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ANECDOTES OF BIRDS.
LESSON XIII. Anecdotes of Birds.
1. THAT birds, like our more sedentary and domestic quadrupeds, are capable of exhibiting attachment to those who feed and attend them, is undeniable. Deprived of other society, some of our more intelligent species, particularly the thrushes, soon learn to seek out the company of their friends or protectors of the human species.
2. The brown thrush and mocking-bird, become, in this way, extremely familiar, cheerful, and capriciously playful; the former, in particular, courts the attention of his master, follows his steps, complains when neglected, flies to him when suffered to be at large, and sings and reposes gratefully perched on his hand; in short, by all his actions, he appears capable of real and affectionate attachment; and is jealous of every rival, particularly any other bird, which he persecutes from his presence with unceasing hatred.
3. His petulant dislike to particular objects of less moment is also displayed by various tones and gestures, which soon become sufficiently intelligible to those who are near him, as well as his tones of gratulation and satisfaction. His language of fear and surprise could never be mistaken; and an imitation of his gutteral, low tsherr! tsherr! on these occasions, answers as a premonitory warning when any danger awaits him from the sly approach of cat or squirrel.
4. As I have now descended, as I may say, to the actual biography of one of these birds, which I raised and kept uncaged for some time, I may also add, that beside a playful turn for mischief and interruption, in which he would sometimes snatch off the paper on which I was writing, he had a good degree of curiosity, and was much surprised one day by a large springing beetle, which I had caught and placed in a tumbler.
5. On all such occasions, his looks of capricious surprise. were very amusing; he cautiously approached the glass, with fanning and closing wings, and in an under tone confessed his surprise at the address and jumping motions of the huge insect. At length he became bolder, and perceiving that it had relation to his ordinary prey of beetles, he, with some hesitation, ventured to snatch at the prisoner, between temerity and playfulness. But when really alarmed or of
fended, he instantly flew to his loftiest perch, forbid all friendly approaches, and for some time kept up his low and angry tsherr.
6. A late naturalist, the venerable William Bartram, was also much amused by the intelligence displayed by one of this species, and relates, that being fond of hard crumbs of bread, he found, when they grated his throat, a very rational remedy by soaking them in his vessel of water; he likewise, by experience, discovered, that the painful prick of the wasps, on which he fed, could be obviated by extracting their stings.
7. But it would be too tedious and minute to follow out these glimmerings of intelligence, which exist as well in birds as in our most sagacious quadrupeds. The remarkable talent of a parrot, for imitating the tones of the human voice, has long been familiar. The most extraordinary and well authenticated account of the actions of one of the common ash-colored species, is that of a bird which Colonel O'Kelley bought for a hundred guineas at Bristol.
8. This individual not only repeated a great number of sentences, but answered many questions, and was able to whistle a variety of tunes. While thus engaged, it beat time with all the appearance of science, and possessed a judgment or ear so accurate, that, if by chance it mistook a note, it would revert to the bar where the mistake was made, correct itself, and, still beating regular time, go again through the whole with perfect exactness.
9. So celebrated was this bird, that an obituary notice of its death appeared in the "General Evening Post," for the 9th of October, 1802. In this account, it is added, that besides her great musical faculties, she could express her wants articulately, and give her orders in a manner approaching rationality. She was, at the time of her decease, supposed to be more than thirty years of age. The Colonel was repeatedly offered five hundred guineas a year for the bird, by persons who wished to make a public exhibition of her; but, out of tenderness for his favorite, he constantly refused the offer.
10. The story related by Goldsmith, of a parrot belonging to King Henry the Seventh, is very amusing, and possibly true. It was kept in a room in the palace of Westminster, overlooking the Thames, and had naturally enough learned
ANECDOTES OF BIRDS.
a store of boatmen's phrases. One day, sporting somewhat incautiously, Poll fell into the river, but had rationality enough, it appears, to make a profitable use of the words she had learned, and accordingly vociferated, "A boat! twenty pounds for a boat!" This welcome sound, reaching the ears of a waterman, he brought assistance to the parrot, and delivered it to the king, with a request to be paid the round sum so readily promised by the bird; but his Majesty, dissatisfied with the exorbitant demand, agreed, at any rate, to give him what the bird should now award; in answer to which reference, Poll shrewdly cried, “Give the kuave a groat."
11. The story given by Locke, in his "Essay on the Human Understanding," though approaching closely to rationality, and apparently improbable, may not be a greater effort than could have been accomplished by Colonel O'Kelly's bird. This parrot had attracted the attention of Prince Maurice, the Governor of Brazil, who had a curiosity to witness its powers.
12. The bird was introduced into the room, where sat the Prince, in company with several Dutchmen. On viewing them, the parrot exclaimed, in Portuguese, "What a company of white men are here." Pointing to the Prince, they asked, "Who is that man?" to which the parrot replied, "Some general or other." The Prince now asked, "From what place do you come?" the answer was, "From Marignan.' "To whom do you belong?" It answered, "To a Portuguese." "What do you do there?" To which the parrot replied, "I look after chickens." The Prince, now laughing, exclaimed, "You look after chickens!" To which Poll pertinently answered, "Yes, I; and I know well enough how to do it ;" clucking at the same instant in the manner of a calling brood-hen.
13. The docility of birds in catching sounds, depends, of course, upon the perfection of their voice and hearing, assisted also by no inconsiderable power of memory. The imitative actions of passiveness in some small birds, such as oldfinches, linnets, and canaries, are, however, quite as cuous as their expression of sounds. A Sieur Roman exhibited in England some of these birds, one of which simulated death, and was held up by the tail or claw, without showing any active signs of life. A second balanced itself
upon its head, with its claws in the air. A third imitated a milkmaid going to market, with pails on its shoulders. A fourth, mimicked a Venetian girl, looking out of a window. A fifth acted the soldier, and mounted guard as a sentinel. A sixth was a cannonier, with a cap on its head, a fire-lock on its shoulder, and, with a match in its claw, it discharged a small cannon. The same bird also acted as if wounded; was wheeled, in a little barrow, as it were, to the hospital; after which, it flew away before the company. The seventh turned a kind of windmill, and the last bird stood amidst a discharge of small fire-works, without showing any signs of fear.
14. A similar exhibition, in which twenty-four canary birds were the actors, was also shown in London in 1820, by a Frenchman, named Dujon; one of these suffered itself to be shot at, and falling down, as if dead, was put into a little wheelbarrow, and conveyed away by one of its comrades.
LESSON XIV. To a Wild Violet, in March.
1. My pretty flower, how cam'st thou here?
The brown leaves tell of winter's breath,
2. The naked forest shivering sighs,-
3. No tree unfolds its timid bud,
Chill pours the hill-side's lurid flood,
4. Spring hath not scattered yet her flowers,
THE CHAMELEON AND PORCUPINE. 53
5. Thou springest here to man unknown,
Sweet flower, thou tellest well thy birth,
Thou cam❜st from Heaven, though soiled in earth.
6. Thou tell'st of Him whose boundless power
As all the orbs in Heaven that move.
LESSON XV. The Chameleon and Porcupine; a Fable.
1. A CHAMELEON once met a porcupine, and complained, that he had taken great pains make friends with everybody, but, strange to say, he had entirely failed, and now he could not be sure that he had a sincere friend in the world. 2. "And by what means," said the porcupine, "have you sought to make friends?" By flattery," said the chameleon, "I have adapted myself to all I met; humored the follies and the foibles of every one. In order to make people believe that I liked them, I have imitated their manners, as if I considered them models of perfection. So far have I gone in this, that it has become a habit with me, and now my very skin takes the hue and complexion of the thing that happens to be nearest. Yet all this has been in vain, for everybody calls me a turn-coat, and I am generally considered selfish, hypocritical, and base."
3. "And no doubt you deserve all this," said the porcupine. "I have taken a different course, but I must con ess that I have as few friends as you. I adopted the rule to resent every injury, nay, every encroachment upon my dignity. I would allow no one even to touch me, without sticking into him one or more of my sharp quills. I determined to take care of number one; and the result has been, that, while I have vindicated my rights, I have created a universal dislike. I am called Old Touch-me-not, and, if I am not as much despised, I am even more disliked, than you, Sir Chameleon."
4. An owl, who was sitting by and heard this conversation, putting his head a little on one side, remarked as follows: