Imatges de pÓgina

visitants are so often seen to dip their slender wings.

The hoopoes resemble the swallows in their migratory movements, but they are classed with the Tenuirostres, on account of their slender bills. The common hoopoe, though an African bird, has been several times shot in Britain; and the marcheur largup of Le Vaillant appears to belong to the same genus, and inhabits the country of the Caffres.

Nearly united to the last-named species, are the promerops, a limited but magnificent group, different species of which are found in Africa, India, and New Guinea. The most remarkable of the African kinds is the red-billed promerops (P. erythrorhynchus), probably first described by Dr Latham from a specimen in the collection of the Duchess of Portland. Its length, including the tail, is 15 inches. The general colour is black, glossed with red, violet, and golden-green; the red predominates on the head, the golden-green on the wing-coverts, and the violet on the back and tail. All the tail-feathers, except the two in the centre, are marked near the tip by an oval white spot on each side the web; and several of the quill feathers of the wings have also a white spot on their inner webs, near the tip. The bill is long, slender, moderately curved, and of a red or orange colour. The legs are also red.

Although Africa cannot boast of possessing any of those jewels of ornithology, the fairy hummingbirds, which dart like sunbeams among the flowery parterres of the western world,—

"And on their restless fronts Bear stars, illumination of all gems;"

yet the eye of the naturalist who has studied the

unsurpassed splendour of the soui-mangas, or sugareaters, will scarcely desiderate any other beauty. These birds, belonging to the genus Cynniris of Baron Cuvier, were formerly classed with the creepers. They are distinguished by their long and slender bills, the mandibles of which are finely toothed or serrated on their edges; and their tongues, which are capable of considerable extension, are terminated by a small fork. Several of the species occur in the Indian Archipelago, but the greater proportion are of African origin, and may be said to form the most signal and admired feature in the ornithology of that country.

The superb creeper is an elegant bird, described and figured in the magnificent work of M. Vieillot. Its length is six inches: the crown of the head, upper part of the neck, smaller wing-coverts, back, and rump, are bright greenish-gold; the throat is violet-blue, glossed with gold; across the upper part of the breast runs a bar of bright gilded-yellow, beneath which the whole upper parts are deep-brownish crimson; the wings and tail are blackish-brown; the legs are also brown, and the bill is black. This species was discovered in Malimba, by M. Perrien, and is one of the rarest, as well as most beautiful of the genus.

Another highly-adorned species, such as

"Limners love to paint, and ladies to look upon,"

is called, par excellence, the African creeper. It is a native of the Cape of Good Hope, and is found in woody situations. In addition to a splendid plumage, it is highly admired for its musical powers, and

its song is by some esteemed equal to that of the nightingale.

The spotted-breasted creeper (C. maculata) dwells in the forests of Malimba, and frequently approaches the habitations of the natives, allured by the flowers of the cytisus cajan, commonly called the Congo pea, which according to Dr Shaw is. much cultivated by the negroes. The violet-headed creeper (C. violacea) is a native of the Cape of Good Hope. It likewise dwells in woods, and is said to build a nest of singularly elegant and ingenious structure. Our restricted limits will not admit of our expatiating on this delightful tribe.

The next African genus which claims our attention is Merops, which includes the bee-eaters, a group not more remarkable for beauty of colour than gracefulness of form. These birds feed on insects, and build their nests in the holes of banks. The common bee-eater (Merops apiaster), notwithstanding its designation, is one of the rarest of Euro-, pean birds, and is certainly one of the most beautiful. It occurs in Africa, and spreads from thence into Greece and the Mediterranean Archipelago. Many other species of bee-eater inhabit this continent; but for these we must refer the reader to Le Vaillant and other writers.

Amid the infinitely-varied forms and colours, which characterise and adorn the feathered race, we know of none more worthy of admiration than those exhibited by the great family of the kingfishers. The size and length of the bill are indeed somewhat disproportioned to the dimensions of the body; but the shining silky lustre of the plumage, and the finely-varied hues of the most brilliant

green and blue, contrasted with different shades of orange, black, and brown, render this genus one of the most showy and attractive within the range of the ornithological system. The continent which forms the subject of our present disquisition is rich in the genus. We shall at present, however, mention only the Smyrna kingfisher (A. Smyrnensis), which, when in perfect plumage, is one of the most brilliant of the feathered race- "The lucid blue of the wings," says Dr Shaw, "scarcely yielding in lustre to those of the splendid butterfly called Papilio Menelaus." Its colours seem to vary in different individuals. Several fine species of this extensive genus occur in the island of Madagascar.

Among the more remarkable of the African birds we must not omit to mention the species of the genus Buceros, commonly called hornbills. These occur also in Celebes and the Philippine Islands, but many species are peculiar to Africa. The hornbills may be said to occupy the same station in the old world as the toucans do in the new. Both are alike distinguished by the enormous size of their bills, and by a mixture in their dispositions of the carnivorous with the frugivorous propensities. The African hornbill (B. Africanus) is entirely black, and nearly as large as a turkey. The only other species of this singular genus which we shall mention, is the crowned hornbill (B. coronatus). Compared with the preceding it is a very small bird, scarcely equalling the dimensions of a magpie. Le Vaillant saw a flock of more than five hundred of these birds assembled in company with crows and vultures, and preying on the remains of slaughtered elephants. The crowned hornbill is figured by Mr

Swainson in the third volume of his beautiful illustrations.

We shall now take a brief view of the scansorial or climbing birds of Africa. Several woodpeckers inhabit this continent. The double-bearded woodpecker (Picus diophrys) inhabits Southern Africa; and the crested woodpecker (P. minutus, Temm.) is found in Senegal. The gold-shafted woodpecker (now placed in the genus Colaptes) is likewise an African species.

Many kinds of cuckoo occur in Africa. The old Linnæan genus Cuculus has been greatly subdivided by modern writers. The group included under the genus Centropus are remarkable for the long claw with which the inner hind toe is furnished. They are found in India, Africa, and the island of Java. The didric or shining cuckoo (Cuculus auratus) is probably the most beautiful of the tribe. The upper parts of the plumage are of a rich golden-green; on the head are five stripes of white, two above the eyes, like eye-brows, passing behind; two more, shorter and narrower, beneath the eyes; and one on the middle of the forehead. The wing and tail coverts, and the secondary quills, are tipped with white. Most of the under parts are likewise white. This bird was found by Le Vaillant, inwards from the Cape, near Kok's Kraal. He named it didric, from its continually uttering these syllables in various modulations, when perched on the extremities of large trees.

While recording the names of so many species remarkable for their lustrous plumage, we must not here omit to mention others not less notable for their singular instincts and modes of life. Among

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