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visiting at a friend's house in Scotland, near which he went to see a nest, which for several summers two eagles had occupied; it was upon a rock or a hill. There was a stone within a few yards of it, about six feet long, and nearly as broad, and upon this stone almost constantly, but always when they had young, the gentleman and his servant found a number of grouse, partridges, hares, rabbits, ducks, snipes, ptarmigans, rats, mice, &c., and sometimes kids, fawns, and lambs. When the young eagles were able to hop the length of this stone, to which there was a narrow road hanging over a dreadful precipice, the eagles, he learned often brought hares and rabbits alive, and placing them before their young, taught them to kill and tear them to pieces, as a cat brings live mice to her kittens, and teaches them to kill them. Sometimes it seems hares, rabbits, rats, &c., not being sufficiently weakened by wounds, got off from the young ones, while they were amusing themselves with them; and one day a rabbit escaped into a hole, where the old eagle could not find it. The parent bird another day brought to her young ones the cub of a fox, which, after it had fought well, and desperately bitten the young ones, attempted to make its escape up the hill, and would, in all probability, have accomplished it, had not the shepherd, who was watching the motion of the eagles with a view to shoot them, which they do with bullets, prevented it.
As the eagles kept what might be called such an excellent storehouse, whenever visitors came unexpectedly, the owner said that he was in the frequent habit of sending his servants to see what his neighbours the birds had to spare; and that they scarcely ever returned without some dainty dishes for his table, game of all kinds being rather the better than the worse for being kept a certain time. When the gentleman or his servants carried off things from the
shelf or table near the nest (for it was a work of great hazard to approach the nest itself), the eagles lost no time in bringing another supply, but when they did not take them away, the old ones loitered about, and were very inactive, amusing themselves with their young, till the stock of food had nearly come to an end.
While the hen eagle was hatching, the table or shelf on the rock was generally kept well furnished for her use; and when she was in that state, or the eaglets very young, the male bird generally tore a wing from the fowls for her, or a leg from the animals captured. These eagles, as is generally the case with birds that are not gregarious, that is, which do not live together, or assemble in flocks, were faithful to each other, and would not permit even their young after they had grown up to build a nest, or live near them, but drove them off to a considerable distance.
As the eagles kept what might be called such an excellent store-house, whenever visitors came unexpectedly, the owner said that he was in the habit of sending his servants to see what his neighbours the birds had to spare, and that they scarcely ever returned without some dainty dishes for his table.
Stand Four.] THE SCHOOL BOARD READERS.
DO te not the
THE HUMMING BIRD.
Or all the birds that flutter in the garden or paint the landscape, the humming-bird is the most delightful to look upon, and the most inoffensive. Of this charming little animal there are six or seven varieties, from the size of a small wren down to that of an humble-bee. A European would not readily suppose that there existed any birds so very small, and yet so completely furnished with a bill, feathers, wings, and intestines, exactly resembling those of the largest kind. Birds not so big as the end of one's little finger would probably be supposed mere creatures of imagination, were they not seen in infinite numbers, and as frequent as butterflies in a summer's day, sporting in the fields of America, from flower to flower, and extracting sweets with their little bills.
The smallest humming-bird is about the size of a hazel nut. The feathers on its wings and tail are black; but the those on its body, and under its wings, are of a greenish brown, with a fine red cast or gloss, which no silk or velvet can imitate. It has a small crest on its head, green at the bottom, and as it were gilded at the top; and which sparkles in the sun like a little star in the middle of its forehead. The bill is black, straight, slender, and of the length of a small pin.
It is inconceivable how much these birds add to the high finishing and beauty of a rich luxurious western landscape. As soon as the sun is risen, the humming-birds of different kinds are seen fluttering about the flowers, without ever lighting upon them. Their wings are in such rapid motion that it is impossible to discern their colours, except by
their glittering. They are never still, but continually in motion, visiting flower after flower, and extracting its honey as if with a kiss. For this purpose they are furnished with a forky tongue, that enters the cup of the flower and extracts its nectared tribute. Upon this alone they subsist. The rapid motion of their wings occasions a humming sound, from whence they have their name; for whatever divides the air swiftly must produce a murmur.
The nests of these birds are also very curious. They are suspended in the air, at the point of the twigs of an orange, a pomegranate, or a citron tree; sometimes even in houses, if a small and convenient twig is found for the purpose. The female is the architect, while the male goes in quest of materials; such as cotton, fine moss, and the fibres of vegetables. Of these materials a nest is composed, about the size of a hen's egg cut in two; it is admirably contrived, and warmly lined with cotton. There are never more than two eggs found in the nest; these are about the size of small peas, and as white as snow, with here and there a yellow speck. The male and the female sit upon the nest by turns; but the female takes to herself the greatest share. She seldom quits the nest, except for a few minutes in the morning and evening, when the dew is upon the flowers and their honey in perfection. During this short interval the males takes her place. The time of incubation continues twelve days; at the end of which the young ones appear, much about the size of a bluebottle fly. They are at first bare; by degrees they are covered with down; and, at last, feathers succeed, but less beautiful at first than those of the old ones.
Father Labat, in his account of the mission to America, says "that his companion found the nest of a hummingbird in a shed near the dwelling-house, and took it in at a
time when the young ones were about fifteen or twenty days old. He placed them in a cage at his chamber window, to be amused by their sportive flutterings; but he was much surprised to see the old ones, which came and fed their brood regularly every hour in the day. By this means they themselves grew so tame, that they seldom quitted the chamber; and without any constraint, came to live with their young ones. All four frequently perched upon their master's hand, chirping as if they had been at liberty abroad. He fed them with a very fine clear paste, made of wine, biscuit, and sugar. They thrust their tongues into this paste till they were satisfied, and then fluttered and chirped about the room. I never beheld anything more agreeable," continues he, "than this lovely little family; which had possession of my companion's chamber, and flew in and out just as they thought proper; but were ever attentive to the voice of their master when he called them. In this manner they lived with him above six months; but, at a time when he expected to see a new colony formed, he unfortunately forgot to tie up their cage to the ceiling at night, to preserve them from the rats, and he found in the morning, to his great mortification, that they were all devoured."
The female is the architect, while the male goes in quest of materials, such as cotton, fine moss, and the fibres of vegetables; of these materials a nest is composed, about the size of a hen's egg cut in two; it is admirably contrived, and warmly lined with cotton. There are never more than two eggs found in the nest; these are about the size of small peas, and as white as snow, with here and there a yellow speck.