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CHAPTER VI.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PHEASANT-PEACOCK-TURKEY

GUINEA-FOWL-PIGEON-SWAN-GOOSE-DUCK.

We now enter upon the history of an assemblage of fowls, comprising some which may, at the first glance, be thought scarcely to fall within the scope or design of our work, such, for instance, as the pheasant tribe, kept, or (to use the orthodox phrase)“ preserved,” principally for the amusement they afford to the sportsman-or, like the gorgeously-clad peacock, now regarded only as beautiful objects to please the eye of the spectator, and to ornament the seats and pleasure-grounds of the nobility,—or such, again, as the pigeon family, perhaps, more correctly speaking, birds of the aviary rather than inhabitants of the poultry yard ; but to those who more attentively consider the subject, it will, we think, be apparent that they all are more or less connected with that branch of rural economy under which are included our Domestic Fowls, and of which we have undertaken to treat.

PHEASANT S.

Sub-genus Phasianus.

I.

COMMON AND RING-NECKED PHEASANT.

Origin and History.—The Pheasant is generally believed to have been originally, and at a very remote period, brought from the countries bordering upon the Phasis, (whence their name was probably derived,) a river in Asia Minor. The Argonauts, in their celebrated expedition to Colchis, together with the golden fleece, conveyed back with them the Asiatic Pheasant, the plumage of which was equally rich and resplendent with the fleece. This bird, indeed, may successfully vie with any other of the feathered tribe, for beautiful symmetry of form and shape, as well as for the rich and luxuriant plumage, or the varied and dazzling gaudiness of its colours. It was distributed over every part of the Old Continent-even to China and the borders of the Tartar empire. In the present day it is met with naturalized in almost every clime-in Siberia, at St. Helena, in North America, and in our own country, where they are abundant, as likewise in France; in the latter country they are more carefully and extensively reared than with us. Pheasants are mentioned in England as early as the 13th century.

Description.- Formerly naturalists regarded the common Pheasant of Britain as a sub-variety of the beautiful Ring-necked Pheasant of China; but by some they are now looked upon as two different races, or varieties of their tribe,—though their distinctiveness is by no means positively determined. The general characteristics of the Pheasant tribe are thus described by Jardine in his Nat. Lib. vol. xiv. The bill strong, curved on the upper ridge, and naked at the base ; head clothed with feathers, except some considerable space around the eyes, which is covered with a naked* varicose or granulated skinny patch, usually of a red colour. Wings short and rounded ; tail wedge-shaped, and of extraordinary length, frequently, in the males; the anterior toes in the feet united by a membrane to the first joint; the males possessing short strong spurs. These points are all present in the Common Pheasant, the plumage of which is exceedingly beautiful, of a glossy light reddish-brown, resembling copper bronze, and variegated with regular markings, or spanglings of black over the whole body: the breast exhibiting reflections of metallic purple hues—also seen sometimes upon the wings; the head and neck

Temminck asserts this to be an error; and states that this skin is of a thick expansive texture, and covered with a number of " loose filaments, or minute bristles, forming a close velvetty tissue.” He further asserts that the pheasant has the power of distending his skin, and imparting to it various shades of red, more especially in the season of love, or when, as in the case of the turkey, it is excited or agitated.

displaying feathers of a brilliant bluish-green, with metallic reflections. In length it extends, from tip to tip, to three feet. The female is of smaller size, and has (comparatively speaking) a short tail ; the feathering is of a sober brown or dark chestnut colour; the black markings upon the body and tail being much more distinct than in the males, except indeed upon the breast, which she has perfectly clear from spangling: a small band or tuft of short, thick, black feathers just below the eyes, also distinguishes the female bird.

The Ring-necked does not differ materially from the preceding, but is of rather a smaller size, the extreme length never exceeding (and but seldom reaching) two feet and a half. The black barring on the plumage is somewhat different and more delicate ; but the principal characteristic mark, however, is the white ring which encircles the bottom of the neck, narrowest at the back and front, but expanding into a broader band in the sides of the neck. Both this and the preceding principally inhabit the forests of China, but are said never to intermingle.

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History. - This breed is very scarce in this country, specimens being rarely met with : it seems equally unknown on the continent, having escaped the notice of the French naturalists. It is very doubtful whether the country whence the bird takes its name, is its original habitat; and the entire absence of any information as to its origin or history has induced many to regard it only as an accidental variation in the Common Pheasant, in which the colours are run out or weakened by defective secretions. (Yarrell.) They have, it is stated by Jardine, of late years become “extremely common” in Scotland, though upon what foundation the opinion has been given we know not.

Description.In size, form, and plumage the Bohemian closely assimilates to the Common Pheasant, but upon the neck, breast, back, and wings, the feathering is of a light buff shade, or as Mr. Baily expressively describes it, the plumage looks as ifit had been washed over with cream." From this buff or creamy shade, the black markings assume a more distinct appearance than in the Common Pheasant, arising, perhaps, from the greater contrast between the colours. Owing to this singularity of plumage some have conjectured that the origin of the bird may be traced to the union of a Silver with a Common bird,—but for various reasons this does not seem probable. The female Bohemian is described as of much smaller proportions than the female of the Common Pheasant.

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