I Mm V
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The Baldwin Library
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d~l- L/ _______ 2'_~i' '~~i,.. ''Ic
"1 ~ -S A. A .. r_ _
- ., I __________________________________
. .. .ii ,
OUR FEATHERED COMPANIONS.
O-- E E P
CONERSA TIONS OF A FA TER WITH HIS CHILDREN ABOUT SEA-BIRDS,
-SONG-BIRDS, AND OTHER FEATHERED TRIBES THAT LIVE
IN OR VISIT THE BRITISH ISLES, THE1R HABITS, &~c.
BY THE REv. THOMAS JACKSON, M.A.,
PREBENDARY OF ST. PAUL'S, AND RECTOR OF STOKE NEWINGTON.
A iuthor of Our Dumb Comveiidouws," Our Dumb3 Neighbours" 6&c., &c.
LONDON : S. W. PARTRIDGE & CO., 9, PATERNOSTER Row.
NEW YORK: MESSRS. ROUTLEDGE & CO.
[All Rights reserved.]
_ _______________11__1____ __
To the Right Reverend
LJ'RD) BISHOP OF GLOUCESTER
S...resident of the Royal Society for the
prevention n of Cruelty to Animals,
'***,E I.AROTTJP TN PROMO-TTNCG A HUMANE
LL'i._ ili.i.T H-'.. L Li.'i.L L ,, i H }! *I
i I r iC .. If l ..
WATSON AND HAZELL,
LONDON AND AYLESBURY.
t-.=_.-_ _- ._ -
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THIS volume forms the third of a series of popular works, of which
that entitled "OUR DUMB COMPANIONS was the first. It is
designed, not to convey scientific information upon natural history,
but to interest children and young persons in the habits of the various
feathered tribes which reside in, or visit, this country; and thus, by
teaching lessons of kindness, to promote the better treatment of every
variety cf the animal creation. The wanton and cruel destruction of
sea-birds on the coasts of England and Scotland, especially those
which are frequented by thoughtless and vulgar tourists from our
great towns, has lately excited universal indignation. But the claim
of unoffending creatures of all kinds to gentle usage will never
be recognized, until it is everywhere promoted by enlightened public
opinion. The prevalence of such opinion cannot be obtained by Acts
of the legislature, or by the spasmodic efforts of enthusiastic humani-
tarians. It must be ingrained into the popular mind by early
Itrazinizg. For this purpose, books must be provided which may
become suggestive helps in school and home lessons on the subject,
and which may be given as prizes in institutions of primary or
secondary instruction. It is with this object that the present volume
has been compiled, and the writer humbly commends it to the blessing
of the living and rewarding God, and to the generous patronage of
that large and increasing body in every part of the civilized world
-THE FRIENDS OF THE PRUTE CREATION.
Stoke Abr ington,
.,, : -
I; So --~-"-;---`~
I~~4-~~wzrU '4 l~ I
CONVERSATION I.-AT THE SEA-SIDE AGAIN-SEA-BIRDS ONE OF THE CHARMS
OF THE SEA-USE OF SEA-GULLS-SOUTHEY'S "INCHCAPE ROCK"--SEA-BIRDS
DESERVE PROTECTION-WILLOUGHBY'S REMARKS ON GULLS-PETRELS-SEA-
SWALLOWS-THE ALBATROSS-WHAT COLERIDGE SAYS ABOUT IT IN "THE
ANCIENT MARINER"-SEA-BIRDS EXCELLENT SCAVENGERS-REMARKABLE
COLONIES OF GULLS-THE GULLERY AT NORBURY-SOME STRANGE FACTS
ABOUT SEA-BIRDS-THE FLAMBOROUGH-PILOTS-SCHOOLMASTERS SHOULD BE
WON OVER TO TEACH KINDNESS TO BIRDS-VALUE OF SINGING TO THIS END
-"A LITTLE GIRL TO THE SEA-BIRDS" (MUSIC)-"'THE SEA-BIRDS' REPLY,"
BY THE -REV. R. WILTON I
CONVERSATION II.-THE COMMON GUILLEMOT-PENGUINS-LONDON BIRDS-
THE PLOVER-VARIETIES OF-THE SANDERLING-THE OYSTER-CATCHER-THE
CREAM-COLOURED COURSER-LAPWINGS-CRANES-TURNSTONES-THE HOOPING-
CRANE-THE EGRET HERON-HABITS OF THE HERON-THE COW HERON-
BITTERNS-STORKS-THE SPOONBILL-MR. LOWE'S TAX ON FIRE-ARMS-
DEMOISELLE AND CROWNED CRANES-THE WOODCOCK-SNIPE-JUDCOCK-
THE RUFF-VARIETIES OF SAND-PIPERS-THE BITTERN-VALUE OF SEA-BIRDS 33
CONVERSATION III.-MECHANICAL SKILL OF BIRDS-THE STORMY PETREL-
PUFFINS-THE KAKOPO-JACKDAWS-MOTHERLY AFFECTION OF THE EIDER
DUCK-THE NUT-HATCH-THE SWIFT-THE SWALLOW A CLEVER BUILDER-
CONSTRUCTION OF THRUSH'S NEST-THE NUT-HATCH A CARPENTER-THE
WOODPECKER-BUFFON AND WILSON ON WOODPECKERS-IS THE WOODPECKER
HAPPY?-THE DOWNY WOODPECKER-DECAY OF SOME SPECIES OF BIRDS-
ANTEDILUVIAN MONSTERS-BIRDS PROTECTED IN EGYPT-THE EAGLE-
BASKET-MAKING BIRDS-GOLDSMITH ON ROOKS-THE GOLDFINCH A NEAT
FELTER-HUMMING-BIRDS-THE KITE-VARIETIES OF OWLS-BIRDS, POETS,
AND PAINTERS-SWALLOWS AND SPARROWS-SPARROWS USEFUL TO THE
FARMER-"LSPARROW CLUBS" DENOUNCED-MR. WOOD'S TESTIMONY TO THE
VALUE OF SPARROWS-THE TREE SPARROW 63
CONVERSATION IV.-OUR SONG-BIRDS-VARIETIES OF THRUSHES-THE GOLDEN
ORIOLE-THE WHIN-CHAT-THE STONE-CHAT-THE ROBIN-THE REDSTART-
THE NIGHTINGALE AND LARK-THOMSON'S LINES ON THE NIGHTINGALE-
THE DOVE--EXTRACTS FROM THE POET BROWNING-THE WINGS OF BIRDS-
POWER OF BIRD-SONG-WHY DO BIRDS SING ?-TENNYSON AND THE BLACK-
BIRD-MACGILLIVRAY ON THE BLACKBIRD 107
CONVERSATION V.-TALKING BIRDS-THE WHEAT-EAR-THE CUCKOO-PARROTS
-PARAKEETS-MR. BRODERIP ON PARROTS-LOVE-BIRDS-TURKEYS-APOLOGY
FOR THE POULTRY MANIA"-COCKS AND HENS-ENERGETIC CONDUCT OF
MR. COLAM-CRUELTY TO ANIMALS DOES NOT PAY PHEASANTS AND
PARTRIDGES-THE SWAN-ADVENTURE OF ONE WITH A FOX-FOWLS SHOULD
BE TREATED WITH KINDNESS-THE "BARN-DOOR" FOWL-CARRIER PIGEONS
-CLOSE OF THE CONVERSATIONS-LESSONS TO BE DEDUCED 127
.. .-]--- F.-: -- .-.--,
-- : :-.?_: ., -. -. .. .
GROUP OF SEA-BIRDS
THE CRAB ROCK, NEAR FLAMBOROUGH HEAD
LOVE-BIRD AND MIRROR -
OUR FEATHERED COMPANIONS.
CO ESI: .I'. I Ii
S _. .r -"-._ _-_ __I --
SCONVERSAT -ION 1..,
Pa a. Here we are again at the sea-side!
'-What a delicious thin it is to exchange the
i c Y-',- "-'- I -i-
' ,... 1 1 .. -_ .. -.
Scenery of a long and dirt-coloured brick
street, looking like an immense wall with
square holes in it, for the shore of the ever-sounding sea!
One' of the Charms of the Sea.
Tom. I think that phrase, "the shore of the ever-sounding
sea," pronounced slowly, echoes the sense of the words as
- i -
K I r-
~I ~ -- 1 ~ -
I.-5 211--_-;-~~- -r-= L~, I~; i~~
delicately as Homer's celebrated line ending with
Mary. To me one of the charms of the sea is derived from
the many beautiful birds that one beholds flitting about in all
directions. I suppose that the wise and loving providence which
Use of Sea Gulls. 3
made and governs the world, has never created anything without
some use, but I confess I cannot clearly understand the special
claims of sea-birds to our protection.
Edit. I am surprised at that, Mary; they may not be so
attractive to a lover of melodious musical sounds as the canary
or the nightingpale, but I question if they are not more really
or th. nighti-galebut-I5. qusto if the are not mor r
:--._ __/--- o -- v e ... ',,';-'., m u a .o d -: e .. .. _
-r ._t -:_ nigtin ..e ..t .. qustonift-_ reno _=rere
4 Southey's Inchcape Rock."
valuable. In the islands off the coasts of Ireland and Scotland
the poor peasants and fishermen maintain themselves for a
considerable part of the year on the eggs of these birds, and
sometimes on the fowls themselves. At Saint Kilda they have
been so used for upwards of two hundred years.
Char/lotte. Besides they are of use to the sailor in mists and
fogs. This state of the weather is more dangerous even than
a wild gale of wind. The mariner cannot tell which way he is
going. He may hear the roar of breakers, and suspect that he
is hurrying headlong to destruction. At such times-the cry
of the sea-birds will often help him.
Freddie. In Southey's poetical works, is a wild legend called
"The Inchcape Rock." It appears that there was a tradition
among old Scotch people concerning this great hidden iock,
situated twelve miles from all land, in the German ocean, and
deadly to sailors because overflowed every tide. Now, hundreds
of years ago, long before the grand lighthouse was built, a bell
was fixed upon a raft of timber, and moored upon the rock.
The bell kept ringing as the waves rose and fell, and thus the
mariner was warned, especially in misty weather. One day
there came a wicked pirate, Ralph the Rover, and to annoy
the Abbot of Aberbrothok, who maintained the bell, he sank
bell and raft in the sea. He afterwards lost his ship and life
on the rock for want of the bell. Surely the sea-birds are like
the good Abbot; and the destroyers of these beautiful creatures
may be compared to the wicked pirate.
Papa. There is another point of view in which gulls and
mews are useful. They feed upon young and weak fishes such
as are not likely to come to full growth, so that the fisherman
Thze Sea-birds' Homze.
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THE SEA-BIRDS' HOME.
An Important Fact.
___- .. . = -
knows where to find a shoal of herrings or mackerel by the num-
ber of gulls that hover over the spot. If there were no gulls,
many a vast shoal of these valuable fishes would escape notice.
This is an important fact in a time when all kinds of food are
getting dearer and dearer, and when so many of our poorer
neighbours can hardly obtain enough to eat.
~ --~--~ -.-1
Sea-birds worthy or Protection.
- -- 2- -
"- -- N ---2 n -K
F -- -~- -
Malry. In more ways than one, then, these sea-birds are the
friends of man, and have a claim on his protection.
Tom. The more we understand of the habits and uses of
these birds the more shall we be led to admire the wisdom and
mercy of their great Creator.
Willout//gby's Remarks on Gulls.
Charlolte. What a wonderful variety there is in the world of
animal life I find that there are many sorts of sea-birds which
have attracted the attention of naturalists. I scarcely like to
say how many kinds of gulls there are. Willoughby, in his
"Ornithology," that is, his book about birds, says "Gulls are a
whole-footed fowl with an indifferent long, narrow, sharp-pointed
1ill, a little crooked at the end, oblong nostrils, long and strong
wings, short legs, small feet--for they do not swim much-a light
body, but clothed with many and thick-set feathers, a carrion
carcase, the fat, that is, sticking to the skin, as in other birds,
much upon the wing; very noisy, hungry, and fond of fish.
These are divided into two kinds, first the greater, which have
tails composed of feathers of equal length, and an angular pro-
minency or knob on the lower chap of the bill underneath to
strengthen it, that they may more strongly hold fishes. Second,
the lesser, which have a forked tail and no knob on the bill," or,
as he adds in a marginal note, "but a very small one." Both
kinds may be divided into pied or parti-coloured, and the grey
Mary. Here is one of Mr. Weir's life-like pictures of sea-
birds. Some scarce escaped from the egg, and some grand
old ladies and gentlemen, which look as if long voyages were
natural to them. Mark the adaptation of their shape to [the
habits of their lives, and the modes by which they get their
living. They have sometimes been tamed, but they are not
companionable. They are apt to bite children; One fought
with a cat for a mouse, and managed to swallow it whole.
Papa. I do not know how many varieties there are of sea-
birds that either fly or walk the water. Take for instance those
i ,. .". .. J'' :'2" -
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7:.. ',. I, Petrel.
..<, -- Nf-'7-.-- -:.- --: -
c..minicl l.i,- I callt..l thel i- fpirls -, which employ their feet in their
'; .vri ml'- rni as.. i! tI1,-< \ -.-r- '.1 laind, walking on the surface of
the via.we-..-, 111111 ma mil-rht up..n a water velocipede. Then
there are the sea-swallows, with their strong and expansive
wings, by the help of which they cross over immeasurable tracts
of the ocean in search of their food, reposing in the air as on a
pillow of down, and seldom having recourse to their powers of
swimming. Then there are the groups that swim and dive, and
appear never to take the wing if they can possibly help it.
Then again there are others that seldom swim except when
forced, and never dive. Watching their gambols from the
shore, who does not feel the truth of the sublime aspiration,
0 Lord, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou
made them all." Or, as Bishop Horsley translates the passage,
0 Jehovah how great and various are Thy works, in wisdom
Thou hast made them all : the whole contents of the earth is
--. __ --~,_ -._. .
Thy property. This sea, so vast and wide on every side !
There are moving things without number; animals, the small
with the great!"
with the great !"
The Albatross, or Cape Sheep. 11
Editc Last year, you know, I came from Sydney, in New
South Wales, to London. When we were in the great Southern
Ocean, hundreds of miles from land, we saw several enormous
birds which sailors call the albatross.' Sometimes it is called
the Cape sheep, because in colour and size it is not unlike 'a
sheep. It is a wonderful bird. Its yellow beak is hooked, so
that if you throw over a piece of pork at the. end of a string from
the ship's deck, with a hook at the end, you may haul the cap-
tive on board without hurting him. We caught one which
measured fourteen feet and more between the tips of his wings.
The ship was sometimes becalmed, and when we threw over the
pork at the end of the long string, it was most interesting to see
how half-a-dozen albatrosses would come wheeling round it in
smaller and smaller circles. Their eyes are on the side of their
head, so they seem to look at the pork with only one at a time.
All this while they had no legs to be seen ; nothing but unbroken
plumage of snowy whiteness. When they had determined to
snatch at the bait, they dropped out and showed two webbed
feet of a deep flesh colour.
- Papa. Dr. Arnott, in his "Physics," remarks how powerful
must be the wing muscles of birds which sustain themselves in
the sky for hours together. The great albatross, with wings
extending fourteen feet or more, is seen in the stormy solitude
of the Southern Ocean accompanying ships for whole days with-
out ever resting on the waves.
Edilh. If the propensities and habits of sea-birds are a lesson
and parable to men, I should say that the albatross shows us
how detestable is the vice of greediness, and how swift the
punishment that often follows it. One day some seamen in the
Southern Ocean caught a whale. They brought it alongside
their vessel, and began to cut it up in order to stow away the
oil, whalebone, and other valuable parts of the animal. While
they were thus employed, a great number of albatrosses, snuffing
the strong odour of the carcass from afar, gathered round the
ship, and gorged themselves to such a degree that they lay
helpless on the waves, unable to rise, and scarcely to move.
When the vessel set her sails and started again on her voyage
they were submerged, stupefied, inanimate, and the ship left
behind a trail of dead albatrosses, suffocated by being dragged
along under the vessel and utterly unable to extricate themselves.
Papa.. Captain Cook, the great Yorkshire navigator, who no
doubt had often studied gulls off the coast of Whitby and Flam-
borough Head, informs us that though the albatross is the largest
sea-bird, and remarkable for its strength, it never ventures to
attack other sea-birds; but that, on the contrary, the large
grey gulls of the ocean like to have a peck at an albatross, just
as a needy scamp tries to rob a respectable old gentleman.
The gulls endeavour to attack the albatross under the belly,
that part being the least capable of defence. But the albatross
is more than a match for his assailants, for he instantly drops
into the water, dips his body under, and in turn attacks them
with his formidable beak and wings.
Mary. I hope you will not think me gluttonous, like this bird,
if I ask you whether or not he is good to eat ?
Papa. His flesh is dry and tough, and nobody would eat him
if he could- get anything else. The Kamtschadales, I believe,
take him for the sake of his entrails,, which they blow, and use as
buoys for their nets.
w .~~ f~i~
In. ,, ,
Tom, Old sailors used to consider that the albatross was a
- --~-=- -- i~-
--~-~- ~_- -- --- --- -
=-=-- --- -- --- _---'
' ------- ----- I
Coleridge's Ancient Mariner."
bird of good omen, and that it would often show the way to a
ship out of floating ice and snow fog. Coleridge has made this
tradition the theme of his wild poem called "The Ancient
Mariner." Let me quote two or three verses: -
At length did cross an albatross,
Tho' rough the fog it came;
As if it had been a Christian soul,
We hailed it in God's name.
It ate the food it ne'er had eat,
And round and round it flew.
The ice did split with a thunder-fit;
The helmsman steered us through !
And a good south wind sprung up behind;
The albatross did follow,
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariner's hollo !
In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white moonshine.
"God save thee, ancient mariner !
From the fiends, that plague thee thus !
Why look'st thou so ?" "With my cross-bow,
I shot the albatross !
The sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.
And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariner's hollo!
Sea-birds excellent Scavengers.
"And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
'Ah, wretch'! said they, 'the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow !"'
Mary. People living on the coast give a great many
different names to the varieties of sea-birds. Some they call
mews, some sea-cobs; then there are the petrels, puffins, terns,
and sea-skimmers: In some places terns are called sea-swallows.
Then there are the noddies, generally supposed to be very
stupid. Naudin, in the French language, means a fool.
Tom. Among other important uses of sea-birds, let us not
forget that they are excellent scavengers. Animal matter on
the sea coast, in a putrid state, is very dangerous to human
health. The salt of the sea intensifies the putrefaction, and
gases escape into the air which produce terrible fevers. Now
lhe sea-birds devour putrid fish with great zest and voracity; if
I may so speak, they seem to prefer the flavour of it. They are
thus useful scavengers. Then again, it is well known that their
ordure forms a most valuable manure. In fact, hundreds of
ships are chartered yearly to the Chincha Islands, and other
spots where deposits of this dung are found. These deposits in
some places, I am told, are enormously thick, as though the sea-
birds had gone there for thousands of years to leave behind
them that which would contribute to enrich the soil, and thus
to promote the well-being and comfort of man. Our farmers
have been great gainers by the importation of guano into this
Mary. Surely we must account those animals well worth
16 Worm's Head.
our notice which, in the order of God's wonderful providence,
make Iwo ears of corn to grow where, without their assistance,
there would only have been one.
Edith. This seems to be part of what, if I remember rightly,
the ancient Greeks used to call, the mysterious dance-of life and
death,- of renovation and decay.
"' '!' ,"...^$^ M ,-
THE WORM'S IIEAn, GLAMORGANSHIRE.
Papa. I find that some gulls build their nests on ledges of
rocks near the sea like the Worm's Head, in South Wales;
Remarkable Colony of Gulls.
others find a low and retired spot, such as a Dutch polder, or a
meadow in the neighbourhood of an estuary.
Mary. One of the most remarkable colonies of gulls is near
the South Stack Lighthouse, at Holyhead, in North Wales,
STACK ROCKS, HOLYHEAD.
where, I am glad to say, they are protected on account of
the great sqtvices they render to sailors.
Tom. But I am sorry to add that on Puffin Island, and also on
'Pzufin, or Sea Parrot.
the Anglesea coast, the birds which gave their name to the
rock are almost extinct.
Edith. What a curious beak the Puffin has!
Papa. This bird is often called the SEA PARROT, or Colter-
neb, from its peculiar beak. But I have something-more to
say about the gulls. Their eggs vary very much, but
Colonies of Gulls in Lancashire.
generally they are of a deepish olive tint, sprinkled with
large brown and blackish spots. The eggs of some kinds
are pleasant to the taste. They are free from fishy flavour;
when boiled hard they will keep a long time. Speaking
of these birds' eggs, there is in the neighbourhood of
Garstang an island called Sea Gull Island, Pilling Moss. This
moss is about a mile from Stalmine, in the Fylde, and is a wild
Lancashire tract of peat. About June thousands upon
thousands of sea gulls darken the air. The singular scene
attracts a few visitors, but the spot is not much known. The
island is two"or three acres in extent, and is the most extra-
ordinary .breeding ground- of the kind in the kingdom. In the
breeding season there are from ten thousand to twelve thousand
nests upon it. They are sometimes placed so close together that
a foot can scarcely be put down between them. Generally they
are from twelve to eighteen inches apart. In most of them
there are three eggs, in others four. The gulls formerly bred
on Walney Island, off the southern extremity of Furness, but
being disturbed there, they migrated to Pilling Moss about 1840,
and have ever since been protected by the Reverend Dr. John
Gardner and Mr. Henry Gardner, the owners of the land;
and keepers are employed for that purpose. These gulls are of
the variety known to naturalists as Larzs Ridibundus. There
is a smaller colony on Winniarley Moss, said to be the property
of Colonel Wilson-Patten. In June, 1869, before the new Act
for protecting sea-birds came into operation, some men were
caught and fined for trespass on the Sea-gull Island, they
having taken a vast number of gulls' eggs. Forty men had
gone the night before, armed with bludgeons, and supplied with
Gulls once Eaten as Dainties.
large baskets to plunder the nests; and what do you think the
former do with the eggs ? It is said, which I should hardly
have supposed, that they give them as food to their horses.
Tom. I have read that the young of some varieties of gulls,
three hundred years ago, were considered a great dainty in
Edith. Yes. What should we think now if the cook at some
splendid dinner at the Trois Freres Provencaux, in Paris, or the
Albion Tavern, in Aldersgate-street, London, should put down
"See gulles" as among the delicacies of the high table?
Yet we read in the household book of the fifth Earl of Northum-
berland, begun about 1450, that these birds formed a part of
every festival, and cost a penny or three half-pence apiece.
Charlotte. I have heard that great proprietors used to
encourage colonies of these birds, called gulleries, where
they resorted when they had put on their bridal plumage, and
where numbers were annually reared and fattened for the
table. So that a good gullery sometimes produced from fifty
to eighty pounds a-year.
Tom. Willoughby informs us that in his time the price was
higher than one-penny or three-halfpence. He tells us of a
colony of these birds which yearly built.and bred at Norbury,
in Staffordshire, in an island in the middle of a great pool, in
the grounds of Mr. Scrimshew, distant at least thirty miles
from the sea. About the beginning of March hither they
come; about the end of April they build. They lay three,
four, or five eggs, of a dirty green colour, spotted with dark
brown, two inches long, of an ounce-and-a-half weight, blunter
at one end. The first down of the young is ash-coloured, and
The Gullery at Norbury.
spotted with black; the first feathers on the back, after they are
fledged, are black. When the young are almost come to their
full growth, those entrusted by the lord of the soil drive.them
from off the island through the pool into nets set on the banks
Strange and iMarvellous Facts.
to take them. When they have taken them, they feed them
with the entrails of beasts, and when they are fat sell them for
fourpence or fivepence apiece. They yearly take about a
thousand two hundred young ones; whence may be computed
what profit the lord makes of them. About the end of July
they all fly away, and leave the island."
Charlotte. Dr. Plott, in his History of Staffordshire, adds a
still more strange and marvellous fact concerning the birds that
bred in Peewhit Pool, in the parish of Norbury: that they would
not condescend to breed on any other land than that of the
proprietor of the place. The old Doctor adds that, on the death
of the owner, they deserted the pool for three years, but only
retired to another estate belonging to the next heir.
Papa. In my opinion this is nothing but some absurd tale,
told by a cunning game-keeper to a credulous naturalist.
Tom. Yes; but we must not reject stories in natural history
merely because they are strange and marvellous. The whims,
if one may so speak, of animals, especially in places where there
is death, are often utterly incomprehensible. Witness the well-
authenticated story of those Yorkshire bees, who deserted their
hives to a bee unless they shared the funeral feast, and had
sugar and water placed plentifully at the mouth of their hives
on the day of the funeral.
Edith. I don't believe that story any more than Dr. Plott's!
Papa. Nothing is more curious, in regard to animals of all
kinds, than the strange consciousness which they often have of
death. The ingenuity which they manifest in seeking to preserve
their lives, and the fhanner in which they will sometimes feign
death in order to avoid it, involve questions relative to the
SION. HANOVER T*-
The Flamborough Pilots. 23
nature and limits of instinct and reason, which never have been,
and perhaps never will be, satisfactorily explained in this world.
Edith. We are forgetting one great object of our conversa-
tions as to how we can prevent the fearful destruction of the
sea-birds. With your permission I will read good Mr. Wilton's
verses, which, by appearing in the TimYes, did much to sup-
port Mr. Sykes in his efforts to get an Act of Parliament for the
protection of the sea-birds during the breeding season (1870).
Here they are:-
THE FLAMBOROUGH PILOTS.
The lights revolve-now white, now red-
In vain; no warning ray is shed
From mist-enfolded Flamborough Head.
In vain the gun booms on the shore--
No warning sound is wafted o'er
The waves that to the darkness roar.
To straining eye and listening ear,.
In heaven or earth, no signs appear
Whereby bewildered bark may steer.
But suddenly a voice is heard-
The wailing note of wild sea-bird,-
And all the sailor's heart is stirred.
"The Flamborough Pilots!" is his cry,
"Beware, beware, the rocks are nigh!
Turn the ship's head, and seaward fly."
Blest birds! kind white-winged pilots!-hark!
Like angels call they through the dark-
Like angels save that helpless bark!
I, Z z -
The FlavzaboPough Pilots.
'Tis morn-the mists are rolled away--
The beacon-lights are quenched in day;
And boats come stealing round the bay.
The rocks with deadly echoes ring
With rifles that destruction bring
To angel-voice and angel-wing.
Oh, cruel sound! oh, piteous sight!
The gentle pilots of the night
Are MURDERED with the morning light!.
And, lo! for lack of warning call;
Ships lost beneath that white sea-wall,
Where now the "Flamborough Pilots" fall.
Nz_ ..4.. .,
.__- .. : ,, .. .. _
Sea-birds and Sailors.
Charlotte.- I trust that those touching lines will have an
extensive mission of usefulness amongst the rising generation.
If every thoughtless excursionist, who for mere amusement
shoots the sea-birds, would but think of the injury that he is
KINGSGATE, NEAR MARGATE.
perhaps doing to our sailors he would soon put down his gun.
Papa. Some time ago I saw a wreck at Kingsgate, near
Margate. During the previous night the ship got on the rocks,
and all hands perished. In the morning I saw a solitary bird
. .-.. '- -. 2- ----- '-S;1-.'"
- z-_- -: -: ^ = ,,g < i
-- _;;;- ,---*.
School-teackers to .be interested.
fly over the wreck, and it seemed to say to me, Such losses of
life and property would often be prevented if men would protect
instead of /....'.'.. us."
Edith. Would it not be a wise plan to promote much more
extensively amongst the children in our day schools the principles
of humanity to these birds ?
Papa. I recently attended a most delightful conversazione of
school-teachers, at the Institution Buildings, o05, Jermyn Street,
belonging to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals, at which the Earl of Harrowby, Dr. Ellicott, the
good Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, the Rector of Stoke
Newington, the Editor of the British Workman, Mr. Davidson,
and others took part. One pleasing result of the meeting was
the offering of ioo prizes for the best Essays on Humanity
to Animals," to be competed for by the scholars in the London
schools, the prizes to be distributed, by Lord Harrowby, at the
annual meeting in May, 1870.
Tom. That is a good plan. If such prizes were given by
the gentry in every parish in the land, we should soon see a
difference in the treatment not only of birds but of beasts.
Charlotte. Miss Burdett-Coutts has set an example in
this respect. Her letter to schoolmasters has, I believe, done
Papa. Perhaps one of the most effective organs for helping
on this cause is the monthly publication, The Animal World. It
is most admirably conducted. The illustrations are by first-
class artists, and many of the articles are, I am glad to
state, extensively used by schoolmasters and governesses as
" Reading Lessons."
Value of Singing.
Edit. In my opinion we ought to strive and enlist the influ-
ence of music and singing in this cause much more than we
have hitherto done. If such verses as, A Little Girl to the
Sea-birds" and The Seabird's Reply," by the Rev. Richard
Wilton, of Londesborough Rectory, were occasionally sung in
every family and school we -should soon see more practical
humanity than at present.
Papa. I am glad to learn that Mr. Curwen, the promoter
of the tonic sol-fa system, has introduced some admirable
pieces on kindness to animals into his Educational Poems, which
are doing good service, not only in schools but in many private
families. I rejoice that the influence of music is thus being
enlisted on behalf of humanity/o the dumb creation. On a
-- recent occasion
SF -- .. when the chil-
_-q :dren of many
S -- schools for the
.. .. poor were as-
sembled at the
Snfilii_ i,'Riversary meeting of the Royal Society
-. t; the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,
iin St. James's Hall, twelve hundred voices
':,' i':ng, with great sweetness and power, a
-. m n compiled for the occasion. I can
'ii' ;.-tgine. a small party practising for this
: -I ,inonstration, something in the manner
LI. k lhich our clever artist has here depicted.
S. .nme of the children may be plain-featured,
S~ Luit they seem to be warbling like nightingales.
28 musical Composers.
Charlotte. If the attention of musical composers was specially
called to this question, I think that many of them who have
tender sympathies would gladly aid the cause of the dumb.
ROSS'S ROSY GULL.
Papa. Suppose, my daughter, that you now favour us with
the words and the music of A Little Girl to the Sea-birds." I
think that the music is by Mr. T. Crampton, an apt composer
of children's tunes.
. .'..-_-:. .: _" -- ..-,- o ,. 1 f
- ,'5 -",'..2'_Z' ..z-- -- -- "-,. -: -- }t,, ,'
- :-' o-- ------ d :-::- -: --7 '---: ',
-- - --.. 2 . ._ .-= p .- '
~-e ~zn4 :$-~ A
1,, .-d "'-.;' %:- r-
S : A LITTLE I GIRL TO THE SE'A BIRDS. ---
H 7 _. ,', , ,. 1 ..
ir-- I-- -.-- -.---
S -i r i.'.lhead-land's
---- -- --- =E-_
S- -----btp- -__ -l --h t l----
breez y crest; And their tend-er nest-lings co -ver With'warmwing and
do-w--y-bre__st--_ -H----s--ird -- 1g i-A- ------ g -l-
down -y breast. Hap-py sea-birds gliA-ing, glancing, Thro' the live-long
30 A Little Girl to the Sea-birds.
A LITTLE GIRL TO THE SEA-BIRDS.
HAPPY sea-birds how they hover
O'er yon headland's breezy crest,
And their tender nestlings cover
With warm wing and downy breast.
Happy sea-birds! gliding, glancing,
Through the livelong summer day,
Where the merry waves are dancing
In the broad and sunny bay.
Lovely birds I with graceful motion
Giving life to rock and sand,
Adding beauty to the ocean,
Adding beauty to the strand.
How the eye delights to follow
Where they circle o'er the deep,
Or with swiftness of the swallow
O'er the glassy waters sweep.
Useful sea-birds screaming loudly
Through the dark and stormy night,
When the billows thunder proudly,
And the beacons shed no light.
How the mariner rejoices
When he hears their timely cry,
How he thanks the thousand voices
Warning him of danger nigh.
Happy; useful, and so pretty,
I will always be their friend;
I will show the sea-birds pity,
And their harmless lives defend.
The Sea-bird's Reply.
Not that I may wear a feather
Shall the gentle sea-birds die,
While, exposed to wind and weather,
Their poor nestlings famished lie.
Not about my hat or bonnet
Shall a sea-bird's wing be bound,
Lest the spot of blood upon it
Weigh my spirit to the ground.
Not for me one feathered pilot
Shall be slaughtered any more,
Lest on misty cape br islet
Helpless ships be cast ashore.
I will love them for their beauty
As they float on wind or wave;
I will guard them as a duty
That I owe to sailors brave.
I will be their friend much rather
For His sake who made us all,
Our Almighty, loving Father
Who beholds one sea-bird fall!
RICHARD WILTON, M.A.
THE SEA-BIRDS' REPLY.
How we thank you, gentle maiden,
For your self-denying love;
May your happy days be laden
With all blessings from above I
We will always love you dearly,
Little girl, where'er you be,
32 The Sea-birds' Reply.
And a hearty welcome yearly
We will give you to the sea.
Sunny skies and pleasant weather
Let us hope kind heaven will send:
By her hat without a feather
We shall know our little friend;
By her amiable features,
By her goodness and her grace,
By the love for all God's creatures
Shining sweetly in her face.
We will haste to do her honour
From our breezy home on high,
Like a glance of God upon her
Glancing downward from the sky.
Round her path we'll fondly cluster
In a bright revolving ring,
On her brow we'll shed a lustre
Better than a sea-bird's wing ;
Better than the soft caressing
Of a feather in her hair,
We will wish her God's own blessing
To attend her everywhere !
RICHARD WILTON, M.A. -
Papa. Excellent. I hope that these musical notes will ring
Through many a school and many a home. Let us now defer
our conversation untilto-morrow evening.
THE CRAB ROCK, NEAR FLAMBOROUGH HEAD. P 32.
The Guillemco/. 33
i *51 ,.
I ICONVERSAT N
-. . .- .
Charlotte. Papa, will you please tell us something about the'
::.__-_---- .- -,,- .
--:_--_ o _:.. .. .....,i ---:-:__ _:
7lie Commuon Guillemot.
Papa. The upper parts of the body are of a dark brown
colour, inclining to black, except the tips of some of the wing
feathers, which are white. All the under parts of the body are
also white. These birds mostly breed in very inaccessible
rocks and steep cliffs. They were once very numerous in the
Isle of Man, in Cornwall, on Prestholm Island, near Baumaris;
LAND'S END, CORNWALL.
also on the Fern island, Northumberland, and in the cliffs, near
Scai-lon; but, I regret to say, that the folly of man has greatly
reduced the flocks of these fine birds.
Charlotte. Mr. Yarrell says that about the middle of May
the common guillemot, with many other species of birds
frequenting rocks at that season, collect at particular points,
where, from the numbers that congregate and the bustle
apparent among them, confusion of interest and localities
might be expected; but, on the contrary, it will be found that
the guillemots occupy one
station, or line of ledges upon
the rock; the puffins a third;
the kittiwake gulls a fourth;
whilst the most inaccessible -'-
pinnacles seem tobe left for the
use of the lesser black-backed -
and the herring gulls. Two
distinct species scarcely ever
breed by the side of each
Mary. Is not the guillemot -
very similar, in appearance, "
to the king penguin ?
Pafa. In several respects
it is. Here is a picture of a --.-
congregation of king penguins.
These birds, you are aware, are
not to be found in this country,
but only in the southern lati- di
tudes. What a remarkable
account Dr. Bennett gives of
these birds in his work on Mac-
quarie's Island! He cays:- CO-iON ILIO.I
"The number of penguins collected together in this spot is
immense. But it would be almost impossible to guess at it with
any near approach to truth, as during the whole of the' day
thirty or forty thousand of them are continually landing, and an
equal number going to sea. They are arranged, when on
shore, in as compact a manner, and in as regular ranks, as a
regiment of soldiers, and so classed in the greatest- order, the
young birds being in one situation, the moulting birds in
another, the sitting hens in a third, the clean birds in a fourth,
&c. ; and so strictly do birds in similar condition congregate,
that should a bird that is in moulting intrude itself among
those which are clean it is immediately ejected from among
Mary. Shall we now return to the consideration of the
birds of our own country; for the penguins are not our neigh-
bours, companions, or visitors ?
Edit/. Our own birds of course have the greatest claim
upon our attention, and I suppose never does a day elapse with-
out our seeing some of them. It is observable that in the
poorest districts of London and country towns, large numbers
of song birds and other varieties are kept. The humblest
mechanics take a delight in listening to their sweet notes. The
monotony of the shuttle's rattle is varied with the voice of the
thrush or the nightingale. Our little feathered friends indeed
are everywhere. The Guildhall Pigeons coo on the top of the
van which conveys culprits from the prison to the police-office.
Sparrows make friends with cabmen, and are fed with the
crumbs which fall from the table of the coffee-stall keepers.
Housemaids, shake your breakfast cloth out of window, and
leave to the poor little birds a dainty bit !
,I: I i 11,17F I"%
1N IUI S ,
~ , ,
I- : i : '' *'' ... I
... I-t"-- -, I ,,, ,t
K- H --l.-' -'
-- : 'p', .. :n.- ';' ''-
. --. . -%
-I ,, * - 1--- .. -
- '-; _-- .
.. I :_- -- .- ..- i---
-__ 2)-* _
;. . .. -_ ,:...
-'. -- .." S 'S_-9 ', .-
< '," '-Z ,- "i,,,- -
..*, "-- --, ~. < =
COMMON THICK-KNEED PLOVER.
Tom. Sometimes, when I go out to breakfast, I find nestling
in a bed of moss a quantity of plovers' eggs, which are con-
sidered a dainty. Ought we to rank plovers as birds of the
Papa. Some varieties are marine, that is, belonging to the
sea; but some species prefer the muddy borders of great
The Golden Plover.
rivers, and marshy places, where they can find plenty of small
worms and water insects. They are rarely found in the
neighbourhood of the sea-coast; but
Other sorts appear to like the sea,
-. and the mouth of those rivers that
fall into the sea. One variety of
plover is so much like another that
._ -: it is very difficult to separate the
different species with anything like
-. : r.. _MAla y. I once. saw a plover
which I was told was called'the
golden. The top of his head, as well as the whole of the upper
parts of his body, the wings and the tail, were fine silky black,
varied with large golden-yellow spots, placed on the edges of
the webs; the sides of the head, the neck, and the breast, were
varied with spots of grey, brown, and yellow. The throat and
under parts of the body were white.
Tomz. The poor plover has four eggs, about the size and
shape of those of the lapwing, of a greyish olive, blotched with
dusky. The mother builds her nest hidden in heath; but she
conceals the precious deposit in vain, for people get a living by
hunting for them, and they are brought in quantities to London,
and other great cities and towns, to be boiled, and eaten by
Edit/h. Yes; but let me tell you that thousands of eggs are
sold in London to ignorant people, as plovers' eggs, that are
no more so than you or I.
Miary. The New York people say that another sort, very
The Doltrel Plover.
much like the golden, is called, in America, the Large Whistling
Field-bird, from its note, which is very shrill. Its flesh is said
to be exquisite.
Tom. Another sort is'the Dottrel Plover. These are queer
and comical animals. Formerly it was the custom to. go in
quest of them in the night, with
a lighted torch or candle. The
birds, on these occasions, would .
Smimic the actions of the fowler
with great archness. When he ,.
stretched out an arm, they would ,,
stretch out their wings. If he '-
moved a foot, they moved one -
also. In fact, they endeavoured -
to imitate every one of his -
motions. Then the fowler spread his net and entangled them.
Papa. May we not learn from this that if we are silly enough
to imitate popular vices, we may be entangled in consequences
fatal to our welfare? Lord Bacon says, We see how ready
apes and monkeys are to imitate all motions of man, and
in catching of dottrels we see how the foolish bird playeth the
ape in gestures "
Tom. Was not the bird called a dottrel because he was
supposed to be delirious and silly; or, as we say of a man
whose understanding is impaired by years, that he dotes, or is a
Papa. I think that derivation is very likely. Silly people
are sometimes called dottrels in the north of England, just as
they are called geese.
The Chaltering Plover.
Edith. The French name for a plover is pf/vier. I wonder
if the bird was so called because
the Norman conquerors seized
it and took it for food, just as
Swe call a sheep mutton when
it is killed, and calf veal, that is
:I : Charlotte. Last summer I saw
.. a sweet little plover skimming
--- along the sands of the sea-shore,
S------ taking short flights, twittering and
-- twittering, then nimbly alighting,
-' and as nimbly running again, and
when I tried to get near him,
flying out of sight. He had a collar round his neck of pure
Papa. No doubt you saw a ringed plover, called by Buffon,
" le pluvier A collier."
Tom. Some say that we must call him one of our feathered
visitors, because he goes away to southern climes in the autumn,
and comes back with the warmth of spring.
Mary. Montagu, I am told, denies this statement, and says
that he has captured many specimens during the severest
winters in Devonshire and Cornwall. In America there is a
variety called the Chattering Plover, or Kill-deer, and some-
times the Noisy Bird. Though it has some other peculiarities,
it has the white collar round the neck.
Tom. Why is it called Kill-deer ? Does it actually destroy
stags and antelopes ?
The Sanderling and Oyster-catcher.
Edith. No; but it sets up a loud chattering cry the moment
any one approaches, which sounds very much like the word
Mary. But that is not such a queer mode of speech as the
New Zealand plover makes, which has a black collar round its
neck instead of a white one. This animal is -called Dood-
oor-oa-attoo," probably from its cry.
Tom. There is a strange-looking plover that is a native of
Senegal. The forehead is covered with a yellow membrane,
passing round the eyes. This is the hooded, or crested plover.
Another sort inli;-l,1..is the coast of Malabar, the forehead having
naked, bare skin, hanging down in a pointed flap on each side
of the jaw.
Edith. What is a Sanderling or Curwillet?
Papa. It is a bird not unlike a plover, prefers the sea-shore,
and lives on small beetles, and other marine insects. I once
heard an old shrimper call this a Tow-willey, but why, I cari-
didly confess, I don't know.
Edith. One of the queerest birds
"-- -" c/i
I ever heard of is the Oyster- : '- -
catcher, sometimes called the Sea-
pie. He is a remarkably clever :-:-:--
thief, and derives his name from -
the dexterity with which he procures '...
until an unfortunate oyster gapes I
wide enough; then in goes his strong
beak, before the oyster has time to shut up the door of his
house; and soon out comes the poor oyster, whom the bird
pecks to pieces at leisure. He is good-natured and companion-
able, and, though wild at first, is easily tamed. If taken young,
he behaves himself well in the poultry-yard, hunting for food in
neighboring ponds and ditches.
Papa. There is a rare bird, not unlike a plover, called the
Cream-coloured Courser. It is a native of Africa. Only three
specimens have, it is believed, been taken in Europe. One
was shot near St. Albans, in Hertfordshire. It ran with
Tom. I suppose that we must not call sandpipers, peewits,
or lapwings, sea-birds, though they prefer marshes and the
banks of rivers. It is a pity they should be shot for mere
wanton and cruel sport, for they are very useful to the gardener.
In Holland they are sometimes eaten as food, and their eggs
fetch a high price as a breakfast dainty. The mother and
". father lapwings are very fond
of their little olive-coloured off-
-- .. spring. These are able to run
two or three days after they
1---- are hatched, but are not capable
-_ ...- of flying till nearly full-grown.
'1 .. Dr. Shaw informs us that they
-' are led about by the parents in
search of food, though they are not fed by them. During this
period of bird babyhood, the bird parents exhibit the greatest
anxiety for their children's welfare. The arts used by them to
turn aside boys and dogs from the little cave in the ground
near which the young ones are nestling, are very singular. The
mother bird, upon the approach of an intruder, boldly pushes
The Crane. 43
out to meet him. When as near as she dare venture, she
springs from the ground with a loud scream, and strikes at the
invader with her wings, now and then fluttering about as if
sorely wounded, To complete the deception, she grows more
clamorous as she retires from the nest. At last, when the
pursuers are drawn off to a proper distance, she shakes her
plumage for flight, and leaves them far behind.
Edith. Nor are they less comical in their mode of finding
their food. I have seen this bird approach a worm-cast, hop
round it, then slightly move and scratch the ground with her
feet, disturbing the worm beneath, who came to the entrance
of his hole to see what was the matter. The bird gently
caught him, so to speak, by the nose, pulled him out with great
delicacy and tenderness, as-if she knew he might break in half
if she wasn't careful, and then ate him up quickly, leaving not
a morsel behind.
Tom. Ought we to call cranes sea-birds?
Papa. No; it is true that they live in marshy places, in
order that they may more easily find the worms, frogs, and
slugs, on which they feed, but they rarely visit the sea-shore.
It is remarkable that only one kind inhabits Europe.
Tom. The crane is said to be one of our feathered visitors,
for it retires northwards in the spring to breed, but in the
winter season it returns to warmer regions, such as India and
Edith. Is it ever-found anywhere in England?
Papa. No, I believe not -at present. It is one of the birds
that has been extirpated by the march of civilization, by the
draining of the low fens of the counties of Cambridge and
Lincoln, and by the cruel spirit of persecution with which it
has been attacked, because it was supposed to eat seeds, and
to bite off young plants. It was formerly abundant in the
country. At royal and corporation feasts dozens were served
up at a time. The last specimen is said to have been shot in
Cambridgeshire above eighty years ago.
N2 ~ V~
-- 13L `~4-
Tom. What are turnstones?
Papa. They are true sea-birds, and very much like the
dottrel and sand-piper. They feed upon beetles, and- other
insects, and such grubs and worms as hide themselves under
pebbles and stones on the sea-shore. They are so called
because they turn over these stones with their beaks. We may
class them under our feathered visitors, for they prefer cold
weather to warm. They do not breed with us, but visit our
The Hooping-Crane and Egret Heron. 45
shores in August, and they leave us in the spring, retiring
further and further north.
Edith. I once saw a large specimen, stuffed, of the hooping-
crane. It measured four feet six inches in length. It is never
known in England, but in the summer it is abundant in Hudson's
Bay. It retires to the south in the autumn. There are two
large varieties of the same bird, known as the Indian and as
Tom. Another bird of the crane sort was formerly common
in this, country, and was served up as a dainty at great feasts.
It was called the little egret heron. It is now extinct, having
been destroyed from the face of the earth. It was an elegant
bird, and so common in former times that Archbishop Nevile
had one thousand served up at his great feast.
Mary. In the old records of Beverley, is to be found an
account of the expenses of a present to the Earl of Northum-
berland in 1502. Among them is the payment of twelve
shillings for six heronsewes, two bitterns, and four shollards.
Papa. Remember that the heronsew, hernsew, or hernshaw,
for it was written in all these ways, was a young heron, and
was esteemed a choice delicacy. Chaucer, in his Canterbury
Tales," describing the feast of Cambriscan, says:
"I wull not tellen of hir strange sewes,
Ne hir swannes, ne hir heronsewes."
Tom. I have read that from this last word, still further
corrupted, arose the proverbial expression, introduced by
Shakspere into "Hamlet," I am but mad, north, north-west;
when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a hand-saw."
Mary. Did you ever eat a bit of heron ?
Habits of the Heron.
Edit/. No; I should think not indeed Such birds would
now be discarded as little better than rank carrion.
Papa. Yes; but let me tell you that it was formerly esteemed
a great dainty, and called viandd royal." Even the full-grown
bird was not too powerful for the digestive organs of those
days, and heronries were kept up in various parts of the
country for the purposes of food as well as diversion.
Tom. No doubt this was partly owing to the difficulty of
obtaining fresh meat during the winter months.
Edith. People do not generally know that the capture or
destruction of this bird was severely punished.
Tom. It is also a curious fact that the fat of the bird used
to be much sought after in the composition of the pastes used
for the purpose of angling. An old writer, quoted in Sir
William Jardine's "Naturalist's Library," says that any bait
anointed with the fat of the thigh-bone of the heron is a great
temptation to any fish. The scent from his legs was considered
attractive to them when he waded in the water.
Papa. Surely here we see an instance of design in the
creation. The heron, during the greater parts of the year, is a
wading bird. His favourite food is fish of all accessible kinds
and water reptiles. He will also attack water-rats and mice,
and young aquatic birds. Now the odour of his legs seems to
attract the fish, thus bringing his prey within easy reach.
Tom. His mode of life also contains a lesson to us all. In
the late parts of autumn and winter he may be seen by the sea-
shore, taking his station as soon as the shoals begin to be
uncovered by the ebbing of the tide; then eating till he is
thoroughly gorged.. Rows of them have been observed on some
Varieties of Heron. 47
retired sand-bank, their heads sunk between their shoulders,
exhibiting a lively picture of full-fed laziness. Then it is that
they are easily caught.
Mary. It really seems a pity to take them. They are so
beautiful, and would be such a picturesque accompaniment to
every rural scene, whether the landscape be of the refined park,
the wild and pastoral glen, or the precipitous ocean rock.
Edith. I have heard it said that their quill is of extra-
Tom. Their bill is; for, in a state of nature, they generally
transfix their prey with a sudden dart or blow of their bill. I
never heard that their quill is stronger than that of other birds.
Papa. Here is another striking evidence of design in
creation. The quills and feathers of all birds are remarkable
for their combination of lightness and strength. Some
inventive enthusiasts -have thought that a flying machine will be
practicable as soon as large wings can be made as light and as
strong in proportion as feathers.
Mary. The grouping of the black and white feathers,
relieved by tints of rich purple grey, is very beautiful.
Tom. What is an egret ?
Papa. This bird is generally considered a variety of the
heron. The plumage is generally pure white: they breed on
trees, sometimes at only a few feet from the ground, but,
generally at a high elevation; always near water. Sometimes
the great white egret is called the great white heron. This
bird measures, in length, three feet four or five inches.
Edilh. One variety is called the cow or cattle heron, because
it attends upon cows, and seems to delight in their company.
Charlotte. Can any explanation be given of this preference?
Papa. Yes; it is very fond of feeding on the numberless
insects which surround cows, and irritate them sometimes
almost to madness. It must be a great comfort to the cow to
find herself relieved of these troublesome visitants by a long-
billed attendant, who snaps them up by hundreds and
Tom. What are bitterns ?
Mary. They are skulking birds: the plumage of their
crown, and upper parts, is black; the bill, legs, and feet, are
of a dark yellow, sometimes greenish. The prevalent appear-
ance of the bird is a sort of sienna yellow, dashed with brown.
It is a marsh bird, and loves to wander about in the night. I
suppose we must call it a visitant that arrives in the autumn
and stays during the winter. It makes a peculiar booming
noise. It used to be a favourite dish at the tables of our
forefathers; but now it. is discarded because its flavour is fishy.
But some say, that if it is kept long enough, it is tender and
Edith. Ought we to consider the stork an inhabitant or a
visitor in England ?
Paapa. I never saw one in England (except in the Zoological
Gardens), and I believe they are becoming more and more rare..
On the continent of Europe these birds are frequently kept
tame in the market-places. They are something like the -dogs
of Constantinople, for they are excellent scavengers. They
clear off refuse with much skill and completeness, stalking
lazily amongst the stalls and buyers and sellers. After they
have glutted themselves with offal, they fly away to the tops of
wR.W. R. ERAUNER
BIC N. HANOVER STh
0.- ..AiRSL.E. PA-
the houses, where they perch sometimes on one leg, and look,
at a little distance, like statues against the sky. They like to
breed on the tops of chimneys, on the spires of churches, and
on other elevated buildings in towns. In Holland it is
considered very unlucky to kill one. Artificial flat-topped
erections are often put up for its use and convenience. The
stork is a friendly bird, and delights to live among the habi-
tations of men. In some cities abroad heavy penalties- are
levied on those who wound or destroy it.
7om. The principal sort, I believe, has plumage nearly pure
white, with here and there glossy black.
Edith. Yes; but its bill, legs, and feet are as red as red.
C/harotte. In the British Workman, for 1867, there is an
interesting account of a tame stork, then belonging to Mr.
Samuel Gurney, of Carshalton, which, through kind treatment,
had become so very tame that
i -the bird never seemed so
----_ ------- happy as when in the society
S of the labourers, or in follow-
i ing the ploughman up and
.,- down the furrows. During
," the hay-time the mowers could
,"."'It, NN scarcely take a stroke with
their scythe before the stork
was at their heels, and he
would never leave them until
their work was done. When
the men were at dinner he
would refresh himself by taking a short sleep, standing on one
leg, in which position not only storks but other birds usually
go to rest.
-,". -, .- -,,
.- ', ,.-- .- :' 1. 'r *'' 1 *'
- h "i- i d I o
,.. --" K
To .. Because it has a long- bill like a flat spoon. It is
crinkled and wrinkled towards the eye, and quite black, but
towards the tip it is yellow, and almost golden in hue. This
~ ~ ~ ~ b I,,I '(_.
', i .; ,' , 4 -- ; -- ' ', -. .'
,., :'-''."- _.._ "g,
',1, ... ... ...
towards the tip it is yellow, and almost golden in hue. This
wonderful machine is evidently designed by the Creator to help
it in procuring its food. It is fond of small sea reptiles and fish,
:: ---- '' 4 - ~ ..... .--^" "^? .^^^"' *3- *' ._" i^ -^ - -:-- ^. ------T ._- --
~ ~ ~ ~~~- ----------"-----:1;- N_-5
but it feeds upon. all the produce of marine and aquatic life,
which is so plentifully found in pools left by the sea-side, or .is
formed by fresh waters.
Tax on Fire-arms. 53
Mary. Could we not find out what food it likes best by
watching its habits in confinement?
Papa. No; because in confinement the habits of all birds
are so greatly modified. How could you find out that a boy
liked oranges and sugar-candy, if he was kept in a cage and
never saw a morsel of either? They are certainly fond of fish.
Young bids when caught will feed freely on bread and milk.
Tom. In days gone by the spoonbill was often found in
various parts of the United Kingdom, but now the breed is
Charlotte. I have sometimes read, in the accounts of old
feasts, that the crane was served up as a dainty.
Papa. Ay; that is so. But we are not at all certain that the
bird so esteemed was the same as is now called a crane by
modern writers on the subject. He is very seldom seen in Eng-
land. He is a large and handsome bird. He is very ambitious,
and loves elevated stations. We must call him a visitor, for he
only appears for a very short time during the year.
Mary. Mr. Wood states that a specimen of the crane is
now seldom seen in our country, except in a zoological garden.
Papa. We are informed by the historians that cranes formerly
visited the marshes of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire in vast
flocks, but by the folly of man this useful bird is almost extinct in
our country. It is to be hoped that the clever proposal of the
present Chancellor of the Exchequer (1870) to tax fire-arms
will save the life of many a valuable bird. Mr. Lowe knows
how useful birds are, for he has lived in Australia, where they
import them from England.
Tom. The Australian colonists are wisely encouraging the
S...... ... _- .--- -_--- -- :_:---. --- -
.._- -?---._-- ----_--- -- _-
importation of birds, whilst Englishmen are foolishly destroying
Charlotte. I do wish that the tax on guns had been adopted
long ago by parliament. It would have been a boon not only
to the birds but to the nation.
DEMOISELLE AND CROWNED CRANES.
-Tom. I have here a beautiful engraving of the demoiselle and
crowned cranes, which are to be found in Eastern Europe.
The coronet of rich golden plumes, of the latter bird, renders
it very attractive.
Tom. What do you say about the woodcock ? Is he a visitor,
or an inhabitant ?
Papa. There are instances on record of his having bred in
various parts of Great Britain, but generally he comes to us in
the beginning or towards the end of October, and flies away
Tom. I have heard game-keepers say that these birds are
remarkably shy. When they have settled themselves comfortably
down for the winter, they prefer a wood of hollies, or other large
evergreens, where they can run along underneath. There they
remain quiet during the day; but when twilight arrives they like
to go to a good marsh for their supper. Their favourite food
is water insects: these they obtain by boring in the mud. They
are very fond too of grubs, found under dead leaves.
Edith/. The snipe is in some respects like the woodcock, but
in others different. It is a winter visitant, coming in October and
leaving in March.
Mary. What is a judcock ?
Papa. It is a beautiful bird, much smaller than a common
snipe, though it belongs to the race.
Edith. Once when I was staying in Lincolnshire, I was
shown a black-tailed godwit. It was formerly considered a great
delicacy for the table, but now they are not much admired.
Then there is the red-breasted snipe or red godwit.
Tom. It is interesting to observe the difference between the
summer and the winter dress of
--. -- many of these birds. When they
-- take to themselves a mate, they
put on a much handsomer dress.
SEdith. One variety of these
birds is called the green-legged
-..--_ horseman; but why, I, do not know.
.... _.~ This class of birds is known by
... ~~~--- many different names, and every
sort has some peculiarity. There
'~- is the will-wicket, called also the
sand-lark, or sandy laverock.
Mary. I am sorry to say that another remarkable bird is
gradually passing away from our island. I refer to the ruff male
and reeve female. It used to visit us in summer, but the drain-
age of the fens and the general cultivation of the country
lessen its-numbers every year. Thus it is that many birds
which were common among us a century ago are now scarcely
to be met with.
The Ruf. 59
I I'Il' -'- i
Papa. The trade of catching and fattening ruffs for the
market was, at- one time, a very lucrative trade in England,
but now we rarely hear of a ruff being used for the purposes of
_, -_ -
Ppa. The trade of catching and. fattening ruffs for th,
market was, at one time, a very lucrative trade in England,
60 Sai7d-JzP ers.
Charlotte. Did you ever see a dunlin, or stint, or purre?
Papa. No; I never met with one; but they are equally dis-
tributed all along our sea-shores, from Shetland to the Scilly
Islands. His habits are those of the other sand-pipers. In
fact, there are a great many sorts of sand-pipers. There is the
purple or rock, the curlew and little stint, the broad-bill, and
some that are occasional stragglers found on the sea-shore.
Tom. Why was the black-winged stilt so called?
Papa. I should think from its long red legs. These birds
like to stand in a shallow pool of water,' mid-leg deep, and to
snap leisurely at the insects which buzz around them.
Tom. I confess I am getting tired of talking about these
sand-pipers and peewhits. They are very curious to look at,
and some of them very delicious when well cooked; but the lives,
if I may so speak of them, possess very little variety. Man does
not hold much intercourse with them; he lies in wait for them;
he shoots them; eats them. He sometimes kills them apparently
from a mere savage love of destruction. He observes that they
are intensely fond of their children, that they show great skill
and cunning in enticing away a stranger from the neighbour-
hood of a nest, but it is seldom one meets with a personal
anecdote illustrating the history of an individual among them.
This is most likely owing to the fact that they come and go,
like guests at an inn, and are seldom or never tamed.
Papa. I must add one word more. We have mentioned
many uses of sea-birds, but there is one to which we have not
hitherto alluded.' I remember to have read in Sir Henry Ellis's
edition of Brand's "Observations on Popular Antiquities," that
the minister of Arbirlot, in the county of Forfar, informed Sir John
Sinclair that sea-gulls are considered as ominous; when they
appear in the fields a storm from the south-east generally follows,
and when the storm begins to abate they fly back to the shore.
In the parish of Holywood, Dumfriesshire, they are commonly
called .sea-maws. They come occasionally from the Solway
Frith to that part of the country. Their arrival seldom fails of
being followed by a high wind and heavy rain from the south-
west, within twenty-four hours, and. they. return to the Frith
again as soon as the storm begins to abate. Willsford, in his
"Nature's Secrets," says, "Sea-mews early in the morning,
making a gaggering more than ordinary, foretoken stormy and
blustering weather." The same author informs us that when
cormorants, mallards, and other water-fowls bathe themselves
much, prune their feathers, and flicker or clap themselves with
their wings, heavy rain and high wind are sure to follow.
Edith. Bishop Hall, in his "Charactersof Virtues and Vices,"
speaking of the superstitious man,
;._ says, "If a bittern fly over his head
by night, he makes his will." In
SWild's "Iter Boreale," we read,
M--- ', "The peaceful king-fishers are met
S ,,. '.together, about the decks, and
'' fii prophesy calm weather."
",I, .i Tom., It appears from the poet
--__' "s.' --' Aristophanes that the same idea
was prevalent in Greece more than
BITTERN. two thousand years ago.
"From birds in sailing, men instruction
Now lie in port, now sail, and profit m
62 Value of Sea-birds.
Mary. It appears then that sea-birds, to a certain extent,
answer the purpose of a barometer as well as a lighthouse and
Edith. Yes, and they answer to the storm signals now in use
at every port. They claim, then, the fullest protection that we
can cast around them; to 'destroy them in order to decorate a
bonnet is surely at once a blunder and a crime.
Charlotte. Why was it that the old Presbyterians of Scotland
thought the lapwing such an unlucky bird?
Papa. Some say the following was the reason: As this bird
frequents solitary places, its haunts were sometimes invaded by
fugitive Presbyterians during the persecution they suffered in
the reigns of Charles II. and James II., when they were often
discovered by the clamours of the lapwing.
/- & r-- / > .. 4 .
iil ;. -
Papa. Suppose that we now consider the hints that are given
to us as to .various kinds of trades and occupations by the habits
Tom. This is a most curious subject. Some- birds may- be
I z'z .- 2 I -,
I o -- .. .
Papa. Suppose that we now consider the hints that are given
To. -- This is a most curious subject. Some birds may be
64 The fechaniczal Skill oj Birds.
called masons, some miners, others carpet-makers, others again
basket-makers, weavers, and sailors. Others, again, make felt
and cement. Others are architects, and make domes. With all
our boasted mechanical skill, we cannot rival, much less can we
improve, the ingenuity and geometrical accuracy of these little
designers and artificers.
Edith. Did you say that some birds were miners?
Tom. Yes; such is the bank-swallow, or sand-martin. He
does not, like.some gnawing insects, bite off a portion of the
sand, and carry it out of the hole in its mouth: it clings with
its claws to the bank, and then pecks holes in the sand, just as
a miner would with his pickaxe. .Some say that the hole it
makes is as round as if it was marked out with a pair of com-
passes, and that if there is any irregularity it is owing to the
crumbling of the sand. The excavation is always funnel-shaped.
It is generally from two to three feet deep, something like an
underground gallery, where a bed of loose hay and a fevw of the
smaller breast feathers of geese, ducks, or fowls, is spread with
little art for the reception of the eggs.
Papa. Observe'also that the gallery is always a little uphill,
so that the rain never settles in it.
Edith. It is said these swallows sometimes desert a hole
because it gets so full of fleas, just in the same way 'as the
tourist avoids some continental hotels.
Papa. Sailors say nobody can tell anything of where the
stormy petrels come from, or how they breed, unless they hatch
their eggs under their wings as they sit on the water.
Tom. What a ridiculous idea! Just so they have sometimes
been called witches, and Mother Carey's .chickens, from some
Stormy Petrel. -65
ideal hag of that name. Wilson, in his '" American Ornith-
ology," gives a most eloquent description which I will venture to
quote. "It.is," says he, "indeed an interesting sight to
observe these little birds, in a gale, coursing over the waves,
down the declivities, and up the ascents of- the foaming surf
that threatens to burst over their heads, sweeping along the
hollow troughs of the sea as in a sheltered valley, and again
mounting with the rising billow, and just above its surface,
occasionally dropping their.feet, -_ -.^ "
which, striking the water, throw
them up again with additional
force, sometimes leaping, with both ':-
legs parallel, on the.surface of the
roughest waves for several yards :-
at a time. Meanwhile they con- :
tinue coursing from side to side of -T .:
the ship's wake, making excursions
far and wide to the right and to the ---' "
left, now a great way ahead, and
now shooting astern for several hundred yards, returning again
to the ship as if she were all the while stationary, though
perhaps running at the rate of ten knots an hour. But the most
singular peculiarity of this bird is its faculty of standing, and
even running, on the surface of the water, which it performs
with apparent facility. When any greasy matter is thrown
overboard, these birds instantly collect around it, facing to
windward, with their long wings expanded and their webbed
feet patting the water. The lightness of their bodies and the
action of the wind on their wings, enable them with ease to
assume this position. In calm weather they perform the same
manceuvre, by keeping their wings just so much in action as to
prevent their feet from sinking below the surface."
Edith. It is found by observation that petrels excavate
burrows, and even fortify their retreats.
S/Charlotte. Puffins also make their nests in a hole three or
four feet below the surface of the ground.
Tom. I am sorry to say that the puffin is a naughty bird, and
fond of fighting. His bill seems adapted for warfare. It is of
a singular form, exactly resembling two very short blades of a
knife applied one against the other by the edge. Ravens
sometimes offer battle to puffins; but as soon as the raven draws
near, in the hope, perhaps, of stealing an egg or a young bird,
the mother puffin catches him under the throat with her beak,
and sticks her claws into his breast, till he screams with agony,
and tries to get away. But the puffin keeps fast hold of him,
and tumbles him about till both frequently fall into the sea,
where the raven is drowned, and the puffin returns in triumph
to her nest. But should the raven in the first outset get hold of
the puffin's neck, the former generally conquers.
Freddie. When I was in New Zealand, I remember seeing a
strange bird, called a Kakopo, which is now almost, if not
entirely, extinct. We brought one'with us-in a cage as far as
Sydney. It got out one day, and burrowed a hole between two
and three feet deep, so that we thought we had lost it. We
found it by calling out "Kakopo, Kakopo," when it answered,
and came to the mouth of its cave. It was very tame, and
allowed itself to be secured without a struggle. It died shortly
afterwards, apparently of chagrin.
Edith. Jackdaws also make their houses in holes.
Tom. Yes; but not often. They seem to prefer the inter-
stices in buildings or rocks.
Edith. But what should you think of the lark mining? The
poet Grahame says of him:-
"The daisied lea he loves, where tufts of grass
Luxuriant crown the ridge; there, with his mate,
He founds their lowly house, of withered leaves
And coarsest speargrass; next, the inner work
With finer, and still finer fibres-lays,
Rounding it curious with his speckled breast." -
Freddie. It is observable that the female lark not only
scrapes a cavity in which to form her nest, but sometimes
Affection of Eider Duck.
loosens the bottom of it to a considerable depth. She places
the first layers of her nest very loosely, so that if any moisture
should get in, it may sink down and be absorbed. One writer
says that if she uses any horsehair in building the nest it is of
a white colour. Thus we observe that the lark has not only
some notion of mining but of drainage too.
Tom. Yes; but some birds seem to like moisture. The little
grebe or dab-chick, for instance, makes a nest of wet grass and
rushes, increasing the materials as she continues to lay.
Papa. We have a beautiful instance of motherly affection in
the eider-duck, from whence comes the well-known eider-down.
I am not sure whether the eider-duck is naturally a miner, but
some of the Icelandic proprietors of breeding-grounds, in order
to accommodate their little families, cut out holes in rows on
the smooth sloping banks, where they would not otherwise
build, but of which they gladly take possession when thus
scooped out. The male and female together work at the nest,
laying a rather coarse, but plentiful, foundation of sea-weed and
rift grass. Upon this rough mattress the female spreads a bed
of the finest down plucked from her own breast. Though this
only weighs when cleaned three-quarters of an ounce, Pennant
says it is so elastic as to fill the crown of the largest hat. Thus,
you see, the bird strips herself to warm her children.
Freddie. We have hitherto spoken of mining and draining
birds, but other sorts are masons and plasterers. We might
almost call them potters. The nut-hatch is said to breed in the
hole of a tree; if this hole be too large, she narrows the entrance
with mud as neatly kneaded as if she had hired a bricklayer.
She uses this device to barricade out unwelcome intruders, such
as wood peckers.
She has a sort of
idea of distinct fam-
ily life; she wishes
also to keep her
little children from ,
tumbling out of
the nest, for young I
birds are often like
young boys and : -/'
girls, heedless of A
C/arlotte. The ,
swift is undoubt-
edly the fleetest of .
the swallow tribe. 'f
LEdith. Is it true J
that the inventor
of clay houses took
the hint from swal-
Pafia. I do not
know, Edith. Clay \
and other earths
are used for build-
ing all the world
over, from Ireland THE SWIFT.
to New Zealand.
What, indeed, is brick but moulded and burnt earth ? I ought
to add that the great Greek philosopher, Aristotle, thinks there
is as much real "ingenuity displayed in the building of a swal-
low's nest as in some of the prodigious and more ambitious
efforts of mankind.
Charlotte. My namesake, Mrs. Charlotte Smith, remarks: "It
is curious to observe swallows dipping their breasts swiftly into
pools, and then immediately resorting to their nests to temper
the mortar with the moisture." "I have frequently seen from
my window," says the Abbe de la Pluche, "the swallow either
beginning or repairing her-nest, which is a structure entirely
different from all others. She wants neither wood, nor hay, nor
bands, but knows how to make a kind of plaster, or rather
cement, with which she erects a dwelling equally secure and
convenient for herself and all her family. She has no- vessels
to receive the water she uses, nor a barrow to convey her sand,
nor a shovel to mix her mortar; but I have seen her pass and
repass over the basin in the parterre: she raises her wings, and
wets her breast on the surface of the water, after which she
sheds the dew over the dust, and then tempers and works it up
with her bill." Goldsmith also says, The nest is built with mud
from some neighboring brook, well tempered with the bill
moistened with water for the better adhesion." The ancient
account of the swallow's nest, given by Pliny, runs thus:-
"Surely in no one thing is the wit of birds more admirable.
The swallows frame their nests of clay and earth, but they
strengthen and make them fast with straw. In case at any time
they cannot meet with soft and tough clay, for want thereof
they drench and wet their feathers with good-store of water,
and then bestrew them over with dust."
Swallow's ANesi. 71
Papa. This is a very _
pretty story; but if we are "-
to believe modern writers, Siliii1r ._ "MR
it is a romance. They say _-_ -
that a swallow can never -M
carry water in its bill or on ,,,,. '
its feathers. They contend 1
that swallows employ .a -'' ,'.
kind of spittle with which
they temper and moisten the
Tom. Have you ever 1-- .
observed that a swallow '
will sometimesbuild against
a perpendicular wall, with-
out any projecting ledge under? It is wonderful how cleverly
the little architect works and plasters the materials against
the brick or stone. He does not go on too fast; he builds
only in the morning, spending the rest of the day in flying
and searching for food. It takes him about twelve days to
finish his clay house with a little round door near the top;
outside it is full of knobs, and inside it is not very smooth;
but inside it is neatly lined with feathers and moss, and
becomes quite a comfortable nursery.
Edith. Yes; but it is sometimes sad to see how a sudden
squall of rain and wind will loosen the hold it has on the wall:
then down comes the little house, and the poor fledgelings are
tumbled on to the ground.
Tom. Sometimes the window-swallow takes to a window in
Swallows and their Nests.
such numbers that he becomes a nuisance. In such cases, if
the wall is well rubbed with oil and soft soap, the builder cannot
make his plaster stick; so
S.- he tries another place.
'- Papa. I love the dear
'... -- swallow! He comes to
-. ... ~tell us that Nature is
-... *-; about to put on her beau-
S .tiful garments, and he
S -- stays with us through the
S- months of flowers and
'----- fruit. He is almost the
NESTS OF THE CLIFF SWALLOW. only bird seen in some
parts of mountainous Swit-
zerland. "The swallow," says Sir Humphrey Davy, in his
Salmonia," "is one of
my favourite birds, and a
rival of the nightingale,
for he glads my sense of
seeing as much as the
other does my sense of
hearing. He is the joy-
ous prophet of the year,
the harbinger of the best
season winter is
unknown to him, and he
leaves the green mea-
dows of England in au-
tumn for the myrtle
and orange groves of Ita
ESCULENT SWALLOW AND NEST.
ly, and for the palms of Africa."
Swallows Preparing for F'hglit.
Charlotte. Mr. Pennant says that, for a few days previous to
their departure, they assemble in vast flocks- on house-tops or
churches, from whence they take their fight from England.
74 Conslructionz of Trusz's Nest.
Tom. The Greeks were great admirers of this bird. Thus
sings the cheerful Anacreon:-
'"Gentle bird, we find thee here,
When nature wears her summer best;
Thou comest to weave thy simple nest;
And when the- chilling winter lowers,
Again thou seek'st the genial bowers
Of '.i 1i.li,:,. or the shores of Nile,
Where sunny hours of verdure smile."
Papa. The nests of the song-thrush are, if anything, more
remarkable than those
of the swallow. The
S- -7 thrush forms her nest in
,-- -.-. the branches of trees,
::on the outside of moss,
-.-.- and on the inside with
some kind of dust mixed
.- with some fluid, and ar-
M, tificially smooth. When
S__ finished it is like a'lining
of dried paste, and when
'7i..; i moved the eggs rattle
"- in it. Some say that
this paste is too light to
--be made of clay. Cow-
NEST OF SONG-THRUSH, dung probably enters
into it. The layer is little thicker than writing-paper. The
beauty of the little mason's work consists in spreading
pellets of dung on basket work of moss and straw. This is
laid on with the spittle of the bird as a cement.
Tke Nidt-katch a Carpenter.
Edikh. We have spoken of the nut-hatch as a mason, but he
is also a carpenter.. A sportsman once caught one of these
birds. The story is thus told by Loudon, in his Magazine: ",He
was placed in a small cage of oak-wood and wire. Here he
remained all night, and the next morning his knocking or
tapping with his beak was the first sound I heard, though sleep-
ing in an apartment divided from the other by a landing-place.
He had food given to him-minced chicken and bread crumbs,
and water. He ate and drank with a most perfect impudence,
and the moment he had satisfied himself, turned again to his
work of battering the frame of his cage, the sound from which,
both in loudness and prolongation of noise, is only to be com-
pared to the efforts of a fashionable footman upon a fashionable
door in a fashionable square. He had a particular fancy for the
extremities of the corner pillars of the cage; on these he spent
his most elaborate taps, and at this moment, though he has only
occupied the cage a day, the wood is pierced and worn like a
piece of old worm-eaten timber. He probably had an idea that
if these main beams could once be penetrated, the rest of the
superstructure would fall and free him. Against the doorway
he had also a particular spite, and once succeeded -in opening
it; and when, to interpose a further obstacle, it was tied in a
double knot with string, the perpetual application of his beak.
quickly unloosed it. In ordinary cages a circular hole is left in
the wire for the bird to insert his head to drink from a glass; to
this hole the nut-hatch constantly repaired, not for the purpose
of drinking, but.to try to push out more than his head; but in
vain, for he is a thick bird, and rather heavily built. But the
instant he found the hole too small he would withdraw his head,
and begin to dig and hammer at the circle and where it is
rooted in the wood, with his pickaxe of a beak, evidently.with a
design to enlarge the orifice. His labour was incessant, and he
ate as largely as he worked, and I fear that it was the united
effects of both that killed him. His hammering was peculiarly
laborious, for he did not perch as other birds do, but grasping
his hold with his immense feet, he turned upon them as upon
a pivot, and struck with the whole weight of his body, thus
assuming the appearance with his entire form of the head of a
hammer, or, as I have sometimes seen birds on mechanical
clocks, made to strike the hour by swinging on a wheel. We
were in hopes that when the sun went down he would cease
from his labours, and rest; but no, at-the interval of every ten
minutes, up to nine or ten o'clock in the night, he resumed his
knocking. An awful fluttering in the cage, now covered with
a handkerchief, announced that something was wrong: we
found him at the bottom, of his prison with his feathers ruffled,
and nearly all turned back. At length the poor little fellow
drew his last gasp."
Mary. It was a previous act of cruelty- to imprison such a
bird in a cage.
Pa/a. Here is another extract from Buffon's book upon
birds, illustrative of that remarkable carpenter, the wood-
pecker. We must not too hastily suppose that the woodpecker
is an anomaly in the glorious creation of the loving God, as
Buffon appears to think. Depend upon it, the woodpecker has
his share in the distribution of enjoyment; he has admirable
organs to carry out his carpentry work. Why should he not
take as much delight in pecking holes in trees, chiselling bark,
and boring into wood, as we do in higher occupations? At
any rate his life is as pleasant as a coal-miner's. Charlotte,
suppose you read the passage for us.
-C/arlotte. "Animals constantly engaged in the pursuit of
prey, urged by want and restrained by apprehensions of danger,
depend for subsistence on the vigour of their own exertions;
and having scarcely time to satisfy their immediate desires, they
78 The Coodpecker.
can have no leisure to cherish the benevolent affections. Such
is the solitary condition of all the carnivorous birds, except a
few tribes, which prowl on putrid carrion, and rather combine
like robbers than unite as friends. But of all the birds which
earn their subsistence by spoil, none leads a life so laborious
and so painful as the woodpecker. Nature has condemned him
to incessant toil and slavery. While others freely employ their
courage or address, and either shoot on rapid wing, or lurk in
close ambush, the woodpecker is constrained to drag out an
insipid existence, in boring the bark and hard fibres of trees to
extract its humble prey.
Papa. Thank you, Charlotte. But I still think that Buffon
is entirely wrong in supposing the woodpecker to be an object
of pity, because he has to work hard for his living. What
would the naturalist say to the squirrel, who always appears to
be one of the happiest of animals, and yet for many months in
the year must find it far more difficult to procure, his favourite
food of nuts than the woodpecker his insects?
Tom. The American naturalist, Wilson, who is quite as good
an authority as Buffon on such matters, quite agrees with you,
Papa. He says, speaking of the gold-winged woodpecker,
"The abject and degraded character which the Count de Buffon,
with equal eloquence and absurdity, has drawn of the whole
tribe of woodpeckers, belongs not to the elegant and sprightly
bird now before us. He is not 'constrained to drag out an
insipid existence in boring the bark and hard fibres of trees to
extract his prey,' for he frequently finds in the loose mouldering
ruins of an old stump (the capital of a nation of pismires) more
than is sufficient for the wants of a whole week. He cannot be
said to 'lead a mean and gloomy life, without an intermission
of labour,' who usually feasts by the first peep of dawn, and
spends the early and sweetest hours of morning on the highest
peaks of the tallest trees, calling on his mate or companions, or
pursuing and gamboling with them round the larger limbs and
body of the tree for hours together; for such are really his
habits. Can it be said that 'necessity never grants an interval
of sound repose' to that bird, who, while other tribes are
exposed to all the peltings of the midnight storm, lodges dry
and secure in a snug chamber of his'own constructing; or that
'the narrow circumference of a tree circumscribes his dull round
of life,' who, as seasons and inclination inspire, roams from the
frigid to the torrid zone, feasting on the abundance of various
regions? Or is it a proof that 'his appetite is never softened by
delicacy of taste,' because he so often varies his bill of fare,
occasionally preferring to animal food the rich milkiness of
young Indian corn, and the wholesome and nourishing berries
of the wild cherry, sour gum, and red cedar? Let the reader
turn-to the faithful representation of him given ih our figure,
and say whether his looks be 'sad and melancholy?' It is truly
ridiculous and astonishing that such absurdities should escape
the lips or pen of one so able to do justice to the respective
merits of every species; but Buffon had too often a favourite '
theory to prop up, that led him insensibly astray: and so, for-
sooth, the whole family of woodpeckers must look sad, sour,
and be miserable, to satisfy the caprice of a whimsical philo-
sopher, who takes it into his head that they are, and ought to
Mary. I agree with Wilson rather than with Buffon.
Edith. Wilson also
gives a history of a
much resembles the
anecdote I have al-
ready told you about
the nut-hatch. "In
rambling through the
woods one day, I
happened to shoot
one of these birds,
and wounded him
slightly in the wing.
Finding him in full'
feather, and seeming-.
ly but little hurt, I
took him home, and
put him into a large
cage, made of willows,
intending to keep him
in my own room, that
we might become
better acquainted. As
soon as he found
himself inclosed on
all sides, he lost no
time in idle fluttering,
but, throwing himself against
the bars of
the cage, began instantly to demolish the willows, battering, them
with great vehemence, and uttering a loud piteous kind of cack-
Is ithe Woodpecker Happy ?
ling similar to that of ahen when she is alarmed and takes to wing.
Poor Baron Trenck never laboured with more eager diligence at
the walls of his prison than this son of the forest in his exertions
for liberty; and he exercised his powerful bill with such force,
digging into the sticks, seizing and shaking them so from side
to side, that he soon opened for himself a passage; and though
I repeatedly repaired the breach, and barricaded every opening
in the best manner I could, yet on my return into the room I
always found him at large, climbing up the chairs. Having
placed him in a strong wire cage, he seemed to give up all hope
of making his escape, and soon became very tame; fed on young
ears of Indian corn; refused apples, but ate the berries of the
sour gum greedily, small winter grapes, and several other kinds
of berries; exercised himself frequently in climbing, or rather
hopping perpendicularly along the sides of the cage; and as
evening drew on, fixed himself in a high hanging or perpen-
dicular position, and slept with his head on his wing. He was
beginning to become very amusing, and even sociable, when,
after a lapse of several weeks, he became drooping, and died,
as I conceived, from the effects of his wound."
Mary. What a pity to have shot at such a bird!
Tom. The newspapers have lately told us that the inhabit-
ants of Philadelphia have introduced from England, at consider-
able cost, a colony of common sparrows, to keep down the
redundant insect life, which threatens to destroy all the most
beautiful flowering trees in that city and the neighbourhood.
But it would seem that some provision has been already made
in this direction by that Divine Providence which so wonderfully
maintains the balance of creation. Hear what Wilson says
The Downy Woodpecker.
about that energetic carpenter, the downy woodpecker: The
principal characteristics of this little bird, are diligence, famili-
arity, perseverance, and a strength and energy in the head and
muscles of the neck which are truly astonishing. Mounted on
the infected branch of an old apple-tree, where insects have
lodged their corroding and destructive broods in crevices
between the bark and wood, he labours sometimes for half an
hour incessantly at the same spot before he has succeeded in
dislodging and destroying them. At these times you may walk
up pretty close to the tree, and even stand immediately below
it, within five or six feet of the bird, without in the least
embarrassing him; the strokes of his bill are distinctly heard
several hundred yards off; and I have known him to be at work
for two hours together on the same tree. Buffon calls this
'incessant toil and slavery;' his attitude a painful posture; '
and his life 'a dull and insipid existence;' expressions im-
proper because untrue, and absurd because contradictory. The
posture is that for which the whole organization of his frame is
particularly adapted; and though to a wren or a humming-bird
the labour would be both a toil and a slavery, yet to him it is, I am
convinced, as pleasant as the sucking of flowers to the humming-
bird. The eagerness with which he traverses the upper and
lower side of the branches; the cheerfulness of his cry; and the
liveliness of his motions, while digging into the tree and dis-
lodging the vermin, justify this belief. About the middle of
May, the male and female look out for a suitable place for the
reception of their eggs and young. An apple, pear, or cherry
tree, often in the near neighbourhood of the farm-house, is
generally pitched upon for this purpose. The tree is minutely
he Balance of Creation.
reconnoitred for several days previous to the operation, and the
work is first begun by the male, who cuts out a hole in the solid
wood, as circular as if described with a pair of compasses. He
is occasionally relieved by the female, both parties working with
the most indefatigable diligence. The direction of the hole, if
made in the body of the tree, is generally downwards, by an
angle of thirty or forty degrees, for the distance of six or eight
inches, and then straight down for ten or twelve more; within
roomy, capacious, and as smooth as if polished by the cabinet-
maker: but the entrance is judiciously left just so large as to
admit the body of the owner. During this labour they regularly
carry out the chips, often strewing them at a distance, to prevent
suspicion. This operation sometimes occupies the chief part of
a week. The female, before she begins to lay, often visits the
place, passes out and in, examines every part, both of the
exterior and interior, with great attention, as every prudent
tenant of a new house ought to do, and at length takes complete
possession. The eggs are generally six, pure white, and laid
on the smooth bottom of the cavity."
Papa. There seems to be something sorrowful, and the type
of bitter melancholy, in the decay of some species of birds, and
their entire removal from the haunts they once favoured. The
dodo has gone for ever, and it is now with some naturalists a
matter of doubt whether it ever existed. Eagles were once very
common on the mountains of England and Scotland. The beau-
tiful swans have disappeared from the waters of the Mincio and
the marshes of Mantua. "In vain," says Michelet, "the
traveller would seek for the snow-white flotillas which once
covered the Italian lakes with their sails." The heron, in the
1Middle Ages, was fallen from the high estate which he held in
:Greece,;and when his knowledge of the weather was thought to
-surpass that :of the gravest augurs; but still he kept his beauty
and his heavenward flight. He was still a prince, a feudal bird.
Now he has virtually lost two kingdoms: France, where he only
appears as a migratory visitor, and England, where his mate
reluctantly deposits her eggs. It is said that there is now but
one heronry in all France. A wood between Rheims and
Epernay conceals the last asylum where the poor lonely bird
mourns his misfortunes and hides his loves.
Tom. By-the-by, we do not give sufficient credit to the
work of birds in the preparation of our globe 'for the. habitation
of man. We know that there were once floundering in the vast
mud-banks and shallows of the earth grim slimy monsters of
the crocodile kind. These could only live for the most part and
crawl half imbedded in the earth. But there flourished at the
the same time mighty birds that seemed equally at home in
three elements. They paddled in the waters; they flew aloft
into the air; and they walked the earth. The monsters of the
deep could not follow them, whilst they seem to have hunted the
others without mercy. They caused them to perish from the face
of creation, and then they gradually disappeared themselves.
Ecdith. When some time ago I travelled in Egypt, I found
that all kirrds of birds were protected and loved by the inhabit-
ants. They seemed to have none of that dread of man which
characterises so many of the feathered tribes in England. The
country fellah has birds everywhere about him. If it were not
for the beneficent chemistry of these multitudinous scavengers,
the plague of frogs, flies, and the death of the first-born, would