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The earnest and early propensity of the gallinæ to roost on high is very observable ; * and discovers a strong dread impressed on their spirits respecting vermin that may annoy them on the ground during the hours of darkness. Hence poultry, if left to themselves and not housed, will perch the winter through on yew trees and fir trees; and turkeys and guinea fowls, heavy as they are, get up into apple trees ; pheasants also, in woods, sleep on trees to avoid foxes; while pea-fowls climb to the tops of the highest trees round their owner's house for security, let the weather be ever so cold or blowing. Partridges, it is true, roost on the ground, not having the faculty of perching; but then the same fear prevails in their minds; for, through apprehensions from polecats and stoats, they never trust themselves to coverts, but nestle together in the midst of large fields, far removed from hedges and coppices, which they love to haunt in the day, and where, at that season, they can skulk more secure from the ravages of rapacious birds.
As to ducks and geese, their awkward, splay, web-feet forbid them to settle on trees ;t they therefore, in the hours of darkness and danger, betake themselves to their own element, the water, where, amidst large lakes and pools, like ships riding at anchor, they float the whole night long in peace and security.
WHITE. Guinea fowls not only roost on high, but in hard weather resort, even in the day-time, to the very tops of highest trees. I
* Fowls that roost in trees are much later in laying their eggs than those which have been housed and kept warm. Fowls belonging to London bakers, and which roost over their ovens, are very early layers. Warmth, therefore, seems to be necessary to the early production of eggs, and it might be worth inquiry whether those birds which are most exposed to cold do not begin the process of incubation at a later period than those birds which affect warmth. Pigeons are early breeders, and they are warmly housed.-ED.
+ The Cape geese in Richmond Park not only settle on trees, but make their nests in the old oak pollards, and convey their young in safety to the ground by placing one at a time under one of their wings. When these geese made their nests on the ground of the island in the large pond in the park, the water-rats destroyed the eggs, which induced the birds to take to the trees near the side of the pond.—En.
# This, probably, is the reason why they lay their eggs so much later in
Last winter, when the ground was covered with snow, I discovered all my guinea fowls, in the middle of the day, sitting on the highest boughs of some very tall elms, chattering and making a great clamour: I ordered them to be driven down, Iest they should be frozen to death in so elevated a situation; but this was not effected without much difficulty, they being very unwilling to quit their lofty abode, notwithstanding one of them had its feet so much frozen, that we were obliged to kill it. I know not how to account for this, unless it was occasioned by their aversion to the snow on the ground, they being birds that came originally from a hot climate.*
Notwithstanding the awkward, splay, web-feet, as Mr. White cails them, of the duck genus, some of the foreign species have the power of settling on the boughs of trees, apparently with great ease; an instance of which I have seen in the Earl of Ashburnham’s menagerie, where the summer duck (anas sponsa) flew up and settled on the branch of an oak tree in my presence; but whether any of them roost on trees in the night, we are not informed by any author that I am acquainted with. I suppose not; but that, like the rest of the genus, they sleep on the water, where the birds of this genus are not always perfectly secure, as will appear from the following circumstances, which happened in this neighbourhood a few years since, as I was credibly informed. A female fox was found in the morning drowned in the same pond in which were several geese, and it was supposed, that in the night, the fox swam into the pond to devour the geese, but was attacked by the gander, which being the most powerful in its own element, buffeted the fox with its wings about the head till it was drowned.
HEN PARTRIDGE.—A hen partridge came out of a ditch,
the year than the common fowl or even the pheasant, which latter, however, roosts in trees, but generally either in warm fir-trees, or in sheltered situations in woods.-ED.
* It is a beautiful arrangement of Providence that guinea-fowls, which are African birds, and deposit their eggs on the ground, shculd have the shells so hard that the common snakes of the country cannot break them. They may, indeed, remove some of them from the Lest, but in order to make up for this deficiency, the guinea-fowl lays more eggs than any other bird.—ED.
and ran along shivering with her wings, and crying out as if wounded and unable to get from us. While the dam acted this distress, the boy who attended me saw her brood, that was small and unable to fly, run for shelter into an old foxearth under the bank. So wonderful a power is instinct.*
It is not uncommon to see an old partridge feign itself wounded, and run along on the ground fluttering and crying, before either dog or man, to draw them away from its helpless unfledged young ones.
I have seen it often; and once in particular, I saw a remarkable instance of the old bird's solicitude to save its brood. As I was hunting with a young pointer, the dog ran on a brood of very small partridges; the old bird cried, Huttered, and ran tumbling along, just before the dog's nose, till she had drawn him to a considerable distance, when she took wing and flew still farther off, but not out of the field : on this the dog returned to me, near which
young ones lay concealed in the grass, which the old bird no sooner perceived, than she flew back again to us, settled just before the dog's nose again, and, by rolling and tumbling about, drew off his attention from her
and thus preserved her brood a second time. I have also seen, when a kite has been hovering over a covey of young partridges, the old birds fly up at the bird of prey, screaming and fighting with all their might, to preserve their brood.
A HYBRID PHEASANT.—Lord Stawell sent me, from the great lodge in the Holt, a curious bird for my inspection. It was found by the spaniels of one of his keepers in a coppice, and shot on the wing. The shape, hair, and habit of the bird, and the scarlet ring round the eyes, agreed well with the appearance of a cock pheasant; but then the head and neck, and breast and belly, were of a glossy black; and
* It is, no doubt, a wonderful instinct, and at the same time a proof how strongly Providence has implanted in animals the love of their young, which neither fear nor the natural love of self-preservation seems to lessen. Mr. Markwick’s remarks on the fact mentioned by Mr. White are highly interesting to every lover of naturo.-Ed.