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the words "Hook it, hook it!" as a hint to escape, whilst the shriller cry of the duck inquiringly replies " Where, where?"
Amongst other species which use the voice in company, and seem to enjoy the chorus, the lark may be mentioned, as it usually utters its sharp " chirrup," "chirrup," on taking wing. The same note, or one vastly like it, is used for encouragement or to incite watchfulness when a flock in loose order are near a harrier hawking close to the ground, or perched on some commanding stone or ti tree. When the blight birds (Zosterops)—which might safely adopt as a motto "Fruges consumere nati"—crowd about a tree, peering through the leaves, thrusting their sharp beaks into the fresh pulp of luscious plums, they constantly twitter, as they also do when shifting to fresh food; the call-note, not unlike the chirrup of the sparrow, is always quickly answered. Their power of song as yet does not seem to be appreciated as it deserves. I have heard individuals sing their sweet low notes in a way that would charm the most exacting bird-fancier that ever gathered duckweed. The notes of the bell-bird, as it trips up and down the scale with a cough at the end, are too well known to need further notice; one of their concerts, with a full chorus, is a delightful treat that sometimes rewards the early riser. The graceful parrakeet utters a gratulatory note as the flock hastily assembles to some favourite food, as on the stooks of an oat-field; this differs from their call when on the wing, as much as it does from that low confidential murmur in which I have heard a pair indulge about nesting-time. The kaka in his leafy domain utters his harsh grunt of satisfaction as he and his mates scramble about the bending boughs that yield a honeyed food. How shall I attempt to describe the song of the tui, with its sudden bursts of melody, ringing the changes upon notes merry, plaintive or harsh, in rapid sequence, as though the sympathetic voice felt and expressed every varying emotion that chanced to stir the lively bird? The attitudes assumed during the course of its recitative are well worth watching, although they may seem to detract somewhat from the pleasure of hearing it.
The kaka sounds his alarm harshly, hopping restlessly from bough to bough; nor does his warning cease whilst on the wing, gliding to safer quarters. In the moist Fagus forests, whose glades are carpeted with the deepest moss, the beautiful green wren sounds his cheepy cry, denoting danger, with a most confident air. Away out on the open ground or sandy river-bed, how often does the "twit, twit," of the banded dotterel, or the sharply-uttered "ti-winkle, ti-winkle," of the redbill or oystercatcher, help to moderate the weight of the sportsman's bag? the paradise drake lifts his head, sounds his "kowonke," from a fast walk he hastens to a run, and at length sails away with his shriller-voiced mate.
Very noticeable is the faculty which birds possess of hushing their young to silence, and of bidding them hide at a moment's warning, perhaps by the sound of a single note. Amongst some species of waders this obedience to parental guidance is most observable; young stilts, plovers or redbills that have been rambling over their feeding-ground, at the sound of alarm suddenly seek cover, and only after the most careful scrutiny may be found lying perdu behind some sheltering stone. Perhaps the most monotonous amongst all the calls of our young birds is that of the large gull (L. dominicanus): when nearly fully grown—about the months of April and May—it follows the old bird with untiring perseverance, clamouring for food with a long squealing cry. 1 have heard it on the beach, whilst it has been wheeling round and round to reach its parent's bill, in hopes of a supply, till the sound has become quite tiresome to listen to. By way of contrast to the patience of the old gull, it may be noted that the young of the Petroica when full grown, as it is by December, is driven off by both parents with something like harshness both of tone and gesture. The fierceness which is displayed by the common tern (S. antarctica) in defence of its young has been already noticed; a similar degree of courage is met with in the case of the falcons and the little gray warbler (GerygoneJlaviventris). On nearing a taratah (Piltosporum eugenioides), where some young warblers were perched, the old birds commenced a furious attack, darting close to the face, precisely after the manner of the common tern, and, allowing for size and power, uttering a similar jarring scream to that bold bird. With the falcons the utmost perseverance is exhibited in driving away a foe. In December last, up the gorge of the Lawrence, a pair of bush hawks (Falco ferox) assailed one of my sons and myself for a space of two hours whilst in the neighbourhood of their young; then the usual swiftly-uttered "kli, kli, kli, kli" was even more rapidly sounded, whilst its tones were savage and threatening. The young at the time were able to fly some little distance, yet only one moved once, that we could observe, from the instant the note of alarm was given. The bronzed-winged cuckoo, or whistler (Chrysococcyx), always makes known his presence with an oft-repeated whistle; the long-tailed koekoea announces his arrival with deep-breathed note: these love-calls are unlike all other of our bird-sounds. The wild scream of the weka-rail tells us of his whereabouts from a considerable distance; and this most confident of rails is as noisy by night as it is by day. When sitting still in the bush I have seen a weka silently approach and give notice of my presence by a strange note, which, although delivered within a few feet of where I was sitting, sounded like wood being struck at a great distance off.
The remarkable notes of the owls must not be passed over silently; for the name at least, if not the appearance, of the morepork (Athene Nova-Zelandia) is well known throughout the colony. Australian settlers distinguish a podargus by a similar name, whence the colonial epithet (whether of New Zealand or Australian origin is uncertain), applied to a dawdling person, who is often described as " a regular old more-pork." The call of the wekau (A. albifacies) is vociferous, wild, often startling from their heavy slumbers the inmates of the mountain huts. Probably the clamour of this genus, like that of Falco, is a means of startling some of their prey into motion. The large owl is said to have likewise a call somewhat similar to the more-pork, but much more gruff in tone. Laughingjackass is one of the names conferred on the wekau; this distinction is conferred on an Australian bird as well as by some of our seabirds amongst the petrels or Procellaridae.
When the south-east wind blows on our east coast, bringing with it thick hazy weather,—when curling mists drift up the harbours and hide away in their vaporous mantles hill and mountain, shearing the landscape of its fair proportions,—the curious note of a petrel may be heard from dusky eve till early morn, not only about the harbours and estuaries, but far up the river-beds to the gorges in the vast mountain chain of the southern Alps.
Amongst the most silent of our birds may be named the shags (Pelecanida), the harrier, the heron, and the grebe, whose voices, except during the breeding-season, are rarely heard. The squeal of the harrier is most infrequent, considering what a very common bird it is. In the breeding season the scream is heard from a bird soaring high in air, or frightened from its nest, or suddenly driven off its prey, occasionally only from a bird on the wing hawking over burnt ground, which has disclosed perhaps an unusual abundance of lizards. The cries of birds in several cases appear to be more or less dependent upon atmospheric changes. At such times gulls become vociferous, restless, soaring aloft with rapid unsteady course, and wekas are very noisy; on the other hand, many species are silenced altogether by bad weather. The thrush, of many notes, utters some so like those of other birds as to become rather puzzling, should one try to fix on the unseen performer. The flute-like mellow pipe of the wattle-bird (Callaeas) is unrivalled for its sweetness. The little creeper (Acanihisitta) never moves without emitting its tiny twitter." The kingfisher is generally silent, except during the breeding season, or its note is used to intimidate, either in attempting to seize a post already occupied by one of its kind or when defending its position from an attempted intrusion; thus our halcyon differs in habit from the kingfisher of the old country, which is said to utter its cry whenever it takes wing.
Notwithstanding the gush of song which in summer-tide salutes the cool dawn before the rosy hues have fired the eastern sky, many of our little melodists retire late to rest, such as Anthornis, Petroica, Gerygone and Zosterops, and their lingering notes may be heard long after sundown.
Often is observation made upon the readiness with which some species of our native birds learn to imitate the human voice, an accomplishment which is also popular; yet, as an exhibition, the result of long practice and frequent repetitions, I am inclined to place it in the same category as a man's imitation of the crowing of a cock. I have known a grave senator mimic "the cock's shrill clarion" well enough to threaten the harmony of a farm-yard. Some persecuting enthusiasts find that the kaka, parakeet and tni are the most apt to acquire this power of uttering sounds that bear a fancied resemblance to words.
In the foregoing notes the voice of the large gull has been more than once mentioned. On the mud-flats or sand-banks, when a small flock of five or six of these birds are met together, after a few deep-toned barks or growls, they hold a regular " tangi," and utter most dismal wails or yells, or what seems like a dialogue or discussion takes place, very often received by the auditory with mild barks that might well pass for applause or "loud and continued cheers." This habit, not confined to the large gull, is also possessed by the smaller species, tara-punga, although the latter is less noisy. The terns, too, meet in parliament on the shore; and a solemn conclave of oystercatchers may sometimes be noticed standing in unusual repose, at intervals only uttering a shrill pipe, and this, when, close at hand, the godwits are working in their tripod fashion to extract a dainty morsel from the ooze.
Attention has already been directed to the fact that in the alpine districts of New Zealand the notes of the birds are pitched in a higher and richer tone than in the valley, and in some of the most elevated woods which the bell-bird frequents we have found the note or brief song of the hen bird especially delightful. Whence this result? Is it due to the effects of inspiring the keen mountain air? to the quality of its food being climatically altered? If we notice some of the fruits and berries from which it derives some portion of its support, we shall find that the black berries of Aristotelia racemosa are represented in the alpine fastnesses by those of A. fruticosa, the pulpy fruit of Coriaria ruscifolia by that of C. thymifolia and C. angustissima, whilst the drupes of Coprosma lucida and those of many other species have their mountain representatives in C. cuneala, C. acerosa, C. linariifolia and others. Will the chemist tell us, from analyzing these fruits, that this change is enough to cause some modification in the muscular apparatus that modulates the tones issuing from the larynx? The scientific ornithologist would admit no specific difference after inspecting a score of skins; for length of feathers, colour of plumage, point out the bird as melanura.
As to the reason for the bell-bird's song being pitched in a higher key, it may perhaps be found in the fact that thick mists often envelope the mountain's side; that the bushes in the more elevated gullies are much scattered, small, and isolated. Hence the alpine note is fitted to meet the peculiar physical conditions of certain localities, by enabling the sexes to communicate with each other when collecting food at some distauce apart.
The power of imparting intelligence, as exercised by birds, must be obvious to anyone who is acquainted with the ordinary inmates of a poultry yard. In many feral species that have come under observation this faculty is quite as conspicuous as it is amongst many domesticated proteges. Last summer, for the first time, a few tuis appeared amongst the cherry trees in a garden up the gorge of the Ashburton, miles away from any bush frequented by the tui; for the first time cherries were tasted, the knowledge of their excellence was communicated, and the trees stripped by the