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ture have probably a connection with the loudness or intonation of the voice. The gizzard is large and muscular, and especially in those species which are more terrestrial, living largely on grain. They mostly nestle on the ground, but some on trees, and lay numerous spotless eggs; the
young are at first covered with down, and are able to run and to swim as soon as they are hatched.
The remarkable laminated structure at the edges of the mandibles in the birds of this Family, and its connection with their habit of feeding, are thus commented on by Mr. Swainson. “ The inconceivable multitudes of minute animals, which swarm in the northern seas, and the equally numerous profusion inhabiting the sides of rivers and fresh waters, would be without any effectual check upon their increase, but for the Family of the Ducks. By means of their broad beak, as they feed upon very small and soft substances, they capture, at one effort, considerable numbers. Strength of substance in this member is unnecessary; the beak is therefore comparatively feeble, but great breadth is obviously essential to the nature of their food. As these small insects, also, which constitute the chief food of the Anatida, live principally beneath the surface of the mud, it is clear that the beak should be so formed as that the bird should have the
of separating its nourishment from that which would be detrimental to the stomach. The use of the laminæ thus becomes apparent; the offensive matter is ejected between their interstices, which, however, are not sufficiently wide to admit the passage of the insect-food at the same time. The mouthful of stuff brought from the bottom is, as
it were, sifted most effectually by this curiously shaped beak; the refuse is expelled, but the food is retained. It is probable, also, that the tongue is materially employed on this process; for unlike that of all [most] other birds, it is remarkably large, thick, and fleshy.'
This Family seems to afford one very obvious link of connexion between the Swimming and the Wading birds, in that division of it known as Geese. They retain some of the manners of the Waders, they walk much more than they swim; their food consists more of grain and insects than of fishes ; their legs are long, and they have a considerable space unfeathered above the tarsal joint. This division, including the Swans, also retain a considerable length of neck.
GENUS ANAS. (LINN.) Mr. Yarrell gives the following as the characters of the genus Anas, in which, however, he includes several species that are separated by other ornithologists. The beak about as long as the head, broad, depressed, the sides parallel, sometimes partially dilated; both mandibles furnished on the inner edges with transverse lamellæ. The nostrils small, oval, lateral, in front of the base of the beak. The legs rather short, placed under the centre of the body; tarsus somewhat rounded; toes three in front, connected by intervening membrane, hind toe free, without any pendent lobe or membrane. The wings rather long, pointed; the tail pointed or wedge-shaped. The sexes differ in plumage.
The true Ducks, as restricted, are found almost everywhere; and specimens of the same species are received from the most distant regions. The Shoveler (Anas clypeata, Linn.), for example, is found all over Europe, in the United States, at Smyrna, in North-west India, at Calcutta, and Nepaul; it is common in North Africa, and specimens have been brought from South Africa, and from the islands of Japan. The common Wild Duck again (Anas boschas, LINN.), the parent of our domesticated broods, is spread over the whole of the northern hemisphere, in a wild condition.
The plumage of our beautiful Wild Mallard it is scarcely needful to describe; most persons are familiar with his glossy velvet-green head and neck, his collar of white, his breast and back of chestnut, his beauty-spot of shining purple, his
black curling tail, and the delicately pencilled scapular-feathers that fall over his wings. It may not be generally known, however, that in the summer months this distinctive gorgeousness of plumage is laid aside, and the Drake appears for a season in the homely brown livery of his mate.
The tame Duck is almost omnivorous; its indiscriminate appetite, and its voracity equal those of the Hog.
In a natural state it is little more particular; fishes, and their young fry, or spawn, tadpoles, slugs, water-insects, larvæ, worms, many plants, seeds, and all sorts of grain, are in turn eagerly devoured by it. Its flesh is in high estimation for the table, and various are the stratagems which man puts in requisition to capture by wholesale a bird so greatly prized. The principal of these are the decoys, by which immense multitudes are taken annually in the fenny counties of England. An interesting account of these, accompanied with illustrative engravings, appeared in the “ Penny Magazine" for February, 1835. We have not space to describe the details, but some idea may be formed of their effectiveness, as well as of the abundance of this species, from the fact recorded by Pennant, that in one season thirty-one thousand two hundred Ducks were taken in only ten decoys in the neighbourhood of Wainfleet, in Lincolnshire.
The Mallard in a wild state, contrary to the habit of the domestic bird, always pairs : the Duck makes her nest in some dry spot in the marshes, often sheltered by rank herbage, or beneath some low bush ; not seldom, however, the nest is built in the branches of a tree, or the head of a pollard, often at a considerable height from the ground; whence the parent is believed to carry down her young ones, one by one, in her beak. The eggs are usually from ten to fourteen in number, of a bluish white hue; when the Duck has occasion to leave them, she covers them carefully with down or other materials.
The Wild Duck is migratory as well as resident with us; those that have bred in this country are reinforced on the approach of winter by immense flocks of this and other species, which wing their way hither from the already frozen lakes and rivers of the more northern latitudes, whither the majority return in spring.