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whole of the under surface blue, with reflections of green. Length eleven inches.
The Fissirostral tribe may be thus concluded. But, before entering upon the next, we would beg our reader to review what has been thus imperfectly sketched, and then to consider whether the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Almighty are not most strikingly displayed.
Of all races of beings on the surface of our globe, insects if unchecked in their increase would become the most efficient in rendering this earth a desert, and man an abject savage, glad to seek shelter in caves or dens from their cruel persecutions. Such a picture is not that of fancy; the ravages of the locust, of the Hessian fly, of aphides, and of those microscopic beings which blight the hopes of the husbandman; the more direct injuries experienced from other tribes, which, in some countries absolutely drive man and beast before them,--proclaim the extent to which, if unchecked, their power would arrive. The following is from Kirby and Spence's Introduction to Entomology
“ The numerous tribes of insects are His armies, marshalled by Him, and by His irresistible command impelled to the work of destruction; where he directs them, they lay waste the earth, and famine and pestilence often follow in their train.
“ The generality of mankind overlook or disregard these powerful, because minute dispensers of punishment, seldom considering in how many ways their welfare is affected by them: but the fact is certain that, should it please God to give them a general commission against us, and should he excite them to attack at the same time our bodies, our clothing, our houses, our cattle, and the produce of our fields and gardens, we should soon be reduced in every possible respect to a state of extreme wretchedness, the prey of the most filthy and disgusting diseases, divested of covering, unsheltered except by caves and dungeons from the inclemency of the seasons, exposed to all the extremities of want and famine, and in the end, as Sir Joseph Banks, speaking on this subject, has well observed, driven with all the larger animals from the face of the earth. You may smile, perhaps, and think this a high-coloured picture; but you will recollect, I am not stating the mischief that insects commonly do, but what they would do, according to all probability, if certain counter-checks restraining them within due limits had not been put in action; and which they actually do, as you will see in particular cases, when those counter-checks are diminished or removed. Insects may be said without hyperbole to have established a kind of universal empire over the earth and its inhabitants: this is principally conspicuous in the injuries which they occasion, for nothing in nature that possesses or has possessed life is safe from their inroads."
To check the increase of these destroyers, then, has God, among other agents, appointed the feathered tribes, and especially that tribe which we have just reviewed. With one exception, the kingfishers, all its members are actively engaged in thinning the insect hordes; but they are not alone in this important work: we shall find others also co-operating with them, and thus labouring in their station to maintain the balance of organic beings, to the end that order and harmony may ensue.
How infinite in number, how intricate in their bearings and relationship, in their causes and effects, are the wheels and springs of this mundane machine! Were God to leave it to the uncontrolled chances of a single day, all would rush into ruin and disorder—" chaos and night resume their ancient reign.” But He “who weigheth the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance,” cannot fail, “ for his mercy endureth for ever.” From the harmonies of nature ever let us turn to the harmonies of grace; those harmonies are exhibited in the mediatorial work of Christ, by which guilty man may receive pardon and justification, and offended justice be fully satisfied. The sufferings and obedience of Jesus Christ were the penalty paid for man's recovery, recovery from the danger of punishment for sin, recovery from the dominion of sin itself, recovery of the favour of God, and of a bright inheritance incorruptible and eternal; “for His mercy endureth for ever!” TRIBE II. DENTIROSTRES. The tribe called Dentirostres is distinguished, as the name at once indicates, by a notch or slight tooth on each side of the upper mandible of the bill near its point,
In some genera this tooth is so trifling as to be almost imperceptible, while in others it is tolerably strong and well defined; and it may be observed that where this is the case, the disposition accompanying it will be found to approach in fierceness and spirit to that of the birds of prey. The beak, however, does not vary only in the degree of developement exhibited in the tooth, but likewise in shape, strength, and size. In some, as in the shrikes, it is strong, and compressed laterally; in others, as the flycatchers, depressed; in others again, slender and pointed: but in all these cases the gradations from one form to the other are so imperceptible, that it becomes difficult to fix the limits or boundaries of the natural groups. As it respects food and habits, most are insectivorous; but many also add berries and various fruits to their diet.
FAMILY THE FIRST.–LANIADÆ, ViG., or the Shrikes. This numerous family is widely dispersed, its various genera being respectively distributed throughout every part of the globe: all are insectivorous, and some even attack small birds and mammalia, displaying unexpected spirit and ferocity. The beak is strong, decidedly toothed, compressed laterally, and often pointed, but in many genera hooked at its tip. Indeed, so many characters do the typical forms of this family exhibit analogous to those of the birds of prey, that both Ray and Linnæus placed the genus Lanius in that very order; and even M. Temminck hesitated whether to withdraw them or not from that situation in his “ Manuel d'Ornithologie.”
The last tribe was concluded with the Meropidæ, of which the common bee-eater was selected as an example. In proceeding to the present tribe, or rather to its first family, the Laniade, the transition is such as is ever in accordance with the laws of nature, that is, gradual and easy; for among the genera into which this family is divided is one allied in many points to the bee-eaters, in others to the swallows, and in its notched beak and courageous habits, to the Shrikes, among which it obtains a place. The genus is that termed by Cuvier Ocypterus, (in allusion to the rapidity of flight,) a genus containing several species peculiar to India and the islands of the Indian seas. The beak is pointed, conical, and slightly notched; the wings are long and pointed, reaching beyond the tail ; the tarsi short; the tail in some species square, in others its two middle feathers are somewhat elongated, as in the bee-eaters. This length of wing gives their flight much resemblance to that of a swallow; nor are the general form and contour of their bodies less similar: hence have they received the name of Swallow Shrikes, (Piesgrièches-Hirondelles,) and also of Wood Swallows. They are among the most rapid and active of the feathered race, being ever on the wing in pursuit of their insect food, and, with a spirit little in accordance with their size, they attack and drive away much larger birds, and even the raven, from their territory. Like the king-bird of America, their swiftness and the dexterity of their evolutions are their advantage. Little is known respecting the minuter details of their history, or of the shades of character in which the species differ among themselves; still the following sketch of one of the species (Ocypterus leucorhynchus) may not be unacceptable, as showing how nearly its form resembles that of our well known swallows. The colour of this species is as follows: beak whitish, with a tinge of dull blue; upper surface, brownish
black, with the exception of the tail-coverts, which are white; under surface dull brown. Length nearly seven inches.
Passing from the genus Ocypterus to the more typical forms of the present family, the restricted genus Lanius demands attention. This genus is characterized by the strength of the beak and the developement of the tooth; the wings being moderate and rounded, and the tail varying, being in some species graduated, in others square. This diversity in the form of the tail has led to a subdivision of this genus into two; that group distinguished by a graduated tail being termed Collurio, the other Lanius; a mere refinement of systematizing.
Take as an example the GREAT SHRIKE of Europe, (Lanius excubitor.) This beautiful and spirited bird is only an accidental visitor to the British isles, where it may be regarded as migratory, in some seasons appearing in considerable numbers, but in others being extremely
In France and other parts of the continent it remains stationary throughout the year.
The Great Shrike preys chiefly on the larger sorts of insects, such as beetles, dragon-flies, &c., which, as is also the case with others of this family, it is in the habit