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(Pharmacnis mocinno) 

anterican j^atwe >erie0 

Group I. Natural History 





United States National Museum 

Member of the American Ornithologists' Union, Washington Academy of Sciences 
Biological Society of Washington, Etc. 




Curator-in-Chief, Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences 


Curator of Birds, United States National Museum 







Published March, 1909. 

J. S. Gushing Co. Berwick & Smith Co. 

Norwood, Mass., U.S.A. 


THE Editor's share in the preparation of the present work consists of 
scarcely more than a careful reading and slight revision of the manu- 
script, the planning and general execution being entirely by the Author. 
So well, indeed, had Dr. Knowlton performed his task that there was 
need for scarcely more than perfunctory revision ; a slight correction, 
here and there, together with an occasional suggestion concerning a ques- 
tionable or doubtful statement, or one involving a difference of opinion 
between authorities, or that a particular conclusion be reconsidered, being 
practically the extent of the Editor's censorship. 

April 15, 1907. 



IT is perhaps hardly necessary to call attention to the great awakening of 
popular interest that has come about in recent years in relation to our birds, 
an interest that has been fostered not only by the admirable work of the Audubon 
Societies and the widespread nature teaching in the schools, but by the deeper, 
broader sentiment which is leading back to, and nearer to, Nature. The in- 
creasing number of people yearly turning back to the country, either for recrea- 
tion or permanent residence, has naturally stimulated a desire to know more 
intimately their surroundings, the trees, the flowers, and the birds. Few of 
these people have either the inclination or the desire to become professional 
ornithologists, but they have wished to know at least the names and more inter- 
esting facts in the life histories of the birds they see constantly about them. To 
supply this demand for popular information, a large number of works have been 
written, and their extensive circulation proves that they have filled a real want. 
But most of these are more or less local in their scope, only a very few, for instance, 
treating of the birds of a whole country, and the time seems ripe for a work of 
moderate size, and in a single volume, that shall set forth in non-technical lan- 
guage the salient facts regarding the birds of the world. Such a work I have 
attempted to prepare. 

Following several preliminary chapters on the general appearance and struc- 
ture of birds, their migrations, distribution, classification, etc., every family 
has been passed in review and accorded approximately equal and even treat- 
ment. In many cases this amounts to a mention of all the known species of a 
family ; but in the larger families it has, of course, been possible to include only 
the more important or more interesting forms, though it is presumed that enough 
have been included to give a fairly comprehensive picture. The treatment of 
the so-called game birds, both aquatic and non-aquatic, has purposely been 
made very full, in the hope that it may also prove of interest to sportsmen as well 
as to the general reader. Technical language has been avoided, so far as pos- 
sible ; but in outlining the various groups a certain amount has been necessary, 
since the characters separating them are often relatively obscure, structural 
details. The main attention has been given to the birds as they appear in their 
homes that is, their plumage, habits, songs, nests and eggs, food, etc. It 
is not intended for this book to be used for the identification of collections of 
bird skins, for the descriptions of size and plumage have only been made full 
enough to enable one to draw a fairly definite picture of the living bird. For the 
complete, technical descriptions the reader is referred to the numerous well-known 
treatises on the subject. 



A work of the present scope is of necessity very largely a compilation, but I 
have sought in every instance to give the latest and most authentic information 
regarding the distribution and life history of the forms treated. That I have 
succeeded in all cases is too much to expect, for the literature of ornithology is 
now so very extensive and widely scattered that it is inevitable some things have 
been overlooked, though it is hoped that important omissions and errors are 
few. Among the hundreds of books, papers, and journals consulted, special 
mention should be made of Sharpe's " Hand-List of Birds," the " Catalogue of 
Birds in the British Museum," Newton's Dictionary of Birds, Dr. Stejneger's 
volume on Birds in the Standard Natural History, and Ridgway's " Birds of 
North and Middle America," without which it would have been impossible 
to write this book. 

In the matter of direct quotations from other authors, which have been freely 
made, the authority for the statement has been given, either in the introductory 
sentence or at its termination, but it has not been thought necessary in a popular 
work of this character to give in all cases the complete bibliographic citation. 
The professional ornithologist will be able, in most cases, to identify the publi- 
cation should further consultation be desired; w r hile the general reader, it was 
assumed, would hardly be interested in anything but the statement of fact. 
In order to facilitate the ready finding of the various forms mentioned in the text, 
a very complete index has been prepared, which includes not only all specific, 
generic, and higher group names, but every common name made use of. To 
further facilitate the location of the birds referred to, all common or popular names 
of birds have been capitalized and given first place, with the scientific names 
following in parentheses. The black-face headings at the beginning of each 
paragraph also serve to direct attention to any species sought. 

The chapter on the " Migration of Birds," in nearly its present form, appeared 
in the Popular Science Monthly, and is incorporated here with the permission 
of the editor of that journal. 

The selection of the illustrations for this book has given the author much 
concern. To keep the book light, it is essential to avoid as far as practicable 
the use of the coated paper needed for half-tones. This necessitated securing 
for the text, wood and line cuts from miscellaneous sources not always equally 
modern or artistic. While a freer use of half-tones would have permitted the 
utilization of more modern photographs, it would have made the book almost 
fatally heavy; but it is hoped that the figures finally selected may serve the 
purpose of conveying a fair idea of the forms depicted. 

In the preparation of the originals of the colored plates, the author has 
been fortunate in securing the services of the talented artist, Miss Mary Mason 
Mitchell of Washington. Not only are the birds themselves accurately and 
artistically portrayed, but the setting for each has been worked out with a minute- 
ness and correctness of detail rarely exhibited. 

In the preparation of this work I have received the greatest assistance from 
Dr. Charles W. Richmond, Acting Curator of Birds in the United States National 
Museum, who has not only read all of the manuscript and proofs, and suggested 



many corrections, changes, and additions which have materially increased its 
value, but has permitted me every opportunity of examining the collection of 
birds in his charge. Mr. Frederic A. Lucas, Head Curator of the Brooklyn 
Museum of Arts and Sciences, has read portions of the manuscript, and made 
valuable suggestions, and has also written the chapter on the "Anatomy of Birds." 
Mr. J. H. Riley, of the United States National Museum, has called my attention 
to a number of things that might otherwise have been overlooked, and Dr. C. 
William Beebe, of the New York Zoological Garden, has been of great assistance 
in securing and reproducing the figures. To Mr. Robert Ridgway, Curator of 
Birds in the United States National Museum, I was indebted for many valuable 
suggestions, especially in regard to classification, before it was known that he 
was to edit the book. Since the completion of the work he has read the manu- 
script and suggested certain changes and slight revisions of statement, the extent 
of his work being indicated in the Editor's Preface which precedes. To these and 
all others who have assisted in the preparation of the book, I make grateful 

Following are the sources for most of the figures used, acknowledgment for 
which is hereby made : 

American Museum of Natural History: 37, 39, 40, 44, 47, 55, 96, 108, 134, 135. 

Baird, Brewer, and Ridgway, North American Birds Water Birds: 31, 32, 34, 36, 38, 41, 
42, 43, 45, 5 2 53, 57, 5 8 > 59, 6o > 62 , 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 107, 117, 119, 121, 123, 
125, 126, 133, 136. 

Blanford, Birds of British India: 176, 193. 

Brehm: 27, 56, 80, 87, 109, 114, 182, 183, 184, 200, 214, 224. 

Buller, Birds of New Zealand: 179, 221. 

Catalogue, Birds in the British Museum: 173. 

Challenger Expedition : 30, 166. 

Dresser, Birds of Europe : 99, 194. 

Fisher, Hawks and Owls of the United States: 74, 76, 81, 159, 162. 

Milne-Edwards & Grandidier: Histoire Physique, Naturelle et Politique de Madagascar, 
vol. xii; Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux: 49, 54, 84, 93, 132, 138, 150, 156, 158, 178, 
191, 195, 202, 203, 204, 206, 209. 

Newton's Dictionary of Birds: 72. 

North, Nests and Eggs of Birds of Australia and Tasmania: 212. 

Packard's Zoology: 189. 

Proceedings Zoological Society, London: in, 113. 

Salvin and Godman, Biologia Americana: 90, 180, 186, 187. 

Schlegel, De Diergaarden von vroegeren en lateru t ijd ing de Diergaarde Kon. Zool. te Amster- 
dam: 71, 92, 100, 102, 106, 109, 115, 118, 120, 127, 128, 129, 130, 144, 145, 149, 155, 
161, 163, 164, 169, 171, 172, 182. 

Sclater and Hudson, Argentine Ornithology: 185. 

The Auk: 91, 207. 

The Ibis: 181. 

Transactions Zoological Society, London: 23, 24, 25, 26, 29, 33, 48, 85, 88, 138. 

U. S. Department of Agriculture: 210, 211, 218, 219, 231, 232, 320. 

U. S. National Museum: 3, 4, 28, 103 a. 

F. H. K. 

January i, 1909. 





Definition of a Bird, I. Temperature, 3. Definition of various forms of feathers, 3. 
Colors of feathers, 4. Pterylosis, 6. Moult or renewal of feather covering, 8. Nests and 
eggs of Birds, 10. Theory of Birds' nests, n. 





THE ARCH/EOPTERYX, OR LIZARD-TAILED BIRD. Order Archceornithiformes . 53 

THE AMERICAN TOOTHED-BIRDS. Orders Hesperornithiformes and Ichtkyornithiformes 56 

THE OSTRICHES. Order Struthioniformes 6 1 

THE RHEAS. Order Rheiformes 67 

THE EMEUS AND CASSOWARIES. Order Casuariifor mes 70 

THE TINAMOUS. Order Crypturiformes 78 

x Contents 



THE MOAS. Order Dinornithiformes 81 

THE ELEPHANT-BIRDS. Order JEpyornithiformes 85 


THE PENGUINS. Order Sphenisciformes 92 

THE LOONS AND GREBES. Order Colymbi formes 100 

THE ALBATROSSES AND PETRELS. Order Procellariiformcs 107 


THE STORK-LIKE BIRDS. Order Ciconiiformes 121 

The Tropic-birds, 122. The Pelicans, 124. The Cormorants, 127. The Anhingas, or 
Darters, 131. The Gannets, 133. The Frigate-birds, 136. The Herons, 139. The 
Boat-bills, 147. The Shoe-bill, 149. The Hammer-head, or Umbrette, 151. The Storks, 
153. The Ibises, 160. The Spoon-bills, 163. The Flamingos, 165. 


THE GOOSE-LIKE BIRDS. Order Anseri formes 169 

The Screamers, 169. The Swans, Geese, Ducks, and Mergansers, 172. 


THE FALCON-LIKE BIRDS. Order Falconiformes 202 

The American Vultures, 203. The Secretary-bird, 209. The Falcons, Goshawks, Cara- 
caras, and allies, 212. The Kites, Buzzards, Eagles, Hawks, and allies, 226. 


THE FOWL-LIKE BIRDS. Order Galliformes 263 

The Madagascar Mesite, 263. Hemipodes, or Bustard Quails, 265. The Megapodes, 268. 
The Curassows and Guans, 271. The True Game Birds: Turkeys, Partridges, Quails, 
Pheasants, etc., 276. The Hoactzin, 317. 


THE CRANE-LIKE BIRDS. Order Gruiformes 320 

The Rails, Gallinules, and Coots, 320. The Cranes, Courlans, and Trumpeters, 327. The 
Cariamas, 339. The Bustards, 340. The Kagu, 345. The Sun-Bitterns, 347. The Fin- 
feet, 348. 

Contents xi 



THE PLOVER-LIKE BIRDS. Order Charadriiformes 350 

Laro-Limicolae: The Plovers, Snipes, Curlews, etc., 351. The Sheath-bills, 374. The 
Crab-Plovers, 375. The Pratincoles and Coursers, 376. The Seed-Snipes, 379. The 
Thick-knees, 380. The Jacanas, 382. The Gull Tribe, 386. The Auks, Puffins, and 
Murres, 396. Pteroclo-Columbae : The Sand Grouse, 405. The Dodo and Solitaire, 409. 
The True Pigeons, 413. 


THE CUCKOO-LIKE BIRDS. Order Cziculiformes 441 

The Cuckoos, 442. The Plantain-eaters, 451. The Parrots, 454. 


THE ROLLER-LIKE BIRDS. Order Coraciiformes 480 

The Rollers, 480. The Motmots and Todies, 485. The Kingfishers, 489. The Bee- 
eaters, 496. The Hornbills, 501. The Hoopoes, 508. The Owls, 511. The Oil-bird, 
541. The Frogmouths, 542. The Goatsuckers, or Nightjars, 546. The Hummingbirds, 
553. The Swifts, 561. The Colics, 569. The Trogons, 571. The Jacamars and Puff- 
birds, 576. The Barbets and Honey-guides, 580. The Toucans, 583. The Woodpeckers 
and Wrynecks, 586. 


THE SPARROW-LIKE BIRDS. Order Passeriformes 603 

Eurybemidae : The Broad-bills, 605. Clamatores: The Pittas, 609. The Asities, 611. 
The Rifleman and New Zealand Wrens, 611. The Sharp-bills, 615. The Tyrant-birds, 
615. The Manakins, 621. The Chatterers, 623. The Plant Cutters, 629. The Wood 
Hewers, 631. The Oven-birds and allies, 633. The Ant-birds, 635. The Ant-Pipits, 
637. The Tapacolas, 638. Pseudoscines : The Lyre-birds, 640. The Scrub-birds, 643. 
Oscines: The Larks, 644. The Wagtails and Pipits, 651. The Fork-tails, 656. The 
Babbling Thrushes, 657. The Bulbuls, 662. The Flycatchers, 665. The Thrushes, 671. 
The Wren-Thrushes, 686. The Mockingbirds, 686. The Dippers, 690. The Wrens, 
694. The Wren-Tits, 697. The Old World Warblers, 698. The Kinglets, 704. The 
Swallows, 705. The Cuckoo-Shrikes, 713. The Drongos, 717. The Wax wings, 719. 
The Silky Flycatchers, 720. The Palm Chats, 721. The Wood Swallows, 723. The 
Vanga-Shrikes, 724. The Shrikes, 724. The Wood Shrikes, 734. The Helmet-birds, 
737. The Vireos, 739. The Nuthatches, 742. The Coral-billed Nuthatch, 745. The 
Titmice and Chickadees, 747. The Orioles, 753. The Bower-birds, 755. Birds-of- Para- 
dise, 759. The Crows and Jays, 770. The Starlings, 785. The Glossy Starlings and 
Grackles, 790. The Honeyeaters, 792. The White-eyes, 797. The Sun-birds, 799. 
The Flower-peckers, 802. The Creepers, 805. The Honey Creepers, 807. The Hawai- 
ian Honey Creepers, 809. The Wood Warblers, 81 1. The Tanagers, 816. The Weaver- 
birds, 819. TheTroupials, 824. The Swallow-Tanagers, 830. The Plush-capped Finches, 
830. The Finches and Sparrows, 831. 

INDEX . . 847 


RESPLENDENT TROGON, OR QUEZAL, Pharomacrus mocinno . . . Frontispiece 


AGAMI HERON, Agamia agami 144 

ROSEATE SPOON-BILL, Ajaja ajaja 164 

MANDARIN DUCK, Aix galericulata . 190 

LADY AMHERST PHEASANT, Chrysolophus amherstite 312 

TUFTED PUFFIN, Lunda cirrhata 398 

GREAT CROWNED PIGEON, Goura coronata 438 

HAWK-PARROT, Deroptyus acdpitrinus 472 

RED-BACKED MOTMOT, Eumomota superdliaris 488 

RACKET-TAILED KINGFISHER, Tanysiptera nais 496 


ELEGANT PITTA, Eucichla boschi 610 

LESSER BIRD-OF-PARADISE, Paradisea minor 7 66 

COLLIE'S MAGPIE-JAY, Calocitta colliei 7 8 

RED WARBLER, Ergaticics ruber 816 

CENTRAL AMERICAN TANAGER, Chlorochrysa nitidissima 818 




EFINITION of a Bird. Strange as it may seem, the old proverb that 
"A bird is known by its feathers," finds such exemplification in the 
science of to-day that it has actually become the scientific definition 
of the Class. It was formerly supposed that birds possessed a 
number of peculiar features, but, says Mr. Ridgway, "the most recent investiga- 
tions of comparative anatomists have gradually eliminated the supposed exclu- 
sive characters of birds, as a class of the Animal Kingdom, until only the single 
one mentioned above, the possession of feathers, remains." As Dr. Stejneger 
very aptly expresses it, " No bird is without feathers, and no animal is invested 
with feathers except the bird." 

From the fact that in most systematic arrangements of the Animal Kingdom 
the Class embracing the birds is usually made to precede the mammals, it might 
be supposed that the birds were more or less closely related to them. As a matter 
of fact this is not so, for, according to Beddard, beyond the circumstance of 
" warmbloodedness and resemblance of some of the more simple forms of feathers 
to hairs, there is nothing to be said in behalf of a kinship between birds and mam- 
mals." In some ways birds are undoubtedly the highest of the vertebrate 
animals. Their body temperature, higher than that of any other animals, is 
one index of their intense activity; their skeleton is perhaps more modified from 
the general type than that of mammals, their "arrangements for locomotion, 
breathing, and nutrition are certainly not less perfect," and it is, in fact, "only 
when we emphasize the development of the nervous system and the closeness of 
connection between mother and offspring, that the mammals are seen to have a 
right to their preeminence over birds." 

It has long been settled with definiteness that the Class of birds is very closely 
allied to the Class of reptiles ; for even at the present time, that is among living 
birds and reptiles, there are numerous structural points in common. It is, of 
course, perfectly easy to distinguish between a bird and a reptile as each exists 
at present, the most obvious difference being the warm blood and outer covering 
of feathers in the bird, and the cold blood and usually scaly covering among 
reptiles. On account of unfortunate breaks or gaps in the paleontological record, 
we are, with the exception of the evidence afforded by Archaeopteryx, in ignorance 
of the precise steps in the transition from one Class to the other, and may always 
remain so, but as was long ago pointed out by Huxley, Cope, Marsh, and others, 
it is probably in the group of extinct dinosaurs that we must look for evidences of 

2 Introduction 

this affinity. This large reptilian group embraces a number of forms, particu- 
larly those of carnivorous habits, that without doubt regularly progressed in a 
bipedal manner, and it was from the obvious similarity between these and the 
birds that Huxley concluded that "there could be no doubt that the hind quarters 
of the Dinosauria woriderfully approached that of birds in their general structure, 
therefore, that these extinct reptiles were more closely allied to birds than any 
which have lived." Other anatomists have held that these resemblances in 
structure are simply adaptive, and came to be evolved in the dinosaurs from 
community of habit with birds, but very recently Professor H. F. Osborn has 
reexamined the evidence and has detected a number of additional points of agree- 
ment in skeletal characters, and concludes that this hypothesis is not to be dis- 
carded, but is to be "very seriously considered" in connection with the origin of 
birds. Still more recently (1905) Professor E. Ray Lankester, director of the 
British Museum [Natural History], says: "The reptiles which come nearest to 
them in structure are the Dinosaurs, especially these Dinosaurs (like Iguanodon) 
which walked on their hind legs and had only three toes to the foot." 

In any event it seems safe to assume that if not more intimately related, the 
dinosaurs and birds must at least have had a common ancestor. Within the 
past few months, Mr. W. P. Pycraft, the eminent avian anatomist of the British 
Museum, has presented an interesting speculation regarding the probable ap- 
pearance of the ancestral or incipient birds anterior to Archaeopteryx. He 
says: "From what we know of other types of vertebrates we may safely 
assume that these ancestral birds were of small size, and were probably also 
arboreal. And from the unmistakable signs of the shortening of the body in 
modern birds, the trunk was also relatively longer, as it certainly was in Archse- 
opteryx. From these two inferences we conclude, with some degree of proba- 
bility, that these creatures, these 'birds in the making,' had substituted leaping 
for climbing about the trees. And from this there was but a short passage to 
leaping from tree to tree. In these movements we may reasonably suppose that 
the fore limbs were used for grasping at the end of the leap. The use of the fore 
limb for this work would naturally throw more work upon the inner digits 
1-3 so that the work of selection would rapidly tend to the increased develop- 
ment of these, and the gradual decrease of the two outer and now useless members. 
Correlated with this trend in the evolution, the axillary membrane the skin 
between the inner border of the arm and the body became drawn out into a 
fold, while a similar fold came to extend from the shoulder to the wrist, as the 
fore limb, in adaptation to this new function, became more and more flexed. 
While the fingers, upon which safety now depended, were increasing in length, 
and growing more and more efficient, they were, at the same time, losing the 
power of lateral extension, and becoming more and more flexed upon the fore 
arm. And the growth in this direction was probably accompanied by the develop- 
ment of connective tissue and membrane along the hinder, post-axial border of 
the whole limb, tending to increase the breadth of the limb when extended 
preparatory to parachuting through space from one tree to another, the long 
claws being used to effect a hold at the end of the leap. The hind limbs, though 

Temperature of Birds 3 

to a less extent, were also affected by the leaping motion, resulting in the reduc- 
tion of the toes to four, and the lengthening, and approximation of the meta- 
tarsals 2-4 to form a 'cannon' bone. 

"The body clothing at this time was probably scale-like, the scales being of 
relatively large size and probably having a median ridge, or keel, recalling the 
keeled scales of many living reptiles. Those covering the incipient wing, grow- 
ing longer, would still retain their overlapping arrangement, and hence those 
along the hinder border of the wing would, in their arrangement, simulate in 
appearance and function the quill feathers of their later descendants. As by 
selection their length increased, so also they probably became fimbriated, and 
more and more efficient in carrying the body through space." 

Temperature. It is a generally recognized fact that the temperature of 
birds is normally very high, but, strange enough, exact data on the subject are 
not extensive. Recently Mr. A. Southerland undertook to ascertain the tempera- 
ture of certain " Ratite " birds, and one of the most interesting incidental facts 
brought out is the demonstration of a progressive increase from the lower to the 
higher birds ; that is, the forms of birds that are regarded as the lowest in the scale 
exhibit the lowest normal temperature, while between these and the more active 
and highly organized there is almost every gradation. This condition also pre- 
vails at least to some extent among mammals. The Apteryx or Wingless Birds 
of New Zealand exhibit the lowest temperature thus far recorded among birds, 
the average of three individuals belonging to two species being 37. 9 C. (100.2 F.). 
Next to the Apteryx come the Emeus, Cassowaries, and Penguins, with an average 
normal temperature of 39 C. (102.2 F.), while theTinamous examined showed 
a range from 39.2 C. to 41.3 C., or an average of 40.6 C. (105 F.), "which 
brings them up to the lower limit of the range of temperature usual for ducks, 
gp u me birds," etc. The common fowls when lifted quietly off their perches at 
night have a temperature of 40.6 C. (105 F.), but when lifted by day from 
nests whereon they are brooding, their temperature averages 41. 7 C. (107 F.). 
From these birds there is another decided advance when we come to the great 
groups of small and excessively active birds such as Sparrows, Warblers, etc., 
their temperature ranging from 42 C. (107.6 F.) to 44 C. (111.2 F.), with an 
average of perhaps 109 F., or fully ten degrees above that of man. 

Feathers. We may now advert to a consideration of the peculiar outer 
covering of birds; namely, the feathers. A normal feather (Fig. i) consists of 
a hollow transparent basal portion called the barrel, or calamus, continuous with 
which is the main shaft, or rachis, which is opaque, roughly quadrangular in 
cross-section, and filled with a pithy substance. The rachis is furrowed along its 
inner surface ; that is, on the side next the body of the bird. From the rachis 
above the barrel arise a " series of lateral branches, the barbs or rami, which in 
turn give rise to the barbules, and these to minute, often hooked processes, the 
barbicels" (Fig. 2). It is by the hooking together of these processes that the 
web is produced and strength is given it to resist or act upon the air. Springing 
from the under side of the feather, in many cases, at the juncture of the barrel 
with the web-bearing portion, is a secondary feather, or aftershaft, as it is called. 


In some birds, as in the Cassowaries and Emeus, the aftershaft is as large as, or 
larger than, the main portion of the feather, while in others it is greatly reduced 
or even absent. 

Not all feathers exhibit as complicated a structure as that above described. 
In many cases the feather is much reduced, as for example in the wing-quill of 
the Cassowary, which consists merely of the stiff, naked stem or rachis. The 
so-called filo plume is another modification of the typical feather, a good example 
of which may be seen on the body of a common fowl after the removal of the 
outer or contour feathers It is to all appearances a slender hair, but in reality 
it is a degenerate feather which has a very short barrel and a thin, hair-like rachis 
with few or no branches. Usually the filoplumes are entirely concealed by the 

contour feathers, although in some birds, 
as the Cormorants, they form tufts of 
plumes on the sides and back of the 
neck which project beyond the outer 
(contour) feathers. A further modifica- 
tion is found in the so-called "downs," 
these being feathers in which there is 
no rachis, the long fluffy branches all 
arising at the top of the barrel: they 
are concealed by the contour feathers. 
In certain birds, such, for example, as 
the Herons, Bitterns, some Hawks, Par- 
rots, Tinamous, etc., the downs are 
aggregated in special patches, called 
" powder-downs," in which the ends are 
continually breaking off into fine, dust- 
like particles. In the Herons, for in- 
stance, the powder-downs form enormous patches, a pair on the breast and 
a pair over the thighs. Their nature is not well understood, although their 
presence may constitute a well-marked character for descriptive purposes. 

Colors of Feathers. The colors of feathers, or their apparent colors, constitute 
an exceedingly interesting phase of this subject. In accordance with the latest 
authorities the colors of feathers may be conveniently classed under three heads. 
The first of these, and the most general, are called chemical or absorption colors, 
since they are due to the presence of distinct coloring-matter. This coloring- 
matter may be in the form of a pigment, or may be a coloring solution, which is 
distributed in or among the cells composing the various parts of the feathers. 
Under this category come black, red, and brown, mostly the orange and yellow, 
but rarely green, and never blue. These colors may be recognized by the fact 
that they do not change under any condition of illumination or the position of the 
eye viewing them, and certain of them, as black, red, and yellow, may be separated 
in a practically pure state by well-known methods of chemical manipulation. 
One of the most interesting, known as turacin, is found in the red feathers of the 
Plantain Eaters (Musophagida). It contains the same chemical elements as 

FIG. i. Feather and aftershaft. 

Colors of Feathers 

those found in black feathers, but with the addition of from 5 to 8 per cent of 
copper, and these birds lose their red color when washed by the rain-, but regain 
it again when dry. The water in which they bathe is said to become reddish. 

The second kind of coloring results from the combination of a pigment with 
certain structural peculiarities, such as ridges and furrows, in the surface of the 
feather itself. Such colors as violet and blue, usually green and sometimes 
yellow, belong under this heading. In transmitted light feathers with these 
colors show only the color of the pigment. "For instance, the deep green or 
blue feathers of a Parrot will thus appear only gray or yellowish. The same 
happens when their polished surface is scratched or crushed ; the blue color 
instantly disappears, showing only the 
blackish underlying pigment, or yellow 
pigment in green feathers. When thor- 
oughly wetted in a bath the feathers of 
the back of an Amazon Parrot appear 
brown without a trace of green." 

The third form of coloring, or apparent 
coloring, includes the exquisitely beautiful 
prismatic or metallic colors, such as those 
found in Hummingbirds, the Birds of 
Paradise, Peacocks, Doves or Pigeons, 
Starlings, Grackles, and very many other 
birds. The manner in which these effects 
are produced has given rise to much spec- 
ulation, and an extensive literature exists 
upon the subject, but even now the ques- 
tion can hardly be considered as definitely settled. The commonly accepted 
hypothesis is that . metallic colors are due entirely to the structure of the 
surface of certain parts of the feathers, such as striae, ridges, knobs, or 
pits, in combination often with extremely thin, transparent, colorless layers, 
these elements, it is asserted, acting as prisms and changing the color as the 
direction of the light and the position of the eye change. Recently Dr. R. M. 
Strong appears to have demonstrated that the above explanation fails to meet 
certain of the physical requirements of the case. In investigating the metallic 
colors of feathers from the sides of the neck of the domestic Pigeon, he failed to 
find striae or other inequalities on the outer surface of the barbules that were 
sufficiently numerous or uniform enough to produce the observed colors by 
diffraction, but he did find that the barbules within the metallic area were strik- 
ingly different from those outside it. Instead of lying vertically, as in the non- 
metallic areas, they are turned so that one side faces upward, thus giving a 
much greater reflecting surface. The dorsal face of these barbules is provided 
with an outer transparent wall which encloses cell-cavities filled with pigment, 
this coloring-matter being in the form of spherical granules in the metallic-colored 
barbules, whereas in the non-metallic-colored areas the granules are of the 

FIG. 2. Two enlarged barbs of a feather, 
showing interlocking barbules and barbicels. 

6 Introduction 

typical rod shape. He therefore concludes that "the metallic colors of these 
feathers are probably thin-plate interference colors or Newton's-rings effects, 
which are produced when spherical pigment granules come in contact with the 
outer transparent layer." The whole subject of coloration is treated at length 
by Newton in his " Dictionary of Birds," to which the reader is referred for 
fuller information. 

/Pterylosis. It is a fact of common observation that in the hair covering of 
^certain mammals, such as the horse, dog, cat, etc., the hairs are set as closely 
together as practically possible, forming a continuous covering. From the fact 
that in most birds, the entire body, except the beak and feet, is ordinarily covered 
by the feathers, it might be inferred that they are as continuously and evenly dis- 

FIGS. 3 and 4. Pterylosis of Nighthawk. 

tributed over the body as are the hairs of mammals. This condition is far from 
true, however, as may be readily demonstrated by plucking the feathers from the 
body of any common bird, when it will be seen that the feathers ar<* only borne 
on certain definite areas or tracts, being ordinarily spread out so as to more or less 
completely cover the body. This peculiarity was noticed and especially empha- 
sized by Nitzsch, a celebrated German ornithologist, some sixty years ago. 

The feather areas he called " feather-forests," or pteryla, and the naked spaces 
apteria, from the Greek, signifying " without feathers." The description of the 
feather distribution in birds is called pterylosis or pterylography. The most 
important of the feather tracts are as follows: A spinal tract which runs down 
the backbone from the nape of the neck to the tail; a ventral tract, which "runs 
from the throat down the front of the neck, and dividing at its base, passes down 
on each side of the breast and abdomen to the inner side of the thighs quite to 
the end of the body"; the humeral tracts, a pair of tracts running across the upper 

Development of Pterylosis 7 

arm, and forming what are called the scapulars; and the femoral tracts, a pair 
of tracts over the thighs. The pterylosis of the Nighthawk is shown in the 
accompanying figures (Figs. 3, 4). 

It has been found that the extent and distribution of the feather tracts and 
bare spaces are relatively very uniform for certain groups of birds, so uniform, in 
fact, that pterylosis was made the basis of an elaborate scheme of classification^ 
of birds by Nitzsch. That it is of diagnostic value in many cases cannot be 
denied, but when relied upon too implicitly it not infrequently leads to what are 
obviously unnatural assemblages. Further than this we are still in ignorance of 
the pterylography of a vast number of birds, for the subject has been largely 
neglected since the time of Nitzsch. When a larger array of facts is at hand it 
may be possible to extend its usefulness. 

The only birds at present known to have a continuous feather covering are the 
Penguins and Screamers, although formerly the Ostriches and their immediate 
allies were supposed to fall within this category. Apteria have long been known 
to occur in the embryos of certain "Ratites," as the Ostrich, Rhea, and Apteryx, 
but recently Pycraft has shown that small but relatively important apteria occur 
in the adults of all members of this group. 

Development of Pterylosis. In a communication before the American 
Ornithologists' Union, November 18, 1903, Dr. Hubert Lyman Clark presented 
some important results of his examination into the development of the pterylosis. 
The material studied consisted of 54 embryos belonging mainly to different 
groups of birds such as Herons, Rails, Sparrows, Woodpeckers, Hummingbirds, 
and Swallows. In every instance he was able to distinguish the outlines of certain 
of the principal feather tracts before the body of the bird had assumed very 
definite form, for example, before the shape of the head could be distinctly 
made out. In all cases examined the caudal tract was the first to be outlined, and 
further the middle pair of tail-feathers was uniformly the first to appear. At this 
stage in the development of the embryo the tail was disproportionately long and 
had the feathers disposed along it in pairs, a condition very suggestive at least 
of the tail of Archseopteryx. As a further interesting result it was shown that 
in the specimens studied the secondaries of the wing were the first to appear, 
thus confirming the result of Pycraft's studies on the development of the Mound- 
Builders (Megapodidce). The primaries were found to be developed distally; 
that is, from the angle of the wing toward the tip. It would seem that characters 
as deep seated as these have been shown to be must have an important bearing 
on the taxonomy of birds when we are in possession of a sufficient body of facts 
to permit of generalization, but, as Dr. Clark pointed out, we do not yet know 
the complete history of the development of the pterylosis of a single species of bird. 

The causes which have led to the development of feather tracts and conse- 
quent bare spaces are not well understood. The suggestion that it is simply 
another example of nature's economy of material seems hardly an adequate one ; 
the explanation advocated by Mr. F. A. Lucas, namely, that it is a case of adapta- 
tion, being decidedly more logical. On this point Mr. Lucas says : "The pterylosis 
of all birds is more or less adaptive, having some direct relation to their habits, 



and this adaptation is well shown in Hummingbirds. The bare tracts on the 
nape and along the throat allow the neck to readily lie against the middle of the 
back, or to bend downward over the points of the breast-bone, while the bare 
spaces under the wings and along the sides of the body permit the wings to be 
easily and closely applied to the body, the sides conforming almost exactly to 
the curve of the edge of the folded wing. The large bare space on the under side, 
found in nearly all birds save the water fowl, is merely to allow the warmth of 


v ... < ;:;-' :::: '" ---. 10 

24 23 

FIG. 5. Topography of a bird. (From Coues's " Key.") 

i, forehead (frons); 2, lore; 3, circumocular region; 4, crown (vertex); 5, eye; 6, hind head (occiput}; 7, nape 
(nucha); 8, hind neck (cervix); 9, side of neck; 10, interscapular region; n, dorsum, or back proper, including 10; 12, 
nolaum, or upper part of body proper, including 10, n, and 13; 13, rump (vropygium); 14, upper tail-coverts; 15, tail; 
16, under tail-coverts; 17, tarsus; 1 8, abdomen; 19, hind toe (hallux); 20, gastrceum, including 18 and 24; 21, outer or 
fourth toe; 22, middle or third toe; 23, side of the body; 24, breast (pectus); 25, primaries; 26, secondaries; 27, tertiaries, 
nos. 25, 26, 27, are all remiges; 28, primary coverts; 29, alula, or bastard wing; 30, greater coverts; 31, median coverts; 
32, lesser coverts; 33, the " throat," including 34, 37, and 38; 34, jugulum, or lower throat; 35. auriculars; 36, malar 
region; 37, gula, or middle throat; 38, mentum, or chin; 39, angle of commissure, or corner of mouth; 40, ramus of under 
mandible; 41, side of under mandible; 42, gonys; 43, apex, or tip of bill; 44, lomia, or cutting edges of the bill; 45, culmen, 
or ridge of upper mandible, corresponding to gonys; 46, side of upper mandible; 47, nostril; 48, passes across the bill a 
little in front of its face. 

the body to be directly applied to the eggs during incubation, and in birds like 
Ducks and Penguins (also Auks), which are densely or completely feathered 
beneath, a bare space is present during the breeding season." 

Renewal of Feather Covering. Although a considerable proportion of the 
feathers in flying birds are relatively strong, especially those of the wings and 
tail, the more or less active life of their owner results sooner or later in the wear 
and often injury of all feathers. The chief of the destructive influences to which 
feathers are subjected are abrasion and fading, the one a mechanical disintegra- 
tion, and the other a chemical decoloration. Besides these there are other minor 
factors, such as " the age of a feather, its position, its structure, its color, and the 

Renewal of Feather Covering o 

habits of the bird." It is thus evident that if a bird were provided with only a 
single set of feathers, they would ultimately become so worn and frayed as to be 
useless, either as a covering for the body or for flight. By a wise provision of 
nature, the entire feathering is renewed at periodic intervals. This renewal 
known as the moult, takes place normally once a year, usually after the arduous 
duties of rearing the young are over ; but there are numerous exceptions to this, 
some birds acquiring two, three, or exceptionally even four, more or less com- 
plete annual changes of plumage, and further, these moult periods " must not be 
confounded with occasional new growth at any time and anywhere to replace 
feathers accidentally torn out." In order that the ordinary activities may not 
be seriously interfered with during the period of moult, there is a distinct relation 
between the feather loss and feather gain, most birds at no time being deprived 
of either the power of flight or the protection afforded the body by the feathers, 
and furthermore this fall and replacement is more or less synchronous from the 
Opposite sides of the body. Thus in probably all of the great group of Passerine 
birds, the moult of the flight feathers begins in the middle of the wings with the 
practically simultaneous fall of the proximal or innermost primary on each side. 
As soon as the old feather has fallen, the new-forming feather pushes into view, 
and grows rapidly, and by the time the expanded portion of the feather itself is 
. breaking from the apex of the follicle the next primary falls, and so the renewal 
by pairs proceeds outwards. With the secondaries the renewal proceeds in the 
opposite direction, that is the outer or distal one on each side falls first, this loss 
being very nearly coincident with the fall of the fifth or sixth primary, and their 
replacement by pairs proceeds towards the body. In some cases, as in Ducks, 
Geese, Swans, and Flamingos, the wing-quills are all shed at once, thus rendering 
the birds practically helpless for a short time, but this is very exceptional. The 
feathers of the tail are also normally renewed in pairs, the central pair falling 
first, followed by the quills next adjacent on either side. The process, however, 
is much more rapid than in the wings, for by the time the outer pair has fallen 
the middle ones are often not half grown. The renewal of the body feathering 
is in less obvious sequence, though " the moult regularly begins at fairly definite 
points in the feather tracts, radiating from them in such manner that the outer 
rows of feathers where the tracts are widest, and their extremities are normally 
the last to be replaced." DWIGHT. 

Renewal of Parts other than Feathers. Although the renewal of the plu- 
mage is the most important event of this kind, the feathers are by no means the 
only part of the integument that is periodically changed. Thus in certain Grouse 
the claws or pectinations along the sides of the toes become greatly lengthened 
in winter and are partially shed or worn down in spring and summer ; the Puffins 
and Auklets shed portions at the base of the bill and around the angle of the 
mouth; the Penguins, or at least the King Penguin, moults the bright orange- 
colored membrane at the base of the bill; the American White Pelican develops 
a curious appendage on the upper mandible which is shed at the close of the nest- 
ing period. These phenomena and others of similar character will be more fully 
described under various forms exhibiting them. 

i o Introduction 

Age of a Feather. After a feather attains its maturity the contents of the 
quill dry up and it is incapable of further development. It becomes, so to speak, 
"dead." A great deal has been written to prove the contrary; namely, that a 
feather may, after it reaches its maturity and does duty for a varying length of 
time, again take on a period of active growth and change. This is to account for 
certain so-called "changes of plumage without moult." But it seems to be now 
settled beyond any reasonable doubt that when a feather completes its growth, 
and the contents of the quill become dry and "lifeless," it can never reinaugurate 
the process. There may be a fading or bleaching, or the outer extremities of the 
feather may be abraded in one manner or another, resulting oftentimes in a 
freshening or brightening of the plumage, as for example in the spring plumage 
of Purple Finches, Crossbills, etc., but this is quite different from a renewed 
growth and repigmentation of the individual feathers. This brightening of the 
plumage in the above-mentioned species was long ago shown to result from the 
fact that the winter feathers have red barbs and gray barbules, and on the latter 
wearing away, the red elements of the feather are exposed. Beyond these rela- 
tively slight changes by abrasion or disintegration of the tips, or by fading, change 
of plumage can only result from moult. 

It is only within the last few years that any extended researches have been 
undertaken in this country with a view of elucidating the sequence of plumages 
and moults in our birds, and while an extensive body of facts has been accumu- 
lated, much still remains unknown. Those who wish to look further into this 
subject should consult the papers mentioned below by Witmer Stone 1 and 
Dr. Jonathan Dwight, Jr. 2 The latter author has placed the terminology of the 
subject on a uniform and logical basis. His scheme will be understood from the 
following tabular arrangement : 


1. Natal (Down). i. Postnatal. 

2. Juvenal ('First plumage'). 2. Postjuvenal. 

3. First winter. 3. First prenuptial. 

4. First nuptial. 4. First postnuptial. 

5. Second or adult winter. 5. Second or adult prenuptial. 

6. Second or adult nuptial. 6. Second or adult postnuptial. 

Nests and Eggs of Birds. A word should perhaps be said in regard to the 
nests and eggs of birds, but in the space at command it can be but the briefest 
outline of a broad and extremely complicated field. It is perhaps unnecessary to 
state that all existing birds, without a known exception, lay eggs. To a casual 
observer, viewing a large collection of birds' eggs, the variation in size, shape, 
color, markings, etc., seems almost infinite. For the differences in size he is 

1 " The Moulting of Birds with Special Reference to the Plumages of the Smaller Land Birds 
of Eastern North America," Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phila., 1896, pp. 105-165. 

2 "The Sequence of Plumages and Moults of the Passerine Birds of New York," Ann. N. Y. 
Acad. Sci., vol. 13, 1900, pp. 73-360, plates 1-7. 

Nests and Eggs of Birds 1 1 

prepared from his knowledge of the known differences in the sizes of birds pro- 
ducing them, yet there are noticeable surprises even in this respect. But the 
attempt to account for the striking differences in shape, color, and markings of 
eggs seems an almost hopeless one, yet such attempts have been made, though, it 
must be confessed, with varying degrees of success. Theoretically we may be 
justified in presuming that the lowest of existing birds, that is those that are 
supposed to approach most closely to their reptilian ancestors, should produce 
eggs or have habits of nidification showing the closest approach to the reptiles. 
An examination of the facts, however, shows that this relationship is capable of 
demonstration to a limited degree only. In the first place, it appears that much 
is still to be learned regarding the oology of existing reptiles. Broadly speaking, 
the eggs of all reptiles are white in color and spherical or ellipsoidal in shape. 
Nothing is at present known regarding the eggs of either the ancient reptilian or 
avian ancestors of our birds, although, as Shufeldt has suggested, it is by no 
means impossible that such remains may sometime be found, especially those of 
the Toothed Birds. Fossil eggs of turtles have been obtained, as well as fossil 
or subfossil eggs of a few species of birds, but they throw little or no light on the 
question at issue. It is, then, from this hypothetical starting-point that all the 
marvelous diversity observable in the eggs of living birds has been developed, 
but the steps by which it has been accomplished are, and must perhaps remain, 
obscure. Natural selection has doubtless played a most important role, though 
the "whys and wherefores" are far from being satisfactorily answered. There 
are certain salient groups of facts that stand out boldly, yet the exceptions are so 
numerous and marked as to prevent establishing any adequate chain of cause 
and effect. Thus practically all birds that nest in holes, such as the Woodpeckers, 
Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, Rollers, Hornbills, Barbets, Puff-birds, Trogons, 
Toucans, Parrots, Parakeets, and Swifts, lay white eggs, yet the coordinate 
groups of Owls, Hummingbirds, and Pigeons, that build an open nest, also lay 
white eggs, while many birds that habitually nest in holes lay spotted or even 
richly colored eggs. Again, it is often possible to trace a marked similarity in 
pattern of coloration throughout nearly all the species of a whole natural family, 
or a large genus, but for which "the conditions of environment offer no explana- 
tion, since it as often occurs in cosmopolitan groups as in those of local distribu- 
tion, and which, in the present state of our knowledge, seems wholly inexplicable." 

Theory of Birds' Nests. So, also, are we without an adequate theory of 
birds' nests. "Why the thousands of species of birds," says Dr. J. A. Allen, 
"build each a peculiar nest, differing more or less in situation and architecture 
from those of all other species, is a question which has yet received no satisfactory 
answer. As a rule the nest, including its location, the materials and manner of 
its constructure, is as distinctive of the species as the number, size, form, and color 
of the eggs, or, in some instances, as any fact in its history, not excepting even the 
details of structure and coloration of the bird itself. Why this is so we can perhaps 
explain when we can satisfactorily account for the diversity of song that is scarcely 
less a scientific characteristic." 

The attempt has been made to explain it on the ground of a connection bet ween 

1 2 Introduction 

the colors of the female and the mode of nidification. That is, according to 
Wallace, "when both sexes are of strikingly gay and conspicuous colors, the nest 
is such as to conceal the sitting bird, while, whenever there is a striking contrast 
of colors, the male being gay and conspicuous and the female dull and obscure, 
the nest is open and 'the sitting bird exposed to view." This condition un- 
doubtedly prevails in many cases, but the exceptions are so numerous and so 
important, that the "theory" fails of adequacy. 




HERE are, broadly speaking, two sets of characters to be found in the 
skeleton of any animal. There are, first, those which bear a direct 
relation to its position in the class of vertebrates, bear witness to its 
origin and relationship, and are shared to a greater or less extent 
by every member of the group to which it belongs. These are termed structural 
or morphological characters. 

There is also another set of characters which are connected with the animal's 
habits or mode of living and are believed to have been acquired during the de- 
velopment of the species, and are called secondary or teleological. It is owing to 

FIG. 6. Wing bones of a Bat. 

FIG. 7. Wing bones of a pterodactyl. 

the fact that the skeleton is influenced by these two great factors that it is possible 
to tell from the skeleton, or even from parts of it, not only what position the animal 
holds in the scale of life, but what were its habits as well. So the modifications 
of a bird's skeleton are primarily morphological, those due to the fact that it is a 
bird, but these are associated with others rendered necessary by the adaptation 


14 The Anatomy of Birds 

of the fore limb for flight and its consequent withdrawal from use in any other 
form of locomotion, or for taking food. And in birds these last so overlay the 
others that the classification of birds is a very difficult matter. This is well 
shown by the long use of the divisions Ratitae and Carinatae, which depended 
mainly on the presence or absence of a keel to the sternum, when this and a 
number of other characters depended upon whether a bird did or did not fly. So 
the structure of a bird's skeleton depends first upon the fact that it is a bird, 
secondarily upon the manner in which it moves about, and thirdly, to a still less 
degree, upon the way it gets its living. Flight in itself is not a distinctive charac- 
ter, for mammals fly to-day, and reptiles, in the shape of pterodactyls, flew 
ages ago, having successfully mastered the problem of flight about the time the 
bird had taken its first lessons in the art. But the manner in which the fore 
limb is modified, the ground plan, so to speak, on which it is built, is a primary 
morphological character and differs in the birds, mammals, and reptiles. 

In the Bat (Fig. 6) the four fin- 
gers of the hand are greatly length- 
ened for the support of the membrane 
forming the wing ; in the flying reptile 
(Fig. 7) the membrane is supported 
wholly by the enormously developed 
fifth or little finger. In the bird the 
bones of the hand are lessened in 
number and peculiarly modified for 
the attachment of feathers which 
form the highest type of wing. 

The general characteristics of a bird's skeleton are lightness, length of neck, 
very decided difference between the fore and hind limbs, and reduction in the 
apparent number of bones of the hand and foot (metacarpals and metatarsals) 
by their fusion with one another. The skull joins the neck by a single condyle 
as in reptiles, and, also as in reptiles, the ankle joint is between the bones of the 
ankle and not between the leg and ankle as in mammals. The jaw is not attached 
to the cranium directly as in mammals, but by a free quadrate as in snakes and 
some extinct reptiles. In existing reptiles other than snakes the quadrate is 
fixed. Many ribs of the chest cavity bear little processes directed upwards and 
backwards, termed uncinate processes, and these are found in all birds save the 
Screamers, although almost wanting in the Secretary bird. Outside the class of 
birds such processes occur only in that curious New Zealand reptile, the Hatteria, 
and, in cartilage only, in Crocodiles. So, in many important particulars the 
skeleton of a bird resembles that of a reptile, and this led Huxley to unite the two 
in a common superclass, Sauropsida. 

This possession of characters in common with reptiles is why it is con- 
sidered that if birds have not been directly derived from reptiles, they have had 
a common origin. From the strong resemblances between birds and dinosaurs 
it was long thought that these reptiles were the parent stock of birds, but this 
theory has been practically abandoned. 

FIG. 8. Wing bones of a Pigeon. 

The Anatomy of Birds 


FIG. 9. Wing bones of a young Ostrich. 


I, II, III, digits; i, 2, 3, metacarpals; a, b, c, carpal bones. 

Professor Seeley has thought that the resemblances between birds and ptero- 
dactyls was more than superficial, but he stands practically alone in this view, 
the most commonly accepted working theory being that birds and dinosaurs have 
had a common ancestry. 

The extent to which the skeleton of a bird is permeated by air usually bears 
a direct and apparent ratio to its mode of life. Thus the Condor and other soar- 
ing birds, such as the Frigate-birds, Cranes, and Screamers, have very lightly 
built skeletons, and Ducks and other 
water fowls have the cavities of the 
long bones filled with marrow, while 
the bones of the strictly aquatic Pen- 
guins are filled with bony tissue. 

That the lightness of the skeleton 
does not necessarily appear in con- 
nection with the power of flight is 
shown by the Hornbills and especially 
by the larger species, for in these birds of heavy, lumbering flight, the air 
penetrates to the very tips of the toes. On the other hand, in birds like the 
Condor and Frigate-bird this pneumaticity, or presence of air in the bones, is 
believed to aid in oxygenizing the blood and in adjusting the air pressure when 
a bird descends rapidly from a great height. It may also be connected with 

lessening the sudden shock that 
takes place when a Gannet or 
Brown Pelican plunges headlong 
into the sea. 

It is usual to commence the 
description of a skeleton with the 
skull, but while the skull is of 
the utmost importance to the 
systematist, it is a complicated 
structure whose topography is by 
no means easy to understand, 
and whose numerous parts bear 
equally numerous and unfamiliar 
technical names. So we may 
slight this, leaving it to be briefly 
described later on, and begin 

with the wings, which, next to the feathers, are the most obvious features of 
a bird. 

The wings of a bird comprise the same parts as the fore limb of a mammal or 
reptile, and save in the hand, we can readily recognize these various parts, the 
upper arm (humcrus), forearm (radius and ulna), wrist, and hand. 

The bones of the fore limb are modified for the support of the large feathers 
forming the wing, the hand being reduced to three fingers, while only two of 
these, those to which the primaries are fastened, are of much use. 

FIG. 10. Wing bones of a young Chicken. (From 
Coues's " Key.") 

A, shoulder; B, elbow; C, wrist or carpus; D, tip of third finger; 
a, humerus; b, ulna; c, radius; d, scapholunar bone; e, cuneiform 
bone; /, g, epiphyses of metacarpal bones /, k, respectively; h, meta- 
carpal and its digit i. 


The Anatomy of Birds 

The wrist of the adult bird, frequently called shoulder, consists of but two 
bones; the part corresponding to the palm of the hand comprises three meta- 
carpals and two carpals solidly fused into one mass, though this can be seen only 
in a very young bird. Following this is a short finger on the front edge of the 
wing bearing the so-called bastard wing, one long central bone and one shorter 
more or less pointed. The stages by which the clawed hand has been trans- 
formed to a wing may be gathered partly from fossils and partly from a study of 
the embryo, but it is not quite certain whether the first finger of a bird, that bear- 
ing the so-called spurious wing, corresponds to the first or second finger of man, 
with the probability in favor of its being the second. The wing bones are 
lengthened or shortened in a pretty direct ratio to the rapidity with which the 
wings are moved, being longest in such sailing birds as the Albatross and 

shortest in the Pigeons and 
Hummingbirds. The short- 
ening is greatest in the 
humerus; for while in the 
Albatross and Frigate-bird 
the upper arm and forearm 
are about equal, in the 
Pigeons the humerus is 
somewhat shorter, and in 
the Hummingbird very 
much shorter, than the 
succeeding bones. This 
relates to the fact that a 

FIG. ii. Wing bones of an embryo Hoactzin. 
K. Parker.) 

(After W. 

Wing bones of an embryo Hoactzin, when the embryo was about half 

ripe for hatching, showing the claw on the first digit, dg 1 ; on the second Ki r H'c wina ic 
digit, dg'; the rudimentary claw on the third digit, <fg 3 ; and the rudiment ' Wing 1 > a, 

of a fourth digit, dg*; h, humerus; r, radius; u, ulna; re, radiale; ue, 
ulnare; i, intermedium; c, centrale; dc l , dc a , distal carpals. 

< v 

shoulder joint representing 

the fulcrum, the muscle the power, the end of the wing the weight. The 
shorter the wing, the easier it is to move it rapidly; the more rapidly it is 
moved, the stronger must it be. The wing of a Condor or Albatross would 
break, were sufficient power applied to move it as fast as that of the Pigeon. 
The rapidity of the wing stroke is also indicated by the development of the 
processes about the inner end of the humerus for the attachment of wing 
muscles, these reaching by far their greatest development in Hummingbirds. 

The wing is supported by the coracoid, a bone abutting on the front of the 
breast-bone and raking forwards and upwards. This bone, represented in the 
higher mammals by a mere process on the shoulder, forms half of the shoulder 
joint in reptiles and also in the Echidna and Platypus, and by far the greater 
part of the shoulder joint in birds, that part of the shoulder blade being much 

In perching birds the coracoid is long and slender, and in birds which soar or 
sail it is shortened and broadened, for it is a rather curious fact that while the 
amount of muscular power employed in flight is much smaller in sailing birds 
than in others, the support for the wing is much more strongly built. In the 

The Anatomy of Birds ij 

Frigate-bird, which is perhaps the most expert bird of flight, the area of wing 
muscle is proportionately smaller than in any other bird, while the wishbone is 
united at its apex with the breast-bone and soldered to the coracoids at the other 
end, thus forming a rigid support for the wing. The shoulder blade is slender and 
as a rule more or less pointed, the Penguins being exceptional in having a broadly 

I expanded scapula, while the Woodpeckers are characterized by having the end 
bent downwards. Attached to the coracoids in front is the wishbone, which 
represents the clavicles or collar bones of other animals. This is usually "U"- 
or " V "-shaped, with the apex near the keel of the sternum or even united with it, 
as in the Stcganopodes. In some Parrots and Toucans the upper portions 
only of the clavicles remain attached to the coracoids, and in the struthious 
birds, save Emeu, clavicles are entirely lacking. In birds of 
prey the clavicles are broadly "U "-shaped and heavily built, 
serving to brace the wings apart, but in the majority of birds 
they are of little structural importance, and in such ad- 
mirable flyers as the Hummers are practically of no use. 

The breast-bone (Fig. 12), sternum, bears a direct relation 
to habits, and to a less extent is valuable in classification. 
While the terms Ratitae and Carinatae, keelless and keeled, are 
convenient in forming a key, and the corresponding condi- 
tions were formerly held of primary importance in classifying 
birds, they have been abandoned by the best anatomists, 
as they do not express the truth. The development of the 
keel of the sternum bears a direct relation to the extent to 
which a bird moves its wings, whether in flight or swimming. 
Birds which do not fly have the keel of the sternum small or 
absent, according as the power of flight has been lost, geologi- 
cally speaking, for a longer or shorter period of time. 

The members of the Auk family fly somewhat heavily, 
owing to the small size of their wings, but as these are used for flying under 
water as well as above it, the breast muscles and sternum are large. For the 
same reason the Penguins, which do not fly at all, have a large sternum, since 
they swim entirely with their wings, presenting in this respect an analogy to the 
eared seals, which swim with their fore limbs. 

The keel of the sternum is very much reduced and the body of the sternum 
greatly shortened in birds which sail, this mode of flight involving the expenditure 
of comparatively little muscular energy. The Albatross has a small breast-bone, 
and the Frigate-bird smaller still, and these birds are those which fly with the 
fewest movements of the wing. On the other hand, birds that fly by strokes of 
the wings have large breast muscles and a correspondingly large sternum, these 
reaching their maximum in the Hummingbirds, whose skeleton when brought up 
to the size of a Pigeon is seen to be very powerfully built. The Pigeon, by the 
way, exhibits the development of the sternal keel for powerful flight. 

The front part of the sternum bears the coracoids ; the ribs are attached to its 
sides, while the body of it supports the viscera. In all water birds the breast-bone, 

FIG. 1 2. Sternum 
of a Guinea Hen, 
seen from in front. 
(After Gegenbaur.) 

crs, crest; c, coracoid 


The Anatomy of Birds 

is long, corresponding to the long bodies of these birds. The hinder portion of 
the breast-bone may be entire, perforated, or notched, the notches being two or 
four in number, reaching their extreme in the fowls in which the body of the ster- 
num is very small and the lateral processes extremely long and slender. 

The front of the breast-bone (Fig. 13) may bear a projecting process, or 
"manubrium," and this may be developed from the inner face of the bone, spina 
internet, or outer, spina externa, at the region of the keel. The manubrium may 
be a spine (Curassows), or low projection (some Owls), while the extreme develop- 
ment is found in the long "Y "-shaped pro- 
cess so characteristic of the Passeres, the ^feHT^ /t.f. 
Woodpeckers coming next in this respect. 
These characters are apparently not asso- 
ciated with any corresponding modifications ^ >a ^" p '' p " 

FIG. 13. Sternum of Sage Grouse, show- 
ing component bones. (After Shufeldt.) 

FIG. 14. Skull of Rhea, dorsal view. (After 

/./, temporal fossa; p.o.p., postorbital process; m.e, 
mesethmoid; l.p, lachrymonasal pillar; /, lachrymal; 
mxp.p, maxillopalatine; n, nasal. 

in the habits of birds, and are, therefore, of great importance in determining 
the affinities of various groups. % 

On either side of the breast-bone are little prominences to which the ribs 
articulate, and in many birds these articulations are found well forward and on 
a triangular-shaped process, termed the costal process. 

The uppermost bone of the leg, the femur, is always short, even in wading 
birds, and usually pneumatic, or permeated by air. The extreme of shortness 
and width is found in the extinct diving bird Hesperornis, in which the femur 
suggests that of a seal. 

The knee-pan, or patella, is usually small, except in such swimming birds as 
Cormorants and the extinct Hesperornis, where the head of the tibia is short, and 
it is largely developed to serve for the attachment of muscles. In Grebes and 
Loons the upper end of the tibia is greatly extended and the knee-pan corre- 
spondingly reduced, appearing as a small splint of bone back of the process. 

The Anatomy of Birds 10 

The tibia is much the larger bone of the lower leg, the fibula being flat and splint- 
like in character, never quite reaching the lower end of the tibia and commonly 
not extending more than two thirds of its length. The length of the tibia is 
related to a bird's habits, being longest in wading birds, coming next in runners, 
and of considerable development in 
swimming birds. 

The foot of a bird never contains dpx 

more than four toes, and there may be 
but two, as in the Ostrich, while the 
three principal metatarsal bones are 
united into one, with which the second 
row of tarsal bones is fused, this form- 
ing the tarsometatarsus, or, as it 






15. Skull of Rhea, ventral view. 


p.pmx, palatine process; par, parasphenoidal rostrum; 
v, vomer; pa, palatine; pt, pterygoid; bt.p, basipterygoid; 
p.p, paraoccipital; ant.b.f, anterior basioccipital fonta- 
nelle; mxp, premaxillary-palatine process. 

FIG. 1 6. Skull of Ptilotis. (After Parker.) 

p.px, palatal process of premaxillary;, pre- 
palatine; mx.p, maxillopalatine plate of maxillary; r, 
vomer; eg, pterygoid; d.px, dentary process of pre- 
maxillary; mx, maxillary; ip.a, interpalatine ridge;, parasphenoid ; epg, epipterygoid hook. 

commonly called, tarsus. The bones corresponding to our heel bone, calca- 
neum, and its neighbor, astragalus, unite with the tibia, so that the ankle joint 
of a bird, like that of reptiles, is between the bones of the ankle, and not as 
in mammals between the leg and ankle. 

The upper end of the tarsus and its relation to the tendons is a fair index to 
the position of its owner, being simplest in Ostriches and other birds undeniably 
low or generalized in character, and more complicated in higher forms, reaching 


The Anatomy of Birds 

its greatest complexity in the perchers, in which the hypotarsus, as it is termed, is 
pierced for the passage of four or five tendons. 

In the Crow, for example, there are four large and one small perforation, in the 
Clamatores but foun, and one of these is closed by cartilage and not by bone; 
in the Picariae there are but one or two tendinal perforations, and in the divers but 
one, so that the specialization of the tendons and that of the tarsus go together. 
The three divisions of the lower end of the tarsus indicate that it is composed 
of three bones, but these bones are clearly shown only in embryos, in young 
Ostriches and in Penguins, where the bones, though united, are plainly indicated 
throughout life, this retaining of a primitive condition being one of the characters 
which has led many good authorities to place the Penguins in a group contrasting 
with all other fan-tailed birds. 1 

The leg attaches to the hip-bone, or pelvis, each half of which is composed 
of the usual three bones, ilium, ischium, and pubis, although these fuse together 
at an early date and show as separate bones only in very young birds. 

In all birds the pubis is directed backwards, and the greater part of the ilium 
lies in front of the hip-joint, this being a point where existing birds differ from 
existing reptiles. In the lower birds, as the Ostriches and Tinamous, the two 
principal bones of the pelvis, the ilium and ischium, are free from one another 
behind, this being a primitive character in which these 
birds resemble reptiles. The Cassowaries are an excep- 
tion in having these bones united. 

In the vast majority of living birds (the Neognathse) 
the ilium and ischium are firmly united. The pubic 
bones, the long, slender, lowermost bones of the pelvis, 
unite posteriorly in the Ostrich, but are free in other 
birds and are frequently widely separated ; they may even 
be nearly lacking, as in Eagles, in which the hinder por- 
tions only remain. The outward flare and generally open 
character of the pelvis below has to do with the question 
of room for the passage of the large and brittle egg. Birds 
that fly much, and especially sailing and soaring birds like 
the Petrels and Frigate-birds, have a broad, short pelvis, 
while in water birds it is long and narrow, much the same condition being 
found in flightless birds which run much. 

The neck vertebrae of birds are peculiar from the character of their articula- 
tions, which are saddle-shaped, concave one way and convex the other, a form 
termed heterocoelous, and one that allows great freedom of movement in both 
planes. Theoretically the ball-and-socket joint permits the greatest amount 
of motion, but in practice this form of joint is usually combined with some 
arrangement which checks its movements. Thus in the snake, while there is 
the utmost freedom of movement from side to side, there is but little play verti- 
cally. The neck of the bird is always long and the vertebrae numerous; this is 

1 Recently described fossils indicate that in the earlier Penguins, the metatarsals were not 
separated to the extent they are in existing species. 

FlG. 17. Right tar- 
sus of Penguin, Apteno- 
dytes pennanti. 

The Anatomy of Birds 21 

necessary in order that the bird may reach all parts of its body with the tip of its 
bill, and secondly, that it may obtain food. Thus long legs and long necks go 
together, or, as in the Sandpipers and Snipe, there is an increase in the length of 
the bill, while Swifts, Swallows, and Goatsuckers, which capture their prey in 
mid-air, have short necks. Swans, which do not dive, have much longer necks 
than diving birds, or Geese, which feed largely on land, The very long neck of 
the Darter is associated with its habit of suddenly straightening the neck and 
impaling fish on its sharp bill. 

Usually the last two neck vertebrae bear free ribs, these being but the lengthen- 
ing and freeing of the long processes running backwards from the sides of the 
front of the vertebrae. That these are really ribs may be readily seen in a young 
Ostrich, in which they are free, but while later on they become united with the 
bodies of the vertebrae, the last two remain free, although they do not reach the 

The thoracic region of a bird, the body proper, usually consists of a com- 
paratively small number of vertebrae bearing long ribs, the foremost of which 
are attached to the sides of the breast-bone. Water fowl, like the Loons, Auks, 
and to a lesser degree Ducks, have the longest bodies, soaring birds the shortest. 
Several of the vertebrae in the center of the series are fused or ankylosed together 
to stiffen the body for flight, a free vertebra or two next the pelvis permitting 
some motion here. 

The sacral vertebrae, or those to which the pelvis is attached, are really but 
two, as in reptiles, or in rare cases three in number, but in front and behind are 
added vertebrae from the back and tail region, the result being a long series of 
vertebrae firmly united in one mass and furnishing ample attachment for the 
pelvis and a firm support for the legs. The number of bones in this synsacrum, 
as it is called, can only be clearly seen in young birds, but there may be from 
twelve to as many as twenty. 

Finally comes the caudal series of free tail vertebrae, which may vary from five 
to as many as ten, the average number being about six, and in all the higher 
birds, or Neognathae, terminating in the flattened urostyle, to which the tail 
feathers are attached. This bone in turn comprises four to six modified sections. 

The skull of a bird, roughly speaking, is divided into two parts, the beak and 
brain case. The beak portion, which is very directly concerned in the getting of 
food, is subject to many and great modifications ; the rear portion, being away 
from direct modifying influences, is less altered, and here the palatal part of the 
skull is of the most importance for purposes of classification, for the less a part 
is subject to outside influences and the less a creature's habits have to do with 
any part of the body, the less, theoretically at least, should that part be subject 
to modification, and the more important it is for use in classification. 

There are two existing types of skull structure by which birds are divided into 
two great groups, the Palaeognathae or Dromaeognathae, including the Ostriches 
and their allies, and the Neognathae, Euornithes, or Eurhipidurae, which comprise 
the vast majority of birds. These types are sharply marked, indicating that at 
the very outset of their career, birds split into these groups, if indeed they may not 

FIG. 18. Anatomical plate. (After Shufeldt.) 

i, skeleton of typical passerine bird, the White-rumped Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus excubitorides); 2, pelvis of 
young Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus); x, ilium; y, ischium; 2, pubis; 3, anterior view of right femur of Sage 
Grouse; 4, anterior view of right tibia and fibula of adult Sage Grouse; 5, tarsometatarsus of adult Sage Grouse; 
6, thoracic and pelvic bones with scapular arch of White-tailed Ptarmigan (Lagopus leucurus) ; 7, foot of young Sage 
Grouse showing free centrale and indications of the three component tarsals. 22 

The Anatomy of Birds 23 

have originated from two distinct types of reptiles. Unfortunately, as previously 
noted, these modifications can be described only in technical language and can 
probably be best understood from a study of the accompanying figures. 

In the dromaeognathous type of skull (Figs. 14, 15), so called because it is 
typically found in Ostriches, the vomer is broad and unites in front with the 
maxillopalatines, while behind it receives the posterior extremities of the pala- 
tines and the anterior ends of the pterygoids, which are thus shut out from 
joining the sphenoid; the sphenoid bears on its sides long basipterygoid pro- 
cesses which give it something of a cruciform shape. In birds with this type of 
skull the quadrate, the bone to which the lower jaw is joined, is rather short and 
clumsy and its articular head is single or but faintly divided into two portions; 
the quadrate is also locked into place by the surrounding bones. In all these 
particulars the dromaeognathine skull more nearly resembles that of a reptile 
than does that of the majority of birds, a point that may be best appreciated by 
comparing the figures. 

In the euornithic type of skull (Fig. 16) the palatines articulate with the 
pterygoids and both touch the sphenoid at their point of junction, and the back 
of the vomer embraces the sphenoid between and above the ends of the palatines. 
The quadrate has two heads and is loosely joined to the cranium. This arrange- 
ment prevails in the majority of birds, and is termed the euornithic type of skull 
because it is characteristic of the Euornithes; it is also called neognathic because 
it is believed to be more recent or newer than the Ostrich style and further 
removed from the reptilian skull. 

Basipterygoid processes may be present, but usually in the form of low facets 
which articulate with projections on the pterygoids and often serve as braces to 
the beak when this is slightly movable, as in Ducks and Parrots. 

The neognathous style of skull is subject ~to several important modifications 
which characterize great natural groups of birds. These are the schizognathous, 
desmognathous, and aegithognathous types, 1 which may be briefly characterized 
as follows : When the vomer is pointed in front and entirely free from the maxillo- 
palatines, and these are free from each other, the skull is termed schizognathous; 
when the maxillopalatines are expanded and fused with each other, the vomer 
being small or absent, the skull is desmognathous; when the vomer is expanded 
in front and free from the maxillopalatines, and these are slender at their point 
of origin and disjoined, the skull is said to be segithognathous. 

The second of these types, the desmognathous, is to some extent a modification 
of the first, brought about by the development of bone in the palatal region which 
binds the various parts together and hides its real structure. Thus desmognath- 
ism occurs in varying degrees in birds obviously closely related, while the trans- 
formation of one type of skull into another is admirably illustrated by the Cor- 
morant. This bird has at first a schizognathous skull, but by the time it takes 

1 Parker applied the term saurognathous to the skulls of Woodpeckers, but in the opinion of 
the writer and others, the modifications found in the skulls of these birds are largely, if not entirely, 
mechanical and depend on the use of the skull as a pick. To a lesser extent and for similar 
reasons some of the features are present in the skull of the Nuthatch. 

24 The Anatomy of Birds 

to the water, growth of bone in the palatal region has converted it into a com- 
pletely desmognathous cranium. 

Two other features remain to be considered in connection with the skull, the 
hyoid, and those modifications of the nasal bones and narial openings termed by 
Garrod holorhinal and schizorhinal. In the holorhinal type the openings are 

FIG. 19. Tongue and hyoid bones of various birds. (After Lucas.) 

a, hyoid of Pewee (Sayornis fuscus) ; b, hyoid of Cormorant (Phalacrocorax wile); c, hyoid of Muscovy Duck 
(Cairina moscliala); d, hyoid of Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) ; e, hyoid of Flicker (Colaptes auralus). All figures 
drawn to the same absolute scale, ch, ceratohyal; bh, basihyal; bb, basibranchial ; cb, ceratobranchial. 

more or less oval, the posterior border curved and lying in advance of the posterior 
ends of the premaxillaries. In the schizorhinal type the openings are more or 
less elongate, with the posterior border angular or slit-like and lying back of the 
posterior ends of the premaxillaries. 

These features are, to some extent, valuable in classification, but by no means 
of the importance at first ascribed to them by Garrod, being one of the many 
emphatic warnings that birds may not be classified by any one set of characters, 
but by the resultant of many. 

The Anatomy of Birds 25 

The beak part of the skull, as just stated, is subject to great modifications 
connected with the taking or manipulation of food, and may be long and slender 
like a probe, broad and flat, or short and strongly made for crushing seeds. The 
extent to which habit and modification may go is shown in the Pelican, Gannet, 
and Cormorant, and in all these diving birds the nostrils are completely filled 
up and the roof of the mouth strengthened by the growth of the bone. 

The Cormorant starts in life with open nostrils, but by the time it is ready to 
take to the water and seek food for itself, the nostrils are completely closed by the 
growth of bone and overlying horny beak. These changes are accompanied by 
others in the bones of the palate by which the structures of this region are entirely 
changed and its real characters obscured. 

The hyoid, all but the front portion, corresponds with the first gill arch of a 
fish and supports and controls the motion of the tongue. The tongue itself is 
built upon the front portion of the hyoid, which is subject to little modification, 
but the extent to which the tongue can be protruded depends on the length of the 
bones of the hinder part. Hence in the Woodpeckers, which use their tongues as 
probes, the hinder parts of the hyoid curl up around the back of the head and 
may even, as in Colaples, pass over and into the nasal chamber nearly to the tip 
of the beak. Thus from bill to toes, not merely the external form of the bird, 
but the underlying skeleton as well, is fashioned to adapt the bird to its surround- 
ings. As William Kitchen Parker used to say, "Adaptation, adaptation is the 
keynote to the structure of a bird." 




HE distribution of life over the globe is known as biogeography. With 
that branch of the subject dealing with the distribution of animals 
(zoogeography) we are of course at present only concerned with 
the distribution of birds. Although earlier attempts had been made 
to correlate certain observed facts of avian distribution, it was not until about 
the middle of the last century that the subject was placed on a logical and scien- 
tific basis. These earlier attempts failed because it was undertaken to delimit 
life areas by degrees of latitude and longitude, or by the lines of political division, 
while in the light of present understanding it needs but a moment's reflection to 
disclose the fact that the distribution of life on the earth must depend upon 
natural causes and conditions, and only occasionally and quite by accident to 
coincide with the political divisions. 

Inasmuch as most birds possess the power of flight, which enables them to 
pass easily and quickly from one area to another, or, within certain limitations, 
even from one hemisphere to another, it might be inferred that their distribution 
would be relatively uniform, but such is far from being the case. If a person 
reasonably familiar with the bird life of eastern North America should journey 
around the world, first crossing this continent, and thence by way of Central 
America through South America, and by way of Polynesia to New Zealand, 
Australia, Asia, Europe, and Africa, he could not fail to be impressed with the 
marked differences in the birds coming under notice. In a few Ceases, such as 
afforded by the pelagic and far- wandering Albatrosses, Petrels, Gulls, Terns, and 
Tropic-birds, he might find the same species at several widely separated points 
in the journey; in many instances he would note the presence of familiar groups, 
as Ducks, Woodpeckers, Kingfishers, Hawks, Owls, but in the vast majority 
of cases the species would be entirely different, while in not a few, whole families 
and orders would appear and disappear in succession. 

It is not always easy to account for the presence or absence of certain genera 
or other groups of birds in this or that part of the world, especially when it 
appears that the conditions of environment in localities whence they are absent 
are apparently similar to those obtaining where they are present, and were it not 
for the aid rendered by geology and paleontology we should often be left without 
an adequate explanation. It is no doubt true that certain groups of birds now 


Causes Affecting Distribution 27 

confined to circumscribed areas could exist as well in other parts of the world 
where climatic and food conditions are practically similar, provided the avenues 
for reaching them were open. For instance, the abundant fresh-water bodies 
of the New World, teeming with fishes and other aquatic life, seem admirably 
adapted to support a varied Kingfisher fauna, and doubtless our Troupials 
(Icterida) could change places with the Old World Starlings (Sturnidce'), or our 
Wood- warblers (Mniotiltida) with the Old World Warblers (SylviidcR). These 
groups, and of course many others could be mentioned, appear to have reached 
their present standing in approximately the same geographical areas they now 
occupy, and long since all land connection between their respective habitats has 
been cut off. 

In the light of geological evidence it is beyond dispute that in the past numer- 
ous large land masses have been many times joined together and many times 
rent asunder. In this way continents as well as lesser land areas have been suc- 
cessively joined and cut off from one another, and each junction has left the way 
open for an exchange of life forms. North and South America have been many 
times severed and united; Australia by a relatively slight subsidence has lost 
New Zealand, and Madagascar was undoubtedly at one time a part of the conti- 
nent of Africa. Both New Zealand and Madagascar were stocked with certain 
animal forms while they retained connection with their parent masses which the 
sea barrier has since prevented from commingling, at least to any great extent. 
The important bearing of these facts on distribution is obvious. 

Another and very important geological event was the glacial epoch. This 
vast ice-mass, sweeping down for hundreds of miles from the pole, profoundly 
modified the life, not only in the area actually covered by the ice, but far beyond 
its actual border. Many forms must have been crushed out of existence, while 
others, enjoying perhaps better means of migration, were pushed before it towards 
the tropics, which resulted in intensifying the struggle for existence in an area 
probably already well stocked. The forms of life from both sources that could not 
readily adapt themselves to the changed conditions were pushed to the wall and 
left little or no trace of their existence. By the recession of the ice, territory was 
gradually reclaimed, which was occupied by the surviving forms, with the ex- 
ception of those typically northern forms remaining permanently stranded in 
southern mountain areas. 

To paleontology we are also indebted for some contributory data regarding 
distribution, for while the fossil remains of birds are not very numerous, they are 
often sufficiently so to show that many groups once enjoyed a much wider dis- 
tribution than now. Paleontology thus makes plainer the possible lines of travel 
by which the descendants of the ancient forms have reached their present loca- 
tions. But this class of facts is far less important than those last considered, for 
the paleontological record is less complete for birds than for almost any other 
group. It is mainly of value in fixing the antiquity and affinities of certain groups, 
and even here it is often distressingly meager. 

Of the causes controlling or influencing distribution it is generally admitted 
that temperature and humidity are the chief factors, and, according to Merriam, 

28 The Geographical Distribution of Birds 

"it has been found in the case of mammals and birds that the effects of tempera- 
ture, estimated numerically, are more than three times greater than the effects 
of humidity upon genera, and many times greater upon the higher groups." 
While there is some 1 difference of opinion as to the exact period during which 
temperature exerts the greatest influence, "there can be but little doubt that for 
both animals and plants it is the season of reproductive activity." 

There are various other factors, aside from those already mentioned, that are 
known to exert a greater or less influence on geographical distribution. The 
character of the soil, which carries with it an effect on the plant and insect life, 
may be mentioned, as well as the mechanical purity of the atmosphere as evidenced 
by the prevalence of fogs, etc. Deforestation, the usual mark of the advent of 
civilization, has quite markedly affected distribution, and the extension of culti- 
vated areas by means of irrigation over lands previously arid has increased the 
habitable areas for some species, and has also resulted in displacing many indige- 
nous forms. Mountain ranges have often been considered to be efficient barriers 
against distribution, and that they have an effect is true, but it is mainly the effect 
of altitude and temperature ; for if conditions are similar on opposite sides of a 
range, they will usually be found inhabited by the same forms, which may have 
reached these positions by passing around the extremities of the mountains or 
by means of passes through them. The real barrier is climate and not mass. 
Thus both sides of the Rocky Mountains as well as the high Sierra in California, 
are found to be inhabited by the same species of birds, and, says Merriam: "The 
great Himalaya has little or no influence in bringing about the really enormous 
differences that exist between the faunas and floras of the plains on its two sides, 
for these dissimilarities are due primarily to the great difference of temperature 
resulting from unequal base level, the Thibetan plateau on the north being several 
thousand feet higher than the plain on the south." 

Oceanic bodies of water have of course a powerful effect on distribution, 
especially of land birds, but even here certain limitations must be borne in mind. 
To purely terrestrial animals the presence of even a moderate width of open water 
may prove an efficient barrier, but to birds, endowed as they are with the power of 
flight, it is less so than might be supposed. The Galapagos Islands lying six 
hundred miles off the coast of Peru have been stocked with an abundant fauna of 
land birds, evidently of South American and West Indian crigin, and the Azores, 
seven hundred miles distant from South Europe, have a fauna of one hundred 
and twenty species and subspecies of birds, all Old World forms, the ranks of 
which are being yearly augmented by fresh arrivals. Within the last fifty years 
the White-eye (Zosterops ccemlescens}, a small passerine bird about the size of our 
Parula Warbler, has crossed over the twelve hundred miles of open water sepa- 
rating Australia from New Zealand, and has extensively and permanently colo- 
nized the latter; the European Widgeon and Ruff have again and again been 
found in the middle and western United States, and the American Catbird has 
been taken in Italy. Examples of this erratic wandering, or apparently regular 
journeying, might be continued almost indefinitely, but enough has been given 
to show that the sea is not an insuperable barrier in all cases. 

New Zealand Region 29 

It has been found possible to divide the land-masses of the world into a 
number of faunal (and floral) areas, each of which is more or less strongly charac- 
terized by the presence or marked absence of certain dominant or peculiar forms 
of life. The failure of early attempts at such delimitation was due, as already 
pointed out, to the effort to make them conform to the lines of political division, 
or to degrees of latitude and longitude ; and while naturalists are even now not 
in accord as to the number of primary divisions that should be recognized, Mr. 
P. L. Sclater was the first to put the subject on a scientific basis by applying to it 
a logical principle. The contention that "convenience, intelligibility, and cus- 
tom should largely guide us" in prescribing life areas has long been discredited, 
for it is now obvious that the mere size of an area can have no real weight so 
long as it is sufficiently characterized. It should not be inferred, however, that 
these life areas, whatever their size and grade, are always sharply circumscribed 
by hard and fast lines ; for while it is possible to define them with considerable 
definiteness in a general way, it rarely happens that a change from one to another 
is abrupt. Perhaps the most notable example of a sharp line of demarcation 
is that passing between the islands of Bali and Lombok and separating the 
Australian and Indian Regions. There is usually an area of greater or less 
width in which there is a commingling of the life forms of adjacent divisions, a 
neutral ground or transition area, as it is called. On the whole, however, it is 
found that these lines correspond quite closely to isothermal lines, or the lines 
of equal temperature. 

Sclater demonstrated that the surface of the globe exhibited six great divi- 
sions, each of which differed in a marked manner from all the rest, though the 
difference was not always equally important. These divisions, which he called 
Regions, are as follows: Palaearctic, Ethiopian, Indian, Australian, Nearctic, 
and Neotropical. For upwards of twenty-five years most writers on the subject 
accepted this classification with little change, though the conviction slowly gained 
ground that the distinction between the fauna of the northern portions of the Old 
and New Worlds was not as pronounced as had been thought. In 1893 Dr. J. A. 
Allen proposed a new classification, denominating the divisions of the first rank 
Realms, while those of second rank were called Regions, those of the third rank 
Provinces, of the fourth rank Subprovinces or Districts, and those of fifth rank 
Faunas. He recognized seven Realms: Arctic, North Temperate, American 
Tropical, Indo-African, South American Temperate, Australian, and Lemurian. 
In the same year Professor Alfred Newton proposed an arrangement which 
retained the number of Regions recognized by Sclater, but their outlines were 
very different. They are as follows: New Zealand, Australian, Neotropical, 
Holarctic, Ethiopian, and Indian, and while in some respects it seems somewhat 
less logical than Dr. Allen's, it is more conveniently followed here. 

The New Zealand Region. There has been considerable discussion as to 
the propriety of considering this as a life area of primary rank, but notwith- 
standing the fact that it is by far the smaller of the areas usually so considered, 
it is sufficiently well characterized to warrant this distinction, and in fact cannot 
well be referred to any other Region. Regarding the matter of size it may be 

30 The Geographical Distribution of Birds 

pointed out that while it is now restricted, if it is considered with relation to its 
dependent islands Norfolk, Lord Howe's, and Kermadec Islands on the 
north, Chatham Islands on the east, and Auckland, Macquarie, and Antipodes 
groups on the south ->- which were once undoubtedly a part of it, it is seen that 
the area is but little short of that of Australia. This New Zealand area was set 
off from Australia by subsidence at a remote period, geologically speaking, and 
has apparently remained continuously separated. As might be supposed, this 
early separation and continuous isolation has resulted in developing or per- 
petuating some very remarkable life forms. It is, or rather was until recently, 
the home of two perfectly distinct orders of birds, the Dinornithiformes, or Moas, 
and their allies, embracing two families, some seven genera, and about thirty 
nominal species, and the A pterygiformes, or Kiwis, of which there are six species. 

The Australian Region. This Region, says Newton, "has but little connec- 
tion with New Zealand and is as trenchantly divided from the Indian, which 
geographically, and possibly geologically, seems to be conterminous with it, by 
the narrow but deep channel that separates the small islands of Bali and Lombok, 
and will be found to determine the boundary between these two distinct Regions." 
Starting with an imaginary line between these two islands, we may trace it north- 
easterly, passing between Borneo and Celebes, and between the Philippines and 
the Pele w group. Thence the line proceeds northward to the vicinity of the Tropic 
of Cancer, and then eastward somewhat indefinitely so as to include the Hawaiian 
Islands, though these are perhaps more North American, but to include all of 
which is commonly called Polynesia, and return so as to encompass the New 
Caledonian Islands and of course Australia proper as well as Tasmania. 

Without going as extensively into the subject as is really warranted, it may be 
stated that the Australian Region is the exclusive home of the order Casuarii- 
formes, comprising the Cassowaries and Emeus, the superfamily Pseudoscines, 
which embraces the families Menuridce (Lyre-birds) and AtrichornithidcB (Scrub- 
birds), and the families Rhinochetid(B(Ka,gu\ Didunculida (Tooth-billed Pigeons), 
Loriidce (Lories), ParadiseidcE (Paradise-birds), and Ptilonorhynchidce (Bower- 
birds). In addition to these the following families are almost peculiar: Meli- 
phagida (Honey-suckers), Campephagida (Cuckoo Shrikes), Artamida (Wood- 
Swallows), CacatuidcB (Cockatoos), and Megapodidce (Mound-builders). As 
it is oftentimes nearly or quite as important to note the groups that are wanting 
in an area as it is to determine those which are present, it may be noted that the 
Australian Region lacks the families Vulturidce, (Vultures), Phasianidce (Pheas- 
ants), and PycnonotidcB (Bulbuls), to which should perhaps be added iheFringilli- 
d<z (True Finches), though the exact relationship of the so-called Australian 
Finches can hardly be considered as settled. The Picidce (Woodpeckers) are 
practically absent, as hardly half a dozen species cross the line into Lombok, 
Celebes, or the Moluccas, but do not occur elsewhere. 

The Neotropical Region. The present Region comprises the whole continent 
of South America as well as Central America and the West Indies, extending as 
far north as the southern line of the Holarctic Region, which will be defined later. 
Although there are no life forms in common between the two last-mentioned 

The Holarctic Region 31 

Regions and the present, there is a certain alliance, as was long ago suggested by 
Professor Huxley, though of quite a different nature from any thus far con- 
sidered. "South America, that is to say the most important part of the Neo- 
tropical Region, retains a greater proportion of the less modified descendants of 
generalized ornithic types than does any other portion of the globe, the two 
Regions before mentioned only excepted." NEWTON. In other words, this area 
appears to have been more or less completely isolated for a very long period of 
time, and as a result a large proportion of the archaic elements have been re- 
tained, albeit in modified form. Among the birds, then, we find a large number 
of peculiar types, including the orders Rheiformes (Rheas) and Crypluriformes 
(Tinamous), and some twenty-seven families or subfamilies, as follows : Procnia- 
tid(E (Swallow-Tanagers), Ccerebida (Honey-Creepers), Zeledoniida (Wren- 
Thrushes), CatamblyrhynchidcB (Plush-capped Finches), Ptilogonatidce (Silky 
Flycatchers), Dulida (Palm Chats), Oxyruncidte (Sharp-bills), Piprida 
(Manakins), Cotingida (Cotingas), Phytotomida (Plant-cutters), Dendrocolap- 
tidce (Wood-Hewers), Formicariida (Ant-birds), Pteroptochida (Tapacolas), 
Rhamphastidce (Toucans), Bucconida (Puff-birds), Galbulida (Jacamars), 
Todida (Todies), Momotidce (Motmots), Steatornithida (Oil-birds), Cracida 
(Curassows), O pisthocomida (Hoactzin), Chionidce (Sheath-bills), Thinoco- 
rida (Seed-snipe), Cariamida (Cariamas), Aramida (Courlans), Psophiida 
(Trumpeters), Eurypygidce (Sun-bitterns), Palamedeidce (Screamers). 

In addition to the above-mentioned peculiar forms the following families are 
mainly Neotropical, only relatively few species crossing the line into the Hoi- 
arctic Region: Icterida (Troupials), Tanagrida (Tanagers), Tyrannida (Tyrant- 
birds), and TrochilidcB (Hummingbirds). 

The Holarctic Region. Notwithstanding the fact that this vast Region is, 
area for area, much larger than all the others combined, it is the most difficult 
to satisfactorily define. Even the outlines are still open to question in many 
places, and can be given only approximately. In the New World the southern 
line of the Holarctic Region has been worked out with considerable detail, being 
in fact the northern line of the tropics. Starting on the Pacific coast, it crosses 
the lower portion of the peninsula of Lower California, thence crossing to the 
Mexican mainland it skirts the mountains and passes over into the Atlantic 
drainage in southern Mexico, when it bends northward to leave the continent in 
extreme southern Texas just above the mouth of the Rio Grande. Crossing the 
Gulf of Mexico, it excludes a portion of southern Florida and the Bermudas and 
touches the z\frican coast about the vicinity of Mogador, where its course is clear, 
for it follows the northern limit of the Great Desert. As regards its extension 
across the Asiatic continent to the Pacific we may accept the recent statement of 
Mr. H. E. Dresser, who supposes it to "run to the northward of the Arabian 
Desert, and including the tableland of Persia, the highlands of Baluchistan, the 
whole of Afghanistan, and the Himalayan Range above about 6000 feet, stretch- 
ing to the south of Tibet, and north of the valley of Yang-tse-kiang as far as the 
Pacific, and then around Corea, and the main islands of Japan." 

The Holarctic Region may be divided into two major areas (denominated 

32 The Geographical Distribution of Birds 

Regions by Sclater), called the Nearctic for that portion embraced in the New 
World, and Palsearctic for the Old World portion. In the entire Nearctic area 
there is but a single peculiar family of birds, the ChamaidcE, or Wren-tits. All 
the other Nearctic families are common to the Neotropical Region or to the 
Palaearctic area or to both. This condition of affairs also prevails in the Palae- 
arctic area, for of the twelve or thirteen hundred species of birds inhabiting it, 
there is not a single family that is absolutely peculiar to it. For the proper 
characterization of this Region we must consider the genera, but the presentation 
of these data in sufficient detail to become intelligible would take us quite beyond 
the limits of the space available. 

The Ethiopian Region. This comprises all of the continent of Africa below 
the northern border of the Great Desert, together with much of Arabia and the 
extreme southern portion of Persia. There is some doubt as to the propriety 
of including the great island of Madagascar, as some naturalists notably 
Dr. Allen would accord it primary rank, and there can be no doubt that it 
possesses some remarkable life forms. The closest affinity of the Ethiopian 
Region appears to be with the Indian Region which touches it on the east, and 
Dr. Allen has combined the two areas as the Indo-African Region. Among the 
many interesting birds at least the following groups are peculiar: Orders Stru- 
thioniformes (Ostriches) and the extinct sEpyornithiformes (Elephant-birds), 
the suborders Gypogerani (Secretary-bird), and Mescenatidce (Mesite), the 
superfamily Scopida (Umbrette), and the families or subfamilies Balcenicipi- 
tidcB (Shoe-bill), MusophagidfB (Plantain-eaters), Leptosomatidce. (Kirumbos), 
Coliida (Colics), Philepiitida (Asitys), Hyposittida (Coral-billed Nuthatch), 
Vangidce (Vanga Shrikes), JErocharida (Helmet-bird). 

The Indian or Oriental Region. This, the last of the six Regions to be 
denned, is bordered by the Ethiopian region on the west, the indefinitely outlined 
Holarctic Region on the north, and the rather sharply circumscribed Australian 
Region on the east. While this Region is the home of a large number of peculiar 
genera and species, there appears to be but a single peculiar family; namely, the 
Eurylamida, or Broad-bills. 



HE sudden appearance of certain familiar birds in spring and their 
disappearance at the close of summer has excited the attention and 
interest of all classes of observers from the earliest times. " The stork 
in the heaven," says the prophet Jeremiah, "knoweth her appointed 
time ; and the turtle and the crane, and the swallow observe the time of their com- 
ing." Much curious speculation has been indulged in to account for this periodic 
appearance and disappearance, one ingenious writer of the early part of the eight- 
eenth century arguing that when the birds leave in the fall they retire to the moon. 
He presumed that they required about two months in passing thither, and that, 
after arriving above the lower regions of the air they will have no occasion for 
food. Concerning the great distance, he adds, "Between the moon and the 
earth, if any shall still remain unsatisfied, I leave only this to his consider- 
ation, whether there may not be some concrete bodies at much less distance 
than the moon, which may be the recesses of these creatures, and serve for little 
else but their entertainment," just as the rocky islands of the sea which he 
says are "of no other manifest use than for sea fowl to rest and breed upon" ! 
Hardly less absurd but wonderfully more persistent has been the notion that 
birds hibernate during the winter in hollow trees, caves, and holes, and, at least 
in the case of Swallows, in the mud at the bottoms of lakes and ponds. Linnaeus 
and Cuvier, as well as a great number of lesser lights, believed that Swallows 
spent the winter in a torpid state in mud, and even as late as 1878 a writer in a 
prominent natural history journal in this country described the finding, in mid- 
winter, of two Swallows in the mud at the bottom of a spring in a logging camp in 
Maine. When taken out they are said to have revived and to have flown about 
in a warm room. For the benefit of those who still hold this view and there 
are such it may be acknowledged that we do not yet know the winter home of 
our Chimney Swift, Bank Swallow, and Cliff Swallow, though it may be added 
that when they return to us in spring they have enjoyed a complete moult, which 
would seem to be a sufficiently severe strain without the addition of a winter 
spent in a state of torpor ! 

These absurd ideas have gradually given way to more rational views, and at 
the present time the whereabouts of a great majority of our birds is known 
accurately for the entire year. Their coming and going on these long journeys 
has been under intelligent, though often desultory, observation for more than a 
century and, although we have learned much, it seems likely that we are hardly 
advanced beyond the borderland of this intricate and fascinating subject. 
t> 33 

34 The Migrations of Birds 

In the first place, it may be well to define briefly certain phases of bird move- 
ment that are often overlooked or confounded with the generally accepted under- 
standing of what migration covers. In the popular mind, and, it may be added, 
this is the correct view, a migratory species is one that regularly resorts to a given 
locality for the purpose of rearing its young, after which both old and young 
retire to some other, often widely different locality, where they pass the time before 
the next breeding season. In all temperate countries the migratory birds may 
be separated along these lines into two classes: first, those which come in spring, 
spend the summer, and retire towards autumn; and second, those which pass 
through in spring to a breeding ground nearer the pole, and in the fall while on 
their journey south. The distinction between these two classes is obviously 
one of degree rather than kind. 

The birds that come to us only in winter, such as Juncos, Snowflakes, Red- 
polls, and Lapland Longspurs, are not usually thought of as migrants, yet it 
requires but a moment's reflection to show that they are strictly so, and this 
leads to the general proposition that most birds throughout the world are con- 
stantly changing their location, but, as the individual is merged in the species, 
it is often difficult to obtain exact data on the subject. Because we see individuals 
of a certain species constantly about us, we call that a resident species, but, as a 
matter of fact, it is more than likely that not the same individuals are continuously 
under observation. 

There is also another class known as occasional visitors, as the Pine Grosbeak 
and Snowy Owl, which may be absent for years, then of a sudden appear in great 
numbers. Their coming is supposed to be the result of a deficient food supply 
in their natural habitat far to the north, but the evidence for this is theoretical 
rather than actual. Hardly to be distinguished from these occasional visitants 
are the sudden incursions of species in a locality in which they have never been 
before known, as when a vast horde of Nutcrackers spread over all Europe in 
1844, or the erratic Sand Grouse, a bird of Central Asia, which has penetrated 
to England. But the climax of this restless and roving tendency in birds is 
reached in the stragglers that now and then are found hundreds, even thousands, 
of miles away from their homes, as when the Old World Skylark is found in 
Greenland and the Bermudas, the American Black-billed Cuckoo in Italy, and 
our Catbird and Brown Thrasher in Europe. While it may not b<* quite logical 
to class all these bird movements under the head of migration, as narrowly defined, 
they are more or less clearly manifestations of the same influences and go to make 
up the sum total of this wonderful ebb and flow of bird life. 

The origin, or perhaps better the origins, of this habit or instinct of bird 
migration is exceedingly obscure. Many theories have been advanced to account 
for it, but perhaps none has yet been offered that explains satisfactorily all its 
multitudinous phases. For instance, it has been suggested that migration is the 
result of the development or acquirement of the power of flight. That flight 
has had much to do in making long extended migrations easily possible no one 
can deny, but that it has been the cause is not logically evident, for certain 
mammals, as the bison and antelope, are to a limited extent migratory, and cer- 

Origins of Migration 35 

tain flightless birds, as the Penguins and the Great Auks, are strictly so, or rather 
were in the case of the latter species which is now extinct. 

According to Mr. F. M. Chapman (" Bird Studies with a Camera," p. 194) 
"the desire for seclusion during the breeding season" is a "good and sufficient 
cause for the origin of bird migration." He applies this theory especially to 
birds nesting in colonies in secluded spots, as the Ipswich Sparrow, which is 
known to nest only on Sable Island, off the Nova Scotia coast, the Gannets (Sula 
bassana), which nest in the western hemisphere only on three islets in the Gulf of 
St. Lawrence, Terns on Muskeget and Penikese, and the Brown Pelicans of the 
Indian River region of eastern Florida. 

This theory may afford an explanation for the migrations of birds that con- 
gregate in such colonies during the breeding season, but it should not be over- 
looked that "survival of the fittest" may have been an equally important factor 
in weeding out those individuals of such colonies that did not seek these secluded 
or isolated localities for breeding sites. These birds may at first have nested in 
scattered situations and have been driven by predatory animals or other causes 
to seek inaccessible locations, and seclusion and isolation may thus have been 
a resultant rather than a cause. It is also difficult to apply this theory to land 
birds. Take, for example, the Warblers of the genus Dendroica. Some species 
barely reach the United States during the nesting season; a few stop in the south- 
ern tier of states; others only reach to southern New England, while the bulk of 
the species press on from northern New England to Hudson Bay. If seclusion 
were the only point aimed at, it would seem that the Warblers which pass farthest 
north to breed could have found it in the mountains of the southern and middle 
states as some now do. Again, certain species, as the Cliff and Barn Swallows, 
Phcebe and Summer Warbler, seek the vicinity of human habitations during 
the nesting season, and, moreover, have greatly increased in numbers since the 
country became thickly settled. 

The theory that is, perhaps, most naturally suggested, and the one that finds 
widest acceptance as explaining the facts, is that migration began in a search for 
food. That is, the food supply becoming short in the vicinity of the home (a 
bird's home is thus assumed to be the place where it rears its young, and may 
therefore be quite different from the locality where it spends the remainder of 
the time) they wandered away in search of food, returning again and again to the 
home vicinity. These journeys were extended farther and farther, the birds re- 
turning each nesting season, undoubtedly oftener at first, to or near the locality 
where they were born. This process went on until their wandering became a 
fixed habit, and finally in the countless generations of birds that have come and 
gone, this habit has been crystallized into what we now call, for want of a better 
term, the instinct of migration. 

This idea has been amplified and extended by Alfred Russel Wallace 
(Nature, X. 459). He supposed that "survival of the fittest" has probably 
exerted a powerful influence in weeding out certain individuals. He supposed 
further that breeding can only be safely accomplished as a rule in a given area, 
and that during a greater part of the rest of the year sufficient food cannot be 

36 The Migrations of Birds 

obtained in that area. "It will follow that those birds which do not leave the 
breeding area at the proper season will suffer, and ultimately become extinct; 
which will also be the fate of those which do not leave the feeding area at the 
proper time." His further argument is ingenious, and, it must be added, extremely 
plausible. He says: "Now, if we suppose that the two areas were (for some re- 
mote ancestor of the existing species) coincident, but by geological and climatic 
changes gradually diverted from each other, we can easily understand how the 
habit of incipient and partial migration at the proper seasons would at last become 
hereditary, and so fixed as to be what we term an instinct." 

It will probably be found, however, if anything like a satisfactory explanation 
can be arrived at, that this habit or instinct has arisen in more than one way, 
but we may appropriately turn from a consideration of theories to a review of 
certain observed facts of migration. 

It is now abundantly established that migration is mostly carried on at night, 
and further mainly during clear nights. Only a comparatively few species, 
such as Ducks, Cranes, certain large Hawks, Swallows, Swifts, and Nighthawks, 
migrate during the daytime, and these, it will be observed, are either rapacious 
birds or mainly those that enjoy such power of rapid flight as to be relatively 
safe from capture. All the vast horde of Warblers, Sparrows, Finches, Fly- 
catchers, Thrushes, and Woodpeckers, as well as many waders and swimmers, 
migrate at night. On clear, still nights during the migrations birds may often 
be heard calling to each other high overhead, and, as will be described later, 
may be actually seen by powerful telescopes. Woods and hedgerows that were 
untenanted one day may become fairly alive with birds at daylight the next 
morning, showing that they have arrived during the night. They remain to 
feed and rest during the day, and, if the weather be favorable, may practically 
all disappear the next night. That they only venture on these journeys during 
clear nights is shown by the fact that on such nights very few birds are killed by 
lighthouses, monuments, or other obstructions, whereas on cloudy or rainy 
nights, especially such as opened clear and later become overcast, thousands of 
birds become confused and dash themselves against these obstructions. Thus 
over 1500 birds have been found dead at the base of the Bartholdi Statue in New 
York harbor in a single morning, and 230 birds of one species Black-poll 
Warblers were killed in a single night (September 30, 1883) by the Fire Island 
light. The Washington monument, although not illuminated at night, causes the 
death of hundreds of birds annually. 

The height above the earth at which migrating birds travel has been made 
the subject of some interesting observations, the first of which appear to have been 
by Mr. W. E. D. Scott, on the night of October 19, 1880, at Princeton, New Jersey. 
In company with a number of visitors he was being shown through the astronomi- 
cal observatory at that place, and after looking at a number of objects through 
the 9|-inch equatorial, they were shown the moon, then a few days past its full 
phase. His attention was at once arrested by numbers of small birds that could 
be more or less plainly seen passing across the field of observation. Most of the 
kinds seen were the smaller land birds, among which were plainly recognized 

Nocturnal Flight of Birds 17 

Warblers, Finches, Woodpeckers, and Blackbirds. He was able to identify 
with much certainty the characteristic undulating flight of the Goldfinch, and 
the broad boat-shaped tail of the Purple Grackle. The flight of the birds noted 
was apparently nearly at right angles to the field of observation, and they were 
passing at the rate of 4^ per minute. As nearly as could be estimated their 
height above the earth was between one and two miles. 

In the following year similar observations were made by Scott and Dr. J. A. 
Allen, but the results were not as striking, only 13 birds passing in any quarter 
of an hour. They were also apparently flying lower than on the first occasion. 

Some years later observations on nocturnal flight were taken up by Mr. Chap- 
man, who spent three hours on the night of September 3, 1887, at Tenafly, New 
Jersey. During this time 362 birds passed across the moon's face. Of these 233 
were computed to be at a height of from 1500 to 15,100 feet, and curiously the 
lowest birds seemed to be flying upward, as though they "had arisen in the imme- 
diate neighborhood and were seeking the proper elevation at which to continue 
their flight, but after that time the line of flight was parallel to the earth's 
surface." He was able to identify positively only comparatively few species, 
such as the Carolina Rail, Grackle, and a large Snipe. 

But perhaps the most satisfactory observations of all were those made also 
by Chapman, who, in company with a number of ornithologists, spent the night 
of September 26, 1891, at the Bartholdi Statue, New York. The weather proved 
to be exceptionably favorable, being clear during the early and later portions of 
the night, with an intermittent rain storm lasting for three hours between. As 
early as eight o'clock the birds began to be seen and heard, but almost simul- 
taneously with the beginning of the rain there occurred a very marked increase 
in the number of birds seen about the light. They came singly, in troops and in 
thousands, were visible for a moment and passed on into the darkness beyond. 
"The birds chirped and called incessantly. Frequently, when few could be seen, 
hundreds were heard passing in the darkness; the air was filled with the lisping 
notes of Warblers, and the mellow whistle of Thrushes, and at no time during the 
night was there perfect silence." 

Later recorded observations were made by Mr. O. G. Libby (Auk, XVI. 140), 
who studied the nocturnal migrations at Madison, Wisconsin, in September, 
1897. His first place of observation was a small' elevation in the vicinity of 
three small lakes, where he undertook to make a record of the number of 
bird calls heard. During the night a total of 3800 calls were recorded. The 
number of calls varied greatly, sometimes running as high as two or three per 
second and again falling to that number per minute. The largest number 
counted was 936. 

From the nature of the data it was manifestly impossible to estimate the 
number of birds represented by these calls, but the effect was impressive in the 
extreme. He says: "Nothing but an actual experience of a similar nature can 
adequately convey the impression produced by such observations. The air 
seemed at times fairly alive with invisible birds as the calls rang out now faintly 
and far away, now sharply and near at hand. All varieties of bird calls came 

38 The Migrations of Birds 

sounding out of the darkness that evening. The harsh squawk of a water bird 
would be followed by the musical chink of the Bobolink. The fine, shrill notes 
of the smaller Sparrows and Warblers were heard only close at hand, but the 
louder ones came from all along the line, east and west. More than once an 
entire flock, distinct by the variety of their calls, came into range and passed out 
of hearing, keeping up their regular formation with the precision of a rapidly 
moving but orderly body of horsemen. The great space of air above swarmed 
with life. Singly or in groups, large and small, or more seldom in a great throng 
the hurrying myriads pressed southward." 

The second station chosen by Mr. Libby was the Washburn Observatory, 
where for three nights he watched the birds passing across the face of the moon. 
During the three nights a total of 583 birds were counted, the largest number in 
any fifteen-minute period being 45. Considerable diversity in the direction of 
flight was noted. Thus up to ten o'clock the prevailing direction was south, but 
after this time the diversity increased, until it reached its maximum between 
twelve and two o'clock, when eight principal points of the compass were repre- 
sented by numbers varying from 3 to 28. However, two thirds of the number 
were still maintaining a southerly direction. 

Libby attempted to estimate roughly the total number of birds that passed 
his point of observation during the three nights, but as he well says, "when one 
recalls the relatively small size of the moon's surface as compared to its path from 
east to west, within the range of vision," the difficulty becomes evident. As nearly 
as could be made out, about 9000 birds were passing per hour, or a grand total 
of 168,000. 

The rate of speed at which birds travel during the migrations, and also at 
other times, has been made the subject of observation, although the results, as 
might be expected from the confusing elements which must enter into such an 
inquiry, are far from complete or satisfactory. If the speed often attained by 
powerful and swift-flying species, such as Ducks, Geese, Swallows, etc., could be 
maintained, it is obvious that the time occupied in migrations would be incon- 
siderable. But, as will be shown later, the maximum speed appears to be rarely 
or never realized at this time. 

Frank Forrester records 90 miles an hour for Ducks, as nojed by telegraph 
from point to point, and an Albatross has been known to cover 3150 miles in 
12 days. The actual distance flown by the latter bird was probably at least 
twice as great, for they rarely fly far in a straight line. 

Some years ago Griffitt made some observations (recorded in The Field, 
Feb. 19, 1887) in a closed gallery on the speed attained by "blue-rock" Pigeons 
and English Pheasants and Partridges. The two first mentioned flew at the rate 
of only 32.8 miles per hour, while the Partridge made but 28.4 miles, and these 
rates were all considerably in excess of what they made in the open. The Carrier 
Pigeon is a rather fast flying bird, yet the average speed is not very great. Thus 
the average made in 18 matches (The Field, Jan. 22, 1887) was only 36 English 
miles an hour, although in two of these trials a speed of about 55 miles was 
maintained for 4 successive hours. In this country the average racing speed is 

Speed of Birds 39 

apparently about 35 miles an hour, although a few exceptionally rapid birds 
have made short distance flight at the rate of from 45 to 52 miles an hour. One 
of the longest recorded flights of a Carrier Pigeon was from Pensacola, Florida, 
to Fall River, Massachusetts, an air-line distance of 1183 miles, made in 15^ days, 
or only about 76 miles a day. 

Herr Gatke, whose observations on Heligoland, a small island in the North 
Sea, extended over a period of fifty years, would give to birds a speed that is 
incredible. For example, the Gray Crows were believed by him to pass over the 
360 miles between Heligoland and Lincolnshire at a rate of 120 miles an hour, 
and Curlews, Godwits, and Plovers are said by him to cross from Heligoland to 
the oyster beds lying to the eastward, a distance of a little more than 4 miles, in 
one minute, or at the astonishing rate of 240 miles an hour. The error in these 
observations, as suggested by Newton ("Dictionary of Birds," p. 566), probably 
lies in the impossibility of identifying the individuals that leave one of the given 
points with those first arriving at the other end of the line. Professor Newton 
also calls attention to the fact that few birds, even Swallows and Quail, fly as fast 
as an express train from whose windows they may be observed. It is a common 
experience, when a train is passing along at no great speed, for various birds to 
be flushed by it, but after flying vigorously for a few hundred yards they quickly 
drop behind. 

But granting that the occasional speed is very considerable, the actual speed 
of most migrating birds appears to be surprisingly low. Observations tending 
to prove this were made some years ago under the direction of Professor W. W. 
Cooke, in the Mississippi Valley. The services of over one hundred observers 
were enlisted, at stations ranging from the Gulf to Manitoba. The date at which 
a certain species was first noted at the most southern point was compared with 
the first appearance of that species at the most northern point; the distance in 
miles between these two stations is then divided by the number of days between 
the observations. Thus the Baltimore Oriole was first seen at Rodney, Missis- 
sippi, April 7, and was not observed at Oak Point, Manitoba, until May 25. The 
distance in a straight line between these two places is 1298 miles, and as it took 
48 days, the average speed was 27 miles a day. The records of fifty-eight species 
for the spring of 1883 gave an average speed of 23 miles a day for an average 
distance of 420 miles, while in the following year a slightly smaller number of 
species gave exactly the same average speed over an average distance of 86 1 
miles. In the case of individual species the results were of much interest. Thus 
the Robin, Cowbird, and Yellowhammer traveled at an average speed of about 
12 miles a day, while the average for the Summer Redbird, Ruby-throated Hum- 
mingbird, and Nighthawk was 28 miles a day. It is, however, necessary to 
take so many things into account in arriving at these conclusions that it is 
easy to see the possibilities of error. For example, meteorological conditions 
play an important part during migrations; a rain storm or an unusually cold spell 
may retard progress for days. Even if the conditions are favorable, it is hardly 
probable that the same individuals migrate for more than a night or two without 
intermission, so that while the species may be making progress the individuals 

40 The Migrations of Birds 

are alternating a night or two of travel with often several days of rest and recuper- 
ation. Again, it was found that most species traveled considerably faster during 
the latter part of the journey than during the first part. Thus six species showed 
an increase of 77 per cent in speed for the northern half of their journey, and the 
same general result was obtained by calculating the average speed of twenty-five 
species separately for each of the different months in which migration is per- 
formed; the average for March being 19 miles, for April 23 miles, and for May 
26 miles a day. The species which are late migrants also move faster than those 
which start earlier and take more time about it. 

The persistence with which birds cling to established lines of travel during 
the migrations is one of the most remarkable facts within the range of bird life, 
and this in not a few cases can only be interpreted in the light of past geological 
conditions. Thus certain species which breed in Europe and spend the winter 
in Africa now cross the Mediterranean at one of the widest points, a seemingly 
needless waste of energy. But soundings between these points have shown that 
the sea for much of the distance is relatively shallow, and that a moderate sub- 
sidence has changed what may have been narrowest to what is now one of the 
broadest points. This subsidence was undoubtedly slow and first resulted in the 
formation of a series of islands and lagoons, and the birds easily passed from 
one island to another, and even after the last bit of land had disappeared they still 
followed the old route established by their remote ancestors. 

Many shore and water birds that spend the breeding season in and about the 
Arctic Circle to the north of Europe and Asia, follow lines of travel during their 
migrations that were undoubtedly established under past continental or oceanic 
conditions. Thus certain species take a circuitous route over what is now a wide 
expanse of open ocean, while others pass far inland through the Russian and 
central European lowlands. Those of the first class are simply still following an 
ancient shore-line, and those of the second class the location of an inland shallow 
sea. In other cases there is little evidence of former land connection, for many 
North American species, even of the smaller land birds, cross the Gulf of Mexico 
at its widest part. 

The Old World Migratory Quail (Coturnix coturnix} is one of the compara- 
tively few migrants among the so-called game birds. During the migrations 
they wander far from places of their birth, reaching South Africa* Persia, and 
India. The individuals inhabiting Great Britain, or at least a part of them, long 
ago established a migration route in a southeasterly direction. When examples 
from Great Britain were introduced into New England, they adapted themselves 
readily to their new surroundings and reared young, but when the season for 
migration arrived the inherited tendency to go in a southeasterly direction asserted 
itself, and, according to Mr. William Palmer, of the U. S. National Museum, 
they all passed out into the broad expanse of the Atlantic and were lost. 

For several decades it has been noted that a few species of birds from western 
Asia have been gradually extending their summer range into northern Scandinavia. 
When these species migrate, instead of going south through central Scandinavia 
or southwest along the coast-line, as do the original Scandinavian residents, 

Migration Routes 41 

they turn back east to the point in Siberia whence they came, before turning 
southward to spend the winter on the borders of India. 

Forty or more species of migratory birds occur as summer residents in the 
Yukon Basin, Alaska. Of these some fourteen species are Pacific coast birds. 
With a single exception they are all thought to reach the upper Yukon by cross- 
ing the Alaskan coast range of mountains. This exception, according to Mr. 
W. H. Osgood, of the U. S. Biological Survey, is the Varied Thrush (Hesperocichla 
ncevia}, which apparently reaches its summer home by going up the coast to the 
lowlands below the mouth of the Yukon, and thence follows this river for 
almost 2000 miles. Equally abundant with it in this summer home is the 
common Snowbird (Junco hyemalis) of the eastern United States, which reaches 
the Yukon Basin by way of the Mississippi Valley. 

Perhaps the longest straight-away flight made during the migrations is ac- 
complished by certain shore and water birds, as the Tattler (Heteractitis incanus), 
Sanderling (Calidris arenaria) t Turnstone (Arenaria interpres), and the Pintail 
and Shoveler Ducks, which nest on islands in the Bering Sea and spend the winter 
in the Fanning and Hawaiian groups, a distance of some 2200 miles. As the 
shore birds above enumerated are probably unable to rest on the surface of the 
water, the entire distance must be accomplished in a single flight. It is difficult 
indeed to see how this line of migration could have been established. Following 
the analogy of the Old World species before mentioned whose path marks an 
ancient shore-line, we might presume that there was at one time a land connec- 
tion, or at least a chain of islands, between the Aleutian and Hawaiian groups, 
but on the contrary the depths of the Pacific are profound between these points, 
and there is not the slightest geological evidence on which to base a former land 
connection. When it is recalled how slight a deviation at the point of departure 
would suffice to throw them to the one side or the other of the Hawaiian Islands, 
the accomplishment is truly marvelous. In the absence of familiar landmarks 
and surrounded by a waste of sky and water, they make their way with the pre- 
cision of a rifle bullet. 

The Plovers, Sandpipers, and kindred species take migratory journeys often 
of extraordinary length. Thus the American Golden Plover (Charadrius domini- 
ons} breeds in Arctic America, some venturing a thousand miles north of the 
Arctic Circle, and migrates through the entire length of North and South America 
to its winter home in Patagonia, and curiously the spring and fall routes are very 
different. After feasting on the crowberry in Labrador they seek the coast of 
Nova Scotia, where they strike straight out to sea, taking a direct course for the 
easternmost islands of the West Indies, and thence to the northeastern coast of 
South America. In spring not one returns by this route, but in March they appear 
in Guatemala and Texas. " April finds their long lines trailing across the prairies 
of the Mississippi Valley; the first of May sees them crossing our northern boun- 
dary, and by the first week in June they reappear in their breeding grounds in 
the frozen North." The little Sanderling just mentioned is almost cosmopolitan 
in distribution, breeding in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions and migrating in the 
New World to Chile and Patagonia, a distance of 8000 miles, and in the 

42 The Migrations of Birds 

Old World along all the shores of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Bartramian 
Sandpiper (Bartramia longicauda) nests from eastern North America to Nova 
Scotia and Alaska, and goes south in winter to southern South America. The 
Solitary Sandpiper (fotanus solitarius) breeds mainly to the north of the United 
States and winters as far south as Brazil and Peru. The Buff-breasted Sandpiper 
(Tryngites subruficollis) rears its young in the Yukon district of Alaska and from 
the interior of British Columbia to the Arctic coast, and journeys in winter well 
into South America. The Turnstone (Arenaria inter pres), a little shore-bird 
about the size of the Song Thrush of Europe, is also cosmopolitan, breeding in 
high northern latitudes and at other times of the year being found along the coast 
of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America to the Straits of Magellan, 
Australia, and the Atlantic and Pacific islands. It is one of the species mentioned 
as making the wonderful flight from islands in the Bering Sea to the Hawaiian 

The Ducks form another interesting group, although their journeys during 
the migrations are not nearly so extended as the birds just mentioned. The 
larger number breed mainly to the north of the United States and many within 
the Arctic Circle. Certain species, as the Eider Duck, only come south in winter 
to the coast of northern Maine, others, as the Old Squaw, may reach the Potomac 
and the Ohio, while most of them, as the Bald-pate, Blue-winged Teal, Pintail, 
Golden-eye, Bufflehead, etc., visit Mexico, Guatemala, northern South America, 
or the West Indies. 

Certain of the familiar birds of lawn, hedgerow, and field, for whose coming 
we watch so anxiously, may claim a moment's attention. The Bobolink, so dear 
to the hearts of the residents of New England, makes his appearance in his sum- 
mer home in May. By the last of July or the first part of August the young are 
reared, the old males have lost their bright dress, and with a musical chink as their 
only note, they start southward. In the region of the Chesapeake they begin to 
congregate in vast flocks, where they are known as Reed-birds, but in a few weeks 
they pass on to the rice fields of the South, to become the dreaded Rice-bird. But 
by October the last one has disappeared, and some by way of Cuba, others by 
way of Central America, where a few may linger, the main body presses onward 
beyond the Amazon into central and southeastern Brazil. On the return journey 
they reach the southern border of the United States in March arTd April. 

The Catbird is found in summer throughout the eastern United States and 
British Provinces, and in winter in the Southern States, Cuba, and middle America 
to Panama. Our common Robin is very erratic in habits of migration. Occa- 
sionally a few may winter in dense swamps as far north as southern Canada and 
Maine, but the majority spend the winter in the Southern States. The Chimney 
Swift is found in summer in eastern North America and thence north to Labrador 
and the fur countries. The winter is spent to the south of the United States. 
Cliff and Barn Swallows, which are found over nearly all North America in 
summer, may penetrate to Brazil, Paraguay, and the W T est Indies in winter. 
The Scarlet Tanager passes the winter in Central America and northern South 
America, and the familiar Indigo-bird may go as far as Panama. 

Sense of Direction in Birds 43 

The great group of Warblers, of which some 70 species are found in the United 
States, has been mentioned before. They are all strongly migratory and mainly 
pass beyond our southern borders in winter, although a few individuals of a 
single species the Yellow-rumped Warbler have been known to winter on 
Cape Cod. Some of them visit the West Indies, but the larger number, after 
rearing their young in the dense coniferous forests of the Hudson Bay region or 
even in Alaska, spend the winter in Mexico, Central America, or northern South 

The Sparrows as a group are also strictly migratory. Quite a number, such as 
the Tree Sparrow (Spizella monticola), Snowflake (Plectra phenax nivalis), and 
Longspur (Cakarius lapponicus], breed far to the north of the United States in 
Arctic districts, and come down in winter into the Northern States or irregularly 
farther south. Many species which breed mainly north of the United States only 
go into the Middle and Southern States during the winter, while a few may reach 
the West Indies, Mexico, Central America, or northern South America. The 
Nighthawk is another example, some individuals spending the summer in Alaska 
and the winter in Patagonia, points separated by over five thousand miles, over 
which they must travel in spring and fall. 

But after having described these migration routes and the wonderful journeys 
over continents and vast oceans, the mystery of mysteries How is it possible 
for the birds to find their way so unerringly ? still remains without a wholly 
satisfactory answer. As in the case of theories propounded to account for the 
origin of migration, so numerous suggestions have been made to explain this 
wonderful faculty. Thus Dr. Von Middendorff, a distinguished naturalist who 
studied exhaustively the migrations in the Russian Empire, suggests that because 
all the spring movements in that country are toward the magnetic pole, the migrat- 
ing bird knows the location of this point and is enabled to direct its course accord- 
ingly. It is perhaps needless to say that this theory is not only unsupported by 
any serious data, but, as has been shown by Baird, is opposed to the facts of 
migration in North America. 

If during the migrations the older and stronger birds always led the way, it 
might be said with plausibility that this faculty is due in large measure to experi- 
ence, but here again the facts are either conflicting or directly opposed to such a 
view, for it seems to have been demonstrated with reasonable certainty that in 
Europe the young birds not only precede the old, during the fall movement, but 
often travel by a wholly different route. In this country, however, observations 
on this point are limited and authorities differ, but the tendency is to believe that 
the old birds do actually lead. Observation is much needed to settle this question. 

In the case of birds migrating over land areas, sight is supposed by some to 
have an all-important function, especially when it is recalled that a bird two miles 
above the earth is surrounded by a horizon line of 90 miles on either side. As 
already shown, they have been observed at a height of three miles, which would 
easily keep them within sight of prominent landmarks, and would even permit 
them to cross considerable bodies of water without entirely losing themselves. 
That they depend to some extent on such landmarks to guide them on their 

44 The Migrations of Birds 

course seems to be shown by the fact that they migrate mainly on clear nights 
and are obliged to seek the earth on the approach of cloudiness and storms. 
But in the case of birds migrating over hundreds or even thousands of miles 
of open water, vision must play an unimportant part. Mobius (Das Ausland, 
August, 1882) suggests that in such cases they may be guided by observing the roll 
of the waves, but while this may be true in a few instances, it cannot possibly 
be so in the majority of cases. As an example of this power of orientation it may 
be mentioned that the members of the Harriman Alaska Expedition went by 
steamer from the island of Unalaska to Bogoslof Island, a distance of some 
60 miles. "A dense fog had shut out every object beyond a hundred yards. 
When the steamer was halfway across, flocks of Murres, returning to Bogoslof 
after long quests for food, began to break through the fog-wall astern, fly parallel 
with the vessel, and disappear in the mists ahead. By chart and compass the 
ship was heading straight for the island; but its course was no more exact than 
that taken by the birds." COOKE. We therefore seem inevitably led to the 
conclusion that birds are possessed of a "sense of direction." This "homing" 
faculty or power of orientation, which is, for example, so strongly developed in 
the Carrier Pigeon, is by no means unique among birds. It is possessed in a 
greater or less degree by many animals, by most savage races of men, and not 
infrequently by individuals among civilized races, more especially those accus- 
tomed to life away from centers of civilization, in forest and on plain, just how 
it is to be explained is difficult to say. Some would give it the dignity of a sixth 
sense and would fix its seat in the semicircular canals of the ear. 



LASSIFICATION is the orderly grouping together of those beings or 
things that have certain characteristics in common. Zoological classi- 
fication, therefore, is the grouping together of animals in accordance 
with their affinities and interrelationships so far as these have been 
ascertained, and consequently avian classification is an attempt to express, as 
nearly as present facts warrant, the lines along which it is supposed the birds have 
been developed. It may be regarded as the higher phase of ornithological study, 
requiring for its successful prosecution the widest knowledge, the keenest discrimi- 
nation, and the most careful interpretation. The only satisfactory manner in 
which such a classification can be graphically displayed is by means of a so-called 
genealogical tree, the trunk and limbs of a tree, as it gradually divides into smaller 
and smaller branches, illustrating well the manner in which groups of birds are 
assumed to have developed, each from an earlier or ancestral stock. It is obvi- 
ously impossible to show this relationship by arranging them in a linear sequence, 
although the exigencies of book making may render such disposition necessary. A 
linear arrangement may go well for a short distance, one group following another 
in an apparently natural succession, but sooner or later a point is reached where 
it is necessary to begin again at the base of another branch or stem, and so in the 
system of classification here adopted it is not necessarily to be presumed that 
each group is always related in equal degree to that which immediately precedes 
or follows it. 

I have already pointed out that, although the Class of Birds is not sharply 
circumscribed by what may be called essential characters, the fact that they 
alone possess an outer covering of feathers makes their recognition easy under 
any and all circumstances. There can never be any doubt in the popular mind 
about the identification of a bird as such, a condition far from being true in many 
other coordinate groups of the animal kingdom. For present purposes, there- 
fore, the Class of Birds may be said to be clearly differentiated, but when we 
come inside the Class a wholly different state of affairs is presented, for there is 
perhaps no group of similar scope in which the members are relatively so uniform 
in structure and appearance as are the birds. Their classification is thus nat- 
urally beset with many difficulties. As Mr. Ridgway well says : " Accepting evo- 
lution as an established fact, and it is difficult to understand how any one who 
has studied the subject seriously can by any possibility believe otherwise, - 
there are no 'hard and fast lines,' no gaps, or 'missing links' in the chain of 


46 The Classification of Birds 

existing animal forms except as they are caused by the extinction of intermediate 
types; therefore there can be no such group as family or genus (or any other for 
that matter) unless it is cut off from other groups by the existence of such a gap; 
because unless thus isolated it cannot be denned, and therefore has no existence 
in fact. These gaps being very unequally distributed, it necessarily follows that 
the groups thus formed are very unequal in value ; sometimes alternate links in 
the chain may be missing; again, several in continuous sequence are gone, while 
occasionally a series of several or even numerous links may be intact. It thus 
happens that some family or generic groups seem very natural and homogeneous, 
because the range of generic or specific variation is not great and there is no near 
approach to the characters of another coordinate group, while others may seem 
very artificial or heterogeneous because among the many generic or specific forms 
none seems to have dropped out, and therefore, however great the range of varia- 
tion in structural details, no division into trenchant groups is practicable, not 
because extreme division would result, but simply because there can be no proper 
definition of groups which do not exist. In short, no group, whether of generic, 
family, or higher rank, can be valid unless it can be defined by characters which 
serve to distinguish it from every other." 

Bearing these limitations in mind, it is not hard to understand the difficulties 
in the way of an acceptable classification of birds, but these obstacles should in 
no wise deter us from the attempt ; nor have they, for the pathway of ornitho- 
logical literature is strewn with them. Hardly any two students will be found 
in agreement in all particulars, and from the primary division of the Class to the 
faintest subspecies there may be almost every shade of opinion. As an example 
of these difficulties of treatment the primary division of the Class may be cited. 
To go no farther back than the promulgation of Huxley's celebrated " Classifica- 
tion of Birds," published in 1867, wherein he divided the Class Aves into three 
principal groups which he denominated Orders: Garrod in 1874 recognized but 
two primary divisions, which he called Suborders, as did Sclater in 1880, although 
neither included the Toothed-birds and their immediate allies. The forms 
admitted under the " Suborders" are also very different in the two latter systems. 
In 1884 Newton adopted the divisions of Huxley, but called them more appro- 
priately Subclasses, while about the same time Reichenow proposed a scheme 
in which, exclusive of the Toothed-birds, he recognized no less* than seven 
primary " Series." The next in order is Stejneger, who in 1884 divided the Class 
into four Subclasses. This number was reduced to two in the scheme of Gadow 
(1888), while Sharpe in 1891 returned to the three divisions of Huxley and 
Newton. Ridgway in 1901, in working out a plan of classification for his " Birds 
of North and Middle America," has found it expedient to adopt, tentatively, the 
two divisions of Gadow. 

Examples of this difference of opinion might be multiplied almost indefinitely, 
but I will take the space for but one more. The Order Passeriformes, or so- 
called higher birds, embraces fully seven thousand species and subspecies, "or 
more than one half of all existing birds." Gadow in his plan for dividing 
them says it is possible to recognize no more than three families in all this vast 

The Classification of Birds 47 

assemblage that will rank with the families of other groups, whereas Sharpe 
recognizes among them forty-nine families. "Surely," as Ridgway says, "be- 
tween these extremes there is ample room for differences of opinion and variety 
of treatment !" 

In attempting to select a scheme of classification to be followed in arranging 
the various parts of this work, I have been presented, so to speak, with the two 
horns of a dilemma. In the first place it is hardly to be presumed that many 
readers will have more than a passing interest in all the intricacies and finer 
problems of bird classification. The external appearance of birds, their habits 
of life and conduct in their multitudinous details, will be, I assume, the main 
points of attraction to most readers. To such any fairly consecutive arrange- 
ment might prove reasonably acceptable, especially when it is recalled that the 
state of the science is not now, nor will it apparently be for many a long year, 
in position to permit anything like a final classification of birds. But, on the 
other hand, it seems neither logical nor just to select an antiquated system when 
it is perhaps as easy to adopt one embodying the results of modern research 
along this line. Therefore the classification which I have finally adopted 
represents, so far as I have been able to make it, an attempt at defining the 
present status of knowledge regarding the affinities within the Class Aves. It 
is in the main the classification of Gadow, but has been modified in several 
minor particulars to accord with the later researches of Pycraft, Beddard, 
D'Arcy-Thompson, Shufeldt, Ridgway, Lucas, and other well-known author- 
ities. That this classification or any other will meet with the approval of all 
systematists is hardly to be expected. I make no special claim for originality; 
it is simply a putting together of facts from many sources in the hope that it 
may prove a fairly acceptable arrangement. 


Class AVES 

Subclass I. ARCH^ORNITHES Archseopteryx 






Order V. CASUARIIFORMES .... Cassowaries and Emeus 



Order VIII. JEPYORNITHIFORMES ... . Elephant-birds 

Order IX. APTERYGIFORMES . . Apteryx 

The Classification of Birds 


Family Spheniscidae 


Suborder COLYMBI 
Family Gaviidae 

Family Podicipedidge 


Family Diomedeidae 
Family Procellariidae 
Family Pelecanoididae 


Family Phaethontidae 
Family Pelecanidae 
Family Phalacrocoracidae 
Family Anhingidse 
Family Sulidae 
Family Fregatidae . 


Family Ardeidae 
Family Cochleariidae 
Family Balaenicipitidae 
Family Scopidae 

Suborder CICONI/E 
Family Ciconiidae . 
Family Ibididae 
Family Plataleidae . 

Superfamily Phoenicopteridae 


Suborder PALAMEDE^ 
Family Palamedeidae 

Suborder ANSERES 
Family Anatidae 


Suborder CATHART^ 
Family Cathartidse 

Family Gypogeranidae . 


Loons and Grebes 


. Grebes 
. Albatrosses and Petrels 


. Petrels 

Diving Petrels 

Stork-like Birds 

. Tropic-birds 




. Gannets 

. Frigate-birds 

. Herons 








Goose-like Birds 


Swans, Geese, and Ducks 
Falcon-like Birds 

. American Vultures 

The Classification of Birds 



. Family Falconidae . 

Family Buteonidae . 


Family Mescenatidae 

Suborder TURNICES 
Family Turnicidae 
Family Pedionomidse 

Suborder GALLI 

Family Megapodidae 
Family Cracidae 
Family Phasianidae 

Family Opisthocomidae 

Family Rallidae 
Family Gruidae 
Family Cariamidre 
Family Otididse 
Family Rhinochetidae . 
Family Eurypygidae 
Family Heliornithidae . 



Suborder LIMICOL^ 
Family Charadriidae 
Family Chionididse 
Family Dromadidae 
Family Glareolidse 
Family Thinocoridae 
Family (Edicnemidae 
Family Jacanidae . 

Suborder LARI 

Family Laridae 
Family Alcidae 


Family Pteroclidae 

. Falcons 
Kites, Ospreys, Eagles, Vultures, Harriers, etc. 

Fowl- like Birds 
Madagascar Kagu or Mesite 

. Bustard Quails, or Hemipodes 
Collared Hemipodes 

Megapodes, or Mound-builders 


Turkeys, Partridges, Quails, Pheasants, etc. 


Crane-like Birds 


Cranes, Courlans, and Trumpeters 
. Cariamas 
. Bustards 



Sun-Grebes or Finfeet 

Plover-like Birds 

Plovers, Snipes, and Curlews 


Crab Plovers 

. Pratincoles and Coursers 




Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers 


Sand Grouse 


The Classification of Birds 

Suborder COLUMB^ 
Family Dididae 
Family Columbidse 

Suborder CUCULI 

Family Cuculiclae . 
Family Musophagidse 

Suborder PSITTACI 

Family Trichoglossidse . 
Family Psittacidse 


Suborder CORACLE 
Family Coraciidae . 
Family Momotidae 
Family Alcedinidae 
Family Meropidae . 
Family Bucerotidae 
Family Upupidas . 

Suborder STRIGES 
Family Strigidae 


Family Steatornithidae . 
Family Podargidse 
Family Caprimulgidge 

Family Trochilidse 
Family Micropodidae 

Suborder COLII 
Family Coliidae 

Suborder TROGONES 

Family Trogonidae . 
Suborder PICI 

Family Galbulidae . 

Family Capitonidse . 

Family Rhamphastidse . 

Family Picidse 


Superfamily Eurylaimidse . 

Dodo and Solitaire 

Cuckoo-like Birds 

. Plantain-eaters 

Nestors, Lories, False Lorikeets, etc. 
Cockatoos and Parrots 

Roller-like Birds 

Kirumbos and Rollers 

Motmots and Todies 



. Hornbills 

. Hoopoes 


. Oil-birds 

. Hummingbirds 




. Trogons 

. Puff-birds and Jacamars 

Barbels and Honey-guides 

. Toucans 

Woodpeckers and Wrynecks 

Sparrow-like Birds 

The Classification of Birds rj 

Superfamily Clamatores 

Family Pittidae Pittas 

Family Philepittidae Asities 

Family Xenicidae Rifleman and New Zealand Wrens 

Family Oxyruncidse . .... Sharp-bills 

Family Tyrannidae . ... Tyrant-birds 

Family Pipridse . .... Manakins 

Family Cotingidae . .... Chatterers 

Family Phytotomidae . ... Plant-cutters 

Family Dendrocolaptidae ...... Wood-Hewers 

Family Furnariidae . ...... Oven-birds 

Family Formicariidae ........ Ant-birds 

Family Conopophagidae Ant-pipits 

Family Pteroptochidae . . . . . . . Tapacolas 

Superfamily Pseudoscines 

Family Menuridae Lyre-birds 

Family Atrichornithidae Scrub-birds 

Superfamily Oscines Singing-birds 

Family Alaudidae ...... . Larks 

Family Motacillidae . . . . . . Wagtails and Pipits 

Family Enicuridae ........ Fork-tails 

Family Timeliidae Babbling Thrushes 

Family Pycnonotidae Bulbuls 

Family Muscicapidae Flycatchers 

Family Turdidae Thrushes 

Family Zeledoniidae Wren-Thrush 

Family Mimidae Mockingbirds 

Family Cinclidae Dippers 

Family Troglodytidae Wrens 

Family Chamaeidae Wren-Tits 

Family Sylviidae Old World Warblers 

Family Regulidae Kinglets 

Family Hirundinidae Swallows 

Family Campephagidae ...... Cuckoo-Shrikes 

Family Dicruridae ........ Drongos 

Family Ampelidaa Waxwings 

Family Ptilogonatidae Silky Flycatchers 

Family Dulidse Palm Chats 

Family Artamidae Wood-Swallows 

Family Vangidae Vanga-Shrikes 

Family Laniidae Shrikes 

Family Prionopidae ....... Wood-Shrikes 

Family Aerocharidae Helmet-birds 

52 The Classification of Birds 

Family Vireonidae ........ Vireos 

Family Sittidae ........ Nuthatches 

Family Hyposittidse Coral-billed Nuthatch 

Family Paridae Titmice 

Family Orjolidae . Orioles 

Family Ptilonorhynchidae ...... Bower-birds 

Family Paradiseidae ...... Birds-of-Paradise 

Family Corvidse Crows and Jays 

Family Sturnidae ........ Starlings 

Family Eulabetidae Glossy Starlings 

Family Meliphagidae ....... Honey-eaters 

Family Zosteropidae ........ White-eyes 

Family Nectariniidse . Sun-birds 

Family Dicaeidae ....... Flower-peckers 

Family Certhiidse Creepers 

Family Crerebiclae Honey-creepers 

Family Drepanididae ..... Hawaiian Honey-creepers 

Family Mniotiltidae ....... Wood- Warblers 

Family Tanagridaa ........ Tanagers 

Family Ploceidae Weaver-birds 

Family Icteridae ........ Troupials 

Family Procniatidse ...... Swallow-Tanagers 

Family Catamblyrhynchidae .... Plush-capped Finches 

Family Fringillidae Finches 



(SUBCLASS Arch&ornithes) 

| EOLOGICAL Occurrence. The oldest bird of which we have any 
knowledge, called the Archaopteryx, or Lizard-tailed bird, the latter 
name from its slender lizard-like but curiously feathered tail, is found 
fossil in the lithographic slates of Solenhofen, Bavaria, where its 
presence was first made known by the discovery in 1861 of the impression of 
a single feather. The existence of a bird in a geological horizon of such rela- 
tively great antiquity as this Upper Jurassic was at first somewhat doubted, 
but a year or two after the first discovery a second specimen, showing much of 
the skeleton, was obtained, and in 1877 another, these being all thus far 
secured. The ex mple found in 1863 is now preserved in the British Museum, 
London, while the last, and as it proves, best example, is in the Berlin Museum. 
These two specimens, which are sometimes regarded as representing two distinct 
species (Archaopteryx lithographica and A. siemensi], supplement each other, 
and from them a fairly complete account may be gleaned of this remarkable 
bird. They have been very minutely studied by many eminent anatomists, as 
becomes their importance in affording almost our only actual knowledge of the 
transition between reptiles and birds. 

Anatomy, Size, etc. The Lizard-tailed bird was apparently about the size 
of our common Crow, being nearly eighteen inches in length. It had appar- 
ently a long, narrow body, while the head was small, pyramidal, nearly flat on 
top, and provided with large openings for the eyes. The upper jaw, and prob- 
ably the lower as well, was provided with numerous teeth, which appear to 
have been set in a groove. There was no beak, for the teeth extended to the 
very tip of the jaw. The backbone consisted of some fifty biconcave vertebrae, 
of which number ten or eleven are regarded as belonging to the neck, a less 
number than is known in any modern bird, the lowest number being thirteen. 
In place of the short, usually solid bones of the tail found in present birds, 
Arch&opteryx had a long, slender tail of about twenty free bones exactly as in 
many reptiles. Certain of these bones, perhaps each of them, supported a pair 
of long tail feathers. These .feathers at present lie at an angle of about thirty 
degrees to the bones of the tail, and as they are pretty closely matted together, it 
is difficult to determine the exact number, some students placing them at twenty 
pairs, and others, as Gadow, as low as twelve pairs; the truth perhaps lies some- 


54 The Archaeopteryx, or Lizard-tailed Bird 

where between these extremes. Present knowledge does not permit a positive 
assertion that the tail could be raised or depressed at will, or the pairs of feathers 
spread or closed, though both conditions might readily have been possible, for 
a very small tendon would have been ample provision for the manipulation of 
these parts without any trace of its presence appearing on the bones. 

ArdicEopteryx had four toes, and the whole leg and foot appeared very much 
like those of an ordinary perching bird, except that the tibia and fibula were 
distinct, as in most reptiles. The anterior limbs, however, are very curiously 
modified. The wings were rather short and rounded very much as in the com- 
mon fowl, but unlike all known birds there were three long, slender fingers on 
each wing, each of which was armed with a hooked, sharp-edged claw. There 
were also relatively large flight feathers, the apparent number being seventeen 
in each wing, six or seven of which were primaries and the rest secondaries, and, 
it may be added, no other bird has so few primaries. In addition to the quills 
there was at least one row of wing-coverts. 

The sternum, or breast-bone, is obscurely preserved and is more or less in 
doubt, some observers claiming that it is not only present but possesses a well- 
defined keel, while others declare that, although much has been written about 
it, nothing is absolutely known. A definite knowledge of this bone would be of 
great assistance in interpreting the probable habits of its owner. The three 
bones of the pelvis, as in most reptiles, are perfectly distinct from one another, 
and a further decidedly reptilian character is found in the absence of the hook- 
like processes of the ribs. 

The covering of the body, aside from the wing and tail feathers, has been 
the subject of much speculation. From the fact that the feathers of tail and 
wings are preserved with such remarkable fidelity, it is argued that, had there 
been a general feather covering, some definite trace of it would remain. As it 
is, the only positive contour feathering seems to be confined to the leg, producing 
apparently a "booted" condition similar to that observed in the Falcons. There 
is also some slight evidence of the presence of a "ruff" about the base of the neck, 
as in the Condor, while the remainder of the body was apparently naked, or pos- 
sibly covered with down or small feathers which disappeared during the decay 
which preceded the entombment. The contention advanced by certain writers 
that the body, aside from the feathering mentioned above, was covered with scales 
is not only absolutely unsupported by fact, but is in the highest degree improbable. 
The length of time that must have intervened in evolving the very perfect wing 
and tail feathers of Archtzopteryx from reptilian scales, if that is whence they 
came, would undoubtedly have been ample for the production of some sort of a 
feather covering for the remainder of the body. 

Probable Habits. With the above facts before us we are perhaps in posi- 
tion to indulge in some fairly reasonable speculation as to the habits of this 
ancient bird. From the presence of a distinctly perching foot it may be inferred 
that a considerable portion of its life was spent in trees, which are known to have 
been abundantly present at that time, and further, that the curious hooked 
fingers were of assistance in climbing about among the branches, as are those of 

Probable Habits 


a young Hoactzin of to-day. On account of the relative slenderness of both 
legs and feet, and to their position far back on the body, Mr. Beddard, a dis- 
tinguished English anatomist, doubts if the Archceopteryx could have stood erect. 
On the ground he thinks it must have assumed a quadrupedal position. In 
support of the opposite view it may be stated that the tips of the wing-quills are 
not worn or injured, as they almost certainly would have been had they habitu- 
ally come in contact with the ground. But this is a point that obviously cannot 
be definitely settled. 

The fact that no openings have been observed for the admission of air into 
the bones has been taken by several writers to militate against flight. This is 
certainly a very unsafe generalization, for, as already pointed out, certain birds, 
as for example the Swallows, that are past masters in the art of flying, have prac- 
tically non-pneumatic bones, while others, as the Ostriches, have the bones 
highly pneumatic, yet cannot fly at all. Although the wings were rather short 
and rounded, the well-developed wing feathers, which appear adequate for the 
support of a bird of this size, seem to indicate beyond reasonable doubt that 
Archceopteryx could fly, though perhaps it was incapable of long-sustained 
flight. The Tinamous furnish an example in point. They have short, rounded 
wings and can fly well for short distances, but soon become exhausted. If we 
possessed a more satisfactory knowledge of the breast-bone, we should be the 
better able to decide regarding the probable power of flight, for if this was actu- 
ally absent or very much reduced in size, it would appear to militate against the 
enjoyment of any great power of aerial locomotion. It may be added, as was 
pointed out by Professor Lydekker, that the slight development of the delto- 
pectoral crest of the humerus apparently indicates at least weak power of flight. 

As to the food of the Arch&opteryx we of course know nothing, but from the 
presence of the numerous distinct and rather sharp teeth it may be inferred that 
these were still of assistance in procuring food, which likely consisted of animals 
of some kind. But this is largely speculation. 

All things considered, Archceopteryx was a most remarkable animal. While 
it possessed numerous points of structure unmistakably similar to those of 
reptiles, it was, on the whole, much nearer to the birds than to the reptiles. 
It is clearly a connecting link between the two classes, and yet we are undoubt- 
edly still very far from the original point where the branch was made from the 
reptilian stem. Indeed, the reptiles as we know them may be very unlike what 
they were when the division occurred which ended in Archceopteryx on the one 
hand and modern reptiles on the other. In any event it must have taken a very 
long period of time for the development of such distinctly bird-like feet and 
featners. Arch&opteryx is well entitled to be placed in a Subclass, opposed to 
all other known birds. 

In 1 88 1 Professor O. C. Marsh described, under the name of Laopteryx prisons, a crushed and 
broken skull and a single detached tooth that may or may not have belonged to it, from the Jurassic 
beds of Wyoming. This has been supposed to be the skull of a bird, and, for no other reason than 
that it is found in beds of similar geological age, has sometimes been placed in the Subclass with 
Archaopteryx. It now seems more than likely that it will be proved to belong to the reptiles, and 
in any case too little is known of its structure to definitely associate it with Archaopteryx. 



(SUBCLASS Neornithes) 
(Orders Hesperornithiformes and Ichthyornithiformes) 

\ N point of time the next birds of which we have any knowledge, in the 
line of evolution between the Lizard-tailed birds and those of the pres- 
ent, are the so-called American Toothed-birds, the remains of which 
came to light some thirty or more years ago in the Cretaceous rocks of 
western Kansas. If it is true, as has been stated, that the bird-like elements in Ar- 
chaopteryx amount to three fourths, and the reptilian features to no more than one 
fourth, of its make-up, then the Toothed-birds, although presenting a number of 
anomalous characters, are perhaps entitled to be called nine tenths "bird, "for they 
exhibit a very distinct advance over the Lizard-tailed birds, which brings them in 
some respects quite close to if not indeed fully abreast of modern birds, and this 
be it remembered at a time so remote as the Cretaceous period. As the name 
implies, their most marked characteristic is the possession of distinct teeth, a 
character which they share in common with the Archaopteryx, but which sharply 
distinguishes them from all other known birds, either fossil or living. The man- 
ner in which the teeth are implanted in the jaw, as well as modifications of the 
skeleton which have resulted from very different modes of life, serve as a basis 
for dividing the Toothed-birds into very distinct groups which are thought to be 
of sufficient importance to rank as separate orders. 

Hesperornis. The first of these orders to be considered is typified by what 
has been named the Hesperornis, signifying literally "western bird," since at 
the time of its discovery the locality where it was found was beyond the western 
limits of extensive settlement. Hesperornis was a flightless, swimming and 
diving bird of great size, its length being nearly four feet. The skull was rela- 
tively small, while the bill or jaw was very long and slender, with its rami or 
branches united in front by a ligament only, and the component bones free from 
one another, as in reptiles. The teeth, which were replaced by a new one grow- 
ing inside of and ultimately absorbing and pushing off the old one, are set in a 
continuous groove, and fill the lower mandible quite to the tip, while in the 
upper mandible they are confined to the basal portion or maxilla. The long and 
slender neck is made up of some seventeen saddle-shaped vertebrae, and was 
doubtless capable of rapid flexure and was thus of assistance in securing its 
prey. The wing was very much reduced, being represented by the humerus 
only, and was probably concealed beneath the skin or in any event among the 




feathers. Without going into a complete description of the shoulder girdle it 
may be said that its elements, as interpreted in the light of recent material, 
make it very similar to the arrangement found in recent birds and not nearly 
so similar to the reptiles as was formerly supposed, and further, the struthious 
characters are also decidedly less apparent than was believed. The body or 
pelvis was greatly compressed, while the legs and feet present some anomalous 
features. The femur was short and stout, the tibia very long and slender 

FlG. 20. Hesperornis regalis. Skeleton in U. S. National Museum from which the restoration 
(Fig. 21) was made. Sternum and two anterior cervicals supplied by restoration. (Lucas.) 

although somewhat pneumatic, the fibula slender, about three fourths the length 
of the tibia, and united to it by a cartilage only, while the metatarsus was rela- 
tively short and stout. The feet were four-toed, the outer toe being much the 
largest, and nearly twice the length of the third toe. Mr. F. A. Lucas was the 
first to call attention to the fact that the legs of Hesperornis were directed out- 
ward almost at right angles to the body, instead of downwards as in other birds, 
and that apparently they were naturally moved together like a pair of oars. 
There is also evidence to show that the toes were webbed as in the Grebes. This 
peculiar arrangement of the legs, combined with the almost total absence of 
wings, must have made this bird practically helpless on land, to which it doubt- 
less resorted as rarely as possible, and then only for nesting purposes. 

The American Toothed-birds 

Some years ago Professor Williston discovered a fragmentary specimen 
which he thinks represents the plumage of Hesperornis, and if this is correct, 
it was covered with long, fluffy, hair-like feathers, which has been taken as another 
indication of its relationship with the Ostrich-like birds. This sort of plumage 
is seemingly but a poor adaptation for aquatic life, yet it is not wholly without 
parallel among recent birds, such for example as the Snake-birds (Anhinga), 
which are covered with a very loose and easily water-soaked feathering. 

The life habits as interpreted by the structure, indicate that Hesperornis 
was carnivorous, feeding doubtless upon the fishes and other aquatic life that 

FIG. 21. Restoration of the great toothed diver of the Cretaceous, Hesperornis, by Gleeson. 
(From Lucas's "Animals of the Past," by permission of the publishers, McClure, Phillips & Co.) 

is known to have been abundantly present in the Cretaceous seas. Its narrow 
body and powerful legs and webbed toes point to its having been an expert 
swimmer and diver, enabling it to overtake its finny prey, in which it was 
assisted also by its long flexuous neck and numerous sharp, backward-pointing 

As might be supposed the relationship of this remarkable bird has been the 
subject of much discussion and not a little difference of opinion, and so long as 
certain important parts of the skeleton remain unknown, its exact position must 
remain open to more or less question. It was at first regarded as a carnivorous, 
swimming Ostrich, but as already suggested, the structure does not at all bear 
out the claim of its struthious affinity, and moreover, as there is no authentic 
trace of the presence of the Ostrich in North America, this may be dismissed 
at once (cf. p. 63). By many it is regarded as being closely allied to, if not indeed 
the direct ancestor of, the Loons and Grebes, but as Mr. Lucas has very clearly 
shown, those portions of the skeleton which are thought to indicate kinship with 
the Loons and Grebes are only similarities of structure which have resulted from 

Ichthyornis eg 

similarity of habits. And, as he has further pointed out, the anomalous con- 
dition would be presented of placing the strong-flying Loons and Grebes in the 
direct line of descent from a flightless bird, which would be "quite out of the 
question." All things considered it would appear that Hesperornis was in many 
respects a very highly specialized type which has been blotted out without 
leaving any close relatives among living birds. 

Other Forms. In the same beds with Hesperornis regalis, the form above 
mentioned, two additional 
species of Hesperornis were 
described, one of which has 
recently been removed as 
the type of a new genus 
(Hargeria), and another 
wholly different flightless 
swimming bird known as 
Baptornis, or the "plung- 
ing bird," in allusion to 
its probable diving habits. 
These are all imperfectly 
known, and a full descrip- 
tion may be omitted. 

Ichthyornis. The 
second order of Toothed- 
birds (the Ichthyornithi- 
formes) differs essentially 
from the first, as already 
mentioned, in having the 
numerous teeth implanted 
in distinct sockets. They 
take their name from Ichthy- 
ornis, the principal genus, 
which signifies "fish bird," 
from the fact that the ver- 
tebrae are of the same shape 
as in fishes. Although a 

dozen or more nominal species have been described, disposed among five 
more or less tentative genera, the group is still imperfectly understood. Of 
the various members Ichthyornis victor is best known and may be selected 
for brief description. It was a much smaller bird than Hesperornis, being 
about the size of a common Pigeon, and was clearly a very powerful flyer. 
The head was relatively much larger than in Hesperornis, but the disposi- 
tion of the teeth was the same in both, and the component parts of the 
mandibles were likewise distinct. The teeth were all sharp and pointed, 
more or less compressed, and strongly recurved, and were placed vertically as 
in the crocodiles and certain extinct lizards. The exact number of vertebrae 

FlG. 22. Ichthyornis victor, a Cretaceous Toothed-bird of 
flight, natural size. (Restored by Maish.) 

60 The American Toothed-birds 

in the neck is not known, but from the large number found it is presumed that 
they were numerous, and that the neck was relatively long and slender. The 
undoubted strong power of flight enjoyed by Ichthyornis is well indicated by 
the shoulder girdle and wings, these conforming strictly to the type seen in 
strongly keeled living oirds, and as has been said, "might have been used by some 
existing birds with strong powers of flight." The legs and feet are of small size 
and present no particular features that may not be observed in modern flying 
birds. The following account of the probable mode of life and habits of Ich- 
thyornis is from Marsh, the original describer of the bird: "The sharp cutting 
teeth of Ichthyornis prove, beyond a doubt, that it was carnivorous; its great 
power of flight, long jaws, and its recurved teeth suggest, moreover, that it cap- 
tured its prey alive. Its food was probably fishes, as their remains are found in 
great abundance mingled with those of Ichthyornis. These fossils occur in the 
bed of the old Cretaceous ocean in which Hesperornis swam. Both of these 
birds were clearly aquatic in habit, as shown by various points in their structure, 
and the conditions under which their remains were deposited. In many respects, 
Ichthyornis probably resembled the modern Terns in its mode of life. The 
powerful feet and wings suggest similar habits in flight and rest." 

The affinities of Ichthyornis are almost as much in question as those of Hes- 
perornis. By some it is regarded as being nearest to the Terns and especially 
the Skimmers, by others it is relegated to the vicinity of the Storks and Plovers, 
while still others would place it between the Ducks and Accipitres. The truth 
of the matter is its structure is still too imperfectly known to venture a positive 
opinion, and even if we were familiar with all the details of its anatomy, it is 
probable that its direct relationship with modern birds would still be as difficult 
to establish, for it appears to have belonged, together with its allies, the other 
Toothed-birds, to a group that represents one link in the chain of succession 
between reptiles and present birds. 



(Order Struthioniformes) 

T is perhaps needless to say that the Ostriches are the largest of existing 
"birds, a fully matured individual standing some eight feet in height and 
weighing quite three hundred pounds. But aside from preponderat- 
ing size and weight they are readily separable from all other birds by 
the possession of a number of marked characters, the most important of which 
is the fact that they alone have but two toes the third and fourth. They have 
a short, broad, and somewhat flattened bill opening to under the eyes, with the 
tip strong, rounded, and overtopping the lower mandible, while the oval nostrils 
are placed in a membranous groove near the middle. The whole head is relatively 
very small and the neck relatively very long, while the wings are short, imperfectly 
developed, and provided with long, soft plumes, and the tail is also short and com- 
posed of curved, drooping plumes; all feathers are without an aftershaft. The 
legs are very strong and covered in front near the toes with transverse scales. 
The toes are short but very thick and strong, and provided with short, stunted 
nails, though that of the outer toe is commonly absent. Another character of 
importance is that in the adult the head, neck, and legs are destitute of feathers. 
Species. The question as to whether the Ostriches shall be regarded as 
constituting a single species, or some three or four, is apparently still somewhat 
an open one, some ornithologists recognizing but one, which, however, is divided 
into several geographic races, while others would consider the differences suffi- 
cient to rank them as separate species. Be this as it may, the differences are 
but slight and the habits of the birds practically the same. Thus the Ostrich 
(Struthio camelus), found in the Soudan, Arabia, and southern Palestine, has the 
naked skin of the neck, head, and legs bright flesh-colored, and the eggs pro- 
duced by this bird are smooth. In the birds inhabiting Somaliland (S. molyb- 
dophanes], the skin of the naked portions is bluish gray in color, while the Ostrich 
of South Africa (S. australis] has this skin lead-gray or even white-gray. In 
both of these last-mentioned forms the egg-shells are provided with large, deep 
pits of a dark purplish color. More recently the form inhabiting Masailand 
(S. massaicus] has been separated. 

As might be presumed from their arge size and imposing presence, the 
Ostrich, or Camel-bird, as it was often called, has attracted attention and interest 
from very ancient times, a fact attested not only by monuments and inscriptions, 
but by the abundant mention in the works of Aristotle, Pliny, Xenophon, and 



The Ostriches 

others, as well as in the Bible. It would perhaps be of interest, did space permit, 
to quote from some of these ancient sources, but we may only mention that 

FIG. 23. North African Ostrich, Struthio camelus. 

Pliny, following Aristotle, fell into the error of supposing that the Ostrich was 
part bird and part quadruped. He says: " This bird exceeds in height a man 
sitting on horseback, and can surpass him in swiftness, as wings have been given 

Distribution and Habits 6-2 

it to aid it in running; in other respects Ostriches cannot be considered as birds, 
and do not raise themselves from the ground. They have cloven talons, very 
similar to the hoof of the stag; with these they fight, and they also employ them 
for seizing stones for the purpose of throwing at those who pursue them." 

Distribution. At the present time the Ostrich appears to be confined to 
certain of the desert portions of Africa as well as similar areas in Arabia and 
southern Palestine, but there is abundant evidence to show that within historic 
times it enjoyed a far more extensive range which included portions of Syria, 
Mesopotamia, eastern Persia, and perhaps Baluchistan, and in recent geologic 
time (Pliocene) it enjoyed a still wider distribution, since fossil remains of 
Ostriches, or at least of certain large two-toed birds very near of kin to them, 
or their eggs, have been found in the Sivalik Hills in India, the Province of 
Cherson in southeastern Russia, northern China, the island of Samos, etc. The 
presence of a large Ostrich-like bird in western North America has also been 
reported by Cope, but this determination rests on a single fragmentary bone, 
and is thought by later paleontologists to be open to grave question. There 
can be no doubt, however, that the range of the Ostrich has been undergoing 
a contraction for a very long period of time, and unfortunately this process seems 
to be going on at the present day, for countries where it was once reasonably 
abundant now know it no more or but rarely. The main stronghold is of course 
the Dark Continent, and there it will undoubtedly linger for a long time, but as 
this vast area comes gradually under the dominion of at least semi-civilization, 
the Ostrich must of necessity give way. However, there is probably no danger 
of its disappearing utterly, at least so long as the votaries of fashion call for its 
plumes, for, as will be recounted later, it is now extensively "farmed." 

Habits. It is of course well known that the Ostrich is mainly an inhabitant 
of the desert, preferring the dry, sandy wastes, but not altogether shunning the 
valleys and plains that are studded with scattered low bushes, its commanding 
stature and long neck permitting it uninterrupted vision in all directions. It 
is an extremely wary bird, distrustful of all suspicious objects and especially 
of the presence of man, though it may often be seen in close proximity to herds 
of zebras, quaggas, giraffes, antelopes, and other quadrupeds. It is a very 
nervous, restless bird, continually on the move, especially during the daytime, 
and fleeing at the slightest approach of danger, its proverbial foolishness in 
hiding its head in the sand and thereby supposing that it was effectually con- 
cealed being now relegated to the limbo of myths along with dozens of others 
that have been illumined by the cold facts of science and truth. The Ostrich 
is gregarious, going about in small parties of from three or four up to a dozen or 
twenty, and exceptionally as many as fifty have been noted in company. Dur- 
ing the breeding season the male is polygamous, consorting with some three, 
four, or five females which are acquired by blandishment or by fierce battles 
with rivals. The nest is very simple, being merely a slight hollow scratched in 
the sand, and all the females of a party lay in the same nest. There appears 
to be some uncertainty as to the usual number of eggs laid, but as many as thirty 
have not infrequently been recorded, and ordinarily there are a number scattered 

64 The Ostriches 

about the vicinity of the nest which are not incubated, but are said to be used as 
food for the young chicks. The male performs almost the entire duty of incuba- 
tion, being occasionally relieved by the females for short periods during the 
day, and occasionally when the sun is very hot the eggs are simply covered with 
warm sand, though l this latter is perhaps as much for the purpose of keeping 
marauders away as for its warmth. The eggs hatch in some six or seven weeks, 
the chicks running about freely at birth and accompanying their parents, who 
are very solicitous for their safety, the male often trying to draw away pursuers by 
counterfeiting lameness or wounds. Thus Mr. Andersson describes graphically 
a family party that he once saw near Lake Ngami, which consisted of a male, 
female, and about twenty chicks the size of common barn-yard fowls. Finding 
it impossible to escape, the male "at once slackened his pace and diverged some- 
what from his course; he again increased his speed, and with wings drooping 
so as to almost touch the ground, he hovered round us, now in wide circles and 
then decreasing the circumference till he came almost within pistol-shot, when 
he abruptly threw himself on the ground and struggled desperately to regain his 
legs, like a bird that had been badly wounded; having previously fired at him, 
I really thought he was disabled, and made quickly towards him; but this was 
only a ruse on his part, for on my nearer approach he slowly rose and began to 
run in an opposite direction from that of the female, who, by this time was con- 
siderably ahead with her charge." The young Ostriches are said to be remark- 
ably silent, but the old birds and especially the males have a hoarse, mournful 
cry, which is likened by some to the roar of the lion, and by others to the lowing 
of an ox. 

The omnivorous diet of the Ostrich is proverbial, though in a state of nature 
they are perhaps not more diversified in their choice of food than many other birds. 
They feed on herbage, seeds, fruits, berries, etc., varied with occasional insects, 
small mammals, birds, lizards, and snakes, but in captivity they will eat almost 
anything that can be swallowed, not infrequently taking substances that may 
cause their death. While they are capable of existing for long periods without 
water, they drink regularly whenever opportunity offers, and by some observers 
they are said to be fond of bathing, especially in very hot weather, when they 
may wade into a lake or even into the sea until only the head protrudes. They 
are very fond of salt, a certain amount of which seems to be essential to 

The fleetness of the Ostrich is also proverbial, it being perhaps the most 
rapid terrestrial animal in the world. A single stride is said to approximate 
twenty-five feet or more, and it often attains when it first sets out a speed of sixty 
miles an hour, and can thus easily outrun the swiftest of its four-footed companions ; 
indeed nothing would be able to overtake it were it not for its silly habit of run- 
ning in a circle. The latter peculiarity is often taken advantage of to effect 
their capture, the hunter on a swift horse simply riding the arc of the circle and 
thus approaching them. Other methods of capture consist of following them with 
fresh relays of horses or camels until they fall exhausted, in drawing a continu- 
ally narrowing cordon about them, or in urging them into skilfully concealed 

Ostrich Farming 65 

pitfalls, while the Bushmen, "concealed in the sand or disguised in skins, shoot 
them with poisoned arrows." 

Ostrich Farming. As a matter of fact, probably few if any wild Ostriches 
are now killed for their feathers since it has been discovered that they can be 
domesticated and a superior quality of plumes produced. The first attempts 
at domesticating the Ostrich were made in South Africa about 1864, but these were 
not entirely successful until several years later, or about 1867. Within less than 
twenty years the industry had grown to such proportions that $40,000,000 of 
capital was employed, and the annual income exceeded $5,000,000. In 1891 
a rather careful census showed the presence in South Africa of 154,880 tame birds, 
which number had risen in 1904 to 357,970. In the early days large fortunes 
were made in the industry when feathers were worth $500 per pound and the 
plumes of a single bird sometimes brought $100, though the present average 
annual income in Africa is only about $18 per bird. Ostrich farming was first 
inaugurated in the United States in 1882, when twenty-two birds were success- 
fully imported from Cape Town to New York and shipped overland to Cali- 
fornia. During the next four years other parties ventured in the field of Ostrich 
farming, and from an importation of forty-four birds, made about 1890, fully 
eighty per cent of the approximately three thousand Ostriches in America have 
descended, the last importation that of twelve Nubians having been made 
in 1901. TJie industry is now successfully prosecuted in California, Arizona, 
Arkansas, North Carolina, and Florida, with the prospect of its enormous ex- 
tension in the near future. The following account of the industry is taken from 
Butcher: "A breeding pair of Ostriches will produce from ten to twenty chicks 
a year, which are worth, when six months old, $100 each; at one year, $150; 
at two years, $200; at three years, $300 to $350. They commence to breed 
when four years old, when, if prolific, they are valued at from $700 to $1000 per 
pair. Exceptionally fine birds sometimes bring as much as $1000 each. Good 
birds will produce from $35 to $50 worth of feathers each year, and exceptional 
ones from $75 to $90 annually. Plucking is done by putting the Ostrich in a 
V-shaped corral just large enough to admit its body, with room for the work- 
men. A hood, shaped like a stocking, is placed over the head of the Ostrich, 
when it becomes perfectly docile. The workman then raises the wings and 
clips the feathers that are fully ripe. Great care is exercised at this time, as a 
premature cutting of the feathers deteriorates the succeeding feather growth. 
There is no possibility of inflicting pain in plucking an Ostrich; not a drop of 
blood is drawn, nor a nerve touched. The large feathers are cut off, and in 
two months' time, when the quill is dried up, it is pulled out. By taking the feath- 
ers in this way it causes the bird absolutely no pain at all. An Ostrich is first 
plucked when it is nine months old, the third plucking being the full crop, which 
will weigh about one pound. Ostriches mate at four years of age and remain 
paired for life. The nest, which is simply a hole in the ground scooped out by 
the breast-bone of the bird, is about one foot deep by three and four feet in 
diameter. Eggs are laid every other day until about twelve or fourteen are 
deposited, each of which weighs from three to four pounds. The eggs are 

66 The Ostriches 

turned daily in the nest by the birds, and are incubated forty-two days, the male 
taking the nest at five in the afternoon, where he remains on duty until nine the 
following morning, when the female goes on duty. The chicks, when hatched, are 
about the size of a domestic hen and present a mottled appearance. They grow 
about one foot in height every month, until they attain full growth, about seven 
to eight feet, when they will weigh from three to four hundred pounds. When 
fourteen months old the plumage generally changes, the female taking on a dull 
gray and the male a glossy black, both growing long white wing-feathers." 



(Order Rhei/orrnes} 

N the New World the place of the Ostriches is taken by a somewhat 
closely related group of birds known as the Rheas, Nandus, or 
American Ostriches (Rhea). They are confined exclusively to the 
pampas of South America and are readily distinguished from the 
true Ostriches by the presence of three toes, a feathered neck, and practically 
no tail, though they agree with the Ostriches in the absence of aftershafts to the 
feathers. While there are numerous other differences in the skeleton and soft 
parts, it may be stated that the Rheas have the powerful legs and hence the 
similar tremendous speed of the Ostriches. Their habits, as will be recounted 
later, are also similar. 

The Rheas are divided into three quite well-marked species, the largest being 
the Common Rhea (Rhea americana) found in Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and 
the Argentine Republic. It is much inferior in size to the true Ostrich, although 
about fifty-two inches in total length. The general color above is slaty gray, 
with the head blackish and the neck whitish, becoming dark between the shoul- 
ders. The under parts are whitish with the exception of two black crescents 
on the upper breast. This Rhea was once abundant throughout the Argen- 
tine Republic, but with the advent of firearms it has disappeared from many 
localities. The following account is from the pen of Mr. W. H. Hudson, who 
had opportunity for many years of studying its habits: "The Rhea is par- 
ticularly well adapted in its size, color, faculties, and habits, to the condition of 
the level woodless country it inhabits ; its lofty stature, which greatly exceeded 
that of many of its enemies, before the appearance of the European mounted 
hunter, enables it to see far; its dim gray plumage, the color of the haze, made 
it almost invisible to the eye at a distance, the long neck being so slender and the 
bulky body so nearly on a level with the tall grasses ; while its speed exceeded 
that of all other animals inhabiting the same country. 

" The Rhea lives in bands of from 3 or 4 to 20 or 30 individuals. When they 
are not persecuted they show no fear of man, and come about the houses, and are 
as familiar and tame as domestic animals; sometimes, indeed, they become too 
familiar. When persecuted Rheas soon acquire a wary habit, and escape by 
running almost before the enemy has caught sight of them, or else crouch down 
to conceal themselves in the long grass. Their speed and endurance are so great 
that, with a fair start, it is almost impossible for the hunter to overtake them, 



The Rheas 

however well mounted. When running the wings hang down like those of a 
wounded bird, or one wing is raised and held up like a great sail, for what reason 
it is impossible to say." 

FIG. 24. Common Rhea, Rhea americana. 

The nesting season in the Argentine Republic begins in July, and several 
females lay in the same nest, which is simply a depression in the ground, each hen 
laying a dozen or more eggs. Hudson says: "It is common to find from 30 to 
60 eggs in a nest, but sometimes a larger number, and I have heard of a nest 

Darwin's Rhea 69 

being found containing 120 eggs." The incubation is conducted entirely by the 
male, who watches over the young with great solicitude. The eggs when fresh 
are a fine golden yellow, but they grow paler day by day, until finally they fade 
to a parchment white. Eggs are frequently laid away from the nest, scattered 
on the pampas, for after the male begins sitting on the eggs he drives the hens 
away furiously, forcing them to deposit the eggs at random. 

The Long-billed Rhea (R. macrorhyncha), a bird similar in size and habits 
to the one just described, is found only in northeastern Brazil. It is browner in 
color and has the crown darker and the bill longer. It must be quite rare. 

The smallest of the Rheas is known as Darwin's Rhea (R. darwini), the first 
specimen having been obtained by him while on the celebrated voyage of the 
Beagle. It is only thirty-six inches in length and is found in Patagonia, mainly 
south of the Rio Negro. "When pursued it frequently attempts to elude the 
sight by suddenly squatting down among the bushes, which have a gray foliage, 
to which the color of its plumage closely assimilates." It has much the same 
habit of holding up the wings when running as the Common Rhea, but usually 
it runs with its neck stretched forward, thus making it appear even lower than it 
really is. The nests are similar to those of the other species, each often containing 
50 or more eggs. The eggs when first laid are a deep, rich green ; this fades to a 
yellowish, then a stone blue, and finally almost white. Many waste eggs are 
found at a distance from the nest. 

Darwin's Rhea was formerly very abundant, but the fluffy wing-feathers 
were exported in large quantities to be used in the manufacture of feather dusters, 
and as a result the birds have become extremely scarce except in the far interior. 
They were captured, as are the other species at the present time, by means of 
the bolos, the well-known South American sling. The one used for Rheas con- 
sists of two half-pound leaden balls connected by eight feet of twisted rawhide 
twine. When thrown with proper precision it entangles the legs of the birds, 
and they become an easy prey. The birds are approached on a fleet horse until 
within proper throwing distance, or sometimes a whole community of natives 
unite in enclosing a large area of country, driving the birds towards a constantly 
decreasing circle, when they are all captured. In recent years firearms have 
been resorted to, and it would seem that these splendid birds are likely to be 
wholly exterminated unless steps are taken to protect them. 



(Order Casuariiformes) 

HILE it is perhaps hardly correct to assert that the Emeus and 
Cassowaries, which comprise the present order, are actually the 
most primitive of the Ratites, it is beyond question that they must 
have arisen from the original procarinate stem at a point very near 
those which gave rise to the Ostriches and Rheas. In any event they now differ 
from them in a number of important particulars, such as the absence of the 
ambiens muscle and the possession of a distinct aftershaft to the feathers; in 
fact, the latter is so enormously developed as to be of practically the same length 
and size as the main shaft. Another of the important differences is the extreme 
reduction of the wing in the members of the present group, for, as Dr. Stejneger 
says, it "could hardly become smaller without disappearing altogether externally." 
There is but a single claw-bearing finger instead of three such as in the Ostrich, 
while the absence of the ornamental wing-plumes and for that matter, of tail- 
plumes as well serves to further distinguish them. They have very strong 
legs and feet with three toes, the hallux or hind toe being absent, while the 
three front toes are provided with claws and have the middle phalanges some- 
what shortened. The plumage is quite hair-like in appearance and somewhat 
harsh to the touch. 

The Casuariiformes embrace two families, the Dromaida, or Emeus, and the 
Casuariida, or Cassowaries, each with a single living genus. 1 The Emeus are 
distinguished by their larger size, a feathered neck and head, by a broad bill, 
and the absence of a casque or helmet on the head. The bill has the culmen at 
the base elevated and sloping to the tip, which overlaps that of thejower mandible ; 
the oblong-oval nostrils are placed in a large membranous groove. The wings 
are entirely without remiges and the tail is not apparent, while the toes are un- 
equal, the inner one being the shorter, and provided with strong, obtuse claws. 

The second family (Casuariidtz) is distinguished by the smaller size, a long 
compressed and keeled bill, with the suboval nostrils in the middle of a broad 
membranous groove, while the head is ornamented by an elaborate bony helmet. 
The head and neck are destitute of feathers, the skin being brightly colored in life 
and the neck wattled. The wing bears about five long, stiff, rounded, webless 
quills, and the inner of the rather long toes is provided with a very long, powerful 
claw, the claws of the other toes being of moderate size, curved and obtuse. 

1 A number of fossil Emeu-like birds have sometimes been set aside as a distinct family the 
Dromornithidas, but their consideration is omitted here. 


Species of Emeus 71 


(Family Dromeeida) 

With the exception of the Ostriches, the Emeus are the largest of existing birds, 
a fully matured individual of the largest species attaining a maximum length of 
about eighty inches, and standing considerably over five feet high. They are 
exclusively confined to the deserts and plains of Australia, where they fill the place 
occupied in similar districts by the Ostriches of Africa and the Rheas of South 
America. They constitute as conspicuous and characteristic a feature of the 
Australian landscape as do certain of the larger kangaroos, and like them were 
being pushed back by the encroachment of civilization until actually threatened 
with extermination, though recent legislative enactment has done much to protect 
them. "The King of the Australian fauna" the bird has been called, and, adds 
Mr. Campbell, "whether seen in private reserves, parks, or in the open, the Emeu 
always attracts attention. Even the Bushman, who has seen hundreds of Emeus 
in the wilds, will always glance at the bird or remain to admire its handsome eggs." 

Before recounting the life history of these remarkable birds, a word of descrip- 
tion may be given of the several forms. As at present accepted the genus Dro- 
maeus comprises six nominal species, three of which are known from the Pleis- 
tocene deposits of Queensland and East Australia, and one (D. ater), which was 
exterminated some seventy-five years ago, while the remaining two are living. 
Of these, the largest species and the first to be made known, the Emeu par excel- 
lence (D. nov(E-hollandi(E), is found throughout Australia in general, though most 
abundantly in the eastern districts. At a little distance its coat has more the 
appearance of hair than feathers, due to the loose texture, while down the back 
there is a parting, where the plumage falls gracefully over on either side. The 
general color is obscure grayish brown, the feathers with black tips. The feathers 
of the head and hind neck are black, short, hairy, and recurved, and so thinly 
placed that the purplish blue color of the skin shows through. The female is 
similar in coloration to the male, being only somewhat lighter; in size she is 
slightly smaller than the male. The chicks are grayish white with two stripes of 
black down the back and two others on each side, each subdivided by a narrow 
middle line of white. The other living species is the Spotted Emeu (D. irroratus) 
of western Australia, which is easily distinguished from the other by its spotted 
plumage, the feathers being barred alternately with silky white and dark gray 
throughout their length, terminating in a black tip margined posteriorly with 
rufous. It is also much more slender in habit, the tarsi being longer and thinner, 
and the toes longer and more slender. The remaining species (D. ater}, now 
extinct, was very much smaller, attaining a length of only about fifty-five inches, 
and was darker in coloration. It was apparently confined to Kangaroo Island, 
South Australia, where it was discovered in 1803 by the French expedition under 
Baudin. The naturalist of the expedition, Peron, captured three of these Emeus 
alive and took them to Paris. "A pair was sent to the residence of the Empress 
Josephine, and the remaining one to the Jardin des Plantes. In 1822 two of the 

The Emeus and Cassowaries 

Habits of Emeus 73 

birds died. One was stuffed and the other mounted as a skeleton," and until a 
few years ago this was supposed to represent all that was known of the species. 
In 1901 a skeleton, believed to be that of the other bird brought back by Peron, was 
found in the Zoological Museum of Florence, thus closing the melancholy history. 
Habits. As the habits of the two living species are similar, the following 
account is mainly that of the principal species (D. nov<z-hollandi(B). Emeus 
refer the more open country, or that but sparsely wooded, and go about usually 
in parties, it being not uncommon to see as many as twenty or thirty in company. 
Ihey are shy, wary birds, of keen sight, and when disturbed run strongly and 
rapidly, usually trusting to their fleetness to escape danger, though a brooding 
bird when he thinks himself unobserved may occasionally stretch out the neck 
on the ground and trust to the similarity between his plumage and the surround- 
ing herbage to escape detection. Emeus subsist on fruits, seeds, roots, and 
herbage, generally feeding in the morning or evening. They drink water freely, 

I delight in bathing, and can swim well, being not infrequently observed in cross- 
ing rivers of considerable width. Their ordinary note is a hissing or grunting 
sound, but during the breeding season they utter a loud booming note, the latter 
produced apparently through the agency of a curious modification of the wind- 
pipe, this organ being pierced by a slit in front of, and communicating with, the 
tracheal pouch. The nest is a very simple affair, in the plains country being sim- 
ply a hollow scratched in the earth, but in the other places, according to Campbell 
it is "usually a flat bed or platform composed of grass or other herbage plucked by 
the bird round about the site, and trampled down. Sometimes bark, pieces of 
sticks, and leaves of trees are used, intermingled with a few of the bird's own 
feathers. The shape is generally oval, about four feet by two and a half feet in 
size, and about two inches in thickness." The nest is placed in open country, 
frequently at the base of a tree or stump. The eggs, usually about nine but 
varying from seven to as many as eighteen, are very beautiful, being rough with 
"granulations of dark green upon a shell of light metallic or verdigris green," 
giving them the appearance of shagreen. In size the eggs average about 5.15 x 
3.50 inches, the weight being approximately twenty ounces, or about the equal 
of a dozen ordinary fowl's eggs. When fresh the eggs are very palatable, a single 
one making a substantial meal for a family. The nesting season is very early, 
terminating in late winter or early spring, so that the young are hatched just as 
the tender grass and shoots on which they feed are coming forth. The period of 
incubation is about eight weeks, the male, who is strictly monogamous, appar- 
ently taking full charge of this office as well as that of rearing the young, as it is 
not known that the female takes any part in this duty. Both the eggs and flesh of 
the Emeu are eaten by the aborigines, but the flesh is too rank and tough to appeal 
to European palates, though they sometimes use the oil made from the fat be- 
neath the skin. The hunting of Emeus by dogs has been considered good sport, 
and while doubtless still indulged in to some extent, is now discontinued by law. 
The Emeu is readily domesticated and when properly handled makes quite an 
engaging pet. It breeds readily in semi-confinement in England and other 
parts of the world. 

74 The Emeus and Cassowaries 


(Family Casuariidce) 


The Cassowaries are more numerous in forms than the Ostriches, Rheas, and 
Emeus combined, as Rothschild, in his magnificent monograph of the genus, 
recognizes eight or nine species and ten or more subspecies, and states that, 
owing to the uncertainty of localities whence have come many of the living speci- 
mens brought to Europe, and the disappearance after death of the most character- 
istic coloration of the bare skin of the head and neck, our knowledge of the species 
is doubtless still limited. They are confined in their distribution to the Papuan 
subregion, i.e. New Guinea with the islands in Geelvink Bay, Salawatti, New 
Britain, probably the Solomon Islands, the Aru group, northern Queensland, and 
the island of Ceram in the Moluccas. They are curious, large birds, some of them 
standing five feet or more in height, and perhaps their most marked external 
character is the peculiar bony helmet or casque on the forehead, this, and the 
naked head and neck, being brightly colored ; the skin of the neck is also much 
carunculated and wattled in various places. The bill is generally shorter than 
the head, laterally compressed and with the culmen curved downward near the 
tip, while the wings are quite rudimentary, the only external evidence being some 
five or six long, black, barbless quills; there are no tail-feathers. The legs and 
feet are very strong, for they too are very fleet of foot. As already indicated, 
the two outer toes are provided with obtuse curved claws, while the inner is armed 
with a long, straight, powerful, pointed claw, "which is a dangerous weapon." 
As in Emeus the body is covered with stiff, hair-like feathers in which the after- 
shaft is as long as the principal shaft. " The old birds are black, the young ones 
brown, and the nestling, when hatched, is striped longitudinally above." 

The following account of their habits is from Rothschild: "All Cassowaries 
are inhabitants of forests, while the rest of the large living Pafoognatha are deni- 
zens of steppes and deserts. Their food seems to consist of all sorts of vegetable 
matter and fruits ; but they also pick up insects and any creeping thing that comes 
in their way. In captivity, at least, they kill and devour chicks and small birds 
when they come across them. They also, like Ostriches, Rheas, and others, 
swallow quantities of stones and gravel to assist digestion. They are entirely 
diurnal, sleeping from sunset till morning. 

"The voice of the Cassowaries is a curious sort of snorting, grunting, and 
bellowing, usually not very loud, and differing according to the species. 

"Their temper is generally sullen and treacherous, and they are extremely 
pugnacious, even the different sexes often fighting at other seasons than the 
breeding season." 

The nest is placed on the ground, often in a pile of leaves, and, unlike many 
of their relatives, only one female lays in a nest. The eggs vary from five to 
eight in number, and have a strong, coarsely granulated surface. "When fresh 
they are evidently all of a light green color, but when exposed to the light they 
become first more bluish, then grayish, and finally almost cream-colored." 

Species of Cassowaries 


In size they, are between five and six inches long and about three and one-half 
inches broad. Wallace, deriving his information from native sources, says of the 
Ceram species that both male and female take turns in sitting on the eggs, but 
from observations made on birds in captivity it appears that the duties of 

FIG. 26. Bennett's Cassowary, Casuarius bennetti. 

incubation fall entirely on the male, who also assumes charge of the young 
until they are able to shift for themselves. 

The Cassowaries, according to Rothschild, are easily separable into three 
groups, based on both external and anatomical characters. Externally the 
groups may be distinguished as follows: i. The casque compressed laterally; 
the fore neck with two wattles. This embraces two species, Casuarius bicarun- 
culatus and C. casuarius, with seven subspecies. 2. The casque depressed in 

j6 The Emeus and Cassowaries 

front; fore neck with a single wattle. Of the one-wattled Cassowaries there are 
two species (C. philipi and C. uniappendiculatus') and four subspecies. 3. The 
casque as in the last but the fore neck without a wattle. These forms, called the 
Mooruks, include four species, C. papuanus, C. picticollis, C. bennetti, and C. 
lories, each, except the last, with two subspecies. 

It will not be possible in the space at command to give descriptions of all 
the species, nor is this perhaps desirable, but I venture to attempt a pen picture 
of one or two. The oldest known species is the Common or Ceram Cassowary 
(C. casuarius), a specimen of which was brought alive to Amsterdam in 1597. 
It is a species of moderate size, with a large, though not high, sloping casque of 
a dark brownish horn color. The head and occiput are Nile-blue, darker in 
the upper part of the hind neck, the lower two thirds of which is scarlet, while the 
chin, throat, and fore neck are dark blue. The wattles are large, lappet-shaped, 
much roughened, and of a deep pink color. The naked lower sides of the neck 
are bluish purple in front and bright scarlet behind. The plumage is of course 
black throughout. This species is reported to be rather abundant in the interior 
of Ceram, but it is extremely shy and difficult to approach, so much so, indeed, 
that no European naturalist appears to have seen it in the wild state. The eggs 
are said to be excellent eating. 

The Violet-necked Cassowary (C. c. violicollis), a subspecies of the last, is 
found in Trangan Island, of the Aru group, and takes its name from the bright 
violaceous color of the neck. The type specimen is now living in England, and 
Rothschild thus describes its so-called "song": "It lowers its head and neck 
and remains in this position with head and neck stretched out straight in 
front for about fifteen seconds, with the bill open and gradually inflating its 
neck, without making a sound; then, bowing and jerking its head so that the 
bill and wattle clap together, it emits some barking grunts, apparently with 
great effort." 

Still another subspecies is the Australian Cassowary (C. c. australis) of north- 
ern Queensland. It is a very large form, with the wattles more than five inches 
in length. Its habits have been very entertainingly described by Edward 
Spalding, as quoted in the Rothschild memoir, and among other things he 
says: "I have found the Cassowaries to be excellent swimmers, and 
frequently tracked them across a good-sized creek or river. On Hinchen- 
brook Island, situated about i^ miles from the mainland, they have been 
frequently met with." 

Mr. Spalding had a young specimen in captivity for some time and speaks of 
its voracious appetite. "This bird has frequently devoured at a time as much 
as three quarts of 'loquats' and several fair-sized oranges whole, besides its 
usual amount of bread per diem, about three pounds. ... In confinement 
they become very tame, and may be allowed to walk about the place without 
restraint, coming when called, or more often running after and following after 
any one accustomed to feed them. If disappointed or teased, they not infre- 
quently 'show fight' by bristling up their feathers, and kicking out sideways or 
in front with force sufficient to knock a strong man down, a feat I have 

Habits of Cassowaries 


witnessed on more than one occasion. These birds are very powerful, and dan- 
gerous to approach when wounded. On more than one occasion a wounded bird 
has caused a naturalist to take to a tree ; the sharp nail of the inner toe is a most 
dangerous weapon, quite equal to the claw of the large kangaroo, and capable 
of doing quite as much execution." 



(Order Crypturiformes) 

| HE New World, from the southern portions of Mexico to the extremity 
of South America, is the home of a remarkable group of land birds 
known as Tinamous (tinamoos). They have a strong superficial resem- 
blance to the game-birds, and in fact are usually called Partridges in 
the countries where they live, and for a long time were supposed by ornitholo- 
gists to be related to the game-birds, but comparatively recent studies have settled 
the fact that there is little or no real relationship between them. They have com- 
pact bodies, and rather short stout legs, while the head is small, the mouth split to 
under the eyes, and the neck rather long and slender. The wings are short and 
rounded and the tail-feathers short, or even altogether absent. In general the color 
of the plumage is deep yellowish or brownish, marked above with dark brown and 
black bars, and interspersed among the feathers are numerous powder-downs, or 
feathers which are continually breaking off the tips into a fine powder-like sub- 
stance. The Tinamous have quite a well-developed keel to the breast-bone but 
possess only limited powers of flight. They are, however, very rapid runners and 
can rarely be forced to take to wing. When they do, they may fly for one or 
two thousand yards, and may repeat flights of this distance once or twice, but 
then their endurance fails and they can fly no more. Hudson, writing of their 
flight, says: " The bird rises up when almost trodden upon, rushing into the air 
with a noise and violence that fill one with astonishment. It continues to rise 
at a decreasing angle for fifty or sixty yards, then gradually nearing the earth, 
till, when it has got to a distance of two or three hundred yards, the violent action 
of the wing ceases, and the bird glides along close to the earth for some distance, 
and either drops down or renews its flight. The Tinamou starts forward with 
such amazing energy until this is expended and the moment of gliding comes, that 
the flight is just as ungovernable to the bird as the motion of a brakeless engine, 
rushing along at full speed, would be to the driver. The bird knows the danger 
to which this peculiar character of its flight exposes it so well that it is careful 
to fly only to that side where it sees a clear course. It is sometimes, however, 
compelled to take wing suddenly, without considering the obstacles in its path. 
In the course of a short ride of ten miles, during which several birds sprang up 
before me, I have seen some of these Tinamous dash themselves to death against 
a fence close to the path, the height of which they had evidently misjudged. I 
have also seen a bird fly blindly against the wall of a house, killing itself 


The Tinamous 


instantly." He also mentions once riding over the pampas in the face of a violent 
wind, when a bird was startled from under the feet of his horse. " The bird flew 
up into the air vertically, and, beating its wings violently, and with a swiftness 
far exceeding its ordinary flight, continued to ascend until it reached a vast 
height, then came down again, whirling round and round, striking the earth 
a very few yards from the spot where it rose, and crushing itself to a pulp by 
the tremendous force of the fall." The explanation was that the strong wind 

FIG. 27. Rufous Tinamou, Rhynchotus rufescens. 

had directed the flight upward with a force that the bird could not control, until 
it was exhausted and fell. 

Some of the Tinamous inhabit open, grassy country, and depend much for 
safety in concealment among the grasses which they closely resemble in color, 
while others are quite as distinctly forest birds. They subsist largely upon seeds 
and berries, and they have a very distinct and flute-like song. They are, how- 
ever, looked upon as rather stupid birds, some of the species being very tame, 
often coming around the houses, when they are killed with a stick, whip, or 
stone. They are often caught by a horseman riding around them in a decreas- 
ing spiral, or even picked up with a noose on a pole. The fact that they are 
esteemed as food combined with their stupidity and confiding disposition have 
brought about their extermination in certain localities. They are rather solitary in 
their habits, although several may usually be found within a short distance of one 
another, and occasionally they are found in coveys of a dozen or more. The nest 

80 The Tinamous 

is simply a hollow scratched by the birds at the base of a tussock of grass, a thistle, 
or low bush, and slightly lined with grasses, feathers, and dry leaves. The eggs are 
among the most remarkable produced by any living bird. They vary in number 
in the different species from five to eight to twelve or sixteen, or possibly when 
of the latter number, one or more females may lay in the same nest. They are 
elliptical in shape, and have the shell polished until it appears like a piece of 
highly burnished metal or glazed porcelain. The color, which seems to be 
constant for particular species, is very variable, ranging from "pale primrose to 
sage-green or light indigo, or from chocolate-brown to pinkish-orange." The 
minute structure of the egg-shell has been studied by a German investigator 
with the result that they are shown to resemble the eggs of the Kiwi of New 
Zealand most closely. The male parent is said to perform the duty of incuba- 
tion, and the young are very soon able to care for themselves. 

Taking everything into account it appears that the Tinamous are a sort of 
connecting link between the typical flying birds and the so-called flightless birds, 
or those that are destitute of a keel to the breast-bone. They possess characters 
undoubtedly relating them to each of these great groups, but they are perhaps 
best placed among the Ratite birds, immediately succeeding the Ostriches, 
Cassowaries, etc. About forty species of Tinamous are known, ranging in size 
from the Little Tinamou of Brazil and Paraguay, which is only six inches in 
length, to the Rufous or Great Tinamou (Rhynchotus rufescens} of Brazil and 
Argentina, which is fourteen inches long. They are divisible into two quite 
well marked groups, according to the presence or absence of a distinct hind toe. 



(Order Dinornithiformes) 

N the European occupation of New Zealand half a century or more 
ago great numbers of the bones of gigantic birds were found strewn 
over the surface of the plains or lightly buried in alluvial river-banks, 
lake-beds, and swamps, as well as caves and crevices among rocks. 
These birds were known by the native inhabitants as the Moa, and it was sup- 
posed from the abundance of the remains and their generally good state of pres- 
ervation that their extinction had been of comparatively recent date. There are 
differences of opinion, however, as to the extent of the knowledge of the living Moa 
among the Maoris, the native inhabitants, and on this point the Rev. William 
Colenso, sometime Bishop of New Zealand, who first went among them about 1837, 
asserts positively that he found no evidence in the traditions and folklore of the 
Maoris that they had ever seen the Moa alive, or had knowledge of Moa-hunting. 
This is surprising, for it is well known that among savage people even trivial in- 
cidents are handed down for generations, and anything so important as the wiping 
out of their chief food supply would seemingly have been abundantly commemo- 
rated in song and legend. It appears that the Maoris have only been in their pres- 
ent location for about ten generations, or some 250 or 300 years, and the Moa 
could hardly have lived within that period, and it is held as probable that their 
extinction was several centuries earlier than this. On the other hand, some 
observers claim to have found traditional evidence among the natives of their 
having hunted these great birds, and as will be shown later, several fragments 
have been found in such a perfect state of preservation as seemingly to preclude 
the probability of their being very old. But that there was a race of people who 
subsisted largely if not entirely upon this bird, and who are apparently very largely 
if not wholly responsible for its extinction, is abundantly shown. In many local- 
ities extensive camping grounds have been found where there were cooking places, 
employed evidently in cooking the eggs and flesh of the Moa. Some of them con- 
tain great numbers of fragments of egg-shells, and by the sides of others are refuse 
heaps containing hundreds of Moa bones, as well as vast numbers of crudely 
chipped stone implements, together with a few of more polished workmanship. 
Therefore it seems hardly likely that the Moas could have been living at best on 
the North Island within the past 500 years, although it is possible that on the 
South Island they may have lingered for a considerably later period, since in 
several instances, especially in the province of Otago, fragments have been 

G 8l 


The Moas 

FIG. 28. Skeleton of Dinornis maximus. (Courtesy of the U. S. National Museum.) 

Eggs and Skeletons of Moas 83 

found at the bottom of refuse heaps, in caves, and even in river deposits, that 
contain portions of the skin and ligaments, and with fairly well preserved feath- 
ers still attached. It has been suggested that possibly the Moa was domesti- 
cated or herded by the natives, but there is hardly more evidence to support this 
than the notion that a few examples may still be living in the remote, unexplored 

One of the best preserved specimens retaining the skin and feathers was 
found in a cave at the foot of the Obelisk Hills, Otago. It is a portion about 
seventeen inches in length from near the base of the neck, which at this point 
appears to have been about eighteen inches in circumference. The skin, which 
is about three sixteenths of an inch thick, is of a dirty red-brown color, and is 
formed into deep transverse folds. The surface is roughened by elevated conical 
papillae, from the apex of some of which springs a slender transparent feather 
barrel, about half an inch long. On the dorsal surface some of the quills still 
carry fragments of the webs, a few of which are two inches in length. In color 
these barbs are chestnut-red, much as in certain species of Apteryx. Frag- 
ments of egg-shells as already mentioned are of common occurrence about the 
ancient cooking places, and now and then a more or less perfect shell is unearthed. 
Of these one of the most perfect came to light in 1901, having been washed from 
a bank some fourteen feet below the surface on the river Molyneux, Otago. This 
egg, which is described as of the usual pale buff color and is absolutely unbroken, 
measures seven and three quarters inches in the long diameter, and five and one 
quarter inches in the short diameter. Another nearly perfect example from the 
same locality was slightly larger, and a fortunate specimen found some years 
ago near Tiger Hill, in the interior of Otago, contained the well-developed bones 
of an embryo chick that must have been about fourteen and one half inches long, 
and well showed the massiveness of the posterior limbs. The egg-shell when 
not abraded is usually of a pale yellow color, smooth, and irregularly pitted on 
the outside with dots and linear markings. Its structure has been studied under 
the microscope and found to agree most closely with the eggs of struthious birds, 
and more especially with those of the Rhea or South American Ostrich. 

Although previously observed by missionaries among the Maoris, the first 
Moa bone brought to scientific attention was in 1839, when Sir Richard Owen 
exhibited a portion of a femur before the Zoological Society of London. Since 
that date many thousands of bones have been collected and studied with the 
result of determining the existence of between twenty and thirty species, with a 
range in size from that of a very large Turkey, to Dinornis maximus, which pos- 
sessed a tibia thirty-nine inches long and probably stood nearly ten feet high. 
Certain of the species appear to have been rare, while others, especially the 
smaller forms, were exceedingly abundant. In draining a swamp at Glenmark, 
near Canterbury, the soil was found to be literally full of Moa-bones, disposed in 
all sorts of positions, and more recently another small pond in the same region 
was drained, and in a space of twenty by thirty feet over 2500 bones were recov- 
ered, representing, it is thought, not less than 800 birds. In another locality where 
a ledge of rocks jets into a lake, thus forming a cul-de-sac, no less than thirty-nine 

84 The Moas 

skeletons were found on the surface and so nearly in the positions in which they 
died that the pebbles that had been taken into the gizzards were located and 
collected. The causes which led to these mortalities are, and of course must 
remain, unknown, /but it has been conjectured that glacial agencies may have 
had something to do with it, or possibly those found in the cul-de-sac were driven 
in by fire and cut off from escape by the water and the rocky ledge. 

The Moas were flightless birds, so distinctly so, indeed, that in most cases 
every bone of the wing had disappeared. Even the coracoid and scapula are 
aborted or absent, and the breast-bone, which in shape may be broad and short 
or long and narrow, is without trace of a keel, and its grooves for the reception of 
the coracoid are either reduced to small facets or have totally disappeared. Coin- 
cident with the loss of the power of flight, which was doubtless brought about by 
the absence of predatory land animals which made the frequent use of the wings 
unnecessary, the hind limbs were greatly developed and made massive, though 
not quite to the extent found in the Elephant-birds of Madagascar. The tibia, 
which in the different species varies in length from about nine and one-half to 
some thirty-nine inches, is chiefly remarkable for the presence of a bony bridge 
at the lower end in front, which distinguishes the Moas from all living Ratites. 
There were three toes directed forwards and in most cases one directed back- 
wards. The number of vertebras is absolutely known in only one species (Anom- 
alopteryx parva), there being in this twenty-one in the neck, and six free dorsals. 
The skull, which, however, differs considerably in the several genera, was gen- 
erally broad and low, with a wide U-shaped or V-shaped and somewhat de- 
flected beak. The feathers have a distinct and large aftershaft, as in the Casso- 
waries, and the webs are soft and dissociated. From the stoutness of the bill 
it is inferred that they subsisted largely on vegetation, such as succulent stems, 
seeds, and berries, with doubtless an occasional insect or reptile. 

The Moas appear to find their nearest relatives among the Kiwis, and it has 
been assumed that like them the females exceeded the males in size, but recent 
studies indicate that this was probably not the case. They differ from them, 
however, in the short beak, and feathers with aftershafts, as well as in certain 
anatomical features. They were most abundant on the South Island, but were 
present on the North Island, and a single rather doubtful species, based on one 
bone, has been reported from Australia. 



(Order jEpyornithiformes) 

FEW years after the discovery of the Moas in New Zealand another 
race of gigantic extinct birds came to light in Madagascar, and in a 
peculiar manner. Some natives visiting the Mauritius for the purpose 
of buying rum brought with them as receptacles to contain the liquor 
two enormous egg-shells. These eggs, together with a portion of the metatarsus of 
a bird, fell into appreciative hands, and were sent to Paris, where M. I. G. Saint- 
Hilaire brought them before the Paris Academy of Sciences, giving the bird the name 
of jEpyornis maximus, signifying literally "the bird as big as a mountain." As 
may be supposed, this discovery 'excited great scientific interest, and, as Stejneger 
says, "brought to mind the old story of the famous Venetian traveler, Marco Polo, 
who located the Rue or Roc, the giant bird of Arabian tales, upon Madagascar." 
Shortly after this the question was taken up seriously by Professor Bianconi, 
who attempted to prove its truth, since it was thought possible that Polo actually 
might have heard rumors of the existence of these immense eggs and the pre- 
sumably gigantic bird that laid them. These vague speculations are perhaps not 
to be much wondered at, as the eggs were larger than any before dreamed of, 
measuring more than thirteen inches by nine and one half inches and having 
a capacity of more than two gallons. This discoveiy stimulated exploration, 
which has resulted in bringing to light vast quantities of broken egg-shells, occa- 
sional entire shells, and a considerable number of bones, from which have been 
described two quite distinct genera and thirteen nominal species of Elephant- 
birds. It has been determined that they ranged over the whole of the southern 
half of Madagascar, but were apparently most abundant in the south and the 
southwestern portions. The bones are found principally in the beds of ancient 
shallow lakes, those along the coast being very salt, those of the interior of course 
fresh, and now used by the natives as rice-gardens. The eggs, however, appear 
to be found only or very largely in the sand-dunes along the coast. On this point 
Mr. J. T. Last, who made extensive explorations in the interests of the Zoologi- 
cal Society of London, says: "During all my explorations, though I have found 
the bird's bones a long way inland, I have never seen any fragments of eggs 
either with them or inland anywhere. Everywhere along the south and south- 
west coast fragments are to be found in abundance, especially on the hillsides 
about St. Augustin's Bay. Bushels of broken egg-shells could be gathered in this 
district with but little trouble. From this I judge that the birds used to live 


86 The Elephant-birds 

generally in the more inland parts of south-central Madagascar and at certain 
seasons came to the coast to lay their eggs, after which they betook themselves 
again to their inland homes. I do not know whether this idea is quite correct, 
but it seems to me very probable, from the fact that their eggs, both whole and 
broken, are only found on or near the seacoast." 

Although the Elephant-birds have not been found to be as large as was at 
first supposed, the largest not exceeding the height of an Ostrich and the smallest 
being about the size of a large Bustard, they were nevertheless of large size, 
chiefly remarkable for the great massiveness of the hind limbs, the leg bones 
in the largest species (jEpyornis maximus) being about thirteen inches long 
and eighteen inches in circumference at the upper extremity. Normally they 
appear to have had four toes, but in some the back one (hallux) was wanting. 
They had apparently a relatively small skull, but this is imperfectly known, 
and an unusually short and broad breast-bone which is without trace of a 
keel. The wing was quite rudimentary, and they were of course flightless. 
These birds appear to find their nearest relatives among the Cassowaries and 
Emeus, but many points in their structure remain to be elucidated and 

The natives of Madagascar still assert that some of these great birds are yet 
living in the interior, but this is highly improbable, and it seems hardly likely 
that any have existed within the past two or three hundred years. The manner 
of their extermination is unknown, but it is more than likely that it was brought 
about by the hand of man. If their breeding grounds were localized, as seems 
probable, it would only have been necessary to persistently destroy the eggs to 
have caused their ultimate extinction. 



(Order Aplerygiformes) 

F the many strange birds found in various parts of the world, perhaps 
none is more curious and generally interesting than the Kiwis, or so- 
called Wingless Birds of New Zealand. They are, for the great 
group to which they belong, birds of small size, being only as large as 
or slightly larger than a domestic fowl. They have a rounded, compact body, a 
rather short neck, and small head, while the bill is very long, slender, slightly 
curved, and bears the small slit-like nostrils near the tip, the latter a condition 
not found in any other birds. The base of the bill is covered by a hard cere and 
surrounded by numerous long, stiff bristles. They have relatively very powerful 
thighs and legs, the latter covered with scales of various sizes, and four toes, 
three of which are directed forward, and one, very short one, backward ; all the 
toes are provided with claws which are long, strong, and acute. The plumage 
is fluffy and quite hair-like in appearance, each feather being pointed and com- 
posed of separate loose filaments ; there is no aftershaft. It was formerly sup- 
posed that the feather covering was continuous over the body, but it is now 
known that there are several small bare spaces. The wings are not quite ab- 
sent, as the name implies, but are extremely aborted, consisting of a rudimentary 
humerus and one complete digit. There are, however, no definable wing- 
quills, and in fact the wings are entirely concealed by the plumage of the back ; 
they are of course useless for flight and the birds are practically "wingless." 
The reduced condition of the wing is further emphasized by the fact that the 
sternum is without a keel. The tail is also practically concealed, there being 
no tail-feathers. In color the plumage is brown or grayish brown, barred 
across with lighter, or with each feather dark on the margins and lighter along the 
middle. As a structural character of importance it may be mentioned that Mr. 
Beddard has recently noted the presence of a very large oil-gland, which in 
many particulars is quite unlike that of any other bird. Instead of consisting 
of two lobes or sacs located a little way from the end of the tail, as in most 
birds, there is a single very large gland with two nipples which form the very 
extremity of the bird. 

Habits. Although first located near the Penguins, the structure of the Kiwis 
shows them to be essentially struthious, and they are now appropriately placed 
at the end of the Ratite series. That they constitute an ancient group is 


88 The Kiwis, or Wingless Birds of New Zealand 

shown by the fact that two fossil forms have been found in the late Tertiary beds 
of New Zealand and Queensland, while several species appear to have been 
contemporary with the Moa, as their bones are found mingled in many places. 
Their nearest of kin appear to have been the Moas, but among recent birds they 
are perhaps nearest the Emeus and Cassowaries, since, according to Parker, they 
all appear to have originated from a common stem. The females are uniformly 
larger than the males, sometimes exceeding them by five inches in total length. 
They are mainly nocturnal in their habits, remaining concealed in holes and 
dark places during the day and coming out at dusk to feed on worms, and prob- 
ably insects, which they are adept at finding by probing in moist ground and 
among mosses and roots. They also take a certain amount of vegetable matter 
such as small grass seeds, berries, and tender bits of succulent plants. Their 
food requirements are very large, as a pair in captivity has been found to require 
more than a pound and a half of meat daily. Being of a hardy disposition, they 
are readily kept in confinement, Mr. Rothschild having had them alive in his 
aviary in England for ten years or more, where they were given a large run and 
fed on chopped raw meat, boiled potatoes, and soaked bread. They are rather 
stupid birds when disturbed during the day, and as they lift their sleepy-looking 
heads from under the mantle of long feathers on their shoulders, they crack their 
bills like the snap of the fingers, and utter a few hoarse grunts of disapproval, 
but at night they become exceedingly active, jumping about and running with 
the greatest speed. They make good use of their extremely powerful legs, 
being always ready to kick at any object approaching them closely. In kicking 
they usually strike forward like an Emeu or an Ostrich, but according to Mr. 
Rothschild they have been occasionally observed to kick backward. When 
taken in the hand they never attempt to defend themselves with their bills, but 
if taken by the head, they use their powerful legs and sharp claws with sufficient 
force to rip open a dog's leg or cut a man's hand to the bone. Regarding the 
notes of these birds, the above-mentioned authority states that the cry of the male 
of the North Island Kiwi is "a somewhat hoarse, shrill whistle, often distinctly 
like Ki-i-wi, often shorter, more in one syllable. The female answers in a less 
loud, harsher and shorter, more screaming note. The young and half-grown 
birds also, according to Sir Walter Buller, call to each other, the male in a thinner 
whistle and the female in a thick, husky way. Sometimes, but rarely, a low crack- 
ling or grunting note is heard, probably of both male and female. When angry 
they hiss audibly, and when feeding make a sniffling noise with their nostrils, 
evidently to clear them of extraneous matter." For a nesting site they prefer 
a hole in a bank or under the roots of a tree, with a single rather small entrance. 
They may make use of a natural cavity or enlarge it and adapt it to their needs, 
the female at least having the power and ability to burrow for some distance if 
occasion demands, as Buller once found to his dismay when several which he had 
confined in a pen escaped in this manner. In the dryest corner of the nesting 
burrow they arrange a slight bed of fern-fronds and leaves whereon they deposit 
one or perhaps sometimes two immense eggs, which seem quite out of proportion 
to the size of the bird. Certain New Zealand authorities state that it is not 

Eggs of Kiwis 89 

uncommon to find a young bird a week old and a fresh egg in the same nest of 
the Roa. Thus the egg of the North Island Kiwi (Apteryx australis mantelli) 
is sometimes five and three tenths inches long by three and three tenths inches 

FIG. 29. South Island Kiwi, or Roa, Apteryx australis. 

broad, while the bird itself is only about twenty-six inches in length; the egg of 
Haast's Kiwi (A . haasti) is said to be even larger. The eggs of the first-mentioned 
species weigh usually between twelve and fifteen ounces, and exceptionally as 
much as eighteen ounces. In color the eggs are pure white or slightly greenish 
gray, but soon become much nest -soiled. "The shell is very thin, the grain rather 
fine and totally different from that of all other struthious birds, more resembling 
that of the eggs of RallidcR (Rails) or of Otis (Bustard)." The male appears to 

90 The Kiwis, or Wingless Birds of New Zealand 

take entire charge of incubating the egg (or eggs), and although the female is 
often found in the same hole, she has not been observed sitting on the eggs. The 
period of incubation is unknown, but is thought to be about six weeks, and at the 
close of his duties the male presents a sorry appearance, being poor in flesh and 
quite stupid, while the female is wide awake and full of fight, a reversion of the 
conditions prevailing before the egg was laid. The young are quite helpless when 
hatched, and are unable to stand up, but as soon as they acquire sufficient strength 
they accompany their parents. 

The Kiwis are referred to a single genus (Apteryx), and to five and by some 
authorities to six forms. Rothschild, who has had a much greater number of 
specimens at his disposal than any previous student, recognizes five forms as 
follows: The South Island Kiwi (A. australis), known locally as the Roa, which 
has the plumage rather light colored and the feathers of the neck soft and less 
bristly to the touch. The male is about twenty-three inches in length and the 
female twenty-seven inches, while the bill, which is a clear horn-color, is about 
five inches long. This species, which is confined to the South Island and adja- 
cent smaller islands, is still quite abundant in suitable locations, but like so many 
of the native species, it is yearly becoming rarer. A subspecies of this, known 
as Mantell's Kiwi (A. a. mantelli), found only on the North Island, has the 
plumage darker with the neck-feathers bristly and harsh to the touch. In both 
these forms the feathers of the upper side are striped, whereas in the remaining 
species the feathers of the upper side are barred. Of these Haast's Kiwi (A. 
haasti) of South Island is a very large species, the male attaining a length of 
twenty-five inches and the female about twenty-seven inches. It is light brown 
in color, with wide light bars, while Owen's or the Gray Kiwi (A. oweni), and its 
subspecies, the Larger Gray Kiwi (A. o. occidenlalis), have the plumage more 
grayish, with narrower bright cross-bars; the species is confined to South Island 
and the subspecies to South Island and the southwestern portions of North 
Island. The form inhabiting Stewart Island was formerly considered distinct, 
but proves to be only a large, brightly colored strain of australis. 

The Kiwis of Stewart Island were fast approaching extinction, but as the 
island has recently been set aside as a sort of game preserve, it is possible that 
it may survive for many years. The following entertaining account of its habits 
is by a Mr. Marklund, who was a resident collector before the* island was pro- 
tected by law. He says: "At the end of July I came down from the hills, and 
on this trip I found that the Kiwi were moving down to the lower country, prob- 
ably for nesting purposes. After some practice with a leaf of wild flax held in a 
certain position between my two thumbs I can fairly well imitate their cry. I 
have discovered that the best time for these birds is a moonlight night, with a sky 
somewhat overcast. If it is too light, the birds will not leave the scrub. They 
also object to rainy weather. Though apparently insensible to pain when attacked 
by a dog, they are naturally very timid. If the moon is bright, their own shadow 
will sometimes cause them uneasiness; indeed, I have seen one make a kick at 
its own shadow on the ground, accompanied by that peculiar hissing sound they 
make when confined in a pen. I have noticed also that a smaller bird will run 

Habits of Kiwis 

as hard as his legs will carry him at the least show of anger from a larger and 
stronger one. By imitating their cry the deep rasping one being the most 
successful - I have always had the clear, shrill one in response. If in the close 
neighborhood, I would then send in the dog, and it would always turn out to be 
the male. With this bird the ordinary relationship between the sexes appears 
to be reversed ; for instance, it is the female that undertakes the defense of the 
house and home, for the male gives in after a very slight struggle; but the male 
is the faster runner of the two. After the young is big enough to follow its 
parents the male (not the female) seems to take special charge of it. The male 
has a high, shrill cry; the female utters a low, hoarse note between a cry and a 
hiss. Although a nocturnal bird, its sight is weak even at night, for I have seen 
them running against objects that could easily be avoided ; but their hearing and 
sense of smell are very acute. By going against the wind I have got to within 
ten feet of them and seen them feeding. They do not confine themselves to 
worms, but will also take any kind of vegetable matter available ; for example, 
the young shoots of a very common alpine orchid. I have found three different 
kinds of seed and a small white berry in the stomachs of those I have opened." 



(Order Sphenisciformes) 

| T first sight it might seem that the Penguins were quite closely related 
to the Auks and their allies, since they have approximately the same 
shape and much the same habits of life ; but the more closely the Pen- 
guins are studied the clearer become the differences, and it is soon seen 
that the resemblance is hardly more than accidental or superficial; in fact, taking 
everything into account, the Penguins constitute one of the most distinct and re- 
markable groups into which birds are divided. They are flightless birds, of mod- 
erate or large size, confined exclusively to the Antarctic region, where they occupy 
in a measure the position filled in the opposite hemisphere by the Auks and their 
immediate relatives. The wings are reduced in size and modified by the flat- 
tening and consolidation of the bones until the product is a perfect swimming 
paddle, for which purpose they are exclusively used. These birds are expert 
swimmers and divers, but unlike most other aquatic birds, they make no use of 
the feet in swimming beyond employing them as a rudder. The wings, or "flip- 
pers," as they might perhaps be called, are moved alternately, thus producing 
a screw motion, and the appearance of the birds in the water is little short of 

Moseley, the naturalist of the Challenger expedition, who mistook them at first 
for small porpoises or dolphins, says: " They came along in a shoal of fifty or 
more, from seawards toward the shore at a rapid pace, by a series of successive 
leaps out of the water, and splashes into it again, describing short curves in the 
air, taking headers out of the water and headers into it again; splash, splash, 
went this marvelous shoal of animals, till they went splash through the surf on to 
the black stony beach, and there struggled and jumped up amongst the boulders 
and revealed themselves as wet and dripping Penguins, for such they w^re." 

Anatomy. The bones of the wing, as might be expected from the altered 
function of this organ, show very great modifications. The shoulder-blade 
(scapula) is of enormous size and affords attachment for the powerful muscles 
of the shoulder joint. The coracoid bone is also of great strength. The other 
bones of the wing are much compressed laterally and are more or less fused or 
anchylosed until there is relatively little freedom of motion between them. The 
shoulder joint is as perfect in Penguins as in other birds, but the remaining por- 
tions of the wing are so arranged as to "almost entirely exclude those movements 
of flexion and extension which are essential to an organ of flight," and it is moved 


Anatomy of the Penguins 93 

as an almost rigid body. However, most of the muscles which are present in 
the wing of a flying bird are represented in the wing of a Penguin by tendons, 
showing beyond question that the present flightless condition has been produced 
by degeneration from an ancestor which enjoyed the power of flight. 

While the bones of the leg are modified to a less extent than are those of the 
wing, they nevertheless present a number of peculiarities not met with in other 
birds. Thus the knee-cap (patella) is larger than in most birds, while the tarso- 
metatarsus is shorter and broader than in any known bird except the Frigate- 
bird, and retains its three elements in an incompletely fused condition (Fig. 17). 
In all other birds the fusion of these bones is not only complete, but in many 
cases is carried to such an extent that all evidence of individuality has disappeared 
and it appears as a solid bone. This incomplete fusion of the metatarsal bones 
was present in the earliest known fossil representative (Palaeudyptes antarclicus 
from the Eocene of New Zealand), which was thought to prove that modern 
Penguins have directly inherited this feature, though with fuller knowledge this 
seems to require modification. The toes, four in number, are all directed forward, 
a condition not unknown among other birds, yet of rather uncommon occurrence. 
When on land Penguins stand very erect, w T ith drooping wings, and the whole of 
the metatarsus is applied to the ground, thus making them very "flat-footed." 

Among other structural features it may be mentioned that the beak is usually 
long and straight, with its sides compressed and more or less grooved, and its tip 
never hooked but rather sharply pointed. The nostrils are slit-like and located 
within lateral grooves, while the palate is also of the split (schizognathous) type. 
The breast-bone, which is about half as broad as it is long, has a pair of notches 
at the back and a well-developed keel in front. Of the four toes the first is very 
small and joined to the inner sides of the metatarsus, while the other three are 
strong and completely webbed. 

The feather-covering in the Penguins also affords another interesting feature. 
With the possible exception of the Screamers they are the only known birds in 
which there are no bare spaces (apteria). The feathers themselves are narrow, 
lanceolate, with a very broad, flat shaft, convex beneath, with the ordinary fur- 
row of the lower surface usually wanting. The aftershaft is distinctly recogniz- 
able and is similar to the shaft. No specially formed quills can be detected in 
the wings, but in the tail stiff quills are usually distinguishable. Beneath the 
feathers or just under the skin are powerful muscles by means of which the water 
can be entirely shaken from the feathers as the birds emerge from the icy sea, - 
a fortunate provision, for otherwise, in the frigid temperature in which they live, 
they would be masses of ice in a few moments. The body temperature, stated by 
Mr. W. Eagle Clarke to be io2-io3 F., for the Adelie Penguin, is further 
equalized and maintained by a dense layer of fat beneath the skin not unlike the 
layer of blubber in seals and cetaceans. The moult takes place quickly, the 
plumage peeling off, as it were, in large patches, and disclosing to view a short 
undergrowth of new feathers, the whole process, according to Buller, requiring 
only two or three days. Other observers place the length of time of actual shed- 
ding as within ten days or two weeks. The moult of the King Penguin has been 

94 The Penguins 

observed in the gardens of the Zoological Society of London, and toward the close 
of the period the bird was always seen to be busy picking the feathers off, nearly 
all being removed by its bill, not pulled, but pushed off. "When the moult was 
nearly completed and only a few dried-up feathers adhered to the back and 
upper side of the mjddle of the wings, the epidermal covering of the orange-col- 
ored patches on the lower mandibles loosened and came off like pieces of parch- 
ment or dry bladder." This shedding of portions of the epidermal covering is 
well known in certain Auks and Puffins, but had not been observed previously in 
members of this group. 

As already mentioned, when the Penguins are on land they stand erect, 
some species even holding the neck and head stretched vertically upward. They 
have the habit of disposing themselves in lines along the rocks or edges of the 
ice-floes, resembling at this time long lines of soldiers. Although they are ex- 
tremely awkward in walking, especially when hurried, they nevertheless manage 
to get over the ground with considerable speed. Kidder, who observed them 
on Kerguelen Island, describes the gait as follows: "No living thing that I ever 
saw expresses so graphically a state of hurry as a Penguin, when trying to escape. 
Its neck is stretched out, flippers whirling like the sails of a windmill, and body 
wagging from side to side, its short legs make stumbling and frantic efforts to 
get over the ground. There is such an expression of anxiety written all over the 
bird; it picks itself up from every fall, and stumbles again with such an air of 
having an arm full of bundles, that it escapes capture quite as often by the laughter 
of the pursuer as by its own really quite considerable speed." But they are 
preeminently birds of the sea, swimming and diving with the greatest facility, 
coming to the surface and disappearing again with such rapidity that it is almost 
impossible to say if it be bird or fish. The length of time that one can remain 
under water is a little more than a minute, which is not an extraordinary accom- 
plishment as compared with certain other birds. Their food consists entirely 
of fish, crustaceans, cephalopods, etc., which they seek in the open ocean, heed- 
less of storm and waves, for it "must be hard weather indeed when a Penguin 
goes in search of shelter, as he enjoys the wildest surf and loves the roaring 

During the nesting period they resort mainly to the wildest and most inacces- 
sible islands and isolated rocks in the southern seas. Here they come, or at least 
once did, in countless thousands. The nests of some of the species are placed on 
the ground, while others nest mainly in burrows or holes among the rocks, and it 
is said of at least the King Penguin that the egg is carried in a pouch or fold of 
skin between the legs, being laid down only for the purpose of changing it from 
one parent to the other. When on the ground the nests are rude affairs, consist- 
ing of a few grasses or are simply slight depressions scratched in the earth by 
the birds. The burrowing species of the Falkland Islands have modified their 
habits to some extent since the advent of civilization, now making these holes 
ten or fifteen feet long. The eggs are usually two in number, but apparently in 
some species there is but one; they are white or greenish white in color and 
possess a very thick shell. Both parents take part in the incubation of the eggs 

Penguin Rookeries 95 

and attend to the needs of the young with great care until they are able to shift 
for themselves. Notwithstanding this extreme care for the preservation of the 
young birds, Gould tells us that heavy gales of wind frequently destroy them in 
great numbers, hundreds occasionally being found dead on the beach after a 
storm. When sitting on the eggs or brooding the young, the old birds sit closely 
and if approached too near resent the intrusion with their powerful, sharp bills 
and are capable of inflicting severe .wounds. 

Penguin Rookeries. Moseley gives Jhe following graphic account of his 
visit to a large colony of Rock-hoppers: "You plunge into one of the lanes in 
the tall grass which at once shuts the surroundings from your view. The stench 
is overpowering, the yelling of the birds perfectly terrifying. The nests are 
placed so thickly that you cannot help treading on eggs and young birds at 
almost every step. A parent bird sits on each nest, with its sharp beak erect 
and open, ready to bite, yelling savagely, \Caa, Caa, Urr, Urr,' its red eyes 
gleaming, and its plumes at half cock, quivering with rage. No sooner are your 
legs within reach than they are furiously bitten, often by two or three birds at 
once. At first you try to avoid the nests, but soon find that impossible; then 
maddened almost by the pain, stench, and noise, you have recourse to brutality." 
Their gregarious habits and their inability to escape when on land have caused 
them to be greatly persecuted by man, as both eggs and birds are eagerly sought 
as food; for while neither birds nor eggs have a very delicate flavor, they are 
nevertheless a welcome addition to the larder after a long sea- voyage, and re- 
cently the Swedish and other South Polar expeditions were forced for many 
months to subsist almost entirely on their flesh and eggs. It was persecution 
of this kind, it will be recalled, that led to the extermination of the Great 
Auk, and from all accounts the Penguins are becoming sadly depleted in many 
of their breeding grounds. 

As regards size there is considerable range, from the Blue Penguin (Eudyptula 
minor} of Australia and New Zealand, which is only about sixteen inches in 
length, to the Emperor Penguin (Aptenodytesforstertyvi the shores of the Antarctic 
continent, which has a length of forty-eight inches and a weight, according to 
Ross, Nordenskiold, and others, of sixty to seventy-eight pounds. The length 
of the various species is between sixteen and forty-eight inches, the average 
being about thirty inches. 

That the Penguins represent a group of great antiquity is shown by the dis- 
covery of numerous fossil remains as well as by the apparently primitive character 
of certain structural elements. The oldest known fossil form (Palceeudyptes 
antarcticus] is found in the Eocene of New Zealand, and according to Hector, 
was of gigantic size, standing between six and seven feet in height, although 
other authorities would make it no more than five feet. In any event it was 
considerably larger than the largest living species, and it had a proportionately 
longer wing, yet all of the important skeletal modifications had been already 
acquired. Within the past few years, thanks largely to the revival of Antarctic 
exploration, no less than thirty-one nominal fossil species belonging to nineteen 
genera have been described, of which number five genera and species were 

96 The Penguins 

obtained by the Swedish South Polar Expedition on Seymour Island only about 
two degrees below the Antarctic Circle, and the remainder by Dr. Florentino 
Ameghino in Patagonia, all, it is believed, in beds of Miocene age. 1 These re- 
mains have been studied by Drs. Wiman and Ameghino with the astonishing 
result of showing apparently that the earlier forms of Penguins, so far as shown 
by their limbs and especially by the tarsi, were much more generalized than the 
living species. The tarsi, while comparatively longer in the fossil species than 
in the living forms, had their component bones much less clearly indicated than 
in modern Penguins, which is exactly the opposite of what should prevail, if, as 
has been supposed, the tarsus of the living Penguin is a survival of the primitive 
free condition of these bones. In other words, it appears that the present-day 
Penguins, with their uniquely free tarsal bones, have been derived from forms in 
which these bones were more or less consolidated, which naturally brings them 
closer to ordinary carinate birds in which the tarsal bones are practically solid. 
This consolidation of the tarsal bones is possibly an adaptive feature which has 
perhaps been brought about " by the habit of sitting with the tarsus on the ground 
when at rest." 

The relationship between the Penguins and other birds is rather hard to make 
out. Professor Watson, who studied the extensive material obtained by the 
Challenger expedition, regards them as the surviving members of a group that 
branched off early from the primitive "avian" stem, but "at the time of their 
separation the stem had diverged so far from reptiles as to possess true wings, 
though the metatarsal bones had not lost their distinctness and become pressed 
into the single bone so characteristic of existing birds." Pycraft has studied 
the anatomy of the group more recently, and, while he recognizes the fact that 
the skeletal specialization has reached the high-water mark, it does not, he claims, 
take us beyond the confines of the Class. He says: "Osteologically the Penguins 
seem to be nearly related to the Tubinares and Pygopodes, and, as Gadow and 
others have shown, the evidence of the soft parts confirms this supposition." 
Dr. Stejneger considers that the Penguins should be placed in a group of equal 
rank with the Ostriches and their allies, and the rest of living birds, that is to say 
that existing birds should be divided into three groups, of which the Penguins 
should constitute one. Others, and more especially Gadow, whotn we are follow- 
ing, regard the characters as of somewhat less importance and would only accord 
them ordinal rank. Apparently we must look to paleontology for further light 
on this perplexing point, and this, as already pointed out, seems to indicate that 
the line separating them from carinate birds in general is less sharp than was 
formerly supposed. 

Species. About twenty living species of Penguins are known. They are 
confined exclusively, as already stated, to the Antarctic region, never crossing 
and rarely even approaching the equator. They are, perhaps, most abundant 
in species in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands, but they do not range north 

1 Cladornis pachypus, also from the Patagonian Miocene, is regarded by Ameghino as repre- 
senting a divergent type of Penguin with a very thick leg, but it is imperfectly known, and seems 
hardly to belong here. 

Species of Penguins 97 

of Tristan da Cunha in the Atlantic or Amsterdam Island in the Indian Ocean, 
although they are common about New Zealand and the west shore of Australia, 
one species occasionally reaching as far north in the Pacific as the Galapagos 
Islands and another in the South Atlantic to the coasts of South and Southwest 
Africa. The causes governing their distribution within this area are not well 
understood, but apparently it does not depend wholly upon temperature, for at 
the most northern point reached by them the temperature of the sea is about 
62, and from this point they extend their range to water but little above the 
freezing point. They exhibit none of the tendencies to perform regular migra- 
tions, although they seem well enough fitted to undertake such journeys, and their 
distribution probably depends upon the food supply. The naturalists of the 
Challenger expedition did not observe them at any greater distance from land or 
ice than forty or fifty miles. 

The six genera into which the Penguins are divided may be separated into 
two groups. In the first, which embraces only the genus Aptenodytes, both 
mandibles are long, relatively slender, and slightly curved downward at the tip, 
while in the second group the bill is of moderate length, and never has the 
lower mandible curved downward. To Aptenodytes belong the two largest 
species, the Emperor (A.forsteri) and the King Penguins (A. pennanti) respec- 
tively. The Emperor Penguin is bluish above and white below, with the top 
of the head, cheeks, chin, and throat deep black, while there is a large semi- 
circular patch of orange-yellow on each side of the head. The total length is 
about forty-eight inches and the distance between the tips of the flippers thirty- 
six and one half inches. They frequent the shores of the Antarctic continent. 
The King Penguin is much smaller, being only about twenty-six inches long and 
is similar in coloration to the other, except that the bluish gray of the upper parts 
inclines to pearl -gray on the back of the neck and shoulders, and the orange 
patches on the sides of the head continue as narrow bands down each side of 
the throat, and unite at the base of the fore neck, broaden into deep orange 
patches, which shade into yellow and disappear on the white breast and under 
parts. This species is found about the Straits of Magellan, Falkland, Marion, 
Kerguelen, Macquarie, and Stewart islands. 

Somewhat closely allied to the above are the three species of Pygoscelis, of 
which perhaps the best known is the so-called "Johnny" (P. papua) of Kergue- 
len and the Falklands. About thirty inches in length, it has the upper parts 
slate-gray and the chest and under parts pure white, and with a broad white 
band across the crown between the eyes. Kidder found them nesting exten- 
sively on Kerguelen Island. When undisturbed the nesting sites were near the 
sea, but in other instances they were half a mile or more inland, and numerous 
very distinct paths have been worn by the successive generations, until in some 
cases they are as much as four feet in depth. As a rule two young were found 
to each old bird, and, he adds: "Singularly enough, one of these was always 
well grown, apparently from one to two months old, while the other had just 
been hatched or was still in the egg. It must, consequently, be the practice of 
these birds to rear two broods in a season, keeping both in the nest at the same 

98 The Penguins 

time." The other species are P. adelia and P. antarcfica, both without the 
white band across the crown. 

Distinguished by a stouter bill and an eyebrow band of more or less elon- 
gated golden feathers, are the five or six species of Catarrhactes, or Rock-hoppers, 

FIG. 30. Kerguelen Rock-hopper Penguin, Catarrhactes chrysocome. 

as they are called from the habit of "hopping" rather than walking. The 
Kerguelen species (C. chrysocome} is about twenty-five inches in total length, 
dark slate above, with the top of the head black and the throat and belly white. 
The feathers of the crown and back of the head are elongated into a straggling 
crest three inches in length, while the stripes above the eyes are of golden yellow 
feathers quite three and one half inches long. Their nests, placed among the 

Species of Penguins 99 

loose rocks, were lined with dried grass, and each contained two white eggs, "of 
which one is usually larger than the other." "They were wonderfully cour- 
ageous," says Kidder, "erecting their sulphur-yellow plumes and trembling all 
over with excitement on my approach, while they kept up a strident cackling that 
was almost deafening." The remaining species are separated mainly on minor 
differences in the crest; all range fromTierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands 
to Tsew Zealand. 

The smallest of the Penguins are comprised in the genus Eudyptula, of which 
two species are known. Of these we may mention the little Blue Penguin (E. 
minor] of the coasts of South Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, and the Chat- 
ham Islands. It is slate-blue above and pure white below, and is without 
streaks or crests on the head; its length is about sixteen inches. It breeds in 
large numbers on islands in Cook Strait and Bass's Strait, and appears to take 
great pains in constructing paths and avenues through the breeding grounds, 
carefully removing all sticks, stones, and herbage. The other species (E. 
albosignata) is similar but slightly larger and has both outer and inner instead of 
only the inner margins of the "flipper" margined with white; it is confined 
to the coasts of New Zealand. 

The remaining genus (Spheniscus) embraces four species, and may be known 
by the rather long, stout bill, the basal portion of which is furrowed by many 
longitudinal ridges ; there is also a well-developed white eyebrow stripe. Of these 
the Cape Penguin (S. demersus} occurs on the coasts of South Africa, and the 
others about the coasts of South America, the Galapagos and Falkland Islands. 



(Order Colymbiformes') 

LTHOUGH placed next to the Penguins, the members of the present 
order are of course quite markedly different from them, but, as sug- 
gested in the chapter on classification, this disposition illustrates 
one of the difficulties of a linear arrangement, and it does not follow 
that all placed contiguously are equally related. However, the Colymbiformes are 
also a group of ancient origin and likewise hold a somewhat isolated position. 
They were formerly associated with the Auks, and as a matter of fact they not 
only show affinities with them, but with several other groups, yet comparatively 
recent anatomical studies have demonstrated that they are, on the whole, abun- 
dantly distinct and well entitled to be ranked as a separate order. They are 
all markedly aquatic birds of medium or large size, with moderately long necks, 
long, mostly sharp-pointed bills, usually strong wings, and webbed or lobed toes. 
Perhaps the most marked anatomical features are the laterally flattened meta- 
tarsi, and the peculiar upward prolongation of the cnemial crest of the tibia. 

The Colymbiformes are divided into two families, the Gavidce, or Loons, and 
the PodicipedidfB, or Grebes. The first is distinguished by having the hind toe 
on a level with the other toes, which are united by a web, and by a tail of eighteen 
or twenty short, stiff feathers. In the Grebes the hind toe is raised above the 
level of the others, while the toes are provided with wide lateral lobes, and 
the tail usually so reduced as to be indistinguishable, though, as Pycraft has 
recently shown, it is never really absent. 



(Family Gavida) 

As a family the Loons are relatively very old, two or more fossil representa- 
tives having been discovered in the lower Miocene of France and the Pliocene 
of England, but so far as we are able to determine they did not differ essentially 
from the modern representatives, showing that the latter have changed but little 
with time. They are birds of large size, ranging between twenty-four and thirty- 
eight inches in length, and are past masters in the art of swimming and diving. 
They present a very awkward appearance on land, since the legs are placed 

Habits of Loons 101 

far back on the body, but the water is their natural element, and they are per- 
haps the most expert divers known among birds, diving so quickly that it is 
almost impossible to shoot one, when it is alert, even with a rifle. Although 
they have well-developed and rather strong wings, they rise from the water with 
more or less difficulty, but when once under way their flight is exceedingly swift 
and as straight as an arrow. The sexes are alike in plumage, although there is 
considerable difference between the summer and winter dress as well as between 
adults and downy young. They are blackish or slaty above and white beneath, 
becoming in summer thickly spotted or speckled with white, while the throat 
and fore neck are blackish or chestnut. In winter plumage and in the young 
the white markings are absent from the upper parts and the throat and fore neck 
are white like the remainder of the lower parts. They are circumpolar in dis- 
tribution, the five recognized species being referred to a single genus (Gavia). 
Unlike their relatives the Auks, they are not at all gregarious or sociable, being 
usually found singly or in pairs, though occasionally in winter they are forced to 
crowd together when there is a limited surface of open water in which they can 
feed. They are found during the nesting season throughout the cooler parts of 
the northern hemisphere, even well within the Arctic circle, but during the win- 
ter they are widely spread throughout temperate regions, and especially along 
the adjacent oceans. Knowing that man is its mortal enemy, it is constantly on 
the watch. When it meets a passing boat it widens the distance by immediately 
sheering off, and prefers to escape pursuit by diving rather than flying, remain- 
ing under water so long and coming to the surface at so great a distance from its 
would-be captor, and in such unexpected places, that its pursuit is rendered 
tedious and often unavailing. In spring they repair to the more secluded lakes 
and ponds for the purpose of rearing their young. The nest is a rude affair of 
grass, moss, and often a little mud, placed on the ground at the edge of a marsh 
or lake, often on an abandoned muskrat "house," a bog, or other slight eleva- 
tion in shallow water. There is no attempt at concealment, but the nest is usu- 
ally so placed as to permit of uninterrupted vision in all directions, so that the 
moment danger threatens the parent slips silently into the water and is gone. 
The eggs are, however, adapted for concealment, being dark brown or olive, 
speckled or spotted with brown or blackish, thus harmonizing with the grass 
lining of the nest. The eggs, two in number, are elongate-ovate in shape and 
of large size. The cry of the Loon is exceedingly loud and melancholy, being 
likened by some to the howl of a wolf or the prolonged scream of a human being 
in deep distress. It is frequently uttered at night, or in early morning when 
nature is otherwise silent, and the effect upon the startled listener is often one 
of fright and horror. They feed entirely upon fish, which they are adepts in 
capturing. The following account is from the pen of Dr. Coues, and refers to the 
Pacific Loon (Gavia pacified), which he once found surprisingly tame about the 
bay of San Pedro in southern California: "Now two or three would ride lightly 
over the surface, with neck gracefully curved, propelled with idle strokes of 
their paddles to this side and that, one leg, often the other, stretched at ease 
almost horizontally backward, while their flashing eyes, first directed upward 


The Loons and Grebes 

with sidelong glance, then peering into the depths below, sought for some 
attractive morsel. In an instant, with the peculiar motion, impossible to de- 
scribe, they would disappear beneath the surface, leaving a little foam and 
bubbles to mark where they went down, and I could follow their course under 
water; see them shoot with marvelous swiftness through the liquid element, as, 
urged by the powerful strokes of the webbed feet and beats of the half -opened 
wings, they flew rather than swam ; see them dart out the arrow-like bill, transfix 
an unlucky fish, and lightly rise to the surface again." 

The characters upon which the species of Loon are based, although not very 
striking, are ordinarily sufficient for their ready identification. Thus the first 
four species to be mentioned agree in having the tarsus shorter than the middle 

FIG. 31. Common Loon, Gavia imber. 

toe without the claw, and in having the fore neck blackish in summer. In the 
so-called Common Loon (G. imber} the bill in the mature bird is blackish and 
the head and neck are glossed with velvety green; the length "is from twenty- 
eight to thirty-six inches. This bird is found throughout the northern part of 
the Northern Hemisphere. Its closest relative is the Yellow-billed Loon (G. 
adamsii], so named from the fact that the bill is almost wholly yellowish white, 
while the head and neck are glossed with velvety violet-blue. It is also the 
largest species, ranging from thirty-five to thirty-eight inches in length, and in- 
habits western Arctic America and northeastern Asia. These two species have 
the head and neck black all around, while in the two following these parts are 
grayish. Of these the Black-throated Loon (G. arctica) is so called from the 
blackish fore neck, this being glossed with velvety purple. It is smaller than 
either of those above mentioned, being from twenty-six to twenty-nine inches 
long. It ranges over the northern portions of the Northern Hemisphere, breed- 

The Grebes 103 

ing in the Arctic regions. Very closely allied is the Pacific Loon (G. pacified}, 
being distinguished by its smaller size and the paler color of the nape and back 
of the head ; it is confined to the Pacific coast of North America. In the remain- 
ing form, the Red-throated Loon (G. lumme), the tarsus is longer than the middle 
toe with its claw, and the fore neck is a rich chestnut. It is widely distributed 
over the northern portion of the Northern Hemisphere, nesting well within 
the Arctic regions. 


(Family Podicipedidce) 

As already stated the Grebes are much smaller birds than the Loons, few of 
them exceeding twenty inches in length, and many of them being under ten 
inches. By far the larger portion of their lives is spent in fresh-water lakes and 
mds, but in winter and during the migrations they often resort to the sea. 
their relatives they are most expert divers, taking to wing with great re- 
luctance and only when so hard pressed that they would otherwise be captured, 
"hey readily dive at the flash of a gun and before shot or bullet can reach them. 
Inlike many other water birds they do not employ the wings in swimming under 
/ater, but depend exclusively on the lobed feet for both diving and swimming. 
Their food consists of frogs, fish, mollusks, water insects, and occasionally seeds 
and bits of vegetation. The nest is a thick, matted platform of rushes and other 
aquatic plants, often procured by the birds by diving, and is usually floating on 
the water, being perhaps slightly anchored, often over deep water, to some rush 
or other aquatic plant. The eggs, two to five in number, and dull white or 
greenish white in color, are placed in a slight depression on the top of the float- 
ing mass, and are always damp and not infrequently hatched while partially 
covered with water. "When out of the shell the young has not far to walk; 
he looks a few moments over the edge of his water-drenched cradle and down 
he goes with the expertness of an old diver." Ordinarily Grebes cannot be called 
gregarious, but frequently a few pairs build their nests close together. Thus 
Mr. Henshaw found upward of a dozen nests of the American Eared Grebe in a 
pond in southern Colorado, while Mr. Goss found fully a hundred pairs of the 
same species nesting in a little cove of Como Lake, Wyoming, and Mr. Seebohm 
records the finding of a dozen nests of the European Dabchick in an immense 
reed-bed near Danzig, Germany. After the full complement of eggs has been 
laid, the parent when leaving the nest, unless startled into leaving suddenly, 
carefully covers the eggs up with weeds and moss, entirely concealing them. 
As they are otherwise left exposed it is thought by Mr. Seebohm that the object 
is not so much for the purpose of hiding them as to protect them against cold ; 
other authorities, however, are strongly of the opinion that it is done purely for 
purposes of concealment against egg-eating birds, such as Gulls, which would 
undoubtedly be quick to observe the uncovered eggs. During the breeding 
season Grebes have a variety of loud "braying" notes, but at other times they 

104 The Loons and Grebes 

are usually silent, and they have the singular habit, when not compelled to dive 
quickly, of sinking down gradually and backward into the water until they 
disappear entirely, not leaving" a ripple on the surface. They are also able to 
swim for an indefinite time with only the bill out of water, and the seemingly 
mysterious disappearance is often to be accounted for in this manner. 

Dabchicks. The Grebes are practically cosmopolitan in distribution. Of 
the twenty-five or thirty forms recognized, North America lays claim to six, South 
America to nine, Europe to five, etc. There is some difference of opinion as to 
the number of genera that should be recognized, but according to recent author- 
ity it is perhaps advisable to recognize seven, of which Podicipes with fifteen 
species is the largest. Of these one of the best known is the Little Grebe, or Dab- 
chick (P . fluviatilis] of central and southern Europe, whence it ranges westward 
into central Asia and even reaches Japan. It is only about nine and one half 
inches long and has the head, neck, and upper parts dark brown, the chin black, 
the cheek, throat, and sides of the neck reddish chestnut, and the under parts 
grayish white, while the bill is horn-color and the legs and feet dull green. It is 
a common and well-known bird throughout the British Islands, frequenting in 
summer the lakes and ponds, but in winter resorting to the rivers and larger 
bodies of water, and in very severe weather to the seacoast. It begins to breed 
toward the end of April or early in May, making the usual floating nest among 
the reeds. "The Dabchick," says Mr. Hudson, "has the curious habit of hold- 
ing its young under its wing and diving from the nest, to take them out of danger." 
Two broods are frequently reared in a season, one bird caring for the numbers 
of the first brood while the other parent is incubating the second set of eggs. 
There are three or four species closely allied to the above, one of which (P. 
philippinensis) ranges from southern China through Formosa and the Burmese 
Provinces to the Philippine Islands and Borneo, another (P. capensis] from 
tropical Africa and Madagascar to Persia and the Indian peninsula, while the 
third (P. tricolor] is found from Borneo to Celebes and New Guinea. Still 
another is a peculiar whitish species (P. albescens) of Native Sikhim, North 
India, which is only seven and one half inches long. Other species are P. 
pelzelni of Madagascar, P. nova-hollandm of Java, New Guinea, and Australia, 
P. poliocephalus of Australia and Tasmania, and P. dominions, the St. Domingo 
Grebe of tropical America in general, but ranging north to southern Texas and 
southern California. This species is about nine inches long, dusky brown above, 
with head and neck dark grayish or lead-colored, the throat and chin dull black 
and the under parts white, while the bill is deep black, paler at the tip, the iris 
orange, and the legs and feet blackish. It frequents fresh-water ponds and 
lakelets as well as salt-water marshes. Another New Zealand species, also 
known as the Dabchick or Totokipo (P. rufipectus), is blackish brown above, 
finely streaked with white on the head, the throat brown, the breast rufous, and 
the abdomen white. Like the other members of the group, it dives with amazing 
agility; but according to Buller, it flies with difficulty, and only for a short dis- 
tance, skimming the surface with a very labored flapping of its little wings. The 
five remaining species of the genus are all South American. 

Horned and Eared Grebes 



Horned and Eared Grebes. The genus Dytes, as recognized by American 
ornithologists, contains three or four forms in which the bill is much shorter than 
the head and the wings barely more than six inches in length. Of these the 
Horned Grebe (D. auritus} is best known, being found throughout the northern 
portion of the Northern Hemi- 
sphere, breeding in the New 
World mainly north of the 

nited States, and in winter 

nging over most of the 
United States, as well as 

urope, Japan, and China, 
is between thirteen and fif- 

en inches long and has the 

ick and wings blackish, with 

ic lower neck and chest ru- 
ms, and the sides of the 

:ciput with a very full dense 

ift of soft, ochraceous 
Dlumes, whence its common 

ime. It is found mainly in 

ic interior, although fre- 
quently visiting the seacoast 
in winter; Thompson reports 
it as abundant in Manitoba. 
The Eared Grebe (D. nigri- 

collis), which has a relatively wider bill than the last, is found throughout cen- 
tral Europe and Asia, and may be known by the head, neck, and chest being 
black instead of rufous and by the crest being more tuft-like or fan-shaped. 
Closely allied, but having the inner quills with the inner web wholly dusky 
instead of white, is the American Eared Grebe (D. nigricollis calif ornicus) of 
western North America. 

Peruvian Flightless Grebe. Lake Titicaca, in southern Peru, is the exclusive 
home of a curious flightless Grebe (Centropelma micro pterum). The general color 
above is dark brown mixed with chestnut on the sides of the lower back and rump, 
the crown and occiput as well as the sides of the neck being rich chestnut, while 
the chin, throat, and fore neck are white and the under parts dull rufous tinged 
with satiny white; the length is about sixteen inches. According to Professor 
Garman, these birds are very common about all parts of the lake where the water 
is at all shallow, feeding on fishes and batrachians. "They are unable to rise 
from the water, but by flapping their rudimentary wings and striking the water 
with their feet, they manage to progress quite rapidly for a short distance. They 
dive quickly at the discharge of a gun so quickly that unless taken unawares 
will dodge the shot and escape, often swimming a long distance under water 
before reappearing." 

Great Crested Grebe. With the bill about as long as the head, and the wing 

FIG. 32. Horned Grebe, Dytes auritus. 

106 The Loons and Grebes 

more than six inches in length, are the three species of the genus Lophathyia, one 
of which, the Great Crested Grebe (L. cristate), is of nearly cosmopolitan distri- 
bution, ranging from Europe and northern Asia to Africa, Australia, and New 
Zealand. It is the largest member of the group, being from twenty-two to twenty- 
four inches long, and during the breeding season at least is ornamented with a 
very prominent black-tipped frill, as well as by a pair of long, glossy black tufts 
or "horns" on the top of the head. The upper parts are dark brown and the 
under parts silky white quite to the bases of the feathers. "Among our large 
water birds," says Hudson, "there are few more strikingly handsome than this 
Grebe in its full breeding plumage, when viewed as it floats, unalarmed, in the 
secluded reed-fringed water it loves." Much smaller than this, and confined to 
the northern parts of the Eastern Hemisphere, is the Red-necked Grebe (L. 
griseigena], while the third species, known as HolbcelFs Grebe (L. holboellii), is 
found in North America, including Greenland and eastern Asia, breeding usually 
far northward. It is about nineteen inches long, blackish above, glossy on the 
top of the head and back of the neck, rufous on the front and sides of the neck, 
and silvery white on the throat, sides of the head, and under parts. 

Pied-billed Grebe. Passing over the genus ^Echmophorus, which embraces 
a single New World form, we come to the final genus, which contains only the 
Pied-billed Grebe, Helldiver, or Water- witch (Podilymbus podiceps), as it is 
variously called. It is distinguished from the others by the very stout bill, in 
which the length is less than twice the depth at the base. About fourteen inches 
long, it is brownish above and silvery white beneath, becoming in the breeding 
season black on chin and throat, and spotted with dusky below, while the bill 
is whitish, crossed near the middle by a black band. During winter the black 
on the throat is replaced by dull white, the lower parts are without the dusky 
spots, and the bill without the black band. This bird, probably the commonest 
and best known of our Grebes, is found throughout the whole of North and South 
America except in the extreme northern and southern districts. Its various 
common names are a sufficient indication of its most salient characteristics. 



(Order Procellariiformes) 

F the very few large groups of birds that may be diagnosed by a 
single character, the present forms a notable example, since all of 
its members agree in possessing tubular external nostrils, whence 
they are often and appropriately called the Tubinares, or Tube- 
nosed Swimmers. In addition to this character it may be pointed out that 
they are all strong flying birds of the ocean, possessing long, narrow wings, and 
fully webbed front toes, while the first or hind toe is absent or reduced to a 
mere rudiment. 

Although there are some differences of opinion as to the affinities of this 
group, it seems beyond question that they are most closely related to the Slegano- 
podes, and are conveniently and quite naturally divided into three families, the 
first of which includes the Albatrosses (Diomedeida). 


(Family Diomedeidce) 

To those who " go down to the sea in ships " one of the marvels is the wonderful 
power of flight enjoyed by the Albatrosses. On tireless wing, hour after hour, 
day after day, they "wheel round and round, and forever round the ship now 
far behind, now sweeping past in a long rapid survey like a perfect skater on 
an uneven field of ice. There is no effort; watch as closely as you will, you 
rarely or never see a stroke of the mighty pinion. The flight is generally near 
the water, often close to it. You lose sight of the bird as he disappears in the 
hollow between the waves, and catch him again as he rises over the crest; but 
how he rises and whence comes the propelling force is to the eye inexplicable; 
he merely alters the angle at which the wings are inclined; usually they are 
parallel to the water and horizontal; but when he turns to ascend or makes a 
change in his direction, the wings then point at an angle, one to the sky, the other 
to the water." - BULLER. 

While many ingenious theories have been propounded to account for the 
amazing power which these birds possess of sailing in the air for perhaps an hour 
at a time without the slightest apparent motion of the expanded wings, we are 
still without a wholly satisfactory explanation. "The Albatross has," says 


io8 The Albatrosses and Petrels 

Mr. Lucas, "that type of wing which best fulfils the conditions necessary for 
an aeroplane, being long and narrow, so that while a full-grown Albatross may 
spread from ten to twelve feet from tip to tip, this wing is not more than nine 
inches wide. This spread of wing is gained by the elongation of the inner bones 
of the wing and by increasing the number of secondaries, there being about 
forty of these feathers in the wing of the Albatross." 

The Albatrosses, of which some sixteen or eighteen species are known, are 
mainly birds of the southern tropical or subtropical seas, although two species 
are found in the North Pacific as far north as Alaska, and two other species are 
occasionally found on the Pacific coast of the United States ; on the Atlantic side 
it is rare indeed to find them as far north as Tampa Bay. They are invariably 
met with by ships that round Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope, and many a 
time has their presence "aroused the tired sailor's admiration by the power and 
endurance of their scarcely moving wings, which seem never to know or need a 
rest." The Albatrosses are among the largest of the water birds in existence, 
at least of those enjoying the power of flight. The spread of wings, as already 
stated, may reach ten or twelve feet, yet the weight of the entire body of even the 
largest birds rarely exceeds sixteen or eighteen pounds. The food of the Alba- 
trosses consists of fish, cuttlefish, jellyfish, offal, and scraps thrown overboard 
from passing ships. This latter habit of feeding frequently results in their ex- 
tinction, for by baiting a hook attached to a long line with some tempting bit 
of meat they are easily caught and drawn on board. This practice has been 
so often resorted to that, coupled with the frequent destruction of the nests, 
certain species have been greatly reduced in numbers and seem on the verge of 

At the nesting time the Albatrosses resort in great numbers to various iso- 
lated oceanic islands, where they build on the ground in open situations a mound- 
like nest of mud and grasses some eighteen inches or more high. In a slight 
depression in the top the single egg is laid. The egg is very large, even for the 
size of the bird, in the case of the Wandering Albatross being about five inches 
in length and over three inches in diameter. It is coarse in texture, of an elon- 
gated oval form, with the smaller end compressed and often enlarged at the tip ; 
in color the eggs vary from dull white to pale yellow, usually profusely marked 
at the larger end with reddish brown specks and dots. The birda while incubat- 
ing the egg sit very closely, allowing a near approach without making the least 
movement. On this point Kidder says: "They are dull birds, making but little 
attempt to defend their eggs beyond loudly clattering their bills. The sound thus 
produced is louder than would be expected, owing to the resonance of the con- 
siderable cavity included by the mandibles. It is very like the sound of a tin 
pan beaten with a stick. I knocked several off and secured their eggs before 
they recovered sufficiently to approach the nests. They climbed on to the 
empty nests, however, and sat as contentedly, to all appearances, as before. I 
believe they do not lay a second time ; the whalers, who are very fond of the eggs, 
assert that they never find a second one in a nest that has been once robbed." 

Many curious stories have been told regarding the treatment of the young. 

The Laysan Albatross 109 

Thus it is the popular belief among the whalers that after the young are hatched 
in January the old birds leave at once and do not return until the following Octo- 
ber, the young birds feeding, in the meantime, on their own fat ! Against the 
idea of the young birds feeding at night it is urged that they cannot fly during 
this period. These statements are, of course, incredible, and it is probable that 
they are fed at night by the parents, who may be absent during the daytime. 

Laysan Albatross. Mr. Walter K. Fisher has recently given a very complete 
account of the Laysan Albatross (D. immutabilis), from which we select the descrip- 
tion of a curious dance or "cake-walk" that is constantly being executed by the 
old birds. "At first two birds approach one another, bowing profoundly and 
stepping heavily. They swagger about each other, nodding and courtesying 
solemnly, then suddenly begin to fence a little, crossing bills and whetting them 
together, sometimes with a whistling sound, meantime pecking and dropping 
stiff little bows. All at once one lifts its closed wing and nibbles at the feathers 
beneath, or rarely, if in a hurry, quickly turns its head. The partner during this 
short performance assumes a statuesque pose, and either moves mechanically 
from side to side, or snaps its bill loudly a few times. Then the first bird bows 
once, and pointing its head and beak straight upward, rises on its toes, puffs 
out its breast, and utters a prolonged, nasal Ah-h-h-h, with a rapidly rising 
inflection. While this ' song ' is being uttered, the companion loudly and rapidly 
snaps its bill. Often both birds raise their heads in air and either one or both 
favor the appreciative audience with the ridiculous and indescribable bovine 
groan. When they have finished they begin bowing to each other again, rapidly 
and alternately, and presently repeat the performance, the birds reversing their 
role in the game or not." 

Wandering Albatross and Relatives. The Albatrosses were formerly in- 
cluded in a single genus, but later authorities mainly agree in separating them 
into three genera, of which Diomedea is the original and largest, and may be 
known by the upper division of the bill being broadest at the base. Of the ten 
recognized species in this genus the Wandering Albatross (D. exulans) is by far 
the commonest and best known, being widely spread over the southern oceans. 
The fully adult birds are white, with the back banded with narrow, transverse, 
undulating dark lines, while the wing-quills are black. In the young the general 
color is dusky, with the head whitish. The bill is yellowish horn-color, becoming 
orange at the base, and the feet and legs flesh-color. According to Ridgway the 
length is from forty-four to fifty-five inches, and the spread of wings from one 
hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and thirty inches. Very similar to this 
species is the Royal Albatross (7). regia) of the New Zealand seas, which differs 
mainly in the absence of the transverse dark lines on the upper back and of spots 
on the tail, and the White-winged Albatross (-D. chionoptera) of the southern 
Indian Ocean, which is almost pure white throughout. Of the two species 
inhabiting the North Pacific, the Short-tailed Albatross (D. albatrus) is white, 
becoming straw-yellow on the head and neck, and has the bill and feet pale 
brownish, while the Black-footed Albatross (D. nigripes) is a uniform dusky, 
with the bill purplish brown and the feet black; neither is more than thirty- 

1 1 o The Albatrosses and Petrels 

seven inches in length. Of the remaining species we may only mention the Spec- 
tacled Albatross (D. melanophrys\ which is so called from the presence of a 
distinct grayish stripe on the sides of the head and about the eyes. It is a small 
species, being only about thirty inches long, and is found in the southern oceans, 
straying occasionally to the coast of California. A single fossil species has been 
described from the recent deposits of England. 

The second genus (Thalassogeron), which is perhaps doubtfully distinct, is 
distinguished by the fact that the upper division of the bill is narrow, and of 
equal width from the middle of the culmen to the base. The six species are, 
with one exception, confined to the Southern Ocean, the exception being the 
Albatross (T. eximius] of Gough Island in the South Atlantic. The only species 
casually reaching the Pacific coast of South America is the Yellow-nosed Alba- 
tross (T. culminatus], a bird about thirty-six inches long, of a uniform dark 
brownish slate above, with the rump, upper tail-coverts, and lower parts white. 
The peculiar common name arises from the presence of a yellowish stripe along 
the edge of the lower mandible. 

The Sooty Albatross (Phozbetria fuliginosa) is the sole representative of the 
remaining genus and is distinguished at once from all the others by the presence 
of a distinct longitudinal groove on the sides of the lower mandible, which extends 
the entire length of the lateral division, and by its wedge-shaped tail. In the 
adult the plumage of the neck, back, and lower parts is pale smoky gray, becom- 
ing deep sooty on the sides of the head, chin, and throat, while the bill is deep 
black with the grooves whitish and the feet pale 'reddish. Its home is in the 
southern seas, though coming occasionally as far north as the coast of Oregon. 


(Family Procellariida) 

The Petrels take their name from the fact that they often appear to walk on 
the surface of the water, as the Apostle Peter is said to have tlone, the word 
being derived from the Latin petrellus, meaning literally "little Peter." They 
of course do not actually walk on the water, but the bodies of some species are 
so small and light that they are able, with only the slightest seeming exertion, 
to keep the moving feet just touching the water, and then they may seem to be 
walking on its surface. 

The Petrels constitute a large, well-marked group of birds embracing upward 
of twenty genera and one hundred species, of which number more than thirty 
have been found in North America. They are strictly birds of the ocean, never 
venturing near the land except at the breeding season, and even then they seem 
in haste to be gone. "None of the Petrels," says Professor Newton, "are en- 
dowed with any brilliant coloring sooty black, gray of various tints (one of 
which approaches to and is often called "blue"), and white being the only hues 

Plumage and Habits of Petrels 

1 1 1 

their plumage exhibits; but their graceful flight, and their companionship where 
no other life is visible around a lonely vessel on the wildest oceans, gives them an 
interest to beholders." In distribution the Petrels are found throughout all 
seas and oceans of the world, but they are most abundant both in kinds and 
individuals in the Southern Ocean. 

Their powers of flight are almost if not quite equal to those of the Albatrosses, 
as they are known to follow a vessel for days at a time, apparently not needing 
or caring for rest. However, they all swim readily and it is probable that indi- 

FIG. 33. Galapagos Stormy Petrel, Procellaria tethys. 


Dark-rumped Petrel, /Estrelata 

viduals really rest for a few minutes in the water and then easily overtake the 
ship without their absence having been noticed. In the manner of nesting, the 
Petrels differ quite markedly from the Albatrosses, as they nest in holes among 
rocks usually on the face of a cliff, occasionally in holes made by burrowing ani- 
mals of various kinds, or among tufts of grass or other plants, while not a few of 
the species excavate holes or burrows for themselves in the ground; rarely the 
egg is placed on the bare rock without the pretense of a nest. These burrows 

ii2 The Albatrosses and Petrels 

are of considerable length and frequently turn and double on themselves, and 
when available nesting sites are limited, or the ground is especially hard in which 
it is necessary to dig, it appears that several birds may combine forces. Thus 
on the Bird Rocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Palmer speaks of having found 
four females and five 1 eggs of Leach's Petrel in a single hole, but ordinarily there 
is only one occupant. The Petrels lay but a single egg, which is white, frequently 
tinged, when perfectly fresh, with very pale blue. The eggs of many species 
are entirely unmarked, while those of others are more or less spotted with rufous 
on the large end. They usually sit closely when incubating the egg and are 
removed from it or their burrow with difficulty, not to say danger. Of this 
peculiarity in Rodgers's Fulmar of the Pribilof Islands, Elliott says: "It is of all 
the water fowl the most devoted to its charge, for it will not be scared from the 
egg by any demonstration that may be made in the way of throwing or yelling, 
and it will even die as it sits rather than take flight, as I have frequently wit- 
nessed." Kidder also graphically describes the actions of various burrowing 
species as observed by him on Kerguelen Island. The dog belonging to their 
party habitually dug them out of their holes for food, and they " were generally 
brought to the surface hanging to his ear." Petrels are mainly nocturnal in 
their habits, at least during the nesting season, and their presence may be entirely 
unsuspected in the daytime. To quote again from Kidder regarding the Whale- 
bird (Prion desolatus): "Upon first landing, the hillsides, apparently deserted 
during the day, became at night perfectly alive with these birds, flying irregu- 
larly about the rocks and hummocks of Azorella, and filling the air with their 
calls." Their crepuscular habits, combined with the fact that they usually seek 
isolated places for nesting, make their study difficult, and we are still in ignorance 
of the nests and eggs of several species. 

The food of the Petrels is also more or less in doubt. The stomachs of those 
examined appear to contain oil, but whether this is the usual food is not known, 
and it seems more than probable that the minute animals so abundant in tropical 
waters supply a considerable share. 

As already stated, the Petrels never voluntarily visit the land except for nest- 
ing purposes, but they are frequently driven out of their course and often far 
inland during severe storms. A remarkable case of this kind was recorded some 
years ago, when, during a violent storm of several days' duration^two specimens 
of the Sandwich Island Petrel, a bird found normally in the vicinity of the 
Hawaiian Islands, the Galapagos Archipelago, and Canary Islands, were secured 
in an exhausted condition in the city of Washington. A single specimen had 
previously been found dead on the shore of England, and one or two are recorded 
from Scandinavia. In their natural wanderings these birds may have passed 
around Cape Horn and up into the North Atlantic, where it is now known a 
colony of them has been established in the Madeiras, as specimens have recently 
been received from there, and as a matter of fact it may be added the species was 
first made known from the Canaries. The specimens taken in Washington 
were the first ever noted in North America, though very recently an example 
has been captured in Indiana. The Black-capped Petrel, whose home is around 

The Fulmars 113 

Guadeloupe Island, in the Lesser Antilles, has been captured, probably just after 
a tropical hurricane, in Virginia, over 200 miles from the sea, in New York 
State, and also in Hungary. That the Petrels, strong flying as they are, are 
frequently destroyed during storms, is well shown by Buller in his " Birds of New 
Zealand." He says regarding the little Dove Petrel: "This charming little Petrel 
is extremely abundant off our coasts, and I have often observed flocks of them 
on the wing together numbering many hundreds. In boisterous weather it 
appears to suffer more than any other ocean species from the fury of the tempest, 
and the sea beach is sometimes found literally strewn with the bodies of the dead 
and dying. I have frequently watched them battling, as it were, with the storm, 

FIG. 34. Giant Fulmar, Macronectes gigantea. 

till at length, unable longer to keep to windward, they have been mercilessly 
blown down upon the sands, and, being unable from sheer exhaustion to rise 
on the wing again, have been beaten to death by the rolling surf or pounced upon 
and devoured by a hovering Sea-Gull." 

Fulmars. The present family is often divided into a number of more or 
less well marked subfamilies, the first of which (the Fulmarina) embraces the 
Fulmars and their immediate allies, and of which the Giant Fulmar, or Cape Hen 
(Macronectes gigantea), may be taken as the type. This species, the sole representa- 
tive of its genus, is but little inferior to the Albatrosses, being from thirty to thirty- 
six inches in length, and having a spread of wings from seventy-two to eighty- 
four inches. It is distinguished at once by its great size, by the very long and 
stout nasal tubes, and tail of sixteen feathers. There are two well-marked phases 
of plumage, a so-called light phase, in which the head, neck, and lower parts are 

114 The Albatrosses and Petrels 

white, the upper parts dusky, and the bill light yellowish, and a dark phase, in 
which the plumage is a uniform dark sooty brown, with the bill olive yellowish 
or grayish white; the legs and feet are grayish black. This species is widely 
distributed throughout the southern seas, occasionally wandering north on the 
Pacific coast of America as far as Oregon, as its power of flight is nearly if not 
quite equal to that of the Albatrosses. It is known to the whalers as the "Nelly," 
" Breakbones," or "Stinker," the latter name from its habit of vomiting the 
foul contents of its stomach, often to a distance of several feet, when approached 
or wounded. It nests in the same places as the Albatrosses, laying a single large 
dirty white egg on the bare ground. Its food consists largely when procurable 
of the blubber and flesh of the seals, sea-elephants, and whales, that are killed 
for commercial purposes, and, when occasion presents, of the bodies of its feath- 
ered relatives. Kidder found them abundant on Kerguelen Island, feeding 
on the carcass of the sea-elephant. "With their huge whitish beaks, light- 
colored heads (then covered with clotted blood), and disordered dun plumage, 
they reminded me strongly of Vultures. Like Vultures, also, they had so 
crammed themselves that they were unable to rise from the ground. They 
waddled and stumbled to the sea, swam away, and did not rise into the air until 
half an hour or more of digestion, and perhaps of vomiting, had made it possible." 
They were also observed eating carrion, and were altogether the filthiest birds 
on the island. 

The Fulmar Petrels (Fulmarus), of which there are some four or five forms, 
take the place in the Northern Hemisphere that the Giant Fulmar fills in the 
southern seas* They are similar to their great relative, but are distinguished at 
once by their smaller size, none of them exceeding twenty inches in length, by 
having the bill shorter instead of longer than the tarsus, by the relatively shorter 
and smaller nasal tubes, and a tail of only fourteen feathers. In the Common 
Fulmar (F. glacialis) of the North Atlantic, the nasal tubes are distinctly dusky 
and the whole bill sometimes brownish, while in the remaining forms, which are 
confined mainly to the North Pacific, these tubes are light-colored, and the bill 
never dark. In plumage they also exhibit a light and dark phase, in the first 
having the head, neck, and lower parts white and the upper parts bluish gray, 
while in the second the plumage is entirely smoky gray. The typical form (F. 
glacialis) is a very abundant bird throughout the Arctic and the sub- Arctic seas, 
often following the ships until they enter the pack ice. It possesses great powers 
of flight, is very graceful on the wing, and is usually seen in the air or rarely sitting 
on the water. It is not especially gregarious except at the nesting season, but 
when a supply of food is encountered many thousands may congregate. It is 
very partial to the fat of the whale, and when one of these huge animals has been 
killed the Fulmars approach for their share, and not infrequently gorge them- 
selves to such an extent as to be unable to fly. They are ordinarily very tame 
and approach so closely as to be readily knocked over with a boat-hook or even 
taken in the hand, and they also take a baited hook freely, returning at once when 
liberated to be captured a second time. When taken in the hand they vomit 
a considerable quantity of clear, amber-colored oil, which possesses a peculiar 

Cape and Dove Petrels 1 1 5 

and very disagreeable odor. During the breeding season they nest in vast 
communities on rocks and cliffs, making but little attempt at a nest, indeed often 
laying the single large egg on the bare ground. The eggs are much esteemed for 
food, being regarded as even superior to those of the domestic Duck, and conse- 
quently the birds are frequently robbed. The Fulmars are particularly tame at 
this season, permitting themselves to be taken in the hand or knocked from the 
nest with a cane. 

Of the Pacific forms Rodgers's Fulmar (F. rodgersii), of which brief mention 
has already been made, is confined to Bering Sea and adjacent waters, while the 
Pacific Fulmar (F. g. glu-pischa] ranges from the North Pacific south along the 
American coast to Mexico. Anthony has given us a very entertaining account 
of the Fulmars of southern California, especially as they congregate on the 
fishing banks some miles off the coast. The birds settle down within a few 
yards of the fishermen and when the line is hauled up after a successful sound 
they become greatly excited as the fish come into sight through the limpid 
water. It usually happens that one or more fish are detached and float to wind- 
ward, only to be pounced upon and torn to pieces by the hungry Fulmars. 
" Their confidence in mankind is at all times very great. I have several times 
seen them killed by fishermen, who had but to drop a small piece of fish over- 
board and hit the bird with a club when it swam up to get it." They were also 
taken by the hand and "when thrown upon the deck made no attempt to fly, 
but with outstretched wings hurried to the rail, over which they could just 
reach, and emptied the contents of their stomachs into the sea. Their actions 
were so like those of a seasick landsman that it was extremely laughable." 

Cape Petrel. The little Pintado, Cape Petrel (Daption capensis], or Cape 
Pigeon as it is perhaps most frequently called, from its superficial resemblance 
to a Pigeon, is by many placed next the Fulmars. It is much smaller than any 
of these, being only fifteen or sixteen inches in length, and has the head black, 
the back white, spotted with black, while the under parts are immaculate white. 
It is a native of the southern seas generally, coming north to Ceylon and occa- 
sionally, perhaps only accidentally, to California, on the Pacific coast of America. 
To all voyagers in southern seas it is an abundant and familiar bird, coming 
about the ship often in great numbers and feeding greedily on the scraps thrown 
overboard. It is said to dive readily, dropping suddenly into the water, and 
instantly disappearing, and it will also fish up bits of food from a slight depth of 
water. Like others of its kind, it ejects an offensive fluid when caught. Their 
breeding places are various Antarctic islands. 

Dove Petrels. The final members of this subfamily are the little Dove 
Petrels (Prion), of which some four species are recognized; all are inhabitants 
of the southern oceans. About twelve inches long, the upper surface is ashy 
blue, darker on the head and under the eye, and white below, while there is a 
very distinct black V-shaped band running from the wrist-joint along the radial 
portion of the wing to and across the rump, which is very conspicuous when the 
bird is flying. The several species are mainly distinguished by the width of the 
bill. The common Dove Petrel (P. desolatus] is perhaps the best known, being 

1 1 6 The Albatrosses and Petrels 

not uncommon in the South Atlantic and Antarctic seas. They fly in small 
flocks, and Kidder notes that they use first one wing and then the other, pro- 
ducing a peculiar irregularity of flight, that leads them to be often mistaken for 
shore-birds. They afre rather wary, not feeding on the scraps from a ship, but 
attending the whales to feed on what drops from their mouths, whence they are 
often called Whale-birds by the sailors and others. They breed on Kerguelen 
Island, making their burrows near the seashore, in lowland, under stones, or in 
the stony ground, and are strictly nocturnal in their habits. 

Shearwaters. A large and somewhat varied group of birds known as 
Shearwaters comprises principally the second subfamily (Puffinina), deriving 
their popular name from their habit of gliding along very close to the surface 
of the water, and their scientific designation from the mistaken notion that they 
were Puffins. They are strong-flying Petrels, with long, slender bills in which 
the nasal tubes are united externally, or nearly so, above the culmen, and with 
long, pointed wings. They are found on practically all of the seas of the world, 
though ordinarily at no great distance from land, to which, however, they rarely 
resort except for nesting purposes. Some twenty-five species have been de- 
scribed, of which number North America lays claim to ten or more ; but as the 
differences between the species are not very strongly marked and the habits very 
similar, it will only be necessary to select a few of the more important. One of 
the largest species is the Great Shearwater or Hagdon (P. major) of the Atlantic 
Ocean generally, a bird nineteen or twenty inches long, having the upper parts 
fuscous, with the wings and tail slightly darker, while the under parts are white, 
becoming ashy gray on the abdomen and under tail-coverts. It is exceedingly 
abundant in many parts of the Atlantic, especially off the coast of Newfound- 
land, where Palmer speaks of seeing them in thousands sitting on the water. 
Brewster says of its flight : " It usually follows a direct course, and invariably skims 
close over the waves. I know of no other sea-bird whose movements are so easy 
and graceful. Indeed, at times, especially during a gale, its evolutions will com- 
pare in grace and spirit with those of the Mississippi or Swallow-tailed Kites." 
Its nest and eggs are unknown. Of the four species found in the British seas 
the Manx Shearwater (P. puffinus) is the most abundant and best known. It 
is much smaller than the last, being only about fifteen inches long, and is sooty 
black above and white below, with the sides of the neck mottled with grayish 
brown. It breeds at several stations in the Channel and along the west coast 
of Great Britain, as well as a few islands of the Irish coast, but the principal 
colony is on St. Kilda, often called the sea-birds' paradise. Its favorite breeding 
places are the islands with a good ocean aspect, especially such as are broken in 
grassy downs, and fall in crags and precipices more or less turf-grown. Their 
burrows are made in the steep, grassy parts of the cliff or near their summit, and 
many nests are made close together, sometimes one main entrance leading to 
several burrows, each containing a nest. The birds are strictly nocturnal during 
the nesting season, but in winter they are said to feed at all hours. Other species 
of more or less common occurrence in the Atlantic are Audubon's Shearwater 
(P. Iherminieri) and the Sooty Shearwater, or Black Hagdon (P. fuliginosus), 

Black-capped and Bulwer's Petrels 117 

both very dark or sooty above. On the Pacific coast of the United States there 
are a number of species, perhaps the most abundant being the Black-vented 
Shearwater (P. opisthomelas] of southern California. About fourteen or fif- 
teen inches long, it has the upper parts a uniform sooty slate, paler on the head 
and neck, and the under tail-coverts wholly sooty grayish. According to Mr. 
A. W. Anthony, it is extremely abundant off the coast of central California in 
summer, and is found at all seasons of the year south of the Santa Barbara Islands. 
It has been found breeding on San Benito Islands, all the nests being in small 
caves, and on Natividad Island, an island some thirty-five miles south, where 
they excavate burrows often ten feet in length. Other well-known species are 
the Dark-bodied Shearwater (P. griseus), Townsend's Shearwater (P. auricu- 
laris) of Clarion Island and western Mexico, and the Wedge-tailed Shearwater 
(P. cuneatus], a species supposed previously to range from the Hawaiian Islands 
to the Bonin Islands, south of Japan, but which Mr. Anthony has found to 
be abundant off Lower California in May and June. Another species of wide 
range is the Slender-billed Shearwater (P. tenuirostris] which ranges from the 
seas about Australia and New Zealand to Alaska and Japan. It is very abun- 
dant about New Zealand and retires inland, sometimes for fifty miles, to breed. 

Black-capped Petrel. Passing over several smaller genera, we come to 
another large genus of Petrels (Mstrdata),t\& members of which are rather closely 
allied to the Shearwaters, but from which they differ in having a shorter and 
stouter bill, a very thin partition between the nostrils, relatively shorter nasal 
tubes, and a very large "nail," which occupies at least one third the total length 
of the lower mandible. The plumage and size in the thirty or more species is 
very variable. They are natives mainly of the temperate and tropical portions 
of the oceans of the Southern Hemisphere, coming northward in the Atlantic 
casually to the British Islands and the Middle Atlantic States, and in the Pacific 
to Alaska and Japan. One of the North American species is the Black-capped 
Petrel (s. hasitata), a bird about fifteen inches in length, sooty brown above, 
with the crown black and the back of the neck, upper tail-coverts, and whole 
under surface pure white. It ranges from the West Indies to Florida and Long 
Island, but almost nothing is known of its history or habits. Another species, 
known as the Dark-rumped Petrel (M. phaopygia], occurs in the middle Pacific, 
from the Hawaiian Islands to the Galapagos. Perhaps the handsomest as well 
as the rarest species is Fisher's Petrel (JE. fisheri} of the North Pacific in the 
vicinity of Kadiak, Alaska. It is uniform bluish gray above, the top of the head 
white, spotted with grayish, while the cheeks, chin, throat, middle of the chest, and 
under tail-coverts are pure white, and the lower breast, abdomen, and flanks 
smoky lead-colored superficially, but with the feathers all pure white immediately 
beneath the surface. It is only known from the type specimen. 

Bulwer's Petrel. The final member of this subfamily to be noticed is Bul- 
wer's Petrel (Bulweria bulweri) of the temperate North Atlantic and Pacific 
oceans, which differs from the last by its longer, more graduated tail, less com- 
pressed bill, and smaller feet. It is only ten inches long and in color is uniform 
fuliginous dusky, lighter and more grayish brown beneath, while the wings are 


The Albatrosses and Petrels 

blackish. It breeds in the Canaries and Madeira, nesting in holes in rocks near 
the foot of the cliffs. Its cry is said to resemble that of a puppy. 

Stormy Petrels. Perhaps the most interesting of all the Petrels, or at least 
those about which there clusters the most of poetry and superstition, are the 
little Stormy Petrels (Procellaria}, which may be taken as the type of the sub- 
family Procellariince. They are known at once by their small size, their bodies 
being no larger than that of an English Sparrow, and their length not exceeding 
six inches. The general color of the plumage is a sooty blackish, somewhat 
paler or more sooty grayish below, set off by a conspicuously snow-white rump. 
They are preeminently birds of the ocean, never approaching the land except 
during the nesting season or when driven there by extraordinarily severe gales, 
and as they are perhaps most frequently seen just before or during a storm, at- 
tracted doubtless by the minute animals upon which they probably feed, then 

found at the surface of the sea, they have 
come to be regarded with superstition by 
sailors, and many a dire calamity has been 
predicted on their presence. Sailors call 
them "Mother Carey's Chickens"; "but 
not, as might be imagined from such a 
name, of any tender regard or feeling of 
affection for the birds. Mother Carey is 
supposed to be a kind of ocean witch, a 
supernatural Mother Shipton, who rides the 
blast, and who has for attendants and har- 
bingers the little Dark-winged Petrels." 
But on the other hand, by exhibiting their 
wonderful power of endurance, they .may 
stimulate to renewed exertion the weary, 
storm-tossed mariners. A well-know r n 
writer, after describing a tempestuous voy- 
age, says, "It was some relief to the extreme monotony and misery of our situ- 
ation, to watch the movements of these fairy-like beings as they danced among 
the surging billows, running with fluttering wings in the hollow of the waves, and 
hovering over their foaming crests with the lightness of summer butterflies." Of 
the two species the true Stormy Petrel (P. pelagica} is found in the North 
Atlantic, south to the Newfoundland Banks and the western coast of Africa. It 
is apparently only a transient visitor to American waters, perhaps not breeding, 
its principal nesting grounds being along the Atlantic coast of Europe, espe- 
cially the Scilly Islands, the Orkneys, and Shetlands. It is gregarious during 
the nesting season, which does not begin until June, and places its single white, 
minutely speckled egg in rabbit or Puffin burrows, under a rock or heap of loose 
stones, or even in ruined walls. The bird is a close sitter, remaining in its burrows 
until dragged out, and when taken in the hand ejects a small quantity of strong- 
smelling, amber-colored oil from the mouth. The other species known as the 
Galapagos Stormy Petrel (P. tethys] is found in the vicinity of the islands of 

FIG. 35. Stormy Petrel, Procellaria 

Least and Leach's Petrels 119 

that name and on the coast of South America. It is slightly larger and has the 
upper tail-coverts entirely white and the tail slightly emarginate instead of even 
or rounded. 

Least Petrel. Very closely related is the Least Petrel (Halocy plena micro- 
soma], found along the Pacific coast from Lower California to Panama, the sole 
representative of its genus. It is only about five and three quarters inches long, 
and differs from the last mainly in possessing a rounded tail and in the absence 
of the white rump. It is a rare bird, and but little is known of its habits beyond 
the fact that it nests on San Benito, a small rocky island some fifty miles off the 
coast of the peninsula, placing its pearly white egg on the bare rock, in the crev- 
ices of rocky ledges, or among the loose stones. 

Leach's Petrel. Also closely allied are the numerous species of Oceanodroma, 
which differ mainly by their larger size, distinctly forked tails, and the tarsus 
shorter rather than longer than the middle toe and claw. Their range is chiefly 
in the seas of the Northern Hemisphere, coming southward more or less regularly 
to the coast of Peru and the island of St. Helena. Of the dozen or more forms, 
Leach's Petrel (O. leucorhoa) is one of the best known. It is uniform sooty, 
rather darker above, and belongs to that section of the genus characterized by a 
white rump patch ; its length is eight inches. It is equally at home in the North 
Atlantic and North Pacific, its habits being very similar to those of the Stormy 
Petrel; in fact, it is the common " Mother Carey's Chicken" of the New England 
coast. It breeds abundantly on the Atlantic coast of North America from Casco 
Bay, Maine, to Greenland, at various points on the European coast, as well as 
the coast of Alaska in the Pacific. The nest is in a burrow, often several feet 
deep, made usually in peaty soil. 

Wilson's Petrel. A little larger than the Stormy Petrel, and often confused 
with it under the name of "Mother Carey's Chicken," is the Wilson's Petrel 
(Oceanites oceanicus], of the Atlantic and Indian oceans, typical of the subfamily 
Oceanitina, in which the leg bones are longer than the bones of the wing, the 
claws are very flat and broad, while the wing has ten, instead of at least thirteen, 
secondaries, as in the last subfamily. About seven inches in length, Wilson's 
Petrel is sooty black above, somewhat lighter below, while the longer upper tail- 
coverts are white and the wing-coverts grayish, margined with whitish. It 
breeds on various islands in the South Atlantic in the months of January and 
February, after which it is widely dispersed, becoming abundant, for example, in 
August, off the coast of North America from New Jersey to Newfoundland. Its 
nest is found in chinks and crevices among rocks, and the single egg is usually 
sprinkled and dotted with pink around one end. A second species known as 
the Graceful Petrel (O. gracilis] is found off the Pacific coast of South America, 
from Chile to the Galapagos Islands, and differs in having the tail distinctly 
forked, the abdomen white, and the webs of the feet dusky instead of yellowish. 

Sea-nymph. Closely allied is the pretty little Petrel known as the Sea- 
nymph (Garrodia nereis], which is found in the Southern Ocean from Kerguelen 
Island to New Zealand and the Falkland Islands, and is the only member of 
its genus. It is a little more than six and one half inches long, and has the head, 

1 20 The Albatrosses and Petrels 

body, and tail bluish ashy, except the lower part of the breast and abdomen, 
which are white; the tail is very dark at the tip and appears fan-shaped in flight. 
Of their habits as observed on Kerguelen Island, Kidder says: "This Petrel is 
strictly crepuscular in habit when near its breeding place, none having been 
seen by daylight except when disturbed from the nest. The birds are at this 
season perfect balls of nearly fluid fat." 

White-faced Petrel. Another handsome bird is the White-faced Petrel 
(Pelagodroma marina], also of the southern seas. Its plumage is in general 
slate-color except the forehead, a stripe over the eye, and the lower parts, which 
are pure white. Its habits are similar to those of Leach's and the Stormy Petrel. 


(Family Pelecanoididce) 

While the Albatrosses and Petrels thus far considered are probably all able 
to rest upon the water, very few of them are able or at least accustomed to dive 
beneath the surface. There are, however, a small number of Petrels inhabiting 
the southern seas that are especially known for their expert power of diving, 
whence they are appropriately called the Diving Petrels. In these birds the bill 
is shorter than the head, the nostrils distinct and opening upward on either side 
of the middle of the base of the culmen, while the wings are quite short and the 
first or hind toe wanting. The best-known species (Pelecanoides urinafrix), 
found in the Australian and New Zealand seas, as well as those about Cape Horn 
and the Falkland Islands, is about eight inches long, shining black above and 
white below, with the sides of the neck grayish. This species, according to Buller, 
is very common in the seas surrounding New Zealand, congregating in flocks 
often of large size and feeding on medusas and other marine life. Its flight 
consists of a rapid fluttering movement along the surface of the water, and it 
dives through the waves with amazing agility. Another species called the Diver 
(P. exsul] is found in the Southern Ocean from theCrozette Islands to Kerguelen, 
where of its habits Dr. Kidder says : "On the first landing of our party at Kergue- 
len Island, this bird was one of the two most commonly heard at night and seen 
fluttering about the hillside. Its note is somewhat similar to the mew of a cat, 
with a marked rising inflection of sound. It cannot rise from level ground in 
flight, but, once in the air, flies strongly and rapidly, with a rapid fluttering 
motion of the wings, very like the flight of the common English Sparrow." Its 
single egg is placed in a burrow. The remaining species ( P. garnoli] is found on 
the west coast of South America, and is distinguished principally by its greater 
size, being some nine and one half inches long. 



(Order Ciconiiformes) 

HE general appropriateness of associating most of the birds of this 
order under the name of Stork-like birds will be appreciated at a 
glance, for the majority of them have the long legs, long, slender 

Pneck, and elongated bills broadly characteristic of the Storks; but, 
as will be shown later, these characters are on the whole rather superficial, for 
birds that are really not very closely related to them, such as Cranes and Rails, 
possess many of the same features, while others are so very unlike the typical 

I Stork-like form that the casual observer would never think of placing them 
together. And in this connection it may be confessed that ornithologists them- 
selves are by no means agreed as to the closeness of relationship implied by 
placing them in the same order. Some students would separate quite widely 
the groups here brought together, but as the state of our knowledge is not such 
as to afford a final word on the subject, it may be accepted as perhaps the best 
expression of the facts now obtainable. 

The characters relied upon for defining this order are necessarily of a some- 
what technical nature, but there seems no way of avoiding their use. Therefore 
the Ciconiiformes may be described as birds in which the feet are not raptorial, 
but are fitted for wading or swimming. They are either wading birds with very 
long legs and toes not fully webbed, or if the toes are fully webbed the bill is bent 
abruptly downward from the middle, or they are swimming birds with the hallux 
connected with the inner toe by a full web. The palate is of the so-called "band 
form" (desmognathous) ; the basipterygoid processes at the base of the skull 
are absent, as is the spina interna; the coracohumeral groove is deep and 
distinct; there is but a single pair of tracheosternal muscles, and the blind 
intestines (caeca) are rudimentary and not functional. 

The order Ciconiiformes may be divided into four well-marked suborders: 
the Steganopodes orTotipalmate Swimmers (Tropic-birds, Cormorants, Anhingas, 
Pelicans, Gannets, and Man-o'-war Birds), the Ardea or Herons and their 
allies, the Ciconia or Storks and Ibises, and the Phcenicopteri or Flamingos. 
As will be later set forth more at length, there are differences of opinion as to 
the placing of the Flamingos in the Ciconiiformes, some, indeed, giving them 
independent ordinal rank between the present and the following order (Anseri- 
formes). This would rather accord with the views of Huxley, but later studies 
would seem to range them more nearly with the Stork-like birds. The super- 
families and families into which they are variously divided are more fully 
described under their respective headings. 


122 The Stork-like Birds 

This is a small suborder or order, as it is often denominated, of rather large 
aquatic, often oceanic, birds, that may be known at once by having all four toes 
connected by webs. There are, of course, a number of other mainly technical 
characters, but this "one feature is sufficient to define the group." They are 
disposed in six families, seven genera, and about seventy-five living species, with 
some thirty-five more or less satisfactory fossil species. 


(Family Phaethontidce) 

According to the ancient Greek mythology, Phaethon, son of Helios, one day 
attempted to drive the celestial chariot in its course across the sky, but the fiery 
steeds recognized the unaccustomed hand, and swerved from the usual path, 
causing dire disaster. In fanciful mood Linnaeus gave the name of Phaethon 
to the Tropic-birds, inasmuch as they, in their wanderings, follow mainly the 
path of the sun, though occasionally the power of the gale may, as did the un- 
tamed steeds of Phaethon, force them far from their usual course. " The Tropic- 
bird," says Nuttall, "soaring perpetually over the tepid seas, where it dwells 
without materially straying beyond the verge of the ecliptic, seems to attend the 
car of the sun under the mild zone of the tropics, and advises the mariner with 
unerring certainty of his entrance within the torrid climes." 

The Tropic-birds, or " boatswains, " as they are often called by the sailors, 
number six or seven forms, some of which are occasionally found in the United 
States. They have a compressed, pointed, and slightly curved bill, with the 
cutting edges of the mandibles serrated. In color the bill is yellow, orange, or 
coral-red, the wings are long and rather narrow, and the tail of twelve to sixteen 
feathers, of which the middle pair are greatly elongated and attenuated. The 
general color of the plumage is white or pinkish throughout, and very soft and 
satiny in appearance. 

In general appearance the Tropic-birds are quite suggestive of Terns, although 
distinguished at once by the elongated middle, instead of lateral, tail-feathers. 
From the Frigate-birds, their companions of the deep, they are distinguished 
by the color of the plumage, the shape of the bill, the absence of a bare spot 
about the eyes and no throat sac, as well as by the elongated middle tail-feathers. 

The Tropic-birds are strictly birds of the ocean and are often seen hundreds 
of miles from land. Not infrequently when thus far from shore they come, in 
a more or less exhausted state, to find rest in the rigging of a ship. Although 
they fly for great distances their flight is not the easy, graceful motion of, for in- 
stance, an Albatross, but consists of "regular and rather rapid strokes of the 
wing, without any apparent intermission." Their food consists largely of fish 



which they capture by dashing perpendicularly into the water after the manner 
of the Terns. The Tropic-birds make no nest or but a slight one and deposit 
their single egg in holes or crevices in rocks, occasionally in a hollow tree or on 
the bare sand. The egg is about 2.10 x 1.55 inches, "dilute claret-brown or 
whitish speckled, sprinkled, spotted, or blotched with deep claret-brown." The 
birds during incubation sit closely and fearlessly, allowing themselves to be 
pushed aside or taken in the hand with no more of protest than a sharp stroke 
with the bill or a hoarse cry; both sexes take part in incubation. 

Perhaps the best-known species is the Red-billed Tropic-bird (P. athereus) 
of the tropical portions of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, coming north on the 
Pacific coast to Lower California, and accidentally as far north as the Newfound- 
land Banks on the Atlantic side. It is nearly forty inches in length, with the 

FIG. 36. Yellow-billed Tropic-bird, Phaeton americanus. 

central tail-feathers about twenty-six inches long. The bright coral-red bill, 
the satin white plumage, the elongated tail-feathers, which are snow-white with 
black shafts, make this a very beautiful bird. The Yellow-billed Tropic-bird 
(P. americanus) is a smaller species, only about thirty inches long, found on the 
east coast of North America from Bermuda to the West Indies. It is occasion- 
ally seen on the Florida coast and may be known at once by the yellow bill and 
the pinkish, black-shafted middle tail-feathers. The Red-tailed Tropic-bird 
(P. rubicaudus), normally of the South Pacific and Indian oceans, though occa- 
sionally taken as far north as Lower and southern California, has the middle 
tail-feathers carmine with black shafts. Mr. W. K. Fisher, who has enjoyed 
exceptional opportunities of studying it in one of its best-known breeding centers 
on Laysan Island, writes of its habits as follows: "It nests under the shelter of 
bushes and not infrequently several will congregate beneath colonies of Fregata 
aquila, occupying the ground floor as it were. The bird has a vicious temper, 
and if one attempts to disturb or to take it from the egg, it sets up a horrible 

124 The Stork-like Birds 

and discordant screaming, which soon grows unbearable. The sharp beak with 
serrated edges is not to be despised, and the enraged bird will sometimes use it 
to good advantage. The Bow's'n-birds keep up their strident cries so long as 
one meddles with them, but if left undisturbed will soon quiet down. When- 
ever we inadvertent!^ passed near one hidden under a chenopodium bush, we 
soon became aware of its presence by its cry of defiance. To see these birds 
at their best one must watch them flying about in the bright sunshine, when their 
pale, salmon-pink plumage shines as though burnished, and the satiny feathers 
stand out like scales. The two long, red tail-feathers are possessed by both 
sexes, and the female is only a trifle less pink than the male. Usually when 
flying about they were quiet, and progressed by short, nervous wing-beats, never 
attempting to sail. Occasionally, however, they swooped about our heads and 
made the neighborhood lively. The nest is merely a hollow in the sand, with a 
few grass straws and leaves gathered in the bottom. The single egg is brooded 
by both parents, each of which sits upon it with the wings slightly opened." The 
Yellow Tropic-bird (P. fulvus) has the general color of the plumage, a rich salmon 
inclining to orange. It is found only about Christmas Island, in the Indian 
Ocean, where of its habits Mr. C. W. Andrews writes as follows: "The flight of 
these birds is swift, though, owing to the rapidity of the strokes of the wing, it 
seems as if they were laboring. I never saw them sail except for a short distance 
when wheeling around. On hot days they may be seen in twos and threes, flying 
rapidly up and down above and among the tree-tops, continually uttering their 
peculiar cackling cry, and pausing now and then to hover before holes in the 
trees which seem to offer an eligible position for a nest. It can hardly be said, 
however, that they make a nest, for the single, dark brown mottled egg is merely 
placed in a slight hollow on the floor of a hole in a tree or in the sea cliff." 


(Family Pelecanidce) 

The next family in order comprises the curious and interesting Pelicans. 
They are, as is well known, birds of large size, ranging in length from about fifty 
to some seventy-two inches. They have short legs, very large wiags which often 
spread nearly ten feet, for they are strong fliers, and a tail of twenty-two or twenty- 
four rather short, soft feathers. The most marked peculiarity is of course the 
huge pouch which depends from the lower mandible, forming, as it has often 
been called, a regular scoop-net. The length of the bill in some species is fully 
eighteen inches, though the average length is only about fourteen or fifteen inches. 
As the bird is seen at rest on the ground it presents a very awkward and grotesque 
appearance, the neck being held in what would seem to be a very uncomfortable 
and "kinked" position, but an examination of the skeleton reveals the fact that 
the eighth or ninth vertebra is curiously articulated with the one in front and the 
one next behind it, so that it is actually impossible for the neck to be held straight. 
In at least one species, the White Pelican (P. erythrorhynchos] of North America, 

Brown Pelicans 



The Stork-like Birds 

there is a very remarkable excrescence near the middle of the upper mandible, 
which is assumed only during the breeding season. This excrescence or "center- 
board," as it is called, is described as follows by Mr. Ridgway: "It is assumed 
gradually in the spring, reaches its perfect development in the pairing season, 
and it is dropped before or soon after the young are hatched. Frequently it 
consists of a single piece, nearly as high as long, its vertical outlines almost 
parallel, and the upper outline quite regularly convex, the largest specimen seen 
being about three inches high by as many long. More frequently, however, it is 
very irregular in shape and usually less elevated." Its function is purely prob- 
lematical. Coincident with the shedding of this appendage in this species the 
"nuchal crest falls off, and in its place a patch of short, brownish gray feathers 
appears; this disappears with the fall moult, when the occiput is entirely un- 
adorned, there being neither crest nor colored patch." 

The Pelicans (Pelecanus), of which ten species are now recognized, are widely 
distributed throughout the tropical and temperate regions of the Old and New 
Worlds, North America laying claim to three species. They are a very old 
group, for some nine fossil forms have been described, the oldest being from the 
lower Miocene of France. Their food consists almost entirely of fish, of which 
they capture great numbers. 

FIG. 38. American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos. 

Brown Pelican. The following account of the manner of feeding of the 
Brown Pelican (P. occidentalis] is from the pen of Dr. Brewer: "Birds of this 
species are said to feed chiefly during the rising tide, wandering in extended trains 

The Cormorants 127 

along the shore, and diving occasionally, one after the other, when they meet with 
a shoal of fish. They are very regular in their motions when flying, keeping at 
uniform distances, alternately flapping and sailing in imitation of their leader. 
They usually fly very close to the surface of the water, and then merely plunge 
obliquely, holding the bill so as to scoop up the small fish sideways; then, 
closing their wings, they hold up the head with the bill down so as to allow 
the water to run out. This permits the escape of some of the fish, and 
gives the parasitic .Gull a chance to obtain a share of the plunder, without in 
the least offending the dignified Pelican. Sometimes this bird dives from a con- 
siderable height, plunging downward with a spiral motion, although scarcely 
ever going beneath the surface, but immediately raising its bill from the water 
usually with a stock of young fish in it. As a general rule this Pelican does not 
catch fish more than six inches long; but occasionally one weighing more than 
two pounds and a half may be found in its pouch." 

Mr. F.M. Chapman in his " Bird Studies with a Camera " and other places has 
given an entertaining account of a visit to the breeding grounds of this species 
in the Indian River region of Florida, where they are now under government 
protection. He found many hundreds of nests containing either eggs or young 
in various stages of growth. The young were fed but twice a day, the old birds 
leaving at dawn for the fishing grounds, often many miles away, flying in the 
above-described regular manner, returning to the nests about eight o'clock. In 
feeding them they alighted by the side of the young birds, opened the bill and 
permitted them to help themselves. The old birds then bathed in the adjacent 
water, or preened their feathers while disposed in long lines on the sand-bars, or 
sailed for hours high overhead. By the middle of the afternoon they left for a 
second trip to the fishing grounds, "and after the resulting catch has been 
delivered to the clamoring young, the Pelican's day's work is over." 

Other species feed in a somewhat different manner. Selecting shallow water, 
they dispose themselves in long lines, at about equal distances apart, and regu- 
larly and systematically fish backward and forward until satisfied. I have ob- 
served the White Pelican (P. erythrorhynchos] doing this on the Yellowstone 
Lake in the Yellowstone National Park. 

As may have been gathered from the above statements, Pelicans nest in com- 
munities, usually on an island. The nest is a very rude affair, consisting of a 
quantity of earth, gravel, and rubbish heaped together to a height of a few inches. 
The eggs vary in number from one to three or four, the former apparently being 
the usual complement. They are pure white, with the shell rough and chalky, 
and often blood-stained. 


(Family Phalacrocoracidx) 

This family is by far the largest of the order, containing, in fact, a greater 
number of species than all the others combined. It is also a very old family, for 
some ten fossil forms have been characterized, of which two are from the lower, 

128 The Stork-like Birds 

and one from the middle, Miocene of France ; the others, from later geological 
horizons, are reported from New Zealand, India, and North and South America. 
In addition to these strictly fossil species, the largest species of the principal genus, 
Pallas's Cormorant, *1ias probably been extinct for some fifty years. Another 
indication of the antiquity of the family is shown by the fact that one species 
the recently described Harris's Cormorant has been isolated in the Galapagos 
Islands for a sufficient length of time to have lost the power of flight. This 
interesting bird will be more fully described later. 

This family embraces two genera, Phalacrocorax, the Cormorants or Shags 
as they are often called, with over forty species, and the monotypic Nannoplerum, 
the Harris's Cormorant. Their nearest of kin are the Anhingas, or Snake-birds, 
which have often been placed with them as a subfamily, but they differ from 
them in having a subcylindrical, strongly hooked bill with the cutting edges en- 
tire, instead of an elongated, simply pointed bill with serrated cutting edges. A 
further anatomical difference is found in the occipital style, this being large in 
the Cormorants and very feebly developed in the Anhingas. In both the feather 
covering is almost uninterrupted. 

The Cormorants are birds between two and three feet in length, with an 
elongated, powerful body, short, stout legs, and a rather long neck. The wings 
are concave and rather short, reaching but little beyond the base of the tail; 
the third quill is longest. The tail consists of twelve or fourteen very stiff feath- 
ers. The face and throat are naked. The plumage is usually very compact, 
dark-colored, and glossy, with greenish or bluish green reflections. The head 
is often crested and during the nesting season the head and neck are often orna- 
mented with more or less conspicuous plumes of slender, hair-like feathers which 
disappear after the breeding season is over. 

In the matter of distribution the Cormorants as a group are almost cosmo- 
politan, ranging from Greenland, Alaska, and Siberia on the north to New 
Zealand and Kerguelen Island on the south, being, however, most abundant in 
the tropics. Some of the species enjoy a very wide range, as, for example, the 
Common Cormorant (P. carbo), which is found in Europe, Greenland, eastern 
North America, all of Africa, and through northern Asia and the Indian penin- 
sula to China and Australia, while others are restricted to single inlands. About 
a dozen forms are found in North America, three or four in Europe, some five in 
Africa, and, according to Buller, about ten in New Zealand. 

Cormorants are sociable birds, often congregating in flocks of immense size. 
Some of the species are mainly confined to ocean shores, while others make their 
home in inland swamps and marshes. They feed exclusively on fishes, which 
they are extremely dexterous in capturing. They swim well and often pursue 
their prey under water, but in general they select some post, projecting rock, or 
branch over the water, "in a position where their powers of vision enable them to 
discover a passing fish, upon which they pounce with a never failing aim." Its 
captures are held securely with the sharp, hooked, horny point of the upper 
mandible, and as the throat is greatly dilatable it can swallow fish of large size. 

During the nesting season the birds usually remain together and nest in 

Brandt's Cormorant 


130 The Stork-like Birds 

communities, often of considerable size. The place selected varies somewhat with 
the different species and also according to the exigencies of the situation, some 
choosing a rocky cliff facing the sea and others low trees and bushes along low- 
lying shores. The fcest is usually a rude affair placed on the bare rock or ground 
or raised on a slight mound of sticks and weeds, or when placed in bushes of 
sticks loosely put together. The eggs are from three to five in number, of rather 
large size and pale pinkish green, with a rough crust or coating of calcareous 
matter. The young are very ungainly and awkward when first born and are 
quite helpless for some time. They feed themselves by thrusting their heads 
well down into their parents' throats and " extracting the half-digested fish from 
their stomachs." 

Cormorants possess a considerable degree of intelligence and may be readily 
tamed if taken when young, evincing a warm regard for their owner. In some 
parts of the world, notably in China, they are taught to fish for their master. 
The young birds, or those not perfectly trained, have a strap or cord placed 
around the neck to prevent their swallowing the fish taken, and they soon learn 
to bring all captures to their master. After securing a sufficient quantity the 
strap is removed and they are permitted to fish for themselves. These trained 
birds usually last for about five years and have a considerable value, a well- 
trained male bringing some six or seven dollars. 

Harris's Cormorant. In 1898 a remarkable flightless Cormorant (Phala- 
crocorax or Nannopterum harrisi] was described from the Galapagos Islands. 
So far as then known it was found only on the north shore of Narborough Island, 
where it frequented the surf, being very shy and difficult to approach. It is the 
largest known Cormorant, being if anything larger than the extinct Pallas's Cor- 
morant. The mature bird is brownish black above and a mixture of pale brown 
and gray below, with the tail black, and the wing-quills blackish brown with 
grayish tips on the outer margin. The feathers are soft and quite incapable of 
supporting the bird in flight, being of about the size of those of the Great Auk. 
The true Cormorants possess eleven primaries in the wings, only ten of which 
are functional, while in the Harris's Cormorant there are also eleven primaries, 
but the two outer are very greatly reduced, leaving only nine that are functional. 
There are also numerous differences in the skeleton, showing that the loss of flight 
has produced important modifications. They are reported as being abundant 
in the surf and on the shore and rocks of Narborough Island, and less numer- 
ous on Albemarle Island. "When on shore they sit in an upright position and 
often extend the wings with their planes vertical, somewhat in the manner of 
Vultures while digesting their food. In the water they have a very graceful 
appearance, carrying the neck bent in a very Swan-like fashion. The adults 
never were heard to make any sound. The food consists largely of devil-fish, 
which the birds obtain by diving. Some were observed swallowing devil-fish 
more than a foot in length. Fish also form a part of their food. The young are 
fed by the parents' disgorged food until they have attained nearly adult size." 
The nests were made of cone-shaped masses of seaweed about a foot high. 

The Anhingas, or Darters 131 


(Family Anhingidce) 

The Anhingas, Darters, or Snake-birds are readily distinguished from the 
)ther members of the group and more particularly from their nearest of kin, the 
Cormorants, by their elongated bodies, excessively long, slender, snake-like 
leeks, very small, narrow heads, and the slender, nearly straight, and very sharp- 
minted bills. The bill is not hooked at the tip although somewhat serrated, 
"he neck has "a bend at the 8th or gth vertebra, and is provided with a peculiar 
lechanism which enables the bird, by suddenly straightening the neck, to 
msfix with its bill the fishes it captures." The wings are quite long and 
minted, while the rounded tail is composed of twelve stiff, somewhat wedge- 
shaped feathers, the broadest end outward, in addition to which the middle 
>air are transversely ribbed. The body is nearly uniformly clothed with small, 
rather soft, contour feathers, and very delicate down feathers. With the excep- 
tion of the lateral spaces of the trunk, only a narrow inferior bare space is to be 
mnd. In length these birds range from about twenty-eight to thirty-six inches. 
Although only four species of Darters are known, they enjoy a wide distribu- 
tion in the tropics or warmer regions of both hemispheres, one species, the Snake- 
}ird, or Water Turkey (A. anhinga), being found over the whole of tropical and 
ibtropical America, ranging north to South Carolina, southern Illinois, and 
/estern Mexico. It is one of the largest species, being from thirty-two to 
thirty-six inches in length. The male has the upper parts glossy greenish 
black, the wing-coverts spotted with silver-gray; the lower parts are deep 
black. The female and young are more grayish, while the male is provided 
with a sort of mane of elongated hair-like feathers. The African Darter (A. 
levaillanlii) is found in North Syria, northern Africa, and Madagascar. It is 
dark brown or reddish brown above, with a white band extending from the eye 
for about five inches down each side of the neck. The Indian or Black-bellied 
Darter (A. mdanogaster) is very widely distributed, ranging from Mesopotamia 
to India, Ceylon, and the Indo-Chinese countries, and through the Malay 
Peninsula to Borneo and the Philippines; it is quite similar to the last. 
The Southern Darter (^4 . nova-hollandia), found in Australia, New Guinea, and 
New Zealand, is glossy black above and has the white stripes on the sides of 
the neck much as in the Indian Darter. 

I select the following account of the habits from Dr. Brewer's history of the 
American species, the habits of the others being similar. "It lives principally 
upon fish, which it seizes by rapidly darting upon them with its sharply pointed 
and slightly toothed beak. In this movement its neck, which is very long, is 
thrust forward with the force of a spring, aided by the muscles, that are large 
and well developed in the lower and anterior portion of the neck. When fish- 
ing, the Anhinga stands with only its head and neck above the water ; when it 
makes a plunge it remains a long while beneath the surface; and when it rises 
again, the long and undulating neck has somewhat the appearance of a serpent. 


The Stork-like Birds 

The Gannets i 3 3 

"It is more or less gregarious by habit, the number seen together varying 
with the attractions of the locality, and ranging from eight or ten to thirty, or 
even several hundred. In the breeding season it moves in pairs. It is a diurnal 
bird, and if unmolested, returns each night to the same roosting place. When 
asleep it is said to stand with its body almost erect. 

"This is said to be the very first among fresh- water divers, disappearing be- 
neath the surface with the quickness of thought, moving scarcely a ripple on 
the spot, and reappearing, perhaps with its head only above the water for a 
moment, at a place several hundred yards distant. If hit, and only wounded, 
this bird readily baffles all the endeavors of the sportsman to secure it. When 
swimming, and unmolested, it is buoyant, and moves with its whole body above 
the water, but when in danger it sinks its body, leaving only the head and neck 
out of the water, presenting the appearance of a portion of a large snake." 

At times these birds rise to a considerable height in the air, 2000 or more 
feet, probably, where they soar with ease, remaining in the air for a considerable 
period of time. They nest somewhat in colonies in swamps, selecting secluded 
localities where they are not likely to be interrupted. The nest is a rather loosely 
made structure of sticks, leaves, and moss, and is placed in low bushes over the 
water; the three to five eggs are bluish, covered with a whitish chalky deposit. 


(Family Sulidce) 

Gannet, Booby, and Solan-goose are the names variously applied to the 
members of this small family. The first, and perhaps most widely employed, is 
Gannet, a word derived apparently from the Old English gan, after the manner of 
gander and goose. The simple or foolish appearance of the birds, especially when 
on land, furnishes an explanation of the name Booby, while the last mentioned, 
or Solan-goose, is seemingly from the Scandinavian, signifying "Sea- goose." 

The Gannets, or Boobies, are large birds, ranging from about twenty-eight 
inches to thirty-six inches in length, with rather long, very pointed wings, and a 
long, wedge-shaped tail of twelve to eighteen feathers. The bill is stout, sub- 
cylindrical and pointed, tapering gradually toward the extremity, which is very 
slightly curved but never hooked. The nostrils are completely closed in the 
adults, a provision, as will be seen later, against injury while feeding, and in 
several of the species there is a naked band of greater or less length down the 
middle of the throat, while in the remaining species the whole upper part of the 
throat is naked. In a majority of the species the plumage is white throughout 
except the wings and tail, which are usually black or dusky; in the other species 
the color is dusky or sooty brown. 

The Gannets are birds of temperate and tropical seas, and are often found at 
great distances from land. Their food consists entirely of fish, especially her- 
rings, the presence of which they often indicate to fishermen. "Their prey," 


The Stork-like Birds 

says Newton, "is almost invariably captured by plunging upon it from a height, 
and a company of Gannets fishing presents a curious and interesting spectacle. 
Flying in single file, each bird, when it comes over the shoal, closes its wings and 
dashes perpendicularly and with a velocity that must be seen to be appreciated, 
into the waves, whence it emerges after a few seconds, and shaking the water 
from its feathers, mounts in a wide curve, orderly takes its place in the rear of 
the string, to repeat its headlong plunge as soon as it again finds itself above its 
prey." Chapman says: "They are most impressive when diving, as with half- 
closed wings, like great spearheads, they descend from a height of about forty 

FIG. 41. Common Gannet, Sula bassana. 

feet with a force and speed that takes them wholly out of sight, and splashes the 
water ten feet or more into the air." Although they are not provided with a 
throat pouch, as are several of their relatives, the throat is greatly dilatable, 
which permits them to swallow fish of considerable size. They are said never 
to carry fish to their young in their bills, but to feed them by disgorging. They 
nest in communities, often of vast extent, on rocky and inaccessible islands and 
headlands, building but a rude nest of a few grasses and seaweeds. One or two 
eggs are laid, which are described as being elliptical in form, with a rough, dull 
white or chalky white surface ; the size is about three and one half by one and 
three fourths inches. 

Common Gannet. The family Sulida is clearly a very old one, for not less 
than four fossil species have been described from the Miocene age, three coming 
from France and one, a very well marked species, from North Carolina. At 
the present time eleven species are recognized, of which number some four or 
five are found along the North American coasts. One of the most abundant 

Nesting Places of Gannets 135 

and best-known species, and the Gannet par excellence, is the Common Gannet 
(Sula bassana), a bird of the coasts of the North Atlantic, coming south in winter 
to the Gulf of Mexico, and on the European side to North Africa, Madeira, and 
the Canary Islands. One of the most celebrated of the nesting places is the 
Bass Rock at the entrance of the Firth of Forth, Scotland. Here Macgillivray, 
in 1831, estimated that 10,000 pairs were breeding, and this number is said by 
Hudson (1895) to be still maintained. Although the Bass Rock has been often 
described and must be familiar to many, I venture .to quote, from Mr. Charles 
Dixon, a very graphic account of a visit to this spot: "Upon reaching the Bass 
a few Gannets may be seen sailing dreamily about, but you have no idea of the 
immense numbers until you have climbed the rugged hill. But when the sum- 
mit of the cliff is reached the scene that bursts upon one's gaze is one that well- 
nigh baffles all description. Thousands upon thousands of Gannets fill the air, 
just like heavy snowflakes, and on every side their loud, harsh cries of ' carra- 
carra-carra,' echo and reecho among the rocks. The Gannets take very little 
notice of our approach, many birds allowing themselves to be actually pushed 
from their nests. Others utter harsh notes, and with flapping wings offer some 
show of resistance, only taking wing when absolutely compelled to do so, and 
disgorging one or two half-digested fish as they fall lightly over the cliffs into the 
air. On all sides facing the sea Gannets may be seen. Some are standing on 
the short grass on the edge of the cliffs, fast asleep, with their heads buried under 
their dorsal plumage; others are preening their feathers; whilst many are quar- 
reling and fighting over standing-room on the rocks." 

Mr. Dixon describes another great breeding place on Borreag, an island about 
four miles from St. Kilda. "The flat, sloping top of one of these stupendous 
ocean rocks looks white as the driven snow, so thickly do the Gannets cluster 
there, and the sides are just as densely populated wherever the cliff is rugged and 
broken. So vast is this colony of birds that it may be seen distinctly forty miles 
away, looking like some huge vessel under full sail heading to windward." 

But vast as are these nesting places, they are really insignificant as compared 
with conditions which prevailed on the Bird Rocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 
less than fifty years ago. The Great Bird is a mass of rock, only about 350 yards 
long and from 50 to 150 yards wide, which rises abruptly from the sea, with 
mostly precipitous walls from 80 to 140 feet in height. The Little Bird is three 
quarters of a mile away; it is lower and much smaller. 

One of the first, or perhaps the first, accounts of the Bird Rocks is by Jacques 
Cartier, written in 1534. In this he says: "These islands were as full of birds 
as any meadow is of grass, of which they do make their nests, and in the greater 
of them there was a great and infinite number of those we called Margaulx 
(Gannets), that are white and bigger than any geese." Audubon passed these 
rocks in 1833, while on his cruise to Labrador, and "thought them covered with 
snow to the depth of several feet." On a closer approach he found that the 
"snow" was resolved into myriads of Gannets, showing that there had been little 
diminution in the numbers during the preceding three hundred years. In 1860 
the Bird Rocks were visited by Dr. Henry Bryant, who appears to have been the 

136 The Stork-like Birds 

first ornithologist to actually set foot there. He found the Gannets occupying 
the whole northern half of the summit as well as many ledges along the sides and 
in numbers that are almost incredible. He estimated the number on the summit 
at fifty thousand pairs, with about half as many more on the ledges. His 
description is graphic in the extreme. 

A few years later (1869) the Canadian government erected a lighthouse on 
the Rock and this was the beginning of the end, for several means of reaching 
the summit were provided, and the locality was resorted to by fishermen, who 
killed the Gannets, and other species as well, by the thousands, using the bodies 
as fish-bait. The eggs were also gathered in quantities, and by the year 1872, 
when the Rock was visited by Mr. C. J. Maynard, a well-known ornithologist, the 
number of Gannets occupying the summit had decreased to about five thousand 
birds, and in 1881, Mr. William Brewster could find no more than fifty pairs. 
Others have since visited the Rock, and for nearly twenty years no Gannets 
have been reported as nesting on the summit. Mr. F. M. Chapman paid this 
interesting locality a visit in the summer of 1898, when he secured many photo- 
graphs of the bird inhabitants. He estimates the total number of Gannets at 
fifteen hundred, which are all that remain of the one hundred and fifty thousand 
noted by Bryant. 

Another common and widely distributed species is the Booby Gannct, or 
Booby (5. leucogastra), as it is commonly called, which is found in tropical and 
subtropical seas practically throughout the world, except the Pacific coast of 
America, where its place is taken by the closely allied Brewster's Gannet (5. 
brewsteri). On the Atlantic coast it is found as far north as Georgia, nesting on 
certain of the West Indian islands, where, according to Bryant, it deposits -the 
eggs, always two in number, on the bare sand or rock. The habits of life are 
much like those of the former species, except it is frequently made the victim of 
the Frigate-birds. 

Brewster's Booby was found by Goss on the San Pedro Martir Isle in the 
Gulf of California, where, he says: "The birds were not wild; they seemed to 
prefer the shelves and niches on the sides of the rocks as nesting places. They 
lay two eggs, and in all cases collect a few sticks, seaweed, and oftfen old wing- or 
tail-feathers; these are generally placed in a circle to fit the body, with a view, 
I think, to keep the eggs that lie upon the rock from rolling out." 


(Family Fregatidcc] 

Sharing the tropical oceans with the Tropic-birds are the so-called Frigate- 
birds or Man-o'-war Birds, of which three forms only are known. They are very 
powerful flying birds from thirty to forty inches in length, remarkable at once 
for the extremely short tarsus, greatly elongated wings, and a long, deeply forked 
swallow-like tail. In the mature males the plumage is black throughout, 

Frigate-birds 137 

though the adult male of jP. arid has conspicuous white flank-patches, while 
the feathers of the back are glossed with metallic green and reddish purple. 
The females are blackish above but have the breast and sides white, while the 
immature young have the head, neck, and upper part of the chest as well as the 
middle of the lower breast and abdomen white. Further distinguishing marks 
are afforded by the very long, strongly hooked bill, the flattened, fringed claw on 
the middle toe, and the very narrow web. The bones of the skeleton are ex- 
tremely pneumatic, perhaps more so than in any other bird, for the Frigate-bird 
is a marvel of lightness and grace on the wing. In the male there is a curious 

FIG. 42. Frigate-bird, Fregata aquila. 

pouch under the bill which is capable of inflation at the will of the bird to some- 
times half or more the size of the body. This is bright scarlet in color, and 
contrasts strongly with dark plumage. 

The food of the Frigate-birds consists of fish, a part of which they capture 
themselves, but in the main they apparently subsist by robbing the more indus- 
trious Gannets and Terns. On observing a successful fisherman they give chase, 
and no matter how fast he may fly or how often he may turn, the pursuer is always 
at hand, and finally in despair he drops the fish, which is caught before it can reach 
the water. 

The Frigate-birds may often be seen soaring at vast heights, from which they 
often drop like an arrow. Scott, who saw them about the Dry Tortugas, says: 
"Almost every day about noon a party of from four to twenty of these birds (F. 
aquila) came to Garden Key, and attaining a point just above the Harbor Light 
Tower on the northeast wall of the fort, they would begin to soar in what seemed 

138 The Stork-like Birds 

to be a sort of way of resting. The circles were of about one hundred feet 
diameter; the flight very regular, slow, and monotonous, with no apparent 
motion of the wings for hours. It tired me to look at them." 

Of the two species the larger (F. aquila) is found in tropical and subtropical 
seas of both hemispheres, chiefly north of the equator, coming north in this 
country regularly to Florida, Texas, and California, and casually to Nova Scotia. 
A smaller form of this (F. a. minor] is found in the central Pacific and Indian 
oceans, while the still smaller and quite distinct F. arid, the male of which has a 
conspicuous white flank-patch, occurs also in the tropical and subtropical por- 
tions of the same oceans. The Frigate-birds nest in colonies throughout their 
range, building a very slight nest on mangroves and other low trees, or on the 
ground. The egg is usually single, pure white, and about two and seventy hun- 
dredths by one and seventy-five hundredths inches. 

Following is an account, by Mr. J. J. Lister, of a visit to the Phoenix Islands 
in the South Pacific, where he found the Lesser Frigate-bird (F. a. minor) breed- 
ing in great numbers. He says: "From the boat I went off to the part of the 
island over which the Frigate-birds were wheeling. Here I found their nests in 
great numbers. They were built of small dead twigs of the plants of the island, 
placed a foot or so above the ground on the spreading branches of the Sida (a 
shrubby, malvaceous plant two or three feet high) and on the beaten-down 
tussocks of grass. The nests were placed as near together as supports could be 
found, and there were well-defined limits to the colonies, although the bushes 
beyond these limits appeared to be just as well suited for the purpose as those 
within. Each nest was occupied by a bird. As one approached some of these 
took flight and joined the whirling crowd overhead, but the rest remained sitting 
and allowed themselves to be touched with the muzzle of my gun, only chattering 
their bills by way of remonstrance. Both males and females were to be seen 
engaged in the duties of incubation. 

"The throat-pouch of the male is a most striking object. When fully distended 
it reaches forward as far as the end of the bill and downwards so as to completely 
hide the breast, a great smooth semi-transparent balloon of the most brilliant 
scarlet, which contrasts finely with the dark metallic tints of the^ plumage. If 
any of the birds in a group had their pouches distended, there were generally 
several in this condition, as though they were vying with one another in the 
exhibition of their attractions. From several parts of the group came a low, 
vibrating note, a combination of a whistle and a purr, accompanied by the sound 
of the chattering of their bills. While uttering this note the bird leans back on 
the nest, with the head thrown right back, the pouch fully extended, and the wings 
half spread and shaken with a quivering movement. The female birds mean- 
while were either whirling overhead or sitting on the edge of the nest near their 

" The pouch is not rapidly filled or emptied ; when a bird with a half-distended 
pouch takes flight, the latter is carried from side to side with the movement 
through the air, gradually diminishing in size. In the undistended state the 
bare, wrinkled skin is completely retracted to the level of the general contour of 

Herons 139 

the neck. The interior of the pouch is in communication with the air sacs 
of the neck ; it is therefore filled and emptied through the bronchi. 

" By far the greater number of nests on Phcenix Island contained a single white 
egg about as large as a hen's; some nests, however, contained two eggs." Mr. 
Lister also mentions seeing the Frigate-birds drinking from the fresh-water 
lagoons. As they came "sweeping down to the surface, they scooped up the 
water with the lower mandible." 


(Suborder Ardece) 

The second suborder of the Ciconiiformes, or Stork-like birds, embraces the 
Herons and their immediate relatives. They are at once distinguished from 
the group last considered by their very long legs, which adapt them to wading 
rather than swimming, although they can all swim to a limited extent when forced 
to do so. A further distinguishing mark is afforded by the fact that the toes are 
not completely webbed, and that powder-downs are always present. The sub- 
order may perhaps be best divided into four families as follows: the Ardeidce, 
which includes the Herons, Egrets, Bitterns, etc. ; the Cochleariidce, including the 
American Boat-bills; the Balcenicipitid& t embracing the anomalous Shoe-bill; 
and the Scopidce, for the almost equally remarkable Umbrette, the latter two 
being African. 


(Family Ardeidce) 

Beyond the fact already pointed out of their resemblance to the Cranes and 
Rails, the Herons form a relatively compact and generally well-known group. 
They have long or moderately long legs, the front of the metatarsus being covered 
with scute-like plates. There are always four toes, the hind toe being on the same 
plane as the others, and the claw of the middle one is comb-like on the inner side. 
The body is thin and compressed, the neck usually long, and the bill long and 
pointed, with all the outlines nearly straight. The wings are relatively large, but 
are very much rounded from the fact that the second, third, and fourth quills 
are of nearly the same length. The lores and a space about the eyes are bare. 
"The general plumage, which is very variable in color, is soft and loose; the 
feathers on the crown of the head, back, and upper breast being frequently 
elongated." The peculiar powder-down patches on the rump, abdomen, and 
elsewhere are always present and constitute a well-known character of the group. 

In the matter of distribution, Herons are almost cosmopolitan, being, however, 
most abundant in tropical and subtropical regions. They are inhabitants for 
the most part of swamps and marshes, a few only preferring the seacoast. They 
are often gregarious, feeding and nesting in communities, where they build large, 
bulky nests, frequently in trees. They may often be seen walking about in or 
along marshes with a slow and measured gait; when on the wing their progress 


The Stork-like Birds 

is rather slow, although strong, and is accompanied by a continuous flapping of 
the wings. In general they lay from three or four to six unspotted eggs, which 
are bluish green or Whitish in color. 

The group is an old one, some half a dozen species having been found fossil, 
the oldest being from the lower Eocene of England. A single fossil species (Ardea 
paloccidentalis] has been found in North America, and another (A. megacephala) 
has disappeared in comparatively recent times from the island of Rodriguez. 

Over one hundred living species are known, distributed, according to Sharpe, 
among thirty-seven genera, but this number of genera is perhaps excessive, since 

FIG. 43. Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias. 

the differences between some of the groups seem hardly worthy of full generic 
rank. North America possesses some eighteen forms, these being lately referred 
by American ornithologists to no less than eleven genera, most of which were 
formerly accorded only subgeneric rank. 

The true Herons belong to the genus Ardea and number some dozen or more 
species. They are quite variable in size, ranging from twenty-eight to fifty-six 
inches in length; in color there is likewise considerable variation. Of the habits of 
Herons in general, Hudson, in his "Argentine Ornithology," says: "Two inter- 
esting traits of the Heron (and they have a necessary connection) are its tireless 
watchfulness and its insatiable voracity; for these characters have not, I think, 
been exaggerated even by the most sensational of ornithologists. In other birds 
of other genera, repletion is invariably followed by a period of listless inactivity 
during which no food is taken or required. But the Heron digests his food so 
rapidly that, however much he devours, he is always ready to gorge again; conse- 

Great Blue Heron 141 

quently he is not benefited by what he eats, and appears in the same state of 
semi-starvation when food is abundant as in times of scarcity. . . . All other 
species that feed at the same table with the Heron, from the little flitting King- 
fisher to the towering Flamingo, become excessively fat at certain seasons, and 
are at all times so healthy and vigorous that, compared with them, the Heron 
is the mere ghost of a bird. In no extraneous circumstances, but in the organiza- 
tion of the bird itself, must be sought the cause of its anomalous condition; it 
does not appear to possess the fat-elaborating power, for at no season is any fat 
found on its dry, starved flesh; 1 consequently there is no provision for a rainy day, 
and the misery of the bird (if it is miserable) consists in its perpetual, never 
satisfied craving for food." 

Great Blue and Ward's Herons. One of the largest and most widely dis- 
tributed of the North American species is the Great Blue Heron (A. herodias), 
which is found from the sub-Arctic regions southward to the West Indies and 
northern South America. It stands from forty-two to fifty inches in height and 
has an extent of wings of about seventy-two inches, the coloration being nearly 
uniform bluish gray above, with the lower parts black or dusky, broadly striped 
with white. The occiput and sides of the crown are black, while the forehead 
and center of the crown are pure white, though in the young the whole top of 
the head is dusky. 

The Great Blue Heron was formerly not uncommon throughout much of 
the eastern part of the United States, but is yearly becoming scarcer. It nests 
more or less in communities, building a large, flat nest of coarse sticks, occa- 
sionally placing it in low trees and bushes, but usually it is at a height of fifty 
feet or more. The eggs, from four to six in number, are about two and sixty-five 
hundredths inches by one and eighty hundredths inches; they are greenish blue 
in color. Of its habits Brewer says: "It usually fishes in the early morning and 
in the evening, often wading up to its tarsal joint in the water, standing motion- 
less, watching until its prey comes near, and then seizing it by a very rapid stroke 
of the bill, and swallowing it head downward. It also feeds on meadow mice, 
frogs, small birds, grasshoppers, etc." Very similar to this, although decidedly 
larger, is Ward's Heron (A. h. wardi] of western and central Florida, which has 
the legs yellowish instead of black. 

European Blue Heron. The European Blue Heron (A. cinerea), found in 
Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, and accidentally in Greenland, is colored 
very much like the two species above described, but differs in having the thighs 
and the edge of the wing white instead of cinnamon-rufous. It is also smaller, 
being but about three feet in length. This species was formerly abundant in 
England, where it was preserved for the royal sport of hawking, but with the de- 
cline of this sport it has almost disappeared except in a few protected localities. 

Great White Heron. Another striking American species is the Great White 
Heron (A. occidentalis} of Florida and the Greater Antilles, which is entirely 
pure white in color, with elongated ornamental plumes on the fore neck. Its 

1 This, however, is not always true. I have occasionally skinned Herons that were decidedly 
fat. R. R. 


The Stork-like Birds 


habits are similar to those of the Great Blue Heron except that it is perhaps more 
sedate and less animated. It collects in flocks often of a hundred or more on 
the flats and sand-bars where it feeds. 

The Goliath Heron (A. goliatk) of tropical Africa and occasional in India is 
another elegant species, being about fifty-four inches in length and having the 
head and crest-feathers chestnut. South America is also the home of a species 
allied to the European Heron, namely, the Cocoi Heron (A. cocoi}. This species, 
however, does not nest in communities, at least in Argentina, and is usually seen 
singly or in pairs, fishing along streams and marshes. 

Egrets. The large Egrets form a very interesting and showy group, by some 
referred to the genus Herodias, but by others placed in the same genus as those 
we have been considering. They are pure, often glistening white in color through- 
out, with beautiful elongated plumes on the back, these constituting the aigrettes 
so highly prized (unfortunately) for millinery decoration. The European species 

- '}' '" T\BI?/ 

. ; ^$fpr 

' : . ':;."' 


FIG. 45. American Egret, Herodias egretta. 

(H. alba), found from southern Europe through central Asia to the Indian penin- 
sula and in Africa, has the bill black in summer and yellow in winter, while the 
American Egret (H. egretta) of temperate and tropical America, and the Timor 
species (H . timoriensis] of Japan, China, the Malay Archipelago, and Australia, 
have the bill yellow throughout the entire year. The American Egret is a shy 
bird at all times and a great wanderer. Usually but few are seen together, 
although in suitable localities, as in Florida and certain places in the Western 
States, it nests in communities, the nests being placed in bushes or trees, all the 
way from six to one hundred and fifty feet from the ground. In the South the 
numbers of this species have been sadly depleted by plume hunters. The Snowy 

1 44 The Stork-like Birds 

Egret (Ardea (or Garzetta) candidissima) is another handsome species, twenty to 
twenty-seven inches in length, pure white in color, with the plumes of head, neck, 
and back greatly developed, those of the back extending to or beyond the tail 
and recurved at the tips. It is or was formerly found throughout all the warm 
portions of North and South America, though it has been practically extermi- 
nated in the United States. It is common on the pampas of Argentina, where, 
Hudson tells us, it is more active and social in its habits than most Herons, being 
usually seen in small flocks. While there are many other fine Herons, we have 
space for the mention of but a single additional one, the Agami Heron (Agamia 
agami) of South America. It is a beautiful bird, about thirty-two inches in 
length, and, as may be seen from our colored plate, is a glossy dark green 
above, with ornamental plumes of pearly gray on the lower back. The lower 
parts are largely chestnut in color, while the head is set off by a crest of slaty 
blue. It is a native of the dense tropical growth from Mexico to Peru and 

The Night Herons (Nycticorax and Nyctanassa\ so called from the fact that 
they are mainly nocturnal in their habits, are medium-sized Herons, ranging 
from eighteen to about twenty-four inches in length, of very stout, thick build, 
with large, thick heads and very thick bills. The prevailing colors are bluish 
gray, black, and white ; but the plumage of the mature birds is exceedingly dif- 
ferent from that of the young, being in the latter mainly brownish, striped longi- 
tudinally with white ; the sexes are, however, similar in each stage, while in the 
adults there are two or three exceedingly long, thread-like, white occipital plumes. 

About a dozen Night Herons are known, two forms being found in North 
America. The genus is nearly cosmopolitan, except that it does not range very 
far north. Perhaps the best-known, and certainly the most widely distributed, 
species is the Black-crowned Night Heron (N. nycticorax), which ranges from 
central and southern Europe to the Indian peninsula, China, Japan, the Malay 
Peninsula, and Africa, and the American form of it which is found from the 
British possessions to the Falkland Islands and the West Indies. 

The American Black-crowned Night Heron, or Quawk, as it is usually called 
(N. nycticorax n<zvius\ is larger than its European relative, being from twenty- 
three to twenty-six inches long. It is uniformly glossy, greenish black above, with 
the forehead, sides of the head, chin, throat, and lower parts generally white, 
while the wings, rump, and tail are ash-gray in color. This species is widely 
distributed, ranging from Ontario and Manitoba southward to the Falkland 
Islands, including part of the West Indies. It nests in communities, often of 
great size, and as they are practically nocturnal in their habits, a rookery may 
often exist without attracting much attention. The following interesting account 
is from the pen of Mr. F. M. Chapman : "One may gain a far better idea of Heron 
life by visiting the rookery while the foliage is still glistening with dew. Then, 
from a distance, a chorus of croaks may be heard from the young birds as they 
receive what, in effect, is their supper. Old birds are still returning from fish- 
ing trips, and the frog-like monotone of the young is broken by the sudden 
quawks of their parents. The trees in which the nests were placed are very tall 

(Agamia a^mni) 


and slender, mere poles some of them, with a single nest where the branches 
fork; while those more heavily limbed had four, five, and even six of the plat- 
forms of sticks, which with Herons serve as nests; but in only a single instance 
was one nest placed directly below another. A conservative estimate yielded a 
total of five hundred and twenty-five nests, all within a circle about one hundred 
yards in diameter, the lowest being about thirty feet from the ground, the high- 
est at least eighty feet above it. On entering the rookery our attention was 
attracted at once by the nearly grown Herons, who, old enough to leave the nest, 
had climbed out on the adjoining limbs. There, silhouetted against the sky, 
they crouched in family groups of two, three, and four. Other broods, inhab- 
itants of more thickly leaved trees, made known their presence above by dis- 
gorging a half-digested eel, which dropped with a thud at our feet. The vegeta- 
tion beneath the well-populated trees was as white as though it had been liberally 
daubed with whitewash, and the ground was strewn with blue-green egg-shells 
neatly broken in two across the middle ; fish, principally eels, in various stages 
of digestion and decay; and the bodies of young birds th^t had met with an 
untimely death by falling from above. It 
was not altogether a savory place. As the 
sun crept upward and the last fishers re- 
turned, the calls of both old and young birds 
were heard less and less often, and by ten 
o'clock night had fallen on the rookery and 
the birds were all resting quietly. Four 
o'clock in the afternoon was evidently early 
morning, and at this hour the birds first 
began to leave the rookery for their fishing 

Bitterns. The only other members of 
the group to be mentioned are the Bitterns, 
which are distinguished at once by having 
only ten tail-feathers and the middle toe with 
its claw about equal to or greatly exceeding 
the tarsus. Several genera have been de- 
scribed, the most typical and important being 

Botaurus, 1 which embraces what may be called the true Bitterns. They are 
small or medium-sized birds with a mottled plumage of buff, brown, and black; 
the neck is shorter and thicker and the head proportionally larger than in the 
Herons, and the head is without plumes. They haunt swamps and marshes, 
where their striped dress harmonizes admirably with the rushes and reeds. 
They are not at all gregarious, it being rare to find more than two in company 
even in the nesting season. They feed on crustaceans, lizards, frogs, and in- 
sects, and build a loose nest of grasses, etc., usually on the ground in marshes. 
The eggs are from three to five, pale olive-buff or bluish white in color. 

FlG. 46. European Bittern, Botaurus 

1 By some systematists Botaurus is made to include several of the genera of other authors. 

146 The Stork-like Birds 

The American Bittern (B. lentiginosus) is found throughout temperate 
North America, Guatemala, and Cuba, while the European species (B. stellaris) 
ranges throughout the temperate parts of the Old World and south to India and 

The origin of the name Bittern, by which these birds are generally known, is 
open to more or less doubt, but it is apparently a corruption from some name 
given in imitation of the very peculiar notes of the birds. " The booming of the 
Bittern" is a familiar expression, and from the earliest times its notes have been 
variously likened to the bellowing of cattle, the driving of a stake into swampy 
ground, the working of an old wooden pump, etc. The English species, now 
almost unknown in that country, was formerly called Bittour, Bator, Butter- 
bump, etc., while the American species is quite generally called the Stake-driver. 
The following extract from Mudie will give some idea of the note of the Euro- 
pean Bittern: "Anon a burst of savage laughter breaks upon you, gratingly loud, 
and so unwonted and odd that it sounds as if the voices of a bull and a horse were 
combined, the former breaking down his bellow to suit the neigh of the latter, 
in mocking you from the sky." Hudson, in his "British Birds," says of the notes, 
"When flying he utters a harsh, powerful scream, and he has besides a strange 
vocal performance, called 'booming,' a sound that resembles the bellowing of 
a bull." 

The American Bittern has no such roar, but produces a sound very sugges- 
tive indeed of the driving of a stake. Many attempts have been made to repre- 
sent the notes by syllables, such as pump-augah, as rendered by Nuttall, 
chunk-a-lunk-chunk, quank chunk-a-lunk-chunk, by Samuels, while according to 
Bradford Torrey, whom we shall quote later, it is most nearly represented by 
plum-pudd'ri', giving both vowels the sound of u in full, dwelling a little upon 
plum, and a strong accent on the first syllable of puddin'. In any event it is a 
very peculiar voice which possesses also the power of deceiving the hearer as to 
the position and distance of the performer. When once heard it is not likely to 
be forgotten. 

The manner in which this curious vocal effort is produced has given rise to 
most entertaining literature. Some early writers supposed that trte bill was put 
inside a hollow reed to increase the volume of sound, but the greater number in- 
sisted that it was made with the bill partly under water, for it sounds, as Audubon 
well says, "as if the throat was filled with water." I will quote from but one of 
these accounts, that given by Count Wodzecki of the European species as late as 
1852. He says in part : "The artist was standing on both feet, his body horizon- 
tal and his bill in the water, and then a rumbling began, the water squirting about 
all the time. After a few sounds I heard the u sound; the bird lifted his head, 
threw it backward, and thrust his bill into the water, and then he uttered a roar 
so fearfully loud that I was frightened." 

It appears to be quite commonly supposed that our American Bittern pro- 
duces the "booming" with the bill partially submerged, and a well-known writer 
on natural history in this country claims to have been an eye-witness to the per- 
formance, stating that "the bird's beak, when it uttered the cry, was not quite 

Boat-bills 147 

withdrawn from the water, and its voice, therefore, was materially modified by 
this fact." 

As a matter of fact, there is nothing peculiar in the vocal apparatus of the 
Bittern, and he depends entirely upon it for the production of the notes. It is 
simply that the natural shyness of the bird makes close observation difficult. In 
this particular, Torrey on one occasion enjoyed exceptional facilities and gives the 
following account: "First the bird opens his bill quickly and shuts it with a 
click; then he does the same thing again with a louder click; and after from 
three to five such snappings of the beak he gives forth the familiar trisyllabic 
notes, repeated from three to eight times. With the preliminary motions of 
the bill the breast is seen to be distending; the dilatation increases until the 
pumping is well under way and, so far as we could make out, does not subside in 
the least until the pumping is quite over. It seemed to both of us that the bird 
was swallowing air, gulping it down, and with it distending his crop; and 
he appeared not to be able to produce the resonant pumping notes until this was 
accomplished. It should be remarked, however, that the gulps themselves, 
after the first one or two at least, give rise to familiar sounds of much the same 
sort. The entire performance, but especially the pumping itself, is attended 
with violent convulsive movements, the head and neck being thrown upwards 
and then forwards, like the Night Heron's when it emits its quow, only with 
much greater violence. The snap of the bill, in particular, is emphasized by a 
vigorous jerk of the head." Other observers have witnessed much the same 
state of affairs and all agree that it is produced only by an apparently violent 
effort, Brewster stating that a bird he once observed appeared "as if he were 
afflicted with violent nausea or were trying to get rid of some obstruction in his 


(Family Cochleariidce) 

The present family comprises but a single genus (Cochlearius] and two 
species, the oldest known being the South American Boat-bill (C. cochlearius], 
which ranges from southern Brazil over Amazonia and Guiana to Colombia and 
Ecuador, and the Central American Boat-bill (C. zeledoni}, which occurs in 
suitable situations from Mexico to Panama. They are small Night Heron-like 
birds, sixteen and eighteen inches in length respectively, their most-marked 
character being the possession of an enormous bill which is greatly depressed 
and excessively dilated laterally, the lateral outlines being much bowed. The bill 
approximates three inches in length and nearly two inches in width, and suggests 
at once possible kinship with the African Shoe-bill, and the naked skin between 
the branches of the lower jaw is dilatable into a pouch or bag. As further char- 
acters it may be mentioned that the Boat-bills have four pairs of powder-down 
tracts, which serve to distinguish them from the Ardeida, which possess but two 
or three pairs of such areas, while they agree with the latter in having the feather- 


The Stork-like Birds 

tracts very narrow, and the inner edge of the middle claw distinctly pectinated. 
The possession of a long nuchal crest by the Boat-bills seems another mark of 
relationship with the Night Herons. 

The plumage of the South American species is a delicate lavender-gray 
above, the upper mantle with a broad band of black extending a little way down 
its sides, the wing-quills hoary gray or whitish, and the lower back, rump, upper 
tail-coverts and tail hoary gray, while the crown and crest are blue -black, the 
forehead white, the sides of the face, throat, and chest white, becoming delicate 
lavender-gray along the sides, and the breast and abdomen dark cinnamon- 
rufous; the eyes are large and dark, the upper mandible dark brown, and the 
lower mandible clear yellow, while the feet are dull or dirty yellow. The Cen- 
tral American species (C. zeledoni) is similar to the other except that it is larger, 
the general coloration much darker and browner, the crest much shorter, and 
has the throat and breast pale vinous or light tawny. 

Notwithstanding the fact that the Boat-bills are very widely distributed and 
have been known to science for upward of one hundred and fifty years, com- 
paratively little appears to have been re- 
corded concerning their life history. They 
appear to associate in small flocks or colonies 
and to frequent the mangrove swamps, being 
apparently nocturnal in their habits. Thus 
Salvin records finding the more northern 
species on the Cays of British Honduras and 
in Guatemala, skulking in the mangroves, and 
Mr. C. C. Nutting found them in similar sit- 
uations in Costa Rica, while Dr. Richmond 
observed several colonies on the Rio Frio, 
Costa Rica. Mr. E. A. Goldman, who has 
seen them at a number of points in Central 
America, regards the Boat-bill as a stupid, 
dull bird, permitting one to approach within 
a dozen or fifteen feet, and whdn taking wing 
only flying for a few yards to skulk among 
the tangled undergrowth. The note is de- 
scribed as a harsh croak or squawk. The 
nest and eggs appear to be unknown. 

As already hinted, even the casual observer would doubtless be struck at 
once by the strong albeit somewhat superficial resemblance between the 
members of the present family and the great African Shoe-bill, the sole tenant 
of the succeeding family; but when the structural characters are compared it is 
found to be rather a case of "converging analogy" than actual affinity. "At 
first sight," says Dr. Stejneger, "the Cochlearius seems to represent a pygmy 
Balaeniceps, between the legs of which it can stand upright without bending its 
neck, but even the outward likeness between the two bills is, on nearer inspec- 
tion, by no means so great as would appear at first sight." Although Professor 

FIG. 47. Boat-bill, Cochlearius coch- 



Parker argued for a distinct relationship between them, it is improbable that 
they could have been derived from a common ancestor, but on the other hand 
the points of agreement with the Night Heron (N ycticorax] are so numerous 
and important as to leave no doubt as to the direction we must look for affinity. 
In fact, some systematists, regarding the Boat-bill as merely a Night Heron with 
an exaggerated bill, decline to accord it more than subgeneric rank under Nycti- 
corax, but as Mr. Ridgway has shown, it has become modified and specialized 
in so many ways and so important features, besides the bill and the consequent 
alteration of the skull, that it seems well entitled to separate family rank. 


(Family Balccnicipitida} 

A very remarkable bird, indeed, is the great Shoe-bill, or Whale-head of the 
Upper White Nile, and well entitled to be ranked as the sole representative of 
a family. This bird is about four feet in height, with very long legs, rather 
short neck and large head, which is provided at the back with a short, bushy 
crest; but the most marked feature is the immense, broad, flattened bill. This 
bill, which is eight inches or more in length, is concave in profile, with a ridge 
down the center of the upper mandible, which is prolonged at the tip into a nail 
or hook. The wings are long and broad, with the third and fourth quills long- 
est ; the tail is rather short and composed of twelve feathers. The general color 
of the plumage is ashy gray above, the mantle, scapulars, and wing-coverts 
having a slight greenish gloss, and paler gray below, the feathers of the fore 
neck and breast each with a dark stripe along the center. The feet and legs 
are leaden black in color, and the iris sometimes pale yellowish or occasionally 
grayish white. But a single species (Balaniceps rex) is known. 

The systematic position of the Shoe-bill has given rise to considerable dis- 
cussion, though now it is pretty generally agreed that its closest affinity is with 
the Herons, with which it agrees in having powder-down patches on the rump; 
bare loral spaces, the right lobe of the liver largest, and the caecum single. Ac- 
cording to Parker, who was the first to describe the skeleton, "the nearest rela- 
tions of Bal&niceps are the South American Boat-bill and the little South African 
Umbrette (Scopus umbretta)," though Beddard is of the opinion that it "requires 
further study before its exact position can be determined." 

According to Mr. John Petherick, who was one of the first to observe these 
remarkable birds in their native haunts, they are "seen in clusters of from a pair 
to perhaps one hundred together, mostly in the water, and when disturbed will 
fly low over its surface, and settle at no great distance; but if frightened and 
fired at, they rise in flocks high up in the air, and, after hovering and wheeling 
around, will settle on the highest trees, and as long as their disturbers are near 
will not return to the water. Their roosting place at night is, to the best of my 
belief, on the ground. Their food principally is fish and water-snakes, which they 
have been seen by my men to catch and devour. They will also feed on the 


The Stork-like Birds 

FIG. 48. Shoe-bill, Balceniceps rex. 

intestines of dead animals, the carcasses of which they easily rip open with the strong 
hook of the upper bill. The breeding time of the Balaeniceps is in the rainy 
season during the months of July and August, and the spot chosen is in the reeds 
or high grass immediately on the water's edge, or on some small elevated and 

Hammer-head 151 

dry spots entirely surrounded by water. The birds before laying scrape a hole 
in the earth, in which, without any lining of grass or feathers, the female deposits 
her eggs. As many as a dozen eggs have been found in the same nest." Mr.- 
Petherick succeeded in hatching some of the eggs under fowls and reared the 
young, sending them alive to England. 


(Family Scopidce) 

Although a much smaller bird than the one last considered, the Hammer- 
head is only about twenty inches in total length, it is in many ways even more 
peculiar and interesting, since it combines, in quite a remarkable degree, charac- 
ters that ally it to both Herons and Storks, a Stork-like Heron, as it has been 
called. It differs from the true Herons in the absence of powder-down patches, 
the pectination of the middle claw, and in having ten instead of eleven primaries. 
It differs, on the other hand, from the Storks in having the Heron-like vocal appara- 
tus, while the skull, Mr. Beddard says, "is on the whole more Stork-like than 
Heron-like, but it does not show any of the extreme modifications of the Stork 
type." There are numerous other structural features suggesting one or the other 
of these types, and it seems safe to assume that it is closely allied to the ancestral 
form whence the two groups have originated. Its nearest living relative is 
probably the Shoe-bill. 

It is a bird not larger than a Night Heron, with a somewhat cylindrical body, 
a large head set on a short, thick neck, and a rather large, compressed bill which 
has a downward curve at the tip. In color the plumage is an almost uniform 
earthy brown (umber), whence of course the French name Umbrette. There is 
a slight gloss of bronzy purple above, especially on the wings and tail, while 
below it is more ashy brown. The head is very strongly crested, the long crest- 
feathers being usually borne horizontally, thus somewhat resembling a hammer 
and giving rise to its common name. The toes are rather long and slightly webbed 
at the base ; the tail of twelve feathers is also moderately long. 

The Hammer-head (Scopus umbrella), or Hammerkop, as it is called by the 
Boers, is widely distributed over tropical Africa, Arabia, and Madagascar, though 
nowhere very abundant. Andersson states that it is pretty generally diffused 
over Damara Land, where "it is generally observed singly or in pairs, and is of 
a fearless disposition, allowing a person to approach within range without diffi- 
culty." It is there often met with during the rainy season, but moves to per- 
manent waters as the rain-pools dry up. Reichenow says it "is sociable only in 
a slight degree. It is usually found single except at the nest, in wooded 
districts, watching for fishes with its neck drawn in, or walking with measured 
steps in search of frogs, which, besides worms, snails, and insects, constitute its 
food. Its flight resembles that of the Ibises, neck and feet being carried straight 
out. Its voice is a harsh quack, similar to that of the Spoon-bill." 


The Stork-like Birds 

The nest of the Hammerkop is described as one of the most remarkable 
structures made by any African bird, being a huge, flattened, dome-shaped affair, 

FIG. ^9. Hammer-head, or Umbrette, Scopus umbretta. 

often six feet or more in diameter and containing at least a large cart-load of 
sticks. It is built on a rocky ledge or perhaps more frequently in some large 
tree, each nest being the work of a single pair, and made use of for many years, 
being repaired or added to as required. The nest, which is very strongly built, 

Storks 1 5 3 

is provided with a single, rather small entrance ingeniously placed on the most 
inaccessible, side, while within it is neatly plastered with mud and more or less 
divided into compartments. The nest is made use of by the birds the year round, 
and not infrequently several nests are found within a short distance, Dr. Sharpe 
mentioning having seen six or eight within fifty yards. The eggs, three to five 
in number, are pure white, and small for the size of the bird. Both sexes appear 
to take part in the duties of incubation, and it is recorded that two and perhaps 
more broods are reared in a year. The Hammerkop has the habit, similar to 
that of the Australian Bower-bird, of embellishing its dwelling with any glitter- 
ing or bright-colored object, such as bits of crockery, buttons, bleached bones, etc. 


(Suborder Ciconia) 

The birds of this group resemble in a general way the Herons and their 
immediate allies, having relatively long legs and necks, but they are distinguished 
chiefly by structural characters, and we may only mention the absence of powder- 
down patches, and the hind toe elevated above the plane of the others, leaving 
the more complete characterization to be recorded under the description of the 
various groups. The suborder is divided into two superfamilies, iheCiconiidce, 
or Storks and Wood Ibises, and the Ibid-ee, which embraces the families Ibididce, 
or true Ibises, and the Plataleida, or Spoon-bills. 


(Family Ciconiidce) 

The Storks, although very widely distributed and popularly quite well known, 
are a small group comprising less than twenty forms. They have what may be 
called plump bodies, rather long legs and short necks, and large, compressed, 
conical, sharp-pointed bills which may be either nearly straight, somewhat 
curved or open in the middle. The front toes are connected at the base by a 
web, but the middle claw is without the pectination found in the Herons, while 
the tarsus is covered with reticulated scales, and the leg bare well up to the 
thighs. The wings are large, for they are powerful flying birds, and when on the 
wing the neck is held straight forward, another feature in which they differ from 
Herons. The short rounded tail is composed of ten feathers. They are, of 
course, without the powder-downs. 

Among a number of anatomical characters we may mention that "the syrinx 
has no' intrinsic muscles, and the Storks are consequently deprived of voice, and 
the only sound they produce is a loud clatter, by beating their huge mandibles 
together." STEJNEGER. 

White Stork. The true Storks (Ciconia) are confined to the Old World, 


The Stork-like Birds 

three species being recognized, of which the White Stork (C. ciconia) is by far 
the best known. This species, as its name suggests, is, with the exception of the 
black wing-coverts and quills, pure white throughout, set off by a dark red bill, 
reddish pink legs and feet, while the claws are black. The female is similar in 
dress to the male, though slightly smaller in size, while the young have the wing- 
coverts and quills brown; the total length is about forty- two inches. 

This Stork is found in summer over most of Europe except at the north, and 
extends also into central Asia, retiring in winter to Africa and northern India. 
It does not breed at all points along its northern range, being, for example, an 
occasional visitor to the east coast of England, coming over from Holland and 
Germany, where it is common during the nesting season. It was formerly abun- 
dant in many parts of France, but constant molestation has made it simply 

a bird of passage 
there. It has long 
been associated 
with man and seeks 
rather than shuns 
human habitations, 
and hence usually 
selects a chimney or 
building for the nest- 
ing site, or if these 
be unavailable, it 
may resort to rocks 
or trees. The nest, 
of sticks and reeds, 
is at first a shallow 
affair, but as the 
birds return year 
after year to the 
same place, it finally 
comes to be several 
feet high. Boxes 
are often placed for 
them to use as nest- 
ing places, and it is 
looked upon as a 
piece of great good 
fortune to the house- 
hold to have the box occupied. The eggs, usually from three to five in number, 
are pure white. The Storks frequent marshes, where they feed on eels, frogs, 
lizards, snakes, young birds, small mammals, and insects, and are in some 
countries protected by law, on account of their value in keeping down reptiles, 
removing offal, etc. They arrive in the spring and depart in the fall in flocks 
of immense size, and while on the migrations usually fly at a great height, and 

FIG. 50. White Stork, Ciconia ciconia. 

Storks 155 

always arrange themselves in V-shaped lines, the leader of which is constantly 

Japanese Stork. Very similar to this species is the Japanese Stork (C. 
boyciana) of eastern Siberia, Korea, and Japan, though it is much larger and has 
the bill horn-black instead of red, and the spot around the eye vermilion-red 
instead of black. 

Black Stork. The remaining species of the genus is the Black Stork (C. 
nigra), a smaller bird than the White, and quite different in habits. The plu- 
mage is black above, glossed for the most part with a metallic purple, and pure 
white below. The bill, orbital space, and gular pouch are coral-red ; the legs and 
feet red; and the iris brown. It is found from southern Europe to Mongolia and 
China, and south in winter over Africa and the Indian peninsula, being a rare 
straggler to England. The Black Stork avoids human habitations and makes 
its home in deep swamps, placing its often very large nest in tall forest trees. 

icy lay usually four eggs, which are grayish white in color. 

Maguari Stork. South America is the home of a fine species known as the 
Maguari Stork (Euxenura maguari). It is about forty inches in total length 
md has the plumage white, with the exception of the wings and upper tail- 
:overts, which are black. The naked spaces about the ear and the feet are red, 
while the bill is horn-color with a yellowish base. There is a very curious modi- 
fication of the tail-feathers in this bird, a feature first correctly worked out by 
Mr. Ridgway. The tail is short and deeply forked, the feathers being very rigid, 
while the lower coverts are elongated, extending beyond the true tail, and stiffened 
so as to resemble the true tail-feathers. 

The Maguari is found throughout South America, being especially abundant 
in Argentina, where, Mr. Hudson says, "it is a well-known bird on the pampas, 
breeding in the marshes, and also wading for its food in the shallow water; but 
it is not nearly so aquatic as the Jabiru, and after the breeding season is over it is 
seen everywhere on the dry plains. Here these birds prey on mice, snakes, and 
toads, but also frequently visit the cultivated fields in quest of food. Where mice 
or frogs are exceptionally abundant on the pampas, the Storks often appear in 
large numbers, and at such times I have seen them congregating by hundreds 
in the evening beside the water; but in the daytime they scatter over the feeding 
ground, intent on their prey, with majestic Crane-like strides. To rise they give 
three long jumps before committing themselves to the air, and like all heavy 
flyers make a loud noise with their wings." 

White-necked Stork. Allied to the Maguari by the possession of the peculiar 
forked tail is the White-necked Stork (Dissoura episcopus), w y hich ranges over 
tropical Africa, the Indo-Chinese countries, and through the Indian and Malay 
peninsulas to Celebes. It is mainly black above, and on the breast the feathers 
are glossed with metallic green and purple, while the nape, neck, throat, and 
abdomen are white. 

Abdim's Stork. Among the true Storks also we may mention Abdim's, or 
the White-bellied Stork (Abdimia abdimii), a native of tropical Africa and 
extending thence into Arabia and Spain. In general appearance it is quite 


The Stork-like Birds 

similar to the Black Stork, although smaller and with shorter legs, and possess- 
ing, moreover, a number of anatomical differences. The general color is black 
above, slightly glossed with steel-green and purple, the bend of the wing, the 
back, rump, and upper tail-coverts being white; the head, neck, and fore neck 
metallic green and purple, while the remainder of the under surface from the 
fore neck downward is white. The bill is horny green with a crimson tip, while 
the naked space around the ears, a spot in front of the eyes, nostrils, and throat 
are crimson; the legs are olive-green, and the feet and knees crimson. This 
species is exceedingly abundant in many parts of Africa, frequenting the vicinity 
of the Tillages during the breeding season, where it is venerated and protected 
much as is the White Stork in Europe. Andersson says : "This somewhat coarse 
but handsome Stork arrives in Damara Land during the rainy season, leaving it 
again on the approach of the dry. The more plentiful the rain, the more abun- 
dant the birds, the cause being simply the great abundance of food. This species 
feeds largely on locusts, but devours with equal gusto beetles of all kinds, many 
hundreds of which I have taken from the stomach of a single bird ; it also devours 

small reptiles, water-rats, fish, and frogs, but 
appears to prefer locusts when these are to 
be had, chasing them over the ground as 
well as in the air." These birds usually 
nest in communities, placing the nests in 
trees, sometimes to the number of twenty or 
thirty in a single tree. The eggs are three 
or four, and small for the size of the bird. 

The Adjutants, or Marabou Storks (Lep- 
toptilus), are the largest and at the same time 
the homeliest members of the whole group. 
They are from forty to sixty inches in 
length, with an enormous bill, a bare head 
and neck, and a curious pouch pendent 
from the chest. This pouch is popularly 
supposed to be a receptacle for food, but 
as a matter of fact it has no connection with 
the esophagus. Another feature of moment 
is afforded by the under tail-coverts, which are 
composed of beautiful, soft, downy plumes. 
The general color of the bird is ashy gray 
above, with a green reflection, and pure 
white below. These birds are true scaven- 
gers, feeding largely on carrion but also capturing living prey such as fish, 
tortoises, and snakes. In India it is a common sight to see them about the 
streets of the towns, unabashed by the presence of man or dog, and such 
is its value that it is protected by law in many places. After satisfying 
its hunger it seeks repose during the heat of the day, and may often be seen 
standing for hours with one foot drawn up under its body, or resting on the 

FIG. 51. Indian Adjutant, Leptoptilus 



whole leg, with the feet spread out in front in what appears a very awkward 
position. They build a large nest on rocky cliffs or occasionally in trees and 
lay from two to four oval, chalky white eggs. Three species are known, 
the African Adjutant (L, crumeniferus), found throughout tropical Africa, the 
Indian Adjutant (L. dubius) of the Indian peninsula and Indo-Chinese 
countries, and L. javanicus, widely distributed in the Orient. 

/^"^ />-^ 


FIG. 52. Jabiru, Mycteria americana. 

Jabirus. Allied to the Adjutants is the Jabiru (Mycteria americana) of 
continental tropical America, but also coming as far north as Texas. It is the 
largest of the American Storks, standing nearly five feet high, and has the entire 
plumage pure white, with the head and six inches of the neck covered with naked 

158 The Stork-like Birds 

black skin, from which arise two scarlet bands of loose skin which extend down 
to the chest. "When the bird is wounded or enraged, this loose red skin is said 
to swell out like a bladder, changing to an intensely fiery scarlet hue." It is 
said to nest on high* trees, and to lay blue-green eggs. 

Close to the last-mentioned species are two Old World forms that we have 
space to hardly more than mention. These are the Saddle-billed Stork, or 
Jabiru (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), of tropical Africa, which is character- 
ized by a saddle-shaped black space in the middle of an otherwise scarlet bill, 
and the Black-necked Jabiru (Xenorhynchus asiaticus) , of northern Australia, 
New Guinea, and the Indian and Malayan peninsulas. It is similar to the 
other, but is without the "saddle" across the bill. 

Shell Storks. The Open-bills, or Shell Storks (Anastvmus} , are among the 
smallest of the group, being only twenty-eight or thirty inches in length. They 
are known at once by the fact that the bill gapes widely toward' the tip, leav- 
ing, as suggested by the name, an open space of considerable extent in the 
terminal half of the bill. It was supposed that this resulted from wearing away 
in the process of securing their food, but it has been asserted on good authority 
that the young birds exhibit the same feature, and hence it is structural. They 
live on shell-fish, such as fresh-water mollusks, whence of course their second 
name. Of the two species known, the Indian (A. oscitans] is pure white both 
above and below, with the exception of the wings and their primary coverts, 
and the feathers of the tail, which are black with purple and green reflections. 
The African species (.4. lamettigerus) is largely black with metallic green and 
purple reflections, the feathers of the crown, throat, breast, and under parts 
with narrow horny tips. The Open-bills nest among the reeds in marshes or 
occasionally in trees, returning year after year to their old nesting sites. 

Wood Ibises. The last members of the family to be considered are the 
Wood Ibises, or Wood Storks. Although it seems now to be pretty definitely 
settled that their affinities are with the Storks, they form, nevertheless, a sort 
of connecting link between them and the Ibises. By many students the charac- 
ters of the Wood Ibises are regarded of sufficient importance to entitle them 
to be ranked as a family or subfamily of equal value as that including the 
Storks, but it perhaps is best in the present instance to consider^ them as a well- 
marked group of the Ciconiida. 

The Wood Ibises are large Stork-like birds, with long legs and a long neck 
and beak, the latter being thickened at the base, but much attenuated toward 
the tip, where it is turned downward, much as in the true Ibises. The legs are 
covered with small hexagonal scales, while the toes are long, very slender, and 
connected basally by a well-developed web. The plumage is compact above 
but rather loose below; the wings are long and broad, the second, third, and 
fourth quills being nearly equal in length, while the tail is short, or moderately 
long, and composed of twelve broad, strong feathers. 

Only four species of Wood Ibises are known, these being separable into two 
genera, Tantalus, which includes the single American species, and Pseudo- 
tantalus, which embraces the three Old World forms. In the first, the adult 

American Wood Ibis 

has the whole head and upper half of the neck naked, the skin being hard and 
scurfy, while in the Old World species only the fore part of the head is naked, 
the hinder half, as well as the entire neck, being densely feathered. In Tan- 
talus, however, the young birds have the head and neck feathered. In all the 
species the general color is white, in some tinged with pink or rosy, while the 
quills and tail are black or brownish. In young birds the mantle is usually 

The American Wood Ibis (T. loculator] is a curious bird in many respects. 
It is widely distributed over tropical and warm-temperate America, extending 
north regularly to the Gulf States, lower Mississippi Valley, lower Colorado Valley, 
etc., and casually or in some instances regularly to New York, Illinois, Utah, and 
California. It is from thirty-five to forty-five inches in length and white in color, 
with the quills, 
secondaries,- and 
tail glossy greenish 
black with purple 
and bronze reflec- 
tions. In the 
breeding season 
the under wing- 
coverts are rosy 
pink. The bare 
portions of the 
head and neck are 
livid bluish; the 
bill yellowish; the 
legs blue, becom- 
ing blackish on 
the toes. 

Its habits' have 
been variously de- 
scribed, some re- 
garding it as a 

solitary bird, while others have found it usually in small parties. Hudson, who 
saw it in Argentina, says: "On the pampas it is not uncommon in summer and 
autumn, and goes in flocks of a dozen or twenty. The birds are usually seen 
standing motionless in groups or scattered about in spiritless attitudes, appar- 
ently dozing away the time." It frequents both fresh and salt waters, feeding 
largely upon fishes, which, according to Audubon, it catches by dancing around 
in the water to render it muddy, then killing all that come to the surface. It 
also feeds on frogs, crabs, snakes, turtles, young alligators, young birds, etc. 
The nest, a rude platform of sticks, is placed in trees often of great height. 
In the shallow depression two or three white eggs are laid, which are about 
two and one half by two inches. The nesting site is used for many years, the 
birds refusing to leave even under great persecution. 

FIG. 53. American Wood Ibis, Tantalus loculator. 

160 The Stork-like Birds 



(Family Ibididcs) 


The Ibises are medium or large sized wading birds most closely related to the 
Storks, but distinguished from them at once by the bill, which is rather slender, 
more or less cylindrical throughout, and evenly bent downward after the manner 
of the Curlews. The bill is also rather soft, except at the tip, and the nostrils are 
slit-like, and placed in a deep, narrow groove which extends quite to the end 
of the bill. The legs are thick and strong, of moderate length, and the toes long, 
the front ones being connected by a short web, while the claws are long and 
slender. The wings are rather long and pointed, and the tail, of twelve feathers, 
is short and square-cut at the end. As Ridgway has said, "A great diversity 
of form and plumage is to be seen among the various species, some being trim 
and graceful in their build, and others uncouth, with Vulture-like head and 
neck, some plain in colors, while others are among the most brilliant of 

The Ibises enjoy a wide geographical distribution, although most abundant 
in the intertropical regions. They are also a very old group, as some three or 
four fossil forms have been described from the middle Tertiary of England, France, 
Patagonia, etc. About thirty living species are known, these being distributed 
among some twenty or more genera. The New World is the richest in forms, 
possessing more than a third of the known species, while of the Old World species 
Africa possesses six or seven, Asia about eight, and Madagascar and Australia 
two each. 

Sacred Ibis. The oldest known, and in many respects the most interesting 
and the one about which clusters so much of ancient history and mythology, is, 
of course, the Sacred Ibis (Ibis cetkiopica) of the Egyptians. As it was the 
"emblem of Shott, the scribe or secretary of Osiris, whose duty it is to write down 
and recount the deeds of the deceased," it is constantly to be seen carved in 
various forms on the ancient monuments, and its mummified bodies are found 
abundantly within the temples. It is about twenty-five inches in length, and has 
the entire head and throat bare and black in color. The plumage is pure white 
above and below, the secondaries being loose, dependent, ornamental plumes, 
with purple edges. Although once undoubtedly abundant in Egypt, it is now so 
rare that there has been expressed doubt if it was really entitled to be ranked as a 
native of that country. It is a native of Africa generally, especially the Nile 
basin, and follows down as the river rises, arriving in Egypt about midsummer, 
and retiring before winter, the season in which most Europeans visit the country, 
hence thought by them to be absent. 

Closely allied to the Sacred Ibis is Bernier's Ibis (/. bernieri) of Madagascar, a 
smaller bird, with a less extent of naked space on the neck and ashy instead of 
purple-edged plumes. Still another related species, the Black-headed Ibis 
(/. melanocephala), is found in India and near-by countries, and this gives place 
to the Australian White Ibis (7. molucca). 

Sacred Ibis 


1 62 The Stork-like Birds 

Scarlet Ibis. Beyond doubt the most beautiful of all the Ibises is the mag- 
nificent Scarlet Ibis (Guara rubra) of the eastern coasts of tropical America, 
whence it ranges north casually, or once did, to Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, 
though Mr. Ridgway^doubts if any of the United States records are valid. It is 
from twenty-eight to thirty inches in length and is a uniform, pure, intense scarlet, 
except the tips of the longer wing-quills, which are a glossy blue-black. Mr. 
Ridgway says: " The scarlet color of this splendid bird is probably not exceeded 
in purity and intensity. It is, in fact, the very perfection of that color. It far 
surpasses the red of any Passerine bird known to us, even the plumage of the 
Scarlet Tanager appearing dull and harsh beside it." The Scarlet Ibis is an 
exceedingly rare bird in the United States and it is very doubtful if it ever nested 
there. It is, or was once, a not uncommon visitor to Jamaica and Trinidad, where 
it perhaps bred, but hardly does so now. In British Guiana and on the Rio 
Negro it is said to be abundant, but its brilliant plumage is so much sought after 
that it yearly decreases in numbers and may soon become totally extinct. It is 
said to frequent river banks and swampy places and to feed on worms, soft 
mollusks, and, perhaps rarely, fishes. The eggs, two and ten hundredths by one 
and forty-five hundredths inches, are grayish white, thinly marked with small 
blotches of light brown. 

White Ibis. Almost the exact counterpart of the Scarlet Ibis, except as 
regards color, is the White Ibis (G. alba), which has the plumage pure white 
throughout instead of scarlet, and the tips of the quills glossy greenish black in- 
stead of blue-black. Its center of distribution is tropical America, extending 
north, regularly, to North Carolina, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and 
Lower California, while in winter it is found from the Gulf southward. The 
White Ibis is locally abundant at many points along the coast, where they are 
seen in flocks of six or eight to many hundreds. They apparently prefer fresh- 
water regions, especially during the breeding season, but are not infrequently 
found associated with various Herons, Pelicans, Cormorants, etc., along brackish 
water lagoons. They nest in communities often of vast extent, placing the nests 
in trees, bushes, and reedy marshes, Audubon recording the presence of forty- 
seven of their nests in a wild-plum tree near Cape Sable, Florida, while Scott 
found them in great abundance on Lake Butler, as well as at other points in 
Florida, stating that the nests are similar to those of the smaller Herons, "except 
that they were lined with leaves and were more carefully built." Four eggs is 
the usual complement, these being pale greenish white spotted with chocolate- 
brown, especially at the larger end, and averaging two and twenty-five hundredths 
by one and fifty hundredths inches. 

Straw-necked Ibis. One of the most remarkable and interesting members 
of the group is the Straw-necked Ibis (Carphibis spinicollis), which ranges over 
the whole of Australia and Tasmania as well as portions of New Guinea, and takes 
its common name from the presence on the sides of the fore neck of peculiar 
long, straw-like and straw-colored plumes. About thirty inches long, this bird 
has the bare portions of the head and neck dull inky black, while the back and 
sides of the neck are clothed with a white down. The general color of the 

Spoon-bills 163 

plumage above is black, glossed with shining bronzy green and purple, and 
covered with numerous bars of dull black, while the breast, abdomen, and tail 
are pure white. This splendid Ibis appears to be generally, though somewhat 
erratically, distributed over the whole of this immense territory, being present 
in a locality in countless thousands one year and entirely absent the next and 
perhaps for half a dozen years, its coming depending on the abundance of animal 
food. It inhabits the open downs and flats, particularly such as are studded with 
shallow lagoons, through which it wades knee-deep in search of mollusks, frogs, 
newts, and insects, and it also feeds on grasshoppers and insects generally. It 
" walks over the surface of the ground in a stately manner," says Gould, "perches 
readily on trees, and its flight is both singular and striking, particularly when 
large flocks are passing over the plains, at one moment showing their white 
breasts and at the next, by a change in their position, exhibiting their dark- 
colored back and snowy white tails." The note is described as a loud, hoarse, 
croaking sound, which may be heard at a considerable distance. The Straw- 
necked Ibis nests in colonies, often of vast size, one recently visited by Mr. D. Le 
Soue'f in Riverina, New South Wales, in a swamp about four hundred acres in 
extent, being estimated to contain fully 100,000 birds. The nests were placed on 
low bushes, which were trampled down by the birds "into rough platforms to 
within six or nine inches of the water, whereon they constructed green twig nests 
about six inches across by two inches deep." The nests, which are mostly un- 
lined, number from a dozen to thirty to each clump of bushes, while the eggs, 
from three to five in number, are dull white, of coarse texture and pitted surface. 

Glossy Ibis. The only other species we shall have space to mention is the 
Glossy Ibis (Plegadis autumnalis) and its closely related forms. This bird, 
found throughout the warmer parts of the Eastern Hemisphere and the southern 
portions of the eastern United States and the West Indies, is about twenty-four 
inches in length, and has the neck, back, lesser wing-coverts, and under parts a 
rich chestnut color. The feathers about the base of the bill are blackish, the 
bill blackish, and the legs greenish or dusky, points which distinguish it from 
the White-faced Glossy Ibis (P. guarauna), in which these feathers are white, 
the bill dusky red, and legs dull lake-red. This latter species is found throughout 
tropical America in general and western North America. The eggs of these 
species are a plain greenish blue, but their habits are otherwise similar to those 
of the other species described. 


(Family Plataleidtz) 

Although structurally similar to the Ibises, the Spoon-bills are at once dis- 
tinguished by the form of the bill, this being nearly straight, flattened, narrow in 
the middle, then expanded out into a broad, spoon-shaped extremity. The head 
is partially or entirely bare, and the nostrils longitudinal in grooves, which extend 
with more or less distinctness to the apex of the bill. The wings are large, 

164 The Stork-like Birds 

reaching to about the end of the tail, which is short, even, and composed of twelve 
broad, rounded feathers. The plumage (except in Ajaja ajaja) is white through- 
out, often with a beautiful rosy or crimson tinge, and during the breeding season 
several of the species, are ornamented with crests, or bunches of plumes on the 
breast or fore neck. 

Roseate Spoon-bill. The Spoon-bills are nearly cosmopolitan in distribu- 
tion, and are divided into three genera and about six species, of which the Roseate 
Spoon-bill (Ajaja ajaja} is the only American representative. It is a handsome 
bird about thirty-two inches long, and is distinguished from the Old World forms 
by having the head and throat bare. The neck and upper back are white, with 
the rest of the plumage pink, becoming carmine on the lesser wing-coverts and 
upper and under tail-coverts; it is without crest or ornamental plumes. In the 
immature bird the head and throat are feathered and the plumage is more inclined 
to pink. The Roseate Spoon-bill is found throughout tropical and subtropical 
America, north to the Gulf States, having been formerly abundant in Florida, 
but the persecutions of plume hunters have so nearly exterminated it that during 
four winters recently spent in various parts of the state, Mr. Chapman did not 
observe a single specimen. It is, however, still to be found in comparative abun- 
dance on the Texas coast. They frequent the muddy or marshy borders of 
estuaries, mouths of rivers, and the salt-water bayous, having the general habits 
of Herons, "but feeding by immersing the bill and swinging it from side to side 
in their search for food." The Spoon-bills are gregarious at all seasons, but espe- 
cially so during the nesting period, when they congregate in vast numbers, 
returning season after season to the same locality. The nest is a platform of 
sticks placed in bushes or low trees, and the eggs are three to five in number, white, 
spotted and blotched with various shades of olive-brown. They average about 
two and one half by one and three quarters inches. 

The White Spoon-bill ( Platalea leucorodid] is a slightly larger bird than the 
American species, and, with the exception of a band of cinnamon-buff on the 
fore neck, is pure white throughout, with a large nuchal crest of drooping, pointed 
plumes. It is found throughout central and southern Europe, thence east to 
central Asia and China, and south to northern Africa and India. It is said to 
breed among reeds in marshes after the manner of certain Cormorants. The 
other species of the genus are the Black-billed Spoon-bill (P. regfu) of Australia 
and the Moluccas, the African Spoon-bill (P. alba) of tropical Africa and Mada- 
gascar, and the Lesser Spoon-bill (P. minor} of Japan and China. 

The Yellow-legged Spoon-bill (Plalibis flavipes) is confined to Australia, and 
is a large bird, mainly white above and below, but with the fore neck straw-colored, 
and the forehead, upper throat, and bill yellow. 

(Ajaia ajaja) 

Flamingos 165 


(Suborder Phcenicoptert) 

Very peculiar birds indeed are these we shall now consider, having a rosy or 
bright scarlet plumage, extraordinarily long legs and neck, and a large bill that is 
bent abruptly downward in the middle as though deformed. Associated with 
these obvious characters are other more or less anomalous features which have 
rendered their systematic position subject to not a little difference of opinion. 
Some authorities, as for example Garrod, have placed them among the gallina- 
ceous birds, while others associated them with the Anseres, or Ducks and Geese, 
and still others incline to the view expressed by Huxley, who says that the group 
is " so completely intermediate between the Anseres on the one side, and the Storks 
and Herons on the other, that it can be ranged with neither." Shufeldt, who has 
very recently studied the osteology of the group, agrees entirely with Huxley, 
but Gadow, whom we are following, as well as Beddard and others, regards the 
points of agreement between the Flamingos and the Storks and Ibises as on 
the whole more numerous than with Ducks and Geese, and consequently ranges 
them as a suborder of the Stork-like birds (Ciconiiformes), which is immediately 
followed by the order containing the Ducks, Geese, etc. It appears that more 
complete knowledge of their ancestors and life will be necessary before their 
position can be absolutely fixed. In any event it is beyond question that the 
Flamingos are a very ancient group, since nearly three times as many fossil 
forms are known as have been recognized as now living. The oldest of these 
fossil forms comes from the upper Cretaceous of Denmark ; the others are mainly 
from the middle and late Tertiary of Europe, with a single Pliocene form (Phce- 
nicopterus copei) from central Oregon, which is very closely allied to our 
living species (P. ruber). 

Although long legs and necks are a prominent feature among the Herons, 
Storks, Ibises, etc., none of them makes such peculiar use of these members as 
the Flamingos are reputed to do. The long neck of the Flamingo is not pro- 
duced by an excessive multiplication of vertebrae, for there are only eighteen, but 
by the great lengthening of the individual bones. The form of the bill is unique 
among birds. Stejneger well describes the lower mandible as "a deep and broad 
box, into which the upper one, which is much lower and narrower, fits like a lid ; 
the sides are provided with quite Duck-like lamellae ; and, to complete the odd- 
ness of the structure, both mandibles at the middle are bent abruptly down- 
wards." In feeding the Flamingos reverse the usual position of the head until 
the bent portion of the bill is parallel with the surface of the ground, thus work- 
ing backward instead of forward as in other birds. They frequent shallow, 
preferably salt-water, marshes and lagoons, and their food consists of small 
mollusks, crustaceans, and vegetable matter, which they secure by exploring 
around in the soft mud much after the manner of Ducks, the water running out 
between the ridges of the bill. Hudson, who saw them in Patagonia, says that 
while feeding "the noise made by their beaks was continuous and resembled 

1 66 , The Stork-like Birds 

the sound produced by wringing out a wet cloth. They feed a great deal by day, 
but more, I think, by night." Scott, who observed a large flock, estimated at 
one thousand birds, near Cape Sable, Florida, found them feeding by day ; they 
were there stretched out in a long line, sometimes in a single but as often in 
double rank. This line varied in length at different times, sometimes being fully 
a mile long. He also notes that "all the time the birds were feeding there were 
three small parties, varying from two to five individuals, that were apparently 
doing a sort of picket duty." About every half hour the pickets were relieved 
by others, so that there were always a dozen or so on guard, and he found it im- 
possible to approach within shooting distance. The nesting site of this flock 
Scott was not able to discover, but it was presumably not far from where he found 

Flamingos are gregarious at all seasons, and especially during the breeding 
period. Mr. F. M. Chapman recently visited a colony on Andros Island in the 
Bahamas. The locality where they were found is described as "only a few inches 
above sea level and is characterized by wide stretches of shallow lagoons bordered 
by red mangrove trees with occasional bare bars of gray marl. . . . Subsequent 
research showed that the locality was regularly frequented by these birds as a 
breeding resort, but that apparently a different spot was chosen each year. Eight 
groups or villages of nests were found within a radius of a mile, each evidently 
having been occupied but one year. The largest of these, placed on a mud- 
bar only an inch or two above the level of the surrounding water, was one 
hundred yards in length and averaged about thirty yards in width. An esti- 
mate, based on an actual count of a portion of this colony, gave a total 
of 2000 nests for an area of, approximately, only 27,000 square feet." The 
nests, which were made of mud scooped up on the spot, were about fifteen or 
eighteen inches in diameter at the base and some twelve or thirteen at the top, 
and were from nine to twelve inches in height. Other observers describe the height 
of the nests as only a few inches, while the extreme of eighteen inches has been 
reported. The height of the nest appears rather to depend upon the depth of 
the water it is necessary to avoid. The eggs, one or two in number, are pure white 
and some three and one half by two inches. The manner in which the birds 
"sit " while incubating has been the subject of much discussion. It was formerly 
asserted that the long legs were permitted to hang down on either side of the 
nest, but it seems now to be definitely settled that such is not the case. Thus 
Mr. Abel Chapman, who found the European species nesting at the mouth of the 
Guadal quiver in Spain, distinctly states that they have "their long legs doubled 
under their bodies, the knees projecting as far as beyond the tail, and their 
graceful necks neatly coiled away among their back feathers, like a sitting Swan, 
with their heads resting on their breasts." This position has also been recorded 
for the American species by Mr. C. J. Maynard, who visited nesting places in the 
Bahamas, where among hundreds of sitting birds "not one had its legs hanging 

As might be supposed, a flock of Flamingos, numbering as it often does 
hundreds or even thousands and tens of thousands of individuals, presents a truly 

American Flamingo 


1 68 The Stork-like Birds 

imposing spectacle, the long files vividly suggesting a company of scarlet-coated 
soldiers. When migrating or when forced by alarm to take flight, they still hold 
to the long lines or V-shaped parties. "If the color on the water was novel," 
says Scott, ' ' that of a flock while in the air was truly surprising, a cloud of flame- 
colored pink, like the hues of a brilliant sunset." Hume, who saw them on the 
lakes of Sind, says that "to see one of these enormous flocks rise suddenly 
when alarmed is a wonderful spectacle; as you approach them, so long as they 
remain on the water at rest, they look simply like a mass of faintly rosy snow. A 
rifle is fired, and then the exposure of the upper and under coverts of the wing 
turns the mass into a gigantic, brilliantly rosy scarf, waving to and fro in mighty 
folds as it floats away." 

On Lake Hannington, in the eastern province of the Uganda Protectorate, Sir 
Harry Johnston states that "it is no exaggeration to say that there must be close 
upon a million Flamingos (P. minor). These birds breed on a flat plain of mud 
about a mile broad at the north end of the lake, where their nests, in the form of 
little mounds of mud, appear like innumerable mud-hills. The birds, having 
hitherto been entirely unmolested by man, are quite tame. The adult bird has 
a body of rosy pink, the color of sunset clouds. The beak is scarlet and purple; 
the legs deep rose-pink inclining to scarlet. Apparently the mature plumage is 
not reached until the birds are about three years old. The young Flamingos 
very soon attain the same size as the rosy adults; but their plumage, when they are 
full grown, is first gray- white and then the color of a pale tea-rose, before it attains 
its full sunset glory. On the north coast of the lake the belt of Flamingos must 
be nearly a mile broad from the edge of the lake outward. Seen from above, this 
mass of birds on its shoreward side is gray-white, then becomes white in the 
middle, and has a lakeward ring of the most exquisite rose-pink, the reason being 
that the birds on the outer edge of the semicircle are the young ones, while those 
farthest out in the lake are the oldest. It is not an easy matter to make the birds 
take to flight. When they do so suddenly and the shallow water is disturbed, the 
stench which arises is sickening. The noise from these birds can be heard for 
nearly a mile. The kronk, kronk, kronk, of the million, mingled with the hiss- 
ings, squitterings, and splashings and the swish-swish-swish of those who are 
starting in flight, combine to make a tumult of sound in the presence of which one 
has to shout to one's companion to be heard. It is curious to waich the ungainly 
motions of these birds when they wish to rise in the air. Their flight has to be 
preceded by an absurd gallop through the mud before they can lift themselves on 
their wings." 



(Order Anseriformes) 

N the vast majority of cases the relatively close resemblance between 
the Ducks, Geese, Swans, etc., is so plainly a mark of kinship that 
there is usually no question in associating them, but it is found, as 
already abundantly indicated in other groups, that where a more 
intimate study is made, certain members of the group show more or less marked 
divergences from what may be assumed to be the typical form. The question 
of the probable origin of the group as a whole, as well as that of its various members, 
has to be considered, and this of necessity leads to the employment of characters 
quite apart from mere external appearance. As in the order last reviewed, it has 
been found necessary to include birds that are very different from the central or 
typical form on account of their agreement in anatomical structure. The Anseri- 
formes may be defined as lamellirostral swimming birds, with short legs and the 
front toes fully webbed, or else wading birds, with a short decurved bill and 
enormously developed feet. They agree with the Storks in having the bridge or 
band form of palate (desmognathous), but differ from them in having the basip- 
terygoid processes, two pairs of tracheosternal muscles, and well-developed 
functional caeca. The young are "precocious," that is, are able to swim or run 
about within a few hours after they are hatched, and are entirely covered with 
down. The combination of the last-mentioned characters with the bridged palate 
serves to separate them from all other birds, except possibly the Flamingos. 

The order is divided into two suborders, the Palamedea, or Screamers, and the 
Anseres, or Geese, Swans, Ducks, and their allies. Each embraces a single 
family, although the Anseres may be conveniently grouped into a number of 
fairly well marked subfamilies. 


(Suborder Palameda, and Family Palamedeidce) 

These are birds about the size of a small domestic Turkey, with a small head 
and a rather fowl-like bill. The legs are of moderate length, but very thick and 
strong, and naked for a considerable distance above the ankle joint ; the toes 
are very long, the third and fourth being connected at base by a short membrane. 



The Goose-like Birds 

The wings are large, broad, and rounded, with the third quill longest, and each 
wing is provided on the carpal portion with two curious, powerful spurs, the front 
one being much the, larger. The plumage is composed of rather soft feathers, 
especially on the neck ; the tail, of fourteen or twelve feathers, is broad and nearly 
half as long as the wings. The Screamers possess, also, a number of other 
marked peculiarities, the principal one being the absence of uncinate processes 
to the ribs, a condition not known in any other living birds, and suggesting at 

FIG. 56. Horned Screamer, Palamedea cornuta. 

once the reptiles. The bones of the skeleton are very highly pneumatic, and the 
skin and underlying tissue to the depth of nearly half an inch is so completely 
filled with minute air spaces that it produces a crackling sound when pressed. 
According to Newton, the Screamers share with the Penguins the distinction 
of having the body continuously feathered, that is, without apteria, but other 
observers record the presence of a small bare space under each wing. 

There has been much discussion as to the systematic position of the Screamers, 
and even now it can hardly be regarded as definitely settled. Some would regard 
their characters as of sufficient importance to entitle them to ordinal rank, but, 
all things considered, it seems least inconvenient to consider them as an aberrant 

Screamers 171 

family of the present order. They number but three species, which are placed 
in two well-marked genera; all are natives of South America. 

The Horned Screamer (Palamedea cornuta), so named from the presence 
on the forehead of a slender, forward-curving "horn" or caruncle, some five or 
six inches long, is a native of Guiana, Venezuela, Amazonia, and Ecuador. It is 
about thirty-four inches in length and is glossy black above and mainly white 
below, the feathers of the head edged with whitish and those of the front of the 
neck and the sides with ashy ; the legs and feet are ashy gray and the iris bright 
orange. It has a powerful voice, described as a loud and sudden hoot, but not 
by any means so remarkable as that of the Crested Screamer (Chauna cristata), 
the species we shall next consider. In this the plumage is slaty gray above, 
darker on the back, and white below, the chin, neck, and cheeks also whitish; 
the feet are red. The total length of the bird is about thirty -two inches. It is 
without the "horn" of the first species, but in its place the head is crested. 

The Crested Screamer, or Chaja, 1 as it is called in imitation of its cry, inhabits 
the marshes, lagoons, and level open country abounding in water and succulent 
grasses of southern Brazil, Paraguay, and La Plata, where according to Mr. W. H. 
Hudson it is often seen in thousands. "It is," he says, "partially aquatic in its 
habits ; and in desert places it is usually seen in marshes, wading in the shallow 
water, and occasionally swimming to feed on the seeds and succulent leaves of 
water-loving plants." It also feeds upon the forage plants that have been intro- 
duced since the European occupation of the country, being especially fond of 
clover. Notwithstanding the presence of its powerful wing-spurs it seems to be 
a very even-tempered and peaceful bird, rarely or never quarreling. Its voice 
is a marked feature. To quote again from Mr. Hudson, who says on this point : 
"The voice is very powerful. When disturbed, or when the nest is approached, 
both birds utter at intervals a loud alarm-cry, resembling in sound the anger-cry 
of the Peacock, but twice as loud. At other times its voice is exercised in a kind 
of singing performance, in which male and female join, and which produces the 
effect of harmony. The male begins, the female takes up her part, and then with 
marvelous strength and spirit they pour forth a torrent of strangely contrasted 
sounds, some bassoon-like in their depth and volume, some like drum-beats, 
and others long, clear, and ringing. It is the loudest animal sound of the pampas, 
and its jubilant martial character strongly affects the mind in that silent melan- 
choly wilderness." They are said to sing at all seasons of the year and often at 
all hours of the night, and when congregated in flocks they often sing in concert. 

The nest is a large though light structure of dry rushes, placed among low 
rushes and water lilies and not infrequently is seen floating away from its moor- 
ings. The eggs are usually five, pure white, and about the size of those of the 
domesticated Goose. 

The remaining species (Chauna chavaria), the Derbian Screamer, is a native of 
Venezuela and Colombia. It is a smaller bird than the others, being about twenty- 
eight inches in length, with the plumage slaty black, the upper parts glossy and the 
lower parts paler, the cheeks and throat white, set off sharply from a black collar. 

1 Pronounced Cha-hd. 

172 The Goose-like Birds 


' (Suborder Anseres, Family Anatida) 

The members of this large assemblage are, with possibly slight exception, so 
typically " Duck-like "in appearance that there can usually be no difficulty in their 
recognition. They are all aquatic or semi-aquatic in their habits, and, with a 
single exception, the Pied Goose of Australia, all have webbed feet. With 
limited exceptions, such as the Steamer Duck of South America and a few others, 
all the members of the group are good, not to say strong, flyers. The bill is gener- 
ally broad and flattened, with the edges laminated, although in several groups it 
becomes narrower and more or less tapering to a point ; in all, however, the upper 
mandible terminates in a nail. The legs are short and usually placed far back 
on the body, an adaptation which permits rapid movement through the water. 
The plumage is close and compact, and there are relatively few bare spaces. It 
is perhaps unnecessary to go into the anatomical characters, at least beyond those 
set forth on the preceding pages, as certain of the more important details of struc- 
ture will be taken up under the various groups. It may be stated, however, that 
when the moult takes place the feathers of the wing are generally shed at once, thus 
incapacitating them for flight for a short period. 

The Anseres number about seventy living genera and two hundred and ten 
species, and are cosmopolitan in distribution, though most abundant in the 
more northern portions of the Western Hemisphere. Several genera and a large 
number of fossil forms have been described, yet none of them is of very great 
antiquity. The members of this group are all more or less sociable, and may 
often be seen feeding in flocks, and during the breeding season often nest in 
proximity, though not in such colonies as characterize, for example, the group 
last considered. Most of them are strongly migratory and while on these 
journeys to and from the summer home often fly in single file or V-shaped 
formation, under the direction of an apparently competent and trusted leader. 
The nests are usually placed on the ground, occasionally in hollow trees, and 
the complement of eggs is usually large, ranging from some four or five to a 
dozen or more. These have hard, generally smooth shells and are even or 
uniform in coloration. 

Swans. The first forms we shall consider are the Swans (Subfamily 
Cygnin<z), which may be characterized by the very long neck, this being as 
long as or even longer than the body. The number of vertebrae entering into 
the neck are from twenty-three to twenty-five, whereas in the remainder of the 
Anseres ..the number is less than twenty. They are large, markedly aquatic 
birds and their compact bodies and gracefully curved necks make them models 
of grace and beauty on the water. They number about eight species, disposed 
in two genera, though upon this latter point authorities differ. The true Swans 
may be referred for convenience to the genus Cygnus, notwithstanding the 
fact that it is sometimes divided into two or more. With two exceptions the 
plumage is pure white throughout, although the head is often stained with 

Trumpeter Swan 173 

rusty. They are mainly natives of the Northern Hemisphere, North America 
laying claim to two of the finest species. 

The Trumpeter Swan (C. buccinator] takes its name from its peculiar, loud 
and raucous voice, which is apparently made possible by the convolutions of 
the windpipe within the breast-bone, which is hollowed out to contain it, suggest- 
ing in this respect certain of the Cranes. It is a bird between five and five and 
one half feet long and has an extent of wings of from eight to ten feet. It is 
further distinguished by having the bill and lores entirely black, and by the 
fact that the distance from the eye to the nostril is not greater than from the 

FIG. 57. Trumpeter Swan, Cygnus buccinator. 

nostril to the end of the bill. It is found chiefly in the interior of North America, 
breeding from the Dakotas and Iowa northward, being rare or less generally 
distributed toward the Pacific coast, and rare or occasional on the Atlantic 
coast. Although it may occasionally nest in the southern part of the range 
indicated above, it breeds mainly in the far North. MacFarlane mentions find- 
ing many nests in the Barren Grounds and on islands in Franklin Bay in the 
Arctic Ocean. They were composed of a quantity of hay, down, and feathers 
intermixed, and the complement of eggs was from four to six. They are a uni- 
form chalky white color, and measure about four and one half by two and 
three fourths inches. 

Whistling Swan. The other North American species is the Whistling 
Swan (C. columbianus), a smaller bird than the last, being only about four 

174 The Goose-like Birds 

and one half feet long and with a spread of wings of about seven feet. The 
bill and lores are black, the latter marked with a yellow spot before the eyes, 
thus distinguishing it from the Trumpeter. Of the notes of this species, Dr. 
Brewer says: "It usually arrives at its regular feeding grounds at night, and 
signalizes its coming by loud and vociferous screaming, with which the shores 
ring for several hours. . . . When feeding, or dressing their plumage, this Swan 
is usually very noisy, and at night these clamors may be heard to a distance of 
several miles. Their notes are varied, some resembling the lower ones made 
by the common tin horn, others running through the various modulations of 
the notes of the clarionet. These differences are presumed to be dependent 
upon age." During the summer this bird may be found rearing its young on 
the shores of the Arctic Ocean, where Mr. MacFarlane found some thirty nests 
during his residence of several years in that inhospitable land in the interest 
of the Hudson Bay Company. The nests were all on the ground and were 
similar in appearance to those of the last species. The maximum number of eggs 
was five, these averaging about four by two and three fourths inches. In winter 
this Swan comes as far south as the Gulf of Mexico and was formerly found 
on the Chesapeake Bay, but it is now a very rare bird in the Eastern States. 
It occasionally wanders as far east as Scotland and has also been found in 
eastern Asia. 

European Whistling Swan. In the northern parts of the Eastern Hemisphere 
the place is taken by two species belonging to the same group as the American 
Swans, but they are distinguished at once by having the basal portion of the 
bill and the lores yellow. The larger of these is the Whooper or Whistling 
Swan of Europe (C. musicus}, which has a total length of about five feet. It 
is " essentially an Arctic species, breeding chiefly within the Arctic Circle either 
on the islands in the deltas of the great rivers or on the lakes of the Siberian 
tundras." It also breeds in Iceland and the northern parts of Scandinavia, 
whence it retires in winter to central Asia, China, and Japan. A century ago 
it nested on the Orkneys, and even now is a not uncommon winter visitor to 
the British Islands. The nest is described as a bulky affair of sedge and coarse 
herbage, and the eggs, four or five in number, are pure white. Seebohm, who 
studied its habits in Siberia, says the notes of the Whooper resemble those of 
a bass trombone. 

Bewick's Swan (C. bewickii) is a third smaller than the Whooper, and may 
be distinguished further by the black apical portion of the bill extending much 
above the nostrils. Its distribution and habits, so far as known, are similar 
to the last, except it is not found in Iceland and only occasionally in Scandinavia. 

Mute Swan. The Old World is the home also of the Mute Swan (C. olor], 
so named from the fact that in the domesticated or semi-domesticated state 
it is without voice, though in its purely wild state it is said by Naumann to have 
a loud, trumpet-like note, at least during the breeding season. It belongs to 
a different group from the species already described in possessing a prominent 
knob at the base of the bill, and in the absence of convolutions of the windpipe 
within the breast-bone. It is a large bird, often reaching a length of five feet, 

Black and Black-necked Swans 175 

and like the others is pure white. In the wild state it is found in summer from 
north and central Europe to central Asia, and in winter south to northern 
India and the Caspian and Mediterranean seas. It has apparently been in 
domestication in England since about the close of the twelfth century, and has 
now been taken throughout the world as an ornamental bird on lakes and ponds 
in parks and estates. There is a large swannery near Weymouth, England, 
which in 1880 numbered about 800 birds, where they breed freely and may 
possibly mix with the really wild birds which appear at intervals on the English 

Black-necked Swan. The remaining member of this genus is the beauti- 
ful Black-necked Swan (C. melanocoryphus} of southern South America. It 
is about forty-eight inches in length and is pure white, except the head and 
upper two thirds of the neck, which are black with a velvet gloss, and there 
is also a narrow white stripe surrounding the eye and extending backward to 
the nape. The base of the bill and the knob are bright red, the remainder of 
the bill bluish. Mr. Hudson tells us that this species is very abundant on the 
pampas of Buenos Ayres and Patagonia, where it is seen about the watercourses 
in small flocks or occasionally in hundreds. They breed in July, the nest being 
" always placed among thick rushes growing in deep water. It is built up 
from the bottom of the swamp, sometimes through four or five feet of water, 
and rises a foot and a half above the surface. The top of the nest measures 
about two feet across, with a slight hollow for the eggs," which are three to five 
in number and cream-colored, with a smooth, glossy shell. 

Black Swan. The last of the Swans is the celebrated Black Swan (Che- 
nopis atrata) of Australia. It is a smaller bird than some of the white species, 
being only about forty inches long, and is brownish black throughout, with 
the lower surface paler, and with the primaries and secondaries pure white. 
The bill is scarlet, crossed near the tip by a broad white band. Aside from 
the color, which of course serves to distinguish it at once, the inner wing-feathers 
and feathers between the shoulders are crisped or curled and raised. The 
neck is long and slender, and carried in a very graceful curve, which, with its 
comparative tameness, makes it one of the most attractive birds of the whole 

Semi-palmated Goose. We now pass to the consideration of the Geese, 
not, however, the more typical members, but first a few of the so-called outliers, 
beginning with the Semi-palmated Goose (Anseranas semipalmata) of Australia, 
which stands as the sole representative of a subfamily (Anseranatince) . As the 
name implies, this bird has the toes only slightly webbed at the base, and in 
addition the hind toe is very long and on the same plane as the front ones. 
The plumage presents a pied but decidedly elegant appearance, the head, 
neck, mantle, wings, tail, and thighs being black, and the back, breast, abdo- 
men, tail-coverts, and smaller wing-coverts white. The total length is about 
thirty-five inches. The habits of this Goose are peculiar in that it is not 
nearly so aquatic as most others, rarely visiting water, it is said, but spend- 
ing hours perched on trees, for which its partially webbed feet especially 

176 The Goose-like Birds 

adapt it. Its walk, too, is quite un- Goose-like, resembling the stately tread of 
a typical wader, such as a Crane or Heron. Its cry is described as a loud, 
coarse whistling. The Semi-palmated Goose was formerly very abundant in 
the southern part of* Australia, but advancing civilization has thrust it farther 
and farther back. It is readily domesticated. 

Spur-winged Geese. Quite closely related are the African Spur- winged 
Geese (Pleclropterus'), of which some four species, or well-marked geographical 
races, are recognized. They are quite large birds, being about thirty -eight 
inches long, and take their name from the presence of a stout spur on the bend 
of the wing. In two of the species the front of the head is provided with a high 
knob, but' this appears to be a rather variable character. The plumage is 
metallic black above, with green and purple reflections, and, except for the 
black breast, is mainly white below. The legs are rather long and placed near 
the middle of the body. In the common species (P. gambensis] of West and 
East Africa, the frontal knob is rather small, this, together with the bare fore- 
head and bill, being coral-red in color Similar, but larger, is Riippell's Spur- 
winged Goose (P. riippelli) of northeast and equatorial Africa, which has 
the highest frontal knob of any of the species. In southeast Africa the place 
is taken by the black species (P. niger}, and in Shoa by the nearly knobless 
species (P. scioanus). The habits of the common species (P. gambensis) are 
described as follows by Mr. Thomas Ayres: " Sometimes they are very shy, 
and at others almost absurdly tame; as a rule it requires heavy shot to kill 
them. They come out early in the morning from the swamps and weeds to 
feed on grass seeds, and are often seen on the farmer's corn lands. As a rule 
they are gregarious, but are sometimes seen singly, and at other times in pairs; 
they breed away from water in thick, grassy or rushy spots, and lay a number 
of white eggs with thick, glossy shells." 

Pygmy Geese. Belonging to the same subfamily (Plectropterina), but very 
different in size and appearance from those last considered, are the curious 
little Dwarf or Pygmy Geese (Neltopus), of which four species are known, rang- 
ing from tropical Africa and Madagascar through India and Malacca to China 
and Australia. These diminutive Geese, for they are true Geese, are no larger 
than a small Green- winged Teal, the largest being only thirteeri and one half 
inches in length, and the smallest but eleven and one half inches. The African 
species (N. auritus] is shining black-green above and mostly white below, with 
a white stripe along the wing, and the chest, flanks, and sides rufous, the first 
narrowly black barred. It is found in pairs or small flocks in the lagoons near 
the rivers and lakes and is rarely seen away from the water. The Indian species 
(N. coromandelianus), which may be known by the white neck and a broad black 
band across the breast, is said by Dr. Jerdon to nest "generally in holes in old 
trees, often at some distance from water, occasionally in ruined houses, temples, 
old chimneys, and the like, laying eight or ten sometimes, it is stated, as 
many as fifteen small white eggs." The Green Pygmy Goose (N. pulchellus] 
of Australia is reported by Gould to build a nest of dried grasses in shallow 
water, which, it appears, the Indian species may also occasionally do. 

True Geese 

1 77 

The Cape Barren or Cereopsis Goose (Cereopsis novce-hollandice) is another 
of the somewhat aberrant members of this family, well entitled to stand as the 
only living representative of a subfamily (Cereopsin<z) . It is nearly three feet 
in total length, of massive build, with stout legs and feet, and a short, thick bill, 
nearly the whole of which is covered with a cere of a lemon-yellow color. The 
plumage is brownish gray, becoming whitish on the crown of the head, and the 
feathers of the back and wing-coverts with a brownish black spot near the tips. 
The bill, except when it is covered with the cere, is black and the legs reddish 
orange. Gould states that this Goose was found to be very abundant by the 
early voyagers, and so tame that it could be knocked down with sticks or even 
taken in the hand ; but as it is strictly a vegetable feeder, its flesh proved such 
excellent eating that it was soon almost exterminated, and sixty years ago it 
had become so scarce as to be rarely seen. It seems likely that it will ultimately 
share the fate of its near relative, the extinct Cnemiornis. The voice of the 
bird is described as a disagreeable deep, hoarse clanging, and the nest as a well- 
built affair lined with feathers and down. The eggs are creamy white in color 
and about three and one fourth by two and one fourth inches. It takes readily 
to confinement, but is very pugnacious, inflicting severe wounds with its power- 
ful, sharp bill. 

Cnemiornis. In New Zealand there existed, apparently within a few 
hundred years, a large, flightless Goose (Cnemiornis calcitrant) that is nearest 
related to the Cereopsis Goose, although it was much larger and had a shorter, 
more massive skull, and a rounded, short beak. The wings were short and 
wholly useless for flight, and the breast -bone was without a keel. Its bones were 
found associated with those of the Moa, and it is presumed that the same agencies 
contributed to its extermination as those which brought about the disappearance 
of these birds. 

True Geese. The so-called true Geese are aggregated into a subfamily 
{Anserin(B\ and number nine or ten genera and thirty or more species, but the 
limits of the group are not very satisfactorily fixed, and the lines separating certain 
of the genera are more or less arbitrary. They differ from the Swans in having 
a neck always shorter than the body, although it is longer than in most Ducks, 
and from most of the Ducks by having the front of the tarsus covered with small 
hexagonal instead of narrow scales, while they are distinguished from the last 
subfamily by the absence of a cere. They are birds of moderate size, with rather 
long legs, and although they swim well are also adapted for a terrestrial life, 
and being essentially vegetable feeders, are often seen away from water. They are 
almost cosmopolitan in distribution, but are most abundant in the Northern Hemi- 
sphere, rearing their young in many cases well within the Arctic Circle, and rang- 
ing south over wide areas in winter. They are all strong on the wing. 

Coscoroba. The first, and in some respects least typical, member of the 
group is the Coscoroba (Coscoroba Candida), a large bird of southern South 
America. By some writers it is placed with the Swans, but, on the whole, it 
seems best located here, since in its structure, habits, "language," and flight it 
is decidedly more Goose-like. It is pure white, with the tips of the quills black, 

178 The Goose-like Birds 

and the bill and the legs bright rosy red. It is usually seen in small parties, 
though occasionally in flocks of several hundred individuals, and when dis- 
turbed has a "loud, musical, trumpeting cry in three notes." The nest, 
usually placed away from water, is built on the ground, of mud, weeds, and 
grasses, and the large, shining white eggs are eight or nine in number. 

The typical Geese the true Geese par excellence belong, to the number of 
a dozen or more species, to the genus Anser, and are characterized by having the 
plumage brownish, the feathers of the back, etc., with lighter tips, and the lower 
parts pale brownish gray or grayish white, with the upper and under tail-coverts 
pure white. There is usually very little if any black on the head and the tail- 
feathers are sixteen in number. Only two forms are found in North America. 

Gray-lag Goose. The common species of western Europe is the Gray-lag 
Goose (A. anser), a bird about thirty-five inches in length, supposed to be the 
original from which the domestic breeds have sprung. It has the lower back 
almost gray in color and no conspicuous white on the forehead. The Gray-lag 
does not go as far north to breed as do many of the Geese, and is the only species 
nesting at the present time in Great Britain. Of its habits, Mr. Hudson says : 
"The Gray-lag Goose pairs for life', and is gregarious, but is said not to associate 
with Geese of other species. It feeds on grass and young shoots, and in autumn 
on grain, and spends nearly the whole day in feeding, and at dark resorts to some 
level open space to roost, where it is almost impossible to approach within gun- 
shot of the flock, owing to its watchfulness. The Gray-lag makes a large nest of 
weeds and grass, lined with moss, and lays six eggs, sometimes a larger number. 
During incubation the gander keeps guard over his mate, and afterward assists 
her in rearing the young. These are led back to the nest every evening by the 
goose, and sleep under her wing." In Siberia the place is taken by a slightly 
larger form (.4. rubrirostris], distinguished mainly by having the base of the 
upper mandible bright red. This bird spends the winter in northern India and 
southern China. 

The White-fronted Goose (A.albifrons], a smaller species than the last, spends 
the summer in northern Europe and Siberia and possibly Greenland, and in 
winter comes to southern Europe, India, and China. It may be known by the 
white on the forehead and at the base of the upper mandible, and by the orange- 
yellow bill, legs, and feet. It is pretty generally distributed overthe entire Arctic 
region of the Old World, breeding near the coast-line of the Arctic Ocean, and 
also on the larger rivers and bays. The American White-fronted or Laughing 
Goose (-4. albifrons gambeli) is almost exactly similar to the Old World form 
except in size, being uniformly larger. It breeds in the high Arctic regions and 
in winter spreads over all the southern portions of North America, being, how- 
ever, most abundant in the western and central portions and rare in the eastern. 
It has been found very abundantly along the Yukon, nesting in communities, 
and laying six to ten eggs in a depression in the sand without any kind of a nest 
or lining. Mr. MacFarlane, chief factor of the Hudson Bay Company, reports 
having taken about one hundred nests in Arctic America between the years 
1 86 1 and 1865. Like the nests along the Yukon, they were a mere cavity in the 

Snow or Blue Geese 


ground, but in every instance that fell under his notice they were lined with hay, 
feathers, and down, and the number of eggs did not exceed seven. 

Other Species. We have hardly space to mention in detail the remaining 
species of this genus beyond stating that the Bean Goose (A.fabalis}, a bird about 
the size of the Gray-lag, having the base, tip, and edges of the bill black, with the 
middle portion orange, is found in the breeding season in northern Russia and 
Lapland and in winter throughout Europe and northern Africa. It is usually 
abundant along the north coast of the British Islands in winter. Very similar 
is the Pink-footed Goose (A. brachyrhynchus), which differs in being smaller 
and having the legs, feet, and middle portion of the bill pink instead of orange. 
It nests in Spitzbergen and probably Franz Joseph Land, migrating in winter 
to northern Europe, being especially abundant at that season off the British 

Snow or Blue Geese. Closely allied to the forms just considered, and by 
some united with them, are the Snow or Blue Geese (Chen}, of which four species 
are known, all found in, though not confined to, North America. They differ 

FIG. 58. Lesser Snow Goose, Chen hyperboreus. 

from them in having the bill stout, its depth through the base being equal to 
much more than half the length of the culmen; the color of the adults is white or 
bluish gray. 

The Greater Snow Goose (C. hyperboreus nivalis) is the largest form, 
ranging from thirty to thirty-eight inches in length, and is uniform pure white 

180 The Goose-like Birds 

throughout, with the exception of the black primaries. Its breeding grounds are 
unknown, but are probably in the Arctic regions to the east of Mackenzie River; 
in winter is found from the Chesapeake Bay to Cuba, but is rare on the coast 
north of Virginia; very little is known of its habits. Similar but smaller is the 
Lesser Snow Goose (C. hyperboreus), which is only twenty-three to twenty-eight 
inches in length. It is found in western America, breeding in northern Alaska 
and migrating south in winter to southern California and along the Asiatic coast 
to Japan. Its habits are likewise but little known. The smallest species is 
Ross's Snow Goose (C. rossii), this being only twenty to twenty-six inches in 
total length, and otherwise differing from the two mentioned above by the smaller, 
weaker bill. It is found in the interior of Arctic America in summer and in 
winter migrates as far south as Montana on the east and southern California on 
the west. Its nests, eggs, and habits, as well, are practically unknown. The 
last species of the genus is the so-called Blue Goose (C. carulescens\ which may 
be known by the plumage being chiefly grayish brown, the rump and wing- 
coverts usually bluish gray. It was formerly thought to be the young of the 
Snow Goose, but it is now known to be a distinct species. It is found in eastern 
North America, spending the summer on the eastern shore of Hudson's Bay and 
migrating southward, chiefly in the interior, to Texas. The nest and eggs are 
not known. 

Brent or Sea Geese. Passing over a small number of relatively unimportant 
Old World forms, we come to the last members of this subfamily, namely, the 
Brent or Sea Geese (Branta). They have in general much the same form as those 
previously mentioned, but are distinguished by the darker plumage, the head 
and neck being mainly black, and the bill, legs, and feet entirely deep black at 
all ages. Of the eight or nine species and subspecies recognized all but one are 
found in North America, and of these the Canada Goose (B. canadensis) is by far 
the best known. It is a bird from thirty-five to forty-three inches long, with the 
back and wings grayish brown, the under parts grayish white, the head and neck 
black, with the throat and a large patch on the side of the head white. It is one 
of the most widely distributed of our birds, being found over nearly the entire 
temperate parts of the continent. It breeds mainly in the northern United States 
and the British Provinces, coming south in winter to the Middle and Southern 
States, and even to Mexico. It usually builds a nest of sticks, lined with down, 
this being placed on the ground in open country, or along the shores of rivers or 
lakes, or occasionally in trees, then utilizing an old nest of the Osprey or some 
other large bird. The eggs are usually four or five in number, buffy white, and 
about three and one half by two and one half inches. They usually migrate at 
night and their familiar honk-honk comes floating through the air with astonishing 
distinctness. They are strong, rather rapid flying birds, and when on the wing 
arrange themselves in V-shaped lines under the direction of a trusted leader, who 
avoids so far as possible all suspicious places. Occasionally they become confused 
on entering a bank of fog or the smoke overhanging a city and come close to 
the earth, when they not infrequently dash against monuments and lighthouses. 
They feed on aquatic plants, seeds, roots of sedges, etc., and when feeding in 

Canada Goose 


companies always have sentinels out, who warn the flock at the first show of 
danger. They arrive from the south at their summer homes in flocks of varying 
size, and remain in company for some weeks, then break up into pairs and pro- 
ceed to the business of rearing their young. After the nesting season is over the 

^%5ffiiteiijg - __ 


FIG. 59 

Canada Goose, Branta canadensis . 

moult takes place, and being then unable to fly the birds are often destroyed in 
great numbers. They have been partially domesticated, but unless the wing is 
cut are liable to be allured by passing wild birds. 

There are a number of well-marked subspecies, which are thought by some 
to be entitled to full specific rank, among them Hutchins's Goose (B. c. hutchinsii), 
which closely resembles the Canada Goose in color, but is uniformly smaller. 
It breeds in Arctic and sub-Arctic America, coming south in winter through the 
United States and northeastern Asia. The White-cheeked Goose ( B. c. occidenta- 
lis] may be known by the very dark coloration, the size being about that of 
Hutchins's Goose. Its breeding grounds are on the northwest coast of North 
America, north to Sitka, and it comes south in winter to California. Similar 
but not much larger than a Mallard Duck is the Cackling Goose (B. c. minima), 
which is also found on the Pacific coast, chiefly about the lower Yukon and the 
shores of Norton Sound ; in winter it visits California. 

1 8 2 The Goose-like Birds 

Barnacle Goose. In western Europe this group is represented by the Bar- 
nacle Goose (B. leucopsis), which is so called on account of the curious belief 
which gained credence from the eleventh to the seventeenth centuries, that they 
were developed from barnacles. Thus Giraldus Cambrensis, writing in 1187, 
says: "There are here many birds which are called Bernacae, which nature 
produces in a manner contrary to nature, and very wonderful. They are like 
marsh-geese, but smaller. They are produced from fir timber tossed about at 
sea, and are at first like eggs on it. Afterwards they hang down by their beaks, 
as if from a sea-weed attached to the wood, and are enclosed in shells that they 
may grow the more freely. Having thus, in course of time, been clothed with a 
strong covering of feathers, they either fall into the water, or seek their liberty 
in the air by flight. The embryo geese derive their growth and nutriment from 
the moisture of the wood or of the sea, in a secret and most marvelous manner. 
I have seen with my own eyes more than a thousand minute bodies of these birds 
hanging from one piece of timber on the shore, enclosed in shells, and already 
formed." Pages of testimony of a similar character might be quoted from Olaus 
Magnus, Sir John Maundeville, and many others. 

The Barnacle Goose is about twenty-five inches in length and has the mantle 
bluish gray barred with black and gray, the wings and tail blackish, the lower 
parts white, and the head mostly white, with the lores, crown, neck, and chest 
black. It is found in Greenland, Iceland, Spitzbergen, and Nova Zembla, where 
it is supposed to breed, but its nest and eggs are unknown. It winters in northern 
Europe, coming occasionally to the east coast of North America. 

The Brant or Brant Goose (B. bernida) is found on the seacoast of eastern 
North America and western Europe, breeding only within the Arctic Circle. 
It is a little smaller than the last and has the upper parts brownish gray, the 
lower parts slate-gray, and the head entirely black, with a white patch on the sides 
of the neck. The American form, which is whiter below than the European, is 
a distinct subspecies (B. glaucogaster), though it also occurs in western Europe. 
The nest, placed on the ground, is composed of grasses, moss, etc., and is lined 
with down, and the eggs, smooth and creamy white in color, are usually four. 
Its habits are similar to those of its relatives, it being, however, rather less active 
than the Canada Goose, and not flying with the same precision or rapidity. 
The Black Brant (B. nigricans) is the western representative of the last species 
and may be known by the nearly complete white collar, and much darker under 
parts. The Brant Geese are present in the Southern Hemisphere, but as they 
differ more or less from those of the north they have been separated as a sub- 
family (ChloephagincE), but the characters are not very important and some 
writers place them all under the genus last considered. Of the six species found 
in southern South America, Mr. W. H. Hudson considers the Ashy-headed Goose 
(Chloephaga poliocephala) as the handsomest. It has the head, neck, and 
scapulars grayish lead-color, the breast and upper back chestnut, banded with 
black, the abdomen, under wing-coverts, bend of the wing, and secondaries white, 
the primaries, lower back, tail, and wing-coverts black, the latter edged with 
shining green and tipped with white, and the under tail-coverts chestnut-rufous. 

Tree-Ducks 183 

This bird spends the summer in Patagonia and in winter migrates northward to 
southern Argentina, appearing on the pampas in small flocks or occasionally in 
parties of one or two hundred. Other species are the Andean Goose (C. melanop- 
tera), an inhabitant of the high Andes of Peru and Bolivia and the central prov- 
inces of Chile, coming down to the plains in winter; the Upland Goose (C. 
magettanicd) of the Falkland Islands and Patagonia, and the Barred Upland 
Goose (C. inornata), a northern form of the last, found in Chile and Argentina. 

Maned Goose. The account of the Geese may be closed with a brief mention 
of the handsome Maned Goose (Chenonetta jubata) of Australia, which is so named 
from the presence of lengthened black plumes on the back of the neck. It is 
only about twenty inches long and has the plumage a mixture of velvety black, 
gray, white, and glossy green. It usually nests in hollow trees, often at a distance 
from water, and feeds on grasses, aquatic plants, snails, and insects. 

The Ducks. Brigaded together under the general but well-understood name 
of "Ducks" are a great variety of forms, not all of which, however, agree quite 
with the abstract idea of what a' "Duck" should be. Broadly speaking, the 
Ducks are distinguished by having the neck shorter than the body, a broad, 
more or less flattened, "Duck-like" bill, and the front of the tarsus with narrow 
transverse plates, and shorter than the middle toe. Most of them conform to this 
plan, but at the outset we meet with a group the so-called Tree-Ducks which 
afford more or less of a transition between the true Ducks and the Geese, since 
in these the lower part of the tarsus in front is without the transverse plates, but 
covered with small, reticulated scales. In their main characters, however, the 
Tree-Ducks agree with the Ducks and are perhaps best placed with them, although 
in voice and vegetarian habits of feeding they certainly suggest the Geese. 

The Tree-Ducks (Dendrocygna} number about ten species and enjoy a very 
wide, though mainly tropical, distribution. They have rather long necks and 
legs, short and rounded wings and short tail, and the plumage is either spotted 
and speckled or uniform with the different colors arranged in definite areas. 
In length they range from about sixteen to some twenty-four inches, and the 
sexes are very nearly alike. In habits they are mainly arboreal, perching readily 
on the limbs of trees, shrubs, or even stalks of corn. One of the most remarkable, 
at least as regards its distribution, is the Fulvous Tree-Duck (D.fulva), or Whis- 
tling Teal, as it, or its near ally, is called in India. It is found from the southern 
border of the United States through Mexico, then skipping Central America and 
Amazonia, it ranges from Venezuela and Peru to Argentina. Thence, according 
to Salvador! and others, it is found from tropical Africa and Madagascar through 
the Indian peninsula to Burma ; but it seems more than probable that the Old 
World form is distinct, in which case it should be known as the Dendrocygna 
major of Jerdon. It is also possible that the South American bird, which is 
brighter colored and larger, is subspecifically separable from the northern bird, 
but in any case the three forms are close, if not indeed identical, and it is as 
difficult to explain the geographical distribution of the three as of one. It has 
been suggested that the bird was originally a native of the Old World and was 
brought by slaves from Africa to America, but this is unsupported by any evidence. 


The Goose-like Birds 

The distribution of the true Tree-Duck (D. viduata) is also very strange, as at 
present accepted, being tropical South America and the West Indies, and tropi- 
cal Africa and Madagascar, but here again is the possibility of two species being 
confounded. The remaining species of the genus are more limited in their 

The Fulvous Tree-Duck is a handsome bird, about twenty inches long, with 
the back and scapulars black, the under parts cinnamon or fulvous, the flanks 
marked with paler stripes; the head and neck are like the lower parts, and the 
upper tail-coverts are white. The late Colonel Grayson, writing of this bird as 
he observed it in western Mexico, says that although inhabiting the coast region 
it is never found in the sea, being strictly a fresh-water Duck. It arrives at the 
close of the rainy season in great numbers, frequenting fresh-water ponds and 
lakes, where it feeds upon grain and seeds, often visiting the corn-fields at night 
for grain. He did not procure the nest himself, although he was informed by 
the natives that they nested on the ground among grasses, and not in trees. 
This view is strengthened by the observations of Hudson, who met with it very 
abundantly in eastern Argentina, where it makes its appearance in the spring, 
in very large numbers, to breed in the marshes and on the pampas. Of the nests 
he says: "So extremely social are these Ducks that when breeding they keep 
together in large flocks. The nest is made of stems and leaves, on the water 
among the weeds and aquatic plants; and sometimes large numbers of nests are 
found close together, as in a gullery. The eggs are pure white, and each bird lays, 

I believe, ten or twelve, but I am 
not sure about the exact number; 
and I have so frequently found from 
twenty to thirty eggs in a nest that 
I am pretty sure that it is a common 
thing for tw 7 o or three females to 
occupy one nest." In India, Hunt 
mentions the finding of but a single 
nest, and this was placed in a large 
hollow tree overhanging the water. 
It contained seven sggs. 

Black-bellied Tree-Duck. In 
the Rio Grande Valley in Texas 
the Black-bellied Tree-Duck (D. au- 
tumnalis} barely enters the United 
States, its main distribution being 
in middle Mexico and Central 
America. It may be known by the 
uniform black abdomen, the other 
portions of the body being mainly 

reddish brown. The habits of this species, according to Colonel Grayson, are 
similar to those of the preceding except that it is rather more nocturnal in pursuit 
of its subsistence, visiting the dry corn-fields during the night in great numbers, 

FIG. 60. Black-bellied Tree-Duck, Dendrocygna 

Shelldrakes 185 

and often causing considerable damage. Of its nest he says : "They breed in the 
hollows of large trees, and lay from twelve to fifteen eggs ; the young are lowered 
to the ground one at a time in the mouth of the mother; after all are safely landed 
she cautiously leads her young brood to the nearest water. When taken young, 
or the eggs hatched under the common barnyard hen, they become very domestic 
without being confined; they are very watchful during the night, and, like the 
Goose, give the alarm by their shrill whistle when any strange animal or person 
comes about the house." The Indian Tree-Duck (D. javanica) has been ob- 
served by Hume carrying its young in the claws, while others record their carry- 
ing them on the back. 

Shelldrakes. As offering another step in the transition between the Geese 
and Ducks, and making any sharp line between them impossible, we come to the 
Shelldrakes (Tadorna), of which two species are known. They are large, strik- 
ingly handsome birds, natives of the Old World, with rather long legs in which the 
tarsus is covered in front with transverse scutes, thus conforming in this "Duck- 
like " character to the true Ducks. They agree with the Geese, however, in the 
plumage of the sexes being similar, and the male retaining the same dress through- 
out the year. They agree with the Tree-Ducks in having a narrow membrane 
connecting the toes, and in the single annual moult. The best-known and most 
widely distributed is the Common Shelldrake (T. tadorna}, which spends the 
summer from Europe to southern Siberia and Japan, and the winter in Africa, 
India, and China. It is about twenty-six inches long and has the upper back 
chestnut, the lower back, rump, upper tail-coverts, and tail white, the latter black- 
tipped, the scapulars, a part of the secondaries and the primaries black, the wing- 
coverts white, the head and upper neck glossy green, followed by a broad white 
collar, while the lower parts are dark brown and black. The bill is provided with 
a prominent knob, which, together with the bill itself, is bright red. It inhabits 
the sandy seacoast, feeding on mollusks and marine insects. Curiously enough 
they nest in burrows, sometimes excavating them for themselves, but oftener 
making use of the abandoned holes of rabbits and foxes. The burrow is from 
six to twelve feet long and ends in a chamber, which is lined with dry grasses, 
moss, and quantities of down plucked by the female from her own body. The 
eggs are from seven to twelve, creamy white in color. The other species (T. 
radjati) is smaller, is without the knob on the bill, and has the whole head and 
neck white. It occurs in New Guinea and Australia, and, according to Gould, 
makes its nest in hollow trees. 

Shell-Ducks. Closely allied to the last, and by some included with them, 
are the Shell-Ducks (Casarcd), of which four species are known, these being 
widely distributed over the southern parts of the Old World. They are sepa- 
rated mainly on the ground of the dissimilarity of the sexes. 

The Mallard (Anas boscas) may very appropriately be selected as a typical 
representative of the true Ducks, for it is not only a very handsome bird, well 
known throughout most of North America, but is equally well known and es- 
teemed over temperate Europe and Asia. It is a large bird about twenty-four 
inches long, with the head and neck a soft, brilliant metallic green, the chest a 


The Goose-like Birds 

rich dark chestnut, separated from the green of the neck by a pure white collar; 
across the secondaries is a rich, metallic violet speculum, bordered above and 
below with white, while the rump, upper tail-coverts, and four middle curled 
tail-feathers are blatk; the rest of the tail-feathers are gray and the abdomen 
and flanks finely vermiculated grayish white, while the legs and feet are orange- 
red. The female is smaller and has the general plumage mottled brown and buff. 
In North America the Mallard is a migratory bird, spending the summer 
mainly in the interior from Indiana and Iowa northward, also reaching Labrador 
and the Arctic regions, while in winter it retires to the Southern States and middle 
America. " Marshy places, the margins of ponds and streams, pools, and ditches 
are its favorite resorts. It walks with ease, and can even run with considerable 

speed, or dive, if forced to 
do so; but never dives in 
order to feed. Its food con- 
sists chiefly of the seeds of 
grasses, fibrous roots of 
plants, worms, mollusks, 
and insects. In feeding in 
shallow water it keeps the 
hind part of the body erect, 
while it searches the muddy 
bottom with its bill." - 
BREWER. When alarmed it 
springs up at once with a 
bound, uttering at the time a 
loud quack, and often rising 
obliquely to a considerable 
height, flies off with tre- 
mendous speed. The nest 
is usually placed on the ground, though occasionally in trees, where they may oc- 
cupy the deserted nest of a Crow or Hawk. The ordinary nest on the ground 
is usually a bulky structure made of coarse grasses and sedges and occasionally 
lined with feathers or down. The eggs, six to ten in number, aje pale green or 
greenish white, and about two and twenty-five hundredths by one and seventy 
hundredths inches in size. In Great Britain the Mallard is a resident species 
and is the most common and best known of the fresh-water Ducks, breeding in 
suitable situations throughout the country. During winter, however, the number 
is augmented by many that have bred in more northern localities. Those breed- 
ing in northern Asia visit India and China in winter, those of north Europe going 
in part to northern Africa. It is perhaps needless to state that the Mallard is 
the ancestral stock whence most of our domestic breeds have sprung. 

Other Species. The genus to which the Mallard belongs (Anas) contains, 
in its broadest interpretation, some thirty additional species, which are by many 
authors distributed among several genera. The genus is practically of cosmo- 
politan distribution, and although many of the species are of extreme beauty 

FIG. 61. Mallard Duck, Anas boschas. 

Teal and Pintailed Ducks 187 

and interest, it will be necessary to pass most of them by or at most to devote 
only a brief space to them. Thus the Dusky or Black Duck (A. obscura) is a 
well-known bird of eastern North America, which may be distinguished from the 
Mallard by its darker coloration and the absence of white in the wing. It is, 
however, more frequent along the seacoasts than the former, but in habits and 
voice it is indistinguishable. The Florida Duck (A. fulviguld) of Florida and 
the Gulf coast is a smaller bird that may be known from the last by the absence 
of streaks on the throat. The Gad wall or Gray Duck (^4. strepem), the Baldpate 
or American Widgeon (A. americana), and the European Widgeon (A. penelope) 
are other well-known species. 

Teal. Quite different, at least as regards size, are the Teal, of which some 
fifteen species are recognized. Of these the Green-winged Teal (A. carolinensis) 
may be described as a bird between twelve and fifteen inches in length, the adult 
male with the head and upper neck chestnut, a broad metallic green patch back 
of the eye, and the speculum bright metallic green, while the lower parts are 
waved with black and white. This bird, probably the most abundant of our 
smaller Ducks, is found throughout North America, breeding mainly north of 
the United States, and migrating in winter south to the Gulf States, Honduras, 
and Cuba. The nest is placed on the ground usually among grasses by which 
it is partially concealed, and is simply an accumulation of grasses and weeds, 
though often lined with down. The eggs are from six to twelve, clear ivory 
white in color. The Common European Teal (A. crecca), which may be known 
from this by the absence of the white bar on the side of the breast, is found 
throughout Europe and northern Asia and occasionally in eastern North America. 
The Blue-winged Teal (A. discors), with a bronzy greenish speculum, is found 
in North America chiefly east of the Rocky Mountains, while the Cinnamon Teal 
(.4. cyanoptera) ranges from the Columbia River to Chile, Argentina, and the 
Falkland Islands. 

Pintailed Ducks. Not far removed from these are the Pintailed Ducks 
(Da/Ha), which may be recognized at once by the rather long neck, the bill narrow 
and longer than the head, and above all by the elongation of the middle pair of 
tail-feathers in the male. Two or three species are now recognized, the com- 
monest and most widely distributed being the common Pintail (D. acuta) of the 
Northern Hemisphere in general, migrating south in winter to middle America 
and the West Indies in the New World, and to the Mediterranean countries, 
India, and the Indo-Malayan Archipelago in the Old World. The sexes are much 
alike in summer, but in winter they are quite different, the male at this season 
having the head and upper neck olive-brown, the back of the neck black with a 
white stripe on each side which is confluent with the white of the breast and 
lower parts; the back, sides, and flanks marked with wavy lines of black and 
white, while the scapulars are velvety black edged with whitish, and the speculum 
is metallic green or bronzy purple ; the length is from twenty-eight to thirty inches. 

The Pintail breeds in North America from the northern United States north- 
ward, being, for example, the most universally abundant Duck found in North 
Dakota, where it is evenly distributed throughout the prairie regions in lakes 

The Goose-like Birds 

and ponds and sloughs wherever they are of sufficient size. Mr. Bent, who has 
had much experience among the water fowl of this region, states that the nest of 
the Pintail is "placed almost anywhere on dry ground, or sometimes near the edge 
of a slough or pond, sometimes on the islands in the lakes, but more often on 
the prairies, and sometimes a half a mile or more from the nearest water. The 
nest is poorly concealed, and often in plain sight. A deep hollow is scooped out 
in the ground, which is sparingly lined with bits of straw and stubble, and a 
scanty lining of down is deposited around the eggs." The eggs, which are 
usually from eight to ten in number, are pale olive-green or olive-buff, and 
measure about two and twenty-five hundredths by one and fifty hundredths 
inches. The female is described as very solicitous for the safety of her brood, 

flying around over the 
head of the intruder or 
splashing down in the 
water within a few 
feet and acting as 
if wounded, quacking 
excitedly all the time. 
This species is also 
very common along 
the Yukon, where it 
nests usually in the 
sedge, lining the nest 
with dry grass, and 
when both parents 
leave the eggs they 
are carefully covered 
with dry leaves and feathers. As soon as the young are hatched they repair 
to the small creeks and tributaries of the great river until they can fly, when 
they go to the vast marshes and feed upon the roots of the horse-tail, and 
become so fat that they rise from the water with difficulty. By the end of 
September they have all left for the South. In the Old World the main breeding 
ground of the Pintail is north of latitude 60, although it may come some- 
what, south of this in Siberia, Russia, and northern Germany, and a few still 
spend the summer in England and Ireland. In the latter places its breeding 
haunts are the rocky inlets in quiet sloughs and firths, often at a considerable 
distance from the mainland. 

The other species of Pintail are found in the Southern Hemisphere, one of the 
best known being the Brown Pintail (D. spinicauda} of South America. This 
handsome Duck, which is much smaller than the one just described, is, according 
to Hudson, the commonest Duck in the Argentine Republic and unites in the 
largest flocks. Its nest is built on the ground under the grass or thistles, at a 
distance from water, and is plentifully lined with down plucked from the breast 
of the female. In autumn it often visits the pampas in vast numbers to feed 
upon the seeds of the giant thistle, where it clusters so closely that as many as 

FIG. 62. Pintail Duck, Dafila acuta. 

Shovelers 189 

sixty have been killed at a single shot. The Bahama Pintail (D. bahamensis) is 
another species which is mainly spread over South America, while a still smaller 
species (D. galapagensis) is confined to the Galapagos Archipelago. These last 
two, together with the Red -billed Duck (D. erythrorhyncha} of Africa, are by 
some separated as a distinct genus (P&cilonetta). 

The Shovelers (Spatula) are another well-marked group of Ducks, dis- 
tinguished at once by the bill, which is longer than the head and expanded at the 
tip until it is nearly twice as broad as at the compressed base. The upper man- 
dible overhangs the lower at the tip, exposing the lamellae, which resemble the 
teeth of a fine comb. The body is proportionally very large, while the legs are 
quite short. Of the four recognized species the Common Shoveler (S. clypeata) 
is the best known, being found throughout the whole of the Northern Hemisphere, 
breeding in North America from Texas to Alaska, and in the Old World in Europe 
and western Asia. In the male the head and neck are dark metallic green, the 
breast and outer scapulars white, while the lower parts are uniform chestnut. 
The speculum is bright metallic green, the bill deep black, and the feet orange- 
red. The female is similar but duller and more grayish brown; the length is 
from seventeen to twenty-one inches. This species feeds largely in shallow 
water and was found breeding abundantly in North Dakota by Mr. Bent. The 
nests were placed on the broad expanse of virgin prairie, often far away from the 
water, and were hidden in the thick green grass, the nest proper being a mere 
depression in the ground, lined with dry grasses and down. The eggs number 
from six to ten, and though smaller in size are similar in color to those of the 
Pintail. The Shoveler breeds in many places throughout the British Islands, 
selecting marshy lands and swampy heaths, and making a nest similar to that 
described above. 

In southern South America the Red Shoveler (S. platalea) takes the place 
of the other at the north. It is reddish both above and below, marked with round 
black spots, and having the lesser wing-coverts blue and the middle ones white. 
It is met with in small flocks and feeds mostly in shallow water. The other 
species of the genus are the Cape Shoveler (5. capensis) of South Africa and the 
Australian Shoveler (S. rhynchotis) of Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. 

Pink-eyed Duck. Closely allied to the Shovelers is the Pink-eyed Duck of 
Australia and Tasmania (Malacorhynchus membranaceus), which is characterized 
by having a soft membrane on the sides of the bill near the tip, and by the pres- 
ence of two minute spots of rosy pink on the sides of the head, a color very unusual 
in the plumage of Ducks. It frequents lagoons and quiet pools and is usually 
seen in small companies of from six to twenty individuals, and betrays very little 
fear or shyness at the approach of man. 

Wood-Duck. The account of the river and pond Ducks may appropriately 
be closed with the exquisitely beautiful Wood or Summer Duck (Aix sponsa} 
and its near relative, the Mandarin Duck (A. galericulata). They are small 
Ducks, neither exceeding twenty inches in length, with a small bill, which is 
much shorter than the head, and has a very large, broad nail at the tip. In the 
adult male the head is crested and the colors throughout are rich and varied. 


The Goose-like Birds 

The first is found throughout the whole of temperate North America, and the 
last in eastern Asia. 

The male in the Wood-Duck has the "head metallic green, purple, and violet, 
relieved by a pure white line extending backward from the angle of the upper 
mandible along each side of the crown and upper border of the crest ; another 
from behind the eye backward along the lower edge of the crest, and two much 
broader transverse bars crossing the cheeks and sides of the neck, respectively, 
confluent with a white throat patch; upper parts chiefly velvety black, varied 

FIG. 63. Wood-Duck, Aix sponsa. 


with metallic hues of bronze, purple, blue, and green; chest rich chestnut, 
glossed with reddish purple, and marked with triangular white spots; sides of 
the breast crossed with a broad pure white bar and a broad deep black one 
immediately behind it; sides and flanks delicately waved with black on a buff 
or pale fulvous ground, the outer feathers beautifully ornamented with broad 
crescentric bars of pure white and velvety black ; abdomen white ; bill beautifully 
varied with jet-black, milk-white, lilac, red, orange, and yellow." - RIDGWAY. 
The Mandarin is similar but smaller, and has the middle of the crest chestnut, the 
sides of the neck darker chestnut, etc. 

The Wood -Duck or Summer Duck, which is perhaps the handsomest of the 
entire Duck tribe, is, or rather was until a few years ago, a common summer 
resident practically throughout its entire range, which extends from Nova Scotia, 



New Brunswick, and Ontario northward to British Columbia, and southward 
through the United States to its southern border and Cuba. On account of its 
beauty and lack of shyness, it is one of the best-known Ducks in the whole 
country, but its numbers have been sadly depleted in recent years, a condition 
largely traceable to the unfortunate laws in many states that permit spring 
shooting. "It is not seclusive," says Dr. Fisher, "often making its abode near 
towns, or perhaps in the vicinity of farmhouses, when it may be found feeding 
or associating with barnyard Ducks. It takes kindly to domestication, is easily 
tamed and induced to breed in captivity. Its favorite haunts are small lakes, 
weedy ponds, or shady streams in the midst of, or, in close proximity to, scattered 
woodlands, and, except during migration, is rarely met with about open bays 
or large bodies of water." It is swift and graceful in flight, rivaling the Grouse 
and Quail in the ease and facility with which it glides through the woods and 
among the branches. The food of the Wood-Duck consists of various kinds of 
insects, the seeds and leaves of aquatic plants, as well as beechnuts, chestnuts, 
and acorns. Its fondness for the latter, on which it feeds largely in autumn, 
gives it in some localities the name of Acorn Duck. 

It commences to breed in the South early in March, and in the more northern 
parts of its range some four or five weeks later. " The nests are almost invariably 
placed in cavities in trunks or limbs of trees, often at a considerable height from 
the ground, and are occasionally quite a distance from the water. The eggs, 
which vary in number from six to fifteen, according to the age of the bird, re- 
semble old ivory in color." The nesting cavity is often sparsely lined with small 
sticks, grass, and feathers from the breast of the sitting bird, or from various other 
birds. As soon as the female begins the duty of incubation, she is abandoned 
by the male, the drakes of a neighborhood banding together and flying about 
and feeding in company. There are differences of opinion, according to Fisher, 
as to whether these bands remain unbroken and aloof from the females and young 
through the entire breeding season or separate at intervals during the day to 
visit their mates. 

Bay or Sea Ducks. We now come to the so-called bay or sea Ducks (Sub- 
family Fuligulin(B\ which are distinguished from the last group by having the 
hind toe broadly lobed or webbed. They are mainly large birds, frequenting 
the open water of our large lakes, bays, and seacoasts, and they obtain their 
food, which consists of mollusks, crustaceans, and the seeds and roots of aquatic 
plants, by diving, often to a surprising depth. Thus Mosley records that in 
Lake Erie large numbers of Old Squaw Ducks were brought in by fishermen 
that had been caught in their nets in a depth of water varying from eighty to 
one hundred feet, and greater depths than these have also been recorded. 

Red-head. The first group we shall consider is represented by the genus 
Aythya, of which the Red-head (A. americana) may be taken as a good example. 
It is about twenty inches long, the male having the head and upper neck bright red- 
dish chestnut, the lower part of the neck, chest, upper part of the back, rump, and 
upper tail-coverts black, the back, scapulars, sides, and flanks finely barred with 
wavy lines of black, the wing-coverts gray, while the abdomen is pure white. 


The Goose-like Birds 

The bill is pale blue tipped with black and the iris bright yellow. The Red-head 
is found throughout the whole of North America, breeding from Maine and 
California northward and coming south in winter as far as the Bahamas and 
middle America. It 'frequents bays, lakes, and large rivers, being especially 
abundant in winter in the Chesapeake Bay, feeding largely on roots and leaves 
of Vallisneria, or wild celery, as it is called. It then becomes very fat and rivals 
the celebrated Canvas-back as a table bird, and is not infrequently sold under 
the name of its near relative, which it closely resembles. Large numbers are 
shot for market or caught in nets. Several nests of this species were found by 
Mr. Bent in the Devil's Lake region of North Dakota. They were placed in 
clumps of reeds and were handsome nests, made of dead weeds, deeply hollowed 
and lined with broken pieces of weeds mingled with considerable white down; 
they were usually on masses of dead weeds built from shallow water and held in 
place by living reeds growing through them. One nest contained twenty-two 
eggs, but this was an unusual number, twelve or fifteen being the ordinary com- 
plement. The Red-head seems to be particularly careless about laying its eggs 
in the nests of other Ducks, Mr. Bent finding three cases of from three to five 
occurring in nests of the Canvas-back, and scattered eggs were seen in nests of 

the Ruddy Duck and 

others. In color they 
vary from olive-buff 
to a light cream-buff, 
and in size from two 
and forty-five hun- 
dredths to one and 
seventy-two hun- 
dredths inches. 

The Canvas-back 
(A . vallisneria) , which 
as above indicated is 
often confused with 
the Red-head, is a 
larger tird and has 
the head and neck 
rufous-brown, the chin 
and crown blackish, and the bill deeper at base and larger, but otherwise they 
are similar. This bird is also found generally throughout North America, but 
nests only in the interior from Minnesota and Dakota northward to the Arctic 
Circle. Mr. Bent, whom we have quoted several times, found a number of their 
nests in the Devil's Lake region, North Dakota. One nest containing eight eggs 
he describes as follows : "It was a large nest built upon a bulky mass of wet dead 
weeds, measuring eighteen inches by twenty inches in outside diameter, the rim 
being built up six inches above the water, the inner cavity being about eight 
inches across by four inches deep. It was lined with smaller pieces of dead 
reeds and a little gray down. The small patch of reeds was completely sur- 

FIG. 64. Canvas-back Duck, Aythya vallisneria. 

Canvas-back and Pochards 193 

rounded by open water about knee deep, and the nest was so well concealed in 
the center of it as to be invisible from the outside." Another nest, also in a clump 
of reeds and surrounded by water over knee deep, "was beautifully made of 
dead reeds firmly interwoven, held in place by the growing reeds about it, and 
sparingly lined with gray down." The eggs are similar to those of the Red -head 
except that they are much darker. In winter the Canvas-back is found from 
the Chesapeake Bay to the Greater Antilles, being especially abundant on the 
bays and marshes of the Carolina coast, where it is procured in great numbers 
for the northern markets. It is highly prized by epicures, although by some it is 
regarded as no better or even inferior to the Red-head in this respect. Many 
devices are resorted to to secure the birds, such as shooting from a blind, attract- 
ing them within range by means of decoys of various kinds, a blinding light used 
at night, and by nets set over their feeding grounds. The two last mentioned 
are considered very unsportsmanlike and moreover are unlawful. 

The Pochard (A.ferina) of northern Europe and Siberia is even more closely 
related to the Red-head than is the Canvas-back. Like the Red-head it has the 
whole head and upper neck chestnut-rufous, but has the bill banded with dark 
and pale bluish gray and the general color of the plumage more finely waved 
with dusky lines. The female differs from the female Red-head in hardly more 
than the color of the bill. This species nests mainly in the North, but quite a 
number still linger in the British Islands, although the draining of the marshes 
and fens is constantly causing a decrease. The nesting habits are much like 
those of its American cousin, the nest being placed in a dense tuft of reeds or other 
marsh-loving vegetation, and lined with dried reeds, grasses, and a scanty inner 
lining of down. 

Other more or less closely related Old World species are Baer's Pochard (A. 
baeri) of eastern Siberia and central Asia, the White-eyed Pochard (A. nyroca) of 
Europe and Asia, the African Pochard (.4. erythrophthalma), which is also said 
to be the same as the bird of southern Brazil, and the Australian White-eye (A. 
auslralis), so called on account of the white iris. 

The Scaup-Ducks, of which some six or eight forms are recognized, are by 
some placed in the same genus with those last mentioned, and by others in a sepa- 
rate genus (Fuligula). In these birds the culmen is as long as the outer toe with 
its claw, the bill is wider at the tip than at the base, and the head and neck in the 
adult males is black, while the speculum is white or bluish gray tipped with 
black. Perhaps the best-known species is the Scaup-Duck (F. marila}, a bird 
from eighteen to twenty inches long, found from western Europe to Kamchatka 
and throughout North America. It breeds in the extreme northern parts of its 
range, penetrating to lakes and rivers often at a considerable distance from the 
sea. It is more or less gregarious at all seasons, and feeds on shell-fish, crusta- 
ceans, and aquatic plants. Its voice is described as very harsh and discordant, 
resembling the word scaup, screamed in a loud tone. The nest is placed near 
water and the eggs are from six to nine in number, of a pale greenish gray color. 
It is found over North America generally, breeding in the far North, Dall having 
found it nesting near the mouth of the Yukon, making but a rude excavation 

194 The Goose-like Birds 

on the ground and lining it with a few straws. MacFarlane did not find it in 
Arctic America, although it probably nests there, nor did Mr. Bent find it in 
North Dakota, although it is reported as nesting occasionally in Minnesota and 
Manitoba. In winter it comes far south, being abundant along the California 
coast, and on the Atlantic coast from Long Island to northern South America, 
preferring the salt-water marshes. The Lesser Scaup-Duck (F. affinis), also of 
North America, is smaller than the last and has the head in the male glossed with 
purple instead of green. Its habits are similar to those of its larger relative, and, 
although its main nesting ground is in the far North, it not infrequently nests 
from Iowa and Manitoba northward. It, however, has a greater preference for 
fresh water and was observed by Mr. Bent about the larger lakes in North Dakota, 
where he found several nests. These were usually on islands and were concealed 
in the taller prairie grass or under low bushes. The eggs number from nine to 
fifteen and are of a rich dark buff or coffee-color. It appears that the males 
desert the females after incubation begins and flock by themselves in the sloughs 
or small ponds. 

Other forms are the Chinese Scaup-Duck (F. affinis mariloides] of eastern 
Asia, the New Zealand Scaup (F. nova-zealandicB], the Ring-necked Duck (F. 
collarls) of North America, which takes its name from the presence of a chestnut 
collar about the neck, and finally the Crested Scaup-Duck (F.fuligula) of the 
eastern part of the Old World, which may be known by the long, pendent occipital 
crest. Several fossil forms have also been described from the upper Tertiary 
of France and Italy. 

The Golden-eyed Ducks (Clangula), so named on account of the bright yellow 
iris, are handsome birds, the male with the upper parts pied black and white, 
and the lower parts entirely white, while the head and upper neck is black glossed 
with green, blue, or violet and set off by a white spot between the bill and eye. 
Of the three or four forms the true Golden-eye (C. clangula} is found in Arctic 
Europe and Asia, migrating south in winter to northern India and China. Not 
much is known of its habits beyond the fact that its nest is placed in a hollow 
tree and the eggs are bright green in color. Hardly distinguishable from this 
except by its larger size is the American Golden-eye (C. clangula americana), 
which is found throughout North America generally, nesting from Maine and 
North Dakota northward, and coming far south in winter. Although this species 
may occasionally nest on the ground, as reported by Dall, who found it nesting in 
marshes along the Yukon, it usually selects a hollow stump or tree in which to 
deposit the eggs. It is not particular as to the kind of tree or the nature of the 
cavity so long as it is large enough to accommodate the bird. Thus Bent found 
several nests in North Dakota variously placed in swamp oak, elm, and cotton- 
wood trees, at a distance of from eight to twenty feet from the ground. One, in 
a dead branch of a small elm, was only three inches wide and four and one half 
inches high at the entrance, and about three feet deep. The eggs, some eight to 
fourteen in number, are placed on chips and dead wood at the bottom of the 
cavity or sometimes in a thick, matted mass of down. In color the eggs are a 
clear, pale, malachite green. Barrow's Golden-eye (C. islanctica) , which may be 

Steamer and Labrador Ducks 195 

distinguished from the last by the purplish blue on the head and throat and by 
the much larger and differently shaped white patch at the base of the bill, is 
more northern in distribution, being found in summer from the Gulf of St. 
Lawrence and the Rocky Mountains of Colorado northward, reaching Greenland 
and Iceland; its habits are similar to those of its near relative. 

Buffle-bead. Very closely related, and indeed often placed in the same 
genus with the last, is the Buffle-head, Butter-ball, or Spirit Duck (Charito- 
netta albeola), a small North American species about fifteen inches in length, 
which may be distinguished by the presence of a broad white patch which 
passes around the back of the head 
from eye to eye. As an expert 
diver is perhaps not exceeded; its 
ability to disappear at the flash of 
a gun before the charge of shot 
reaches it has given rise to its name 
of Spirit-Duck. Like the Golden- 
eye it nests in hollow stumps and 
trees, laying from six to twelve light 
buff-colored eggs. 

Old Squaw. Equally well 

marked is the Old Squaw, Old FIG. 65. Buffle-head Duck, Charitonetta albeola. 

Wife, or South Southerly (Harelda 

hy emails), which may be known among other characters by the very long, nar- 
row middle tail-feathers, which are held at an angle of 60 degrees when the bird 
is sitting on the water. It is found throughout Arctic Europe, Asia, and 
North America, ranging south in winter to southern Europe, central Asia, and 
China, and in the New World nearly across the United States. It is an ex- 
tremely swift flyer and it is also a very noisy bird, continually scolding or "talking." 

Steamer-Duck. In the southern part of South America, about the Straits 
of Magellan, the Falkland Islands, and the Chilean coast, is a very curious Duck 
known as the Steamer-Duck (Tachyeres clnereus], so called from its peculiar 
method of locomotion. It is a large sea Duck, some thirty inches in length, 
mainly gray throughout, with a reddish patch on the throat, and white secondaries. 
When young this bird possesses the power of flight, but this faculty is gradually 
lost as the body increases in size and weight to such an extent, owing to the 
deposition of mineral matter in the bones and other causes, that it gradually 
abandons the habit of flight, and it paddles itself around with rapid movements 
of its wings, much after the manner of a side-wheel steamer, whence, of course, 
its name. It moves with astonishing rapidity, and this combined "with its 
diving powers are sufficient to preserve it from threatened danger." 

Labrador Duck. With a melancholy history equal almost to that of the 
Great Auk is the handsome Labrador or Pied Duck (Camptolalmus labradorius), 
which is now believed to be extinct, the last individual so far as known having 
been killed in 1878. It was a large, powerful Duck, from eighteen to twenty- 
three inches long, the male with the head, upper neck, upper breast, sides, and 

196 The Goose-like Birds 

much of the wings white, while the center of the crown, collar, back, and lower 
parts are black ; the female is brownish gray, with the speculum white. This 
species was a typical sea Duck, frequenting the Atlantic coasts of North America, 
probably breeding 1 from Labrador northward, but coming south in winter to 
Long Island, New Jersey, and possibly the Great Lakes. So far as our knowl- 
edge goes it has always been a rare bird, being shy and difficult of approach, but 
as its flesh was rather tough and dry it was not highly esteemed as a game bird, 
and so was not taken in any numbers, though Mr. George N. Lawrence states 
that fifty or more years ago it "was not unusual to see them in Fulton Market, 
without doubt killed on Long Island." There is very little authentic information 
regarding its habits, and its nest and eggs are unknown ; in fact, all that apparently 
remains of this fine Duck are some forty-one skins and a few bones scattered 
among the museums and collections of the world. The causes which led to its 
extinction are unknown and unaccountable, although various theories have 
been proposed to explain it, such as destruction by an epidemic disease, the con- 
tinued robbing of its nests by Indians, etc. 

Eider-Ducks. Passing over the Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus), 
a strong-flying sea Duck of the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere, we 
come to the Eiders and Scoters, which are all strong-flying and diving sea Ducks. 
Of these the Eider-Ducks are beyond question the most widely known and on 
the whole the most interesting. Some six or seven forms may properly be classed 
under this designation, these having been grouped under three genera, although 
by some regarded as belonging to but a single generic type. Of these the so- 
called true Eiders (Somateria) may be first considered. They are large and 
strikingly handsome birds with conspicuous and strongly marked colors, 
velvety black and snowy white, variegated with buff and delicate pale sea-green. 
The males are mostly black below and white above, while the females and young 
have the plumage barred with dusky and pale fulvous or rusty. Of the five 
forms recognized the European Eider (5. moUissima) is perhaps the best known. 
The male has the bill dull grayish olive in life and the breast a deep vinaceous buff. 
It is a native of northern Europe. A subspecies of this is the Greenland Eider 
(5. m. borealis}, which differs in having the bill orange yellowish and the breast 
paler buff. It is found in eastern Arctic America, including Greenland, and 
coming south to northern Labrador in summer and to the northern border of 
the United States in winter. The American Eider (S. dresseri), which is also 
found on the Atlantic coast of North America from Maine to Newfoundland and 
southern Labrador, has the naked angle on the side of the forehead in the male 
broad and rounded (this angle being narrow and pointed in the last two), and 
the black of the head bordered beneath with pale green for its entire length. 
Similar to this, but larger and distinguished by a V-shaped mark of black on the 
throat, is the Pacific Eider (S. v-nigra), which ranges over northwestern America 
from the Great Slave Lake westward, reaching also into eastern Asia. The King 
Eider (5. spectabilis), of the northern portions of the Northern Hemisphere, has 
the V-shaped mark of black on the throat as in the last, but may be known by 
the light bluish gray on the top of the head. The Spectacled Eider (Arctonetta 



fischeri), although similar in general plumage to the other Eider-Ducks, differs 
markedly in the shape of the bill, this being shorter than the head and covered 
at base with a dense mat of soft velvety feathers, and further in the "cushion" of 
stiffened feathers which surround the eyes. It is a rather rare and little known 
species confined to the coast of Alaska from Norton Sound to Point Barrow. The 
last member of the group, although perhaps not a true Eider, is Steller's Duck 
(Polysticta stelleri), a bird of 
the high Arctic and sub-Arctic 
coasts of the Northern Hemi- 

Although it would be of 
interest to recount the life his- 
tories of all these birds, lack of 
space necessitates confining our 
attention mainly to a single spe- 
cies, and as perhaps the best 
known this may be the Euro- 
pean Eider. Although the 
birds themselves may not be 

FlG. 66. American Eider-Duck, Somateria dresseri. 

very generally known, since 
much of their life is spent at 
sea, the uses to which the soft 
down has long been put 
makes them widely familiar. 

This bird makes its summer home well within the Arctic Circle on the islands 
and rocky coasts of Spitzbergen, Iceland, Nova Zembla, and the islands north 
of Siberia. Here they resort in thousands and in many places are carefully 
protected and induced to nest by the inhabitants, who profit largely by gathering 
the down. The following graphic account is from the pen of Mr. C. W. Shepard, 
who describes the conditions he found on the northern coast of Iceland: "The 
islands of Viga and CEdey are their headquarters in the northwest of Iceland. 
In these they live in undisturbed tranquillity. They have become almost domes- 
ticated, and are found in vast multitudes, as the young remain and breed at the 
place of their birth. As the island was approached we could see flocks upon 
flocks of the sacred birds, and could hear their cooing at a great distance. We 
landed on a rocky, wave-worn shore. It was the most wonderful ornithological 
sight conceivable. The Ducks and their nests were everywhere. Great brown 
Ducks sat upon their nests in masses, and at every step started from under our 
feet. It was with difficulty that we avoided treading on some of the nests. On 
the coast of the opposite shore was a wall built of large stones, just above the 
high-water level, about three feet in height, and of considerable thickness. At 
the bottom, on both sides of it, alternate stones had been left out, so as to form 
a series of square compartments for the Ducks to nest in. Almost every compart- 
ment was occupied, and as we walked along the shore, a long line of Ducks flew 
out, one after the other. The surface of the water also was perfectly white with 

198 The Goose-like Birds 

drakes, who welcomed their brown wives with loud and clamorous cooing. The 
house itself was a marvel. The earthen walls that surrounded it and the window 
embrasures were occupied by Ducks. On the ground the house was fringed with 
Ducks. On the turf slopes of its roof we could see Ducks, and a Duck sat on the 
door-scraper. The grassy banks had been cut into square patches, about eighteen 
inches having been removed, and each hollow had been filled with Ducks. A 
windmill was infested, and so were all the outhouses, mounds, rocks, and crevices. 
The Ducks were everywhere. Many were so tame that we could stroke them on 
their nests; and the good lady told us that there was scarcely a Duck on the 
island that would not allow her to take its eggs without flight or fear. Most of 
the eggs are taken and pickled for winter consumption, one or two only being left 
in each nest to hatch." The nests in many places are described as being made 
of seaweed and lined with the down, plucked by the female from her breast, until 
it makes a heap four or five inches deep around and among the eggs. The prod- 
uct of down from each nest is about one sixth of a pound, and curiously enough 
is said to be of a better quality than when taken from the dead bird by hand. In 
some localities the nests are despoiled of the down and the bird forced to make 
use of grasses and stems as a lining. The eggs are four or six in number and 
usually of a pale olive-buff or olive-green. After incubation is well under way 
the males generally live apart from the females, and often at a distance from 
shore. The food of these Ducks consists largely of mollusks and crustaceans, 
which they secure by diving and which they are enabled to crush with their power- 
ful bills. 

The Scoters (Oidemia), or "Coots" as they are sometimes called, are large 
surf or sea Ducks in which the large, strong bill is usually much swollen at the 
base. The bill is also brightly colored with yellow, orange, or red. The males 
are, in general, uniform black, relieved in some cases with white on the wing or 
with white patches on the head, while the females are mostly plain brownish, 
lighter and more grayish beneath. They have short, strong legs placed far back 
on the body, large feet, and strong wings. All are natives of the Northern Hemi- 
sphere, although not so distinctly Arctic as the Eiders, four of the six species (one 
of which is perhaps accidental) being found in North America. The habits of 
all the species are practically the same. As a rule they are found only on the sea 
or its estuaries, where they feed almost exclusively on mollusks, such as the black 
mussel, shallops, and razor-shells. These they obtain by diving, often to a depth 
of forty feet, though they prefer water less than half this depth. As an indica- 
tion of how large a shell-fish they can swallow, Mackay mentions mussels two 
and one half by one inch as having been taken from them. Eight or ten of the 
ordinary size constitute a meal. The Scoters are described as unusually silent 
birds, depending mainly upon sight in discovering their companions. The devo- 
tion of the male to his mate is very marked, and when she is killed he will return 
again and again to the place where he last saw her though repeatedly shot at. 
Another peculiarity, noted by Mackay, who has enjoyed exceptional opportunity 
of observing them off the New England coast, is that "when wounded and closely 
pursued, they will frequently dive to the bottom and retain hold of rock weed with 

Ruddy and Mountain Ducks 199 

the bill until drowned, preferring thus to die than to come to the surface to be 

The European Scoter (O. nigra), found throughout the northern portions of 
the Eastern Hemisphere, has the male uniform black, with the bill black, marked 
with a yellow or orange spot in front of the basal knob. Similar to this, but with 
the nail of the bill arched and strongly hooked, is the American Scoter (O. 
americana), which ranges over much of North America, breeding in Labrador 
and the northern interior, and migrating on the Atlantic coast as far south as 
Virginia, on the Great Lakes, and off California. With about the same range 
is the Surf Scoter (O. perspicillata), which may be known by the pure white patch 
on the forehead and on the hind neck, the plumage otherwise being black. The 
three remaining species the Velvet Scoter (O.fusca), White- winged Scoter (O. 
deglandi), and the Kamchatkan Scoter (O. stejnegen) all have a white mark 
on the wing and differ among themselves in only minor particulars. 

Ruddy Duck. The so-called Stiff -tailed Ducks, in which the feathers of the 
tail are narrow and very stiff, constitute the subfamily ErismaturincB, and are 
comprised in four genera and about a dozen species. Of these the Ruddy Duck 
(Erismatura jamaicensis] of temperate North America may be taken as a type. 
The male has the upper parts uniform reddish chestnut, with the top of the head 
black and the side of the head white, while the lower parts are silvery white. 
The female and young are grayish brown above, the plumage marked with fine 
wavy bars of buff; the species is about fifteen inches in length. This species 
frequents the salt ponds along the coast and is also found on the inland rivers 
and lakes. Its food, which is said to consist mainly of aquatic plants, is obtained 
by diving. It is usually a rather tame species, permitting the close approach of 
a boat, and on the water it makes rather a curious appearance, as it often carries 
the tail erect. While its main nesting ground is far north, it breeds locally 
throughout its range, placing the nest in a marsh and usually on a floating mass 
of vegetation. The six to ten eggs are creamy white in color. Other species 
are found in South America, Africa, and Australia. 

Mountain Ducks. Before passing to the final subfamily we may mention 
briefly the Mountain Ducks (Subfamily MerganettincB), so called from their 
dwelling exclusively on the rushing mountain streams. They are medium-sized 
or small birds with narrow compressed bills as in the Mergansers, but differ 
from them in the absence of the tooth-like serrations on the edges of the man- 
dibles, and in the rather long and stiff tail. Eight species are known, one in the 
mountain streams of New Zealand and the others in the rivers of the Andes. 
Of the New Zealand species (Hymenolcemus malacorhynchus] Buller says, "Far 
up the mountain gorge, where the foaming torrent, walled in on both sides, rushes 
impetuously over its shingle bed, surging around the huge water-worn boulders 
which obstruct its course, and forming alternately shallow rapids and pools 
of deep water, there the Mountain Duck is perfectly at home." 

The Mergansers, or Fish Ducks, comprise the remaining subfamily (Mergina) 
of the great group of Ducks. They are fish-eating Ducks with slender bodies, long 
Grebe-like necks, and long, narrow, compressed bills, which may be longer or 


The Goose-like Birds 

shorter than the head. The lower mandible is without lamellse along the sides, 
but is provided with a series of distinct tooth-like serrations along the upper 
edge, as are also the edges of the upper mandible. As much of their food is 
procured by diving,* they are provided with strong feet such as characterize the 
sea Ducks, just considered. The nine recognized species are placed by some 
students in a single genus, but by others, and perhaps better authorities, they are 
separated into three fairly well marked genera. That the group is an old one 
is shown by the fact that two genera, each with a single species, are known from 
the Miocene beds of Patagonia. 

The Smew, or Nun (Mergus albellus),oi the Old World is the sole representative 
of its genus, being separated from the remaining genera by the culmen being 
shorter than the tarsus. The male is a handsome crested bird some seventeen 
inches long, with the plumage mainly satiny white, relieved by a black patch 
before and below the eye and a greenish black triangular patch on the crest, 
while the back is black, the lesser wing-coverts white, and the greater coverts 
black with two narrow white bars. The female is similar to the male except that 
the head is reddish brown, the collar ash-gray, and the crest inconspicuous. 
In early summer the male assumes the plumage of the female, which is retained 
until fall. The full-plumaged males are said to be very rare, perhaps because 
they do not approach the shore except in severe weather, while the females and 
immature young are relatively abundant in winter, especially off the east coast 
of England and Scotland, where they are called Red-headed Smews by the 

fishermen. The summer 
home of the Smew is in the 
Arctic regions, the western 
limits of its nesting range 
being Finnish Lapland. 
In winter it migrates to 
southern Europe, northern 
India, and Japan, and occa- 
sionally or accidentally visits 
eastern North America. Its 
nest is placed in hollow 
trees, or in some parts of 
Lapland in boxes prepared 
for its use by the people. 

Hooded Merganser. 
The beautiful Hooded Mer- 
ganser (Lophodytes cucul- 
latus] is also the only representative of its genus, it and the true Mergansers 
having the culmen longer than the tarsus, while from the Mergansers it differs 
in having the serrations of both mandibles short, blunt, and not distinctly inclined 
backwards at the tips. The male has a magnificent circular crest of hairlike 
feathers, which is pure white, bordered by a sharply defined black rim. The 
head, neck, and upper back are black, the breast and abdomen white, and the 

FIG. 67. Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus. 



sides light cinnamon finely barred with black. The female has a much smaller 
crest and is grayish brown above and white below, while the young are similar 
to the female, but have the crest much more rudimentary. The Hooded Mer- 
ganser is found generally throughout North America, breeding mainly to the 
northward and migrating southward in winter as far as Mexico and Cuba. It 
frequents the quiet water of ponds, lakes, and slow-flowing streams, feeding 
largely on vegetable substances. It nests in hollow trees after the manner of 
the Wood-Duck, and lays from six to ten buffy white eggs. Mr. Bent found it 
to be one of the 
rarer Ducks in the 
Devil's Lake region 
of North Dakota, 
while Mr. Ernest E. 
Thompson reports 
it as a common 
summer resident in 
various parts of 

True Mergan- 
sers. Of the true 
Mergansers (Mer- 
ganser) two species 
are found in North 

America, the American (M. americanus] and the Red-breasted (M, senator). 
All have a more or less conspicuous occipital crest, the males being grayish 
above, somewhat pied with black and whitish, and creamy white or pale salmon- 
colored below, while the neck and head are greenish black. Most of them nest 
in hollow trees, but some, as the Red-breasted species, may nest on the ground, 
under a rock or even in a hole in the ground. The eggs are usually from six to 
ten in number and creamy or buffy white in color. 

FIG. 68. Red-breasted Merganser, Merganser serrator. 



(Order Falconiformes) 

|T is a fact well known that among the mammals there are certain 
groups the so-called carnivores which are especially adapted 
for preying upon their fellows. Among the birds there are also 
groups the members of which are fitted in one way or another for 
an equally rapacious existence, inasmuch as they obtain their entire subsistence 
from animal life, most of which they pursue and capture alive. The most 
prominent of these rapacious groups of birds was formerly, and indeed may 
still conveniently be called, the Raptores, or Birds of Prey. It was divided into 
two parts, the Diurnal Birds of Prey, or those which mainly seek their food by 
daylight, as Eagles and Hawks, and the Nocturnal Birds of Prey, typified by the 
Owls, which secure most of their prey by night. This implied a more or less 
close relationship between the Eagles, Hawks, and allied forms, and the Owls ; 
but investigation in recent years has settled pretty conclusively that, beyond the 
similarity of their adaptation for rapacious life, there is little or no real relation- 
ship between them. The Owls could not possibly have been derived from exist- 
ing Diurnal Birds of Prey, nor even from a common ancestor, but appear to 
find their closest relatives among the Roller-like birds, where they are accord- 
ingly placed. Their affinities and interrelationships will be fully considered 
under that group. 

Among the Falcon-like birds the adaptation to a raptorial mode of life has 
so profoundly modified the skeleton that much of the evidence concerning the 
origin of the group has been defaced or obscured. According to Beddard, and 
this is confirmed by Pycraft, both eminent anatomists, it appears that the 
evidence points to the derivation of this group from the Stork-like birds, not, of 
course, directly from the modern representatives, but at a point low down on the 
grume stem, even before the characters common to the diverging branches of Storks 
and Cranes began to undergo transformation. It is not necessary to go further 
into this matter at present, but it may be stated that much remains to be done 
in the way of investigating the skeletal and other characters within this and 
neighboring groups before the final word can be said. 

The Falcon-like birds are so characteristic in appearance and in general so 
well known, that they are hardly ever mistaken, even by the most careless ob- 
server. Typically they are birds of robust size, with powerful wings which enable 
them to pursue and capture other birds or swift-moving animals of various 

American Vultures 203 

kinds. They mostly have short but very stout bills with a strongly arched tip 
and sharp cutting edges, thus being admirably adapted for tearing flesh, skin, or 
even breaking bones. They have mostly rather short, stout legs, although, as 
will be shown later, there are certain notable exceptions to this. The feet are 
also strong and provided, in most cases, with long, much curved, and very sharp 
claws. In those which feed on dead animal matter, however, the claws are 
often blunt and weak as compared with those which capture their own prey. 
Another distinguishing feature is the cere, which is a peculiar membrane sheath- 
ing the base of the upper mandible. The nostrils open in or through the edge 
of the cere, which may be either soft or horny. There are only two other im- 
portant groups of birds possessing the hooked bill and the cere: namely, the 
Owls and the Parrots. From the former they differ in the close, harsher plumage, 
non-reversible fourth toe (except Pandionina;), and diurnal habits, and from the 
latter in the structure of the feet. Technically the Falcon-like birds have many 
osteological features in common with the two preceding orders, but they may 
always be separated from them by the raptorial feet, which are never webbed. 

The present order ( Falconiformes] is divided, according to Py craft, into three 
suborders : the Cathartce, which embraces the American Vultures, the Gypogerani, 
which includes only the Secretary-Bird of Africa, and the Accipitres, under which 
is included all remaining forms of Falcons, Eagles, Hawks, Buzzards, Old World 
Vultures, etc. The latter is further subdivided into two families, the Falconidce, 
with two subfamilies, and the Buteonida, embracing thirteen subfamilies. The 
characters on which each is founded are presented under the several headings. 


(Suborder Cathartce) 

Notwithstanding the fact that the American Vultures quite closely resemble 
the Old World Vultures in general appearance and habits, there are certain 
marked differences which well entitle them to be ranked as a separate group. 
Among other things they have the relatively short hind toe inserted above the 
level of the others, lengthened, slightly hooked bills, and perforated nostrils, 
that is, with an opening between them inside the bill. The head is entirely 
naked or else partially covered with down, and the feet are provided with blunt 
claws which are wholly unfitted for grasping. They feed largely, though not 
exclusively, on decaying animal matter, and have the exceedingly offensive 
habit of vomiting the foul contents of the stomach when captured or surprised. 
They build no nest, the eggs from one to three, usually two in number being 
placed in a hollow tree or log or in a cave or crevice in the rocks, or even on the 
bare ground. The young are fed -by regurgitation, or the emptying of the con- 
tents of the stomach into the mouths of the young. 

The American Vultures are all large, though somewhat sluggish, birds with 
great powerful wings and are past masters in the art of flying. On this point 


The Falcon-like Birds 

Bendire says of the California Vulture : "Its flight is graceful beyond comparison 
as it sails majestically overhead in gradually contracting or expanding circles, 
now gently falling with the wind and again rising easily against it, without a 
perceptible motion of its pinions. While on the wing it looks more than the 
peer of any of our birds, the Golden Eagle not excepted." 

The American Vultures are distributed into five genera and some nine or 
ten species, of which three genera and the same number of species are represented 
in the United States. With the exception of the northern portion of their range, 
they are mainly resident throughout the year wherever found. 

Turkey Buzzard. One of the most familiar and widely distributed members 
of the group is the Turkey Vulture, or Turkey Buzzard (Cathartes aura), which is 
found in two minor geographic races over nearly the whole of temperate and 

tropical America, including the West Indies, 

IV. \TVx v<" \"-. ' . >.. x * 

ranging south to Patagonia, and north, more 
or less regularly, to southern New England, 
New York, the Saskatchewan, and British 
Columbia. They are large birds, from 
twenty-six to some thirty-two inches in 
length, with an expanse of wing of about 
six feet, the general coloration being blackish 
above with a greenish and violet gloss, and 
uniform dull black below. The typical form 
(C. aura), which occurs southward from the 
state of Vera Cruz, Mexico, is relatively small 
and has the feathers of the back with narrow 
and poorly defined brown borders, while, the 
color of the upper sides of the shafts of the 
primaries is soon bleached to old ivory or yellowish. The northern form (C. 
a. septentrionalis], which is the one from northern Mexico northward, is of 
larger size and has the brown borders to the feathers of the upper parts 
more pronounced, while the upper side of the shafts of the primaries usually 
remains permanently dusky brown. In both the naked skin of the head is 
livid crimson in life. "They look their best aloft," says Bendire, speaking of 
the northern race, "as their flight is exceedingly easy and graceful; while the 
apparent absence of all effort as they sail in stately manner overhead, in ever 
changing circles, and without any apparent movement of their well-shaped wings, 
makes them really attractive objects to watch ; but let them once descend to the 
ground or alight on a tree, and attractiveness ceases ; now they are anything but 
prepossessing, and it requires no effort to place them where they properly belong, 
'among the scavengers of the soil.'" 

Although the Turkey Vulture feeds very largely upon carrion, and in this 
capacity is of great benefit as a scavenger, it is said to prefer fresh meat when 
this can be procured. "The reason of their eating it when decayed," according 
to Dr. Ralph, is "that they cannot kill game themselves and their bills are not 
strong enough to tear the tough skin of many animals until it becomes soft by 

tr . ' 

--,-.-/---.- . .<** 

FlG. 69. Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura. 

Turkey Buzzard 205 

decomposition." The following account of their feeding habits is also from 
the pen of Dr. Ralph: "When they find a dead animal they will not leave it 
until all but the bones and other hard parts has been consumed, and if it be 
a large one, or if it have a tough skin, they will often remain near it for days, 
resting by night in the trees near by. After they have eaten and sometimes 
they will gorge themselves until the food will run out of their mouths when they 
move they will, if they are not too full to fly, roost in the nearest trees until 
their meal is partly digested, and then commence eating again." 

There is a widespread popular belief that these birds, as well as the other 
members of the group, possess a wonderfully acute sense of smell which enables 
them to detect the presence of carrion at a great distance, and many are the tales 
that have been told and which in a measure seem to prove the truth of this 
supposed power; but, on the other hand, the opposing facts are so strong as to 
make it difficult to decide between them. As might be expected from dissections 
of the olfactory organs as made by Owen and others, their sense of smell is 
probably more highly developed than in most birds, but it is doubtful if it is 
more acute than in most human beings. Numerous experiments have been 
tried, not only with this species but with other of the Vultures, of concealing 
carrion near where they were congregated, and in no case did they find it. It 
would be interesting to give an account of many of these experiments, but we have 
only space for the following, taken from Barrows: "The rough painting of a 
sheep, skinned and cut open, soon brought Vultures to examine and tug at it, 
and although the experiment was repeated scores of times it never failed, on each 
fresh exposure, to attract the hungry birds. A wheelbarrow load of tempting 
carrion was next covered by a single sheet of thin canvas, above which bits of 
fresh meat were strewn. The fresh meat was soon eaten, but although the 
Vultures must frequently have had their bills within an eighth of an inch of the 
carrion beneath, they did not discover it." On the other hand, Mr. Ridgway 
is strongly of the opinion that they can and do detect the presence of carrion by 
the sense of smell. He says, "I have repeatedly seen them attracted to a dead 
animal so thoroughly concealed from view that they could not possibly see it 
even from immediately overhead, much less from a distance." He also relates 
an instance where he observed dozens of Turkey Buzzards coming "up the 
wind " to a field which had been newly fertilized with fish guano, undoubtedly 
attracted only by the odor. Their acuteness of vision is, however, beyond 
question, and it is upon this that they undoubtedly largely depend in securing 
their food. They have been known to descend from a height at which they 
were almost invisible to human sight to feed upon a dead snake a few inches 
long, that must have been discovered from this lofty position. 

The Turkey Vulture deposits its eggs, usually two in number, in a hollow log 
or tree, among rocks or frequently on the ground. The eggs are thought by 
many to be the handsomest of those of any of the raptorial birds. Their ground 
color is generally a light creamy tint, occasionally a dull white, and they are 
blotched, smeared, and spotted with various shades of reddish brown, chocolate, 
and lavender, these markings usually predominating over the larger end. 

206 The Falcon-like Birds 

Other Species. There are three other species in the genus with the Turkey 
Vulture : the Falkland Island Turkey Vulture (C. falklandicus\ found in the 
Falkland Islands, Patagonia, and Chile, the Amazonian Turkey Vulture (C. 
perniger) of Guiana, Amazonia, and Peru, and the small black Brazilian 
species (C. urubitinga), the latter having uniform black wings and a yellow 
instead of reddish head. Their habits are presumably similar to those of the 
common species. 

The Black Vulture (Catharista urubu) is found throughout the whole of 
tropical and warm-temperate America, ranging south to Argentina and Chile, 
and north regularly to North Carolina and the lower Mississippi Valley. It is 
the only member of its genus, being from twenty-three to twenty-seven inches in 
length and having a spread of wings of about four and one-half feet. In color 
it is uniform dull black, with the shafts of the quill-feathers white. The naked 
skin of the head and fore neck is dusky, thus distinguishing it at once from 
the Turkey Vulture. 

The habits of the Black Vulture are in some respects similar to those of the 
first-mentioned species, but "it is not nearly so graceful a bird on the wing as the 
latter, its flight being much heavier and apparently laborious, and is accom- 
plished by considerable flappings of the wings." The Black Vulture is appar- 
ently more or less gregarious in its habits at all seasons of the year and undoubt- 
edly depends much more on its keen sight than its sense of smell in finding its 
food. They breed frequently in communities, making little or no nest, and the 
eggs, usually two in number, are always placed on the ground, under bushes, 
old logs, or occasionally in perfectly open situations. The eggs are similar to 
those of the Turkey Vulture except that the ground color is a pale gray-green. 

California Vulture. By far the largest of the species found in the United 
States is the California Vulture (Gymnogyps calif ornianus) , or Condor, as it is 
frequently called. It is from forty-four to fifty-five inches in length, with an 
extent of wings of from eight and one-half to eleven feet, while the weight is 
from twenty to twenty-five pounds. The color is dull black with the wing-feath- 
ers edged and tipped with grayish or white, producing a conspicuous white area 
which is visible when the bird is soaring. The bare portion of the head is yel- 
lowish or orange. The California Vulture is almost confined io the state of 
California, extending formerly as far north as the Columbia River, and south into 
the peninsula of Lower California and possibly into northwestern Mexico. It 
has apparently never been an abundant species and has been persecuted in 
recent years to such an extent that it has become extremely rare, if not indeed 
on the verge of total extermination. This unfortunate decrease in numbers has 
been principally caused by poison which has been placed on carcasses of animals 
by stockmen as a means of ridding the country of bears, panthers, wolves, coyotes, 
etc. It has now become not only rare but extremely shy, and several Californian 
ornithologists have never seen it in a wild state. It nests in wild and inaccessible 
localities, principally among rugged rocks and cliffs, choosing usually a cavern 
or crevice in the rocks often hundreds of feet from the ground. The egg, for 
it usually lays but one, is of a uniform light grayish green color and unspotted. 



As might be expected, it is of great size, measuring about four and one half by 
two and one half inches, and holding some nine fluid ounces of water. Only 
about twenty of these eggs are said to be preserved in collections, a far less 
number than is known of the long extinct Great Auk. At a recent meeting of 
the American Ornithologists' Union (November, 1906), Mr. William L. Finley pre- 
sented a paper, illustrated by a superb series of photographs, in which he re- 
counted the life history of a California Condor from the moment of leaving the 
egg until the bird was practically full grown. At first, the parent birds were 
very shy, but repeated visits to the nest (a cave in the precipitous wall of a canyon) 
for the purpose of photographing the young bird so tamed them that they per- 

FlG. 70. Condor, Sarcorhamphus gryphus. 

mitted themselves to be "taken" by the camera at a distance of only five or six 
feet, displaying not the least concern. Many curious anecdotes of this bird were 
related, such as its fondness for bathing and for human society, its rejection of 
any food but fresh beef, its method of trying its wings, etc. This bird, named 
the General, is now in the New York Zoological Park. 

The Condor (Sarcorhamphus gryphus} has usually been regarded as the 
largest of the birds of prey, but it is closely approached in size, if not indeed 
exceeded, by the California Vulture. Its length, according to Darwin, is about 
forty-eight inches, but it doubtless somewhat exceeds this, while the expanse 
of wings is variously given as from nine to twelve feet, with the probability of 
its rarely reaching ten feet. In color the male Condor is glossy black, with an 
ashy white bar across each wing. The base of the neck is surrounded by a 
large collar or ruff of snow-white down, above which is the bare portion covered 
with a wrinkled, dull red skin. "The forehead has a fleshy or cartilaginous 
comb or caruncle, the throat is wattled, and there is a large, pendulous wattle 


The Falcon-like Birds 

on the upper part of the breast. The adult female lacks the comb, the wattles 
are smaller or wanting, there is less white on the wings, and the dark colors are 
duller than in the male." - BARROWS. 

The Condor is found principally in the Peruvian and Chilean Andes, but it 
also ranges as far north as Bogota, and south to the mouth of the Rio Nigro on 
the east coast of Patagonia. According to the earlier observers, it was described 
as frequenting the loftiest peaks of the Cordilleras, reaching even the height of 
the vast Chimborazo, but later writers deny the truth of this, and state that it 

rarely if ever ascends above 
16,000 feet, while the usual 
range is the zone lying be- 
tween 9000 and 1 5,000 feet. 
The story of its ascending 
to these vast heights and 
then suddenly dropping in 
a few seconds to the level 
of the plains is more or 
less of an exaggeration, as 
are many of the accounts 
of its size and ferocity 
which early found their 
way into current belief. 
Thus a spread of wing of 
thirty feet to forty feet 
was not an uncommon 
estimate, but the clearness 
of the atmosphere and the 
absence of standards of 
comparison perhaps ac- 
count for this erroneous 

impression, which even Humboldt was hardly proof against. As he saw them 
sitting on the lofty summits of the crags they "appeared truly gigantic," but 
in reality were less than four feet in length. So, also, the accounts of their 
killing sheep or even children and carrying them away to be devoured must be 
relegated to the chapter of myth and superstition, for the structure of the feet 
precludes the possibility of their grasping or carrying heavy burdens. They 
cannot even perch well on trees, but prefer a rocky ledge for a resting place. 

The Condor feeds largely on carrion, but is also fond of fresh meat and may 
occasionally kill old, very young, or injured animals, of goats, sheep, or does. 
Like the other Vultures, they gorge themselves with food when opportunity offers, 
and at such times are easily approached and lassoed by the Guachos. "The 
Indians who live in the high mountains often catch Condors by digging a hole 
in the ground sufficiently large for a man to hide in, over which they place a 
cow's hide, leaving only a small part uncovered down one side. Near this they 
place the carcase or part of an animal, and the man in hiding secures the Condors 

FIG. 71. King Vulture, Gypagus papa. 

Secretary-Bird 209 

by the legs as they settle. Still another way is to place a carcase in a fairly deep 
trench, from which the Condors are unable to take wing again." GOODFELLOW. 
They nest in the high, inaccessible fastnesses of the Cordilleras, selecting a ledge 
or shelf of rock, where, gathering together a few sticks or even on the bare rock, 
they deposit their two eggs. These are white, unspotted, and nearly four inches 
in length. The young when hatched are covered with a gray down, and require 
more than a year before being able to fly, and seven years before attaining mature 

King Vulture. The most brilliantly colored and striking of all is the King 
Vulture (Gypagus papa), which is found more or less abundantly over the whole 
of tropical America, except the West Indies, extending north into Mexico and 
possibly reaching southern Arizona. It is from twenty-seven to thirty-four inches 
in length and has a spread of wings of about six feet. The "ruff" about the neck 
is lead-colored, the feathers white at base. The wings, wing-coverts, rump, upper 
tail-coverts, and tail are black, the secondaries edged exteriorly with white, 
while the remainder of the plumage is vinaceous-buff or cream-color above and 
white beneath. The head and neck is described by Waterton as follows: "The 
throat and back of the neck are of a fine lemon-color; both sides of the neck, 
from the ears downward, of a rich scarlet ; beneath the corrugated part there is 
a white spot. The crown of the head is scarlet, betwixt the lower mandible and 
the eye, and close by the ear there is a part which has a very fine silvery blue 
appearance. Just above the white spot a portion of the skin is blue and the rest 
scarlet ; the skin which jets out behind the neck, and appears like an oblong car- 
uncle, is blue in part and in part orange. The bill is orange and black, the 
caruncles on the forehead orange, the cere orange, the orbits scarlet, and the 
irides white." 

The King Vulture is a bird of the forests, being found in the deep swamps, 
margins of stagnant marshes, and along the wooded banks of rivers, and is at 
all times a rare bird. It feeds on carrion and other food, such as young animals, 
after the manner of its larger relative. Much uncertainty appears to exist re- 
garding its nesting habits. By some it is said to deposit the eggs in hollow trees 
and by others to build a large nest in tall trees ; the eggs, however, appear to be 
two, and are white and unspotted. 


(Suborder Gypogerani) 

Beyond doubt the most remarkable, not to say anomalous, member of this 
group is the so-called Secretary-Bird (Gypogeranus serpentarius] of South Africa. 
It stands nearly four feet high, having very long but strong legs, and when seen 
stalking about might be mistaken at a little distance for a Heron or Crane, but 
a closer view discloses the unmistakable raptorial characters. It is light gray 
in color, with white streaks on the sides of the head and throat, while the wings, 


The Falcon-like Birds 

rump, thighs, and abdomen are black, the breast and the tail-coverts white, 
and the long tail black at base, then paling into gray, and tipped with white, the 
two central feathers bluish gray. The bird has long and strong wings, but they 
are only used when 'pressed, as it prefers to escape by running, which it does 

FIG. 72. Secretary -Bird, Gypogeranus serpentarius. 

with great swiftness. It takes its name from the series of long black or gray 
plumes which hang loosely and in pairs from the back of the head, these being 
likened to a bunch of quills stuck behind a clerk's ear. Their principal food 
consists of frogs, toads, and insects, and they are also very fond of snakes. The 
stomach of one examined by Le Vaillant contained "eleven rather large lizards, 
eleven small tortoises, a great number of insects, mostly entire, and three snakes 
as thick as a man's arm." The manner of capturing snakes is interesting. They 
incite the snake to strike, and then either avoid the blow by springing aside or into 

Falcons and Allies 211 

the air or even receiving the blow on the stiff feathers of the wing, thus knocking 
the reptile down, when they spring on it. If the Secretary does not succeed 
in stunning it in this manner, he watches a chance, grasps the snake near the head, 
and flies to a considerable height, letting it fall on the hard ground. He then 
proceeds to swallow it. 

The nest is said to be a bulky affair placed on a tree, or, when this is not 
available, on a bush. The eggs, two, or sometimes three, in number, are dull 
white, spotted with rust color at the obtuse end. "The young remain in the nest 
for a long while, and even when four months old are unable to stand upright." 

The Secretary-Bird is frequently domesticated by the Cape farmers, and is 
said to make an interesting as well as useful pet, destroying many noxious insects, 
snakes, and other "vermin." One of the drawbacks in keeping it as a pet is its 
propensity for destroying poultry. 

According to Count Salvadori the Secretary-Bird of the Soudan is distinct 
from the South African bird, but this view is not universally accepted. 


(Suborder Accipitres) 

Having disposed of the two preceding more or less aberrant groups, we come 
to the principal suborder, that of the Accipitres. Although this suborder is 
plainly marked from the outside, there are perhaps few groups that have pre- 
sented more difficulties in the way of a satisfactory arrangement of its various 
members. Originally these birds were mainly classified on external characters, 
and it was not until 1867, when Huxley published his Classification of Birds, that 
the subject was placed on a satisfactory basis of anatomical characters. Since 
that time additional facts have been accumulated which have enabled systematists 
to work out a more logical disposition of the Accipitres. One of the first of these 
was presented by Mr. Ridgway in 1875, and that his views as then expressed were 
sound is shown by the fact that practically identical results were reached by 
Mr. Pycraft in 1902. This problem has also been attacked by Dr. Suschkin, a 
distinguished Russian authority, and he too has arrived at similar conclusions, 
so that the present arrangement may be taken as the best expression now obtain- 
able, although it differs quite widely from that accepted by many other students. 

As already indicated, this suborder is logically divisible into two families, the 
Falconida and the ButeonidcB. As the characters on which this division is 
made are drawn from the skeleton, they are necessarily of a technical nature. 
The first family ( Falconidce) may be defined as follows : The vomer terminates | 
anteriorly in a more or less conspicuous olive-shaped swelling, which is closely 
applied to the maxillopalatine processes; the palate is directly desmognathous, 
that is, of the "band type," while the nasal bones are almost completely ossified, 
the nostril being a small, usually circular opening; the scapular process of the 
coracoid is produced forward so as to meet the clavicle. 

2 1 2 The Falcon-like Birds 

} In the second family (Buteonidce) the vomer is never expanded anteriorly 
* and is more applied to the under surface of the maxillopalatine processes; the 
palate is indirectly desmognathous or schizognathous (of the "split type"), 
the nasal bones very "incompletely ossified, and the nostrils large and without the 
bony tubercle; the scapular process of the coracoid is not produced forward, but 
is separated from the clavicle by a wide interval. 



(Family Falconidcz) 

The Fdlconida, according to Mr. Ridgway, may be logically and advanta- 
geously divided into four subfamilies, the Falconina or true Falcons, the Poly- 
borincK or Caracaras, the Micrasturincs or the Tropical Goshawks, and the Herpeto- 
therina or Laughing Falcons. The first three of these subfamilies are grouped 
together on the ground that the posterior toe is abbreviated, being very much 
shorter than the lateral pair, while the tarsi and toes are covered with small hexagonal 
scales which are larger in front. In the fourth subfamily (Herpetotherintz) the pos- 
terior toe is elongated, in fact almost equaling the lateral pair, and the tarsi and toes 
are covered with uniformly thin, rough, imbricated scales. The Falconincs and 
Polyborince agree in having the nostril a small, round or oblique opening, with a 
bony-rimmed margin and central tubercle, while in the Micrasturince the nostril 
is a large opening without either the bony-rimmed margin or central tubercle. 
In the FalconincR the upper tomium is provided with a conspicuous tooth and 
the lower with a corresponding notch, and one or two of the outer primaries have 
their inner webs emarginated near their tips. The Polyborina, on the other 
hand, have the tomia without tooth or notch, and three or more of the outer 
primaries with the inner webs emarginated or sinuate near the middle portion. 

Falcons. We may appropriately begin the consideration of the first sub- 
family with the true Falcons, which form a very large group of nearly world-wide 
distribution. Ornithologists are not agreed as to the generic limits within the 
groups of Falcons, some placing them all in the genus Falco, which is the treat- 
ment here adopted, while others have separated them into several, of course 
closely related, genera. They are mostly medium-sized or large birds of stout, 
compact build and active habits. They have long, pointed wings in which never 
more than two primaries are emarginated. The middle toe is usually very long, 
never much shorter and sometimes longer than the tarsus, which is never with 
a single continuous row of transverse plates, either in front or behind. The bill 
is strong, broad at base, and the upper mandible provided with a very prominent 
notch and tooth. 

The Gyrfalcons (Subgenus Hierofalco) form a striking group of large, closely 
allied Falcons,in which the middle toe is shorter than the tarsus, which is densely 
feathered in front and on the sides for the upper two thirds. A further mark of 

Gyrfalcons 213 

distinction is found in the fact that only a single quill (the outermost) has the 
web emarginated. Of these birds we may first mention the White Gyrfalcon 
(F. islandus], a bird about twenty-three inches long, which is found exclusively 
in the circumpolar regions. The adult is mainly white, but with the head and 
hind neck often narrowly streaked with dusky, and the upper parts more or less 
barred or transversely spotted with slate -dusky. It is an extremely shy bird, 
and when sitting with its pure white breast toward the intruder will often escape 
detection on the snow. It flies well, with rapid beats of the wings, followed by 
a short sail, and frequents rocky coasts where great numbers of water fowl are 
nesting, feeding largely upon them, as well as upon Ptarmigan and other birds. 
Our knowledge is at present rather limited as to its nesting habits, but so far as 
known the nest is usually placed on a rocky ledge. It was found by the Polaris 
Arctic Expedition near Cape Hays in latitude 79 44' north, where it was breeding 
on cliffs. The Gray Gyrfalcon (F. rusticolus] is a bird of the extreme northern 
portions of Europe, Asia, and North America, including Iceland and southern 
Greenland. It is slightly smaller than the last, and, while light colored, has the 
upper parts everywhere more or less distinctly barred with bluish gray and 
dusky. Its habits are similar to those of the white species, and similarly it 
nests on inaccessible cliffs along the seashore. The eggs are said to be three or 
four in number and creamy w r hite, spotted and blotched with reddish brown. 

Closely allied is the Gyrfalcon (F. rusticolus gyrfalco) of northern Europe 
and Arctic America from northern Labrador and the coasts of Hudson Bay to 
Alaska. It is a slightly darker bird than the last, while the Black Gyrfalcon 
(F. r. obsoletus] of Labrador is still darker. In winter this bird comes south to 
Canada, Maine, and New York, but it is common only in its northern home. 
Like the other forms mentioned this one also nests on high cliffs, the following 
description of a nest being from the pen of Mr. L. M. Turner, who found them 
nesting on the Chapel, an immense rock three hundred feet high with precipitous 
and nearly inaccessible sides, near Fort Chimo, Ungava. He says: "I went 
with a party of four to lower me over the cliff to secure the eggs which might 
remain in the nest. I descended to the nest. In front of it huge icicles stood 
joined with the slightly projecting roof above the ledge ; some of these ice columns 
were two or three inches thick and four inches wide, forming an icy palisade 
around the edge of the nest and permitting approach to the interior only by a 
narrow space or doorway next the main wall of rock, and I was compelled to 
detach the ice before I could reach the four eggs I saw within the nest, which 
was composed of a few twigs and branches of larch and spruce, irregularly dis- 
posed on the outer side of the rim of the nest to prevent the eggs from rolling out, 
forming only a semicircular protection, while the rear portion was a part of 
the bare rock of the ledge. Below these twigs were the remains of former nests." 

The Prairie Falcon (F. mexicanus] inhabits the western United States from 
the eastern border of the Great Plains to the Pacific, and from the northern boun- 
dary southward into Mexico. It is a bird from seventeen to twenty inches long, 
the adult being pale grayish brown above, indistinctly but broadly barred with 
pale clay-color or bluish gray, while the lower parts are white, with the flanks 

214 The Falcon-like Birds 

heavily spotted or blotched with dusky. "The flight of this bird," says Fisher, 
"is swift and graceful, though in most cases it is carried on at no great distance 
from the ground. It is not a shy bird, except in sections where it has learned that 
man is its worst enemy." It is a typical plains bird and is found in the dry 
interior. The nest is usually placed on a shelf or niche in the perpendicular 
surface of a stream bank, a rocky ledge, or occasionally in hollow trees. They 
lay three or rarely four eggs, which are creamy white with blotches and spots of 
reddish brown. The Prairie Falcon feeds on birds, mammals, reptiles, and the 
larger insects, and does considerable damage in the way of destroying game birds, 
though this is perhaps more than offset by its destruction of injurious rodents. 

Saker Falcon. The last of this group that we shall have space to mention 
is the Saker Falcon (F. cherrug), a large, handsome bird ranging from south- 
eastern Europe through central Asia to China and India. The male is about 
eighteen inches long while the female is much larger, reaching the length of 
twenty-four and one half inches. It has unusually long toes and claws, and has 
the plumage pale, earthy brown above, each feather margined with rufous, and 
aside from the pure white face and throat, the under parts are whitish streaked 
with brown. The tail is long, brown above, the feathers barred with whitish 
on the inner web, and ovally spotted with the same on the outer web. The head 
is pale rufous, sometimes bleaching nearly white. The Saker frequents open 
country, feeding in some parts of its range at least on large spiny lizards. The 
nest, a rather small affair, is placed in trees, and the eggs are said to be usually 
four in number. In certain parts of its range, notably India, where it is called 
the Cherug, and in Palestine, the Saker is trained for "hawking," being flown 
at gazelles, hares, cranes, etc. 

The Peregrine Falcon ( F. peregrinus) of Europe and portions of Asia may be 
taken as typical of another group (subgenus Rhynchodori) of Falcons, in which 
the tarsus is often shorter, and is never much longer, than the middle toe, while 
the first quill is longer than the third. This species, the male of which is about 
fifteen inches and the female eighteen inches in length, is dark bluish gray above, 
with darker bands, and decidedly darker head, while the lower parts are creamy 
buff or buffy white, barred and spotted with black. The quills are brownish 
black, edged with gray, and the tail-feathers grayish, broadly barred with black 
and tipped with white. The cere and feet are yellow and the iris dark brown. 
"This famed bird," says Hudson, "is of a handsome appearance, not Swallow- 
like as is the Kite, nor so massive as the Eagle, but nature in fashioning it has 
observed the golden mean, and the result is a being so well balanced in all its 
parts and so admirably adapted for speed, strength, and endurance that to many 
minds it has seemed the most perfect among winged creatures." Its trim, 
compact figure, as it stands erect and motionless on some projecting crag, make 
it appear as though "carved out of stone or marble of a beautiful soft tint." It 
has long, sharp-pointed wings and an exceedingly rapid flight, and as it possesses 
undaunted courage, it frequently pursues birds larger than itself, rarely failing 
to strike them down. It subsists almost entirely upon birds, such as Ducks, 
Waders, Pigeons, Grouse, Partridges, and, of course, such smaller species as come 

Duck-Hawk 215 

in its way. It places its nest usually on a rocky ledge, but occasionally in trees, 
then often occupying abandoned nests of other birds, and it has been reported 
as rarely nesting on the ground in marshes. The nest may be a mere hollow 
scratched in the scant soil of a cliff, or it may be of considerable size. The eggs 
are from two to four in number, yellowish white, spotted and mottled with reddish 
brown and orange-brown. The Peregrine is still a not uncommon species in the 
British Islands, where it is confined to the rugged, rocky coasts. 

Duck-Hawk. In North America its place is taken by two subspecies, the 
Duck-Hawk (F. peregrinus anatum) and Peale's Falcon (F. p. pealei}. The 
former, which differs from the Old World bird by the usually unspotted chest, 
ranges throughout the whole of America, south as far, at least, as Chile, and 
possibly finding its way into eastern Asia. It is found mainly in the vicinity 
of water, feeding largely upon water fowl and shore birds, but also taking 
hares, Ptarmigan, Grouse, Quail, Pigeons, and poultry. Of twenty stomachs 
examined by Dr. Fisher, "7 contained poultry or game birds; 9, other birds; 
i, mice; 2, insects, and 4 were empty." Of their appearance on the wing, 
Major Bendire writes: "Its flight, when once fairly started in pursuit of its 
quarry, is amazingly swift ; it is seemingly an easy matter for it to overtake 
even the fleetest of birds, and when once in its grasp, resistance is useless. I 
have seen this Falcon strike a Cinnamon Teal almost within gunshot of me, 
kill it apparently instantly from the force of the shock, and fly away with it 
as easily, or without visible struggle, as if it had been a sparrow instead 
of a bird of its own weight." That it also captures small birds is shown 
by the fact that remains of Robins, Thrushes, Catbirds, and Warblers have 
been found in its stomach, and Dr. J. G. Cooper says, "I have seen one pursue 
a Swallow, and turning feet upward seize it flying with perfect ease." It is, 
in fact, the terror of all birds from the size of a Mallard Duck down. The nest 
of this subspecies is usually placed on some projecting ledge or crag, often in 
an inaccessible position on the face of a cliff, or occasionally in a hollow tree. 
When in the former position it is composed of a few coarse sticks and twigs, 
just enough to prevent the eggs from rolling out. The two to four eggs are 
creamy buff, usually quite evenly overlaid with chocolate-brown, on which are 
blotches and spots of brown, rufous, or brick-red. The birds are much attached 
to the nesting site and return year after year, even when much persecuted, and 
they are also bold in defending their eggs or young, flying viciously at the intruder. 

Peale's Falcon is found on the Aleutian Islands, from which point it extends 
west to the Commander Islands and south along the Pacific coast to Oregon. 
It differs from the two other forms in having the general coloration very much 
darker, and the chest heavily spotted with blackish. Its habits are similar to 
those of the other forms. In Chile and the Falkland Islands is found another 
ally of the Peregrine, namely, Cassin's Falcon ( F. cassini), while in the Old World 
there are also a number of related species, among them being the Lesser Falcon 
(F. minor] of northeast Africa, which straggles as far south as the Cape, the 
Shahin Falcon ( F. peregrinator) of the Indian peninsula, and the Black-cheeked 
Falcon (F. melanogenys] of Australia, so called from the deep brownish black 

216 The Falcon-like Birds 


of the head, cheeks, and the back of the neck. This species, according to Gould, 
has the same courage and activity of its relatives in other parts of the world, being 
able to capture the White-eyed Duck, a bird twice its own weight. It nests in 
steep, rocky cliffs, laying but two eggs. The Hobby (F. subbuteo) of northern 
Europe and Asia is a bird which appears like a Lesser Peregrine, but has a softer 
plumage. It feeds largely upon dragon-flies and other insects, as well as the 
smaller birds. 

Merlin. As typical of another subgenus (Msalori) of Falcons we may select 
the Merlin ( F. regulus} of Europe and northern Asia, a bird one third less than 
the size of the Peregrine. The members of this group have the two outer quills 
with the inner webs emarginated near the tips, the tarsus not much longer than 
the middle toe, and the thighs longitudinally streaked, while the remainder of 
the plumage is mostly bluish gray above, the feathers with blackish central streaks, 
and whitish, buffy, or light rusty, striped with brownish, below. 

The true Merlin is only about twelve or fourteen inches long, and may be 
known by the closed tail in the male showing but one black band, while the 
female shows about eight narrow pale bands. The upper parts are grayish blue, 
and the under parts reddish yellow, with longitudinal dark brown spots. It 
frequents the moors and mountains, feeding upon small birds, although it not 

infrequently kills Quail more than twice its own 

weight. The nest is a slight affair, usually placed 
on the ground among tall heather, and the eggs are 
four or live in number. Where it nests in trees, as 
ijjj$IIJJE*j it occasionally does, it makes use of the old nests 

of other birds, such as that of the Carrion Crow. 
It is capable of being trained for "hawking" and 
was formerly used to pursue Snipe, Larks, Black- 
birds, etc. 

Pigeon-Hawk. The nearest relative of the 
Merlin is the well-known Pigeon-Hawk (F. colum- 
barius) of North America, which takes its name 
from its resemblance to the Wild Pigeon, this re- 
FIG. 73. Merlin, Falco regulus. semblance extending not only to the shape and 

poise, but to the rapid flight of this now rare bird. 

It is slaty blue above, with a broken collar of buffy on the neck, and creamy 
buff or ochraceous below, where, except on the throat, it is streaked with 
blackish. The closed tail is crossed by more than one black band. The 
Pigeon-Hawk is found throughout the whole of North America from the Arctic 
Ocean southward to the West Indies, Central America, and northern South 
America, breeding mainly to the northward of the United States except in the 
Rocky Mountain area, where it is a not uncommon summer resident. Its food 
consists mainly of small or medium-sized birds, insects, and occasionally small 
mammals. "Among insects the dragon-flies are favorite morsels for this 
Hawk, and the apparent ease with which it captures these nimble-winged in- 
sects demonstrates better than anything else its remarkable power of flight. 

Pigeon-Hawks and Kestrels 217 

The nesting .site is very varied. In some instances the bird deposits its eggs 
on a ledge or in a cavity on the face of a cliff, in others in the hollow of trees 
or in nests made among their branches, and occasionally in the deserted nests 
of other birds." FISHER. These birds lay four or five eggs, which resemble 
in coloration those of the Duck-Hawk. 

Other Species. A darker race of the Pigeon-Hawk known as the Black 
Eerlin (F. c. suckleyi) inhabits the northwest coast from California to Sitka, 
Alaska. Very little is known of its habits, and its nest and eggs have not been 
found. Richardson's Merlin (F. richardsonii) is a slightly larger and much 
)aler-colored bird than the Pigeon-Hawk. It is found in the interior and western 
plains of North America, from the Mississippi River to the Pacific coast, and thence 
northward to British America, migrating southward in winter to Texas and 
Arizona. Like the Black Merlin, very little is know r n regarding its habits, though 
its nests and eggs are similar to those of the Pigeon-Hawk. 

The Aplomado Falcon (F. fusco-carulescens] , or Orange-chested Hobby, as 
it is sometimes called, is a handsome Falcon of Central and South America, which 
reaches the border of the United States in southern Texas, New Mexico, and 
Arizona. It is from fifteen to eighteen inches long, bluish gray above, with a 
broad stripe behind the eye, ear-coverts, chin, throat, and chest immaculate 
white, while there is orange-rufous on the occiput, and the lower parts are slaty 
blackish, narrowly barred with white, except the thighs and lower tail-coverts, 
which are light rufous or rusty. The wings and tail are blackish with transverse 
white bars, while the bill is yellow with a black tip, and the feet orange. In Ar- 
gentina, where it is tolerably common, Mr. Hudson speaks of it as a poor spirited 
bird which "never boldly and openly attacks any bird, except the smallest species, 
and prefers to perch on an elevation from which it can dart down suddenly and 
take its prey by surprise." Its food consists of mice, small reptiles, grasshoppers, 
and insects of various kinds, and occasionally a small bird. It frequents in the 
United States the open plains, covered here and there with low mesquite trees, 
oaks, and cactuses. Its nest is usually the abandoned home of the White-necked 
Raven, and the eggs are apparently three in number. 

Kestrels. The small Falcons known as Kestrels form a group of nearly 
twenty species and are found with limited exception over the entire globe. They 
have the tarsus decidedly longer than the middle toe, and the sexes very different 
in coloration. The European Kestrel, or Windhover (F. tinnunculus], one of 
the commonest and best known of British birds, is from twelve and one half to 
fifteen inches long, the male lead-gray in color above, with the sides, under tail- 
coverts, and thighs light yellowish rufous, with narrow longitudinal streaks of 
black, while the female is light rufous or cinnamon above, spotted and barred 
with dark brown, the lower parts being similar to but paler than in the male. 
The bill is blue and the cere and feet yellow. The Kestrel gets its name of 
"Windhover" from its habit of stopping suddenly in its flight and remaining 
motionless suspended in mid-air on its rapidly beating wings, while it gazes 
intently at the ground. If it is correct in detecting its prey, it drops on it 
like a flash, but otherwise passes on, to repeat the process at frequent intervals. 


The Falcon-like Birds 

FIG. 74. American Sparrow Hawk, Falco sparverius. 

It feeds largely on mice, occasionally on birds, and when opportunity presents on 
frogs, lizards, moles, and various insects. According to Seebohm, the Kestrel 
breeds in almost every part of the Palaearctic region, being common up to latitude 
60 north, but farther north it becomes rapidly rarer, and north of the Arctic 
Circle it is only occasionally met with, while its presence in North America is 

American Sparrow Hawk 219 

purely accidental. The nesting site is rather varied. It has perhaps a partiality 
for towers and lofty ruins, where it nests in company with Doves, Starlings, and 
Jackdaws, but it also nests in holes in rocks, hollow trees, and the abandoned 
nests of Crows or Magpies. The eggs are usually six in number, but range from 
four to seven. They have a reddish white ground on which is spread numerous 
blotches of a dull red. The Kestrel is an easy bird to tame, making a more 
affectionate and docile pet than most Hawks. Hudson in his ''British Birds" 
gives an entertaining account of one owned by some friends. It was allowed 
full freedom and usually departed in early morning and returned in the evening, 
flying into the house and alighting on a statue or large picture frame. It was 
always present at dinner, sitting on the shoulder of one or the other of its owners, 
from whose hands it received bits of meat. It suddenly, however, developed 
extraordinary fits of ill temper, during which it would violently attack any one 
in the room, inflicting quite severe injuries. 

Sparrow Hawk. In North America the place of the Kestrel is filled by the 
so-called Sparrow Hawk (F. sparverius), which is probably the best known as 
well as the smallest and one of the handsomest of our Hawks. The male is 
about ten inches long and the female about twelve inches. The former is rufous 
above, usually with black bars or spots, and varies below from white to deep 
ochraceous, with or without black spots, while there are two black obliquely 
vertical bands on the sides of the head. The tail is chestnut-rufous, crossed near 
the end by a broad black band, while the wings are grayish blue, more or less 
spotted with black. The female may be known by having the tail, wings, and 
back crossed by numerous narrow bands of dusky and absence of grayish blue 
on the wings. The Sparrow Hawk is found throughout the whole of temperate 
North America, being an exceedingly common species throughout much of the 
West. It feeds exclusively on grasshoppers when these are obtainable, and may 
be seen in numbers perched on telegraph poles or other elevated points from 
which it sallies forth. The grasshoppers are taken in the talons and are handled 
with as much dexterity as a squirrel handles a nut. When these insects are scarce 
it feeds on mice, small snakes, and an occasional bird. It has the same habit as 
the Kestrel of hovering for a short space over a spot where it detects evidence of 
the presence of its prey. The nesting site of this Hawk is usually a hollow tree, 
such as the deserted nest of a large Woodpecker, or a natural cavity, and as a 
general thing is located at some distance from the ground ; but in absence of 
suitable timber it may nest in holes in rocks, or in banks, using the aban- 
doned burrow of the Kingfisher, and but rarely does it select a deserted open nest 
of such species as the Magpie or Crow. Still more rarely has it been known to 
take possession of a dove-cote. Such a case is reported by Mr. John H. Sage of 
Portland, Connecticut, who found a pair occupying one of four nesting com- 
partments of a pigeon-box, the Hawks living in harmony with their neighbors. 
The number of eggs laid by these birds is usually four or five, although as many 
as seven have been recorded. They are mostly pale buff or cream-colored, 
with spots, blotches, and markings of different shades of brown. There are other 
interesting species, but we must pass them by. 

22O The Falcon-like Birds 

Falconets. Differing from the true Falcons very greatly in point of size, and 
structurally in having oval nostrils, are the curious little Pygmy Falcons, or Fal- 
conets (Microhierax) , of the eastern Himalayas and Burma, and extending thence 
through the Malay, Peninsula to Java, Borneo, the Philippine and Nicobar 
islands. The smallest of these is only five and one half inches long, and the 
largest is under seven inches in length, yet they have, it is said, all the spirit and 
dash of their larger relatives, not infrequently attacking and killing birds much 
larger than themselves. They have rather short wings, which are moved rapidly 
and continuously when in flight, and short bills, which are provided with a sharp 
tooth and a notch on either side. The Red-legged Falconet (M. ccerulescens), 
the smallest species, is found from Nepal and Sikhim to Burma, Siam, and 
Cambodia. It is greenish black above and mostly chestnut below, with forehead, 
hind neck, and collar of white, while the wings and tail are black, barred, or spotted 
with white. This, and apparently other species as well, feeds largely upon 
dragon-flies, beetles, butterflies, and other large insects, and occasionally upon 
small birds and mammals. They nest in hollow trees, lining the bottom of the 
cavity with wings of insects. The eggs are white. The Black-legged Falconet 
(M. fringillarius} of ^he Malay Peninsula, Java, Sumatra, and Borneo is six 
and one tenth inches long, and is bluish black above, with the quills and tail 
black, barred with white on the inner web, and glossy black thighs, while the 
so-called White-legged species (M. mdanoleucus} of Assam and Cachar is similar, 
but has the thighs and abdomen white. 

Slightly larger than these, but otherwise quite similar, are the Falconets of the 
genus Poliohierax, which includes two species, one of which, the African Fal- 
conet (P. semitorquatus), a bird about seven and one half inches long, is found 
in southeastern and northwestern Africa, and the other (P. insignis] in the Indo- 
Chinese countries. Of the former Mr. Andersson, who found it in Damaraland, 
writes: "It is always met with in pairs and usually perches on bushes or on the 
lower or middle branches of small trees. I never saw it soar like other Falcons; 
it is not shy, and when disturbed it never moves farther than to the next con- 
spicuous tree or bush. It feeds on small birds, mice, lizards, and coleopterous 
insects, the latter being, I apprehend, its chief food." 

Carrion Buzzards. The second subfamily, embracing the so-called Carrion 
Buzzards (Polyborince], is less numerous in genera and species ^han is the last, 
and may be known by having three or more of the outer primaries with their 
inner webs cut, with an oblique sinuation near the middle, while the third or 
fourth quills are longest and the first shorter than the fifth. Of the more tech- 
nical characters it is unnecessary to speak, beyond the statement that the cutting 
edge of the upper mandible is without a distinct tooth or notch, the sides of the 
face are for the most part bare, and the toes connected by an interdigital mem- 
brane near their bases. 

The Carrion Buzzards are all natives of the New World and are disposed in 
three genera and about a dozen species, only two of which reach the United 
States. They all have rather long legs, the members of two genera being chiefly 
terrestrial whereas the other (Ibycter) is entirely arboreal. 



The Caracaras (Polyborus], of which four species are now known, may be 
regarded as typical of the subfamily, the characters of which have been set forth 
on page 212. They are rather handsome birds, from twenty to twenty-five inches 
in length, dark brown or blackish above, the cheeks, neck, chest, and tail-coverts 
soiled white, while the upper part of the back and breast are barred with whitish 
and dusky, and the tail white with numerous narrow bars of grayish or dusky, 
and a broad terminal or subterminal band of dusky. Audubon's Caracara (P. 
cheriway] ranges from the southern border of the United States south through 
Mexico (but apparently skipping parts of Central America) to Guiana and 
Ecuador. It is a rather shy bird, rarely allowing a close approach, and may 
often be seen "sitting for hours in an exposed place with ruffled plumage and 
half-spread wings exposed to the sun, for the purpose of absorbing the warmth of 
its rays." It is also often seen on the ground, where it walks easily and grace- 
fully, and is able to catch agile insects by running after them. Its principal food 
consists of carrion, devouring greedily dead 
animal matter of all kinds, but it also feeds 
on lizards, snakes, frogs, young alligators, 
crabs, crawfish, insects, and occasionally small 
birds and mammals, being, however, especially 
fond of snakes. It has also been observed in 
the act of forcing Pelicans to disgorge their 
catch of fish, attacking them from above, 
darting down with shrill screams, and striking 
them with their talons. Sometimes they may 
catch the fish before they reach the ground, 
but usually they alight to enjoy the ill-gotten supplies. A correspondent 
quoted by Bendire, describing their hunting of other game, says: "I have 
seen them hunting prairie dogs, in couples, and once showing a high degree of 
intelligence. One was hidden behind a tussock of grass while the other 
danced before a young lamb, trying to lead it from the place where its mother 
was grazing to where its companion was hidden. The ruse was nearly success- 
ful, as the lamb began to follow, but the dam, anxiously watching, finally called 
it back." These birds also frequent the vicinity of slaughter-houses, but on 
the whole are regarded as inoffensive and even valuable for their work as 
scavengers and in destroying noxious animals and insects. They are peculiar 
in that they often carry their prey in the bill, the species to be next described 
being especially noted for this method of carrying. Their nests, which are 
sometimes used for several successive seasons, are large, rather slovenly made 
affairs, placed in a variety of situations according to the locality. In the river 
bottoms the nests are high up in the trees, but in the open country," where there 
is a scarcity of suitable vegetation, it is placed in low bushes a few feet high." 
They are composed of small branches, weed stems, reeds, and coarse grasses, 
and shallowly lined with finer grass, leaves, Spanish moss, etc. The handsome 
eggs, usually two or three in number, are rounded ovate in shape, and mostly a 
uniform rufous-cinnamon in color, this being overlaid with irregular blotches 

FIG. 75. Caracara, Polyborus cheri- 

222 The Falcon-like Birds 

and spots of darker shades. Both male and female take part in the duties of 

The Carancho (P. tharus] is a closely allied species found from Brazil and 
Amazonia throughout South America to the Straits of Magellan, being especially 
abundant in Argentina, where its habits have been extensively observed by 
Mr. Hudson, whom we have so frequently quoted. This species, while a carrion 
eater to some extent, appears to indulge in this diet only when it is unable to 
secure fresh meat, of which it is "amazingly fond." Like its relative it also feeds 
on a variety of things, such as frogs, lizards, and insects, but it is apparently more 
given to capturing birds and small mammals. It is frequently mobbed by the 
Lapwings, of which it usually takes little notice, but occasionally it apparently 
loses patience, and singling out a particular individual it gives chase, and no 
matter how the Lapwing turns or dodges the Hawk is close behind and in a few 
moments it is seized and borne screaming away. They are very quick to detect 
injured or ailing birds or mammals and several will often combine in an attack 
on such an one, but not infrequently they may single out an uninjured bird and 
"fly" it down. Mr. Hudson graphically describes such an attack on a White 
Egret by four Caranchos. These birds had alighted near a stream in which were 
numerous Gulls and Glossy Ibises and a solitary White Egret. "Presently one 
of them sprung into the air and made a dash at the birds in the water, and 
instantly all the birds in the place rose into the air screaming loudly, two young 
brown Caranchos only remaining on the ground. For a few moments I was in 
ignorance of the meaning of all this turmoil, when suddenly out of the confused 
black and white cloud of birds the Egret appeared, mounting vertically upward 
with vigorous measured strokes. A moment later and first one and then the 
other Carancho also emerged from the cloud, evidently pursuing the Egret, 
and only then the two brown birds sprung into the air and joined in the chase. 
For some minutes I watched the four birds toiling upward with a wild zigzag 
flight, while the Egret, still rising vertically, seemed to leave them hopelessly 
far behind. But before long they reached and passed it, and each bird as he did 
so would turn and rush downward, striking at the Egret with his claws, and while 
one descended the others were rising, bird following bird with the greatest 
regularity. In this way they continued toiling upward until the^Egret appeared 
a mere white speck in the sky, about which the four hateful black spots were 
still revolving. I had noticed them from the first with the greatest excitement, 
and now began to fear that they would pass from sight and leave me in ignorance 
of the result ; but at length they began to descend, and then it looked as if the 
Egret had lost all hope, for it was dropping very rapidly, while the four birds were 
all close to it, striking at it every three or four seconds. The descent for the last 
half of the distance was exceedingly rapid, and the birds would have come down 
almost at the very spot they started from, which was about forty yards from where 
I stood, but the Egret was driven aside, and sloping rapidly down struck the 
earth at a distance of two hundred and fifty yards from the starting-point. 
Scarcely had it struck the ground before the hungry quartette were tearing it 
with their beaks." 

Chimango Hawk 223 

Of the two other known species of this genus, one is found in the Tres Marias 
Islands and the other on Guadalupe Island, Lower California. 

Chimango Hawk. Passing over the genus, Phalcob&nus, with its four or 
five species, we may mention briefly the Chimango Hawk (Milvago chimango) 
as typical of another genus. This species, which inhabits the southern half of 
South America, is about fifteen inches long, buffy brown above and gray below, 
lighter on the rump and tail, and more or less barred or freckled with brownish 
gray. The legs are slender, the claws weak, and the bill only very slightly hooked. 
"It has," says Hudson, "an easy loitering flight, and when on the wing does not 
appear to have any object in view, like the Hawk, but wanders and prowls about 
here and there, and when it spies another bird it flies after him to see if he has 
food in his eye." They appear to be a strange conglomeration, presenting suc- 
cessively the life habits of a dozen species. "On the same day you will see one 
bird in violent Hawk -like pursuit of its living prey, with all the instincts of rapine 
hot within it, and another less ambitious individual engaged in laboriously tearing 
at an old cast-off shoe, uttering mournful notes the while. They are loquacious 
and sociable, frequently congregating in loose companies of thirty or forty indi- 
viduals, when they spend several hours every day in spirited exercises, soaring 
about like Martins, performing endless evolutions, and joining in aerial mock 
battles. When tired of these pastimes they all settle down again, to remain for 
an hour or so perched on the topmost boughs of trees or other elevations; and 
at intervals one bird utters a very long leisurely chant, with a falling inflection, 
followed by a series of short notes, all the other birds joining in the chorus 
and uttering short notes in time with those of their soloist or precentor." 

The Chimangos are strictly omnivorous, feeding as occasion presents upon 
carrion, offal, birds, small mammals, insects, frogs, and in times of scarcity upon 
a peculiar fungus which appears in the rain pools. They are constantly on the 
watch for the weak, the sickly, or injured among birds or other animals, which 
they quickly pounce upon and destroy, often acting in company. But while an 
inordinate lover of carrion, it has apparently discovered that this diet is unsuited 
to the tender stomachs of its young, hence these are fed almost exclusively on the 
young of small birds. An especial source of supply is the young of a small bird 
known as the Teru-reru (Synallaxis hudsoni), which builds a small domed nest 
in the dense tangle of low bushes. Although it is almost impossible for man to 
locate these nests, the Chimango apparently has little difficulty and must destroy 
incredible numbers. The nest of the Chimango is built on trees or bushes in 
swamps or on the ground among grass and thistles. The eggs, usually three or 
four in number, are nearly spherical in shape, and creamy white blotched with 
deep red in color. The location of the nest is easy to determine, as the parents 
when returning invariably utter a series of long mournful notes. When a nest 
containing young is discovered and visited by man, the old birds apparently 
always remove the young within a few hours to a place of safety, a very rare 
practice among birds. 

Red-throated Falcon. One of the most remarkable members of the Poly- 
borincz is the Red-throated Falcon (Ibycter americanus), a bird of very striking 

224 The Falcon-like Birds 

appearance on account of the bright red color of the naked skin of the face 
and throat, the plumage being glossy blue-black with the abdomen white ; the 
bill and cere are yellow, the legs and feet deep coral -red. This is one of the 
noisiest birds of tropical America, its extremely loud call of ca-ca-ca-cd-o re- 
sounding through the forests or cultivated country, where bands of greater or 
less size rove about, much in the manner of the crows of other lands. On 
account of its peculiar call note the bird is known to the native by the name 
of Cacao. 

The Tropical Goshawks. The subfamily MicrasturincB comprises only the 
genus Micrastur with about eight species which range quite widely over Central 
America and northern South America. In addition to the characters already 
mentioned (p. 212), the Micrasturince have the tomia without tooth or notch, 
the sternum with a pair of large oval foramina in the posterior margin as in 
.the Falconina, and four or more of the outer primaries with the inner webs 
sinuated near the middle portions. They are further described as stout and 
thick-set birds, with relatively long tails, short wings, and long legs, and a 
partial facial ruff, the latter suggesting the Harriers (Circus), though in 
general appearance they have more resemblance to certain of the smaller 
Goshawks, whence their popular name. 

Of one of the Mexican species (M. semitorquatus] Colonel Grayson writes 
entertainingly as follows: "Among the great variety of Hawks to be met with in 
a single day's excursion in the vicinity of Mazatlan, none is so easily recognized 
as this peculiar and interesting species. I have only found it in the heavy forests 
or the immediate vicinity of a thickly wooded country, where its slender form and 
lengthened tail attract our attention as it swiftly glides through the tangled woods. 
It appears to be strictly arboreal in its habits, and possessed of wonderful activity, 
either in springing from branch to branch without opening its wings, or rapidly 
darting through the intricacies of the brush with apparently but little difficulty. 
I have seldom seen one of these Hawks in an open country, and have never seen 
one flying higher than the treetops where they are met with. Its wings are 
rather short, and its flight is performed by rapidly repeated strokes, only for a 
short distance at a time. It preys upon various species of wood birds, which 
it captures by darting upon them on the ground or in the bushes; but the 
Chachalaca (Orialis) is its favorite game; this is a gallinaceous bird or wild 
chicken, about the size of, or lighter than, the common hen, and is entirely ar- 
boreal, seldom running upon the ground, but is able by its peculiarly formed 
feet to cling to, or spring rapidly through, the thickest branches with great 
agility; but this Hawk follows it with equal facility, until an opportunity offers 
to strike its prey, then both come to the ground together, the Hawk being the 
lighter bird. I witnessed a scene of this kind that took place when I was en- 
deavoring to get a shot at a Chachalaca, as it was jumping about the very thick 
branches of an acacia, overgrown with lianes; it appeared to be in great distress, 
uttering its harsh notes of alarm, and spreading its fan-shaped tail; suddenly 
I saw one of these Hawks pounce upon it, when with harsh screams of terror the 
Chachalaca dragged his captor to the ground, where they struggled for a few 

Laughing Falcon 225 

moments/ but the unfortunate bird was soon overcome. . . . They build their 
nest of dry twigs and moss, which is placed in a very tall tree, but below the 
higher branches; the only nest I have seen was inaccessible, therefore I am 
unable to describe the eggs." 

The Laughing or Crying Falcon (Herpetotheres cachinnans}, as it is variously 
called in allusion to its peculiar notes, is not only the sole tenant of its genus, 
but is the ordy known member of the present subfamily Herpetotherina. In 
addition to the more technical characters, set forth on page 212, which serve to 
distinguish it from the other groups of the Falconida, it may be described as a 
sturdily built, crested bird, about eighteen inches in length, with a moderately 
strong bill and very strong, curiously reticulated legs and feet, on which latter 
account it resembles quite strikingly the Serpent Eagles of the Old World. 
The plumage is brown above the feathers with paler edgings, the crown 
forming a cap being buffy white with narrow shaft-streaks to the feathers, 
while the feathers around the eye, hinder cheeks, ear-coverts, and a nuchal 
band are black, and the remaining parts, including a spot under the eye, cheeks, 
sides of the neck, and a neck collar and all lower parts, are buffy white; the 
wings are brown barred with blackish and have a conspicuous patch of creamy 
buff at the bases of the inner primaries, while the tail is alternately banded with 
dark brown and creamy buff; the bill is black and the cere and feet orange. 

The Laughing Falcon is very widely and generally distributed from Bolivia 
and Paraguay northward throughout the whole country to southern Mexico, 
though not usually ascending very high in the mountains. It is an arboreal species 
and feeds upon reptiles, rodents, occasional birds, and grasshoppers. Its most 
marked peculiarity, which serves to call frequent attention to it, is its strange cry, 
which Leyland states maybe heard for miles. Mr. Leon J.Cole, who has recently 
written of it as observed in Yucatan, says : "The usual note is a rather drawn-out 
cry, much like the human voice in distress; it sounds like 'Oh !' at a rather high 
pitch, and with a slight falling inflection at the end. This is repeated at short 
intervals. Occasionally it gives a series of these cries, increasing in pitch and 
volume somewhat, and becoming slower as it proceeds." Mr. Frank M. Chap- 
man, whose observations were also made in Yucatan, adds: "The notes of this 
Hawk are more human and weird in character than those of any bird I have ever 
heard, . . . resembling a call of a man in great pain, and ending in an agonized 
wail. It was grewsome beyond description."' The cries are given in the morn- 
ing and again at dusk, and according to Dr. Richmond, who saw them on the 
Escondido River, Honduras, there is a curious guttural laugh which usually 
precedes the long call and which can be heard for only a short distance. From 
the fact that the bird calls most frequently about dusk, it is known as the "Rain- 
crow" by the Americans on the Escondido. Mr. E. A. Goldman, who has seen 
it in life throughout much of Central America, states that it is one of the most 
difficult and exasperating birds to procure, and after a patient stalk and the 
discharge of both barrels at it, it frequently is able to fly away with a wild laugh 
as though mocking the ill success of the shot ! The nest and eggs of the Laughing 
Falcon appear to be undescribed. 

226 The Falcon-like Birds 




(Family Buteonidaz) 

The Kites, Buzzards, Eagles, Harriers, Hawks, and their allies, comprise 
the second of the two families (the Buteonida) into which the Accipitres are 
divided, and are disposed in some thirteen so-called subfamilies, the limits of 
which, however, are not sharp in all cases. The technical characters of the 
Buteonida have been given on page 212, and we may proceed to a review of the 
various groups, which are perhaps best ranked as subfamilies. Most of them are 
large birds, among them the largest of the whole group, and while there is hardly 
one without certain points of popular interest, lack of space will prevent the full 
description of more than representative members. 

The Kites. (Subfamily Elanina.) A considerable number of accipitrine 
birds are known, and properly so, as Kites, since they possess at least the 
common character of lightness, ease, and grace on the wing that is the common 
property of but few birds. A more careful study of their structure, however, 
has shown that beyond this gracefulness of flight they are not all equally 
related. The so-called Kites of the genus Elanus may be regarded as typical 
of a subfamily, the Elanince. The genus is of wide distribution, ranging 
over the whole of Africa, the Indian peninsula, the Indo-Malayan islands, 
and Australia, and in the New World from the southern United States over 
the whole of Central and South America. Five species are known, all small 
birds from twelve to sixteen inches in length. The tail is double-rounded 
and not deeply forked as in the true Kites, while the tarsus is naked in front 
and covered with minute roundish scales, and the claws are not grooved be- 
neath as in some of their allies. The White-tailed Kite (E. leucurus) is the only 
American species. It is pale bluish gray above, becoming entirely white on 
head and tail, and pure white below, while the lesser wing-coverts and a spot 
in front of the eye are black. It is rather a rare bird in the United States 
east of the Mississippi, being perhaps most frequently met with in California, 
though nowhere abundant, while in many parts of South America it is a not 
uncommon species. It frequents the lowlands, where it may be seen beating 
back and forth over the surface of the ground, poising for a moment on rapidly 
beating wings as it scans the surface for its prey, on which it plunges with almost 
meteoric speed, or passes on in further quest. Of its habits in Argentina, Mr. 
Hudson writes: "It is a handsome bird, with large ruby-red irides, and when 
seen at a distance its snow-white plumage and buoyant flight give it a striking 
resemblance to a Gull. Its wing power is, indeed, marvelous. It delights to 
soar, like the Martins, during a high wind, and will spend hours in this sport, 
rising and falling alternately, and at times, seeming to abandon itself to the fury 
of the gale, is blown away like thistle-down, until, recovering itself, it shoots back 
to its original position. Where there are tall poplar trees these birds amuse 
themselves with outspread wings, each bird on a separate tree, until the treetops 

Black- winged Kite 227 

are swept by the wind from under them, when they often remain poised almost 
motionless in the air until the twigs return to their feet. When looking out for 
prey, this Kite usually maintains a height of sixty or seventy feet above the 
ground, and in its actions strikingly resembles a fishing Gull, frequently remain- 
ing poised in the air with body motionless and wings rapidly vibrating." The 
food of the White-tailed Kite consists of snakes, lizards, frogs, mice, grasshoppers, 
and an occasional small bird. The favorite nesting site appears to be in live- 
oak trees, but other trees, such as cottonwoods and maples, are sometimes 
selected. The nest is usually well up from the ground, and composed of coarse 
sticks and lined with bark, straw, etc. In the United States the number of eggs 
in a set is usually four or five, whereas in Argentina the number appears to be 
eight. They are creamy white, heavily marked over their entire surface with 
irregular blotches and smears of dark blood-red and claret-brown. But a single 
brood is reared in a year, both parents assisting in the care of the young. 

Black- winged Kite. The best known Old W 7 orld species is the Black- 
winged Kite (E. ccsruleus), a much smaller bird than the last, being only a little 
more than thirteen inches long. It is ash-gray above, lighter on the head, and 
pure white below, a ring about the eyes and the lesser and middle wing-coverts 
black, while the tail is whitish on the upper side. It is further distinguished by 
having the cere, orbits, and feet yellow, the bill black and the irides carmine-red. 
This species ranges from southeastern Europe through Africa and India, being 
especially abundant in Egypt and many parts of India. They are described as 
bold, fearless birds, unconcernedly permitting a near approach of man, and 
often to be seen sitting on telegraph wires and the summits of tall trees. They 
are apparently somewhat gregarious, for Sharpe speaks of having seen in South 
Africa as many as nine in the branches of one tree. They utter, especially on 
the wing, a frequent and very piercing cry, and when in flight they are given 
to hovering over grass after the well-known manner of the Kestrel, the wings 
being held upward so that the tips are within three or four inches of each other 
while the feet and tail hang downward. They hold themselves for a few moments 
in this position as they slowly descend to within a few feet of the ground, when 
they drop suddenly. Their food consists largely of insects, but they also take 
small reptiles and birds when occasion presents. They build a large nest in 
low bushes or in the forks of a tree, and line it carefully with feathers and moss. 
In India it appears that two broods are reared in a year, although in other parts 
of their range it is doubtful if this condition prevails. The eggs are tw r o or three 
in number, with a white or bluish white ground and irregular streaks and blotches 
of yellowish brown. 

The Letter-winged Kite (E. scriptus] of Australia is so named from the fact 
that there is a black mark on the under surface of the wing, which, "following 
the line of the bones from the body to the pinion, assumes when the wing is 
spread the form of the letter V, or, if both wings are seen from beneath at the 
same time, that of a W, divided in the center by the body." It is the smallest 
species, being only twelve inches long, and is a delicate ashy white above, except 
for the coverts and a patch on the outside of the wing, which are black, and pure 

228 The Falcon-like Birds 

white beneath. They are abundant in the interior of the country, always going 
in companies of from ten to thirty individuals, and even nesting in companies, 
as near as possible to one another. The nests are lined with the pellets ejected 
from their stomachs, "these pellets being composed of the fur of the rats upon 
which they principally feed. 

Andersson's Pern. The only other bird of this subfamily that will be men- 
tioned, and this but briefly, is Andersson's Pern (Machcerhampkus anderssoni) 
of southwest Africa and Madagascar. It is a crested bird about seventeen 
inches long, chocolate-brown above, and white somewhat streaked with brown 
below, there being also a broad white line both above and below the eye. The 
bill is very thin and weak and the nostrils are half covered by the feathers of the 
lores. Comparatively little is known of the habits of this bird beyond the fact 
that it is probably crepuscular and feeds upon bats, which it is often seen in 
pursuit of at dusk. 

The Honey Buzzards ( Pernis), so called from their especial fondness for the 
comb and larvae of bees and wasps, are typical of the second subfamily, the 
Pernince. They number five species, and are found exclusively in the Old World, 
where they range from Europe and northern Asia over Africa and India to 
Japan, the Philippines, Sumatra, Celebes, etc. They are distinguished at once 
by having the lores and sides of the head, as well as the forehead and chin, 
covered with small scale-like feathers, which are without bristles or bristly ends, 
this dense covering probably serving as a protection against the sting of bees and 
wasps. They are further distinguished by having a rather elongate but weak 
bill, which is not strongly hooked at the end. The tarsus is short, stout, and 
covered with small hexagonal scales, while the toes are long, covered above with 
bony shields, and provided with long, slightly curved claws, the middle one. of 
which is somewhat dilated on the inner side. In the wing the third and fourth 
quills are subequal and longest. 

The best-known Honey Buzzard (P. apivorus) is found in summer over 
Europe and western Asia, and in winter migrates to' Africa, being only a rare 
or occasional visitor to the British Islands. It is about twenty-five inches in 
length, brown above, the feathers with slightly paler margins, while the head 
is ashy gray and the under parts white, narrowly streaked with blown. There 
is a very considerable amount of variation in the color and markings of the 
plumage, especially in birds of the first and second years. This species is said 
not to make its own nest, but to take possession of the abandoned nest of a Crow 
or Kite, which is relined with green leaves, preferably of beech, or with twigs 
with the green leaves on them. The eggs are two to four in number, with a 
creamy or pale red ground color, boldly blotched and spotted with purplish 

In the Indian peninsula, Ceylon, Burma, and other Eastern countries the 
place is filled by the Crested Honey Buzzard (P. ptilonorhynchus\ a bird that 
is darker brown above, and is further distinguished by having a crest which is 
from one to four inches in length. It lives, according to Blanford, largely 
among trees, or is seen soaring above them, with a flight that is rather hurried 

The Bazas 229 


although it seldom flies far. It is not a shy bird, but is often found living and 
even nesting in wooded gardens and groves about houses. Its nest, which it 
appears to build for itself, is placed in the fork of a tree, and is made of small 
sticks and lined, like the nest of its relative, with green leaves. The eggs are 
usually two, although not infrequently there is but one. The Crested Honey 
Buzzard subsists principally upon the combs of bees, eating honey, wax, and 
larva?, also the bees themselves, other insects, reptiles, and occasionally the 
eggs and young of birds. 

The Bazas. Much smaller and quite different in some respects from the 
last are the Bazas, although the points of resemblance to them are so important 
that they are regarded as belonging to the same subfamily. They have a very 
long nuchal crest, composed, however, of but few feathers. The bill is much 
shorter and stouter than in the Honey Buzzards, and besides being decidedly 
hooked at the end, has the upper mandible provided with two pronounced 
teeth or projecting angles. The wings are of moderate length and have the 
third or fourth quill longest. Some seventeen species are known, ranging from 
Africa and Madagascar through the Oriental region and parts of the Australian 
region. The Black-crested Baza (B. lophotes}, a widely distributed species 
in Oriental countries, is mainly black above, with a white patch on the shoulders, 
and a white band across the smaller coverts, while the throat is white, the breast 
blackish, and the remainder of the lower parts buff with ferruginous cross-bars. 
It frequents the high-tree forests and is somewhat gregarious, although nowhere 
abundant. It feeds mainly on insects and an occasional lizard. Very little 
is known of its nidification. There is a handsome species in South Africa known 
as Verreaux's Cuckoo-Falcon (B. verreauxii), which is dark ashy gray above, 
somewhat shaded with brown, with the sides of the face, throat, and chest clear 
gray, while the breast is clear white conspicuously banded with pale rufous- 
brown; the tail is also banded. It is a rare, shy bird, frequenting the dense 
brush, and feeding on insects. 

Swallow-tailed Kite. Although there is perhaps some doubt as to the 
correctness of the reference of our Swallow-tailed Kite (Elanoides forficatus] 
to this subfamily, Mr. Pycraft is of the opinion that it should be so placed. In 
external form it certainly resembles the true Kites, but anatomically it is said 
to be quite different. It is a handsome bird, from twenty to twenty-five inches 
long, with the head, neck, entire lower parts, and a band across the rump pure 
white, while the back, wings, and deeply forked tail are polished black. It is 
found throughout the warm-temperate portions of continental America, coming 
north in the summer to Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota, and along the Atlantic 
coast casually to Pennsylvania and southern New England. It is more or less 
gregarious, ranging in flocks of three to often a dozen or more. Dr. William 
L. Ralph, who had excellent opportunities of observing this species in Florida, 
wrote of it to Major Bendire as follows : " Excepting, perhaps, the Turkey Vul- 
ture, I think this bird is the most graceful of any while on the wing. It has the 
same easy floating motion, but at times it flies very rapidly and turns very quickly, 
which is something I have never seen the former birds do. Their motions are 


The Falcon-like Birds 


very ' swallow-like,' and that, with their forked tails, makes them look like 
gigantic Barn Swallows ; and like the Chimney Swifts they have a habit of travel- 
ing together in small companies, usually consisting of three individuals, espe- 
cially when they first return from the south. During the breeding season flocks 
consisting of from two or three to ten or twelve birds, but oftener of three, may 

The Ospreys 231 

be seen following one another around, frequently uttering their call and circling 
in and out among the treetops so fast as to make one dizzy to look at them. 
Except during this season one seldom sees one of these birds unless it is flying, 
and I have often^wondered if they did not at times sleep while on the wing. At 
least I know that they usually, if not always, eat while flying, for I have many 
times seen one sailing leisurely along, occasionally bending its head to tear a 
piece from a small snake that it held in its talons, and I have never seen one 
alight to eat its food, as other birds of prey do. Their food consists almost 
entirely of reptiles. Small snakes seem to be a favorite article of food with 
them. I never have seen one catch a bird, and believe they do not." 

They nest mainly in the top of very slender pine trees, rarely below ninety 
feet from the ground and often as high as one hundred thirty feet. The 
nest is rather a rude affair of sticks and moss, and the eggs usually two in 
number, though three and rarely four have been found. The eggs are oval in 
shape with an ashy white or delicate cream ground color, spotted and blotched 
with different shades of brown. 

The Ospreys. (Subfamily PandionincE.} There has been a great deal of 
discussion as to the proper systematic position of the Ospreys (Pandion), and 
even now their status can hardly be regarded as definitely settled. From the 
fact that they possess a more or less reversible outer toe, and also certain 
peculiarities in the skeleton, they were long held to exhibit a more or less dis- 
tinct transition between the diurnal birds of prey and the Owls; but since it 
has been conclusively shown that the latter have little or nothing in common 
with the former, and have been removed to the midst of the so-called "Pica- 
rian" birds, a further examination of the various characters of the Ospreys has 
been necessary. According to Pycraft the outer toe is not more reversible than 
in ordinary Accipitres, and, all things considered, it seems likely that they find 
their closest relatives among the Honey Buzzards and their allies, being by some 
authorities, indeed, placed in the subfamily Pernina;, but it is perhaps best to 
regard them as constituting by themselves a distinct subfamily (Pandionince). 

Ospreys, or Fish Hawks, as they are more commonly called in this country, 
enjoy an almost cosmopolitan distribution, being absent only from southern 
South America, New Zealand, Iceland, and some parts of Australia. They 
are so well known that an extended description is perhaps unnecessary, yet a 
few of the more important characters may be mentioned. When perching, 
the toes are disposed as in ordinary diurnal birds of prey, but when they capture 
a fish the toes are opposed in pairs, the outer toe being, as above pointed out, 
quite reversible. This reversibility permits of a very secure hold on their prey, 
which is usually an advantage, although, as will be shown later, the very secu- 
rity of the hold works occasionally to their detriment. The feet are large and 
powerful, the toes being unconnected and provided with very large, strongly 
curved claws, which are of equal length, and narrowed and rounded on the under 
sides. The whole of the rather short tarsus and the toes are covered with rough, 
somewhat imbricated, projecting scales, and the under surface of the toes is 
covered with quite prominent pointed spicules, an adaptive character, found 

232 The Falcon-like Birds 

also in other piscivorous Accipitres, as for example the genus Busarellus. The 
plumage, while close and compact, is without aftershafts, thus agreeing with 
the Owls. The bill is inflated, the cere depressed, and the nostrils not concealed 
by bristles. They haye long, pointed wings in which the coverts as well as the 
primaries are very hard and stiff. In color the Ospreys are dark brown or gray- 
ish brown above and mainly pure white below, with slight variations in the 
various races. The length is from twenty-two to twenty-five inches and the 
spread of wings about five feet. 

Some three or four species of Ospreys have been described, but it is now 
generally recognized that there is but a single species, which in different parts 
of its range has assumed sufficient differences in size and plumage to warrant 
being separated as more or less well marked subspecies. The principal or 
central form is the European Osprey (Pandion haliaetus haliaetus] , which is found 
throughout the Eastern Hemisphere and has the breast always spotted with 
brownish. The next in importance is the American Osprey (P. h. carolinensis), 
found throughout temperate and tropical America in general, except in the 
Bahamas, where there is a local race sometimes recognized as the Bahama Os- 
prey (P. h. ridgwayi). The first has the breast usually entirely without spots, 
while the latter is a smaller form with the back paler than in the American 
Osprey, and the bill much larger and more swollen. The smallest of all is the 
Australian Osprey (P. h. leucocephalus) of Australia and the Indo-Malayan 

Habits. Inasmuch as the habits of the Ospreys are much the same wher- 
ever found, the following account will largely be that of the American form, 
which is a familiar bird to those who dwell near the ocean or large inland bodies 
of water. In the more northern part of its range the Fish-Hawk is migratory, 
coming in the early spring as the first harbinger of the breaking up of winter, the 
males preceding the females by several days. They spend the winter mainly 
in the Southern States, greatly augmenting, at that time, the number that remain 
there the year around. These birds are much attached to their homes and 
return year after year to the same nest, where if unmolested they rear an annual 
brood. Like certain other birds of prey they are supposed to mate for life, and 
many are the stories told of their devotion to each other. One particular inci- 
dent may be cited. A pair of Fish-Hawks had their nest in a till locust tree. 
"At a time when one of the birds, presumably the female, was on the nest, a 
bolt of lightning struck the tree, killing the bird and demolishing the nest. 
Strangely enough, the other Osprey, when returning only to find his home deso- 
lated, took up his station upon the top of one of the uninjured trees close at 
hand, and throughout the remainder of the summer, was seen day after day, 
month after month, keeping his lonely vigil, apparently mourning the loss of 
his mate. By those who lived in the vicinity it was asserted that he was never 
missing from his post ; and many were the speculations indulged with regard to 
the manner of his subsistence. Some inclined to the opinion that he went fishing 
very early in the morning and so escaped observation; while others supposed 
him to have been fed by other Fish-Hawks who took pity on his lonely state." 

Habits of Ospreys 233 

Fish-Hawks are very peacefully inclined birds. So tolerant are they at the 
presence of other birds that they permit Grackles and Night Herons to nest 
unmolested in the interstices of their great nests. They subsist almost entirely 
on fish, which they capture themselves, and only when hard pushed by hunger 
will they take dead fish. Occasionally they may kill another bird, and in some 
parts of their range, especially in the lower Mississippi Valley, they seem to be 
particularly fond of snakes. The kinds of fish taken are apparently of little 
moment to them, but they are principally those species which come near to the 
surface. Along the coasts they take shad, alewives, menhaden, and mullets, 
while in inland waters suckers, catfish, salmon, trout, and white perch form 
perhaps the chief items of diet. Their manner of fishing is rather peculiar, 
and quite different from that pursued by other fish-catching birds of prey, or 
even of fish-catching birds in general. One may be seen winging its way slowly 
over the water, keeping a keen watch for any fish that may be near the surface. 
" When one is observed," says Mr. Frank M. Chapman, " it pauses, hovers a 
moment, and then, closing its wings, descends with a speed and directness of 
aim that generally insure success. It strikes the water with great force, making 
a loud splash, and frequently disappears for a moment before rising with its 
prey grasped in its powerful talons." The manner of descent has been further 
described by Mr. Paul Bartsch, who says : " The Osprey shifts its center of gravity 
when it passes above the water as does the Kingfisher, whose body changes 
almost to a vertical from the horizontal position as he prepares for a plunge. 
Neither does the Osprey dive head first as does the Kingfisher; but he plunges 
into the water with wings extended widely upward, clutching his prey with his 
powerful outstretched talons." It has been known to strike the water with 
such force as to break a wing, and quite a number of cases are on record of their 
striking a fish too large for them to handle, and being unable to loosen their claws, 
have been drawn under and drowned. Curiously enough they always carry 
their prey head first, and if captured in another position they are said to turn 
it around in mid-air. As soon as they secure a fish they start for the land, and 
if not robbed of it by a watchful Eagle, resort to a particular spot, where it is 
devoured at leisure. Wherever food is perennially abundant the Fish-Hawks 
often occur in colonies of several hundred, but in other localities less favored 
only one or two pairs are found. I have seen a dozen nests within a short dis- 
tance along the Yellowstone Lake, the birds apparently feeding on the trout so 
abundant there. 

The nesting site selected by the Fish-Hawk is extremely varied, although 
usually it is a tall tree, especially one that has the top or a large limb broken 
out by a storm. In some localities, as for example Plum Island, New York, 
where the birds are protected, they build the nest on low trees, on chance piles 
of rails, or even on the ground. "The most picturesque nesting site of the 
Osprey I ever saw," says Bendire, " was located in the midst of the American 
Falls of Snake River, Idaho. Right on the very brink of these, and about one 
third of the way across, the seething volume of water, confined here between 
frowning walls of basalt, was cleft in twain by a rocky obstruction which had 

234 The Falcon-like Birds 

so far withstood the ever eroding currents, and this was capped with a slender 
and fairly tapering column of rock rising directly out of the swirling and foaming 
whirlpool below. On the top of this natural monument, whose apex appeared 
to me to be scarcely two feet wide, a pair of Ospreys had placed their nest and 
were rearing their young amidst the never ceasing roar of the falls directly below 
them." The nest is ordinarily composed of large sticks, brush, and rubbish 
of various kinds, such as cornstalks, seaweeds, etc., and lined with cedar bark 
and other finer material. At first it is of small size, but it is added to year after 
year, and finally assumes large dimensions, being sufficient in some cases to 
make several cart loads. The birds are brave in defense of the nest, flying at 
an intruder and uttering shrill screams. The number of eggs is usually two 
or three, rarely four, and they show great variety in both shape and color. Some- 
times they are white and unmarked, occasionally an almost solid chocolate, 
but mainly they are a buffy white more or less heavily marked with various 
shades of brown. 

The Kites and Sea Eagles. (Subfamily Milvina.) At first sight it seems 
a rather strange assemblage to place the true Kites in the same subfamily with 
the great Sea Eagles, but in spite of obvious external differences the anatomical 
characters seem to warrant placing them together, while at the same time 
the extreme forms are connected by others of intermediate characters. It is 
said that the name of Kite should properly be restricted to the genus Milvus, 
and even further than this to a single species, the Common Kite of Europe 
(M. milvus}. This genus is a small one, embracing but six species, all con- 
fined to the Old World, being birds of moderate size with long, pointed wings 
and long, forked tails, the outer feathers of the tail being longest. They 
have relatively a rather weak bill, the culmen straight at base, then curved, 
and without any notch, while the tarsus is short and the feet provided with 
sharp, often quite long claws. They are birds of strong but graceful flight, and 
may often be seen sporting in the air much after the manner of Swallows. 

The Common Kite, or Glead (M. milvus), is a more or less abundant bird of 
central and southern Europe, and was once a familiar sight in the British Islands 
and even in the streets of London, but owing to ceaseless persecution it is now 
confined as a breeding bird to a few pairs in Scotland and Wales. It is about 
twenty-five inches in length, with the upper parts reddish brown, the feathers 
with pale edges, those of the head and neck being grayish white streaked with 
brown. The under parts are rust-colored with longitudinal streaks of brown. 
The female is similar, but has the upper parts a deeper brown and the head and 
neck white. 

Hudson says the Kite is one of the finest of the diurnal birds of prey: " The 
great extent of his sharp-pointed wings and his long, forked tail fit him for 
an aerial life. In appearance he is a swallow-shaped Eagle, and few birds 
equal him in grace and majesty of motion when he soars at a vast height. Like 
the Eagles, Buzzards, and other strong fliers among the raptores, he soars for 
exercise and recreation, and, vulture-like, when soaring he is ever on the watch 
for a meal, and, vulture -like, he will feed on garbage, for though of so noble an 

Kites and Bald Eagle 235 

appearance, and possessed of great power, he has, compared with the Falcons, 
a poor spirit, and his name is a term of reproach that signifies cowardice and 
rapacity. A carrion-eater, he also preys on small mammals, reptiles, and birds, 
in most cases the young, the sickly, or wounded." The nest is a bulky affair 
of sticks and rubbish placed in a tree or a ledge on a rock. The eggs, two to 
four in number, are much spotted with brown. 

Black Kite. Another widely distributed species is the Black or Migrat- 
ing Kite (M. migrant), which is found in central and southern Europe, central 
Asia, and southward in winter over the whole of Africa. It is a little smaller 
than the Common Kite and is easily distinguished by its much darker color 
above and by the dark brown, indistinctly barred tail. It is an active bird, 
filling the place of a scavenger in many places, gaining most of its food from 
refuse heaps, offal from slaughter-houses, and an occasional fowl. It nests 
in the tops of palm trees. 

The Arabian Kite (M. (Egyptius), which extends over the whole of Africa 
and Madagascar, and thence into southeastern Europe, Greece, and Dalmatia, 
is quite similar to the Common Kite, being distinguished among other char- 
acters by the brown, black-barred tail and bright yellow cere and bill. 

The Pariah or Govind Kite (M. govinda) replaces the black species in the 
Indian peninsula and the Himalayas; while another and larger species (M. 
melanotis] ranges from the Indian peninsula through Japan and China to For- 
mosa. The former is a great scavenger, frequenting the streets of cities and 
towns, while the latter is a shyer bird, keeping more to the jungles. 

The Everglade Kite (Rostrhamus sociabilis), which is found from Florida 
through tropical America to Argentina, is a form of very doubtful relationships, \ 
but by some authorities has been placed here. It is a dark slate-colored bird 
about eighteen inches in length, and subsists almost entirely on snails, whence 
it is often called the Snail-Hawk. 

The Sea Eagles. We may next consider the Sea Eagles, a magnificent 
group of some seven or eight species that are fully the equal in size and appear- 
ance, if not indeed the superiors, of the true Eagles. They are at once distin- 
guished by having the lower third of the tarsus naked all round, and are further 
characterized by the lanceolate feathers on the whole head and neck. They 
possess a long, very powerful, strongly hooked bill and enormously developed 
feet, which are armed with strong, curved claws. The genus (Haliaetus) is 
distributed throughout the entire world except South America, two species 
and one or two local races being natives of North America. 

Bald Eagle. One of the noblest of the species is the Bald Eagle, or White- 
headed Sea Eagle, as it is sometimes called (H. leucocephalus), chosen as the 
national emblem of the United States. It is almost too well known to need de- 
scription, as it is a not uncommon sight throughout the whole North American 
continent, being, moreover, especially abundant in Florida. The adults are uni- 
form dusky brown throughout, except the head and neck, tail and tail-coverts, 
which are pure white, in sharp contrast to the rest of the body. The males are 
from thirty to thirty-five inches in length, with an extent of wings of about seven 

2 3 6 

The Falcon-like Birds 

feet, while the females are from thirty-four to forty-three inches in length and 
have a spread of wings of between seven and eight feet. 

It is quite commonly supposed that the Bald Eagle is more or less of a robber 
and tyrant, feeding largely on fish stolen from the Osprey, and on carrion, but 
this, according to that most excellent of authorities, Major Bendire, is not strictly 
true. He says: "According to my observations the Bald Eagle lives, to a large 
extent at least, on prey captured by its own exertions, principally on wounded 
water fowl. When employed in the chase of a flock of Geese, Brant, Ducks, 

or other water birds, it is by no means the 
sluggish, lazy bird some writers would make 
us believe, but the peer in swiftness, dash, 
and grace of any of our Raptores." They 
nest principally in the vicinity of the sea 
or some large body of water, placing the 
nest usually on a large tree. "The nests," 
according to Dr. Ralph, who writes espe- 
cially of their habits in Florida, " are immense 
structures, from five to six feet in diameter 
and about the same in depth, and so strong 
that a man can walk around in one without 
danger of breaking through. They are com- 
posed of sticks, some of which are two or 
three inches thick, and lined with marsh 
grass or some similar material." The eggs 
are usually two in number, though occa- 
sionally one and quite rarely three are found. 
They are uniformly white, without markings, 
and about three inches long by two and 
one fourth in short diameter. The young 
appear to remain for several months in the 

The Bald Eagle displays great fondness for its home, and while it may not 
often actually attack an intruder, even when robbed of eggs or young, it returns 
again and again to the same site ; and when one of the pair is killed, the other 
apparently invariably secures a new mate and resorts to the same nest. Of 
the local races above mentioned, one (H. leucocephalus hypoleucus) is found 
on Bering Island, and the other (H. L alascanus) in Alaska. 

The Gray Sea Eagle, or White-tailed Eagle (H. albicilla}, also a bird of magnifi- 
cent size, is found mainly throughout the western portions of the Eastern Hemi- 
sphere, and can only lay claim to being North American from its occasional 
presence in southwestern Greenland. It is distinguished from the former species 
by the head and neck being a light grayish brown or brownish gray instead 
of white, and the general 'coloration less dark. This species formerly nested 
in England, but they now no longer breed on the mainland, and only one or 
two pairs are known to inhabit even the outlying islands. It has, says Hudson, 

FIG. 77. Bald Eagle, Haliaetus leuco- 

Sea Eagles 

2 37 

a more varied dietary than the Golden Eagle, hunting for food both on sea and 
land. " Like the Osprey, he drops from a considerable height on to a fish seen 
near the surface, and, striking his talons into it, bears it away to land. But 
he preys more on Puffins, Guillemots, and other sea-fowl, than on fish. He 
destroys mountain hares, Grouse, and Ptarmigan, and is regarded by the shep- 
herd as the worst enemy to the flock." The nest is usually in cliffs by the sea- 
shore, and the eggs are similar in number, size, and color to those of the Bald 

Other Species. Inasmuch as the habits of the various Sea Eagles are 
mainly identical, the present account of the group may be concluded with a 
brief enumeration and description of the remaining species. Pallas's or the 
Ring-tailed Sea Eagle (H. leucoryphus], which ranges throughout southern 
and central Asia as far west as the Persian Gulf, the Caspian and Black seas, 
and is abundant in northern India and Burma, is a smaller species, the male 
being about thirty and the female thirty-three inches in length. It may be 
known by having the sides of the head and neck with the chin and throat whitish, 
but especially by a white band about four inches wide across the tail, some three 
inches from the end, whence one of its names mentioned above. It frequents 
mainly the large rivers, tidal creeks, lakes, and marshes rather than the sea- 
coasts, and feeds largely on fish, with occasional water-birds, frogs, snakes, 
etc. Still smaller is the White-bellied Sea Eagle (H. leucogaster) of the coasts 
of India, Ceylon, and Burma, whence it extends throughout the Malay Archi- 
pelago to Australia, Tasmania, and western Polynesia. The head and neck 
all around, as well as the lower parts and the terminal third of the tail, are white. 
This species occurs on the coasts, being rare inland, and feeds chiefly on fish 
and sea-snakes. The African Sea Eagle (H. vocifer) has the head, breast, and 
the top of the back and tail pure white, while the wings and back are nearly 
black, and the abdomen and thighs reddish brown. It is found in tropical 
Africa, frequenting the mouths of rivers, lakes, and other suitable places, feed- 
ing on fish, crabs, reptiles, and now and then a young lamb. Somewhat smaller 
than this is the Madagascar Sea Eagle (H. vociferoides), which differs from it 
by having the under parts brown and the lower wing-coverts chestnut. 

Steller's Sea Eagle (Thalassoaetus pelagicus\ which occurs in Kamchatka 
in summer and Japan in winter, is another giant species which is referred by 
some to the preceding genus, and by others placed in a genus by itself, differ- 
ing, among other characters, in having a wedge-shaped tail of fourteen instead 
of twelve feathers and an enormous bill. The plumage of the adult is brownish 
throughout, with the wing-coverts, rump, tail, and tail-coverts pure white, while 
the young are nearly brown throughout, only the tail being white. The full- 
grown bird is about forty-one inches long. The Korean Sea Eagle (T. branicki), 
a native mainly of Korea, is also a very large bird. It is a uniform slaty black, 
without white on any part of the body, and in correspondence with its gigantic 
size has a very loud, penetrating cry. 

The Fishing Eagles. It is probable that the so-called Fishing Eagles 
(Polioaelus] should also be referred to this subfamily, but there are very decided 

238 The Falcon-like Birds 

differences of opinion among ornithologists on this point. As the Fishing Eagles 
have a partially reversible outer toe, they have been placed with the Ospreys, but 
anatomically they agree with the Eagles, and, moreover, the feathers have an after- 
shaft, which the feathers of the Ospreys do not. It seems safe to say that they 
are at most only distantly related to the Ospreys, but the exact position they 
shall occupy is perhaps open to question. They are smaller than most of the 
Sea Eagles, ranging from twenty-four to some twenty-nine inches in length, and 
have a shorter bill but similar oval nostrils. The wings are rounded, the fourth 
and fifth quills longest, and the tail of moderate length and slightly rounded. 
The feathering of the tarsus is also similar, though the scales on the naked 
portion are larger, and the claws stronger and much curved. The plumage is 
mainly brown above, becoming ashy or ashy gray on the head and neck, while 
the breast is ashy and the abdomen and under tail-coverts white, as is the basal 
portion of most of the tail-feathers. They are mainly inland birds, preferring 
wooded rivers and lakes to the sea coast, and have, it is said, a " peculiar deep 
resounding call, repeated three or four times." They live chiefly on fish, which 
they swoop upon in their flight, not pouncing down upon them like an Osprey, 
and they may occasionally take a wounded bird. The nest is a very bulky 
structure of sticks and usually placed in a high tree, while the eggs, two or three 
in number, are white and unspotted. The Oriental or Gray-headed Fishing 
Eagle (P. ichthyaetus) is widely distributed over the Indian peninsula, Ceylon, 
and through the Malay Peninsula to the Celebes and Philippines, while Hogd- 
son's Fishing Eagle (P. humilis} ranges through the Burmese Provinces, Malay 
Peninsula, Sunda Islands, and Philippines. A recently described species is 
found from the Himalayan districts to Assam. 

The True Eagles. (Subfamily Aquttina.) It is perhaps unnecessary to 
state that the Eagles form a large group of magnificent, usually large, power- 
ful birds of practically cosmopolitan distribution. They are comprised in sev- 
eral genera and forty or more species, and naturally the genus giving name to 
the subfamily is taken as typical. In the genus Aquila the bill is strong and 
curved from the vicinity of the cere. The wings are long, with the fourth and 
fifth quill longest, while the tail is of moderate length and slightly rounded or 
nearly even; the tarsus is feathered to the toes, thus differing from the Sea 
Eagles, and the toes are strong and provided with strongly curved, very large 
and sharp claws. 

Golden Eagle. We may appropriately begin the consideration of this 
group with the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetus}, which is found in North America 
as far south as Mexico, and also in various parts of Europe and northern Asia, 
whence it ranges to northern Africa and China. The male is from thirty to 
thirty-five inches in length and has an extent of wings of between six and one- 
half and seven feet, while the female is four or five inches longer and has a spread 
of wings of between seven and seven and one-half feet. In color the Golden 
Eagle is a nearly uniform dark brown, with the lanceolate feathers of the hind- 
neck and the feathers of the tarsus of a paler or more tawny hue, while the tail 
and quills are black, the former being more or less clouded or irregularly banded 

The Golden Eagle 


240 The Falcon-like Birds 

with grayish. The young are much paler or even whitish, especially on the 
under parts and the tail. 

From time immemorial this Eagle has been taken as the emblem of all that 
is noble and courageous, but as so many of our cherished ideals have been 
shattered in the cold light of truth, so must our estimate in this instance give 
way before undeniable facts. On this point Major Bendire says: "Notwith- 
standing the many sensational stories of the fierceness and prowess of the Golden 
Eagle, especially in defense of its eyrie, from my own observations I must con- 
fess, if not an arrant coward, it certainly is the most indifferent bird, in respect 
to the care of its eggs and young, I have ever seen." In spite of this, as Bendire 
continues, it "is a clean, trim-looking, handsome bird, keen-sighted, rather 
shy and wary at all times, even in thinly settled parts of the country, swift of 
flight, strong and powerful in body, and more than a match for any animal 
of similar size." Never very abundant, it has now probably disappeared almost 
entirely as a nesting species east of the Mississippi River, although an occasional 
pair may linger in the more mountainous portions of the Adirondacks of New 
York, the New England States, etc. Beyond the Mississippi it is quite generally 
distributed, becoming fairly common in the interior Rocky Mountain region. 
The story is the same on the other side of the Atlantic, for while it once bred in 
England and Wales, it has gradually retreated farther and farther north, and 
is now restricted during the nesting season to the Highlands and western islands 
of Scotland. In other portions of Europe and Asia it is still fairly common. 
The nesting site is usually selected in some wild and inaccessible place, as a rocky 
ledge, a perpendicular bluff on the bank of a stream, or, these failing, a large 
tree. The nest is a bulky affair of large sticks and is often used for many years. 
One found by Major Bendire near Camp Harney, Oregon, " situated in a large 
pine tree close to the trunk and about fifty feet from the ground, was three and 
one half feet high by three feet wide. It consisted of large sticks, some of 
them over two inches in diameter, and was sparingly lined with bits of juniper 
bark, pine needles, and green fir tops, evidently broken off by the birds." A 
nest described by a correspondent of Bendire's must have contained two wagon 
loads of material and was over seven feet high and quite six feet wide on its 
upper surface. The eggs are generally two, rarely three, in number, being 
two and one half to three inches long, of a dirty white ground-color, and usually 
thickly blotched and spotted with various hues of brown and purplish. The 
food of the Golden Eagle consists largely of prey captured by itself, though it 
does not entirely disdain animals killed by another, and under stress of cir- 
cumstances will even feed on carrion. This latter condition appears to prevail 
more among the Old World representatives of the species, whereas in America 
their food consists of small mammals, birds of various kinds, and an occasional 
young lamb. The following graphic account of the capture of a jack rabbit 
by a pair of Golden Eagles is given by Mr. W r . L. Atkinson: " The Eagles circled 
about him at a height of about thirty feet; first one would swoop down on the 
rabbit and then the other, but the result was always the same, for the rabbit 
was quick enough to dodge just as the birds struck at him. The chase was 

Spotted and Other Eagles 241 

nearing the fence, and it seemed if the rabbit could succeed in reaching it, he 
could, by dodging around among the trees, baffle his pursuers. The Eagles 
seemed to know this also, for when within fifty yards of the fence, the larger 
one of the two swooped down at the rabbit, and when he dodged, the Eagle 
pursued him, flying at a height of about three feet above the ground. The 
rabbit redoubled his speed and made straight for the fence, the Eagle follow- 
ing and both doing their best. This unequal race was kept up until the fence 
was reached, the Eagle having gained until she was but two or three feet behind 
the rabbit. When the rabbit passed through the fence, I expected to see the 
Eagle give up the pursuit, but she had no intention of doing so, for without 
slacking her speed she raised herself just enough to clear the fence, and, dropping 
down behind the rabbit, continued as before. Instead of dodging around 
among the trees he was so crazed with fear that he ran in a straight line down 
the orchard. The velocity with which the Eagle flew at this stage of the chase 
was something wonderful. Fast as the rabbit ran, the ' great black shadow ' 
behind him drew nearer and nearer, until, poising an instant over its victim, the 
Eagle pounced upon him. A short struggle, a cry or two from the rabbit, and 
all was still." 

The Spotted Eagle (A. heliaca), which is distributed from southeastern Europe 
to central Asia, northern India, and China, is sometimes mistaken for the species 
just described, but it is a smaller bird, with less difference in size between the 
sexes, and further the adults may be separated at once by the presence of a more 
or less conspicuous white patch on the shoulders. It is a rare and occasional 
visitor to the British Islands, but breeds rather abundantly in the forests of central 
and southeastern Europe. In India, Blanford describes it as a sluggish, heavy 
bird, often seen sitting on trees or sometimes on the ground in open country. 
During the winter season it throngs the well-wooded and cultivated portions of 
the plains of continental India, but goes farther north and west to breed. It 
feeds largely on carrion, although it also kills small mammals, birds, and lizards. 
Like the other Eagles it constructs a bulky nest of large sticks, placing it usually 
in a tree, and lining it with a few green leaves. The eggs, two or three in number, 
are variable in size and shape, and are pale grayish white and unspotted, or 
occasionally with purplish brown blotches. 

Other Species. In southeastern Europe and northern Africa this species is 
replaced by Adalbert's Eagle (A. adalberti), which is a slightly smaller species 
in which the white shoulder patches continue along the edge of the wing to 
the carpus; its habits are similar. The Steppe Eagle (A. bifasciata), which 
was formerly regarded as a color phase of the Imperial Eagle, is a bird about 
thirty inches long, nearly uniform brown in color, with often a rufous-buff patch 
on the nape. Its habits are similar to those of the Imperial Eagle, except that 
it usually places the nest on the ground. Allied to the last, but much smaller, 
is the Indian Tawny Eagle (^4. vindhiana), a common bird of the Indian penin- 
sula. It feeds on small mammals, birds, lizards, and carrion, and is also guilty 
of robbing Kites and Falcons of their captures. Other species found in India are 
the rare Brook's Eagle (A.fulvescens), and the Large and Small Spotted Indian 

242 The Falcon-like Birds 

Eagles (A. maculata and A. hastata), while Africa is the home of several fine 
species, as Verreaux's Eagle (A. verreauxi) of northeast and South Africa, the 
Tawny Eagle (A. rapax), and Wahlberg's Eagle (A. ivahlbergi). 

Wedge-tailed Eagje. In Australia and Tasmania there is a large, powerful 
Eagle that was formerly associated with the true Eagles, but which is now 
separated from them mainly on account of the fact that the tail is strongly wedge- 
shaped, when closed the middle pair of feathers exceeding the others by more than 
the length of the tarsus. The Wedge-tailed Eagle ( Uroaetus audax\ as it is 
appropriately called, is about thirty-eight inches long and is, in the adult, mainly 
blackish brown in color, with the edges and extremities of the feathers stained 
with pale brown, while the back and sides of the neck are rusty reddish. The 
young have all the feathers of the upper parts tipped and stained with rusty, 
while the head and back are deep fawn-color and the breast and throat blackish 
brown. It frequents the plains and open crowns of the hills, and while it feeds 
mostly upon living prey, such as small mammals and birds, it is also fond of 
offal and carrion, and Gould mentions the fact that he once saw thirty or forty 
individuals assembled around the carcass of a dead bullock, "some gorged to the 
full, perched upon the neighboring trees, the rest still in the enjoyment of the 
feast." The nests are of large size and composed of sticks and branches and 
placed in very high trees, often more than a hundred feet from the ground. The 
eggs are similar to those of the Golden Eagle. As this species often commits 
extensive ravages among the lambs on the sheep ranges, it is killed by the stock- 
owners whenever and by whatever means possible. 

The Hawk-Eagles. Also members of this subfamily are the so-called 
Hawk-Eagles (Eutolmaetus) of the Old World. They are smaller and rather 
more slender than the true Eagle, and have relatively longer and more slender 
tarsi, as well as longer tails, and most of them are partly or wholly white beneath, 
at least in some phase of the plumage. They have moderately long but strong 
and much hooked bills, long wings, and nearly square tails, while the toes are 
long and furnished with large, sharp, well-curved talons. Of the four species, 
perhaps the best known is Bonelli's Eagle (. fasciatus), which ranges from the 
Mediterranean countries east to the Indian peninsula. The male is twenty- 
seven and the female twenty-nine inches long, and when mature they have the upper 
parts dark umber-brown with the bases of the feathers white, while the sides 
of the head and upper tail-coverts are whitish and the lower parts white with 
black shaft stripes, the young being paler above and more or less rufous or buff 
below. This fine Eagle is quite abundant in British India and is often seen 
sailing at a considerable height or sitting on a high tree or rock. Unlike some of 
those first described, Bonelli's Eagle captures its own prey and is never known 
to feed on carrion. It subsists on mammals and birds and is described as being 
very destructive to domestic fowls and especially to Pigeons, rarely failing to 
secure one from every flock it strikes at. In India it is known as the "Mohrangi," 
or Peacock-killer, on account of its propensity for killing the Peafowl. The nest 
by preference is placed on a ledge of a precipitous cliff, but occasionally in trees, 
and is usually a very bulky affair, sometimes including as much as half a ton of 

Crested Eagles 243 

material. It is generally rather flat on top and on a bed of green leaves rest the 
one to three large eggs. On the plains of India the nesting season, according to 
Hume, is December and January, while in the Himalayas it is sometimes as late 
as April or May. Very similar to this and sometimes confounded with it is the 
African Hawk-Eagle (E. spilogaster}, which ranges throughout tropical Africa. 
It is slightly smaller, with considerably shorter wing, and differs in plumage in 
the absence of bands on the under side of the primaries, and in white instead of 
blackish under wing-coverts. Its flight is described as heavy, though when once 
it has risen to a certain height it soars powerfully. Its food is similar to that 
of its relative, consisting of small mammals, birds, and poultry. Much smaller 
is the Dwarf or Booted Hawk-Eagle (E. pennatus), the male being only about 
nineteen inches long 'and the female about twenty-four. It is subject to con- 
siderable variation in the color of the plumage, especially of the under parts, 
there being a light and dark phase, but may be distinguished by the whitish patch 
on the shoulder. The Booted Eagle is widely distributed, ranging from southern 
Russia and the Mediterranean countries over Africa, and central Asia to the 
Indian peninsula and Ceylon. It frequents woods and cultivated fields, and is 
often found about towns and villages, and is said to commit serious depredations 
on the poultry yard and dove-cote, but otherwise feeding on squirrels, rats, and 
other small mammals and birds. This bird breeds in southern Europe as well 
as in Africa and India, though mainly a winter visitor in the latter country. The 
nest is similar to that of its near relatives and the eggs, usually two, are greenish 
white, sparingly marked. The fourth species is the Little Eagle (E. morphnoides] 
of Australia, a form closely allied to the last. 

Crested Eagles. - Passing over a number of small, relatively unimportant 
genera, we come to the large group of so-called Crested Ea,g\es(Spizaetus), although 
the crest is not quite always present. They are found in Central and South 
America and the central and southern parts of the Old World, being birds of 
moderate size with a short, much-curved bill, short, rounded wings, and long, 
nearly square tail. The tarsus is long, slender, and feathered throughout, while 
the toes are large, but not long, and unequal in size, the hind claw being largest. 
They are in general birds of the forest and are more frequently observed flying 
among the trees than above them, and they rarely soar. Of the sixteen or more 
species described we may mention especially the Indian Crested Eagle (5. cir- 
rhatus), in which the male and female are respectively twenty-six and twenty- 
nine inches in length. They are umber-brown above and have the breast white 
with large spots and the abdomen and under tail-coverts brownish white. The 
crest is from four to six inches long, black, and except in very old birds tipped 
with white. They are often seen perched on trees watching for their prey of 
hares, Partridges, young Peafowl, and Jungle-fowl, on which they pounce. The 
nest, a large structure placed on a high tree, is lined with green leaves, on which 
the single egg is laid. Very similar to this species in coloration is the Changeable 
Crested Eagle (S. limnaetus), but differing from it in having no crest or only a 
rudimentary one. Its habits are similar to those of the last. 

The striking African Crested Eagle, while closely allied to the last group, has 

244 The Falcon-like Birds 

been placed in a genus by itself (Lophoaetus], and is a bird about twenty-five 
inches long, glossy brown, almost black above, being lightest on the cheeks and 
shoulders and darkest on the ends of the wings and tail, while the under parts 
are almost black, ancj.the legs nearly pure white; it has a large, conspicuous 
black crest of numerous long feathers. The only species (L. occipitalis] ranges 
throughout the whole of Africa, but is perhaps most abundant in the eastern 
districts, frequenting mountainous wooded areas and the open plains as well, 
where it may be seen perched on some tree or bush watching for its prey, which 
consists largely of small mammals, birds, lizards, frogs, and snakes, and when 
hard pushed it will resort to carrion. The stomach of one killed in South Africa 
was found to contain a full-grown rat, eleven small ones, and a mouse. Its 
nesting habits are not well known, although it is said to build in trees and to lay 
two eggs. 

The Harpy Eagles (Subfamily Thrasetince). Taking their name from the 
mythological winged monsters which were sent by the gods to carry off offend- 
ers, the Harpies are among the largest and most powerful birds of prey, and 
many are the stories current of their prowess. They are comprised in five 
genera and six species, being mostly natives of Central and South America, ' 
with one extending into Mexico and possibly to the southern border of the 
United States in Texas. The affinities and systematic position of the Harpies 
have been more or less questioned, some associating them directly with the 
Buzzards, with which they undoubtedly have a number of points in common, 
but it seems best to regard them as entitled to full subfamily rank. Aside 
from certain anatomical peculiarities they differ from the true Eagles in hav- 
ing the posterior side of the metatarsus covered with large transverse plates, 
thus agreeing with the Buzzards, from which, however, they are distinguished 
by the presence of a well-defined crest. They have strong bills of moderate 
length, rather short, rounded wings, and unusually long tails, the latter thought 
to be of especial assistance in guiding them in their rapid flight among the forest 
trees, where they often make their home and where they pursue their prey. 

The Harpy Eagle (Thrasaetus harpyia) is at once one of the most magnificent 
and powerful of the birds of prey known, having a length of some forty inches 
and a spread of wing of about seven feet, and its abundant power of flight and 
voracious nature make it a terror among the birds and mammals where it dwells. 
Its legs and feet are nearly twice as large and strong as those of any other bird of 
prey. The prevailing color of the upper parts, including the chest, is black, more 
or less mottled with gray, while the head and neck are gray, darker on the crest, 
and the under parts pure white, with the thighs narrowly barred with black, and 
the tail broadly barred with black and mottled with ashy. The young are ashy 
gray and black above, with the head, neck, and lower parts white. This species 
is found in tropical America, ranging south to Bolivia and Paraguay and north 
to Mexico, rarely extending so far as the mouth of the Rio Grande, thus giving it 
claim to be called a native of the United States. It frequents the dense forests, 
where, according to Dr. Oswald, it makes its way with almost incredible swiftness, 
and "can overtake the swiftest birds of the tropical woods, and in spite of its 

Harpy Eagles 

2 45 

size steer^, its way through the labyrinth of forest trees and hanging vines, and 
rarely fails to rise with a 'Pheasant,' a Woodcock, or a small mammal in its 
claws, after plunging like a meteor from the clouds into the leafy maze of the 
tierra caliente" The nesting site commonly chosen is a tall tree of the jungle, or 
a ledge among the more inaccessible cliffs of the foot-hills, where they build a large 
structure which is repaired and used from year to year. It is said that the Harpy 
lays four or five eggs, but never hatches more than two, the remaining eggs 
according to the native Indians being used to feed the first two Eaglets that 
hatch. This should perhaps be taken with some allowance, for as a matter of 
fact the nesting habits are none too well known. 

Perhaps best placed here is the powerful Philippine Monkey-eating Forest 
Eagle ( Pithecophaga jefferyi), which was first brought to scientific attention about 
ten years ago. Of large size, exceeding a length of three feet, it has relatively 
short wings, a very long tail, and naked tarsi and feet, the latter resembling those 
of the Harpy Eagle, although considerably weaker. The skull is enormous, being 
very much larger than that of the Harpy, while the bill is extremely narrow and 
of very great depth, in fact, the depth of the bill is greater than that of any known 
bird of prey except perhaps Pallas's Sea Eagle, and the relative narrowness is 
unique among birds of this order, being only approached by certain Parrots. 
Mr. Ogilvie -Grant considers it to be most closely related to the Harpy, but Dr. 
Sharpe places it next the Serpent Eagles (Spilornis}. It is a very rare bird, only 
five examples, so far as known, having thus far fallen into scientific hands. It 
inhabits the dense and all but impenetrable forests of several of the Philippine 
Islands, and feeds chiefly upon the green monkey (Macacus), although not 
infrequently it visits the villages and carries off domestic poultry. It is said to 
have a strange, wailing cry, but beyond this almost nothing is known of its habits. 

The Crowned Harpy (Harpyhaliaetus coronatus), which ranges over South 
America and north as far as Guatemala, is about thirty-three inches long, ashy 
brown above, with a long occipital crest of darker feathers, and paler ashy brown 
lower parts and blackish thighs. The tail, which is shorter than that of the last 
species, is black with a broad white median band and a white tip. This bird was 
found in limited numbers by Hudson in Argentina, where it was usually seen 
perched on the tall willows along the streams, or soaring in wide circles far up 
in the sky. The Crowned Harpy is said to prey chiefly on the skunk, as most 
birds captured bear unmistakable evidence of having been in close quarters with 
this animal ; but as Hudson suggests, the Eagle may be driven by the pangs of 
hunger to attack a skunk, but whether they succeed in the attack is quite another 

The Guiana Harpy (Morphnus guianensis) of Amazonia, Guiana, and 
Panama is separated from the others principally by the fact that the tail is of 
extraordinary length, this being more than four times as long as the very long 
tarsus. This bird is about thirty-six inches long, the general color above being 
black, shaded with brown on the margins of the feathers, the head and neck 
becoming grayish, and most of the under parts white, as are the tips of the upper 
tail-coverts and upper wing-coverts. The tail is black, tipped with whitish brown 

246 The Falcon-like Birds 

and crossed with three bars of ashy brown. This species is confined almost 
exclusively to the dense tropical forests, being rarely seen in the open country. 
There is an allied species (M. tceniatus) in Ecuador, and an allied genus with a 
single species (Harpyopsis nova-guinea) in southeastern New Guinea. 

Old World Vultures (Subfamily VulturincE). To all intents and purposes 
the Old World Vultures are similar in appearance and habits to their relatives 
in the New World, and all were at one time united in a single group, but as 
already pointed out, they are essentially different in structure, having imper- 
forate nostrils and the hind toe on the same level as the front ones, as in typical 
members of the group. They are large birds, with strong feet, rather blunt 
claws, and featherless head and neck, and all feed to a greater or less extent on 
carrion. They are disposed in seven genera and about seventeen species, but as 
it will not be possible to fully describe them all, a few of the more striking 
and interesting forms may be selected and briefest mention made of a few 

Black Vulture. One of the most typical members of the group is the Com- 
mon Cinereous, or Black Vulture ( Vultur monachus), a bird distributed from 
southern Europe and northwestern Africa through central Asia to India and 
China. It is about forty-two inches in length and is dull sooty black in color, 
with brownish or chocolate reflections. The " ruff " at the base of the neck 
is composed of pointed, downy feathers, while the head and throat are covered 
with a short, velvety, black down. The bare skin above the neck is of a livid 
flesh-color. The nostrils are small and nearly circular. It is described as being 
a sluggish, repulsive bird, feeding almost exclusively on carrion and such refuse. 
" Repulsive and hideous-looking as are a group of Vultures assembled around 
a carcase of a large animal and gorging themselves to satiety upon its contents, 
their appearance is very different as they are seen wheeling in circles at a great 
height in the blue sky of a tropical noon; and no spectacle is more interesting 
than to watch the Vultures flocking up from all parts when some of their number 
have detected a prey, and dropped to earth to feast upon it." " Royal Natural 
History," IV, 254. The Cinereous Vulture prefers wooded districts and con- 
structs a bulky nest of sticks, usually in a tree, though not rarely on a rocky 
ledge. They deposit but a single large egg, which is white, richly marked and 
blotched with red. 

The Griffon Vultures, of which the Common Griffon (Gyps fulvus) may 
be taken as the type, number some seven more or less well denned species. 
They are of about the same size as the Cinereous Vulture, but may be distinguished 
by the oval, transversely placed nostrils, and a tail of fourteen feathers. The 
various members of the genus range over eastern Europe, nearly the whole of 
Africa, and hence through Persia to India and the Malay Peninsula. They 
prefer the more open country and invariably nest on rocks, several often nesting 
near together. So far as known but a single, white, unspotted egg is laid. 

The Eared Vultures. The so-called Eared Vultures of the genus Otogyps 
take their name from certain naked, fleshy folds or lappets on the sides of the 
head. Two species are known, of which the African Eared Vulture (O. auri- 

Egyptian Vulture 


cularis) is the larger, being some forty-five inches in length. It is found occa- 
sionally in 'sou them Europe, but principally in Egypt and tropical Africa, being 
brown in color, and has the inner surface of the thighs feathered, whereas the 
other species, known as the Pondicherry Vulture (O. calvus*), has the inner 
surface of the thighs naked. The latter is a much smaller bird with the plumage 
black, and it is found in the Indian peninsula and the Indo-Chinese countries. 
They build nests of great size, which are often used from year to year, one de- 
scribed by Hume containing over 600 pounds of material. The nests are always 
placed in trees, especially the tall banyans. 

Egyptian or White Vulture. The last that we shall have space to consider 
is the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus} , or, as it is sometimes called, 
the White Vulture, White Crow, or " Pharaoh's Chicken." It attains a length 
of some twenty-five inches and is distinguished from all other members of 
the group by its elongated nostrils and long, slender, but not very strong, beak. 
The color of the plumage, with the exception of the black wing-feathers, is 
whitish throughout, whence of course its names. It is especially common 
throughout the countries surrounding the 
Mediterranean and thence extending through 
Africa and eastward to northwestern India. 
It is a typical scavenger Vulture, feeding on 
carrion, offal, and refuse of all kinds, and 
has earned for itself the name of being the 
most disgustingly loathsome member of the 
whole group, and yet with all it is regarded 
a valuable member of society and is care- 
fully protected wherever it dwells. This 
protection has consequently given it con- 
fidence in the presence of human beings, 
and it frequents towns and cities, where it 
is said not to be an uncommon sight to see 
them " wrangling for some scraps of offal 
among the very feet of horses and camels 
of a market place." The nest, a bulky 
affair of sticks and lined with rags, is placed 
on rocks, buildings, or even on trees, and 
often in, or close to, towns and cities. The eggs, two or sometimes three or 
four in number, vary from greenish or reddish white to a dingy blood -red 
color, usually spotted or blotched with brown. 

Lammergeier. As possibly showing a transition from the Vultures to i 
the Eagles we may briefly mention the so-called Bearded Vulture or Lammergeier 
(Gypaetus barbatus), a magnificent bird of central Europe and the Mediterranean 
countries, whence it extends to central Asia, the Himalayas, and northern China. 
It differs markedly from the true Vultures in having the head feathered, but 
otherwise its structure and habits would seem to ally it more with them than 
with the Eagles. It would probably be entirely justifiable to create a sub- 

FIG. 79. Egyptian Vulture, Neophron 


The Falcon-like Birds 

family for the reception of the genus Gypaetus, as was long ago suggested. It 
is a large bird, attaining a length of forty-two to forty-six inches, and a spread 
of wings of some nine or ten feet. The following description of the plumage 

FIG. 80. Lammergeier, Gypaetus barbatiis. 

is from Newton: "The top of the head is white, bounded by black, which, 
beginning in stiff bristly feathers turned forward over the base of the beak, 
proceeds on either side of the face in a well-defined band to the eye, when it 
bifurcates into two narrow stripes. A tuft of black, bristly feathers projects 
beard -like from the base of the mandible. The rest of the head, the neck, 
throat, and lower parts generally are clothed with lanceolate feathers of a pale 

Harrier and Serpent Eagles 249 

tawny color sometimes so pale as to be nearly white beneath, while the scapu- 
lars, back, and wing-coverts generally are of a glossy grayish black, most of 
the feathers having a white shaft and a median tawny line. The quill-feathers, 
both of wings and tail, are of a dark blackish gray." They breed early in the 
year, building a nest of large size which is composed of sticks and lined with 
softer material, placing it on a rocky ledge or a niche in the face of a cliff, usually 
in an inaccessible position, where they lay but a single egg, which is described 
as being pale brownish orange in color. There is considerable disagreement 
among observers regarding the usual food of the Lammergeier, some claim- 
ing that the bulk of it consists of carrion, offal, etc., while others assert that 
they are able to capture their own prey. Doubtless the truth lies between, 
for while they undoubtedly eat carrion it is equally true that they not infre- 
quently kill the young of various animals. Two other species of Gypaelus are 
known from the mountains of Africa. 

The Harrier, Serpent, and Bateleur Eagles (Subfamily Circaetina) . The 
present group of exclusively Old World birds exhibits distinct features which 
ally it to the true Buzzards, which will be considered shortly. They a're em- 
braced in several genera and perhaps twenty-five species, but the following are 
all that we shall have space to mention. 

The Harrier-Eagles (Circaetus), so called from their habit of beating and 
hovering much after the manner of the Harriers, are birds of moderate size, 
with large heads, medium-sized but much hooked bills, and oval nostrils which 
are overhung by bristles from the lores. The tail and wings are long and the 
tarsi naked, except above, and covered all around with small, rounded, over- 
lapping scales, while the toes and claws are short, the latter not much curved. 
Of the six species, four are confined to various parts of Africa, while the others 
are of wide distribution, the Common Harrier, or Short-toed Eagle (C. gallicus), 
ranging from southern Europe and the Mediterranean countries to central Asia. 
In this species the female is about twenty-eight and the male twenty-six inches 
long, the general coloration being brown above, with the head becoming ashy, 
the wings blackish, and the under parts white, the throat streaked with brown 
and the flanks with broad dark bars. The tail is brown, white-tipped, and 
crossed with three or four dark bands. This species frequents the open country 
and cultivated ground, where it is often seen perched on trees or beating over 
the ground and bushes for its prey, which consists of snakes, lizards, frogs, 
crabs, rats, and large insects. The nest is usually placed in trees, though occa- 
sionally on a shelf in the face of high clay cliffs of rivers. When suitable trees 
are available the nest is placed in the top of a very high one; but where only 
low trees are to be had it places the nest perforce only from fifteen to twenty 
feet from the ground. The nest is rather loosely constructed of sticks and 
lined with grass or green leaves, and so far as known but a single egg is laid, 
this being bluish white and unspotted. The Black-breasted Harrier-Eagle 
(C. cinereus} is a quite generally distributed but always rather rare bird of 
tropical Africa, being blackish brown tinged with gray above, the breast brownish 
black, and the lower parts white, while the tail is gray, crossed by broad black 

250 The Falcon-like Birds 

bands. It is found along timber-covered ravines, and feeds largely upon snakes 
and lizards, the stomach of one killed in South Africa by Mr. Thomas Ayres 
containing the remains of a very poisonous snake that could not have been 
less than seven or eight feet in length. 

Serpent Eagles. More numerous in species, and also natives of the Oriental 
region, are the Serpent Eagles (Spilornis}, which differ from those last con- 
sidered " by having a broad nuchal crest covering the whole nape, and by the 
peculiar coloration, being brown above and below in adults, all but one or two 
with rounded white spots or ocelli on the lower parts." Their wings are short 
and rounded, the 4th or 5th quill being longest, while the tarsus, toes, and claws 
are the same as in the Harrier- Eagles. 

The Serpent Eagles, a name, by the way, which is sometimes applied to the 
last group, but which is best restricted to the present, take their common name 
from the character of their food, which consists largely of snakes and other 
reptiles. They are more sedentary and arboreal in their habits than their 
relatives, and are less often seen on the wing, preferring to watch from some 
vantage point for their prey. Of the fifteen species recognized, the Indian 
Serpent Eagle (5. cheela), of the Himalayas and the Indian peninsula, is the 
largest and perhaps best known. In this the male is about twenty-eight inches 
and the female thirty inches long. The upper parts are dark brown with 
a rich purple or ruddy gloss, the crown and the crest black, the basal half of the 
feathers being white, while the lower parts are brown of various shades, more 
or less spotted and barred. The smaller wing-coverts are blackish with small 
white spots; the tail is also blackish, mottled with whitish and crossed by brown 
bars. This bird, according to Blanford, is " usually found on trees near water, 
especially the trees along irrigation channels and canals in upper India, .and 
along stream-beds in the lower Himalayas and in the central provinces and 
southern India." It may be known by the strongly marked bars on the wings 
and tail and above all by its loud, plaintive cry. The nest is built in trees, and 
on the shallow lining of green leaves one, or at most two, eggs are laid, these 
being more or less streaked and spotted with brownish red and purple. This 
species, besides feeding on snakes, frogs, and lizards, sometimes captures small 
mammals, birds, and large insects. Intimately related to this are three or four 
other species which have practically the same type of coloration but differ in 
size, and there is a single species that has the abdomen barred instead of spotted, 
thus departing from the typical color pattern of the genus. Quite a number 
of species are confined to single, often small, islands. 

Bateleur Eagle. Markedly different in general appearance and colora- 
tion, and perhaps not correctly referred to this subfamily, is the striking and 
handsome Bateleur Eagle (Helotarsus ecaudatus] of Africa below the Sahara. 
It is a small eagle, the male being about twenty-one and the female twenty-five 
inches in length, and is remarkable among other things for the relatively long 
and pointed wings and the extreme shortness of the tail, this being shorter by 
more than the length of the tarsus than the wings, which, combined with the 
large, very much crested head, give it a peculiar " dumpy " appearance. The 

Harriers 251 

head and neck all around, as well as the under parts, are glossy black, while 
the hind neck and back are rich maroon. The scapulars are black, the wing- 
coverts bronzy brown, the primaries blackish, and the secondaries ashy gray 
with black tips. The tail and its under coverts are deep maroon, while the 
under wing-coverts and secondaries beneath are white. To complete the picture 
the cere, orbits, and feet are coral-red, the bill black, and the iris brown. The 
Bateleur Eagle is a not uncommon species in many parts of Africa, Andersson, 
for instance, regarding it as the most common Eagle in Damara and Great 
Namaqua Lands. There he found it usually in the plains, although in other 
parts of its range it frequents open mountain districts. It is often seen soaring, 
at which it is described as a past master, almost equaling the Vultures, as it 
sails about without flapping a wing, but, says Mr. Abel Chapman, " when they 
stoop they come out of the sky like a lightning flash." There seems to be some 
disagreement as regards their food, some asserting that they kill their own prey 
and never, in a wild state, touch carrion, while others insist that it is fond of 
the latter food. That it feeds on snakes of all kinds is certain, and that it often 
captures the young or sick of various animals, birds, lizards, etc., is equally 
attested. The nest is always placed in trees, usually those of a very sturdy 
nature, and is composed of a large mass of sticks bound firmly together, but 
is without any kind of lining. The eggs are white and are said to be two to four 
in number. There is a form of this Eagle in which the back is cream-colored, 
but otherwise not different from the typical bird, that is regarded by some as 
entitled to specific rank, but it is possibly only a very old or fully adult stage of 
the Bateleur. 

The Harriers (Subfamily Circince). When one becomes familiar with the 
habits of the birds of this group, watching them as they course backward and 
forward over marsh and meadow in quest of their prey, it is easy to appreciate 
the appropriateness of their common name of Harrier. They spend most of 
the time on the wing in a steady gliding flight, seldom flapping, and usually but 
a few feet above the surface. Although there are several genera, we shall 
have space for only the typical genus (Circus), which embraces some twenty 
species, and is of almost cosmopolitan distribution. They are birds of moderate 
size, none apparently exceeding twenty-four inches in length, and of slender 
form, with relatively long wings and tail, and rather weak legs and slender feet. 
The head is small and there is a ruff of small, soft feathers, more conspicuous 
in some species than in others, surrounding the face, as in the Owls. The bill 
is small and rather weak, while the claws are much curved and very sharp. They 
are especially remarkable for the great diversity in coloration in the plumage 
of the male and female, an unusual condition among birds of prey. Only 
a single species the Marsh Hawk (C. hudsonius] is found in North America. 
The adult male is light bluish gray or ashy above, with the upper tail-coverts 
white, the tail silvery gray barred with blackish, while the upper breast is pearl 
gray, and the lower breast and abdomen white, spotted with rufous. The 
mature female is fuscous above, with the head and neck streaked, and the 
wing-coverts spotted or margined with rufous; the upper tail-coverts are white 

252 The Falcon-like Birds 

and the tail barred with ashy and black or buff and black, while the lower parts 
are buff, widely streaked on the breast and narrowly streaked on the abdomen with 
fuscous or light umber. The young are similar to the female, but are darker 
above and more tawny 1 below. The total length of this species is from nineteen 
and one half to about twenty-four inches, and it is easily recognized on the 
wing by the conspicuous white patch above the base of the long tail. 

The Marsh Hawk is undoubtedly one of the best known of our birds of prey, 
since its breeding range covers practically the entire continent. " It is a familiar 
sight/' says Beddire, " to see a pair, and often several, of these birds skimming 
close to the ground, now along the borders of a meadow, or the shrubbery found 
close to the banks of small streams, and the tule-covered borders of fresh or 
salt marshes, actively engaged in search of their prey. Its flight is singularly 
easy and graceful. One moment it may be seen sailing or drifting along before 
a strong breeze without an apparent movement of its wings, in the next it may 
raise or lower itself or turn completely over, in undulating motions; dropping 
suddenly in the grass, or staying suspended in the air over some point which 
might be suited to the location of its intended quarry." Its food consists 
largely of meadow mice, ground squirrels, frogs, grasshoppers, locusts, and 
large crickets, and to some extent of lizards, snakes, occasional ground- 
haunting birds, and young poultry, and when hard pressed it is said to feed on 
offal and carrion. It has been known to come at the sound of a gun and carry 
off the wounded or dead bird, but on the whole it is deserving of the most 
careful protection for its agency in the destruction of mice, ground squirrels, 
and injurious insects. Dr. A. K. Fisher, who examined the contents of 124 
stomachs, reports that 7 contained poultry or game birds; 34, other birds; 
57, mice; 22, other mammals; 7, reptiles; 2, frogs; 14, insects, while 8 were 
empty. As might be expected in a species enjoying such a wide range, the 
nesting season varies in the different parts of the country, beginning as early as 
April in Texas, and not until June in the fur countries. The nest is always 
made on the ground or close to it, and usually not far from water, as a marsh 
or prairie grown up with tall grass or bushes, being placed in a thick bunch of 
grass, on the top of a tussock, or occasionally on a low bush. It is usually a slight 
affair of grasses and a few sticks, and lined with similar material ;md sometimes 
a few feathers from the sitting bird. Both sexes assist in building the nest, 
and when it is completed the complement of eggs is added, these being from 
three or four to six, and sometimes as many as eight in number, dull white or 
pale bluish white and mostly unspotted. 

South American Harriers. Two species in South America complete the 
representation of this genus in the New World, these being the Cinereous 
Harrier (C. cinereus) of the southern portion of the continent, and the Long- 
winged Harrier (C. maculosus) of South America in general. In the first the 
male is bluish gray above, with darker mottlings, the primaries blackish, and 
the tail gray with four black bands, while the throat and neck are, like the 
back and the abdomen, thickly barred with white and rufous. The female is 
dark brown above with lighter spots. This species is exceedingly abundant 

Urubitingas 253 

on the parnpas, where its flight is low and always rather rapid, " while if its 
quarry should double it loses no ground, for it turns something in the manner 
of a Tumbler Pigeon, going rapidly head over heels in the most eccentric and 
amusing fashion." It appears to feed largely on small birds, driving them up 
from the tall grass and then striking them down with its claws. Its nesting 
habits are similar to those of our Marsh Hawk, but the eggs are described as 
white, blotched with dark red. The Long- winged Harrier is black above and 
on the chest and throat, while the frontal band, stripes over the eyes, upper 
tail-coverts, and abdomen are white. 

Hen Harrier. In the Old World our Marsh Hawk is replaced by the hand- 
some Hen Harrier (C. cyaneus), which ranges in summer over northern Europe 
and northern Asia, and in winter is found throughout the Indian peninsula and 
China. It is smaller than our species, the male being about twenty-one and 
the female twenty-two inches long, the former being bluish gray above and white 
below, and the latter reddish brown with the under parts pale reddish yellow, 
streaked and spotted with deep orange-brown. These differences between the 
sexes are so great that they were long regarded as representing distinct species, 
and it was not until a brood had been reared from the nest that they were proved 
to be the same. The Hen Harrier was formerly an abundant bird in the British 
Islands, but it has been subjected to such incessant persecution by gamekeepers 
and others that it is almost exterminated, being practically confined as a breed- 
ing bird to the wildest moors of Wales and the Scotch Highlands. In other 
parts of Europe it is more abundant, where, like its American relative, it places 
its nest on the ground in marshes. The eggs, four to six in number, are of a 
pale bluish white color, in some cases spotted with pale brown. 

The Marsh Harrier, or Moor Buzzard (C. ceruginosus) , is another handsome 
species of temperate Europe and Siberia, whence it migrates in winter to Africa, 
India, and China. It was also once abundant throughout the British Islands, 
but owing to constant molestation it has now become extinct as a British bird. 
The male has the upper parts brown, the head creamy white, and the lower parts 
buff, streaked with brown and chestnut, while a part of the wing and tail is pearl- 
gray. The female is very similar, being a little darker. It is most frequently 
observed about fens and marshes, although sometimes it may be seen hunting 
over dry grass plains. Its food and nesting habits are similar to those of the 
last-mentioned species, from which, however, it differs in being much larger. 
Hardly to be distinguished from the Hen Harrier, except in its smaller size and 
greater comparative length of wing, is Montagu's Harrier (C. pygargus), a bird 
enjoying nearly the same range as the Marsh Harrier, and having practically 
the same life habits. Other species are the Pied Harrier (C. melanoleucus] of 
eastern Siberia and Mongolia, Gould's Harrier (C. gouldi) of Australia and New 
Zealand, the Black Harrier (C. maurus) of South Africa, and the South African 
Marsh Harrier (C. ranivorus). 

The Urubitingas (Subfamily Urubitingin<z). Inasmuch as the Urubitingas 
appear to differ sufficiently to warrant their being made the type of a sub- 
family, they may claim a passing notice. Three species are known, all natives 

254 The Falcon-like Birds 

of the New World and mainly ranging south of the United States. The adult 
birds, which vary in length from twenty-two to about twenty-five inches, are 
of a uniform plumbeous black, with the upper tail-coverts, several bands across 
the tail, and the tip* of the tail pure white. The Mexican Black Hawk (Uru- 
bitinga anthracina), the smallest of the three species, is found throughout trop- 
ical America in general, coming north into southern Arizona and Texas. It 
is a migratory species, returning to its summer home the first part of April 
and retiring in October, frequenting while with us the dense trees and under- 
growth along streams, among which it disappears so quickly as to afford but 
a fleeting glance. In most cases they appear to be shy birds, though Major 
Bendire found them unusually tame near Tucson, Arizona, allowing him to 
approach within thirty feet. They have a very shrill, often-repeated cry, that 
is an almost exact counterfeit of that of the spring piping of the Long-billed 
Curlew. The nest, which is evidently occupied for a long series of years, is a 
bulky affair sometimes measuring four feet in depth and two feet in width, and 
is lined with green leaves. The nesting habits are not very well known, but it 
appears that one or two eggs constitute the set, these being white, marked over 
the entire surface with small irregular blotches of reddish brown. 

The Brazilian Urubitinga (U '. urubitinga) is found from tropical America 
to the Argentine Republic, and the Mexican Urubitinga (U. u. ridgwayi) from 
Guatemala north to Vera Cruz and Mazatlan. 

The Buzzards, or Buzzard-Hawks (Subfamily Buteonince). - - The word 
Buzzard is derived, through the French busard, from the Latin buteo, and 
according to Newton should perhaps properly be restricted to the common 
Buzzard (Buteo buteo) of western Europe, but as a matter of fact it is applied, 
at least as a book name, to the entire group under consideration. In North 
America, however, where the Black and Turkey Vultures are almost always 
denominated "Buzzards," this name is rarely if ever applied to the mem- 
bers of the present subfamily, these being called "Hawks," with some distin- 
guishing prefix, as "Red-tailed," "Swainson's," "Red -shouldered," etc. The 
Buzzards, when the name is applied in the broad sense as standing for this 
whole group, embrace several genera and a large number of species, of medium- 
sized or some of them large birds, of heavy, compact build and ^rather sluggish 
habits as compared with many of the other diurnal birds of prey. They bear 
the reputation of being more or less cowardly and pusillanimous in disposition. 
More than a century ago Gilbert White wrote: "The Buzzard is a dastardly 
bird, and beaten not only by the Raven, but even by the Carrion Crow." This 
may apply to the species of which it was said, but it is not wholly applicable to 
the New World representatives, for, while they may lack the snap and vim evinced 
by the Falcons, they are by no means without courage and spirit. 

The genus Buteo, which may be recognized as typical of the subfamily, 
is a large group of some thirty-three forms, no less than twenty-two of which are 
natives of the New World. The remainder are widely distributed in the Old 
World, except in the Indian and Malay provinces, and Australasia and Oceanica, 
where they are unknown. They have the heavy, robust build characteristic 

Red-tailed Hawk 255 

of the group, with the bill of small or moderate size, the culmen, which is curved 
from the cere, with the commissure nearly straight and exhibiting no evidence 
of a tooth. The wings are always ample and long, the third to fifth quills longest, 
with the first three or four emarginated on the inner webs, while the tail is of 
moderate length and rounded at the end. The tarsus is rather long, naked or 
nearly so, and covered with scales, while the toes are short but provided with 
strong claws. 

The Buzzards have usually been placed next the Eagles, with which they 
have many points in common, but they differ, among other things, in assuming, 
it is said, the adult plumage after the first moult, whereas it takes several years 
for the Eagles to attain full plumage. But despite this lack of a series of imma- 
ture plumages in the Buteos, there is abundant variation in their coloration, 
since distinctly light, rufous, and melanistic (black) forms are found in several 
species, in some instances these differences being so marked as' to have resulted 
in their being regarded as distinct species. In general the Buzzards feed on 
mice and other small mammals, snakes, frogs, lizards, large insects, and an 
occasional bird, usually an injured or sickly one, and some of the American 
species have the more or less deserved reputation of helping themselves in the 
poultry yard. 

Red-tailed Hawk. One of the best known North American Buzzards is 
the Red -tailed Hawk, which, under several well-marked forms, ranges through- 
out the entire continent. The typical form and the Red-tail par excellence 
(Buteo borealis] is found in the eastern United States and west to the border of 
the Great Plains. It is from nineteen to about twenty-five inches in length, 
blackish brown above, variegated with gray, fulvous, and whitish, and white 
with more or less of buffy below, with the abdomen streaked with brownish, 
while the tail is deep rusty rufous, with usually a subterminal band of black. 
In the immature bird the tail is gray without any shade of red, and is crossed 
by six to ten dark bands. Although one of our larger birds of prey, it is not 
very active in its movements, but may frequently be seen sitting, for hours at 
a time, on a dead limb of a tall tree, watching for its quarry. It frequents mod- 
erately timbered districts, especially swampy woods along water courses, although 
it is not infrequently found in upland woods and in mountain regions. It is 
usually a very shy and wary bird, for continued and persistent persecution has 
made it suspicious of man, yet it is a bird about which there is not a little mis- 
understanding. It occasionally makes a meal off young poultry, or an over- 
confident game bird, and consequently it is killed whenever opportunity presents 
under the supposition that it is the chief offender in these depredations. As a 
matter of fact its food consists principally of mice and other small rodents, as 
well as frogs, reptiles, and insects, and only rarely of poultry or game birds. 
Of 562 stomachs of this species examined by Dr. Fisher, only 54 contained the 
remains of poultry or game birds, while 409 contained mice or other mammals, 
principally the former, and 37 had been feeding on batrachians and reptiles, and 
47 on insects. The destructive propensity of meadow mice, shrews, and ground 
squirrels is enormous, and unless in some way kept in check would result in 


The Falcon-like Birds 

FIG. 81. Red-tailed Hawk, Buteo borealis. 

vast damage to the agriculturist. The Red-tail does just this thing, and con- 
sequently is deserving of protection rather than persecution at the hands of the 

During the mating season these birds are perhaps most prominently in evi- 

Red-shouldered Hawk 257 

dence, since they are often to be observed circling about and chasing each other 
high in airy and uttering their shrill, often-repeated, and far-reaching skee'-e-e-e. 
The nest is placed in a tree, usually fifty or sixty feet from the ground, and is a 
bulky structure of large sticks, the nesting cavity being usually shallow, and 
lined with bark, grasses, weed-stalks, etc., or sometimes unlined. Ordinarily 
they make but, little demonstration when the nest or young are disturbed, 
although sometimes they defend their home by darting and screaming at the 
intruder. The eggs are usually two or three in number, with a dull or creamy 
white ground color, about one-fifth being unspotted, while the remainder are 
more or less spotted and blotched with various shades of brown. 

Other Forms of Red-tail. The following geographical races are recognized : 
the Western Red-tailed Hawk (B. b. calurus), which inhabits the country west 
of the Rocky Mountains as well as portions of Mexico; Krider's Red-tail (B. 
b. kriderii), found on the Great Plains from Minnesota to Texas; Marian's 
Red-tail (B. b. harlani) of the lower Mississippi Valley and the Gulf States; 
the Socorro Red-tail (B. b. socorroensis], found only on Socorro Island, off 
western Mexico ; and the Costa Rica Red-tail (B. b. costaricensis] of Costa Rica 
and Panama. 

Red-shouldered Hawk. Another well-known species is the Red -shouldered 
Hawk (B. lineatus), a slightly smaller bird than the last and with about the 
same range as the typical form. It is reddish brown above, the center of the 
feathers being darker than the edge, while the head, neck, and lower parts, but 
especially the shoulders, are more or less rusty or cinnamon, barred with whitish. 
The tail is black and crossed by about six white bands. It is a somewhat less 
shy bird than the Red-tail, and frequents lowlands bordering streams and 
marshes, or, during the nesting season, upland woods. Although its food is 
largely the same as that of the Red-tail, it is obliged to share with that species 
the undeserved reputation of being a poultry yard marauder, yet out of 220 
stomachs examined from birds killed at all seasons and in many parts of its 
range, only 3 contained poultry, and 194 mice and insects, a sufficient proof of 
its usefulness. The nest is not unlike that made by its relative, being composed 
of sticks of various sizes, and lined with bark of the grapevine and other fibers, 
or occasionally with a few green leaves. The eggs are usually three or four in 
number, but sets of five and even six have been known; they are dull white or 
bluish white, variously spotted and blotched with different shades of brown. 
There are two geographical races of this species, a more rufous or rusty-breasted 
form on the Pacific coast and a smaller race in Florida. 

Other American Species. Space will permit no more than a bare mention 
of other American species. The Zone-tailed Hawk (B. abbreviatus), a bird of 
South and Central America, and northward to the southern border of the 
United States, is uniform black or blackish brown, the feathers with pure 
white bases, and has the black tail crossed by three broad zones of white. 
Swainson's Hawk (B. swainsoni), of western North America, is grayish brown 
above and buffy white below, and there is a distinct black phase in both sexes; 
the Little Black Hawk, so called, which may be known by the black or dark 

2 5 8 

The Falcon-like Birds 

sooty brown lower parts, is now regarded as the black phase of the Short- 
tailed Hawk (B. brachyurus), which has the lower parts white. It is a resi- 
dent of tropical America in general, but comes north occasionally to Florida, 
where it breeds. 

The European Buzzard (B. buteo) of western Europe is said to have been 
occasionally, though of course accidentally, found in the United States. It is 
from twenty to twenty-two inches in length, and is usually dark brown, mottled 
with brown of a darker shade, the tail being marked with about twelve narrow 
bands of dusky, though it varies greatly in coloration. It is described as a bird 
of quiet, sedentary disposition, feeding, like its American cousins, on small 
mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects. It was once a common bird in the British 
Islands, but has been nearly exterminated except in the wildest parts of Scotland 
and Wales. Its nest is placed on a rocky ledge or in trees, and sometimes it 
makes use of an old nest of some other species. The eggs are usually three in 
number, and are white, variously spotted and blotched with reddish brown. 

Rough-legged Buzzards. Closely allied to the true Buzzards are the Rough- 
legged Buzzards (Archibuteo), which differ in having weaker bills and feet and 
with the tarsus densely feathered in front to the base of the toes. They are as 
large as, or slightly larger than, the largest Buteos, and although numbering 

only four species, are widely spread over 
both the Old and New Worlds. The Ameri- 
can Rough-legged Hawk (A. lagopus sancti- 
johannis) is one of the largest " as well as 
one of the most striking of American Hawks." 
It is about twenty-four inches long, irregu- 
larly varied above with white, grayish, and 
dusky, and whitish below, spotted, chiefly 
on the breast, with dusky, but sometimes 
nearly uniform black. It is, says Fisher, 
" one of the most nocturnal of our Hawks, 
and may be seen in the fading twilight 
watching from some low perch, or beating, 
with measured, noiseless flight, over its hunt- 
ing ground. It follows twft very different 

methods in securing its food, one by sitting on some stub or low tree and 
watching the ground for the appearance of its prey, as the Red-tail does; 
the other by beating back and forth just above the tops of the grass or bushes, 
and dropping upon its victim, after the manner of the Marsh Hawk. Its food 
consists principally, if not almost exclusively, of the smaller rodents, and most 
prominent among these are the arvicoline mice and lemmings." It is found 
throughout the whole of North America, but breeds mainly to the north of the 
United States, where Richardson speaks of it as hunting for its prey "by the sub- 
dued daylight which illuminates even the midnight hours in the high parallels." 
Its return from the north is forced rather by the advancing snow than by the 
cold, which it appears well able to withstand, and in spring it begins the return 


82. European 

Buzzard, Buteo 

Sparrow-Hawks 259 

journey in February and early March. The nest is placed in trees or on ledges, 
and is made of small sticks and twigs, and lined with fine grass and feathers. 
From three to five eggs constitute a set, these being greenish white, which fades 
to a dull white, and very variously marked. In the western United States this 
is replaced by the Ferruginous Rough-leg or Squirrel Hawk (A. ferrugineus), 
which is much larger and has a larger and stronger bill, and is much more rusty 
in coloration, with the under parts mostly pure white. This Hawk is preemi- 
nently a bird of the prairie, and is styled by Dr. Coues " the handsomest of the 
North American FalconidtE." It nests usually in trees, or where these are not 
available, on rocky ledges, building a rather bulky nest which is lined with weeds 
or grass. The ribs and smaller bones of the buffalo, where these existed on the 
plains, were sometimes used for the main part of the nest. The eggs three 
or four in number are similar to those of the last species. 

The remaining species are the European Rough-leg (A. lagopus) of the west- 
ern portions of the Eastern Hemisphere, and the Himalayan Rough-leg (A. stro- 
phiatus] of Nepal and Tibet. 

Sparrow-Hawks and Goshawks (Subfamily Accipitrind). The last of the 
subfamilies into which the diurnal birds of prey are here divided forms a large 
group of several genera and numerous species, which enjoy a practically world- 
wide distribution. They are in general very active birds, of small or moderate 
size, but endowed with indomitable courage and "dash." They have a 
slender, graceful form, with the head comparatively small and the bill weak, 
but provided with a prominent "festoon," while the wings are rather short and 
rounded, the tail long and usually rounded, or occasionally even, or emargi- 
nated. The legs are very long, and the feet slender, with the middle toe much 
lengthened, its first joint being about equal to the whole length of the inner toe. 
They are especially remarkable in having the tibia and tarsus of nearly equal 
length, the latter with the upper third or half feathered, while the bare space is 
connected with usually very distinct and continuous transverse scutellae. 

The Sparrow-Hawks (Accipiter), although not the birds so called in America, 
include some forty-two nominal species, and are generally of small size, differing 
mainly from the Goshawks (Astur), with which they are sometimes united, by 
their more slender form, and the much greater length and slenderness of the tarsi 
and toes. They are distributed over the four quarters of the globe, excepting 
Oceanica west of Australia and New Guinea, being, however, most abundant in 
tropical regions. They are found chiefly in forest or well-wooded tracts, and are 
more arboreal in their habits than the Falcons, hunting in woods or on the skirts 
of woods or along hedgerows, and usually seize their quarry by a quick pounce. 
Of the two species found in North America, the Sharp-shinned Hawk (A.velox) 
is perhaps the best known, although both are common. It is from ten to fourteen 
inches long, uniform bluish gray above, becoming darker on the top of the head, 
while the lower parts are white, with the breast and sides barred with pinkish 
brown or rusty. The tail is lighter in color than the back and crossed by four 
dusky bands. The immature birds have the upper parts dusky and more or less 
spotted with lighter, while the lower parts are whitish, streaked with brownish. 

260 The Falcon-like Birds 

This active and daring little Hawk is found throughout the whole of North Amer- 
ica, breeding in nearly every state of the Union and north as far as the Arctic 
Circle, and in winter is found from about parallel 40 N. southward as far as 
Guatemala. It is one of the most destructive and pernicious of all our birds of 
prey, since it feeds almost entirely on wild birds and young poultry, only occa- 
sionally adding to its bill of fare a few insects, mice, or reptiles. Of 159 stomachs 
examined by Dr. Fisher, 6 contained poultry or game birds; 99, other birds; 
n, mice and insects; while 52 were empty. A very large percentage of the 
destruction of poultry is to be charged to this bird and its immediate relatives, 
for when they discover a locality whence small chickens are to be easily obtained, 
they usually continue the depredations "until the supply gives out, or they them- 
selves meet a tragic death." It is exceedingly swift on the wing and comes and 
goes with such suddenness, when it visits the farmyard, that it is almost impossible 
to shoot it. While it lives perhaps mainly on small birds, it does not hesitate 
to attack species as large as or larger than itself, such as Wild Pigeons, Quail, 
Mourning Doves, Purple Crackles, etc. "Its flight when in pursuit of its prey," 
says Bendire, "is unerring and swift. No matter which way the selected victim 
may turn and double, his untiring pursuer is equally prompt, and only rarely 
will it miss capturing its quarry." The Sharp-shinned Hawk builds a rather 
bulky nest in a tree, often an evergreen, or rarely may make use of a hollow in 
a tree. The nest when outside is made of sticks of various sizes and is lined with 
small twigs or strips of bark. The complement of eggs is usually four or five, 
these being profusely spotted and blotched with various shades of brown. The 
female alone appears to perform the duties of incubation. 

The Cooper's Hawk (A. cooperi] resembles the Sharp-shinned Hawk except 
in size, being from fourteen to twenty inches long, and by the fact that the end of 
the tail is rounded rather than straight or slightly notched. It does not range 
quite so far north, its breeding range being, with the exception of Alaska, nearly 
coextensive with the United States, where, however, it is widely distributed. It 
is even more destructive to birds and poultry than the last, possibly doing more 
harm than all other Hawks combined. It does not appear to be fond of small 
rodents, insects, or reptiles, and apparently only takes them when other food 
fails. Dr. Fisher found that of 133 whose stomachs were examined, 86 had been 
feeding on poultry, game birds, or other birds, and only 17 on mammals, frogs, 
lizards, and insects. In the remainder of those examined the stomach was 
empty. Bendire gives the following account of the habits of this species: "The 
flight of Cooper's Hawk is both easy and graceful, and ordinarily not especially 
swift. He may often be seen skimming along close to the ground, in rather a 
desultory manner, usually skirting the edges of open woods or clearings; but 
once in sight and active pursuit of its selected prey, it darts in and out through 
the densest thickets with amazing swiftness, where it would seem impossible for 
it to follow successfully. It manages, however, with the assistance of its long 
tail, which helps it very materially, to turn suddenly and double with remarkable 
ease, even in dense undergrowth, arresting its flight instantly, and darting off, 
perhaps at a right angle, the next second to capture its selected victim." Ordi- 



narily when the nesting season arrives they select as a nesting site the abandoned 
nest of a Crow, one of the larger Hawks' nests, or a squirrel's nest, or when all 
these sources fail they may build a home of their own. They do not seem to have 
especial preference for any variety of tree, nor do they place the nest at any great 
height from the ground, for in the West where there is a scarcity of suitable 
timber the nest may be no more than ten feet up. The number of eggs ranges 
from two to six, four or five being more common. 

The European Sparrow-Hawk (A. nisus], which belongs to the same group 
as those just described, was once a common bird throughout the British Islands, 
but on account of its depredations on the game preserves has been greatly de- 
pleted in numbers. It is widely distributed over Europe, northern Asia, and the 
Indian peninsula, and is abundant in India, where, as in other parts of its range, 
it is tamed and taught to take Partridges, Sand Grouse, and other similar birds. 
Another Indian species, known as the Besra Sparrow-Hawk (A virgatus"), has the 
breast and flanks so suffused with rusty as to nearly or quite conceal the bars. It 
is also used in hawking, and is regarded by the native falconers as superior in 
speed, courage, and endurance to the last-mentioned species. 

The Goshawks (A slur] are very numerous in species, no less than sixty-three 
having been described, from practically the entire world, North America laying 
claim to three forms, the best known being the American Goshawk (A. atrica- 
pillus), which ranges over the northern and 
eastern portions of the continent and comes 
south in winter to the Middle States and the 
southern Rocky Mountain region. The male 
is about twenty-two and the female about 
twenty-four inches in length, in adult plu- 
mage being clear bluish gray or plumbeous, 
with blackish shaft-streaks above, the top of 
the head black with a white line over and 
behind the eye, and white below, the breast, 
belly, sides, and flanks being marked with 
irregular, wavy bars of slate-grayish, while 
the tail is crossed by about four dusky bands ; 
the young are dusky grayish brown above, 
the feathers margined with buff, and whitish or pale buff streaked or spotted 
with blackish below. Trim, alert, and vigorous, the Goshawk is "the boldest 
and by far the most destructive of the North American Raptores, infinitely 
more injurious to our game birds, and the poultry yard as well, than any other 
species. Notwithstanding its comparatively short wings, its flight is powerful 
and swift; it is strong and active in body, shy and keen-sighted, savage and 
bloodthirsty in disposition, a veritable terror to all smaller birds, and more 
than a match for others considerably larger than itself. It loves to destroy 
life for the sake of killing." BENDIRE. Fortunately it breeds mainly to the 
north, coming south only in winter, else it would be a terrible scourge to the 
poultry raiser. In the Yukon River region it feeds principally on Ptarmigan, 

FIG. 83. European Sparrow-Hawk, 
Accipiter nisus. 

262 The Falcon-like Birds 

lemmings, and Arctic hares, and in Maine, Mr. Manly Hardy reports having 
seen one destroy five Ruffed Grouse in a morning, "tearing them to pieces 
and leaving them." The Goshawk nests in trees, constructing a bulky Crow- 
like nest, usually welt up from the ground and in the thickest part of the forest; 
the eggs, which are bluish white and unspotted, number from two to five. 
The Western Goshawk (A. a. striatulus) occurs in western North America, 
from Sitka, Alaska, south to California and east to Idaho ; it is dark plumbeous 
inclining to sooty blackish above and more heavily barred below. The only 
other North American species is the Mexican Goshawk (A. plagiata), which 
ranges over middle America to the southern border of the United States. It is 
smaller than the American species, being only about seventeen inches long, and 
is slaty gray above, and barred slaty gray and white below. 



(Order Galliformes) 

[HE Galliformes, or Fowl-like birds, constitute a large, practically 
cosmopolitan group of fairly well-marked birds, having the palate 
schizognathous instead of dromaeognathous, the head of the quad- 
rate bone double instead of single, the basal ends of the coracoids 
united and crossed instead of separated, and the bill vaulted and more or less 
decurved. They have large functional caeca, and a large crop, while the 
oil-gland is generally tufted, though it is nude in the Megapodes and absent 
altogether in certain Pheasants, such as Argusianus. 

The Order Galliformes is divided into four suborders : the Mescenatides with 
the single family Mescenatida for the anamolous Madagascar Mesite; the Tur- 
nices, which embraces the families Turnicida, or Hemipodes, and the Pediono- 
mid(B, or Collared Hemipodes; the Galli, which includes three families, the 
Megapodidtz, or Megapodes, the Cracidce, or Curassows, and Guans, and 
the Phasianidce, or Turkeys, Partridges, Quails, Pheasants, etc.; and, finally, 
the Opisthocomi, which includes only the South American Hoactzin, though the 
last is usually, and perhaps with good reason, separated as a distinct order. 


(Suborder Mescenatides, Family M escenatidce) 

A very peculiar bird indeed is this so-called Mesite (Mescenas variegata) of 
Madagascar, and quite in accord with many of the other anomalous life forms 
that at one time, or still, inhabit that far-away island. It is a small, quite Rail- 
like bird about ten and a half inches long, with a slender Grebe-like bill about the 
length of the head, and very strong legs and feet, with four toes, the posterior 
one of which is on the same level as the others; all the toes are provided with 
strong, rather sharp claws. The nostrils are very peculiar in that they are long, 
linear, concave, upturned slits, which extend for more than half the length of the 
bill, and are covered above by a membranous valve-like lid. The wings are 
short and rounded, with ten primaries, which are slightly exceeded in length by 
the inner secondaries, while the tail is rather long and broad, and composed of 
sixteen feathers. Another remarkable feature is the presence of five pairs of 
powder-down patches, two of which are dorsal, two ventral, and one lateral, and 
there are also four bare tracts on the body which extend for some distance up the 



The Fowl-like Birds 

neck. The skeleton possesses some curious combinations, such as the slit 
(schizognathous) type of palate, the breast-bone with a deep notch on each 
side of the posterior margin, etc., which seem to suggest various relationships. 

FIG. 84. Madagascar Mesite, Mescenas variegata. 

The coloration of the sexes is so different that before they were fully known 
it was thought that two species were represented, and they were so named. 
Thus the adult female is a clear chestnut above, slightly more dusky on the head, 
with the cheeks, ear-coverts, and sides of the neck bright rufous, with a dusky 

Bustard-Quails 265 

band bordered by a white streak from the ear-coverts down the sides of the neck. 
The throat and breast are rufous, slightly mottled with dark ashy margins to 
some of the feathers, while the sides of the body are dull reddish brown. The 
full-plumaged male is maroon-rufous shaded with black above, becoming darker 
on the head, the cheeks crossed by two bands of whitish alternating with bands of 
rufous, while below, the throat, breast, and abdomen are white sprinkled with 
black spots and the flanks rufous barred with brown. 

This bird, according to Messrs. Milne-Edwards and Grandidier, is not un- 
common on the eastern slope of the mountain chain of Madagascar, where it is 
observed on the ground among tangled vegetation. It does not fly but runs 
with great rapidity, stopping suddenly now and again with elevated head to 
gaze at the intruder, or to utter its low, dull cry of hou-hou. It feeds on various 
insects and ants, and constructs its nest of rushes, Pandanus leaves, and inter- 
laced branchlets, on the ground. According to native tradition, if the nest, which 
is placed on low ground, is threatened with inundation, the birds pull it to a place 
of safety beyond the reach of the water. It is said to be much attached to its 
young, and if these be taken from the nest will follow the despoilers through the 
forest and even into the village, and on account of this affectionate regard for 
its progeny is held sacred by the natives. The eggs and nestlings do not appear 
to have been seen by scientific eyes. 

There are grave differences of opinion as to the proper systematic position of 
Mescenas, and it has been variously placed among the Rails, Cranes, and even with 
the singing birds (Oscines), but all things considered, according to Gadow, it is per- 
haps best considered as referable to an anomalous suborder of the present group. 


(Suborder Turnices) 

Although not of great importance, it is necessary to mention briefly the curious 
little Bustard-Quails, or Hemipodes, as they are called from the fact that the first 
toe is absent, except in one species. They are small terrestrial birds, none of 
them exceeding seven and one half inches in length and most of them being 
between five and six inches long, that in outward appearance are strongly sug- 
gestive of miniature Quails and Partridges. They are, however, really very 
different from them, and recent" investigation has seemed to indicate that their 
nearest relatives are among the Rails, but in absence of detailed studies of all 
the forms, they may conveniently remain in the present position. The females 
are uniformly larger than the males, and more brightly colored, and as another 
interesting feature it may be mentioned that the males perform the duties of 
incubation and caring for the young. The nests are described as very simple 
affairs, being merely grass-lined depressions in the ground, and the number of 
eggs is said to be always four. The eggs are double-spotted as are the eggs of 
the Sand Grouse and Rails, thus indicating another possible point of relationship 
between them. The young are covered with down and are able to run about 


The Fowl-like Birds 

very soon after they are hatched, and they frequent much the same places as the 
smaller Partridges and Quails, feeding upon seeds, berries, and fruits, and al- 
though small they are quite highly prized as "game birds." They run with swift- 
ness and fly rapidly for short distances when flushed. The Hemipodes are all 
natives of the Old World, being widely spread over Africa, southeastern Asia and 
adjacent islands, and Australia. Two genera and about thirty species are known, 


^ ^ 

'^vn*'- , 

< l: ./' > <m 

: ^ 

FIG. 85. Bustard-Quail, Turnix pugnax. 

all but one belonging to the genus Turnix, which is sometimes separated as a 
.family (Turnicida), while the remaining form is made the type of another family 

The subject of our illustration is the typical and perhaps best-known species 
(T. pugnax}, which ranges widely over the Indian peninsula, Ceylon, Indo- 
China, Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, Borneo, and Java. It belongs to the group 
in which the entire breast is barred transversely with black, the lower parts 

The Game Birds 267 

immaculate, and the sexes different in plumage ; the male is five and six tenths 
inches in length and the female six and seven tenths inches. The curious little 
Collared Hemipode ( Pedionomus torquatus] of Australia may be briefly described. 
The male, which is only four and one half inches long, has the top of the head, 
back, and upper surface mottled with black, brown, and fawn-color, the throat, 
neck, chest, and flanks dull fawn-color, and the center of the abdomen and the 
under tail-coverts buffy white. The irides are straw-yellow and the feet greenish 
yellow. In the female, which has a total length of seven inches, the upper surface 
is reddish brown, each feather with several transverse crescent-shaped marks 
in the center, and margined with buff; the crown of the head is reddish brown, 
speckled with black, while the neck is surrounded by a broad band of white, 
which is thickly spotted with black. The under surface is buff, the feathers 
being marked as are those on the upper surface. It inhabits the extensive 
arid plains of central Australia. 


(Suborder Galli') 

The Game Birds, so called, form a very large and widely distributed group, 
the members of which are so well known the world over that it is hardly necessary 
to enter into a lengthy general description. Briefly it may be stated that they 
are birds with stout, compact bodies, a moderately long neck surmounted by 
a rather large, rounded head which is provided with a usually stout bill, the 
upper mandible of which is arched or vaulted and more or less overhangs the 
lower. The wings are rather short and rounded and are concave and fit closely 
to the body, while the tail is in general of moderate size, although there are notable 
exceptions to this, as in certain Quails, which have the tail so small as to be nearly 
concealed by the tail-coverts, while the other extreme is exhibited among the 
Pheasants, where it is very greatly elongated. The legs are of moderate length, 
but are always strong, for these birds are mainly terrestrial and depend much 
upon the legs for escaping danger; they are all four-toed. 

The suborder Galli is divisible into two groups, the Peristeropodes,or Pigeon- 
toed fowls, so named from the fact that the hind toe is inserted on the same 
level as the others, and the Alectoropodes, or Cock-toed fowls, which have the 
hind toe inserted much above the level of the others, as in the common fowl. 
The first group comprises the families Megapodida, the Megapodes, or Mound- 
Builders, and the Cracida, or Curassows and Guans. The Megapodes are con- 
fined to the Austro-Malayan subregion, and as will be shown more at length, 
deposit their very large eggs in the sand or in heaps of decaying vegetation, 
while the Curassows and their allies are found only in Central and South America, 
and build nests and incubate their eggs in the orthodox manner, though the 
nest is built in trees and not on the ground, in the manner of all Alectoropodes. 
In both families the aftershafts of the feathers are always small, and while there 
are numerous structural characters which separate them, we may only mention 

268 The Fowl-like Birds 

that in the Megapodes the oil-gland at the base of the tail is naked, and in the 
Curassows it is tufted. The second group (Alectoropodes} comprises the major- 
ity of the members of the order, although it embraces but a single family 
(Phasianidce), which is divided into four or more subfamilies as follows: the 
Meleagrince, or Turkeys of North and Central America; the Numidinea, or 
Guinea-Fowls of Africa and Madagascar; the Tetraonintz, or Grouse, Ptarmi- 
gan, and Quails of wide distribution; and the Phasianina, or the Fowls, 
Pheasants, and Peacocks of Asia. The further differentiation of these sub- 
families will be presented under the several headings. 


(Family Megapodidce) 

Although clearly gallinaceous in structure, the Megapodes stand out boldly 
from all known birds in a number of marked peculiarities. They are the only 
birds known to depend wholly on artificial incubation for their eggs, thus being, 
as Dr. Stejneger has said, "the first feathered inventors of an artificial incubator 
to take the place of the mother and provide the warmth necessary to develop the 
embryo contained in the eggs into a perfect chick, which is ordinarily supplied 
by the parent's body." They are also the only birds known in which the young 
are hatched fully feathered and able to fly from birth. 

The Megapodes are mostly plain, dark-colored birds, approximating in size 
the common fowl, although some, as the Brush Turkey, are as large as a hen 
Turkey. They have very large legs and feet, with long, curved claws, and have 
the first toe on 'the same level as the others. They are found in Australia, New 
Guinea, and the Philippines, and are usually met with in pairs or small parties, 
although the species in the Nicobar Islands (Megapodius nicobariensis} is often 
found in flocks of from thirty to fifty. They remain in the vicinity of the sea- 
shore or along streams, frequenting the dense brush, where they live on a variety 
of things, as roots, fallen fruit, insects, worms, snails, and centipedes. The flesh, 
however, is white and well flavored. They are rather difficult to observe, as they 
run swiftly when alarmed ; when flushed they fly heavily and with much noise. 

The Megapodes, of which seven genera and about thirty species have been 
described, first attracted attention more than three hundred years ago, when one 
of the survivors of Magellan's voyage mentioned the curious nesting habits of 
the Philippine species. Soon other observations were added to this, and nesting 
habits that at first seemed impossible came to be authenticated. 

In the manner of the preparation of these curious artificial incubators the 
Megapodes may be divided into two groups, the so-called Mound -builders and 
the Maleos. In the first group the birds scratch or kick together great mounds 
of rubbish, consisting of dirt, grass, leaves, and rotten wood, in the midst of 
which they deposit their eggs. The mounds differ greatly in size, some being 
only a few feet across, while others may be ten, fifteen, or thirty feet across, and 
often six feet high, and one of extraordinary size, described from the island of 
Nogo, was one hundred and fifty feet in circumference. They are usually of 



conical shape, although some have been seen in the form of a long bank, nearly 
thirty feet in length, and more than five feet in height. It appears that both 
males and females work in the construction of these mounds, which are begun 
some weeks previous to the period of laying, in the case of new ones, although 
they are often used from year to year by simply adding more material. While 
the evidence is somewhat conflicting, it appears beyond doubt that in some 
of the species at least several pairs take part in the building and jointly occupy 
the mound, as a considerable number of eggs have been taken from a single 
mound. Other observers insist that only one pair occupy a mound. 

The eggs are of enormous size, considering the size of the bird, being from three 
to three and a quarter inches long and from two to two and a quarter inches in 
short diameter. They appear to be deposited at long intervals, as Davidson 
dissected a Megapode that had just laid an egg and found that the largest egg 
in the ovary was only the size of a large pea. 
According to Wallace, the interval is some 
twelve or thirteen days. The number laid 
by a single female is unknown, but appears 
to range from four to eight. The egg is 
deposited at night and the male is said to 
scratch the hole in the mound for its recep- 
tion. The hole usually runs obliquely and 
the egg is placed in the bottom, often nearer 
to the side of the mound than the top ; the 
depth varies from four to six feet. The egg 

is covered with the decaying vegetable matter and left to be hatched, and how 
the chick can get out is a mystery, but get out it does, and runs off into the 
forest, where it is able to look out for itself from the first. 

Of the true Megapodes (Megapodius), seventeen species have been described, 
among them being two species that are fairly well known, namely, the Philip- 
pine Megapode (M. cumingi) and the nearly related Sangi Island Megapode 
(M. sanghirensis}. Slightly different is Wallace's Megapode (Eulipoa wallacei) 
of the Molucca Islands and the Ocellated Megapode (Lipoa ocellata) of western 
and southern Australia. Of the true Brush Turkeys (Talegallus) four species, 
all of New Guinea and neighboring islands, have been described, with four 
allied forms (Catheturus and jEpypodius] from Australia and New Guinea. 

The only remaining form is the Maleo (Megacephalon moled] of the Celebes 
and Sangi islands, which differs in structure and in habits from the others. It 
does not build a mound, but deposits its eggs in holes in the hot sand along the 
seashore. The following account is given by Wallace : " It is in loose, hot, 
black sand that the Maleos deposit their eggs. In the months of August and 
September, when there is little or no rain, they come down in pairs from the 
interior to this or one or two other favorite spots, and scratch holes three or four 
feet deep, just above high-water mark, where the female deposits a single large 
egg, which she covers over with about a foot of sand, and then returns to the 
forest. At the end of ten or twelve days she comes again to the same spot to 

FIG. 86. Brush Turkey, Talegallus 


The Fowl-like Birds 

lay another egg, and each female is supposed to lay six or eight eggs during the 
season. The male assists the female in making the hole, coming down and 
returning with her. The appearance of the bird when walking on the beach is 
very handsome. The glossy black and rosy white of the plumage, the helmeted 
head and elevated tail, like that of the common fowl, give a striking character. 
. . . Many birds lay in the same hole, for a dozen eggs are often found together, 
and these are so large that it is not possible for the body of the bird to contain 
more than one fully developed egg at the same time. After the eggs are deposited 
in the sand they are no further cared for by the mother. The young birds on 

FIG. 87. Maleo, Megacephalon maleo. 

breaking the shell work their way up through the sand and run off at once to 
the forest. Considering the great distances the birds come to deposit the eggs 
in a proper situation (often ten or fifteen miles), it seems extraordinary that they 
should take no further care of them. It is, however, quite certain that they 
neither do nor can watch them." 

That the nesting habits of the Megapodes are admirably adapted to the pres- 
ent structure and life of the birds is beyond question ; but how these habits could 
have originated in the first place is difficult to understand. Under present con- 
ditions, if the birds were required to incubate their eggs, serious difficulties 
would arise. With an interval of ten or twelve days between the laying of each 
egg, a period of some two or three months would elapse between the first and 
last egg. If the eggs were left until the last was laid, the first ones would be 
subjected to climatic injuries as well as destruction by predatory animals ; while 

Curassows and Guans 271 

if the female began incubation with the laying of the first egg, it would require 
her to remain sitting for three months, which would be impossible. It has been 
suggested that these nesting habits may be the survival of a habit enjoyed by 
a remote reptilian ancestor, but this is too improbable. Others have suggested 
that it arose by the birds covering up and concealing their eggs, which seems 
not unreasonable ; yet if this be true, it is difficult to see how they could have 
become developed to the point where the young can fly from the time of exit 
from the shell ! 


(Family Cracidce) 

Among the many birds confined to the New World not any are more emi- 
nently characteristic than the Curassows and Guans of Central and South America. 
In common with the Megapodes they have the hind toe well developed and 
inserted on the same level as the front ones, while they differ from them in having 
a tuft of feathers on the oil-gland, and, moreover, are distinctly arboreal instead 
of terrestrial, usually building their nests in trees and bushes and laying eggs 
of the usual kind and rearing their young as well-regulated birds should. They 
are large and on the whole rather striking and handsome birds, between sixteen 
and thirty-six inches in length, and are mostly provided with a crest or other 
ornamental enlargement on the head. They number about a dozen genera 
and sixty species, only one of which reaches the United States in the lower valley 
of the Rio Grande in Texas. They may be divided into two groups, in one the 
upper mandible being higher than broad, and in the other being broader than 
high. To the first belongs the true Curassows (Crax), which are all birds of 
large size with a semi-erect crest on the top of the head, the feathers of which 
are curled at the tips. They are all quite similar in appearance, the males being 
black above, glossed with purple or dark green, and white below, the crests being 
uniform black and never barred with white, while the females are more or less 
barred with black, white, rufous, buff, etc., and have the crest always more or 
less white-barred. The species are distinguished on minor considerations, as 
the presence or absence of a knob at the base of the upper mandible, wattles 
at the base of the lower mandible, white-tipped tail, etc. The males in common 
with others of the group have a long and convoluted windpipe and hence a 
loud and rather harsh voice. They frequent usually the loftiest trees, going 
in flocks of considerable size, and building a bulky nest of sticks, leaves, and 
grass, wherein are deposited the large white eggs. The Curassows are of a 
quiet, confiding disposition, and as some of them breed readily in captivity are 
often tamed by the inhabitants and reared for their excellent flesh. The Mexi- 
can Curassow (Crax globicera) was found by Richmond to be abundant on the 
Frio and Escondido rivers, where it is often kept in captivity. " A fine male," 
he says, " on the Magnolia plantation was very tame, and answered to the name 
of 'Touie.' One of Touie's peculiarities was an abhorrence of women. The 


The Fowl-like Birds 

FlG. 88. Sclater's Curassow, Crax fasciolata. 

moment a dress appeared on the plantation he began to show great distress, 
uttering his low, plaintive whistle, and running often to the object of his wrath, 
with body leaning forward and almost brushing the ground, head thrown back 
and tail raised, giving him a laughable appearance. After picking at the offend- 



ing dress and following its wearer about for a time, Touie would quiet down a 
bit, but would continue to sulk and utter his note of complaint until the cause 
of the trouble had departed. The bird raised his crest when excited, but on 
other occasions kept it depressed." The Crested Curassow (C. alector] is an- 
other handsome species in which the male is black glossed with purple, except 
on the abdomen, flanks, and under tail-coverts, which are white. This bird is 
very abundant in French Guiana, frequenting the vast forests in flocks of large 
size. They perch on the high trees, but also spend much time on the ground 
searching for fruits and nuts, which constitute the principal part of their food. 
The nest is placed in a tree, and the eggs, from two to six in number,' are pure 
white. Sclater's Curassow (C. fasdolatd) is 
similar to the last, but has the plumage 
glossed with dark green, and the tail tipped 
with white; it occurs widely throughout the 
forests of eastern South America. 

Flat-crested and Helmeted Curassows. 
There is a singular species found in British 
Guiana and the upper Amazons known as 
the Flat-crested Curassow (Nothocrax uru- 
mutum\ from the fact that the full long crest 
on the top of the head is recumbent. The 
male is brownish chestnut, finely mottled 
with black above and cinnamon below, 
while the crest is black, the bare space 
about the eyes purplish blue, and the bill 
scarlet. The female is somewhat more 
dusky and smaller. This bird appears 
to be strictly nocturnal in its habits, 
spending the day concealed in holes in 
trees or in the ground, and seeking its 
food high up in the trees at night. Of 
this peculiarity Mr. E. Bartlett says: "The 
habits of this bird render it most difficult 
to obtain, from its living in holes or burrows 

in the ground. The Indians remain in the forest all night at the place where 
it is heard. I was informed by the Peruvians, whose word I can rely upon, 
that these birds come out at night, and ascend to the top branches of lofty 
trees in search of food. The Indians are on the lookout, and shoot them just 
before sunrise as they are descending to return to their places of concealment, 
where they pass the day." The last of this minor group that we may men- 
tion is the Helmeted Curassow (Pauxis pauxi), which may be known by the 
presence of a large, elevated, egg-shaped helmet or casque covering the base of 
the upper mandible and forehead. Like the others the general color of the plu- 
mage is black, which in this species is glossed with dark green. This bird is con- 
fined mainly to the mountain forests, being especially abundant in Venezuela. 

FIG. 89. Crested Curassow, Crax 


The Fowl-like Birds 

Guans, or Chachalacas 275 

Derbian Guan. One of the most interesting and at the same time one of 
the rarest of those in which the bill is broader than high is the so-called 
Mountain Pheasant, or Derbian Guan (Oreophasis derbianus), which is mainly 
confined to the woods about the Volcan de Fuego, Guatemala. It has a 
straight, slender, cylindrical casque on the top of the head between the eyes, 
this together with the legs and feet being deep vermilion in color. These 
birds seek their food, which consists largely of the fruits of a kind of plum, 
in the early morning and evening among the high trees, but during the middle 
of the day they descend to the ground, where they remain basking and scratch- 
ing among the leaves. The nest and eggs are not known. 

The Guans, or Chachalacas (Ortalis), constitute the larger genus among the 
Curassows, numbering twenty or more species and subspecies. The sexes 
are similar in appearance, the colors being plain olive-brownish or olive -grayish 
above, darker on the tail, and chestnut-rufous, light brownish, or whitish below. 
The top of the head is feathered and without the casque or helmet characteristic 
of certain of the other Curassows, and there is a band of these feathers down 
the middle of the otherwise naked throat. We may mention briefly the Cha- 
chalaca (O. vetula maccalli), the only form reaching the United States. Of the 
habits of this species in southern Texas the late Dr. J. C.Merrill wrote as follows: 
"The ' Chachalac,' as the present species is called on the lower Rio Grande, 
is one of the most characteristic birds of that region. Rarely seen any distance 
from the woods or dense chaparral, they are abundant in those places, and 
their hoarse cries are the first thing heard by the traveler on awakening in 
the morning. During the day, unless rainy or cloudy, the birds are rarely seen 
or heard, but shortly before sunrise and sunset they mount the topmost branches 
of a dead tree, and make the woods ring with their discordant notes. Con- 
trary to almost every description of their cry which I have seen, it consists of 
three syllables, though occasionally a fourth is added. When the bird begins 
to cry, the nearest bird joins in at the second note, and in this way the fourth 
syllable is made; but they keep such good time that it is often very difficult to 
satisfy oneself that this is the fact. I cannot say certainly whether the female 
utters this cry as well as the male, but there is a well-marked anatomical dis- 
tinction in the sexes in regard to the development of the trachea. In the male 
this passes down the outside of the pectoral muscles, beneath the skin, to within 
one inch of the end of the sternum; it then doubles on itself and passes up, 
still on the right side of the keel, to descend within the thorax in the usual man- 
ner. This duplicature is wanting in the female . . . Easily domesticated, they 
become troublesomely familiar and decided nuisances when kept about the 
house." The nests in this vicinity were placed in the dense mesquite bushes, 
especially where the limbs had been cut away, and in the cluster of branches 
thus left there usually accumulated a mass of leaves and twigs within which 
the nest was rudely shaped. The eggs number from three to five. Similar 
to the Guans are the Penelopes (Penelope), but distinguished among other 
things by having the chin and throat usually naked and provided with a central 
wattle, and a large, naked space around the eye. Their habits are similar to 
those of the other members of the group. 

2j6 The Fowl-like Birds 

(Family Phasianida} 

The characters and limitations of this group have already been set forth, 
the first of the four subfamilies into which it is divided comprising the 
Turkeys (Subfamily Meleagrincs). 

Notwithstanding the obvious implication involved in the name, the Turkeys 
are all natives of the New World, and the manner in which this popular designa- 
tion came to be applied has long been and indeed still is a mystery, though 
it has been suggested that it was given in imitation of their call note, likened 
to the syllables turk, turk, turk. In some equally unexplained manner it appears 
that they were confused with the African Guinea-Fowl by the early writers, 
even the great Linnaeus falling into this error. So, also, the date in which they 
were introduced into the Old World is largely a matter of speculation, though 
it had certainly been accomplished by 1530, and very probably somewhat earlier. 
It is more than likely that there were several, perhaps approximately simul- 
taneous, importations, since at least two of the races seem to have been early 
present, at least in England. 

The Wild Turkey, the largest of our game birds, ranges in eastern North 
America, or rather once did, from Maine, southern Wisconsin, and Dakota 
southward to the Gulf and westward over Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona into 
the table-lands of Mexico, being represented in Central America by the very 
distinct monotypic Ocellated Turkey. When this country was first settled the 
Wild Turkey was found abundantly in many localities, such as southern New 
England and the states of the Middle West, but with the advent of civilization 
it has greatly decreased, until it is now practically extinct north of the Ohio 
River, and even in the Middle and Southern- States it is comparatively rare, 
being mainly confined to the thinly settled and wooded mountainous districts. 
Originally it does not appear to have been particularly wild, but continued 
and persistent persecution has made it excessively shy and difficult of approach. 
It is perhaps most abundant now in portions of Florida, Indian Territory, and 
Texas, but at the present outlook it seems not improbable that t^e close of the 
twentieth century may see it practically extinct in a wild state. It is resident 
where found, inhabiting by preference rather mixed woods, where it seeks its 
food of acorns, beechnuts, seeds, nuts, berries, and insects of various kinds, 
often scratching extensively amongst the leaves. The males are polygamous 
and often engage in fierce battles for the favor of the females, and may often 
be seen in the display attitudes so characteristic of the domestic bird. The 
nest is a very simple affair, though often artfully concealed, consisting of a hollow 
scratched in the ground to a depth of two or three inches and lined with a few 
grasses and dead leaves. The eggs appear to vary in number from seven to 
fifteen, though as many as twenty-six have been reported, but these were probably 
deposited by two females. The young are cared for almost entirely by the female, 
and usually but a single brood is reared in a season, unless the first happens to 
be destroyed. 

Wild Turkeys 


FIG. 91. Rio Grande Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo intermedia. 

The Wild Turkey is so similar to the ordinary domesticated race, except that 
the tail-feathers are tipped with chestnut or rusty brown, that an extensive 
description is unnecessary. While there are some differences of opinion as 
to the number of recognizable forms, it appears that at least six are entitled 
to such distinction. Of these the first to be made known was apparently 


The Fowl-like Birds 

the form (Meleagris gallopavo), occurring in the moist, semitropical parts of 
the state of Vera Cruz, Mexico. On the western slope of the Mexican table- 
land is a form known as the Mexican Turkey (M. g. mexicana], of which 
very little has been recorded. In the Rio Grande Turkey (M. g. intermedia), 
which ranges over the lowlands of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico, 
the tips of the tail-coverts and the tail are rusty buff, while in Merriam's 
Turkey (M. g. merriami) of the southwestern United States and northwestern 
Mexico, these feathers are tipped with whitish. The best-known form is the 
Common Wild Turkey (M. g. sUvestris), w r hich ranges throughout the eastern 
United States, from Pennsylvania to central Florida, and west to Nebraska 
and northeastern Texas, in which the tips of the tail-coverts and tail-feathers 
are rusty brown or chestnut, this being replaced in southern Florida by the 
Florida Wild Turkey (M . g. osceola), which differs from the last in being of 
somewhat smaller size and in having the primaries with narrow broken, in- 
stead of broad and entire, bars of white, and in the longer, more curved, and 
much sharper spurs. 

The only other member of the group, and this by far the handsomest, is the 
Ocellated Turkey (Agriocharis ocellatd) of Yucatan and adjacent parts of 
Guatemala and British Honduras. In this the bare head and neck are deep blue, 
covered with bright orange or orange-red warts, and the erectile wattle between 
the eyes is also deep blue tipped with yellow. The feathers of the lower back 
and rump are rich steel-blue, those of the lower parts bronzy black, all tipped 
with intensely rich metallic golden and coppery bronze, and the tail and its 
coverts light gray mottled with black, followed by a broad spot of deep blue 
margined on both sides with black, then a line of yellow, and finally they are 
tipped with deep reddish, all the bright colors being metallic. 

The habits of the Ocellated Turkey are similar to those of the other Turkeys 
except that it is if possible even more wary. Mr. Frank M. Chapman, who has 

recently studied it in Yuca- 
tan, found it still tolerably 
abundant in many localities, 
but states that it is perhaps 
the shyest bkd he has at- 
tempted to secure. Its flesh 
is highly esteemed by the 
native Indians, who have 
hunted it from time imme- 
morial with the result that 
it has acquired a great de- 
gree of caution. It fre- 
quents the borders of 
clearings and corn-fields 
and, according to Gaumer, 
the male during the breed- 

FIG. 92. Turkey Guinea-Fowl, Agelastes meleagrides. ing season, which is in May 



FIG. 93. Helmeted Guinea-Fo\vl, Nuniida mitrata. 

and June, makes a peculiar drumming noise, which is very deep and sonorous; 
" after this he utters his peculiar song, which resembles the rapid pecking of a 
distant Woodpecker or the song of the great bull toad." 

The nests and eggs are closely similar to those of the Common Wild 


280 The Fowl-like Birds 

The Guinea-Fowls (subfamily Numtdina), typified by the well-known 
domestic bird, are all natives of Africa and take their name from the country 
whence they were first introduced into Europe. As at present accepted, the 
group includes five gfe'nera and some twenty-three species, although two West 
African species, the Black Guinea-Fowl (Phasidus niger) and the Turkey Guinea- 
Fowl (Agelastes meleagrides), are anomalous in a number of particulars, and 
have sometimes been separated as a distinct subfamily. 

The true Guinea-Fowls (Numida), of which fourteen species are well known, 
are characterized by having the upper part of the head bare and elevated in the 
center into a bony crest or helmet. The common domestic species (N. melea- 
gris] is found wild in West Africa from Senegambia to the Niger, and also in 
the Cape Verde Islands, and in some of the West Indies, where it was, of course, 
introduced. It is too well known to require description, as it has been changed 
very little by domestication. The Guinea-Fowls are gregarious, often gathering 
in large flocks, but they are extremely wild and difficult of approach. They 
escape by running with great swiftness, although they fly strongly when flushed. 
The species are all rather closely allied, the illustration being of Pallas's Hel- 
meted Guinea-Fowl (TV. mitrata) of East Africa and Madagascar. 

The Crested Guinea-Fowls (Guttera) have a thick tuft of feathers on the top 
of the head instead of the bony helmet, but otherwise differ but little from the 
true Guinea-Fowls. One of the best of the six known species now recognized is 
G. cristata, found in West Africa from Sierra Leone to the Gold Coast. The 
plumage is black, spotted with pale blue, and the crest black, while some four or 
five of the outer secondaries are pure white, thus producing a white band when 
the wing is closed. There is also a black collar. 

The Vulturine Guinea-Fowl (Acryllium vulturinum] is by far the handsomest 
of the group. It is native from Somaliland to Kilimanjaro, and has the head 
and upper part of the neck naked and covered with cobalt-blue skin, with the 
exception of a patch of short chestnut feathers on the nape. The lower part of 
the neck and the upper portion of the back and breast are covered with long, 
narrow feathers, each having a white shaft-stripe with cobalt-blue margins. The 
mantle is black, minutely dotted with white, while the flanks are purple spotted 
with white, and the middle of the breast a beautiful cobalt-blue. X he tail, which 
has the middle feathers long, narrow, and pointed, is similarly colored. 

The Black Guinea-Fowl and the Turkey Guinea-Fowl, as above stated, are 
peculiar in having spurs, thus approaching the Jungle-Fowls. They are hand- 
some birds, but extremely rare, and practically nothing is known of their habits. 

The Grouse, Partridges, and Quails (subfamily TelraonincE). This im- 
portant and well-known group, embracing as it does by far the greater 
number of valuable non-aquatic game birds, merits a very full and careful 
presentation. Although perhaps most abundantly represented in the North- 
ern Hemisphere, they are nearly world-wide in distribution, and are especially 
well represented in North America. The group comprises about one hundred 
and twenty-five species, disposed in some twenty-three genera, which are dis- 
.tinguished from the Pheasants, among other characters, by the absence of spurs 

Ptarmigan 281 

on the tarsi, and by having the head entirely feathered except sometimes over 
the eyes. Although as thus circumscribed they form a relatively compact 
group, there are considerable differences, not only in size, but in certain 
minor characters, which serve as a basis for separating them into several 
small well-marked groups that have at times been regarded as of subfamily 
or even higher rank. In the first of these that we shall consider, embracing 
the Grouse, Partridges, etc., the nostrils are wholly feathered and the tarsus is 
half or usually entirely hidden by feathers, while in some the feathering 
extends quite to the tip of the toes. 

Ptarmigan. Of all the various members of this group none is more inter- 
esting in many particulars than the Ptarmigan (Lagopus), of which some fifteen 
species and subspecies are recognized. They are circumpolar in distribution, 
and while as at present understood are most numerously represented in North 
America, it is probable that when thoroughly studied, it will be found that the 
Old World is nearly, if not quite, as rich in recognizable forms. Their most 
prominent peculiarity is the striking seasonal change of plumage which they 
undergo, these changes being not only more marked than in any other member 
of this group, but are perhaps the most pronounced enjoyed by any birds. With 
one exception, all the species have three or even four, more or less complete 
changes of plumage, that in winter being chiefly, or entirely, pure white, while 
at other seasons it is varied with brown, buff, gray, and black. As they live 
mainly in the, high, Arctic lands or on rugged, snow-covered mountains, these 
changes admirably adapt them to their surroundings and afford a means of 
protection from their numerous enemies. To show how strikingly different 
they are at the various seasons, the following rather full description is given of 
a male Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus rupeslris): In winter, as stated above, the 
plumage is pure white, with the exception of the outer tail-feathers and lores, 
which are black. In summer the ground color is grayish brown, "coarsely ver- 
miculated with black, the vermiculations having a tendency to form irregular 
zigzag bars; the scapulars and interscapulars are largely black centrally, pro- 
ducing large blotches or irregular spots; the outermost wing-coverts, quills, and 
secondaries white; lores black; rest of head mixed dusky and white; chest, 
upper breast, and sides regularly barred with blackish and light umber-brown, 
while the remainder of the lower parts are white." This gives place in fall to 
a pale brownish ground-color of the upper parts, variously freckled and spotted, 
while the wings are much as in the summer condition, and the chest, upper 
breast, sides, and flanks are much like the upper parts, but are without black 
spots. The female enjoys a similar change, but is bright ochraceous in summer, 
irregularly spotted and barred above with black, and is more distantly barred 
below. These changes are so pronounced, and follow each other with such quick 
succession, that they have been supposed to lend support to the theory that it was 
possible to have a change of plumage without moult, but this has been so thor- 
oughly exploded of late that it is not necessary to further refer to it. Mr. J. G. 
Millais, who has enjoyed exceptional opportunities of observing the change of 
plumage in the common European Ptarmigan (L. mutus), has given, in his 

282 The Fowl-like Birds 

entertaining "Game Birds and Shooting Sketches," a very full account of the 
changes for an entire year, but lack of space forbids our quoting it. Although it 
is nearly impossible to distinguish many of the Ptarmigan in winter plumage, 
which has led to the^denial of their specific rank by certain writers, the other 
plumages afford a reasonably satisfactory basis for delimiting them. 

Willow Ptarmigan. The Ptarmigan are compact-bodied, typically Grouse- 
like birds ranging from twelve to about seventeen inches in length, and may be 
known at once by having the tarsi, feet, and toes completely and densely feath- 
ered. The tail is composed of sixteen feathers which are of nearly equal length. 
Of the various species we may appropriately begin with the Willow Ptarmigan, 
or Willow Grouse (L. lagopus}, as it is often called, which is found throughout 
the northern portions of the Northern Hemisphere. It is fifteen or fifteen and one 
half inches long, both sexes in winter being pure white, with all the tail-feathers 
except the middle pair black. In North America they are confined during the 
nesting season to the fur countries ; but in winter they are more or less migratory, 
coming south often in great numbers as far as Manitoba, and occasionally enter- 
ing the northern border of the United States. In spring as soon as the snow 
begins to melt they repair to the lower grounds and prepare for the nuptial sea- 
son, and may soon be heard uttering their peculiar hoarse call. Turner tells us 
that in order to attract the attention of the female the male resorts to the highest 
portions of the tract, "whence he launches into the air, uttering a barking sound 
of nearly a dozen notes, thence sails or flutters in a circle to alight at the place 
whence he started. Immediately on alighting he utters a sound similar to the 
Indian word chee-xu'an (what is it?) and repeats it several times, and in the 
course of a few minutes again launches in the air. Early in the morning hun- 
dreds of these birds may be heard, continuing until nearly eleven o'clock, when 
the bird then becomes silent until about three o'clock, when he again goes through 
the same performance." Each male guards his territory against others of his 
kind, and when an intruder comes, "battles ensue which for fierceness are seldom 
equaled by birds of larger size." The nest, always placed on the ground, is a 
mere depression in the mosses and perhaps lined with a few blades or stalks of 
grass. The eggs usually vary in number between seven and thirteen, but as 
many as seventeen and even twenty have been reported, which would seem to 
indicate that two females may occasionally deposit eggs in the same nest; this, 
however, is not confirmed by actual observation. In color the eggs range from 
cream to reddish buff overlaid with spots and blotches of reddish brown. The 
female sits very closely and will sometimes permit herself to be trodden on or 
even taken in the hand before attempting to leave. On other occasions the 
female will flutter off, or call out in distressed tones, and act as if she had been 
severely wounded. The period of incubation is thought by Turner to be seven- 
teen days, and when the chicks are hatched, both parents display great courage 
and devotion in protecting them. By November i the young birds have 
attained their full growth, when all associate in flocks often of great size, though 
in winter MacFarlane states that in the neighborhood of Fort Anderson it is rare 
to find more than two or three dozen together. They feed upon buds, seeds, 


and berries. A subspecies of this, known as Allen's Ptarmigan (L. lagopus 
alleni), is confined to Newfoundland, and differs from the typical form in having 
the shafts of the secondaries black instead of white, and according to Dr. Mer- 
riam, "frequents rocky barrens, feeding on seeds and berries of the stunted plants 
that thrive in these exposed situations." 

The Rock Ptarmigan (L. rupestris), the seasonal changes of plumage of 
which were described above, is also found in Arctic America and in northern 
Asia as far as the Ural Mountains. In this country its nesting range extends from 
the Alaska peninsula and Bering Strait along the Arctic coast and through the 
Barren Grounds to the west coast of Hudson's Bay and Labrador. Nelson, for 
example, found it to be a common resident of the Alaskan mainland, frequenting 
"the summits of the low hills and mountains during the summer season, where it 
remains until the severe weather of early winter forces it down to the lower ele- 
vations and under the shelter of the bush-bordered ravines and furrows." In 
the vast Barren Grounds it is also at home, subsisting on seeds, berries, and buds, 
like its relative just described. TTie nest is said to be placed among the dwarf 
birches and willows, and on the sedge-covered tundras, the eggs varying in num- 
ber from six to ten. A number of subspecies of this have been differentiated, as the 
Greenland Ptarmigan (L. r. reinhardti) of Greenland, the islands on the western 
side of Cumberland Gulf, and northern Labrador; Nelson's Ptarmigan (L. r. 
nelsoni), of the island of Unalaska; Turner's Ptarmigan (L. r. alkhensis), of the 
neighboring island of Atkha; and Evermann's Ptarmigan (L. r. evermanni) of 
Attu Island, while the closely allied Welch's Ptarmigan (L. 
welchi) is confined to Newfoundland. These forms arc all 
very close and by some authorities are not accepted as valid, 
though no one who has carefully studied these birds but 
has easily been convinced of their distinctness. 

White-tailed Ptarmigan. The smallest, as well as one 
of the handsomest and most distinct, species is the White- 
tailed Ptarmigan (L. leucurus) of the Alpine summits of the 
Rocky Mountains from Alaska to New Mexico and west to 
the higher mountains of Oregon and 
Washington. It is only twelve or thir- 
teen inches in length and may otherwise 
be known by the plumage being white 
throughout, including all the feathers of 
the tail. According to Major Bendirc, 
"It is a resident and breeds wherever 
found, rarely leaving the mountain 
summits, even during the severest 
winter weather, and then only de- 
scending 2000 or 3000 feet at most, 
seldom being found at a lower alti- 
tude than 8000 or oooo feet at any 

,, mi i riG. 94. White-tailed Ptarmigan, Lagopus leu- 

time." This altitude usually takes C urus. 

284 The Fowl-like Birds 

them high above the timber line, and here, where the wind is often blowing 
with such tremendous sweep that it is difficult for a man to stand against 
it, they may be found crouching behind a small stone or other shelter, and always 
with the head toward the wind. They associate usually in small parties and if 
disturbed all take wing at once, resembling a flock of white Pigeons. They are 
usually rather tame and when closely approached run about nervously with the 
tail elevated and looking, as Mr. Grinnell says, "very much like a white Fan- 
tailed Pigeon." The nest, usually begun sometime in June, is a slight depres- 
sion among the rocky debris of steep hillsides, and although in perfectly exposed 
situations, the mottled plumage of the female at this season is so very like the 
surrounding rocks and ground that she is effectually concealed. The female sits 
so closely that she may almost be trodden upon before betraying her presence, 
and may even be stroked and lifted from the nest without more protest than a 
sitting hen. The eggs are usually from seven to nine in number and are 
creamy or reddish buff with few markings. The female only appears to per- 
form the duty of incubation, and when the chicks are hatched cares for them 
with great solicitude. These birds feed largely on buds, with such seeds and 
berries as they can secure. 

Red Grouse. The remaining member of this genus that we shall consider is 
the very distinct Red Grouse (L. scoticus) of Great Britain, which has the dis- 
tinction of being the only species of bird confined to the British Islands. It is 
also the only Ptarmigan that does not have a pure white winter plumage, its 
usual dress being reddish or chestnut-brown, barred and speckled with black, 
while the breast is almost black. In summer the general color is a little lighter, 
and in winter the under parts are often more or less mottled with white. It 
frequents the mountains and moors, feeding on shoots of the heather as well, as 
buds, leaves, seeds, and fruits of such plants as grow on or near the moors, 
although the young chicks are said to be fed chiefly on small caterpillars. 

Black Grouse. Of the remaining genera of Grouse none have the toes 
feathered, but instead all have the sides of the toes pectinated in winter, with 
the points deciduous in summer. Otherwise not far removed from those last 
considered are the Black Grouse (Lyrurus) of the northern portions of the Old 
World, in which the tarsi are entirely feathered and the tail of eighteen feathers 
has the outer pairs very much longer than the middle pair, and in the male these 
are curved outwards at the extremity. Only three or four species are known, 
the most important being the common Black Grouse (L. tetrix) of Europe and 
northern and central Asia. The full-grown male is about twenty-three inches 
long, while the length of the female is only about seventeen inches. The general 
color of the male is black with violet reflections, relieved by a broad white wing- 
band and white-tipped secondaries. There is also a white spot behind the eye, 
and the naked skin and wattle above the eye are scarlet. The female, often called 
the Gray-hen, is mostly rufous, barred with black above, and dusky brown 
barred with red and whitish below. The true home of this species is in the birch 
and pine forests, but it is also found on the open moors and fields, especially 
grain and stubble fields, often at some distance from cover. The old birds feed 

Capercaillies 285 

largely oil' grain, seeds, berries, and buds, while the young are fed mainly on the 
larvae of ants and other insects. The male Black Grouse is polygamous, that is, 
associates with several females, and for their edification often goes through many 
curious antics, such as strutting to and fro with trailing wings and expanded tail. 
If a rival male appears, a fierce conflict is sure to ensue, this lasting until both are 
thoroughly exhausted or one or the other vanquished. The nest is usually a 
slight affair, placed under a bush or bunch of weeds and grass; and the eggs, six 
to ten in number, are yellowish white with rich brown spots. The female per- 
forms the entire task of incubating the eggs and rearing the young, the males 
betaking themselves away as soon as incubation commences. The other best- 
known species is the Caucasian Black Grouse (L. mlokosiewiczi), which is found 
only in the Caucasian Mountains; it is a smaller bird and has the plumage black 

Capercaillies. Also confined to the Old World are the Capercaillies (Tetrao), 
of which four species and a number of hybrids are known. They are large birds, 
the males being thirty or thirty-five inches long and weighing ten or twelve 
pounds, while the females are some twelve inches shorter and only weigh four or 
five pounds. The tail is composed of eighteen feathers, as in the Black Grouse, 
but it is the middle instead of the outer pair that is longest, thus producing 
a rounded or slightly wedge-shaped tail. The Capercaillies are inhabitants 
mainly of coniferous forests, feeding, especially during the winter, on the tender 
shoots of the pine and spruce, but at other seasons they search for seeds, fruits, 
grain, etc., often at considerable distance from the woods. The male is polyga- 
mous, and at the beginning of the nesting season mounts to the top of some 
tall tree and utters his loud note, which is a call to the females and a challenge 
to other males. Should another male approach, a battle is certain, which often 
lasts until both are bleeding and torn, and so exhausted that they may frequently 
be captured in the hand. Ordinarily, the male is extremely wary and although 
so large and heavy flies with little or no noise and very rapidly. The best-known 
species is the Common Capercaillie (T. urogallus), the male of which is dark gray 
above, with the wings brown speckled with black, while the chest is lustrous 
green and the abdomen black with white spots. The female is much barred 
and spotted with tawny red, black, and white, with the throat and breast reddish 
and the tail dark reddish brown with black bars. This species is found in the 
pine forests of Europe and northern and central Asia, being originally also a 
native of the British Islands, where it was entirely exterminated about the middle 
of the last century, but was later introduced from Sweden and is now firmly 
established and abundant in many parts of north Britain and appears to be 
gradually spreading to new territory. It frequently crosses with the Black 
Grouse, and the male hybrid is hardly to be distinguished from the Gray-hen 
except in size. It has also been known to cross with the English Pheasant and 
the Willow Ptarmigan. The handsomest member of the genus is the Ural 
Capercaillie (T. uralensis) of the Ural Mountains. It is similar to the last but 
paler above, with the wings and shoulders light reddish brown and the lower 
parts mainly white. In northeast Siberia its place is taken by a slender billed 

286 The Fowl-like Birds 

species (T. parwrostris), and this is replaced in Kamchatka by another (T. 
kamchaticus) , which is the smallest of the genus. 

Dusky, Sooty, and Richardson's Grouse. Coming to North America, we 
find several fine Groi/se belonging to the genus Dendragapus, which comprises 
a single species with four subspecies. They are large birds, with the tail four 
fifths as long as the wing, the only species being the Dusky Grouse (D. obscurus], 
which is further characterized by having a tail of twenty feathers and the male 
with distinct inflatable air-sacs on the sides of the neck. The plumage is dusky 
grayish or dull blackish above and slate-gray below. The female is similar but 
decidedly smaller and more or less spotted and barred with buff or brownish. 
The Dusky Grouse, better known as the Blue Grouse, is found in the southern 
Rocky Mountains from central Arizona to Idaho, South Dakota, and Nevada. 
It frequents the borders of wooded mountain regions below timber line, and is 
always resident where found. It is usually very tame and unsuspicious and when 
startled will frequently fly into the branches of a near-by tree and remain gazing 
at the intruder while perhaps shot after shot is fired at it with a pistol or rifle. 
If a covey of half-grown young are flushed, the whole number may sometimes be 
secured without one attempting to fly. Of the habits of the male during the 
nesting season, as observed in Colorado, Mr. Gale writes: "It you are anywhere 
near the haunts of a pair, you will surely hear the male and most likely see him. 
He may interview you on foot, strutting along before you, in short, hurried 
steps alternating from right to left, with widespread tail tipped forward, head 
down and back, and wings dragging along the ground, much in the style of a 
Turkey gobbler. At other times you may hear his mimic thunder overhead again 
and again in his flight from tree to tree. As you walk along he leads, and this 
reconnoitering on his part, if you are not familiar with it, may cause you to 
suppose that the trees are alive with these Grouse. He then takes his stand upon 
a rock, stump, or log, and in the manner already described distends the lower 
part of his neck, opens his frill of white, edged with the darker feather-tips, 
showing in its center a pink narrow line describing somewhat the segment of a 
circle, then with very little apparent motion he performs his growling or groaning, 
and having the strange peculiarity of seeming quite distant when quite near, 
and near when -distant." The nest, usually well concealed, is a slight depression 
in the ground and scantily lined with pine needles or grasses. The complement 
of eggs is from seven to ten or sometimes more. Three well-marked subspecies 
of this are known: the Sooty Grouse (D. o.fuliginosus\ a much darker bird of 
the mountains of the Northwest; the Sierra Grouse (D. o. sierra), of the Sierra 
Nevada and Cascade Mountains ; and Richardson's Grouse (D. o. richardsonii), of 
the northern Rocky Mountains, of which the last may be known by the absence 
of the terminal gray band on the tail. The habits are similar to those of the 
typical form. 

Canada and Franklin's Grouse. The two species which belong to the 
related genus Canachites differ from the preceding in the absence of the dilat- 
able air-sac on the side of the neck and in having only sixteen feathers in the 
much shorter tail. They are also much smaller birds, being only fifteen or 

Canada Grouse 287 

sixteen inches long, the plumage in the male being transversely barred with 
blackish and grayish above, and black beneath, with a black border to the 
throat and many of the feathers with broad white tips; the tail is black. In 
the female the upper parts are barred with black, gray, and buff, while the 
lower parts are whitish, broadly barred with black. The species are separated 
largely on the marking of the tip of the tail, in the Canada Grouse (D. cana- 
densis] this being rufous, while in Franklin's Grouse (D. franklinii) it is black 
to the extreme tip. The handsome little Canada Grouse, or Spruce Partridge, 
as it is often called, ranges throughout northern North America east of the 
Rocky Mountains from the northern New England States to Alaska, fre- 
quenting, as its second name implies, the coniferous forests of the northern 
zone, and is usually a resident wherever found. It feeds largely upon the 
tender shoots and leaves of the spruce and tamarack, and is quite at home 
in the dense groves and swamps of these trees. In summer, however, it con- 
sumes quantities of berries of various kinds, especially the crowberry, and the 
several kinds of blueberries. In common with a few other Grouse it has the 
habit of "drumming," that is, the production of a peculiar rumbling sound that 
has been likened to the sound of distant thunder. The manner in which this 
sound is produced has given rise to no little speculation, for as the "drummer" 
is an exceedingly wary bird, it is a matter of difficulty to catch him in the act. 
It is popularly supposed that the sound is made by the male beating his wings 
on a hollow log, but this is undoubtedly incorrect, as the following quotation 
from a correspondent of Bendire shows: "After strutting back and forth for a 
few minutes, the male flew straight up, as high as the surrounding trees, about 
fourteen feet; here he remained stationary an instant, and while on suspended 
wing did the drumming with the wings, resembling distant thunder, meanwhile 
dropping down slowly to the spot from where he started, to repeat the same 
thing over and over again." In other cases they select a tree known to woods- 
men as a "drumming tree," with the trunk somewhat inclined, and, to quote 
from Mr. Manly Hardy, one of our best-known observers, the bird, commencing 
near the base of the tree selected, flutters upward with somewhat slow progress, 
but rapidly beating wings, which produce the drumming sound. The "drum- 
ming trees" are resorted to for several seasons and often become quite smooth 
and polished by constant use. The nest of this species is a depression by the 
side of a log or stump and usually contains from nine to thirteen eggs. Franklin's 
Grouse, found in the northern Rocky Mountains mainly north of the United 
States arid westward to the coast ranges, is a rather rare bird, except in a few 
favored localities. It frequents especially the edges of swampy mountain 
valleys, or groves and thickets of spruce and tamarack along small streams. 
It is usually very tame and unsuspicious, permitting itself to be knocked over 
with a stick or stone or even taken in the hand, whence it is often called the 
"Fool Hen." Its nesting habits appear to be similar to those of the last species. 
Prairie Hens and Heath Hen. Passing over the Sharp- winged Grouse 
(Falcipennis falcipennis} of northeastern Asia, which resembles the Canada 
Grouse but differs in having the outer flight-feathers narrowed and sickle- 

2 88 

The Fowl-like Birds 

shaped, we come to the well-known Pinnated Grouse, or Prairie Hens (Tympa- 
nuchus), which make their homes on the broad prairies of the Mississippi 
Valley and a few other isolated but topographically similar localities. They 
are fine large birds,' some seventeen to nineteen inches long, with a brownish 
and dusky barred plumage, and the males are further characterized by the 
presence of an erectile tuft of stiff elongated feathers, and an inflatable air-sac 
on each side of the neck. The females lack the air-sac and have the neck-tufts 
rudimentary. The principal species is the Prairie Hen, or Prairie Chicken 
(T. americanus), of the prairies of the middle West from Wisconsin and Indiana 
to Dakota and middle Kansas. They are usually resident wherever found, but 
occasionally there is some semblance of a migration during severe winters, and 
curiously it is only the females which change their range, the males being left 
to "brave the winter's cold." At the beginning of the nesting season the 
"love-making" of the males is an interesting spectacle. Selecting some 
high, dry knoll, wiiere the grass is short, "scratching grounds" as they are 

called, they congregate in the early morn- 
ing in parties of from a dozen to often fifty. 
The males inflate the air-sacs until they look 
"like two ripe oranges on each side of the 
neck," at the same time throwing forward 
the long black neck-tufts, ruffling up the 
body feathers, and dropping their wings to 
the ground. "Then it is," says Caton, "that 
the proud cock, in order to complete his 
triumph, will rush forward at his best speed 
for two or three rods through the midst of 
the love-sick damsels, pouring out as he goes 
a booming noise, almost a hoarse roar, only 
more subdued, which may be heard for at 
least two miles in the still morning air. This 
heavy booming sound is by no means harsh 

or unpleasant; on the contrary, it is soft and even harmonious. When standing 
in the open prairie at early dawn, listening to hundreds of different, voices, pitched 
on different keys, coming from every direction and from various distances, the 
listener is rather soothed than excited. If this sound is heavier than the deep 
keynotes of a large organ, it is much softer, though vastly more powerful, and 
may be heard at a much greater distance." The birds disperse when the sun is 
half an hour high, to assemble the next morning, and so on for a week or two 
until all have made satisfactory matches. The nesting site is usually selected 
with little care as regards safety from disturbance, being a slight depression under 
a bush or among grass and weeds. Many nests are annually destroyed by the 
burning over of the ground, by being plowed under, or by predatory animals. 
The eggs are usually from eight to fourteen, though as many as twenty -one have 
been noted. The period of incubation is from three to four weeks, and the young 
run about as soon as they are out of the shell. Their care devolves entirely upon 

FlG. 95. Prairie Hen, Tympanuchus 

Sharp-tailed and Sage Grouse 289 

the female. A well-marked subspecies, Attwater's Prairie Hen (T. a. attwateri), 
is found along the coasts of Louisiana and eastern Texas. It is lighter in color 
and has considerably more of the tarsus naked, while along the eastern border 
of the Great Plains is found the still smaller and lighter colored Lesser Prairie 
Hen (T. pallidicinctus). 

The Heath Hen (T. cupido), the only remaining species, was formerly found 
in southern New England, Pennsylvania, Virginia, etc., but is now entirely 
confined to the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, and within an 
area of forty square miles. In the spring of 1890, Mr. Brewster estimated that 
the total number of birds could hardly exceed two hundred, and it is understood 
that this number has since been still further reduced, perhaps almost to the point 
of extermination. Unlike the principal species, they are " mainly, if not exclu- 
sively, confined to the woods, haunting oak scrub by preference and feeding 
largely on acorns." 

Sharp-tailed and Sage Grouse. Also distinctly American are the Sharp-tailed 
Grouse (Fed locates}, so called from the fact that the tail is graduated with the 
middle pair of feathers projecting much beyond the others ; there are no elongated 
tufts or air-sacs on the sides of the neck. They are rather large birds, though 
smaller than the Prairie Hen, irregularly spotted and barred above with black 
and brownish, and white beneath, where there are often V-shaped markings 
of dusky. Three forms are known, the true Sharp-tailed Grouse (P. phasi- 
anellus), a very dark colored bird inhabiting the wooded districts and prairie 
borders of the interior of British America ; the Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse 
(P. p. columbianus}, a lighter colored form of the grass-covered plains of the 
northwestern United States; and the Prairie Sharp-tailed Grouse (P.p. cam- 
pestris), also a light-colored but more reddish bird, inhabiting the Great Plains. 
Similar to these, but differing in having the tail longer instead of shorter than 
the wings, is the Sage Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), which next to the 
Wild Turkey is the largest of the North American game birds. It inhabits 
the sage-brush plains and table-lands of the western parts of the United States, 
feeding on the leaves of the sage-brush (Artemisia), berries, fruits, and occa- 
sional insects. 

The two remaining genera of Grouse one in North America and the other 
in the northern portions of the Old World may be known at once from those 
previously mentioned by having the lower part of the tarsus naked. The former 
contains the Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa), which are further distinguished by a ruffed 
frill of broad, soft feathers on each side of the neck, and a tail composed of 
eighteen feathers, while the latter embraces the Hazel Hens (Tetrastes) that 
are without the frill on the sides of the neck and have a tail of sixteen feathers. 

The Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) is one of the best known and most 
highly prized of American game birds, and the single polymorphous species, 
which has been separated into four comparatively slight color forms, ranges 
over practically the whole of the wooded portions of North America, except 
at the far south. The Ruffed Grouse, known mainly in the Northern States 
as the Partridge, while in the South it is commonly called the Pheasant, 


The Fowl-like Birds 

Ruffed Grouse 


prefers undulating and hilly country, especially where it is well wooded and 
covered with " considerable undergrowth, interspersed here and there with 
cultivated fields and meadow lands." Naturally it is a rather tame and 
unsuspicious bird, and when suitably protected is not an uncommon vis- 
itor to the vicinity of human habitations, especially during winter, but the 
ceaseless persecution that is waged against it has perforce made it exceed- 
ingly shy and wary. Its flight, particularly as it launches forth, is sudden 
and noisy, but when well under way it flies with great strength and swiftness. 
On the approach of man it either seeks safety in rapid running, disappearing 
like a flash among the tangled weeds and underbrush which it frequents, 
or crouches motionless on the ground, with which its plumage so blends 
as to make it invisible; and many a would-be sportsman, threading his 
way noiselessly through the forest, has been so startled by the sudden rushing 
forms springing from under his feet as to forget the object of his coming until 
too late. In spite of the constant warfare of man, and the aggression of its 
wild enemies, the foxes, weasels, minks, and the voracious members of its own 
class, it manages to pretty well hold its own. An unusually severe winter 
or a particularly wet, cold spring may reduce the numbers, but a succeeding 
favorable season usually restores the equilibrium. They are generally resident 
and nesting wherever found, usually mov- 
ing about but little. In the southern por- 
tions of its range, however, it frequents 
mostly the higher mountain slopes, but in 
fall or early winter often seeks the lower 
levels. The members of a covey, if undis- 
turbed, usually keep together for some time 
after they are full grown, and have a low, 
sharp call note that can be heard for only 
a short distance. But one of the strongest 
characteristics of the Ruffed Grouse is the 
"drumming" of the male, a sound familiar 
to every woodland lover within its range. 
"This loud tattoo," says Thompson, "be- 
gins with the increased thump of a big 
drum, then gradually changes and dies 
away in the rumble of the kettle-drum. It 

may be briefly represented thus: Thump thump thump thump, thump; 
thump, thump-rup rup rup rup r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r." The manner in which the 
sound is produced has been speculated upon, but it is now definitely settled 
that it is by the rapid beating of the wings toward the body, and not against 
a log as commonly supposed. The actual procedure has been quite frequently 
described, but I venture to quote from Mr. W. C. Kendall, who observed one 
drumming in northern Maine in the fall of 1901. He says: " A bird was heard 
drumming. At first it was difficult to locate the source of the sound. He was 
crouching or sitting crosswise of an old log, his head drawn down as if asleep. 

FIG. 97. Hazel Grouse, Tetrastes bo- 
nus ia. 

292 The Fowl-like Birds 

When about to drum, he would straighten up without really standing up, much 
as a duck flapping his wings while sitting on the water. Beginning with slow, 
short, interrupted strokes he would beat against his sides, or the air, faster and 
faster, finally, still fajst but with less force, causing the sound to die out in a sort 
of whirr, when he would resume his former position. The drumming occurred 
at intervals of six to ten minutes. He did not ' strut up and down the log,' 
nor did he strike the log with his wings; he did not even stand up. It seemed 
to me that the sound was caused by the air being forced between the wings 
and the body by the short, quick strokes." The drumming is mostly in the 
spring, its object being to attract the female, but occasionally throughout the 
summer and fall the long roll may be heard in the forest. By some the Ruffed 
Grouse is considered to be polygamous, but this is doubted by Bendire and other 
equally good authorities, and all that can be said at present is that it may be, 
but the case is not proven. The nest, a mere depression in the ground, is placed 
in a great variety of situations, such as alongside a stump, fallen tree, or rock, 
or among tangled vegetation, in a brush pile, or occasionally in a more open 
and unexpected place. The nest is scantily lined with a few leaves, grasses, 
or pine needles, and the complement of eggs varies from eight to fourteen, rarely 
more. In color they are pale ochraceous-buff, about half of them being more 
or less minutely spotted. When flushed from the nest, the female is often success- 
ful in decoying the intruder to a distance by feigning lameness or a broken wing, 
so that a fox, for example, may be led on, thinking his prey is just within his 
grasp, until he is a quarter of a mile or more from the nest, when the bird takes 
wing and is gone like a flash. The young run about within a few hours after 
they are hatched, and can fly for short distances at the end of a week. They 
are fed at first mainly on insects, but soon berries, fruits, and grain are added, 
and this varied list represents their food until winter, when they subsist largely 
on catkins, buds, and leaves. Often when the ground is covered with snow the 
birds drop into a soft bank and burrow under for a short distance, where they 
spend the night in comparative warmth, though the freezing of the snow into 
a crust above them may sometimes turn the shelter into a tomb. 

The Hazel Hens (Tetrastes), of which four forms are recognized, are smaller 
birds than the Ruffed Grouse, none of them exceeding fourteen inches in length, 
and, as already stated, they are without the frilled ruff on the sides of the neck. 
The best-known species is the common Hazel Hen, Hazel Grouse, or "Gelinotte " 
(T. bonasia), a handsome bird of Europe and northern Asia. The male is grayish 
or rufous, barred with black above, while the chin, throat, and breast are black, 
the latter margined with white. The female is similar but smaller and has 
the chin and throat mostly white. According to Von Wright there is a tradition 
among the Finns that, " at creation, this bird was the largest of the feathered 
tribe, but that year after year it has decreased in size, and will continue to do 
so until at last it will become so very diminutive as to be able to fly through the 
eye of a needle; and when that happens the world will come to an end." The 
Hazel Hens frequent the "lower pine forests, birch-woods and hazel-copes," 
but appear to enjoy a local rather than a general distribution. Their flight, 

American Partridges and Quails 293 

like that of the Ruffed Grouse, is noisy and rapid, though not far extended, and 
when disturbed they take refuge among the thickest leafy branches of a tree. 
The male does not appear to "drum" after the manner of its relative, but utters, 
as his call to the opposite sex, a sort of melancholy long-drawn whistle, which 
in Scandinavia is often imitated by means of a hollow pipe of bone, wood, or 
metal, and the bird lured within shooting distance. The nest is a slight depres- 
sion scratched in the ground, and the eggs, some eight to twelve in number, 
are buff spotted with brown. Of the habits of the Gray-bellied Hazel Hen 
(T. grisehientris] of eastern Russia, little or nothing is known, and the same 
may almost be said of Severtzov's Hazel Hen ( T. severtzovi} of western China. 

American Partridges and Quails (OdontophorincB). The second of the 
minor groups into which the subfamily Tetraonina may be separated is char- 
acterized by having the tarsi and nostrils entirely naked, as well as by the 
absence of pectinations on the sides of the toes and the generally smaller size. 
Among themselves they are also divisible into two groups, in the first of 
which, including the American Partridges and Quails (Odontophorina), the 
cutting edge of the lower mandible is more or less serrated, while in the other 
(Perdicina), which embraces the Old World Partridges, Francolins, and Quails, 
the lower mandible is without the serrations. The latter group, as will be 
shown later, exhibits more or less of a transition to the Pheasants, and by 
some is even placed with them in the subfamily Phasianina. 

Wood Grouse. Before passing to the more important members of this 
group we may mention briefly the Wood Grouse, or Long-tailed Partridges 
(Dendrortyx}, of which some six or seven forms are known, ranging through 
Mexico to Costa Rica. They are large birds for the group, some of them reach- 
ing a length of fifteen inches, and may be known at once by having the tail as 
long or nearly as long as the wing, the middle pair of feathers being much longer 
than the outer pair. They are plain-colored birds, the sexes being practically 
similar, and without a very conspicuous crest. They frequent the high forest- 
clad mountains, keeping much in the vicinity of the dense forests, and are 
described as being very shy and difficult of approach. 

Scaled Partridges. In all the remaining members of this group the tail 
is decidedly shorter than the wing, although in the first genus to be considered 
(Callipepla) it is rather more than two thirds the length of the wing. This 
genus is further distinguished by having a tail of fourteen feathers, a small 
and weak bill, and a short crest which does not extend much beyond the feathers 
of the head. This includes the Scaled Partridges, of which only two forms 
are distinguished, although it was formerly made to include several forms now 
accorded generic rank. They are rather handsome little birds, ten or twelve 
inches long, light brownish or grayish above, with the hind neck, upper back, 
chest, and sides bluish gray, each feather edged with black, thus producing 
a scaled appearance. The remainder of the under parts are buffy with white 
streaks along the flanks, and the crest is also tipped with white. The Scaled 
Partridge, Blue Quail, or White Top-knot Quail (C. squamata), as it is variously 
called, is a constant resident in northwestern Mexico and the contiguous border 

294 The Fowl-like Birds 

of the United States, from the high plateaus and table -lands having an eleva- 
tion of between 1500 and some 7000 feet, between the principal water courses. 
"These barren and rocky foot-hills and table-lands are covered in places with 
a dry, harsh vegetation consisting of different species of cacti, stunted yuccas, 
catclaw-mimosa, creosote, and dwarf sage-bushes, where the soil is so parched 
that scarcely anything else will flourish, and where nearly every shrub is covered 
with sharp spines or thorns; such places I found to be the favorite home of 
the Scaled Partridge."- BENDIRE. I have myself observed them in somewhat 
similar situations below Santa Fe, New Mexico. Although frequently found 
miles from water, they are said to make daily visits, usually late in the afternoon, 
to the drinking places. During the summer they go about in family parties, 
but toward fall two or three such parties may unite and occasionally as many 
as sixty or eighty are seen in a covey. When flushed they scatter and fly for 
short distances, and then alight and run among the bushes with great swiftness, 
rarely taking wing unless closely pushed. The nesting season begins about 
May i, and two or three broods are sometimes raised in a season. The nest, 
always on the ground, is placed in a great variety of situations, such as rocky 
hillsides, alfalfa meadows, corn and grain fields, and not rarely in open barren 
flats. The number of eggs ranges from nine to sixteen, the usual number being 
eleven or twelve. In color they vary from creamy white to pale buff, often 
thickly spotted with brown. The Scaled Partridge feeds on seeds, berries, 
grain, tender buds, as well as insects of various kinds, and is esteemed for food, 
immense numbers often being trapped, and sold in the cities of New Mexico 
and Arizona. Another well-marked species (C. castanogastris) is found in eastern 
Mexico and the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas. It differs from the typical 
form in having a large patch of rusty chestnut on the abdomen. 

Plumed or Mountain Partridges. Characterized by a tail of twelve feathers 
and a conspicuous crest of long black feathers are the Plumed or Mountain 
Partridges (Oreortyx), of which two or three well-marked forms are known, all 
of the extreme Western States. They are handsome birds, ten and a half to 
eleven and a half inches long, plain brown or olive above, and bluish gray and 
chestnut below, with the throat and fore neck margined by a white band, and 
the flanks barred with black and white; the females are similar except that 
the crest is usually smaller. The Mountain Partridge, or Mountain Quail (O. 
pictus}, is found in the Pacific coast districts from Santa Barbara, California, 
to Washington, being confined to the moist mountainous regions where the 
rainfall is very heavy. In the dryer interior it is replaced by a lighter colored 
race, the Plumed Partridge (O. p. plumiferus], which occurs on both sides of 
the Sierra Nevada from Oregon southward. Both are resident and breeding 
wherever found, the latter, according to Bendire, being "essentially a bird of 
the mountains, where it is more partial to the open pine forests and rocky ridges, 
covered with chaparral and undergrowth, than to the densely timbered portions 
of the ranges. They are shy birds, preferring to escape by running rather 
than by taking wing, although they can fly swiftly if they will." The call note 
of the male is a clear whistle, like " whu-ie-whu-ie," usually uttered from an old 

California Quail 


stump, the top of a rock, or a bush; "but when alarmed, a note like ' quit-quit* 
is used. " The nesting season begins early, and in the lower foot-hills two broods 
are often reared, but higher up in the mountains only one. The nest is concealed 
under a fallen tree-top, by the side of a log, or in tangled weeds and grass, and 
the eggs are sometimes as many as twenty, but usually only twelve or fifteen. 
California Quail and Relatives. Another and larger genus of crested 
Quails is Lophortyx, the six or seven forms of which are distributed from 
Washington through Oregon, California, and well into western Mexico. The 
sexes, unlike the last genus, are very different in coloration. The beautiful 
California Quail (L. californicus] is one of the handsomest and best known 
of the Pacific coast game birds. About nine and a half inches long, the male 
has the crest and throat black, the latter with white margins, the mantle olive- 
brown, chest and tail gray, and the abdomen with black scale-like markings, 
and a central spot of chestnut, while the 
flanks are olive-brown, with white streaks. 
The female, on the other hand, has the 
head without the black and white markings, 
the prevailing color being smoky brownish, 
and the abdomen lacks the chestnut patch. 
"Their favorite haunts," says Bendire, 
" are the undergrowth and thickets along 
water courses, brush-covered side hills and 
canyons, frequenting the roads, cultivated 
fields, vineyards, and edges of clearings 
to feed. It is a constant resident, and 
breeds wherever found." When not mo- 
lested, they become very tame, almost do- 
mesticated, coming frequently to the vicinity 
of dwellings, and nesting and rearing the 
young among the shrubbery near by, but as 
with other birds, constant persecution has 

made them shyer. Formerly it is said to have been a not uncommon sight to 
see flocks of five hundred or more together, but in late years coveys of fifty 
are as large as it is usual to find. It is a pleasing sight to see them running 
about among the shrubbery or scurrying into the hedgerows from a dust 
bath in the road. Their nest is a very slight affair, being simply a hollow 
scratched in the ground at the base of a stump, in a pile of brush, or a thicket 
of grass and weeds, and occasionally the eggs may be placed in a hen's nest 
in the chicken house. From twelve to sixteen creamy white, spotted or 
blotched eggs constitute a set. A paler, grayer colored race, known as the 
Valley Partridge (L. c. vallicola}, is found in the interior districts of Cali- 
fornia and Oregon, ranging south through the peninsula to Lower California, 
where it often occurs in great numbers. Similar to these but with the flanks 
chestnut streaked with white, and the abdomen with a central black patch, 
but without the scale-like markings, is the Gambel's Partridge (L. gambeli) 

FIG. 98. California Quail, Lophortyx 

296 The Fowl-like Birds 

which ranges from northwestern Mexico through western Texas to southeastern 
California and Nevada. It frequents much the same sort of country as does 
the Scaled Partridge and in many localities is found with it. It is in many 
places a very abundant species, and is one of the few game birds that has appar- 
ently increased since the advent of civilization , in fact it is said to have become 
a nuisance to farmers in the vicinity of the Salt and Gila rivers, Arizona. A 
subspecies of this, known as the Buff-breasted Partridge (L. g. fulmpectus], 
has been recently described from southwestern Sonora. It differs mainly from 
Gambel's Partridge in its generally darker and more intense colors and larger 
bill. In western Mexico occurs another species, the Elegant Partridge (L. 
elegans\ which may be known by having the crest pale rufous and the throat 
white spotted with black ; and in southeastern Mexico are two little species only 
about seven and a half inches in length, which have been referred to a distinct 
though very closely related genus (Philortyx]. They have the tail shorter than 
any of the others just mentioned, and the sexes are similar in plumage, this 
being much banded with black and white or dusky and whitish. In the Banded 
Partridge (P. fasciatus] the cheeks, chin, and throat are white and the bill 
black, while in the Black-faced Partridge (P. personatus} these areas are black 
and the bill brownish. 

Crested Quails. In various of the Central American states as well as on 
near-lying islands are the Crested Quails (Eupsychortyx), a genus of some eight 
or nine handsome little birds with very distinctly crested heads. Of the recently 
described Margaritan species (E. pallidus} from Margarita Island, Lieutenant 
Robinson says: "These handsome birds were abundant near the coast, but 
none were seen in the interior of the island. They ran through the cactus under- 
growth with indescribable swiftness, and it was a difficult matter to cause them 
to take wing. The call of the males is identical with that of our common Bob- 
white, and the call of the scattered members of a covey is also the same." 

Bob-white. Undoubtedly the most abundantly distributed and generally 
well-known American game bird is the Bob-white, the typical form of which 
is widely dispersed over the United States east of the Mississippi and Missouri 
rivers, from the Gulf States to southern New England, Minnesota, Nebraska, 
and Texas, and is said to be gradually extending its range towarcl the west. It 
has also been introduced in many places, notably in the vicinity of Denver, 
Colorado, where I have heard them calling as familiarly as in their eastern home. 
It is also abundant as an introduced bird in the Great Salt Lake Valley of Utah, 
near Boise City, Idaho, the Willamette Valley, Oregon, and various islands in 
Puget Sound and other places, taking kindly to new surroundings provided 
climate and food are congenial. The genus (Colinus) to which the Bob-white 
belongs, with its fifteen or more species and subspecies, enjoys a practically 
unbroken continuity of range, in addition to that above outlined, from Florida 
along the Gulf States to the Rio Grande, and thence south through eastein Mexico 
to Tabasco and over the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to and down the Pacific coast 
to the borders of Guatemala. A large series of specimens obtained throughout 
this range seems to show that many of the forms are only subspecies of the 

Bob-white 297 

common Bob-white of the eastern United States, merging by gradual changes 
from one to another, but the evidence is somewhat conflicting on several points 
and must await further elucidation. In any event they are Bob-whites and 
have practically the same familiar whistled call throughout. 

The Bob-white par excellence (Colinus virginianus}, or Partridge, as it is com- 
monly called in the South, is a bird with the lower breast and abdomen white 
or buff, barred with black, while in the male the throat and band over the 
eye are white, and a crown together with a band from beneath the bill to the 
eye, and a band on the upper breast are black. Bob-whites are sociable 
birds, although never going in very large flocks, and may be heard calling 
in low tones to each other. They prefer rather open country, such as fields 
and pastures where there are small bodies of woodland, brush and brier 
patches and rank-growing vegetation. Naturally they are quite tame and unsus- 
picious, but the continual warfare of gunners has made them cautious. They 
cling closely to cover, from which it is difficult to flush them without the services 
of a trained dog, although they fly strongly when once up. If unmolested, they 
go about in family parties, wandering but little from their birthplace until 
spring, when they break up into pairs and begin the duties of rearing the young. 
The male is fearless at this season and may be heard whistling the familiar 
" Bob-while,'' "Ah, Bob-white," from a fence post or other point of vantage, 
while the female is shy and but little in evidence. The nest is a simple affair, 
placed on the ground in a tussock of grass, a brier patch, or in a field or garden, 
and is usually provided with a natural archway of vines or other vegetation, but 
occasionally an artificial dome is constructed over it. In the northern part of 
the range, where they rear but a single brood, the clutch of eggs may number 
twenty-five or thirty ; but in the South, where they raise two or even three broods, 
the number does not usually exceed fifteen. The male apparently takes little 
part in incubating the eggs, although he assists in caring for the young, taking 
full charge of the first brood while the female is hatching the second. They 
feed on grain of various kinds, seeds, berries, wild grapes, and insects, and in 
the fall often eat acorns, beechnuts, etc. In Florida there is a smaller, darker 
race, the Florida Bob-white (C. v. floridanus), which is common throughout 
the pine-covered areas ; and in Texas and northeastern Mexico occurs another 
race (C. v. texanus] that is more olive-grayish above and has usually a distinct 
band of pale cinnamon across the chest below the black band. To quite a 
distinct group apparently belong certain Mexican and Central American forms, 
in which the lower parts are uniform cinnamon or cinnamon-rufous. Thus in 
Grayson's Bob-white (C. graysoni) of southwestern Mexico, the throat and a 
stripe over the eye are white, while in the Masked Bob-white (C. ridgwayi) and 
others the throat is black, and the white superciliary stripe much reduced or 

Massena Partridge. Of the remaining genera but one (Cyrtonyx) is repre- 
sented in the United States, and this by a single subspecies, the Massena Par- 
tridge (C. montezuma mearnsi), which ranges from western Texas, New Mex- 
ico, and Arizona south into Mexico. The members of this genus, some five in 

298 The Fowl-like Birds 

number, have the tail much less than half the length of the wing, the feathers 
being soft and hardly to be distinguished from the coverts, while the claws are 
very large and broad, and the head provided with a full, soft crest of blended 
feathers. They are 'handsome birds, the sides of the head and neck showing 
a distinct black and white pattern and the breast and sides beautifully ocellated 
with white or buff. The Massena Partridge, which is known in western Texas 
as the Black or Black-billed Quail and in Arizona as the " Fool " Quail, is a 
resident of the mountainous districts within its range, although often coming 
to lower altitudes in winter. They are exceedingly tame and confiding in many 
parts of the habitat, often remaining crouched on the ground within a few feet 
of the intruder, or when flushed flying for a short distance and stupidly attempt- 
ing to hide in the most conspicuous places, where they are often killed with stones. 
With the advent of civilization they have readily adapted themselves to the change, 
and may frequently be seen about the ranches feeding on grain. Of their habits 
in New Mexico, Mr. E. W. Nelson says they " were commonly found dusting 
themselves in the roads, and usually stood and watched our approach until we 
were within a few yards, and then flew into the bordering thicket and laid very 
close. When a covey was surprised among the grass, they arose at our feet and 
scattered in every direction, but never went very far, and while flying off would 
utter low notes of alarm, sounding like ' chuk-chuk-chuk.' " The nest is usually 
carefully concealed in a bunch of grass or under a low bush that is reached by 
a narrow entrance or tunnel. The pure white eggs are ten or twelve in number. 
The other species, such as the Ocellated Partridge (C. ocellatus), Salle's and 
Merriam's Partridges (C. sallcei and C. merriami), are found in various portions 
of Mexico; but little is known of their habits. 

Of the Long-clawed Partridges (Dactylortyx) of Mexico and Central America 
we may only mention one of the four known species. This bird (D. thoracicus), 
found from southern Mexico to Yucatan, Guatemala, and Salvador, is about 
nine inches long, and has the mantle and crown reddish brown mixed with black, 
the lower back and rump olive-brown, while the throat, cheeks, and stripes 
through the eyebrows are reddish chestnut and the lower parts are grayish; 
there is also a black patch on the sides of the throat. Of the habits of this species 
G. F. Gaumer writes as follows: "This bird is common in all the -eastern forests 
of Yucatan, where it is much esteemed for its fine flesh and as a household pet. 
As a pet it is not a success, living but a few months in confinement. Like the 
Quails, this bird lives upon the ground, where it is always seen in pairs. At 
nightfall it sings a very pretty song, beginning with a low whistle, which is three 
times repeated, each time with greater force; then follow the syllables che-va- 
lieu-a repeated from three to six times in succession. The tone is musical, half 
sad, half persuasive, beginning somewhat cheerfully, and ending more coaxingly. 
From its color and its habit of remaining immovable while one is passing, this 
bird is somewhat difficult to see. I have frequently seen it squatting close to 
the ground while I passed within a few feet of it. It seldom flies, and never 
flies far when compelled to take wing." 

Thick-billed Partridges. Very closely related are the so-called Thick- 

Snow Partridges and Snow Cocks 299 

billed Partridges (Odontophorus), of which nearly twenty species are known, 
mainly of Central America and northern South America, with a few extending 
into southern Mexico. Several are so rare that but one sex is known, and as 
might be supposed, but little has been ascertained regarding their habits. 

The Old World Partridges, Francolins, and Quails (Perdicind) constitute 
a large group of some twenty-five genera and one hundred and fifty species. 
As already pointed out, they differ quite sharply from the American Partridges 
and Quails in the absence of serrations on the cutting edge of the lower mandible ; 
but on the other hand, the line between them and the Pheasants is at best only 
an artificial one, since such forms as the Bamboo Partridges (Bambusicola), 
the Indian Spur Fowl (Galloperdix), the African Spur Fowl (Ptilopachys), etc., 
present undoubted gradations that make it difficult to decide where they belong. 
Although acknowledged to be a somewhat artificial character, the shape of the 
wing is mostly relied upon to separate them, having the first quill equal to or 
longer than the tenth in the Perdicina, and generally much shorter than the 
tenth in the Pheasants; but there are some exceptions to both and the length 
of the tail is introduced as a deciding factor, this being short hi the first group 
and more or less elongated in the second. 

Snow Partridges, Pheasant- Grouse, and Snow Cocks. The first of these 
that we may consider are the Snow Partridges and Snow Cocks of western 
Asia. In the Snow Partridge (Lerwa lerwa), which is about fourteen inches 
long, the sexes are similar in plumage, being black narrowly barred with 
whitish above, and mostly rich chestnut below, while the bill and feet are 
red. They are found in the higher ranges of the Himalayas and some 
portions of China, frequenting the more rugged, rocky portions at elevations 
between 10,000 and 15,000 feet, remaining near the snow in summer, but 
coming somewhat lower in winter or after severe snowstorms. They appear 
to be very tame and are reluctant to take wing, and when doing so only fly 
for short distances. They feed, it is said, on moss, grasses, and seeds, and 
are highly esteemed for their flesh although not often shot, "as those sportsmen 
who traverse its lonely haunts are generally in search of larger game." But little 
is known of their nesting habits beyond the fact that the eggs are large and 
"dull white, freckled all over with reddish brown." Closely allied but differing 
in larger size and in having a tail of eighteen instead of fourteen feathers, and 
the feathering on the tarsi scarcely extending below the joint, are the so-called 
Pheasant-Grouse (Telraophasis], of which only two species are known, both 
confined to the higher parts of the mountains of Tibet and western China. They 
are seventeen or eighteen inches long, mostly dull olive-brown above, and gray 
spotted with black below. They are very rare, at least in collections, and but 
little is known of their habits. Very much larger than these, in fact the largest 
of the group, are the great Snow Cocks (Tetraogallus), of which eight species 
are now recognized, all of the higher mountains of Asia, from Asia Minor and the 
Caucasus to western China, the Altai Mountains, and the Himalayas. They 
inhabit such generally inaccessible places, often at elevations between 15,000 
and 19,000 feet, that comparatively little is known of their habits. Of the several 

300 The Fowl-like Birds 

species we may mention the Himalayan Snow Cock (T. himalayensis) , or Jer- 
moonal, as it is known by certain of the native tribes where it dwells. It is a 
striking bird, over twenty-five inches in length, gray and buff above and dark 
gray below, with the fhroat and upper breast white separated by a chestnut 
band, the breast white-barred, and it is further marked by a distinct patch of 
chestnut on the sides of the nape. It occurs in the higher ranges of the Hima- 
layas and the Altai Mountains, being, according to Wilson, "confined exclusively 
to the snowy ranges, or the large spurs jutting from them, which are elevated 
above the limits of the forest, but is driven by the snows of winter to perform one, 
and in some places two, annual migrations to the middle regions; in summer 
they are only seen near the limits of vegetation." It is further gathered from 
Wilson that the Snow Cock is gregarious, congregating in packs sometimes to 
the number of twenty or thirty, but, in general, not more than from five to ten. 
They never enter the forests or jungle and even avoid spots where the grass is 
long and where there is underwood of any kind. "When feeding, they would 
walk slowly uphill, picking the tender blades of grass and young shoots of plants, 
occasionally stopping to scratch up a certain bulbous root, of which they seem 
very fond. When walking they erect their tails, have a rather ungainly gait, 
and at a little distance have something the appearance of a large Gray Goose." 
The nest is a slight depression in the ground near a rock or bush, and the eggs, 
from five to nine or even eleven in number, are olive or brownish, spotted and 
dotted with reddish. . 

Red-legged Partridges. Quite different are the Red-legged Partridges 
(Caccabis), which to the number of eight or nine species range from western and 
southern Europe to eastern Asia. They may be known by their small size, 
which varies between twelve and sixteen inches, by the tail of fourteen feathers, 
and more particularly by having the sides and flanks transversely barred, in 
sharp contrast to the remainder of the lower plumage. One of the best-known 
is the common Red-legged or French Partridge (C. rufa) of central and southern 
Europe and the Canaries, where it is possibly introduced, as it was a century or 
more ago in England. They frequent especially the edges of fields, hedgerows, 
and grassy places, running with extreme rapidity and almost refusing to be 
flushed ; but when they do rise, they fly straight and rapidly, and thus afford good 
sport. As is often the case among game birds, they are extremely pugnacious 
during the breeding season, fighting with other species as well as among them- 
selves. The nest is the usual slight hollow scratched in the ground, and the eggs 
are from ten to eighteen in number. 

Francolins. Passing over the little Seesee Partridges (Ammoperdix), the 
three species of which are known from the last by their smaller size and twelve- 
feathered tail, we come to the large genus of Francolins (Francolinus), of which 
there are upwards of fifty forms, ranging over southern Europe and Asia and the 
whole of Africa, being most abundant in the latter country. They have a tail 
of fourteen feathers which is half, or a little more than half, the length of the 
wing, while the feet are with or without one or more pairs of spurs ; the sexes are 
usually similar in plumage, though in a few it is quite different. As it will be 



quite impossible to mention all of the many of the Francolins, we may select the 
type species (F. francolinus) which is found in Cyprus, Palestine, Asia Minor, 
and thence through Persia to India. It is about thirteen inches long, the male 
having the upper back black spotted with white, the lower back barred with 
white, and the under parts black spotted along the sides with white, 
while the throat is deep black and the neck encircled with a wide band of 

FIG. 99. Common Francolin, Francolinus francolinus. 

dark chestnut; the female is paler and duller. This pretty little species, also 
called the Black Partridge, is found in grassy places and cultivated ground, where 
it feeds on grain, seeds, and insects. It runs well on the ground and when 
flushed affords excellent sport ; but as it is far from a prolific breeder, it has 
been exterminated in parts of its range and much reduced in others by excessive 
shooting. It lays from six to ten brownish buff eggs in a well-concealed nest. 
The Indian natives often keep it as a cage bird, as it soon becomes perfectly 
tame, often using it as a lure for trapping wild birds. 

302 The Fowl-like Birds 

Closely related to the last are the Bare-throated Francolins (Pternistes] of 
east and south Africa, which do not differ essentially except in possessing a naked 
throat and a large naked patch around the eye, while the Long-billed Francolins 
(Rhizothera) differ in ^having only twelve tail-feathers and a long, curved bill; 
the two species of the latter range from the southern part of the Malay Peninsula 
to Sumatra and Borneo. 

True Partridges. The true Partridges (Perdix) of the Old World are known 
from the preceding genera by possessing sixteen or eighteen feathers in the tail, 
feet without spurs, and a similar or nearly similar plumage for both sexes. The 
Common Partridge (P. perdix) of Europe and central Asia is about twelve inches 
long, the plumage being gray and reddish brown, the male, and exceptionally 
the female, with a horseshoe-shaped patch of chestnut on the lower breast. 
This is a favorite bird among all lovers of birds and seems to be aided rather than 
limited by extending civilization. It avoids woodlands and frequents especially 
open, cultivated grounds or heaths and commons, going about, except during 
the nesting season, in coveys of from half a dozen to twenty or more, and is a 
favorite game bird throughout its range. Rarely if ever perching in trees, it 
spends its whole time on the ground, though when pushed rises with a loud 
whirring sound and enjoys a strong, straight flight. The nest is usually well con- 
cealed under a tuft of long grass or a bush, and contains from ten to fifteen, or 
even as many as twenty, pale olive -brown eggs. This species appears to break 
up into a number of geographic races, of which the so-called Migratory Partridge 
(P. p. damascena) of the Alpine regions of western Europe is an example. This 
form is much smaller than the species and has the bill and feet yellowish instead 
of horn-gray; it comes down to the plains of southern and central Europe in 

Bush Quails. Quite distinct are the little Bush Quails of the Indian peninsula 
and adjacent regions, none of which exceeds seven inches in length ; they number 
five species disposed in two genera. The Jungle Bush Quail (Perdicula asiatica) 
is brown above, and white barred with black beneath, the throat and forehead 
being rufous-chestnut. Mr. Hume tells us that "moderately thick forests and 
jungles, hills, ravines, and broken ground, not too deficient in cover, and rich 
cultivation, if not in too damp and undrained situations, from near the sea-level 
to an elevation of four to five thousand feet, are the ordinary resorts of the Jungle 
Bush Quail." They are usually found in coveys of from eight to a dozen and 
permit themselves to be almost trodden on before rising, which they do with a 
piping whistle and in an instant spread to all points of the compass. They lay 
from five to seven creamy or brownish white eggs in a rudely made nest of fine 
grass and rootlets. 

The Tree Partridges (Arboricola), so named from their affecting more or less 
dense forests and often perching on trees, are natives of southern Asia and adja- 
cent islands, being distinguished among other things by a tail of fourteen feathers 
which is less than half the length of the wing. Of these the Common Tree Par- 
tridge (A. torqueola) occurs in the outer ranges of the Himalayas, at altitudes 
varying from 5,000 to 14,000 feet, where, according to Mr. Wilson, "it is most 

Migratory Quail 303 

numerous on the lower ranges in the wooded ravines and hillsides, inhabiting 
forests and jungles and never open spots or cultivated fields. It is rather solitary 
in its habits, generally found in pairs, but occasionally in autumn and winter 
five or six will collect together and keep to one spot. It is a quiet, unsuspicious 
bird; when alarmed it utters a soft whistle, and generally creeps away through 
the underwood, if not closely pressed, in preference to rising. It feeds on leaves, 
roots, maggots, seeds, and berries, and in confinement will eat grain. In the 
forests of the interior in spring it is often heard calling at all hours of the day, 
the call being a loud, soft whistle, which may be easily imitated so as to entice 
the bird quite close." Its eggs are said to be pure white. About twelve inches 
long, the male is olive-brown, barred with black above, face and throat black, 
fore neck white, as are the under parts, while the crown is bright chestnut ; the 
female has the crown brown and the face, throat, and neck rusty, spotted with 

Migratory Quail. With the widely known Migratory Quail (Coturnix 
coturnix] we must close our account of this interesting group, although nearly 
every member is really worthy of extended mention. Hardly exceeding seven 
inches in length, this handsome little Quail is sandy-brown above variegated 
with black and straw color, the head "mottled with black and reddish brown, 
with three longitudinal, yellowish streaks," the chin and throat white with an 
anchor-shaped patch of black down the middle, and the lower parts reddish 
brown. As its name indicates, it is strictly migratory, spending the summer 
months or from March and April to September and October in Europe and north- 
ern Asia, and the remainder of the year in the Indian peninsula and South Africa. 
It is indeed remarkable, as Mr. Hudson says, that while in summer "he is a 
dweller on the ground, an earth lover, like his stay-at-home relation, the Par- 
tridge, yet in his wide wanderings he crosses seas, vast deserts, and the loftiest 
mountain chains, and by means of this migratory instinct has diffused himself 
over the three great continents." Although quite widely diffused throughout 
Great Britain, they are nowhere abundant, and being monogamous, are spread in 
pairs in suitable locations, preferring rough grass country rather than cultivated 
land. Soon after their arrival in spring a very few may remain over winter 
the call of the male is heard, "a shrill, piping note of three syllables, supposed 
to resemble the words wet my lips or wet my feet, according to the hearer's fancy." 
They breed on the ground, making a very slight nest with little or no lining, and 
lay from nine to fifteen eggs which are creamy white or buff, blotched and spotted 
with rich brown; one or often two broods are reared each season. After the 
nesting season is over they lay aside their exclusiveness and congregate in vast 
flocks for the migration, and in portions of their winter range, notably in India, 
they occur in numbers almost incredible. ThusTickell says of them on an island 
in the Ganges: "I do not exaggerate when I say they are like locusts in number. 
Every step that brushed the covert sent off a number of them, so that I had to 
stand every now and then like a statue and employ my arms only, and that in a 
stealthy manner, for the purpose of loading and firing. A furtive scratch of the 
head, or a wipe of the heated brow, dismissed a whole 'bevy' into the next field." 

304 The Fowl-like Birds 

They are highly esteemed for food, and during the migrations, particularly in 
fall, they are netted by thousands for market. This species has on several 
occasions been introduced into the United States, but has not thus far been 
established, as it probably migrates out into the Atlantic and becomes lost. 

The Pheasants, Fowls, and Peacocks (Subfamily Phasianina}. The 
Pheasants as here restricted comprise over twenty genera and upwards of 
one hundred species of for the most part large and elegantly plumaged birds. 
As already pointed out, the present group is not at all sharply differentiated from 
the last ; indeed, many authorities unite the so-called Perdicina directly with the 
Phasianintf, but it seems as well to keep them separate. As offering in some 
respects a transition between the two groups, mention may be made of the little 
Pheasant-Quail (Ophrysia superciliosa), a rare species of the northwestern por- 
tions of India. In size it agrees closely with the Common Quail (Coturnix), 
being among the smallest of the group, but has the long, soft plumage of the 
Blood Pheasants, and is doubtless most nearly related to them. In addition it 
has a relatively long, wedge-shaped tail of only ten feathers and a different plu- 
mage in the two sexes, the male being largely gray with the feathers edged with 
black, while the sides of the head, throat, and chin are black with white bands; 
the female is mostly brown with black shaft-stripes, and has a black band on 
either side of the crown and a whitish throat. This is still one of the rarest Indian 
birds, being generally met with in small coveys of from six to ten birds, and cling- 
ing persistently to the long grass cover, where their presence might be unsuspected 
but for their soft Quail-like notes; they feed entirely upon seeds of grasses. Their 
nests and eggs appear unknown. 

The Blood Pheasants (Ithaginis} are much larger, attaining a length of from 
fifteen to nearly eighteen inches, the three known species being confined to Tibet 
and western China. The plumage, the prevailing color of which in the males is 
a peculiar grass-green, is long and soft, and the male is provided with a full crest 
and has the body-feathers pointed. The male has the feet armed with two or 
more pairs of spurs, which are represented by a pair of blunt knobs in the female. 
In the best-known species (/. cruentns) of the higher Himalayas and Tibet, the 
male is gray above with the wings more or less green, as are the lower parts, 
the chin, throat, cheeks, and entire tail-coverts being crimson, and the feathers of 
the breast edged with the same. The female, which is much smaller than the 
male, is pale brown above and reddish brown below, mottled throughout with 
darker; in both the naked skin around the eyes and the feet are coral-red. They 
are found at elevations of from 10,000 to 14,000 feet, frequenting especially the 
forests of pine and juniper, upon the berries and seeds of which they largely feed 
during the winter, but at other seasons on wild fruit, seeds, grass, and insects. 
They are fearless and rather stupid birds, enjoying but feeble powers of flight, 
usually preferring to escape by running rather than take to wing. They are 
found in coveys of twenty or thirty or in winter often in great flocks, and if 
they become separated, as when hunted, begin at once calling sharply to bring 
the scattered members together. After feeding on berries and fruits they are 
considered good eating, but in winter the flesh acquires a strong flavor of juniper 

Tragopans 305 

and pine, and is only resorted to when other things fail. They nest on the ground 
under bushes and grass, laying ten or twelve eggs. The other species, so far as 
known, have similar habits. 

The Horned Pheasants, or Tragopans (Tragopan}, often misnamed Argus 
Pheasants, are large and magnificent birds, perhaps unsurpassed by any other 
members of the group in the beauty and perfect harmony of coloration. With 
the sides of the head nearly or quite naked, the males are provided with a short 
crest, an erectile, fleshy horn inserted just above each eye, and a large, brightly 
colored, apron-like wattle on the throat, which, during the breeding season hangs 
down for several inches, but becomes scarcely visible in winter. The five known 
species occur in the higher wooded mountains of northern India and China, 
the handsomest and best-known being the Crimson Tragopan (T. satyra). At- 
taining a length of twenty- six inches, of which the tail makes up nearly ten inches, 
the male, to quote from Mr. Ogilvie-Grant, has the crown and sides of the head 
black ; the sides of the crown and longer crest-feathers, mantle and under parts 
orange-carmine, and the remainder of the upper parts olive-brown, each feather 
near the tip with a rounded spot of white, edged with black, while the wing-coverts 
are edged with orange-carmine, the tail black, barred with buff, the horns green- 
ish blue, and the throat wattle orange or salmon-color, with blue cross-bars. 
The female, which is only about twenty inches long, is black above, mottled and 
spotted with buff, the chin and throat whitish and sandy buff beneath, finely 
mottled with black and whitish shaft-spots. The Crimson Tragopan is essen- 
tially a forest bird, frequenting the densely wooded ranges of the Himalayas 
up to 12,000 feet in summer, and even in winter rarely coming below 7000 feet. 
Although liking a situation near the snow, it never comes out upon it, but con- 
fines itself to the dense jungle, which it hardly ever voluntarily quits. "Except 
by chance," says Hume, "when you may come upon a male sunning himself 
or preening his feathers on some projecting rock or bare trunk of a fallen tree, 
these birds are never seen, unless by aid of three or four good dogs, who will 
speedily rouse them up, or of a trained shikari, who will call them out by closely 
imitating their loud bleating cry. If you ever catch a passing glimpse of them, 
it is but for a second, as they drop like stones from their perch and dart away 
with incredible swiftness, always running, never, so far as I have seen, rising unless 
you accidentally almost walk on them." They appear to feed upon insects, leaves, 
shoots of the bamboo, wild fruits, and seeds, and to make their nests in dense 
patches of hill bamboo; the eggs are as large as large fowls' eggs, white, slightly 
speckled with dull lilac. These birds are usually taken by snaring, the natives 
building two long, converging lines of hedge, and in openings near the point 
nooses are placed, the birds being slowly driven within the lines. 

Moonals. Of about the same size but even more gorgeous in plumage are 
the splendid Moonals (Lophophorus\ the males of which have much of the upper 
surface resplendent with glittering metallic green, blue, purple, and orange-crim- 
son, in addition to which the- head is adorned with a peculiar crest of about a 
dozen feathers some three inches in length, each with a bare shaft and a spade- 
shaped enlargement at the tip; the females are much plainer, being blackish 

3 o6 

The Fowl-like Birds 

with buff centers to the feathers and irregular bars and mottlings. The five 
species are found in the elevated forest regions of the vast Himalayas, occupying 
much the same situations as the Tragopans, though in addition to the forests 
it is essential that there be plenty of succulent under vegetation, which serves the 
double purpose of supplying food and the necessary concealment. The Common 
Moonal (L. impeyanus] ranges from eastern Afghanistan to western Bhutan, 
and in suitable situations is an abundant species, frequenting especially the great 
ridges jutting from the snow, and where in morning and evening, when they 


% -^ .\v 

FIG. 100. Moonal, Lophophorus impeyanus. 


come out to feed, they may be seen in the open glades of the forest and on the 
green slopes above. In autumn, after the rank vegetation has been killed by 
the frost, they begin to collect together, and it is or once was not uncommon 
to find hundreds in a day's walk. They then resort to those parts of the forest 
where the ground is thickly covered with fallen and decaying leaves, under which 
they search for grubs and other insects, descending lower and lower as winter sets 
in, and the surface becomes frozen or covered with snow. It seems doubtful 
if they pair at all, or if they do, the union is soon dissolved, for after the hen begins 
to sit the male pays no further attention to her, nor does he assist in the care of 
the young, and during the remainder of the year flocks are often found that are 
made up of birds of one sex only. Ordinarily the Moonal roosts in the high 

Moonals 307 

forests trees or in summer occasionally on the ground, and, says Hume: "There 
are few sights more striking, where birds are concerned, than that of a grand old 
cock shooting out horizontally from the hillside just below one, glittering and 
flashing in the golden sunlight, a gigantic rainbow-tinted gem, and then dropping 
stone-like, with closed wings, into the abyss below." Their call is a loud, plaintive 
whistle, which is often heard in the forest at daybreak or toward evening, occa- 
sionally at all hours of the day ; and when it is startled into flight it utters a suc- 
cession of shrill, screeching whistles which serve to alarm all within hearing. 
The eggs, usually four to six in number, are deposited in a slight hollow in the 
ground sheltered by some rock, bush, or tree-root. Attaining a length of twenty- 
six inches, the male Moonal has the mantle shining golden green, the outer coverts 
metallic bluish green, and the inner coverts, scapulars, rump, and upper tail- 
coverts bronze-crimson in some lights and purple edged with metallic bluish 
green in others, while the lower back is snow-white, the head and sides of the breast 
metallic green shot with blue and purple ; the lower parts are black and the tail 
pale rufous. In the northwest Himalayas this species is replaced by the Chamba 
Moonal (L. chambanus), which differs chiefly in having the lower back golden 
green instead of white, and the lower parts entirely glossed with metallic golden 
green ; while in northeastern Tibet and western China occurs the largest species 
of this genus, L'Huy's Moonal (L. I'huysii), which is similar to the common 
species except that the feathers of the rump are metallic golden green, margined 
with white, and the tail-feathers more or less spotted with white. The latter 
species occurs at higher altitudes than any of the others, being found on the rocky 
plateaus near the limit of perpetual snow, about 16,000 feet above the sea. The 
equally splendid Sclater's Moonal (Chalcophasis sclateri}, which has been sepa- 
rated generically on the ground of having the top of the head covered with 
beautiful curly feathers instead of the racket-shaped ones of the others, is dis- 
tinguished principally by having the upper tail-coverts white and the chestnut 
tail with a wide terminal band of white. It is an extremely rare species, found 
only in the Mishmi Hills in northeastern Assam. 

Fire-backed Pheasants. The next small group to be considered comprises 
the Fire-backed Pheasants, which are so named from the fact that the lower 
back in most is a fiery bronze-red or bronze-gold. The Crestless Fire-backs 
(Acomus}, of which there are three species, ranging from the southern Malay 
Peninsula to Sumatra and Borneo, are small Pheasants approximating twenty 
inches in length, with a short, laterally compressed or hen-like tail, a large, 
naked white patch on the sides of the head, and single-spurred legs. Practically 
nothing seems to be known regarding the habits of these birds, almost the only 
specimens being those produced by natives, though they are known to frequent 
the dense, damp forests. In two of the species (A. erythrophthalmus and A. 
pyronotus] the males have the general color of the plumage glossed with purplish 
and steel-blue, while the females are entirely black, glossed like the males; but 
in the Black-crested Fire-back (A. inornatus] of western Sumatra the males 
resemble the females of the other species, the whole plumage being black; the 
adult female of the latter is unknown. 

308 The Fowl-like Birds 

In the Crested Fire-backs (Lophura) the males are provided with a full 
crest composed of bare shafts terminating in a bunch of plumes; they have also 
a naked patch on the sides of the head and in addition a large wattle on each 
side of the neck. The four species comprising the genus are much larger birds, 
enjoying practically the same distribution as the last. Their habits are but little 
known, the one about which we have the most information being the Malayan 
Crested Fire-back (L. rufa) of Siam, Tenasserim, the Malay Peninsula, and 
Sumatra. Mr. Davidson says, "These birds frequent the thick evergreen forests 
in small parties of five or six ; they never come into the open, but confine them- 
selves to the forests, feeding on berries, tender leaves, and insects and grubs of 
all kinds, are very fond of scratching about after the manner of domestic poultry, 
and dusting themselves." The general plumage of the male in this species is 
black, glossed with purplish blue, the lower back and rump being fiery bronzy 
red, and the middle tail-feathers white; the female is chestnut throughout. 

Wattled Pheasants. Certainly one of the most striking members of the whole 
group is Bulwer's Wattled Pheasant (Lobiophasis bulweri) of the mountain 
forests of Sarawak, northern Borneo, the male of which has the head nearly 
naked and ornamented with three pairs of wattles, and a long, flowing tail of 
thirty-two pure white feathers. This splendid bird, which attains a length of 
thirty-five inches, more than half of which is taken up by the tail, has the neck 
and chest dark crimson, while the remainder of the plumage is black, each feather 
being margined with steel-blue. The female is but twenty inches long, and has 
only twenty-eight feathers in the tail, the general color of the plumage being 
brownish buff or rufous, finely mottled with black. Bulwer's Pheasant is an 
extremely shy bird, frequenting the dense mountain forests at an elevation not 
exceeding 2000 feet, remaining mostly on the ground, and running through the 
jungle with the greatest rapidity. 

Eared Pheasants. In the higher ranges of central and eastern Asia occur 
the Eared Pheasants (Crossoplilon), the five species of which are large birds 
between thirty-six and forty inches long, with a loose, hairy plumage, a long, 
rounded tail of from twenty to twenty-four feathers, the middle pair being 
curved and decomposed at the tips, and the sides of the face naked and 
papillate, while the sides of the head are ornamented by long white tufts 
which resemble horns or ears, whence of course their common name. Per- 
haps the best-known is Hodgson's Eared Pheasant (C. tibetanum) of the moun- 
tains of western China and eastern Tibet, where it is found in pine forests 
at elevations some 10,000 or 12,000 feet above the sea, and is indeed a splendid 
bird, being pure white both above and below, shading into gray on the longer 
wing- and upper tail-coverts, while the top of the head is covered with short, 
curly, black feathers, and the long, flowing tail is purplish bronze toward the 
base, shading into dark greenish blue and deep purple toward the extremity; 
this attractive plumage is further set off by the scarlet naked skin on the sides of 
the head and the reddish bill and legs. This species is said to be extremely 
sociable in its habits, as many as forty or fifty being found roosting in company, 
and even while rearing its young, still maintains its sociability ; it feeds on leaves, 

Kalij and Koklass Pheasants 309 

grains, roots, and insects, and is not highly esteemed as food. The other species 
appear not greatly different in habits so far as these are known, but they are 
mostly quite scarce, one species being represented by only a single skin. 

Kalij Pheasants. Inhabiting the Himalayas and the Indo-Chinese coun- 
tries, but at much lower elevations than the last, is a large genus (Gennaus} 
of some sixteen species, a part of which are known as Kalij Pheasants, and the 
remainder, which exhibit a peculiar vermiculated upper plumage, as Silver Pheas- 
ants. They have a long, compressed, and vaulted tail of sixteen feathers, the 
middle ones long and drooping like the domestic cock ; and both the sexes have 
the crest composed of soft, narrow feathers, which are some three inches long 
in the males and little shorter in the females. The male has a large portion of 
the sides of the head naked, and is armed with a single strong spur on each leg. 
Of the four or five species belonging to the first group we may select for brief 
mention the White-crested Kalij (G. albicristatus) of the western Himalayas and 
Nepal. About twenty-five inches in length, the male has the upper plumage 
mainly black, glossed with purplish and steel-blue, the feathers of the mantle, 
back, and rump being more or less margined with white, while the long, hairy 
crest is white, the chin and throat black, and the lower parts brownish white; 
the female is two inches shorter and has the whole plumage reddish brown. 
This fine Pheasant is most abundant in the lower regions, frequenting especially 
the foot-hills and lower valleys up to an elevation of about 8000 feet, and occurring 
in almost every variety of situation, such as low coppice and wooded jungle, 
ravines, and borders of the denser forests. "The call of the bird," says Captain 
Baldwin, "which may be heard at all times of the day, is a sharp twut, twut, twut, 
sometimes very low, with a long pause between each note, then suddenly increas- 
ing loudly and excitedly." They also produce a peculiar sound during the breed- 
ing season by flapping the wings against the body, apparently much as our 
Ruffed Grouse drums, but its object appears to be a challenge to a rival male, 
for they are very pugnacious at this time, and engage in fierce, often fatal battles. 
This sound may be closely imitated and is often resorted to for the purpose of 
securing them. They nest throughout their range, depositing the nine to four- 
teen reddish buff eggs in a simple hollow scratched in the ground under some 
stone, bush, or tuft of long grass. Perhaps the most beautiful member of the 
second group is the Silver Pheasant (G. nycthemerus] of southern China, the 
male of which has the crest and under parts black glossed with purple, and 
the upper parts white, most of the feathers with five or six narrow, black, 
concentric lines; its total length is forty inches, while the female is but half 
this length and mostly olive-brown finely mottled with dusky lines. Although 
a common bird in aviaries it is said to be very rare in a wild state and but little 
is known of its habits. 

The Koklass Pheasants (Pucrasia), the seven species of which range through- 
out the Himalayas from Afghanistan to Tibet and Manchuria, are peculiar 
birds, easily distinguished by the absence of naked skin on the sides of the head, 
and a very remarkable crest of narrow, soft feathers, the outer ones, or those 
behind the ear-coverts, being fully twice the length of the central ones, while 

310 The Fowl-like Birds 

the whole plumage of the males is lanceolate. The Common Koklass (P. macro- 
lopJia) of the western Himalayas has the under plumage and sides of the body 
ashy streaked with black in the male, the female being mostly rufous streaked 
with black. This is l especially a forest-haunting species, frequenting the wooded 
ravines from an elevation of about 4000 feet up to near the limit of trees, though 
most abundant in the lower and intermediate ranges. It is a rather ret. ring, 
solitary bird, generally found singly or in pairs, never congregating in flocks even 
during the winter season, and in fact appears to be one of the few members of its 
class that remain paired for life. 

