Obrazy na stronie

affinity with the Shrikes: the colonists call it the Magpie on account of its white and black plumage, and it seems to fill the place of a Magpie to them, being a trustful bird, attaching itself to mankind and haunting barns and farmhouses. If it takes possession of any garden or plantation it will only allow a few of its friends to intrude, and repays its master by the rich and varied song it pours out every morning and evening. Its name tibicen means a fluteplayer, and its song is said to resemble the notes of a Aute. It lives mainly on large grasshoppers and other insects: in captivity it will eat any animal food, fruits, and berries. A bird kept by Mr. Bennett in Australia possessed a great variety of accomplishments. It would call out, “ Fire away! fire away!” then give a long whistle, then a crow which set all the cocks in the neighbourhood crowing, then would cackle so like a hen as to induce the cook to go and search for the newly-laid egg, and end by imitating the bark of a little dog to the life. If he was taken out of his cage by Mr. Bennett, he would lie flat on his back in his hand, as if dead, with his legs in the air. This bird died on his voyage to England: he was continually fighting with a young game cock, whom he always conquered; but the unequal contest seemed to exhaust him so much that it caused his death.

Every one knows the MAGPIE (Pica caudata), but few are aware of the beauty of its plumage, who only see it penned up in a cage or at a distance. The white is so exceedingly pure, and the black is shot with dark green, blue, and purple, the varying reflections of which are very beautiful. It appears to be a shy bird, generally keeping at a safe distance from mankind, although never building far from houses; perhaps because gamekeepers and farmers wage war against on account of its depredations. No food comes amiss to it; it will eat young game and poultry, fish, carrion, eggs, insects, fruit, and grain. Yet it must do good service in ridding gardens and fields of destructive foes, for it eats beetles in great numbers, snails, worms, reptiles, and mice. When tame it is a very amusing bird, and will learn to talk like a parrot and to perform many odd tricks; but it must be taken from the nest when it is only a fortnight old, and fed at first on bread soaked in milk or water, afterwards on chopped meat, and then it can be kept on any kitchen scraps. When it is nearly fledged it must be accustomed to take short flights and return to its owner, and the wings may be a little clipped till it becomes quite at home in captivity, and has no desire to take flight. It will then become tame enough to follow its master like a cat, and is capable of great attachment to individuals; but its invincible propensity for mischief, and its desire to carry off and hide everything shining or metallic, makes it capable of doing a great amount of damage in a very short space of time. The Magpie has a strong attachment to his mate, and will show great courage in defending his nest and young; but if bereaved of his mate, will very speedily find another.

Such numberless anecdotes of the cunning tricks of this bird have been recorded, that it is scarcely worth while to add to them. They seem to show an innate delight in doing mischief for the sake of mischief, as well as for the gratification of a natural desire to hide anything they can carry off. A Magpie kept in a school would always take the opportunity of carrying mud into the kitchen as soon as the maid had cleaned it, and evidently enjoyed her rage on discovering his handiwork. It appears to have been a pet in ancient as well as in modern times. One, in the possession of a barber in Rome, renowned for its imitative powers is mentioned:by Plutarch, and in the present day it is a favourite in France, Germany, Sweden and Norway, in Spain, Italy, in the country between the Black and Caspian Seas, and in Northern India and Japan. In France, where most small birds are ruthlessly destroyed, the Magpie appears to be protected, and in Sweden and


Norway it is a great favourite, and very familiar with the inhabitants, who would not kill a Magpie on any account, but whether from attachment, or from an idea that ill-luck would befall the destroyer, is not ascertained. The Norwegians cut holes in their buildings and nail up pieces of wood against them for their nests, and give them a sheaf of corn at Christmas.

The JAY (Garrulus glandarius).—The European Jay is found in all the temperate parts of Europe, and is well known in most wooded districts of England. The sportsman and the gardener alike detest it, because its harsh scream of warning often prevents the former from approaching his game, and its fondness for fruit and vegetables makes it very destructive amongst gardens and cherry orchards. It devours chestnuts, beech-nuts, and acorns, and the flowers of some cruciferous plants. It will eat small quadrupeds, birds, and insects, and is especially fond of eggs. It is a very beautiful bird, about the size of a large pigeon, of a bright reddish-brown, with blue wings barred with black and edged with white; and a crest decorates its head, the feathers of which it raises and lowers at pleasure. It is a favourite cage bird in many parts of England, and its great powers of imitation make it an amusing pet. The young Jays should be taken from the nest when a fortnight old, and fed six times in the day with sopped bread, curds, and finely-chopped beef. They must be kept out of hearing of other birds, or they will catch their notes: they are very quick in imitating the voices of animals and any noises they hear. Even in a wild state they will introduce into their soft and pleasing song the bleating of a lamb, the mewing of a cat, the hooting of an owl, and the neighing of a horse. Bewick tells of a Jay who imitated the sound of a saw so exactly that the neighbours supposed a carpenter was at work all Sunday. Another Jay used to amuse himself by setting the dog at the cattle by whistling and calling him by name ;



a diversion which proved fatal to himself; for, having caused the fall of a sick cow on the ice by inciting the dog to attack her, the bird was complained of as a nuisance and ordered to be destroyed. The Jay should be kept in a large wicker or wire cage not less than two feet square, and should be fed entirely on nuts and wheat, with plenty of water for drinking and bathing. If he has any other food in confinement the cage will become offensive.

The AMERICAN BLUE JAY (Cyanocorax cristatus) is very like its English relative in many of its characteristics. It is even more beautiful in its colouring, which, on the upper part of the body, is of a light bluish-purple, the wingcoverts being of a rich azure and purple blue, barred with black and tipped with white. The crest is blue or purple, and it has a black collar round its neck; the chin, cheeks, and throat are bluish-white, and the under part of the body quite white. The two middle feathers of the tail are light blue deepening into purple, and the other feathers light blue, barred with black and tipped with white. This bird is about eleven inches in length. Like the European Jay, it is inquisitive and suspicious, and always gives an alarm note as soon as it sees a sportsman amongst the trees. It is very much disliked by the negroes, who regard the bird with a strange mixture of superstitious fear and hatred, considering him an agent of the devil, and killing him whenever they can. The pine-cutters of the north have a great aversion to him too, for when hard pinched by the cold, these birds swarm about their camps, and are bold enough to carry off the meat roasting before the fire. They appear to have many of the characteristics of the Magpie, and the same propensity for hiding things, especially articles of food, which they will deposit in some out-of-theway places, sticking an acorn here and a beech-nut there in a dust-hole, or a snail between splinters of a log. It cannot be denied that they are very sagacious birds; and they have great powers of imitation, and also a most flexible voice, producing very soft and musical notes, and imitating the harshest screamings of the Hawk and the terrified cries of a little bird to perfection, thereby' setting all the birds around them in a tumult. In confinement the Blue Jay will learn to talk, and if kindly treated becomes very affectionate to its owner, and will even learn to be on friendly terms with birds which in its wild state it would devour. One kept for some time by Mr. Wilson would permit a Baltimore Oriole to pull its whiskers and take all sorts of liberties with it. The Blue Jay should be kept on the same food as the English Jay; it is partial to fruit and nuts, but in its wild state devours more animal than vegetable food.

A nearly allied species is found in Canada, but it is far inferior in beauty to the Blue Jay. This is the Perisoreus Canadensis, the CANADA JAY or WHISKY JACK, a little ash-coloured bird, a great favourite among the settlers, who say that wherever they go, whisky and Whisky Jack invariably follow. These Jays are so tame that they will hop about by the fire, pick up crumbs, and perch on the logs, as if born and bred in a shanty; and even the Indian children will not kill them, though they often tease the poor little birds till they die of worry.

The STARLING (Sturnus vulgaris).—The Starling much resembles the birds of the Crow tribe both in structure and habits. It is a beautiful bird, with a bright, glossy plumage—black varied with purple and green, reflected with great brilliancy in different lights, and spotted with buff; often called from its mottlings the Speckled Stare. It is a well-known bird in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and is common in all parts of the British Islands, assembling in flocks of many thousands, each flock appearing to be under the command of one single bird, whose guidance.it obeys instantaneously. They migrate to West Devon and Cornwall and other warm parts of the British Islands, in October, and generally come northward again in March,

« PoprzedniaDalej »