Page images
PDF
EPUB

neck, and are very conspicuous. The sexes are exactly alike, and the nest is in a hole of a tree.

8. Toucans (Rhamphastidæ). These fine birds are coloured in the most conspicuous parts of their body, especially on the large bill, and on the upper and lower tail coverts, which are crimson, white, or yellow. The sexes are exactly alike, and they always build in a hollow tree.

9. Plaintain-eaters (Musophagidæ). Here again the head and bill are most brilliantly coloured in both sexes, and the nest is in a hole of a tree.

10. Ground cuckoos (Centropus). These birds are often of conspicuous colours, and are alike in both sexes. They build a domed nest.

11. Woodpeckers (Picidæ). In this family the females often differ from the males, in having a yellow or white, instead of a crimson crest, but are almost as conspicuous. They all nest in holes in trees.

12. Parrots (Psittaci). In this great tribe, adorned with the most brilliant and varied colours, the rule is, that the sexes are precisely alike, and this is the case in the most gorgeous families, the lories, the cockatoos, and the macaws; but in some there is a sexual difference of colour to a slight extent. All build in holes, mostly in trees, but sometimes in the ground, or in white ants' nests. In the single case in which the nest is exposed, that of the Australian ground parrot, Pezoporus formosus, the bird has lost the gay colouring of its allies, and is clothed in sombre and completely protective tints of dusky green and black.

13. Gapers (Eurylæmidæ). In these beautiful Eastern birds, somewhat allied to the American chatterers, the sexes are exactly alike, and are adorned with the most gay and conspicuous markings. The nest is a woven structure, covered over, and suspended from the extremities of branches over water.

14. Pardalotus (Ampelidæ). In these Australian birds the females differ from the males, but are often very conspicuous, having brightly-spotted heads. Their nests are sometimes dome-shaped, sometimes in holes of trees, or in burrows in the ground.

15. Tits (Paridæ). These little birds are always pretty, and many (especially among the Indian species) are very conspicuous. They always have the sexes alike, a circumstance very unusual among the smaller gaily-coloured birds of our own country. The nest is always covered over or concealed in a hole.

16. Nuthatches (Sitta). Often very pretty birds, the sexes alike, and the nest in a hole.

17. (Sittella). The female of these Australian nuthatches is often the most conspicuous, being whiteand black-marked. The nest is, according to Gould, “completely concealed among upright twigs connected together.”

18. Creepers (Climacteris). In these Australian creepers the sexes are alike, or the female most conspicuous, and the nest is in a hole of a tree.

19. Estrelda, Amadina. In these genera of Eastern and Australian finches the females, although more or less different from the males, are still very conspicuous having a red rump, or being white spotted. They differ from most others of the family in building domed nests.

20. Certhiola. In these pretty little American creepers the sexes are alike, and they build a domed nest.

21. Mynahs (Sturnidae). These showy Eastern starlings have the sexes exactly alike. They build in holes of trees.

22. Calornis (Sturnidæ). These brilliant metallic starlings have no sexual differences. They build a pensile covered nest.

23. Hangnests (Icteridæ). The red or yellow and black plumage of most of these birds is very conspicuous, and is exactly alike in both sexes. They are celebrated for their fine purse-shaped pensile nests.

It will be seen that this list comprehends six important families of Fissirostres, four of Scansores, the Psittaci, and several genera, with three entire families of Passeres, comprising about twelve hundred species, or about one-seventh of all known birds.

· The cases in which, whenever the male is gaily

coloured, the female is much less gay or quite inconspicuous, are exceedingly numerous, comprising, in fact, almost all the bright-coloured Passeres, except those enumerated in the preceding class. The following are the most remarkable :

1. Chatterers (Cotingidæ). These comprise some of the most gorgeous birds in the world, vivid blues, rich purples, and bright reds, being the most characteristic colours. The females are always obscurely tinted, and are often of a greenish hue, not easily visible among the foliage.

2. Manakins (Pipridæ). These elegant birds, whose caps or crests are of the most brilliant colours, are usually of a sombre green in the female sex.

3. Tanagers (Tanagridæ). These rival the chatterers in the brilliancy of their colours, and are even more varied. The females are generally of plain and sombre hues, and always less conspicuous than the males.

In the extensive families of the warblers (Sylviada), thrushes (Turdidæ), flycatchers (Muscicapidæ), and shrikes (Laniadæ), a considerable proportion of the species are beautifully marked with gay and conspicuous tints, as is also the case in the Pheasants and Grouse ; but in every case the females are less gay, and are most frequently of the very plainest and least conspicuous hues. Now, throughout the whole of these families the nest is open, and I am not aware of a single instance in which any one of these birds builds a domed nest, or places it in a hole of a tree, or underground, or in any place where it is effectually concealed.

In considering the question we are now investigating, it is not necessary to take into account the larger and more powerful birds, because these seldom depend much on concealment to secure their safety. In the raptorial birds bright colours are as a rule absent ; and their structure and habits are such as not to require any special protection for the female. The larger waders are sometimes very brightly coloured in both sexes; but they are probably little subject to the attacks of enemies, since the scarlet ibis, the most conspicuous of birds, exists in immense quantities in South America. In game birds and water-fowl, however, the females are often very plainly coloured, when the males are adorned with brilliant hues; and the abnormal family of the Megapodidæ offers us the interesting fact of an identity in the colours of the sexes (which in Megacephalon and Talegalla are somewhat conspicuous), in conjunction with the habit of not sitting on the eggs at all.

What the Facts Teach us. Taking the whole body of evidence here brought forward, embracing as it does almost every group of bright-coloured birds, it will, I think, be admitted that the relation between the two series of facts in the colouring and nidification of birds has been sufficiently established. There are, it is true, a few apparent and some real exceptions, which I shall consider presently ; but they are too few and unimportant to weigh much against the mass of evidence on the other side, and may for the present be neglected. Let us then consider what we are to do with this unexpected set of correspondences between groups of phenomena which, at first sight, appear so disconnected. Do they fall in with any other groups of natural phenomena? Do they teach us anything of the

« EelmineJätka »