Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

very long, flexible, decomposed feathers; or else the back of the neck is furnished with elevated plumes, stiff, and of moderate length.

The Great Emerald (Samalia apoda, Linn.), represented in the upper figure of the above engraving, is about as large as a pigeon; the body generally is of a fine maronne brown, the forehead clothed with close-set feathers of a velvety black, shot with emerald-green; the top of the head and upper part of the neck are brilliant yellow; the upper part of the throat golden-green; the front of the neck violet-brown; the flanks are adorned with bundles of very long plumes, with loose beards of a yellowish hue; these extend far beyond the tail-feathers; two long horny and downy shafts, set with stiff hairs, terminating in a point, proceed from the sides of the rump, and sweeping in a circular direction extend to the length of two feet. This is the description of the male; the female is destitute of the long floating plumes, and her coat, though still richly coloured, is less lustrous than that of her consort.

Our knowledge of these beautiful birds in a state of nature is almost entirely due to the observations of M. Lesson, who, though he laments the shortness of his stay at New Guinea, which lasted but thirteen days, appears to have made good use of his time." The Birds of Paradise," remarks this naturalist, “or, at least, the Emerald (S. apoda) the only species concerning which we possess authentic intelligence, live in troops in the vast forests of the country of the Papuans, a group of islands situated under the equator. They are birds of passage, changing their quarters according to the monsoons. The females congregate in troops, assemble upon the tops of the highest trees in the forests, and all cry together to call

the males. These last are always alone in the midst of some fifteen females, which compose their seraglio, after the manner of the gallinaceous birds.”

M. Lesson, after remarking that the number of birds brought to the ship by the natives was so great as to make it probable that they are very abundant, proceeds thus:

“ The Manucode (Cincinnurus regius, VIEILL.) presented itself twice in our shooting excursions, and we killed the male and female. This species would seem to be monogamous, or perhaps it is only separated into pairs at the period of laying. In the woods this bird has no brilliancy; its fine coloured plumage is not discovered, and the tints of the female are dull. It loves to take its station on the teaktrees, whose ample foliage shelters it, and whose small fruit forms its nourishment.

“Soon after my arrival in this land of promise for the naturalist [New Guinea], I was on a shooting excursion. Scarcely had I walked some hundred paces in those ancient forests, the daughters of time, whose sombre depth was perhaps the most magnificent and stately sight that I had ever seen,—when a Bird of Paradise struck my view; it flew gracefully, and in undulations; the feathers of its sides formed an elegant and aerial plume, which, without exaggeration, bore no remote resemblance to a brilliant meteor. Surprised, astounded, enjoying an inexpressible gratification, I devoured this splendid bird with my eyes; but my emotion was so great that I forgot to shoot at it, and did not recollect that I had a gun in my hand till it was far away.

[graphic][subsumed]

One can scarcely have a just idea of the Paradise-birds from the skins which the Papuans sell to the Malays, and come to us in Europe. These people formerly hunted the birds to decorate the turbans of their chiefs. They call them mambéfore in their language, and kill them during the night by climbing the trees where they perch, and shooting them with arrows made for the purpose, and very short, which they make with the stem of the leaves of a palm. . . . All the art of the inhabitants is directed to taking off the feet, skinning, thrusting a little stick through the body, and drying it in the smoke. Some, more adroit, at the solicitation of the Chinese merchants, dry them with the feet on. The price of a Bird of Paradise among the Papuans of the coast, is a piastre at least. We killed, during our stay at New Guinea, a score of these birds, which I prepared, for the most part.

“ The Emerald, when alive, is of the size of a common Jay; its beak and its feet are bluish; the irides are of a brilliant yellow; its motions are lively and agile ; and, in general, it never perches except upon the suminit of the most lofty trees. When it descends, it is for the purpose of eating the fruits of the lesser trees, or when the sun in full power compels it to seek the shade. It has a fancy for certain trees, and makes the neighbourhood re-echo with its piercing voice. The cry became fatal, because it indicated to us the movements of the bird. We were on the watch for it, and it was thus that we came to kill these birds; for when a male Bird of Paradise has perched, and hears a rustling in the silence of the forest, he is silent, and does not move.

His call is voike, voike, voiké, voiko, strongly articulated. The cry of the female is the same, but she raises it much more feebly. The latter, deprived of the brilliant plumage of the male, is clad in sombre attire. We met with them, assembled in scores, on every tree, while the males, always solitary, appeared but rarely.

* It is at the rising and setting of the sun that the Bird of Paradise goes to seek its food. In the middle of the day it remains hidden under the ample foliage of the teak-tree, and comes not forth. He seems to dread the scorching heat of the sun, and to be unwilling to expose himself to the attacks of a rival. ..

“ In order to shoot Birds of Paradise, travellers, who visit New Guinea, should remember that it is necessary to leave the ship early in the morning, to arrive at the foot of a teak-tree or fig-tree, which these birds frequent for the sake of their fruit, before half-past four, and to remain motionless till some of the males, urged by hunger, light upon the branches within range. It is indispensably requisite to have a gun which will carry very far with effect, and that the grains of shot should be large; for it is very difficult to kill an Emerald outright; and if he be only wounded, it is very

seldom that he is not lost in thickets so dense that there is no finding the way without a compass.

In Mr. Bennett's “Wanderings in New South Wales,” &c., there are many interesting details of an individual of this beautiful species, which he saw in captivity in Mr. Beale’s aviary at Macao; both this specimen, and a pair which M. Lesson saw caged at Amboyna, were fed with boiled rice, and such large insects as grasshoppers and cock-roaches.

Voyage de la Coquille.

"*

*

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »