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COMPIUSINO THE OBDER
Wm. ^HOMPSON, Esq.,
of the Natural History and Philosophical Society of Belfast, Corresponding Member
The present volume, concluding the Birds of Ireland, contains descriptions of all the web-footed or swimming species (Natatores). These include the swans, geese, ducks; divers, auks, cormorants, gannets; terns, gulls, and petrels.
If a want of generalization of the facts contained in these volumes be objected to, it should be remembered, as stated in the preface to the first volume, that they are merely put forward as supplementary to several works on the Birds of England and Scotland, in all of which generalization will be found, though not invariably based on sufficient data. The author of the present volumes considered it better to content himself with publishing the facts, as a contribution of materials for that purpose, rather than attempt to generalize on insufficient grounds.
The detail he feels must often be wearisome to those not specially interested in the subject, or who do more than refer to one species at a time. It was never imagined by the author that the work would be read continuously by any individual; it was drawn up simply as one of reference, and hence pains were not taken to render the style more flowing, or to free it from the constant impediments to an even course of perusal which, almost at every step, beset the reader's path, in the form of dates, localities, &c
The author very much regrets that the list of Irish names of native birds is not yet ready (as he had hoped it would have been); the gentleman who has the catalogue in progress being unable to complete it in time.
This volume cannot be allowed to go forth without the remark, that so great has been the mania for collecting birds' eggs during the last few years—though not in one case out of ten, with any scientific object in view—that the author has often, in the course of preparation of the last two volumes, been obliged to pause and consider whether he should name particular breedinghaunts of those grallatorial and natatorial birds whose nests being placed upon the ground, are easily discovered, lest he should be the innocent cause of their banishment from the locality. He feels well assured that if the rage for egg-collecting continues, many a species will be driven from its present haunt.
The cruelty of shooting great numbers of marine birds in the breeding season has been mentioned in connexion with different species in this work, and it is feared will not be abated, so long as the proprietors of islets or rocky headlands permit such slaughter to be committed upon their property. Everywhere around the coast, and at inland lakes where birds are not specially protected, their rapid decrease is apparent, in consequence of wanton persecution. The birds at Lambay Island, off the Dublin coast, having decreased remarkably of late years, inquiry as to the cause was made, and the following reason, among others, communicated:—About the year 1842, an officer laid a wager that he would shoot 500 birds here in a day, and went to the island with every requisite for his murderous purpose.