  body.  In  the  few  at¬ 
tempts  made  to  domesticate  him  here,  he  has  been  true  to  his 
nature,  fierce  and  ruthless/1 

In  Orkney,  according  to  Mr  Low,  “  this  very  large  species 
is  very  often  seen,  and  sometimes  surprised  on  our  low  shores, 
feeding  on  fish,  which  it  has  either  caught  itself,  or  has  been 
left  by  the  otter.  I  have  often  seen  it  soaring,  at  a  vast  height 
in  the  air,  immediately  over  a  conger  or  other  fish,  which  has 
by  any  accident  been  left  dry  by  the  tide  ;  and  this  may  shew 
us  the  vast  strength  of  this  creature's  sight,  which  can  take  in 
such  a  small  object  at  such  a  great  distance/1  The  Great  Black- 
backed  Gull  soars  over  a  stranded  fish  in  the  same  manner  ; 
but  the  object  of  both  birds  in  so  doing  is  merely  to  pass  the 
time  until,  in  the  absence  of  enemies  in  the  neighbourhood, 
they  can  feast  in  safety. 

Like  the  story  of  the  weasel  that  killed  the  eagle  by  fastening 
on  its  throat,  which  has  been  twenty  times  repeated,  and  every 
time  told  as  new,  that  of  eagles  carrying  off  children  has  been 
appropriated  in  almost  every  district  in  the  Highlands.  Per¬ 
haps  the  story  of  its  sailing  to  land  with  a  fish  in  its  claws, 
may  be  classed  with  the  rest.  Such  an  occurrence  undoubtedly 
took  place,  as  related  above,  but  who  has  seen  it  repeated  l  A 
weasel  too  may  have  killed  an  eagle,  and  an  eagle  may  have 
killed  or  carried  off  a  child  ;  but  when  and  where  has  this  been 
done  a  second  time  ? 

I  have  never  seen  this  bird  truly  domesticated ;  but  indivi¬ 
duals  are  frequently  kept  chained  or  caged,  and  some  have 
lived  in  captivity  to  a  very  old  age.  When  thus  confined,  it 
loses  its  timidity,  and  becomes  savage  and  ferocious,  so  as 
readily  to  attack  a  dog,  a  child,  or  sometimes  even  a  grown 
person.  In  this  state  it  may  be  fed  with  meat,  offal,  or  fish. 
It  readily  clutches  any  living  animal  of  small  size,  and  should 
a  piece  of  meat,  a  rat,  or  other  article  of  food  be  thrown  to  it, 
it  will  often  catch  it  in  its  mouth,  or  with  one  of  its  feet.  On 
comparing  its  cry  when  in  this  state  with  that  of  the  Golden 
Eagle,  I  have  found  it  louder  and  shriller.  The  trachea  of 
both  is  unossified  and  very  wide,  but  that  of  the  Sea-Eagle  is 
nearly  double  the  size  of  that  of  the  other. 


234 


HALIAETUS  ALBICILLA. 


Young. — The  descriptions  generally  given  of  the  young  of 
this  bird  seem  to  me  to  be  hypothetical  rather  than  derived 
from  strict  observation.  I  have  been  very  fortunate  however 
in  obtaining  in  the  autumn  of  1839  an  individual  not  quite 
fledged,  the  quills  and  tail-feathers  not  having  attained  their 
full  length.  The  down  on  all  parts  is  light-grey,  on  the  legs 
intermixed  with  slender  white  tufts.  The  bill  is  brownish- 
black,  the  base  of  the  lower  mandible  yellow,  the  cere  green¬ 
ish-yellow  ;  the  feet  yellow,  the  claws  black.  The  bases  of 
all  the  feathers  are  brownish-white,  their  middle  parts  light 
reddish-brown,  their  tips  only  blackish-brown.  The  head  and 
nape  are  dark  brown,  each  feather  with  a  minute  brownish- 
white  spot  on  the  tip.  On  the  middle  of  the  hack  and  on  the 
wings  light  reddish-brown  is  the  prevalent  colour,  the  black 
tips  of  comparatively  small  extent ;  on  the  hind  part  of  the 
hack  there  is  much  white,  that  colour  extending  farther  from 
the  base.  The  quills  and  larger  wing-coverts  are  blackish- 
brown,  with  a  tinge  of  grey ;  the  tail-feathers  brownish- white 
in  the  centre,  black  toward  the  margins,  with  irregular  white 
dots.  The  lower  parts  are  of  the  same  colours  as  the  back,  or 
are  pale  reddish-brown,  marked  with  longitudinal  streaks  and 
spots  of  dark  brown  ;  the  lower  wing-coverts  brown,  the  tail- 
coverts  white,  with  light  brown  tips. 

Progress  toward  Maturity. — In  the  second  year  the  young 
exhibit  little  difference,  being  however  of  a  darker  tint  on  the 
back  and  wings.  An  individual  at  this  age  has  the  bill  brown¬ 
ish-black,  tinged  with  blue,  its  base  and  the  cere  greenish- 
yellow  ;  the  iris  hazel-brown  ;  the  feet  gamboge,  the  claws 
brownish-black.  The  head  and  nape  are  deep  brown ;  the 
base  of  all  the  feathers  on  the  upper  parts  is  white ;  on  the 
hind-neck  and  fore  part  of  the  back  that  colour,  tinged  with 
yellowish-brown,  prevails,  a  lanceolate  or  ohovate  deep  brown 
spot  being  on  each  feather  toward  the  end  ;  on  the  middle 
of  the  back  the  brown  prevails,  on  the  hind  part  white,  and 
the  rump  and  upper  tail-coverts  are  light-brown,  tipped  with 
darker.  The  scapulars  are  dark-brown,  with  a  purplish  tinge  ; 
the  wing-coverts  dark-brown  at  the  end,  hut  most  of  the  larger 
pale-brown  in  the  greater  part  of  their  extent ;  the  quills 


WHITE-TAILED  SEA-EAGLE. 


235 


black,  with  a  purplish-grey  tinge,  the  secondaries  gradually 
becoming  more  brown,  and  all  faintly  variegated  with  light 
grey  and  brown  on  the  inner  webs.  The  tail  is  brownish- 
black,  with  a  tinge  of  grey,  and  more  or  less  finely  mottled 
with  whitish.  The  lower  parts  maybe  described  as  brownisli- 
wliite,  longitudinally  streaked  with  dark-brown,  there  being 
a  lanceolate  patch  of  the  latter  on  each  feather ;  the  lower 
wing-coverts  and  feathers  of  the  legs  dark-brown  ;  the  lower 
surface  of  the  quills  bluish-grey  ;  the  lower  tail-coverts  white, 
tipped  with  brown  ;  the  down  on  the  breast  pure  white. 

At  the  first  moult  the  light-brown  becomes  darker,  and  the 
proportion  of  white  is  somewhat  diminished,  unlesson  the  tail, 
where  it  is  on  the  contrary  increased.  The  bill  and  claws  are 
still  brownish-black,  and  the  cere  greenish-yellow.  At  each  suc¬ 
cessive  moult  the  bill  assumes  a  lighter  tint,  passing  through 
shades  of  brown,  until  it  ultimately  becomes  pale-yellow ;  the 
iris  undergoes  a  similar  change  ;  the  proportion  of  white  at 
the  base  of  the  feathers  diminishes,  the  dark  part  enlarges  in 
extent,  but  becomes  paler  ;  the  tail-feathers,  which  are  at  first 
freckled  with  white,  or  brownish-white,  become  patched,  and 
finally,  at  the  age  of  six  or  seven  years,  pure  white. 

In  an  individual  kept  by  Dr  Neill,  at  Canonmills  Cottage, 
and  which  was  procured  by  him  in  the  autumn  of  1827,  in  its 
first  plumage,  the  changes  have  taken  place  as  above  described  ; 
but  in  November  1839,  when  in  perfect  condition,  the  colour 
of  the  plumage  was  purplish-grey,  tinged  with  blue,  the  edges 
of  the  feathers  lighter ;  the  anterior  parts  paler ;  the  quills 
greyish-black  ;  the  tail  pure  white ;  the  bill  and  cere  pale 
greyish-yellow,  the  eye  brownish -yellow,  and  the  feet  orange. 
But  the  beautiful  purplisli-grey  tint  of  this  individual,  al¬ 
though  sometimes  seen  in  captive  eagles,  does  not  occur  in 
those  enjoying  their  freedom. 

Remarks. — For  the  purpose  of  obtaining  some  general  re¬ 
sults  by  an  extended  comparison,  it  may  here  be  well  to  re¬ 
mark  that  in  this  species  the  bill  and  iris  change  from  dusky- 
brown  to  pale-yellow,  and  that  the  plumage,  at  first  white  at 
the  base,  and  dark-brown  at  the  end,  gradually  loses  its  white, 


23  6 


HALIAETUS  ALBICILLA. 


while  the  dark  parts  become  paler  and  more  extended,  the 
final  colouring  being  more  uniform.  The  tail  forms  no  ex- 
ception,  for  its  basal  white  also  diminishes  ;  but  the  white 
which  is  gradually  substituted  for  the  brownish-black,  spreads 
from  near  the  end  to  the  base.  The  American  White-headed 
Sea-Eagle  follows  the  same  rule  ;  but  in  it,  not  only  the  tail, 
but  also  the  head  and  neck  become  white. 

This  species  is  said  to  be  rare  in  the  south  of  Europe,  and 
to  be  most  numerous  in  the  colder  parts  of  the  temperate 
zone,  extending  as  far  as  Iceland.  M.  Temminck  remarks 
that  “  in  its  migrations,  it  seems  to  follow  the  largest  flocks 
of  Bean-Geese,  which  in  autumn  betake  themselves  to  the 
estuaries  of  rivers  but  from  Dr  Edmondstons  account,  this 
eagle  is  hardly  a  match  for  a  goose,  which  yet  is  surpassingly 
strange,  when  we  are  told  by  Air  Audubon  that  its  brother, 
the  White-headed  Eagle,  captures  Swans.  Haliaetus  Albi- 
cilla  has  not  been  found  in  America,  but  the  American  II.  leu- 
coceplialus  is  said  to  breed  in  Norway. 

It  is  indeed  strange  that  a  bird  so  robust,  with  a  body  much 
larger  than  that  of  the  Golden  Eagle,  and  with  the  most  for¬ 
midable  bill  and  talons,  should  not  be  distinguished  for  its 
feats  of  daring  and  strength.  The  faculties  and  instincts  of 
animals  correspond  with  their  organization,  and  one  cannot 
help  thinking  that  these  enormous  claws  were  given  for  the 
purpose  of  piercing  and  carrying  off  nobler  game  than  rabbits 
and  rats.  Yet  it  cannot  be  denied  that  this  huge  bird  possesses 
not  a  tithe  of  the  spirit  of  the  Peregrine  Falcon  or  Sparrow 
Hawk  ;  for  I  have  seen  it  sailing  about  and  screaming,  while 
a  person  was  dangling  on  a  rope  above  its  nest,  without  so 
much  as  making  a  pretence  of  attacking  him,  unless  by  thrust¬ 
ing  out  its  feet  and  alternately  opening  and  closing  its  talons. 


237 


PANDION.  OSPREY. 

Body  compact,  of  moderate  size ;  neck  of  moderate  length  ; 
head  ovate,  and  not  remarkably  large. 

Bill  shorter  than  the  head,  stout,  as  broad  as  high  at  the 
base,  gradually  compressed  :  upper  mandible  with  the  cere 
rather  narrow,  the  dorsal  outline  a  little  declinate  and  slightly 
convex  as  far  as  the  edge  of  the  cere,  then  decurved  in  about 
the  fourth  of  a  circle,  the  ridge  broadly  convex  at  the  base, 
narrowed  toward  the  end,  the  sides  rapidly  sloping  and  con¬ 
vex,  the  edges  sharp,  slightly  inflected,  with  a  festoon,  and  a 
wide  sinus  at  the  curvature,  the  tip  deflected,  trigonal,  very 
acute  ;  lower  mandible  with  the  angle  short  and  rather  wide, 
the  dorsal  line  convex,  the  back  broadly  rounded,  the  sides 
convex,  the  edges  inflected,  decurved  toward  the  end,  the  tip 
being  obliquely  truncate  and  rounded. 

Mouth  rather  wide  ;  palate  flat,  with  two  prominent  papil¬ 
late  ridges,  and  an  anterior  median  ridge.  Tongue  short, 
emarginate  at  the  base,  with  numerous  very  slender  papillae, 
one  of  which  on  each  side  is  large,  its  upper  surface  concave, 
the  tip  rounded.  (Esophagus  very  wide,  enlarged  into  a  crop 
of  great  capacity,  then  narrowed  in  entering  the  thorax,  again 
enlarged  at  the  proventriculus,  of  which  the  glands  are  ex¬ 
tremely  numerous,  very  small,  oblong,  and  form  a  broad  con¬ 
tinuous  belt.  Intestine  extremely  long  and  slender,  forming 
very  numerous  convolutions  ;  coeca  very  short ;  cloaca  very 
large  and  globular.  Plate  XXI,  Fig.  1. 

Nostrils  oblong,  oblique,  lateral.  Eyes  of  moderate  size, 
without  projecting  superciliary  ridge ;  eyelids  edged  with 
bristly  feathers.  Aperture  of  ear  rather  small  and  roundish. 
F eet  very  robust ;  tibiae  long  and  muscular  ;  tarsi  very  short, 
thick,  covered  all  round  with  imbricated  scales,  of  which  the 
posterior  are  smaller,  and  have  the  upper  angle  elevated  into 


238 


PAN  DION.  OSPREY. 


a  point ;  toes  thick,  strong,  free  ;  the  fourth  versatile  and 
larger  than  the  second  ;  all  with  a  few  broad  scutella  at  the 
end,  but  in  the  rest  of  their  extent  covered  above  with  imbri¬ 
cated  scales,  those  on  the  sides  and  especially  on  the  lower 
surface,  rising  into  a  conical  central  point ;  some  of  them  on 
the  inner  side  of  the  outer  toe  being  so  prominent  as  to  resem¬ 
ble  short  spines.  Claws  long,  rather  slender,  well-curved, 
rounded  above  and  beneath,  with  the  sides  flattened,  the  tip 
very  acute  ;  those  of  the  hind  and  outer  toe  largest,  that  of 
the  middle  toe  with  an  inner  longitudinal  edge,  and  a  flat 
surface. 

Plumage  compact.  Cere  bare  above  ;  eyelids  feathered  ; 
space  between  the  bill  and  eye  sparsely  covered  with  bristly 
feathers.  On  the  head  and  neck,  the  feathers  are  rather 
short,  narrow,  tapering,  and  compact ;  on  the  back  broad, 
rounded,  but  acuminate  ;  on  the  breast  similar ;  on  the  ab¬ 
domen  softer  and  more  elongated  ;  on  the  tibia  short,  slender, 
and  rather  soft,  the  outer  not  elongated  as  in  the  Eagles,  Buz¬ 
zards,  and  most  other  genera  of  this  family.  Wings  extremely 
long,  comparatively  narrow,  rounded,  with  twenty-eight  quills; 
the  third  longest,  the  first  longer  than  the  fifth  ;  primary  quills 
tapering  and  rounded,  secondary  broad  and  rounded,  tertiary 
or  humeral  largely  developed.  Tail  rather  long,  a  little  round¬ 
ed,  of  twelve  broad  feathers. 

The  genus  Pandion  appears  to  have  a  considerable  affinity 
to  Haliaetus,  with  which  it  seems  to  be  connected  by  a  group 
of  which  Falco  Ichthyaetus  of  Dr  Horsfield  is  the  species  best 
known.  The  more  remarkable  peculiarities  in  the  structure  of 
the  Osprey,  the  only  species  which  I  have  examined  internally 
as  well  as  externally,  are  :  the  extreme  elongation  of  the  in¬ 
testine,  which  toward  its  lower  extremity  is  not  larger  then  a 
raven’s  quill ;  the  inferior  convexity  of  the  claws  ;  the  want 
of  a  tuft  of  long  feathers  on  the  outer  side  of  the  tibia  ;  the 
conical  pointed  form  of  the  scales  on  the  lower  surface  and 
sides  of  the  toes,  and  the  great  length  of  the  wings.  The  flight 
of  this  bird  is  light  and  buoyant,  as  well  as  strong,  and  ac¬ 
cordingly  the  ridge  of  the  sternum  is  very  elevated,  although 
the  body  is  not  large  in  proportion  to  the  other  parts. 


239 


PANDION  HALIAETUS.  THE  FISHING  OSPREY. 

FISHING  EAGLE.  FISH  HAWK.  BALD  BUZZARD.  *  IOLAIR-UISG. 


Fig.  218. 


Falco  Haliaetus.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  129. 

Falco  Haliaetus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  17. 

Osprey.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Aigle  Balbusard.  Falco  Haliaetus.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  47  ;  II.  25. 
Osprey.  Pandion  Haliaetus.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  24. 

Aquila  Haliseetus.  Osprey.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  81. 


Adult  with  the  hill  bluish-blacky  the  cere  light  blue ,  the  feet  pale 
greyish-blue ;  the  plumage  above  deep  umber-broiniy  the  upper 
part  of  the  head  and  neck  white ,  the  middle  of  the  crown  dark 
brown  ;  a  broad  band  of  dark  brown  on  the  cheeks  and  neck  ; 
the  lower  parts  white ,  the  neck  streaked  with  brown. 

Young  with  the  feathers  of  the  upper  parts  deep  brown ,  ter¬ 
minally  margined  with  reddish-white. 

M  ale. — The  Osprey,  which  is  distinguished  from  all  the 
British  species  of  this  family,  by  living  exclusively  on  fish, 


240 


PANDION  IIALIAETUS. 


which  it  captures  for  itself,  has  a  form  and  structure  intelli¬ 
gibly  correspondent  with  its  habits.  It  is  now  so  scarce  a  bird 
with  us  that  many  years  may  elaj^se  before  a  person  can  procure 
one  entire  for  examination.  I  have  been  fortunate  however 
in  this  respect,  having  obtained  three  individuals,  two  of  which 
were  killed  in  Scotland.  The  body  is  proportionally  small,  but 
compact  and  muscular ;  the  pectoral  muscles  in  particular  being 
very  large,  and  the  spine  of  the  sternum  correspondingly  promi¬ 
nent.  The  head  is  of  moderate  size,  oblong ;  the  neck  rather 
short,  and  strong.  The  bill  shorter  than  the  head,  very  strong, 
rather  higher  than  broad  at  the  base  ;  the  upper  mandible  with 
the  cere  narrow,  the  dorsal  line  a  little  declinate  as  far  as  the 
edge  of  the  cere,  then  decurved  in  nearly  the  third  of  a  circle, 
the  ridge  broadly  convex,  the  edges  with  a  slight  festoon,  the 
tip  deflected,  subtrigonal,  acute,  and  at  the  end  perpendicular 
to  the  gape-line  ;  the  lower  mandible  with  the  angle  short  and 
rather  wide,  the  back  broad,  flattened  at  the  base,  rounded  to¬ 
ward  the  end,  the  edge-line  arched,  the  tip  obliquely  truncate 
and  rounded. 

The  mouth  is  of  moderate  width,  its  breadth  being  one  inch 
two  twelfths  ;  the  palate  flat,  with  two  prominent  papillate 
ridges,  corresponding  to  the  tongue,  and  an  anterior  median 
ridge.  The  posterior  aperture  of  the  nares  oblong,  anteriorly 
linear,  slightly  papillate  on  the  margins.  The  tongue  is  one 
inch  long,  sagittate  and  finely  papillate  behind,  concave  above, 
with  the  margins  rather  thick,  and  the  tip  rounded,  the  back 
horny  as  usual.  The  oesophagus  is  nine  and  a  half  inches  long, 
at  first  little  more  than  an  inch  in  width,  but  presently  dilated 
into  a  sac  or  crop,  of  which  the  greatest  width  is  three  inches ; 
it  then  contracts  to  ten-twelfths  of  an  inch,  and  enlarges  to  an 
inch  and  a  quarter  in  the  proventricular  portion.  The  coats 
of  the  oesophagus  are  very  thin  ;  the  proventricular  glands  ex¬ 
tremely  numerous,  very  small,  and  arranged  so  as  to  form  a 
continuous  belt,  an  inch  in  breadth.  The  stomach  is  round,  a 
little  compressed,  two  inches  in  diameter  ;  its  muscular  coat 
extremely  thin,  the  inner  smooth,  without  epithelium  ;  the 
central  tendons  five- twelfths  in  breadth.  The  pylorus  has  a 
slightly  thickened  margin,  and  three  small  knobs,  terminating 


FISHING  OSPREY. 


241 


a  simicircular  elevated  line  or  ridge,  and  a  smaller  line  pro¬ 
ceeding  from  it.  The  intestine  is  extremely  elongated,  slender, 
and  arranged  into  numerous  convolutions,  forming  in  all  forty- 
six  folds.  The  duodenum  forms  a  loop  in  the  usual  manner, 
and  is  not  convoluted  as  in  the  Ichthyaeti.  Its  widest  part 
measures  three  twelfths  of  an  inch  across,  and  the  narrowest 
part  of  the  intestine  toward  the  coeca  scarcely  two-twelfths. 
The  coeca  are  five  inches  distant  from  the  rectum,  four-twelfths 
long,  three-twelfths  in  width.  The  rectum  has  at  first  a  width 
of  seven-twelfths ;  and  the  cloaca  is  globular,  and  one  and  a 
half  inch  in  diameter.  The  intestine  from  the  pylorus  to  the 
anus  measures  eleven  feet  three  inches ;  the  oesophagus  and 
stomach  eleven  and  a  half  inches ;  the  alimentary  tube  in  all 
twelve  feet  two  and  a  half  inches.  The  lobes  of  the  liver  are 
less  unequal  than  usual,  one  being  three  inches  long,  the  other 
three  twelfths  shorter;  the  gall-bladder  oblong,  and  ten  twelfths 
in  length.  Plate  XXI,  Fig.  1. 

The  nostrils  are  oblong,  oblique,  lateral  ;  the  eyes  of  mode¬ 
rate  size  ;  the  eyelids  with  three  series  of  short  ciliary  bristles. 
There  is  no  projecting  lachrymal  bone.  Aperture  of  the  ear 
small  and  circular.  The  legs  are  of  moderate  length,  but  ex¬ 
tremely  stout ;  the  tibia  long  and  very  muscular  ;  the  tarsus 
very  short,  very  thick,  feathered  anteriorly  halfway  down, 
covered  all  round  with  thick  scales,  of  which  the  anterior  are 
larger  and  flattened,  those  behind  more  prominent,  on  the 
outer  side  conical.  The  toes  are  extremely  stout,  scutellate 
toward  the  end,  the  first  having  five,  the  second  five,  the  third 
four,  the  fourth  four  entire  scutella  ;  the  rest  of  the  upper  parts 
with  thick  flat  scales,  the  sides  and  lower  surfaces  with  smaller 
roundish  scales,  those  on  the  large  pads  beneath  conical,  rigid, 
and  acute.  There  is  a  cluster  of  nine  large  pointed  papillae  on 
the  inner  side  of  the  outer  toe  at  the  end,  and  a  similar  but 
smaller  cluster  on  the  opposite  side  of  the  third  or  middle  toe. 
The  hind  toe  is  very  short,  and  has  considerable  motion  late¬ 
rally  ;  the  fourth  or  outer  largest,  and  reversible  so  as  to  form 
a  right  angle  with  the  third,  which  is  considerably  longer,  the 
second  or  inner  being  shorter  than  the  outer.  The  claws  are 
large,  well  curved,  compressed,  rounded  above  and  beneath, 
vol.  hi.  it 


242 


PAN  DION  HALIAETUS. 


and  tapering  to  a  fine  point ;  that  of  the  middle  toe  with  a  flat 
surface  and  sharp  edge  on  the  inner  side.  Fig.  219. 

The  plumage  is  dense  and  compact.  The  feathers  of  the 
head  and  neck  small,  lanceolate,  and  acuminate ;  those  of  the 
occiput  and  upper  part  of  the  hind-neck  rather  long,  and  erec¬ 
tile  into  a  kind  of  crest ;  of  the  fore  part  of  the  back  large,  and 
ovate,  of  the  hind  part  small ;  the  scapulars  very  large  and 
strong  ;  feathers  of  the  breast  ovate,  of  the  anterior  part  of  the 
abdomen  longer,  so  as  to  cover  a  flap  of  large  downy  feathers, 
lying  over  the  very  dense  downy  plumage  of  the  abdomen  ; 
lower  tail-coverts  long,  compact  only  at  the  end.  Wings  ex¬ 
tremely  elongated,  with  ten  primaries,  eighteen  secondaries, 
and  five  strong  liumerals ;  the  outer  four  quills  are  abruptly 
cut  out  on  the  inner  web,  the  second,  third,  and  fourth  slightly 
so  on  the  outer  ;  the  first  a  little  longer  than  the  fifth,  the  third 
longest ;  the  shafts  strong,  towards  the  end  elastic.  Tail  rather 
long,  nearly  even,  of  twelve  broad,  rounded  feathers. 

Bill  brownish-black,  toward  the  base  bluish,  as  are  the  soft 
margins  ;  cere  light  greyish-blue  ;  iris  deep  yellow  ;  feet  pale 
greyish-blue  ;  claws  black.  The  general  colour  of  the  plumage 
on  the  upper  parts  is  deep  brown,  glossed  with  purple,  the 
margins  of  the  feathers  paler.  On  the  crown  of  the  head  and 
the  occiput,  the  feathers  have  merely  a  central  streak  of  dark 
brown,  the  rest  being  yellowish- white  ;  the  sides  of  the  head  are 
white  ;  a  broad  blackish -brown  band  from  the  eye  down  the 
side  of  the  neck.  Quills  dark  brown,  the  primaries  toward  the 
end  brownish-black,  and  glossed  with  purple,  the  inner  webs 
barred  with  greyish-white  ;  tail  light  brown,  faintly  barred 
with  darker,  the  tips  yellowish-white,  the  inner  webs,  those 
of  the  two  middle  feathers  excepted,  marked  with  confluent 
greyish-white  spots.  All  the  lower  parts  are  white,  excepting 
the  lower  part  of  the  neck  and  a  portion  of  the  breast,  on  which 
there  are  numerous  light  brownish  red  streaks,  and  the  lower 
wing-coverts,  which  are  spotted  with  brown. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  24  inches,  to  end  of  wings  26  ;  extent 
of  wings  64 ;  wing  from  flexure  20  ;  tail  9^  ;  bill  along  the 
ridge  1JJ  ;  length  of  cere  \  ;  edge  of  lower  mandible  1T82  ; 
depth  of  bill  at  fore-edge  of  cere  ;  tarsus  2^  ;  first  toe 


FISHING  OSPREY. 


243 


its  claw  lj%  ;  second  toe  lTflg,  its  claw  1T8|  ;  third  toe  1T\,  its 
claw  1  ;  fourth  toe  l^,  its  claw  lx9g. 

Female. — The  female  differs  little  from  the  male  in  colour, 
but  is  considerably  larger.  The  feathers  on  the  upper  part  of 
the  head  are  more  broadly  streaked  with  brown,  and  the  co¬ 
loured  patch  on  the  fore  part  of  the  neck  and  breast  is  larger. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  26  inches,  extent  of  wings  68 ;  wing 
from  flexure  20  ;  tail  10  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  2,  along  the 
edge  of  lower  mandible  ;  tarsus  2T\  ;  first  toe  1,  its  claw 
lj§  ;  second  toe  1T%,  its  claw  1T\  ;  third  toe  If,  its  claw  1T7?  ; 
fourth  toe  If,  its  claw  If. 

Variations. — In  adult  birds  I  have  not  observed  any  re¬ 
markable  variations,  the  white  on  the  head  and  neck  bein^ 
merely  more  or  less  pure,  the  brownish-red  on  the  breast  more 
or  less  marked,  and  sometimes  almost  entirely  wanting. 

Changes  of  Plumage. — The  moult  is  completed  in  Decem¬ 
ber.  After  being  worn  and  bleached,  the  feathers  in  autumn 
become  of  a  dull  light-brown,  the  pale-coloured  tips  are  abrad¬ 
ed,  and  the  yellowish-white  terminal  band  of  the  tail  has  dis¬ 
appeared.  In  winter,  when  the  plumage  is  fresh,  it  is  much 
more  beautiful,  glossy,  and  deeply  coloured,  as  is  the  case  with 
all  the  birds  of  this  family. 

LIarits. — The  Osprey  prefers  for  its  habitation  the  remote 
and  thinly  peopled  districts  beyond  the  Grampians  ;  but  even 
there  it  is  of  extremely  unusual  occurrence,  unless  in  particu¬ 
lar  spots  where  it  finds  abundant  food  and  comparative  security. 
In  the  Outer  Hebrides  I  have  never  met  with  it ;  but  at  the 
mouths  of  rivers,  and  especially  on  lakes,  along  the  north-west 
coast  of  Scotland,  it  may  here  and  there  be  seen.  A  pair 
generally  take  up  their  residence  on  an  island  of  Loch  Maree, 
the  waters  of  which  are  well  supplied  with  trout  and  salmon ; 
and  on  all  the  larger  lakes,  such  as  Lochlagan,  Loch  Tay,  Loch 
Awe,  and  Loch  Lomond,  a  few  may  be  met  with.  On  the 
other  side  of  the  country,  it  is  seen  in  Caithness  and  Suther- 


244 


PAN!) ION  HALIAETUS. 


land,  as  is  attested  by  my  friend  Air  A.  G.  Alacgillivray.  In¬ 
dividuals  have  frequently  been  seen,  and  sometimes  shot  on 
the  Tweed.  Mr  Stevenson  of  Edinburgh  has  in  his  collec¬ 
tion  a  fine  specimen  killed  there  by  himself.  I  have  seen  one 
that  was  shot  in  Fifeshire,  and  another  among  the  Pentland 
Hills,  near  Edinburgh.  Air  S.  H.  Greenhow  of  Tynemouth 
informs  me  that  in  1835  four  Ospreys  were  shot  in  April  and 
May  in  that  neighbourhood,  and  another  in  September.  Speci¬ 
mens  have  been  shot  in  all  the  eastern  and  in  a  few  of  the  mid¬ 
land  counties  of  England.  Mr  AVliite  of  Selborne  has  men- 

Cj 

tioned  an  instance  of  its  having  been  killed  on  a  pond  not  far 
from  that  village  ;  and  Montagu  and  Dr  Aloore  certify  its  not 
very  unfrequent  occurrence  in  Devonshire. 

It  appears  that  the  Osprey  is  not  a  permanent  resident  with 
us,  but  arrives  in  spring,  and  departs  towards  the  end  of 
autumn,  or  in  the  beginning  of  winter.  Its  breeding-places 
are  generally  the  ruined  buildings  on  islands  in  lakes.  Alon- 
tagu  states  that  he  once  saw  its  nest  “  on  the  top  of  a  chimney 
of  a  ruin,  in  an  island  on  Loch  Lomond  ;  it  was  large  and 
flat,  formed  of  sticks  laid  across,  and  resting  on  the  sides  of  the 
chimney,  lined  with  flags/'  According  to  the  same  observer, 
it  “  flies  heavily,  not  much  unlike  the  common  Buzzard,  but 
not  unfrequently  glides  slowly  along  with  motionless  wing. 
When  examining  the  water  for  prey,  its  wings  are  in  con¬ 
tinual  motion,  although  it  remains  stationary  for  a  consider¬ 
able  time  ;  its  superior  weight  perhaps  renders  it  difficult  to 
continue  suspended  in  the  air,  with  the  imperceptible  motion 
of  the  wings  observed  in  the  Kestrel."  When  crossing  the 
bridge  over  the  river  Avon,  at  Aveton  Gifford,  in  April  1811, 
he  “  observed  an  Osprey  hawking  for  fish ;  at  last  its  attention 
was  arrested,  and,  like  the  Kestrel  in  search  of  mice,  it  became 
stationary,  as  if  examining  what  had  attracted  its  attention. 
After  a  pause  of  some  time,  it  descended  to  within  about  fifty 
yards  of  the  surface  of  the  water,  and  there  continued  hovering 
for  another  short  interval,  and  then  precipitated  itself  into  the 
water  with  such  great  celerity  as  to  be  nearly  immersed.  In 
three  or  four  seconds  the  bird  rose  without  any  apparent  diffi¬ 
culty,  and  carried  off  a  trout  of  moderate  size,  and  instead  of 


FISHING  OSPREY. 


245 


alighting  to  regale  upon  its  prey,  it  soared  to  a  prodigious 
height,  and  did  not  descend  within  our  view.11 

Little  of  importance  can  be  added  to  these  notes  from  the 
accounts  given  by  more  recent  observers  in  Britain,  where  the 
bird  is  so  uncommon  as  to  render  a  continuous  account  of  its 
habits  almost  impracticable.  In  North  America,  however, 
where  it  is  very  abundant,  it  has  been  more  satisfactorily  ex¬ 
amined.  “  The  flight  of  the  Fish  Hawk,'1  says  Wilson,  the 
Scottish  ornithologist  of  America,  “  his  manoeuvres  while  in 
search  of  fish,  and  his  manner  of  seizing  his  prey,  are  deserving 
of  particular  notice.  In  leaving  the  nest,  he  usually  flies  direct 
till  he  comes  to  the  sea,  then  sails  around,  in  easy  curving  lines, 
turning  sometimes  in  the  air  as  on  a  pivot,  apparently  without 
the  least  exertion,  rarely  moving  the  wings,  his  legs  extended 
in  a  straight  line  behind,  and  his  remarkable  length,  and  cur¬ 
vature  or  bend  of  wing,  distinguishing  him  from  all  other 
hawks.  The  height  at  which  he  thus  elegantly  glides  is  vari¬ 
ous,  from  one  hundred  to  one  hundred  and  fifty  and  two  hun¬ 
dred  feet,  sometimes  much  higher,  all  the  while  calmly  recon- 
noitering  the  face  of  the  deep  below.  Suddenly  he  is  seen  to 
check  his  course,  as  if  struck  by  a  particular  object,  which  he 
seems  to  survey  for  a  few  moments  with  such  steadiness  that 
he  appears  fixed  in  air,  flapping  his  wings.  This  object,  how¬ 
ever,  he  abandons,  or  rather  the  fish  he  had  in  his  eye  has  dis¬ 
appeared,  and  he  is  again  seen  sailing  around  as  before.  Now 
his  attention  is  again  arrested,  and  he  descends  with  great  ra¬ 
pidity  ;  but  ere  he  reaches  the  surface,  shoots  off  on  another 
course,  as  if  ashamed  that  a  second  victim  had  escaped  him. 
He  now  sails  at  a  short  height  above  the  surface,  and  by  a  zig¬ 
zag  descent,  and  without  seeming  to  dip  his  feet  in  the  water, 
siezes  a  fish,  which,  after  carrying  a  short  distance,  he  probably 
drops,  or  yields  up  to  the  Bald  Eagle,  and  again  descends,  by  easy 
spiral  circles,  to  the  higher  regions  of  the  air,  where  he  glides 
about  in  all  the  ease  and  majesty  of  his  species.  At  once,  from 
this  sublime  aerial  height,  he  descends  like  a  perpendicular 
torrent,  plunging  into  the  sea  with  a  loud  rushing  sound,  and 
with  the  certainty  of  a  rifle.  In  a  few  moments  he  emerges, 
bearing  in  his  claws  his  struggling  prey,  which  he  always 


246 


PANDION  HALIAETUS. 


carries  head  foremost,  and,  having  risen  a  few  feet  above  the 
surface,  shakes  himself  as  a  water-spaniel  would  do,  and  directs 
his  heavy  and  laborious  course  directly  for  the  land.  If  the 
wind  blow  hard,  and  his  nest  lie  in  the  quarter  from  whence 
it  comes,  it  is  amusing  to  observe  with  what  judgment  and 
exertion  he  heats  to  windward,  not  in  a  direct  line,  that  is,  in 
the  wind's  eye,  hut  making  several  successive  tacks  to  gain 
his  purpose.  This  will  appear  the  more  striking,  when  we 
consider  the  size  of  the  fish  which  he  sometimes  bears  along. 
A  shad  was  taken  from  a  Fish  Hawk  near  Great  Egg  Har¬ 
bour,  on  which  he  had  begun  to  regale  himself,  and  had  al¬ 
ready  ate  a  considerable  portion  of  it ;  the  remainder  weighed 
six  pounds.  Another  Fish  Hawk  was  passing  Air  Beasley's, 
at  the  same  place,  with  a  large  flounder  in  his  grasp,  which 
struggled  and  shook  him  so,  that  he  dropt  it  on  the  shore." 
Yet  the  weight  of  the  Osprey  itself  is  only  from  four  to  five 
pounds.  Sometimes,  according  to  the  same  author,  it  over¬ 
rates  its  strength,  and  “  the  bodies  of  sturgeon,  and  several 
other  large  fish,  with  that  of  a  Fish  Hawk  fast  grappled  in 
them,  have  at  different  times  been  found  dead  on  the  shore, 
cast  up  by  the  waves."  It  may  be  so,  hut  Wilson  does  not 
say  that  he  has  seen  an  Osprey  at  anchor  on  a  sturgeon.  The 
descent  from  “  the  higher  regions  of  the  air"  too,  I  think  re¬ 
quires  proof.  Air  Audubon  says  that  “  whilst  in  search  of 
food,  it  flies  with  easy  flappings  at  a  moderate  height  above 
the  water,  and  with  an  apparent  listlessness,  although  in  reality 
it  is  keenly  observing  the  objects  beneath.  No  sooner  does  it 
spy  a  fish  suited  to  its  taste,  than  it  checks  its  course  with  a 
sudden  shake  of  its  wings  and  tail,  which  gives  it  the  appear¬ 
ance  of  being  poised  in  the  air  for  a  moment,  after  which  it 
plunges  headlong  with  great  rapidity  into  the  water,  to  se¬ 
cure  its  prey,  or  continues  its  flight,  if  disappointed  by  having 
observed  the  fish  sink  deeper."  It  is  only  when  it  has  satisfied 
its  hunger  that,  according  to  this  more  accurate  observer,  it 
sails  about  at  a  great  height  over  the  neighbouring  waters. 

According  to  the  same  author,  the  nest  is  generally  placed 
in  a  large  tree  near  the  water,  but  occasionally  at  no  greater 
height  than  seven  or  eight  feet.  On  the  Florida  Keys  lie  saw 


FISHING  OSPREY. 


247 


it  twice  on  the  ground,  and  once  on  the  roof  of  a  low  house. 
“  The  nest  is  very  large,  sometimes  measuring  fully  four  feet 
across,  and  is  composed  of  a  quantity  of  materials  sufficient  to 
render  its  depth  equal  to  its  diameter.  Large  sticks,  mixed  with 
sea-weeds,  tufts  of  strong  grass,  and  other  materials,  form  its 
exterior,  while  the  interior  is  composed  of  sea-weeds  and  finer 
grasses.”  The  eggs,  as  he  informs  us,  are  three  or  four,  of 
a  broadly  oval  form,  yellowish-white,  densely  covered  with 
large  irregular  spots  of  reddish-browm.  An  egg  of  this  bird 
in  my  possession  is  two  inches  and  four  twelfths  in  length, 
one  inch  and  ten  twelfths  in  its  greatest  breadth,  of  a  short 
ovate  form,  with  the  narrow  end  much  rounded,  its  ground  co¬ 
lour  white,  with  large  irregular  blotches  of  dark  greenish- 
brown,  and  numerous  small  spots  of  light  brownish-grey. 

According  to  the  American  ornithologists  above  mentioned, 
the  female,  while  incubating,  is  supplied  with  food  by  the 
male,  and  the  young  remain  in  the  nest  until  perfectly  fledged 
and  able  to  provide  for  themselves.  Their  parents  however 
assist  them  for  several  weeks  after  they  have  gone  abroad. 
This  bird  is  indeed  remarkably  affectionate  and  gentle,  seldom 
molests  any  other  species,  confining  itself  entirely  to  the  pur¬ 
suit  of  its  finny  prey,  and  is  more  social  than  any  other  of  its 
family.  In  America  it  is  greatly  molested  by  the  White- 
headed  Sea-Eagle,  which  frequently  wrests  from  it  the  fish 
which  it  has  just  caught.  In  our  country  no  instance  of  this 
kind  has  been  observed  ;  but  with  us,  both  the  Osprey  and  the 
White-tailed  Eagle  are  of  so  rare  occurrence  that  their  encoun¬ 
ters  must  be  very  unusual. 

An  examination  of  the  organs  of  this  bird,  with  reference  to 
its  habits,  may  prove  interesting  not  only  in  itself,  but  with 
respect  to  other  birds.  We  may  assume  that  in  a  family  of 
a  rapacious  character  destined  to  seize  on  living  prey,  it  has 
been  intended  to  confine  itself  to  fish,  which  it  must  clutch 
from  the  deep  as  they  swim  near  the  surface.  As  fishes  only 
occasionally  come  within  reach,  the  Osprey  is  furnished  with 
extremely  long  wings  and  strong  drepressor  muscles,  by  means 
of  which  it  is  enabled  not  only  to  fly  with  ease  to  great  dis¬ 
tances  over  the  water,  and  remain  long  on  wing  without  un- 


248 


PAN  DION  IIALIAETUS. 


dergoing  fatigue,  but  also  to  fix  itself  in  a  particular  spot  with 
a  quivering  or  undulating  motion,  in  order  to  watch  the  pro¬ 
per  moment  for  descending.  Then,  as  it  has  to  plunge  into 
the  water,  or  at  least  is  liable  to  come  in  contact  with  it,  the 
plumage  of  its  lower  parts  is  rendered  more  dense  and  com¬ 
pact  than  usual,  and  the  elongated  tufts  seen  on  the  outer  side 
of  the  tibiae  in  other  hawks,  are  here  replaced  by  short  feathers. 
On  the  upper  parts,  however,  the  plumage  is  not  more  compact 
than  in  Eagles  or  Buzzards.  Great  rapidity  of  flight,  and  the 
power  of  executing  sudden  turnings,  are  not  necessary  for 
this  mode  of  life,  and  therefore  the  tail  is  not  so  long  as  in 
hawks  generally,  for  the  Osprey,  having  spied  its  prey,  merely 
drops  perpendicularly  upon  it.  The  peculiar  form  of  its  prey, 
the  slippery  nature  of  its  surface,  and  the  facility  which  it  has 
of  getting  out  of  reach,  render  necessary  a  very  powerful  in¬ 
strument  of  prehension,  and  accordingly  the  foot  has  the  tibia 
extremely  muscular,  the  tarsus  very  short,  the  toes  of  extreme 
thickness,  and  covered  beneath  with  prominent  conical  points. 
All  the  toes  are  possessed  of  great  mobility,  and  the  lateral  can 
be  placed  at  right  angles  to  the  first  and  third,  so  as  to  ensure 
an  ample  and  secure  grasp.  The  very  elongated,  well-curved, 
pointed  claws  are  obviously  excellent  instruments  for  this  pur¬ 
pose  ;  and  while  in  other  hawks  they  are  flat  beneath  and 
edged,  they  are  in  this  rounded,  so  as  when  introduced  into 
the  soft  flesh  not  to  tear  it,  and  at  the  sametime  be  readily 
withdrawn  should  such  a  measure  be  rendered  expedient  by 
the  bird's  having  seized  a  fish  too  strong  for  it.  The  oesophagus 
and  stomach  do  not  differ  essentially  from  those  of  other  birds 
of  the  family ;  but  the  intestine  is  excessively  elongated  and 
attenuated.  It  is  the  same,  but  in  a  less  degree,  in  the  Sea- 
Eagles,  which  feed  partially  on  fish.  And  hence  it  might  be 
inferred  that  an  intestine  of  this  form  is  best  adapted  for  ex¬ 
tracting  the  nutriment  from  that  sort  of  food,  but  how  or  why 
does  not  appear  ;  and  many  birds  that  feed  in  the  same  man¬ 
ner  have  short  and  wide  intestines.  The  capacity  of  the  in¬ 
testinal  tube  of  the  White-tailed  Sea-Eao-le  is  not  greater  than 
that  of  the  Golden  Eagle,  although  the  length  is  as  five  to  one  ; 
nor  is  that  of  the  Osprey  greater  than  that  of  the  Buzzard,  al- 


FISHING  OSPREY. 


240 


though  the  length  is  as  eight  to  one.  Crude  conjectures  are 
easily  made.  Thus,  it  has  been  supposed  “  that  the  small 
quantity  of  nutriment  which  fish,  as  an  article  of  food,  is 
known  to  afford,  rendered  this  extent  of  canal  necessary,  in 
order  that  every  portion  of  the  nutriment  might  be  extracted," 
and  that  although  some  fish-eating  water-birds  have  a  short 
intestinal  canal  of  large  calibre,  yet  they  can  catch  fish  much 
more  readily  than  the  Osprey,  and  can  therefore  fill  their  sto¬ 
mach  oftener.  This  explanation  is  obviously  unsatisfactory, 
since  birds  very  similar  in  mode  of  flight  and  habits,  as  the 
Frigate  Pelican,  have  a  wide  intestine.  It  has  been  suggested 
by  me  that  the  arrangement  is  made  on  account  of  the  Osprey's 
plunging  into  the  sea,  and  being  thus  liable  to  sudden  shocks, 
which  have  less  effect  upon  a  slender  coil  of  intestine.  But 
many  plunging  birds,  as  Gannets  and  Terns,  have  the  intes¬ 
tine  wide,  while  in  the  Herons,  which  never  plunge,  it  is  as 
narrow  as  in  the  Osprey. 

In  North  America  the  Osprey,  according  to  Mr  Audubon, 
is  generally  distributed,  occurring  all  over  the  United  States, 
from  Texas  northward,  as  well  as  along  the  north-western 
coast.  In  Europe  it  is  said  by  various  authors  to  be  found  in 
Siberia,  Norway,  Russia,  Germany,  Holland,  Switzerland, 
Spain,  and  Italy.  In  Africa  it  has  been  obtained  in  Egypt 
and  the  Cape  of  Good  Hope.  M.  Temminck  states  its  occur¬ 
rence  in  Japan,  and  there  is  a  specimen  from  New  Holland  in 
the  museum  of  the  University  of  Edinburgh. 

Young. — When  fully  fledged,  the  young  differ  considerably 
from  their  parents,  their  upper  parts  being  much  darker,  and 
all  the  feathers  there  margined  with  white,  giving  them  a  re¬ 
markably  beautiful  appearance.  At  this  age,  the  bill  is  black, 
the  cere  on  both  mandibles  greyish-blue,  the  iris  rich  yellow  ; 
the  feet  pale  blue,  with  a  tinge  of  green,  the  soles  flesh-coloured, 
the  claws  black.  The  feathers  of  the  head  are  white,  each 
with  a  central  brownish-black  lanceolate  streak,  those  of  the 
occiput  and  nape  white,  with  pale  reddish-yellow  tips.  A 
black  band  passes  over  the  eye,  and  a  broad  band  of  the  same 
colour  extends  from  behind  the  eye  on  each  side  down  the  neck, 


250 


PAN  DION  IIALIAETUS. 


the  two  meeting  behind.  On  the  upper  parts  in  general,  the 
feathers  are  chocolate-brown,  tinged  with  purple,  and  margin¬ 
ally  tipped  with  reddish-white.  The  quills  are  banded  with 
white  on  the  inner  webs,  their  general  colour  brown,  but  the 
outer  four  purplish-black;  the  tail  greyish-brown,  the  middle  fea¬ 
thers  with  seven,  the  lateral  with  eight  brownish-black  bands, 
the  inner  webs  whitish  between  the  dark  bands,  the  shafts 
brownish -white,  the  tip  light  yellowish-red.  The  lower  parts 
are  white  ;  the  throat  with  longitudinal  dusky  lines,  the  lower 
part  of  the  neck  and  fore  part  of  the  breast  with  lanceolate 
light-brown  spots,  besides  which  there  are  on  many  of  the  fea¬ 
thers  one  or  two  concealed  darker  spots  ;  the  axillar  feathers 
white,  with  three  spots,  dark-brown,  reddish-brown,  and 
brownish-yellow.  The  larger  lower  wing-coverts  are  white, 
with  three  broad  blackish-brown  bands  ;  the  next  brownish- 
yellow,  with  large  dusky  spots,  the  rest  brown,  tipped  with 
yellowish-wliite  ;  those  on  the  edge  of  the  wing  yellowish, 
with  a  dusky  lanceolate  spot ;  the  lower  tail-coverts  white, 
tipped  with  reddish- yellow. 

The  Osprey  thus  affords  another  example  of  a  falconine  bird, 
which  when  young  has  the  tints  much  darker  than  when  adult, 
although  more  variegated. 

O  C 

Remarks. — Having  dissected  three  individuals  of  this  species, 
I  may  here  present  a  comparative  view  of  the  dimensions  of 


their  digestive  organs. 

M. 

M. 

F. 

Tongue  in  length . 

Cl 

1 

1 

(Esophagus  in  length . 

.  9i 

H 

9i 

Width  of  crop . 

9l 

s 

91 

-2 

Narrowest  part . 

3 

1  0 

1  2 

9 

T  2 

Stomach  in  diameter . 

.  If 

9 

Intestine  in  length . 

. Ill 

135 

117 

Greatest  width  of  intestine _ 

2  h 

5 

1  2 

2i 

1 

Least  width  of  intestine . 

H 

13 

1  2 

ii 
T  2 

Length  of  coeca . 

4 

4 

T2 

3* 

T2 

Length  of  rectum . . 

.  u 

5 

4 

Diameter  of  cloaca  . 

.  1 

H 

91 

^4 

FISHING  OSPREY. 


251 


The  trachea  of  two  individuals  examined,  a  male  and  a  fe¬ 
male,  was  in  the  former  7,  in  the  latter  7T%  inches  long ;  its 
breadth  at  the  upper  part  T4|,  T5| ;  its  rings  102,  96,  the  two 
lower  dimidiate.  Right  bronchus  of  22,  18  rings,  left  of  16, 
15.  The  contractor  muscles  large,  as  are  the  sterno-tracheal ; 
a  single  pair  of  inferior  laryngeal  muscles,  going  to  the  mem¬ 
brane  between  the  last  ring  of  the  trachea  and  the  first  bron¬ 
chial  ring. 

In  preparing  the  digestive  organs  of  an  individual  of  this 
species,  I  found  that  the  fluid  of  the  proventricular  glands  had, 
after  a  lapse  of  about  a  week,  dissolved  many  of  the  glands  into 
a  pulp,  as  well  as  the  transverse  muscular  fibres  lying  over  them, 
while  the  rest  of  the  tube  in  its  whole  length  was  perfectly 
sound. 


Fig.  219. 


252 


PERN  IS.  BEE-HAWK. 


Bill  shorter  than  the  head,  somewhat  broader  than  high  at 
the  base,  compressed  towards  the  end,  strong  :  upper  mandible 
with  the  dorsal  line  convexo-declinate  as  far  as  the  edge  of 
the  large  bare  cere,  then  decurved  in  the  third  of  a  circle,  the 
ridge  rather  narrow,  the  sides  convex,  the  edges  soft  at  the 
base,  beyond  the  nostrils  hard,  direct,  and  sharp,  with  a  very 
slight  festoon,  the  tip  descending,  slender,  acute  ;  lower  man¬ 
dible  with  the  angle  of  moderate  length,  broad,  and  rounded, 
the  back  broad,  the  sides  rounded,  the  edges  thin,  somewhat 
inflected,  the  tip  rounded  but  thin-edged  ;  the  gape-line  arcuate. 

Mouth  rather  wide ;  upper  mandible  internally  a  little  con¬ 
cave,  lower  broadly  channelled  with  a  median  prominent  line  ; 
palate  flat,  with  two  longitudinal  soft  ridges.  Tongue  short, 
deeply  concave  above,  with  the  sides  nearly  parallel,  the  tip 
rounded  but  emarginate,  its  free  part  horny  beneath,  its  base 
with  a  concave  outline,  and  fringed  with  pointed  papillae.  The 
other  parts  in  the  mouth  as  in  the  Buzzards  and  Kites.  (Eso¬ 
phagus  very  wide,  and  about  the  middle  dilated  into  a  very 
wide  crop.  At  the  upper  part  it  has  an  outer  layer  of  incon¬ 
spicuous  longitudinal  fibres,  and  in  its  whole  length  is  encircled 
with  slender  fibres ;  its  inner  coat  is  smooth,  when  dilated 
even,  and  when  contracted  thrown  into  longitudinal  rugae. 
Proventricular  glandules  small,  oblong,  forming  a  complete 
belt.  Stomach  large,  roundish,  its  muscular  coat  very  thin, 
and  in  fasciculi ;  its  tendons  rather  large  and  roundish.  Intes¬ 
tine  of  moderate  length,  rather  wide  ;  cloaca  elliptical,  very 
large ;  no  coeca. 

Body  rather  elongated,  moderately  full  ;  neck  rather  short ; 
head  of  moderate  size,  flattened  above,  ovate.  Nostrils  linear- 
oblong,  or  narrow  elliptical,  oblique,  lateral,  about  equally  dis¬ 
tant  from  the  edges  and  ridge.  Eyes  rather  large  ;  eyelids 
closely  covered  with  small  compact  feathers,  and  destitute  of 
ciliary  bristles,  but  with  the  margins  bare  ;  the  superciliary  pro- 


PERNIS.  BEE-HAWK. 


253 


jection  small.  Aperture  of  ear  large,  transversely  elliptical. 
Legs  short,  robust ;  tarsi  very  short,  strong,  roundish,  covered 
with  feathers  for  half  their  length  in  front,  on  the  rest  of  their 
extent  with  flat  hexagonal  scales,  of  which  the  anterior  are  large. 
Toes  of  moderate  length,  strong,  the  first  stouter,  the  fourth 
most  slender,  and  connected  with  the  third  at  the  base  by  a 
pretty  large  web  ;  all  covered  above  with  transverse  series  of 
scales,  and  toward  the  end  with  scutella,  beneath  with  round¬ 
ish,  prominent,  hard  papillae.  Claws  long,  rather  slender, 
arcuate,  less  curved  than  in  any  other  British  genus,  tapering, 
acute,  rather  compressed,  laterally  somewhat  convex,  with  a 
slight  groove,  concave  beneath  ;  those  of  the  first  and  second 
toes  nearly  equal  and  strongest,  the  third  longest,  and  having 
an  inner  sharp  edge. 

Plumage  compact,  soft,  slightly  glossed.  Cere  bare,  being 
destitute  of  bristles  ;  feathers  on  the  fore-part  of  the  head, 
cheeks,  loral  space,  and  chin,  very  small,  ovato-oblong,  obtuse, 
compact ;  those  on  the  rest  of  the  head  oblong,  of  the  hind-neck 
ovate,  of  the  rest  of  the  upper  parts  broad  and  rounded,  of  the 
fore-neck  and  breast  oblong  ;  the  feathers  of  the  abdomen  and 
tibiae  more  compact  than  usual ;  the  outer  tibial  feathers  elon¬ 
gated  ;  the  lower  tail-coverts  very  long  and  compact.  Wings 
very  long,  broad,  rounded,  of  twenty-three  or  twenty-five  quills, 
of  which  the  third  is  longest,  the  outer  five  abruptly  cut  out 
on  the  inner  web  ;  all  the  rest  rounded,  with  a  minute  tip. 
Tail  long,  broad,  even  or  slightly  emarginate,  but  at  the  sides 
rounded,  of  twelve  broad,  acuminate  feathers. 

This  genus,  of  which  the  species  are  not  numerous,  appears 
to  be  intermediate  between  Buteo  and  Milvus,  and  in  the 
general  form  and  short  strong  tarsi  to  approximate  to  Pandion. 
It  is  distinguished  from  Buteo  by  having  the  bill  longer,  the 
cere  broader,  the  feet  much  shorter  and  stronger,  the  tarsi  des¬ 
titute  of  scutella,  the  wings  and  tail  much  longer.  From 
Milvus  it  differs  in  having  the  bill  more  slender,  the  feet  much 
stouter,  the  tarsi  not  scutellate,  the  tail  not  forked.  From  all 
the  genera  of  this  family  it  is  distinguished  by  the  imbricated, 
compact,  scale-like  feathers  on  the  parts  about  the  base  of  the 
bill. 


254 


PERNIS  API V ORA.  BROWN  BEE-HAWK. 

HONEY  BUZZARD. 


Fig.  220. 


Falco  apivorus.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  130. 

Falco  apivorus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  25. 

Honey  Buzzard.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Buse  Bondrde.  Falco  apivorus.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  67  ;  III. 
Honey  Buzzard.  Pernis  apivorus.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  62. 

Buteo  apivorus.  Honey  Buzzard.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  83. 


Tail  with  four  broad  and  n  umerous  small  dusky  bands  ;  icings 
with  two  similar  bands.  Adult  male  with  the  anterior  part  of 
the  head  brownish-grey ,  the  upper  parts  deep  brown ,  the  throat 
white ,  with  longitudinal  dark  lines ,  the  rest  of  the  lower  parts 
white,  with  broad  bands  and  spots  of  brown.  Young  male  with 
the  head  brown ,  anteriorly  tinged  with  grey ,  the  upper  parts  deep 
brown ,  the  throat  light  reddish ,  with  longitudinal  dark  lines ,  the 
rest  of  the  lower  parts  deep  brown ,  with  darker  longitudinal  lines. 
Female  with  the  forehead  bluish-grey ,  the  upper  parts  deep  brown , 
the  lower  pale  yellowish-red ,  with  large  reddish  brown  spots. 
Young  with  the  head  white ,  spotted  with  brown ,  the  upper  parts 
deep  brown ,  the-  feathers  broadly  edged  with  light  red ,  the  lower 
parts  light  yellowish-red,  spotted  with  brown. 


BROWN  BEE-HAWK. 


255 


The  colouring  of  this  bird,  which  varies  nearly  as  much  as 
that  of  the  Brown  Buzzard,  is  still  a  subject  of  dispute,  some 
authors  considering  the  individuals  of  which  the  head  and  lower 
j)arts  are  white,  as  adult,  while  others  are  of  opinion  that  they  are 
young.  The  Honey  Buzzard  being  of  very  rare  occurrence,  so 
that  one  has  little  chance  of  meeting  with  a  live  or  recent  spe¬ 
cimen  in  the  course  of  many  years,  this  question  cannot  be  de¬ 
cided  by  me.  I  shall  therefore  confine  myself  to  the  description 
of  two  individuals  obtained  in  Scotland,  one  of  which  I  had  the 
good  fortune  to  receive  entire.  The  other  I  have  examined 
after  it  was  preserved  and  mounted.  They  were  both  males, 
but  while  one  was  of  a  nearly  uniform  brown  colour,  the  other 
was  brown  above,  and  white  spotted  with  brown  beneath.  The 
former  would  be  considered  a  young  bird  by  M.  Temminck,  the 
latter  an  adult. 

Young  Male. — This  individual  was  killed  near  Stirling  in 

O 

June  1838,  and  came  into  my  hands  on  the  9th  of  that  month, 
when  it  was  perfectly  fresh.  The  description  which  I  took  at 
the  time  is  as  follows  : — The  form  is  rather  slender  and  elon¬ 
gated,  the  body  moderately  full,  the  neck  of  ordinary  length  or 
rather  short,  the  head  ovato-oblong.  The  hill,  although  slen¬ 
der,  compared  with  that  of  other  birds  of  this  order,  is  rather 
stout.  The  aperture  of  the  mouth  is  wide,  and  extends  to  be¬ 
neath  the  anterior  angle  of  the  eye ;  the  cere  large  ;  the  upper 
mandible  with  its  outline  as  far  as  the  edge  of  the  cere  convexo- 
declinate,  then  curved  in  the  third  of  a  circle,  the  sides  convex, 
the  edges  soft  to  beneath  the  anterior  extremity  of  the  nostrils, 
then  hard,  direct,  and  sharp,  the  tip  slender,  acute,  descending; 
the  lower  mandible  comparatively  small,  with  the  back  broad, 
the  sides  rounded,  the  edges  as  in  the  upper,  the  tip  rounded  ; 
the  gape-line  arched  from  the  base.  Nostrils  ohlon go-linear, 
large,  oblique.  Upper  mandible  a  little  concave,  lower  broadly 
channelled,  with  a  median  prominent  line.  Tongue  deeply 
concave  above,  with  the  sides  nearly  parallel,  the  tip  rounded 
hut  emarginate.  Eyelids  feathered,  but  their  margins  bare. 
Limbs  short ;  tarsus  robust,  anteriorly  covered  with  feathers 
halfway  down,  on  the  rest  of  its  extent  with  angular  scales. 


256 


PERNIS  APIVORA. 


Toes  of  moderate  size  ;  the  first  stoutest,  the  second  next,  the 
fourth  least ;  the  first  with  four  large  scales  above,  the  second 
with  three,  the  third  with  four,  the  fourth  with  three.  The 
claws  long,  rather  slender,  tapering,  arcuate  ;  the  first  and  se¬ 
cond  strongest,  the  third  longest,  with  a  thin  inner  edge,  the 
second  next  in  length,  the  fourth  smallest. 

Plumage  compact.  The  feathers  on  the  fore  part  of  the 
head  and  cheeks  ovate,  compact,  and  small,  especially  on  the 
loral  space,  and  about  the  eye.  The  feathers  in  general  are 
ovate,  curved,  with  a  large  downy  plumule,  on  the  lower  parts 
nearly  as  compact  as  on  the  upper.  Wings  long  and  very  broad, 
extending  to  two  inches  and  a  half  from  the  end  of  the  tail ; 
quills  twenty-three ;  the  outer  six  separated  at  the  end  when 
the  wing  is  extended,  and  having  the  inner  web  cut  out  to- 
wards  the  end,  but  indistinctly  in  the  inner  two  ;  all  the  rest 
rounded,  with  a  minute  tip.  Tail  long,  a  little  emarginate  and 
rounded  at  the  end,  the  feathers  broad.  The  first  quill  is  two 
inches  and  seven-twelfths  shorter  than  the  second,  which  is 
eleven- twelfths  shorter  than  the  third,  the  latter  exceeds  the 
fourth  by  only  one-twelfth,  the  rest  gradually  diminish.  The 
middle  tail-feathers  are  three-twelfths  shorter  than  the  third, 
which  exceeds  the  lateral  by  ten -twelfths. 

The  cere  is  of  a  dusky  green  colour,  but  at  the  base  pale  yel¬ 
low.  The  bill  black,  the  base  of  the  lower  mandible  flesh- 
coloured.  The  mouth  flesh-coloured  ;  the  mandibles  black 
within,  excepting  the  median  line  of  the  upper  ;  the  horny 
part  of  the  tongue  black.  The  margins  of  the  eyelids  black  ; 
the  iris  pure  yellow.  Tarsi  and  toes  orange,  claws  black.  The 
loral  space  and  anterior  part  of  the  forehead  are  brownisli-grey  ; 
the  head  reddish-brown  ;  the  rest  of  the  upper  parts  umber- 
brown,  the  feathers  generally  darker  on  the  shaft  and  towards 
the  end.  The  primary  coverts  and  primary  quills  are  blackish- 
brown  at  the  end,  and  in  the  rest  of  their  extent  have  generally 
on  both  webs  three  bands  of  dark-brown  on  a  lighter  ground  ; 
the  inner  webs  white,  except  at  the  end,  where  they  are  light 
brown,  mottled  with  darker ;  the  outer  quill  however  has  only 
a  single  dark  band,  reduced  to  two  spots  ;  the  second  and  third 
have  two  bands,  also  reduced  to  spots  ;  on  the  secondaries  the 


BROWN  BEE-HAWK. 


257 


(lark  bands  are  reduced  to  two,  and  gradually  approximate 
inwards.  The  tail-feathers  have  the  tips  brownish-white  ; 
then  a  broad  band  of  brownisli-black,  and  a  dusky  space  with 
seven  indistinct  darker  bands,  between  which  and  the  base  are 
three  large  blackish  bands.  Upper  tail-coverts  light  umber. 
The  throat  is  light  reddish-brown  ;  the  rest  of  the  lower  parts 
umber,  each  feather  with  the  shaft  and  a  portion  near  it  dusky. 
The  feathers  of  the  legs  are  lighter,  as  are  the  lower  tail-coverts, 
which  have  two  bands  of  white  toward  the  base.  The  con¬ 
cealed  and  downy  parts  of  the  plumage  are  white,  which  ap¬ 
pears  on  the  hind-neck  and  head  when  the  feathers  are  raised, 
as  it  extends  over  more  than  half  their  length.  The  lower 
wing-coverts  umber-brown. 

The  digestive  organs  are  in  all  respects  similar  to  those  of 
the  Common  Buzzard.  The  oesophagus  is  six  inches  long,  its 
width  at  the  upper  part  one  inch.  The  crop  is  very  large,  its 
width  being  two  inches  ;  the  proventricular  belt  three  fourths 
of  an  inch  in  breadth.  The  stomach  is  large,  roundish,  an 
inch  and  a  half  in  diameter  ;  its  muscular  coat  very  thin,  and 
disposed  in  fasciculi ;  the  tendons  rather  large  and  roundish. 
The  intestine  twenty-two  inches  long,  its  diameter  from  five- 
twelfths  to  two-twelfths ;  the  duodenum  only  three  inches  and 
a  half  in  length.  The  cloaca  is  elliptical,  two  inches  long. 
There  are  no  coeca.  The  crop  contained  four  pieces  of  meat, 
which  had  apparently  been  cut  with  a  knife  ;  and  the  sto¬ 
mach  was  filled  with  fragments  of  bees  and  numerous  larvae, 
among  which  no  honey  or  wax  was  found. 

The  soles  were  crusted  with  mud  or  earth  ;  the  claws  very 
slightly  blunted. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  24J  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  52  ;  wing 
from  flexure  16f  ;  tail  11^  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  1 along 
the  edge  of  lower  mandible  also  1^  ;  tarsus  \  ;  first  toe 
its  claw  1  ;  second  toe  its  claw  1  ;  third  toe  1T\,  its 

claw  Ij?  ;  fourth  toe  1^,  its  claw  TV 

That  this  individual  was  not  a  young  bird  of  the  season 
is  evident,  not  from  the  firmness  of  its  plumage  but  from  the  tex¬ 
ture  of  its  bones,  as  well  as  the  period  at  which  it  was  procured. 
Yet  if  we  compare  the  Bee-Hawk  with  the  Kite,  we  shall 


VOL.  Ill, 


s 


258 


PERNIS  AP1V0RA. 


be  induced  to  consider  our  specimen  as  young,  for  in  the  latter 
species  the  young  are  much  darker  than  the  adult,  and  have 
the  bands  on  the  tail  more  distinct.  I  am  therefore  inclined 
to  agree  with  M.  Temminck  in  this  matter.  The  other  speci¬ 
men  which  I  have  examined  I  shall  now  describe. 

Adult  Male. — In  form  and  proportions  this  individual 
agreed  with  the  above.  The  tarsi,  which  are  feathered  ante¬ 
riorly  about  halfway  down,  are  covered  with  flat  hexagonal 
scales,  of  which  the  anterior  are  very  large,  and  six  in  a  line. 
The  toes  are  covered  above  with  transverse  series  of  scales,  en¬ 
larging  toward  the  end,  where  they  change  into  scutella,  of 
which  there  are  four  on  the  first,  three  on  the  second,  three  on 
the  third,  and  four  on  the  fourth.  The  claws  are  long,  slen¬ 
der,  curved  in  about  the  fourth  of  a  circle,  flat  beneath,  ex¬ 
tremely  acute.  The  plumage  is  soft,  but  compact,  rather 
glossy  on  the  back  and  wings.  The  cere  quite  bare.  The  fea¬ 
thers  on  the  loral  spaces  and  fore  part  of  the  head  and  cheeks 
small,  ovate,  and  compact ;  those  on  the  rest  of  the  head  short 
and  rounded  ;  on  the  body  broad  and  rounded  ;  the  elongated 
feathers  of  the  tibiae  and  abdomen  more  compact  than  usual. 
The  wings  very  long,  broad,  and  rounded  ;  the  first  five  pri¬ 
mary  quills  deeply  sinuate  on  the  inner  web,  and  beyond  the 
sinus  having  their  edges  nearly  parallel  until  near  the  rounded 
tips  ;  the  secondary  quills  thirteen,  very  long,  broadly  rounded, 
with  a  minute  acumen.  Tail  nearly  as  long  as  the  body,  neck, 
and  head,  even,  but  with  the  lateral  feathers  on  each  side  a 
little  shorter. 

Bill  black  ;  cere  dusky  ;  tarsi  and  toes  yellow,  claws  black. 
The  head  to  behind  the  eyes,  the  auriculars,  and  the  short  fea¬ 
thers  margining  the  lower  mandible,  are  light  brownisli-grey. 
That  colour  gradually  passes  on  the  hind-neck  into  deep  umber- 
brown,  which  is  the  general  tint  of  the  upper  parts,  which  are 
however  shaded  with  grey,  the  shaft  of  each  feather,  together 
with  a  patch  on  the  centre,  being  blackish-brown.  All  the 
feathers  are  white  at  the  base,  those  on  the  hind-neck  for  two- 
thirds  of  their  length.  The  larger  wing-coverts  and  scapulars 
are  brownish-grey  in  the  middle ;  the  secondary  quills  grey  in 


BROWN  BEE-HAWK. 


259 


the  middle,  faintly  barred  with  brown,  brownish-black  toward 
the  end,  the  margins  of  the  tips  pale  brown.  The  alular  fea¬ 
thers  and  primary  quills  are  similar,  their  grey  part  sprinkled 
with  brown  dots,  and  a  large  portion  of  their  inner  webs  white. 
The  tail-feathers  are  umber-brown,  tinged  with  grey  ;  their 
base  white,  that  colour  succeeded  by  a  bar  of  deep  umber  ; 
then,  within  half  an  inch,  another  bar  of  the  same  colour,  par¬ 
tially  concealed  by  the  tail-coverts  ;  the  next  brown  bar,  which 
is  all  exposed,  is  a  little  more  than  half  an  inch  distant,  and  at 
an  interval  of  six  inches,  on  which  are  six  faint  bands  of  brown, 
is  a  subterminal  bar  of  blackish-brown,  an  inch  and  a  half  in 
breadth  ;  the  tips  brownish- white.  The  sides  of  the  neck  are 
greyish-brown  above,  umber-brown  below  ;  the  throat  white, 
with  brownish-black  shaft-lines  ;  the  lower  part  of  the  neck 
anteriorly  pale  brown,  with  brownish-black  lines  ;  the  breast, 
sides,  abdomen,  and  lower  tail-coverts,  white,  with  broad 
transverse  bands  of  umber-brown.  These  bands  are  formed  in 
this  manner  : — The  feathers  of  the  lower  neck  have  a  large 
terminal  triangular  spot,  those  of  the  fore-breast  have  a  similar 
spot,  and  about  the  middle  a  band ;  those  on  the  lower  breast 
and  sides  a  spot  and  two  bands  ;  the  long  feathers  on  the  side 
a  spot  and  three  bands  ;  those  of  the  abdomen  two,  the  lower 
tail-coverts  three,  the  axillar  feathers  four  bands.  The  outer 
lower  wing-coverts  are  chocolate-brown,  the  rest  banded  with 
white  and  brown  ;  the  lower  surface  of  the  quills  and  tail- 
feathers  is  pale  grey,  with  white  shafts,  and  three  bands  of 
brownish-black,  two  being  sub-basal,  and  one  terminal. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  24  inches,  to  end  of  wings  23  ;  extent 
of  wings  estimated  at  50  ;  wing  from  flexure  15f,  tail  10  ;  bill 
along  the  back  lj%,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  1^  ; 
tarsus  2  ;  first  toe  its  claw  \\  ;  second  toe  1T\,  its  claw  1  ; 
third  toe  l/^,  its  claw  1-lk  ;  fourth  toe  1  T\,  its  claw 

H  abits. — The  Bee-Hawk  is  of  rare  occurrence  in  any  part 
of  Britain,  and  being  consequently  in  great  request  among  col¬ 
lectors,  has  little  chance  of  remaining  unmolested  whenever  it 
makes  its  appearance.  In  the  northern  and  middle  divisions  of 
Scotland  it  has  not  yet  been  met  with,  and  in  the  southern  I 


260 


PERNIS  APIVORA. 


am  aware  of  only  three  instances  of  its  having  been  killed.  In 
the  Statistical  Report  of  the  Parish  of  Hamilton,  the  Rev.  Mr 
Patrick  states  that  one  was  shot  at  Chatelherault  in  the  autumn 
of  1831.  The  light-coloured  specimen  above  described,  which 
formerly  belonged  to  Dr  Bushnan,  then  of  Dumfries,  but  is 
now  in  the  museum  of  the  University  of  Edinburgh,  was  killed 
at  Drumlanrig  in  that  county.  The  other,  also  described,  and 
now  in  my  collection,  which  lias  in  four  years  gradually  in¬ 
creased  to  two  thousand  specimens,  was  killed  near  Stirling. 
In  Northumberland  and  Durham  several  individuals,  some  of 
which  have  been  described  by  the  Hon.  Mr  Liddel,  J.  P.  Selby, 
Esq.,  and  Sir  William  Jardine,  Bart.,  have  been  obtained  of 
late  years.  James  Wilson,  Esq.,  one  of  the  very  few  zoologists 
of  Edinburgh,  remembers  having  seen  in  Penrith  three,  which, 
with  some  others,  were  shot  in  Cumberland  by  Lord  Lons¬ 
dale's  game-keepers.  It  has  several  times  been  killed  in  Nor¬ 
folk  and  Suffolk,  as  well  as  in  Dorsetshire,  Devonshire,  and 
Worcestershire.  In  the  midland  and  western  parts  of  England 
it  appears  to  have  been  very  seldom  met  with. 

Owing  to  the  unfrequency  of  its  appearance,  its  habits  are 
very  little  known.  It  has  been  seen  attacking  the  nests  of 
wasps,  and  these  animals  with  their  larvae  have  been  found  in 
its  stomach.  In  consequence  of  its  efforts  in  digging  them  out 
of  the  ground,  its  feet  have  been  seen  covered  with  soil,  as  have 
its  bill  and  the  fore  part  of  the  head.  Willughby  and  Vieillot 
say  it  runs  very  swiftly,  like  a  domestic  fowl,  but  this  state¬ 
ment,  if  we  judge  from  analogy  and  the  structure  of  the  feet, 
seems  to  require  confirmation.  Various  observers  have  found 
in  its  crop  and  stomach  remains  of  moles,  mice,  birds,  frogs, 
lizards,  snails,  and  caterpillars,  and  it  has  been  seen  skimming 
over  water  as  if  in  pursuit  of  insects.  In  the  crop  of  a  female 
shot  in  Selborne  Hanger,  White  says  there  were  found  limbs  of 
frogs  and  many  grey  snails.  Willughby  relates  that  a  pair  which 
bred  in  the  deserted  nest  of  a  kite,  fed  their  young  with  larvae 
of  wasps,  as  well  as  with  lizards  and  frogs.  M.  Temminck 
adds  hamsters  to  its  bill  of  fare,  and  doubtless  it  feeds  much  in 
the  same  manner  as  the  Buzzard,  which  it  usually  excels  in 
fatness,  although  that  bird  is  generally  found  in  excellent  con- 


BROWN  BEE-HAWK. 


261 


dition,  especially  in  autumn  and  winter.  Indeed,  owing  to  the 
great  quantity  of  oily  fat  under  the  skin,  it  is  difficult  to  pre¬ 
pare  specimens  of  it.  Its  flight  is  said  to  be  low  and  not  usually 
extended,  and  this  may  be  the  case  when  it  has  assumed  a  sta¬ 
tion  in  a  favourable  locality  ;  but  from  the  length  and  form  of 
its  wings  and  tail,  it  must  have  a  mode  of  flight  very  similar 
to  that  of  the  Kite.  With  us  it  is  apparently  a  summer  visi¬ 
tant,  and  not  a  permanent  resident,  for  all  the  specimens  whose 
dates  of  capture  or  death  are  recorded,  have  been  obtained  in 
summer  and  autumn. 

A  few  instances  of  its  breeding  in  England  are  known. 
White,  in  his  celebrated  Natural  History  of  Selborne,  says, 
“  A  pair  of  Honey  Buzzards  built  them  a  large  shallow  nest, 
composed  of  twigs,  and  lined  with  dead  beeclien  leaves,  upon 
a  tall  slender  beech,  near  the  middle  of  Selborne  Hanger,  in 
the  summer  of  1780.  In  the  middle  of  the  month  of  June,  a 
bold  boy  climbed  this  tree,  though  standing  on  so  steep  and 
dizzy  a  situation,  and  brought  down  an  egg,  the  only  one  in 
the  nest,  which  had  been  sat  on  for  some  time,  and  contained 
the  embryo  of  a  young  bird.  The  egg  was  smaller,  and  not  so 
round  as  those  of  the  common  buzzard,  was  dotted  at  each  end 
with  small  red  spots,  and  surrounded  in  the  middle  with  a 
broad  bloody  zone.”  Mr  J.  M.  Brown  informs  me  that  ho 
“  once  found  a  nest  of  the  Honey  Buzzard  in  the  woods  of 
Abergeldie  in  Aberdeenshire.  It  was  built  in  a  tree,  and  re¬ 
sembled  that  of  the  Common  Buzzard.  There  were  three  eggs, 
of  a  whitish  colour  spotted  with  light  and  dark  brown.  The 
male  was  shot,  before  it  was  known  what  species  had  been  met 
with.”  M.  Temminck  says  its  eggs  are  “  marked  with  large 
reddish-brown  patches,  and  are  often  entirely  of  that  colour,  or 
with  numerous  spots  so  close  together  that  the  white  is  scarce¬ 
ly  perceptible.”  An  egg  from  France,  in  the  museum  of  tho 
University  of  Edinburgh,  is  of  a  broadly  elliptical  form,  two 
inches  and  half  a  twelfth  in  length,  one  inch  and  six  and  a  half 
twelfths  in  breadth,  white,  with  blotches  of  greenish-brown, 
which  have  probably  been  at  first  reddish-brown.  Mr  Yar- 
rell,  in  his  History  of  British  Birds,  mentions  his  having  seen 
three  or  four  specimens,  one  of  which  resembled  that  described 


262 


PERNIS  APIVORA. 


by  White,  while  another  in  his  collection  is  “mottled  nearly  all 
over  with  twTo  shades  of  orange-brown :  long  diameter  two 
inches  and  one  line  ;  transverse  diameter  one  inch  nine  lines.” 

Two  young  birds  seen  by  Willughby  were  44  covered  with  a 
white  down,  spotted  with  black.  Their  feet  were  of  a  pale  yel¬ 
low  ;  their  bills  between  the  nostrils  and  the  head,  white.” 
Beyond  this,  I  apprehend,  there  is  little  certainty,  for  the 
young  partially  or  fully  fledged  have  not,  it  would  appear,  been 
described  from  observation.  It  may  however  be  expedient  to 
adjoin  the  following  notice  by  M.  Temminck.  44  The  young 
of  the  year  have  the  cere  yellow,  and  the  iris  light-brown  ;  the 
head  spotted  with  white  and  brown  ;  the  lowTer  part  of  the  body 
of  a  reddish-white  with  large  brown  spots  ;  the  feathers  of  the 
upper  parts  margined  with  reddish. 

44  The  female  and  the  young  have  only  greyish-blue  on  the 
forehead  ;  the  fore  part  of  the  neck  marked  with  large  spots  of 
light-brown  ;  breast  and  belly  of  a  yellowish-red  with  spots  of 
deep  brown;  upper  parts  of  a  reddish-brown  with  darker  spots; 
often  the  lower  part  of  the  body  whitish  with  spots  of  reddish- 
brown.” 


263 


MILVUS.  KITE. 


Bill  shorter  than  the  head,  somewhat  broader  than  high  at 
the  base,  much  compressed  toward  the  end,  strong  ;  upper 
mandible  with  the  dorsal  line  slightly  convex,  and  descending 
a  little  to  the  edge  of  the  large  bare  cere,  then  decurved  in  the 
fourth  of  a  circle,  the  ridge  broad  and  flattened  at  the  base, 
toward  the  end  narrow  but  convex,  the  sides  rapidly  sloping, 
and  but  slightly  convex,  the  edges  soft  at  the  base,  beyond  the 
cere  hard,  direct,  and  sharp,  with  a  slight  festoon,  the  tip  de¬ 
flected,  tapering,  trigonal,  rather  blunt ;  lower  mandible  with 
the  angle  large,  wide,  anteriorly  rounded,  the  outline  slightly 
convex,  the  back  broad,  the  sides  rounded,  the  edges  thin, 
somewhat  inflected,  the  tip  rounded,  but  tliin-edged  ;  the  gape¬ 
line  nearly  straight. 

Mouth  wide  ;  upper  mandible  internally  a  little  concave, 
with  a  median  ridge,  lower  deeply  concave,  with  a  median 
prominent  line  ;  palate  flat,  with  two  papillate  longitudinal 
soft  ridges  ;  posterior  aperture  of  the  nares  oblongo-linear, 
margined  with  acute  papillae.  Tongue  short,  fleshy,  sagittate, 
and  papillate  at  the  base,  concave  above,  horny  beneath, 
rounded  and  emarginate.  (Esophagus  wide,  about  the  middle 
dilated  into  a  moderate  crop  ;  proventricular  belt  complete. 
Stomach  roundish  ;  its  muscular  coat  thin,  being  composed  of 
a  single  series  of  fasciculi,  the  lateral  tendons  roundish.  In¬ 
testine  of  moderate  length,  slender  ;  cceca  very  small ;  cloaca 
very  large  and  globular.  Plate  XXI,  Fig.  2. 

Body  moderately  full,  compact ;  neck  short ;  head  of  mo¬ 
derate  size,  ovate,  rather  flattened  above.  Nostrils  rather 
small,  elliptical,  oblique,  lateral,  nearer  the  ridge  than  the 
edge,  and  close  to  the  anterior  margin  of  the  cere.  Eyes  large  ; 
eyelids  feathered,  and  furnished  with  ciliary  bristles  ;  the  su¬ 
perciliary  ridge  prominent.  Aperture  of  the  ear  large  and 


# 


264 


MILVUS.  KITE. 


roundish.  Legs  short,  robust ;  tibiae  short ;  tarsi  very  short, 
roundish,  feathered  anteriorly  for  more  than  a  third,  then 
covered  with  a  few  large  scutella,  on  the  sides  and  behind  with 
angular  scales  ;  toes  of  moderate  length,  strong,  the  first  and 
second  nearly  equal,  the  third  much  longer,  the  fourth  more 
slender  than  the  rest,  a  little  longer  than  the  second,  and  con¬ 
nected  with  the  third  by  a  pretty  large  basal  web  ;  all  covered 
above  in  nearly  their  whole  length  with  large  scutella,  laterally 
and  beneath  with  prominent  tubercular  scales.  Claws  long, 
well  curved,  tapering,  compressed,  very  acute,  convex  on  the 
sides,  concave  beneath  ;  the  first  and  second  largest,  and  nearly 
equal,  the  third  longest,  and  having  an  inner  sharp  edge. 

Plumage  soft,  rather  blended,  slightly  glossed.  Cere  bare 
on  its  upper  part ;  space  between  the  eye  and  bill  closely 
covered  wfitli  small,  slender,  bristle-tipped  feathers,  of  which 
the  base  is  downy.  Feathers  of  the  head,  neck,  and  breast 
oblong  and  pointed,  of  the  outer  part  of  the  tibia  elongated,  as 
are  the  lower  tail-coverts,  of  the  abdomen  softer  and  loose,  of 
the  upper  parts  broadly  ovate  and  rounded.  Wings  extremely 
long,  broad,  narrow,  but  rounded  at  the  end  ;  the  third  quill 
longest,  the  fourth  almost  equal,  the  first  short ;  the  primary 
quills  of  moderate  strength,  broad,  toward  the  end  tapering,  in¬ 
curved,  with  the  tip  rounded,  the  outer  five  having  the  inner 
web  cut  out.  The  secondary  quills  thirteen,  long,  broad, 
rounded,  with  a  minute  tip.  Tail  very  long,  broad,  forked  or 
emarginate,  of  twelve  broad  feathers. 

The  genus  Milvus,  of  which  the  species  are  not  numerous, 
is  very  intimately  allied  to  Pernis,  from  which  it  is  distin¬ 
guished  by  the  still  more  elongated  wings  and  tail,  the  bristly 
nature  of  the  covering  of  the  loral  space,  and  the  more  curved 
claws.  It  approximates  to  the  genus  Elan  us,  which  has  the 
wings  and  tail  extremely  elongated,  and  differs  further  in  hav¬ 
ing  the  tarsi  destitute  of  scutella.  The  Kites  are  remarkable 
for  their  gliding  and  buoyant  flight.  They  prey  on  birds, 
small  quadrupeds,  reptiles,  insects,  sometimes  fishes,  and  occa¬ 
sionally  eat  the  flesh  of  dead  animals.  Only  one  species  occurs 
in  Britain,  in  some  districts  of  which  it  is  still  rather  plen¬ 
tiful. 


265 


MILVUS  REGALIS.  THE  RED  KITE. 

COMMON  KITE.  GLED,  GLEAD,  GLADE.  RED  GLED,  SALMON-TAILED  GI.ED, 
FORK-TAILED  GLED.  PUTTOCK.  CROTCHET-TAILED  PUTTOCK.  AN 
CLAMHAN  GODITLACH. 


Fig.  221. 


Falco  Milvus.  Linn.  Syst,  Nat.  T.  12G. 

Falco  Milvus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  20.  Old. 

Falco  austriacus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  21,  Young. 

Kite.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet, 

Milan  Royal.  Falco  Milvus.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  59. 
Kite  or  Glead.  Milvus  vulgaris.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  74. 
Common  Kite.  Milvus  Ictinus.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  86. 


Male  with  the  upper  parts  reddish-brown ,  marked  with  longi¬ 
tudinal  blackish-brown  streaks ,  the  lower  parts  light  brownish 
red ,  with  narrower  dusky  streaks.  Female  with  the  head  and 
upper  part  of  the  neck  greyish-white ,  streaked  with  dusky ,  the 
other  parts  nearly  as  in  the  male.  Young  of  a  duller  brownish- 
red ,  with  the  central  dark  markings  of  the  feathers  broader. 
Tail  deeply  emarginate. 


2  66 


MILVUS  REGAL  IS. 


Male. — The  Kite  is  distinguished  from  the  other  native 
birds  of  this  family  by  the  superior  elegance  of  its  buoyant 
flight,  as  well  as  by  its  elongated  wings,  and  deeply  emarginate 
tail.  Its  form,  which  closely  approaches  to  that  of  the  Bee- 
Hawk,  is  not  less  graceful  than  that  of  any  other  British  species, 
the  body  being  short,  ovate,  and  compact,  the  head  of  mode¬ 
rate  size,  the  neck  short,  as  are  the  feet,  while  the  organs  of 
flight  are  greatly  elongated,  and  the  bill  and  claws  of  moderate 
size.  On  the  tarsus  are  seven  anterior  scutella,  of  which  the 
lower  two  are  divided,  on  the  first  toe  are  three,  on  the  second 
six,  on  the  third  twelve,  on  the  fourth  six  scutella,  besides  se¬ 
veral  basal  series  of  scales.  The  hind  claw  is  deeply  grooved 
on  the  sides,  and  slightly  larger  than  the  second,  the  third  with 
a  very  thin  prominent  inner  edge. 

The  mouth  is  wide,  measuring  an  inch  and  two-twelfths 
across;  the  tongue  and  other  parts  as  described  in  the  generic 
character.  The  oesophagus  six  inches  and  a  half  long,  the  crop 
two  inches  in  width ;  the  stomach  round,  and  two  inches  in 
diameter,  its  muscular  coat  very  thin.  The  intestine  five  feet 
long,  from  four  to  two  and  a  half  twelfths  in  width,  until  the 
commencement  of  the  rectum,  which  is  half  an  inch  wide,  and 
forms  a  large  globular  dilatation. 

The  plumage  is  rather  compact  on  the  upper  parts,  more 
blended  on  the  lower ;  the  feathers  very  downy  at  the  base, 
with  a  rather  large  plumule.  The  loral  space  is  covered  with 
divergent  slender  bristle-tipped  feathers  ;  the  greater  part  of 
the  cere  bare  ;  the  ciliae  large  and  strong.  The  feathers  of  the 
head,  neck,  and  breast  are  narrow  and  pointed,  of  the  back 
ovate  and  rounded,  of  the  sides,  outer  part  of  the  tibia,  and 
subcaudal  region,  elongated  and  obtuse ;  those  of  the  abdo¬ 
men  downy.  The  wings  are  broad  but  pointed,  although 
the  first  quill  is  four  and  a  half  inches  shorter  than  the 
fourth,  which  scarcely  exceeds  the  third,  the  second  half  an 
inch  shorter  than  the  fifth  ;  the  outer  five  quills  deeply  cut  out 
on  the  inner  web,  and  less  so  on  the  outer  ;  the  secondary  quills 
very  broad,  rounded,  with  a  minute  acumen  ;  the  primary 
coverts  broad  and  rounded,  the  alula  large.  The  tail  is  very 
long,  deeply  emarginate,  of  twelve  broad,  rounded  feathers,  the 


RED  KITE. 


267 


outer  curved  a  little  outwards  at  the  tip,  and  three  inches 
shorter  than  the  central.  The  tips  of  the  wings  when  closed 
reach  to  the  end  of  the  middle  tail-feathers. 

The  bill  is  brownish-black,  its  base,  basal  margins,  and  cere 
pure  yellow ;  the  superciliary  ridge  and  eyelids  dull  yellow, 
the  margins  of  the  latter  dusky.  The  iris  is  pale  yellow.  The 
feet  of  a  rich  yellow  inclining  to  orange,  the  claws  brownish- 
black.  The  general  colour  of  the  head  and  neck  is  light 
brownish-yellow,  longitudinally  streaked  with  blackish-brown, 
the  tips  of  the  feathers  on  the  head  greyish-white  ;  the  an¬ 
terior  part  of  the  forehead,  the  cheeks,  and  the  throat  greyish- 
white,  streaked  with  brownish-black.  The  anterior  upper 
parts  of  the  body  are  light  reddish-brown,  each  feather  with 
a  narrow  lanceolate  median  brownish-black  mark.  On  the 
scapulars  the  dark  markings  are  broader.  The  middle  and 
hind  parts  of  the  back  are  light  red,  with  linear  dusky  streaks. 
The  alula,  primary  coverts,  and  outer  five  primary  quills 
are  deep  bluish-black ;  the  other  primaries  have  the  greater 
part  of  the  outer  web  greyisli-brown  ;  and  the  inner  web  of  all, 
except  the  first,  is  paler,  barred  with  brownish-black,  with  the 
marginal  portion  yellowish-white.  The  secondary  quills  are 
greyish-black,  tinged  with  purple  ;  their  inner  webs  more  or 
less  barred  or  mottled,  and  their  tips  reddish-white  ;  the  inner 
secondaries  similar  to  the  feathers  of  the  back,  but  with  their 
inner  webs  barred  with  dusky.  The  tail  is  brownish-red,  with 
dusky  shafts,  the  outer  two  feathers  on  each  side  having  the 
greater  part  of  the  outer  webs  blackish-brown,  their  inner  webs 
with  about  twelve  faint  dusky  bars,  and  most  of  the  other 
feathers  with  traces  of  similar  bars.  The  fore  part  of  the  neck, 
the  breast,  and  the  sides  are  light  yellowish- red,  each  feather 
with  a  very  narrow,  tapering  medial  dusky  streak,  and  a  red¬ 
dish-white  tip  ;  the  abdominal  and  tibial  feathers,  and  the 
lower  tail -coverts,  much  paler,  with  only  the  shafts  dark  brown 
until  near  the  end. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  25  inches ;  extent  of  wings  61  ;  wing 
from  flexure  19  ;  tail  13i  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  1T\,  along  the 
edge  of  lower  mandible  1T75  ;  tarsus  2  ;  first  toe  \  ^  its  claw  ; 
second  toe  its  claw  ;  third  toe  1T72,  its  claw  jg  ;  fourth 
toe  1,  its  claw 


268 


MILVUS  REGAL1S. 


Female. — The  female,  although  considerably  larger,  differs 
little  from  the  male  in  colour,  the  upper  parts  being  merely  of 
a  deeper  tint,  the  head  paler  and  tinged  with  grey.  The  fol¬ 
lowing  is  the  description  of  a  fine  individual  obtained  in  Dum¬ 
bartonshire.  The  tongue  is  ten-twelfths  of  an  inch  long,  with 
the  base  emarginate  and  papillate,  the  tip  rounded.  The  oeso¬ 
phagus  six  inches  long,  the  crop  an  inch  and  a  half  in  width. 
The  stomach  globular,  an  inch  and  four-twelfths  in  diameter  ; 
its  muscular  coat  very  thin,  being  composed  of  a  single  series 
of  fasciculi.  The  whole  length  of  the  intestine  is  five  feet  six 
inches  ;  the  duodenum,  which  is  eighteen  inches  long,  is  con¬ 
voluted  in  four  folds.  The  cloaca  is  globular,  an  inch  and  a 
quarter  in  width.  On  the  tarsus  are  seven  scutella,  of  which 
one  of  the  lower  is  slit ;  on  the  first  toe  three,  on  the  second 
three,  on  the  third  ten,  on  the  fourth  six.  The  wings  extend 
half  an  inch  beyond  the  fork  of  the  tail,  of  which  the  lateral 
feathers  are  three  inches  and  a  half  longer  than  the  middle. 
The  first  quill  is  three  inches  and  a  quarter  shorter  than  the 
second,  which  is  an  inch  and  three  quarters  shorter  than  the 
third,  this  latter  being  four-twelfths  shorter  than  the  fourth, 
which  exceeds  the  fifth  by  ten-twelfths.  The  bill  and  claws 
black  ;  its  base  and  the  cere  rich  yellow,  as  are  the  tarsi  and  toes ; 
the  iris  pale  yellow.  The  head  and  upper  part  of  the  neck  are 
greyish-white,  longitudinally  streaked  with  blackish-brown.  The 
general  colour  of  the  fore  part  of  the  back,  scapulars,  and  wing- 
coverts,  is  brownish-red,  each  feather  with  an  elongated  central 
deep-brown  space,  broader  on  the  scapulars,  and  much  narrower 
on  the  wing  coverts.  Alula,  primary  coverts,  and  outer  five 
quills  brownish -black,  the  other  primaries  greyish-brown  ex¬ 
ternally  ;  the  secondaries  deep  brown,  the  inner  greyish-brown. 
The  inner  webs  of  the  primaries  toward  the  base  are  greyish- 
white,  of  the  secondaries  grey,  all  barred  or  mottled  with  dark 
grey.  The  middle  and  hind  parts  of  the  back,  with  the  upper 
tail-coverts,  light  red,  each  feather  with  a  brownish-black  shaft- 
line.  The  tail  light  red,  the  two  outer  feathers  on  each  side 
dusky  on  their  outer  webs,  all  barred  with  deep  brown,  the 
bars  on  the  outer  feathers  twelve,  on  the  middle  reduced  to 
nine  small  central  traces.  The  lower  parts  are  light  red,  with 


RED  KITE. 


269 


longitudinal  pointed  streaks  of  blackish-brown,  which  gradually 
become  narrower,  so  as  to  be  confined  to  the  shafts  on  the 
tibial  and  subcaudal  feathers,  which  are  of  a  lighter  tint.  Tho 
base  of  all  the  feathers  is  white,  and  the  scapulars,  which  are 
very  large,  have  four  or  five  transverse  dusky  bars. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  27  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  63  ;  wing 
from  flexure  19J  ;  tail  14;  bill  along  the  ridge  lT8g,  along 
the  edge  of  lower  mandible  IT9|  ;  tarsus  ;  hind  toe 
its  claw  ;  second  toe  its  claw  1  ;  third  toe  1T\, 

its  claw  ||  ;  fourth  toe  1,  its  claw 

An  individual  shot  in  Nairnshire,  in  April  1832,  and  simi¬ 
lar  to  the  above,  was  27i  inches  in  length,  and  64  in  alar  ex¬ 
tent.  The  entire  length  of  the  intestinal  canal  was  70  inches, 
of  which  the  oesophagus  measured  7 ;  the  stomach  2  inches  in 
diameter. 

Variations. — Differences  in  size  are  not  very  remarkable  in 
individuals  of  this  species  ;  nor  are  those  of  colour  very  decided, 
consisting  chiefly  of  a  greater  or  less  breadth  of  the  dusky 
streaks,  and  a  varying  depth  of  tint  in  the  reddish  parts. 

Changes  of  Plumage. — The  moult  is  not  completed  until  late 
in  autumn.  When  the  plumage  is  new,  the  tints  are  much 
brighter  and  deeper  than  in  summer,  toward  the  end  of  which 
the  dark  parts  are  tinged  with  greyisli-brown,  the  red  are 
faded,  and  the  paler  margins  and  tips  abraded. 

II  abits. — In  the  northern  parts  of  Scotland,  the  Kite  is  of 
very  rare  occurrence ;  in  the  outer  Hebrides  I  am  not  aware  of 
its  having  been  observed ;  and  in  the  counties  to  the  south  of 
the  Friths  of  Tay  and  Clyde,  it  is  of  extremely  rare  occurrence  ; 
but  from  Stirling  and  Perth  westward,  it  is  often  seen,  and  in 
some  parts  of  the  counties  of  Dumbarton,  Argyle,  and  Perth, 
cannot  be  considered  as  scarce.  In  Cumberland  and  West¬ 
moreland  it  appears  to  be  more  frequent  than  in  the  eastern 
parts  of  the  north  of  England ;  while  in  the  southern  it  is  very 
seldom  met  with.  Montagu  remarks  that  in  twelve  years'1 
residence  he  never  observed  but  one  individual  in  the  southern 


270 


MILVUS  REGALIS. 


parts  of  Devonshire.  Thus,  although  the  species  is  not  widely 
extended  on  the  Continent,  being  found  from  Norway  to  Italy, 
and  thus  is  not  peculiarly  a  northern  bird,  it  is  more  abundant 
in  the  middle  districts  of  Scotland  than  in  any  part  of  Eng¬ 
land,  where,  owing  to  the  care  bestowed  on  the  preservation  of 
game,  it  has  less  chance  of  thriving  than  in  a  wilder  country. 

The  flight  of  this  bird  is  remarkably  elegant,  the  lightness  of 
its  body,  and  the  proportionally  great  extent  of  the  wings  and 
tail,  producing  a  buoyancy  which  reminds  one  of  the  mode  of 
flying  of  the  Gulls  and  Jagers.  When  searching  for  food,  it 
moves  along  at  a  moderate  height,  wheeling  and  gliding  in  an 
undulatory  course,  and  proceeding  at  intervals  with  motionless 
wings.  Like  the  Buzzard  and  Eagles,  it  sometimes  soars  to  a 
great  elevation,  gliding  in  circles,  and  sailing  gracefully  with 
outspread  wings  and  partially  expanded  tail,  the  peculiar  form 
of  which  renders  it  recognisable  even  at  a  very  great  distance. 
All  the  hawks  which  prey  chiefly  on  mice,  lizards,  and  other 
small  animals  which  they  seize  when  on  the  ground,  have  a 
habit  of  fixing  themselves  at  intervals  in  the  air,  apparently  for 
the  purpose  of  examining  the  space  beneath  them,  and  this  re¬ 
markable  character  is  observed  in  the  Kite,  although  it  is  not 
so  decided  as  in  the  Kestrel.  “  One  cannot,”  says  Buffon, 
“  but  admire  the  manner  in  which  the  flight  of  the  Kite  is 

o 

performed  ;  his  long  and  narrow  wings  seem  motionless  ;  it  is 
his  tail  that  seems  to  direct  all  his  evolutions,  and  he  moves  it 
continually;  he  rises  without  effort,  comes  down  as  if  he  were 
sliding  along  an  inclined  plane ;  he  seems  rather  to  swim  than 
to  fly ;  he  darts  forward,  slackens  his  speed,  stops,  and  remains 
suspended  or  fixed  in  the  same  place  for  whole  hours,  without 
exhibiting  the  smallest  motion  of  his  wings.1’  This  mode  of 
flying  is  very  different  from  that  of  the  heavy-bodied,  compact, 
pointed- winged  Falcons,  which  speed  along  with  quick  beats 
of  the  wings,  pursue  their  prey  in  open  flight,  and  seldom  at¬ 
tack  a  bird  on  the  ground.  The  Kite  on  the  contrary  usually 
obtains  its  food  there,  for,  as  it  consists  for  the  most  part  of 
snakes,  lizards,  frogs,  small  mammalia,  and  young  birds,  it 
cannot  gratify  those  observers  who  are  pleased  with  nothing 
less  than  the  dashing  flight  of  the  fierce  Peregrine,  and  are 


RED  KITE. 


271 


profuse  in  contemptuous  epithets  when  speaking  of  those  hawks 
which,  being  furnished  with  very  long  rounded  wings,  are  not 
well  able  to  overtake  a  bird  in  open  flight.  Occasionally  it 
feeds  on  carrion,  dead  fish,  and  insects,  as  well  as  worms,  and 
has  been  accused  of  destroying  young  lambs,  and  committing 
depredations  on  poultry.  But  little  apprehension  is  now  neces¬ 
sary  on  the  latter  score,  and  in  truth  the  Sparrow  Hawk  is  the 
kite  of  the  farm-yard.  A  writer  in  Mr  .Loudon's  Magazine  of 
Natural  History  says  he  has  frequently  seen  a  kite  come  from  the 
forest  at  Blois  to  fish  in  the  Loire,  which  it  seemed  to  do  with 
much  success,  seldom  appearing  to  miss  its  prey  ;  and  both  on 
the  continent  and  in  this  country  it  has  been  seen  feeding  on 
dead  fish. 

Very  contradictory  accounts  of  the  moral  and  physical  powers 
of  this  bird  have  been  given  by  authors.  Thus,  Willugliby  re¬ 
presents  its  audacity  as  such  as  to  render  it  an  object  of  appre¬ 
hension  and  hatred  to  housewives  on  account  of  its  depredations 
on  poultry ;  and  Montagu  relates  that  one  was  so  intent  on 
obtaining  some  chickens  from  a  coop,  as  to  afford  a  servant 
girl  an  opportunity  of  knocking  it  down  with  a  broom.  The 
same  author  states  that  a  kite,  which  had  been  for  some  time 
hovering  over  a  woman  who  was  washing  some  entrails  in  a 
stream,  came  down  and  carried  off  a  portion  of  them  that  ex¬ 
tended  some  yards  into  the  water,  in  spite  of  all  her  efforts  to 
frighten  it  away.  These  are  acts  of  courage  or  audacity ;  but 
then  they  are  met  with  remarks  on  the  cowardly  character  of 
a  bird  which  allows  itself  to  be  defeated  by  the  Sparrow  Hawk, 
and  intimidated  even  by  a  clucking  hen.  The  following  cha¬ 
racter  by  M.  V almont  Bomare  is  of  a  mixed  kind,  and  in  most 
respects,  I  believe,  not  incorrect.  “  The  Kite,  when  it  flies, 
extends  its  long  wings  and  balances  itself  in  the  air,  where  it 
remains  a  long  time  in  a  manner  motionless,  without  its  wings 
appearing  to  be  agitated  ;  but  it  directs  at  its  will  all  its  mo¬ 
tions  by  those  of  its  tail ;  always  master  of  its  flight,  it  quickens 
or  slackens  it,  shoots  along  or  remains  suspended  in  the  same 
point,  according  to  circumstances.  Its  sight  is  very  penetrating. 
This  powerful  bird  pursues  only  field-mice  and  young  birds  ; 
in  defect  of  these  it  pounces  on  reptiles,  even  grasshoppers, 


272 


MILVUS  REGALIS. 


dead  fish  thrown  ashore  by  the  waves,  and  sometimes  on  car¬ 
rion.  It  is  not  afraid  of  approaching  dwelling-places,  and  car¬ 
ries  off  a  great  number  of  ducklings,  goslings,  and  chickens  ; 
but  the  mere  anger  of  the  hen  is  enough  to  drive  it  back,  and 
it  presently  flies  off.  No  bird  has  a  more  easy  or  rapid  flight. 
It  is  named  the  Royal  Kite,  because  it  was  subservient  to  the 
pleasure  of  princes,  who  hunted  it  with  the  falcon  and  sparrow- 
hawk  ;  but  the  epithet  royal  is  ill  merited  by  the  kite.  In 
fact  we  see  this  cowardly  bird,  which  ranks  among  the  ignoble 
hawks,  because  it  is  not  susceptible  of  any  education,  although 
endowed  with  all  the  faculties  which  ought  to  give  it  courage, 
and  having  no  defect  of  arms,  strength,  or  agility,  refuse  to 
fight,  and  fly  before  the  much  smaller  sparrow  hawk,  turning 
and  rising  to  conceal  itself  in  the  clouds,  until  the  more  active 
and  courageous  hawk  overtakes  it,  assails  it  with  wings,  talons, 
and  bill,  and  drags  it  to  the  earth  less  wounded  than  beaten, 
and  more  vanquished  by  the  dread  than  by  the  strength  of  its 
enemy.11 

There  is  nothing  marvellous  in  a  Falcon’s  beating  a  Kite,  it 
being  a  more  muscular  and  vigorous  bird.  As  to  the  Sparrow 
Hawk,  its  audacity  seems  scarcely  to  have  any  bounds,  for  it 
has  been  seen  to  strike  even  a  Golden  Eagle,  and  it  is  very 
probable  that  it  might  disable  a  Buzzard  as  well  as  a  Kite.  If 
this  bird  does  not  defend  itself  against  its  puny  antagonist,  it 
must  be  because  its  organization  does  not  fit  it  for  this  sort  of 
warfare,  and  if  it  seldom  ventures  to  attack  a  large  bird  or 
quadruped,  it  must  he  for  the  same  reason  ;  yet  the  Kite, 
judging  from  its  appearance,  is  well  furnished  with  arms,  for 
its  bill  is  powerful,  and  its  claws  well  curved  and  finely  pointed, 
and  it  has  a  kind  of  flight  not  excelled  in  ease  and  flexility 
by  that  of  any  other  British  bird  of  prey.  Few  of  our  birds 
have  been  yet  studied  with  sufficient  minuteness  and  care,  so 
that  the  accounts  given  by  authors  are  not  always  to  be  de¬ 
pended  upon.  For  my  part,  I  am  more  disposed  to  give  credit 
to  those  who  admire  the  Kite  for  its  good  qualities,  rather 
than  despise  it  for  its  inferiority  to  some  other  birds.  As  to 
its  ignobility,  or,  in  other  words,  its  incapability  of  being 
taught,  this  is  contradicted  by  Mr  Thompson  of  Belfast,  who, 


RED  KITE. 


273 


in  the  Magazine  of  Zoology  and  Botany,  states  that  “  Mr  R. 
Langtry,  when  at  Loch  Awe,  in  Argyllshire,  early  in  the  sum¬ 
mer  of  1833,  procured  from  the  nest  two  young  Kites,  which 
proved  a  highly  interesting  addition  to  his  aviary.  They  at 
once  became  very  tame  and  familiar,  and  were  so  gentle  in 
disposition  as  to  be  most  engaging.  Every  morning  they  had 
their  liberty,  never  flew  far,  but  soared  to  a  great  height  in  the 
air,  and,  in  still  repeated  circles,  displayed  their  graceful  and 
peculiar  flight.  To  either  lure  or  fist  they  always  returned 
when  called.  Alice  were  preferred  by  them  to  birds  or  any 
other  food.  When  these  Kites  were  on  wing,  rats  let  off  from 
the  cage-trap  were  expertly  caught  by  them. 1,1 

In  the  south-eastern  counties  of  Scotland  this  bird  is  so  sel¬ 
dom  seen  that  when  it  happens  to  present  itself  it  excites  a 
great  degree  of  curiosity.  “  In  the  neighbourhood  of  Bath¬ 
gate,1'1  Mr  Weir  writes  to  me,  “  the  Fork-tailed  Kite  very 
seldom  appears,  as  during  the  long  period  of  twelve  years  I  have 
seen  one  male  only.  For  three  successive  seasons  he  frequented 
this  parish,  and  was  in  the  almost  daily  habit  of  visiting  the 
same  localities,  making  his  appearance  at  his  different  haunts 
about  the  same  hour  each  day.  Amongst  partridges  and  other 
birds  he  committed  very  great  havoc.  His  flight  was  easy  and 
graceful,  consisting  of  curves  and  extensive  circles,  which  were 
performed  by  the  almost  imperceptible  motion  of  his  wings, 
and  guided  by  his  forked  and  elongated  tail.  He  occasionally 
soared  to  a  great  height.  When  with  outstretched  wings  he 
performed  some  of  his  majestic  aerial  evolutions,  he  has 
again  and  again  delighted  and  astonished  the  inhabitants, 
who  believed  that  he  was  one  of  Jove's  noble  birds  that 
had  come  from  the  cold  regions  of  the  north  to  visit  this 
our  more  genial  clime.  In  the  pursuit  of  this  very  shy  bird  I 
have  spent  many  a  weary  hour  in  wandering  over  mountain 
and  dale  ;  indeed,  I  had  almost  given  up  the  hope  of  ever  get¬ 
ting  within  reach  of  him,  until  one  morning  when  shooting  I 
observed  him  at  a  distance  intent  upon  securing  a  partridge 
for  his  repast.  He  fortunately  pounced  upon  it  near  an  old 
and  very  long  wall  on  the  lands  of  Coston,  in  the  parish  of 
Bathgate.  With  almost  breathless  anxiety  and  high  palpita- 


VOL.  III. 


T 


274 


MILVUS  REGALIS. 


tion  of  heart,  I  crept  upon  my  hands  and  knees  until  I  was 
within  sixty  yards  of  the  place  where  he  stood.  Up  he  started 
so  soon  as  I  raised  my  head  above  the  wall.  I  levelled  my 
gun,  and  brought  him  to  the  ground.  In  securing  this  my 
long-wished-for  prize,  I  had  some  difficulty,  as  when  I  ap¬ 
proached  him,  he  struck  at  me  with  his  bill  and  talons  most 
fiercely  and  resolutely.  I  assure  you  (for  you,  Sir,  experi¬ 
mentally  know  the  enthusiasm  with  which  one  is  excited  when 
in  pursuit  of  a  fine  specimen  of  the  feathered  tribe)  that  I  could 
not  have  been  elated  with  greater  self  complacency,  even  though 
I  had,  at  the  late  far-famed  tournament,  encountered  and  defeat¬ 
ed  the  noble  Earl  of  Eglinton,  or  the  redoubtable  Marquis  of 
Waterford,  aye,  and  received  the  well-earned  palm  of  victory, 
and  the  smiles  of  approbation  from  the  4  bewitching  and  match¬ 
less  Queen  of  Beauty.1  This  Kite  is  the  one  which  belongs 
to  Air  Henderson,  and  which  you  have  at  present.11  It  is  the 
specimen  from  which  I  have  taken  the  description  of  the  male. 

I  have  never  seen  a  Kite's  nest,  but  have  examined  two  eggs 
taken  from  one  in  Argyllshire,  of  which  one  was  bluish-white, 
the  other  yellowish -white,  clouded  with  reddish-brown  ;  their 
form  broadly  elliptical,  the  greatest  diameter  two  inches  and  a 
quarter,  the  breadth  an  inch  and  eight  twelfths.  Air  Yarrell, 
in  his  well-arranged  and  beautifully  illustrated  History  of 
British  Birds,  says,  “  The  nest,  formed  of  sticks,  and  lined 
with  various  soft  materials,  is  usually  placed  in  the  forked 
branch  of  a  tree  in  a  thick  wood.  Two,  and  sometimes  three 
eggs,  of  a  short  oval  form,  measuring  two  inches  and  two  lines 
in  length  by  one  inch  nine  lines  in  breadth,  of  a  soiled  white 
colour,  marked  with  a  few  reddish-brown  spots  over  the  larger 
end,  are  laid  early  in  the  season.11  Two  eggs  from  France 
which  I  have  seen  were  of  this  kind,  being  white,  with  a  few 
dots  of  brown,  and  almost  precisely  of  the  same  dimensions. 
In  defending  its  nest  the  Kite  shews  no  lack  of  courage,  for  it 
has  been  known  to  attack  the  aggressor,  and  in  all  cases  threat¬ 
ens  him  by  its  loud  screams  and  violent  plunges. 

Young. — The  young,  which  at  first  are  covered  with  white 
down,  are  when  fledged  of  a  darker  and  duller  colour  than  the 


RED  KITE. 


275 


adult.  The  head  and  neck  are  of  a  darker  tint,  but  have  the 
feathers  tipped  with  whitish ;  on  the  rest  of  the  upper  parts 
the  feathers  are  brownish-black,  with  broad  yellowish-red  mar¬ 
gins,  their  tips  whitish,  the  dark  central  markings  being  larger 
than  in  the  adult,  and  on  the  back  and  wings  glossed  with  pur¬ 
ple.  The  tail  is  much  darker,  its  dark  bars,  of  which  there 
are  twelve  on  the  outer  feathers,  distinct  and  extending  over 
both  webs,  the  tips  yellowish-red.  The  throat  is  whitish,  with 
very  slender  shaft-streaks,  the  rest  of  the  lower  parts  browmish- 
red,  fading  behind  into  dull  light-red,  the  elongated  central 
markings  brownish-black,  gradually  becoming  narrower,  and 
disappearing  on  the  abdomen,  tibial  feathers,  and  lower  tail- 
coverts,  of  which  the  basal  part  of  the  shaft  only  is  dusky. 
The  cere  and  feet  are  pale  yellow,  the  bill  and  claws  brownish- 
black,  the  iris  yellowish-brown.  In  the  female  the  last  dusky 
bar  on  the  tail  is  larger  than  the  rest,  but  not  in  the  male. 

Progress  toward  Maturity. — 111  the  second  plumage,  the 
colours  and  markings  are  nearly  the  same  as  in  the  adult  state, 
but  the  feathers  on  the  head  are  largely  tipped  with  white, 
those  of  the  lower  part  of  the  hind-neck  with  yellowish.  As 
the  bird  advances  in  age,  the  head  assumes  more  of  a  greyish- 
white  tint,  the  lower  parts  become  of  a  lighter  red,  the  dark 
central  markings  of  the  feathers  grow  narrower.  The  female 
has  always  more  greyish -white  on  the  head,  some  of  the  fea¬ 
thers  of  the  back  tinged  with  grey,  and  the  red  of  the  lower 
parts  lighter  than  in  the  male. 

Remarks. — The  gradation  of  colouring  in  this  species  deserves 
to  be  here  alluded  to,  as,  with  others,  it  affords  an  analogy  in 
cases  not  known  from  direct  observation.  In  the  first  place, 
the  young  are  darker  than  the  adult  ;  the  central  dark  mark¬ 
ings  of  their  feathers  are  larger,  and  the  light-coloured  margins 
narrower,  while  the  tips  are  whitish  on  the  head  and  neck. 
The  dark  brown  or  blackish  tints  become  tinged  with  grey, 
the  light  tints  become  paler  but  clearer*  and  the  dark  bars  di¬ 
minish  in  size  as  the  bird  advances  in  age.  Such  appears  also 
to  be  the  case  in  the  Buzzards  and  Perns,  and  such  it  certainly 
is  in  the  Hawks  and  Falcons. 


NAUCLERLS.  SWALLOW-KITE. 


Bill  short,  broader  than  high  at  the  base,  much  compressed 
toward  the  end,  of  moderate  strength ;  upper  mandible  with 
the  dorsal  line  declinato-decurvate  from  the  base,  the  sides 
nearly  flat,  the  ridge  broad  as  far  as  the  edge  of  the  cere,  the 
sharp  edges  with  a  slight  festoon,  the  tip  slender,  acute,  and 
declinate  ;  lower  mandible  with  the  angle  very  wide,  the  dor¬ 
sal  line  slightly  convex,  the  ridge  broad,  the  edges  slightly  in¬ 
flected,  much  decurved  toward  the  tip,  which  is  rounded. 

Palate  flat,  with  two  longitudinal  ridges  ;  upper  mandible 
with  a  tuberculate  median  ridge,  lower  deeply  concave  ;  pos¬ 
terior  aperture  of  the  nares  oblongo-linear,  with  the  edges 
papillate.  Tongue  somewhat  decurved,  emarginate  and  finely 
papillate  at  the  base,  flat  above,  its  tip  narrow  and  acutely 
emarginate.  (Esophagus  of  nearly  uniform  width,  being  des¬ 
titute  of  crop,  and  thus  resembling  that  of  the  Owls  ;  its  walls 
extremely  thin ;  stomach  very  large,  round,  slightly  compress¬ 
ed,  its  muscular  coat  very  thin,  and  composed  of  a  single 
series  of  fasciculi.  Intestine  short  and  rather  wide ;  pylorus 
with  three  knobs,  duodenum  forming  a  loop  in  the  usual  man¬ 
ner  ;  no  coeca  ;  rectum  short,  with  a  large  globular  dilatation. 

Head  rather  large,  roundish,  flattened  above.  Eyes  large  ; 
nostrils  round,  with  a  central  papilla  ;  aperture  of  ear  roundish 
and  rather  large.  Neck  short,  body  compact.  Feet  short; 
tarsus  very  short,  robust,  covered  all  round  with  scales ;  toes 
of  moderate  size,  scutellate  above,  covered  beneath  with  pro¬ 
minent  pointed  papillae.  Claws  rather  long,  well  curved, 
slender,  acuminate. 

Plumage  blended,  glossy,  on  the  back  and  wings  rather  com¬ 
pact.  Wings  extremely  elongated,  rather  narrow,  and  pointed  ; 
the  third  quill  longest ;  the  secondaries  short  and  rounded. 
Tail  extremely  long,  very  deeply  forked,  of  twelve  feathers. 


NAUCLERUS  FURCATUS.  THE  WHITE-HEADEI) 

SWALLOW-KITE. 


SWALLOW-TAILED  HAWK.  SWALLOW-TAILED  KITE. 


Fro.  222. 


Falco  furcatus.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  129. 

Falco  furcatus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  GO. 

Swallow-tailed  Elanus.  Elanus  furcatus.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  77. 

Milvus  furcatus.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  86. 

Swallow- tailed  Hawk.  Falco  furcatus.  Aud.  Orn.  Biogr.  I.  368  ;  V.  371. 
Nauclerus  furcatus.  Audub.  Synops.  14. 


Head ,  neck,  and  lower  parts  white  ;  back ,  icings ,  and  tail  black. 

Male. — This  beautiful  bird  is  at  once  distinguished  from  all 
the  British  falconine  species  by  its  very  long  and  deeply  forked 
tail,  as  well  as  by  its  peculiar  colouring.  It  agrees  in  every 
respect  with  the  generic  character,  it  being  in  fact  the  only 
species  of  its  genus  known  to  me.  The  oesophagus  of  an  indi¬ 
vidual  which  I  examined  for  Mr  Audubon  measured  five  in¬ 
ches  and  a  half  in  length,  and  one  inch  in  width  throughout ; 
the  stomach  was  two  inches  and  a  quarter  in  diameter ;  the 
intestine  twenty-two  inches  long,  and  from  five-twelfths  to 
three-twelfths  in  width  ;  the  rectum  three  inches  and  a  half  in 
length,  and  its  cloacal  dilatation  one  inch  in  diameter.  In 
another  individual,  the  intestine  was  twenty- two  inches  long. 


278 


NAUCLERUS  FURCATUS. 


The  very  short,  thick  tarsi,  strong,  scutellate  and  tubercnlate 
toes,  and  long  taper-pointed  claws,  entirely  unfit  it  for  walk¬ 
ing,  and  its  extremely  elongated  wings  and  tail  render  it 
more  aerial  in  its  habits  than  any  other  of  this  essentially 
aerial  tribe  of  birds.  The  feathers  are  oblong  and  rounded, 
but  unless  on  the  back  and  wings  blended.  The  first  quill  is 
equal  to  the  fifth,  the  second  shorter  than  the  fourth,  and  the 
third  longest. 

CJ 

The  cere,  edges,  and  base  of  the  bill  are  light  blue,  the  rest 
black  ;  the  iris  dark  ;  the  feet  greenish-blue,  the  claws  flesh- 
coloured.  The  feathers  of  the  head,  neck,  breast,  and  other 
lower  parts,  are  white,  slightly  tinged  with  grey  ;  the  rest  of 
the  plumage  black,  glossed  with  purplish-blue. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  22  inches,  to  end  of  wings  19  ;  extent 
of  wings  47 ;  bill  along  the  ridge  lT2g  ;  wing  from  flexure  18  ; 
difference  between  the  middle  and  outer  tail-feathers  8 ;  tar¬ 
sus  lj ;  first  toe  Ng,  its  claw  T62  ;  second  toe  T62,  its  claw  ; 
third  toe  |2,  its  claw  T72  ;  fourth  toe  T72,  its  claw  T52. 

Female. — The  female  is  distinguished  from  the  male  only 
by  her  superior  size. 

Habits. — The  proper  country  of  this  bird  is  the  tropical  and 
temperate  regions  of  A  merica.  In  summer  it  seldom  advances 
farther  northward  than  Kentucky  and  Virginia,  so  that  not¬ 
withstanding  its  buoyant  and  rapid  flight,  its  occurrence  in  Bri¬ 
tain  is  calculated  to  excite  some  surprise.  An  individual  is 
recorded  by  the  late  Dr.  Walker,  Professor  of  Natural  History 
in  Edinburgh,  to  have  been  killed  at  Ballychulish  in  Argyll¬ 
shire,  in  1772  ;  and  another  was  caught  in  Shawgill,  near  Ask- 
rigg,  in  Wensleydale,  in  Yorkshire,  in  September  1805.  As 
the  Scottish  specimen  does  not  appear  to  have  been  preserved, 
and  that  obtained  in  England  made  its  escape  a  month  after  its 
capture,  it  might  be  doubted  whether  the  species  has  a  decided 
claim  on  our  recognition,  were  it  not  that  we  can  hardly  suppose 
it  to  have  been  mistaken  in  either  case,  its  form  and  colouring 
being  so  peculiar.  For  its  habits  and  distribution  reference 
must  be  made  to  the  Ornithological  Biography  of  Mr  Audubon, 


WHITE-HEADED  SWALLOW-KITE. 


279 


he  being  the  only  person  who  has  described  them  from  obser¬ 
vation.  The  following  condensed  statement  will  be  found  to 
contain  all  that  is  necessary  for  our  purpose. 

The  Swallow-tailed  Hawk  is  not  uncommon  in  Texas.  In 
the  States  of  Louisiana  and  Mississippi,  where  it  arrives  early 
in  April,  it  is  abundant ;  in  the  large  prairies  of  the  Attacapas 
and  Appellousas  it  is  extremely  common ;  in  Florida  and  Vir¬ 
ginia  it  is  of  rare  occurrence  ;  it  is  sparingly  met  with  in  South 
Carolina,  and  has  been  seen  once  or  twice  in  Pennsylvania. 
Its  flight  is  singularly  beautiful,  its  motions  in  the  air  combin¬ 
ing  the  utmost  grace  and  ease.  “  Gliding  along  in  easy  flap¬ 
pings,  it  rises  in  wide  circles  to  an  immense  height,  inclining  in 
various  ways  its  deeply  forked  tail,  to  assist  the  direction  of  its 
course,  dives  with  almost  the  rapidity  of  lightning,  and,  sud¬ 
denly  checking  itself,  reascends,  soars  away,  and  is  soon  out  of 
sight.  At  other  times  a  flock  of  these  birds,  amounting  to  fif¬ 
teen  or  twenty  individuals,  is  seen  hovering  around  the  trees. 
They  dive  in  rapid  succession  amongst  the  branches,  glancing 
along  the  trunks,  and  seizing  in  their  course  the  insects  and 
small  lizards  of  which  they  are  in  quest.  Their  motions  are 
astonishingly  rapid,  and  the  deep  curves  which  they  describe, 
their  sudden  doublings  and  crossings,  and  the  extreme  ease 
with  which  they  seem  to  cleave  the  air,  excite  the  admiration 
of  him  who  views  them  while  thus  employed  in  searching  for 
food.  They  always  feed  on  the  wing.  I11  calm  and  warm 
weather,  they  soar  to  an  immense  height,  pursuing  the  large 
insects  called  musquito-hawks,  and  performing  the  most  sin¬ 
gular  evolutions  that  can  be  conceived,  using  tlieir  tail  with  an 
elegance  of  motion  peculiar  to  themselves.  Their  principal 
food  however  is  large  grasshoppers,  grass-caterpillars,  small 
snakes,  lizards,  and  frogs.  They  sweep  close  over  the  fields, 
sometimes  seeming  to  alight  for  a  moment  to  secure  a  snake, 
and  holding  it  fast  by  the  neck,  carry  it  off  and  devour  it  in 
the  air.  They  are  very  fond  of  frequenting  the  creeks,  which 
in  that  country  are  much  encumbered  with  drifted  logs  and 
accumulations  of  sand,  in  order  to  pick  up  some  of  the  nume¬ 
rous  water-snakes  which  lie  basking  in  the  sun.  At  other 
times  they  dash  along  the  trunks  of  trees,  and  snap  off  the 


200 


NAUCLERUS  FURCATUS. 


pupae  of  the  locust,  or  that  insect  itself.  Although  when  on 
wing  they  move  with  a  grace  and  ease  which  it  is  impossible 
to  describe,  yet  on  the  ground  they  are  scarcely  able  to  walk.” 
In  the  stomach  of  one  which  I  opened  in  the  presence  of  Mr 
Audubon  were  six  slender  light  green  snakes,  one  of  them 
twenty-two  and  a  half  inches  in  length,  together  with  a  large 
larva,  three  inches  long,  and  two  coleopterous  insects.  In  an¬ 
other,  the  stomach  contained  a  green  snake  nineteen  inches 
long,  six  lizards,  and  four  very  large  coleopterous  insects,  with 
two  eggs  of  reptiles  seven  twelfths  and  a  half  long. 

“  The  Swallow-tailed  Hawk  pairs  immediately  after  its  ar¬ 
rival  in  the  Southern  States,  and  as  its  courtships  take  place 
on  the  wing,  its  motions  are  then  more  beautiful  than  ever. 
The  nest  is  usually  placed  on  the  top  branches  of  the  tallest 
oak  or  pine  tree,  situated  on  the  margin  of  a  stream  or  pond. 
It  resembles  that  of  Corvus  Americanus  externallv,  bein£ 
formed  of  dry  sticks,  intermixed  with  Spanish  moss,  and  is 
lined  with  coarse  grasses  and  a  few  feathers.  The  eggs  are 
from  four  to  six,  of  a  greenish-white  colour,  with  a  few  irregu¬ 
lar  blotches  of  dark  brown  at  the  larger  end.  The  male  and 
the  female  sit  alternately,  the  one  feeding  the  other.” 

Young. — “  The  young  are  at  first  covered  with  buff- coloured 
down.  Their  next  covering  exhibits  the  pure  white  and  black 
of  the  old  birds,  but  without  any  of  the  glossy  purplish  tints  of 
the  latter.  The  tail,  which  is  at  first  but  slightly  forked,  be¬ 
comes  more  so  in  a  few  weeks,  and  at  the  approach  of  autumn 
exhibits  little  difference  from  that  of  the  adult  birds.  The 
plumage  is  completed  the  first  spring.” 


281 


FALCO.  FALCON. 


The  Falcons  are  by  most  ornithologists  considered  the  typi- 
cal  birds  of  the  great  family  to  which  they  belong,  or  those 
possessing  in  the  greatest  perfection  the  peculiar  characters  by 
which  the  second  group  of  the  diurnal  rapacious  birds  is  distin¬ 
guished.  It  appears  to  me  that  there  is  little  occasion  for  dis¬ 
puting  the  pre-eminence  thus  assigned  to  them.  They  are 
birds  of  small  or  moderate  size,  of  a  compact  form,  remarkably 
muscular,  with  the  anterior  part  of  the  body  very  broad  and 
deep ;  the  neck  short ;  the  head  large,  round,  and  flattened 
above. 

The  bill  short,  very  strong,  of  nearly  equal  breadth  and 
height  at  the  base,  moderately  compressed  toward  the  end : 
upper  mandible  with  a  broad  cere,  the  dorsal  line  convex  from 
the  base,  the  ridge  rounded,  the  sides  convex,  the  edges  ante¬ 
riorly  thin  and  overlapping,  with  a  medial  festoon  or  convex 
prominence,  and  an  anterior  angular  process,  usually  called  a 
tooth,  the  tip  trigonal,  acute,  decurved,  with  its  lower  part 
nearly  perpendicular  to  the  gape-line ;  lower  mandible  with 
the  angle  wide  and  rounded,  the  dorsal  line  very  convex,  the 
back  broad  and  convex,  the  edges  involute,  with  a  rounded 
notch  on  each  side  near  the  tip,  which  is  truncate. 

Mouth  wide  ;  upper  mandible  internally  nearly  flat,  with  a 
prominent  central  line,  lower  deeply  concave,  with  a  slight 
ridge  ;  palate  flat,  with  two  longitudinal  soft,  minutely  papil¬ 
late  ridges.  Tongue  short,  fleshy,  concave  above,  sagittate  and 
papillate  at  the  base,  with  the  sides  nearly  parallel,  the  tip 
rounded  and  emarginate.  (Esophagus  wide,  with  a  large  dila¬ 
tation  or  crop  ;  its  walls  thin,  the  inner  coat  smooth,  when 
contracted  forming  longitudinal  plicae.  Proventricular  glands 
oblong  or  cylindrical,  arranged  so  as  to  form  a  complete  belt, 
somewhat  marked  with  longitudinal  depressions.  Stomach 


282 


FALCO.  FALCON. 


large,  round,  its  muscular  coat  very  thin,  composed  of  a  single 
series  of  fasciculi,  its  tendons  rather  large  and  round.  Intestine 
of  moderate  length  and  width  ;  cloaca  elliptical  or  globular,  very 
large  ;  coeca  very  small.  These  organs  are  minutely  described 
in  Vol.  I,  p.  53,  and  illustrated  by  Plate  IV,  representing 
those  of  Falco  peregrinus. 

Nostrils  sub-basal,  lateral,  round,  with  a  central  papilla  or 
knob,  connected  with  the  upper  edge  by  a  thin  plate.  Eyes 
large,  with  the  eyelids  generally  bare,  but  margined  with 
bristly  feathers  like  eye-lashes  ;  the  superciliary  ridge  promi¬ 
nent  and  hare.  Aperture  of  ear  round,  and  rather  large.  Legs 
of  moderate  length,  stout  ;  tibia  rather  long  and  very  muscu¬ 
lar  ;  tarsus  short,  rounded,  reticulated  or  covered  with  scales, 
of  which  the  anterior  are  larger  and  subhexagonal.  Toes 
strong,  scutellate  above,  padded  and  papillate  beneath  ;  the 
first  short,  the  third  much  longer  than  the  fourth,  which  ex¬ 
ceeds  the  second,  and  is  connected  by  a  basal  membrane. 
Claws  well  curved,  long,  tapering  to  a  fine  point,  a  little  com¬ 
pressed,  rounded  above  and  on  the  sides,  flat  beneath,  with  two 
sharp  edges  ;  those  of  the  first  and  second  toes  largest. 

Plumage  generally  compact,  on  the  abdomen  loose.  Cere 
bare  ;  space  between  the  hill  and  eye  covered  with  radiating 
bristle-tipped  plumelets.  Feathers  of  the  head  short  and  nar¬ 
row,  of  the  neck  rather  long,  of  the  back  and  breast  ovate  or 
oblong,  of  the  outer  part  of  the  tibia  elongated.  Wings  very 
long  and  pointed ;  the  second  longest,  the  first  little  shorter ; 
one  or  two  of  the  primaries  having  the  inner  web  abruptly  cut 
out  at  the  end  ;  secondaries  thirteen  or  fifteen,  of  moderate 
length,  broad  and  rounded.  Tail  long,  broad,  rounded,  of 
twelve  broad,  rather  pointed  feathers. 

The  Falcons,  which  are  more  compact  and  muscular  than 
most  of  the  other  birds  of  this  family,  differ  from  them  in  their 
mode  of  flight,  it  being  performed  by  regular  beats,  with  little 
sailing  or  gyration,  although  they  are  capable  of  hovering  or 
remaining  fixed  in  a  spot  by  means  of  rapid  movements  of  the 
wings.  They  generally  descend  perpendicularly  on  their  prey, 
which  they  capture  in  the  air  as  well  as  on  the  ground.  Their 
food  consists  of  small  quadrupeds,  birds  of  various  kinds,  rep- 


FALCO.  FALCON. 


283 


tiles,  and  insects.  They  breed  on  rocks,  in  trees,  or  on  the 
ground,  forming  a  bulky  nest  of  sticks,  twigs,  and  other[coarse 
materials,  and  laying  from  three  to  six  eggs,  generally  speckled 
or  spotted  with  red  or  brown.  The  young  are  covered  with 
thick  white  down.  The  difference  in  size  between  the  male 
and  the  female  is  very  remarkable  in  this  genus  ;  the  sexes  are 
sometimes  similar  in  colour,  and  sometimes  different,  in  which 
case  the  young  resemble  the  female.  The  Falcons,  on  account 
of  their  docility,  and  their  superiority  of  flight  and  mode  of 
capturing  their  prey,  were  considered  by  falconers  as  cc  noble,"1 
while  the  other  hawks  and  the  eagles,  being  less  easily  induced 
to  relinquish  their  natural  habits,  were  termed  “  ignoble.11 
Being  for  the  most  part  very  destructive  to  game,  they  arc 
much  persecuted  with  us ;  but  in  this  respect  they  differ  little 
from  their  brethren,  every  hawk  being  considered  by  the  game- 
keeper  as  a  malefactor. 

Six  species  occur  in  Britain :  the  Gyr  Falcon,  the  Peregrine 
Falcon,  the  Hobby,  the  Merlin,  the  Red-footed  Falcon,  and 
the  Kestrel. 


284 


FALCO  GYRFALCO.  THE  GYR  FALCON. 

JER  FALCON.  JERKIN.  ICELAND  FALCON.  GREENLAND  FALCON. 


Fig.  223. 


Falco  rusticolus.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  125.  Adult. 

Falco  Gyrfalco.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  130.  Adult. 

Falco  islandicus.  Lath.  Ind.  Urn.  I.  32.  Adult. 

Falco  Gyrfalco.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  32.  Adult. 

Falco  sacer,  B.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  34.  Adult. 

Jer  Falcon.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Faucon  Gerfaut.  Falco  islandicus.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  17 
Jer-Falcon.  Falco  islandicus.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  36. 

Falco  Islandicus.  Jer-Falcon.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  81. 


III.  9. 


Adult  of  both  selves  white ,  having  the  upper  parts  marked  with 
semilunar  or  sagittiform  dark-grey  spots  ;  the  bill  light  blue ,  the 
cere  and  feet  pale-yellow .  Young  brownish-grey  above ,  spotted 
with  yellowish  or  reddisli-white ,  the  tail  with  numerous  light  bars , 
which  on  the  middle  feathers  are  generally  opposite ,  but  sometimes 
alternate ,  the  lower  parts  yellowish-white^  longitudinally  spotted 
with  dusky. 


GY II  FALCON. 


285 


The  Gyr  Falcon,  the  most  powerful,  and  one  of  the  most 
beautiful  species  of  its  genus,  lias  frequently  been  met  with  in 
various  parts  of  Scotland,  as  well  as  in  England,  although  it 
can  scarcely  be  considered  as  a  permanent  resident,  there  being 
no  authentic  account  of  its  breeding  with  us.  Formerly  it 
was  divided  into  several  species,  and  very  recently  attempts 
have  been  made  to  separate  its  members  into  two,  under  the 
names  of  Iceland  Falcon  and  Greenland  Falcon.  Of  the  dif¬ 
ferences  which  have  given  rise  to  this  opinion  some  account 
will  be  given  in  the  sequel ;  and  as,  in  such  a  case  as  this, 
minuteness  of  description  is  especially  necessary,  I  shall  give  a 
full  account  of  the  several  specimens  which  1  have  examined. 

M  ale. — The  general  appearance  of  this  bird  is  indicative  of 
the  highest  degree  of  activity  and  vigour,  its  form  being  re¬ 
markably  compact  and  robust,  its  neck  short,  its  head  rather 
large,  round,  and  flattened  above.  The  hill  is  short,  as  broad 
as  high  at  the  base,  with  the  dorsal  line  of  the  upper  mandible 
decurved  from  the  base,  the  sides  convex,  the  edges  thin  and 
overlapping,  with  a  slight  festoon,  and  a  distinct  angular  pro¬ 
cess,  the  tip  trigonal,  descending,  acute,  and  rather  short ;  the 
lower  mandible  with  the  angle  formed  by  the  separation  of  its 
crura  very  wide,  the  dorsal  line  convex,  the  back  very  broad 
at  the  base,  the  sides  rounded,  the  tip  directly  truncate,  with 
a  nearly  semicircular  notch  behind  it  on  each  side.  Palate 
nearly  flat,  with  two  longitudinal  papillate  ridges  ;  upper  man¬ 
dible  with  a  prominent  broad  median  ridge  beneath ;  lower 
deeply  concave.  Cere  of  moderate  breadth,  and  mostly  hare. 
Nostrils  basal,  lateral,  round,  with  a  central  prominent  papilla 
terminating  a  ridge  from  the  upper  edge.  Eyes  large,  with  a 
bare  projecting  superciliary  ridge  ;  eyelids  ciliated.  Aperture 
of  the  ear  rather  large  and  roundish.  Legs  robust,  rather 
short ;  tibia  very  muscular ;  taYsus  feathered  more  than  half¬ 
way  down,  its  exposed  part  covered  with  scales,  of  wljcli  the 
anterior  are  larger,  but  not  scutelliform  ;  toes  strong,  of  mode¬ 
rate  length,  padded  and  papillate  beneath,  scutellate  above, 
unless  toward  the  base,  where  they  are  scaly  ;  the  first  toe 
short,  the  second  much  longer,  and  nearly  as  long  as  the  fourth, 


286 


FALCO  GYRFALCO. 


which  is  connected  with  the  third  by  a  rather  large  basal  web. 
On  the  first  toe  are  five,  on  the  second  ten,  on  the  third  eighteen, 
on  the  fourth  ten  scutella.  Claws  large,  strong,  well  curved, 
somewhat  compressed,  flattened  and  marginate  beneath,  taper¬ 
ing  to  a  fine  point. 

The  plumage  is  compact.  The  space  between  the  bill  and 
the  eye  is  covered  with  short  bristle-tipped  jdumelets.  The 
wings  are  long  and  pointed,  of  twenty-five  quills  ;  the  first 
quill  ten-twelfths  of  an  inch  shorter  than  the  second,  which  is 
longest,  and  exceeds  the  third  by  a  quarter  of  an  inch,  the 
fourth  two  twelfths  shorter  than  the  first,  which  has  the  inner 
web  abruptly  attenuated  toward  the  end  ;  the  second  also  at¬ 
tenuated,  but  without  a  notch,  as  is  the  third  in  a  less  degree. 
The  secondaries  are  rather  short,  and  most  of  the  outer  have  a 
terminal  sinus  or  slight  notch  on  the  inner  web.  Tail  long, 
straight,  slightly  rounded,  of  twelve  broad  feathers,  which  at 
the  end  taper  to  a  point. 

Bill  very  pale  blue,  at  the  end  darker,  at  the  base  pale 
yellow ;  cere,  superciliary  ridge,  and  edges  of  eyelids  yellow  ; 
feet  pale  yellow,  the  bases  of  the  digital  scutella  blue ;  claws 
bluish  black.  The  general  colour  of  the  plumage  is  white  ; 
the  forehead,  cheeks,  throat,  tibial  feathers,  abdomen,  and 
lower  and  upper  tail-coverts  unspotted.  On  the  rest  of  the 
lower  parts  each  feather  has  a  small  guttiform  greyish-brown 
spot.  The  tips  of  the  bristles  about  the  base  of  the  bill  are 
dusky.  On  the  upper  part  of  the  head  and  neck  each  feather 
has  a  linear-lanceolate  streak  ;  on  the  back  and  wings  each 
has  a  subterminal  cordate,  generally  pointed,  or  sagittiform 
spot  of  dusky-grey.  The  quills  and  their  coverts  are  barred 
with  that  colour ;  the  outer  primaries  greyish-black  toward 
the  end,  and  with  the  bars  on  their  inner  webs  not  extending 
to  the  margin.  The  tail  is  white,  with  the  exception  of  seven 
spots  toward  the  edges  of  both  webs  of  the  two  middle  feathers. 
These  spots  are  not  all  exactly  opposite  to  each  other,  some  of 
them  being  alternate. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  21  inches  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  l/2  ; 
wing  from  flexure  15i  ;  tail  9  ;  tarsus  2i ;  hind  toe  H,  its 
claw  1J  ;  second  toe  1T\,  its  claw  ;  third  toe  2,  its  claw 
1  ;  fourth  toe  1T42,  its  claw 


GYR  FALCON.  28/ 

The  above  description  is  taken  from  the  skin  of  an  indivi¬ 
dual  obtained  in  Shetland. 

Female. — The  female  is  much  larger  than  the  male,  but 
scarcely  differs  in  colour.  The  following  description  is  taken 
from  the  individual  figured  by  Mr  Audubon,  which  was  at 
least  seven  years  old,  and  was  procured  in  Iceland.  The  fes¬ 
toon  on  the  edge  of  the  upper  mandible  distinct,  but  the  angu¬ 
lar  process  or  tooth  in  a  great  measure  worn  down.  All  the 
other  characters  as  above  ;  the  second  quill  longest,  the  third 
two-twelfths  shorter,  the  first  three  quarters  of  an  inch  shorter 
than  the  second  ;  the  tail  slightly  rounded,  the  lateral  feathers 
being  three  quarters  of  an  inch  shorter  than  the  longest.  The 
bill  is  very  pale  blue,  the  upper  mandible  black  at  the  end, 
the  lower  yellow;  the  cere,  superciliary  ridge,  edges  of  eyelids, 
tarsi,  and  toes  pale  yellow  ;  the  claws  black.  The  general 
colour  of  the  plumage  is  white  ;  the  feathers  of  the  back,  the 
scapulars,  the  wing-coverts,  and  the  secondary  quills  with  a 
greyish-black,  generally  arrow-shaped  spot  near  the  end.  The 
anterior  dorsal  feathers  have  also  a  dark  shaft-line,  those 
farther  back  a  lanceolate  streak,  and  those  on  the  rump  a 
similar  streak  with  an  additional  spot.  The  primary  quills 
have  seven  partial  bars  toward  the  end,  besides  a  large  subter¬ 
minal  space  of  the  same  dark  colour  ;  and  the  secondary  quills 
and  coverts  have  three  or  four  bars  or  spots  ;  the  shafts  of  all 
the  quills  dusky  above,  as  are  those  of  the  two  middle  tail- 
feathers,  which  have  eight  spots  on  the  inner,  and  four  on  the 
outer  margin.  On  the  lower  parts  are  no  markings  excepting  a 
few  lanceolate  streaks  on  the  sides,  and  on  the  elongated  tibial 
feathers. 

The  oesophagus  seven  inches  and  a  half  long,  of  great  width, 
dilated  into  a  large  crop ;  proventricular  glandules  oblong, 
arranged  into  four  very  prominent  longitudinal  ridges,  with 
deep  grooves  between  them.  The  stomach  round,  compressed, 
about  an  inch  and  a  half  in  diameter  ;  its  muscular  coat  thin, 
and  composed  of  a  single  series  of  large  fasciculi ;  its  inner  coat 
soft  and  irregularly  rugous  ;  the  pylorus  with  three  knobs.  The 
intestine  is  thirty-six  and  a  half  inches  in  length,  from  five 


288 


FALCO  GYRFALCO. 


twelfths  to  four-twelfths  in  width,  until  the  rectum,  which  is 
three  inches  and  a  half  long,  half  an  inch  in  width  at  the  com¬ 
mencement,  and  dilated  into  a  globular  sac  two  inches  in  dia¬ 
meter  ;  the  coeca  only  two-twelfths  long. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  23i  inches,  to  end  of  wings  21 J  ;  extent 
of  wings  51  j: ;  wing  from  flexure  17  ;  tail  9f  ;  bill  along  the 
ridge  ;  tarsus  2T4g  ;  hind  toe  1^,  its  claw  1T%  ;  middle 
toe  2i12,  its  claw  but  worn. 

Variations. — The  only  variations  that  present  themselves 
in  the  adult  state  refer  to  the  greater  or  less  extent  of  the  dark 
markings,  which  are  sometimes  entirely  wanting  on  the  head, 
neck,  and  tail.  They  are  precisely  analogous  to  those  seen  in 
the  Snowy  Owl,  and  require  no  particular  description,  although 
on  paper  slight  differences  of  this  kind  have  a  formidable 
appearance. 

Habits. — The  Gyr  Falcon  has  been  met  with  by  various 
observers  in  Norway,  Sweden,  and  several  of  the  northern  coun¬ 
tries  of  Europe  ;  in  Iceland,  Greenland,  Labrador,  and  the  Fur 
Countries  of  North  America.  It  breeds  in  the  arctic  regions, 
and  presents  itself  in  the  temperate  parts  of  Europe  only  as  an 
occasional  visitant,  and  generally  in  winter.  When  falconry 
was  in  vogue,  it  was  procured  in  Iceland  and  Norway,  the 
birds  from  the  former  country  being  more  highly  esteemed,  and 
by  some  considered  as  of  a  different  kind  from  those  obtained 
in  the  latter. 

Of  its  habits  in  the  wild  state  little  is  known  to  ornithologists, 
and  it  does  not  appear  that  in  Britain  they  have  ever  been  the 
subject  of  observation  to  any  person  capable  of  describing  them. 
Mr  Audubon,  who  found  it  breeding  in  Labrador,  where  he 
obtained  two  specimens,  states  that  its  flight  resembles  that  of 
the  Peregrine  Falcon,  but  is  more  elevated,  majestic,  and  rapid. 
“  They  rarely  sailed  when  travelling  to  and  fro  between  their 
nest  and  an  island  where  multitudes  of  Puffins  were  breeding, 
and  to  which  they  daily  resorted,  but  used  a  constant  beat  of 
their  wings.  When  over  the  Puffins,  and  high  in  the  air, 
they  would  hover  almost  motionless,  as  if  watching  the  proper 


GYR  FALCON. 


289 


moment  to  close  their  pinions,  and  when  that  arrived,  they 
would  descend  almost  perpendicularly  on  their  unsuspecting 
victims.  Their  cries  also  resembled  those  of  the  Peregrine 
Falcon,  being  loud,  shrill,  and  piercing.  Now  and  then  they 
would  alight  on  some  of  the  high  stakes  placed  on  the  shore  as 
beacons  to  the  fishermen  who  visit  the  coast,  and  stand  for  a 
few  minutes,  not  erect  like  most  other  hawks,  but  in  the  posi¬ 
tion  of  a  Lestris  or  Tern,  after  which  they  would  resume  their 
avocations,  and  pounce  upon  a  Puffin,  which  they  generally 
did  while  the  poor  bird  was  standing  on  the  ground  at  the  very 
entrance  of  its  burrow,  apparently  quite  unaware  of  the  approach 
of  its  powerful  enemy.  The  puffin  appeared  to  form  no  impe¬ 
diment  to  the  flight  of  the  hawk,  which  merely  shook  itself 
after  rising  in  the  air,  as  if  to  arrange  its  plumage,  as  the  Fish 
Hawk  does  when  it  has  emerged  from  the  water  with  a  fish  in 
its  talons.”  Only  four  individuals  were  seen,  which  were  be¬ 
lieved  to  be  of  one  family.  The  nest,  which  was  placed  on  a 
precipice,  “  was  composed  of  sticks,  sea-weeds,  and  mosses, 
about  two  feet  in  diameter,  and  almost  flat.” 

Dr  Richardson,  who  found  it  a  constant  resident  in  the 
Hudson’s  Bay  territories,  where  it  is  named  the  Speckled  Part¬ 
ridge  Hawk  and  the  Winterer,  and  where  it  usually  preys  on 
the  Ptarmigan,  although  it  also  destroys  Plovers,  Ducks,  and 
even  Geese,  gives  the  following  anecdote  illustrative  of  its  bold¬ 
ness  in  defence  of  its  young  :  “  In  the  middle  of  June  1821,  a 
pair  of  these  birds  attacked  me,  as  I  was  climbing  in  the  vici¬ 
nity  of  their  nest,  which  was  built  on  a  lofty  precipice  on  the 
borders  of  Point  Lake,  in  latitude  65^°.  They  flew  in  circles, 
uttering  loud  and  harsh  screams,  and  alternately  stooping  with 
such  velocity,  that  their  motion  through  the  air  produced  a 
loud  rushing  noise.  They  struck  their  claws  within  an  inch 
of  my  head.  I  endeavoured,  by  keeping  the  barrel  of  my  gun 
close  to  my  cheek,  and  suddenly  elevating  its  muzzle  when 
they  were  in  the  act  of  striking,  to  ascertain  whether  they  had 
the  power  of  instantaneously  changing  the  direction  of  their 
rapid  course,  and  found  that  they  invariably  rose  above  the 
obstacle  with  the  quickness  of  thought,  shewing  equal  acute¬ 
ness  of  vision  and  power  of  motion.” 

VOL.  III. 


u 


290 


FALCO  GYRFALCO. 


The  eggs  are  said  to  be  similar  to  those  of  the  Peregrine 
Falcon,  but  larger.  It  does  not  appear,  however,  that  there  is 
much  certainty  on  this  subject. 

Young. — The  skin  of  a  young  bird  fully  fledged,  from  Green¬ 
land,  in  my  collection,  may  be  described  as  follows.  The  bill 
is  similar  in  form  to  that  of  the  adult,  but  with  the  festoon  of 
the  upper  mandible  very  slight ;  its  colour  pale  blue,  the  base 
of  the  lower  mandible  yellowish,  the  tip  of  the  upper  bluish- 
black  ;  the  cere  greenish-blue.  The  tarsi  and  toes  are  greyish- 
blue,  the  soles  yellowish  ;  the  claws  black.  The  general  colour 
of  the  plumage  on  the  upper  parts  is  brownish-grey.  On  the 
forehead  the  slender  feathers  are  edged  with  yellowish-white  ; 
on  the  upper  part  of  the  head  and  the  hind-neck,  all  the  feathers 
have  a  large  oblong  yellowish-white  space  on  the  inner  web  to¬ 
ward  the  end.  These  white  markings  are  larger  and  more 
conspicuous  on  the  hind-neck,  most  of  the  feathers  on  which 
have  also  a  patch  on  the  inner  web  toward  the  base.  On  the 
rest  of  the  upper  parts  the  feathers  are  narrowly  margined  with 
paler  ;  the  anterior  dorsal  feathers  and  small  wing-coverts  with 
two  small  marginal  subterminal  yellowish-white  spots  ;  the 
middle  and  posterior  dorsal  feathers  similarly  marked  ;  and  the 
upper  tail-coverts  with  the  spots  approaching  in  form  to  bars. 
The  first  primary  has  twelve  slight  marginal  spots  on  the  outer 
web,  and  on  the  inner  fifteen  transverse  indentations  which  do 
not  reach  the  shaft ;  the  inner  webs  of  all  the  other  quills 
barred  in  the  same  manner,  but  the  outer  without  markings. 
The  tail  is  also  barred,  there  being  on  the  two  middle  feathers 
twelve,  on  the  lateral  fifteen  bars,  or  series  of  transverse  nar¬ 
row  spots,  on  both  webs,  which,  although  opposite  to  each 
other  on  the  middle  feathers,  do  not  meet  or  run  into  the  shaft, 
and  toward  the  lateral  become  more  oblique,  and  sometimes 
are  not  opposite  ;  the  tips  white,  or  formed  of  two  confluent 
spots  of  that  colour.  The  lower  parts  are  yellowish-white, 
longitudinally  marked  with  linear-oblong  brownish  grey  bands  ; 
the  long  feathers  on  the  sides  and  legs,  and  the  axillars,  with 
the  dark  part  larger,  and  the  inner  web  with  one  or  more  light 
patches  or  spots.  A  small  part  of  the  throat  without  spots, 


GYR  FALCON. 


291 


and  the  lower  tail-coverts  with  only  the  shaft  and  a  narrow 
oblong  space  toward  the  end  dark. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  21  inches  ;  wing  from  flexure  15  ; 
tail  9  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  1J  ;  tarsus  2T5^  ;  middle  toe  11£, 
its  claw  1. 

Progress  toward  Maturity. — In  the  next  stage,  as  it 
would  appear,  the  upper  parts  become  of  a  more  uniform 
bluish-grey,  most  of  the  whitish  spots  having  disappeared  from 
the  back,  and  upper  part  of  the  head.  Of  this  kind  were  the 
two  birds  figured  by  Mr  Audubon,  and  obtained  by  him  in 
Labrador,  as  mentioned  above.  In  this  state  also  I  have  exa¬ 
mined  the  skin  of  a  female  from  Shetland.  In  one  of  these 
the  light  bars  on  the  tail  had  nearly  disappeared  ;  but  in  the 
two  females  they  were  quite  distinct,  and  those  on  the  middle 
feathers  opposite,  though  not  continuous.  In  the  Shetland 
specimen,  which  is  apparently  a  female,  its  length  being  twenty- 
four  inches,  the  lower  parts  are  yellowish-white,  with  longitu¬ 
dinal  oblong,  brownish-grey  spots  ;  the  upper  parts  slate-grey 
tinged  with  brown,  the  feathers  margined  with  paler ;  the  bill 
light  blue,  dark  at  the  tip,  and  yellowish  at  the  base  ;  the  feet 
blue,  but  with  the  edges  of  the  scutella  yellowish. 

Dr  Richardson,  wdio  no  doubt  has  had  opportunities  of  ob¬ 
serving  the  changes  which  take  place  in  the  colouring,  says  : — 
“  The  young  Gyr-falcons  show  little  white  on  their  plumage, 
being  mostly  of  a  dull  brown  colour  above.  As  they  grow 
older,  the  wdiite  margins  encroach  on  the  brown,  which  be¬ 
comes  merely  a  central  blotch,  indented  on  each  side  by  the 
wdiite  ;  while  in  aged  birds  the  plumage  is  mostly  pure  white, 
varied  only  by  a  few  narrow7  transverse  bars  on  the  upper  parts."1'* 

Remarks. — Mr  Hancock,  in  a  paper  read  to  the  British  As¬ 
sociation,  and  published  in  the  Annals  of  Natural  History,  Vol. 
II.  p.  241,  is  decidedly  of  opinion  that  two  species  have  been 
confounded  under  the  synonymous  appellations  of  Jer  or  Gyr 
Falcon  and  Iceland  Falcon.  Both  species,  Falco  Xslandicus 
and  Falco  Groenlandicus,  he  says,  are  precisely  similar  in  their 
first  plumage,  with  this  exception,  that  the  young  F.  Islan- 
dicus  has  the  bars  on  the  two  middle  tail-feathers  “  non-con - 


292 


FALCO  GYRFALCO. 


tinuous ,  or  not  opposing  each  other,  whilst  they  are  continuous 
in  the  young  F.  Grcenlandicus.”  The  distinctive  characters 
which  he  assigns  to  the  adult  of  these  species  are  the  following  : 

Falco  Islandicus.  Ground  of  the  upper  plumage  a  dark  lead 
or  mouse  colour,  barred  and  spotted  with  cream  colour  ;  (on 
the)  under  parts  the  ground  is  buff,  marked  with  streaks, 
heart-shaped  spots,  and  bars  of  dark  mouse  colour.  Wings 
reaching  to  within  about  in.  of  the  end  of  the  tail.  Adult 
male  1  foot  9  in. ;  extent  of  wings  3  feet  10  in.  Adult  female, 
length  1  foot  11  in.  ;  extent  of  wings  4  feet  2  in. 

Falco  Groenlandicus.  Ground  of  the  plumage  pure  white  ; 
upper  parts  elegantly  marked  with  arrow-shaped  spots  of  a  dark 
grey ;  under  parts  and  head  streaked  with  the  same  ;  wings 
reaching  to  within  2  inches  of  the  end  of  the  tail ;  second  pri¬ 
mary  the  longest.  Adult  male,  length  1  foot  9  in.  Adult 
female,  length  1  foot  11  in. ;  extent  of  wings  3  feet  10  in. 

It  is  further  stated  that  all  the  mature  specimens  from  Ice¬ 
land  seen  by  the  author,  amounting  to  seven,  have  the  upper 
mandible  furnished  with  two  processes,  whilst  in  the  many 
Greenland  specimens  examined,  only  two  had  the  double  pro¬ 
cess,  and  these  were  apparently  very  old  individuals. 

Without  expressing  any  decided  opinion  upon  the  subject,  I 
have  to  observe  that  analogically  the  alternation  or  continuance 
of  the  bars  on  the  two  middle  tail-feathers  is  of  no  value  as  a 
character  ;  for,  having  examined  a  great  number  of  skins  of 
Falco  Tinnunculus,  Falco  /Esalon,  Buteo  vulgaris,  Cuculus 
canorus,  Eudynamis  orientalis,  and  several  other  species  having 
numerous  bars  on  the  tail,  I  find  that  in  all  of  them  the  bars 
are  sometimes  continuous  and  sometimes  alternating.  In  the 
Snowy  Owl,  the  bird  which  most  resembles  the  Gyr  Falcon 
in  its  style  of  colouring,  the  bars  are  either  direct  or  alternate. 
Unless  therefore  every  one  of  these  species  is  composed  of  two, 
there  is  no  reason  to  believe  that  this  character  is  sufficiently 
distinctive  in  the  case  of  the  Gyr  Falcon.  In  the  two  adult 
“  Greenland  Falcons, ”  one  of  which,  however,  was  from  Ice¬ 
land,  and  that  upon  unquestionable  authority,  the  festoon  or 
second  tooth  was  conspicuous,  while  in  the  younger  individuals 
it  is  scarcely  apparent.  As  to  the  difference  of  half  an  inch  in 


GYR  FALCON. 


293 


the  comparative  length  of  the  wings  and  tail,  it  is  obviously 
of  no  account,  and  cannot  even  be  determined  with  certainty 
in  skins.  Farther  observations,  however,  are  necessary  to  de¬ 
termine  whether  the  grey  birds  from  Iceland,  if  kept  several 
years,  remain  of  the  same  colour  or  change  to  white. 

Of  all  the  describers  of  birds,  Brisson  seems  to  me  to  be  the 
most  accurate,  and  yet  his  Gyrfalco  Islandicus,  which  he  says 
is  found  in  Iceland,  is  represented  as  having  the  bands  on  the 
two  middle  tail-feathers  continuous,  and  the  upper  parts  dusky 
spotted  with  whitish.  The  figure,  however,  is  not  correct  in 
the  form  of  the  bill  and  several  other  particulars.  But  whether 
there  be  two  species  or  not  of  Jer  Falcons,  I  believe  that  those 
above  described  by  me  are  all  of  one  single  species,  of  the 
many  specific  names  given  to  which  I  think  the  best  are  those 
of  Gyrfalco  and  candicans.  Linnaeus,  whose  specific  names 
have  the  best  claim  upon  us,  named  it  Falco  Gyrfalco,  and  re¬ 
ferred  to  Brisson’s  figure  and  description,  both  of  which  repre¬ 
sent  an  adult  white  bird.  This  name,  therefore,  ought  un¬ 
questionably  to  be  retained. 


294 


FALCO  PEREGRINUS.  THE  PEREGRINE 

FALCON. 


BLUE  HAWK.  GREY  HAWK.  HUNTING  HAWK.  GOSHAWK.  FALCON. 

COMMON  FALCON.  SHEABHAG. 


Fig.  22-1. 


Falco  peregrinus.  Lath.  Inch  Orn.  I.  33.  Adult. 

Falco  communis.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  30,  Young. 

Faucon  pdlerin.  Falco  peregrinus.  Temm.  Alan.  d’Orn.  I.  22  ;  III.  11. 

Peregrine  Falcon.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Peregrine  Falcon.  Falco  peregrinus.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  30. 

Falco  peregrinus.  Peregrine  Falcon.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  82. 

Wings  when  closed  about  half  an  inch  shorter  than  the  tail. 
Adult  male  with  the  head ,  hind-neck ,  and  a  broad  band  on  the 
cheeks ,  black ,  the  upper  parts  deep  bluish-grey ,  fading  behind  into 
ash-grey ,  and  barred  icith  greyish-black ,  the  lower  parts  white , 
the  breast  and  sides  transversely  spotted  and  barred  icith  dusky. 
Female  with  the  upper  parts  more  dusky ,  the  loicer  reddish-white , 
with  larger  markings.  Young  with  the  upper  parts  deep  brownish- 
black,  faintly  spotted  icith  reddish ,  each  feather  tipped  with  light 
red ,  the  lower  parts  yellowish- white,  with  longitudinal  dusky 
streaks. 


PEREGRINE  FALCON. 


295 


Equal  in  beauty  of  form,  and  little  inferior  in  strength  or 
spirit,  the  Peregrine  Falcon  is  next  in  size  to  the  species  last 
described,  and  like  it  exhibits  the  peculiar  characters  of  the 
genus  in  great  perfection.  It  ranks  next  to  the  Gyr  Falcon  in 
the  estimation  of  those  who  train  rapacious  birds  for  the  chase, 
and,  being  the  species  usually  employed  in  hunting  the  larger 
kinds  of  game,  has  obtained  pre-eminently  the  name  of  Hunt¬ 
ing  Hawk.  Although  nowhere  very  numerous,  it  is  exten¬ 
sively  distributed  in  Britain,  so  that  specimens  are  plentiful  in 
museums  and  private  collections. 

Male. — In  form  the  Peregrine  Falcon  is  compact  and  ro¬ 
bust,  its  body  being  ovate,  anteriorly  broad,  with  the  breast 
full  and  well-rounded,  the  neck  short,  the  head  large,  round, 
and  rather  flattened  above.  The  bill  is  short,  thick,  and 
strong ;  the  upper  mandible  with  the  cere  rather  short,  the 
dorsal  line  curved  from  the  base,  the  ridge  convex  but  rather 
narrow,  the  sides  convex,  the  edges  with  a  slight  festoon,  and 
a  prominent  angular  process,  the  tip  trigonal,  descending,  and 
acute  ;  the  lower  mandible  with  the  angle  broad  and  rounded, 
the  dorsal  line  convex,  as  are  the  sides,  the  edges  somewhat  in¬ 
volute,  the  tip  directly  truncate,  with  a  distinct  sinus  behind. 

The  interior  of  the  mouth,  the  tongue,  and  the  digestive  or¬ 
gans  having  been  minutely  described  at  p.  53  of  Vol.  I,  and 
figured  in  PI.  IAr,  it  will  here  suffice  to  give  the  measurements 
of  these  parts  in  the  individual  selected  for  description.  The 
oesophagus  is  six  inches  in  length,  an  inch  in  width  at  its  com¬ 
mencement,  and  presently  dilating  into  a  crop  two  inches  in 
width ;  the  stomach  two  inches  and  two-twelfths  in  length  and 
breadth,  its  round  central  tendons  three-eighths  in  diameter  ; 
the  intestine  three  feet  long,  varying  in  width  from  three- 
eighths  to  two-eighths,  but  the  rectum,  which  is  three  inches 
long,  is  wider,  and  dilates  into  a  globular  cloaca,  an  inch  and 
a  half  in  width  ;  the  coeca  only  a  twelfth  and  a  half  in 
length. 

The  nostrils  are  round,  a  twelfth  and  a  half  in  diameter, 
with  a  central  papilla ;  the  eyes  large,  their  aperture  four  and 
a  half  twelfths  ;  the  eyelids  bare,  but  ciliated,  the  projecting 


296 


FALCO  PEREGRINUS. 


supraocular  ridge  also  bare  ;  the  aperture  of  the  ear  roundish- 
elliptical,  four-twelfths  in  width.  The  feet  are  robust ;  the 
tibia  of  moderate  length  and  very  muscular,  the  tarsus  short, 
feathered  more  than  halfway  down,  and  covered  all  round  with 
reticular  scales,  of  which  the  anterior  are  larger  and  subhexa- 
gonal ;  the  toes  large  ;  the  first  rather  long,  with  six  scutella, 
the  second  longer,  with  nine,  the  third  very  long,  with  eighteen, 
the  fourth  longer  than  the  second,  with  ten  scutella,  and  con¬ 
nected  with  the  third  by  a  basal  web.  The  claws  are  large, 
strong,  well-curved,  rounded  above,  considerably  compressed, 
narrow  and  marginate  beneath,  with  a  fine  taper  point. 

The  plumage  is  very  close  and  compact  on  the  upper  parts, 
less  so  on  the  lower  ;  the  feathers  of  the  head  short  and  oblong, 
of  the  back  ovate  and  rounded,  of  the  lower  parts  ovato-oblong 
and  rounded,  of  the  outer  part  of  the  tibia  elongated.  Even 
the  abdominal  feathers  and  lower  tail-coverts  are  firm,  and  the 
plumage  is  altogether  denser  and  stronger  than  that  of  any  other 
British  species  of  this  family.  The  space  between  the  bill  and 
the  eye  is  covered  with  bristle-pointed  plumelets.  The  wings 
are  pointed  and  very  long  ;  the  quills  twenty-three  ;  the  pri¬ 
maries  of  moderate  breadth,  narrowed  toward  the  end,  the  first 
quill  with  a  sinus  on  the  inner  web,  and  half  an  inch  shorter 
than  the  second,  which  is  longest,  and  exceeds  the  third  by  four 
and  a  half  twelfths  ;  the  secondaries  are  broad,  and  obtuse, 
with  an  acumen.  The  tail  is  rather  Ions;,  exceeds  the  win°fs 
by  half  an  inch,  and  is  slightly  rounded,  the  middle  feathers 
being  three  quarters  of  an  inch  ionger  than  .the  lateral. 

The  bill  is  pale  blue,  toward  the  end  bluish-black,  tinged 
with  yellow  at  the  base,  especially  on  the  lower  mandible  ;  the 
cere  oil-green,  the  bare  orbital  space  orange-yellow,  the  iris 
dark  hazel,  the  feet  greenish-yellow,  the  claws  bluish-black. 
The  head,  hind-neck,  and  a  large  mystacliial  patch  on  each 
side,  are  black,  with  a  tinge  of  bluisli-grey.  The  general  co¬ 
lour  of  the  upper  parts  is  deep  bluish-grey,  on  the  back  and 
tail-coverts  fading  into  asli-grey  ;  the  dorsal  feathers,  wing- 
coverts,  and  tail  coverts  barred  with  greyish- black.  The  pri¬ 
mary  quills  are  greyish-black,  their  inner  webs  marked  with 
reddish- white  bars,  of  which  there  are  fourteen  on  the  first 


PEREGRINE  FALCON. 


297 


quill ;  the  secondary  quills  lighter,  their  outer  webs  obscurely 
barred  with  dark  grey,  the  inner  barred  like  those  of  the  pri¬ 
maries.  The  tail  is  greyish-blue,  the  middle  feathers  with 
eleven,  the  lateral  with  thirteen  bars  of  greyish -black,  those  to¬ 
ward  the  base  narrower  and  more  grey,  the  last  much  larger, 
the  tips  white.  The  throat  and  sides  of  the  neck  are  white, 
without  markings ;  the  general  colour  of  the  rest  of  the  lower 
parts  is  white,  on  the  sides  of  the  body  and  outer  part  of  the 
tibice  tinged  with  grey  ;  the  fore-neck  with  very  slender  cen¬ 
tral  streaks  on  the  feathers  ;  those  on  the  breast  at  first  lan¬ 
ceolate,  then  roundish,  and  lastly  transverse  ;  the  sides  and 
tibiae  distinctly  barred  with  greyish-black  ;  the  bars  on  the 
sides  of  the  rump,  the  lower  tail-coverts,  and  abdomen  fainter ; 
the  lower  wing-coverts  white,  with  dark  bars. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  16^  inches,  to  end  of  wings  16;  ex¬ 
tent  of  wings  36i  ;  wing  from  flexure  12^  ;  tail  6^  ;  bill  along 
the  ridge  1T^,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  1T2^  ;  tarsus 
1t92  ;  hind  toe  1{§,  its  claw  1^  ;  second  toe  lyL,  its  claw  1°|  ; 
third  toe  2,  its  claw  ;  fourth  toe  1J,  its  claw 

Female. — The  female,  which  is  much  larger,  is  easily  dis¬ 
tinguished  by  the  tints  of  the  plumage,  which  is  reddish  on 
the  lower,  and  less  blue  on  the  upper  parts.  The  proportions 
are  similar ;  the  diameter  of  the  nasal  aperture  two-twelfths, 
of  the  eye  five  and  a  half  twelfths,  of  the  ear  four- twelfths. 
The  oesophagus  is  seven  inches  long,  an  inch  and  a  quarter  in 
width  at  the  top,  two  inches  and  a  half  in  the  dilated  part ; 
the  stomach  two  inches  and  three-fourths  in  diameter  ;  the 
intestine  forty-nine  inches  in  length,  its  width  in  the  duodenal 
part  tliree-eightlis,  toward  the  end  two-twelfths ;  the  coeca  a 
twelfth  and  a  half  in  length  ;  the  cloacal  dilatation  of  the  rec¬ 
tum  an  inch  and  a  half  in  width.  The  first  quill  is  four- 
twelfths  shorter  than  the  second,  which  exceeds  the  third  by 
half  an  inch. 

The  bill  is  greenish-yellow  at  the  base,  then  pale  blue,  with 
the  tip  black  ;  the  cere  and  eyelids  yellow ;  the  iris  dark  hazel ; 
the  feet  greenish-yellow,  the  claws  bluish-black.  The  general 
colour  of  the  upper  parts  is  deep  grey,  of  the  head  greyish- 


293 


FALCO  PEREGRINUS. 


black,  its  anterior  feathers  tinged  with  brown,  the  tint  on  tlio 
back  lighter,  on  the  rump  ash-grey  ;  the  upper  parts  barred 
with  greyish-black  as  in  the  male  ;  the  transverse  spots  or  bars 
on  the  inner  webs  of  all  the  quills  reddish-white ;  the  tail 
barred  as  in  the  male,  with  the  tip  reddish-white,  and  the 
subterminal  dark  bar  proportionally  larger.  On  the  inner  web 
of  the  first  quill  are  fourteen  spots  ;  on  the  middle  tail-feathers 
ten,  and  on  the  lateral  thirteen  dark  bars.  The  cheeks  and 
mystachial  bands  are  greyish-black  ;  the  throat  and  sides  of  the 
neck  reddish-white ;  the  general  colour  of  the  lower  parts 
reddish- white,  richer  on  the  breast,  paler  behind  ;  the  spots  as 
in  the  male,  but  larger,  and  of  a  deeper  black  ;  the  lower  wing- 
coverts  also  more  largely  barred. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  194  inches,  extent  of  wings  42J  ;  bill 
along  the  ridge  1  T5g,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  lj  ; 
wing  from  flexure  14f  ;  tail  74  ;  tarsus  2T\  ;  first  toe  1,  its 
claw  ;  second  toe  l-/2,  its  claw  1  ;  third  toe  2J,  its  claw  ^  ; 
fourth  toe  1  pq,  its  claw 

Variations. — The  above  descriptions  are  from  a  male  and  a 
female  shot  on  the  Pentland  Hills  in  January  1838,  and  now 
in  my  collection.  Variations  are  observed  in  size,  the  males 
measuring  from  sixteen  to  eighteen  inches  in  length,  the  fe¬ 
males  from  eighteen  to  twenty-three.  In  colour,  adult  males 
vary  little,  the  head  being  greyish-black  or  brownish-black, 
the  bluish-grey  of  the  back  deeper  or  lighter,  sometimes  ap¬ 
proaching  to  ash-grey  behind  ;  the  fore-neck  sometimes  with¬ 
out  streaks  or  spots,  sometimes  slightly  marked  ;  and  the  spots 
and  bars  on  the  breast  and  sides  narrower  or  broader.  The 
females  are  brownish-grey,  greyisli-brown,  or  blackish -grey 
above,  seldom  of  so  light  a  tint  as  the  males,  and  generally  more 
obscurely  barred.  They  are  always  yellowish  or  reddish  be¬ 
neath,  the  tint  on  the  breast  being  sometimes  very  rich.  The 
intestinal  canal  varies  considerably  in  length,  as  do  the  coeca, 
of  which  I  have  seen  one  wanting.  The  following  table  con¬ 
tains  measurements  of  the  digestive  organs  in  different  indivi¬ 
duals. 


PEREGRINE  FALCON.  299 


M. 

M. 

M. 

F. 

F. 

F. 

F. 

Tongue  in  length... 

— 

9 

12 

«i 

12 

9 

12 

9 

T  2 

— 

— 

(Esophagus . 

6 

6 

6i 

7 

6i 

71 

7 

Width  of  crop . 

9  l 
^2 

1A 

9 

2i 

— 

2 

Stomach  in  diameter 

9  2 

i 1 1 

AT2 

2 

9  3 
ZT2 

9  2 
^T2 

91 

Intestine  in  length . . . 

86 

36  S 

18 

49 

51 

54 

50 

Its  greatest  width... 

3 

¥ 

4J 

1  2 

4 

12 

3 

¥ 

5 

¥ 

4 

T  2 

4 

1  2 

Its  smallest  width.. 

2 

8 

2 

T  2 

2 

T  2 

2 

T2 

24 

1  2 

24 

12 

2 

12 

Coeca  in  length . 

n 

12 

n 

T  2 

14 

12 

14 

12 

14 

12 

3 

T  2 

2 

12 

Rectum . 

3 

3 

3 

3 

3 

Qi. 

— 

Cloaca  in  diameter.. 

— - 

n  - 

— 

— 

1  1 
*2 

— 

The  scutella  vary  considerably, 

although 

less  than  in 

many 

species. 

M. 

M. 

M. 

M. 

F. 

F. 

F. 

F. 

First  toe .  6 

6 

6 

7 

6 

7 

6 

7 

Second  toe .  9 

9 

9 

10 

9 

11 

12 

9 

Third  toe . 18 

17 

17 

16 

18 

17 

18 

18 

Fourth  toe . 10 

10 

10 

11 

10 

12 

10 

10 

Changes  of  Plumage. — The  moult  takes  place  early  in  sum¬ 
mer  ;  but  I  think  is  not  completed  until  November,  for  seve¬ 
ral  specimens  examined  in  that  month  exhibited  young  feathers 
about  the  head.  Perhaps  a  renewal  of  parts  of  the  plumage 
takes  place  in  the  Falcons,  as  in  the  Eagles,  at  all  seasons.  At 
all  events,  the  plumage  is  perfect  in  the  beginning  of  winter, 
and  then  all  the  feathers  on  the  wings  and  back  have  a  slight 
edging  of  paler.  In  summer  the  tints  are  much  faded,  and 
the  feathers  more  or  less  worn  and  ragged. 

Habits. — Although  it  seldom  happens  that  one  can  have  an 
opportunity  of  seeing  much  of  this  beautiful  Falcon,  unless  he 
watch  it  in  one  of  its  breeding  places,  it  is  not  difficult  in  Scot¬ 
land  to  become  in  some  degree  acquainted  with  it,  for  even  at 
the  present  day,  after  unrelenting  war  has  been  waged  against 
the  rapacious  birds  for  many  years,  the  Blue  Hawk  is  not  re¬ 
markably  scarce  with  us.  In  Edinburgh  more  specimens  are 
annually  prepared  than  of  any  other  species,  excepting  the 


300 


FALCO  PEREGRINUS. 


Sparrow  Hawk,  Kestrel,  Merlin,  and  Buzzard.  I  have  ex¬ 
amined  about  fifty  individuals,  of  which  more  than  ten  were 
recent  and  entire,  so  that  if  my  descriptions  are  not  correct,  I 
deserve  the  censure  of  “  the  candid  critic.”  My  opportuni¬ 
ties  of  studying  the  living  birds  have  enabled  me  to  offer  the 
following  remarks. 

The  flight  of  the  Peregrine  Falcon  is  very  rapid,  being  per¬ 
formed  by  quickly  repeated  beats,  much  in  the  manner  of  the 
Rock  Dove.  In  searching  for  prey,  it  does  not  fly  so  low  as 
the  Sparrow  Hawk  or  Hen  Harrier,  nor  does  it  glide  among 
trees,  but  keeps  to  the  open  country,  scouring  the  hills  and 
moors,  and,  on  discovering  a  fit  object,  pouncing  upon  it  in 
perpendicular  or  slanting  descent,  or  pursuing  it  in  direct 
flight,  but  always  keeping  above  its  quarry  until  a  favourable 
opportunity  of  clutching  it  occurs.  It  may  be  occasionally 
seen  balancing  itself  in  the  air,  but  it  seldom  floats  or  as  it 
were  sails  in  circles,  like  the  Eagles,  Buzzards,  and  other  rapa¬ 
cious  birds  which  have  long,  broad,  and  rounded  wings.  Its 
speed  must  be  very  great,  and  has  been  variously  estimated  at 
sixty  or  a  hundred  and  fifty  miles  an  hour,  and  yet  it  does  not 
much  exceed  that  of  a  Pigeon.  Even  a  Grouse,  which  the 
closet-naturalists  tell  us  is  ill  adapted  for  rapid  flight,  is  not 
overtaken  by  a  Peregrine  in  a  moment.  I  have  in  my  mind 
a  vivid  picture  of  a  chase  which  I  witnessed  on  the  Pentland 
Hills.  One  day  when  reclining  among  the  heath  I  was  aroused 
by  a  sudden  noise,  and  on  looking  up  observed  two  Red  Grouse 
advance  over  an  eminence  and  shoot  obliquely  downward  across 
the  face  of  the  hill  with  marvellous  speed,  and  without  utter¬ 
ing  any  cry,  although  there  was  a  loud  sound  from  their  wings. 
As  I  was  wondering  what  could  be  the  cause  of  all  this  head¬ 
long  hurry,  a  Peregrine  Falcon  appeared  on  the  eminence,  and 
shot  along  with  easier  and  more  rapid  flight,  after  the  grouse, 
which  soon  disappeared  round  the  hill,  so  that  I  could  not  see 
the  result  of  the  chase.  The  Brown  Ptarmigan  or  Red  Grouse, 
and  the  Grey  Partridge  are  with  us  its  favourite  victims  ;  but 
it  also  feeds  on  Black  Grouse,  Pheasants,  Mallards,  Teal, 
Pigeons,  Gulls,  Puffins,  Auks,  Guillemots,  rabbits,  and  young 
hares.  Tt  has  been  seen  to  feed  upon  a  dead  sheep,  but  this 


PEREGRINE  FALCON. 


301 


sort  of  food  appears  to  be  less  palatable  to  it  than  to  Eagles 
and  Buzzards.  Although  not  addicted  to  committing  depre¬ 
dations  among  domestic  poultry,  it  sometimes  manifests  little 
regard  for  the  proximity  of  man,  and  lias  been  known  to  snatch 
a  wounded  bird  from  before  the  sportsman.  For  the  most 
part  it  is  solitary  and  silent,  pursuing  its  avocations  as  if  little 
disposed  to  pay  attention  to  any  tiling  else  ;  but  sometimes  a 
pair  hunt  together,  and  in  the  breeding  season  it  is  rather  cla¬ 
morous  in  its  rocky  haunts,  emitting  a  loud,  clear,  and  shrill 
cry,  like  that  of  the  Kestrel.  It  has  few  enemies  besides  man, 
for  none  of  our  native  birds  seem  capable  of  injuring  it,  and  it 
is  so  bold  as  sometimes  to  attack  the  Eagle,  should  he  approach 
its  domain.  With  its  rapid  and  gliding  flight,  it  forms  a  less 
conspicuous  object  than  the  Buzzard,  which,  as  it  floats  slowly 
along,  presents  a  more  interesting  feature  in  the  wild  scenery 
of  our  hilly  ranges. 

Under  ordinary  circumstances  it  is  shy  and  vigilant,  so  that 
one  seldom  finds  an  opportunity  of  shooting  it ;  but  at  its 
breeding  place  it  is  in  general  easily  approached,  as  the  female 
is  not  readily  put  from  the  nest,  and  the  male  flies  around, 
uttering  loud  screams.  No  instance  is  recorded  of  its  breeding 
in  trees,  the  nest  being  always  placed  on  the  face  of  a  maritime 
cliff  or  inland  precipice,  generally  beyond  the  reach  of  man, 
unless  with  the  aid  of  a  rope.  It  is  bulky,  and  composed  of 
sticks  and  herbaceous  plants,  varied  according  to  the  locality. 
Thus,  in  the  Bass  Bock,  it  is  formed  solely  of  grass  and  other 
soft  materials,  there  being  no  ligneous  plants  there.  The  eggs, 
three  or  four  in  number,  are  of  a  broadly  elliptical  form,  two 
inches  or  a  little  more  in  length,  and  about  an  inch  and  seven 
twelfths  in  breadth,  dull  light  red,  dotted  and  patched  with 
darker  red.  The  young,  which  are  at  first  covered  with  white 
down,  are  abundantly  supplied  with  food.  So  great  is  the 
strength  of  this  bird  that,  according  to  the  keeper  of  the  Bass 
Rock,  it  has  been  known  to  carry  to  its  nest  there  at  one  time 
a  male  Black  Grouse,  and  at  another  a  Pheasant.  Auks, 
Guillemots,  Kittiwakes,  various  sea  birds,  Plovers,  Pigeons, 
and  Brown  Ptarmigans,  are  the  food  usually  brought  to  the 
young  in  that  place. 


302 


FALCO  PEREGRINUS. 


“  In  May  1839,”  says  my  son  John,  “  I  fell  in  with  a  nest  of 
the  Peregrine  in  one  of  a  range  of  cliffs  in  the  neighbourhood 
of  Tantallon,  on  a  bold  headland,  the  most  projecting  part  of 
the  coast.  It  was  situated  on  a  shelf,  at  the  distance  of  about 
forty  feet  from  the  base  of  the  cliff,  and  above  it  was  a  precipice 
of  about  sixty  feet  or  more.  From  its  situation,  owing  to  a 
portion  of  the  crag  which  formed  an  arch  over  it,  and  pre¬ 
vented  inspection  from  above,  as  well  as  the  abruptness  of  the 
neighbouring  rock,  it  seemed  perfectly  secure  from  all  intruders; 
but  from  a  rock  in  the  sea  immediately  opposite,  a  good  view 
of  it  could  be  had.  It  was  constructed  externally  of  sticks  and 
sea  weeds,  which  formed  a  mass  about  two  feet  in  diameter. 
The  rock  around  it  was  profusely  covered  with  white  patches  of 
dung.  In  the  course  of  the  same  afternoon  I  saw  a  fine  female 
Peregrine  which  had  been  shot  that  day  by  the  gamekeeper  at 
Dirleton.  I  was  informed  by  him  that  he  had  killed  it  at  sea 
close  to  a  small  island,  nearly  opposite  North  Berwick,  on 
which,  as  well  as  on  the  Bass,  a  pair  annually  breed.  When 
killed  it  had  a  partridge  in  its  talons.” 

“  In  Shetland,' ”  says  Mr  Dunn,  “  it  selects  the  most  moun¬ 
tainous  parts,  where  it  can  settle  on  the  shelving  rocks  of  the 
stupendous  cliffs,  and  breed  in  security  in  the  midst  of  plenty  ; 
it  is  rare  that  more  than  a  single  pair  have  their  nest  on  the 
same  cliff,  or  even  near  to  each  other.  I  once  found  two 
pairs  during  the  breeding  season  on  Noss  Head  or  Hang  Cliff ; 
and  a  better  place  they  could  not  have  chosen,  from  the  secu¬ 
rity  it  affords  and  the  abundance  of  food  which  the  nests  of 
the  sea-birds,  abounding  in  the  same  rocks,  supply  them  with. 
During  my  visits  I  captured  several  specimens  of  the  Peregrine 
Falcon,  and  also  procured  some  of  their  eggs.  It  is  a  shy  bird, 
and  difficult  to  get  within  shot  of.  I  have  repeatedly  lain  in 
wait  for  it  on  the  tops  of  the  cliffs,  and  observed  it  flying  slowly 
along  the  face  of  the  rocks  immediately  below  me,  but  out  of 
distance,  watching  the  opportunity  during  the  absence  of  the 
Herring  Gulls  and  KIttiwakes,  to  pick  a  young  one  from  their 
nests,  which  it  frequently  does  with  great  dexterity.  I  know 
of  no  certain  method  of  decoying  this  bird  ;  the  way  in  which 
I  obtained  my  specimens  was  by  first  finding  out  their  breed- 


PEREGRINE  FALCON. 


303 


ing-place,  and  then  lying  in  wait  for  and  shooting  the  birds  as 
they  flew  to  and  from  their  nests.” 

The  breeding  places  which  I  have  seen  are  in  the  island  of 
Pabbay,  Rerneray  of  Barray,  the  Bass  Rock,  and  the  rocks 
at  the  head  of  Moffatdale.  Tantallon  Castle  rock,  St.  Abb’s 
Head,  and  the  Isle  of  May  are  also  mentioned  as  nesting 
places.  In  Shetland  it  is  not  uncommon,  according  to  Dr  Ed- 
mondstone  and  Mr  Dunn  ;  and  as  it  usually  bears  the  name  of 
Goshawk,  it  is  probable  that  Mr  Low  alludes  to  it  as  occurring 
in  Orkney  under  that  appellation.  In  the  northern  ranges,  as 
well  as  in  the  Grampians,  it  is  not  unfrequently  met  with  ; 
but  it  seems  to  be  more  abundant  in  Peebles-shire  and  the  ad¬ 
joining  mountainous  districts  of  the  counties  of  Selkirk  and 
Dumfries,  than  in  most  parts  of  Scotland  ;  so  that  although  it 
often  breeds  on  maritime  cliffs,  this  habit  is  not  determined 
by  any  predilection  for  the  sea.  In  some  of  the  northern  dis¬ 
tricts  of  England,  and  in  Wales,  it  is  also  here  and  there  met 
with.  The  Isle  of  Wight,  several  parts  of  Devonshire  and 
Cornwall,  Holyhead,  and  some  other  places  of  resort  are  men¬ 
tioned  in  that  country,  in  the  low  and  cultivated  parts  of  which, 
however,  it  is  very  uncommon.  According  to  Mr  Thompson, 
it  occurs  in  suitable  localities  throughout  Ireland. 

My  friend  Mr  Hepburn  has  favoured  me  with  the  following 
notes.  “  Some  years  ago,  when  I  frequently  rambled  amongst 
the  wild  moors  in  the  northern  parishes  of  Peebles-shire,  and 
about  the  head  waters  of  the  Clyde,  I  almost  daily  saw  the 
Goshawk,  as  the  country  people  call  the  Peregrine  Falcon, 
hunting  about  in  quest  of  Red  Ptarmigans  and  Partridges,  to 
the  former  of  which  he  is  said  to  be  very  destructive.  Mal¬ 
lards  and  Teal  also  constitute  part  of  his  food.  In  East 
Lothian  I  have  not  met  with  it  on  the  Lammermoors,  and  but 
seldom  on  the  sea-coast.  A  gamekeeper  in  this  neighbour¬ 
hood,  when  going  his  rounds  one  day,  observed  a  Peregrine 
Falcon,  after  a  rapid  pursuit,  drive  a  Pheasant  dead  to  the 
ground.  On  finishing  a  meal  he  departed  ;  and  the  keeper, 
after  fixing  the  carcase  to  the  ground  with  pegs,  went  home  for 
a  trap,  which  he  placed  near  the  dead  bird  in  such  a  way  that 
nothing  could  reach  it  without  either  removing  or  springing 


304 


FALCO  PEREGRINUS. 


the  trap.  Some  hours  after  the  Falcon  arrived,  alighted  near 
his  prey,  examined  the  barrier,  and  essaying  the  entrance, 
touched  the  fatal  spring,  and  was  a  prisoner.  It  frequently 
preys  on  the  domestic  pigeon,  either  driving  it  to  the  ground, 
or  trussing  it  in  the  air,  and  carries  it  off  to  some  quiet  place. 
In  this  district  it  usually  goes  by  the  name  of  King  Hawk. 

Mr  Thompson,  in  the  second  volume  of  the  Magazine  of 
Zoology  and  Botany,  gives  a  number  of  very  interesting  anec¬ 
dotes  illustrative  of  the  habits  of  this  bird,  one  of  which  I  take 
the  liberty  of  transferring  to  this  page.  “  Mr  Sinclaire,  when 
once  exercising  his  dogs  on  the  Belfast  mountains,  towards  the 
end  of  July,  preparatory  to  grouse-shooting,  saw  them  point, 
and  on  coming  up  he  startled  a  male  Peregrine  Falcon  off  a 
grouse  (Tetrao  Scoticus)  just  killed  by  him,  and  very  near  the 
same  place  he  came  upon  the  female  bird,  also  on  a  grouse. 
Although  my  friend  lifted  both  the  dead  birds,  the  hawks  con¬ 
tinued  flying  about,  and  on  the  remainder  of  the  pack,  which 
lay  near,  being  sprung  by  the  dogs,  either  three  or  four  more 
grouse  were  struck  down  by  them,  and  thus  two  and  a  half 
or  three  brace  were  obtained  by  means  of  these  wild  birds,  being 
more  than  had  ever  been  procured  out  of  a  pack  of  grouse  by 
his  trained  falcons/1  This  is  a  striking  example  of  the  disre¬ 
gard  for  the  presence  of  man  which  a  very  shy  bird  will  occa¬ 
sionally  exhibit  when  impelled  by  the  cravings  of  appetite. 
An  eagle  has  seized  a  domestic  fowl  almost  in  the  midst  of  a 
number  of  people,  and  another  has  carried  off  a  grouse  just 
disabled  by  a  shot ;  and  yet  were  one  to  attempt  to  approach 
an  eagle  when  not  occupied,  he  would  find  his  endeavours 
fruitless. 

The  Peregrine  Falcon  appears  to  be  at  least  as  common  in 
North  America  as  in  Europe.  The  birds  of  both  regions  are 
those  which  have  been  most  minutely  and  correctly  described, 
and  it  is  to  a  Scotchman  that  the  world  is  indebted  for  the  first 
accurate  account  of  those  of  the  United  States.  Wilson,  how¬ 
ever,  knew  very  little  of  the  Peregrine  Falcon,  which  has  been 
better  studied  by  his  successor  Mr  Audubon,  who  states  that  in 
America  its  habits  are  precisely  the  same  as  in  Europe.  “  Hav¬ 
ing  arrived  within  a  few  feet  of  the  prey,  the  Falcon  is  seen 


PEREGRINE  FALCON. 


305 


protruding  his  powerful  legs  and  talons  to  their  full  stretch. 
His  wings  are  for  a  moment  almost  closed  ;  the  next  instant 
he  grapples  the  prize,  which,  if  too  weighty  to  be  carried  off 
directly,  he  forces  obliquely  toward  the  ground,  sometimes  a 
hundred  yards  from  where  it  was  seized,  to  kill  it,  and  devour 
it  on  the  spot.  Should  this  happen  over  a  large  extent  of  water, 
the  Falcon  drops  his  prey,  and  sets  off  in  quest  of  another.  On 
the  contrary,  should  it  not  prove  too  heavy,  the  exulting  bird 
carries  it  off  to  a  sequestered  and  secure  place.  He  pursues 
the  smaller  Ducks,  Water-hens,  and  other  swimming  birds, 
and  if  they  are  not  quick  in  diving,  seizes  them,  and  rises  with 
them  from  the  water.  I  have  seen  this  hawk  come  at  the 
report  of  a  gun,  and  carry  off  a  Teal  not  thirty  steps  distant 
from  the  sportsman  who  had  killed  it,  with  a  daring  assurance 
as  surprising  as  unexpected.’’1  In  Labrador  and  Newfoundland, 
where  he  found  it  more  abundant  than  elsewhere,  u  the  nests 
were  placed  on  the  shelves  of  rocks,  a  few  feet  from  the  top, 
and  were  flat,  and  rudely  constructed  of  sticks  and  moss.  In 
some  were  found  four  eggs,  in  others  only  two,  and  in  one  five  ; 
in  one  nest  only  a  single  young  bird  was  found.  The  eggs  vary 
considerably  in  colour  and  size,  which  I  think  is  owing  to  a 
difference  of  size  in  the  females,  the  eggs  of  young  birds  being 
smaller.  The  average  length  of  four  was  two  inches,  their 
breadth  an  inch  and  five-eighths.  They  are  somewhat  rounded, 
though  larger  at  one  end  than  the  other  ;  their  general  and 
most  common  colour  is  a  reddish  or  rusty  yellowish-brown, 
spotted  and  confusedly  marked  with  darker  tints  of  the  same, 
here  and  there  intermixed  with  lighter.  The  young  are  at  first 
thickly  covered  with  soft  white  down.  They  take  food  almost 
immediately  after  being  removed  from  the  nest.  Remains  of 
Ducks,  Willow  Grouse,  and  young  Gulls  were  found  about 
the  nests,  which  are  easily  discovered  by  the  excrements  on  the 
rocks.'” 

In  the  olden  times,  when  ferocious  feuds  afforded  occupa¬ 
tion  to  the  nobility,  and  when  even  the  pursuits  of  peaceful 
days  had  reference  to  bloodshed,  hawking  was  a  favourite 
amusement  with  those  whose  rank  entitled  them  to  engage  in 

o  o 

it.  Various  species  of  predatory  birds  were  trained  for  this 

VOL.  III. 


x 


306 


FALCO  PEREGRINUS. 


purpose,  and  among  the  most  esteemed  was  the  Peregrine  Fal¬ 
con,  which  being  easily  procured,  remarkable  for  docility,  and 
by  its  expertness  in  the  art  of  destruction  well  qualified  to  af¬ 
ford  amusement,  not  to  barons  bold  only,  but  to  gentle  dames, 
was  the  kind  commonly  employed.  The  female,  or  Falcon  pro¬ 
perly  so  called,  was  flown  at  Herons,  Geese,  Ducks,  and  in 
general  the  larger  sorts  of  birds,  while  to  the  male,  who,  from 
being  about  a  third  smaller,  was  called  the  Tiercel  or  Tiercelet, 
were  allotted  partridges  and  other  small  game.  When  old  the 
bird  was  a  Hagard,  when  well  trained  and  handsome  a  Gentle 
Falcon  (bien  fait,  bien  dresse,  d'une  jolie  figure),  when  in  its 
first  plumage  a  Red  Falcon.  Many  other  names  were  em¬ 
ployed,  which,  having  been  taken  up  by  the  ornithologists, 
gave  rise  to  much  misconception ;  although  of  late  years  the 
intricacies  resulting  from  the  errors  of  describers  have  been 
unravelled,  and  the  Peregrine  Falcon  in  all  its  stages  is  now 
simply  the  Peregrine  Falcon.  It  is  from  this  species  that  the 
art  of  Falconry  derives  its  name,  although  it  appears  that  two 
others,  superior  in  size,  and  at  least  equal  in  courage  and 
strength,  were  employed,  namely,  the  Iceland  or  Gyr  Falcon, 
also  named  the  White  Falcon,  and  the  Lanner.  “  The  Fal¬ 
con, ^  says  Button,  “  is  perhaps  the  most  courageous  of  all 
birds  in  proportion  to  its  size  ;  it  throws  itself  directly  and  per¬ 
pendicularly  upon  its  prey,  whereas  the  Goshawk  and  most 
other  birds  of  prey  come  laterally  upon  it ;  it  falls  like  a  shot 
upon  its  victim,  kills  it,  eats  it  on  the  spot  if  it  be  large,  or,  if 
it  be  not  too  heavy,  carries  it  off  rising  perpendicularly.  It  is 
seen  all  of  a  sudden  pouncing  upon  its. prey,  as  if  it  fell  from 
the  clouds,  for  it  comes  from  such  a  height,  and  in  so  short 
a  time,  that  its  appearance  is  always  unforeseen,  and  often  un¬ 
expected.  It  is  frequently  seen  to  attack  the  Kite,  but  it  treats 
him  as  a  coward,  chases  him,  strikes  him  with  disdain,  and 
does  not  put  him  to  death.”  Although  the  eloquent  Count 
is  not  always  to  be  trusted,  such,  according  to  other  authors,  is 
the  style  of  hunting  of  the  Falcon,  which  in  pursuing  its  prey 
advances  directly  towards  it,  keeping  above  its  level,  and  sud¬ 
denly  closing  its  wings,  dashing  down  upon  it,  and  either  clutch¬ 
ing  it  and  bearing  it  away,  or  driving  it  to  the  ground,  or  in  the 


PEREGRINE  FALCON. 


307 


case  of  a  large  bird,  as  the  Heron,  grappling  it  and  descending 
with  it.  It  is  not  by  coming  against  it  with  its  breast,  nor  by 
hitting  it  with  its  wings,  nor  by  tearing  it  with  its  bill,  that  it 
destroys  its  prey,  but  by  grasping  it  with  its  long  toes,  and 
thrusting  into  its  vitals  its  curved  and  pointed  claws.  The  art 
of  Falconry  has  of  late  years  been  partially  revived. 

Since  the  above  was  in  types  I  have  been  favoured  by  Mr  Weir 
with  the  following  note : — “That  the  Peregrine  Falcon  is  able  to 
carry  a  weight  nearly  equal  to  its  own,  and  that  for  a  distance  of 
a  considerable  number  of  miles,  is  proved  by  the  following  fact. 
Mr  George  Craven,  gamekeeper  to  P.  G.  Skene,  Esq.  of  Pit- 
lour,  Fifeshire,  informed  me  that  in  the  first  week  of  June 
1829  he  took  out  of  one  of  their  nests,  which  he  discovered  in 
the  Isle  of  May,  an  old  cock  Red  Grouse.  He  likewise  saw 
the  bones  of  several  birds  of  the  same  species.  He  also  in¬ 
formed  me  that  the  female  generally  lays  her  eggs  in  April, 
and  that  they  are  two,  three,  and  sometimes  four.  They  have 
usually  two  young  ones,  and  seldom  three.  They  sit  on  the 
eggs  one  month.  The  young  are  ready  to  be  taken  for  taming 
in  the  second  week  of  J une,  and  are  able  to  fly  about  the  be¬ 
ginning  of  July.  For  some  time  past  he  has  been  in  quest  of 
them  for  the  Duke  of  St  Albans,  who  is  Falconer  to  her  Ma¬ 
jesty.  These  falcons  he  says  are  now  very  scarce,  there  being 
only  one  pair  for  four  which  he  has  formerly  seen.  Almost 
all  the  former  breeding  places  have  been  unproductive  theso 
two  last  years.  The  places  in  which  he  has  seen  eyries  aro 
the  Isle  of  May,  the  Bass  Rock,  King  Craig  near  Kilconquhar, 
the  Lomonds,  the  rock  at  Newburgh,  Benerty  Rock  near  Kin¬ 
ross,  Glenturit,  and  many  parts  of  the  Highlands.11 

Young. — The  young  when  completely  fledged  are  as  follows. 
The  bill  is  light  greyish-blue,  with  only  a  small  portion  of  the 
tip  dusky,  the  edges  of  the  upper  mandible,  and  the  base  of  the 
lower  yellowish  ;  the  cere  greenish-blue  ;  the  iris  dark  brown ; 
the  feet  greyish-blue,  tinged  with  yellow,  and  the  edges  of  the 
scutella  yellowish ;  the  claws  brownish-black.  The  upper 
parts  are  deep  greyish-black,  all  the  feathers  marginally  tipped 
with  light  red  ;  those  on  the  nape  with  a  large  portion  of  that 


308 


FALCO  PEREGRINUS. 


colour,  of  which  there  is  also  a  band  over  the  eyes.  The 
feathers  gradually  become  grey  toward  the  base  ;  the  scapulars 
have  several  light  red  spots  toward  the  margins ;  the  primaries 
are  black,  their  inner  webs  marked  with  transverse  light  red 
spots,  of  which  there  are  ten  on  the  first  cpiill ;  the  secondaries 
are  similarly  marked  on  their  inner  webs,  and  on  the  outer 
have  very  inconspicuous  spots  of  the  same.  The  tail  is  black, 
shaded  with  grey,  tipped  with  reddish-white,  and  barred  with 
spots  of  light  red,  of  which  there  are  five  on  each  web  of  the 
middle  feathers,  and  seven  on  those  of  the  outer,  the  spots  on 
the  outer  webs  being  small  and  roundish,  on  the  inner  trans¬ 
verse.  The  mystachial  band  is  black  ;  the  lower  parts  reddish- 
white,  with  longitudinal  brownish-black  streaks,  which  are 
broader  on  the  sides,  some  of  the  elongated  feathers  of  which 
are  of  that  colour,  with  lateral  round  spots  of  light  red ;  the 
lower  tail -coverts,  however,  are  barred  with  greyish-black  ; 
the  lower  wing-coverts  variegated  with  reddish-white  and 
greyish-black.  The  females  have  the  upper  parts  somewhat 
tinged  with  brown.  Individuals  vary  in  tint,  and  in  the  mark¬ 
ings,  especially  of  the  tail,  which  are  more  or  less  extended 
across  the  webs. 

Progress  toward  Maturity. — At  the  second  moult,  the 
birds  assume  the  colouring  described  as  peculiar  to  the  adult, 
differing  only  in  having  the  markings  on  the  lower  parts  larger, 
and  the  upper  parts  less  blue.  The  tint  becomes  purer  and 
lighter  as  the  birds  advance  in  age. 


Fig.  225. 


309 


FALCO  SUBBUTEO.  THE  HOBBY  FALCON. 


Falco  Subbuteo.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  127. 

Falco  Subbuteo.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  47, 

Hobby.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Faucon  Hobereau.  Falco  Subbuteo.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  25  ;  II.  12. 
Hobby.  Falco  Subbuteo.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  43. 

Falco  Subbuteo.  Hobby.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  82. 


Wings  when  closed  extending  beyond  the  tail.  Male  with  a 
black  cheek-band ,  the  upper  parts  greyish-black ,  the  lower  yellowish- 
white ,  with  longitudinal  brownish-black  streaks ,  the  lower  tail- 
coverts  and  tibial  feathers  red.  Female  with  the  upper  parts 
dark  brown ,  the  loicer  reddish-white ,  with  broader  dark  brown 
markings ,  the  lower  tail-coverts  and  tibial  feathers  of  a  lighter  red. 

Male. — The  Hobby  bears  a  striking  resemblance  to  the 
Peregrine  Falcon,  but  is  much  inferior  in  size,  and  differs  in 
having  the  wings  longer,  and  the  lower  parts  longitudinally 
streaked.  The  head  is  large,  roundish,  and  flattened  above  ; 
the  neck  short ;  the  body  ovate.  The  bill  is  short  and  strong ; 
the  upper  mandible  with  its  dorsal  outline  decurved  from  the 
base,  its  sides  convex,  the  edges  with  a  slight  festoon,  and  a 
prominent  angular  process,  the  tip  trigonal ;  the  lower  man¬ 
dible  with  the  angle  short  and  wide,  the  dorsal  line  convex, 
the  back  broad  and  rounded,  the  edges  inflected,  with  a  semi¬ 
circular  notch  on  each  side  close  to  the  directly  truncate  tip. 
Internally  the  upper  mandible  lias  a  strong  central  ridge,  the 
lower,  which  is  deeply  concave,  an  elevated  central  line.  The 
tongue  is  fleshy,  oblong,  sagittate  and  papillate  at  the  base, 
concave  above,  horny  with  a  median  groove  beneath,  its  tip 
rounded  and  emarginate.  The  tarsi  are  feathered  anteriorly 
for  a  third  of  their  length,  short,  slender,  compressed  behind, 
covered  before  and  on  the  sides  with  angular  scales,  of  which 
five  over  the  joint  are  scutelliform.  The  toes  are  slender,  con- 


310 


FALCO  SUBBUTEO. 


nected  at  the  base  by  short  webs,  the  first  strong,  the  fourth 
considerably  longer  than  the  second,  the  third  much  longer ; 
the  hind  toe  with  eight  scutella,  the  second  with  twelve,  the 
third  eighteen,  the  fourth  fourteen. 

On  the  upper  parts  the  plumage  is  firm  and  rather  compact, 
on  the  lower  rather  blended.  The  cere  is  for  the  most  part 
bare  ;  the  loral  space  covered  with  diverging  bristle-tipped 
plumelets.  The  feathers  of  the  head  are  short  and  rounded, 
of  the  back  oblong,  as  are  those  of  the  breast,  of  the  sides  of 
the  body  and  outer  part  of  the  tibia  elongated.  The  wings  are 
very  long,  narrowed  toward  the  end,  and  pointed  ;  the  second 
quill  longest,  but  not  much  exceeding  the  first,  which  has  the 
inner  web  abnqdly  cut  out  toward  the  end.  The  tail  is  rather 
long,  slightly  rounded  ;  the  feathers  broad,  rounded,  but  when 
new  acuminate. 

The  bill  is  light  blue  at  the  base,  bluish-black  toward  the 
end  ;  the  cere,  eyelids,  and  feet  yellow,  the  claws  black.  The 
general  colour  of  the  upper  parts  is  greyish-black,  the  shafts  of 
the  feathers  darker,  and  their  margins  of  a  paler  tint ;  the  hind 
part  of  the  neck  above  the  middle  white ;  the  quills  black, 
with  transverse  yellowish-brown  spots  on  the  inner  webs  ;  the 
tail  dark  brownish-grey,  the  inner  webs  of  all  the  feathers,  ex¬ 
cepting  the  two  middle,  with  transverse  reddisli-white  marks  ; 
the  throat  and  sides  of  the  neck  are  white  ;  a  mystacliial  black 
band  proceeds  from  the  angle  of  the  mouth  on  each  side  ;  the 
breast  and  abdomen  are  yellowish-white,  with  longitudinal 
dark-brown  streaks  ;  the  tibial  feathers,  and  the  lower  tail- 
coverts  bright  orange-red. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  12  inches,  extent  of  wings  26  ;  wing 
from  flexure  10  ;  tail  5  b  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  T9?,  along  the 
edge  of  lower  mandible  T9?  ;  tarsus  1T53  ;  hind  toe  T65  ,  its 
claw  t5|  ;  second  toe  its  claw  ;  third  toe  1t4j,  its  claw  T5| ; 
fourth  toe  1^,  its  claw  T%. 

Female. — The  female,  which  is  considerably  larger,  resem¬ 
bles  the  male  in  colour,  differing  only  in  having  the  upper  parts 
tinged  with  brown,  the  lower  reddish- white,  the  tibial  feathers 
and  lower  tail-coverts  of  a  lighter  red,  and  the  tail  obscurely 


HOBBY  FALCON. 


311 


marked  with  darker  bands.  The  other  markings  are  nearly 
as  in  the  male,  but  those  on  the  lower  parts  are  broader. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  Id  inches,  extent  of  wings  28  ;  wing 
from  flexure  10  j  ;  tail  6  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  ;  tarsus  1^  ; 
middle  toe  and  claw  2. 

Habits. — Few  instances  of  the  occurrence  of  this  bird  in 
England  have  been  recorded,  and  I  have  never  seen  an  indi¬ 
vidual  procured  in  Scotland.  In  the  former  country  it  is  sup¬ 
posed  to  arrive  in  April,  and  depart  toward  the  end  of  October, 
“  about  the  time  the  Merlin  arrives  in  the  southern  parts.'”  It 
seems  to  prefer  inland  situations,  and  is  said  by  Montagu  to 
build  in  trees,  sometimes  taking  possession  of  a  crow's  deserted 
nest.  The  eggs,  three  or  four  in  number,  are  broadly  elliptical, 
bluish-white,  blotched  with  greenish-brown.  Of  two  specimens 
from  France  examined  by  me,  one  measured  an  inch  and  eight 
twelfths,  the  other  an  inch  and  five  twelfths  in  length,  while 
the  greatest  breadth  of  both  was  an  inch  and  two  and  a  half 
twelfths.  Its  habits  have  not  been  well  described  by  those  who 
have  had  opportunities  of  observing  them  in  Britain,  but  its 
flight  is  said  to  be  extremely  rapid,  and  its  courage  inferior  to 
that  of  no  other  species,  so  that  when  hawking  was  in  vogue, 
it  was  trained  for  the  chase,  although  it  does  not  appear  to  have 
been  a  favourite.  Its  food  consists  of  small  birds  and  insects. 
u  We  have  frequently,”  says  Montagu,  “  witnessed  the  flight 
of  this  species  in  pursuit  of  a  Sky-lark,  which  appears  to  be  its 
favourite  game  ;  and  it  is  astonishing  to  observe  how  dexter¬ 
ously  the  little  bird  avoids  the  fatal  stroke  until  it  becomes 
fatigued.  A  Hobby  in  pursuit  of  a  Lark  was  joined  by  a  Hen- 
Harrier,  who  not  being  so  rapid  on  wing,  was  usually  behind, 
and  ready  to  avail  himself  of  the  sudden  turns  the  unfortunate 
Lark  was  compelled  to  make  to  avoid  the  talons  of  the  Hobby ; 
however,  after  numberless  evolutions,  the  Hen-Harrier  relin¬ 
quished,  being  unequal  to  the  chase,  and  left  the  deadly  stroke 
to  one  better  adapted  for  rapid  and  durable  flight,  and  aerial 
evolutions.  The  country  was  open,  and  as  far  as  the  eye  could 
discern  the  chase  continued,  but  doubtless  without  a  chance  of 
the  Lark's  avoiding  the  fatal  blow.”  The  northern  limits  of  the 


312 


FALCO  SUBBUTFO. 


range  of  this  species  in  Britain,  in  so  far  as  is  known,  are  the 
counties  of  Durham  and  Cumberland.  It  is  said  to  be  gene¬ 
rally  distributed  over  the  continent  of  Europe,  extending  in 
summer  to  Denmark,  Sweden,  and  Norway,  and  specimens 
have  been  received  from  India. 

Young. — When  fully  fledged  the  young  have  the  upper  parts 
brownish  black,  but  with  the  margins  of  all  the  feathers  yel- 
lowisli-white.  The  forehead  and  a  line  over  the  eyes  are  yel¬ 
lowish-grey.  The  quills  have  their  inner  webs  marked  as  in 
the  adult,  and  their  tips  reddish- white,  as  are  those  of  the  tail- 
feathers,  which  are  marked  with  transverse  bands  of  light  red, 
disappearing  at  the  inner  third  of  the  outer  web,  the  two  mid¬ 
dle  feathers  plain.  The  throat  is  yellowish- white,  and  that 
colour  extends  in  a  band  over  the  hind-neck  ;  the  mystachial 
bands  are  narrow ;  the  breast  and  abdomen  yellowish- white, 
with  longitudinal  dark  brown  streaks ;  the  tibial  feathers  pale 
yellowish -red,  streaked  like  the  breast ;  the  lower  tail-coverts 
yellowish-white,  with  the  shafts  brown. 


313 


FALCO  VESPERTINUS.  THE  ORANGE-LEGGED 

FALCON. 

RED-LEGGED  OR  RED-FOOTED  FALCON.  ORANGE-LEGGED  HOBBY. 

Falco  vespertinus.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  129. 

Falco  vespertinus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  46. 

Faucon  a  pieds  rouges  ou  Kobez.  Falco  rufipes.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  33. 
Orange-legged  Hobby.  Falco  rufipes.  Selb,  Illustr.  I.  45. 

Falco  rufipes.  Red-legged  Falcon.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  83. 


Whigs  when  closed  about  the  same  length  as  the  tail.  Male 
with  the  'plumage  of  a  uniform  deep  greyish-blue ,  excepting  that 
of  the  abdomen  and  legs ,  and  the  lower  tail-coverts ,  which  are  bright 
yellowish-red ;  cere  orange-red ,  feet  reddish  flesh-colour.  Female 
with  the  upper  part  of  the  head  and  the  hind-neck  yellowish-red , 
the  back  greyish-blue ,  barred  with  black ,  the  tail  bluish-grey  with 
black  bands ,  the  lower  parts  light  yellowish-red ,  with  oblong  brown 
spots.  Young  with  the  head,  reddish-brown  with  black  shaft-lines  ; 
the  feathers  of  the  back  deep  bro  wn  edged  with  light  red ,  the  space 
about  the  eyes  blackish ,  the  lower  parts  yellowish-white ,  with  lon¬ 
gitudinal  brown  spots. 

Male. — The  Orange-legged  Falcon  is  similar  in  form  to  the 
Hobby,  but  is  easily  distinguished  in  all  stages  by  its  colours, 
which  differ  from  those  of  any  other  British  species.  The  head 
is  rather  large  and  round ;  the  bill  very  short  and  strong ;  the 
upper  mandible  with  the  dorsal  line  decurved  from  the  base, 
the  sides  convex,  the  edges  with  a  distinct  festoon,  and  a  nar¬ 
row  dentiform  process,  the  tip  trigonal  and  acute,  the  lower 
mandible  with  the  angle  short  and  very  broad,  the  dorsal  line 
convex,  the  back  broad  and  rounded,  the  sides  convex,  the 
edges  inflected,  with  a  semicircular  notch  on  each  side  close 
to  the  directly  truncate  tip.  The  tarsi  are  slender,  feather¬ 
ed  anteriorly  for  more  than  a  third  down,  covered  in  the 


314 


FALCO  VESPERTJNUS. 


rest  of  their  extent  with  angular  scales,  of  which  four  on  the 
inner  and  fore  part  are  larger,  and  three  over  the  joint  scutelli- 
form.  The  toes  are  slender,  the  anterior  connected  by  short 
basal  webs,  the  hind  toe  short,  with  five  scutella,  the  second 
shorter  than  the  fourth,  and  with  eight,  the  third  with  thir¬ 
teen,  the  fourth  with  six  scutella.  The  claws  are  slender, 
compressed,  acuminate,  curved  in  the  fourth  of  a  circle. 

On  the  head  and  neck  the  plumage  is  blended,  on  the  back 
rather  compact,  on  the  lower  parts  rather  loose ;  the  feathers 
in  general  ovate  and  rounded  ;  the  greater  part  of  the  cere  is 
bare  ;  the  loral  space  covered  with  divergent  bristle-tipped 
plumelets.  The  eyelids  are  bare,  but  furnished  with  cilise.  The 
wings  are  long  and  pointed  ;  the  quills  twenty-three,  the  second 
longest,  the  first  five-twelfths  shorter  than  the  second,  two- 
twelfths  shorter  than  the  third,  and  having  the  inner  web 
abruptly  cut  out  to  the  distance  of  an  inch  and  a  half  from  the 
end,  the  second  with  the  inner  web  narrowed.  The  tail  is 
long,  somewhat  rounded,  the  middle  feathers  being  three- 
fourths  of  an  inch  longer  than  the  lateral. 

The  bill  is  pale  yellow  at  the  base,  yellowish-brown  toward 
the  end  ;  the  cere  and  eyelids  orange  ;  the  feet  light  yellowish- 
red,  the  claws  pale  yellow,  with  their  tips  brown.  The  general 
colour  of  the  plumage  is  deep  greyish-blue  ;  the  quills  lighter, 
with  their  shafts  brownish-black  ;  the  tail  blackish-blue  ;  the 
abdominal,  tibial,  and  subcaudal  feathers,  light  yellowish-red. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  12  inches,  to  end  of  wings  Ilf  ;  wing 
from  flexure  9,  tail  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  along  the 
edge  of  lower  mandible  ;  tarsus  1T%  ;  first  toe  T52,  its  claw 
t55  ;  second  toe  its  claw  ;  third  toe  l^g,  its  claw  T62  ; 
fourth  toe  its  claw  T\. 

Female. — The  adult  female  has  the  bare  parts  coloured  as 
in  the  male.  The  upper  part  of  the  head  and  the  hind-neck 
are  light  brownish-red  ;  the  back,  wing-coverts,  and  secondary 
quills  leaden  grey,  transversely  barred  with  bluish-black  ;  the 
tail  light  grey  barred  with  black,  there  being  ten  bars  on  the 
lateral  feathers,  and  the  two  middle  feathers  being  more  faintly 
marked  ;  the  primary  quills  greyish-black,  but  their  inner 


ORANGE-LEGGED  FALCON. 


315 


webs  barred,  with  paler  intervals.  The  cheeks  and  throat  are 
white  ;  the  eyes  encircled  with  black,  of  which  there  is  also  a 
short  mystachial  band  ;  the  breast  and  sides  pale  red,  with  red¬ 
dish  brown  longitudinal  streaks  ;  the  tibial  feathers  plain  red¬ 
dish,  the  abdomen  and  lower  tail- coverts  lighter  ;  the  lower 
wing-coverts  rufous,  with  dark-brown  transverse  bars ;  the 
lower  surface  of  the  primaries  greyish-white,  with  transverse 
bars  of  black  ;  that  of  the  tail  bluish-grey  with  bars  of  bluish- 
black,  the  last  bar  larger. 

1  G 

Length  to  end  of  tail  13  inches  ;  wing  from  flexure  9^  ; 
tail  5^  ;  bill  ;  tarsus  ;  middle  toe  1TC,  its  claw 

Habits. — It  is  to  Mr  Yarrell  that  we  are  indebted  for  the 
first  notice  of  the  occurrence  of  this  beautiful  falcon  in  Britain. 
In  the  fourth  volume  of  Mr  Loudon's  Magazine  of  Natural 
History,  he  states  that  three  individuals,  an  adult  male,  an 
adult  female,  and  a  young  male,  were  obtained  in  May  1830, 
at  Horning,  in  Norfolk,  and  that  a  female  was  shot  in  Ilolk- 
ham  Park.  Another  individual,  he  informs  us,  was  shot  in 
the  same  county  in  1832.  Two  specimens  obtained  in  York¬ 
shire,  one  in  the  county  of  Durham,  and  two  more,  one  of 
which  was  kept  two  years  in  the  Menagerie  of  the  Zoological 
Society,  the  other  obtained  in  the  neighbourhood  of  Devon- 
port,  complete  the  list  of  individuals  procured  in  England. 
None  have  hitherto  been  found  in  Scotland,  and  only  one  is 
recorded  as  having  been  killed  in  Ireland.  According  to  M. 
Temminck,  it  inhabits  woods  and  thickets,  and  is  common  in 
Russia,  Poland,  Austria,  Tyrol,  Switzerland,  and  the  dis¬ 
tricts  on  the  northern  side  of  the  Appenines.  It  is  said  to 
feed  on  small  birds  and  coleopterous  insects,  and  to  nestle  in 
trees ;  but  its  habits  have  not  been  fully  described. 

Young. — When  fledged,  the  young  are  described  by  Mr 
Yarrell  as  follows  :  “  The  top  of  the  head  reddish-brown  with 
dusky  streaks ;  the  eyes  encircled  with  black,  with  a  small 
pointed  moustache  descending  from  the  anterior  part  of  the  eye  ; 
ear-coverts  white  ;  upper  surface  of  the  body  dark-brown  ;  the 
feathers  ending  with  reddish-brown  ;  wing  primaries  dusky 


316 


FALCO  VESPERTINUS. 


black,  the  inner  edges  and  tips  huffy  white  ;  the  tail-feathers 
dark-brown,  with  numerous  transverse  bars  of  reddish-brown  ; 
throat  white  ;  sides  of  the  neck,  the  breast,  and  all  the  under 
surface  of  the  body,  pale  reddish- white,  with  brown  longitu¬ 
dinal  streaks  and  patches  on  the  breast ;  the  thighs  and  their 
long  feathers  uniform  pale  ferruginous  ;  beak,  cere,  irides,  and 
other  bare  parts  as  in  the  adult  female.11 

Remarks. — In  form  this  species  is  very  intimately  allied  to 
the  Hobby,  which  it  also  resembles  in  the  reddish  colour  of  the 
tibial  and  subcaudal  feathers.  It  is  proportionally  somewhat 
more  slender,  and  has  the  claws  smaller,  while  some  slight 
differences  in  the  scales  of  the  tarsus  are  also  observed.  The 
bird  to  which  the  adult  male  approaches  most  nearly  in  colour 
is  Harpagus  diodon,  in  which  the  festoon  of  the  bill  is  pro¬ 
longed  into  a  second  toothlike  process,  and  the  wings  shorter. 
In  respect  to  colour,  it  is  also  nearly  allied  to  Falco  plumbeus. 
The  specimens  from  which  I  have  taken  the  descriptions  of  the 
adult  male  and  female,  are  from  the  Continent. 


317 


FALCO  M SALON.  THE  MERLIN  FALCON. 

STONE  FALCON.  ROCK  HAWK.  SPARROW  HAWK 


Fjg. 226. 


Falco  Litho-falco.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  47.  Adult  Male. 

Falco  yEsalon.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  49.  Female  and  Young. 

Stone  Falcon.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet.  Append.  Adult  Male. 

Merlin.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet.  Adult  Male  and  Female. 

Faucon  Emerillon.  Falco  ^Esalon.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  27  ;  II.  13. 
Merlin.  Falco  Aisalon.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  51. 

Falco  Yisalon.  Merlin.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  83. 


The  icings  when  closed  about  an  inch  and  a  half  shorter  than 
the  tail ,  the  inner  webs  of  the  first  and  second  quills  abruptly  cut 
out  toward  the  end .  Male  with  the  upper  parts  deep  greyish- 
blue,  each  feather  with  a  black  central  line ,  the  tail  barred  with 
black ,  the  lower  parts  light  reddish-yellow ,  with  oblong  blackish- 
brown  spots.  Female  with  the  upper  parts  greyish-brown ,  the 
shaft-lines  darker ,  the  tail  barred  with  pale  reddish ,  the  lower 
parts  yellowish-white ,  with  large  longitudinal  markings.  Young 
with  the  upper  parts  brown ,  spotted  with  pale  red ,  the  lower 
reddish-white ,  marked  as  in  the  female. 

Male. — The  Merlin,  which  is  the  smallest  British  species  of 
its  genus,  is  a  very  beautiful  bird,  of  a  form  proport  ionally  as  com- 


318 


FALCO  AESALON. 


pact  and  muscular  as  the  Peregrine,  with  the  body  rather  short, 
ovate,  and  of  somewhat  greater  depth  than  breadth  anteriorly ; 
the  neck  short ;  the  head  large,  broadly  ovate  or  roundish,  and 
flattened  above.  The  bill  is  very  short  and  strong  ;  the  upper 
mandible  with  its  dorsal  outline  decurved  from  the  base,  in 
nearly  the  fourth  of  a  circle,  its  ridge  obtuse,  its  sides  convex, 
its  edges  sharp,  with  a  slight  festoon,  and  a  distinct  angular 
process,  its  tip  sharp-edged,  rather  flattened,  acute ;  the  lower 
mandible  with  the  angle  short  and  wide,  the  dorsal  line  con¬ 
vex,  the  sides  rounded,  the  edges  inflected,  with  a  semicircular 
notch  on  each  side  close  to  the  directly  truncate  tip. 

Internally  the  upper  mandible  has  a  strong  central  ridge ; 
the  lower,  which  is  deeply  concave,  an  elevated  line.  The  two 
longitudinal  palatal  ridges  are  minutely  papillate  ;  the  poste¬ 
rior  aperture  of  the  nares  oblong  behind,  linear  before.  The 
tongue  is  short,  fleshy,  sagittate  and  papillate  at  the  base,  ob¬ 
long,  channelled  above,  horny  with  a  median  groove  beneath, 
rounded  and  emarginate  at  the  end.  The  oesophagus  is  four 
inches  and  a  quarter  in  length,  wide,  dilated  on  the  lower  part 
of  the  neck  into  a  crop  an  inch  and  a  half  in  width,  then  con¬ 
tracted  to  ten-twelfths,  but  at  the  lower  part  enlarged.  The 
walls  are  thin,  the  mucous  coat  disposed  in  longitudinal  plaits, 
which  are  larger  and  more  numerous  in  the  crop,  but  dis¬ 
appear,  as  in  the  other  birds  of  prey,  when  the  organ  is  filled. 
The  proventricular  glands  form  a  belt  three  quarters  of  an  inch 
in  length,  which  has  six  shallow  longitudinal  grooves.  The 
stomach  is  roundish,  somewhat  compressed,  an  inch  and  a 
quarter  in  diameter  when  distended  ;  its  walls  thin,  the  mus¬ 
cular  coat  being  formed  of  a  single  series  of  fasciculi  ;  the  ten¬ 
dinous  spaces  five-twelfths  in  diameter.  The  pylorus  has  three 
small  knobs  or  valvular  prominences.  The  intestine  measures 
thirty-one  inches  in  length,  and  varies  from  three-twelfths  to 
a  twelfth  and  a  half  in  width,  until  the  rectum,  which  is  wider, 
gradually  dilates,  and  forms  a  globular  cloaca,  three-fourths  of 
an  inch  in  width.  The  coeca  are  extremelv  small,  forming  a 
shallow  sac,  not  more  than  half  a  twelfth  in  depth. 

The  eyes  are  large,  the  eyelids  furnished  with  short  ciliary 
bristles,  the  superciliary  ridge  bare  and  prominent.  The  nos- 


MERLIN  FALCON. 


319 


trils  roundish,  nearly  a  twelfth  in  diameter,  with  a  central  pa¬ 
pilla.  The  aperture  of  the  ear  roundish,  rather  large,  three- 
twelfths  in  length. 

The  tarsi,  which  are  feathered  anteriorly  more  than  a  third 
down,  are  short,  slender,  somewhat  compressed,  covered  with 
angular  scales,  of  which  the  anterior  are  much  larger,  and  four 
over  the  joint  are  scutellifonn.  The  toes  are  slender,  scutellato 
above,  prominently  padded  beneath,  the  anterior  connected  by 
short  basal  webs,  the  first  short,  with  eight,  the  second  con¬ 
siderably  shorter  than  the  outer,  and  with  ten,  the  third  long, 
with  twenty-one,  the  fourth  with  eleven  scutella.  The  claws 
are  well  curved,  long,  slender,  narrowed  beneath,  and  tapering 
to  a  fine  point. 

On  the  upper  parts  the  plumage  is  compact,  on  the  lower 
blended.  On  the  head  the  feathers  are  short,  ovato-lanceolate, 
and  acuminate,  on  the  other  parts  oblong,  on  the  sides  and 
outer  part  of  the  tibia  elongated.  The  cere  is  bare  above,  the 
loral  space  covered  with  radiating  bristle-tipped  plumelets. 
The  wings  are  long,  rather  broad,  narrowed  toward  the  end ; 
the  primaries  strong,  tapering,  obtuse,  the  second  longest,  the 
first  nine-twelfths,  the  second  one-twelfth  shorter;  the  first  and 
second  with  the  inner  web  abruptly  cut  out  near  the  end,  the 
third  slightly  sinuate ;  the  secondary  quills  thirteen,  broad, 
rounded,  and  somewhat  incurvate.  The  tail  is  long,  nearly  even, 
but  with  the  lateral  feathers  four-twelfths  shorter  than  the  next. 

The  bill  is  pale  blue  at  the  base,  bluish-black  toward  the 
end  ;  the  cere  and  bare  parts  about  the  eye  greenish-yellow ; 
the  irides  dark-brown  ;  the  feet  orange-yellow,  the  claws  black. 
The  inside  of  the  mandibles  is  pale  blue,  the  palate  of  a  dark 
leaden  blue,  the  tongue  flesh-coloured,  with  its  horny  part  blue. 
The  general  colour  of  the  upper  parts  is  a  deep  greyish  blue, 
each  feather  with  a  central  black  line.  The  anterior  part  of 
the  forehead,  the  loral  space,  and  the  cheeks  are  greyish- white, 
with  blackish  lines  ;  over  the  eye  is  a  greyish-white  line,  mar¬ 
gined  beneath  with  black,  of  which  there  is  also  a  semicircular 
line  anterior  to  the  eye.  On  the  hind-neck  is  a  broad  half 
collar  of  pale  red,  with  small  lanceolate  black  spots.  The 
edge  of  the  wings  is  whitish  ;  the  alula  and  primary  coverts 


320 


FALCO  iESALON. 


dark  greyish-blue,  the  outer  feather  of  each  spotted  with  white. 
The  primary  quills  are  blackish-brown  tinged  with  grey.  The 
outer  margin  of  the  first  spotted  with  white,  several  of  the  rest 
with  faint  bluish  spots  on  the  outer  web,  and  all  having  the 
inner  web  barred  with  white  ;  the  secondary  quills  of  the  same 
colour  as  the  back,  their  inner  webs  barred  with  white.  The 
tail  is  light  bluish-grey,  the  outer  with  eight,  the  middle  with 
six  black  bars,  of  which  the  last  is  very  broad,  the  tips  greyish- 
white  with  a  central  black  line.  The  throat  is  white ;  the 
rest  of  the  lower  parts  white  tinged  with  yellowish-red,  each 
feather  with  a  linear  brownish-black  spot,  the  markings  on  the 
neck  being  linear,  on  the  breast  lanceolate,  on  the  sides  broader. 
The  tibial  feathers  are  light  yellowisli-red,  and  their  dusky  lines 
are  small ;  those  of  the  abdomen  are  without  markings,  and 
the  lines  on  the  lower  tail-coverts  are  very  slender.  The  lower 
wing-coverts  are  variegated  with  reddish-brown  and  greyisli- 
wliite,  the  latter  in  roundish  spots  ;  the  lower  surface  of  the 
quills  and  tail-feathers  beautifully  barred  with  dark-grey  and 
greyish- white. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  11  inches;  to  end  of  wings  9 4  ;  ex¬ 
tent  of  wings  26  ;  wing  from  flexure  Si  ;  tail  5^  ;  bill  along 
the  ridge  T°3,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  T°3  ;  tarsus  1 T63  ; 
first  toe  t63,  its  claw  T7^  ;  second  toe  T83,  its  claw  ;  third 
toe  1t23,  its  claw  ;  fourth  toe  its  claw 

Female. — The  female,  which  is  much  larger  and  more  robust, 
differs  considerably  in  colour.  The  third  quill  is  one-twelfth 
of  an  inch  shorter  than  the  second,  which  exceeds  the  first  by 
ten  and  a  half  twelfths.  The  tail  is  slightly  rounded,  the  late¬ 
ral  feathers  being  nearly  a  quarter  of  an  inch  shorter  than  the 
middle.  The  bill  and  other  bare  parts  are  coloured  as  in  the 
male.  The  general  colour  of  the  upper  plumage  is  deep  brown 
tinged  with  blue,  each  feather  having  a  medial  black  line. 
Part  of  the  liind-neck  is  yellowish-white,  spotted  with  brown. 
Most  of  the  feathers  on  the  back  are  in  some  faint  decree  ter- 
minally  margined  with  reddish  ;  the  quills,  larger  coverts,  and 
alula,  have  a  regular  series  of  transversely  oblong  light  red 
spots  on  both  webs,  and  are  t  ipped  with  reddish -grey.  The 


MERLIN  FALCON. 


321 


primaries  and  tail  are  of  a  darker  tint  than  the  back  ;  the 
latter  with  eight  bands  on  the  lateral,  and  six  on  the  middle 
feathers,  of  pale  reddish  spots,  and  a  terminal  band  of  greyisli- 
wliite.  The  markings  on  the  face  are  as  in  the  male,  but 
larger ;  the  throat  is  yellowish- white,  bounded  on  each  side  by 
a  brown  mystachial  band.  The  lower  parts  are  pale  reddish- 
yellow,  with  numerous  brown  spots  larger  than  those  of  the 
male,  but  similarly  proportioned,  some  of  the  posterior  lateral 
feathers  with  two  round  white  spots  on  each  web.  The  lower 
wing-coverts  are  brownish-red,  spotted  with  yellowisli-white  ; 
and  the  lower  surface  of  the  quills  and  tail  dark  brownish- 
grey,  barred  with  light  red. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  12J  inches,  to  end  of  wings  11  ;  ex¬ 
tent  of  wings  29  ;  wing  from  flexure  9i  ;  tail  5 f  ;  bill  along 
the  ridge  1°|,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  J  J  ;  tarsus  lT7g  ; 
hind  toe  T72,  its  claw  ;  second  toe  {§,  its  claw  ;  third 
toe  ly|,  its  claw  ;  fourth  toe  its  claw  T72. 

Variations. — Males  vary  a  little  in  the  colour  of  the  upper 
parts,  which  in  old  individuals  is  of  a  fine  leaden  blue,  in 
younger  birds  tinged  with  brown.  The  bands  and  spots  on 
the  quills  and  tail-feathers  vary  in  form  and  extent ;  and  1 
have  seen  individuals  in  which  no  markings  remained  on  the 
tail  excepting  the  last  black  band,  and  others  in  which  they 
were  obliterated  on  the  middle  feathers  only.  The  red  tinge 
on  the  lower  parts  is  more  or  less  intense.  The  females  also 
vary,  but  only  in  slight  degrees,  the  upper  parts  in  old  indivi¬ 
duals  being  tinged  with  blue. 

Habits. — This  beautiful  little  Falcon  is  by  no  means  un¬ 
common  in  many  parts  of  Scotland.  In  the  Hebrides,  Shet¬ 
land  Islands,  and  various  districts  of  the  northern,  middle, 
and  southern  divisions  of  the  mainland,  it  is  now  and  then 
seen.  Mr  Selby  states  that  he  has  frequently  met  with  it 
in  the  north  of  England,  and  various  authors  have  described  it 
as  occurring  in  the  middle  and  southern  districts  in  winter,  but 
disappearing  toward  the  end  of  spring.  In  Scotland,  it  cer¬ 
tainly  remains  all  the  year  round,  for  I  have  seen  specimens 


VOL.  in. 


Y 


322 


FALCO  JESALON. 


killed  at  all  seasons.  Among  the  Pentland  Hills,  and  those  of 
the  Greywacke  range  extending  from  St  Abb\s  Head  westward, 
it  is  met  with  in  summer  dispersed  in  pairs  at  long  intervals  ; 
but  in  winter  it  forsakes  the  higher  grounds  and  betakes  itself 
to  the  plains. 

The  flight  of  this  species  more  resembles  that  of  the  Sparrow 
Hawk  than  of  the  Peregrine  Falcon.  It  sweeps  along,  at  no 
great  height,  glides  over  the  fields,  shoots  by  the  edge  of  the 
wood,  examines  the  thorn  fence,  and  sometimes  alights  on  a 
tree  or  wall,  as  if  to  survey  the  ground.  Although  it  may 
occasionally  pounce  on  a  partridge,  it  usually  preys  on  smaller 
birds,  such  as  larks,  thrushes,  chaffinches,  sandpipers,  snipes, 
and  plovers.  In  September  1832,  I  shot  at  Musselburgh  an 
individual  which  had  just  secured  a  sanderling  after  a  long 
pursuit.  In  the  island  of  Harris,  many  years  ago,  I  had  one 
which  had  come  to  the  ground  with  a  starling,  and  was  caught 
by  a  herd  boy.  The  crops  and  stomachs  of  all  those  which  I 
have  dissected  contained  exclusively  small  birds ;  but  it  is  said 
to  prey  upon  insects  also,  which  is  very  probable,  they  being  a 
favourite  food  of  most  small  hawks. 

The  place  which  the  Merlin  chooses  for  its  nest  is  some  re¬ 
tired  spot  among  the  hills,  generally  in  the  midst  of  heath  or 
on  rocky  ground.  The  nest  is  rudely  constructed  of  some  twigs 
and  tufts  of  heath,  and  the  eggs,  three  or  four  in  number,  great¬ 
ly  resemble  those  of  the  Kestrel,  being  broadly  elliptical,  about 
au  inch  and  seven-twelfths  in  length,  an  inch  and  two-twelfths 
in  breadth,  light  red,  or  reddish-white,  confusedly  dotted,  fre¬ 
quently  also  spotted  or  blotched,  with  deep  red.  Should  one 
approach  the  nest,  especially  when  there  are  young  in  it,  the 
Merlins  fly  around  and  over  head  with  great  anxiety,  uttering 
shrill  cries,  but  keeping  at  a  safe  distance. 

I  believe  there  are  few  additional  facts  to  be  gleaned  in  our 
best  ornithological  books,  and  my  correspondents  seem  to  have 
little  knowledge  of  the  Merlin,  for  the  only  one  who  has  sent 
me  some  notes  respecting  it  is  Mr  Hepburn,  who  says  : — cc  It 
is  a  rare  bird  in  East  Lothian,  where  it  is  named  the  Rock 
Hawk,  from  the  circumstance  of  its  nest  being  placed  on  the 
ground  amongst  rocks  in  such  situations  as  the  south  side  of 


MERLIN  FALCON. 


323 


Traprain  Law  and  the  craggy  acclivities  of  the  Garleton  Hills. 
Like  the  Sparrow  Hawk,  it  often  watches  its  prey,  previous 
to  making  the  fatal  swoop.  One  fine  day  in  August  1833,  as 
a  companion  and  I  were  rambling  about  the  environs  of  Had¬ 
dington,  he  shot  at  some  small  birds  in  a  hedge,  when  to  our 
surprise  and  delight  a  Rock  Hawk  tumbled  out  of  it.  Being 
apparently  but  slightly  wounded,  he  was  caged  with  a  Kestrel, 
but  refused  all  sustenance,  and  soon  died.  I  have  sometimes 
seen  a  Merlin  glide  into  one  of  the  tallest  trees  around  our 
dwelling,  survey  the  bushes  in  the  garden,  dart  on  his  prey, 
and  carry  it  off.  I  suspect  that  the  Merlins  migrate  from  this 
neighbourhood  in  winter,  but  they  are  so  rare  that  it  is  difficult 
to  be  assured  of  this.'” 

The  Merlin  was  formerly  trained  for  the  chase,  and  seems 
to  have  been  a  special  favourite  with  the  ladies  ;  but  it  was 
not  held  in  much  estimation  by  the  men,  as  it  is  hardly  quali¬ 
fied  to  kill  partridges.  It  is  said  to  be  generally  dispersed  over 
the  European  continent,  but  has  not  hitherto  been  found  in 
America,  the  individuals  alleged  to  have  been  met  with  there 
having  turned  out  to  be  Pigeon  Hawks. 

Young. — The  young,  when  fledged,  resemble  the  adult  fe¬ 
male,  but  have  the  upper  parts  spotted  with  red.  A  male  in 
my  collection,  and  which  I  obtained  when  newly  killed,  had 
the  bare  parts  as  in  the  adult,  but  the  cere  and  supraocular 
ridge  of  a  duller  tint.  The  general  colour  of  the  upper  parts 
is  dark  brown,  but  already  tinged  with  grey,  the  feathers  edged 
and  barred  with  pale  brownish-red,  those  on  the  back  having 
each,  one,  two,  four,  or  six  concealed  spots  of  that  colour.  The 
alula,  primary  coverts,  and  primary  quills  are  blackish-brown, 
spotted  on  both  webs  with  light  red,  the  secondaries  lighter ; 
all  the  quills  terminally  margined  with  reddish- white.  The 
tail  is  blackisli-brown,  barred,  the  middle  feathers  with  five, 
the  lateral  with  six  bands  of  light  red,  and  all  of  them  tipped 
with  reddish-white  over  the  eyes  and  on  the  hind-neck,  the 
bands  are  light  reddish,  spotted  with  dusky.  The  throat  is  yel¬ 
lowish-white  ;  the  cheeks  yellowisli-red,  streaked  with  brown, 
the  eye  margined  anteriorly  with  black.  The  lower  parts  are 


324 


FALCO  iESALON. 


pale  reddisli-yellow,  with  broad  longitudinal  streaks  of  dark 
umber  brown ;  the  lower  tail-coverts  and  some  of  the  abdomi¬ 
nal  feathers  without  markings,  and  those  on  the  tibial  feathers 
very  slender.  Some  of  the  feathers  on  the  sides  have  one  or 
two  pairs  of  round  spots.  The  lower  surface  of  the  wings  and 
tail  transversely  banded  with  dusky  grey  and  pale  reddish. 

A  female  individual  is  similar,  but  has  the  upper  parts  rather 
lighter,  the  lower  less  tinged  with  red,  and  the  markings  there 
of  a  lighter  brown ;  the  number  of  light  bands  on  the  lateral 
tail-feathers,  including  the  tip-band,  nine  ;  which  I  think  is 
invariably  the  number  in  old  and  young. 

Remarks. — The  Merlin  is  so  intimately  allied  to  the  Pigeon 
Hawk  of  America,  Falco  columbarius,  that  were  individuals 
of  both  species  presented  for  inspection,  it  would  be  very 
difficult  to  distinguish  them.  In  all  the  specimens  of  the  latter 
that  I  have  examined,  the  light  bands  on  the  tail-feathers  were 
fewer,  being  five  on  the  middle,  and  eight  on  the  lateral  feathers. 
Rut  I  know  very  few  instances  of  so  perfect  a  mutual  resem¬ 
blance  in  two  species  ;  and  it  is  therefore  not  altogether  im¬ 
probable  that  Falco  columbarius  may  exist  in  Britain,  as  the 
only  other  two  North  American  Falcons  occur  there. 

In  a  work  on  the  Rapacious  Birds  of  this  country  which  I 
published  some  years  ago,  I  remarked  that  I  had  not  met  with 
individuals  of  different  sexes  that  varied  much  in  size ;  but 
having  since  then  examined  a  great  number  of  individuals,  I 
am  now  of  opinion  that  the  male  is  generally  much  smaller 
than  the  female.  The  smallest  male  which  I  have  seen  mea¬ 
sured  eleven  and  a  quarter  inches  in  length,  and  the  largest 
female  thirteen  and  three  quarters ;  but  in  actual  bulk  their 
difference  was  very  great. 


325 


FALCO  TINNUNCULUS.  THE  KESTREL. 


KESTRIL,  KASTRIL,  KISTRIL.  WINDHOVER.  STONEGALL,  STEINGALL, 
STANNEL.  KEELIEi  SPARROW  HAWK.  CLAMHAN  RUADH. 


Fig.  227. 

Falco  Tinnunculus.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  127. 

Falco  Tinnunculus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  41. 

Kestrel.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

Faucon  Cresserelle.  Falco  Tinnunculus.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  29. 
Kestrel.  Falco  Tinnunculus.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  47. 

Falco  Tinnunculus.  Kestrel.  Jen.  Brit.  "Vert.  An.  84. 


The  wings  when  closed  about  two  inches  shorter  than  the  tail. 
Male  with  the  head ,  hind-neck ,  rump ,  and  tail  light  greyish- 
blue ,  the  latter  with  a  broad  subterminal  black  bar  ;  the  back 
and  wing-coverts  pale-red ,  with  oblong  or  triangular  dark  spots ; 
the  lower  parts  light  yellowish-red ,  with  longitudinal  linear  and 
guttiform  spots.  Female  with  all  the  upper  parts  light-red ,  with 
transverse  spots  and  bars  of  dark-brown ,  the  lower  parts  paler , 
with  oblong  dark  markings.  Young  similar  to  the  female ,  but 
with  the  spots  larger. 

Male. — The  Kestrel,  which  is  one  of  the  most  beautiful  of 
our  falcons,  may  be  described  as  to  form  and  proportions  in 


326 


FALCO  TINNUNCULUS. 


the  same  terms  as  the  Merlin  ;  the  body  being  moderately  full, 
the  neck  very  short,  the  head  large,  broad,  and  flattened  above. 
The  bill  is  short  and  strong ;  the  upper  mandible  with  its 
dorsal  line  decurved  from  the  base,  in  about  the  third  of  a 
circle,  its  sides  convex,  its  edges  sharp,  with  a  moderate  fes¬ 
toon,  and  a  distinct  angular  process,  the  tip  descending,  tri¬ 
gonal,  acute  ;  the  lower  mandible  with  the  angle  wide  and 
short,  the  dorsal  line  convex,  the  back  broad,  the  sides  con¬ 
vex,  the  edges  inflected,  with  a  semicircular  notch  on  each 
side  close  to  the  almost  directly  truncate  tip. 

Internally  the  upper  mandible  has  a  very  prominent  median 
ridge  ;  the  lower,  which  is  deeply  concave,  an  elevated  line. 
The  two  longitudinal  palatal  ridges  are  minutely  papillate  ;  the 
posterior  aperture  of  the  nares  narrow-oblong  behind,  linear 
before.  The  tongue  is  fleshy,  short,  emarginate  and  papillate 
behind,  channelled  above,  horny  beneath  with  a  median  groove, 
roundish  and  emarginate  at  the  end.  The  oesophagus  is  four 
inches  and  a  half  in  length,  dilates  into  a  crop  an  inch  and  a 
half  in  width,  then  contracts  to  half  an  inch,  again  dilates 
considerably  in  the  proventricular  part,  which  has  a  belt  of 
glandules  three  quarters  of  an  inch  in  breadth.  The  stomach 
is  roundish,  somewhat  compressed,  two  inches  in  diameter  ; 
its  muscular  coat  thin,  its  tendinous  spaces  about  half  an  inch 
in  diameter.  The  pylorus  has  three  valvular  knobs.  The 
intestine  is  two  feet  in  length,  four-twelfths  in  width  in  the 
duodenal  portion,  three-twelfths  toward  the  coeca,  which  are 
three-twelfths  in  length,  oblong  or  somewhat  tapering;  the 
cloaca!  dilatation  of  the  rectum  globular,  an  inch  and  a  quarter 
in  width. 

The  eyes  are  large  ;  the  supraocular  ridge  bare  and  promi¬ 
nent  ;  the  eyelids  with  short  ciliary  bristles.  The  nostrils  are 
round,  nearly  one-eightli  in  diameter.  The  aperture  of  the 
ear  roundish,  rather  large.  The  tarsi  are  feathered  anteriorly 
more  than  a  third  down,  rather  short,  slender,  covered  with 
angular  scales,  of  which  the  anterior  are  larger,  especially  a 
row  of  nine  on  the  inner  side,  which  are  almost  scutelliform, 
and  four  over  the  joint,  which  are  true  scutella.  The  toes 
are  of  moderate  length,  rather  slender,  scutellate  above,  tuber* 


KESTREL  FALCON. 


327 


culate  and  papillate  beneath,  the  third  and  fourth  connected 
by  a  very  short  basal  web ;  the  first  toe  short,  with  seven  scu- 
tella,  the  second  of  the  same  length  as  the  fourth,  with  nine, 
the  third  with  sixteen,  the  fourth  with  eleven  scutella.  The 
claws  are  moderately  curved,  long,  rather  slender,  narrowed 
beneath,  tapering  to  a  fine  point. 

The  cere  is  partially  bare  above,  as  is  the  lower  eyelid  :  the 
feathers  on  the  loral  space  and  at  the  base  of  the  bill,  bristle- 
tipped.  On  the  head,  the  feathers  are  short,  ovato-oblong, 
and  rather  rounded  ;  on  the  neck  more  elongated  ;  on  the  back 
broadly  oblong  and  obtuse ;  on  the  lower  parts  also  all  the 
feathers  are  oblong,  on  the  sides  of  the  body  and  outer  part  of 
the  tibia  elongated.  The  wings  are  long,  of  moderate  breadth, 
narrowed  toward  the  end  ;  the  primary  quills  of  moderate 
strength,  tapering,  and  obtuse  ;  the  second  longest,  the  third 
about  a  twelfth  shorter,  the  first  more  than  three  quarters  of 
an  inch  shorter  than  the  third  ;  the  first  and  second  with  the 
inner  web  abruptly  cut  out  toward  the  end  ;  the  secondary 
quills  thirteen,  broad,  and  rounded.  The  tail  is  long,  round¬ 
ed,  the  lateral  feathers  an  inch  and  a  quarter  shorter  than  the 
middle. 

The  bill  is  pale  greyish-blue,  toward  the  end  bluish-black, 
at  the  base  tinged  with  yellow ;  the  cere  and  bare  parts  about 
the  eye  pale  orange.  The  palate  flesh  coloured,  its  sides  pale 
blue.  Irides  hazel.  Tarsi  and  toes  orange  ;  claws  black  ; 
tinged  with  bluish-grey  at  the  base.  The  feathers  of  the  upper 
part  of  the  head,  and  hind  part  and  sides  of  the  neck  are  light 
greyisli-blue,  each  with  a  dusky  shaft-line  ;  the  cheeks  are  of 
the  same  colour  tinged  with  yellow ;  some  of  the  frontal 
feathers  are  yellowish.  The  lower  part  of  the  hind-neck,  the 
back,  and  the  upper  wing  coverts  are  light  red,  each  with  the 
shaft  dusky,  and  a  triangular  greyish-black  spot  near  the  end. 
The  primary  quills  and  their  coverts  are  greyish-black  tinged 
with  brown,  margined  with  paler,  their  inner  webs  with 
numerous  white  bars  confluent  on  the  margins,  there  being 
eight  on  the  first  quill ;  the  outer  secondary  quills  are  similar, 
and  the  inner  gradually  become  like  the  feathers  of  the  back. 
The  rump,  upper  tail-coverts,  and  tail,  are  light  greyisli-blue, 


328 


FALCO  T INN UNC ULUS. 


with  dusky  shaft  lines  ;  the  tail  with  a  subterminal  black  bar, 
an  inch  and  a  quarter  in  breadth,  the  tips  greyish- white.  The 
throat  is  yellowish- white.  Anterior  to  the  eye  is  a  semicircle 
of  black,  continuous  with  a  narrow,  broken  mystachial  band 
of  the  same.  The  lower  parts  are  pale  yellowish-red,  each 
feather  with  a  narrow  central  line  ending  in  a  lanceolate  or 
triangular  spot  of  brownish-black  ;  the  feathers  of  the  abdomen 
and  the  lower  tail-coverts  are  paler  and  unspotted,  those  of 
the  tibia  of  a  clearer  red,  some  of  them  with  a  dusky  line. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  13|  inches,  to  end  of  wings  lli  ;  ex¬ 
tent  of  wings  28 ;  wing  from  flexure  9f  ;  tail  6i ;  bill  along 
the  ridge  T9|,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  T8g  ;  tarsus  li  ; 
first  toe  T6^,  its  claw  ;  second  toe  T8g,  its  claw  ;  third 
toe  1,  its  claw  T72  ;  fourth  toe  its  claw 

Female. — The  female  differs  less  in  size  than  in  any  other 
British  species  of  the  genus ;  but  is  readily  distinguished  from 
the  male  by  having  all  the  upper  parts  light  red,  of  a  paler 
tint,  and  barred  with  dark  brown,  each  feather  of  the  back 
having  four  dark  and  three  red  bars,  exclusive  of  the  tip.  On 
the  scapulars  the  bars  are  more  numerous  ;  the  secondary 
quills  are  similarly  marked  ;  but  the  primary  quills  are  as  in 
the  male,  only  their  light  confluent  spots  being  more  or  less 
tinged  with  red.  The  head  and  hind-neck  are  longitudinally 
streaked  ;  the  rump  feathers  are  tinged  with  grey,  as  are  those 
of  the  tail ;  on  which  are  twelve  dusky  bars,  of  which  the  last 
is  about  three  quarters  of  an  inch  in  breadth,  the  tips  being 
whitish.  The  lower  parts  are  pale  yellowish-red  ;  the  throat 
and  abdomen  without  markings,  the  fore-neck  longitudinally 
streaked  with  dark  brown,  the  breast  with  guttiform  spots,  the 
feathers  of  the  sides  barred.  The  lower  wing-coverts  are  whitish, 
with  oblong  dusky  spots.  The  colours  of  the  bill,  eyelids,  feet, 
and  claws,  as  in  the  male. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  14i  inches,  to  end  of  wings  12^  ;  ex¬ 
tent  of  wings  30  *,  wing  from  flexure  9f  ;  tail  7i  ;  bill  along 
the  ridge  ;  tarsus  ;  first  toe  i,  its  claw  ;  second 
toe  its  claw  Tc?  ;  third  toe  I  fj,  its  claw  ;  fourth  toe 
its  claw  |g. 


KESTREL  FALCON. 


329 


Variations. — The  males  vary  little  in  size.  The  grey  of  the 
head  is  sometimes  tinged  with  brown  ;  the  red  of  the  upper 
parts  varies  considerably  in  tint ;  the  spots  in  size  and  form  ; 
and  the  tail  may  retain  traces  of  its  original  ten  bars,  which 
on  the  middle  feathers  may  be  either  direct  or  alternate,  with 
the  exception  of  the  last,  which  is  always  continuous.  The 
females  assume  more  grey  on  the  head,  rump,  and  tail  as  they 
become  older.  The  coecal  appendages  of  the  intestine  vary  in 
size,  from  a  quarter  of  an  inch  in  length  to  half  a  twelfth ;  or 
they  may  be  wanting  on  one  or  on  both  sides. 

Change  of  Plumage. — When  fresh,  the  colours  of  the  plu¬ 
mage  are  much  richer  than  toward  the  period  of  renewal,  when 
they  are  sometimes  much  faded. 

Habits. — The  peculiar  habits  of  this  beautiful  Falcon  are 
well  adapted  for  illustrating  the  range  of  vision  of  the  diurnal 
rapacious  birds.  It  has  been  alleged  that  Eagles,  Kites,  and 
Ospreys,  not  to  mention  other  species  of  the  same  family,  are 
capable  of  perceiving  a  very  minute  object  at  a  most  marvel¬ 
lous  distance,  even  from  a  height  at  which  they  seem  no  larger 
than  a  midge  or  a  mote.  Experience,  however,  has  led  me  to 
discredit  such  assertions,  and  to  consider  them  as  resulting 
rather  from  a  vigorous  imagination  than  from  actual  observa¬ 
tion.  There  is  no  truth,  not  even  probability,  in  the  assertion 
that  Eagles  perceive  living  prey  from  a  height  exceeding  a  few 
hundred  yards,  although  it  is  certain  that  they  can  distinguish 
the  carcase  of  a  sheep  at  a  much  greater  distance.  The  Hen¬ 
harrier,  the  Sparrow  Hawk,  and  the  Kestrel,  when  searching 
for  small  birds,  mice,  and  other  objects,  fly  at  a  height  of  from 
ten  to  fifty  feet.  The  latter  never  hovers  at  a  greater  dis¬ 
tance  from  the  ground  than  forty  feet,  and  we  know  that  its 
power  of  distinguishing  its  prey  does  not  extend  over  a  much 
greater  range,  for  in  traversing  a  meadow,  it  requires  to  as¬ 
sume  numerous  stations  in  succession.  A  Falcon,  however, 
can  perceive  a  Heron  or  other  bird  at  a  vast  distance  in  the  air , 
and  I  have  seen  domestic  fowls  aware  of  the  presence  of  an 
Eagle  two  thousand  feet  above  them. 


330 


FALCO  TINNUNCULUS. 


The  Kestrel,  when  searching  for  food,  is  easily  distinguish¬ 
able  by  its  habit  of  hovering  over  the  fields, — a  habit  which, 
although  sometimes  observed  in  other  species,  is  in  it  so  re¬ 
markable  as  to  attract  the  notice  of  the  least  observant,  and  to 
have  procured  for  it  the  name  of  Windhover.  There  it  comes, 
advancing  briskly  against  the  breeze,  at  the  height  of  about 
thirty  feet,  its  wings  in  rapid  motion,  its  head  drawn  close  be¬ 
tween  its  shoulders,  its  tail  slightly  spread  in  a  horizontal  di¬ 
rection,  and  its  feet  concealed  among  the  plumage.  Now  it 
sails  or  glides  a  few  yards,  as  if  on  motionless  wings,  curves 
upwards  some  feet,  and  stops  short,  supporting  itself  by  rapid 
movements  of  its  pinions,  and  expanding  its  tail.  In  a  few 
seconds  it  flics  forwards,  flapping  its  wings,  shoots  off  to  a  side, 
and  sails,  then  rises  a  little,  and  fixes  itself  in  the  air.  On 
such  occasions  it  is  searching  the  ground  beneath  for  mice  and 
small  birds,  feeding  or  reposing  among  the  grass.  Having 
discovered  nothing,  it  proceeds  a  short  way,  and  again  hovers. 
In  a  few  seconds  it  wheels  round,  flies  right  down  the  wind 
at  a  rapid  rate,  to  the  distance  of  some  hundred  yards,  brings 
up,  and  hovers.  Still  nothing  results,  and  again  it  glides  away, 
bearing  up  at  intervals,  fixing  itself  for  some  seconds  in  the  air, 
and  then  shooting  along.  When  about  to  hover,  it  rises  a  few 
feet  in  a  gentle  curve,  faces  the  wind,  spreads  its  tail,  moves 
its  wings  rapidly,  and  thus  balancing  itself,  keenly  surveys  the 
ground  beneath.  The  range  of  the  tips  of  the  wings  at  this  time 
is  apparently  about  six  or  eight  inches,  but  sometimes  for  a  few 
seconds  these  organs  seem  almost,  if  not  entirely,  motionless. 
The  bird  has  once  more  suddenly  drawn  up,  and  is  examining 
the  grass  with  more  determinate  attention.  It  slowly  descends, 
fixes  itself  for  a  moment,  inclines  a  little  to  one  side,  hovers  so 
long  that  you  may  advance  much  nearer,  but  at  length  closing 
its  wings  and  tail,  falls  like  a  stone,  suddenly  expands  its  wings 
and  tail  just  as  it  touches  the  ground,  clutches  its  prey,  and 
ascending  obliquely  flies  off  with  a  rapid  and  direct  flight. 

The  food  of  this  species  consists  chiefly  of  mice,  Mus  sylvati- 
cus,  Mus  domesticus,  Arvicola  agrestis,  and  shrews,  especially 
Sorex  araneus.  But  it  preys  on  many  other  animals,  and  in  the 
numerous  individuals  which  I  have  opened,  I  have  found  re- 


KESTREL  FALCON. 


331 


mains  of  young  larks,  thrushes,  lapwings,  and  several  small  birds, 
both  granivorous  and  slender-billed,  together  with  the  common 
dung-beetle,  many  other  coleoptera,  and  the  earthworm.  It  is 
also  said  to  feed  on  lizards,  and  it  has  been  known  to  carry  off 
young  chickens.  Mice  it  sometimes  swallows  entire,  more 
frequently  breaks  into  two  or  three  portions,  but  the  birds,  if 
fledged,  it  generally  plucks.  One  is  surprised  on  opening  the 
stomach  to  find  how  large  a  mass  it  contains,  rolled  up  into  a 
ball,  and,  if  digestion  has  far  advanced,  composed  externally  of 
hair  and  feathers,  with  the  bones  and  teeth  in  the  interior. 
This  mass  of  refuse  is  ejected  by  the  mouth  in  pellets,  as  is 
the  practice  with  all  the  birds  of  this  family.  I  have  never 
happened  to  see  it  pursuo  a  bird  in  open  flight ;  but  in  such 
districts  as  the  Outer  Hebrides,  where  if  field  mice  exist,  they 
are  extremely  rare,  it  can  have  no  other  prey  during  the  winter. 

When  advancing  from  one  place  to  another,  without  search¬ 
ing  for  food,  the  Kestrel  flies  at  a  considerable  height,  with 
rapid  flaps  of  its  wings,  and  occasional  sailings.  In  the  neigh¬ 
bourhood  of  its  haunts  it  may  often  be  seen  wheeling  in  irre¬ 
gular  curves,  nowhere  more  beautifully  than  when  its  breed¬ 
ing-station  is  on  some  maritime  cliff.  On  such  occasions,  as 
well  as  when  perched  on  a  rock  or  tree,  it  frequently  emits  a 
loud  shrill  cry,  somewhat  similar  to  the  syllables  plee,  plee ,  plee, 
or  idee,  idee,  idee,  or,  as  the  country  people  in  the  south  of  Scot¬ 
land  interpret  it,  iceelie,  iceelie,  ice  die.  At  the  commencement 
of  the  breeding  season  it  is  remarkably  vociferous ;  but  when 
traversing  the  fields  in  search  of  plunder  it  is  seldom  heard  to 
emit  any  cry.  It  resorts  to  rocks  on  the  coast,  or  in  the  in¬ 
terior,  to  ruined  castles  or  other  buildings,  sometimes  to  towers 
or  steeples  in  the  midst  of  towns,  and  frequently  to  trees  in 
flat  wooded  districts.  It  often  takes  possession  of  the  deserted 
nest  of  a  crow  or  magpie,  but  in  rocky  tracts,  and  in  the  un¬ 
wooded  parts  of  the  country,  it  breeds  on  cliffs  or  on  craggy 
banks,  usually  scraping  a  slight  cavity  for  its  eggs.  Those  who 
maintain  that  the  Kestrel  always  breeds  in  trees,  may  be  in¬ 
formed  that  on  the  face  of  the  Castle  Ilock  of  Edinburgh,  fac- 
ing  Princes  Street,  there  has  been  a  Kestrel’s  nest  for  more 


332 


FALCO  T1NNUNCULUS. 


than  twenty  years.  Indeed  in  Scotland,  twenty  nests  might 
be  pointed  out  in  rocks,  for  one  in  a  tree.  The  eggs,  which 
vary  from  three  to  five,  are  of  a  broadly  elliptical  or  roundish 
form,  pale  reddish- orange,  or  reddisli-wliite,  confusedly  dotted 
or  patched  all  over  with  dull  brownish-red.  They  vary  in 
length  from  an  inch  and  a  half  to  an  inch  and  three-fourths, 
with  an  average  breadth  of  an  inch  and  a  quarter. 

This  Falcon  appears  to  be  the  most  numerous  of  our  rapa¬ 
cious  birds,  being  generally  distributed  in  England  and  Scot¬ 
land,  from  Devonshire  to  Cape  Rath  and  the  Shetland  Isles, 
and  from  the  eastern  to  the  western  shores.  It  is  difficult  to 
say  where  it  is  most  abundant,  it  being  found  equally  in  bare 
and  in  wooded  tracts ;  but  in  rocky  maritime  pasture-lands, 
and  in  the  grassy  valleys  of  the  interior,  it  is  more  frequently 
seen,  while  in  the  central  heathy  parts  it  is  of  very  rare  occur¬ 
rence.  It  is  less  frequent  in  the  north  than  in  the  south  of 
Scotland,  and  it  would  probably  be  more  numerous  in  England 
than  in  the  latter  district,  were  it  not  liable  to  be  destroyed  by 
game-keepers. 

Mr  Harley,  who  resides  in  Leicestershire,  states  that  it 
abounds  there.  “  The  numbers,1'’  he  continues,  “  are  greatly 
diminished  in  the  brumal  months,  and  therefore  we  may  con¬ 
clude  that  a  partial  migration  then  takes  place.  It  generally 
nestles  in  the  spruce  fir,  selecting  the  deserted  nest  of  a  Carrion 
Crow  or  Magpie,  in  one  of  each  of  which  I  have  found  its  eggs. 
Like  the  Cuckoo,  it  does  not  make  a  nest  for  itself.  Atkinson, 
in  his  Compendium,  says  4  it  breeds  in  hollow  trees,  and  lays 
four  or  five  pale  reddish  eggs but  I  have  never  met  with  it 
breeding  in  such  places.  I  have  known  a  bird  of  this  species, 
which  was  kept  two  or  three  years  as  a  garden  pet,  lay  three 
eggs,  and  sit  upon  them  with  the  same  patience  as  if  she  had  a 
partner.  The  eggs  of  course  were  unproductive.  The  kestrel 
when  pinioned  will  climb  up  a  cage  side,  or  a  small  tree,  hold¬ 
ing  fast  by  the  bill,  after  the  manner  of  a  parrot.  I  saw  one 
doing  so  at  Bradford,  in  Yorkshire,  in  January  1839.  Con¬ 
finement  and  domestication  bring  out  new  habits  in  animals. 
Thus*  my  Goldfinch  will  climb  all  round  a  large  breeding-cage, 


KESTREL  FALCON. 


333 


just  like  a  parrot,  seizing  fast  hold  by  the  bill,  and  moving  the 
feet  alternately.  In  this  way  he  will  clamber  either  up  or 
down,  horizontally  or  diagonally,  all  over  the  cage.” 

Kestrels  taken  from  the  nest  are  easily  tamed,  so  as  to  be¬ 
come  familiar,  confiding,  and  in  some  degree  obedient.  The 
species  was  formerly  trained  to  pursue  small  birds,  such  as 
quails,  snipes,  and  larks,  and  was  held  in  considerable  estima¬ 
tion.  Mr  Thompson  of  Belfast  states  that  “  the  kestrel  has 
been  so  far  trained  by  Air  William  Sinclaire  as,  when  given 
its  liberty,  to  attend  and  soar  above  him  like  the  peregrine  fal¬ 
con,  and  fly  at  small  birds  let  off  from  the  hand.  One  of  these 
hawks,  which  was  kept  by  this  gentleman  in  the  town  of  Bel¬ 
fast,  had  its  freedom,  and  flew  every  evening  to  roost  in  an  ex¬ 
tensive  plantation  in  the  country,  about  a  mile  distant,  in  fly¬ 
ing  to  and  from  which  it  was  at  first  recognised  by  the  sound 
of  the  bells  attached  to  its  legs.  This  bird  returned  regularly 
to  its  town  domicile  at  an  early  hour  in  the  morning.” 

Air  AVaterton,  who  has  given  a  pleasing  account  of  this  bird 
in  his  Essays  on  Natural  History,  finds  it  migratory  in  his 
neighbourhood,  and  is  “  of  opinion  that  a  very  large  propor¬ 
tion  of  those  which  are  bred  in  England  leave  it  in  the  autumn, 
to  join  the  vast  flights  of  hawks  which  are  seen  to  pass  periodi¬ 
cally  over  the  Alediterranean  Sea,  on  their  way  to  Africa. 
Last  summer,”  he  continues,  “  I  visited  twenty-four  nests  in 
my  park,  all  with  the  windhover's  eggs  in  them.  The  old 
birds  and  their  young  tarried  here  till  the  departure  of  the 
swallow,  and  then  they  disappeared.  During  the  winter,  there 
is  scarcely  a  windhover  to  be  found.  Sometimes  a  pair  or  so 
makes  its  appearance,  but  does  not  remain  long.  AVhen  Fe¬ 
bruary  has  set  in,  more  of  the  windhovers  are  seen ;  and  about 
the  middle  of  the  month  their  numbers  have  much  increased. 
They  may  be  then  heard  at  all  hours  of  the  day ;  and  he  who 
loves  to  study  nature  in  the  fields  may  observe  them,  now  on 
soaring  wing,  high  above  in  the  blue  expanse  of  heaven  ;  now 
hovering  near  the  earth,  ready  to  pounce  upon  the  luckless 
mouse ;  and  now  inspecting  the  deserted  nests  of  crows  and 
magpies,  in  order  to  secure  a  commodious  retreat,  wherein  to 
perform  their  approaching  incubation.  Allowing,  on  an  aver- 


334 


FALCO  TINNUNCULUS. 


age,  four  young  ones  to  the  nest,  there  must  have  been  bred 
here  ninety-six  windhover  hawks  last  summer :  add  the  parent 
birds,  and  we  shall  have,  in  all,  one  hundred  and  forty-four. 
Scarcely  five  of  these  birds  were  seen  here  from  Michaelmas 
to  the  latter  end  of  January.1’ 

I  have  not  observed  any  deficiency  of  Kestrels  in  the  districts 
bordering  on  the  Frith  of  Forth  in  winter,  when,  on  the  con¬ 
trary,  I  think  they  are  more  numerous  there  than  in  summer. 
Probably,  like  the  Merlin,  this  species  merely  migrates  from 
the  interior  to  the  coast.  In  the  inland  parts  of  East  Lothian, 
Mr  Hepburn  also  finds  it  more  numerous  in  summer,  as  will 
be  seen  from  the  following  notice  with  which  he  has  favoured 
me. 

“  Though  by  no  means  an  uncommon  bird  in  this  county, 
yet  from  the  middle  of  October  1838  to  March  1839,  I  did 
not  see  a  single  individual ;  but  as  spring  advanced,  their  num¬ 
bers  increased.  This  season,  I  have  seen  none  since  the  15th 
of  October.  From  this  I  think  it  is  probable  that  they  an¬ 
nually  migrate  from  this  district ;  but  as  I  only  began  in  May 
1838  to  pay  particular  attention  to  matters  of  this  kind,  I  can¬ 
not  speak  decidedly  on  the  subject.  Delightful  truly  it  is  to  seek 
the  haunts  of  the  Kestrel  on  some  calm  spring  morning,  when 
love  has  tuned  every  throat  in  song,  and  to  observe  what 
effect  the  season  has  upon  its  race.  There  they  are,  high  up 
in  the  blue  vault  of  heaven,  soaring  about,  now  descending  to 
search  the  fields,  and  again  mounting  aloft.  Hark  how  the 
woods  and  rocks  resound  to  their  joyous  kee,  kee ,  keelie ,  keelie . 
There  is  grace  in  every  action,  and  to  me  music  in  each  note. 
They  commonly  make  use  of  the  deserted  nest  of  the  Carrion 
Crow,  laying  from  three  to  five  eggs,  about  the  end  of  March. 
The  young  are  fledged  in  J une.  Many  years  ago  I  knew  of 
a  Kestrel’s  nest  in  a  hole  in  a  precipitous  old-red-sandstone 
rock,  on  the  banks  of  Wkittingham  water.  A  young  man,  who 
knows  the  species  well,  informs  me  that  he  has  frequently 
known  it  to  nestle  in  such  situations.  Two  or  three  pairs 
breed  annually  among  the  rocks  on  the  south  side  of  Traprain 
Law,  about  one  mile  from  this  place. 

“  It  is  much  to  be  regretted  that  the  Kestrel  should  suffer  for 

O 


KESTREL  FALCON. 


335 


the  Sparrow  Hawk,  with  which  it  is  in  this  neighbourhood  al¬ 
most  always  confounded.  I  have  often  spoken  to  game-keepers 
in  its  behalf,  but  the  mangled  forms  which  I  too  often  see 
nailed  against  the  walls  of  the  dog-kennel,  shew  that  my 
friendly  advice  has  been  disregarded.  With  us  its  food  con¬ 
sists  chiefly  of  mice,  and  when  in  search  of  prey  it  glides  softly 
through  the  air  in  large  circular  sweeps,  at  a  moderate  eleva¬ 
tion,  now  poised  on  fluttering  pinions,  now  resting  in  the  air 
without  motion,  and  now  descending  on  the  unconscious  quarry. 
With  all  deference  to  the  superior  knowledge  of  that  distin¬ 
guished  naturalist  Mr  Waterton,  I  shall  humbly  endeavour  to 
account  for  its  migration.  After  the  fields  are  cleared  of  the 
grain,  the  Field-mouse  begins  to  form  a  store,  and  nestling  in 
a  warm  bed  of  leaves  of  trees,  bushes,  and  the  cultivated  grasses, 
he  probably  feels  little  desire  to  bask  in  the  sun,  without  a 
blade  of  any  thing  to  screen  him  from  his  numerous  foes.  The 
ground,  too,  is  very  damp  at  this  season,  and,  all  things  con¬ 
sidered,  it  prefers  moving  during  the  darkness,  so  that  the  Barn 
Owl  does  not  starve.  I  have  dug  the  burrows  of  the  mice  in 
December,  and  have  often  found  from  a  half  to  three  quarters 
of  a  pint  of  grain  in  them.  Consider  how  very  few  beetles  are 
moving  during  this  season,  and  it  is  not  to  be  wondered  at  that 
the  Kestrel  leaves  us.  Birds  constitute  no  part  of  its  food.  If 
you  doubt  this,  go  to  the  fields  and  observe  for  yourself.  The 
Lark  ceases  not  his  song  in  its  presence,  and  the  Brown  Lin¬ 
net  passes  it  unheeded,  as  with  mellow  note  he  bounds  to  his 
nest  in  the  golden-blossomed  furze.  When  he  comes  to  the 
stack-yard,  no  anxious  cluck  is  heard  from  the  domestic  hen  to 
her  young,  the  Chaffinch  and  Sparrow  continue  picking  up  the 
seeds  at  the  barn  door,  and  the  Swallow,  his  rival  in  graceful 
flight,  sings  his  song  from  the  top  of  the  chimney  of  the  steam- 
engine.  I  however  own  that  when  a  locality  is  much  disturbed 
by  the  Sparrow  Hawk,  the  Kestrel  is  liable  to  be  mobbed. 

“  I  have  no  means  of  ascertaining  how  many  mice  it  requires 
per  diem.  Allow  4,  which  is  surely  a  moderate  estimate,  and 
multiplying  by  210,  the  number  of  days  it  remains  with  us,  we 
find  the  result  to  be  840  mice.  Supposing  the  sexes  to  be  in 
equal  proportion,  there  would  be  420  pairs.  Adult  mice  are 


336 


FALCO  TINNUNCULUS. 


said  to  breed  four  times  in  the  year.  Allow  that  one  half  have 
4  litters,  one  fourth  3  litters,  and  the  remaining  fourth  two  lit¬ 
ters.  Give  7  to  each  birth,  which  is  about  the  average,  and 
the  amount  will  be  9555.  Thus,  a  single  Kestrel,  during  a  re¬ 
sidence  of  210  days,  is  the  means  of  destroying  9555  840  = 

10,395  mice.  If  we  were  to  calculate  how  many  young  the 
progeny  of  these  840  mice  would  produce,  and  so  on,  the  num¬ 
bers  would  exceed  belief.  It  is  quite  certain,  at  all  events, 
that  the  Kestrel,  feeding  for  the  most  part  on  mice,  must  de¬ 
stroy  vast  quantities  of  them,  and  that  he  well  deserves  protec¬ 
tion  as  the  benefactor  of  man.  I  much  fear,  however,  that  all 
humane  considerations  will  be  little  heeded  so  long  as  the  pre¬ 
sent  game-laws  are  in  force."1 

In  one  particular  Mr  Hepburn  is  certainly  mistaken ;  for,  as 
I  have  stated,  I  have  repeatedly  found  remains  of  birds  in  its 
stomach.  Upon  the  whole,  the  habits  of  this  species  are  pretty 
well  known,  and  as  I  have  nothing  further  of  importance  to 
say  on  this  head,  we  may  now  inspect  the  young,  which  are  at 
first  covered  with  greyish-white  down. 

Young. — When  fledged  they  nearly  resemble  the  adult  fe¬ 
male.  The  bill  is  light  greyish-blue,  toward  the  end  yellowish- 
grey  ;  the  irides  dark  brown ;  the  cere  and  superciliary  ridge 
pale  greenish-blue,  the  feet  yellow,  the  claws  brownish-black 
with  their  tips  paler.  The  head  and  hind-neck  are  light 
brownish-red,  with  longitudinal  blackish-brown  streaks  ;  the 
upper  parts  of  the  body,  the  wing-coverts  and  tail,  light  red, 
the  feathers  transversely  marked  with  broad  dark  brown  bands, 
of  which  the  last  is  somewhat  triangular.  The  primary  quills 
and  their  coverts  are  dark  brown,  the  latter  with  light  red  spots 
on  the  inner,  the  former  on  both  webs.  There  are  eight  dark 
bars  on  the  tail,  the  last  three-quarters  of  an  inch  in  breadth, 
the  tips  dull  reddish- white.  The  lower  parts  are  pale  yellowisli- 
red,  the  sides  of  the  neck  and  the  breast  with  longitudinal  dark 
brown  streaks,  the  sides  marked  with  streaks  transversely 
barred.  The  feathers  of  the  legs,  abdomen,  and  subeaudal 
region  light  reddish-yellow,  some  of  the  former  having  a  dusky 
shaft-line. 


KESTREL  FALCON. 


337 


Progress  toward  Maturity. — At  the  first  moult,  the  male 
assumes  a  greyish-blue  colour  on  the  head,  rump,  and  tail ; 
but  the  head  is  still  tinged  with  red,  and  the  tail  barred  on 
both  webs.  At  the  next  moult,  the  tints  are  purer,  the  dark 
markings  smaller,  and  the  spots  on  the  outer  webs  of  the  tail- 
feathers  have  disappeared.  The  dark  markings  of  the  female 
also  become  more  attenuated  ;  but  the  parts  which  ultimately 
become  greyish-blue  in  the  male,  are  in  her  merely  tinged  with 
that  colour,  and  the  tail  continues  barred. 

Remarks. — The  comparative  shortness  of  the  middle  toe, 
the  enlarged  anterior  scales  of  the  tarsus,  and  the  rounded  tail, 
of  this  bird,  have  induced  some  ornithologists  to  separate  it 
from  the  genus  Falco  ;  but  if  differences  so  slight  suffice  to 
form  generic  characters,  hardly  two  species  can  be  kept  to¬ 
gether.  Falco  tinnunculoides  of  the  south  of  Europe,  and 
Falco  sparverius  of  America,  are  the  species  most  nearly  allied 
to  the  Kestrel,  which  in  form  differs  little  from  the  Merlin. 
The  young  of  that  species  bear  a  considerable  resemblance  in 
colour  to  the  young  and  female  of  the  Kestrel,  the  latter  of 
which  was  figured  by  Buffon  as  a  Merlin. 

I  omitted  to  mention  in  the  proper  place  that,  as  the  Rev. 
Mr  Gordon,  of  Birnie,  informs  me,  “  the  Kestrel,  which  is 
the  most  abundant  of  the  small  hawks  in  Morayshire,  builds 
at  the  Rocks  of  Covesea,  on  the  cliffs  above  Mill  of  Birnie, 
and  in  ravines  about  the  Glen  of  Rothes,  as  well  as  in  many 
similar  situations.” 


VOL.  in. 


z 


ACCIPITEIl.  HAWK. 


The  genus  Accipiter  is  composed  of  birds,  generally  of  mode¬ 
rate  size,  which  collectively  occupy  a  station  intermediate  be¬ 
tween  the  Falcons,  Buzzards,  and  Harriers.  Some  of  the  larger 
species  approach  in  form  to  those  of  the  genus  Buteo,  and  being 
proportionally  more  robust,  with  shorter  and  stronger  tarsi,  and 
a  less  elongated  tail,  have  by  some  been  formed  into  a  separate 
genus,  to  which  the  name  of  Astur  is  given  ;  while  the  smaller 
and  more  slender  species  are  taken  to  constitute  the  genus  Ac¬ 
cipiter  or  Nisus.  It  does  not  however  appear  to  me  that  the  dif¬ 
ferences  as  to  form  and  proportions  between  the  largest  and  the 
smallest  of  these  species  are  sufficient  to  constitute  generic  cha¬ 
racters.  The  body  in  all  is  light,  rather  broad  anteriorly,  very 
narrow  behind  ;  the  neck  short  or  of  moderate  length  ;  the  head 
rather  large,  roundish  or  broadly  ovate,  and  flattened  above. 

Bill  short,  stout,  compressed  toward  the  end ;  upper  man¬ 
dible  with  its  dorsal  line  decurved  from  the  base,  nearly  in  the 
fourth  of  a  circle,  the  ridge  convex,  the  sides  sloping  and  some¬ 
what  convex,  the  edges  sharp  and  overlapping,  with  a  promi¬ 
nent  broad  lobe  beyond  the  middle,  the  tip  trigonal,  a  little 
concave  beneath,  and  deflected  ;  lower  mandible  with  the  angle 
wide  and  rounded,  the  dorsal  line  convex,  the  ridge  broad, 
the  sides  rounded  toward  the  end,  the  edges  inflected,  the  tip 
obliquely  truncate  and  rounded. 

Mouth  rather  wide ;  palate  flat,  with  two  prominent  longi¬ 
tudinal  lines  ;  upper  mandible  slightly  concave,  lower  deeply 
channelled ;  tongue  short,  fleshy,  concave  above,  rounded  and 
slightly  emarginate.  (Esophagus  wide,  about  the  middle  di¬ 
lated  into  a  large  crop ;  proventricular  glands  small,  oblong, 
forming  a  complete  belt.  Stomach  roundish  or  oblong,  a  little 
compressed,  its  muscular  coat  very  thin  and  composed  of  a 
single  series  of  fasciculi,  its  inner  coat  smooth  and  soft ;  intes- 


ACCIPITER.  HAWK. 


339 


tine  rather  short  and  of  moderate  width ;  cceca  very  small ; 
rectum  with  a  globular  dilatation. 

Nostrils  ovato-oblong,  lateral.  Eyes  rather  large  ;  eyelids 
ciliated  ;  the  lachrymal  ridge  prominent.  Aperture  of  the  ear 
roundish,  rather  large.  Legs  of  moderate  length,  slender ; 
tarsus  rather  long  or  of  moderate  length,  generally  slender, 
anteriorly  scutellate,  laterally  scaly,  posteriorly  with  large  scales 
or  scutella  ;  toes  slender,  covered  above  with  numerous  short 
scutella,  beneath  tuberculate,  there  being  a  long  fleshy  knob 
on  the  last  joint  of  each,  and  one  at  the  next  joint  of  the  outer 
two  ;  the  third  and  fourth  toes  connected  by  a  basal  web,  the 
first  and  second  nearly  equal,  the  third  much  longer.  Claws 
long,  well-curved,  tapering,  compressed,  convex  above,  slightly 
concave  beneath,  acuminate. 

Plumage  compact  above,  blended  beneath.  Cere  with  bristle- 
tipped  plumelets  at  the  sides ;  space  between  the  bill  and 
eye  covered  with  radiating  slender  feathers  of  the  same  nature. 
Feathers  of  the  head  rather  short,  of  the  neck  moderate,  of 
the  sides  and  outer  part  of  the  tibia  elongated,  all  more  or  less 
oblong  and  rounded.  Wings  long,  much  rounded,  with  twenty- 
three  quills ;  primaries  moderately  strong,  the  first  short,  the 
fourth  and  fifth  longest,  the  outer  five  with  the  inner  web 
somewhat  abruptly  cut  out.  Tail  very  long,  straight,  even  or 
slightly  rounded,  of  twelve  rather  broad  rounded  feathers. 

The  species  of  this  genus  are  distinguished  by  their  elegant, 
generally  slender  form,  the  prominent  festoon  of  the  upper 
mandible,  their  comparatively  short  rounded  wings,  lengthened 
tail,  and  slender  tarsi  and  toes,  of  which  the  third  is  very  long 
in  the  smaller  species.  They  fly  low  when  searching  for  food, 
advancing  with  a  rapid  gliding  and  stealthy  flight,  dart  upon 
their  prey  on  the  ground,  or  in  the  air,  or  perched  on  trees  or 
bushes,  between  the  branches  of  which  they  glide. on  occasion 
even  at  full  speed.  They  nestle  in  trees,  or  on  rocks,  forming 
a  rude  nest  of  twigs  and  some  soft  materials,  or  appropriate  the 
nest  of  a  Crow  or  other  bird,  and  lay  from  three  to  five  large, 
broadly  elliptical,  spotted  eggs.  Species  occur  in  all  parts  of 
the  globe.  Two  are  met  with  in  Britain,  one  very  common, 
the  other  extremely  rare. 


340 


ACCIPITER  PALUMBARIUS.  THE  GOSHAWK. 


Falco  Palumbarius.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  130. 

Falco  Palumbarius.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  1,  29.  Adult. 

Falco  gentilis.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  29.  Young. 

Goshawk.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

L’Autour.  Falco  Palumbarius.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  55  ;  III,  27. 
Goshawk.  Astur  Palumbarius.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  29. 

Accipiter  palumbarius.  Goshawk.  Jen.  Brit.  Yert.  An.  85. 


Male  about  twenty  inches  long,  with  the  upper  parts  dark 
bluish-grey ,  the  crown  of  the  head  and  a  broad  band  on  its  sides 
black ,  the  lower  white,  transversely  barred  with  blackish-grey,  and 
marked  with  longitudinal  shaft-lines.  Female  about  twenty-five 
inches  long,  with  the  colouring  similar,  but  the  upper  parts  grey¬ 
ish-brown.  Young  brown  above,  the  feathers  edged  with  recldish- 
white,  the  head  brown,  the  nape  yellowish-white,  streaked  with 
dark  brown,  the  lower  parts  yellowish-white,  with  longitudinal 
oblo7ig  dusky  spots. 

Male. — The  Goshawk,  which  has  become  so  exceedingly 
rare  in  Britain,  that  I  have  never  been  able  to  obtain  a  recent 
specimen,  and  have  not  seen  more  than  half  a  dozen  in  muse¬ 
ums,  is  among  the  most  beautiful  of  our  rapacious  birds,  being 
in  form  intermediate  between  the  Sparrow  Hawk  and  the 
Brown  Buzzard,  but  in  most  respects  much  more  nearly  allied 
to  the  former  than  to  the  latter.  Its  body  is  moderately  full, 
its  neck  rather  short,  its  head  of  moderate  size,  roundish,  and 
flattened  above.  The  bill  short,  strong,  with  the  dorsal  line  of 
the  upper  mandible  nearly  straight  and  slightly  decimate  to  the 
edge  of  the  cere,  then  decurved  in  about  the  fourth  of  a  circle, 
its  sides  slightly  convex,  the  edges  with  a  rather  prominent 
broad  lobe,  behind  which  is  a  slight  festoon,  the  tip  trigonal 
and  acute  ;  the  lower  mandible  with  the  angle  wide,  the  dorsal 


GOSHAWK. 


341 


line  convex,  the  sides  rounded,  the  edges  arched,  the  tip 
obliquely  truncate. 

The  palate  is  flat,  with  two  soft  longitudinal  ridges,  the 
upper  mandible  slightly  concave,  the  lower  deeply  concave, 
both  with  a  slightly  prominent  median  line.  The  tongue  fleshy, 
sagittate  and  papillate  at  the  base,  channelled  above,  with  the 
tip  rounded  and  emarginate,  its  lower  surface  horny,  with  a 
shallow  median  groove.  The  eyes  large  ;  the  eyelids  bare,  but 
ciliated  ;  the  supraocular  ridge  distinct.  Nostrils  oblique,  ob¬ 
long,  broader  behind.  Aperture  of  ear  roundish,  and  rather 
large.  Feet  of  moderate  length  ;  tarsi  anteriorly  feathered  for 
nearly  half  their  length,  rather  short,  strong,  anteriorly  covered 
with  fourteen  short  but  broad  scutella,  laterally  with  angular 
scales,  behind  with  numerous  scutella.  The  toes  strong,  of  mo¬ 
derate  length,  the  first  and  second  stoutest,  and  nearly  equal  in 
length,  the  third  much  longer,  and  connected  by  a  basal  web 
with  the  fourth,  which  is  longer  than  the  second ;  on  the  first 
are  six,  on  the  second  four,  on  the  third  eighteen,  on  the  fourth 
ten  scutella.  Claws  strong,  well  arched,  considerably  compress¬ 
ed,  acuminate. 

The  plumage  is  full,  compact  above,  blended  beneath  ;  the 
cere  laterally  covered  with  bristle-tipped  plumelets,  as  is  the 
loral  space  ;  the  feathers  of  the  upper  parts  oblong  and  rounded, 
of  the  head  short,  of  the  lower  parts  narrower,  those  of  the 
outer  part  of  the  tibia  elongated.  The  wings  are  of  moderate 
length,  broad,  and  rounded  ;  the  primaries  strong,  tapering  to 
a  rounded  point ;  the  outer  five  with  the  inner  web,  and  the 
second,  third,  fourth,  fifth,  and  sixth  with  the  outer  web,  nar¬ 
rowed  toward  the  end  ;  the  secondaries,  thirteen  in  number, 
broad,  and  abruptly  rounded.  The  tail  is  long,  broad,  rounded, 
of  twelve  rounded  feathers,  of  which  the  outer  is  an  inch  shorter 
than  the  middle. 

The  bill  is  light  blue  at  the  base,  bluish-black  at  the  end ; 
the  cere  greenish-yellow ;  the  iris  reddish-orange,  the  supra¬ 
ocular  ridge  yellowish-green  ;  the  feet  yellow,  the  claws  black. 
The  general  colour  of  the  upper  parts  is  deep  bluish-grey ;  the 
upper  and  hind  parts  of  the  head,  and  a  broad  band  from  the 
cheeks  to  the  nape,  black  ;  over  the  eye  a  white  band  streaked 


342 


ACCIPITER  PALUMBARIUS. 


with  brownish-black  ;  the  feathers  of  the  nape  white,  with  only 
the  tips  black.  The  alula,  primary  coverts,  and  primary  quills 
are  hair-brown,  with  the  shafts  lighter  along  the  middle ;  the 
primaries  barred  with  dark  brown,  the  intervals  between  the 
bars  being  on  the  inner  webs  whitish,  and  variegated  with 
grey  ;  the  secondaries  greyisli-blue  externally,  their  inner  webs 
with  broad  alternate  bands  of  whitish  variegated  with  grey. 
The  tail  brownish-grey,  the  middle  feathers  with  four,  the 
lateral  with  seven  broad  bands  of  brownish-black,  the  terminal 
band  much  larger,  the  tips  white.  The  lower  parts  are  greyish- 
white  ;  the  fore-neck  and  breast  with  longitudinal  dusky  lines, 
the  breast  with  transverse  undulated  bars  of  blackisli-grey, 
of  which  there  are  four  on  the  anterior  feathers ;  the  tibial 
feathers  beautifully  barred  with  a  lighter  tint ;  the  lower 
tail-coverts  white,  the  lower  wing-coverts  white,  barred  with 
deep  grey. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  20  inches,  to  end  of  wings  16| ;  extent 
of  wings  43  ;  wing  from  flexure  13  ;  tail  11^;  bill  along  the 
ridge  li  ;  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  1T%  ;  tarsus  3; 
first  toe  ;  its  claw  1 T92  ;  second  toe  its  claw  1 T6^  - 

third  toe  its  claw  1  ;  fourth  toe  1T42,  its  claw 

Female. — The  female  resembles  the  male  in  colour,  but  has 
the  upper  parts  tinged  with  brown. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  26  inches,  to  end  of  wings  231 ;  extent 
of  wings  45  ;  wing  from  flexure  13^  ;  tail  12  ;  bill  along  the 
ridge  1T7^  ;  tarsus  3}  ;  hind  toe  lp^,  its  claw  If  ;  middle  toe 
2/2,  its  claw  1. 

PI  abits. — Of  this  beautiful  species,  considered  with  reference 
to  Britain,  nothing  is  known  beyond  the  fact  of  its  having 
rarely  been  met  with  in  Scotland,  and  still  more  rarely  in  Eng¬ 
land.  It  is  said  by  several  persons  to  be  not  very  uncommon 
in  Shetland  and  Orkney ;  but  until  specimens  obtained  there 
are  produced,  I  must  take  leave  to  suppose  that  the  natives 
of  these  islands  have  mistaken  the  Peregrine  Falcon  for 
the  Goshawk.  In  many  districts  the  latter  name  is  that 
usually  given  to  the  Peregrine,  and  it  does  not  appear  that  the 


GOSHAWK. 


343 


true  Goshawk  has  been  obtained  in  any  part  of  Scotland  for  se¬ 
veral  years,  insomuch  that  we  might  very  reasonably  apprehend 
the  total  failure  of  the  native  breed  in  that  country.  Mr  Fen¬ 
ton  informs  me  that  he  saw  one  which  was  shot  in  Forfarshire 
about  fifteen  years  ago,  and  in  the  museum  of  the  University 
of  Edinburgh  is  a  young  bird  said  by  the  late  Mr  Wilson  to 
have  been  shot  in  Scotland.  I  have  nothing  to  add  to  its  his¬ 
tory  since  in  1836  I  penned  the  following  remarks  in  my  de¬ 
scriptions  of  the  Rapacious  Birds  of  Great  Britain  : — “  In  the 
more  inland  parts  of  the  middle  division  of  Scotland,  especially 
among  the  Grampians  of  Aberdeenshire,  it  may  now  and  then 
be  observed  ;  but  the  few  opportunities  of  studying  its  manners 
which  have  occurred  to  me  were  so  fleeting,  that  I  can  add  no¬ 
thing  to  its  history  in  this  respect.  When  you  are  least  ex¬ 
pecting  its  appearance,  it  sweeps  rapidly  past  you,  or  is  seen 
swiftly  winging  its  way  over  the  fields  or  woods  with  a  bird  in 
its  talons.  In  so  far  as  I  am  acquainted  with  it,  it  resembles 
the  Sparrow  Hawk  in  its  manners.’1'’  According  to  M.  Tem- 
minck,  it  is  essentially  a  northern  bird,  which  migrates  south¬ 
ward  in  winter,  few  remaining  to  breed  in  the  central  parts  of 
Europe.  It  was  much  esteemed  when  falconry  was  in  vogue, 
and  was  flown  at  Pheasants,  Partridges,  Grouse,  Ducks  and 
Herons,  as  well  as  hares,  which  it  pursued  in  direct  flight, 
without  rising  above  them  like  the  Peregrine  Falcon,  from 
which  it  further  differed  in  pursuing  its  quarry  into  woods  and 
thickets.  Its  flight,  which  is  rapid  and  gliding,  is  performed 
at  a  small  height ;  its  activity  almost  equals  that  of  the  Sparrow 
Hawk  ;  and  its  disposition  is  sanguinary,  suspicious,  and  unso¬ 
cial,  insomuch  that  it  has  often  been  known  to  kill  its  com¬ 
panions  in  captivity.  Authors  differ  respecting  the  nest  and 
eggs,  and  a  good  history  of  this  bird  is  a  desideratum,  which 
cannot  be  accomplished  by  British  observers,  at  least  in  their 
own  country.  W ere  it  not  doubtful  whether  the  Goshawk  of 
North  America  be  really  of  the  same  species,  I  might  refer  to 
Mr  Audubon's  account  of  its  habits.  A  specimen  of  that  bird 
in  my  collection,  and  three  others  which  I  have  seen,  differ  in 
some  respects  from  ours,  more  especially  in  having  the  trans¬ 
verse  markings  on  the  lower  parts  more  numerous  and  more 


344 


ACCIPITER  PALUMBARIUS. 


undulated,  and  the  head  and  cheek-bands  deep  black.  Mr 
Audubon,  however,  states  that  the  American  Goshawk  exhibits 
numerous  variations  of  plumage,  some  having  transverse  bars 
of  large  size  on  the  breast,  and  even  if  it  should  be  distinct 
from  the  European  bird,  its  habits  are  probably  very  similar. 
They  are  thus  described  by  him  : — • 

“  The  flight  of  the  Goshawk  is  extremely  rapid  and  pro¬ 
tracted.  Pie  sweeps  along  the  margins  of  the  fields,  through 
the  woods,  and  by  the  edges  of  ponds  and  rivers,  with  such 
speed  as  to  enable  him  to  seize  his  prey  by  merely  deviating  a 
few  yards  from  his  course,  assisting  himself  on  such  occasions 
by  his  long  tail,  which,  like  a  rudder,  he  throws  to  the  right 
or  left,  upwards  or  downwards,  to  check  his  progress,  or  enable 
him  suddenly  to  alter  his  course.  At  times  he  passes  like  a 
meteor  through  the  underwood,  where  he  secures  squirrels  and 
hares  with  ease.  Should  a  flock  of  wild  pigeons  pass  him  when 
on  these  predatory  excursions,  he  immediately  gives  chase,  soon 
overtakes  them,  and  forcing  his  way  into  the  very  centre  of  the 
flock,  scatters  them  in  confusion,  when  you  may  see  him  emerg¬ 
ing  with  a  bird  in  his  talons,  and  diving  towards  the  depths  of 
the  forest  to  feed  upon  his  victim.  When  travelling,  he  flies 
high,  with  a  constant  beat  of  the  wings,  seldom  moving  in  large 
circles  like  other  hawks,  and  when  he  does  this,  it  is  only  a  few 
times  in  a  hurried  manner,  after  which  he  continues  his  jour¬ 
ney.”  He  further  describes  it  as  restless,  seldom  alighting  un¬ 
less  to  devour  its  prey,  which  consists  of  small  quadrupeds, 
grouse,  ducks,  pigeons,  snipes,  and  other  birds.  Its  nest, 
which  is  placed  on  the  branches  of  a  tree,  near  the  trunk,  is 
large,  and  constructed  of  twigs  and  coarse  grass,  with  a  lining 
of  fibrous  materials.  The  eggs  dull  bluish- white,  or  greenish- 
white,  sometimes  spotted  with  brown,  but  often  without  mark¬ 
ings.  Those  of  the  European  Goshawk,  according  to  M.  Tem- 
minck,  are  greenish-grey,  without  spots. 

Young. — When  fledged  the  young  differ  much  in  colour 
from  their  parents.  The  bill  is  dark  brown,  paler  toward  the 
base  ;  the  cere  and  legs  greenish  yellow,  the  claws  brownish- 
black.  On  the  upper  part  of  the  head  the  feathers  are  dark 


GOSHAWK. 


345 


brown,  with  light  yellowish-red  margins  ;  on  the  hind-neck 
yellowish-white,  each  with  a  terminal  streak  of  dark  brown. 
The  general  colour  of  the  upper  parts  is  hair-brown  or  greyish- 
brown,  the  feathers  edged  with  yellowish-red  ;  the  scapulars 
with  three  broad  conceded  whitish  bands.  The  quills  are 
brown,  broadly  barred  with  darker,  and  tipped  with  whitish. 
The  tail  is  alternately  banded  with  dark  brown  and  light 
greyish-brown,  and  largely  tipped  with  white,  there  being  five 
dark  bands  on  the  middle  feathers.  The  lower  parts  are  light 
yellowish-red,  or  reddish- white  ;  the  throat,  legs,  and  lower 
tail-coverts  with  longitudinal  blackish-brown  lines,  the  ante¬ 
rior  part  of  the  breast  with  oblong,  and  the  rest  with  lanceolate 
spots  of  the  same  colour. 

Remarks. — In  a  list  of  the  birds  of  Shetland,  with  which  I 
have  been  favoured  by  Dr  Laurence  Edmondston,  that  gentle¬ 
man,  whom  a  long  residence  and  continued  observation  have 
rendered  familiar  with  the  productions  of  those  islands,  has 
the  following  note : — u  Falco  Palumbarius  is  not  uncommon 
at  all  seasons.  I  have  not  myself  seen  its  nest,  but  it  is  said 
to  build  in  rocky  cliffs.  It  preys  chiefly  on  rabbits  and  pigeons.1'’ 
A  Shetland  specimen  of  this  very  rare  bird  would  be  a  great 
acquisition  to  the  London  or  Edinburgh  Museums. 


ACCIPITER  NISUS.  THE  SPARROW  HAWK. 


SPEIRSHEOG. 


Fig.  228. 


Falco  Nisus.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  131. 

Falco  Nisus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  I.  44. 

Sparrow  Hawk.  Mont.  Orn.  Diet. 

L’Epervier.  Falco  Nisus.  Temm.  Man.  d’Orn.  I.  56;  III.  28. 
Sparrow  Ilawk.  Accipiter  fringillarius.  Selb.  lllustr.  I.  3*2. 
Accipiter  fringillarius.  Sparrow  Hawk.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  85. 


Male  about  twelve  inches  long,  with  the  upper  parts  dark  bluish- 
grey,  the  lower  reddish-wliite,  transversely  barred  with  yellowish- 
red.  Female  about  fifteen  inches  long,  with  the  upper  parts 
greyish-brown,  the  lower  greyish-white,  transversely  barred  with 
dark  grey.  Young  brown  above,  the  feathers  margined  with 
light  red,  the  markings  on  the  lower  parts  more  dusky,  and  the 
last  band  on  each  feather  somewhat  cordate  or  pointed,  the  female 
more  tinged  with  red.  In  all  stages,  six  dusky  bands  on  the 
lateral,  and  four  on  the  middle  tail-feathers. 

The  Sparrow  Hawk,  although  bearing  a  general  resem¬ 
blance  to  the  Goshawk,  is  of  a  much  more  slender  form,  inso¬ 
much  that  many  ornithologists,  for  this  reason  alone,  have  re- 


SPARROW  HAWK. 


347 


ferred  it  to  a  separate  genus.  The  principal  character  on 
which  this  distinction  is  founded  exists  in  the  comparatively 
slim  and  elongated  tarsi  and  toes ;  but  as  gradations  occur  be¬ 
tween  the  sliarp-sliinned  Hawk  of  America,  which  has  the 
tarsi  still  more  slender,  and  the  Goshawk,  I  cannot  see  the 
propriety  of  forming  the  group  into  two  genera.  A  greater 
difference  as  to  size  is  seen  between  the  male  and  the  female 
in  this  than  in  any  other  British  bird  of  prey,  and  even  be¬ 
tween  individuals  of  the  same  sex  the  differences  are  such  that 
many  persons  have  supposed  the  Sparrow  Hawk  divisible  into 
several  species. 

M  ale. — This  remarkably  elegant  bird  has  the  body  slender, 
the  neck  short,  the  head  of  moderate  size,  broadly  ovate,  and 
rather  convex  above.  The  bill  is  very  short,  moderately  stout, 
compressed  ;  the  upper  mandible  with  its  dorsal  line  decurved 
from  the  base,  nearly  in  the  fourth  of  a  circle,  the  sides  rapidly 
sloping  and  nearly  flat,  the  edges  anteriorly  sharp,  with  a  broad 
rounded  dentiform  process  or  festoon  about  the  middle,  the  tip 
trigonal  and  very  acute  ;  the  cere  short,  and  in  the  greater  part 
of  its  extent  bare  ;  the  lower  mandible  with  the  angle  short, 
broad,  and  rounded,  the  dorsal  line  convex,  the  back  broad  at 
the  base,  the  sides  rounded,  the  edges  sharp  and  inflected,  the 
tip  obliquely  truncate,  with  a  shallow  sinus,  tliin-edged,  and 
rounded. 

Internally  the  upper  mandible  is  slightly  concave,  the  lower 
deeply  concave,  with  a  prominent  median  line.  The  palate  is 
flat,  with  two  soft  longitudinal,  slightly  papillate  ridges.  The 
posterior  aperture  of  the  nares  is  oblong  behind,  linear  before. 
The  tongue  is  half  an  inch  long,  sagittate  and  serrulate  at  the 
base,  oblong,  fleshy,  broadly  channelled  above,  with  the  tip 
rounded  and  emarginate.  The  oesophagus  is  four  inches  and  a 
half  long,  at  the  upper  part  half  an  inch  wide,  then  dilated  into  a 
crop  an  inch  in  width,  after  which  it  contracts  to  five  twelfths. 
The  proventricular  portion  is  eight  twelfths  long  ;  its  glandules 
cylindrical,  forming  a  continuous  belt  having  four  slight  longi¬ 
tudinal  depressions.  The  stomach  is  of  a  roundish  form,  some¬ 
what  compressed,  an  inch  and  a  half  in  diameter  ;  its  muscu¬ 
lar  coat  very  thin,  the  fibres  arranged  in  fasciculi,  the  tendons 


348 


ACCIPITER  NISUS. 


about  three  twelfths  in  diameter,  the  inner  surface  smooth. 
The  pylorus  is  very  narrow,  and  has  three  valvular  protuber¬ 
ances.  The  intestine  is  two  feet  six  inches  long,  three-twelfths 
in  width  in  the  duodenal  portion,  its  smallest  diameter  two 
twelfths  ;  the  coeca  very  small,  being  only  two  twelfths  in 
length,  three  and  a  half  inches  distant  from  the  extremity. 
The  rectum,  at  first  three  twelfths  in  width,  dilates  toward  the 
end  so  as  to  have  a  diameter  of  one  inch. 

The  eyes  are  large,  the  eyelids  margined  with  ciliary  bristles, 
the  lachrymal  ridge  prominent.  The  nostrils  are  rather  large, 
oblique,  oblong,  broader  behind.  The  aperture  of  the  ear 
roundish,  and  rather  large.  The  tarsi,  which  are  feathered 
anteriorly  for  nearly  a  third  of  their  length,  are  rather  long, 
very  slender,  compressed,  narrower  before  than  behind,  with 
an  anterior  elongated  plate,  obscurely  marked  with  eighteen 
scutella,  the  sides  with  hexagonal  scales,  as  is  the  hind  part, 
on  which  they  are  much  larger.  The  toes  are  very  slender  ; 
the  first  short,  the  second  stouter  and  somewhat  longer,  the 
third  very  long,  and  connected  by  a  basal  web  with  the  fourth, 
which  is  longer  than  the  second.  On  the  first  toe  are  nine 
scutella,  on  the  second  fourteen,  on  the  third  twenty-eight,  on 
the  fourth  eighteen  and  several  basal  scales.  The  claws  are 
well  curved,  compressed,  laterally  grooved,  finely  acuminate, 
the  first  and  second  largest  and  about  equal. 

The  plumage  is  moderately  full,  soft,  on  the  upper  parts 
rather  compact,  on  the  lower  blended.  The  loral  space  is  co¬ 
vered  with  bristle-pointed  feathers  curving  upwards.  The 
wings  are  rather  long,  broad,  much  rounded  ;  the  fourth  and 
fifth  quills  are  longest  and  about  equal,  the  first  three  inches, 
the  second  an  inch  and  a  quarter,  the  third  four  twelfths  shorter. 
The  outer  five  are  slightly  attenuated  on  the  outer,  deeply  on 
the  inner  web.  The  secondary  quills,  thirteen  in  number,  are 
broad  and  rounded.  The  tail  is  long,  straight,  even  at  the 
end,  of  twelve  rather  broad,  rounded  feathers. 

The  bill  is  light  blue  at  the  base,  bluish -black  at  the  end  ; 
the  cere  and  eyelids  greenish-yellow  ;  the  iris  orange ;  the 
tarsi  and  toes  yellow,  the  claws  like  the  bill.  The  palate 
livid-blue.  The  general  colour  of  the  plumage  on  the  upper 


SPARROW  HAWK. 


349 


parts  is  slate  blue,  or  deep  greyish-blue,  with  darker  shaft- 
lines.  The  feathers  on  the  nape  are  white  at  the  base,  and  on 
each  of  the  scapulars  are  two  broad  bands  of  the  same  colour. 
The  outer  primaries  are  dusky  greyish-brown,  and  all  the 
quills  have  the  inner  web  marked  with  dusky  bands,  between 
which  the  inner  margins  are  greyish-white.  The  tail  is  deep 
grey,  with  six  broad  bands  of  blackish-brown  on  the  lateral 
and  four  on  the  middle  tail-feathers,  the  last  band  broader  and 
more  distinct,  and  the  tips  greyish-white.  The  upper  part  of 
the  cheeks  is  bluisli-grey,  the  rest  and  the  sides  of  the  neck 
yellowish-red,  the  throat  reddish-white.  The  fore  part  of  the 
neck,  the  breast,  sides,  abdomen,  and  tibiae,  are  transversely 
barred  with  reddish-white  and  yellowish-red,  the  latter  colour 
prevailing  on  the  breast  and  sides  ;  each  feather  having  five 
bands  of  white,  and  an  equal  number  of  pale  red  and  dusky. 
The  coloured  bands  become  fainter  on  the  hind  parts,  and  gra¬ 
dually  disappear  on  the  abdomen,  some  of  the  feathers  of  which, 
as  well  as  the  lower  tail-coverts,  are  white.  The  tarsal  fea¬ 
thers  are  light  red.  The  lower  wing-coverts  reddish- white 
barred  with  dusky.  The  dark  bars  of  the  wings  and  tail  are 
more  conspicuous  on  their  lower  surface. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  13  inches,  to  end  of  wings  11  ;  extent 
of  wings  23  ;  wing  from  flexure  8  ;  tail  6^  ;  bill  along  the 
ridge  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  ;  tarsus  2^; 
first  toe  t72,  its  claw  T9§ ;  second  toe  T8?,  its  claw  ;  third 
toe  1T4^,  its  claw  T6|  ;  fourth  toe  its  claw  . 

Female. — The  female,  which  is  much  larger  than  the  male, 
and  proportionally  somewhat  more  robust,  differs  considerably 
in  colour.  The  bill  and  tarsi  are  much  stouter,  insomuch  that 
the  latter  are  not  very  different  in  strength  from  those  of  some 
species  of  the  division  to  which  the  name  of  Astur  is  applied. 
In  an  individual  shot  on  the  2d  October  1839,  the  (esophagus 
was  four  inches  and  three  quarters  in  length,  the  crop  an  inch 
and  a  half  in  width,  the  contracted  intratlioracic  part  seven- 
twelfths  wide.  The  stomach  a  little  compressed,  round,  an 
inch  and  a  quarter  in  diameter.  The  proventricular  belt  com¬ 
plete,  an  inch  and  three-twelfths  in  breadth,  without  grooves. 


350 


ACCI PITEll  NISUS. 


The  intestine  two  feet  three  inches  in  length,  its  widest  part 
two  and  a  half  twelfths,  the  narrowest,  toward  the  rectum,  a 
twelfth  and  a  quarter.  The  coeca  are  two  slight  knobs,  one- 
twelfth  in  leng-th  and  diameter.  The  rectum  three  inches 
long,  its  cloacal  portion  an  inch  in  width.  The  gall-bladder 
oblong,  half  an  inch  in  length  ;  the  entrances  of  the  cystic  and 
hepatic  ducts  four-twelfths  apart.  This  individual  not  having 
been  described,  I  now  take  another  shot  on  the  18th  May 
1834. 

The  form  of  the  parts  is  as  described  in  the  male.  On  the 
tarsus  are  eighteen  indistinct  anterior  scutella,  on  the  first  toe 
six,  on  the  second  eight,  on  the  third  twenty-seven,  on  the 
fourth  fourteen  and  several  basal  series.  The  fourth  quill  is 
longest,  the  fifth  little  shorter  ;  the  tail  a  little  rounded,  the 
lateral  feathers  bein"  half  an  inch  shorter  than  the  longest. 
The  bill  and  claws  are  light  blue  at  the  base,  black  toward  the 
end  ;  the  cere  and  supraocular  edge  light  greenish-yellow  ;  the 
iris  orange  ;  the  feet  yellow-orange.  The  general  colour  of  the 
upper  parts  is  brownish-grey  ;  the  feathers  of  the  hind-neck 
white  at  the  base,  the  scapulars  and  inner  secondary  coverts 
with  two  large  concealed  bands  of  the  same  colour.  On  the 
tail  are  four  dusky  bars,  and  an  obscure  basal  bar,  the  tip 
greyisli-wliite.  The  quills  are  obscurely  barred  with  dusky, 
and  have  their  inner  webs  in  the  intervals  yellowish-wliite, 
unless  toward  the  end.  The  general  colour  of  the  lower  parts 
is  greyish-white,  transversely  marked  with  narrow  bars  of 
dusky-grey  and  brownisli-red,  each  feather  on  the  breast  hav¬ 
ing  five  bars,  the  throat  with  longitudinal  lines  of  deep  brown. 
The  abdomen  is  less  barred,  and  the  lower  tail-coverts  are 
white  ;  the  lower  wing-coverts  reddish-white,  barred  with 
dusky  ;  the  lower  surface  of  the  quills  and  tail-feathers  pale 
grey,  tinged  with  red,  and  barred  with  dark  brown. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  15^  inches  ;  extent  of  wings  2S| ; 
bill  along  the  ridge  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  i°|  ; 
wing  from  flexure  9T%  ;  tail  ;  tarsus  2T%  ;  first  toe  T7|, 
its  claw  i°|  ;  second  toe  T8|,  its  claw  ;  third  toe  1j82,  its 
claw  j7g  ;  fourth  toe  1,  its  claw 


SPARROW  IIAWK. 


351 


Variations. — Males  vary  in  length  from  twelve  to  thirteen 
and  a  half  inches,  and  proportionally  in  bulk.  In  adults  the 
colour  of  the  upper  parts  scarcely  varies,  but  on  the  lower  the 
red  bars  vary  in  breadth  and  purity.  The  largest  females  are 
seventeen  inches  long,  the  smallest  fourteen.  Very  old  indi¬ 
viduals  are  sometimes  nearly  as  blue  on  the  back  as  the  males, 
but  generally  greyish-brown,  or  hair-brown  tinged  with  bluish- 
grey,  is  the  prevailing  tint.  The  length  of  the  alimentary 
canal  varies  considerably.  The  iris  varies  in  the  males  from 
yellow  to  orange  and  even  yellowish-red. 


M. 

M. 

M. 

F. 

F. 

F. 

QEsophagus  in  length.... 

4A 

^2 

3| 

4A 

^2 

5 

4f 

4f 

Crop  in  width . 

1 

1 

1 

1  1 
112 

H 

li 

Stomach  in  diameter.... 

1  3 

xl2 

1 

H 

1* 

u 

ii 

Intestine  in  length . 

30 

19 

30 

33i 

27 

29 

Coeca . 

2 

1  2 

i 

1  2 

2 

T  2 

2 

12 

i 

T  2 

2 

T  l 

Rectum . 

3i 

— 

3i 

°2 

3 

3 

Cloaca  in  width . 

— 

— 

1 

1 

1 

Ij1 

The  individual  of  which  the  intestine  was  only  nineteen 
inches  long  is  mentioned  in  my  work  on  the  Rapacious  Birds 
of  Great  Britain  as  the  smallest  seen  by  me,  and  only  twelve 
inches  in  length.  Facts  like  these  shew  that  in  birds  the  length 
of  the  intestinal  canal  varies  in  birds  as  much  as  in  quadru¬ 
peds.  The  scutella  are  pretty  regular  as  to  number  in  this 
species. 

Habits. — The  manner  of  life  of  this  elegantly  formed  and 
marvellously  agile  little  hawk  is  better  known  than  that  of  the 
congenerous  Goshawk,  it  being  the  most  common  and  most 
extensively  dispersed  of  our  native  species  of  diurnal  plunderers. 
In  spirit,  activity,  dexterity,  and  daring,  it  has  no  superior, 
and  in  these  respects  contrasts  strongly  with  the  Eagles  and 
Buzzards,  which  yet  are  not  sluggish  birds,  although  we  are 
apt  to  consider  them  as  such,  when  we  compare  them  with  the 
Falcons.  The  ground,  the  tree,  the  fence-rail,  or  the  stone 
wall,  merely  afford  it  a  resting-place,  or  a  point  of  observation, 


352 


ACCIPITER  NISCJS. 


for,  like  most  of  the  Raptorcs,  it  is  incapable  of  walking  effi¬ 
ciently,  the  curiously  prominent  pads  on  its  soles,  and  its  beauti¬ 
fully  taper  claws  rendering  such  mode  of  progression  imprac¬ 
ticable,  no  hawk  having  the  power  of  retracting  the  latter 
organs  in  the  manner  of  the  Feline  tribe,  or  in  such  a  degree 
as  to  prevent  their  points  from  touching  the  ground.  Its  flight, 
however,  is  in  some  respects  unrivalled,  and  while  its  wings 
are  of  sufficient  length  and  breadth  to  give  it  a  velocity  nearly 
equal  to  that  of  the  Merlin,  its  tail  is  so  large  and  mobile  as  to 
enable  it  to  execute  with  never-failing  promptitude  the  most 
abrupt  turnings,  as  well  as  the  most  delicate  declensions. 

There  it  comes,  silently  and  swiftly  gliding,  at  the  height  of 
a  few  feet,  over  the  grass  field,  now  shooting  along  the  hedge, 
now  gliding  over  it  to  scan  the  other  side,  and  again  advancing 
with  easy  strokes  of  its  half-expanded  wings.  A  beautiful  ma¬ 
chine  it  is  certainly,  and  marvellously  put  together,  to  be  no¬ 
thing  hut  a  fortuitous  concourse  of  particles,  as  some  wise  men, 
believing  no  such  thing  themselves,  would  have  us  to  believe. 
As  if  suspecting  the  concealment  of  something  among  the  grass, 
it  now  hovers  a  while,  balancing  itself  with  rapid  but  gentle 
beats  of  its  wings,  and  a  vibratory  motion  of  its  expanded  tail ; 
but,  unable  to  discover  any  desirable  object,  away  it  speeds, 
bounds  over  the  stone  wall,  and  curving  upwards  alights  on 
that  stunted  and  solitary  ash,  where  it  stands  in  a  nearly  erect 
posture,  and  surveys  the  neighbourhood.  From  such  a  station 
it  will  sometimes  dart  suddenly  on  some  perhaps  unsuspecting 
bird  not  far  off,  but  more  frequently  it  proceeds  to  a  distance 
before  it  finds  its  prey.  Should  it  meet  with  a  Lark  or  a 
Thrush  in  its  way,  it  may  pursue  it  in  open  flight,  gliding 
rather  behind  than  above  it ;  but  this  is  not  its  usual  mode  of 
hunting,  and  frequently  its  efforts  prove  unavailing,  for  the  ob¬ 
ject  of  pursuit  by  gliding  to  either  side  during  the  swoop  of  its 
enemy,  and  at  length  finding  refuge  in  a  hedge  or  thicket,  often 
escapes  with  its  life.  With  a  swift  but  stealthy  pace  it  speeds 
in  silence,  casting  keen  glances  beneath  and  around,  until  find¬ 
ing  a  bird  unprotected  and  heedless  of  its  approach,  it  clutches 
him  in  an  instant.  So  rapid  is  the  descent  of  this  plunderer 
that  to  one  who  has  unexpectedly  witnessed  it,  nothing  can  be 


SPARROW  HAWK. 


353 


much  more  surprising.  I  have  seen  a  Sparrow  Hawk  rusli 
headlong  into  the  midst  of  a  dense  thicket,  and  suddenly  emerge 
on  the  other  side  carrying  off  a  thrush  in  his  talons.  How  a 
bird  at  its  utmost  speed  could  thread  its  way  between  branches 
and  twigs  seems  almost  incredible.  When  it  steals  upon  the 
farm-yard  or  orchard,  it  will  sometimes  make  a  dash  at  a  bird 
without  succeeding,  and  pass  along  ;  or,  should  the  bird  fly  off*, 
it  may  pursue  it  in  open  flight.  On  two  occasions  of  this  kind, 
I  have  seen  a  Thrush  escape  by  entering  a  house,  and  some¬ 
times  the  hawk  has  been  known  to  follow  the  trembling  fugi- 
tive  thither.  When  a  favourable  opportunity  occurs,  it  is  often 
quite  heedless  of  the  presence  of  man,  and  I  have  seen  one  come 
suddenly  upon  some  Pipits  and  Wagtails  feeding  in  a  field  in 
which  three  ploughs  were  going,  and  carry  off  one  of  the  Pipits 
from  within  a  few  yards  of  one  of  them.  While  some  Sparrows 
were  quietly  enjoying  the  pickings  of  some  horse-dung  on  one  of 
the  streets  of  Edinburgh,  on  which  many  persons,  including  Mr 
Audubon  and  myself,  were  passing,  a  Sparrow  Hawk  glancing 
among  them  carried  one  off*  in  a  moment. 

CD 

That  rapacious  birds,  when  intent  upon  their  prey,  or  pressed 
by  the  cravings  of  hunger,  are  sometimes  unguarded  or  insen¬ 
sible  to  danger,  is  strikingly  illustrated  by  the  following  anec¬ 
dote,  for  which  I  am  indebted  to  Mr  Weir :  “  Mr  David 

Smith  informed  me  that  in  May  1837,  when  on  board  of  the 
St.  George  steam-boat,  which  sails  between  Newhaven  and 
Kirkaldy,  a  Lark  alighted  upon  the  rigging  of  the  vessel, 
when  about  a  mile  from  Seafield,  closely  pursued  by  a  Spar¬ 
row  Hawk,  which  in  this  situation  darted  at  it,  and  pulled  out 
most  of  the  feathers  of  its  tail ;  but  the  bird  having  escaped 
flew  upon  the  deck  in  the  midst  of  the  passengers,  still  fol¬ 
lowed  by  its  enemy.  For  twTo  or  three  seconds  both  birds  stood 
within  a  very  short  distance  of  each  other.  The  poor  little 
songster,  upon  recovering  from  its  fright,  took  wing,  but,  alas, 
was  very  soon  overtaken  by  the  hawk,  which  was  observed 
carrying  it  off  in  triumph  suspended  from  its  claws.” 

This  clever  little  bird  never  soars  in  lazy  gyrations  like  the 
Eagles  and  Buzzards,  nor  does  it  follow  a  circling  course  while 
looking  for  food.  Its  range  of  distinct  vision  cannot  be  very 


VOL.  III. 


A  A 


354 


ACCIPITER  NISUS. 


great,  as  it  does  not  appear  to  observe  birds  in  a  hedge  or  field 
at  the  distance  of  some  hundred  yards,  and  its  low  flight,  at 
the  height  of  only  eight  or  ten  feet,  indicates  a  correspondingly 
short  extent  of  sight.  But  then  the  quickness  of  its  perception 
is  astonishing,  for  when  sweeping  along  nearly  .at  full  speed,  it 
will  readily  discover  any  object  favourably  situated  for  being 
seized.  In  the  fields,  it  preys  on  leverets,  young  rabbits,  field- 
mice,  partridges,  larks,  pipits,  and  wagtails ;  by  the  hedges 
and  in  woods,  on  blackbirds,  thrushes,  sparrows,  chaffinches, 
and  buntings.  Although  it  very  frequently  visits  stack-yards, 
gardens,  and  the  vicinity  of  houses,  its  chief  object  seems  to  be 
to  obtain  small  birds,  not  to  look  after  the  poultry  ;  yet  it  has 
been  known  to  seize  on  pigeons,  and  more  frequently  on 
chickens.  Montagu  says  he  has  “  frequently  known  them 
carry  away  half  a  brood  of  the  latter  before  the  thief  was  dis¬ 
covered.  They  fly  low,  skim  over  a  poultry-yard,  snatch  up  a 
chick,  and  are  out  of  sight  in  an  instant.11  Its  depredations  in 
the  fields  and  in  game-preserves  render  it  highly  obnoxious 
to  the  keepers,  so  that  it  is  often  shot ;  its  occasional  at¬ 
tacks  upon  tame  birds  in  cages  render  it  hateful  to  the  fair 
owners  of  these  interesting  pets,  and  its  visits  to  the  farm-yard 
and  barn-door  are  little  approved  of  by  thrifty  housewives.  Its 
good  qualities,  its  indomitable  courage,  love  of  liberty,  extreme 
agility,  and  elegant  figure,  are  forgotten,  and  all  classes  join  in 
persecuting  the  little  plunderer.  It  does  not  appear  that  it  has 
any  deadly  enemies  among  birds  or  quadrupeds,  and  of  the 
former  few  ever  attempt  to  molest  it,  unless  when  it  has  at¬ 
tacked  a  nest,  and  is  bent  on  carrying  off  the  young.  A  pair 
of  Missel  Thrushes  will  sometimes  defend  their  nest  against  it, 
and  that  successfully,  although  sometimes  one  falls  a  sacrifice. 

Mr  Weir  informs  me  that  it  is  very  difficult  to  decoy  the 
Sparrow  Hawk  into  a  trap.  “  The  only  one,11  he  continues, 
u  which  I  ever  had,  taken  in  this  way,  was  the  one  that  I 
presented  to  you  in  April  1838.  It  was  caught  by  Mr  George 
Craven,  gamekeeper  to  P.  G.  Skene,  Esq.,  on  his  property  of 
Pitlour,  in  the  parish  of  Strathmiglo,  Fifeshire.  Having  ob¬ 
served  the  hawk  one  morning  pounce  upon  a  pigeon,  he  al¬ 
lowed  him  to  devour  a  part  of  it  before  he  chased  him  away. 


SPARROW  HAWK. 


