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criminated, are, as Cuvier observes, of a negative kind, since it comprehends those birds which are neither swimmers, nor waders, nor climbers, nor rapacious, nor gallinaceous; yet among them there may be traced a general similarity of structure, and especially an insensible melting of one group into another, so that it is difficult to establish rigid subdivisions. Without the ferocious habits and appetites of the Raptorial Order, on the other hand they are not all restricted, like the gallinaceous birds, to a regimen consisting of grains and vegetables, but, according to modifications of beak and digestive organs, feed upon insects, fruits, or grains, or all combined. As, of all the orders, the present contains the most numerous assemblage, and that too composed of groups differing in many important particulars, the best systematic writers of the present day have divided it into primary sections, or tribes, a mode by which all confusion is at once avoided.

TRIBE I. FISSIROSTRES. The term Fissirostres alludes to the wide gape of the bill, which is so remarkable a feature in all the subjects of the tribe. This width of gape, in connexion with other circumstances, enables them to take their food on the wing; hence they are all gifted with great and many with amazing powers of flight, some, as the swallows, continuing with the utmost ease upon the wing during the whole of the day. The Raptorial Order was concluded with the Owls, whose habits and plumage were discussed at some length. To that description the reader is referred, because we are now about to demonstrate how close and direct are the links of union by which those birds ( Fam. Strigida ) are connected with the first family of the tribe of Fissirostres ; thus proving the orderly and harmonious gradations of Nature.

Family THE FIRST.—The GOATSUCKERS, ( Caprimulgida, Vig.) The Goatsuckers, or Night-jars, are birds of nocturnal habits; roused on the approach of twilight from their repose, they issue forth to spend the night in search of food, or in the delights of active existence. Their eyes are large, and of that character well termed nocturnal; their plumage is full, soft, and downy; their gape enormous; their wings long ; their tarsi very short, and generally feathered; their toes are three before and one behind, but the hind one can be brought forward; and the nail of the middle, in most species, is pectinated on its internal edge. They live isolated in solitary retreats and deep woods; whence they emerge on wings whose gentle fanning is not heard as they flit along, chasing the moth and other insects which like themselves sport and play in the murky twilight. The subdued and blended tones of gray and brown which beautifully chequer their plumage well amalgamate with the shadows and indistinctness which evening throws over the massive foliage of the trees, and tend to their concealment. The width of their gape renders it impossible for them to miss their prey; and to prevent its struggles the edges of the mandibles are furnished with a row of stiff bristles. The bill is small and incurved. This family is a link of connexion by which the present order is united to the owls, or last family of the preceding. The soft, full plumage, the large eyes, the nocturnal habits, and even the contour of the body, render this at once generally evident; so much so that one of the popular names of the common Goatsucker is that of Fern-owl.

But what will our readers say to the annexed sketch ? It is an accurate representation of the head of the HORNED PODARGUS from Sumatra, (Podargus cornutus.) It might indeed be mistaken for an owl. The size of the head, the great staring eyes, the hooked bill, (though the gape is more enormous than in the owl) nay, the very plumelets into which the ear-coverts are elongated, together with style of plumage and nocturnal habits, display the similarity to every observer.

The genus Podargus is distinguished from that of Caprimulgus, as at present restricted, by the greater length and strength of the tarsi, the absence of pectination on the nail of the middle toe, by a more robust and elongated beak, having a gape of more enormous extent, by a larger head in proportion, and by a greater superiority of size. Of the habits and manners of the species known to science we have little express information, save that they resemble those of the genus Caprimulgus.

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To one or two of the species of this latter genus ( Caprimulgus) we shall proceed to direct our reader's notice, selecting such as are the most characteristic examples : and first the Common GOATSUCKER, ( Caprimulgus Europeus, Lin.)

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The Goatsucker, Fern-owl, or Night-jar, &c., for by these names and many more it is known, is one of our summer birds of passage. Many of our readers have tasted the luxury of a summer evening's walk, not along streets and crowded thoroughfares, but by “woods, and lawns, and living streams," where contemplation comes like a welcome guest and leads us to deep and solemn thoughts of Him whose pervading presence is most sensibly felt and owned at such an hour. All is silence, save when the warm breeze whispers among the foliage, or the mellow notes of the nightingale burst out from the dark thicket, or the bat screams as it wheels by. Suddenly a jarring vibratory sound, like that produced by the quick rotation of a spinning-wheel, strikes the ear; it continues for several minutes, ceases, and is repeated louder and nearer. Presently on wings, rapid as an arrow, and yet noiseless as a shadow, a bird skims past, and settles on some branch or wall, or on the palings; and again the jarring sound commences. It is the Goatsucker. If it now be watched, it will be observed to dart off in chase of moths, displaying the most amazing powers of wing, and the most rapid and surprising evolutions, and again settle and repeat its singular note. On attentive inspection it will be found not perching across the bough as birds do in general, but lengthways, or along the bough, with its head depressed so as almost to touch it, and its throat swollen and quivering with the utterance of its jarring notes.

No one has paid more attention to this singular bird than the late Rev. G. White, (see his Natural History of Selborne.) He observes that the only sound it utters during flight is occasionally a “small squeak," and very rarely a vibratory chatter; but that it is while resting that it gives full vent to its voice. “ I have,” says that interesting writer, “watched it for many a half hour as it sat with its under mandible quivering.” usually on a twig with its head lower than its tail.” “ This bird is most punctual in beginning its song exactly at the close of day, so exactly that I have known it strike

.... “ It perches up more than once or twice just at the report of the Portsmouth evening gun, which we can hear when the weather is still. It appears to me past all doubt that its notes are formed by organic impulse, by the powers of the parts of its windpipe formed for sound, just as cats purr. You will credit me, I hope, when I assure you that as my neighbours were assembled in a hermitage on the side of a steep hill where we drink tea, one of these Churn Owls came and settled on the cross of that little straw edifice, and began to chatter, and continued his note for many minutes; and we were all struck with wonder to find that the organs of that little animal when put in motion gave a sensible vibration to the whole building.”

We have already alluded to the pectinated or comblike margin of the claw of the middle toe; thus:

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This peculiarity of structure, which occurs also in the tribe of herons, has been the subject of much speculation. Some have supposed it to be of use, (like the rough edgings along the toes of the cock of the wood,) in its mode of perching; others that it assisted in the retaining of its prey, which it was supposed to catch with its foot. Of the latter opinion was White, who says, (Letter xLvII.) “On the 12th of July (1771) I had a fair opportunity of contemplating the motions of the Caprimulgus, or Fern Owl, as it was playing round a large oak that swarmed with scarabæi solstitiales, or fern chafers. The powers of its wing were wonderful, exceeding, if possible, the various evolutions and quick turns of the swallow genus. But the circumstance that pleased me most was that I saw it distinctly more than once put out its short leg when on the wing, and by a bend of the head deliver somewhat into its mouth. If it takes any part of its prey with its foot, as I have now the greatest reason to suppose it does these chafers, I no longer wonder at the use

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