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The next species is very rare. It is chiefly of a fine indigo blue colour, deepening at places into purple; the tail-feathers are green shaded with blue and yellow, and lined with scarlet, of which colour it has a line along each side of the upper part of the bill.
The Moreton Bay and Green Trinidad Parrots.
Of the first of these two species but little is known. It is a splendid bird, with golden tinted plumage, and very valuable on account of its rarity.
The second has a dark green body, blue and red wings, and a scarlet head. It is not much of a talker, but is interesting on account of its beauty and engaging manners. It must be kept warm; and, indeed, this is essential for all the parrot family, although some require it more than others.
We now proceed to open our show of
or Paroquets as it is sometimes written. These are the little parrots, and they differ in no respect from the larger kinds except in size and in the possession of a long tail—although this is not always a distinction, for some ot their bigger relatives have it also.
The Long-tailed Green Parrakeet.
This is, perhaps, the most curious bird of the group: it is found all through South America, and in the West Indies. It is about as large as a blackbird, having yellowish-green plumes, ornamented with bright yellow and red. It is one of the noisiest of feathered pets, talking, screaming, whistling, crowing, and uttering all sorts of discordant sounds.
The Pavouane Parrakeet
comes from Guinea, Cayenne, and the Caribbee Islands. It is rather larger than the preceding species, and has much the same colours, although differently arranged. The red spots on the cheek do not appear until the bird is upwards of four years old. It is not particularly rare, nor difficult to keep, and has great imitative powers.
The Red And Blue-headed Parrakeet
is a native of South America. The whole upper part of the body is grassgreen, the under parts greenish-yellow; the forehead is scarlet, and the neck bright blue, which runs off into the green of the back. This is not a rare species nor a good talker. It is usually about ten inches long.
The Cardinal Parrakeet
is a gorgeous bird, similar in size to the above, with a very remarkable tail, the two middle feathers being blue with white ends, and the rest green; the head is violet shot with blue; around the neck is a ring of glossy black, which is also the colour of the throat. The upper part of the body is a rich green, the lower parts yellow; the beak is a delicate peach-blossom, and the legs silvery grey. The female bird is very different in appearance, having a yellow beak, a blue head, no black colour, and but little beauty of plumage.
The Blossom-headed, The Rose-headed, Ring, and the Bornean
What shall we say for them? They are all nearly related to my Lord the Cardinal—only varieties, some think. The first of them is sometimes called the Guinea Sparrow, which name tells us it is a small bird, and comes from Africa. The second sometimes also goes by the same name, although it is more commonly found in the Philippine Islands. Lovely birds, all three of them.
Pennant's, and the Two-spotted Parrakeets,
the first from Australia, and the last from the South Sea isles. The Australian bird is sometimes called the Purple Parrot: it is found chiefly about Botany Bay, and is about the size of a sparrow-hawk. See what a beautiful crimson dress he has, and how the black at the base of the feathers, and dark blue of the tail and some other parts, give to the whole a rich purple effect. This other is sometimes called the Palm-bird. It is as large as a turtle-dove, has a long drooping tail, a black band across the forehead, and a triangular spot of the same colour on each side of the head. Above, his feathers are all silky grey, and green, and blue, and yellow: beneath, all flame-colour.
The Lanated, and Little Gem, and Blue Parrakeets.
The first is sometimes called the Red-Crescented—both names having reference to a moon-shaped patch of bright red on the breast. The back is dark green, and the under parts yellow. A very pretty bird; lives long in confinement, and talks well. The other species is about as big as a sparrow, with an orange-coloured bill and circle round the eyes, and a green body with blue markings. He comes from South America.
Australian Ground Parrakeets,
severally distinguished as the Roselle, the Crimson-shouldered, the Bloodbilled, Barnard's Parrakeet, and two others. Beautiful little birds, of all the colours of the rainbow: playful, gentle, and easily kept. Unlike most parrots, they are as much at home on the ground as anywhere else.
charming little creatures, with crimson heads and emerald bodies, and variegated tails; so loving and affectionate, that if one dies the other pines away and dies too of grief. They are as tame as they are gentle and beautiful, and will come out of their cage to be fed with crumbs, &c There is a variety of this bird called the Passuaria, which has no red on its plumage, but is all green.
PIGEONS AND DOVES.
A very curious and interesting family of birds are the Pigeons—Columbida, as naturalists call them, which signifies properly Doves; but in reality there is no difference in the meaning of the two terms Doves and Pigeons, only in this country we generally apply the latter name to those domesticated varieties which have been produced by cross breeding, and very funny as well as beautiful varieties some of these are. Among wild pigeons we see no such grotesque birds as Pouters, Fantails, Tumblers, Trumpeters, and the like choice breeds, on which fanciers set great store; their peculiarities are the result of peculiar modes of treatment, into which we cannot here enter.
Wild pigeons are found in all parts of the world except the very coldest, and often in prodigious numbers. They are swift and strong fliers, and when in flight from one place to another they sometimes literally darken the air, and break the boughs of the trees on which they rest. Some of these wild birds, especially those from the East, are magnificent and stately creatures, with most gorgeous plumage, crowned and crested like monarchs of the feathered tribes; but of these it is not our present business to speak. We may just mention the chief of them.
The Crowned Gouri Pigeon,
measuring nearly twenty-five inches in length. It is found in the Indian Archipelago and the Molucca Islands. Its general colour is a rich purple brown above and grey beneath; there are white bars across the wings, and the semicircular crest is light blue or delicate grey.
The Nicobar Pigeon
is another beautiful crested bird. Although smaller in size than the Gouri, it is equally worthy of admiration. The upper part of the body is a rich green, with bronze and steely blue reflections; the head is slate-coloured, with purple shades. On the neck are a number of long pointed feathers, glowing with resplendent colours that shift and change with every movement of the bird.
The Aromatic Vinago
Is a curious title, very suggestive of aromatic vinegar, and yet one member of the pigeon family is known to dealers by this name. A rich brown red shot with purple is the colour of its back and upper parts, the under are a pale green; the forehead is also green, the throat yellow, and the tail is a mixture of blue, grey, brown, and green; so that our friend with the quaint name is something of a harlequin as to dress. He comes from India, Java, and other parts of the East.
The Carunculated .ground Pigeon,
sometimes called the Oceanic Fruit Pigeon, is about as large as the common dove. It is a bird of splendid plumage, and is very useful, for to it the dissemination of that valuable spice the nutmeg through the Moluccas and other tropical islands is mainly due. The bird swallows the nutmeg, with the whole of its pulpy covering, which is mace. The latter is digested, but the nut passes out whole, and so becomes self-sown; and, curiously enough, some such process as this appears necessary to its germination. .
The Top-knot and the Bronze-winged Pigeons,
both from Australia, are two very handsome species. The first is a stout,, powerful bird of a silver grey colour, with black markings; it is remarkable for a double crest, one on the forehead, and the other on the back of the head.
'The other beautiful foreigner is not quite so large; brown, changing into deep plum-colour, and grey of different shades are its chief colours. There are bronze-green spots on the wing-feathers.
The Magnificent Pigeon
comes also from Australia, and is worthy of the name: it is about the size of the common ring-dove. Silvery grey, rich metallic green, and golden yellow are its principal colours, which shift and change with every motion of the bird.
The Passenger Pigeon,
of whose habits and manners in a wild state Wilson and Audubon have given most graphic descriptions, leads us by an easy step to the more common domesticated kinds. Throughout North America this bird abounds, migrating in immense flocks from one State to another in search of food. Their arrival is eagerly looked for by men and wild animals, and the pigeon battue thai ensues is something fearful and wonderful: the cries of the birds render the reports of the guns, the shouts of the men, and barking of the dogs, inaudible.. The dead bodies cover the ground, and are carried away in waggons and everything that is available for the purpose ;~the hogs feed on them until they can eat no longer, and yet their number is not sensibly diminished.
