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Females in general larger than the males. Toes, three before and one behind.

II.—The PASSERINE ORDER. Insessores. Vig.

The characters of this order are of a negative quality, as it comprehends a vast assemblage of birds, having few tangible and prominent features in common. They are neither birds of prey, nor swimmers, nor divers, nor true climbers, nor true ground-runners; they feed according to their genera on insects, grain, seeds, and fruits, some few on carrion also. Yet is there a general resemblance of structure among them, and they pass from one group into another by insensible gradations. Every one has felt the difficulty of giving this order a characteristic name. Cuvier has called it “ Passereaux,or Passeres, which has little meaning; we prefer the name of Insessores *, as given by Mr. Vigors (though he includes under it another order, according to the arrangement of Cuvier), from their facility of perching, and their being so universally inhabitants of the trees. Toes, three before and one behind. III.—THE CLIMBING OR YOKE-FOOTED ORDER.

Scansores or Zygodactyli. This order forms a group or tribe of the preceding in the system of Mr. Vigors; Cuvier has retained it as independent, under the title of " Grimpeurs" (Climbers or Scansores), that however of Zygodactyli

, or Yokefooted, seems preferable, because all the species are by no means climbers, but all are firm graspers, and have two toes before and two behind, by which the antagonizing powers on each side are equalled. Their food varies, being insects in some genera, fruit in others. IV.—THE GALLINACEOUS OR RASORIAL ORDER.

Rasores. Vig. Bill strong, upper mandible arched, nostrils situated in a large membranous portion at the base of the beak; toes variable, but strong, and furnished with broad nails, adapted for scratching up the ground; tarsi often armed

* Insido, to perch or settle. Insessores, perching birds.

with spurs.

Food chiefly grain, seeds, and vegetable aliment, but occasionally insects and larvæ; gizzard strong and muscular ; body heavy; flight slow and short. This order contains the domestic fowl, the peacock, turkey, and many more.

V.—THE WADING ORDER. Grallatores. Vig. Beak generally long, but variable; tarsi long, limbs bare above the tarsal joint; toes, three before and one behind, those before being often united by a partial web, the two outer generally so; food small fish, moluscous animals, insects, and aquatic vegetables. This order contains the stork, the heron, the ibis, the plover, and many more; birds which frequent marshes, swamps, and inlets of the sea, where they seek for food.


Beak variable; tarsi short, compressed, situated posteriorly; toes, three before and one behind, completely webbed, or fringed with an oar-like membrane; neck long; plumage thick and close ; food fish, moluscous animals, grains, and vegetables ; gizzard strong and muscular. This order contains the ducks, gulls, divers, and all true aquatic birds.

Such are our primary divisions or orders, in the selection of which an attempt is made to consult simplicity and the indications of nature, as far as we can read them ; it must not, however, be forgotten, that the most eminent men, who have devoted their lives to this department, have differed in their systems, so difficult is it to square artificial arrangements with the blending and multitudinous affinities which nature perpetually exhibits ;—50 difficult is it to trace her footsteps. Let it, however, be remembered, that systems are but of second rate importance merely, and to be regarded only as aids and helps to the student, that being the most worthy of attention which unfolds most clearly the great scheme of nature.

We shall now proceed to illustrate each order separately, according as it stands in our arrangement.




This Order contains the tigers and hyenas of the feathered race, the birds of carnivorous appetite, and rapacious habits. They possess powers and weapons adapted for their station. Their sight is powerful, in many the smell is acute, in all the flight is rapid. It is an order widely diffused (though one of its groups is confined almost exclusively to the warmer portions of the globe), and contains a numerous and interesting assemblage, bearing marked and prominent characteristics. We divide it into three great natural groups, termed Families : first, that of the Vultures (Fam. Vulturida); secondly, that of the Hawks (Fam. Falconidae); thirdly, that of the Owls (Fam. Strigidæ).


The Vultures are distinguished by a strong but elongated bill, hooked only at its point. In the more typical forms the head and neck are denuded of feathers, a circumstance indicative of the nature of their food, which consists of putrid flesh; it is often their custom, when glutting on their foul repast, to bury head and neck in the eagerness of the moment in the putrescent mass, so that were these parts covered with feathers the utmost inconvenience would arise, from their being saturated with gore and filth, and drying into a hardened clotted layer. The skin on the breast also, over the crop, is more or less bare, being at most covered with down or short close feathers.

The legs are moderately strong, but the feet are unarmed with talons formidable as in the eagle, and are incapable of lacerating a living victim, or of carrying it into the air. Indeed they seldom attempt to remove their carrion food, but remain by it for hours, or even days, until they are quite unable to fly, or to exert themselves in any way to escape an enemy. Their wings are of great length, and their flight astonishing for speed, duration, and elevation. The general plumage consists of stiff but large feathers, overlaying each other, so as to form, in some species, shot-proof armour. Round the bottom of the neck there is a ruff of soft or slender feathers, arising from loose and folded skin, within which they can withdraw the neck, and even the greatest part of the head; in this position, motionless as statues, they remain for days, when gorged with their food. Their senses of smell and of sight are in the highest degree acute; one author of celebrity, however, advances an opinion that the sense of smell is but little developed, and that it is by sight alone that the Vulture is guided to his food. This opinion, if it were true, would be a sort of anomaly in nature; for it seems a law that the main and striking quality of the matter constituting the diet of any particular animal should be that which its organs are expressly modified to receive. The far floating odours of putrid carrion are not cognizable by sight; the wild dog and the wolf and the jackal, which are among mammalia what the Vultures are among birds, pursue their food by the scent; and that the Vulture does the same has the concurrent testimony of all ages.

“ Nare sagaci Aëra non sanum, motumque cadavore sentit.”


“ Per auras

longè ducuntur odore Volturii cadaveribus."


And in addition to that of the poets we have the authority of Pliny, who, speaking of the senses in which man excels, says, " Ex sensibus ante cætera homini tactus; deinde gustatus : reliquis superatur a multis : aquilæ clariùs cernunt; vultures sagaciùs odorantur.” Plin. l. x. c. 69.

The part which the Vultures play in the balance of creation is at once obvious; they are a race of birds confined to the hotter portions of the old and new continents, where the toleration they experience attests the estimation of their services. As we approach the equator, we find a gradual increase in the numerical ratio of the brute creation ; here, too, are the largest and most ponderous of animals; the earth teems with its myriads, and mortality is of course in proportion to number. In every country dead animal matter soon decomposes, but in hot climates this process takes place with astonishing rapidity, infecting the air with insupportable effluvia. It is easy to conceive what the state of a country would be, where a multitude of animals, large and small, are from one cause or another perpetually dying, the bodies remaining to putrefy where they fall. Added to this is a singular fact, that the natives of such countries are universally inattentive to that cleanliness and those modes of purifying their towns and villages which in our civilized nations are deemed of such great importance. Under such circumstances the Vulture is invaluable: he has been in all ages the scavenger of nature, cleansing the streets and the lanes and the fields of all that is noisome and disgusting.

The typical Vultures, to which our remarks more exclusively apply, are generally gregarious in their habits, uniting in large bands or flocks, and wheeling about in the upper regions of the air, beyond the sight of man; their “ sail-broad vans” and great powers of flight enabling them, heavy as their bodies are, to maintain their elevation without apparent exertion. It has often been observed, that on the death of an ox or a horse, or any other large animal, though at the time not a wing should be visible in the glowing sky, yet, in a space of time incredibly short, multitudes will appear, assembling from various quarters of the heavens, or descending from their altitude, and sweeping down to remove what would be in a few hours an offensive nuisance. The attack begins, and the pulling and the struggling and the gorging continue, till nothing remains of the carcass but the sun-dried bones ; and these are carried off in the night by the jackals and hyenas. Flocks of Vultures frequent also the suburbs of towns and cities, where unmolested they clear the streets of offal of every description. At Cairo it is a breach of the police regulations to kill a Vulture, and in many other parts they are held in veneration Services like these, disgusting as they may appear, are essential to the well

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