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VOL. VI. DECEMBER, 1899. NO. 5.


COCA. 203



The birds had met in council that morning, and from the great
chattering and chirping I judged some very serious question was up
before the board.

"Something must be done," Mr. Red-eyed Vireo was saying, as I
sauntered down to the orchard and seated myself beneath an apple
tree, "we have stood the imposition long enough. Every year we meet
and draw up resolutions, with many 'whereases' and 'wherefores,' and
'aforesaids' - resolutions with nothing resolute about them. To-day, I
say, something must be done."

Mr. Wood-thrush, Mr. Towhee, Mr. Chipping Sparrow, Mr. Yellow-breasted
Chat, Mr. Song Sparrow, and several Mr. Flycatchers, beside a number of
other small birds, nodded their heads in unequivocal assent.

"We have enemies enough," continued Mr. Vireo, "how many only Mother
Nature knows. Even in the darkness of night we are not safe from
the owls, skunks, snakes, and other robbers, and in the day-time,
besides our feathered foes, we have the ruthless 'collector,' and the
ever-present bad boy. Enemies without are bad enough, but to have
in our very midst a - a - " Mr. Vireo paused, presumably choking with
indignation, but really because he had quite forgotten what he had
prepared to say.

"Hear, hear!" cried the assembled birds, making a great clamor and
clatter in order that the speaker might have a chance to slyly consult
his notes.

"A tribe of social outcasts - tramps, in fact," continued Mr. Vireo,
"whose females, disliking the cares of family life, build no homes of
their own, but instead deposit their eggs in some other bird's nest
that their young may be hatched and reared without any trouble to
themselves. Our mates have enough to do to bring up their own families,
so I say the tribe of cowbirds must be driven from this community, or
else, like the rest of us, be forced to work."

"H'm! yes," sighed Mr. Towhee, "that's what we say every year, and
every year the conditions remain just the same. The cowbirds are tramps
by nature, and you can't change their natures, you know."

I judged, from the great chattering and chirping, that grave exceptions
were taken to this remark, but quiet at length being restored, Mr.
Towhee continued:

"My mate says it depends upon ourselves whether the whole tribe shall
be exterminated. She, for one, does not intend to hatch out any more of
Mrs. Cowbird's babies. This spring we found one of her speckled eggs in
our nest, but it wasn't hatched out, I warrant you. We simply pierced
the shell with our bills, picked it up by the opening, and carried it
out of the nest."

A round of applause greeted these remarks, much to Mr. Towhee's

"It strikes me," said Mr. Indigo Bunting, "that the whole fault
lies with our mates. From the size and different markings of Mrs.
Cowbird's eggs they can always be distinguished from their own.
No self-respecting bird should ever brood one; in that way we can
exterminate the race."

"'Tis the mother-instinct, I presume," said Mr. Vireo, "or the kindly
nature of some females, not to neglect a forlorn little egg abandoned
by its parents at their very door. Ah," he broke off, pointing in a
certain direction, "is not that a sad sight for an affectionate husband
to see?"

On a fence near by stood two birds - a very small one, with a worried,
harassed air, endeavoring upon tip-toe to drop into the mouth of the
great fat baby towering above her a green caterpillar which she held in
her bill.

"That is Mrs. Vireo, my mate, and her foster child," continued the
speaker. "The egg of the cowbird being larger than her own, received
all the warmth of her breast, so that her own little ones perished
in the shell. It takes all her time and strength to feed that great
hulking baby, who will accept her nursing long after he can take care
of himself, then desert her to join his own tribe in the grain fields."

"Last year my mate had no better sense than to brood one of Mrs.
Cowbird's eggs," said Mr. Chipping Sparrow. "It emerged from the
shell first, of course, and in attending to its everlasting clamor
for food she neglected her own birdlings so that all but one of them
died. That one has always been a puny, weak little thing. We were
greatly astonished, I assure you, at the size of our first offspring,
neither of us being acquainted with the habits of Mrs. Cowbird, and
disappointed that in neither feather nor feature it resembled her or

"I got the best of the lazy tribe, this year," chuckled Mr. Yellow
Warbler. "Our nest was just completed, and my mate had deposited one
egg, when in our absence one day Mrs. Cowbird sneaked in, laid one
of her own beside it and then stealthily crept away. My mate said
nothing, and might have brooded it with her own, but the next day the
same thing, in our absence, occurred again; another female of the lazy
tribe, I presume, finding our home quite to her liking."

"Two to one," said the Chat with a laugh, "that was not fair. Well,
what did you do then?"

"Why we concluded to abandon the nest and build another, but on second
thought gave up that plan. We simply built a floor over the lower
portion of the nest, and on the upper floor, or second story, so to
speak, my mate deposited four eggs, those, with the one shut in with
the Cowbird's, making her full complement, you see."

"It would have been far easier, it seems to me," said Mr. Towhee, "to
have thrown Mrs. Cowbird's eggs out of the nest as we did. But then you
and your mate must learn by experience and you will know better what to
do the next time."

"Doubtless," said Mr. Yellow-throat, a trifle stiffly, "but my mate is
a very dainty bird and wouldn't for a moment think of using a cradle
for her little ones that had been occupied, even for a short time, by
two female tramps."

"Hm!" replied Mr. Towhee, in his turn not altogether pleased, "that
accounts probably for the number of abandoned nests one meets with
every year, containing a speckled egg of Mrs. Cowbird's. Too dainty,

"Did you ever happen to see one of the homeless creatures seeking
somebody else's nest in which to lay her egg?" interrupted Mr. Chipping
Sparrow, scenting a quarrel in the air. "I saw one in the woods once
sneaking through the undergrowth, and when Mr. and Mrs. Red-eyed Vireo
had flown away for a little time, out she crept, inspected their nest,
and, finding it to her taste, entered and deposited her egg. She felt
sure, you see, that Mrs. Vireo had a kind heart and would hatch out the
foundling with her own."

"And she did," sadly said Mr. Vireo, "she did."

"The company the tribe keeps is no better than themselves," said Mr.
Wood Thrush. "During the breeding-season you will see the grackles,
and red-winged blackbirds, and the cowbirds chattering and gossipping
together, as they roost for the night. They are a lawless crew. No
self-respecting bird will be found in such company."

"I saw a number of the cowbird tribe perching on the backs of a bunch
of cattle in the pasture-land to-day," said a very young Mr. Flycather.
"What do you suppose they were doing?"

"Searching for parasites," gruffly said an old bird; "that's the reason
they are called cowbirds. They were once called 'buffalo birds' for the
same reason."

No one spoke for the space of several minutes.

"If there are no further remarks," said Mr. Red-eyed Vireo, "the
question will be put. All in favor - "

"What is the question, Mr. Chairman?" meekly asked a very young Mr.

"Is it or is it not our duty to destroy every egg of Mrs. Cowbird's we
find in our nests, thus forcing the tribe to build homes of their own
in which to bring up their families? All in favor - "

"Ay," chirruped every bird at once.

"Contrary minded?"

There was no response, so the meeting was declared adjourned.

[Illustration: FROM MAYFLOWER, BY PER.


WILLIAM KERR HIGLEY, Secretary of The Chicago Academy of Sciences.

The genus of plants called Narcissus, many of the species of which are
highly esteemed by the floriculturist and lover of cultivated plants,
belongs to the Amaryllis family (_Amaryllidaceæ._)

This family includes about seventy genera and over eight hundred
species that are mostly native in tropical or semi-tropical countries,
though a few are found in temperate climates.

Many of the species are sought for ornamental purposes and, on account
of their beauty and remarkable odor, they are more prized by many than
are the species of the Lily family.

In this group is classed the American Aloe (_Agave americana_) valued
not only for cultivation, but also by the Mexicans on account of
the sweet fluid which is yielded by its central bud. This liquid,
after fermentation, forms an intoxicating liquor known as _pulque_.
By distillation, this yields a liquid, very similar to rum, called
by the Mexicans _mescal_. The leaves furnish a strong fiber, known
as vegetable silk, from which, since remote times, paper has been

The popular opinion is that this plant flowers but once in a century;
hence the name "Century Plant" is often applied to it, though under
proper culture it will blossom more frequently.

Other plants of equal economic and historic interest, but less known,
belong to this family. It is said that one species furnished the fluid
used by the Hottentots for poisoning their arrows.

The genus Narcissus derives its name from a Greek word meaning "stupor"
because of the narcotic effect produced by the odor and by portions of
the plants of some species.

There are about twenty-five species, chiefly natives of southern
Europe, but some of them, either natural or modified by the gardener's
art, are world-wide in cultivation.

Blossoming early in the season they are frequently referred to as
"harbingers of spring." The flowers are handsome, large, varying in
color from yellow to white and sometimes marked with crimson. They are
usually borne on a nearly naked stem. Some of the species are very
fragrant. The leaves are elongated, nearly sword-shaped and usually
about a foot in length, rising from the bulbous underground stem.

Among the forms that are familiar are the daffodils, the jonquils, and
the poet's narcissus.

An interesting feature in the structure of the flowers is the cup or
crown which is found at the base of the flower segments. The length
and character of this is an important feature in the separation of the

In Grecian mythology Narcissus was the son of the river god, Cephissus.
He failed to return the love of the mountain nymph, Echo, which so
grieved her that she pined away till nothing remained but her voice,
which gave back with absolute fidelity all sounds uttered in the hills
and dales.

Narcissus was punished for this by Aphrodite, who caused him to love
his own image as it was reflected in the water of a neighboring
fountain. "Consumed with unrequited love, he too, wasted away and was
changed into the flower which bears his name."


E. K. M.

Judging from late millinery creations, and the appearance of windows
and showcases, women, in spite of the efforts of the Audubon societies,
still elect to adorn themselves with the stuffed remains of rare or
common birds.

A live bird is a beautiful and graceful object, but a dead duck,
pigeon, or gull peering with glassy eyes over the brim of a woman's hat
is, to the thinking mind, both unbecoming and repulsive. In deference
to "sentimental" bird lovers and at the same time the behest of Dame
Fashion, wings and breasts are said to be manufactured out of bits of
feathers and quills which have all the appearance of the original.
Wings and breasts, yes, but never the entire creature, which the bird
lover - in a millinery sense - chooses above all other adornments for her
headgear. Apart from the humanitarian side of the subject, one cannot
but marvel that such women cannot be brought to regard the matter from
the esthetic point of view.

"Esthetic," repeats my lady, glancing admiringly in the mirror at the
death's head above her brow, "esthetic point of view, indeed! Why,
the point of view with most women is to wear whatever they consider
becoming, striking, or _outré_. Now I flatter myself in selecting this
large gull with spreading wings for my hat, that I attained all three
of these effects, don't you?"

"Especially the _outré_," muttered one of her listeners, at which my
lady laughed, evidently well pleased.

Five women out of every ten who walk the streets of Chicago and other
Illinois cities, says a prominent journal, by wearing dead birds upon
their hats proclaim themselves as lawbreakers. For the first time in
the history of Illinois laws it has been made an offense punishable
by fine and imprisonment, or both, to have in possession any dead,
harmless bird except game birds, which may be "possessed in their
proper season." The wearing of a tern, or a gull, a woodpecker, or a
jay is an offense against the law's majesty, and any policeman with
a mind rigidly bent upon enforcing the law could round up, without a
written warrant, a wagon load of the offenders any hour in the day, and
carry them off to the lockup. What moral suasion cannot do, a crusade
of this sort undoubtedly would.

Thanks to the personal influence of the Princess of Wales, the osprey
plume, so long a feature of the uniforms of a number of the cavalry
regiments of the British army, has been abolished. After Dec. 31, 1899,
the osprey plume, by order of Field Marshal Lord Wolseley, is to be
replaced by one of ostrich feathers. It was the wearing of these plumes
by the officers of all the hussar and rifle regiments, as well as of
the Royal Horse Artillery, which so sadly interfered with the crusade
inaugurated by the Princess against the use of osprey plumes. The fact
that these plumes, to be of any marketable value, have to be torn
from the living bird during the nesting season induced the Queen, the
Princess of Wales, and other ladies of the royal family to set their
faces against the use of both the osprey plume and the aigrette as
articles of fashionable wear.

If this can be done in the interest of the white heron and osprey, on
the other side of the water, why cannot the autocrats of style in this
country pronounce against the barbarous practice of bird adornment
entirely, by steadfastly refusing to wear them themselves? The tireless
energy of all societies for the protection of birds will not begin
to do the cause among the masses so much good as would the total
abandonment of them for millinery purposes by what is termed society's


Description of Plate. - _A_, flowering branch; 1, bracts, enlarged; 2,
flowering bud; 3, flower; 4 and 5, petal with ligula; 6, pistil with
stamens; 7, stamen; 8, pistil; 9, ovary, transverse section; 10 and 11,
corolla; 12 and 13, fruit.


(_Erythroxylon Coca Lam._)

DR. ALBERT SCHNEIDER, Northwestern University School of Pharmacy.

It is an aromatic tonic and cerebral stimulant, developing a
remarkable power of enduring hunger and fatigue. - _Gould:
Dictionary of Medicine._

At the very outset I wish to state that coca is in no wise related to
cocoa, a mistake which is very often made. The term coca, or cuca, as
it is sometimes spelled, applies usually to the leaves of _Erythroxylon
coca_, which are used as a stimulant by the natives of South America
and which yield cocaine, a very important local anæsthetic. Cocoa or
cacao refers to the seeds of _Theobroma cacao_, from which cocoa and
chocolate are prepared, so highly prized in all civilized countries.
With these preliminary statements I shall begin the description of
coca, hoping at some future time to describe the even more interesting
and important cocoa-yielding plant.

Coca and cuca are South American words of Spanish origin and apply to
the plant itself as well as to the leaves. The plant is a native of
Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia. It is a shrub varying in height from three
to ten feet. The leaves resemble the leaves of tea in general outline.
The margin, however, is smooth and entire, the leaf-stock (_petiole_)
short; upper and lower surfaces smooth; they are rather thin, leathery,
and somewhat bluish-green in color. The characteristic feature of the
leaf is two lines or ridges which extend from the base of the blade,
curving out on either side of the mid-rib and again uniting at the apex
of the leaf. The flowers are short pedicled, small, perfect, white or
greenish-yellow, and occur singly or in clusters in the axil of the
leaves or bracts. The shrub is rather straggling and not at all showy.

Coca has been under cultivation in South America for many centuries.
According to A. de Caudolle the plant was very extensively cultivated
under the rule of the Incas. In fact it is generally believed that
the original wild stock no longer exists; such eminent authorities as
D'Orbigny and Poeppig maintaining that the wild growing specimens now
found in South America are plants which have escaped from cultivation.
Coca is now extensively cultivated in Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, and other
South American countries, particularly in the Andes region. It is also
extensively cultivated in British India and in Java. Attempts have been
made to introduce it into Southern Europe but without success.

The plants are grown from seeds sown in pots or boxes in which they are
kept until they are from eight to ten inches high, after which they
are transplanted during the rainy season. Coca thrives best in a warm,
well-drained soil, with considerable atmospheric moisture. In the Andes
region an elevation of 2,000 feet to 5,000 feet is most suitable. The
young growing plants must be protected against the heat of the sun. The
maximum growth is attained in about five years.

The leaves are the only parts used although the active principle,
cocaine, is present in small quantities in all parts of the plant. As
soon as the shrubs are several years old the leaves are picked, usually
several times each year. This work is done principally by women and
children who pick the leaves by hand and place them in aprons. They are
then spread upon large mats, awnings, or cemented floors, and exposed
to the sun for from five or six hours to two or three days. During
very warm, bright weather drying may be completed in one day. If the
process of drying is slow or if it rains upon the leaves they assume a
dark color and are of less value. On the first indications of rain the
leaves are placed in sheds specially made for that purpose.

Coca leaves have been used for many centuries by the natives of
South America who employed them principally as a stimulant, rarely
medicinally. The leaves were at one time highly prized. Acosta states
that during the reign of the Incas the common people were not permitted
to use the leaves without permission from the governor. After the
passing of the Incas and after coca was more extensively cultivated all
classes chewed the leaves. Children were, however, not allowed to use
them. According to Mariani, the young Indian on arriving at the proper
age was sent to an old woman whose duty it was to instruct him and
to invest him with authority to chew coca leaves. The native carries
the leaves in a little pouch (_huallqui_ or _chuspa_) suspended from
the belt. This pouch also contains a small bottle-gourd or calabash
(_ishcupura_) in which is carried the ash of some plant (species of
_Chenopodium_), known as _Llipta_. A few leaves are placed in the
mouth and rolled into a ball; a stick moistened with saliva is now
dipped into the ash and wiped upon the leaves. The ash is supposed
to develop the flavor and to cause a flow of saliva which is either
entirely swallowed or partially expectorated. It is said that the
use of the leaves enabled the Indians to undergo extreme hardships.
A French missionary states that the leaves were absolutely necessary
to the slaves employed in the quicksilver mines of Peru. They were
also used in dressing wounds, ulcers, and taken internally for the
cure of intestinal troubles, jaundice, and various spasmodic troubles.
Historians seem to agree that the constant chewing of the leaves by the
Indians did not produce any very marked deleterious effects. Mariani,
upon the authority of several authors, states that it even seems to be
conducive to longevity. The dead of the South American Indians were
always supplied with a liberal quantity of coca to enable them to make
the long and fatiguing journey to the promised land.

Chewing coca leaves is a habit which may be compared to the habit of
chewing tobacco with the difference that the former is by far less
injurious though there are good reasons to believe that it is far from
harmless. Dr. Wedell says an habitual coca chewer is known as coquero
and is recognized by his haggard look, gloomy and solitary habit,
listless inability, and disinclination for any active employment. The
same authority states further that the habitual use of coca acts more
prejudicially upon Europeans than upon the Indians accustomed to it
from their early years. Occasionally it causes a peculiar aberration of
intellect, characterized by hallucinations.

Chewing coca leaves has never become common among civilized nations.
Large quantities of leaves are, however, imported for the purposes of
extracting the active principle cocaine, whose effects are very marked.
Cocaine causes a feeling of depression, and a marked reduction in the
activity of the senses preceded by stimulation. Cocaine solutions are
very extensively employed to produce local anæsthesia in minor surgical
operations. Dentists employ it very extensively. Its use has several
serious drawbacks. Occasionally it produces no effects whatever and
again an ordinary medicinal dose has caused fatal poisoning. For these
reasons dentists, physicians, and surgeons often hesitate in using
it. According to some authorities the poisonous effects are due to a
second alkaloid which occurs in the leaves of some varieties of coca.
If that is the case, then poisoning may be prevented by excluding these
varieties from the market, which is not an easy matter considering that
the leaves are collected, dried, and shipped by ignorant natives. It is
also known that the active principle is rapidly destroyed, hence the
necessity of using fresh leaves. In the course of one year most of the
cocaine has undergone a chemical change and the leaves are absolutely

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Online LibraryVariousBirds and All Nature, Vol. VI, No. 5, December 1899 → online text (page 1 of 7)