355 


He  then  took  the  remaining  portion  and  fixed  it  to  the  ground, 
placing  around  it  three  or  four  rat-traps,  in  one  of  which  he 
was  caught  by  the  leg.  He  told  me  that  in  his  neighbourhood 
he  had  been  observed  to  make  sad  havoc  amongst  the  partridges 
and  pigeons.'11 

When  a  Sparrow  Hawk  suddenly  appears  in  a  place  where 
there  are  many  small  birds,  they  usually  betake  themselves  to 
the  nearest  wood  or  thicket,  where  after  a  little  they  give  vent 
to  their  feelings  in  loud  cries.  Sometimes  it  is  pursued  by 
birds  of  various  species,  which,  although  incapable  of  seriously 
molesting  it,  continue  to  hover  round  it,  uttering  cries  expres¬ 
sive  of  their  alarm  and  hatred.  I  have  seen  one  flying  rapidly 
off  in  the  evening  with  a  bird  in  its  talons,  followed  at  full 
speed  by  a  Wagtail,  uttering  hurried  cries  all  the  while.  In 
this  case  it  is  probable  that  the  hawk  had  carried  off  its  mate 
or  one  of  its  young.  I  think,  however,  that  the  birds  on  which 
it  usually  preys  do  not  gather  about  it  or  pursue  it  unless  some 
of  their  relatives  or  companions  have  been  swept  away  by  it. 
Often,  however,  a  flock  of  Swallows  follow7  a  Sparrow  Hawk  a 
long  while,  hovering  at  a  considerable  distance,  and  keeping  up 
an  incessant  chatter.  The  prevalent  idea  on  this  subject  is,  that 
small  birds  being  the  natural  prey  of  hawks,  they  have  an  in¬ 
stinctive  antipathy  to  their  destroyers,  and  when  one  of  the 
latter  is  observed,  they  call  to  each  other,  and  collecting  in  a 
band,  assume  a  sufficient  degree  of  courage  to  impel  them  to 
pursue  and  harass  him,  knowing  that  their  number  secures 
them  against  an  attack,  as  in  his  perplexity  he  cannot  fix  upon 
an  individual.  To  this  it  may  reasonably  be  objected  that,  hav¬ 
ing  no  power,  even  when  united  in  bands,  to  oppose  a  hawk, 
these  birds  ought  naturally  to  conceal  themselves  from  his 
view,  in  order  to  ensure  their  safety.  After  attending  to  this 
subject  for  some  time,  and  observing  that  in  most  cases,  the 
hawk  when  pursued  by  small  birds  had  one  of  them  in  his 
talons,  and  was  thus  so  encumbered  as  to  be  incapable  of  mo¬ 
lesting  them,  I  am  still  of  the  same  opinion  as  when  I  offered 
the  following  solution  of  this  question: — “  How  does  a  bird, 
which  under  ordinary  circumstances  manifests  extreme  terror 
at  the  sight  of  another,  under  other  circumstances  muster  suf- 


35(3 


ACCIPITER  NISUS. 


ficient  courage  to  pursue  it?  Is  it  certain  that  a  hawk  is  un¬ 
able  to  single  out  a  bird  from  a  flock  ;  or,  is  there  more  reason 
to  think  that  a  troop  of  swallows,  which  have  no  weapons  that 
could  inflict  the  least  injury  on  a  hawk,  could  in  the  smallest 
degree  affect  it  with  fear?  It  is  observable  in  our  own  species, 
that  cowards,  the  moment  the  danger  is  over,  assume  so  much 
more  courage  than  is  natural  to  them,  that  in  the  midst  of  the 
excitement  they  will  even  make  a  venture  which  in  ordinary 
circumstances  they  would  not  have  courage  to  do.  The  small 
birds  that  we  speak  of  are  all  cowards,  in  the  presence  of  hawks 
at  least,  and  when  one  of  the  latter  comes  unawares  among 
them  and  carries  off  one,  or  passes  over  without  pursuing  them, 
they  soon  recover  from  their  fright,  and  being  elated  beyond 
their  ordinary  state,  in  a  degree  corresponding  to  their  former 
depression,  they  muster  spirit  enough  to  go  on  for  some  time 
with  a  mock  pursuit.1''  It  is  this  sudden  revulsion  when  the 
danger  is  over,  that  renders  clamorous  in  the  trees  birds  which 
were  perfectly  silent  when  the  hawk  was  gliding  past  them. 

With  the  view  of  presenting  as  complete  an  account  of  this 
bird  as  possible,  I  shall  now  introduce  a  notice  respecting  it 
from  the  pen  of  my  friend  Mr  Hepburn. 

“  The  Sparrow  Hawk  is  common  in  all  the  cultivated  parts 
of  East  Lothian.  When  searching  a  field  it  sometimes  hangs 
in  the  liquid  void  precisely  like  the  kestrel.  In  the  dim  twilight 
I  often  see  it  coursing  about  its  favourite  hunting-grounds,  on 
the  lookout  for  some  bird  that  may  have  incautiously  roosted 
within  reach  of  its  formidable  grasp.  For  many  years  an  indi¬ 
vidual  of  this  species  has  almost  daily  visited  our  stack-yard 
during  the  winter  season,  generally  betwixt  noon  and  three 
o'clock.  As  he  glides  in  lowly  flight  over  the  fields  to  his  lar¬ 
der,  as  the  stack-yard  may  be  termed,  his  detested  presence  is 
first  announced  by  the  ‘  twink1  of  some  Chaffinch  perched  on 
a  tall  tree.  Its  companions  repeat  the  alarm-cry,  and  in  com¬ 
pany  with  Buntings  and  Linnets  fly  up  to  the  trees,  a  few 
perching  on  the  bushes.  The  Sparrows  feeding  near  the  barn¬ 
door  seek  the  middle  of  the  neighbouring  hedsfe,  or  betake 
themselves  in  a  compact  flock  to  the  shelter  of  the  evergreens 
in  the  garden,  where  they  remain  perfectly  quiet  till  the  danger 


SPARROW  HAWK. 


357 


is  over.  Not  so  the  other  birds,  which,  from  their  command¬ 
ing  position,  emit  cries  expressive  of  their  fears.  The  clear 
notes  of  the  Chaffinch  are  distinguishable  above  the  rest.  Two 
or  three  hundred  of  these  birds  twinking  in  chorus  produce  a 
fine  effect  on  a  calm  frosty  day  like  this.  The  Hawk  now 
perches  for  a  minute  or  so  on  the  hedge,  and  as  the  stacks  screen 
him  from  view,  the  fears  of  the  poor  birds  subside  for  a  little  ; 
but  there  he  comes  ;  swift  as  the  arrow  from  the  bow  he  rushes 
from  between  the  stacks,  gains  the  plantation,  dashes  fearlessly 
among  the  bushes  after  the  fugitives,  clutches  his  quarry,  and 
is  off  as  swiftly  as  he  came.  Sometimes,  when  he  has  stealthily 
approached  the  garden,  without  being  observed,  perhaps  the 
noise  of  a  party  of  Sparrows  squabbling  amongst  themselves 
attracts  his  attention.  Swift  as  thought  he  glides  along  the 
walk  ;  if  the  bushes  are  too  thick  for  a  dash  he  flies  rapidly 
round  them  ;  then  woe  to  the  wretched  creature  that  first  meets 
the  glance  of  his  keen  eye.  At  another  time  he  has  found  a 
flock  of  Sparrows  in  the  close-pruned  hedge  that  surrounds  the 
stack-yard.  He  first  beats  one  side,  then  the  other,  the  birds 
always  betaking  themselves  to  the  opposite  side  ;  and  thus  he 
persecutes  them  till  one  in  its  fright  exposes  itself.  A  shriek 
follows,  and  all  is  over.  I  only  once  observed  this  hawk  rush 
from  a  great  height  in  the  air  upon  a  flock  thus  circumstanced. 
Its  usual  manner  of  approaching  its  prey  is  by  gliding  close 
over  the  ground. 

“  It  follows  an  ingenious  method  of  procuring  a  choice  supply 
of  food  from  August  to  November,  when  the  leaves  are  on  the 
trees  that  surround  our  dwelling.  Not  far  from  the  garden- 
hedge  is  a  row  of  tall  willows.  Within  the  garden,  and  not 
fourteen  yards  from  them,  stands  a  beautiful  white  birch,  which 
shoots  up  to  the  height  of  about  twenty-four  feet.  Its  stem  is 
entwined  with  an  aged  honeysuckle,  in  which  for  the  last  three 
years  ten  pairs  of  Sparrows  have  built  their  nests,  which  in 
some  places  embrace  the  entire  circumference  of  the  stem,  while 
in  others  they  are  piled  irregularly  above  one  another.  Softly 
and  warily  does  the  Sparrow  Hawk  glide  into  one  of  the  top¬ 
most  boughs  of  the  willows,  and  keen  are  the  glances  of  his 
bright  eye,  which  grows  brighter  when  he  sees  the  Sparrows 


358 


ACCIPITER  N1SUS. 


bickering  in  the  honeysuckle.  Balancing  himself  on  his  perch, 
with  half-opened  wings,  and  levelling  his  neck  for  flight,  down 
he  rushes.  The  yelloping  instantly  ceases  ;  then  what  a  rust¬ 
ling  of  the  leaves  of  the  neighbouring  bushes,  followed  by  a 
death-yell  !  and  now  you  see  the  bold  robber  bearing  away  his 
bloody  victim  to  some  quiet  corner  to  devour  it  at  leisure.  I 
have  seen  Pipits,  Larks,  Wagtails,  and  Swallows  evade  the 
swoop  of  this  fell  destroyer  by  dexterously  darting  to  one  side, 
rising  above  the  pursuer,  again  darting  aside,  and  rising  as  he 
descends,  and  so  on,  gradually  diminishing  the  distance  from 
the  earth,  until  the  persecuted  bird  finds  a  shelter,  or  the 
tyrant  gives  up  the  pursuit  in  disgust.  What  a  treat  it  is  to 
behold  the  elegant  evolutions  performed  by  both  parties  ! 

“  This  hawk  preys  chiefly  on  small  birds,  partridges,  leverets, 
and  young  rabbits.  Should  the  gamekeeper  disturb  it  when 
feasting,  he  sets  a  trap  near  the  remains,  and  is  often  successful 
in  capturing  it.  It  is  sometimes  caught  in  traps  baited  with 
dead  rabbits.  It  is  very  fond  of  washing.  Here  it  prefers  the 
branches  of  the  old  oak  in  the  wood  for  building  its  shallow 
nest  of  slender  twigs,  in  which  it  deposits  from  three  to  five 
eggs.  The  young  I  have  seen  fledged  so  late  as  the  30th  of  July, 
but  the  usual  time  is  about  the  end  of  June. 

“  One  evening  in  June  1838,  on  my  way  home  from  fishing, 
I  walked  through  a  wood  near  Ruchlaw  mill.  Observing  a  num¬ 
ber  of  rabbits  gambolling  in  a  green  glade,  I  stood  to  see  their 
sports,  when  in  a  short  time  a  Sparrow  Hawk  swept  down  from 
a  neighbouring  ash,  and  fixed  his  claws  into  an  old  one,  which 
rushed  shrieking  to  the  brink  of  a  precipice  overhanging.Whit- 
tingham  Water.  Running  forward  I  arrived  in  time  to  see 
both  saved  from  certain  death,  by  being  caught  by  a  briar  bush 
growing  on  a  little  natural  platform.  Still  the  hawk  kept  his 
hold,  till  I  shouted,  on  which  he  flew  off.''"’ 

The  Sparrow  Hawk  is  dispersed  over  all  parts  of  Britain, 
but  is  more  plentiful  in  the  cultivated  districts  than  in  the 
heathy  or  mountainous  portions  of  the  country.  In  the  Outer 
Hebrides,  where  there  are  no  trees,  it  breeds  in  rocks  ;  but  in 
wooded  districts,  it  either  builds  its  nest  in  a  tree,  or,  more 
frequently,  takes  possession  of  the  deserted  nest  of  a  Crow. 


SPARROW  HAWK. 


359 


When  formed  by  itself,  its  nest  is  nearly  flat,  composed  of 
sticks  and  slender  twigs,  rudely  j)ut  together,  with  some  grass, 
moss,  or  wool  in  the  central  small  depression.  The  eggs,  from 
three  to  five  in  number,  are  very  broadly  ovate  or  roundish- 
elliptical,  bluish-white,  blotched  and  irregularly  spotted,  some¬ 
times  sparingly,  sometimes  profusely,  with  umber-brown  of 
various  shades ;  the  largest  in  my  collection  is  an  inch  and 
eight- twelfths  long,  an  inch  and  four-twelfths  in  breadth,  the 
smallest  an  inch  and  seven-twelfths  in  length,  and  an  inch  and 
a  quarter  in  breadth. 

“  In  one  of  the  plantations  on  Boghead,1"  Mr  W eir  writes, 
“  for  several  years  past  a  pair  of  Sparrow  Hawks  have 
reared  their  young,  either  in  the  deserted  nest  of  the  Carrion 
Crow  or  Magpie.  They  were  uncommonly  bold,  and  with  the 
rapidity  of  an  arrow  skimmed  over  the  ground.  Amongst 
partridges,  pigeons,  and  other  smaller  birds,  they  committed 
great  destruction.  With  almost  unerring  aim  they  pounced 
upon  their  prey.  From  a  hut  formed  of  the  branches  of  trees 
I  watched  for  several  hours  the  habits  of  a  pair  of  these  vora¬ 
cious  birds  whilst  they  were  engaged  in  feeding  their  young, 
which  were  nearly  half  fledged.  During  the  time  that  I  re¬ 
mained  in  it,  the  female  continued  to  sit  upon  them.  The 
male,  sometimes  at  shorter,  and  at  other  times  at  longer  inter¬ 
vals,  alighted  upon  the  top  of  a  tree,  at  the  distance  of  about 
forty  yards  from  the  nest,  with  a  bird  in  his  talons.  The  fe¬ 
male  always  took  it  from  him,  and  divided  it  amongst  her  nest¬ 
lings.  Sometimes  he  arrived  with  a  blackbird  or  a  thrush, 
but  more  frequently  with  a  lark,  a  yellow  bunting,  or  a  chaf¬ 
finch.  Being  anxious  to  know  whether  the  male  is  in  the 
habit  of  feeding  his  offspring,  I  one  morning,  in  a  place  of  con¬ 
cealment,  watched  another  pair  of  them  for  four  or  five  hours. 
The  male  always  alighted,  as  in  the  former  case,  upon  the  top  of 
a  tree  at  some  distance  from  the  nest,  with  a  bird  in  his  claws, 
and  called  upon  his  mate,  who  came  and  caught  hold  of  it  in  her 
bill.  I  shot  her  as  she  was  carrying  it  to  her  young.  About 
nine  o’clock  in  the  morning  I  went  home.  At  six  in  the  even¬ 
ing  I  returned  with  a  boy,  who  climbed  the  tree  to  see  what  was 
in  the  nest.  He  had  no  sooner  looked  into  it,  than  with  asto- 


ACCI PITER  N1SUS. 


3()0 

nishment  lie  exclaimed,  4  Ah  !  Sir,  the  poor  little  things  are 
gasping.1  They  were  in  fact  almost  suffocated  by  the  dead  birds 
about  them.  He  threw  down  no  less  than  sixteen,  amongst 
which  were  larks,  yellow  buntings,  chaffinches,  hedge-sparrows, 
and  green  linnets.  I  took  home  the  young,  which  were  four  in 
number.  They  seemed  not  to  have  been  fed  during  the  day,  as 
they  were  exceedingly  hungry.  In  these  two  instances  it  would 
appear  that  the  male  bird  provided  the  food,  but  did  not  give  it 
to  his  family.  Whether  this  is  always  the  case  with  the  Spar¬ 
row  Hawk  I  cannot  ascertain  until  I  have  further  opportunities 
of  observing  their  habits.11 

Young. — The  young  are  at  first  entirely  covered  with  soft 
white  down.  Their  feet  are  yellow,  the  claws  dusky,  inclin¬ 
ing  to  flesh-colour  at  the  base.  The  first  plumage,  when  the 
feathers  are  but  partially  grown,  is  dark  greyish-brown  on  the 
upper  parts,  the  feathers  terminally  margined  with  light  red, 
and  on  the  lower  parts  light  red  barred  with  dusky.  When 
fully  fledged  they  have  the  cere  greenish-yellow,  the  bill  dusky 
at  the  end,  pale  blue  with  some  yellow  at  the  base,  the  iris 
light  brown,  the  feet  greenish-yellow.  The  feathers  of  the 
upper  parts  are  greyish-brown,  margined  with  light  red,  that 
colour  prevailing  on  part  of  the  hind-neck,  those  of  the  nape 
white  excepting  the  tips,  the  scapulars  with  two  large  reddish- 
white  spots  ;  the  tail-feathers  are  wood-brown,  the  two  mid¬ 
dle  with  four,  the  lateral  with  six  dusky  bands.  The  lower 
parts  are  dull  reddish-white,  the  throat  and  part  of  the  neck 
with  longitudinal  linear  dusky  streaks,  the  breast  and  sides 
barred  with  dusky,  there  being  generally  four  dusky  bars  on 
each  feather,  that  toward  the  end  heart-shaped  and  pointed  ; 
the  lower  tail-coverts  reddish-white  ;  the  lower  winsf-coverts 
pale  reddish,  barred  with  dusky ;  the  spaces  between  the  dark 
bands  on  the  inner  webs  of  the  quills  reddish-white. 

Progress  toward  Maturity. — In  the  first  plumage  there  is 
little  difference  between  the  male  and  the  female.  In  the  se¬ 
cond,  the  male  and  female  are  of  the  same  greyish-brown  above, 
the  feathers  narrowly  bordered  with  light  red.  The  lower 
parts  are  more  tinged  with  red,  and  more  broadly  barred,  in 


SPARROW  HAWK. 


3(jl 


the  male  than  in  the  female.  As  the  birds  advance  in  age,  the 
brown  or  dusky  bands  on  the  lower  parts  of  the  male  become 
converted  into  light  red,  which  colour  ultimately  predomi¬ 
nates  ;  whereas  in  the  females,  the  reddish  colour  gradually 
disappears,  the  bars  becoming  dusky  and  then  deep  grey,  their 
intervals  reddish-white  and  then  greyisli-wliite.  The  upper 
parts  change  from  brown  to  deep  greyish-blue  in  the  male,  and 
to  brownish-grey  in  the  female.  I  have  seen  a  few  old  females, 
however,  of  as  blue  a  tint  as  the  males.  The  bars  on  the  wings 
and  tail  become  fainter  the  older  the  bird  is,  but  without  vary¬ 
ing  in  number  ;  there  being  six  on  the  outer  and  four  on  the 
middle  tail-feathers  in  both  sexes. 

Remarks. — The  habits  and  gradations  of  plumage  of  the  Spar¬ 
row  Hawk  are  satisfactorily  known,  and  have  been  more  fully 
described  in  the  preceding  pages  than  they  have  hitherto  been. 
The  numberless  differences  in  tints  and  markings,  as  well  as  in 
size,  have  led  some  ornithologists  to  divide  this  species  into 
two  or  more.  Having  been  at  one  time  impressed  with  the 
idea  of  there  being  two  species  in  Britain,  I  have  paid  much 
attention  to  the  subject,  and  examined  about  a  hundred  indi¬ 
viduals,  until,  having  traced  the  gradations  in  the  two  sexes,  I 
am  convinced  that  we  have  only  one  Sparrow  Hawk  in  Scot¬ 
land  at  least.  As  to  the  difference  in  size  between  the  sexes, 
it  is  by  no  means  greater  than  is  observed  in  the  American 
Accipiter  fuscus  and  A.  Cooperi,  birds  which  have  a  wonder¬ 
fully  close  resemblance  to  A.  Nisus,  although  differing  in  size, 
the  male  of  A.  Cooperi  being  about  equal  to  the  female  of  A. 
Nisus,  and  the  male  of  the  latter  considerably  larger  than  that 
of  A.  fuscus. 

By  a  note  in  the  third  part  of  M.  Temminck’s  Manual,  it 
appears  that  Mess.  Becker  and  Meisner  have  invented  a  greater 
Sparrow  Hawk,  Falco  nisus  major,  which  is  said  to  have  the 
bill  strong,  the  cere  yellowisli-grey,  the  iris  and  feet  lemon - 
yellow  ;  the  head  greyish-brown  marked  with  numerous  white 
spots  ;  the  nape  brownish,  here  and  there  marked  with  white 
feathers  ;  all  the  upper  part  of  the  body  and  tail  more  brownish 
than  bluish  or  grey  ;  the  breast,  lower  part  of  the  body,  and 


302 


ACCIPITER  NISUS. 


tliighs  barred  with  dusky  on  a  white  ground  ;  tail  with  five 
bands  and  a  terminal  light  brown  band,  its  lower  surface  dull 
white.  It  differs  from  the  smaller  species — 1st,  In  being  larger ; 
the  tail  an  inch  and  a  half  longer  ;  2dly,  In  having  the  eggs 
larger,  more  rounded,  greyish-white,  and  only  dotted  with 
brown  at  large  intervals ;  3dly,  In  the  male  and  the  female  be¬ 
ing  almost  precisely  similar  ;  4thly,  In  the  males  having  no 
reddish-brown  on  the  belly  or  thighs.  On  this  subject  I  would 
offer  a  few  remarks.  Young  males  of  the  common  Sparrow 
Hawk  often  have  no  red  on  the  lower  parts,  and  in  this  state 
are  very  similar  to  old  females  ;  individuals  of  either  sex  vary 
as  much  as  to  render  the  tail  of  one  two  inches  longer  than 
that  of  another  individual  of  the  same  sex.  As  to  the  eggs, 
one  finds  in  the  same  nest  a  large  egg  and  one  considerably 
smaller,  a  blotched  egg,  an  egg  merely  dotted,  and  an  egg  al¬ 
most  destitute  of  markings.  The  colouring  as  above  given 
differs  in  nothing  from  that  of  many  common  Sparrow  Hawks, 
excepting  in  the  white  spots  on  the  head,  and  the  different 
number  of  bands  on  the  tail,  both  of  which  circumstances  may 
be  incorrectly  stated.  Finally,  however,  it  is  very  possible  that 
two  species  may  he  confounded  under  the  same  name. 


Fig.  220. 


CIRCUS.  HARRIER, 


The  birds  which  constitute  the  genus  Circus  are  remarkable 
for  presenting  characters  indicative  of  an  approximation  to  the 
Owls  on  the  one  hand,  and  on  the  other  to  the  Hawks,  pro¬ 
perly  so  called,  and  the  Buzzards. 

The  bill  is  short,  as  broad  as  high  at  the  base,  compressed 
and  attenuated  toward  the  end  :  upper  mandible  with  its  dor¬ 
sal  outline  declinate  and  nearly  straight  as  far  as  the  edge  of  the 
cere,  then  decurved  in  about  the  fourth  of  a  circle,  the  ridge 
on  the  cere  broad  and  flattened,  afterwards  narrow  but  convex, 
the  sides  rapidly  sloping  and  moderately  convex,  the  edges  with 
a  broad  festoon,  the  tip  deflected,  subtrigonal,  acute  ;  lower 
mandible  with  the  angle  medial,  wide,  and  rounded,  the  crura 
sloping  upwards  and  feathered,  the  dorsal  line  somewhat  convex, 
the  back  broad,  the  sides  rounded,  the  edges  involute,  beyond 
the  middle  sharp  and  slightly  arched,  the  tip  obliquely  trun¬ 
cate.  Figs.  230,  231,  233,  234. 

Mouth  wide  ;  upper  mandible  concave  beneath,  with  a  groove 
on  each  side,  and  thin  projecting  margins ;  lower  mandible 
deeply  concave,  its  edges  fitting  into  the  grooves  of  the  upper. 
Palate  flat,  with  two  longitudinal  papillate  ridges  ;  posterior 
aperture  of  nares  oblong,  anteriorly  linear,  with  papillate  mar¬ 
gins.  Tongue  short,  fleshy,  concave  above,  horny  beneath, 
sagittate  and  papillate  at  the  base,  its  tip  rounded  and  slightly 
emarginate.  (Esophagus,  PL  XXI,  Fig.  3,  abed ,  very  wide, 
with  an  extremely  large  crop,  b  c\  its  pro  ventricular  portion, 
d  e ,  much  dilated,  and  having  a  complete  belt  of  glandules. 
Stomach,  £,  very  large,  round,  somewhat  compressed  ;  its  mus¬ 
cular  coat  very  thin,  being  composed  of  a  single  series  of  fas¬ 
ciculi,  its  tendinous  spaces  small.  Pylorus  without  valves ; 
intestine,  e  fj ,  of  moderate  length  and  width  ;  coeca  very  small, 
cloaca,  j  /,  very  large  and  globular. 


364 


CIUCUS.  HARRIER. 


Nostrils  large,  ovato-oblong,  in  the  middle  and  fore  part  of 
the  cere,  and  having  an  oblique  plate  from  the  upper  edge. 
Eyes  large  ;  eyelids  feathered  and  ciliated  ;  the  lachrymal  ridge 
not  projecting.  Aperture  of  ear  very  large,  elliptical  or  oblong, 
with  a  bare  space  extending  from  it  to  the  base  of  the  lower 
jaw. 

Head  of  moderate  size,  ovate  ;  neck  rather  short ;  body  very 
slender,  much  compressed  behind.  Tibia  long  and  muscular ; 
tarsus  long,  slender,  compressed,  with  a  series  of  large  oblique 
scute! la  on  the  fore  and  outer  part,  reticular  oblong  scales  on 
the  sides,  and  scutella  behind,  unless  at  the  upper  and  lower 
parts.  Toes  rather  small,  slender  ;  prominently  padded  be¬ 
neath,  scutellate  above  unless  at  the  base  ;  the  third  and  fourth 
connected  by  a  pretty  large  basal  web  ;  first  stouter,  but  con¬ 
siderably  shorter  than  the  second,  third  much  longer,  fourth 
longer  than  the  second.  Claws  long,  moderately  curved,  slen¬ 
der,  compressed,  rounded  above,  flat  beneath,  tapering  to  a  fine 
point.  Those  of  the  first  and  second  toes  much  larger,  that  of 
the  third  with  a  dilated  thin  inner  edge.  Fig.  232. 

Plumage  very  soft,  and  generally  blended.  Loral  spaces  and 
sides  of  the  cere  covered  with  rather  long,  bristle-tipped  plume¬ 
lets,  partially  concealing  the  nostrils.  Feathers  oblong,  and 
rounded  ;  those  of  the  head  of  moderate  length,  of  the  neck 
bulky.  A  distinct  ruff  of  narrow  decurved  feathers  extends  from 
behind  the  eye  to  the  throat.  On  the  sides  the  feathers  are 
elongated,  on  the  abdomen  downy,  on  the  outer  part  of  the 
tibia  long.  Wings  long,  broad,  much  rounded,  of  twenty- 
three  quills  ;  primaries  rather  broad,  obtuse ;  the  fourth  and 
third  longest,  the  first  much  shorter,  being  about  equal  to  the 
seventh  ;  the  outermost  four  having  the  inner  web  sinuously 
cut  out  toward  the  end  ;  and  with  the  outer  web  attenuated  ; 
secondaries  broad,  broadly  rounded,  with  a  minute  tip.  Tail 
long,  nearly  even,  or  rounded,  of  twelve  broad  rounded  feathers. 

In  this  genus  the  general  appearance  approaches  to  that  of 
Accipiter.  The  bill  is  intermediate  in  form  between  that  of 
Accipiter  and  Buteo  ;  the  elongated  tarsi  resemble  those  of  the 
former  genus,  and  the  toes  might  belong  to  either.  The  plu¬ 
mage,  especially  in  the  females,  is  almost  as  soft  as  in  some 


CIRCUS.  HARRIER 


305 


owls,  and  in  them  its  colours  farther  indicate  an  affinity,  which 
is  more  decidedly  shewn  by  the  structure  of  the  ear,  and  the 
ruff  of  oblong  feathers.  It  seems  somewhat  strange,  however, 
that  the  digestive  organs  make  no  approximation  to  those  of 
owls  ;  for  while  in  the  latter  the  oesophagus  is  of  uniform 
width  throughout,  and  the  coeca  are  large  and  oblong,  these 
parts  are  in  the  Harriers  much  the  same  as  in  Buzzards. 

The  Harriers,  when  searching  for  food,  fly  low,  with  a  gliding 
and  gentle  motion,  often  in  circles,  pounce  upon  small  quadru¬ 
peds,  birds,  and  reptiles,  or  sometimes  pursue  birds  in  open 
flight,  and  feed  occasionally  on  insects  and  fishes.  They  nestle 
on  the  ground,  laying  three  or  four  eggs,  migrate  from  the 
colder  districts  at  the  approach  of  the  cold  season,  and  as  a 
genus  are  very  extensively  distributed  on  both  continents. 
Three  species  are  found  in  Britain  :  the  Ring-tailed,  Mon¬ 
tagu’s,  and  Moor  or  Marsh  Harriers. 

The  accompanying  figure  represents  the  head  of  a  female  of 
the  common  or  Ring-tailed  species. 


Fig.  ‘230. 


CIRCUS  CYANEUS.  THE  RING-TAILED 

HARRIER. 


COMMON  HARRIER.  IIEN  HARRIER.  BI.UE  HAWK.  BLUE  KITE. 
BROWN  KITE.  BLUE  OR  BROWN  GLEDE.  BREID-AIR-TOIN. 


Fig.  231. 


Falco  cyaneus.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  126.  Male. 

Falco  Pygargus.  Linn.  Syst.  Nat.  I.  126.  Female. 

Falco  cyaneus.  Lath.  Ind.  Orn.  II.  39. 

Falco  cyaneus.  Mont.  Trans.  Linn.  Soc.  IX.  182. 

Busard  Saint  Martin.  Falco  cyaneus.  Temin.  Man.  d'Orn.  I.  72. 

Hen-Harrier.  Circus  cyaneus.  Selb.  Illustr.  I.  68. 

Buteo  cyaneus.  Hen-Harrier.  Jen.  Brit.  Vert.  An.  89. 

The  wings  extending  to  about  two  inches  from  the  tip  of  the 
tail ;  the  fourth  quill  longest ,  the  third  almost  equal.  Male 
with  the  plumage  light  bluish-grey,  the  outer  primaries  black  to- 
ward  the  end ,  the  tail-coverts  white.  Female  umber-brown  above , 
pale  reddish-yellow  longitudinally  streaked  with  brown  beneath , 
tail-coverts  white.  Young  similar  to  the  female ,  with  the  tints 
richer. 


RING-TAILED  HARRIER 


367 


Male. — The  Common  or  Ring-tailed  Harrier  is  of  a  slender 
elongated  form,  although  its  body,  when  the  feathers  are  re¬ 
moved,  is  found  to  be  short,  as  in  the  Owls.  Like  them  also 
it  is  very  light,  so  that  the  bulk  of  the  bird  consists  chiefly  of 
its  plumage.  The  head  is  rather  large  ;  the  bill  slender, 
when  compared  with  that  of  the  falconine  species  hitherto  de¬ 
scribed. 

The  upper  mandible  is  somewhat  concave  within,  the  lower 
deeply  so,  and  having  a  median  prominent  line.  The  tongue 
is  eight  and  a  half  twelfths  long,  fleshy,  saggittate  and  papillate 
at  the  base,  concave  above,  horny  beneath,  and  with  the  tip 
rounded  and  slightly  emarginate.  The  oesophagus,  PI.  XXI, 
Fig.  3,  abed ,  is  six  and  a  half  inches  long,  wide,  dilated  into 
a  crop,  be ,  which  when  fully  distended  is  three  inches  in  width  ; 
then  contracted  to  ten-twelfths,  and  again  at  the  proventriculus, 
d  h ,  dilated  to  an  inch  and  a  half.  The  glandules  are  very  small, 
and  form  a  continuous  belt  nearly  an  inch  in  breadth.  The 
stomach,  0,  is  roundish,  somewhat  compressed,  an  inch  and 
three-fourths  in  diameter ;  its  muscular  coat  extremely  thin, 
the  inner  soft,  the  tendinous  spaces  about  a  third  of  an  inch  in 
breadth.  The  intestine,  e fhj ,  is  thirty-four  inches  long,  from 
three-twelfths  to  a  twelfth  and  a  half  in  width ;  the  rectum  three 
inches  in  length,  with  a  large  globular  cloacal  dilatation,  an  inch 
in  diameter.  The  coeca  are  extremely  small,  oblong,  two-twelfths 
in  length,  and  one-twelfth  in  width.  The  pylorus  has  a  thicken¬ 
ed  margin,  without  knobs,  but  with  two  small  ridges.  The  two 
lobes  of  the  liver  are  nearly  equal  in  size  ;  and  there  is  an  ob¬ 
long  gall-bladder,  half  an  inch  in  length. 

The  eyes  are  large,  and  the  eyelids  are  feathered,  and  mar¬ 
gined  with  ciliary  bristles  ;  the  supraocular  ridge  also  feathered. 
The  nostrils  large,  ovato-oblong,  with  an  internal  oblique  ridge 
from  the  upper  part.  The  aperture  of  the  ear  is  elliptical, 
very  large,  half  an  inch  in  length,  and  margined  with  slender 
recurved  feathers.  From  its  inferior  margin  proceeds  down¬ 
wards  and  forwards  to  the  base  of  the  lower  jaw  a  narrow  space 
of  bare  skin  nearly  three  quarters  of  an  inch  long.  The  tarsi 
are  feathered  anteriorly  about  a  third  of  their  length,  rather  long, 
slender,  with  eighteen  large  anterior  oblique  scutella,  of  which 


368 


CIRCUS  CYANEUS. 


the  lower  are  smaller,  the  sides  reticulated  with  subhexagonal 
scales,  the  hind  part  with  twelve  scutella,  and  hexagonal  scales 
above  and  below.  The  toes  are  small,  the  outer  connected 
with  the  third  by  a  basal  web  of  considerable  size  ;  the  first 
considerably  shorter  than  the  second,  the  fourth  a  little  longer 
than  the  latter,  the  third  much  longer ;  all  scutellate  above, 
unless  at  the  base,  tuberculate  and  papillate  beneath,  there 
being  a  long  fleshy  pad  or  tubercle  on  the  last  joint  of  each, 
and  one  on  the  next  joint  of  the  outer  two ;  the  first  toe  with 
six,  the  second  with  five,  the  third  with  seventeen,  the  fourth 
with  seven  scutella.  The  claws  are  long,  compressed,  rounded 
above,  flat  beneath,  curved  in  the  fourth  of  a  circle,  tapering 
to  a  fine  point ;  those  of  the  first  and  second  toes  largest,  that 
of  the  third  with  a  thin  internal  edge.  Fig.  232. 

O  o 

Plumage  very  soft,  blended,  somewhat  compact  on  the  wings 
and  back;  otherwise  as  described  in  the  generic  character.  The 
wings  are  long,  broad,  and  much  rounded ;  the  fourth  quill 
longest,  the  third  two-twelfths  of  an  inch  shorter,  the  second 
an  inch  shorter  than  the  third,  and  the  first  two  inches  and  a 
half  shorter  than  the  second,  and  about  equal  to  the  seventh. 
The  first  five  have  their  outer  webs  attenuated  toward  the  end, 
and  the  first  four  are  sinuate  on  the  inner  webs ;  the  secondary 
quills  broad  and  rounded.  The  tail  is  long,  straight,  of  mode  ¬ 
rate  breadth,  nearly  even,  the  lateral  feathers  beino-  about 
three-fourths  of  an  inch  shorter  than  the  longest. 

c5 

The  bill  is  bluish-black,  the  cere  yellow,  the  inside  of  the 
mouth  dark  bluish-grey  ;  the  iris  yellow  ;  the  tarsi  and  toes 
orange-yellow,  the  claws  black.  The  general  colour  of  the 
plumage  is  light  greyish  blue  ;  the  head  and  scapulars  of  a 
deeper  tint ;  the  hind  part  of  the  back  paler,  the  upper  tail- 
coverts  white,  as  are  the  bases  of  the  occipital  feathers.  The 
outer  six  primaries  are  black,  on  the  outer  web  tinged  with 
grey,  but  at  the  base  white  ;  the  rest  and  the  secondaries  of 
the  general  colour  on  their  outer  webs,  but  on  the  inner  whitish 
and  obscurely  mottled  with  dark  grey.  The  middle  feathers  of 
the  tail  are  of  a  lighter  tint  than  the  back,  and  the  rest  gradually 
become  paler  until  the  outer  web  of  the  lateral  becomes  white  ; 
the  inner  webs  of  all  but  the  two  middle  white,  with  eight 

7  o 


RING-TAILED  HARRIER. 


369 


bars  of  dark  grey.  The  bristle-tipped  feathers  of  the  loral 
space  and  cere  are  white  at  the  base,  black  toward  the  end. 
The  fore  neck,  and  anterior  part  of  the  breast  are  greyish-blue, 
paler  than  that  of  the  upper  parts  ;  the  middle  of  the  breast, 
the  abdomen,  and  tibial  feathers  bluish- white  ;  the  lower  wing- 
coverts,  the  bases  of  the  outer  primaries,  and  the  lower  tail- 
coverts  are  white. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  18i  inches;  extent  of  wings  39  J  ; 
wing  from  flexure  13  ;  tail  8^  ;  bill  along  the  ridge  1T\,  along 
the  edge  of  lower  mandible  lib,  width  of  mouth  1 ;  tarsus  2T8?; 
hind  toe  T\,  claw  ;  second  toe  {§,  its  claw  ;  third 
toe  I/2,  its  claw  ;  fourth  toe  its  claw  T7ff. 

Female. — The  female  is  much  larger  than  the  male,  and 
differs  so  much  in  colour,  that  until  not  many  years  ago  she 
was  thought  to  be  of  a  different  species.  The  plumage  also  is 
softer,  the  ruff  more  conspicuous,  and  the  feathers  on  the  neck 
more  developed.  The  oesophagus  is  five  inches  long,  at  the 
commencement  ten-twelfths  in  width,  then  dilated  into  an 
enormous  crop  three  inches  and  a  quarter  in  length  behind,  two 
inches  and  ten  twelfths  in  depth,  and  two  inches  and  a  quarter 
in  breadth  ;  its  width  is  then  one  inch,  and  the  proventriculus 
expands  to  an  inch  and  a  half.  The  stomach  is  oval,  somewhat 
compressed,  two  inches  long,  its  tendons  five -twelfths  in  dia¬ 
meter.  The  intestine  is  thirty-five  inches  in  length,  with  a 
width  of  four-twelfths  in  the  duodenal  portion,  and  of  but  little 
more  than  one-twelfth  toward  the  coeca,  which  are  only  one- 
twelfth  in  length ;  the  rectum,  at  first  half  an  inch  in  width, 
enlarges,  and  is  dilated  into  a  globular  cloaca  an  inch  and  a 
half  in  diameter.  The  fourth  quill  is  one-twelfth  longer  than 
the  third,  which  exceeds  the  second  by  ten  twelfths,  and  the 
first  is  two  inches  and  three-fourths  shorter  than  the  latter. 
The  lateral  tail-feathers  are  nearly  three-fourths  of  an  inch 
shorter  than  the  longest. 

The  iris  is  yellowish-brown,  but  the  bill  and  feet  are  co¬ 
loured  as  in  the  male.  The  general  colour  of  the  upper  parts 
is  umber-brown,  the  upper  part  of  the  head  is  deep  brown,  the 
feathers  slightly  edged  with  light  yellowish  red  ;  the  anterior 


VOL.  III. 


B  B 


370 


CIRCUS  CYANEUS. 


part  of  the  forehead,  a  hand  over  the  eye,  and  the  loral  space, 
pale  reddish-yellow  ;  the  bristle-tips  at  the  base  of  the  bill 
black.  The  feathers  of  the  cheeks  are  dull  brown  edged  with 
yellowish-red ;  those  of  the  ruff  light  yellowish-red,  with  a 
medial  brown  band.  The  upper  hind  part,  sides,  and  fore 
part  of  the  neck,  the  breast,  and  sides,  are  light  reddish-yellow, 
each  feather  with  an  oblong  umber-brown  mark.  Some  of  the 
long  feathers  on  the  sides  have  four  light  spots,  like  those  of 
the  female  Merlin  and  Kestrel,  and  the  central  part  of  the  outer 
tibial,  abdominal,  and  subcaudal  feathers,  is  light  brownish-red. 
Many  of  the  upper  wing-coverts,  and  some  of  the  scapulars, 
have  one  or  two  round,  light  red  spots.  The  bases  of  the  occi¬ 
pital  feathers  are  white.  The  quills  are  umber-brown,  slightly 
margined  with  paler,  their  inner  webs  whitish,  broadly  barred 
with  dusky-brown,  there  being  three  bars  on  the  outer  and  four 
on  the  next  three.  The  upper  tail-coverts  are  white,  with 
lanceolate  reddish-brown  medial  spots.  The  tail  is  white  for 
about  an  inch  at  the  base,  deep  brown  in  the  rest  of  its  extent, 
the  four  middle  feathers  with  four  greyish- brown  bands,  the 
rest  with  five  bands  of  a  light  reddish  tint ;  these  bands  much 
narrower  than  the  intervening  dusky  spaces  ;  the  tips  reddish- 
white.  The  lower  wing-coverts  are  reddish- white,  with  a  cen¬ 
tral  brown  spot ;  the  lower  surface  of  the  primary  quills  is 
greyisli-white,  with  conspicuous  dark  bars. 

Length  to  end  of  tail  21  inches,  to  end  of  wings  18J;  ex¬ 
tent  of  wings  46  ;  wing  from  flexure  15  ;  tail  10  ;  bill  along 
the  ridge  1t4<j,  along  the  edge  of  lower  mandible  1T\  ;  width 
of  mouth  l^g  ;  tarsus  3  ;  first  toe  T9g,  its  claw  1T^  ;  second  toe 
its  claw  1^  ;  third  toe  1^,  its  claw  ;  fourth  toe 
its  claw  t92. 

Variations. — Adult  males  vary  in  length  from  seventeen  to 
nineteen  inches,  females  from  nineteen  to  twenty-one  and  a 
half.  The  scutella  vary  a  little  in  number,  except  on  the  se¬ 
cond  toe,  which  in  all  the  specimens  examined  by  me  has  five. 
In  the  males,  the  blue  of  the  upper  parts  varies  in  tint,  being 
darker  in  young  individuals,  which  have  the  bands  on  the  tail 
also  more  distinct.  In  old  males,  the  lower  parts  are  often 


RING-TAILED  HARRIER. 


371 


pure  white,  the  tail  greyish-white,  with  the  bars  obsolete.  The 
females  exhibit  less  variation,  but  in  old  individuals  the  brown 
of  the  upper  parts  is  lighter,  and  the  tail  is  tinged  with  grey. 

Changes  of  Plumage. — Toward  the  period  of  moulting,  the 
tints  fade  very  considerably,  and  the  feathers  become  irregu¬ 
larly  acuminate  by  being  worn. 

Habits. — Having  examined  the  form,  and  somewhat  of  the 
structure  of  the  Hen-Harrier,  we  are  prepared  for  the  exhibition 
of  its  faculties.  Kneel  down  here,  then,  among  the  long 
broom,  and  let  us  watch  the  pair  that  have  just  made  their  ap¬ 
pearance  on  the  shoulder  of  the  hill.  Leave  these  beautiful 
flowerets  to  the  inspection  of  that  lank-sided  botanist,  who 
drags  himself  slowly  along,  with  a  huge  tin  cannister  on  his 
back,  and  eyes  ever  bent  on  the  ground.  Should  he  wander 
hitherward,  he  will  be  delighted  to  cull  the  lovely  tufts  of 
maiden-pinks  that  surround  us  ;  hut  we  look  heavenward,  like 
the  astronomers. 

How  beautifully  they  glide  along,  in  their  circling  flight, 
with  gentle  flaps  of  their  expanded  wings,  floating  as  it  were 
in  the  air,  their  half-spread  tails  inclined  from  side  to  side,  as 
they  balance  themselves,  or  alter  their  course  !  Now  they  are 
near  enough  to  enable  us  to  distinguish  the  male  from  the 
female.  They  seem  to  be  hunting  in  concert,  and  their  search 
is  keen,  for  they  fly  at  times  so  low  as  almost  to  touch  the 
bushes,  and  never  rise  higher  than  thirty  feet.  The  grey  bird 
hovers,  flxing  himself  in  air  like  the  Kestrel ;  now  he  stoops, 
but  recovers  himself.  A  hare  breaks  from  the  cover,  but  they 
follow  her  not,  though  doubtless  were  they  to  spy  her  young 
one,  it  would  not  escape  so  well.  The  female  now  hovers  for 
a  few  seconds,  gradually  sinks  for  a  short  space,  ascends,  turns 
a  little  to  one  side,  closes  her  wings,  and  comes  to  the  ground. 
She  has  secured  her  prey,  for  she  remains  concealed  among  the 
furze,  while  the  male  shoots  away,  flying  at  the  height  of  three 
or  four  yards,  sweeps  along  the  hawthorn  hedge,  bounds  over  it 
to  the  other  side,  turns  away  to  skim  over  the  sedgy  pool,  where 
he  hovers  a  short  while.  He  now  enters  upon  the  grass  field, 


372 


CIRCUS  CYANEUS. 


when  a  Partridge  springs  off,  and  lie  pursues  it,  with  a  rapid 
gliding  flight  like  that  of  the  Sparrow  Hawk  ;  but  they  have 
turned  to  the  right,  and  the  wood  conceals  them  from  our  view. 
In  the  meantime,  the  female  has  sprung  up,  and  advances, 
keenly  inspecting  the  ground,  and  so  heedless  of  our  presence 
that  she  passes  within  twenty  yards  of  us.  Away  she  speeds, 
and  in  passing  the  pool,  again  stoops,  but  recovers  herself,  and 
rising  in  a  beautiful  curve,  bounds  over  the  plantation,  and  is 
out  of  sight. 

The  Hen-Harrier  feeds  upon  small  birds  and  the  young  of 
larger,  on  young  hares  and  rabbits,  on  mice,  frogs,  lizards,  and 
serpents.  For  the  most  part,  it  pounces  upon  its  victims  as 
they  repose  on  the  ground  ;  hut  it  also  pursues  birds  in  open 
flight,  and  so  far  from  confining  itself  to  feeble  game,  as  some 
allege,  it  has  been  known  to  seize  the  red  grouse,  ptarmigan, 
and  partridge.  Thus,  my  son,  while  searching  for  insects  on 
the  Pentland  Hills,  in  the  summer  of  1835,  saw  a  pair  when 
flying  low  over  the  heath  start  a  red  grouse,  which  one  of  them 
captured  after  a  short  chase  ;  and  in  September  of  the  same 
year,  Mr  Martin,  gamekeeper  to  the  Earl  of  Lauderdale,  shot 
a  male  as  it  was  carrying  off  a  bird  of  the  same  species.  In 
the  crop  of  one  examined  by  me  I  found  the  remains  of  a  grey 
ptarmigan,  and