« AnteriorContinuar »
Although common in the southern and southeastern counties of England, the Wryneck is only partially distributed in the British Islands, and the limit of its geographical area is almost coincident with that of the Nightingale before noticed. In the western and northern counties of England, as well as in Wales, it is comparatively a scarce bird; in Scotland it is very rare, and in Ireland quite unknown. Its arrival in April is speedily announced by its loud and oftrepeated cry, which has been likened to the syllable—" dear, dear, dear, dear, dear," and which resembles, though less harsh, the cry of the Kestrel.
In its mode of nidification, the Wryneck
resembles the Woodpeckers, selecting a hole in a tree wherein to deposit its eggs, which are six or seven in number, pure white, and laid with little or no attempt at a nest upon chips of decayed wood at the bottom of the hole. In about three weeks the young are hatched, and both parents take their turn at feeding them, bringing ants and their eggs in mouthful s, woodlice, small spiders, and other insects. The ants, which are gathered up wholesale by means of the long glutinous tongue, which the bird darts amongst them with great rapidity, are stored up in the mouth until the return to the nest, when they are ejected in ball-like masses into the open gapes of the clamorous young. The latter quickly assume their feathers, and by the month of August are ready to leave the country with their parents en route for Africa, Asia Minor, and India, where they pass the cold months of the year. But according to the observations of Lindermayer, Dr. Kruper, and others, many spend the winter in Greece amongst the olive groves, and Lord Lilford has seen it in Epirus in March and December (" Ibis," 1860, p. 235).
In Tangiers, Tripoli, Algeria, Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia, it is by no means uncommon. It occurs also in Arabia, and according to Dr. Jerdon (" Birds of India," vol. i. p. 303) is found throughout India, except, perhaps, on the Malabar Coast, where he never saw it, or heard of a specimen being procured. He adds, "It is chiefly, perhaps, a cold-weather visitant in the south of India; but it is found to remain all the year further north."
I have already touched upon the question whether any of our summer migrants breed in their winter quarters, as well as in their summer haunts (see p. 41), and it may be well to note here the ahove remark of Dr. Jerdon, as well as the observation of Captain Loche, that the Wryneck breeds in the forests of Algeria. It of course remains to be shown whether the individuals which rear their young south of the Mediterranean, ever migrate into Europe; for it is possible that Algeria may be the northernmost limit in summer of those birds which have passed the winter many degrees further south than have the migrants from Europe.
A MONGST the large number of migratory *" birds which resort to the British Islands in spring for the purpose of nidification, are a few which come to us accidentally, as it were, or as stragglers from the main body of immigrants which, crossing the Mediterranean from Africa, becomes dispersed over the greater part of Europe. The Hoopoe is one of these. Not a summer elapses without the appearance, and, I regret to say, the destruction, of several of these beautiful birds being chronicled in some one or other of the many periodicals devoted to Natural History. If the thoughtless persons, whose first impulse on seeing an uncommon bird, is to procure a gun and shoot it, would only take as much pains to afford it protection for a time, observe its habits, describe its mode of nesting and manner of feeding its young, they would do a much greater service to ornithology by recording the result of their observations, than by publishing the details of a wanton destruction.
That the Hoopoe will breed in this country, if unmolested, is evidenced by the recorded instances in which it has done so where sufficient protection has been afforded it during the nesting season. Montagu states, in his " Ornithological Dictionary," that a pair of Hoopoes began a nest in Hampshire, and Dr. Latham has described a young Hoopoe which was brought to him in the month of June. A pair frequented Gilbert White's garden at Selborne;