William Bingley.

The history of birds : their varieties and oddities, comprising graphic descriptions of nearly all known species of birds, with fishes and insects, the world over, and illustrating their varied habits, modes of life, and distinguishing peculiarities by means of delightful anecdotes and spirited engr online

. (page 1 of 48)
Online LibraryWilliam BingleyThe history of birds : their varieties and oddities, comprising graphic descriptions of nearly all known species of birds, with fishes and insects, the world over, and illustrating their varied habits, modes of life, and distinguishing peculiarities by means of delightful anecdotes and spirited engr → online text (page 1 of 48)
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Nearly ail Known Species of Birds, with Fishes and Insects, the World over, and
Illustrating their Vaned Habits, Modes of Life, and Distinguishing Pecu-
liarities by Means of Delightful Anecdotes and Spirited Engravings.

Prepared after Laborious Personal Research ; with the Aid of the Great Works

of Cuvier, Buffon, Wood, Dallas, ETuttall, Bonaparte, Agazzis,

Jardine, Brewer, and many others ;









BIRDS '. 27




WADERS . 303














DIPTEROUS " ....* 530

APTEROUS * v 535






Adjutant 316

Albatross 389

Amazon Ant 513

Anchovy 450

Angler 467

Ant Eater 513

Ants 513

Aphides 519

Aphis 500

Apteryx 300

Au)ss, 380

Avocet 346


Barbel 468

Bedbugs 534

Bees 522

Beetles 471

Bird of Paradise 118

Bittern 317

Blackbird 152*

Blennies 469

Bluebird 197

Boat-bill..... 314

Bob-o-link 154

Booby 398

Bombardier 487

Borers 478

Bugs 498

Bullfinch 166

Bull-comber 471

Bunting ; 167

Bustards 286

Butterfly 503

Buzzard 36


Canary-finch 173

Carabus 487

Carp 451

Carrion Crow 103

Cassowary 298

Cat-bird 195

Cedar or Cherry Bird 210

Centipedes .' 558

Cerambyx or Capricorn 484

Chactodon . 426

Chafiinch 143

Chaja 308

Chatterer 211

Cheese-mite 469

Chick-a-dee 209

Chigoe 540

Chub 452

Cicadae 496

Coal Tit 208

Cochin-china 264

Cochineal 501

Coccinella 482




Cock 258

Cockatoos 92

Cock-chafer 472

Cockroach 491

Codfish 418

Condor 28

Coot 352

Corn-weevil 483

Corvorant 395

Crab 549

Crane ! 303

Crane-fly 530

Craw-fish 557

Creeper 135

Cricket 493

Cross-bill 161

Crow-blackbird 156

Crows 99

Cuckoo 121

Curculio 483

Curlew 319

Cynips 504


Dabchick 354

Dace 453

Darter 402

Day-fly 511

Dermestes 478

Devil-fish 468

Divers 404

Dodo 301, 302

Dog-fish 462

Doree 422

Dorking Fowl 265

Dotterel 334

Dragon-fly 511

Ducks 357

Dunlin 330



Eagle 38-50

Earwig 489

Eel 411

Eider Duck 364

Emu 300

Esculent Swallow 220


Falcon 38

Fieldfare 99

Finch 169

Flamingo 361

Flatfish 423

Flea 539

Flounder 426

Fly 511-531

Flying-fish 443

Fly-catcher 176

Fowls 258


Gad-fly 460

Gadwall or Grey 370

Gall-insect 514

Gallinule 341

Gannet 396

Garganey 369

Gentil Falcon 59

Glow-worm 485

Gnat 533

Goat-sucker 74

Godwit 322

Goldfinch 172

Goldfish ,. 454

Goosander 366

Goose 360

Goshawk 60

Grayling 440



Grebe, or daunt 352

Greenfinch 163

Grouse 273

Grosbeaks 161

Gudgeon .' 452

Guinea Fowl 272

Guillemot 389

Gulls .: 406

Gurnard 434

Gynmotus 413


Haddock 419

Hake-fish 420

Hawk 63

Hawkmoth 506

Hedge Accentor, or Sparrow. ... 1 95

Hen Harrier 60

Heron 303-310

Herring 445

Holibut 425

Hoopoe 223

Hornbill 97

Hornet 517

Humming Bird 137





Jackdaw 108

Jager, Richardson' s 408

Jay 109

King Bird 176

Kingfisher 132

Kinglet, Fiery-Crowned 1 96

Kite 59

Lady-bug 482

Lamprey 466

Lark , 144

Lasher 469

Ling 420

Linnet 169

Loach 468

Lobster 552

Locust 492

Locust-eating Thrush 160

Loon 405

Louse 538

Lucanus 476

Lumpsucker 470

Lyre-bird 225

Lytta 48$


Macaw 90

Mackerel 429

Magpie Ill

Mantis 491

May-fly 510 !

Megapode 252^

Merganser, hooded 410

Missel, or Misseltoe Thrush 15G

Mocking-bird 157

Monk-fish 462

Moths 506

Mullet 441

Musk 374

Musquito s 534





Nightingale , . 187

Nut-hatch .131


Oriole 113

Osprey . 53

Ostrich 292

Ouzel, water 145

Oven bird 117

Owls 66-74

Ox-bird, or Dunlin 330


Papuan Podargus 75

Parrots 81

Partridge 280

Peacock 250

Pelicans 391

Penguins 384

Perch 428

Peregrine Falcon 64

Peristera 238

Petrel 385

Phalarope 356

Phasianella 240

Pheasant 253

Pigeons 226

Pike 440

Pill-chafer 475

Pilchard 448

Pintado Tribe 271

Pipit, meadow 184

Plaise 423-426

Plant-lice 499

Plovers 333

Porcupine, sea 470

Prawn 554

Ptarmigan 279

Ptinus 478

Purre 324


Qua-bird 312

Quail 284


Rail 338

Rapacious birds 27

Raven 101

Ray 464

Red-breast 191

Redstart 148

American 178

Remora 421

Rice-bird 1 54

Ring-dove 229

Roach 453

Robin 192

Rock-dove 243

Rook 105

Rose-chafer 474

Ruff, or Reeve 329


Salmon 435

Sawfly 514

Sandpiper 328

Wilson's 331

Sand-wasp 516

Scarabseus 471

Scorpion 548

Sea-horse 467

Shad 449

Shark 457-462



Shrike, great or cinereous 78

Shrimp 554

Silkworm 507

Silurus 469

Siskin 195

Skate 465

Skimmer 409

Skippers 486

Smelt 439

Snipe 3!9

Spanish-fly 488

Sparrow 1 70

Sparrow-hawk 62

Spheges 516

Spiders 542

Spider-fly 534

Spoonbill 348

Sprat 449

Stag-beetle 476

Starling 143

Stilt 334

Stork 304

Sturgeon 456

Sucking-fish 421

Surmullets 433

Swallows c 212

Swan 357

Sword-fish : 416

Sylphse 480


Tailor-bird 203

Talpicoti 237

Tarantula 548

Tatler 348

Teal 373

Tench 452

Termes 535

Tern 409


Thornback 466

Thoracic Fish 421

Thrush 150

Thunny Fish 43 1

Tick 541

Titmice 204

Torpedo 464

Toucan 93

Trogon 223

Trout 437

Trumpeter 290

Turbot 423

Turkey 245-252

Turnstone 330


Umber 440


Vinago 244

Vireo, red-eyed ] 80

Vultures 31-36


Wagtail 189

Warbler, garden 1 49

Warblers 1 93

Wasp 517

Waxwing, or chatterer 211

Weevil 433

Whame-fly 532

Wheat-ear 148

Whidah 167



Whip-poor-will 75

Whiting 419

Widgeon 371

Wolf-fish . .413


Woodcock 323

Wood-pecker 128

Wren 193

Wryneck 130


There is no division of the animal world in which we are more led to admire th
wisdom of the Supreme Being, than in the different feathered tribes. Their struc-
ture and habits of life are wonderfully fitted for the various functions they have to
perform. Their bodies are clad with feathers, which form an envelope much lighter
than hair. These lie over each other close to the body, like the tiles of a house ;
and are arranged from the fore-part backward, by which means the animals are
enabled the more conveniently to cut their way through the air. For this purpose
also the head is small and the bill somewhat wedge-shaped ; the neck is long, and
easily movable in all directions ; and the body slender, sharp on the under side, and
flat or round on the back. The bones likewise are hollow, and very light compara-
tively with those of terrestrial animals. For the purpose of giving warmth to th
body, a short and soft down fills up all the vacant spaces between the shafts of tho

Birds are enabled to rise into and move from place to place in the air, by meanii
of the members that are denominated wings. The muscles by which the wings ar
move are exceedingly large ; and have been estimated, in some instances, to consti-
tute not less than a sixth part of the weight of the whole body. When a bird is on
the ground, and intends to fly, he takes a leap, stretches his wings from the body,
and strikes them downward with great force. By this stroke the body is thrown
into an oblique position. That part o fthe force which tended upward is destroyed
by the weight of the bird ; and the horizontal force serves to carry him forward.
The stroke being completed, he moves up his wings. These being contracted, and
having their edges turned upward, meet with little resistance from the air. When
they are sufficiently elevated, the bird makes a second stroke downward, and the
impulse of the air again moves him forward. These successive strokes act as so
many leaps taken in air. When the bird wants to turn to the right or left, he strikes
strongly with the opposite wing, and this impels him to the proper side. The tail
acts like the rudder of a ship ; except that it moves him upward or downward, instead
of sideways. If the bird wants to rise, he raises his tail ; and if to fall, he depresses
it ; whilst he is in an horizontal position, it keeps him steady.

A bird, by spreading his wings, can continue to move horizontally in the air for
some time, without striking them ; because he has acquired a sufficient velocity, and
his wings, being parallel to the horizon, meet with but little resistance. When he
begins to fall, he can easily steer himself upward by his tail, till the motion he had
acquired is nearly spent ; he must then renew it by two or three more strokes of his
wings. On alighting, he expands his wings and tail full against the air, that they
may meet with all the resistance possible.

The centre of gravity in birds is somewhat behind the wings ; and, to counterbal-
ance this, most of them maybe observed to thrust out their head and neck in flying.
This is very apparent in the flight of Ducks, Geese, and several other species of
water-fowl, whose centre of gravity is further backward than in the land birds. In
the Heron, on the contrary, whose long head and neck, although folded up in flight,
overbalance the rest of the bodv, the long legs are extended, in order to give the proper
counterpoise, and to supply what is wanting from the shortness of the tail.

The feathers of birds would perpetually imbibe the moisture of the atmosphere ;
and, during rain, would absorb so much wet, as to impede their flight, had not the
wisdom of Providence obviated this inconvenience by a most effectual expedient.
They are each furnished on the rump with two glands, in which a quantity of unctu-
ous matter is constantly secreting. This is occasionally pressed out by the bill, aj d
used for the lubrication of the feathers. The birds that share, as it were, the hal i-
tations of man, and live principally under cover, do not require so great a supply,
and therefore are not provided with so large a stock of this fluid, as thosje that rove
abroad, and reside in the open element. It is on this account that poultry, when
wet, make the ruffled and uncomfortable appearance that we observe.



As birds are continually passing among the hedges and thickets, their eyes are de-
fended from injury by a membrane, which can at pleasure be drawn over the whole
eye like a curtain. 'This is neither opaque nor wholly pellucid, but is somewhat
transparent. In birds we find that the sight is much more piercing, extensive, and
exact, than in the other orders of animals. The eye is large in proportion to the
bulk of the head. This is a superiority conferred upon them not without a corres-
ponding utility; it seems even indispensable to their safety and subsistence. "Were
this organ dull, or were it, in the least degree, opaque, the rapidity of their motion
would expose them to the danger of striking against various objects in their flight.
Jn this case their celerity, instead of being an advantage, would become an evil, and
their flight would be restrained by the danger resulting from it. Indeed, we maj
consider the velocity with which an animal moves, as a sure indication of the perfec-
tion of its vision.

Birds respire by means of air-vessels, that are extended through their whole body,
and adhere to the under surface of the bones. These, by their motion, force the ait
through the true lungs, which are very small, seated in the uppermost part of the
chest, and closely braced down to the back and ribs. The use of this general diffu-
sion of air through the bodies of birds, is to prevent their respiration from being
stopped or interrupted by the rapidity of their motion through a resisting medium.
The resistance of the air increases in proportion to the celerity of the motion ; and
were it possible for a man to move with swiftness equal to that of a Swallow, the
resistance of the air, as he is not furnished with reservoirs similar to those of birds,
would soon suffocate him.

Some species of birds are confined to particular countries ; others are widely dis-
persed ; and several change their abode at certain seasons of the year, and migrate
to climates better suited to their temperament or mode of life than those which they
leave. Many of our own birds, directed by a peculiar and unerring instinct, retire,
before the commencement of the cold season, to the southern districts, and again
return in the spring. The causes usually assigned for migration are, either a defect
of food, or the want of a secure and proper asylum for incubation, and the nutrition
of their offspring.

It appears from very accurate observations, founded on numerous experiments,
that the peculiar notes, or sony, of the different species of Birds, are acquired, and
are no more innate than language is in man. The attempt of a nestling bird to sing,
may be compared with the imperfect endeavor of a child to talk. The first essay
seems not to possess the slightest rudiments of the future song ; but, as the bird
grows older, and stronger, it is not difficult to perceive what he is attempting.
Whilst the scholar is thus endeavoring to form his song, when, he is once sure of a
passage, he commonly raises his tone ; but when unable to execute the passage, he
drops it. What the nestling is thus not thoroughly master of, he hurries over;
lowering his tone, as if he did not wish to be heard, and as if he could not yet satisfy
himself. A common Sparrow, taken from the nest when very young, and placed
near a Linnet and Goldfinch, adopted a song that was a mixture of the notes of these-
two. Three nestling Linnets were educated, one under a Sky-lark, another under a
Wood-lark, and the third under a Tit-lark ; and, instead of the song peculiar to their
own species, they adhered entirely to that of their respective instructors. A Linnet
taken from the nest when about three days old, and brought up in the house of Mr
Matthews, an apothecary, at Kensington, having no other sounds to imitate, almost
articulated the words " pretty boy ;" and a few other short sentences. The owner ol
ibis bird said, that it had neither the note nor the call of any bird whatever. It
died in the year 1772.

These, and other well-authenticated facts, tend to prove that Birds have no innate
notes, but that, like mankind, the language they first learn after they come into the
world, is generally that which they adopt in after life. It may, however, seem unac-
countable, why, in a wild state, they adhere so steadily as they do to the song of
their own species only, when the notes of so many others are to be heard around
them. This evidently arises from the attention that is paid by the nestling bird to
the instructions of its own parent only, and it is generally disregarding the notes of
all the rest. Persons, however, who have an accurate ear, and have studied the
notes of birds, can very often distinguish some that have a song mixed with the
notes of other species.

ITie food of birds is of course very different in the different kinds. Some are


altogether carnivorous ; others, as many of the web-footed tribes, live on fish ; eomo
on insects and worms, and many on fruits or grain. The extraordinary powers of
the gizzard in the graminivorous tribes, in comminuting their hard food, so as to pro-
pare it for digestion, are such as almost to exceed credibility. In order to ascertain
the strength of these stomachs, the Abbe Spallanzani made many cruel, though at
the same time curious and not uninteresting experiments. Tin tubes full of grain
were forced into the stomachs of Turkeys ; and, after remaining twenty hours, were
found to be broken, compressed, and distorted in a most irregular manner. The
stomach of a Cock, in the space of twenty-four hours, broke off the angles of a
piece of rough, jagged glass ; and, on examining the gizzard, no wound or laceration
appeared, Twelve strong tin needles were firmly fixed into a ball of lead, with their
points projecting about a quarter of an inch from the surface ; thus armed, it was
covered with a case of paper, and forced down the throat of a Turkey. The bird
retained it a day and a half without exhibiting the least symptom of uneasiness.
When the Turkey was killed, the points of nearly all the needles were found to be
broken off close to the surface of the ball Twelve small lancets, very sharp both
at the points and edges, were fixed in a similar ball of lead. These were given in
the same manner, to a Turkey-cock, and left eight hours in the stomach ; at the
expiration of which time that organ was opened, but nothing appeared except the
naked ball ; the twelve lancets having been all broken to pieces. From these facts
it was concluded, that the stbnes so often found in the stomachs of many of the
feathered tribes, are highly useful in assisting the gastric juices to grind down the
grain and other hard substances which constitute their food. The stones themselves,
also, being ground down and separated by the powerful action of the gizzard, are
mixed with the food, and no doubt contribute to the health as well as to the nutri-
ment of the animals.

All birds are oviparous, or produce eggs, from which, after the process of incuba-
tion, the young are extruded. These eggs differ in the different species, in number,
figure, and color. They contain the rudiments of the future offspring ; for the
maturation and bringing to perfection of which, in the incubation, there is a bubble
of air at the large end, betwixt the shell and the inside skin. It is supposed that, from
the warmth communicated by the sitting bird to this confined air, its spring is in-
creased beyond its natural tenor, and, afthe same time, its parts are put into motion
by the gentle rarefaction. Hence pressure and motion are communicated to the
parts of the egg ; and these, in some unknown manner, gradually promote the for-
mation and growth of the young one, till the appointed time of its exclusion. The
use of that part of the egg called the treddle, is not only to retain the different
liquids in their proper places, but also to keep the same part of the yolk uppermost ;
which it will effectually do, though the egg be turned nearly every way. The
mechanism seems to be this : the treddle is specifically lighter than the white in
which it swims ; and being connected with the membranes of the yolk, at a point
somewhat out of the direction of its axis, this causes one side to become heavier
than the other. Thus the yolk, being made buoyant in the midst of the white, is,
by its own heavy side, kept with the same part always uppermost.

The nests of birds are, in general, constructed with astonishing art ; and with a
degree of architectural skill and propriety, that would foil all the boasted talents of
man to imitate.

'Mark it well, within, without :
No tool had he that wrought ; no knife to cut,
No nail to fix, no bodkin to insert,
No glue to join ; his little beak was all.
And yet, how neatly finish'd ! What nice hand,
With every implement and means of art,
And twenty years' apprenticeship to boot,
Could make me such another ? Fondly then
We boast of excellence, whose noblest skill
Instinctive genius foils.

In most of the species both the male and female assist in this interesting operation.
They each bring materials to the place : first sticks, moss, or straws, for the founda-
tion and exterior : then hair, wool, or the down of animals or plants, to form a soft
and commodious bed for the eggs, and for the bodies of their tender young, when
batched. The outsides of the nests bear in general so great a resemblance in coloi


to the surrounding foliage or branches, as not easily to be discovered even by per
eons who are in search of them.

This is one of those numerous and wonderful contrivances which compel us to
believe that every part of the creation is under the protection of a superintending
Itetttg, whose goodness knows no bounds. Without this, what can we suppose it ia
that instigates a creature which may never before have had young, to form a nest,
hollow, for the purpose of containing eggs ; (things that as yet it knows nothing of ;)
wid of concentrating a necessary proportion of heat for the incubation ? Without
this, what can we suppose it is that dictates the necessity of forming the outside of
this nest with coarse materials, as a foundation, and of lining its interior with more
delicate substances ? How do these animals learn that they are to have eggs, and
that these eggs will require a nest of a certain size and capacity? Who is it that
teaches them to calculate the time with such exactness, that they never lay their
eggs before the receptacle for them is finished ? No one can surely be so blind as
to observe all this, and not to perceive the superintendence of a beneficent wisdom
influencing every operation.

The classification of birds is principally founded on their habits of life ; and on
the formation of their external parts, particularly of their bills. The grand divisi


1. Rapacious Birds (accipitres], have their bill hooked ; and on each side of th
upper mandible there is an angular projection. They consist of Vultures, Eagle*
or Hawks, and Owls. These birds are all carnivorous, and associate in pairs; and
the female is generally larger and stronger than the male.

2. Pies (piece). These have their bills sharp at the edge, compressed at the sides,
and convex on the upper surface. The principal genera are Shrikes, Crows, Rollors,
Orioles, Grackles, Humming-birds, Parrots, Toucans, Cuckoos, Woodpeckers, Horn-
bills, and Kingfishers. Some of them associate in pairs, and others congregate.
They live on various kinds of food ; and usually build their nests in trees, the mill*
feeding the female during the process of incubation.

3. Passerine Birds (passeres), have a conical, sharp-pointed bill. To this order
belong the Finches, Grosbeaks, Buntings, Thrushes, Fly-catchers, Swallows, Laiks,
Wagtails, Titmice, and Pigeons. While breeding they live chiefly in pairs; and th
nests of several of the species are of curious and singular construction. The greater
number of them sing. Some of them subsist on seeds, and others on insects.

4. Gallinaceous Birds (yallinaz). The bills of these birds have the upper mandi
ble considerably arched, Pheasants, Turkeys, Peacocks, Bustards, Pintadoes, and
Grouse, all belong to this order. They live principally on the ground ; and scratch
the earth with their feet for the purpose of finding grain and seeds. They usually
associate in families, consisting of one male and several females. Their nests are
artlessly formed on the ground ; and the females produce a numerous offspring


5. Waders' (grattce ). These have a roundish bill, and a fleshy tongue ; and the
legs of most of the species are long. The principal genera are the Herons, Plovers,
Snipes, and Sandpipers, which live for the most part among marshes and fens, and
feed on worms and other animal productions. They form nests on the ground.

6. Swimmers (anseres). The bills of these birds are broad at the top, and covered
with a membranaceous skin. The tribes best known are the Ducks, Auks, Pen-
guins, Petrels, Pelicans, Guillemots, Gulls, and Terns. They live chiefly in the
water, and feed on fish, worms, and aquatic plants. Most of the species are poly*
gamous, and construct their nests among reeds or in moist places. The females lay
many eggs.



Were we acquainted with no other animals than those which inhabit the land,
and breathe the air of our atmosphere, it would appear absurd to be told that any
race of beings could exist only in the water : we should naturally conclude, from
the effect produced on our own bodies when plunged into that element, that the
powers of life could not there be sustained. But we find, from experience, that the

Online LibraryWilliam BingleyThe history of birds : their varieties and oddities, comprising graphic descriptions of nearly all known species of birds, with fishes and insects, the world over, and illustrating their varied habits, modes of life, and distinguishing peculiarities by means of delightful anecdotes and spirited engr → online text (page 1 of 48)