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the lanner in Ireland. The name falcon is confined to the female, which is fiercer, stronger, and more courageous than the male, The art of training hawks for this exercise, is a science possessing terms peculiar to itself, the minutiae of which are only valuable to falconers, and those who are inclined to pursue the sport, which is now almost out of date in this country.
SOPHIA. Birds are a class of animals peculiarly engaging. Their vocal powers, the beauty of their form and plumage, render them pleasing; but their most interesting property, is the agreement of their endowments and habits with their several natures.
MRS. HARCOURT. I am pleased with your observation. Give us some instances of the agreement you mention.
SOPHIA. Birds of prey, which feed wholly upon other creatures, are not only fierce and savage in disposition, but are furnished with bills hooked at the ends, for tearing their victims; and with strong legs, and hooked, sharp claws, to enable them to hold it with a firmer gripe. The bills of crows are straight
and strong, for picking: in water-fowl, that live upon fish, they are long and pointed, for striking: in others, slender and blunt, for searching in the mire; and those of the goose and duck tribe are flat and broad, for gobbling. Those birds that have long legs, have generally a long neck, or it would be impossible for them to reach their food from the ground. The power of refracting, bending, or stretching out the neck, is possessed in an eminent degree by birds in general; and among other advantages that result from it, that of poising themselves in an exact equilibrium is none of the least. There are a few birds whose wings are too short to enable them to fly: as the ostrich, cassowary, penguin, &c. but they assist the former in running, and the latter in swimming or diving, serving them as fins. The tail is used as a guide or rudder, to direct their course through the air; for, as the head turns one way, the tail is inclined to the opposite direction. It also poises their long necks, and preserves an even balance. Their peculiar ability to sustain themselves, and pursue long journeys,
through so thin an element as the air, is said to be assisted by a power they enjoy of enlarging their bulk, when they have occasion. This admirable contrivance is effected by airvessels, dispersed over various parts of the body, even to the bones, and communicating with the lungs. As these vessels are filled or emptied, the body is contracted or dilated, and consequently rendered heavier or lighter, as the inclination of the bird requires. Many similar observations might be added, but at this moment I do not recollect them.
CHARLES. It is one of my greatest amusements to observe the flight of different birds. They have each a distinct character, and are endued with different powers of swiftness: were it otherwise, the weaker must always inevitably yield to the rapacity of the strong and voracious. Many are preserved, by flitting from place to place with a restless agility that the larger kinds cannot imitate. Those which live upon the water, secure themselves by diving. Kites and hawks glide smoothly along. Woodpeckers fly awkwardly, and by jerks, as if in danger of sinking. But, above
all, I admire the elegant swiftness and agility of the swallow tribe: they seem as if they could live always upon the wing.
CECILIA. Brother, you are skilled in distinguishing the nests of different birds; favour us with some account of the most curious kinds.
CHARLES. They are all curious, and adapted with wonderful sagacity to the habits and wants of each instinctive architect. The study of nests has indeed formed one of my most agreeable relaxations; but I am proud to boast that I have never robbed one of those anxious mothers of their treasures, or disturbed her in the fond office of rearing her young. The larger rapacious kinds make their nests of sticks and bents, but line them with something soft. Most of them choose solitary places for their residence, such as high rocks, ruined towers, &c. A few of them build upon the ground. Parrots, and all birds with two toes before and two behind, lay their eggs in holes of trees. Crows build in trees. The nest of the magpie, though composed of rude materials, is made with exquisite art, covered
with thorns, like defensive armour, and only a small hole left for an entrance. The ostrich is celebrated for neglecting her young. She lays her eggs upon the sand, and abandons them to chance. The mode and place of building, among small birds, vary. Some build in bushes; others in holes of walls, or upon banks; and some upon the ground. Swallows make a curious nest, different from any other: clay, moistened with water, is the material they use. The Chinese eat the nests of one of this species, which are formed of a glutinous matter, and esteem them a great delicacy. Web-footed fowl breed on the ground. Ducks strip the down from their own breasts, to prepare a soft bed for their young. In.very hot climates, where monkeys and serpents abound, many birds use a wonderful precaution to secure their young from their treacherous attacks: they build a pendulous nest, hanging at the end of a bough too slender to support their dreaded enemies.
CECILIA. The tailor-bird, a native of the East Indies, makes a very extraordinary nest of that kind. She picks up a dead leaf, and