Cheer Pheasant. Also inhabiting the Himalayas, from Nepal to Chamba, 
is the Cheer Pheasant (Catreus wallichi), which is the only representative of its 
genus. The male attains a length of thirty-four inches, over twenty of which are 
taken up by the long, straight, pointed tail, while the female is but thirty inches 
and has the tail about fifteen inches. The male has a crest of soft, narrow feathers, 
quite three inches long and dark brown in color, the general upper plumage being 
pale buff, barred with black and pale blue bands; the female has the mantle 
chestnut, each feather with a pair of black oval spots. The Cheer inhabits the 
lower ranges, being partial to grassy hills with a scattered forest of oak and 
small patches of underwood, as well as hills covered with pines. Separating into 
pairs during the nesting season, they congregate in small flocks during the other 
seasons and are quite limited in their wanderings. "Both males and females 
crow at daybreak and dusk, and in cloudy weather sometimes during the day." 

True Pheasants. We have now come to a consideration of the true Pheas- 
ants, which are comprised in three genera and upward of thirty species, five of 
which are known only in a fossil state from the Miocene and Pliocene of central 
or western Europe, thus proving beyond question the great antiquity of the group, 
and showing also that the distribution was formerly more extensive than at pres- 
ent, the range now being from southeastern Europe, across central Asia, to Japan 
and Formosa. They are for the most part gorgeously plumaged birds of large 
size for the group, few being under thirty inches and some exceeding six feet in 
length, much of which, however, is taken up by the long, straight, narrow, and 
pointed tail. The male has the sides of the head naked and covered with bril- 
liant red skin; there is no crest, but the ear-tufts are considerably developed and 
point backward, and each leg is provided with a pair of spurs. Certain of the 
Pheasants are among those most frequently seen in aviaries and, being fairly 
hardy and adaptable in disposition, breed readily in confinement or semiconfine- 
ment ; and several of the species are known to interbreed, not only in captivity 
but in a state of nature. Thus the Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus), 
which is perhaps really native in southern Turkey, Greece, and parts of Asia 
Minor, was introduced into the British Islands some sixteen or seventeen cen- 
turies ago, and at a much later date the Chinese Ring-necked Pheasant (P. 
torquatus] was imported, with the result that the two species have intermingled 
to such an extent that it is rare indeed to find a typical, pure-bred example of 
either. The Common Pheasant has also been introduced into many parts of 
Europe, and this, together with the Ring-necked, Japanese Green Pheasant 

True Pheasants 

3 11 

(P. versicplor), and others, has been introduced into various parts of North 
America, but the Ring-necked species appears to be the only one that has gained 
a permanent foothold, being now fairly abundant in Oregon, Washington, and 
adjacent states, and on certain game preserves in the East, notably in western 
Vermont. Notwithstanding the apparent thorough establishment in Great 
Britain, it is said to be doubtful if they could long hold their own without the 
fostering care of man, with the result that large sums are annually expended in 
keeping up the preserves. The extent of certain of these great game preserves 
may be judged from the fact recorded by Newton that in 1883, 134,000 Pheas- 
ants' eggs were sold from one estate in Suffolk, and 101,000 in 1893, while 9700 
birds were killed upon it. The question of whether it can be considered dig- 
nified "sport" to kill hand-reared birds is perhaps one that must be settled by 
individual standards. 

As already hinted, the Common Pheasant (P. colchicus) is a very handsome 
bird, the male having the top of the head bronze-green, the rest of the head and 
neck dark green shading into purple on the sides and front; mantle, chest, 
breast, and flanks fiery orange-chestnut, the former narrowly margined with rich 
purplish green, the latter widely edged with rich purple, the upper back and 
shoulders mottled in the middle with black and buff and margined with consecu- 
tive bands of buff, black, and orange-red, and tipped with purplish lake; the 
lower back, rump, and upper tail-coverts red-maroon, glossed with purplish 
lake; the under parts are dark purplish green and dark brown mixed with rufous; 
the tail is olive down the middle, with narrow, remote black bars, widely edged 
on each side with rufous, and glossed with purplish lake; the length is about 
thirty-seven and a half inches, of which the tail includes a little over twenty-one 
inches. The female is mainly sandy brown, barred with black, and attains a 
length of only twenty-five inches. These birds are ordinarily very shy and retir- 
ing in their habits, frequenting woods and the neighborhood of cultivation where 
there is thick covert, coming out more or less into the open to feed at morning 
and evening. They are essentially ground birds, but when put up by dogs or 
beaters rise -\ -ith a loud whir, and then fly with astonishing swiftness. The nest 
is a mere hollow in the ground under ferns, brambles, or underbrush, and the 
eight to twelve broadly oval eggs are usually olive-brown in color. 

In the limited space at command it will be quite impossible to give a full 
account of each form, but we may make a brief mention of the more important or 
interesting, beginning with the Talisch Pheasant (P. talischensis) of the south- 
western shore of the Capsian Sea, which offers a transition as it were between the 
last and the Persian Pheasant (P. persicus), which differs in having the feathers 
of the breast and fore neck more golden-orange in color, and wing-coverts nearly 
white; it is an inhabitant of Persia. In northeastern Persia and northwestern 
Afghanistan the place is taken by the Murghab or Prince of Wales' Pheasant 
( P. principalis), which has the white wing-coverts of the last, but differs in having 
the upper parts more golden-orange tinged with bronze-red on the rump, while 
in the Zarafshan Valley occurs a slightly different race known as the Zarafshan 
Pheasant (P. zerafshanicus). Shaw's Pheasant (P. shawi) of eastern Turkestan 


The Fowl-like Birds 

is another species resembling the Common Pheasant, but having the wing-coverts 
tinged with gray, and the feathers of the chest and breast edged with dark green ; 
while most closely related to this is the Oxas or Severtzoff's Pheasant (P. chryso- 
melas) of the valley of Oxas, which has a triangular dark green spot at the 
' extremity of each feather of mantle, back, and rump. The Mongolian Pheasant 
(P. mongolicus] of central Asia and Turkestan is a splendid bird, much resem- 
bling the Persian Pheasant, but distinguished at once by having a broad white 
ring around the neck, a feature which also characterizes the Chinese Ring-necked 
Pheasant (P. torquatus) and several of the following species, which otherwise 
differ in having the lower back, rump, and tail-coverts greenish or bluish slate- 
color. The latter species enjoys a wide range from eastern Siberia and Mon- 
golia to Korea and eastern China, and is the species already mentioned as having 
been introduced into Great Britain, the United States, etc. Quite distinct from 
all other members of the genus is the Japanese Pheasant (P. versicolor], which 
has the under parts dark green and the upper parts deep glossy green, with the 
wing-coverts blue and the shoulders orange-red; it occurs in all the Japanese 
Islands except Yezo. The last to be mentioned is the wonderful Reeves's 
Pheasant (P. (Syrmaticus} reevesii), of the mountains of northern and western 
China, the male of which attains a length of six and a half feet, of which, however, 
the tail slightly exceeds five feet. 

Barred-backed Pheasants. Closely allied to the true Pheasants, and indeed 
formerly included with them, are three species known as the Barred-ba CKLY] 
Pheasants (Calophasis], which have been separated on the ground that the tail 
is composed of sixteen instead of eighteen 
feathers, and the lower back and rump 
in the males being barred transversely 
with black and white. Of these Elliot's 
Pheasant (C. ellioti) inhabits the moun- 
tains of southern China and appears to 
be extremely rare. The others are Hume's 
Pheasant (C. humm), a still rarer species of 
Manipur, and Oates's Pheasant (C. bur- 
manicus] of the southern Shan states. But 
little is known of the habits of these birds, 
their nidification being entirely unknown. 

Golden and Lady Amherst's Pheasants. 
Beyond question the most gorgeously plu- 
maged members of the entire group are the 
Golden and Lady Amherst's Pheasants 
(Chrysolophus pictus and C. amher slice) of western and southern 
China and eastern Tibet, the males of which have a full, long 
crest of hair-like feathers and a peculiar cape-like ruff of erectile 
feathers on the back of the head and neck, while the tail of eighteen 
feathers is long and vaulted, the central feathers being more than 
four times the length of the outermost pair. In the Golden 

FIG. 101. Gold- 
en Pheasant, 


X ^ 

DL "S 


U) '2 

Jungle Fowls 313 

Pheasant, the male, to quote from Mr. Ogilvie-Grant, has the top of the head, 
crest, and rump brilliant golden yellow, the square-tipped cape-like feathers cover- 
ing the back of the neck brilliant orange, tipped and banded with black glossed 
with steel-blue, while the throat and sides of the head are pale rust-color 
the shoulder-feathers and remainder of under parts crimson-scarlet, and the 
iddle tail-feathers black with rounded spots of pale brown; the tail is twenty- 
ven inches out of a total length of about forty inches. The female, which lacks 
the crest and ruff, is largely brown, mottled and barred with black and buff. 
Lady Amherst's Pheasant is considerably larger, the male attaining a total 
length of fifty inches, and is further distinguished by having the crest blood-red, 
the cape-like feathers pure white, margined and barred with black, and the mantle 
and chest dark green. As both these species stand confinement fairly well, they 
are often seen in aviaries, but in a wild state they are but little known. They 
interbreed freely, and the Golden Pheasant has been known to cross with the com- 
mon domestic fowl and the Common and Reeves's Pheasant, the latter hybrid 
being an especially handsome bird, "with almost the entire plumage dull purplish 

The Jungle Fowls (Callus], of which four very distinct species are recognized, 
are natives of the dense jungles of the Indo-Malayan region and adjacent islands, 
and, as is perhaps well known, exhibit quite marked differences from the other 
members of the group, the males being provided with a high, fleshy comb along 
the middle of the head from the base of the bill backward, the margin being 
either serrated or entire. The chin, throat, and sides of the head are naked, the 
throat below the eyes being provided with two wattles, or a single one in the 
Javanese species, while the legs are furnished with long, sharp spurs. The 
plumage is of brilliant colors and the feathers mostly hackled, that is, long and 
pointed at the tips. The females, however, are plainer in plumage and lack the 
wattles, while the comb is rudimentary. In their native haunts the Jungle 
Fowls exhibit many of the characteristics so familiar to us in the domestic fowls ; 
thus the males crow, and the females cackle on leaving the nest, a procedure 
sounding very strangely coming from the wild jungle. Although they may be 
quite abundant in a locality, they are very difficult to catch sight of, as they run 
with astonishing swiftness through the mazes of the dense vegetation, only rarely 
taking to wing. The cocks often engage in fierce battles, resorting, it is said, to 
certain secluded spots in the jungle, and not infrequently these encounters end 
in the death of the vanquished. The nest is a simple hollow scratched in the 
earth, and the eggs, like miniature hens' eggs, are from five to nine in number. 
The birds are omnivorous feeders, living on seeds, grasses, insects, and worms. 
The Red Jungle Fowl (Callus gallus] is said to be the original whence all the 
domestic breeds of poultry have been derived. It is a native of northeastern and 
central India, ranging south through the Malay Peninsula to Sumatra and east 
through Siam to Cochin-China. The male has the long hackles covering the 
mantle and rump orange-red or yellowish orange, with the breast black, slightly 
glossed with green. The domestic varieties are almost infinite, and so unlike the 
original as to retain little resemblance to it, one of the most remarkable being a 

3 1 4 The Fowl-like Birds 

Japanese form in which the tail of the cock grows to a length of ten or fifteen 

The Ceylon species (G. lafayettei) is a handsome bird, having the hackles of 
the mantle golden orange, with a black band down the middle of each, while 
those of the lower back and rump are bright orange-red, with a heart-shaped 
spot of glossy violet on the terminal half of each. The chest, breast, and sides are 
also orange-red. 

The Gray Jungle Fowl (G. sonnerati) of western, southern, and central 
India has the hackles of the neck and mantle black, fringed with gray, and with 

FIG. 102. Peacock-Pheasant, Polyplectron bicalcaratum. 

a yellowish spot like sealing-wax near the tip of each. The Green or Javan 
Jungle Fowl (G. varius] of Java, Lombok, and Flores has the margin of the 
comb entire and the feathers of the back of the neck and upper mantle covered 
with short, square-tipped, purplish blue feathers, each edged with greenish 
bronze, while the lower mantle is golden green. 

Peacock-Pheasants. With the so-called Peacock-Pheasants (Polyplectron) 
we enter upon a very different type, which in a way connects the last with the 
Argus and other Pheasants. Of medium or small size, they have a relatively 
large, full, flat, and rounded tail composed of twenty-four feathers, each of which 

Argus Pheasants 315 

is ornamented with one or two large, metallic, eye-shaped spots, while the sides 
of the face are nearly or quite naked, and the tarsi armed with two, or three, 
or exceptionally four, long spurs ; the sexes are quite different in size and colora- 
tion. The half-dozen species range from the Indo-Chinese countries through the 
Malay Peninsula and Sumatra and Borneo to the Philippines, the best-known 
being the Gray Peacock- Pheasant (P. chinquis] of the eastern Himalayas and 
Indo-Burmese countries, the male of which is mainly brown above, dotted with 
whitish, many of the feathers with a large, round, eye-shaped spot of metallic 
green and violet, changing to blue and purple ; the eye-spots on the tail-feathers 
are in pairs, one on each side of the shaft, and in color are green or purple accord- 
ing to the way they are viewed ; in the female the upper parts are brown mottled 
with paler, and the eye-spots mostly black. These birds are found mostly in the 
lower ranges of hills but little above sea-level, where they frequent especially 
thick bamboo jungle, being very shy and extremely difficult of approach. Their 
call notes resemble the syllables ha-ha-ha-ha, which they utter especially in early 
morning and evening, when they come out to feed. They are especially fond of 
the fruits of a certain tree, but they also feed on insects, worms, and snails. 
These birds are considered delicious eating, being taken by the natives in snares 
which are baited with their favorite berries. Quite closely related is the Malayan 
Peacock-Pheasant (P. bicalcaratum) of the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra. 

Argus Pheasants. Although, according to classical mythology, Juno is 
said to have transferred the eyes of Argus, after his death, to the tail of her 
favorite bird, the Peacock, it is not difficult to see how the name of Argus came 
to be associated with this splendid Pheasant, close of kin to the Peacock, which 
bears the hundred eyes, not indeed on the tail, but on the great wings. And, 
it may be added, the traditional acuteness of vision is well maintained, for of all 
the Pheasants none is more secretive and keen to observe approaching danger. 
The genus Argusianus embraces three species, one of which, however, is only 
known from a portion of a single wing-feather, the others being Gray's Argus 
(A, grayi) of Borneo, and the better-known Argus (A. argus), which range from 
Siam through the Malay Peninsula to Sumatra. Generically they are distin- 
guished by the possession of a tail of twelve feathers, the middle pair in the male 
being enormously elongated and more than four times the length of the outer 
pair, while similarly the secondaries of the wing greatly exceed the outer quills; 
the sides of the face and throat are naked. The male Argus Pheasant attains 
a total length of seventy-two inches and the tail a maximum length of fifty inches, 
while the primary quills are about nineteen inches long and the secondaries thirty- 
four inches. The naked parts of the head are dark blue, the short crest is black, 
and the upper parts black beautifully mottled with buff, while the under parts 
are buff barred with black in front, and the remainder black with wavy bars of 
chestnut; the long middle tail-feathers are whitish with kidney-shaped black 
spots and blotches, and the primaries are beautifully ornamented and patterned 
with close-set rows of black and rufous spots, but the greatest beauty resides in 
the secondaries, which have the outer webs ornamented with a row of large eye- 
shaped spots, these gradually increasing in size toward the tips of the feathers. 

316 The Fowl-like Birds 

The markings on the wings and tail are only seen to advantage as the male is 
displaying before the female, when the tail is held erect and the wings spread 
and thrown forward until they make a great circular fan or shield, behind which 
even the head is dften concealed. Of the habits of the Argus Pheasant, Mr. 
Davidson writes entertainingly as follows: "They live quite solitary, both males 
and females. Every male has 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 
mud for a space of six or eight yards square, until nothing but the bare clean 
earth remains, and thereafter he keeps his place comparatively clean, removing 
carefully every dead leaf or twig that happens to fall on it from the trees above. 
These cleared spots are undoubtedly used as dancing grounds, and the males 
are always to be found at home, roosting at night on some tree close by. They 
are the most difficult birds I know of to approach." The female is a plain bird 
of mottled and barred black and buff without the eye-spots on the wings, and but 
thirty inches of total length. Like the male, she lives quite solitary, but has no 
cleared space, and wanders about the forest apparently without any fixed resi- 
dence. But little appears to be known regarding their nesting habits. 

Gray's Argus is smaller and has the mantle and wing-coverts black mottled 
with white and rufous, while Rheinardt's Argus Pheasant (Rheinardius ocellatus), 
separated as a distinct genus on the ground that the secondary quills are not 
longer than the primaries, has the tail in the male even more elongate, being 
sixty inches out of a total length of eighty-four inches ; it is a native of the moun- 
tains in the interior of Tonkin, but is very rare, at least in collections, and little 
is known of its habits. 

Pea Fowls. The final genus to be noticed embraces the splendid Pea Fowls 
(Pavo), which, in addition to their gorgeous coloration, are distinguished at once 
by having the upper tail-coverts enormously elongated into a magnificent train 
which far exceeds the tail in length. Three species are recognized, one of which, 
however, is of rather doubtful status, being perhaps a domestic ^riety and from 
an unknown locality. Of the other species the Common Peacock (P. cristatus) 
is a native of the Indian peninsula, Ceylon, and Assam, but is now spread as a 
familiar domestic bird throughout most of the world, having been in domestica- 
tion in Judea, certainly from the time of Solomon, while in Greece it appears 
to have become well known after Alexander's Indian expedition. From Greece 
it spread to Rome and gradually westward, "and in many different ways has 
touched human life and fancy. It was the bird of Juno to the Greeks and 
Romans, and emblematic of a glorified body to the early Christians ; its feathers 
have adorned many a throne and shrine, and the perverted luxury of the later 
Roman empire made an entree of the tongues and brains." Fortunately too 
well known to need description, a brief account of it in a wild state may be given. 
It is an extremely shy bird, frequenting mostly the lower elevations and moun- 

Hoactzin 317 

tain slopes, being partial to broken and jungly ground where good cover exists, 
near water on the one hand, and cultivation on the other. Where such favorable 
conditions exist the Peacock is sure to abound, and in many localities it is said 
to exist literally in myriads, being protected by the more or less superstitious 
reverence of the native population, who deplore if not absolutely prohibit its 
slaughter. It is a rather omnivorous feeder, subsisting on land snails, insects of 
all kinds, worms, small lizards, and tiny frogs, but preferring apparently grain, 
juicy grasses, and buds, and being at times very destructive to young planta- 
tions and growing crops. The old males are in full plumage from June to De- 
cember and may often be seen displaying their gorgeousness before a group of 
admiring females, for the Peacock is polygamous, consorting with four or five 
hens ; at the close of the breeding season the feathers of the train are cast. 

The Burmese Pea Fowl (P. muticus), which ranges from Burma through 
the Malay Peninsula to Java, is slightly larger than the last, the full-plumaged 
male being over eighty-two inches in length as against a maximum of seventy- 
eight in the common form. In addition it is distinguished at once by having 
the feathers of the crest longer and equally webbed on either side of the shafts, 
instead of naked quills with fan-shaped extremities; another difference is in the 
wing-coverts and shoulders being black in place of buff barred with black, as in 
the Common Peacock, and the neck and under parts green instead of blue. Its 
habits are very like those of its relative except that it is perhaps a more strictly 
sylvan or forest-haunting bird. 


(Suborder Opisthocomi, Family O pisthocomidce) 

Among living birds it is rare indeed to find within the limits of a single species a 
combination of characters which entitles it at once to generic, family, and sub- 
ordinal rank, but such is the distinction of that most curious of birds, the Hoact- 
zin (Opisthocomus hoazin), which is the sole tenant of the family O pisthocomida 
and suborder Opisthocomi. It is a small, 
quite Pheasant-like bird in appearance, 
about twenty-three inches in length, with 
a long, loose crest of rather stiff-shafted 
feathers, relatively stout feet and legs, long, 
rounded wings, and a long, slightly rounded 
tail composed of ten feathers; the eyes are 
set in the midst of a patch of bare skin 
and provided with bristly lashes. The color- 
ation above is dark brown glossed with olive 
and slightly varied with white, the wing- 
quills being chestnut and the under parts 

. , r . . i i FIG. 103. Hoactzin, Opisthocomus 

pale buff, shading into chestnut on the sides hoazin. 

318 The Fowl-like Birds 

and abdomen, while the tail is broadly tipped with yellowish white ; the sexes 
are alike. The skeleton and soft parts of the Hoactzin exhibit a number of 
remarkable features which are quite unknown in other birds. Thus the breast- 
bone has two lateraj edges parallel for two thirds the length and then divergent, 
so that it is actually wider behind than in front. The keel is only developed 
on the posterior part of the sternum, the front portion being aborted or cut 
away, a condition which has been apparently brought about by the pressure 
of the enormous crop, which has also excavated a deep cavity in the surface 
of the great pectoral muscles. " Furthermore," says Newton, " this crop is ex- 
tremely muscular, so as more to resemble a gizzard, and consists of two portions 
divided by a partial constriction, after a fashion of which no other example 
is known among birds." In addition to these peculiarities, the bones of the 
shoulder girdle are completely fused to one another and to the breast-bone. 

The home of the Hoactzin is in the northern and western portions of South 
America, from Colombia to Bolivia, but especially in the country watered by the 
Amazon. It is met with mainly on low trees and bushes along the shores of 
streams and lakes, in flocks usually of from ten to twenty individuals, and, as 
might be premised from the above enumeration of skeletal characters, it enjoys 
but weak powers of flight. "In the early morning or in the late afternoon," 
says Quelch, " they will be seen sitting in numbers on the plants, while toward 
the middle of the day, as the fierce heat of the sun increases, they betake them- 
selves to shelter, either in the dense recesses of the growth, or among the indi- 
vidual trees of denser foliage, or among the tangled masses of creeping and 
climbing vines, along the very edge of the water. Late in the evening, after feed- 
ing, they will be seen settling themselves down in suitable places for the night." 
They feed almost entirely upon leaves, of which they consume great quantities, 
especially of an arum, which imparts to the flesh a very strong, disagreeable 
odor, whence the bird is often called the "Stink-bird" or "Stinking Pheas- 
ant." The nest of the Hoactzin is a rude affair of sticks loosely laid together 
and placed in bushes near the water, while the eggs, usually two or three in 
number, are oval, yellowish white profusely blotched and spotted with reddish. 
The young are hatched almost naked and have the thumb and index finger pro- 
vided with claws by means of which they are enabled soon after birth to clamber 
about among the branches, thus making the nearest approach m appearance to 
a quadruped found among existing birds. In a valuable contribution on the 
weapons and wings of birds, Mr. F. A. Lucas says: "Soon after the hatching of 
the eggs the nestlings begin to crawl about by means of their wings and legs, the 
well-developed claws on the pollux and index being constantly in use for holding 
and hooking to surrounding objects. If they are drawn from the nest by means 
of their legs, they hold on firmly to the twigs both with bill and wings; and if 
the nest be upset by means of a rod pushed up from below, they hold on to all 
objects with which they come in contact by means of bill, feet, and wings, mak- 
ing considerable use of the bill, not only to reach objects above them, but also, 
with the help of the clawed wings, to raise themselves to a higher level. When 
the parent bird is driven from the nest, owing to the close approach of a boat, 

FIG. 103 a. Young Hoactzins, Opisthocomus hoazin. (Courtesy U. S. National Museum.) 

Hoactzin 3 1 9 

the young birds, unless they are quite recently hatched, crawl out of the nest on 
all fours and rapidly try to hide in the thick brush beyond." When upset into 
the water, the young are also able to swim rapidly, and even to dive, in order to 
avoid capture. In the adult birds the claws on the wings have entirely disap- 
peared, and even the thumb is so poorly developed that no one would suppose 
its presence in the nestlings. 

From the peculiar characters above pointed out it is little wonder that there 
has been much speculation as to the relationships of the Hoactzin. The mature 
bird, as already stated, resembles a game bird, while the nestling has certain 
characters possessed only by the fossil Arch&opteryx, the oldest known bird. 
The eggs resemble closely the eggs of Rails, but the abundant skeletal characters 
separate it not only from the Rails but from most other birds as well. Huxley 
says that it "resembles the ordinary gallinaceous birds and pigeons more than 
it does any others, and where it diverges from them, it is either sui generis, or 
approaches the Plantain-Eaters (Musophagida)." Therefore, while ornitholo- 
gists are perfectly agreed that the Hoactzin constitutes a distinct order or sub- 
order, they are by no means of one opinion as to where it shall stand. By some 
it is placed between the game birds and the Rails, by others, as Dr. Sharpe, 
between the Pigeons and Rails, while Dr. Gadow refers it as a suborder to the 
Galliformes, but locating it at the end of that order and therefore near to the 



(Order Gruiformes) 

speaking, the Crane-like birds, to go no further 
afield, may be said to possess, in common with the Galliformes on 
one side and the Charadriiformes on the other, the split (schizog- 
nathous) or incomplete band (desmognathous) form of palate, a 
double head to the quadrate bone, the distal ends of the ilium and ischium 
united, and no slip to the accessory femorocaudal muscle above the sciatic 
foramen. From the Fowl-like birds (Galliformes) the other two orders differ in 
having the basal end of the coracoids separate instead of united and crossed, in 
the absence of the spina interna sterni muscle, and in the bill not being decurved 
or vaulted, while the two orders are themselves diagnosed by the heteroccelous 
dorsal vertebrae and 2-notched or entire sternum in the Gruiformes, and opistho- 
ccelous dorsal vertebrae and 4-notched sternum in the Charadriiformes. 

In less technical language it may be stated that a majority of the forms in- 
eluded within the limits of this order are waders, though the Bustards, Wekas, 
Kagu, and others are preeminently terrestrial. All appear to agree, however, 
in the absence of a true crop, and in possessing an elevated hind toe, and always 
incompletely webbed front toes. But even admitting these relatively important 
points of agreement, the various groups differ quite widely in certain other 
structural characters, and the order seems on the whole a rather heterogeneous 
one, though it is perhaps as satisfactory a disposition as can be made at present. 
It embraces seven families. 

(Family Rallidce) 

The members of this family form a relatively compact group of small or 
medium-sized wading or swimming birds, distinguished among other characters 
by the extreme narrowness or compression of the body. They have rather long 
necks, small heads, and short, rounded, concave wings, while the legs are long and 
strong, as are the feet. They are not strong flyers, but depend rather upon their 
legs for escaping danger. The plumage is rather loose and " hairy, " and habitual 
disuse of the wings has resulted in the loss of the power of flight in a number 
of cases, and as a result several species have actually become extinct within 
comparatively recent times, and many others seem likely to meet the same fate 
at no distant day. The Rails spend their lives largely in marshes, their slender 


True Rails 


bodies permitting them to thread their way among the closest reeds and rushes 
with astonishing rapidity. While not exactly gregarious, community of tastes and 
wants brings them together in the marshes, often in immense numbers. The Gal- 
linules are more frequently seen along the borders of the marshes, while the Coots 
frequent the water much after the manner of Ducks, and incline to go in flocks. 

This family embraces about fifty genera and one hundred and eighty species, 
and is widely distributed throughout the globe, being, however, most abundant 
in the tropics, North America having only about fifteen forms. It is clearly a 
family of ancient origin, since numerous fossil species are known, the oldest being 
from the upper Eocene beds of France. The family is sometimes divided into three 
subfamilies, the first of which embraces the Rails proper, while in the others are 
included the Gallinules and Coots respectively. As it will be impossible in the 
space at command to describe them all, a few of the typical forms may be selected 
from each group. 

True Rails. The true Rails may be typified by the genus Rallus, which, 
according to Sharpe, includes some twenty-one forms, all but five of which are 
natives of the New World. These differ from their nearest relatives in having 
the slender bill as long as or longer than the tarsus. They are all very similar in 
their habits, and frequently in appearance as well. One of our best-known and 
most widely distributed species is the Virginia Rail (R. mrginian-us), which is 
found throughout the whole of temperate North America, passing as far north 
as British Columbia and Hudson's Bay, and wintering from the southern part 
of its summer range to Guatemala. It is about nine and one-half inches long, 
olive brownish above, broadly striped with blackish, with the wings and tail dark 
grayish brown, and the wing-coverts deep rusty, while the throat is white and 
the under parts cinnamon-rufous, barred or spotted on the flanks, and 
under tail-coverts with black and white. The Virginia Rail prefers very wet 
marshes, where it can wade rather than swim, although it can both swim and 
dive if forced by circumstances to do so. It is a very secretive bird and its 
presence might be almost unsuspected if it were not especially looked for, and 
like other members of its group it can hardly be forced to take wing. In spring 
it has a peculiar grunting note that has been likened to the sounds produced by 
a hungry pig, and at night or during very cloudy days the male utters an often- 
repeated guttural note that Mr. Brewster describes as cut, cutta-cutta-cutta. 
This "when heard at a distance of only a few yards has a vibrating, almost un- 
earthly quality, and seems to issue from the ground directly beneath one's feet." 
The food of this species consists of aquatic insects, snails, worms, and various 
seeds. The nest is placed on the ground in marshes, generally in a tussock of 
grass, and is a rather neat affair of grasses. The eggs are from six to twelve in 
number, and have a creamy white ground over which is spread spots and speckles 
of rufous-brown. The King Rail (R. elegans} is what may be called a larger 
edition of the Virginia Rail, resembling it quite closely in all but size, being from 
seventeen to nineteen inches in length. It is, however, generally much lighter 
above, and has the wings and tail olive-gray, the neck and breast cinnamon- 
rufous, and the abdomen and sides rufous, barred with white. It frequents the 


The Crane-like Birds 

fresh-water marshes of the eastern United States, but is not a very abundant 
species and comparatively little is known of its habits. Its nest is made in 
marshes and is often raised several inches above the general surface by means 
of withered weeds and grasses; the number of eggs is usually nine or ten. The 
Clapper Rail (R. crepitans}, an allied form of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of 
the United States, is a frequenter of grassy, salt-water marshes and mangrove 
swamps, and although not exactly gregarious, lives somewhat in colonies and is 
frequently found in great numbers. It is a shy, skulking bird, rarely taking 
wing, and when it does so, flying with a heavy, labored flight. It feeds on small 
crabs, minute crustaceans, and seeds, and in fall becomes excessively fat, when it 
is highly esteemed for food. Local races of this form are known in Louisiana 
and Florida, and several other species are known in various parts of North 
America. Of the Old World representatives, the Water Rail (R. aquaticus) is 
found in Europe and central Asia in summer and in northern Africa and India 
in winter, and the Caffre Rail (R. ccerulescens] in South Africa, while the Indian 
Rail (R. indicus) is a native of eastern Siberia and Japan, returning southward 
in winter. The habits of all are similar. 

The Sora or Carolina Rail (Porzana Carolina) of temperate North America 
may be taken as the representative of another large and widely distributed genus 
of some sixteen species. It differs from the true Rails in having a short, stout 
bill which is not more than two thirds the length of the tarsus. It is about eight 
and one half inches long and is more or less olive-brown above and white below, 
with the front of the head, chin, and throat deep black, and the flanks barred 
with black. It is an inhabitant of fresh-water marshes, where, especially during 
the migrations, they often congregate in thousands. They feed largely on seeds, 
particularly those of the wild rice, and in fall become very fat and are then killed 
in great numbers for the table. Like the others of its race it is shy and rarely seen 
unless searched for, and when standing silent and motionless among the reeds 
and rushes of its home is almost invisible. It has a variety of notes and calls, 
especially during the nesting season, and the clear, whistled kee-wee from a 
thousand voices in a well-stocked marsh suggests the "springtime chorus of 

piping frogs." They breed in the marshes, 
building a very slight nest of grasses on some 
bog or tussock, and lay from^even to twelve 
drab-colored, brown-spotted eggs. 

Corncrake. Quite closely allied to the 
last and having the same stout bill, but a 
much shorter middle toe, is the Corncrake, 
or Land Rail (Crex crex), of Europe and 
central Asia, which occurs somewhat regu- 
larly in Greenland and occasionally in east- 
ern North America. It has a length of about 
ten inches, and is yellowish brown above, 

each feather with a dark center, and white below, with the flanks broadly barred 
with brown and buff. This is one of the commonest of British birds, being 

FIG. 104. Corncrake, Crex crex. 

Pygmy Rails and Gallinules 323 

found in rich pastures and meadows, where it skulks and hides, or runs with 
the greatest swiftness and ease. Its low, creaking cry, which Mr. Hudson says 
may be imitated by rapidly passing the thumb-nail along the teeth of a fine 
comb, is sounded incessantly from meadows and fields. The nest is made of 
grass and dry leaves and is placed on the ground among growing grain or grass. 
The eggs are seven to ten in number, reddish with brown and gray spots. 

Pygmy Rails. Not far separated from the last are the pretty little Pygmy 
Rails (Corethrura) of Africa and Madagascar, of which nine species are recog- 
nized. They are only six or seven inches long and are chiefly remarkable, so 
far as plumage goes, for the laxness of the feathers and the soft tail, which is 
almost concealed by its coverts. The Rufous-chested Crake (C. rufa) of South 
Africa has the head, neck, breast, and shoulders chestnut, while the body is 
black, more or less streaked with white. This species, Andersson says, " fre- 
quents stagnant waters, thickly fringed and studded with aquatic herbage, 
amongst the ever progressive decay of which it loves to disport itself and to 
search for food. It is very shy and retiring in its habits, seldom going far from 
effective cover, and gliding through the mazes of rank vegetation with astonish- 
ing ease and swiftness." 

Gallinules. The Gallinules and Coots, as already pointed out, are some- 
times referred to separate subfamilies, and again to a single subfamily. Col- 
lectively they differ from the Rails in having a frontal process or shield at the 
base of the upper mandible, while among themselves they differ regarding the 
toes, these being without lateral lobes in the Gallinules and with them in the 
Coots. Both groups enjoy a wide geographic distribution, the former being, 
however, most numerous in genera and species. 

The common or so-called Florida Gallinule (Gallinula galeata) may be taken 
as typical of the Gallinules. It is found throughout the whole of tropical and 
temperate America, ranging as far north as Canada and south to Brazil and 
Chile. It is a small bird, only twelve or thirteen inches in length, dark bluish 
slate-color above and whitish below, the back and scapulars marked with olive- 
brown, and the flanks sparingly white-streaked. The frontal shield and bill are 
bright red in life, the latter tipped with yellowish, while the legs are greenish 
with the upper parts of the tibia scarlet. They frequent especially reedy and 
bushy marshes along the shores of ponds and lakes, and among the tangled 
vegetation of which they make their way with ease and grace. They are ex- 
ceedingly timid and conceal themselves among the rank vegetation on the slight- 
est indication of danger. When surprised they run nimbly and when hard pressed 
take to the water, where they swim and dive well, and can rarely be forced to 
take wing, and when they do the flight is short, as, with dangling legs, they 
drop at the first opportunity. Mr. William Brewster has given an entertaining 
account of the habits of a pair on which he made extensive observations near 
Cambridge, Massachusetts. Of the male he says: "His manner of swimming 
and of feeding from the surface of the water was very like that of a Coot. He 
sat high and accompanied the strokes of the feet with a forward-and-backward 
nodding motion of the head and neck, accentuated at times as he reached out 

3 2 4 

The Crane-like Birds 

to seize some tempting morsel. On land he walked like a Rail, threading his 
way deftly among the stems of the bushes and tall rushes, stepping daintily, 
lifting and putting his feet down slowly, and almost incessantly picking up his 
tail with a quick, nerVous motion which caused the under coverts to flash like the 
sudden flirt of a handkerchief. As he picked his food from the vegetation at 
his feet, the head and neck were shot forward and downward at intervals of 
about a second, with a peculiarly vivid, eager motion. His manner of walking 
and feeding also suggested that of the Guinea-hen, the body being carried low 
and in a crouching attitude, while the movements of the head partook of that 
furtive swiftness which is so characteristic of this barnyard fowl." These Galli- 
nules are very noisy birds, particularly during the nesting season, and have a 
great variety of calls, one of the most common being a loud, explosive chuck. 
All the notes, however, are "loud, harsh, and discordant, and nearly all curiously 
hen-like." The nest is a rather unsubstantial structure of reeds and grasses, 
usually raised a few inches above the shallow water surrounding it, and but 
slightly hollowed. The eggs are from eight to thirteen in number, buffy white 
spotted and speckled with brownish. 

Moor-hen. Closely allied to the last is the Moor-hen, or Water-hen (G. 
chloropus), of the Old World, being, however, slightly smaller and with the 
frontal shield truncated instead of pointed at the back. It is an abundant bird 
in the British Islands, where, according to Hudson, if "it is not molested, and 
the stream, or pond, or ditch it inhabits is close to the homestead, it becomes 

almost domestic in its habits, and will freely 
mix with the poultry and share their food." 
Otherwise it has similar habits and frequents 
much the same localities as the Florida 
Gallinule, building a similar nest among 
the reeds or rushes. Two or three broods 
are reared in a season, and "it has been 
observed that the young of the first brood 
sometimes assists the parents in making a 
new nest and in rearing the young of the 
second brood." Other species to the num- 
ber of half a dozen are found in South 
America, Africa, Australia, Oceanica, etc. 

Purple Gallinules. Similar to Galli- 
nula, but having a more slender form and 
oval rather than slit-like nostrils, are the 
beautiful Purple Gallinules, of which sev- 
eral genera are recognized, all with handsome plumage of chiefly opaque 
blue, purple, and green. The American Purple Gallinule (lonornis martinico), 
mainly of tropical and warm temperate America, is about twelve and one half 
inches long, with the upper parts a bright olive-green, brighter on the wings, 
and the head, neck, and lower parts dark, rich purplish blue. The frontal 
shield in life is bright blue, the bill bright red tipped with yellow, the iris crim- 

FIG. 105. Purple Gallinule, lonornis 

Purple Gallinules and Moho 


son, and the legs and feet yellow. This is essentially a southern species and 
is not common in the United States above the southern line of states. Like the 
others of its kin, it frequents the dense vegetation of marshes, where it feeds on 
mollusks, worms, and seeds. In Jamaica, where it is known as the "Sultana," 
it is an abundant resident of the lowland ponds and marshy rivers, and is so bold 
and fearless as to appear in the open and stroll about with little heed to the 
passer-by. The nest according to Audubon is placed at a height of two to three 
feet from the ground, in a dense cluster 
of rushes fastened together by the birds. 
The eggs, five to eight in number, are 
similar to those of the Florida Gallinule, 
but with a paler ground color. To 
further show the varied and beautiful 
plumage of these birds, we may briefly 
describe the Green-backed Purple Gal- 
linule (Porphyrio smaragdonotus) of 
South Africa. This bird, to quote from 
Sharpe, has the " head, hind part of the 
neck, and wing-feathers glossy violet; 
the back and rump, dull glossy green; 
the cheeks, throat, and fore part of the 
neck and under parts of the body, 
violet-blue, while the tail is dull green, 
and the vent-feathers pure white ; while 
living, the frontal shield and bill are 
blood-red, and the legs and feet dark 
pink. They haunt the reedy borders of 
ponds and valleys." 

Notornis. Before leaving this group there is a very curious New Zealand 
bird that is worthy of notice. It is a large Gallinule-like bird, called by the 
natives the Moho (Notornis mantelli\ and was first made known to science 
from fossil or subfossil remains found in association with bones of the Moa. A 
few years later (1849) a single extraordinary bird was captured alive by some 
sailors near Resolution Island, and parts of it falling into scientific hands, it was 
decided that it was referable to the fossil form, which had hitherto been sup- 
posed to have met the fate of its erstwhile companions, the Moas. Since that 
time only three additional examples have been captured, the second in 1851, the 
third in 1879, and the last in July, 1898, showing that although exceedingly 
rare it has still managed to escape extinction. The first three examples having 
been preserved by unskilful hands were not in very good condition for study, but 
from an examination of the best of these, which is now preserved in the Dresden 
Museum, it was determined that although very close to the fossil form it should be 
regarded as distinct, and it was given the name of Notornis hochstetteri. This 
view is entirely confirmed by the last specimen, which was fortunately received en- 
tire at the New Zealand Museum, and in condition that permitted a fairly complete 

FIG. 106. Moho, Notornis mantelli. 


The Crane-like Birds 

study of its anatomy and soft parts. It may be described as a stocky bird about 
twenty-five inches in length, with a short, very thick bill and exceedingly strong 
feet and legs. The wings are short and rounded and quite useless for flight, 
the quills being soft and the webs more or less unconnected. In color it is dark 
purplish blue, shaded on the back and wings with olive-green, while the bill and 
legs are red. Nothing is known of its habits beyond the fact that it is very fleet 
of foot, probably spending most if not all of its life on land. The stomach of 
the last one taken was filled with small bits of sedge and grass; but the bill 
appears needlessly strong for securing such a diet, and it seems probable that it 
feeds on seeds or other hard substances when these are procurable. 

Another species known as the White Swamp-hen (A/", albus) was once found 
on Norfolk and Lord Howe islands, but is now extinct, only a single specimen 
being preserved. It was entirely white with the bill and legs red. 

Coots. We now come to the Coots, which are distinguished, as before men- 
tioned, by the broadly lobed toes which adapt them to a more aquatic life than 

the others. Of the 
dozen species known, 
all belong to the 
genus Fulica, and 
maybe distinguished 
by the uniform slaty 
or plumbeous color, 
the head and neck 
being darker, almost 
black in the adults, 
the edge of the wing 
whitish, and the bill 
usually whitish or 
yellowish. Although 
two thirds of the 
species are natives of 
the New World, only 
one, the American 

Coot (F. americana), is found in North America proper, though ^the European 
species (F. atra) is accidental in Greenland. Our Coot is a bird from 
thirteen to sixteen inches long and has the bill milk-white, with the terminal 
portion and the frontal shield dark brown. It is found throughout the whole 
of North and middle America and most of the West Indies, and in many 
places is very abundant, going about usually in small parties, occasionally in 
flocks of large size. They swim well and accompany the motion of the feet 
by a bobbing motion of the head and neck. They are very noisy birds, 
having a variety of loud, cackling notes which are frequently uttered. Dr. 
B. W. Evermann has recently given a good account of their feeding habits 
as observed on Lake Maxinkuckee, Indiana. They arrived from the North 
in great numbers early in September and were soon found over all parts of 

FIG. 107. American Coot, Fulica americana. 

Coots and Cranes 327 

the lake, .and he regards them as being as thoroughly aquatic as any species 
of Duck, swimming and diving with equal facility. They were not observed 
walking on the shore, but spent the time in relatively shallow water some dis- 
tance out. They were found at first to be feeding exclusively on the tender 
winter buds of the wild celery ( Vallisneria spiralis), which they secured by div- 
ing in water which varied in depth from four to twenty-five feet, preferably 
between four and eighteen feet. Later when the supply of winter buds gave out 
they ate the leaves and roots of the wild celery, as well as numerous other aquatic 
plants. Dr. Evermann states that "the Coot dives with greater abruptness than 
any Duck I have observed. The body turns very quickly and is usually in a 
nearly vertical position before entirely submerged. . . . The longest time any 
individual was observed to remain under water was sixteen seconds, and the 
usual time in water four to ten feet deep was about nine seconds." After feeding 
on the wild celery the Coot is regarded by Dr. Evermann as the equal of the 
celebrated Canvas-back Duck as a table bird. At other times they feed on crus- 
taceans, worms, insects, and seeds, and are not then as fine flavored. The nesl 
of this species is made of reeds and grasses and is placed among the reeds of 
fresh-water marshes. The eggs are from eight to fifteen in number, pale buffy 
white, thickly speckled with fine spots of dark brown. 

To give a slight idea of the other species we may mention briefly the three 
found in Argentina. The Red-gartered Coot ( F. armillata), so named on account 
of the bright red naked portion of the leg above the foot, has the bill yellow with 
red basal spots, and the frontal shield yellow, margined with red. The Yellow- 
billed Coot (F. leucoptera) may be known by the yellow bill and shield, and the 
Red-fronted Coot (F. rufifrons) by the bright scarlet bill and shield. 

A single fossil Coot has been described from Pleistocene beds on the Chatham 
Islands, and a species of large size (Leguatia gigantea) has become extinct on 


(Family Gruidtz) 

The second of the coordinate families into which Crane-like birds (Grui- 
formes) are divided comprises the Cranes proper, as well as the minor groups 
which are assumed, in the system of classification we are following, to be most 
closely related to them. It must be confessed, however, that the present group- 
ing is not agreed upon by all ornithologists, but this simply illustrates another 
case of the difficulty experienced in arriving at a uniform classification of groups 
that are confessedly of close affinity. The selection of one set of characters as 
a basis for classification may give results quite different from those to be ob- 
tained with another set, and it thus becomes a matter of extreme difficulty to 
determine satisfactorily the characters to which most weight should be given. 
Suffice it to say that, all things considered, the present grouping is perhaps as 
satisfactory as any that can be devised in the present state of our knowledge, 
which is unfortunately far from complete, regarding many of the forms included. 

328 The Crane-like Birds 

The family is divided into three subfamilies, the Grumce, or true Cranes, the 
Aramince, or Courlans, and the Psophiincs, or Trumpeters. The especially distin- 
guishing marks will be set forth under each heading. 

The Cranes (Subfamily Gruince). Although externally resembling the 
Herons and Storks with which, indeed, they were formerly united, the Cranes 
really constitute a very well marked group of birds, no one of which is 
likely to be confused with any other when once their distinctive characters 
are understood. They are all birds of large size and frequent grassy plains 
as well as marshes. They have long legs and neck, generally a long bill, 
which is equal to or longer than the head, and long wings in which the 
inner secondaries are rather longer than the primaries, and are generally 
composed of drooping plumes with more or less dissociated webs. The tail 
is rather short and composed of twelve feathers. The toes are short, espe- 
cially the posterior toe, which is so much elevated above the other three that 
its claw scarcely touches the ground. The powder-down patches, so char- 
acteristic of the Herons, are absent, except in the anomalous Kagu and the 
Sun-Bitterns. In the structure of the skeleton and the soft parts the Cranes 
depart widely from the Herons and Storks, the most important difference being 
the split (schizognathous) instead of the band form of the palate, and the slit- 
like (schizorhinal) form of the nostrils. A further structural feature of much 
interest, which is present in most Cranes, is afforded by the great length and 
peculiar convolution of the trachea or windpipe. In the young chick, as it is 
about to emerge from the egg, the windpipe is said to be perfectly simple, but 
with advancing age this organ elongates and coils upon itself, after the manner 
of a French horn, within the keel of the breast-bone. The extent of this coiling 
appears to reach its maximum development in the Whooping Crane, when 
a length of no less than twenty-eight inches of the windpipe is packed away 
within the hollowed keel before it passes into the lungs. The entire length of 
the windpipe in this bird is about five feet, which is nearly or quite the total 
length of the bird itself. It is apparently upon this great length of the trachea 
that the powerful, resonant, and trumpet-like voice of the Cranes depends, as 
on a similar organ does the voice of the Trumpeter Swan. It has been said 
on high authority that a striking point of difference between the Whooping 
and Sandhill Cranes is the absence of convolutions in the trachea of the latter, 
but this is incorrect, for while not convoluted to as great an extent in the former 
it is nevertheless distinctly folded. Beautiful preparations of the trachea of 
all three American species are in the United States National Museum, and all 
are distinctly convoluted. 

Another distinguishing mark is afforded by the condition of the nestlings, 
these being covered with down and able to run about within a few hours after 
they are hatched. The feather-tracts and their disposition are also quite peculiar. 

The Cranes number about nineteen species and are distributed over the 
whole of North America as far south as Mexico and Cuba, and the greater part 
of Europe and northern Asia, whence they extend into northeast Africa, Lower 
Egypt, northwest India, and the Yangtse basin in China. In the more north- 

Whooping Crane 329 

ern parts of their range they are strictly migratory, while in the more southern 
portions they are less or not at all so. By some students they are referred to 
only one or two genera, while by others they are divided, mainly on external 
characters, into nine or more. It is clearly a very ancient group, since no less 
than seventeen fossil forms have been described, the oldest of which comes 
apparently from the Eocene of England with half a dozen or more nominal 
species found in the Eocene and later horizons of North America. 

Whooping Crane. We may begin the detailed consideration of the Cranes 
with the typical and largest genus (Grus), which embraces more than a third 
of the species, three well-marked forms of which are found in North America, 
the largest being the Whooping Crane (G. americana). This magnificent bird 
is from fifty to fifty-four inches in length and has a spread of wings of about 
ninety-two inches. In the mature bird the plumage is pure white throughout, 
with the exception of the quills which are black, while in the young the white 
is overlaid by patches of rusty, especially above. In the young bird the head 
is feathered, but when it has attained maturity the cheeks as well as the entire 
crown are bare, this character being sometimes made the basis of a generic 
separation. The \Vhooping Crane is practically confined to the central portion 
of the country, ranging north as far as the Saskatchewan, and spending the 
winter in the marshes and swamps of Florida, Texas, and central Mexico. Its 
principal avenue of travel is the Mississippi Valley, and it rarely wanders far 
from this track. In former days it probably enjoyed a much wider distribution, 
for according to Alexander Wilson, one of America's pioneer ornithologists, 
it once nested at Cape May, New Jersey, but its great size and conspicuously 
white plumage made it a too tempting mark, and it has been forced to seek 
wilder and more open country. It feeds largely upon vegetable substances, 
such as roots of the water-lily and other aquatic plants, and in its winter home 
is said to be fond of frequenting fields where corn, peas, sweet potatoes, etc., 
have been grown, where it picks up. such as may have been accidentally left, 
and it also feeds on aquatic insects, frogs, reptiles, and field mice. Although 
a few pairs may still stop in the Northern Central States to rear their young, the 
main body pass farther north. Mr. Ernest E. Thompson (now r Thompson 
Seton) reports it as a tolerably common migrant, but a rare summer resident 
in Manitoba, where it is locally known as the "Flying Sheep," while according 
to Sir John Richardson, it frequents every part of the fur countries. "It mi- 
grates," he says, "in flocks, performing its journeys at night and at such an 
altitude that its passage is known only by the peculiarly shrill screams which 
it utters. ... It rises with difficulty from the ground, flying low for a time, and 
affording a fair mark to the sportsman; but if not entirely disabled by a shot, 
fights with great determination, and can inflict very severe wounds with its 
formidable bill." Instances have been known of this bird driving its bill deep 
into the bowels of a hunter when not successful in warding off its blow. The 
nest is said to be placed in a marsh and the eggs, apparently two in number, 
are grayish white sparsely marked, especially at the larger end, with bold patches 
of dark rusty brown. 


The Crane-like Birds 


Sandhill Crane 331 

Sandhill Crane. The most abundant American species is perhaps the 
Sandhill Crane (G. mexicana), which is found from the "Mississippi Valley 
west to the Pacific coast, south to Mexico, and eastward along the Gulf coast 
to Florida and Georgia." It is smaller than the last, being only forty to forty- 
eight inches long, and has a more slender bill. In the adult the entire plumage 
is a deep slate-gray, sometimes tinged or washed with rusty, the primaries 
becoming darker and the cheeks and throat paler. The young are brown 
throughout, and as in the young of the Whooping Crane the head is entirely 
feathered, the cheeks remaining so even when the bird is mature. This species 
does not frequent the seashore, nor is it usually found in wet situations, "but 
prefers dry prairies, plowed fields, sandy hills, and like places," where it feeds 
on all the small animals it can catch, such as mice, frogs, grasshoppers, and 
probably young birds, as well as succulent roots, seeds, etc. 

Dr. Coues, in his usual felicitous style, has given the following account of 
the habits of this bird: "Thousands of Sandhill Cranes repair each year to 
the Colorado River Valley, flock succeeding flock along the course of the great 
stream, from their arrival in September until their departure the following 
spring. Taller than the Wood Ibises or the largest Herons with which they 
are associated, the stately birds stand in the foreground of the scenery of the 
valley, the water now reflecting the shadow of their broad wings, then the clear 
blue sky exhibiting in outline their commanding forms. Such ponderous 
bodies, moving with slow-beating wings, give a great idea of momentum from 
mere weight of force of motion without swiftness ; for they plod along heavily, 
seeming to need every inch of their ample wings to sustain themselves. One 
would think they must soon alight fatigued with such exertion, but the raucous 
cries continue, and the birds fly on for miles along the tortuous stream, in Indian 
file, under some trusty leader, who croaks his hoarse orders, implicitly obeyed. 
Each bird keeps his place in the ranks ; the advancing column now rises higher 
over some suspected spot, now falls along an open, sandy reach, swaying mean- 
while to the right or left. As it passes on, the individual birds are blended in 
the hazy distance, till, just before lost to view, the line becomes like an immense 
serpent gliding mysteriously through the air. When about to alight, fearful 
lest the shadows of the woods harbor unseen danger, the Cranes pass by the 
leafy intricacies where the Ibises and other less suspicious birds feed, and 
choose a spot for the advantage it may offer of uninterrupted vision. By nature 
one of the most wary and discreet of birds, his experience has taught the Crane 
to value this gift and put it to the best use. His vigilance is rarely relaxed 
even when he is feeding, where less thoughtful birds feel perfectly secure. After 
almost every bending of his long neck to the ground, he rises erect again, and 
at full length and glances keenly on every side. He may resume his repast, 
but should so much as a speck he cannot account for appear to view, he stands 
motionless, all attention. Now let the least sound or movement betray an 
unwelcome visitor he bends his muscular thighs, spreads his ample wings, 
and springs heavily into the air, croaking dismally in warning to all his kind 
within the far-reaching sound of his voice." 

332 The Crane-like Birds 

The nest of the Sandhill Crane is situated on the ground, sometimes in a 
marsh, but often in a perfectly dry location, being usually placed among rank- 
growing vegetation, which partially conceals it, yet does not wholly interfere with 
the vision of the occupant. The eggs are usually two in number, their average 
size being about four by two and a half inches, and their color olive-brown or 
drab, spotted with darker brown and purplish gray. The nestlings are covered 
at first with a soft, dense down, bright rusty on the upper parts and pale grayish 
on the lower. They are said to be unable to fly until they are nearly as large 
as their parents, whom they follow about until able to take wing, escaping 
pursuit and danger meanwhile by running and hiding. When taken quite 
small they are easily tamed and are said to make engaging pets, though some- 
what dangerous on acepunt of their propensity to use their sharp bills. 

Little Brown Crane. Hardly to be distinguished from the last except in 
size is the Little Brown Crane (G. canadensis) of the extreme northern portions 
of the continent from Hudson's Bay to Alaska, whence it migrates through the 
western United States east of the Rocky Mountains to Mexico. It was formerly 
regarded as the young of the Sandhill Crane, but its length of about thirty-five 
inches together with a decidedly shorter tarsus are sufficient marks by which 
to distinguish it. This species was found by Ball to be a common bird at St. 
Michael's, Alaska, as well as at the mouth of the Yukon, where the eggs were 
deposited in a slight depression on the sandy beach without any pretense of a nest. 
Its habits and appearance are similar to those of the Sandhill Crane, with which 
it has often been confused. 

European and Lilford's Cranes. We may now turn to the Old World for 
the remaining members of the group, pausing first to consider two species that 
are quite closely allied to our Sandhill Crane, these being the so-called Common 
Crane (G. grus) of Europe, which retires in winter to northern and eastern 
Africa, and Lilford's Crane (G. lilfordi} of eastern Siberia, which in winter 
migrates to the northwestern part of India. These were formerly regarded 
as constituting a single species, but their distinctness seems now to be generally 
accepted. Both are about thirty-six inches in length, the former being dark 
ashy gray, including the secondaries, while the latter is much paler, the general 
color being pearly gray, with the ornamental inner secondaries inclining to white. 
The Common Crane is said to have been abundant in the fen courrtry of England 
down to the close of the seventeenth century, but it has long since been driven 
from there and only occurs as an occasional very rare straggler. Of its winter 
home in the Holy Land, Canon Tristram writes: "The Crane is well known, 
and is next to the Ostrich the largest bird in the country. It only visits the 
cultivated region at the time of its spring migration, when a few pairs remain 
in the marshy plains, as by the waters of Merom, but the greater number pass 
onward to the north. In the southern wilderness, south of Beersheba, it 
resorts in immense flocks to certain favorite roosting places during the winter. 
The clouds of these enormous birds, four feet high and many eight feet from 
wing to wing, quite darken the air toward evening." A few may linger to rear 
their young in Italy, but the majority pass much farther north, some to the 

European Cranes 333 

chill polar soils of Lapland, but the greater number to Russia, North Germany, 
and Scandinavia. A delightfully entertaining account of the breeding habits 
of this species in Lapland has been given by Wolley, from which we cannot 
forbear to quote a few lines. After much searching he found the nest con- 
taining two eggs in a great swamp, and, although no Cranes were in sight, he 
concealed himself in a dense growth of bushes, and waited for the return of 
the owner of the nest. "It was already about midnight; at length, as I had 
my glass in the direction of the nest, which was three or four hundred yards 
off, I saw a tall gray figure emerging from amongst the birch trees, just beyond 
where I knew the nest must be; and there stood the Crane in all the beauty 
of nature, in the full side-light of an Arctic summer night. She came on with 
her graceful walk, her head up, and she raised it a little higher and turned her 
neck sidewise and upward as she passed round the tree on whose trunk I had 
hung the little roll of bark. She probably saw that the eggs were safe, and 
then she took a beat of twenty or thirty yards in the swamp, pecking and appar- 
ently feeding. At the end of this beat she stood still for a quarter of an hour, 
sometimes pecking and sometimes motionless. At length she turned and 
passed her nest a few paces in the opposite direction, but soon came in to it; 
she arranged with her beak the materials of the nest, or the eggs, or both; she 
dropped her breast gently forward, and, as soon as it touched, she let the rest 
of her body sink gradually down. And so she sits, with her neck up and her 
body full in my sight, sometimes preening her feathers, especially of the neck, 
sometimes lazily peeking about, and for a long time she sits, with her neck 
curved like a Swan's, though principally in the upper part. Now she turns 
her head backward, puts her beak under the wing, and so she seems fairly 
to go to sleep." 

The other species (G. lilfordi] assembles in the same immense flocks in its 
Indian winter home, and spends the summer in or close to the Arctic Circle. 
The nests are constructed on the ground in marshy, swampy places, and the eggs, 
two in number, are four inches long by two and five eighths inches broad, and 
pale greenish olive -brown blotched and spotted with darker shades of the same. 
The remaining closely allied forms are the White-headed Crane (G. monachus) 
of eastern Siberia, southern Japan, and China, which has the sides of the neck, 
throat, and entire sides of the face pure white; the Black-necked Crane (G. 
nigricollis) of Koko-nor, characterized by the smoky black head and neck, 
and the Japanese Crane (G. japonensis), an immense bird fifty inches long and 
almost pure white throughout, which ranges in summer over eastern Siberia, 
Korea, and Japan, and winters in China. 

Asiatic White Crane. Quite similar to our Whooping Crane, but longer, 
and with the hinder part of the crown feathered, is the Asiatic White Crane 
(G. leucogemnus), which is sometimes placed in a separate genus (Sarcogeranus). 
According to Hume, who observed it in India, this species differs distinctly in 
that the windpipe is not convoluted within the breast-bone, but divides into 
two nearly equal tubes about three inches before it enters the lungs. As a result 
its notes are very weak as compared with those of any other Crane, being simply 

334 The Crane-like Birds 

whistles, "from a mellow one to a peculiar feeble shrill shivering whistle." 
While in its winter home it frequents especially the shallow rain-water lakes, 
where it feeds very largely on aquatic and other forms of vegetation, its snowy 
white plumage making it ever an object of interest. The nest of this species 
as observed in Siberia is made among dense reeds of various layers of these 
plants, and the eggs, two in number, are gray, streaked with dusky lines. 

The Saras Crane of India is typical of another group of three species which 
have been separated under the generic name of Antigone. They have long 
and slender bills, but are especially characterized by having the crown of the 
head bare and covered on the hind neck for a distance of several inches with 
coarse crimson warts, mixed with which is a scant covering of black hairs. 
The species above mentioned (A. antigone), which is found in northern and 
central India, is a large bird nearly fifty inches long, light pearly gray above, 
with a broad white band on the upper portion of the neck, separating the bare 
neck from the gray of the back. The Saras Crane is not as gregarious as are 
many other species, being usually observed in pairs or very small parties near 
water, nor do they migrate like most of the others. They are tamer and more 
confiding than is usual among Cranes, and members of a pair are much attached 
to each other. The form found in Burma, Cochin China, and the Malay Peninsula 
has been separated as a distinct species (^4. sharpei), differing from the other 
in the absence of the white collar, while the Australian Crane, the "Native Com- 
panion" of the colonists (A. australasiand) of eastern Australia, has the neck 
feathered to the nape. Gould speaks of the latter bird as stately and elegant 
in all its movements when on the ground, and often soaring at a vast height, 
uttering the while its hoarse, croaking cry. It nests on the ground, depositing 
its two eggs in a slight depression on the bare plains, or occasionally in swampy 
lands near the coast. 

White-naped Crane. Allied to the last, but separated on minor differences 
in the feathering of the head, is the great White-naped Crane (Pseudogeranus 
leucaucheri) of eastern Asia. This is the so-called Sacred Crane of the Japanese, 
being the one so generally represented in its various picturesque attitudes in 
their numerous works of art. It was formerly protected and existed in great 
numbers, though it was allowed to be "hawked," and this with great ceremony, 
only by nobles of the highest rank; but since the power of the" Daimios has 
waned the restrictions have been removed and it may now become the prey of 
any one, with the result it has been nearly exterminated in this, its winter home. 

Paradise Crane. We may now consider two rather closely related forms 
in which the bill is comparatively short, and the convolutions of the windpipe 
within the keel of the breast-bone much less than in most Cranes. The face 
and crown are wholly feathered, and there are lengthened pointed feathers 
pendent from the breast, while the tertiary plumes of the wings are so much 
elongated as to be often mistaken for the tail when the wings are closed. Of 
these the Paradise or Stanley Crane (Tetrapteryx paradisea) is a native of South 
Africa. It is a handsome bird, about fifty-two inches long, leaden blue in color, 
with the upper parts of the head white and the tips of the long, drooping plumes 

Demoiselle Crane 


black. It appears to be rather generally distributed throughout its range, though 
nowhere very abundant, frequenting mostly the open country in pairs and often 
at a distance from water. It feeds in the wild state on small bulbs, seeds, rep- 
tiles, insects, and small mammals, and is then very shy and difficult of approach, 
but it is readily tamed and may be fed from the hands on a great variety of sub- 
stances. Of its habits in the Transvaal Mr. Thomas Ayres writes: "These 
Cranes are not at all uncommon in this country. In the summer months they 
are generally seen in pairs, stalking about the open flats in search of insects; in 
winter they congregate in certain localities and live sociably together. These 
birds feed on seeds and roots as well as on insects, and their flesh is not at all 
bad eating. Blue Cranes (as this species is locally called) sometimes rise to an 
immense height in the air, uttering their peculiar loud guttural note. When on 
the ground they frequently amuse themselves by dancing around each other, 
with wings extended, bowing and scraping to each other in a most absurd manner, 
not a little curious to see." 

Demoiselle Crane. The other species mentioned above as closely related 
to the last is the Demoiselle Crane (Anthropoides virgo), which is widely dis- 
persed from southern Europe to central Asia and northern China, migrating in 
winter to Africa and India. It is the smallest of all the Cranes, being only about 
thirty inches long. The general color is pearl-gray, but it may be further dis- 
tinguished by its long and very copious white ear-tufts, while the neck and the 
pendent breast-plumes are black. In winter they associate in often immense 
flocks, feeding mainly in the grain fields, but retiring during the heat of the day 
to the larger rivers, where they may often be seen standing in the shallow water. 
Of their nesting habits, as observed in Bulgaria, Cullen says: "The nest of the 
Demoiselle Crane is, without exception, made on the ground, usually amidst 
some kind of young grain, but often amongst grass on fallow land. The nest 
if indeed such it can be called is made by the birds pulling up or treading down 
the grain, grass, or stubble for the space of about two feet and scratching the 
shallowest possible hollow in the middle of the bare patch thus formed." The 
eggs, always two in number, are placed side by side with the small ends invari- 
ably pointing in the same direction. In color the eggs are usually a dirty pale 
green, more or less thickly spotted with umber-brown. 

Wattled Crane. The final member of the present group is the Wattled 
Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus] of. South Africa, which is distinguished by a 
remarkable pendent lappet of skin on each side of the neck below the chin. It 
is about fifty-five inches in length, and is slaty gray above and black below, with 
the neck pure white. It is usually seen in pairs and is nowhere very abundant. 

Crowned Cranes. Differing considerably from those previously mentioned 
are the Crowned Cranes (Balearica) of Africa, being so named from the presence 
of a narrow, fan-shaped crest or " crown " of twisted wire-like bristles, each 
three and one half inches long, radiating from the back of the head. Struc- 
turally they are distinguished by the absence of convolutions in the trachea, 
together with the possession of compact bodies, long necks, and rather short 
conical bills, while the general color of the plumage is black or leaden gray, the 

33 6 

The Crane-like Birds 

wings being white, with black primaries and secondaries, and dark brownish 
red tertiaries. The three known species are distinguished mainly on differences 
in the color and configuration of the bare spaces on the head. They occur in 
pairs or small parties, nesting in marshes and laying two usually bluish white 
unspotted eggs. Their habits are otherwise similar to those of other Cranes. 

The Courlans (Subfamily Aramince}. These are large Rail-like birds that 
were formerly placed directly with the Rails, which they closely resemble in 
external appearance, but when their anatomy came to be more carefully 
studied it was found that the whole skeleton, as well as the arrangement 

of the feather tracts, was distinctly Crane- 
like, the texture of the plumage and the 
form of the wings being the only essen- 
tially Rail-like features. A single genus 
(Aramus) of two closely related species are 
the only representatives, these being from 
twenty-four to about twenty-eight inches 
in length, with a slender, compressed bill 
nearly five inches long, both mandibles of 
which are decurved and turned slightly to 
one side at the tip, the latter as a result, 
it is said, of forcing the bill into the spiral 
opening of a certain land shell on which 
they largely feed. The legs are long and 
naked from the middle of the tibia, while 
the wings are broad and rounded, with the 
first quill scarcely longer than the tenth. 
The prevailing color of the plumage is 
dark brown, varying from a chocolate to 
an olive shade, with the head and neck 
and sometimes the back, wing-coverts, and 
lower parts striped or spotted longitudi- 
nally with white. 

The Florida Courlan, Limpkin, or Cry- 
ing-bird (-4. giganleus], as it is variously 
called, is found in Central America and the 

West Indies, whence it ranges north to the Florida peninsula and the Rio 
Grande valley. It is known from the other species by the more general 
distribution of the white stripes over the body. In the Southern or Brazilian 
Courlan (A. scolo paceus] of eastern South America, the white markings 
are confined to the neck and head. Both species frequent the borders 
of swamps and marshy rivers, feeding largely upon mollusks, the shells of 
which they often pierce with their iron-like bills. The following account of 
the habits of the Southern Courlan is from the pen of W. H. Hudson, who 
observed them in Argentina: " By day the Courlan is a dull bird, concealing 
itself in dense reed-beds in streams and marshes. When driven up he rises 

FlG. 109. Brazilian Courlan, Aramus 

Courlans and Trumpeters 337 

laboriously, the legs dangling down, and mounts vertically to a considerable 
height. He flies high, the wings curved upward and violently flapping at irregu- 
lar intervals; descending, he drops suddenly to the earth, the wings motionless, 
pointing up, and the body swaying from side to side, so that the bird presents 
the appearance of a falling parachute. On smooth ground he walks faster than 
a man, striking out his feet in a stately manner and jerking the tail, and runs 
rapidly ten or twelve yards before rising. At the approach of night it becomes 
active, uttering long, clear, piercing cries many times repeated, and heard dis- 
tinctly two miles away. Those cries are most melancholy and, together with 
its mourning plumage and recluse habits, have made for the Courlan several 
vernacular names. He is called the Lamenting Bird and Crazy Widow, but is 
more familiarly known as the Carau. Near sunset the Caraus leave the reed- 
beds and begin to ascend the streams to visit their favorite fishing grounds. 
They are very active at night, retiring again at the approach of morning, and 
sometimes pass the day perched on trees, but more frequently concealed in dense 
reed-beds. As the breeding season draws near they become exceedingly clam- 
orous, making the marshes resound day and night with their long, wailing cries. 
The nest is built among the rushes, and contains ten or twelve eggs as large as 
a Turkey's, slightly elliptical, sparsely marked with blotches of pale brown and 
purple on a dull white ground, the whole egg having a powdery or floury ap- 
pearance. When the nest is approached the parent birds utter sharp, angry 
notes as they walk about at a distance. The young and old birds live in one 
flock until the following spring." 

The Trumpeters (Subfamily Psophiina). In some respects affording a 
connecting link between the Cranes and certain other Crane-like birds are 
the peculiar South American birds known as Trumpeters. They are small 
birds about the size of a large fowl, although they have of course much 
longer legs and neck, their total length being from seventeen to twenty-one 
inches. The head is of moderate size and the bill short and sometimes 
swollen, suggesting, as long ago pointed out, the "expression of face" of 
the Pheasants, or as another writer has put it, " large, long-legged, blackish 
Guinea-fowls." The wings are short and rounded, the fourth quill longest, 
with the inner secondaries as long as the primaries. The wings are not much 
used for flight, as the birds depend largely upon their running powers for escaping 
danger. The plumage is soft, the head and neck especially being covered with 
soft, velvet-like feathers, a condition produced by the upw r ard curvation of the 
central shafts, combined with the soft, downy structure of the finer divisions. 
The under tail-coverts particularly are long and lax. 

These birds take their name of Trumpeter from the loud, prolonged, and 
far-reaching trumpet-like cry which they utter, it is said, with the bill widely 
opened. It appears that the males only possess this voice, and it has been very 
generally supposed that it was made possible by a great elongation and convolu- 
tion of the windpipe, but, according to Beddard, the latter statement requires 
confirmation. It has also been stated that the windpipe communicates with 
an air space, apparently after the fashion of the Emeu, but this is also questioned 

The Crane-like Birds 

by Mr. Beddard, who states as his opinion that the specimen on which this 
statement was based must have been imperfect or malformed, since he does not 
find it in any of those he has examined. They are included in a single genus 
(Psophia) and seven rather closely related species, and are most numerous in 
Amazonia and near-by countries. The best-known appears to be the Common 
Trumpeter (P. crepitans), or Agami, as it is called by the residents of its native 
country. It is the largest species, being about twenty-one inches long, and is 
black throughout, except that on the lower throat the feathers are purple, tipped 

FIG. no. Common Trumpeter, Psophia crepitans. 

with shining purple, and a patch of deep rusty brown extends across the middle 
back and wing-coverts. These birds frequent the forests, going bout in flocks 
often of several hundred, and feeding on fruits of various kinds as well as insects. 
The nest is placed on the ground, and the eggs, to the number of ten or more, 
are said to be bright green. The Agami is often tamed and domesticated by the 
natives of Brazil, and becomes very affectionate and much attached to its owner. 
It is often employed in protecting poultry, sheep, etc., its loud cry giving warning 
of the approach of danger. It apparently does not breed in domestication. 

The remaining species differ slightly in size and coloration, and the interesting 
fact has been established that their ranges are often separated by moderately 
wide rivers, which seems to prove that they enjoy only limited powers of flight. 
Our illustration is that of the Common Trumpeter (P. crepitans) of British 
Guiana and the Rio Negro. 




(Family Cariamidce) 

Eastern South America is the home of two very remarkable and closely 
related birds known as Cariamas or Chunias, the systematic position of which 
has given rise to much discussion and difference of opinion. They are large, 
long-legged, crested birds, having a considerable superficial resemblance to the 

FIG. in. Chunia, or Burmeister's Cariama, Chunga burmeisteri. 

African Secretary-Bird, and were formerly associated with it as aberrant mem- 
bers of the Falconiformes, but careful investigation of the osteology and anatomy 
of the soft parts has shown conclusively that this view cannot hold. They have 

34 The Crane-like Birds 

also some apparent affinities with the Storks, but all things considered, they 
appear to find their closest relationship with the Cranes, Trumpeters, and Bus- 
tards, though well entitled to be ranked as a distinct family. 

The larger of the two, which is known as the Crested Cariama (C. cristata), 
has a total length of about thirty-two inches, and is yellowish gray, with numer- 
ous narrow darker and lighter cross-bands, except on the abdomen, while the 
wings and tail are blackish brown with broad white cross-bars. The forehead 
is ornamented with a tuft of erect plumes three inches or more long, and there is 
also a full pendent crest hanging down the hinder neck. The bill is bright red, 
and the bare greenish blue skin surrounding the large dark yellow eyes gives it 
a peculiarly animated expression. The legs and feet are reddish. It is a native 
of the campos of the interior of Brazil, whence it extends into the open districts 
of Paraguay and the adjoining parts of Argentina. It lives among the high 
grasses of the campos, running away, it is said, in a stooping posture to avoid 
discovery when approached, and taking to wing with extreme reluctance and 
only when actually forced to do so. It is highly regarded by the inhabitants 
as a destroyer of snakes, being protected by law, but it is said to feed principally 
upon insects and caterpillars, though occasionally eating berries and other fleshy 
fruits, and rarely, it would seem, snakes and other reptiles. It builds a nest in 
low bushes and lays two roundish, spotted, Rail-like eggs. Its loud, screaming 
cry is frequently heard. 

The other species, known as the Chunia or Burmeister's Cariama, has been 
made the type of a distinct genus (Chunga burmeisteri*), and is found in northern 
Argentina. It is smaller than the other, being only twenty-eight inches long, 
darker colored, and with the frontal crest not more than an inch high. It fre- 
quents forest or bushy districts, spending the day in running about in the bush 
and roosting at night in high trees. Like the other species it has a loud, scream- 
ing voice which may be heard for a long distance, though when approached 
it becomes discreetly silent. The nest is placed in bushes, and the young birds 
are frequently taken when half fledged and soon take kindly to captivity. 



(Family Otididce) 

The next family that we have to consider comprises the birds known as 
Bustards and Floricans. Typically they are birds of large size and bulky form, 
with rather long neck and lank, naked legs, and only three toes, all of which 
are directed forward. They differ considerably from the typical Crane-like 
birds and there has been much discussion regarding their proper systematic 
adjustment, many of the older ornithologists, for example, regarding them as 
allied to the Ostriches, a view which has little or nothing except mere external 
appearance in its support. They are undoubtedly a much-specialized group 
and appear to find their closest of kin among the Charadriiformes and the Grui- 

The Bustards 341 

formes. Structurally their most important characters are the three toes, absence 
of an oil-gland, the presence of after-shafts to the contour feathers, and the split 
form (schizognathous) of the palate and circular (holorhinal) nostrils. Certain 
of the forms possess a peculiar gular pouch, or a highly dilatable esophagus, 
which may be inflated at the will of the bird, of which more will be stated later. 
They are all confined to the Old World and are comprised in a dozen genera 

FIG. 112. Great Bustard, Otis tarda. 

and about thirty-five species. Although they possess ample wings they are 
essentially terrestrial in their habits, frequenting chiefly dry, open plains and 
steppes, on which account they might appropriately be called, as Gadow has 
suggested, the Steppe-Rails. Their strong legs and feet well adapt them to 
walking and running, which latter they do with great swiftness, though readily 
taking to wing when pressed. That the group is one of considerable antiquity 
is shown by the fact that two fossil forms are known from the middle Tertiary. 
The Great Bustard (Otis tarda) may be regarded as typical of the first genus 
we shall consider. It is the largest European bird, an adult male being about 
forty-five inches long and weighing in the neighborhood of thirty pounds, while 
the female is some ten inches shorter and correspondingly lighter. In color the 
male is sandy rufous above, broadly banded with black across the back, the 

342 The Crane-like Birds 

primaries blackish brown and the remainder of the wing white, as are the three 
outer tail-feathers. The head is gray and provided on the cheeks with tufts 
of long, whisker-like feathers, which turn backward and downward ; the lower 
throat is orange-chestnut, which forms a band across the fore neck, while the 
sides of the upper breast are rufous, barred with black, and the remainder of the 
under parts pure white. The female lacks the whiskers on the sides of the face 
as well as the rufous bands on the breast. This species was once a common 
and conspicuous bird in many of the more open districts of England, but has 
been exterminated as a resident for nearly three quarters of a century, occurring 
at the present time only as a rare straggler from the open country of Champagne 
or Saxony. It was once quite widely distributed over Europe, but is now very 
rare in France and Greece, no longer known in Scandinavia, and only to be found 
commonly in central and eastern Europe, central Asia, and northern Africa, 
although in the latter country it is becoming scarcer. In winter they visit India, 
during which time they associate in flocks of considerable size ; but on the approach 
of spring they break up into pairs and resort to the great steppes and plains, 
either barren or under cultivation, for the purpose of rearing their young. At 
this season the male has the curious habit known as "showing off," which con- 
sists in inflating the throat pouch before mentioned until the ends nearly reach 
the ground, and at the same time spreading and raising the tail until it almost 
touches the neck, and elevating the wings and erecting the individual feathers 
until the bird looks like a huge ball of rumpled-up feathers. In this attitude it 
totters and struts about before the female in an exceedingly grotesque manner. 
It is also very pugnacious at this season, attacking others of its kind and even, 
it is said, human beings. The object of the gular pouch has been much specu- 
lated about, it formerly being supposed that it was for the purpose of carrying 
water to the female and young on the dry plains, but it has been definitely settled 
that it is simply an adjunct in the " sho wing-off " process, and at the close of 
the nesting season so completely disappears that its very existence has been denied 
again and again. It is not present in the female at any season. In a related 
Australian species the same effect is produced by the enormous dilation of the 
esophagus, there being no special sac, or pouch. The food of the Great Bus- 
tard consists principally of seeds, grain, and the tender shoots of various plants, 
but occasionally of insects, reptiles, and small mammals. The nest is simply a 
slight hollow scratched in the ground, usually in an open or grassy situation 
wherein are deposited the two or three large spotted eggs. In eastern Asia 
there is a second smaller and grayer species (O. dybowskii). 

Little Bustard. An allied species which ranges from southern Europe and 
northern Africa throughout central Asia is known as the Little Bustard (Tetrax 
tetrax}. It is much smaller than the last, being only about seventeen inches long, 
and is without the whisker-like feathers on the cheeks, but possesses a full tuft 
of elongated plumes on the nape and hind neck. In color it is sandy buff above, 
coarsely vermiculated with black, and mainly white below, with two broad bands 
of black across the lower neck and breast. The female is lighter colored and is 
without the black bands in front. After nesting in the northern part of their 

Bustards 343 

range they return, to the number of millions, to their winter homes, where they 
frequent the plains and are difficult of approach. Their habits are similar to 
those of the larger species. 

Stanley Bustard. Africa south of the Sahara may be regarded as the head- 
quarters of the present group, and although we have not space to mention all, 
we may select a sufficient number to convey a fair idea of them. Thus the genus 
Neotis, which includes five species, may be known by the absence of the whisker- 
like feathers on the cheeks and by the long bill exceeding the length of the middle 
toe with its claw. Of these the Stanley Bustard (AT. ca/rd), a bird about thirty- 
eight inches long, is found in South and East Africa. It is ashy black above, 
much waved and streaked, with the sides of the face, nape, sides of the neck, 
and entire lower parts white, while the top of the head, wings, and tail are white 
with black bands. In South Africa they are found on the plains in the interior 
away from the seacoast, feeding on seeds, insects, and small reptiles, preferring 
ground that has recently been burnt in which to hunt for their food. They are 
very shy yet stupid birds, for even where there is no cover, "if the sportsman take 
a large circle round and round, gradually nearing the bird, the Bustard will 
frequently squat down with his head to the ground, thinking he will be passed 
unnoticed, when the sportsman may run up to within easy shooting distance." 
At the "showing-off" season the males parade before the females, expanding 
the throat, uttering a loud booming noise, which can be heard at a great distance. 
Of the nest, Mr. Ayres says: "These birds frequently breed amongst the rocks 
and stones on the top of some hill ; the nest is merely a slight excavation scratched 
in the ground with perhaps a handful of grass. The eggs are two in number, 
and the old bird sits so close that she will almost let one tread on her before she 

Pink-collared Bustard. Closely allied but without the crest on the nape and 
hind neck is the Pink-collared Bustard (Heterotetrax vigor si), which may be taken 
as typical of a group of three species separated under this genus (Heterotetrax). 
They are a third or more smaller than the last mentioned, the so-called Pink- 
collared Bustard being but twenty inches long, and dull ashy, minutely mottled 
with dark brown and black above, with the chin and upper throat jet-black. 
The whole plumage in life is glossed with a delicate pink luster which, however, 
fades after death. It is found usually in pairs among the scant herbage of the 
dry plains, and like the last has the habit of squatting close to the ground, where 
it fancies it has not been observed. Not far separated from this is the African 
Black Bustard (Compsotis afro), so named from the prevailing deep black color 
of the plumage, and the White-quilled Bustard (C. leucoptera), which has a large 
patch of white on the wing-quills. 

Long-beaked Bustards. The only remaining group of Bustards proper that 
we shall mention are the so-called Long-beaked Bustards (Eupodotis), of which 
three species are found in Africa, and- a single one each in the Indian peninsula 
and Australia. They belong to a section of the family in which the feathers of 
the lower throat and the fore neck are conspicuously elongated so as to form a 
shield overhanging the crop, and further the crown of the head is strongly crested 

344 The Crane-like Birds 

and the wing more than three times the length of the tarsus. The South African 
species, known as the Kori Bustard (E. kori), is a bird of great size, the male 
attaining a length of over four and one half feet and a weight of between thirty 
and forty pounds. l is mottled ashy gray above and white below, the neck 
with a half collar of black in front, and the top of the head with the crest long 
and black. In the Transvaal, Mr. Ayres found it a not uncommon bird, living 
principally among the scattered mimosa bushes, and from its great fondness for 
the gum of these bushes it has received from the Dutch inhabitants the name of 
Gum-Paauw. They are usually seen single, though sometimes in pairs, which 
accords with Andersson's observations in Damara and Great Namaqua Land, 
who says: " This Bustard is usually found in pairs, but sometimes three or four 
are to be found together. Its flight is heavy, but nevertheless very rapid, and at 
night when changing its feeding ground it may be seen flying at a very great 
height." It feeds on insects, berries, reptiles, and the above-mentioned mimosa 
gum. In some parts of its range its flesh is regarded as excellent eating. 

The Indian Bustard (E. edwardsii) is a little smaller than the Kori and 
differs, among other points, in having the greater wing-coverts ashy black, with 
a terminal white spot, instead of white, freckled with black. This species, 
according to Hume, is common throughout the drier, wilder, and more barren 
portions of central India and the Punjab, congregating during the rainy season 
in small flocks. Its favorite food consists of grasshoppers, but it also eats various 
seeds and fruits. During the breeding season the males display themselves 
before the females in a manner not unlike that described for the various other 
species, puffing out the throat, until "he seems to have a huge bag of feathers 
hanging down between his legs, which wabbles about while he struts here and 
there, with wings partly unclosed, and occasional sharp snappings of his bill." 
The nest is a slight depression in the ground, and unlined or thinly lined with 
a few blades of grass. Hume thinks that but a single egg is laid, since out of 
a hundred specimens two were never found side by side, although sometimes 
within a yard or two of each other, these he thinks belonging to different birds. 

Still smaller and slightly darker is the Australian Bustard (E. auslralis), 
which is the native Turkey of the Swan River colonists. It is a fine-appearing 
bird, "and," says Gould, "when seen at freedom slowly stalking over its native 
plains, no Australian bird, except the Emeu, is so majestic, or Assumes in its 
carriage so great an air of independence." 

Floricans. In the Indian peninsula there are two small Bustards known 
by the Anglo-Indian name of Floricans, the etymology of which is unknown, but 
surmised by Newton to be possibly from a mispronunciation of Francolin. 
They are referred to separate genera, the larger being called the Bengal Flori- 
can (Houbaropsis bengalensis} and the other the Lesser Florican (Sypheotis 
aurita). Among other things they may be known by the males being decidedly 
smaller than the females, and by their undergoing a second spring moult. The 
first is further distinguished by the presence of a crest on the crown, nape, and 
hind back, and by the tarsus being nearly half the length of the wing. The plu- 
mage is largely mottled black above, relieved on the lower back and rump with 

The Kagu 345 

brown, while the greater part of the wings is white and the lower parts black. 
The plumage of the female is remarkably different. This species is almost 
confined to eastern Bengal, where it is a resident the year round, living entirely 
on the uncultivated plains. Hudson has given a very entertaining account, 
unfortunately too long to quote entire, of the habits and nidification, derived 
mainly from native hunters. It appears that the sexes live apart for most of 
the year, going about in parties of three or four. "In the season of love the troops 
of males and females come into the same neighborhood, but without mixing. 
A male steps forth, and, by a variety of very singular proceedings quite analogous 
to human singing and dancing, recommends himself to the neighboring bevy of 
females. He rises perpendicularly in the air, humming in a deep peculiar tone, 
and, flapping his wings, he lets himself sink after he has risen some fifteen or 
twenty yards; and again he rises and again falls in the same manner, and with 
the same strange utterance, and thus perhaps five or six times, when one of the 
females steps forward, and with her he commences a courtship in the manner 
of a Turkey cock by trailing his wings and rising and spreading his tail, hum- 
ming all the time as before." The nest is concealed in deep grass cover, at the 
foot of a thick tuft of grass and in a slight depression in the ground. The eggs, 
always two in number, are noticeably different in size and coloration, the larger 
and more richly colored producing, Mr. Hudson says, a male bird, while from the 
smaller and plainer colored one a female bird is hatched. The habits of the 
Lesser Florican are described as being quite similar to those of the Bengal species. 


(Family Rhinochetidai} 

In the far-away island of New Caledonia there is a remarkable bird known 
by the natives as the Kagu (Rhinocheius jubalus), the systematic position of 
which has given rise to almost as much discussion as that of the Cariamas. It 
was first made known in 1860, shortly after the French occupation of the island, 
its original describers first regarding it as a Heron and later as a Crane. It was 
soon after determined, both from external appearance and a study of its anatomy, 
to be probably nearest related to the Sun-Bitterns. It is a moderately long-legged 
bird, with a body about the size of a common fowl, a moderately long bill, and a 
full crest, five or six inches in length, pendent from the back of the head. The 
plumage is of a light ashy gray color above, paler below, obscurely barred on the 
outer wing-coverts and tail with darker, the primaries and secondaries being also 
freckled with dusky brown, this latter feature only showing when the wings are 
spread. The drooping plumes are ashy gray, while the bill, legs, and feet are 
reddish orange. The Kagu runs quickly and has the habit of stopping suddenly 
and standing motionless, but when excited it stands straight, with erected crest, 
semi-expanded wings, and drooping tail, and when in a playful mood it throws 
small sticks and stones about with the bill. The birds call to each other, usually 

34 6 

The Crane-like Birds 

about daybreak, in loud, piercing, yelping notes, continued for some time, which 
can be heard a mile away. It is said to be nocturnal in its habits, feeding on 
worms, insects, and small mollusks. Thus far, it appears, the nest and eggs of 
this curious bird have 1 not been found in a wild state, although it has laid in con- 

FIG. 113. Kagu, Rkinochetus jubatus. 

fmement in the gardens of the Zoological Society of London, and more recently 
Mr. A. J. North has described several eggs laid in confinement in Australia. 
Two birds, presumed to be a male and female, were observed to form a nest of 
dried twigs and leaves at the bottom of a box in their aviary, in which a single 
egg was deposited. This was sat on for three weeks, one bird occasionally 
relieving the other, but as there was no sign of a chick in the egg it was removed. 
Two other eggs were subsequently laid and both proved infertile. These eggs 

The Sun-Bitterns 347 

are described as being very similar in color and character of markings to those of 
a Gull or Tern, being about 2.40 by 1.85 inches, and close-grained, smooth, and 
slightly lustrous. In color they are pale brown, much dotted, blotched, and 
streaked with reddish umber. Of the habits of these birds in confinement their 
owner writes as follows: "From personal observations of the two birds I have 
had in confinement for over three years, the Kagu is fond of seclusion, but withal 
the one I regard as the male shows fight at the slightest provocation. Holding 
itself quite erect, with spread wings, panting breast, raised crest, and tail brought 
almost between its legs, the aspect of the bird appears very stately when prepared 
to give battle. A peculiarity shown when fighting is that it only attacks its 
opponent low down, so that when one holds a hand to the height of its body, 
it misses aim, but if held near the ground it administers a severe nip. When 
quarreling over a delicacy, the two birds pick at each other's legs." 

More recently a correspondent of Mr. A. J. Campbell's residing in Sydney, 
Australia, has had a chick hatched in confinement, the period of incubation being 
thirty-six days. It is described as a fluffy ball with a big and heavy head, the 
color being dark brown with light fawn markings. 


(Family Eurypygidtz) 

Coming again to South America, we have another group of remarkable 
Crane-like birds known as the Sun-Bitterns. They are small birds, about 
eighteen or twenty inches long, "something between a Rail and a Heron" in 
appearance, with rather short legs, a very thin neck, and a rather large head 
with a long, sharp-pointed bill. The wings are broad and ample and the tail 
relatively long and composed of twelve feathers. Of the peculiar structural 
features we may only mention that the breast-bone has a notch on each side, 
the oil-gland is generally naked, and numerous powder-down patches are scat- 
tered on various parts of the body. The skull shows a number of points of 
agreement with that of the Kagu. The plumage of the Sun-Bitterns is soft, 
the general color above being brown, variously barred and "variegated with 
black, brown, chestnut, bay, buff, gray, and white so mottled, speckled, and 
belted either in wave-like or zigzag forms as somewhat to resemble certain moths." 
The upper mandible is black, and the lower one waxy yellow, while the iris is 
red and the legs and feet yellow. Two species are known, one (Eurypyga helias) 
found in Guiana and the interior of Brazil, and the other similar but slightly 
larger species (E. major] in Central America and Colombia. Comparatively 
little is known of their habits in a wild state beyond the fact that they frequent 
the muddy and wooded banks of great rivers, especially the Orinoco, where 
they may be seen singly or in pairs sunning themselves and spreading out the 
beautiful plumage. They take rather kindly to captivity and are often to be 
seen in zoological gardens, and on several occasions have made a nest and reared 


The Crane-like Birds 

their young. The nest appears to be placed low down in trees and the eggs, 
so far as known, are two in number, grayish in color and blotched and spotted 

FIG. 114. - Sun-Bittern, Eurypyga helias. 

with reddish, quite after the manner of the eggs of certain Plovers and Snipes. 
The food of the Sun-Bitterns consists largely of flies and other insects, which 
they secure by rapidly darting out the long neck. 


(Family H eliornithida) 

The last of the families of Crane-like birds remaining to be considered com- 
prises the anomalous Finfeet, or Sun Grebes, which have been bandied from place 
to place in the system, finding successively a resting place near the Grebes, the 
Rails, and the Cranes, and their geographical distribution is as hard to interpret 
as their structure, for of the three genera and five species, one is found in Central 
and South America, three in Africa, and the last in eastern Asia. They are small 
or medium-sized birds, none of them exceeding two feet in length, while one, the 
American form, is but half this size. They have rather short legs, the toes with 
scalloped, lateral webs much as in the Grebes, a relatively long and slender neck, 



and a moderately long bill. Their plumage is dense and close-set, and their 
general appearance is described as like that of a diving Rail. It is not neces- 
sary to enumerate the structural peculiarities. Their nests and eggs are un- 
known, and information concerning their habits is meagre in the extreme. 

The American Finfoot (Heliornis fulica) is a uniform olive-brown above 
and mainly white below, with the wings and tail brown, the latter edged with 
white, and the crown glossy blue-black, with the sides of the head streaked with 
brown and white. The bill is bright red and the toes clear yellow, crossed 
with bands of black. They frequent shadowy and quiet rivers, and feed upon 
fish, aquatic insects, and various seeds. They are said "to sit for hours on 

FIG. 115. Asiatic Finfoot, Heliopais personata. 

a branch overhanging the water and half submerged, but diving is only resorted 
to in danger or when wounded." The voice when heard from a distance is said 
to resemble the barking of a small dog. The young, reported to be two in 
number, are said to be "hatched naked and carried about by the old bird," 
but obviously this requires confirmation. 

Peter's Finfoot (Podica petersi] of South Africa is dark brown above, rather 
indistinctly spotted with ochreous on the back, and has the sides of the face 
and neck gray, and the lower parts mainly white. The upper mandible is 
black with red margins and the lower mandible red with black margins, while 
the legs and feet are bright red. This bird is rare and very shy and, according 
to Ayres, "it frequents the rocky streams of the interior of the country; can 
scarcely rise from the water, and generally flies along the surface, aiding itself 
with its feet, which are lobed; when disturbed it hides under a bank like the 
Moor-hen in England. It feeds on fresh-water shrimps and small fish." 

The other species of this genus are found in West Africa and the Cameroons 
respectively. Of the Asiatic species (Heliopais personata} comparatively little 
is known. 



(Order Charadriiformes) 

[FFERING from the last order (Gruiformes), with which in a number 
of particulars they seem to be most closely related, by the technical 
characters of opisthoccelous dorsal vertebrae and a four-notched 
instead of two-notched sternum, is this vast cosmopolitan order 
of so-called Plover-like birds. But as previously indicated, the selection of 
a popular name for a great group that will convey anything like an adequate 
impression of all the forms included in it is well-nigh impossible, and especially 
so in the present case, for what are taken to be the central or typical forms may 
be indeed are very unlike the outliers that are bound to them by a greater 
or less number of often minute or obscure but relatively important characters 
from the standpoint of classification. The typical Plover-like birds, or what 
Gadow calls the Charadriiformes in the narrow sense, are mostly Rail-like 
marsh or shore birds, with rather long necks, slender, long legs, and long, slender 
bills, which may be approximately straight, curved upward or downward, or, 
exceptionally, bent sideways, usually short wings and tails, and a dull-colored, 
often streaked, plumage. From these we pass to the aquatic, mainly oceanic, 
Gulls, Terns, Skimmers, and Auks and their immediate allies, and come byway 
of the somewhat anomalous Sand Grouse to the great and quite diversified 
group of Pigeons. The latter are in no sense aquatic and at first blush seem 
very unlike those first alluded to, and were it not for the pronouncement of 
comparative anatomy, we might be justified on mere external appearance in 
separating them quite widely, and yet the thread of apparent, though perhaps 
remote, kinship seems to run through them all. 

The present order is divided into four suborders : the Limicola, embracing 
six families, among them the Plovers, Snipes, Pratincoles, Thick-knees, and 
Jacanas ; the Lari, including the families Laridce, or Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers, 
and the AlcidcE, or Auks; the Pterocles, which includes the single family Ptero- 
clidcB, or Sand Grouse ; the Cohimbce, or Pigeons, divided among three families, 
the Didida for the Dodo and Solitare, the Columbida for the great majority 
of Pigeons, and the Didunculida for the peculiar Tooth-billed Pigeons. The 
first two suborders are brigaded together under the name of Laro-Limicol<z, 
and the others into the Pteroclo-ColumbcB, in accordance with their affinities. 
The characters of the various groups are set forth under the several headings. 


The Plover-like Birds 



(Suborder Limicolce) 

This is a group of large size and very wide distribution, its members, as 
already suggested, being disposed among six families. They agree among 
themselves in having the slit (schizognathous) form of the palate, and, with the 
exception of the Thick-knees and certain Coursers (Pluvianus), with slit-like 
(schizorhinal) nostrils, while the oil-gland is tufted and the aftershaft present 
in the contour feathers. Another character of agreement is found in the spinal 
feather tract, this being forked on the body, while in all the toes are only partially 
or not at all webbed. The nests are placed on the ground, and the young are 
able to run about a few hours after birth, being then covered with a close and 
fluffy down. The first family to be considered includes the typical representa- 
tives, viz. : 


(Family Charadriidce) 

Turnstones. We may appropriately begin the consideration of this, the 
largest of the six families, with the interesting little Turnstones (Arenaria), 
so called from their constant habit of turning over shells and pebbles in search 
of their food of insects and crustaceans. Of the two species the Common Turn- 
stone (^4. interpres] is practically cosmopolitan^ mainly along seacoasts, breed- 
ing in the Arctic regions, and in America migrating southward as far as the 
Straits of Magellan. It is about 
nine and one half inches long, with 
the upper parts including the wings 
mainly dusky, variegated more or 
less with rufous and white, the head 
being mostly white, and the chest a 
uniform deep black, while the rump, 
throat, and abdomen are pure white, 
and the legs and feet are orange ; in 
winter the plumage is somewhat 
darker. It is observed singly or in 

Small parties, Sticking closely to the FlG Il6 ._ Common Turnstone, Arenaria inter pres. 

outer, especially rocky, beaches, and 

gleaning its food among stranded seaweed, and several have been observed to 
assist in overturning a stone too large for the effort of a single bird. Palmer 
mentions them as being exceedingly abundant in fall on the Pribilof Islands, 
where they become excessively fat. Their departure in flocks of a hundred 


The Plover-like Birds 

or more took place at evening, the flock rising and circling about several times 
until attaining the proper elevation, when they headed straight out to sea, often 
through a dense bank of fog, their destination being the Aleutians, some 200 
miles away. The Black Turnstone (A. melanocephala) of the Pacific coast of 
North America is a little smaller and much darker and has the throat dusky 
instead of white. 

Surf-bird. Associated with the last, at least by American ornithologists, 
is the Surf-bird (Aphriza virgatd), which is distinguished by its longer tarsus, 
emarginate tail, and swollen terminal portion of the bill. It ranges from 
Alaska to Chile, breeding at the north and feeding largely on crustaceans, 
which it secures by foraging among the retreating waves, often with the 

spray dashing over it. 
The nest and eggs are 
unknown, but Mr. 
Grinnell, who found 
the birds in the 
Kotzebue Sound 
region, states that 
he was informed by 
the natives that they 
nest about some 
small lakes far back 
on the tundra and 
next to the moun- 
tains, which confirms 
the experience of 
Mr. Nelson at St. 

Oyster-catchers. Much larger than these, being sixteen to twenty-one 
inches long, are the Oyster-catchers (Hamatopus}, a maritime, nearly cosmo- 
politan group of a dozen species, so named from the fact that with their strong, 
compressed, almost knife-like bills they are able to force open the shells of 
clams, mussels, etc. They have very robust legs and feet, the hind toe being 
absent, and the tarsus reticulated on both front and back, while the plumage 
is largely black above, or in some species black throughout, and white below; 
the bill is bright red in life. In the American Oyster-catcher (H. palliatus] 
the rump is of a brownish slate-color, like the back and wings, and the iris bright 
yellow ; while in the European Oyster-catcher (H. ostralegus] the rump is entirely 
white and the iris crimson. The former ranges along the seacoasts of temperate 
and tropical America from Nova Scotia and Lower California to Brazil and 
Patagonia, and the latter along the coasts of Europe and parts of Asia and 
Africa, occasionally reaching Greenland. The Oyster-catchers frequent the 
sandy beaches, usually in small parties, and are rather shy and difficult of 
approach. When in repose they walk with a stately step, but they can run with 
ease and swiftness, and when pressed soon take to wing and with swift flight 

FIG. 117. American Oyster-catcher, Hcematopus palliatus. 

The Lapwings 353 

pass out of sight around some projecting point. They feed largely on shell- 
fish. The nest is a mere depression in the sand, and the eggs, usually three 
in number, are buffy white spotted and blotched with chocolate. The female, 
it is said by many observers, only sits on the eggs at night or during dark days, 
otherwise leaving the sun and hot sand to perform the work of incubation. 
In the Black Oyster-catcher (H. bachmani} of the Pacific coast of North America 
the plumage is entirely blackish; its habits are similar to those of the forms 
already mentioned. Other species are found in eastern Asia, New Zealand, 
Australia, Africa, and southern South America. 

Wattled Plovers. As an example of a group of some eight or nine genera 
of mainly Old World forms, in which the tarsus is transversely scaled in front 
and reticulated behind, we may only mention the Wattled Plovers (Lobiva- 
nellus), three of the four known species of which are confined to Africa and 
the other to Australia. They are about a foot in length and may be distinguished 
at once by the presence of a distinct facial wattle and a well-developed spur 
on the wing, as well as by a small hind toe and somewhat lobed bill. Of the sev- 
eral species the Senegal Wattled Plover (L. senegalus} is a striking example, being 
brown tinged with green above, the wings black, and the tail white crossed by 
a broad black bar, while the chin is white, the throat black, and the remaining 
under parts dove-color; the wattle before the eye is yellow tinged with orange- 
red. It frequents river banks and the borders of marshes, singly, in pairs, or 
small flocks, and feeds largely on insects and small mollusks. 

The Lapwings, of which there are many forms, take their name from their 
slow, flapping flight. They are quite closely related to the Plovers, from which 
they may be distinguished by the central pair of tail-feathers having more or 
less of white on their basal portions, while the blunt wings may or may not be 
spurred, and the hind toe present or absent; in several species the head is dis- 
tinctly crested. For the most part they are gregarious birds, frequenting mainly 
open fields, downs, or sometimes marshy ground, and occasionally the seacoast 
in winter. Their food consists of insects and mollusks, which are secured at 
least partially at night. 

One of the best-known species is the common Lapwing ( Vanellus vanellus) of 
the northern portions of the Eastern Hemisphere, occasionally straying to Green- 
land, Alaska, and northern China. It is about thirteen inches long, and has the 
upper parts mainly metallic bottle-green, bluish, and coppery purple, the top 
of the head, chin, throat, and breast a uniform blue-black, while the sides of the 
neck and abdomen are white ; the crest is very long, slender, and recurved ; the 
hind toe is present but small. The Lapwing is one of the commonest and best- 
known birds of the order in western Europe, being especially abundant through- 
out the British Islands, where it is a resident during the whole year, and in the 
Arctic regions of Scandinavia and Siberia, where it is only a summer visitor. 
When on the ground it presents an elegant and graceful appearance, but when 
it takes towing its heavy, flapping, Heron-like flight is quite in contrast. "But," 
says Mr. Hudson, "no sooner does he begin to practice his favorite evolutions 
in the air than a fresh surprise is experienced. Rising to* a height of forty or 


354 The Plover-like Birds 

fifty yards, he suddenly dashes in a zigzag, downward flight, with a violence and 
rapidity unsurpassed by even the most aerial species in their maddest moments, 
and turning like lightning when almost touching the surface, he rises, to repeat 
the action again and 1 again." The often-repeated note, which resembles the 
word pee-weet, has gained for it the name of Peewit in many parts of England. 
The nest, placed in a meadow, heath, or pasture, is a slight depression in the 
soil and perhaps lined with a few grass stems. The eggs are four in number, 
of an olive-green color, thickly spotted with black and brown; they are highly 
esteemed as food. These birds, in common with others of the order, have the 
habit of feigning injury when the nest or young are approached. 

Cayenne Lapwing. Closely allied, indeed sometimes placed in the same 
genus, is the Cayenne Lapwing (Belonopterus cayennensis] of northern South 
America, where, from its oft-repeated cry, it is also known as the Teru-teru.