Page images
[blocks in formation]


Le Butor. Belon av. 192.

444. tab. 37. Brrind, Rordump. Gefner av. 215. Garza bionda, o di color d'oro. Zinan, The Myredromble. Turner.

Scopoli, No. 125.
Trombone, Terrabuso. Aldr. av. III. Rohrtrummel, Mosskuh. Kram. 348.

Rohrdommel. Frisch, II. 205.
Bittour, Bittern, or Mire-drum. Wil.

Mire-drum. Wil. Ardea stellaris. Lin. Syft. 239.
orn. 282.

Rordrum. Faun. Suec. Jp. 164.
Raii lyn. av. 100.

Danis Rordrum. Brunnich, 155.
Botaurus, le Butor. Brilon av. V. Br. Zool. 117. tab. A. 1.


HE bittern is a very retired bird, concealing itself in the

midst of reeds and rushes in marshy places. It is with great difficulty provoked to fight, and when on wing has so dull and Aagging a pace, as to acquire among the Greeks the title of oxum * or the lazy. It has two kinds of notes; the one croaking, when it is disturbed : the other bellowing, which it commences in the spring and ends in autumn. Mr. Willughby says, that in the latter season it foars into the air with a spiral ascent to a great height, making at the same time a singular noise. From the first observation, we believe this to be the species of heron that Virgil alludes to aniong the birds that forbode a tempest,

In ficco ludunt fulicæ, notasque paludes
Deserit, atque altam supra volat Ardea nubem t.

For the antients mention three kinds t; the Leucon, or white heron ; the Pellos, supposed to be the common sort; and the Asterias, or bittern; which seems to have acquired that name from this circumstance of its aspiring flight, as it were attempting, at certain seasons, the very stars; though at other times its motion was so dull, as to merit the epithet of lazy.

* Arift. bift. an. 1056. 4 Georg. I. 363. | Arift. hist. an. 1006. Plin. lib. x. c. 60.

Some commentators have supposed this to have been the Taurus of Pliny; but as he has expressly declared that to be a small bird, remarkable for imitating the lowing of oxen, we must deny the explanation ; and wait for the discovery of the Roman naturalist's animal from some of the literati of Arles, in which neighbourhood Pliny says the bird was found *. In size it is inferior to the heron: the bill is weaker, and only four inches long: the upper mandible a little arched; the edges of the lower jagged: the rictus or gape is so wide, that the eyes seem placed in the bill: the irides are next the pupil yellow; above the yellow incline to hazel : the ears are large and open. The crown of the head is black; the feathers on the hind part form a sort of short pendent crest : at each corner of the mouth is a black spot: the plumage of this bird is of very pale dull yellow, spotted, barred, or striped with black: the bastard wing, the greater coverts of the wings, and the quil-feathers are of a bright ferruginous color, regularly marked with black bars: the lower belly is of a whitish yellow : the tail is very short, and consists of only ten feathers. The feathers on the breast are very long, and hang loose: the legs are of a pale green. All the claws are long and Nender: the inner side of the middle claw finely ferrated to hold its prey the better; its hind claw is remarkably long, and being a supposed preservative for the teeth, is sometimes set in silver and used as a tooth-pick. Besides this common species, Mr. Edwards mentions a small one of the size of a lapwing, shot near Shrewsbury. He adds no more than that the crown of the head was black : as this answers the description of a kind frequent in Switzerland and Austria *, we imagine it to be a strayed bird from


Lib. X. C. 42.


those parts.

It builds its nest with the leaves of water plants on some dry clump among the reeds, and lays five or six eggs, of a cinereous green color. This bird and the heron are very apt to strike at the fowler's eyes, when only maimed. The food of the bittern is chiefly frogs; not that it rejects fish, for small trouts have been met with in their stomachs. In the reign of Henry VIII. it was held in much esteem at our tables; and valued at one shilling. Its flesh has much the flavour of a hare ; and nothing of the fifthiness of that of the heron.

White. Le Heron blanc. Belon av. 191. Grosser weisser Rager. 175.

Kram. 346.
Ardea alba. Gefner av. 213. Turner. Scopoli, No. 126.
Wil, orn. 279.

Ardea alba. Lin. Syft. 239.
Raii syn. av. 99:

Faun. Suec. Sp. 166.
Ardea candida, le Heron blanc. Brif. Br. Zool. 117.
fon av. V. 428.



THIS bird has not fallen within our obfervation ; therefore we

must give Mr. Willughby's account of it. The length to the end of the feet is fifty-three inches and a half, to that of the tail only forty; the breadth sixty inches; the weight forty ounces.

Kramer Elench. anim. Austria, 348.


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »