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THE NUTHATCH, OR NUTJOBBER,
Is less than a chaffinch. The head, neck, and beak are of an ash colour; the sides under the wings red; the throat and breast of a pale yellow; the chin is white, and the feathers under the tail are red, with white tips. He feeds upon nuts, which he hoards in the hollow of a tree: it is pleasing to see this bird fetch a nut out of the hole, place it fast in a chink, and, standing above it with his head downwards, striking it with all his might, break the shell, and catch up the kernel. He feeds also upon flies and other small insects. The hen is so attached to her covey, that, when disturbed from her nest, she flutters about the head of the depredator, and hisses like a snake. These are shy and solitary birds, and, like the woodpecker, they frequent woods, and run up and down the trees with surprising facility. They often move their tail in the manner of the wagtail. They do not migrate, but during the winter they approach nearer to inhabited places, and are sometimes seen in orchards and gardens. The female lays her eggs in holes of trees, frequently in those which have been deserted by the woodpecker. The young ones are said to afford a very delicate food.
MAKE a family of themselves. They are dispersed through most countries of the globe. They feed chiefly on insects, in search of which they run up and down the stems and branches of trees. The Wall Creeper, or Spider Catcher, is larger than a house sparrow. He has a long, slender, black bill; the head, neck, and back are of an ash colour; the breast white; the wings a compound of lead colour and red. He is a brisk and cheerful bird, and has a pleasant note. He builds his nest in the holes of trees.
The Ox-eye Creeper is not much bigger than a wren. He has a long, slender, sharp bill. The throat, breast, and belly are white; the head, back, and wings of a fox colour; the middle parts of the wings whitish above the eyes, on each side, is a white spot. It is commonly seen in England, and builds in hollow trees. The smaller the bird, in general, the greater number of eggs the female lays; the number of the Creeper's eggs is sometimes above twenty. It is pleasant to see the Creepers climb up the stem of a tree, with the greatest agility, in search of those small creatures, which, while feeding themselves on smaller ones, become the prey of these little birds. In America the Creeper hatches twice during the summer, and has generally from eighteen to twenty eggs at a time.
Is a small bird, measuring no more than twelve inches from the point of the bill to the end of the tail. The bill is sharp, black, and somewhat bending. The head is adorned with a very beautiful, large, moveable crest, a kind of bright halo, the radiation of which places the head nearly in the centre of a golden circle. This pleasing ornament, which the bird sets up or lets fall at pleasure, is composed of a double row of feathers, reaching from the bill to the nape of the neck, which is of a pale red. The breast is white, with black strokes tending downwards; the wings and back are varied with white and black cross lines. Its food consists chiefly of insects, with the remains of which its nest is sometimes so filled as to become extremely offensive. This beautifully crested bird is not very common in this country. It is a solitary bird, two of them being seldom seen together. In Egypt, where they are very
common, they are often seen in small flocks. The female is said to have two or three broods in the year; she makes no nest, but lays five or six eggs in the hollow of a tree, without any sort of preparation.
Is the Halcyon of the ancients, and his name recalls to our mind the most lively ideas. It was believed, that, as long as the female sat upon her eggs, the god of storms and tempests refrained from disturbing the calmness of the waves, and Halcyon days were for navigators of old times the most secure moment to perform their voyages.
But although this bears analogy to a natural coincidence between the time of brooding assigned to the Kingfishers, and a part of the year when the ocean is less tempestuous, yet Mythology would exercise her fancy, and turn into wonders that which was nothing else than the common course of nature.
This bird is nearly as small as a common sparrow, but the head and beak appear proportionally too big for the body. The bright blue of his back and wings
claims our admiration, as it changes into deep purple or lively green, according to the angles of light under which the bird presents himself to the eye. He is generally seen on the banks of rivers, for the purpose of seizing small fish, on which he subsists, and which he takes in amazing quantities, by balancing himself at a distance above the water for a certain time, and then darting on the fish with unerring aim. It dives perpendicularly into the water, where it continues several seconds, and then brings up the fish, which it carries to land, beats to death, and afterwards swallows. When the bird cannot find a projecting bough, it sits on some stone near the brink, or even on the gravel; but the moment it perceives the fish, it takes a spring upward, of twelve or fifteen feet, and drops from that height upon its prey.
The Kingfisher lays its eggs, to the number of seven or more, in a hole in the bank of the river or stream that it frequents. Dr. Heysham had a female brought alive to him at Carlisle, by a boy, who said he had taken it the preceding night when sitting on its eggs. His information on the subject was, that "having often observed these birds frequent a bank upon the river Peteril, he had watched them carefully, and at last he saw them go into a small hole in the bank. The hole was too narrow to admit his hand; but, as it was made in soft mould, he easily enlarged it. It was upwards of half a yard long: at the end of it the eggs, which were six in number, were placed upon the bare mould, without the smallest appearance of a nest." The eggs were considerably larger than those of the yellow-hammer, and of a transparent white colour. It appears, from a still later account than this, that the direction of the holes is always upward; that they are enlarged at the end, and have there a kind of bedding formed of the bones of small fish, and some other substances, evidently the castings of the parent ani