The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Birds - Part 1
Story Of The Birds - Part 2
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Story Of The Birds - Part 2
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Cassowary,--The cassowary shown in the illustration is confined to the Island of Ceram, and was the first species of this extraordinary bird made known to science. There are now nine species known, the others inhabiting Australia, New Guinea and the nearby islands. They are about the size of ostriches. The top of the bare head projects upward into a helmetlike shape and the bare neck is ornamented with wattles. By reason of the brilliant hues of blue, green and red on the head and neck, and the glossy sheen of the blue-black plumage, cassowaries are the handsomest of all the flight-less birds. The body feathers are of a peculiarly loose and coarse structure, and appear more like hairs than the plumage of an ordinary bird; while the wing feathers are represented merely by some four or five black quills devoid of barbs, which thus presents the appearance of very coarse bristles. In habits the cassowary differs from ostriches and rheas in being a forest-haunting bird. The eggs are dark green, the shell beautifully granulated or shagreened.
Kestrel—The small falcon which bears this name is also known as the windhover which it derives from its habit of hanging suspended in mid-air with its wings in rapid motion. When in this position it spies a mouse or small bird below, and drops upon it suddenly and noiselessly with unerring aim. The male kestrel, which attains a length of twelve and a half inches, has yellow limbs, bluish beak, and black claws. The crown of the head, nape, and cheeks are ashy gray with dark streaks; the upper parts reddish fawn, with a small black spot on each feather; the quills blackish gray with lighter margins; and the tail feathers ashy gray, with a single broad black band near the end, and the extreme tips white. Beneath, the general color is pale rufous fawn, with dark spots or streaks, both of which disappear on the thighs and under tail-coverts; while the tail is grayish white with indistinct bars. The female, which scarcely exceeds her consort in size, differs by the top of the head being reddish fawn with dark streaks, the upper parts being banded with bluish black, and the tail rufous with several incomplete black bars. The young males are nearly like the females, the tail changing blue first and the head last. The kestrel ranges over the whole of Europe and Northern Asia, migrating in winter into the north of China, India, and Northeastern Africa. It is replaced in the New World by the so-called American sparrow-hawk, in which the center of the crown of the head of the male is rufous, and the wing-coverts blue with black spots. Although its chief food consists of mice and voles, the kestrel occasionally kills small birds, and will also eat frogs, beetles, worms and grubs, while in India it frequently devours lizards. That it will occasionally kill a young partridge or chicken is doubtless true, but such small robberies are far more than counterbalanced by the benefits it confers on the agriculturist by the destruction of hosts of pernicious rodents, and it ought therefore to be carefully preserved; instead of being ruthlessly shot down. Although occasionally placed in a hollow tree, the nest is more generally situated among rocks or old buildings, while still more frequently the deserted nest of some other bird, such as a crow, magpie, or raven, is taken advantage of. The eggs, usually four or five, may be either mottled all over with brownish red or orange, or blotched with these colors upon a light ground. They are generally hatched late in April, or early in the following month.
Osprey—This bird is the connecting link between the owl and the eagle, and is commonly known as the fish hawk. The upper plumage is dark brown and the under plumage white. It is found in almost every part of the world except Oceania. It feeds on fish which it catches both in salt and fresh water. It makes a large nest of sticks, either on the ground or on a cliff.
Merlin—This small falcon has a resemblance to the American pigeon hawk, the upper plumage being bluish gray, the forehead and sides of the face whitish, and the under parts of the same color. The male measures about ten inches and the female two inches more. It inhabits Europe and Northern Asia, extending into India and China. In Great Britain the merlin usually nests on the ground. Its eggs, four to six in number, are brick-red, mottled with a darker shade. Merlins may be trained to hunt other birds and are equal to the task of catching a pigeon.
Kite—Few birds are better known in Europe than the common red kite. The general color of its plumage is reddish, while in the old males the head and throat are reddish with brown streaks.
Wandering Falcon—The name is derived from the habits of the young which rarely remain long in one place. The marks of the wandering falcon are a blackish crown on the head, black patches on the cheeks, back and tail a bluish gray, breast reddish white, the beak blue and black at the tip. It is found all over Europe, Northern Africa, Siberia, China, Japan and the Malay Islands. The North American variety is known as the duck-hawk.
Long-Eared Owl—By reason of its beautifully mottled plumage, of which the general color is blackish brown varied with orange buff, this owl is one of the handsomest of the common species. It is smaller than the short-eared owl, being but thirteen and a half inches in length. Its habits are similar to the short-eared.
Short-Eared Owl—Australia and Oceania are the only countries where the short-eared owl is unknown. Its ear tufts are short and the general color of its plumage tawny; each feather is streaked with brown down the middle; the under parts are pale buff, streaked with blackish brown. In length it varies from fourteen to fifteen inches. Its cry resembles the words keaw-keaw. It feeds on mice, small birds and beetles. In the United States the home of this owl is in the long grasses or weeds along the borders of lakes.
European Barn Owl—Except in New Zealand and parts of Persia, Japan, and China this bird is found in all parts of the world. Its length is about fourteen inches. Its prevailing color is buff, mottled with black and white. The discs on the face around the eyes are white. Its usual cry is a kind of scream. Its food is chiefly small mice. Its days are spent in the dark parts of buildings or the hollows of trees, and its nights in pursuit of food.
Godwit—The godwits are allied to the sandpipers but the feathers of the forehead are not extended. They breed in the temperate northern regions of the northern hemisphere, but migrate far to the south in winter. The best-known is the bar-tailed godwit, which measures fifteen or sixteen inches in length. In the summer dress, the upper-tail coverts and tail are white with dark-brown bars, the lower back, rump and under-wing coverts being white with brown markings. In the American bar-tailed godwit the under-wing coverts are chestnut.
Snipe—The plumage of the common snipe is a mottled russet or ashy hue which harmonizes with the bird's surroundings. The common snipe is about ten and one-half inches in length. It is found in Europe, parts of Asia and North America, preferring marshy and swampy places. It is a choice game bird and is persistently hunted. Like the partridge it is addicted to "drumming." Its nest is a hollow, lined with dried grass, and the four eggs are buff or olive in color, with large blotches of rich, dark brown.
Lapwing—Closely related to the plover is the bird commonly called lap-wing or green plover, the head of which often bears a crest. Unlike other members of the family the common lapwing has no spur on the wing, and is recognized by the metallic luster on the green plumage of the upper parts, the absence of white on the wing coverts, and by its crest of great length. It ranges from Britain to Japan and is found onboth sides of the American continent, and in Alaska and Greenland. In winter it goes as far south as Northern Africa, Persia and India. In their enormous winter flocks, lap-wings are among the most difficult of birds to approach. When the breeding-place is approached, the old bird glides steadily off the nest, runs a little distance, then rises in the air to flutter restlessly above the intruder's head, uttering its harsh, wailing cries. So closely do the eggs resemble surrounding objects in color that it is no easy task to find them; but the old birds very often betray their whereabouts by hovering above them; at these times the birds are easily approached, often coming within a few feet. When the young are hatched, they soon follow their parents in search of food. If menaced by danger, the old birds quit their offspring at once, fly into the air, or reel and tumble along the ground as if wounded, while the nestlings scurry off in different directions and hide themselves among the herbage.
Corncrake—The corncrake or land-rail is found throughout the greater part of Europe and as far east as the Yenisei in Siberia, ranging south in
winter to Africa, while it is also an occasional visitant to North America and Greenland. Nearly allied is the Carolina rail, in which the general color above is olive brown, varied with black centers and white margins to the feathers; forehead, crown, front of the face and middle of the throat and neck black; the eyebrow-stripes, sides of the face and neck, as well as the chest, ashy gray, the breast white, and the flanks barred with black and white.
Pratincoles-The forked tail and somewhat swallow-like appearance and habits of the pratincole render it, at first sight, somewhat difficult to believe that these birds are near relatives of the plovers; but closer observation will show that their long legs are adapted for running in the usual plover-like manner, and that it is only when on the wing hawking for flies that a resemblance is presented to the swallows. Many of them resemble coursers in their black under wing-coverts and white upper tail-coverts. Like the coursers, the pratincoles feed almost exclusively on insects. They frequent sandy plains or marshes, and the banks of rivers and lakes, as well as lagoons. At all times of the year they associate in flocks, although each male selects but a single partner. The common pratincole is a small bird measuring from 9 to io inches in length, and inhabiting the warmer parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa; an occasional straggler rarely reaching the British Islands. In color most of the upper parts are clove-brown; the primaries nearly black; the upper tail-coverts white; the feathers of the deeply-forked tail white at the base, and elsewhere brownish black; the chin white; the throat pale buff, bordered by a black line ascending to the eye; the breast brownish buff; the under parts and thighs huffish white, and the under wing-coverts chestnut. These birds do not make any nest, but lay their two or three eggs on the bare ground, in most cases without even taking the trouble of scratching a hollow for their reception. The eggs are nearly oval, and extremely fragile; their ground-color varying from yellow to slaty gray, upon which are numerous streaks and blotches of dark blackish brown. Like many other members of the order, pratincoles endeavor to draw intruders away from their nests by simulating lameness or some other injury.
Turn-stone—The turn-stone bears a strong resemblance to the plover, but is classed with the snipes. They are three species, all of which breed in the Arctic regions and migrate south in winter. The plumage of the common turn-stone is mottled, black, white and chestnut, with a pure white chin and throat. The total length of this bird is nine and a half inches. It takes its name from its habit of overturning pebbles and other stones with its beak for the purpose of obtaining food. Although generally running along the shore, and taking short flights when disturbed, it is not destitute of the power of swimming; and its cry is a clear loud whistle. The nest is but a poor affair, consisting of a sparsely lined hollow in the sand; and the four spotted eggs differ in color from those of the plovers, and resemble those of the sandpipers and snipe.
Stilt—The stilt, or stilt plover, gets its name from its extremely long and slender legs. The European stilt has a perfectly white head and neck. The upper parts and wings are black, the back is glossed with green, the upper tail-coverts and tail are pearly gray; the rest of the plumage pure white; the beak, black; the legs and feet, crimson. Stilts are essentially marsh-birds, although they always keep to open water, in which they may be seen standing up to their knees on the lookout for insects, molluscs, tadpoles, etc.; their most favorite resorts being lagoons, where the water is brackish. They are generally found in small parties, and whether on land, in the water, or in the air, are remarkable for their graceful appearance. They walk with a deliberate step, which may be quickened into a run; and they fly straight but slowly, with the neck outstretched and the long legs extended beyond the tail. Ordinarily silent and far from shy, in the breeding-season these birds utter a cry resembling the syllables, "kit, kot, kit," and are most assiduous in endeavoring to lure the intruder away from the vicinity of their nests.
In India stilts breed in enormous numbers, laying most of their eggs in June, although in Spain they are at least a month earlier; one of the favorite haunts being some salt-works near Delhi, where the brine is distributed in shallow pools over acres of ground. The nest varies according to the nature of the locality, being more bulky in moist places, and sometimes even floating on the water. The four eggs are pear-shaped, and of a buffish brown ground-color, upon which are blackish-brown streaks and blotches, with underlying markings of gray.
Sandpiper—This bird gets its name from its shrill, piping cry, and the further fact that it is found along the seashore except in the breeding-season, when it frequents moors and marshes. Its beak is straight and slender and it is further distinguished by the feathers of the forehead being considerably extended. The sandpiper's scanty nest is placed on the ground, and, at the. proper season, contains four pear-shaped spotted eggs. The best known forms of the common sandpiper are the green sand-piper, the red shank, the green shank and the ruff. The males of the last named have a large ruff around the neck and are very combative in disposition. In length the male measures about twelve inches and the female some two inches less. Formerly common in the English marshes, the ruff is now mainly a passing visitor to Britain, its breeding-haunts ranging from the most northern lands of Europe and Asia as far south as the valley of the Danube and the Kirghiz Steppes; while in winter it wanders as far as the Cape, northern India, Burma, and even more remote regions.
Ruby Topaz Humming Bird—This species is confined to South America, and is sometimes known as the King humming bird. It is distinguished by the brilliant ruby color in the head and neck.
Magnificent Humming Bird—The crested head and little spangled frills on each side of the neck make this bird conspicuous even among its brilliantly colored fellows. The upper plumage is a glittering golden green, with a buffish band across the rump; the crest is long and of a dark cinnamon color; the throat is glittering green, bordered with cinnamon, and the feathers of the neck are tipped with a round spot of green. The under parts are gray. Its flight is very rapid.
Great Bird of Paradise—The paradise birds are all supplied with gorgeous plumage. The great bird of paradise, found in Papua, the Aru and nearby islands, is the largest of the family, measuring from fifteen to eighteen inches. The body, wings and tail are of a rich coffee-brown, which deepens on the breast to a blackish violet or purple-brown. The whole of the top of the head and neck is of an exceedingly delicate straw-yellow, the feathers being short and close set, so as to resemble plush or velvet; the lower part of the throat up to the eye is clothed with scaly feathers of an emerald-green color, and with a rich metallic gloss, and velvety plumes of a still deeper green extend in a broad band across the forehead and chin as far as the eye, which is bright yellow. The beak is pale lead-blue; and the feet, which are rather large, and very strongly and well formed, are of a pale ashy pink. The two middle feathers of the tail have no webs, except a very small one at the base and at the extreme tip, forming wire-like cirrhi, which spread out in an elegant double curve, and vary from twenty-four to thirty inches in length. From each side of the body, beneath the wings, springs a dense tuft of long and delicate plumes, sometimes two feet in length, of the most intense golden-orange color, and very glossy, but changing towards the tips into a pale brown. This tuft of plumes can be elevated and spread out at pleasure, so as almost to conceal the body of the bird. In the female the whole of the ornamental plumes are wanting, and the color is a uniform coffee-brown. At certain seasons of the year the males flock together in a selected tree for the purpose of display, forming what the natives term "dancing parties." On one of these trees, a dozen or twenty male birds assemble together, raise up their wings, stretch out their necks and elevate their exquisite plumes, keeping them in continual motion. When thus assembled the birds are shot with blunt-headed arrows by the natives, who climb silently into the play trees.
Common Humming Bird—The entire humming bird family is confined to America, ranging from the Arctic regions to the southern coast. As a rule the humming bird does not possess any song. Its brilliant metallic colors are well known for it is abundant in all parts of the country. The flight of the humming bird is unlike that of any other bird. When poised before any object, the motion of the wings is so rapid that the eye cannot follow it. It sometimes has the appearance of flying backward. Their little nests are made of moss, covered outside with lichens. The eggs, two in number, are white, and oval at both ends. .
De Lande's Humming Bird-This beautiful specimen has all the brilliant colors of its fellows, and is distinguished by a long pointed crest and long baggy-like bill. It is confined to South America.
Juana—The jacanas differ from all other birds in their extremely long toes. They are handsomely colored birds, black or black and white being the principal color of the plumage. They are confined to South America, southern Africa, the Indian region and Australia. They are long-legged, slenderly-built birds, with short tails, spurs on the wings and a naked shield on the forehead. They live upon insects and frequent lakes and quiet rivers, where their long toes enable them to walk over the leaves of the water-lilies. The nest is a rude structure built near the edge of the water. The eggs, which vary from four to six in number, have a bluish-green ground, with liver-colored spots.
Green and Orange Barbet—Burma and Southern China are the home of this bird of many colors, the prevailing tint being green, the mantle brown, the hind-neck streaked with orange, the head blue and the bill a pale yellow. The nest-holes are drilled into a tree like those of the woodpecker.
Brown Creeper—The creepers get their name from their method of pursuing their prey, comprising spiders and insects on the trunks of trees or the surface of cliffs. The brown creeper is the most familiar of the species. It is a small, plain-colored bird with a long downward curving beak and long curved claws. The tail consists of twelve stout pointed feathers, which are often stiffened to aid in climbing. The upper plumage is reddish brown, the under parts white. It is found in the northern regions of both the eastern and western hemispheres.
Fork-Tailed Drongo—These birds, which inhabit southeastern Asia and Africa, are better known as king crows. Although their plumage is black, the deeply forked tail of ten feathers makes them easy to distinguish from the crow family. They are the most familiar of Indian birds. The nest is composed of fine twigs and grass, covered on the outside with cobwebs. The eggs, usually four in number, are white or salmon colored, with brownish spots. The drongo is frequently seen perched on the backs of cattle searching for insects.
