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and the older writers, apoda, or footless, upon the supposition that it had no feet, and that it was an inhabitant exclusively of the glowing regions of the sky, because the specimens, prepared and sent to Europe by the barbarous natives of New Guinea, were all observed to be without legs. The fact is, that the legs are large and strong ; hence, as neither being ornamental, nor indeed wanted in skins made up for general commerce, they are always cut away. Yet it is strange that this species, the first of its genus made known to Europeans, was distinctly recorded by the introducer of it to science to be in no respect different from other birds. Antony Pigafetta, who accompanied Magellan in his voyage round the globe, brought this Bird of Paradise to Europe in the year 1522, and in his journal of the voyage he notes the fact of the legs of the bird being cut off by the natives as parts of no importance previously to selling them. Yet the celebrated Aldrovandus, having only seen such mutilated specimens, and never the birds in a state of nature, accused Pigafetta of
gross falsehood in asserting that it was naturally furnished with legs and feet. Scaliger believed the bird to be footless; and in the eighteenth century, Count de Buffon, forgetting true philosophy, contributed to the propagation of so glaring an error. Having observed that some birds, as the ostrich, &c. cannot fly, but are reduced to walking; that others, again, as the awk, &c. though flying and swimming, cannot walk; he then goes on to state that there are others, “ qui comme les oiseaux de Paradis, ne marchent, ni le nagent, et ne peuvent prendre de mouvement qu'en volant;" that is, “ which as the Birds of Paradise neither walk nor swim, and are incapable of any other mode of progression than that of flight." Now it is unfortunate for Buffon's assertion, that flight is a power in which the Birds of Paradise by no means excel; their wings are short, and they are, moreover, impeded by the flowing plumes, which arise either from the sides of the chest or from other parts of the body. On the other hand, their long and stout tarsi, and their large claws, indicate them to be birds whose habits require
these organs to be thus developed. They are birds whose life appears to be spent chiefly among the branches of the woods and forests, though sometimes, like the magpie, starling, and the other members of the present family, they visit the ground in search of food, which is said to consist not only of fruits and spicy berries, but of insects, and, in the case of the larger species, even of
The long plumes with which the Greater Paradise Bird is ornamented prevent its flying except against the wind; for this, if blowing in the course of the bird, would not only disorder these feathers, but acting on them, like sails, drive the bird along with irresistible impetuosity. Indeed they “ abstain from flight altogether during a storm, which would infallibly throw them to the ground. When flying, they are noisy like starlings; but their common cry is said rather to resemble the croaking of ravens, and is particularly audible when, in somewhat windy weather, the incumbrance of their long feathers brings them into imminent danger of falling. In the Aru islands they are observed to perch on the highest trees. They are taken by the inhabitants with birdlime, snares, or blunt arrows." When taken alive, they defend themselves with their bills, pecking and biting with great resolution. In size this bird is little larger than a thrush. The general colour is a deep cinnamon, with the exception of the top of the head and the back of the neck, which are yellow; the feathers which encircle the base of the beak as far as the eyes, and cover the whole of the throat, are like velvet, and of a deep emerald green. From each side of the chest, in the male, springs a full plume, from sixteen to eighteen inches long, composed of slender shafts, with fine, loose, delicate webs; in some specimens they are bright yellow at the base, fading gradually into straw colour, in others they are paler; from the tailcoverts spring two slender naked shafts of great length, which taper gradually to a point, and are of a deep cinnamon brown. These elegant appendages are said to be lost during four months of the year; in all probability, as
in the case of the whidah bird and others, they are the decorations of the breeding season, the period in which all birds display their gayest livery.
Amongst others of this splendid group, we may notice the MAGNIFICENT PARADISE BIRD, ( Paradisæa magnifica.) This richly coloured species is of "an orange
THE MAGNIFICENT PARADISE BIRD.
chestnut colour above, the top of the head and the back being deeper than the rest, the former in some specimens inclining to purple; the tips of the wings and the tail are brown; the throat blackish, with a purple gloss;" the breast and under parts are covered with scale-shaped feathers, of a deep changeable golden green colour, having down the breast a blue reflexion. From the back of the neck springs a double ruff, composed of slender plumes, with slightly dilated extremities. The first series are short, and orange coloured, with a black spot at the end of each ; the others are longer, and pale yellow. The wing-coverts are orange coloured, with transverse blackish crescents. From the tail-coverts spring two long, slender shafts of golden green. In size this species is somewhat inferior to the Greater Paradise Bird.
The SUPERB PARADISE BIRD (Par. superba) is distinguished by the length of the scapular feathers, which form a plume capable of being elevated at pleasure, and by two pointed lappets on each side of the chest. The general colour, with the exception of these lappets, which are the most brilliant burnished steel-green, is black. The size is that of the thrush.
The King Bird of Paradise (Par. regia) is one
THE KING BIRD OF PARADISE.
of the rarest, as it is the smallest of the group. It is about the size of a sparrow, and of an intense purplish chestnut above, and white beneath. A zone of golden green extends across the chest ; from the sides spring two fan-like plumes, consisting of six or seven dusky feathers, with the richest golden green. From the tailcoverts spring two long, slender shafts, each elegantly terminating in a broad emerald web, rising from one side only of the shaft, and disposed into a flat spiral curl. The beak and legs are yellowish brown.
We cannot quit these most graceful of the feathered tribes without glancing for a moment at that Power who gave them all their glory. Some one has observed that the contemplation of a flower would frighten atheism from the mind of any rational being ; and we grant it. But in these birds, whose exquisite plumes and splendid hues forcibly called to mind that PARADISE which man through sin has forfeited, birds whose beauty seemed alone fitted for such a garden, where nature displayed all the luxuriance of her charms, we have a memento, still more forcible than in the flower, of His hand who has given the lily of the field its colour, and the rose of Sharon its perfume. Birds of Paradise ! may your name and your beauties conspire to remind every beholder of God's power and goodness, of man's creation and fall, the spring of “all our woe, with loss of Eden, till one Greater Man restore us,” and not of this only, but of a second Paradise, which that Man, even Christ the Messiah, has procured by his merits and sufferings for all believers,—a Paradise where the tree of life shall bloom for ever.
We conclude this rapid outline of the family Corvidæ with the Birds of Paradise, and pass on to another which will detain us but little. It is the
Fourth Family, BUCERIDÆ, or the Hornbills.Of all birds there are none which present a more extraordinary appearance than the Hornbills, a group confined to India and Africa, and characterized by the enormous development of the beak, the upper mandible of which is furnished with projections, which, in some species, rise to a great height, and occupy a space almost as great as the