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industrious tuis. Not a month afterwards, when slowly sailing up the harbour, one of the children threw a piece of bread to a young gull (L. dominicamis), the only bird in sight: its bark of pleasure brought others, till then unseen, and the wake of our boat was enlivened by an irregular train of noisy attendants. Those species which do not launch lightly in the air when taking flight, we believe, may be ranked among the more silent birds, as, for instance, the cormorants; birds of this genus seem to need a fulcrum in order to rise upon the wing. The fleet halcyon, too, when its perch is a bough, and it leaves it to dash at its prey, the bough may be seen to vibrate for some time after it has been quitted. Both of these genera may be fairly classed with the nonvociferous tribes, notwithstanding that the halcyon indulges in a variety of expressive notes during the breeding season.
I now leave with regret the interesting study of bird-sounds, and trust that others will prosecute further observations; for there is much to be learnt by the field naturalist about their notes and calls, which would assist in revealing many interesting points in the history of the fauna. In conclusion, let a few words be recorded for the preservation of our native fauna. It is a work of difficulty, except with a few, to get folks interested in this subject; amidst the busy swarm of men pressing onward in the struggle for wealth or position, how few out of the entire mass would think of turning aside, and thus lose a fraction of the time devoted to the toilsome climb of the social ladder. To those who do give thought to the matter, who consider the changes which the settlement of a country necessarily entails on the physical conditions of that country, rendered evident by local climatic modifications patent to every observer—to those the task of bird-preservation presents a host of difficulties. In the first place, there is that vis inertice to be overcome,—that dead weight of inaction so difficult to move,—that lazily finds expression in the sentiment so often uttered, that the disappearance of the native fauna is the natural sequence of Anglo-Saxon colonisation. It is almost needless to observe, the inference is not. rendered truer, although it may gain greater credence, by much vain repetition. The most striking, not to say alarming, alterations that have rapidly followed the progress of European settlement in some districts are due to the fact that the conservation of forests is either much disregarded or entirely ignored. With the help of the drier nor'-wester, the grandest
SECOND SERIES—VOL. IX. 2 Y
fireworks—with scenic effects more brilliant and wonderful than the most skilful pyrotechnic display—may be enjoyed by any one who may happen to possess a few matches. With a box of these useful articles, which are far more effectual than the keenest American axes, national property to the value of many thousands of pounds sterling is annually disposed of. It may be a matter for surprise to foreigners that an amusement so costly to the many should be permitted for the gratification or enrichment of a few, entailing in its results, more or less immediate, the scarcity and enhanced value of timber and fuel, the necessity of irrigation, the erection of works for the conservation of rivers, the absolute loss of rich alluvial land, washed away by floods or swallowed up by hungry sands and single beds. The destructive results of timber burning and disforesting could be swelled into a very long list of evils that follow in its train, some of which are confessedly irremediable; it is sufficient for our purpose to point out one of the most serious obstacles to bird-preservation — one of the most active causes which has led to the increasing rarity of many species. These great fires, be it understood, usually take place at the very height and summer of the breeding season. To the naturalist, the mere mention of this fact is enough to show him that birds could not be taken at so great a disadvantage at any other time. Then there yet remains to be sipped, by the Meliphagidae, nectarine juices, viscid, transparent; insects, developed in their perfect form or less active larval state, are busy on their feeding ground, about which restless Certhiida? creep swiftly, using their searching probe-like tongues. The wealth of spring flowers has passed away, with all their varied beauty and fragrance; the burdened sprays, lately hung round with panicles or corymbs well stored with hidden honey, are now weighted with green drupes or berries, which, swelling with the warm breath of summer, give fair promise of rich harvests in the winter months, when, pinched by hunger, the wandering flocks follow the ripened fruits. This is the time when bush-fires are recklessly started on their wasteful errand. Driven by the force of furious nor'-westers, huge volumes of suffocating smoke invest the bending branches, crisp the parched leaves, and so prepare the forest for the roaring sea of flame that follows; nests, eggs, young birds perish in the general havoc; brooding birds, weakened by incubation, and parent birds that hover round their helpless young must fall in numbers; those that escape— refugees on strange, perhaps sparely-furnished feeding grounds— lose their chance of increase for the year; hence the match, after all, does more execution than the gun, even at a battue. When at length we can find leisure to raise our thoughts from to-day to care and to act for to-morrow, this state of things will no longer be endured; the commercial element will step in and record its veto against destruction, not from any feeling of sentiment,—for commerce, whose only real law is gain, would chaffer away every tree in the country if a margin of profit attended the transaction,—but because it will find out that the preservation of forests can be made to pay.
At limes it has appeared as if the advisability of fostering and encouraging the reproduction of many useful species of our fauna had taken hold of the minds of the people, and legislative enactments have pointed in that direction; but the advance has been but slow and halting, notwithstanding the encouraging success that has attended the introduction of the present imperfect laws for the protection of animals. It would not be difficult to show that the extension of the schedule of protected species would be beneficial to the colony: we import so-called insectivorous birds at a vast outlay, and kill off our own iusect-eaters in countless numbers.
After paying attention for many years to the habits of our birds, it is confessedly a matter of difficulty to understand what principle has guided the selection of protected species. For instance, we profess to shield those beautiful waders, the stilts, during the breeding season, and with superfluous care other birds which are not known to exist here; yet on what food do our native Charadriidae live, that they should be overlooked? We protect the bittern, whilst the noble-looking kotuku is exposed to the murderous gun at all times in the year; the tui is cared for, whilst the ticke, kiwi, and flocks of other useful birds may be exterminated without a word.
The idea at once suggests itself that the New Zealand Institute might do good work in advocating the protection of such species as, from a knowledge of their habits, it could recommend as being of service to the country. The first step taken, other advantages might accrue from the interposition of the Institute. Under its direction a list could be prepared of desiderata of real value, as welcome additions to the fauna or flora of those remote isles; a list so prepared and recommended could not fail to bare some weigbt with the various acclimatisation societies of the country.
It would not be a matter of much regret if the present irresponsible system of acclimatisation were stopped before mistaken zeal results in further errors. This is a delicate subject to deal with, and I trust it will not be considered impertinent to question the infallible wisdom of acclimatisation councils. The time may come when the antipodean sparrow controversy may be renewed here; when that grand bird, the black swan, useless or unsavoury as food, a disturber of the broods of less powerful Anatidae, may be regarded as an acquisition of doubtful value; whilst the country might trust, with something like security, that such an ignorant and expensive blunder as the introduction of the weed Anacharis alsinastrum would be avoided. Acclimatisation societfes might expend some energy in the re-establishment of the most valuable of our native fauna. This would prove a useful if not a very showy occupation; dwellers beyond the narrow confines of our shores would take an interest in the progress of such a work; yet it must be candidly avowed that attempts in the direction indicated would be attended with little of the eclat which now accompanies the announcement of every newly introduced wonder and advertises each local society.
Nevertheless, by all means in our power, let us preserve our native birds. Let it not be forgotten that within our narrow boundaries are many very singular forms; that our fauna comprises about a score of indigenous genera, of which not more than two (Prosthemadera and Hyinenolaimus) come under the Bird Protection Act. These peculiar forms are of very great interest to naturalists and physiologists the wide world over. We shall justly incur the opprobium of barbarism if we neglect to use strenuous exertions to avert the fate which seems impending over them. No excuse that we could offer for indifference will palliate our destructiveness in the eyes of the scientific world.
In this, as in former papers, when attempting to describe the habits of several species, I have thought it desirable to point out the utility of many native birds to the agriculturist and the gardener. In fact, the preservation of our birds should enlist not only the attention and co-operation of the man of science or the naturalist,—the subject has a just claim on the consideration of the political economist, the farmer, the gardener, the sportsman,—not only on the rural settler, but also on the townsman. The sooner this is understood and recognised the sooner may we expect to see some well-directed steps taken to secure an object of so much interest to the country at large.
T. H. Potts.
Food of the Noctnle Bat.—A few weeks since a gentleman at Cromer slightly wounded in the wing a noctule bat which he shot at, and has since kept in captivity. It feeds freely on flesh-flies and also on cockchaffers, of the latter of which, on one occasion, it devoured upwards of thirty in about half-an-hour, as I am informed by its possessor. This bat rejects the horny elytra of the cockchaffer, contenting itself with the softer parts of the insect.—J. H. Gurney; July 15, 1874.
Rabbit with one Ear.—Last week my attention was called to a rather extraordinary lusus, in the shape of a fine healthy full-grown rabbit, of the wild colour, which was born with only one ear. This ear was in its proper place, on the right side of the head, but on the left side there was not the least sign of an aperture or the rudiment of another. When carried erect the ear leaned a little to the left, just enough to give it the appearance of being on the top of the head at a short distance.—J. Gatcombe; 8, Lower Durnford Street, Stonehouse, Plymouth, August 10, 1874.
Honey Buzzard near llnddersfield.—A honey buzzard was shot in Storrs Hall Woods, near Huddersfleld, on the 28th of May, 1874. The gamekeeper said he had not seen one in this neighbourhood for nine years. It measured four feet nine iuches aud three quarters across when the wings were extended.—J. E. Palmer.
Montagu's Harrier.—I have before mentioned that the frequent occurrence of this species in the West of Cornwall, and especially in the Lizard district, has rendered it not only a common bird, but decidedly the most common of all the Circidae; and I mentioned on a former occasion that there was really no need to exterminate the species or to try to do so, as a bird of prey, as it has been ascertained beyond any doubt that its food is principally confined to reptiles, aud not birds, and that where a solitary partridge or quail may once now and then fall within its clutches, nine times out of ten at least you will find that toads, frogs, vipers, snakes or lizards are its objects for food. A good many of these harriers have been in the Lizard district again this year; and Mr. George Williams, on whoso property they were seen, told me that his keepers have been urging their destruction as game-destroyers, as deserving no credit for possessing any possible compensating good qualities. Specimens of this harrier have been killed from the same property nearly every year for some years, and they