Military Macaw-The prevailing tint of this small bird is green; the fore-head is scarlet, the lower part of the back, the rump and upper tail coverts are blue, the four middle feathers of the tail are brownish red, tipped with blue. This macaw is twenty-seven inches in length and ranges from Mexico to Peru.
Blue and Yellow Macaw—In this bird the upper plumage, wings and tail are blue, the under parts yellow, a black patch on the throat and a grass green crown on its head. It ranges all over tropical America. It nests in hollow trees and its eggs, usually two, are about the size of those of the hen. From the first streak of dawn until it seeks its nest at night the macaw keeps up a constant screaming, and the clamor of a large flock is almost deafening.
White-Necked Humming Bird—This bird is distinguished from all the members of its family by a broad band of white feathers on the back of the neck, a broad fan-like tail, edged with white.
Crested Humming Bird—The crest of this bird is less pointed than in De Lande's humming bird; its color is metallic purple, shading off into golden and green. The sides of the head and throat are black. Its general color is a shining grass-green.
Jay—The jays are closely related to the crows. The beak is short and compressed, and the feathers on the crown of the head are long and capable of being erected. They make a harsh cry, and are given to scolding other birds, or any person that comes near their nest. The jay is the thief and vandal of the bird-world, and delights in destroying the nests and eggs of other birds and their feeble fledglings. On the ground, the jay proceeds by hopping instead of walking. There are many varieties of the family, the most familiar of which is the crested blue-jay of North America and Mexico. Some of the species are beautifully colored.
Nutcracker—The nutcrackers are well marked in form and color. They are of a chocolate-brown, more or less spotted with white. The European nutcracker shown in the illustration inhabits northern and central Europe, northern Asia, China and Japan. Its eggs are pale bluish-white, thickly spotted with olive-brown. One of its notes is a peculiar gurre, gurre, and there is another like a sprung rattle. As its name indicates, it feeds principally upon nuts.
King Bird of Paradise—This beautiful little bird of New Guinea differs from the other birds of paradise both in size and plumage. It measures only six and a half inches in length; its head, throat, upper parts, wings and tail are red. There is a large tuft of fan-like plumes on each side of the breast, purplish in color, and tipped with green. It wears a green gorget below the red of the throat, and the rest of the under-parts is white. Its two central tail feathers are very long and racket-like.
Purple-Capped Lory—This member of the parrot family of the Molucca Islands is a gorgeous bird. Its general color is scarlet, the breast golden, wings green tipped with blue, tail red and a dark purple cap on the head. Like other lories it is a honey-sucker but sometimes eats soft fruits and figs. Its eggs, three to four, are laid on the bare wood. It is easily taught to speak and is a ventriloquist.
Rose-Colored Starling—This bird is an inhabitant of Europe, with its winter home in India. In the plumage of the male, the head, crest, wings and tail are black, with a blue or violet gloss; the back and breast are a beautiful rose color, which, in winter, is suffused with brown. The rose-colored starling is one of the most sociable and cheerful of birds. The song of the male is a continual chatter, mixed with harsh and disagreeable sounds; both one and the other begin in the early morning, continuing for a length of time, and renewed at intervals after feeding. The males, always at strife, may be seen pursuing one another and exchanging blows with their bills, while in the most curious attitudes and with their long black crests elevated and expanded. They exhibit great affection for the hen birds which, never leaving the nest during the period of incubation, are protected and fed by them.
Bullfinch—Bullfinches can be easily recognized by their large heads, short heavy beaks, white rumps, and deep black wings and tails. The plumage varies considerable from creamy-dun color to bluish gray. The male sometimes has a rosy breast with upper parts of snowy whiteness. The female's breast is chocolate-brown. The bullfinch inhabits the woods and thickets of northern Europe and Siberia. Its eggs are from four to six in number, greenish-blue in color, speckled and spotted with purplish-gray. The cock bullfinch is a fighter and is always ready to do battle with an intruder. Its natural song is feeble and contains little music.
Ortolan—The home of the ortolan is in southern Europe. The head of the male is gray, tinged with greenish yellow; the upper-parts are reddish brown, with black streaks; the eyelids are white, the foreneck and chest olive, and the under-parts reddish cinnamon. It nests on the ground, and its eggs are bluish white to pale salmon color, spotted and blotched with rich purple-brown. It is among the tamest of wild birds. It sings a monotonous song all day, and in Sweden it sings much at night. Ortolans are much esteemed by epicures, to whom its flesh is a great delicacy.
Goldfinch—One of the common birds of England is the goldfinch, It is a resident also in Madeira, the Canaries, Africa, Syria, Asia Minor and Persia. In plumage, it greatly resembles the American siskin, or yellow bird.
The eggs are four or five in number, greenish-white in color, spotted and streaked with purplish-brown and markings of violet-gray.
Common Siskin—The plumage of the male siskin is yellowish-green above, the rump bright yellow, the quills and back feathers blackish, edged with yellow, the chin is black, and the throat and breast bright yellow. It is found from Japan to the British Isles. Male birds are restless and lively, singing nearly all day. The nest is like that of a goldfinch. The American siskin is common in all parts of the United States and is generally known as the yellow bird. Its eggs are white, with a rosy blush when first laid.
Reed Bunting The buntings are a species of finch. The reed bunting is found all over Europe where there are swamps. It nests among rushes and long grass. Its eggs are drab, streaked with black and dark purple. The general color of the male is reddish brown, with broad, black centers in the feathers of the back. The tail feathers are dark brown, the two outer ones edged with white; the crown of the head and sides of the face are entirely black; there is a broad band of white back of the neck; the throat is black; the under-parts white, streaked with black on the sides. There are rare specimens entirely white.
Chaffinch—The most familiar member of the finch family is the chaffinch, found in all parts of Europe. Its plumage varies. In summer the male is usually a chestnut brown, with white wing-coverts, or black tipped with white, a black forehead, slaty-blue crown, chin and breast a pale wine red, and the lower parts white. The female is ashy brown, washed with olive yellow, the wings spotted with white. Species have been found of pure yellow with a tiny patch of pink feathers on the breast. The chaffinch varies its nest according to its surroundings and some of them are of remarkable construction. A remarkable nest found in Denmark was decorated all over the outside with small pieces of newspaper. The eggs of the chaffinch are generally purplish gray in ground-color, washed with green, and blotched and spotted with dark red; but perfectly blue, unspotted eggs have been seen, although this variety is rare.
Greenfinch—The grosbeak group of finches is distinguished by short. stout beaks, and it is to this group that the greenfinch belongs. Green and yellow are the chief colors of its plumage. The male is olive yellow above, shaded with ashy gray; the under surface is yellow. The greenfinch is fond of building near the water and the young birds frequently tumble out of the nest and are drowned. The eggs are white, spotted with reddish brown and gray. The greenfinch inhabits Europe, northwestern Africa, Palestine, Turkestan, eastern Siberia, Japan and China. Like all the finch family it feeds principally on seeds.
Skylark—In England only the nightingale exceeds the skylark in the beauty of its liquid notes. The common skylark is one of the most abundant of all European birds and its favorite nesting place is in the British Isles. It prefers the open country, and when disturbed rises to a great height, uttering its cheery carol. It ranges as far south as China and the plains of India. The soft marshes of the British coast are well adapted to the habits of the skylark, and its nest is built in the side of a tussock of rough grass. Young skylarks can scarcely be distinguished from the dried grasses surrounding their nests. It is a singular fact that skylarks do not wash, but delight in cleansing their plumage by dusting their feathers in dry earth. The eggs of the skylark are white, thickly freckled with brown and gray. In the plumage the upper-parts are brown, tinged more or less with rufous, many of the feathers having dark centers; the wings are dark brown, the primaries narrowly edged with white on the outer webs; the tail is brown, with the exception of the outer feathers, which are nearly all white; the throat and breast are buff, streaked with brown, and the rest of the under surface creamy white. Both sexes are alike.
Crested Lark—A crest of very long feathers on the head distinguishes this lark from other members of the family. The song of the crested lark is sweeter and more pleasing than that of the skylark. This bird is found in all parts of Continental Europe, and frequents plowed fields in preference to grass land. Like the skylark, it nests upon the ground. Its eggs are grayish white, marked with brown and gray. In India the crested lark is frequently caged, and kept in darkness by its cage being wrapped in a cloth. In this state it learns to sing very sweetly, and even to imitate the songs of other birds. The crested lark has the upper-parts brown; the feathers of the neck and back having dark centers fringed with buff; the crest is conspicuous, and consists of nine or ten narrow feathers, blackish brown in color, edged with buff; the lower-parts are creamy white; while the sides of the throat are spotted with blackish brown; the feathers of the breast and flanks being streaked with dark brown.
Field Lark—A distinguishing feature of the field lark is a large patch of black adorning the sides of the neck. The upper parts of this bird are grayish brown, the feathers having dark centers; the under surface of the body is white, streaked finely with dark brown. In general appearance it somewhat resembles the corn bunting. It is one of the finest of songsters, and it would be difficult to overpraise the beauty of its glorious song, which is full of changes. It is a heavily-built bird, but does not dangle its legs in the air when flying. Its permanent home is in southern Europe. It makes its nest in a hole in the ground, sometimes as deep as three or four inches. The eggs are a dull gray, blotched with brown and amber. The field lark is much in demand for eating.
Gray Wagtail—The favorite haunts of this bird are the streams and mountain torrents of central Europe. It delights in tiny cascades and rippling waterfalls, wading daintily in the shallows of a stream and running over the rocks rising out of the bed. In the summer plumage of the wagtail, the crown and upper parts are slaty-gray, the upper tail coverts greenish-yellow, a White stripe passing above the eye; chin and throat are black and the lower parts bright yellow. In winter, the chin and throat are dirty white; the breast dull buff; the under parts grayish yellow. The gray wagtail nests year after year in the same place. - The eggs are usually six in number, white in color, suffused with pale brown or olive. This bird has a pretty little song.
Rhinoceros Hornbill—The common rhinoceros hornbill is found in the Malay Peninsula, the Islands of Sumatra and Borneo. It is of large size, measuring nearly four feet in length. The color is black, with a slight gloss of steel-blue or dark green; the rump and upper tail-coverts being white, as is also the tail, which has a broad bar of black just before the tip; while the under surface of the body is black, with the exception of the lower abdomen, thighs, and under tail-coverts. The bill has a large casque, with the fore-part turned up into a horn-like protuberance, whence the bird's name of rhinoceros. The color of the bill is whitish yellow, black at the base, the casque lake-red, shading off below into orange near the base, which is black; and there is also a black line from the side of the nostrils to the fore-part of the casque. The feet are yellowish green, and the iris deep lake. The female resembles the male in color, but has no black base, and no black line along the side of the casque. In the young birds there is no fully-developed casque, but only a small orange-colored growth on the top of the upper bill. It will devour beetles, worms, mice, small birds, and almost any other kind of food.
Red-Billed Hornbill—From India to Siam the red-billed hornbill is met with. The casque or horn is not so well developed as in the rhinoceros horn-bill and is orange red on top. The black wings are thickly marked with white. Like the other hornbills it nests in a great hole in a tree and feeds upon anything it can get.
Argus Pheasant—The argus pheasant is the largest of the pheasant family. The male bird has the naked skin of the sides of the head, throat and fore-part of the neck dark blue. The feathers on the crown and the short crest are black; the upper parts beautifully checkered, mottled or spotted with black and buff; the chest is barred with black, and the rest of the under-parts are black, with wavy bars of chestnut and buff. It is found in the forests of Siam, the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. In total length the bird measures six feet from the bill to the end of the tail. The female has the general coloration of the male, but lacks the beautiful ornamental markings. These pheasants are quite solitary, every male having his own "drawing-room," of which he is excessively proud, and which he keeps scrupulously clean. They haunt exclusively the depths of the evergreen forests, and each male chooses some open level spot sometimes down in a dark, gloomy ravine, entirely surrounded and shut in by dense cane-brakes and rank vegetation sometimes on the top of a hill where the jungle is comparatively open from which he clears all the dead leaves and weeds for a space of six or eight yards until nothing but the bare clean earth remains, and thereafter he keeps this place scrupulously clean, removing carefully every dead leaf or twig that may happen to fall on it from the trees above. These cleared spaces are undoubtedly used as dancing-grounds, but personally I have never seen a bird dancing in them, but have always found the proprietor either seated quietly in, or moving backwards and forwards slowly about them, calling at short intervals, except in the morning and evening, when they roam about to feed and drink. The males are always to be found at home, and roost on some tree close by.
Common Kingfisher—The common kingfisher is a beautiful bird of a greenish blue color, with a band of white feathers on the sides of the neck, a buffy white throat and the under parts a rich orange red; the bill is black, the feet coral red. It is seven and a half inches, in length. The three varieties are all crested. It is common all over Europe and Northwestern Asia. It is exclusively a water bird, feeding on fish. Seated under over-hanging willows or on an exposed bough or stump, the kingfisher watches patiently for the approach of its prey, when it dives like a flash of lightning under the water. Sometimes it builds a nest, but quite as often lays its eggs in a tunnel in the bank, excavated by itself.
Java Kingfisher—The bill of the Java kingfisher resembles that of the stork and is coral red in color. The plumage is dull green with a shade of blue on the wings, the head chocolate brown, the under surface a pale ochre. It nests in holes in high sandy banks, and although fish forms its principal food, it relishes crabs and frogs. Of the stork-billed kingfishers eleven species are known, their range extending from the Indian Peninsula and Ceylon, through the Burmese and Malayan countries to Java, Sumatra, the Philippines, Borneo and Celebes.
Black-Capped Kingfisher—The marks by which this bird is best known are a black cap or crest on the head and a broad white collar on the back of the neck. The under surface of the body is white with a chest band of black and white feathers. It is a peculiar fact that in the Old World these birds are either black and white, or gray and white, while in America they are either gray or green. Like the Java kingfisher they have long bills and long tails, and live exclusively upon fish. Writing of a nest with young found in the Northwestern Himalaya, a naturalist states that "the entrance was a large hole, fully four inches in diameter, and at the end was a chamber fully ten inches across, in which were four young birds; in the chamber was a quantity of fish bones and some grass. The eggs are three or four in number, and the birds are in the habit of carrying to their young fishes from six to seven inches in length, and these are always swallowed whole."
Rock Pigeon-The rock pigeon, or blue rock, as it is sometimes called, is found throughout Europe, and as far east as India. In the original wild stock of the blue rock the plumage is gray, the rump white, and the neck and upper breast metallic green and purple, while there are two narrower black bars across the wing and a broader one across the end of the tail. It is found in a wild state where caves and deep fissures exist, and is common along the northern coasts of Scotland and Ireland.
Goat-Sucker—This bird is even better known by its true name of night-jar. It has a broad beak set with strong bristles. The plumage is a dark ashy gray with markings of black and buff. The males have a large patch of white on the quills and at the end of the tail coverts. They are found nearly all over the world, but never go very far north. Its food consists of insects, which it hunts at twilight. It belongs to the same family as the whippoorwill, and in some localities is known as the churn-owl.
Gray Partridge-The common gray partridge is one of the finest of game birds. The chestnut horseshoe mark on the breast is the most conspicuous
part of its plumage. In other respects it harmonizes with its surroundings of gray and brown. It is too well-known to need any extended description.
Red Partridge—In this handsome bird the upper parts are brown shading into chestnut. The chin and throat are white, as is the eye stripe. When pursued they try to escape by running. The home of the red partridge is in Southwestern Europe.
Magpie-The plumage of the common magpie is black and white, and its form and habits are those of a crow. They are extremely active and noisy. Like the jackdaw they are not particular about the location of their nest. The eggs number from five to seven, are bluish-white, with greenish-brown spots. In Europe, magpies fall prey to sportsmen who hunt them with falcons.
Golden Oriole-Every spring the golden oriole leaves his home in India and pays a visit to northern Europe. Until the beech tree is in leaf it has some difficulty in concealing its brilliant plumage among the bare twigs. The male is a rich golden-yellow above, the wings being black, broadly edged with yellow; the tail is black, tipped with yellow, while the entire under surface is golden yellow. The back of the female is tinged with green. The enemy of the golden oriole is the sparrow hawk. In Europe this bird is usually silent, but in India it constantly pours out a flute-like note.