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CHAP. VII.

THE DODO.*

Mankind have generally made swiftness the attribute of birds; but the DODO has no title to this distinction. Instead of exciting the idea of swiftness by its appearance, it seems to strike the imagination as a thing the most unwieldy and inactive of all nature. Its body is massive, almost round, and covered with grey feathers; it is just barely supported upon two short thick legs like pillars, wbile its head and neck rise from it in a manner truly grotesque. The neck, thick and pursy, is joined to the head, which consists of two great chaps, that open far behind the eyes, which are large, black, and prominent; so that the animal, when it gapes, seems to be all mouth. The bill, therefore, is of an extraordinary length, not flat and broad, but thick, and of a bluish white, sharp at the end, and each chap crooked in opposite directions. They resemble two pointed spoons that are laid together by the backs. From all this results a stupid and voracious physiognomy; that is still more increased by a bordering of feathers round the root of the beak, and which give the appearance of a hood or cowl, and finish this picture of stupid deformity. Bulk, which in other

(The Dodo.) animals implies strength, in this only contributes

The Dodo.—The above wood-cut repre- The above history of the picture I had from sents a bird, of the existence of whose species Sir Hans Sloane, and the late Dr. Mortimer, a little more than two centuries ago there Secretary of the Royal Society." appears to be no doubt, but which is now The evidence of the foriner existence of supposed to be entirely extinct

. It must be this bird does not, however, entirely rest upon obvious that such a fact offers some of the this picture and its traditionary history; for if most interesting and important considera. it were so, it would be easier to imagine that tions; and the subject, therefore, has claimed the artist had invented the representation of the particular attention of several distin- some unknown creature, than that the species guished naturalists. The most complete view should have so utterly become lost within so of the evidence as to the recent existence of comparatively short a time. There are three the dodo is given in a paper by Mr. Duncan, other representations of the dodo which may of New College, Oxford, which is printed in be called original; for they are given in the twelfth number of the Zoological Jour. very early printed books, and are evidently nal. To this valuable article we are indebted not copied one from the other, although they for much of the following account.

each agree in representing the sort of hood There is a painting in the British Museum on the head, the eye placed in a bare skin which was presented to that institution by extending to the beak, the curved and swellthe late Mr. George Edwards; and the his- ing neck, the short heavy body, the small tory of it is thus given in his work on birds :- wings, the stumpy legs and diverted claws,

« The original picture from which this and the tuft of rump feathers. print of the dodo is engraved, was drawn in The first of these pictures is given in a Holland, from the living bird, brought from Latin work by Clusius, entitled." Caroli Clusii St. Maurice's Island, in the East Indies, in Exoticorum, lib. v. printed in 1605. He the early times of the discovery of the Indies, says that his figure is taken from a rough by the way of the Cape of Good Hope. It sketch in a journal of a Dutch voyager, who (the picture) was the property of the late Sir had seen the bird in a voyage to the MolucHans Sloane, to the time of his death; and cas, in 1598; and that he himself had seen, afterwards becoming my property, I deposited at Leyden, a leg of the dodo, brought from

in the British Museum as a great curiosity. the Mauritius.

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to 'nactivity. The ostrich or the cassowary are no more able to fly than the auimal before us; but then they supply that defect by their speed in running. The dodo seems weighed down by its own heaviness, and has scarce strength to urge itself forward. It seems among birds what the sloth is among quadrupeds, an unresisting thing, equally incapable of flight or defence. It is furnished with wings, covered with soft ash-coloured feathers, but they are too short to assist it in flying. It is furnished with a tail, with a few small curled feathers; but this tail is disproportioned and displaced. Ite legs are too short for running, and its body too fat to be strong. One would take it for a tortoise that had supplied itself with the feathers of a bird ; and that thus dressed out with the instruments of flight, it was only still the more unwieldy.

This bird is a native of the Isle of France; and the Dutch, who first discovered it there, called it in their language the nauseous bird, as well from its disgusting figure, as from the bad taste of its flesh. However, succeeding observers contradict this first report, and assert that its flesh is good and wholesome eating. It is a silly, simple bird, as may very well be supposed from its figure, and is very easily taken. Three or four 'dodos are enough to dine a hundred men.

Wbether the dodo be the same bird with that which some travellers have described under the bird of Nazareth, yet remair:s uncertain. The country from whence they both come is the same; their incapacity of Aying is the same; the form of the wings and body in both are similar; but the chief difference given is in the colour of the feathers, which in the female of the bird of Nazareth are said to be extremely beautiful, and in the length of their legs, which in the dodo are short; in the other are described as long. Time and future observation must clear up these doubts; and the testimony of a single witness, who sball have seen both, will throw more light on the subject than the reasonings of a hundred philosophers.

The second representation is in Herbert's see in goslins : her trayne is (like a China Travels, published in 1634 We subjoin his beard) of three or four short feathers; her description of the bird, which is very quaint legs thick, and black, and strong; her tallons and curious :

or pounces sharp, her stomack fiery hot, so “The dodo comes first to our description, as stones and iron are easily digested in it; here, and in Dygarrois ; (and no where else, in that and shape, not a little resembling the that ever I could see or heare of, is gene. Africk Oestriches; but so much, as for their rated the dodo.) (A Portuguize name it is, more certain difference I dare to give thee and has reference to her simpleness,) a bird (with two others) her representation.". which for shape and rareness might be called In this description there are several details a Phænix (wer't in Arabia ;) her body is that are no doubt inaccurate; such as the round and extreame fat, her slow pace begets iron-digesting stomach ; but the more im. that corpulencie; few of them weigh less portant particulars agree with other evidence. than fifty pound : better to the eye than the The third representation of the dodo is in stomack : greasie appetites might perhaps Willughby's Ornithology, published about commend them, but to the indifferently cu. the end of the seventeenth century; and this rious nourishment, but prove offensive. Let's figure is taken from one given in a Latin take her picture : her visage darts forth me. work on the natural and medical history of lancholy, as sensible of nature's injury in the East Indies, published by Jacob Bontius, framing so great and massie a body to be in 1658. This figure exactly agrees with directed by such small and complemental that of the picture in the British Museum. wings, as are unable to hoise her from the Our great naturalist Ray, who published in ground, serving only to prove her a bird ; 1676 and 1688, editions of Willughby's which otherwise might be doubted of: her work, says, “We have seen this bird dried, head is variously drest, the one halfe houded or its skin stuffed, in Tradescant's cabinet.” with downy blackish feathers; the other per- Tradescant was a person who had a very fectly naked, of a whitish hue, as if a trans- curious museum at Lambeth, and in his parent lawne had covered it: her bill is very printed catalogue we find the following item: howked and bends downwards, the thrill or “Sect. 5. Whole Birds. Dodar, from the breathing place is in the midst of it; from island Mauritius ; it is not able to fly, being which part to the end the colour is a light so big." Tradescant's specimen afterwards greene mixed with a pale yellow; her eyes be passed into the Ashmolean museum at Oxround and small, and bright as diamonds; ford, where it is described as existing in 1700; her cloathing is of finest down, such as you but having become decayed, was destroyed by an order of the visiters in 1755. There is however, still entertain some hopes that the a beak, however, and a leg still preserved in Didus may still be recovered in the souththe Ashmolean museum; and there is a foot, eastern part of that vast continent, hitherto also, in the British Museum, which was for- so little explored, which adjoins those islands, merly in the Museum of the Royal Society. and whence, indeed, it seems to have been We are informed by an eminent naturalist, originally imported into them.” that the foot at Oxford is much shorter, and The agency of man, in limiting the inotherwise much smaller, than the one in the crease of the inferior animals, and in extirBritish Museum, which shows that there pating certain races, was perhaps never more must have been two specimens in this strikingly exemplified than in the case of the country:

dodo. That a species so remarkable in its of the former existence, therefore, of the character should become extinct, within little dodo, there appears to be no reasonable doubt; more than two centuries, so that the fact of although the representatious and descriptions its existence at all has been doubted, is a of the bird may, in many respects, be inaccu- circumstance which may well excite our surrate. Mr. Duncan, in answer to an applica- prise, and lead us to a consideration of simi. tion upon the subject made to a gentleman lar changes, which are still going on from the at Port Louis, in the Mauritius, learnt that same cause. These changes in our own there is a very general impression among the country, where the rapid progress of civilizainhabitants that the dodo did exist at Rodri- tion has compelled man to make incessant guez, as well as in the Mauritius itself; but war upon many species that gave him offence, that the oldest inhabitants have never seen or that afforded him food or clothing, are it, nor has any specimen, or part of a speci- sufficiently remarkable. The beaver was a men, been procured in those islands. Mr. native of our rivers in the time of the AngloLyell states, in the second volume of his Saxons; but being eagerly pursued for its Principles of Geology, that M. Cuvier had fur, had become scarce at the end of the showed him in Paris, a collection of fossil ninth century, just in the same way as the bones discovered under a bed of lava in the species is now becoming scarce in North Isle of France, amongst which were some America. In the twelfth century its destrucremains of the dodo, which left no doubt in tion was nearly complete. The wolf is extirthe mind of that great naturalist that this pated, although it existed in Scotland at the bird was of the gallinaceous tribe, that is, of end of the seventeenth century. The last the same tribe as the common domestic fowl, bear perished in Scotland in 1037. In Isaak the turkey and the peacock.

Walton's Angler, published soon after the In a paper "on the natural affinities that time of Charles I., we have a dialogue beconnect the orders and families of birds,” tween the angler and a hunter of otters, published in the Transactions of the Liunean citizen who walked into the neighbourhood Society, the following observations occur on of Tottenham, to chase the animal in the the dodo:

small rivers of Middlesex. How rarely is an “ Considerable doubts have arisen as to otter now found! The wild cat and the the present existence of the Linnæan Didus badger are seldom discovered, although they (Dodo); and they have been increased by were formerly common; the wild boar is the consideration of the numberless oppor. never heard of. The eagle is now scarcely tunities that have latterly occurred of ascer- to be seen, except in the wildest fastnesses taining the existence of these birds in those of the Highlands; and the crane, the egret, situations, the Isles of Mauritius and Bour. and the stork, who were once the undisbon, where they were originally alleged to turbed tenants of the marshes with which have been found. That they once existed the country was covered, have fled before the I believe cannot be questioned. Besides the progress of cultivation. A single bustard descriptions given by voyagers of undoubted (already mentioned) is now rarely found : authority, the relics of a specimen preserved they were formerly common in our downs in the public repository of this country bear and heaths, in flocks of forty or fifty. The decisive record of the fact. The most pro- wood-grouse, which about fifty years ago bable supposition that we can form on this were the tenants of the pine forests of Scotsubject is, that the race has become extinct land and Ireland, are utterly destroyed. Facts in the before-mentioned islands, in conse- such as these may show us that the recent quence of the value of the bird as an article existence, and the supposed extirpation of the of food to the earlier settlers, and its inca- dodo, may be supported by well-known ex. pability of escaping from pursuit. This con- amples in our own country. The general jecture is strengthened by the consideration subject is full of interest ;-and those who of the gradual decrease of a nearly conter- wish to pursue it may refer to the ninth minous group, the Otis tarda (bustard) of chapter of Mr. Lyell's second volume; and our British ornithology, which, from similar to a valuable memoir by Dr. Fleming, in the causes, we have every reason to suspect will Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, for Octoshortly be lost to this country. We may, ber, 1824.

CHAP. VIIS.

OF RAPACIOUS BIRDS IN GENERAL.*

THERE seems to obtain a general resemblance in all the classes of nature. As among quadrupeds a part were seen to live upon the vegetable productions of the earth, and another part upon the flesh of each other, so among birds, some live upon vegetable food, and others by rapine, destroying all such as want force or swiftness to procure their safety. By thus peopling the woods with animals of different dispositions, nature has wisely provided for the multiplication of life ; since, could we suppose that there were as many animals produced as there were vegetables supplied to sustain them, yet there might still be another class of animals formed, which could find a sufficient sustenance by feeding upon such of the vegetable feeders as happened to fall by the course of nature. By this contrivance, a greater number will be sustained upon the whole; for the numbers would be but very thin, were every creature a candidate for the same food. Thus by supplying a variety of appetites, nature has also multiplied life in ber productions.

In thus varying their appetites, nature has also varied the form of the animal ; and while she has given some an instinctive passion for animal food, she has also furnished them with powers to obtain it. All land-birds of the rapacious kinds are furnished with a large head, and a strong crooked beak, notched at the end, for the purpose of tearing their prey. They have strong short legs, and sharp crooked talons for the purpose of seizing it. Their bodies are formed for war, being fibrous and muscular; and their wings for swiftness of flight, being well feathered and expansive. The sight of such as prey by day is astonishingly quick; and such as ravage by night bave their sight so fitted as to see objects in darkness with extreme precision.

Their internal parts are equally formed for the food they seek for. Their stomach is simple and membranous, and wrapped in fat to increase the powere of digestion ; and their intestines are short and glandular. As their food is succulent and juicy, they want no length of intestinal tube to form it into proper nourishment. Their food is flesh, which does not require a slow digestion, to be converted into a similitude of substance to their own.

Thus formed for war, they lead a life of solitude and rapacity. They inhabit, by choice, the most lonely places and the most desert mountains. They make their nests in the clefts of rocks, and on the highest and most inaccessible trees of the forest. Whenever they appear in the cultivated plain, or the warbling grove, it is only for the purposes of depredation; and are gloomy intruders on the general joy of the landscape. They spread terror wherever they approach: all that variety of music which but a inoment before enlivened the grove, at their appearing is instantly at an end: every order of lesser birds seek for safety, either by concealment or flight; and some are even driven to take protection with man, to avoid their less merciful pursuers.

It would indeed be fatal to all the smaller race of birds, if, as they are weaker than all, they were also pursued by all; but it is contrived wisely for their safety that every order of carnivorous birds seek only for such as are of the size most approaching their own. The eagle flies at the bustard or the pheasant; the sparrow-hawk pursues the thrush and the linnet. Nature has provided that

• Rapacious BIRDS.—The animals of this ones at a brood, and the female is mostly order are all carnivorous: they associate in larger than the male. They consist of vul. pairs, build their nests in the most lofty situ. tures. eagles, hawks, and owls. ations, and produce generally four young

each species should make war only on such as are furnished with adequate ineans of escape. The smallest birds avoid their pursuers by the extreme agility rather than the swiftness of their flight; for every order would soon be at an end if the eagle, to its own swiftness of wing, added the versality of the sparrow.

Another circumstance, which tends to render the tyranny of these animals more supportable, is, that they are less fruitful than other birds ; breeding but few at a time. Those of the larger kind seldom produce above four eggs, often but two; those of the smaller kinds, never above six or seven.

The pigeon, it is true, that is their prey, never breeds above two at a time; but then she breeds every month in the year. The carnivorous kinds only breed annually, and, of consequence, their fecundity is sınall in comparison.

As they are fierce by nature, and are difficult to be tamed, so this fierceness extends even to their young, which they force from the nest sooner than birds of the gentler kind. Other birds seldom forsake their young till able completely to provide for themselves; the rapacious kinds expel them from the nest at à time when they still should protect and support them. This severity to their young proceeds from the necessity of providing for themselves. All animals ihat, by the conformation of their stomach and intestines, are obliged to live upon flesh and support themselves by prey, though they may be mild when young, soon become fierce and mischievous by the very hahit of using those arms with which they are supplied by Nature. As it is only by the destruction of other animals that they can subsist, they become more furious every day, and even the parental feelings are overpowered in their general habits of cruelty. If the power of obtaining a supply be difficult, the old ones soon drive their brood from the nest to shift for themselves, and often destroy them in a fit ou fury caused by hunger.

Ånother effect of this natural and acquired severity is, that almost all birds of prey are unsociable. It has long been observed by Aristotle, that all birds with crooked beaks and talons are solitary: like quadrupeds of the cat kind, they lead a lonely, wandering life, and are united only in pairs by that instinct which overpowers their rapacious habits of enmity with all other animals. As the . male and female are often necessary to each other in their pursuits, so they sometimes live together; but, except at certain seasons, they most usually prowl alone; and, like robbers, enjoy in solitude the fruits of their plunder.

All birds of prey are remarkable for one singularity, for which it is not easy to account. All ihe males of these birds are about a third less, and weaker than the females: contrary to what obtains among quadrupeds, among which the males are always the largest and boldest; from thence the male is called, by falconers, a tarcelthat is, a tierce or third less than the other. The reason of this difference cannot proceed from the necessity of a larger body in the female for the purposes of breeding, and that her volume is thus increased by the quantity of her eggs; for in other birds, that breed much faster, and that lay in mnch greater proportion, such as the hen, the duck, or the pheasant, the male is by much the largest of the two. Whatever be the cause, certain it is that the females, as Willughby expresses it, are of greater size, more beautiful and lovely for shape and colours, stronger, more fierce and generous, than the males -whether it may be that it is necessary for the female to be thus superior, as it is incumbent upon her to provide, not only for herself, but her young ones also.

These birds, like quadrupeds of the carnivorous kind, are all lean and meagre. Their flesh is stringy and ill-tasted, soon corrupting, and tinctured with the flavour of that animal food upon which they subsist. Nevertheless, Belonius asserts that many people admire the flesh of the vulture and falcon, and dress them for eating when they meet with any accident that unfits them for the chase. He asserts that the osprey, a species of the eagle, when young, is excellent food; but he contents himself with advising us to breed these birds up

for our pleasure rather in the field than for the table.

Of land birds of a rapacious nature there are five kinds. The eagle kind; the hawk kiud; the vulture kind; the horned ; the screech-owl kind. The distinc

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