« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
country about the 13th of April, and withdraws about the beginning of October, though stragglers often appear before, and linger after these periods. It builds with us, for the most part,
in chimneys, but occasionally also it attaches its clay-built structure to the rafters of barns and outhouses, or within the shaft of an old well, or of an unworked coal-pit. “Five or six feet down the chimney does this little bird begin to form her nest, about the middle of May, which consists, like that of the House Martin, of a crust or shell composed of dirt or mud mixed with short pieces of straw to render it tough and permanent; with this difference, that whereas the shell of the Martin is nearly hemispheric, that
of the Swallow is open at the top, and like half a deep dish : this nest is lined with fine grasses and feathers, which are aften collected as they float in the air.
“Wonderful is the address which this adroit bird shews all day long, in ascending and descending with security through so narrow a pass. . The progressive method by which the young are introduced into life is very amusing: first, they emerge from the shaft with difficulty enough, and often fall down into the rooms below : for a day or so they are fed on the chimney-top, and then are conducted to the dead leafless bough of some tree, where, sitting in a row, they are attended with great assiduity, and may then be called perchers. In a day or two more they become fiers, but are still unable to take their own food; therefore they play about near the place where the dams are hawking for flies; and when a mouthful is collected, at a certain signal given, the dam and the nestling advance, rising towards each other, and meeting at an angle; the young one all the while uttering such a little quick note of gratitude and complacency that a person must have paid very little regard to the wonders of nature, that has not often remarked this feat.” *
FAMILY III. TODIDÆ.
(Todies.) The Todies constitute a small Family almost confined to the tropics, but found in both hemispheres. They are marked by having the beak broad, and very much flattened, usually blunt or rounded at the tip. The gape is wide, extending beneath the eyes, and is beset with bristles. In one Indian genus (Eurylaimus) the breadth of the beak at the base is nearly as great as the length. The feet are for the most part small and weak: the outmost toe is united to that which is next to it as far as to the terminal joint. The wings are short and rounded, and consequently the flight is feeble, and incapable of protraction.
* Nat. Hist. Selb.; Letter xviii. 2nd series.
Insects form the chief nutriment of the Todies, mingled, however, in some of the species, with berries.
Genus Todus. (Linn.) The little birds to which this name is generically restricted, are confined to the islands of the West Indies and the tropical parts of the American continent. The species are few in number, and are characterized by a lengthened, flattened beak of nearly equal breadth throughout, but rounded at the point. The bristles of the gape are few. The wings are very short and rounded, and the feet weak.
The Green Tody (Todus viridis, Linn.) is one of the most common, and one of the most beautiful birds of the greater West Indian isles. Its upper plumage is of bright green,—brilliant as an emerald,- its throat rich velvety crimson, and its under parts pale yellow, with rosy sides.
It sits on a twig at the edge of the forest, or on some low bush by the side of the road, watching for passing insects: and so intent is it on its occupation, and so little terrified by the approach of man, that it will allow a person to stand within
a few feet of it without moving; and it is not uncommon for the negro boys to creep up behind one and actually to clap their hands over the
unsuspicious bird as it sits. But this abstraction is more apparent than real : if we watch it, we shall see that the odd-looking grey eyes are glancing hither and thither, and that ever and anon, the bird sallies out upon a short feeble flight, snaps at something in the air, and returns to his twig to swallow it. It is instructive to note by how various means the wisdom of God has ordained a given end to be attained. The Swallow and the Tody live on the same prey, insects on the wing, and the short, hollow, and feeble wings of the latter are as effectual to him as the long and powerful pinions are to the Swallow. He has no powers to employ in pursuing insects, but he waits till they come within his circumscribed range, and no less certainly secures his meal.
The Tody forms burrows, with the aid of both beak and claws, in earthy banks and the sides of ditches and ravines. At the bottom of its hole, which runs in a winding direction to the extent of a foot or more, and terminates in a sufficiently wide chamber, it collects fibres of roots, dry grass, moss, and cotton, and lays four or five eggs. The young do not emerge from the hole until they are fledged.
FAMILY IV. TROGONIDÆ.
(Trogons.) This is a small and compact group of birds of considerable size, remarkable for the brilliancy and beauty of their plumage. The colour of the upper parts is for the most part green, which reflects the splendour of burnished metal, while that of the under parts is frequently of the richest hues, blood-red, scarlet, rose-pink, orange,