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down, on pinion a little raised, but not expanded, in a zig-zag direction (presenting, alternately, their back and breast to you), through the resisting air, which causes a noise similar to that of a rushing wind. This is a magnificent and beautiful sight to the eye of an ornithologist. It is idle to suppose for a moment that it portends wind. It is merely the ordinary descent of the birds to an inviting spot beneath them, where, in general, some of their associates are already assembled, or where there is food to be procured. When we consider the prodigious height of the rooks at the time they begin to descend, we conclude that they cannot effect their arrival at a spot perpendicular under them, by any other process so short and rapid. Rooks remain with us the year throughout. If there were a deficiency of food, this would not be the case; for, when birds can no longer support themselves in the place which they have chosen for their residence, they leave it, and go in quest of nutriment elsewhere. Thus, for want of food, myriads of wildfowl leave the frozen north, and repair to milder climates; and in this immediate district, when there is but a scanty sprinkling of seeds on the whitethorn bush, our flocks of fieldfares and of redwings bear no proportion to those in times of a plentiful supply of their favourite food. But the number of rooks never visibly diminishes; and on this account we may safely conclude that, one way or other, they always find a sufficiency of food. Now, if we bring, as a charge against them, their feeding upon the industry of man, as, for example, during the time of a hard frost, or at seedtime, or at harvest, at which periods they will commit depredations, if not narrowly watched, we ought, in justice, to put down in their favour the rest of the year, when they feed entirely upon insects. Should we wish to know the amount of noxious insects destroyed by rooks, we have only to refer to a most valuable and interesting paper on the services of the rook, signed T. G. Clitheroe, Lancashire, which is given in Vol. VI, p. 142. of this Magazine. I wish every farmer in England would read it. They would then be convinced how much the rook befriends them. Some author (I think, Goldsmith) informs us that the North American colonists got the notion into their heads that the purple grakle was a great consumer of their maize [I. 47.]; and these wise men of the west actually offered a reward of threepence for the killed dozen of the plunderers. This tempting boon soon caused the country to be thinned of grakles, and then myriads of insects appeared, to put the good people in mind of the former plagues of Egypt. They damaged the grass to such a fearful extent, that, in 1749, the rash colonists were obliged to procure hay from Pennsylvania, and even from England. Buffon mentions that grakles were brought from India to Bourbon, in order to exterminate the grasshoppers. The colonists, seeing these birds busy in the new-sown fields, fancied that they were searching for grain, and instantly gave the alarm. The poor grakles were proscribed by government, and in two hours after the sentence was passed, not a grakle remained in the island. The grasshoppers again got the ascendency, and then the deluded islanders began to mourn for the loss of their grakles. The governor procured four of these birds from India, about eight years after their proscription, and the state took charge of their preservation. Laws were immediately framed for their protection; and, lest the people should have a hankering for grakle pie, the physicians were instructed to proclaim the flesh of the grakle very unwholesome food. Whenever I see a flock of rooks at work in a turnip field, which, in dry weather, is often the case, I know that they have not assembled there to eat either the turnips or the tops, but that they are employed in picking out a grub, which has already made a lodgement in the turnip. Last spring, I paid a visit, once a day, to a carrion crow's nest on the top of a fir tree. In the course of the morning in which she had laid her fifth egg, I took all the eggs out of the nest, and in their place I put two rooks' eggs, which were within six days of being hatched. The carrion crow attended on the stranger eggs, just as though they had been her own, and she raised the young of them with parental care. When they had become sufficiently large, I took them out of the nest, and carried them home. One of them was sent up to the gamekeeper's house, with proper instructions; the other remained with me. Just at this time an old woman had made me a present of a barn-door hen. “Take it, Sir,” said she, “ and welcome; for, if it stays here any longer, we shall be obliged to kill it. When we get up to wash in the morning, it crows like a cock. All its feathers are getting like those of a cock; it is high time that it was put out of the way, for when hens turn cocks people say that they are known to be very unlucky; and, if this thing is allowed to live, we don't know what may happen. It has great spurs on its legs, and last summer it laid four eggs. If I had had my own way, it would have been killed when it first began to crow.” I received the hen with abundant thanks; and, in return, I sent the old woman a full-bred
large; the feathers on the neck and rump much elongated; the spurs curved, and about 14 in. long; the two largest feathers in her tail arched, and four or five smaller arched ones, of a beautiful and glossy colour, hanging down on each side of the tail. In a word, this hen had so masculine an appearance, that, when strangers looked at her, they all took her to be a cock, and it was with difficulty I persuaded them that she was a hen. We allowed her the range of a sheltered grass-plot, flanked on one side by holly trees, and open to the lake on the other. Here, also, was placed in a cage the young rook which I had taken from the nest of the carrion crow. The hen showed such an antipathy to it, that, whenever I held it to her, she would immediately fly at it. When visiters came to inspect her, I had only to take the rook out of the cage, and pit it against her, when she would stand upright, raise the long feathers on her neck, and begin to cackle, cluck, and crow. One morning the rook had managed to push aside a bar in front of its cage. A servant, in passing by, looked into it, and missed the bird. The hen had also disappeared. On search being made, they were both found floating side by side, dead, in the lake below. We conjectured that the hen had pursued the rook after its escape from the cage, and that the wind, which blew very strong that morning, had forced them both into a watery grave. I had still one rook left at the gamekeeper's. It was kept in a cage, which was placed on a little stand in his garden ; and I had given orders that upon no account was it to be allowed to go at large. The feathers remained firm at the base of the bill till the 15th of August; on which day the keeper perceived that a few feathers had dropped from the lower mandible, and were lying at the bottom of the cage. In a couple of weeks more, the lower mandible had begun to put on a white scurfy appearance, while here and there a few feathers had fallen from the upper one. This is the purport of the keeper's in-. formation to me, on my return home from Bavaria. On the 31st of the same month, a terrible storm set in. By what the keeper told me, the night must have been as dark and dismal as that in which poor King Lear stood in lamentation, and exposed his hoary locks to the four rude winds of heaven. A standard white-heart cherry tree, perhaps the finest in Yorkshire, and which, for many generations, had been the pride and ornament of this place, lost two large branches during the gale; and in the morning, when the keeper rose, he found the cage shattered and upset, and driven to the farthest corner of his garden. The rook was quite dead. It had lost its life, either through the inclemency of that stormy
night, or through bruises received in the fall of the cage. Thus both the rooks were unlucky. The old woman, no doubt, could clearly trace their misfortunes to her crowing hen. However, the experiment with the two young rooks, though not perfect, has nevertheless been of some use. It has shown us that the carrion crow makes no distinction betwixt its own eggs and those of the rook; that it can know nothing of the actual time required to sit upon eggs in order to produce the young ; that the young of the rook will thrive under the care of the carrion crow, just as well as under that of its own parents; and finally, that the feathers fall off from the root of the rook's bill, by the order of nature, as was surmised by the intelligent Bewick, and not by the process of the bird's thrusting its bill into the earth, in search of food, as is the opinion of some naturalists. [III. 402, V. 241.] The rook advances through the heavens with a very regular and a somewhat tardy beat of wing; but it is capable of proceeding with great velocity when it chooses: witness its pursuit and attack on the sparrowhawk and kestrel. It is apt to injure, in the course of time, the elm trees on which it builds its nest, by nipping off the uppermost twigs. But this, after all, is mere conjecture. The damage may be caused by an accumulation of nests, or by the constant resort of such a number of birds to one tree. Certain, however, it is, that, when rooks have taken possession of an elm tree for the purpose of incubation, the uppermost branches of that tree are often subject to premature decay. Though the flocks of rooks appear to have no objection to keep company, from time to time, with the carrion crows, in a winter's evening, before they retire to roost, still I can never see a carrion crow build its nest in a rookery. There was always a carrion crow’s nest here, in a clump of high Scotch pines, near the stables, till the rooks got possession of the trees; the carrion couple then forsook the place: the rooks were dislodged from this clump of trees; and then a pair of carrion crows (the same, for aught I know to the contrary) came and built their nest in it. The rook lays from three to five eggs, varying much, like those of the carrion crow, in colour, shape, and size. After the rooks have built, and even lined their nests, they leave them on the approach of night, to repair to the general rendezvous at Nostell Priory; but, as soon as they begin to lay, they then no longer quit the trees at night, until they have reared their young. When this has been effected, we see large flocks of them resorting to the different woods of the neighbourhood to pass the night. This they continue to do, till a few days before the autumnal equinox, when, for reasons which baffle all conjecture, they begin to pass over this valley every morning in a westerly direction, and return in the evening to their eastern roosting-place in the woods of Nostell Priory. Rooks are observed to keep up a very close and friendly intercourse with starlings [VII. 183.] and jackdaws [VI. 394. 516.]; but, on looking at them in the fields, the observer will perceive, that, while the jackdaws mix promiscuously with the rooks, both in their flight and in searching for food, the starlings always keep in their own flock. This circumstance has long engaged my attention; but I am no farther advanced in the investigation than I was on the first day on which I set out. It is one of the many secrets in the habits of birds, which will, perhaps, be for ever concealed from our view. Walton Hall, Nov. 27. 1833. CHARLEs WATERTON.
[For remarks, by Mr. Waterton, “on the nudity on the forehead and at the base of the bill of the rook,” see V. 241 –245. ; and for observations, also by Mr. Waterton, “on the supposed pouch under the bill of the rook,” see V. 512– 515. In Captain Brown's edition of White's Natural History of Selborne, which is noticed in VI. 133., there is a figure of “a domestic hen in male plumage;” and in p. 93, 94., in a long note, Captain Brown has adduced some instances of this phenomenon which he had read of, or seen.]
ART. III. An Introduction to the Natural History of Molluscous Animals. In a Series of Letters. By G. J.
Letter 12. On their Respiration.
THE respiration of the Mollásca is so slow, so little obvious, and so easily suspended for a time, that it is possible you may never have observed the process even in those species which daily cross your path. You will, therefore, in your next walk, please to examine the snail or the slug while they are in progression, and you will see them at intervals open wide a circular hole on the side of the neck and near the margin of the shield or collar, and, after dilating it to the utmost, they will close it again until its place becomes imperceptible; this they do about four times in a minute, expelling at each time the effete air, and inhaling a fresh supply. In like manner, the aquatic tribes, while crawling along the surface, raise from time to time the pulmonary aperture, in order to emit the vitiated air, sometimes even with a crackling noise, and to receive an equal quantity