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at least as it was evil, seems to have strength. May they not be found wantlost its power. It is to them that Ameri- ing. can literature looks for her future

H. Sheffield Clapham. Macmillan's Magazine.

BIRD LIFE.

It is, or before the days of School earth that moved and not the sun, and Boards was, a common article of faith by undertaking to repeat once a week of country boys that no bird can count for three weeks the seven Penitential beyond three.

Psalms that Galileo escaped from the The imaginative powers of man reach torture-chamber of the Inquisition. a little farther; but they also have their "The thumbscrew and the stake, for limitations. But for this poverty of the glory of the Lord.” imagination, which is to blame for half It moves all the same," was his whisthe uncharitableness and harsh judg- pered aside to the friend and disciple ments of everyday life, the feelings who stood by him as he rose from his with which a thoughtful man would knees. put down any honestly-written book We can, after a fashion, picture to telling the latest conclusions of re- ourselves a six-day creation of perfectsearch in any branch of science would ed forms, and poets such as Milton may be a mingling of abasement, reverence even venture to fill in grotesque deand encouragement. Abasement at the tails: "The tawny lion," like a great thought of the very small spot in the daddy-long-legs escaping from its uuscheme of the universe which the in- derground nymph case, “Pawing to get dividual man at best can occupy; rever- free bis hinder parts," and birds burstence in the presence of the stupendous ing full-fledged from eggs. mysteries which it is the fashion just But the grander idea of a creation of now to speak of as “Natural laws," infinite progression such as that of which lie hidden behind the veil, small which from their different points of corners of which seem to have been view geologists, astronomers and biololifted by modern searchers for the gists seem to be catching glimpses, is truth; encouragement to hope: for, it “Broader than the measure of man's in the past and present are to be seen mind.” We cannot take it in, nor picthings which it could not have entered ture an endless creation, begun when, into the heart of man to conceive, no before time, itself a created thing, was, promise for the future can be beyond forces were set in motion, which, workpossibility of belief only because the ing in obedience to "Laws which never conception of its fulfilment may be be- can be broken,” should spin a beauti. yond our present powers.

ful world from floating atoms, and But imagination fails: and this is why people it with ever-changing forms of good men in the past have shrunk from life, enquiry and too often sought refuge Of the many dissolving views which from doubts in abuse of enquirers. the light of Science is now throwing on

It was only by publicly recanting the the screen, none is more wonderful or blasphemous heresy that it was the more perplexing than the evolution of birds from reptiles. And yet, up to a

gin or special use of anything we see certain point at least, the pedigree in Nature it is prudent to accept with seems fairly conclusively proved. Birds reserve even the most apparently selfand reptiles alike are produced from evident conclusions. For proof of this, eggs. The framework of both is, with if proof is needed, it is unnecessary to modifications, the same; and, in an im- look beyond birds' bones. These are mature stage, the likeness is often in most cases hollow, and connected marked. A newly-hatched cormorant with air sacks a wonderful contriis much more like an exceptionally ugly vance, in the days of our youth we reptile than a bird.

were taught to believe, for lightening The missing link has been 'found in a body which was to be lifted in flight. the Archæopteris, of which fossil re- Nowhere in the realm of Nature was a mains have been discovered in the clearer or more beautiful adaptation of lithographic rocks of Bavaria. It was means to end; unquestionable,-until a a bird about the size of a rook, with meddlesome anatomist went out of his three free fingers tipped with claws. It way to notice that there were excephad teeth, a lizard-like head, and a long tions to the rule and that these were tail like a rat's, from each joint of the birds of greatest powers of flight. which at an angle of forty-five sprang The Albatrosses, Swifts and Swallows pairs of feathers.

have, like ourselves, honest well-filled Three-toed footprints, left ages ago in marrow bones. We are apt, the best of mud which has since hardened to lime- us, to read into the text our own ideas stone rock, were until lately believed to

and to see the things which best fit in be those of gigantic birds. They are with them, like the boy with a taste for now commonly accepted as having been

birds and sport who, when asked in his made by extinct lizards.

examination what he knew of the cirThe three-clawed fingers on the cumstances of the death of Ahab, anwings of the Archæopteris

met swered, “One drew a bow at a Vulture half-way by two serviceable claws on and killed the king." the wings of the young of an existing To form some notion of what the evobird, the Hoatzin, the "stinking pheas- lution of a bird from a lizard implies it ant" of the Valley of the Amazon. With is enough to read two articles in New. the help of their claws and the beak, ton's Dictionary of Birds by Professor which is used like a parrot's, as Gadow, the one on "Feathers," the extra hand, the nestlings of this other on “Colors," and then,-rememstrange bird, which commonly builds bering that no lizard has, nor so far as its nest over a stream, before they can we know ever had, a feather,—to pay fly crawl about the bushes. The young a visit to the Natural History Museum. birds if they fall into the water swim In an alcove to the west of the Great and dive like newts.

Central Hall is a case containing, with The Hoatzin is the only known bird other marvels, magnified models of a still retaining two clawed wing-fingers; section of the web of a light featherbut a single claw or spur on the wing a perfect mechanical contrivance for is still to be found in several birds. The combining, by means of elaborate Spur-winged Geese, and the Horned hooks and eyes and other devices, lightScreamers, whose concerts on the ness and strength. The arrangements plains of La Plata Mr. Hudson has for decoration are even more amazing graphically described are instances of than the mechanism of the frame. the kind.

In the box used for painting birds, But in such deep matters as the ori- Nature, so far as the learned have as

are

an

yet been able to ascertain, has only five cakes of actual colors. There is a black, more than half of it pure carbon; two distinct reds, one of which, containing a good deal of copper, dyes the water when the bird painted with it splashes itself; a yellow and a green, the last containing no copper but a good deal of iron. All color effects seem to be produced by combinations of these, mixed or laid one over another, with or without the help of surface cuttings and polishings. Strange as it may sound when we think of the numbers of Kingfishers and other blue birds to be found almost all over the world, "blue has not yet been discovered as a pigment." The shot metallic colorings of our English Starlings and of the more gorgeous tropical birds are due to surface chisellings on the feathers which (Nature is not wasteful of labor) are to be found only on the parts of the feathers exposed to view.

as a

Without quoting at length Professor Gadow's article, which is a model of condensation, it is impossible to do justice to his subject. But a few lines extracted from the section dealing with "Structural, Prismatic, or Metallic Colors" are enough to give some idea of the wonders of contrivance described. These "prismatic colors change," he writes, "according to the position of the observer," and "they always change in the order of those of the rainbow." They are restricted rule to one particular part of the web, "the metallic portions of which are composed of one row of compartments, which often partly overlap each other like curved tiles. In the inside black or blackish-brown pigment is collected; and each compartment is covered with a transparent colorless layer of extreme thinness, e.g., 0.0008 mm. in Sturnus" (the Starling family). "The surface of this coat is either smooth and polished as in Nectarinia" (the Sunbirds), "or exhibits very fine 884

VOL. XVII.

LIVING AGE.

longitudinal wavy ridges when the feather is violet, or numerous small dot-like irregularities as in Galbula" (bright-colored South American birds which, to the eye of the uninitiated, look many of them not unlike Kingfishers.) "The coating seems to act like a number of prisms. All metallic feathers appear black when their surface is parallel to the rays of the light in the same level with the eye and the light. To the eye of the observer the metallic collar of Ptilorhis magnifica" (the Rifleman, Bird of Paradise) will in one position "appear absolutely black;" in others "bright coppery red" or "rich green;" the metallic feathers "of the sides of the breast in the same bird will change" with the position from which it is seen "from black to green and to blue." The "beautiful Pharomacrus Moccino" (the Trogon which Montezuma in the days of Cortez kept as a royal bird and with a staff of attendants to wait upon it, and which is now the national emblem of Guatemala, as is the Eagle of a more northerly American Republic) "changes from greenish bronze through golden green, green, and indigo to violet. "Oreotrochilus Chimborazo" (one of the humming birds) "exhibits the whole solar spectrum, namely, violet and red on the head, followed by orange and green on the back, blue, violet, and lastly purple on the long tail feathers." When we remember that every feather thus marvellously built and decorated is changed, probably, at least once a year, the marvel is not lessened. Many birds are known to moult much oftener than once in the year.

On the same floor of the Museum as the case arranged to show the structure, uses, arrangement and differing forms of feathers (to the left of the entrance of the Bird Gallery), is another which, though not designed with this object, shows the perfection to which the color decoration of birds is carried.

It contains twenty-six varieties of Birds be put aside in considering the possible of Paradise, no two at all alike. One limits of such forces as "Natural Selecis richly dressed in plain black velvet, tion," far stretching as they seem to and carries as a tiara six emeralds be, is the apparent permanence of exmounted, three on each side of the isting forms of animal life. head, on long spikes. Others are almost The habits of a bird may change rapvulgarly gorgeous in reds and greens idly to meet altered circumstances. and yellows. Some wear long Court- Within the memory of middle-aged coltrains of filmy feathers, in buff, or onists, a harmless vegetable-eating parcream, or strawberry and cream. One, rot has become a mischievous bird of over a mantle of orange gold, wears an prey, feeding when it gets the chance Elizabethan ruff tipped with emeralds; on the kidneys of the sheep on the another, a still broader ruff brightening backs of which it alights. Wood-pigeons gradually to sparkling amethysts at the -in the country among the wariest and outer rim. The black head of another most difficult to approach of birds-in is seen, half-hidden through a haze of St. James's Park and the gardens of the pale blues and browns. One or two Tuileries think it scarcely worth their carry tails of honest feathers of which, while to move out of the way of the for length, an old cock pheasant might perambulators. Another pigeon-the feel proud. In another the only apology tooth-billed—the nearest surviving relafor tail feathers visible when the wings tion of the dodo, has during the last are closed are two stiff little wires few years completely changed its habcurled in circles in opposite directions. its. It is, writes Doctor Sharp in his

Another-more wonderful, perhaps, “Wonders of the Bird World,” only than all, -of which there are specimens "found in the Navigator's Island, as in the Museum, but which is as yet too Samoa is sometimes called. It has perrare and precious for exposure to the fectly formed wings, but until recently bleaching effects of sunlight in a glass never used them as it had no natural case (the King of Saxony's Bird of enemies in its island home, and was Paradise), carries on its head two wires, accustomed not only to live on the reaching beyond the tail, gemmed ground, but to breed in colonies and to from tip to base with turquoises. deposit its eggs on the side of a hill.

The development of even a cormorant As Samoa became civilized, however, from a featherless reptile by the mere the usual accompaniments of civilizaoperation of blind laws would be a tion prevailed in the shape of cats and tough morsel to swallow. To believe, rats, the former devouring the birds, if any could be found now to believe it, the latter their eggs, and speedy exthat in birds of the same internal struc- termination appeared to be the fate in ture, living under like conditions, and store for the Didimculus." These birds in the same surroundings, effects so ex- have taken the hint in time and are quisitely varied as are to be seen in the now, happily, a thriving and prosperous group of Paradise birds could result colony, "building, feeding and roosting without aid from some Omnipotent di- on the high trees." recting intelligence without, would de- While on the subject of relations of mand a surrender of reason to faith the poor old Dodo, it is worth while even more complete than would the noticing in passing an odd instance of acceptance of the inspired poetry of the adaptation of form for special ends. first three chapters of Genesis as his- On the island of Rodriguez, not far tory true to the letter.

from the Mauritius, whch the Another fact which cannot altogether home of the Dodo, lived in former days

was

another bird, in many respects like it before now have joined its distin--the Solitaire. It seems, according to guished cousin in the Valhalla of exthe accounts left of it by Leguat, a tinct birds. One of the effects of the Huguenot, who took refuge in Rodri- great hurricane of September, 1898, guez in the seventeenth century, when was the entire, and so far as can yet be the Solitaire was still plentiful, to have seen, permanent extinction in St. Vinbeen a pugnacious bird, and, having cent, in little more than an hour and a little or no use for its wings in other half, of a humming bird which the day directions—it was a flightless bird- before had been one of the commonest used them mainly as a weapon in free birds in the island. fights for the favor of the females. Na- Among domesticated birds artificial ture, apparently with this object in varieties are produced without much view, doubled the bird's fists. On the difficulty. A pigeon with a perfectly wings, wrote Leguat, whom nabody webbed foot, evolved at Cambridge by until lately believed, “were knobs of only three years' selected crossings, bone as big as a musket ball.” Of was in January last exhibited as a late years many bones of the Solitaire curiosity at the meeting of the Ornithohave been discovered in caves and else- logical Club. where, and have fully confirmed the

But it would be difficult-perhaps story. “The number of the bones that "impossible” would not be too strong a had been broken and crushed in life word to use to point to a single incontained in the collections brought to

stance in which a wild species has this country is,”—writes Professor structurally changed in the slightest Newton, whose brother, Sir Edward, particular of any importance within the was one of the most successful collec- knowledge of man. The eider duck, tors—"considerable, showing the effects which now on the Farne Islands sits of the cestus-like armature of the as closely as an Aylesbury in a farmwing."

yard, and the drake which rides at As Leguat's story has proved true in anchor watching to join her in the open one incredible particular, we may ac- the moment she leaves her nest, are, cept another tale he tells of this strange so far as we know, feather for feather bird. “We have often," he says in his the same as those which twelve hun. narrative, “remarked that some days dred years ago were blessed and tamed after the young one leaves the nest a by St. Cuthbert. company of thirty or forty brings an- In the vegetable world-as if by way other young one to it; and the new of compensation for disabilities in other fledged bird with its father and mother directions-forms

seem

to be more joining with the band march to some

easily changed. A white geranium bye place. We frequently followed

found in South Africa is said to have them and found that afterwards the adapted itself to the thirsty life of the old ones went each their own way alone

veldt by developing a bulb like an or in couples and left the two young

onion. ones together, which we called a mar- But fascinating as such speculations riage.” The French have a precedent are, it is pleasant to step from the mists for their weddings by family arrange

and find oneself in the sunshine with ment.

the birds as they now exist. On the Birds can only too easily disappear

threshold we are met by a wonderful either locally or entirely. But for the instance of the care of Nature for her timely change of habits described children-a present mystery as great as above, the “Dodlet” would probably any in the past.

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