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observed and better known than is the case with any other Order.
On this account it will manifestly be superfluous for me to enlarge on their general habits, which are known to all: I propose therefore to confine my remarks in this paper, to facts and occurrences not so universally acknowledged, touching very lightly on the ordinary economy of the Order.
Briefly then; the characteristics of the Ground birds are these. They are all granivorous, though they vary this hard diet with softer or more succulent food, as the seasons and opportunities offer. Their beaks adapted to the food on which they principally subsist, are hard and horny, the upper mandible arched and the tip blunt their heads are generally small, and their bodies large and full; their wings short and weak in proportion to their heavy bodies; and their legs large and strong. But the real distinguishing characteristic of the Order, which indeed is, I believe, the only general mark of distinction peculiar to this group, is an anatomical one, and is derived from the digestive organs. It may be described in plain terms as a very large widening of the esophagus or gullet, which thus forms a crop, and lies when distended, equally on both sides of the neck.
In regard to their habits, they live principally on the ground, where they seek their food, where most of them nest, and rear their young; from which they are often unwilling to rise, impeded by the shortness of wing in proportion to the bulkiness of body; but over which they can run with considerable swiftness and ease. They will however on occasion take wing, and then their flight is strong, rapid, and continued, though heavy and somewhat laborious. In short, unless when startled, they for the most part prefer to seek safety in running rather than in flying. To this end we shall find in the more typical members of this Order a development of limb and a strength of muscle well calculated for speed and endurance; while the feet are constructed upon a plan widely different from what we see in other birds: "the toes being short, and strengthened by a membrane connecting them at the base; with the hind toe either entirely wanting, or but imperfectly developed. Where this latter does exist, it is not articulated upon the same
plane as the other toes (as is the case with the preceding Orders), but upon the tarsus, at a height greater or less according to the running power of the species." It is true that this peculiar formation of the foot impedes the members of this Order from grasping a perch with the same firmness and security as the regular perchers, and for this reason most of them roost upon the ground.
Such are the more prominent characteristics of the Ground birds; I pass on now to describe the four families and their respective species of which this Order is composed.
COLUMBIDE (The Doves).
It will at once be seen that the Doves occupy an intermediate place between the Perchers and the Ground birds; and are the connecting link, partaking of the peculiarities of both: thus, though they feed on the ground, they perch readily on trees; and though they walk with ease and even celerity, yet they have a strong rapid and protracted flight. Thus we pass gradually and almost insensibly from the true Perchers to the typical Ground birds, for nature abhors an abrupt wrench as much as a vacuum, and all is orderly, gentle and harmonious in her arrangement, and we slide on from order to order, and from family to family, and genus and species in successive steps, with no break to disconnect the regular links in our continuous chain. This is sufficiently perceptible in the Doves, even in the limited number of species which belong to this country, and almost all of which (or four out of five), are known in Wiltshire. But if we were to extend our observations through the multitudinous species and even genera which inhabit other countries, we should see this rule very much more applicable, for the Pigeons form a vast staircase of species leading from the trees to the ground; some being thoroughly arboreal, living and nesting on the trees, and enjoying a rapidity of flight almost unsurpassed whilst others at the opposite end of the list are as completely terrestrial; with wings as short and bodies as heavy, and as incapable of protracted flight as our domestic poultry, and indeed
Selby's Illustrations of British Ornithology, vol. i., p, 103.
distinguished from the rest of their tribe by the appellation of Pigeon fowls.
To return however to our Wiltshire species, all of which belong to one genus, and partake of the same nature. We shall find them gentle, timid, shy, of powerful wing, of slender bill, and of short leg. They feed on the ground, and both sexes alternately take part in incubating the two eggs which is the normal complement of the nest. Their notes are singularly sad and melancholy, and though they vary much in the different species, all partake of this mournful plaintive character, which however is by no means unpleasing, but on the contrary, rather attractive, soothing and pleasant. Their conjugal fidelity is proverbial, and from the days of Noah they have been honoured as the harbingers of peace and love, both by Pagans of Rome and Greece as sacred to Venus, and by Christians as emblematic of the Holy Spirit. I am bound to add that at certain seasons they are a destructive race of birds, making great havoc in the pea fields, and consuming an astonishing amount of grain but while I concede thus much in regard to the injury they do to the farmer, it must not be forgotten on the other hand the essential service they render him, in the millions of seeds of a noxious character which they consume. This family is remarkable for the habit in which all the members which compose it share, of being among the first to retire to roost, and the last to leave their night-quarters in the morning.
"Ring-Dove." (Columba palumbus.) First and foremost of its congeners, as the largest of the European species, and commonly dispersed amongst us, wherever trees afford it a shelter, the WoodPigeon claims our notice. In some parts of England it is known as the Quest or Cushat Dove; but the Wiltshire labourers invariably call it in our fine provincial dialect the "Quisty." During the autumn beech-mast and acorns form the principle part of its diet, when its flesh is highly esteemed for the table: but no sooner does severe weather compell it to subsist on the tops of turnips, than it becomes strong and rank and uneatable. It is abundant throughout the county, and except when breeding, is proverbially wild and shy. It lives with us throughout the year, and congregates in
winter in large flocks, which frequent the open stubble fields of our downs, as well as the pasture lands of the vales: and when it retires to the plantations to breed in early spring, its soft musical cooing note coo-coo-roo-0-0-0, is a complacent sound to which all listen with delight.
"Stock-Dove." (Columba anas.) Though by no means a rare bird, this species has been much overlooked by ordinary observers, and confounded with its congener, last described. It is however to be met with sparingly in most of our large woods in this county, and may be readily distinguished from the Wood-Pigeon by its smaller size, and by the absence of the distinctive white ring on the neck which has given its name to the Ring-Dove. It derives its specific name anas from the vinous hue of the plumage of the neck and Stock-Dove from its habit of building on the pollard head or stock of a tree. The habits of both species are alike.
"Rock-Dove." (Columba livia.) This is the true wild pigeon, the origin of all the numerous varieties which inhabit our dovecots, and have been domesticated amongst us for ages. Its natural dwelling is amongst the caves and crevices of rocks, more particularly on the sea coast: but it occasionally comes inland, and used to breed in the rocks near Roundway, whence the late Mr. Withers, the skilful taxidermist of Devizes, frequently received a specimen for preservation. It is of very rapid flight, and feeds like its congeners, in the stubble and corn fields, as well as in the meadows. It derives its specific name livia from the lighter colour which distinguishes it from other species; and it may also be easily recognized by the two distinct black bars which traverse its wings. In the localities which it most affects, in the cliffs which border so many of our coasts, it may be found in large flocks: but in north Africa and Egypt, the prodigous numbers which literally swarm in certain districts, are perfectly astonishing: in proof of which I may add, that in a couple of hours shooting it was easy to bag forty head; and that on one occasion, when I was requested by the dragoman to procure pigeons for the commissariat, a lucky shot with a green cartridge into a flock feeding on the ground, resulted in picking up twenty birds, which at once filled the basket, to the inexpressible
disgust of the Arab attendant, whose duty it was to carry the load through a long days march, and under a tropical sun to the Nile boat. The late Mr. Waterton pointed out that the Rock-Dove, though it would freely perch by day, was never known to roost on trees during the night, nor to pass the night in the open air, except in cases of the greatest emergency: showing its natural propensity to retire to holes and caves in the rocks; hence its great attachment to the dovecot in which it is bred, which it seldom deserts without great provocation. There are instances of the lower stage of church towers, immediately below the bells, having been originally built for a Columbarium; of which we have one example at Collingbourn in this county, and probably there may be others of which I am not aware. Another instance occurs at the tower adjoining the ruined chapel of Charter House Hinton near Bath; the lower part of which was originally intended for the priest's residence, and the birds dwelt above him. In both these cases the east, north and west sides are fitted up with pigeon holes, and a small square opening in the south wall, admitted the birds.
"Turtle-Dove." (Columba turtur.) This beautiful little species is the only migrant of the family with which we in this county are acquainted. It does not come to us till the beginning of May, and leaves us early in September: but during that short period it abounds in those spots which please its tastes, though it is fastidious in its choice, and is by no means universally distributed. In my own plantations on the downs it is extremely abundant, and its annual appearance in the spring is to me a welcome reminder of approaching summer. It is very much smaller than its congeners, has a delicate appearance, and its note is peculiarly plaintive. Like all others of the Dove tribe, it flocks in autumn, though seldom in considerable numbers: I have however seen above a hundred feeding together in a corn-field. There is a beautiful legend in Scandinavia respecting the Turtle dove, not unlike that of the Swallow, quoted in a former page from Lloyd's admirable work. "When our Blessed Saviour was crucified, the Turtle dove for a while hovered around the fatal tree, and at length perched there; when looking mournfully down on the Sufferer, it sighed deeply, and gave utter