The Carrier Pigeon.
This is the most useful, celebrated, and in every way remarkable, of the domesticated pigeons: it has a history extending back to a period anterior to the foundation of Rome. The names of the victors in the Olympian games were made known through the Roman provinces by means of this bird, just as in our own times are those of the winning horses at the races of Newmarket and elsewhere. Keen of sight and strong of wing, the bird, which when released always flies straight to its home, no matter how great may be the intervening distance; so it is taken to the scene of the contest, and directly the result is known it is released with a message, which is eagerly received by those who are waiting the arrival of the messenger. The despatch so transmitted is written on a small piece of thin paper, which is rolled up, and fastened to one of the tail-feathers by means of a piece of fine wire, which is wound round the shaft of the feathers to make it secure: in this way it does not impede the flight of the bird. Sometimes it is fastened to the leg with worsted. The winged messenger flies with incredible swiftness. Forty-five miles an hour is
not considered a very high rate: in the pigeon flights against time, which have frequently been flown from Paris to Antwerp, from London to Liege, and other places, it has exceeded this.
The Belgians are great pigeon-breeders, and one of the choicest birds of this kind is the true Antwerp Carrier, which is comparatively rare.
The twelve points which, according to the recognized rules, a thoroughbred carrier should possess, are these: The Head, straight, and long, and flat. The Beak, straight, and long, and thick. The Wattle, broad at the base, short from the head to the bill, and leaning forward. The Eye, large, round, and uniform. A bird with these qualifications, and being of one colour, dark blue, will be likely to take a prize at a pigeon show. '• Cinnamon Birds," as those of a dun-colour are called, are not so much valued, although they may possess all the above-named good points, and have as much sagacity and power of wing as the others. A long lithe body, and a firm strong wing, a proud bold look, and great activity, are the characteristies of the carrier in the prime of his life: as he grows old, he becomes stout and inactive, his wattle increases in bulk, his eye loses its brightness and his feathers their beautiful gloss; he is then only fit for breeding purposes.
Since the introduction of the electric telegraph, pigeon expresses have not been so much used as they formerly were, consequently, the breeding and training of the birds is comparatively little practised. Still, the carriers hold a high place among the fancy kinds. They are not prolific breeders, nor attentive and affectionate parents: frequently they destroy their eggs and neglect their "squabs," as young pigeons before they are fledged are called—after that they are " squeakers."
With carriers, as with other pigeons, breeding " in and in," as it is called— that is, getting a stock from the offspring of a single pair of birds—is bad: they will generally be small and weakly. Any breeder will exchange eggs with another whose stock is good. The best and steadiest sitters are the common Dove-house, the Runt, and the Dragon, to one or other of which is generally deputed the task of hatching and bringing up the young carriers.
The Tumbler Pigeon
is one of the most amusing birds of this family, on account of its extraordinary motions on the wing. He is the most accomplished acrobat known, turning back-summersaults, and springing about in the air in the oddest fashion. His appearance when at rest does not give promise of such preternatural activity, for he has a plump little body, set firmly upon short, thickish legs, a round head, and a small beak; but his eye is bright, his look intelligent, and he seems to say, "Ah, I can do more than you think I" Then, off he goes, up, and head over heels, as though he were gambolling upon a tight rope or over an invisible trapeze.
There are several varieties of tumblers: the Old English, which is nearly extinct, the German Feather-footed, the common Flying, the Baldpate, and others. They are of all colours.
One of the most favoured varieties of what are called the Short-faced Tumblers is the Almond, which fanciers only consider perfect when it is of three colours, yellow, black, and white, the first predominating: the true colours are not attained until the bird is three years old.
A great variety of curious names are given to these pigeons, in accordance