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them is seldom met with. It is not in the clearing away of our forest and the cultivation of the land, nor the increase of population, that makes the decline in their numbers, for they are birds whose habits do not lead them to the retirement of the deep forest, but rather to the cultivated fields, to small patches of woodland, and to bushy pastures; in fact, in winter they not unfrequently visit the bay and corn rick and barnyard of the farmer, and are sometimes so familiar as to come from the fields and feed with his poultry. The great inducement which leads to the destruction of the Partridge is the delicious favor of its flesh; and the most common modes used to take them, are traps that secure a whole covey at one time. Many of them are taken by means of the gun; not so many fall by it, however, as are captured by the snare or trap; although a good gunner can secure a flock if he selects the right kind of a day, in the right season of the year. The best season to hunt the Partridge is in the winter, on a snowy day; and the faster it snows the more sure is he of success and of good sport. On such days the birds usually leave the more open lands and resort to sheltered situations, such as small pine woodlands, if any such are in their vicinity. The sportsman enters the woods. Not a sound is heard. The fall of his footsteps are as silent as the fall of the snow around him; no rustling of leaves, or the crackling of dried sticks beneath his feet is heard to disturb the stillness. He walks silently on, with his mind prepared for a surprise shot; as yet the silence prevails, when, sudden as thought, up rise before him a covey of Partridges on loud whirring wings, and fly in different directions; he selects the one which flies directly before him and fires; by being prepared, and not excited by the sudden springing of the birds, he brings her down. Although they separate when flushed, they are gregarious and are fond of each other's company; and when they are thus separated, their well known call-note is sounded for a reunion.
The hunter stands in his tracks, and soon hears the notes
He may pro
of one sounding loud and clear through the snowy air, and immediately directs his steps to the spot from where the sound came; after advancing a short distance, he stops and waits to hear the call-note again ; soon it is heard louder than before; he now proceeds with certainty, and sees the bird perched on a rotten branch, beneath the snow-bent limb of a pine tree, and cautiously getting within range of him, he fires ; having reloaded his gun he hears another bird in a different part of the woods; this one he may find on the ground near the roots of a tree, whose wide spreading branches and thick foliage bear many snows. ceed in like manner until he has secured them all.
Such a day's sport, as a sportsman could have a few years ago, is now of rare occurrence; he may enter the coppice or small woodland and find the stillness there, but will not see the whirring game springing before him, nor hear their loud, shrill, clear whistle. I know that many flocks of the Partridge succumb to the rigors of our northern winters ; roosting as they do on the ground, they seek some sheltered spot from the coming storm, such as the lea of a bunch of gray birches, barberry bushes, or ferns, and if the snow comes deep and heavy, or a crust forms upon its surface in the night, they are sure to die. They have not the energy and strength to extricate themselves from their situation, and in spring their remains, such as the feathers and bones of a whole covey, are found in such places. 'But the greatest cause for their decrease is capturing them in nets, when whole tlocks of them are taken at a time; and, unless laws are enacted, and at once enforced, for their preservation, not only for the Partridge but for all the game birds throughout the country, we shall have cause to regret our delay in not suppressing the indiscriminate slaughter that is now carried on among them. The male Partridge has not the proud mien of the Ruffed Grouse, but his step is stately and his manners in the breeding season resemble those of the domestic cock. The female usually retires by herself, and is
AMER. NATURALIST, VOL. II.
seldom, though sometimes, accompanied by the male, and selects the spot for her nest, which is under a tuft of grass, or a bush, or something that affords both shelter and concealment, and makes it of dried grass or of such material as lies about the spot, and then lays from fifteen to twenty pure white eggs, which measure one and four-sixteenths of an inch in length, by fifteen-sixteenths of an inch in breadth; they are very pointed at the smaller end, and are put in such nice order within the nest that if taken out it is difficult to place them as they previously were. The young leave the nest soon after they are hatched, and follow their mother, who shows great anxiety for their welfare and will defend them when in danger at the cost of her life. When surprised with her brood she makes use of the same artifices with . the Grouse and other birds which build upon the ground ; at such times she will flutter along on the ground in the greatest disorder only a few feet in advance of a dog, and yet elude every attempt he may make to seize her, until she has led him a sufficient distance from her young ones, and then rising in the air by a circuitous route returns to them. I was once passing over a cart path that led between a woodland and a field from which barley had been lately harvested, and saw an old Partridge coming through the stubble with her numerous family towards the woods. I stopped to let them pass before me, and I soon saw by her movements that I was not discovered by her, and concealed myself as well as I could. As they approached the young ones were heard to call incessantly for their mother to stop and cover them. After she had cleared the stubble, she stood a moment upon one foot in the hard beaten track, and looked earnestly about, and apprehending no danger, she partly squatted down, and as the young emerged from the damp grass, with wet legs and thighs, they eagerly sought the warmth of her body by crowding under it, and although they were young and small, they jostled her considerably until they became settled. After brooding them for a time she led them into the woods.
Friendless bird! How is it possible for her to rear such a numerous family, when surrounded by so many enemies. Not only does man contrive many schemes to entrap them, but many of the rapacious quadrupeds and birds are ever ready to make them their prey. The mink follows them in the woods with as unerring skill as does the setter dog, while the red-tailed hawk hunts them in more open ground.
The recent addition of a specimen of this rare bird to the Smithsonian Museum, is an event worthy of record. There are now three specimens in the United States; the one just mentioned, another in the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and a third in the Giraud Cabinet in Vassar College. The last is the most perfect specimen, and certainly possesses the greatest historical value, as it is the one from which Audubon 'made his drawing and description. It was caught on the banks of Newfoundland.
The Great Auk or Gare-fowl,* fortunately for itself did not live long enough to receive more than one scientific name- Alca impennis. It was about the size of a goose, with a large head, a curved, grooved and laterally flattened bill; wings rudimental, adapted to swimming only, approaching in this respect the penguins of the southern hemisphere. The toes are fully webbed, the hind one wanting; the plumage is black, excepting the under parts, the tips of the wings, and an oval spot in front of each eye, which are white. It was an arctic bird, dwelling chiefly in
* Buffon called it Le Grand Pengouin. Moehring adds the tribal name Chenalopez (fox goose) to distinguish it from the rest of the Alcidæ.
the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland. * "Degraded as it were from the feathered rank (said Nuttall), and almost numbered with the amphibious monsters of the deep, the Auk seems condemned to dwell alone in those desolate and forsaken regions of the earth.” But it was an unrivalled diver, and swam with great velocity. One chased by Mr. Bullock among the Northern Isles, left a six-oared boat far behind. It was undoubtedly a match for the Oxfords. It was finally shot, however, and is now in the British Museum. "It is observed by seamen," wrote Buffon a hundred years ago, "that it is never seen out of soundings, so that its appearance serves as an infallible direction to the land.” It fed on fishes and marine plants, and laid either in the clefts of the rocks or in deep burrows a solitary egy, five inches long, with curious markings, resembling Chinese characters. The only noise it was known to
. utter was a gurgling sound. Once very abundant on both shores of the North Atlantic, it is now believed to be entirely extinct, none having been seen or heard of alive since 1844, when two were taken near Iceland.†
The death of a species is a more remarkable event than the end of an imperial dynasty. In the words of Darwin, "no fact in the long history of the world is so startling as the wide and repeated extermination of its inhabitants." What an epoch will that moment be when the last man shall give up the ghost! The upheaval or subsidence of strata, the encroachments of other animals, and climatal revolutions - by which of these great causes of extinction now slowly but
* Audubon records the statement that formerly “Penguins were plentiful about Nahant and some other islands in the bay.” But the old gunner, who gave him the information, must hare meant the Razor-billed Auk.
(That the Great Auk was once vory abundant on our New England shores, is proved beyond a doubt by the large number of its bones that have been found in the ancient shellheaps seattered along the coast from British America 10 Massachusetts. The "old hunter" who told Audubon of its having been found at Vahant, was undoubtedly correct in his statement, as we have bones of the species taken from the Shellheaps of Marblehead, Eagle Hill in Ipswiel, ami Plumb Island, and Mr. Elliot Cabot bus informed me that an old fisherman living in Ipswich described a hird to him, that was captured by his father in Ipswich many years ago, which, from the description, Mr. Cabot was convinced was a specimen of the Great Auk.-F. W. P.)
t Owen makes this singular mistake: “The Great Auk existed in the last century; no specimen has been obtained in the present."