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It sometimes remained in the room for half an hour after dinner, turning its head alternately from side to side, with an appearance of unusual gravity, as if listening to the conversation. It one day swallowed a cat. Is this the Ardea dubia of Gmelin?
Let us here insert the name of the umber (Scopus umbretta, Linn.), an African species, the only one of its genus, of the manners of which we are still entirely ig
Of the snipe and woodcock kind several species inhabit Africa. Of these we shall mention no more than the Cape snipe (Rhynchia Africana of Lesson), which occurs specifically the same, or at least apparently identical, in Bengal.
Of the sandpiper tribe (Pelidna, Cuvier) a few occur along the African shores, and a new species of phalarope (Ph. Fimbriatus) has been recently described by M. Temminck as native to Senegal.
The genus Cursorius is found in all the quarters of the globe, with the exception of America. The double-collared courier (C. Bicinctus) inhabits the interior of Southern Africa; Temminck's courier (C. Temminckii, Swainson) is found at Sierra Leone; and the violet-winged courier (C. chalcopterus, Temm.) comes from Senegal.
The plover family are numerous in almost all parts of the world. Africa possesses nearly a dozen species, of which we shall mention merely the crowned plover (Charadrius coronatus), one of the largest of the genus, which oc curs at the Cape of Good Hope.
Of the Palmipedes, or web-footed water-fowl, we know of no great number peculiar to Africa. These birds are of wandering habits, and being possessed, in addition to their great power of wing, of the faculty of resting on the water, we can place no limits to the extent of their migratory movements. They thus become more cosmopolite than many of the other tribes, and are therefore less entitled to our attention during an exposition of the peculiar and more characteristic features of a particular continent.
The first of this order which we shall name is the Cape penguin (Spheniscus Capensis). This bird is found on several of the southern portions of our globe, especially at the Cape and the Malouin Islands. It lives in immense
numbers, congregated together in spots called rookeries by our voyagers. The eggs are much esteemed.
The pelican (P. Onocrotalus, Linn.), common alike to Asia and the eastern countries of Europe, is also found in Africa, where it has been observed both in Egypt and the Cape of Good Hope.
Of the singular genus called plotus or darter, Le Vaillant made us acquainted with a species from Senegal and the Cape. It was also found in the interior of the country by Major Denham.
The elegant and long-winged terns or sea-swallows may be enumerated among the African tribes. The slenderbilled tern (Sterna tenuirostris, Temm.) is found upon the western coasts, and the white tern (S. candida, Gmelin) inhabits the Cape of Good Hope.
The buoyant and pearly-plumaged gulls, though more characteristic of the northern regions, are occasionally seen along the African shores. We are not, however, acquainted with any species peculiar to this continent.
The genus albatross (Diomedea) probably contains the largest and longest winged of all the aquatic species. The wandering albatross (D. exulans) is equal in size to a swan, and its wings extend about ten feet. This bird is principally met with in the seas adjacent to the Cape of Good Hope.
The Cape petrel (Procellaria Capensis), as its title implies, occurs also near the last-named locality. It is common in the southern seas, but more especially in the vicinity of the Cape, where it flies in immense flocks. It is extremely voracious, and feeds on fish and the dead carcasses of whales. When caught, it squirts a quantity of oil from its nostrils.
The spur-winged goose (Plectropterus Gambensis) is a singular species inhabiting Gambia and other parts of Africa. The anterior angles of its wings are armed with sharp projecting spines.
The mountain goose (Anser montana) is a large species, with the wing feathers, and those of the head, of a bright shining reddish green. According to Latham, it inhabits the Cape of Good Hope, where it keeps mostly on the hills, and feeds on grass and herbs.
Among the larger of the web-footed tribes we must not omit to mention the Egyptian goose (Chenalopex Egyptiaca,
Stephens), so remarkable for its strong attachment to its young. It was worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, and its sculptured figure is still recognisable among the hieroglyphical representations of the Theban temples. It also occurs in the southern regions of Africa, and has not unfrequently been imported into Britain to beautify the waters of our pleasure-grounds; but the love of liberty is deeply implanted in this bird, and it is with difficulty that even the young, born and bred in northern climates, are retained for a continuance in a state of satisfied domestication.
The crimson-billed sheldrake (Tadorna erythrorhyncha) inhabits the Cape of Good Hope; and a species of muskduck (Anas Nilotica of Gmelin) is found in Upper Egypt. It is easily tamed, and lives on good terms with other poultry.
From the preceding summary, the student of ornithology will be able to form a sufficiently correct idea of the prevailing features which characterize this branch of science in Africa; and, by comparing the present sketch with those which we purpose to exhibit of other countries in the future volumes of our series, he will likewise be enabled to estimate the peculiarities by which the continent in question is distinguished from all the other quarters of the globe.
Natural History of the Reptiles, Fishes, Shells, Insects, &c. of Africa.
INTERMEDIATE between the birds and fishes are the reptile race, divided by naturalists into four principal branches, the Chelonian, the Saurian, the Ophidian, and the Batrachian reptiles. Of all these, Africa, " fruitful in monsters," produces some remarkable examples.
In regard to the geographical distribution of reptiles, the first and most general observation is, that they augment in number as we advance towards the equatorial regions. While Sweden possesses scarcely a dozen lizards and
nakes, about three or four frogs and toads, and not a single tortoise, the temperate parts of Europe produce about forty snakes and lizards, and several of the tortoise tribe. A. soon as we gain the southern extremity of Spain, the number of species in these tribes greatly increases, and in Andalusia the African complexion of the country is still further manifested by the appearance of the chameleon. On proceeding further south, not only does the number of reptiles increase, but they also augment in size, till, from the Tropic of Cancer onwards, and beyond the Line, we meet with the crocodiles, caymans, boas, and other giants of the reptile For the present, however, we must confine ourselves to a brief allusion to a very limited number of the African tribes.
1st, Chelonian reptiles or tortoises and turtles. Several of this division occur in Africa, such as the Testudo Græca, the Testudo triunguis, &c.
2d, Saurian reptiles. To this division belong the crocodiles and lizards, the geckos, chameleons, and many others. The common crocodile (Lacerta crocodilus), celebrated in the ancient history of Egypt, is spread over a considerable extent of this continent.
"Erewhile, emerging from the brooding sand,
With tiger paw he prints the brineless strand,
There are several different kinds of crocodile in the old and new world, and their tempers and dispositions seem to vary in different localities. Humboldt and Mungo Park regarded them with fear and trembling, while Audubon and Mr. Waterton hold them in little consideration either as friends or foes. Though seldom tamed, they are not by any means incapable of domestication, as has been demonstrated by many examples, both in ancient and modern times.
Many lizards occur in Africa. We shall only mention one found near Mourzouk. It is called aselis, and, if not a true lizard, resembles one in form. When alarmed, it
buries itself in the sand; and when dropped from a height, it immediately sinks beneath the surface of the spot on which it fell. "These little creatures," says Captain Lyon, "are eagerly bought by the girls and married women, for the purpose of ascertaining how many children they shall have. By stretching them the skin will inmediately crack, and the women most religiously believe that for every sound they shall bear a child."
One of the most remarkable families of the saurian tribe is that which contains the chameleons. The common species (Lacerta Africana) is found in Egypt, Barbary, and the south of Spain. The changes of colour in these animals, though by some deemed fabulous, are now beyond dispute. The causes of these changes, however, and their mode of action, may still be classed among the more obscure points of natural history. They seem independent of external objects, and vary within a certain range, almost every hour.
"Non mihi tot cultus numero comprendere fas est.
3d, Ophidian reptiles, or serpents. Among the most remarkable of the African species of this division, is the cerastes, or horned viper. It is characterized by a small curved horn over each eyelid. It lives in the sand, and was well known to the ancients. Another singular serpent is the haje (Coluber haje, Linnæus). The Egyptian jugglers, by pressing the neck of this creature between their fingers, produce a kind of catalepsy which renders it stiff and motionless. This is rather a curious fact when considered in connexion with the scriptural narrative in the seventh chapter of Exodus, where the rods of the magicians when thrown down are converted into serpents.
This species was regarded by the ancient Egyptians as the emblem of the protecting divinity of the world, and its figure is frequently sculptured on each side of a globe, on the outer gates of their temples.
4th, The Batrachian reptiles, such as frogs, &c. Africa produces comparatively few species of this division. The soil is probably too dry. We shall here mention only the short-headed toad (Rana breviceps) described by Lin