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though it weighed three pounds three ounces and a half, * the weight of a large full-grown cock pheasant, yet there was no sign of any spurs on the legs, as is usual with all grown cock pheasants, who have long ones. The legs and feet were naked of feathers, and therefore it could be nothing of the grouse kind. In the tail were no long, bending feathers, such as cock pheasants usually have, and are characteristic of the sex.
The tail was much shorter than the tail of a hen pleasant, and blunt and square at the end. The back, wingfeathers, and tail, were all of a pale russet, curiously streaked, somewhat like the upper parts of a hen partridge. I returned it with my verdict, that it was probably a spurious, or hybrid hen-bird, bred between a cock pheasant and some domestic fowl. When I came to talk with the keeper who brought it, he told me that some pea-hens had been known last summer to haunt the coppices and coverts where this ule
Mr. Elmer, of Farnham, the famous game-painter, was employed to take an exact copy of this curious bird.
N.B. It ought to be mentioned, that some good judges have imagined this bird to have been a stray grouse or black-cock; it is, however, to be observed, that Mr. W: remarks, that its legs and feet were naked, whereas those of the grouse are feathered to the toes.
WHITE. Mr. Latham observes, that "pea-hens, after they have done laying, sometimes assume the plumage of the male bird,” and has given a figure of the male-feathered pea-hen now to be seen in the Leverian Museum ; and M. Salerne remarks, that “the hen pheasant, when she has done laying and sitting, will get the plumage of the male.” May not this hybrid pheasant, as Mr. White calls it, be a bird of this kind ? that is, an old hen pheasant which has just begun to assume the plumage of the cock.t
* Hen pheasants usually weigh only two pounds ten ounces. + See the account by John Hunter, in the Philosophical Transact. Art. xxx. 1760. “ The subject of the account is a hen pheasant with the feathers of the cock. The author concludes, that it is most probable that all those hen pheasants which are found wild, and have the feathers of the cock, were formerly perfect hens, but that now they are changed with age, and perhaps by certain constitutional circumstances.” It appears also, that the hen, taking
LAND-RAIL.—A man brought me a land-rail, or daker-hen, a bird so rare in this district that we seldom see more than one or two in a season, and these only in autumn. This is deemed a bird of passage by all the writers; yet, from its formation, seems to be poorly qualified for migration; for its wigs are short, and placed so forward, and out of the centre of gravity, that it flies in a very heavy and embarrassed manner, with its legs hanging down; and can hardly be sprung a second time, as it runs very fast, and seems to depend more on the swiftness of its feet than on its flying.
When we came to draw it, we found the entrails so soft and tender, that in appearance they might have been dressed like the
of a woodcock. The craw, or crop, was small and lank, containing a mucus ; the gizzard thick and strong, and filled with small shell-snails, some whole, and many ground to pieces, through the attrition which is occasioned by the muscular force and motion of that intestine. We saw no gravels arnong the food; perhaps the shell snails might perform the functions of gravels or pebbles, and might grind one another. Land-rails used to abound formerly, I remember, in the low, wet bean fields of Christian Malford, in North Wilts, and in the meadows near Paradise Gardens, at Oxford, where I have often heard them cry, crex, crex. The bird mentioned above weighed 7} oz., was fat and tender, and in flavour like the flesh of a woodcock. The liver was very large and delicate.
Land-rails are more plentiful with us than in the neighbourhood of Selborne. I have found four brace in an afternoon, and a friend of mine lately shot nine in two adjoining fields; but I never saw them in any other season than the autumn.
That it is a bird of passage* there can be little doubt,
the plumage of the cock, is not confined to the pheasant alone ;
takes place also with the pea-hen, as may be seen in the specimen belonging to Lady Tynte, which was in the Leverian Museum. After many broods, this hen took much of the plumage of the cock, and also the fine train belonging to that bird. See also Montagu's Ornithological Dictionary, Art. Pheasant. Rev. J. Mitford.
* The land-rail or corn-crake is a bird of passage, and a simmer visitor to this country. When in the neiglıbourhood of Swansea some years ago, I was assured by a gentleman residing near that place, that he discovered in a field