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history of the birds of so distant and southern a region as Carniola would be new and interesting. I could wish to see the work, and hope to get it sent down. Dr. Scopoli is physician to the wretches that work in the quicksilver mines of that district.
When you talked of keeping a reed-sparrow, and giving it seeds, I could not help wondering; because the reed-sparrow which I mentioned to you (passer arundinaceus minor Rail *) is a soft-billed bird ; and most probably migrates hence before winter; whereas the bird you kept (passer torquatus Raiit) abides all the year, and is a thick-billed bird. I question whether the latter be much of a songster; but in this matter I want to be better informed. The former has a variety of hurrying notes, and sings all night. Some part of the song of the former, I suspect, is attributed to the latter. We have plenty of the soft-billed sort; which Mr. Pennant had entirely left out of his “ British Zoology," till I reminded him of his omission. I
I have somewhat to advance on the different manners in which different birds fly and walk; but as this is a subject that I have not enough considered, and is of such a nature as not to be contained in a small space, I shall say nothing further about it at present.
No doubt the reason why the sex of birds in their first plumage is so difficult to be distinguished is, as you say, “ because they are not to pair and discharge their parental functions till the ensuing spring."
* Sedge-warbler, Salicaria phragmitis, Selby.
See Letter Lxxxv., to Mr. Barrington, August 7, 1778.
As colours seem to be the chief external sexual distinction in many birds, these colours do not take place till sexual attachments commence. The case is the same with quadrupeds; among whom, in their younger days, the sexes differ but little; but, as they advance to maturity, horns and shaggy manes, beards and brawny necks, &c. &c. strongly discriminate the male from the female. We may instance still farther in our own species, where a beard and stronger features are usually characteristic of the male sex; but this sexual diversity does not take place in earlier life; for a beautiful youth shall be so like a beautiful girl that the difference shall not be discernible:
“Quem si puellarum insereres choro,
HOR. (11. v. 21-24.) “A fellow who, if you put him among a parcel of girls, the difficulty of distinguishing him from them would puzzle a very quick-sighted host, thanks to his long hairs and smooth ambiguous face.”
SELBORNE, May 21, 1770.
pale HE French, I think, in general are
strangely prolix in their natural history.
| What Linnæus says with respect to inASSIS sects holds good in every other branch : “Verbositas præsentis sæculi, calamitas artis.” “The verbosity of the present generation is the calamity of
Pray how do you approve of Scopoli's new work ? as I admire his “ Entomologia," I long to see it.
I forgot to mention in my last letter (and had not room to insert it in the former) that the male moose, in rutting time, swims from island to island, in the lakes and rivers of north America, in pursuit of the females. My friend, the chaplain, saw one killed in the water as it was on that errand in the river St. Lawrence; it was a monstrous beast, he told me; but he did not take the dimensions.
When I was last in town our friend Mr. Barrington most obligingly carried me to see many curious sights. As you were then writing to him about horns, he carried me to see many strange and wonderful specimens. There is, I remember, at Lord Pem
broke's, at Wilton, an horn room furnished with more than thirty different pairs; but I have not seen that house lately.
Mr. Barrington showed me many astonishing collections of stuffed and living birds from all quarters of the world. After I had studied over the latter for a time, I remarked that every species almost that came from distant regions, such as South America, the coast of Guinea, &c. were thick-billed birds of the loxia and fringilla genera; and no motacillæ or muscicape, were to be met with. When I came to consider, the reason was obvious enough; for the hard-billed birds subsist on seeds which are easily carried on board, while the soft-billed birds, which are supported by worms and insects, or, what is a succedaneum for them, fresh raw meat, can meet with neither in long and tedious voyages. It is from this defect of food that our collections (curious as they are) are defective, and we are deprived of some of the most delicate and lively genera.
SELBORNE, Aug. 1, 1770.
marTOU saw, I find, the ring-ousels' again
among their native crags; and are far
ther assured that they continue resident s in those cold regions the whole year. From whence then do our ring-ousels migrate so regularly every September, and make their appearance again, as if in their return, every April? They are more early this year than common, for some were seen at the usual hill on the fourth of this month.
An observing Devonshire gentleman tells me that they frequent some parts of Dartmoor, and breed there; but leave those haunts about the end of September or beginning of October, and return again about the end of March.
Another intelligent person assures me that they breed in great abundance all over the peak of Derby, and are called there tor-ousels ; withdraw in October and November, and return in spring. This information seems to throw some light on my new migra