Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

brown, often forming a rude crown around the larger end.

In addition to the poetical allusions to this favourite bird, already quoted, we subjoin the accurate description of its nest by Grahame, the biographer of the birds of Scotland :

“ The Goldfinch weaves, with willow-down inlaid,

And cannach-tufts, his wonderful abode.
Sometimes, suspended at the limber end
Of plane-tree spray, among thg broad-leafed shoots,
The tiny hammock swings to every gale ;
Sometimes in closest thickets 'tis concealed ;
Sometimes in hedge luxuriant, where the briar,
The bramble, and the plum-tree branch,
Warp through the thorn, surmounted by the flowers
Of climbing vetch, and honeysuckle wild.”

FAMILY V. COLIADÆ.

(Colies.)

A few singularly-formed birds constitute the present Family, whose relations have been the subject of considerable diversity of opinion among ornithologists. Their beak is short, powerful, conical, somewhat compressed at the sides, the two mandibles being arched, the point of the upper slightly overhanging the lower. The feathers of the tail are much graduated, exceedingly long and rigid; they are but ten in number, thus varying from what is customary among birds, the almost constant number being twelve, and agreeing in this respect with the Swifts; as they do also in another remarkable peculiarity, that the hind toe is capable of being turned forwards, so that all the four toes point in one direction. These coinci

• Birds of Scotland, 49.

dences in structure with the Swifts, in points almost exclusively peculiar to them, * are the more singular, because these birds do not manifest any affinity, nor even resemblance in their general form, or in their habits.

The Colies are birds confined to Africa and India ; they live much in trees, climbing about somewhat in the manner of Parrots; they are social in disposition, living in large flocks, and even breeding in society, constructing numerous nests in the same bushes. It is reported that they sleep suspended from a branch, with their heads downwards, many of them together; and that when the weather is cold, as it sometimes is in South Africa, they are found so benumbed in the morning, that they may be readily taken one after another, without an effort to escape. This curious statement is given by no less accurate an observer than Le Vaillant.

Genus Colius. (Gmel.) As the Family under consideration comprises but this single Genus, its characters may be considered as already given in part; they may, however, be thus summed up. The beak is short, strong, conical, slightly compressed, entire, with the mandibles equal, and the edges arched; the nostrils rounded; the wings short, the third quill longest ; the tail greatly lengthened, and diminishing from the centre to the sides, the external feathers being short; the claws arched and long, that of the hind toe shorter than the others.

* The Humming-birds, however, have also but ten tail-feathers ; the Poultry-birds have from fourteen to eighteen.

The plumage of these birds is short, dense, and smooth, with a silky appearance; the feathers of the body are furnished with an accessory plume, those on the lower part of the back are very short, those of the head are lengthened, forming a long pointed crest, which can be erected at pleasure. The prevailing colours are sombre, as grey or ashen, from which circumstance, and from that of their crawling about

trees, they are denominated at the Cape of Good Hope, Muys-vögel, or Mouse-birds.

These birds subsist mainly on fruits, the buds of trees, and the tender sprouts of vegetables ; from the mischief which they do in the gardens of the colonists, devouring the shoots of the culinary plants as fast as they appear, they are much disliked. They walk badly on the ground, but are expert climbers, clinging to the branches in all sorts of attitudes. They sail from bush to bush in a long row, one after another, alighting always near the ground, and clambering to the topmost twigs, with the assistance of their beak and long stiff tail, picking off the buds or berries as they ascend; and they do not pass to the next bush till the whole flock is ready, when they again sail along in the same regular succession. Their cry is monotonous, the windpipe (trachea) being furnished with only a single pair of vocal muscles; and that of the largest species is said to resemble the bleating of a lamb. Their bodies are much more heavy and massive than would be supposed at first appearance, the plumage lying very flat and close.

The nests of the Colies, which, as already remarked, are placed in groups, are spacious and of a round form ; in each of these is deposited

five or six eggs. Their flesh is said to be of delicate flavour, and is prized not only by man, as it constitutes the ordinary food of several species of birds of prey.

[graphic][merged small]

We illustrate the genus, concerning which comparatively little is known, by the above species (Colius Senegalensis, Lath.), which, as its name

M

imports, is a native of West Africa. The general hue of its plumage is pearl-grey, with greenish reflections; the forehead is yellow, and the abdomen ruddy: a naked reddish skin surrounds the eye.

FAMILY VI. MUSOPHAGADA.

(Plantain-eaters.) This also is a Family of very limited extent, but its members are birds of unusual elegance and richness of plumage. They have a short beak, with the upper mandible high, and much arched in its superior outline, the edges cut into minute saw-like teeth; the lower mandible thin and narrow. The feet are short, and formed for climbing, the outer toe being capable of a partial reversion; it is, however, connected with the middle toe by a short membrane. The tail, as in the last Family, consists of but ten feathers. The nostrils are simply pierced in the horny substance of the beak. The plumage is, for the most part, adorned with brilliant colours, and the head is generally clothed with a long and elegant crest.

The Plantain-eaters have been, by some ornithologists, supposed to approach the Gallinaceous birds; but this affinity seems not to be borne out by their anatomical structure. Mr. Yarrell having dissected a Touraco (Corythaix persa) which had died in the menagerie of the Zoological Society, found the general appearance of its internal anatomy inclining rather to the Passerine than to the Gallinaceous type. In their habits they display some affinity to the Toucans among the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »