Изображения страниц




the bigness of a pin; their legs proportionHe reckon'd o'er the smaller

able to their body. Their featbers mighty For dallying days gone by;

small but of most beautiful colors. They He show'd me how they larger grew

are seldom taken or seen but in the evening, As the burning now drew nigh.

when they fly about, and sometimes when

dark into the fire." *
Then he'd have counted on

It is from the noise produced by the vie
To the lessening gems again,-
But I snatch'd them from the merchant's bration of its wings that the humming- bird

derives its name; for rapidity of flight it And broke the string in twain.

is quite without an equal, and to this end

the shape and structure of its body beauThe largest, oh, the largest,

tifully tend. In no birds are the pectoral I placed it in my breast,

muscles——the chief agents in flight--so largeAnd I paid him for the single one

ly developed, and in none are the wings The price of all the rest.

and the individual feathers so wonderfully VII.

adapted for rapid locomotion ; the tail, The present in its passion,

though presenting every conceivable modiThe present, let it be

fication of form is always made available as For past and future, since 'tis now I love and worship thee!

a powerful rudder, aiding and directing the

flight; the feet, too, are singularly and disWe mortals cannot fathom

proportionately small, so that they are no The depths that shroud our doom ;

obstruction to its progress through the air, Then, Allah Achbar! we will love,

Several species have the feet enveloped in And let the future corne!

most beautiful fringes of down, as if each were passed through a little muff, either

white, red, or black. From “ Bentley's Miscellany."

The eggs of humming birds are two in

number, white, and of an oblong form ; but HUMMING-BIRDS.

the nests in which they are contained are The humming-bird tribe is nearly confined almost as marvellous as the birds themselves. to the tropical portions of the New World ; What will be said of a nest made of thistlethe southern continent as far as the tropic down l-and yet one is to be seen in Mr, of Capricorn, and the great archipelago of Gould's collection. The finest dovn, the islands between Florida and the mouth of most delicate bark, the softest fungi, the the Orinoco, literally swarm with them. A warmest moss-all are made arailable by high temperature is, however, by no means the different species of these lovely birds, essential for their existence, as the most and not less various are the localities in beautiful species are found at an elevation which the diminutive nests are placed. A of from seven to twelve thousand feet above tiny object is seen weighing down the streamthe level of the sea, and one of remarkable ing leaf of a bamboo overhanging a brook ; brilliancy inhabits Chimborazo, at the height it is one of these nestlets attached to the of fifteen thousand feet. Other species live point of the fragile support, and waving in the dreary climate of Terra del Fuego; with it in the breeze. Another tribe prefers and Captain King saw many of these birds the feathery leaves of the fern, whilst the flitting about with perfect satisfaction during tip of the graceful palm-leaf is the favorite a heavy snow-storm near the straits of Ma- bower of a third species; but in every ingellan. In the humid island of Chiloe the stance, the spot is admirably selected to humming birds darting between the dripping preclude marauding serpents, or monkeys, branches, agreeably enlighten the scene- from destroying the eggs and callow young. and Juan Fernandez—sacred to early asso- The down of the cotton tree, banded ciations—has two species peculiar to itself. round with threads of spiders' webs, forms Captain Woodes Rogers, who visited this the fairy abode of the Mango humming. island in 1708, and took Alexander Selkirk bird. This silky filamentous down is borne from it, says, “ And here are also hummingbirds about as big as bees, their bill about • Harris's Voyages, vol. 1. p. 157.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

upon the air, and though so impalpable as / which perpetually drips from the roof, and to be inhaled by man in the breath he in- which, in the dry season, is a most valuable spires, it is diligently collected by these resource. Beyond this, which is very oblittle creatures. They may be seen, sus. scure, the eye penetrates to a larger area, pended in the air, battling with a puff of deeper still, wbich receivės light from some down, which, sailing with the gentle breeze, other communication with the air. Round coquettishly eludes the stroke of the eager the projections and groins of the front, the beak: filament after filament is however roots of the trees above have entwined, and secured, and borne in triumph to complete to a fibre of one of these, hanging down, the elfin bower.

not thicker than a whipcord, was suspended

a humming bird's nest containing two eggs. There builds her nest, the humming bird, It seemed to be composed wholly of moss,

Within the ancient wood,
Her nest of silky cotton down,

was thick, and attached to the rootlet by its And rears her tiny brood.

side. One of the eggs was broken. I did

not disturb it, but, after about three weeks, Preparatory to the nidification is the im- visited it again. It had been apparently portant preliminary of courting, and on this handled by some curious child, for both eggs delicate proceeding Mr. Gosse throws a light. were broken, and the nest was evidently In a cage were placed two long-tailed males deserted. But while I lingered in the roand a female. “ The latter interested me mantic place, picking up some of the land much," says he ; " for, on the next day after shells which were scattered among the rocks, her introduction, I noticed that she had suddenly I heard the whirr of a hummingseated herself by a male, on a perch occu- bird, and, looking up, saw a female Polytmus pied only by them two, and was evidently hovering opposite the nest with a mass of courting caresses. She would hop sideways silk cotton in her beak. Deterred by the along the perch, by a series of little quick sight of me, she presently retired to a twig jumps, till she reached him, when she would a few paces distant, on which she sat. I gently peck his face and then recede, hop- immediately sank down among the rocks, as ping and shivering her wings, and presently quietly as possible, and remained perfectly approach again, to perform the same actions. still. In a few seconds she came again, and Now and then she would fly over him, and after hovering a moment, disappeared behind make as if she were about to perch on his one of the projections, whence, in a few secback, and practise other little endearments."* onds, she emerged again and flew off. I We regret to say that the cold blooded long. then examined the place, and found, to my tailed gentleman was utterly indifferent to delight, a new nest—in all respects like the all these delicate attentions, and sat gloom- old one--unfinished, affixed to another twig ily chewing the cud of his own reflections : not a yard from it. I again sat down among a few days afterwards, the lady-bird made the stones in front, where I could see the her escape, and we hope soon ceased to nest, not concealing myself, but remaining wear the willow.

motionless, waiting for the petite bird's reThe same able observer gives the follow- appearance. I had not to wait long. A ing account of the nest-building of one of loud whirr, and there she was, suspended these elegant birds. The scene was at a in the air before her nest. She soon espied place called Bognie, on the Bluefields Moun- me, and came within a foot of my eyes, tain, in Jamaica. “About a quarter of a bovering just in front of my face. I remainmile within the woods, a blind path, choked ed still, however, when I heard the whirring up with bushes, descends suddenly beneath of another just above me-perhaps the mate an overhanging rock of limestone, the face --but I durst not look towards him lest the of which presents large projections and turning of my head should frighten the hanging points incrusted with a rough tu- female. In a minute or two the other was berculous sort of stalactite. At one corner gone, and she alighted again upon the twig, of the bottom there is a cavern, in which a where she sat some little time preening her tub is fixed to receive water of great purity, feathers, and apparently clearing her mouth

from the cotton fibres, for she now and then • " The Birds of Jamaica,” by P. H. Gosse, 1847. / swiftly projected the tongue an inch and a

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

half from the beak, continuing the same would not fly away, but come and bover curve as that of the beak. When she arose, over the mouth, stretching out his little it was to perform a very interesting action; neck to peep in. Often, too, when an unfor she flew to the face of the rock-which successful stroke was made, the bird would was thickly clothed with soft dry moss, and, return immediately, and suspend itself in hovering on the wing, as if before a flower, the air, just over his pursuer's bead, or peep began to pluck the moss, until she had a into his face with unconquerable familiarity. large bunch of it in her beak. Then I saw But, when caught, they usually soon died; her fly to the nest, and, having seated her they would suddenly fall to the floor of the self in it, proceed to place the new material, cage, and lie motionless, with closed eyes pressing, and arranging, and interweaving If taken into the hand, they would perhaps the whole with her beak, while she fashioned seem to revive for a few moments, then the cup-like form of the interior by the pres- throw back the pretty head, or toss it to sure of her white breast, moving round and and fro as if in great suffering, expand the round as she sat. My presence appeared to wings, open the eyes, slightly puff the feathbe no hindrance to her proceedings, thoug ers of the breast, and die. Such was the only a few feet distant. At length she left result of his first efforts to procure these again, and I left the place also. On the 8th birds alive; but he was subsequently mare of April, I visited the cave again, and found fortunate. the nest perfected, and containing two eggs, Collecting the nests of humming-birds in which were not hatched on the 1st of May, the West Indies requires some care, on a on which day I sent Sam to endeavor to count of the great number of venomous secure both dam and nest. He found her serpents which frequent the thickets. sitting, and had no difficulty in capturing While Alexander Wilson, the subsequenther, which, with the nest and its contents, ly celebrated ornithologist, was struggling he carefully brought down to me. I trans- against poverty in his early days as a weara, ferred it-having broken one egg by acci- be was much importuned by a shopmate te dent—to a cage, and put in the bird. She write him an epitaph. This individual had was mopish, however, and quite neglected excelled in little, except, to use the expres the nest, as she did also some flowers which sive Scottish word, daundering about the I inserted. The next morning she was bedge-rows on Sundays, in search of birds dead."

nests. After much pressing, Wilson conWhen looking at humming-birds--some plied, and hit off the following not bigger than an humble bee, and blazing with all the refulgence of the brightest

Below this stane John Allan rests jewels—it is scarcely possible to imagine

An honest soul, though plain;

He sought hail Sabbath days for nests, how they can be obtained without serious But always sought in vain. damage to their beauty. Some writers bave stated that they are shot with charges of Had Mr. Allan pursued his nidal investigasand; others, that water is the missile—but tions in Jamaica his curiosity might have they are mistaken ; various methods are met with an unpleasant check. A young certainly employed, but neither of those. gentleman of similar tastes, observing a The little creatures are sometimes shot with parroquet enter a hole in a large ducksmall charges of“ dust-shot,” as the smallest ant's nest situated on a bastard cedar, mountpellets are called; frequently the keen eye ed to take her eggs or young. Arrived at and steady hand of the Indians bring them the place, he cautiously inserted his band, down by an arrow from their blow-tube ; a which presently came into contact with third mode is to watch them into a deep something smooth and soft ; he thought it tubular flower, and to secure them with a might be the callow young, but having some gauze net, which is skilfully thrown over it. misgivings, descended and procured a stick;

Very many humming-birds were caught having again mounted, he thrust in the sticks by Mr. Gosse, with a common gauze butter and forced off the whole upper part of the fily net, on a ring a foot in diameter. The structure, when, to his utter discomfiture curiosity of humming-birds is great; and on and terror, an enormous yellow boa was holding up the net near one, he frequently disclosed, his jaws retaining the feathers of

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

the parroquet, which had just been swal- | was brought to Wilson himself. One of lowed. The serpent instantly darted down them flew out of the window the same eventhe tree, and the curious youth descended ing, and, falling against a wall, was killed; scarcely less rapidly, and fled, cured for a the other refused food, and the next morntime of bird-nesting.

ing was all but dead; a lady undertook to A story is told of a trick played upon an be the nurse of this lonely one, placed it in enthusiastic foreign naturalist, on his landing her bosom, and as it began to revive, disat Rio Janeiro, by certain middies of the solved a little sugar in her mouth, into which ship which had carried him out. The worthy she thrust its bill, and it sucked with great savant was very stout, very near-sighted, avidity; in this manner it was brought up and very eager to collect humming-birds. until fit for the cage. Mr. Wilson kept it The young gentlemen, therefore, determined upwards of three months, supplied it with to make merry at his expense in the follow- loaf sugar dissolved in water, which it preing manner :-Having caught several large ferred to honey and water, and gave it fresh blue-bottle flies, they stuck them over with flowers every morning, sprinkled with the small bits of gay peacock feathers, with two liquid. It appeared gay, active, and full of long plumules behind, by way of tail; the spirit, hovering from flower to flower, as if wings were left free. Then carefully placing in its native wilds; and always expressed, the chairs, boxes, and crockery of the doctor's by its motions and chirping, great pleasure apartment in every possible direction, they at seeing fresh flowers introduced to its turned their insect “ daws” loose into the cage; every precaution was supposed to room, and quietly waited the result in the bave been taken to prevent its getting at adjoining chamber. Presently the victim large, and to preserve it through the winter; was heard creaking slowly up the stairs but unfortunately it by some means got out anathematizing the heat and puffing for of its cage, and, flying about the room, so breath. He entered his room, the door injured itself that it soon died. A striking closed, and there was a pause. Very shortly instance is mentioned by the same author, a tremendous scuffling and rushing about of the susceptibility of some humming birds commenced; chairs were heard to fall, crock to cold; in 1809, a very beautiful male was ery to break, and at last the smash of a brought to him, put into a wire cage, and looking-glass completed the scene. The wags placed in a shady part of the room, the now entered the room, and found the doctor weather being unusually cold; after flutterwith his coat off in a state of great excite- ing about some time, it clung by the wires, ment; his eyes were filled with tears, and and bung in a seemingly torpid state for a he was actively rubbing one of his shins. whole forenoon; no motion of respiration “ Good gracious! my dear sir, what's the could be perceived, though at other times matter? Is it a coup de soleil, or--the this is remarkably perceptible; the eyes brandy, eh ?" “No sare; neither the one were shut, and when touched by the fingers nor de other,” replied he, with intense it gave no signs of life or motion; it was earnestness ; “ I was catch de charmant littel carried into the open air, and placed directly bottel-blue homing bairds, but dey be so in the rays of the sun, in a sheltered situadam wild.” His indignation, when the explo- tion. In a few seconds respiration became sion of now irrepressible laughter proclaimed apparent; the bird breathed faster and faster, the trick, was marvellous to behold. opened its eyes, and began to look about

Wilson, in his “ American Ornithology,” with as much vivacity as ever. After it had states, that Mr. C. W. Peale told him that completely recovered, it was restored to he had two young humming-birds, which he liberty and few off to the withered top of had raised from the nest. They used to fly a pear-tree, where it sat for some time about the room, and would frequently perch dressing its disordered plumage, and then on Mrs. Peale's shoulder to be fed. When shot off like a meteor. the sun shone strongly in the chamber, they The flight of the humming-bird from have been seen darting after the motes that flower to flower has been described as refloated in the light, as fly-catchers would | sembling that of the bee, but so much more after flies. In the summer of 1803, a nest rapid, that the latter appears a loiterer by of young humming-birds, nearly ready to fly, comparison The bird poises himself on

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

i and The



wing while he thrusts his long slender tubu- | perceiving the strange object to be still nolar tongue into the flowers in search of moved, he took courage and began to suck. honey or of insects; he will dart into a I quite trembled with hope; in an instant room through an open window, examine a the net was struck, and, before I could see bouquet of flowers with the eye of a con. any thing, the rustling of his confined wings noisseur, and, presto ! is gone. One of these within the gauze told that the little beauty birds has been known to take refuge in a was a captive. I brought him in triumph hot-house during the cold autumnal nights, to the house and caged him, but he was leaving it in the morning, and returning reg. very restless, clinging to the sides and wires ularly every evening to its chosen twig in and fluttering violently about. The next its warm palace.

morning, having gone out on an excursion

for a few hours, I found the poor bird on For though he hath countless airy homes my return dying, having beaten himself to To which his wings excursive roves;

death. Yet still from time to time he loves To light upon earth, and find such cheer

Two young males, of the long-tailed As brightens his banquet here.

species, were subsequently captured, and,

instead of being caged, they were turned The Mango Humming-Bird is familiarly loose into a room. They were lively, but known to the negroes of Jamaica by the not wild; playful towards each other, and name of the “Doctor Bird,” said to have tame to their captor-sitting on his finger, been thus derived. In the olden time when unrestrained, for several seconds at a time; costume was more observed than now, the on a large bunch of Asclepias being brought black livery of this bird among its more into the room, they flew to the nosegay and brilliant companions, bore the same relation sucked while in Mr. Gosse's hand; these and as the sombre costume of the grave physiother flowers being placed in glasses, they cian to the gay colors then worn by the visited each bouquet in turn, sometimes wealthy planters, whence the humorous playfully chasing each other, and alighting comparison and name. It might, with equal on various objects. As they flew, they propriety, have been called the Parson, but were repeatedly heard to snap the beak, at in those days ecclesiastics were but little / which time they doubtless caught minute known by the negroes.

flies; after some time, one of them suddenly Mr. Gosse observed that the bunch of blos- sunk down in one corner, and on being taken som at the summit of the pole-like papaw. up, seemed dying; it had perhaps struck tree is a favorite resort of this species, and, itself during its flight; it lingered awhile taking advantage of this, succeeded in and died. catching a fine live specimen.“ Wishing," Another of these long-tailed bumming says he, “ to keep these birds in captivity, I birds, brought alive to Mr. Gosse, became so watched at the tree one evening with a gauze familiar, that even before he had had the ring.net in my hand, with which I dashed bird a day it flew to his face, and perching at one, and though I missed my aim, the on his lip or chin, thrust his beak into his attempt so astonished it, that it appeared to mouth. He grew so bold and so frequent have lost its presence of mind, so to speak, in his visits as to become almost annoying, flitting hurriedly hither and thither for sev. thrusting its protruded tongue into all eral seconds before it flew away. The next parts of his mouth, in the most inquisitive evening, however, I was more successful. I manner; occasionally his master gratified took my station and remained quite still, bim by taking a little syrup into his mouth, the net being held up close to an inviting and inviting him to the banquet by a slight bunch of blossom; the humming birds came sound, which he soon learned to understand. near in their course around the tree, sipped Mr. Gosse had now several pets of this the surrounding blossoms, eyeing the net; beautiful species, and it was interesting to hung in the air for a moment in front of the observe how each selected his own place for fatal cluster without touching it, and then, perching and for roosting, to which he inarrow-like, darted away. At length one, variably adhered, a peculiarity which caused after surveying the net, passed again round many others to be caught, for, by observing the tree; on approaching it the second time, a place of resort, and putting a little bird

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »