Andrew Smith.

Sir Andrew Smith's Miscellaneous ornithological papers online

. (page 6 of 13)
Online LibraryAndrew SmithSir Andrew Smith's Miscellaneous ornithological papers → online text (page 6 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

persimili ; cauda cequales.

Bill moderately strong, cur-
ved from the base ; nostrils
oviform ; tarsi elongated ; acro-
tarsia scutellate ; toes for the
most part short ; the third quill
feather longest ; sides of the
head with a circle of decom-
posed silky feathers, as in the


C. nigro-fuscus, tectricibus superioribus caudce albis ; remigi-
bus, primariis albo, nigro-fusco et cano notatis; cauda nigro
fusca cumfasciis canis instructis.

Male. Bill black, with the base of lower mandible, and
the portion of the edge of upper adjoining it yellow ; cere
and eyes yellow ; head, neck, back, rump, shoulders, and all
the under parts brownish black, verging on pure black ; the
bases of the feathers of the nape pure white. Primary quill
feathers hoary gray on outer vanes, on inner, towards quills,
white, and elsewhere grayish brown, or grayish black ; se-
condaries with the outer vanes hoary, the inner nearly white,
and both towards tips crossed by a broad blackish band ; upper

384 A Description of the Birds

tail coverts white, under ones black, with some narrowly tipt
with white. Tail nearly even, black, with four transverse
bands of dark bluish gray, and the tips of all the feathers
grayish white ; the vanes close to quills pure silky white.
Legs and toes yellow ; claws black. Length from bill to base
of tail ten inches ; length of latter nine and a half inches.

Female. Size rather greater than that of the male, and the
prevailing color is more of a dull blackish brown.

Young. Bill and cere as in mature specimens ; front black-
ish brown ; crown and part of nape light rufous, variegated
with brownish black streaks or clouds : back of neck an uni-
form brownish black ; shoulders, wing coverts, and scapulars,
brownish black, broadly tipt with pale rufous or tawny white ;
chin, throat, breast, and belly, tawny rufous ; the two first
with brownish streaks or spots, the third clouded by brownish
blotches, and the last slightly marked by longitudinal brown
streaks. Quill feathers with the gray less clear, with the
tips tawny white, but otherwise as in old specimens. Tail
blackish brown, with three distinct white transverse bands,
besides the bases and tips of all the feathers being white.
Legs and toes dirty yellow.

This bird frequents marshy damp grounds in the vicinity of
Cape Town, as well as along both the eastern and western
coasts. It feeds upon mice, rats, frogs, and lizards, and in
quest of those it skims slowly along close to the surface of the
ground. It builds its nest sometimes in low bushes in the
vicinity of swamps, but more generally amongst rushes or
reeds in the middle of marshes ; constructs it externally of
dried twigs, rushes, &c. ; internally of wool and hair ; and
lays from three to four eggs.

Obs. In very young specimens of this bird, the whole of
the under parts are nearly of an uniform tawny tinge ; but as
the plumage developes itself, the throat and breast exhibit dark
brown variegations, and in proportion as it advances in age,
those become more distinct, and also appear on the belly.
In many specimens irregular white spots are observed on the
latter, and many of the feathers are also narrowly tipt with
white. In some old birds the transverse bands of the tail are
pure silky white, instead of gray.


G. supra argenteus ; subtus albus ; remigibus nigro-cceruleiis ;
rectricibus lateralibus albis, fasciis transversis irregularibus
notatis ; mediis, canis fasciis obscuris transversis variegatis ;
tar sis flavis ; rostro nigro.

Bill black ; cere yellow ; eyes ; front nearly pure

white ; head, neck, back, rump, and shoulders light grayish

inhabiting the South of Africa. 385

white, or pale silvery ; throat, breast, belly, vent, under tail
coverts, and inside of wings, pure white ; upper tail coverts
white, banded transversely with dusky black. Primary and
secondary wing coverts gray, slightly tipt with white ; prima-
ry wing feather deep dirty bluish purple, with the inner vanes
towards bases white ; secondaries dirty hoary gray, wUh the
edges of the inner vanes white. Tail long, square, the three
lateral feathers on each side white, and crossed by five or six
irregular transverse brownish bands ; the centre ones deep
hoary blue, with faint dusky transverse bands, particularly on
inner vanes, tips of all the feathers white ; tarsi and toes
yellow ; claws black. Length from bill to base of tail eight
and a half inches ; length of tail nine inches.

I have only met with two specimens of this species in the
Colony, the one was procured near Groenekloof, in the Cape
District, and the other in Albany. Both of them exhibited
exactly the same markings, and gave every reason to believe
they were birds arrived at full maturity.


C. supra brunneus plumis plurimis albo marginatis, fronte,
fascia supra et infra oculos, partibus inferioribusque subfulvis ;
rostro nigro ; cera et oculis flavis ; remigibus brunneis, pogoniis
internis albo fasciatis.

Male. Bill black, with a small yellow spot on each side of
lower mandible towards base ; eyes brownish yellow ; cere
yellowish ; above dirty brown, with many of the feathers tipt
with reddish white, particularly on the shoulders ; front, chin,
throat, breast, belly, vent, and a stripe over, and anothei
below each eye, pale tawny ; upper tail coverts pure white ;
under ones tawny ; cheeks deep brown. Primary quill feathers
dirty brown ; the inner vanes towards quills with alternate
white and brown transverse broad bands ; secondaries uni-
form dirty brown. Tail even ; the three outermost feathers
of each side marked by broad alternate white and dirty brown
bands ; tips of all the feathers inclined to white ; legs and
toes yellow ; claws black. Length from bill to base of tail
eight and a half inches ; length of latter eight inches.


Young. Above brown, with most of the feathers broadly
edged and tipt with dirty red ; front, chin, collarets, and band
over and under eyes tawny ; breast, belly, vent, and thighs
with reddish brown longitudinal blotches ; inside of wings deep
chesnut. Primary quill feathers blackish brown, with the
inner vanes broadly banded transversely with white. Tail
nearly even, with the three outermost feathers of each side

* South African Commercial Advertiser, for May 30, 1829.

2 c [49]

386 A Description of the Birds

broadly banded brown and reddish tawny, middle ones brown-
ish black, with irregular tawny bands or blotches ; the tips of
all the feathers reddish white ; tarsi and toes yellow ; claws

Inhabits Namaqualand and the country about Oliphant's
Biver, as well as various parts on the eastern coast of the
Colony. Of this species I have only met with two specimens,
and as both of them had the tips of many of the feathers on
the back, of a color distinctly differing from the prevailing
one, I am disposed to consider neither of them as birds ar-
rived at complete maturity. I should not be surprised if far-
ther observation may enable us to identify this with the last
described species.

CIRCUS ACOLI. Witte valk. LeeuwerJcvanger.

Falco Acoli. Daudin, Shaw. L'Acoli, Le Vaillant, torn. 1,
pi. 31.

C. supra cceruleo-griseus, subtus subalbidus pectore, dbdo-
mine etfemoribus nigro lineatis.

Male. Bill horn-colored towards base, bluish black towards
tip ; cere red ; eyes orange red ; color of plumage above pale
bluish gray; beneath whitish, with the breast, belly, and
thighs, finely rayed transversely with black ; body slender ;
legs long ; tail nearly even, and of a dirty brownish white
tint ; shafts reddish brown ; legs and toes* yellowish ; claws

Female. A third larger than the male, and the cere of a
less deep red.

This species, according to Le Vaillant, occurs in Zwartland,
and about the Twenty -four Rivers. It feeds upon mice, rats,
lizards, &c. has a quick flight, and commonly soars along close
to the ground, over cultivated lands and sandy deserts. The
male and female are for the most part observed together ;
and the latter constructs her nest in small bushes, and lays
four dirty white oval eggs.

Obs. Having never met with this bird myself, I include it
solely upon the authority of the naturalist just quoted, whose
imperfect description I have introduced ; and, great as the
authority is, I cannot refrain from stating a doubt as to the
existence of such a species : being disposed to consider it as
the Accipiter Musicus, immediately before moulting.

CIRCUS EANIVORUS. Hehvorsvanger of the Colonists.

Falco Ranivorus, Daudin, Shaw. Le Grenouillard, Le
Vaillant, torn. 1, pi. 22.

C. supra brunneus, rubro-albo variegatm, humeris nigro-brun-

inhabiting the South of Africa. 387

neo, ferrugineo et albo notatis ; subtus ferrugineus cauda, fasciis
transversis, nigro-brunneis et griseis ; tarsis flavis ; rostro nigro.

Male. Bill black, with a shade of yellow on lower mandi-
ble near base ; eyes and cere yellow ; front and crown brown,
varied with tawny ; back of neck and interscapulars dirty dark
brown, the feathers edged with pure or reddish white ; back
and rump brown, with tawny tips ; upper tail coverts ferru-
ginous and brown, with whitish tips ; shoulders mottled dark
blackish brown, ferruginous and pure white ; cervical collar
blackish brown and white; chin, throat, and breast dirty
brown, the feathers edged and tipt with dirty reddish white.
Primary and secondary wing coverts blackish brown, with
gray transverse bands ; primary quill feathers with the outer
vanes marked by alternate transverse bands of deep hoary
gray and brownish black ; inner with a considerable propor-
tion of bluish gray, variegated by partial transverse blackish
bands, and the inner edge of vanes, towards quills, clear
white ; towards tips, the feathers all nearly uniform brownish
black ; secondaries brown and deep bluish gray, in alternate
transverse bands ; inner edges of inner vanes white. Tail
with about five blackish brown transverse bands, and with six
deep bluish gray ones, besides bluish gray tips to all the
feathers. In many of the feathers, more particularly the
lateral ones towards quills, there is a strong tinge of chesnut.
Legs and toes yellow; claws black. Length from bill to base
of tail nine inches ; length of latter nine inches.

Female. The colors are rather less bright, but in other
respects resembles the male.

This species is found about marshy situations, over the
greater part of South Africa. In those it skims along close
to the reeds, rushes, or long grass with which they are gene-
rally more or less supplied, and feeds on mice, rats, lizards,
and such like animals as resort to these damp situations. It
builds its nest sometimes on trees or bushes in the vicinity of
marshes, but more commonly on the ground, amongst the
luxuriant vegetation of those spots. The nest is formed ex-
ternally of dried twigs or rushes; internally of hair, wool, <fcc.,
and it lays three or four white eggs.


C. f route vertice nucha, cervice et pectore albis aut fulvo-
albis ; dorso brunneo ; gutture abdomineque, sub-ferrugineis ;
cauda brunnea fasciis transversis subfulvis variegata; rostro
nigro ; tarsis cera et oculis flams.

Male. Bill black ; base of lower mandible yellow ; front,
chin, nape, cervix, and part of breast, white or reddish white ;


388 A Description of the Birds

the feathers of the neck and nape each with a spot of brown
at tips ; interscapulars and back dirty brown ; upper tail
coverts brown, with the tips pale tawny; throat, sides of
neck, and anterior part of breast blackish brown ; flanks,
belly, thighs, and vent reddish brown, inclined to dirty ferru
ginous ; shoulders variegated brown and pale tawny ; inside
of wings dark tawny, spotted with brown. Primary and secon-
dary wing coverts brown, with tawny tips ; primary quill
feathers dark brown, with the exception of the greater part of
the inner vanes, towards quills, which are light tawny, varie-
gated by longitudinal waved dusky lines ; secondaries simi-
larly colored. Tail nearly even, dark brown, with the three
outermost feathers of each side distinctly marked by transverse
interrupted tawny bands ; centre ones with indistinct light
colored bands on inner vanes ; tips of all the feathers tavray.
Legs and toes greenish yellow ; claws black. Length from
bill to base of tail ten and a half inches ; length of latter eight

Female. With the exception of being a little larger, she
exactly resembles the male.

Young. When it leaves the egg, it is covered with a white
down, that in time is succeeded by an uniform dark brown
plumage, which is only very slightly variegated by some
streaks of bright tawny about the chin, front, and anterior
edges of shoulders. The brown of the upper parts is dark
and clear ; that of the lower reddish brown or ferruginous.
Tail feathers nearly uniform brown, with tawny tips, and some
similarly colored spots towards quills. Bill blackish blue,
with the lower mandible yellow at base. Legs and toes dirty

This bird is met with about the sandy flats near Cape Town,
as well as in low marshy or damp situations along both the
southern and western coasts. On account of its habitats and
manners, it has generally been considered as identical with
the last described species; but its constant and invariable
characters prove it to be a separate and independent one.
This is evidently the same species as is obscurely described by
Le Vaillant, and stated by him to have been procured near
Algoa Bay.*

Oba. The bands on the tail are much more distinct in some
specimens than in others, and appear sometimes on all the
feathers, at other times only on the inner vanes of the middle
ones. In some examples the white of the front, nape
cervix, and breast, is clear and abundant, whilst in others it is
scarcely distinguishable.

[52] * Hi8t0ire NatureUe des Ois8eau d>Afri <l, torn. 1, p. 97.

inhabiting the South of Africa. 389


Hostrum mediocre a basi subaduncum. Cauda furcata.

Rostrum mediocre debile, com-
pressum. Tarsi breves semi-
plumati. Acrotarsia reticulata.
Ungues medio excepto interne
rotundi. Remex Zdus. longissi-
mus, \mus. e t %dus. fortiter in-
terne emarginatus.

Bill moderately long, weak,
and compressed. Tarsi short,
half feathered. Acrotarsia
reticulated. Claws, with the
exception of the middle one,
rounded. Second wing feather
the longest ; first and second

strongly emarginate.
ELANUS MELANOPTERTJS, Leach. Witte Spervel of the Colonists.

Elanus Caesius, Savigny. Falco Melanopterus, Daud. Le
Blac, Le Vaillant, pi. 36 and 37.

E. plumbeus, subtus albidus, remigibus nigricantibus ; rostro
humerisque, nigris ; cauda subalbida ; pedibus, cera que flavis,
oculis rubris.

Male. Bill black ; cere yellow ; eyes red ; front and eye-
brows white ; crown and back of neck light bluish gray ; in-
terscapulars, back, rump, and scapulars, bluish gray; shoulders
jet black ; chin, throat, breast, belly, vent, and inside of wings
pure white. Primary and secondary wing coverts bluish gray,
with the edges of inner vanes white, and some of the feathers
distinctly tipt with that color ; primary quill feathers dusky,
hoary gray, shaded towards tips with reddish brown ; secon-
daries bluish gray. Tail slightly forked, pale bluish white,
with the outer vane of each feather faintly tinted with purple
near tip ; vanes dark reddish brown ; legs and toes yellow ;
claws black. Length from bill to base of tail six and a half
inches ; length of latter five inches.

Female. Size rather exceeding that of the male, and the
color of the plumage less deep.

Young. Bill black ; base of under mandible, and the part
of the upper one adjoining it, yellowish; front reddish white ;
crown and back of neck dusky, slightly variegated with very
fine reddish tawny streaks ; interscapulars dirty blackish
blue, with fine reddish white tips ; back uniform dusky blue ;
scapulars dirty blackish blue, with a tinge of brown, and all
broadly tipt with impure white ; shoulders black, many of the
feathers faintly tipt with white. Primary and secondary wing
coverts bluish gray, many of them with white tips ; primary
wing feathers blackish blue with white tips ; secondaries with
reddish white tips. Chin and throat white ; breast and belly
pale tawny or dull reddish white ; thighs white. Tail a pale


390 A Description of the Birds

dusky, hoary blue, with shades of brown ; part of edges of
inner vanes white ; tips of feathers white or reddish tawny ;
legs and toes yellow ; claws black.

This bird is found throughout the whole of South Africa ;
but is particularly abundant along the western coast, and in
the country about the Twenty-four Rivers, and the Piquet-
berg. It frequently resorts to the habitations of the farmers,
and proves highly destructive to their poultry. It builds its
nest in the clefts of trees ; lines it inside with down and
feathers, and lays from four to five white eggs.


Rostrum mediocre, debile su-
Nares ob-

ellipticce. Tarsi breves.
Acrotarsia scutellata. Alee

longissimce. Remex ^tius. Ion.
gwsimus ; cauda furcata.

Bill moderately long, weak,
and subangular above. Nostrils
oblique, elliptical. Tarsi short.
Acrotarsia scutellate. Wings
very long. Fourth quill the
longest. Tail forked.

MILVUS PAEASITICTTS. Kuikenduif of the Colonists.
Le parasite, Le Vaillant Ois d'Afrique, torn. 1, pi. 22.

M. capite collogue cinereo-fuscis, nigro lineatis ; dorso et
humeris fuscis ; mento et gutture longitudinaliter striatis subalbo
et nigro ; pectore et abdomine subferrugineis striis nigris varie-

Male. Bill and cere yellow ; eyes dark brown ; head and
neck pale tawny, with each feather marked in the centre by
a longitudinal black or blackish brown streak which includes
the shaft; interscapulars, back, tail coverts, and shoulders
brown, each feather tipt with a lighter tint ; chin and throat
streaked longitudinally with brown and dirty white ; breast
and belly dirty dull rufous, with a narrow stripe of black
along the centre of each feather; under tail coverts and
thighs rufous ; primary and secondary wing coverts blackish
brown, with light tips. Primary wing feather black, mottled
slightly with white on inner vanes towards quills ; secondaries
brown, with the inner vanes crossed by indistinct dusky
bands, outer vanes sometimes of as dusky a hue as the bands.
Tail slightly forked, reddish brown, with eight or nine narrow
blackish transverse bands, and the tips of all the feathers
reddish white : the bands are most distinct on the inner vanes,
and below, on both, they are much more evident than above,
being there black and nearly pure white; legs and toes yellow;
claws black. Length from bill to base of tail eleven inches
and a half ; length of latter eight and a half.

Female. With the exception of the rufous color being less

inhabiting the South of Africa. 391

clear, the female, in most other respects, resembles the male ;
and there is not the great difference in size that occurs in
many others of the family.

Young. Bill black towards tip, light horn-colored at base ;
cere yellowish ; irides brown ; head and neck brown, with all
the feathers broadly tipt with reddish white or tawny yellow ;
black brown, with the feathers tipt with tawny yellow or pale
rufous ; shoulders varied brown and tawny, with a longitudi-
nal blackish streak along the centre of each feather; chin
with longitudinal streaks of black and dirty tawny ; breast
with the feathers black in their centres, then tawny, and on
the edges dirty rufous, the tips are also tawny ; under tail
coverts light tawny rufous ; thighs with the centres of the
feathers light brown, and the edges somewhat rufous. Pri-
mary and secondary wing coverts dark brown, tipt with tawny ;
primary wing feathers black, and the inner edges of inner
vanes near quills much mottled with white, tips tawny rufous ;
secondaries blackish brown, indistinctly banded with dusky
black, and all tipt with tawny. Tail grayish brown, with nine
or ten blackish oblique transverse bands, and each feather
broadly tipt with tawny ; below the colors appear black and
grayish white ; legs and toes dull yellow ; claws black. When
it leaves the egg it is covered with a grayish down.

It feeds upon young chickens and other small birds, as well
as carrion, and in search of such it evinces much courage,
sometimes carrying them away from almost the very doors of
farm-houses. It belongs to the migrating class of birds, and only
spends the hot months of the summer in South Africa. During
that period it is found very generally distributed over the
whole colony, as well as over the country both to the north-
ward and eastward of it, and usually resorts daily to the
neighbourhood of inhabited places between the hours of ten
and four. It breeds during its temporary residence ; and
" builds its nest commonly upon trees or rocks, but, when
possible, prefers bushes in the neighbourhood of marshes, and
lays four eggs spotted with reddish."

O&s. Though Temminck has set this bird down as identi-
cal with the European species, yet I have no hesitation in
viewing it as quite distinct. The bill of the South African
bird is invariable fine yellow, and that, with many other less
evident differences, which will, doubtless, be more clearly
discovered by persons who possess good opportunities of com-
paring specimens of both countries, appears tome to warrant
the conclusion.


392 A Description of the Birds, fyc.

The following species has been met with since those of the
genus to which it belongs were described :


F. subcceruleus, gutture, albo; pectore et parte anteriore ab-
dominis rvbro-albis, maculis nigris, longitudinalibus notatis;
parte posteriore abdominis, crisso et femoribus, ferrugineis ;
iarsis flams.

Above grayish blue, with the shafts of many of the feathers
black ; a transverse black band or blotch beneath each eye ;
chin and front of neck white; breast and anterior part of
belly reddish white, and variegated by many longitudinal
black blotches ; hinder part of belly, vent, under tail coverts,
and thighs deep chesnut or ferruginous. Primary and secon-
dary wing coverts deep grayish blue ; primary and secondary
quill feathers bluish black, the inner vanes banded trans-
versely, towards quills, with light tawny. Tail somewhat
rounded, the two middle feathers about an inch longer than
either of the others, somewhat pointed, and of a grayish blue
color ; the outer vanes, and a narrow line over each eye, tawny
white ; base of bill bluish white ; tip black. Tarsi and toes
yellow ; claws black. Length from bill to base of tail seven
inches ; length of tail six inches.

The specimen, of which the foregoing is the description,
was obtained in Cafferland, near to the Kai Eiver, and is said
to be not unfrequent there.


At the time that the description of this bird was prepared,
I had not (it now appears) seen a full grown specimen. When
the plumage of maturity is attained, it is above of a dark
slate color, and below white, closely banded on the throat,
breast, and belly, by reddish brown transverse lines. The tail
is dusky brown, with four broad transverse blackish bands,
and two or more blotches or partial transverse broad white
lines on the inner vanes of several of the central feathers.

(To be continued.)



No. V., OCTOBER 1831.]

Contributions to the Natural History of South Africa, fyc.


No. 1.

THERE was a time when it required no trifling degree of con-
fidence to venture upon introducing a new species, much less a
new genus or genera, to the notice of the public ; and much in
the form of apology to satisfy the vigilant guardians of the
older systems, for attempting to interfere with their too in-
definite and highly confused divisions. Of late, however, ob-
servation, rather than theory, has been the guide of the Natural-
ist ; and the simple discovery of a form, not quite akin to any
described, is now regarded as all that is necessary to warrant
the formation and publication of an additional subdivision.

The advantages that have resulted from this new, and cer-
tainly far more scientific method of proceeding, must have been
sufficient to have convinced even the most zealous anti-
reformers and the most devoted admirers of the earlier classi-

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryAndrew SmithSir Andrew Smith's Miscellaneous ornithological papers → online text (page 6 of 13)