Изображения страниц


(Wading-birds.) The birds of this Order are characterized by the great length of the tarsus and leg, and by having the lower portion of the latter destitute of feathers, and covered with regular plates like the former. They are thus enabled to wade into the water to a considerable depth without wetting their plumage ; and thus to seize fishes, and other animals of the waters, on which they feed. To facilitate this object, the beak is usually greatly lengthened, as is also the neck. Deriving thus their support from the water, while yet they are destitute, at least generally, of the power of swimming, they form an interesting link of connection between the terrestrial and aquatic birds. The typical Families alone, however, maintain this intermediate character; for while on 'the one hand, the Plovers and the Cranes, both in the nature of their food and in their terrestrial habits, conform rather to some of the Gallinaceous or Cursorial groups,—on the other, the faculty of swimming possessed in great perfection by the Rails, with their correspondent habits, bring them into close association with the Natatorial type.

The wings of the Waders are usually long and powerful; and hence the flight of these birds is rapid and well sustained : many of them make

periodical migrations, and are thus widely distri

buted over the globe. They commonly stretch out their long legs behind the body during flight, thus maintaining their balance, which otherwise, from the extreme shortness of their tails, might be difficult. Those genera which are most aquatic place their nests among the reeds and herbage of marshy places, or, as the Herons, build in society on trees; those which frequent dry and stony places, frequently lay their eggs on the bare ground, or content themselves with such protection as a tuft of grass may afford. The eggs are usually marked with spots on a coloured ground; they are commonly of a lengthened form, with one end much pointed.

The Order is very

extensive, and comprises HEAD OF SNIPE.

the following five Families : Charadriadæ, Ardeada, Scolopacida, Palamedeadæ, and Rallidæ.




In this extensive group the feet are long and slender, adapted for swift running; the toes comparatively short, and the hind one either wanting, or in the few cases where present, so small as to be little more than rudimentary ; the wings are long and pointed, and the flight rapid and powerful. Plovers live chiefly on sandy and unsheltered shores, or on dry, exposed commons ; they associate in flocks, run with great swiftness, and fly in great circles, somewhat like pigeons,

[graphic][merged small]

wheeling round at no great height, with loud piping cries. Their head is thick, with large dark eyes, placed far back; the beak is short, the basal half soft and compressed, the outer half abruptly swollen, and often slightly notched, so as to present some resemblance to that of a Pigeon. The nostrils are pierced in a long groove.

The colours of the Plovers are not showy, but are chaste and beautiful: various shades of brown, mingled with ochraceous tints, and diversified with white and black, frequently disposed in bands, may be considered as most prevalent among them. The plumage is generally subject to periodical changes; a gayer and more varied dress being assumed for the nuptial season, than that displayed in winter. Many of them are active during the night; they feed on worms, slugs, &c. The species are scattered over the whole globe.

GENUS VANELLUS. (Briss.) The Lapwings are distinguished by having the beak straight, slightly compressed; the tips of both mandibles smooth and hard; the groove of the nostrils wide, deep, and reaching to the swollen part of the beak; the nostril pierced in the middle of it; the wings ample, more or less rounded; fourth and fifth quills longest; the shoulder armed with a spur; the feet slender, the tarsal plates taking a net-work form; the toes united at the base by a small membrane; a minute hind toe, jointed on the tarsus. They inhabit the Old World; breed inland ; associate in flocks, which are very clamorous when their haunts are approached in the breeding season. At the approach of winter they migrate to the seaside, when they appear in a different condition of plumage.

The common Lapwing or Peewit (Vanellus cristatus, MEYER) is one of the most beautiful of the Plovers. In its nuptial plumage, the crown,

face, neck, and breast are of a deep and rich black, with a green gloss; from the hind head springs a most elegant crest of long black feathers, curving upwards, capable of being erected; the upper

[graphic][subsumed][merged small]

parts of the body are pale olive brown, with metallic reflections of purple and blue; the sides of the head, the base of the tail, and whole under parts are pure white, except the under tail-coverts, which as well as the upper are chestnut; the tail įs black. It is about as large as a pigeon.

The Lapwing is spread over the northern half of the Eastern Hemisphere, from Ireland to Japan, and from Iceland to Calcutta. In this country it is partially migratory; for though many reside with us all the year, yet “numbers leave these

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »