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of the leaf instantly rise up, the rows of prickles lock themselves fast together, and squeeze the unwary animal to death. The American Cowslip, is said to hang down its head, to guard the tender stamina from being injured
When a pole is placed at a considerable distance from an unsupported vine, the branches of which are proceeding the other way, in a short time it alters its course, and stops not till it clings round the pole. A Hop-plant turning round a pole, follows the course of the sun, and soon dies if forced into an opposite direction , and when the straight branches of a honey-suckle can no longer support themselves, they gather strength by becoming spiral. The convolvulus is known to roll itself up at an early hour. The radiated flowers are observed to close their petals, as the beautiful orb, whose form they bear, sinks beneath the horizon : and amongst the number, the little modest mountain-daisy is seen to draw together its crimson tips into one point, and consign itself, as it were, to a temporary repose. Nature, it is said, has provided us with various substitutes for watches besides the sunflower, which follows the dazzling orb of day, many others opening and shutting their petals at certain hours ; thus constituting what Linnæus calls the horologe or watch of Flora. There is also another description of flowers, denominated meteorous, which less accurately observe the hour of unfolding, but expand sooner or later, according to the state of the weather, or cloudiness, moisture, or pressure of the atmosphere. These may be called vegetable barometers, and among the number the African Marigold, which, in dry weather, expands at six or seven in the morning, and shuts at four in the afternoon : it affords a sure indication that rain will fall in the course of the day, when it continues shut after the usual hour of opening. These are wonderful properties of the vegetable creation, and serve as links to connect it with the order of animals, and preserve unbroken the most minute gradations in Nature's universal chain.
XVII.-OSTRICH AND VARIETIES.
THE Ostrich is the largest of all birds, being nearly as high as a man on horseback. It measures seven feet from the top of the head to the toe, but from the back only four; its neck is consequently three feet long. It is six feet from the head to the rump; and its tail is about one foot more. Its colour is a mixture of black and white, and in some grey. One of the wings without the feathers is a foot and a half long; and being stretched out with the feathers, measures three feet. The plumage so highly valued as an ornament in dress, are the large feathers at the extremities of the wings and tail ; for the back and breast are covered with a plumage that much more nearly resembles hair than feathers; while the neck, the parts under the wings, and the legs, are flesh-coloured and thinly covered with hair. In these, and some other respects, the ostrich as much resembles a quadruped as a bird ; and at a distance it is often mistaken for a camel.
Of all known animals that make use of their legs in running, the ostrich is the swiftest; and the Arabs train up their best and fleetest horses for the purpose of hunting him. Were it not that the bird usually runs in a zigzag course, or in a curved line, it would, by its swiftness of foot and the help of its wings, which act as oars to carry it forward, soon outstrip its pursuers, and be lost sight of; -as it is, it often takes the hunters two or three days to tire it down. When this is effected, the bird sometimes turns in despair, and defends itself with its beak, wings, and feet, but more generally the silly creature hides its head in the sand, or in the nearest thicket, and thus submits to its fate. The ostrich inhabits the sandy burning deserts of Asia and Africa. Its egg is about five inches in diameter, weighs about fifteen pounds, and is said to furnish a meal for seven or eight men.
They hatch from forty to fifty eggs at a time. Such is the size and strength of the ostrich, that it can run, with a man upon its back, faster than a horse can gallop.
The Emu, called the American ostrich, has no tail; it also wants those large feathers in the extremities of the wings which are so highly valued in the African bird.
It is found on the banks of the Oroonoko and La Plata, is of great size, being six feet high, with thighs nearly as thick as those of a man; and it runs with great swiftness, using its wings like the ostrich to aid its speed.
The Cassowary is a strong and powerful bird, five and a half feet high. Its body is as large as that of the ostrich, its neck and legs thicker and stronger, while its large yellow eyes, and the horny substance that covers its head like a helmet, give it a fierce and formidable appearance. It is, however, of a gentle disposition ; but when attacked, will defend itself with its legs, kicking like a horse, or running against its pursuer, beats him down, and treads him to the ground. It is found in Java and the adjacent islands.
All these birds feed on vegetables; but they are very voracious, and appear to devour every substance that comes in their way, even leather, glass, hair, iron, and stones.
THE Humming bird is the smallest and the most beautiful of all the feathered tribe, and may be cited among the most interesting of the minute wonders of nature. Of this charming little animal, there are five or six varieties, from the size of a small wren down to that of a bee. A bird scarcely so big as a hazel nut, furnished with a bill, feathers, wings, and all other appendages exactly resembling those of the largest birds, might have been supposed a creature of imagination, were it not seen in infinite numbers sporting in the fields of America, from flower to flower, and extracting their sweets with its little bill. These beautiful little birds are remarkable alike for the splendour and the variety of their plumage. The Fly bird, or least humming bird, is an inch and a quarter in length, and weighs about twenty grains. The feathers on its wings and tail are violet-brown, shining like polished metal ; those on its body and under its wings are of a greenish brown, with a fine red gloss, which no silk or velvet can imitate. It has a small
crest on its head, green below, and as it were gilded at top, and which sparkles in the sun like a little star on its forehead. The bill is black, straight, slender, and of the length of a small pin, whilst its tiny head has two very small eyes as black as jet. The Ruby-necked, however, is considered the most beautiful of this beautiful family. It is half the size of a common wren. The upper parts of the body are brown, with a mixture of green and gold, and the throat like the finest topaz. But the hues of this little tribe of beauties are as various as they are dazzling, some being crimson, emerald, or purple, whilst others are white breasted and spotted.
These birds, which are natives of the Brazils, of various parts of South America, and of the adjacent islands, subsist on the nectar or sweet juices of flowers, frequenting those most which have a long tube. They never settle on the flower wbile extracting its juice, but flutter continually like bees, while their wings are in such rapid motion, that it is impossible to discern their colours except by their glittering. They are continually in motion, visiting flower after flower, and extracting its honey as if with a kiss. For this purpose they are furnished with a forky tongue that enters the cup of the flower, and extracts its tribute of nectar. The rapid motion of their wings produces a humming sound, whence they have derived their name.
They are not shy, but when approached near, fly off like an arrow from a bow. They often meet and contend for the right to a flower, and this all on the wing. In the heat of the contest they sometimes enter an open window, fight for a while round the apartment, and then disappear again through the window. When they come to a flower that is juiceless, or on the point of withering, they pluck it off as if in anger, by which means the ground is often strewed with flowers. The nests of these birds are like themselves—a curiosity. They are formed of the fine fibres of vegetables, carefully combined with cotton and moss, and, in shape and size, resemble a hen's egg cut in two. They are curiously suspended in the air, at the very point of a twig, and are thus secure from the assaults of the monkey or the snake. The trees they build upon are
the orange, the pomegranate, or the citron ; and the
; nests are at such a height as not to be visible from the ground. The female lays two eggs about the size of a small
pea, and as white as snow, with here and there a yellow speck.
During his stay at the Brazils, Mr Forbes visited almost daily a lovely valley in the neighbourhood of St. Sebastian. “There,” he observes, thousands of nature's choristers, arrayed in all the brilliancy of tropical plumage, enlivened the extensive orange groves ; and the humming bird, the smallest and the loveliest of the feathered race, buzzed like the bee, while sipping the nectareous dew from the blossom of the flowers. Nothing can exceed the delicacy of these little beauties, especially of that which, from its minuteness, is called the fly-bird ; its bill and legs are not thicker than a pin, its head, tufted with glossy jet, varies with every motion into shades of green and purple; the breast is of a bright flame colour ; every feather, when viewed through a microscope, appears as if fringed with silver, and spotted with gold.”
XIX.-THE BALD EAGLE.
The celebrated cataract of Niagara, is a noted place of resort for the Bald Eagle, as well on account of the fish procured there, as for the numerous carcasses of squirrels, deer, bears, and various other animals, that, in their attempts to cross the river above the Falls, have been dragged into the current, and precipitated down that tremendous gulf, where, among the rocks that bound the rapids below, they furnish a rich repast for the vulture, the raven, and the bald eagle, the subject of the present account. He has been long known to naturalists, being common to both continents, and occasionally met with from a very high northern latitude to the borders of the torrid zone, but chiefly in the vicinity of the sea, and along the shores and cliffs of lakes and large rivers. Formed by nature for braving