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FEW papers are less accessible to ornithologists than those
published by the late Sir Andrew Smith prior to the
issue of his great work " Illustrations of the Zoology
of South Africa." The South African Quarterly
Journal*, wherein most of them appear, is a collection
of miscellaneous papers in octavo, issued in two series
by the South African Institution between the years 1830
and 1834. The first series contains five numbers, the
first four bearing the date 1830, and the fifth 1832. The
second series commenced in 1833 with one number
divided into three parts; three more numbers of three
parts each appeared in 1834 when the journal ceased.
Printed, and for the most part published as this

* The South African Quarterly Journal. No. I., From October
1829, to January 1830. Edited at the South African Institution.
Cape Town : Published by W. Bridekirk, Heeregracht : and by
J. M. Richardson, 23, Cornhill, London. 1830. Price, Three shillings.

No. II. From January to April, 1830.

No. III. From April to July, 1830.

No. IY. From July to September, 1830.

No. Y. October, 1831. Published by George Greig, Keizers-
gracht; 1832.

The South African Quarterly Journal. Second series. No. 1 .
October to December, 1833. Edited at the South African Institu.
tion, Published in monthly parts. Part i. (part ii., part iii.). Cape
Town: Printed and Published by George Greig, Keizersgracht, 1833.

No. 2. January to March, 1834, part i., 1834, part iii. (err. for
part ii.) part iii. Printed and published by George Greig, Heere.

No. 3. April to June. Part i., part ii., part iii.

No. 4. July to September. Part i., part ii., part iii.


journal was, at Cape Town, it has now become very
scarce, and few complete copies are preserved in libraries
at the present time. That from which this reprint has
been prepared is in the possession of Professor Newton,
and is the one referred to by him in The Ibis for 1868,
p. 502.

In the present volume we have reprinted the ornitho-
logical portion only of Sir A. Smith's papers, as they
alone immediately concern us. The South African
Quarterly Journal, however, contains many notes by him
on the Mammals of South Africa besides other subjects.

In 1834 Sir A. Smith undertook the superintendence
of an expedition for exploring Central Africa at the
instance of "The Cape of Good Hope Association for
Exploring Central Africa," and on his return published
a report of his journey.*

In an Appendix to this Report a number of mammals
and birds are described for the first time, and the matter
relating to the latter we reproduce here.

No less than 3379 " skins of new and rare birds "
were obtained during the expedition, and at a General
Meeting of the Members of the Association, held on the
19th March, 1836, Sir John Herschell in the chair, it
was resolved, amongst other things, that the rarer part
of the collections should not be disposed of by public
sale until they had been examined and described, and a
committee was appointed to carry out this resolution.
This committee resolved, on 23rd March, to reserve the
more valuable and interesting portions of the collections
for exhibition in Europe, and many of the specimens
were stuffed by a Mr. Verreaux of Cape Town " for that

* Report of the Expedition for Exploring Central Africa, from
the Cape of Good Hope, June 23, 1834, under the superintendence
of Dr. A. Smith. Published for the subscribers only. Printed at
the Government Gazette Office, Grave Street, Cape Town. 1836.


This led to the formation of the " South African
Museum/' exhibited at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly,
London, during the year 1837 and part of 1838, a
catalogue of which was published in the former year.*

Notes chiefly on the mammals, but also on a few of the
birds exhibited are given in this catalogue, and several
names without descriptions of the latter appear in it.
But the pamphlet is without scientific interest. Its
authorship is usually attributed to Sir A. Smith, but his
name does not appear in connection with it.

On the 6th June, 1838, and two following days this
collection was sold by auction in 559 lots and dispersed.
A sale catalogue is amongst the books presented by Mrs.
Strickland to the University of Cambridge.t

Of the specimens obtained by Sir A. Smith, a con-
siderable number found their way to the British Museum,
others came into the possession of the late P. J. Selby
and of H. E. Strickland, both of whose collections are
now at Cambridge; others, again, we believe, passed
into the hands of the late Sir W. Jardine. These skins
may be usually distinguished by their flat form and by a
brown paper label with a number on it attached to one
of the legs.

* A Catalogue of the South African Museum, now exhibiting in
the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, the property of a Society entitled
" The Cape of Good Hope Association for Exploring Central
Africa." This catalogue may be had at the Hall; or of Smith,
Elder, and Co., 65, Cornhill, 1837. Price one shilling.

f Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly. A Catalogue of the South African
Museum, the property of a Society, entitled " The Cape of Good
Hope Association for exploring Central Africa," which will be sold
by Auction, by Messrs. J. C. and S. Stevens, at the Egyptian Hall,
on Wednesday, the 6th day of June, 1838, and two following days,
at twelve for one o'clock, in pursuance of a resolution passed by the
above Society. May be viewed on Monday and Tuesday prior to the
sale and catalogues (Is. each, to admit a party) to be had at the
Hall, and of Messrs. J. C. and S. Stevens, 38, King-street, Covent


Besides Sir A. Smith's papers from the South African
Quarterly Journal we have added the only other original
ornithological paper contained in it. This is by Jules
Verreaux, wherein three species of birds are described,
p. 66 of this reprint.

This volume is numbered in brackets consecutively at
the foot of each page, and the index at the end of the
volume refers to this number. Each article is headed
with the number of the journal in which it appeared,
and the number at the head of the page gives the
original pagination.

0. S.

Cambridge, September, 1880,



INTRODUCTION... ... ... ... ... ... iii-vi


JOURNAL, No. i., pp. 9-17 1-9

No. ii., pp. 105-120 11-26

No. in., pp. 225-241 27-43

No. iv., pp. 380-392 44-56

No. v., pp. 9-15 57-63

Second Series, No. 1, p. 48 64

No. 1, p. 80 (By J.

Verreaux) 66

No. 2, pp. 143-144 ... 67-68

No. 3, pp. 247-256 ... 69-76

No. 3, pp. 273-288 ... 77-92

No. 4, pp. 305-320 ... 93-108

AFRICA, pp. 44-57 109-123

INDEX . . 125-127

No. I., OCT. 1829 to JAN 1830.]

A Description of the Birds inhabiting the South of
Africa. By ANDREW SMITH, M.D. Member of the
Wernerian Natural History Society of Edinburgh;
Honorary Member of the Mineralogical Society of Jena ;
and Corresponding Member of the Zoological and Hor-
ticultural Societies of London.

FOR the botanist, South Africa has long formed a favorite
retreat, and has been one of the sources from whence he has
for years past been accustomed to gather many of the finest
and rarest productions of the vegetable kingdom. Fashion,
together with such decided liberality towards that the least
offensive of nature's departments, have tended hitherto to main-
tain the superiority so much in favor thereof, that the riches
of the other kingdoms have, in a great measure, been over-
looked. Indeed, were it not for the writings of the indefati-
gable and accurate Le Yaillant, the world would scarcely have
yet the means of ascertaining whether life existed there in
any other form than that in which it occurs in plants. The
revolutions which have lately taken place in the scientific
world, or, at least, in a part thereof, give us reason now to
hope that inquiry will be more divided and equalized, and that
every branch will receive that degree of consideration which
their common origin equally demands from those who are am-
bitious of understanding the general scheme of creation.

The naturalist who selects Southern Africa for the site of
his exertions, can scarcely err in the choice of a department,
as all are prolific in the extreme, and it is only by the observer
who is unacquainted with the characters of diversities, that
any thing like limitation or deficiency can be experienced. The
native quadrupeds already known amount to a very considera-
ble number, but are yet imperfectly described, particu-
larly the smaller species. Of such also there is scarcely
a part of the country that does not still contain nondescripts,
and we have only to observe where vegetable or animal pro-
ductions occur of a description different to those we have
found constituting the food of species already known, to ena-
ble us to extend discovery. Solitary changes appear incon-
sistent with the design of nature, so that whenever a novelty
is discovered it follows almost as a matter of course, that
others exist upon which the one or the other depends. Thus
a change in the character of vegetation is generally attended
with a change in the insect tribes, and a change of those
again with a corresponding one in the smaller quadrupeds or

10 A Description of Birds

In the feathered race the variety is still more conspicuous,
and, taking Teinminck as a guide in estimating the number of
European birds, it will suffice to support our conclusion,
simply to state that within the British colony at the Cape of
Good Hope, there are to be found at least one hundred more
species of birds than in the whole of the quarter of the globe he
alludes to. The plumage of those in our domain cannot certainly
be held out as in general particularly splendid, yet at the
same time there are not wanting instances of great beauty ;
but if the diversity and adaptation of characters and instincts
in the various individuals be only considered, there will be
found sufficient to entice and engage attention without the
really less important and interesting commendation, that of
fine feathers. In the class of reptiles, here are the means of
making numerous additions to science ; not only as regards
the description of non-descript species, but also as to classi-
fication. The diversity of forms under which they occur,
and the peculiar characters and habitats which each variety
appears to maintain, furnish good hints for divisions ; and,
if such alone be regarded, they will enable the naturalist to
decide upon proper positions, without direct reference to for-
mation, though that will be found upon inquiry, to support
the conclusions deduced from such like observations. Hence
exist two methods of arranging the objects of animated nature,
and whether the one or the other, or both, be followed, the
conclusions of the accurate observer will, I am convinced,
be the same.

Of insects there are a very great variety, and the
principal portion of them is marked by much beauty of color-
ing, as well as by numerous interesting characters. From
the huge elephant to the smallest flower, all here furnish the
entomologist with specimens, and there is scarcely an object
upon which he can cast his eye, or to which he can direct his
research, that will not supply him with the means of increas-
ing his collection. Besides this extreme multiformity in the
land productions, the ocean is not less prolific, and to survey
the variety of fishes and other marine productions which present
themselves in our seas and about our shores, is almost enough
to petrify exertion, and generate a belief of the impossibility of
ever unravelling all the mysteries of creation. Let us, however,
take spirit and console ourselves in knowing that if we do but
little, that little will assist in rendering the labour of our
successors less difficult, and will concur towards illustrating
the beauty and wisdom, connection and dependence, which a
thorough knowledge of the animal kingdom will doubtless
one day display. The results, upon such being attained, will
prove the utility of the study, and will doubtless dispense
knowledge and benefits to society of which we cannot at pre-


inhabiting the South of Africa. 11

sent even form the slightest conception. The study of nature, as
a popular author* remarks , even when viewed apart from science,
" is one of the most pleasing occupations that can engage the
attention of reasonable beings. The naturalist reflects upon
hidden things, investigates by comparison, and testifies by
experience. Perhaps none of the amusements of human life
are more satisfactory than the investigation and survey of the
workings and ways of Providence in this created world of
wonders, filled with his never absent power. The study of
nature occupies and elevates the mind, is inexhaustible in
supply, and, while it furnishes meditation for the closet of
the studious, gives to the reflections of moralizing ramblers
admiration and delight, and is an engaging companion that
will communicate an interest to every rural walk." Such
then entitles the birds of South Africa as a portion of the
grand system to a share of our consideration, and to them I
shall now proceed.


Caput collum qneplus minusve nnda ; rostrum pro&cipue forte,
adapicem aduncum base lati cerigerum glabrum aut pilorum,
simplex aut carunculatum, nares later ales in cer ornate positce,
ovales, interdum, elongates, plerumque apertce ; pedes nudce ;
tarsi reticulati. Digiti externi membrano connexi. Ungues
validi subincurvi vix retractiles.

Head and neck more or less divested of feathers ; bill very
strong, hooked at the point, and with a broad cere at the
base, which is either bald or hairy, simple or carunculated ;
nostrils lateral, situated in the cere, sometimes elongated, for
the most part open ; feet naked ; tarsi reticulated ; outer toes
connected by membrane ; claws strong, slightly curved, and
scarcely retractile.

Genus. VULTUR, Auct.

Caput collum que implumes ;
rostrum basi rectum, supra
convexum, haud carunculatum.

Nares transversce, basales ;
pedes fortes.

Head and neck naked ; beak
straight at the base ; convex
above and without caruncles.
Nostrils transverse and basal ;
feet strong.

1. VULTUR FULVUS. White Assvogel of the Colonists.

Vultur fulvus Gmel. Syst. 1, p. 249, sp. 11. Vultur Leuco-
cephalus Meyer Tasschenb Deut. v. 1, p. 7. Vultur percnop-
tejrtis Daud. Ois, v. 2, p. 13, sp. 7. V. trencalos, Bech.
Naturg Deut. v. 2, p. 479, sp. 2. Le Perenoptere Buff. Ois,

* The Journal of a Naturalist, page 51.

p. 2 [3]

12 A Description of the Birds

v. I, p. 14,9, pi enL. 426. Le Griffon Buff. Ois, v. I, p. 151,
tab. 5. Savigny Syst. d. Ois d'Eg. p. 11. Vultur Kolbii
Lath. Ind. Orn. Supp. vol. 2, p. 1. Le Chassefiente Le Vaill.
Ois d'Afriq. vol. 1, pi 10.

F. griseus sen albus, capute nuchaque setis subalbidis tectis ;
parte inferiore cervices nuda, remigibis primioribus nigris, secun-
dariis prcecipue subgriseiis; rectricibus nigris griseo umbratis,
rostro, pedibus que lividis ; unguibus nigris ; oculis subrutilis.

Head and nape covered with dirty short whitish hairs, or
bristles ; lower part of cervix bare, and of a bluish colour ;
lower part of throat, and middle of breast, covered with
short bristly grayish brown feathers ; rest of throat, sides of
neck, and upper part of cervix, with fine whitish down, and
bristles resembling those of the head. Skin, as seen through
these coverings, between livid blue and purple ; lower part of
neck behind with a frizzy ruff of short white feathers ; plumage
of upper and under parts white, or a pale blossom color ; pri-
mary quill feathers black ; secondaries grayish, shaded with
black towards their vanes ; tail rounded, and composed of
fourteen black feathers, tinted with gray. Bill, legs, and
toes, livid blue, with shades of dirty green ; claws black ;
eyes light yellowish red ; length from three feet, to three feet
six inches ; breadth from tip to tip of wings, about eight feet.
The feathers of the back, shoulders, breast, belly and legs,
have their tips rounded or semicircular. The male and fe-
male are of the same colour, and the latter considerably
exceeds the former in size.

Young. During the first year the prevailing color is dark
brown, variegated by narrow longitudinal streaks of light
reddish yellow or pale fulvous, one along the centre of each
feather ; the head is covered with a dusky white down, as is
likewise the upper part of the cervix and sides of the neck ;
the throat and centre of the breast are dark brown ; the pri-
mary and secondary quills, together with the tail, are brown-
ish black ; the bill and legs are blackish ; the eyes are dark
brown, and the skin of the head is a dirty sulphur yellow.
The ruff on the back of the neck is distinctly marked, and
composed of long, narrow, pointed, soft, and silky brown
feathers, many of which are re-curved towards the head.
After the first moulting, the plumage, which is that of the
second year, is considerably lighter in color, and commonly
the centres of all the feathers, but particularly of the breast
and belly are much less dark than the other parts thereof.
From this stage each successive annual change is marked
by a diminution of the depth of the color ; yet, nevertheless,
t requires several years to pass from the tint of the first
feathers to that of the faint issabella hue, which announ-

inhabiting the South of Africa. 13

ces the approach of maturity. As age advances, the front, and
from that the head, become covered with hair, and about the
time when the white feathers begin to make their appearance,
the last named part, and more or less of the neck, exhibit
the mixed coating alluded to in speaking of the old bird.

Obs. Having never had an opportunity of comparing the
species just described with specimens of the Yultur Fulvus of
Europe, I follow the example of the illustrious Temminck*
in viewing them as identical. At the same time however, it
must be acknowledged, that a variety of circumstances concur
to create doubts as to the justness of the conclusion ; such as
In the Cape bird, the eyes in adult specimens, are light red-
dish or reddish yellow, in those of Europe, as stated by the
author just mentioned,f they are hazel ; in ours the cere is
livid, in his it is flesh colored ; in ours the extreme length
rarely exceeds three feet eight inches, in his it usually
measures four feet ; in ours the centre of the breast is covered
with short grayish brown feathers, in his with white down ;
in ours the head is covered with a dirty dusky hair, in his
with short white down. In our young specimens the color is
dark brown, with reddish yellow variegations, in his a very
clear tawny, with grayish white blotches, or sometimes pure
white tints. The Chassfiente of Levaillant, is certainly an
immature example of the Cape species, and in or near that
stage in which the greatest number of South African speci-
mens are obtained.

Its food consists of carrion and offal of every description,
and thus often life can scarcely be said to have left an animal
before it is consumed by a flock of Vultures. They build
their nests in crevices of rocks, lay one or two eggs, and
occur in great abundance throughout the whole of the South
of Africa.

2. VULTUB AUKICULARIS. Zwdrte Aasvogel of the Colonists.

Vultur Auriculatus, Shaw's Zoology, vol. 1, p. 24. Y. Pon-
ticerianus, Shaw, vol. 7, p. 25, pi. 10, Temminck, planch, vol. 2.
L'Oricou Le Vaill. torn. 1, pi. 1.

V. fuscus sen nigrofuscus ; collo nudo, cute auriculari pro-
ducta torque cervicali, purpuria aut rubra.

Bill strong ; tip of upper mandible yellow ; rest of that and
the lower greenish yellow or horn color ; cere bluish ; eyes
dark brown ; skin of head, and unfeathered portion of neck,
vermilion or livid purple, with white variegations ; the head
thinly covered with a brownish white down and some black

* Manuel d'Ornithogie, torn. 1, fol. 6. seconde edition.


Les Oisseaux d'Afrique, par M. le Vaillant, torn. 1, fol. 44.


14 A Description of the Birds

hairs ; the neck bare, or with a still more scanty covering of
the like materials ; and on each side thereof a thin fold of
loose skin, extending downwards and forwards several inches
below the ears, usually about one inch in breadth, and similar
in color to the head/ Throat, and middle of breast, covered
with fine short black feathers ; back of neck with a ruff of long
narrow coarse brownish feathers, many of which are turned
forwards; lower part of cervix, back, and shoulders, dark
brown, many of the feathers margined with a lighter tint ;
quills and tail black, with the latter consisting of twelve
feathers. Under parts brownish black, the feathers long,
narrow, somewhat curved, and broadly edged with white
towards their bases, and narrowly with dirty light brown
elsewhere ; thighs with a few brownish feathers on their
outer sides, but their principal covering is a fine reddish
brown down ; legs and toes pale bluish, with a tinge of green ;
claws dark horn coloured, inclined to black; length about
three feet four or six inches ; expanse of wings ten feet. In
this species the back and shoulders are generally mottled by
an intermixture of white feathers, having the tips more or
less semicircular,* which circumstance, together with the
other feathers being to a certain extent pointed, renders it
probable that the plumage of the mature bird is nearly all
white, and that the specimen seen by Burchellf was one of
the present species in that stage.

Young. In immature specimens the bill is more of a dark
horn colour ; the eyes are a more deep brown ; the upper
part of the head and neck have a more dense coating of
brownish white down ; the throat, and centre of the breast,
are nearly the same at all ages ; the color of the skin, neck,
and auricles is less bright, and the latter are rather smaller.
The back of the neck is without the ruff, at least the feathers
are not longer there than elsewhere, though a little more
frizzy ; the plumage above is dark brown, the feathers edged
and tipt with dirty rufous ; the quills and tail are of a less
dense black than in aged specimens ; the feathers of the
breast and belly are narrower and straighter, of a lighter
tinge, and with the edges and tips of a dirty light brownish
white ; the thighs are covered with a whitish down ; J the legs
and toes are of a fainter bluish green, and the claws are more
horn coloured. Before the feathers appear, the bird is covered

* Having observed that a change in the form of the tips of feathers usually
takes place in various Vultures, and other birds of prey, at times when they are
m their most vigorous and perfect state, I am inclined to believe that, eventually,
such will enable us to discriminate between mature and immature specimens ;
at least, of certain genera.

t Harebell's Travels in South Africa, vol. 2, page 194.

The color of the down of the legs seems to vary without any regular rule,
and, therefore, requires more observation in order to decide in what stage, or in
what sex, it exhibits the one hue or the other.


inhabiting the SoiUh of Africa. 15

with a fine, short, white down, which never leaves the breast
and belly.

This species builds its nest sometimes in trees, and at other
times in rocks, lays one or two eggs, and that in the months
of October or November. It occurs throughout the whole of
South Africa,but much less abundantly than the last described;
and though considerably superior in size to it, is, neverthe-
less, inferior in point of courage and strength. It is often
seen where carrion exists, yet rarely ventures to approach
thereto, till those of the other species have deserted it, which
happens only when they are satiated, or the flesh becomes
putrid and very scanty.


Corpus supra fusco nigrum subtus album. Caput lanugine
alba tectum occipitali reversa. Colli pars superior nuda poste-
rior plumis patentibus nigris et anterior depressis brevissimis

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Online LibraryAndrew SmithSir Andrew Smith's Miscellaneous ornithological papers → online text (page 1 of 13)