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in such position by means of a glass, and am satisfied that the bill is not the only support used in such cases.
We must pass by the other American parakeets, and leave unwillingly, such grand birds as the Great Green Maccaw,f the Blue and Yellow Maccaw,f the Red and Blue Maccaw,s the Hyacinthine Maccaw,|| and the noble Parrot Maccaw, gorgeously magnificent though they be ; merely observing, that the first-named of these is found in the Andes as high as 3000 feet, that it was considered an acceptable gift when presented to the Incas by their subjects, and that when on its gregarious predatory excursions a watch is kept on some high station--the top of a tree generally—to warn the plunderers of the approach of danger, by a loud and singular cry, on hearing which they immediately take wing.
Nor is New Holland without its parakeets of varied forms and habits, though small when compared with the American tribes. The elegant Pale-headed Broad-tail, Platycercus palliceps ; the pretty Hobart Ground Parrot, Nanones venustus of Vigors and Horsfield;
and the delicate Golden-eared or Crested Parakeet, Nymphicus Nove Hollandiæ of Wagler, Leptolophus auricomis of Swainson, are “ beautiful exceedingly.” Then there is the lovely genus Trichoglossus.** Like the humming-birds, those Peris of the feathered race, the food of these charming parakeets is, principally, the nectar of flowers-nothing more gross than the juices of delicious fruits do they touch. A suctorial tongue of the most exquisite workmanship fits them for this diet of the gods. Woe to the unhappy captive whose mistress does not know this ; it starves in the midst of apparent plenty.
One of these wretched ones, when a coloured drawing of a flower was presented to it, applied its parched tongue to the paint and pasteboard; and even did this in the extremity of its distress, to the ruder image on a piece of flowered chintz.
But hear the stern voice of Cato the Censor—"O! conscript fathers-O! unhappy Rome. On what times have we fallen, when we behold these portents in the city-men, Romans, parading parrots on their fists, and women cherishing dogs !" One of these portents must have been the Ring Parakeet, Palæornis Alexandri,* alluded to above, and said to have been brought from India to Europe by the followers of the victorious Macedonian. The descriptions of both Greeks and Romans, to say nothing of antique gems and paintings, leave no doubt that this was one of the species at least; and it should be remembered that, till the time of Nero, “ by whose searchers (as Pliny witnesseth) parrots were discovered elsewhere, viz. in Gagaude, an island of Æthiopia ;' none but Indian parakeets (Palæornis) were known at Rome. Highly were they prized, and, in spite of the Censor, gorgeously were they lodged. Their cages were of gold, and ivory, and tortoiseshell, and the houses and streets of the imperial city rang with the “ Hail, Cæsar !” of the occupants. If the manes of the celebrated sparrow were appeased by the melodious tear” of Catullus, Ovid and Statius poured forth the elegy of the imitative Indian bird, and Martial made it the medium of a refined compliment,
* Audubon, Ornithological Biography, vol. 1. p. 137.
Psittacara nobilis. Psittacara frontata, Vigors. Psittacus nobilis, Latham. ** Vigors. An Australian group, taking the place of the Indian Lories in New Holland. Some ornithologists call them Lories, others Lorikeets.
“Psittacus a vobis aliorum nomina discam,
Hoc didici per me dicere-Cæsar, Ave !"
Though Constantine does not name the bird, Aldrovandi doubts not that it was a parakeet that turned the heart of the Oriental Emperor Basilius, by repeating, for his condemned and incarcerated son Leo, those lamentations which it had learned from the sorrowing women; a son whom he again took to his bosom, leaving him the empire as an inheritance. There were evidently schools for these feathered scholars. Ælian says they were taught like boys, and Pliny states that they were corrected with an iron ferula (ferreo radio) during their instruction.
The same method of castigation is alluded to by Apuleius and Solinus.
Under the later Emperors, the parrot became one of the rarities of their monstrous feasts ; for, though Heliogabalus fed his lions, panthers, and other carnivora with parrots and pheasants, he took care to have a grand dish of their heads for his own table. If he had selected the bodies, it might have been better, for the flesh of some of the species is said to be excellent ;. and we suspect that Little Pickle was not aware what a delicacy he might have been serving up when he caused a parrot and bread-sauce to be laid before the old gentleman.
Next to the affection, almost amounting to passion for youth, especially of the softer sex, the friendship of the Indian parakeets for doves is said to have been the most remarkable. We can fancy the portico of the Xystus, in one of the elegant houses at
* Vigors. Psittacus torquatus, Macrourus Antiquorum of Aldrovandus. Psittacus Alexandri of Linnæus.
Pompeii, enlivened by a group of the family, attended by their fond and friendly birds.
To come to more modern times ; there are instances of attachment on the part of these birds that would shame other bipeds. They seem most sensibly alive to the caresses of their beloved mistress; and their gesticulations expressive of rage and hatred when a rival is noticed by her show what an indignant favourite feels at an infidelity. One of these affectionate creatures would never settle itself on its perch, however late it might be, till it was taken out of its cage and replaced with a kiss and good night."
The Parakeet, of which the anecdote is told by Clusius, was most probably the Red and Blue Maccaw, mentioned above.
Among others," says that author, “ I saw one of those great ones in the house of the illustrious Lady, Mary of Bremen, Dutchess of Croy and Areschot, of happy memory, before she went out of Holland, the like whereto, for variety and elegancy of colours, I do not remember to have ever seen. For though almost all the feathers covering the body were red, yet the feathers of the tail (which were very long) were partly red and partly blue ; but those on the back and wings parti-coloured of yellow, red, and green, with a mixture also of blue. Its head about the eyes was white and varied with waved black lines. I do not remember the like parrot described in any other author. Moreover, this bird was so in love with Anna, the Dutchesse's niece, now Countess of Meghen and Baroness of Grosbeke, that whenever she walked about the room it would follow her, and if it saw any one touch her cloaths would strike at him with its bill; so that it seemed to be possessed with a spirit of jealousie.”*
Of the short-tailed parrots, or parrots properly so called (subfamily Psittacina), there are species both in the new and old world. The Parrot of the Amazons,t commonly known as the Green Parrot, and celebrated for its conversational powers, will serve as an example of the American true Parrots. Brilliant as are the talents of this species, its African brother, the Gray Parrot, does not yield to it in eloquence. The cardinal's bird that could repeat the whole of the Apostles' creed, and for which, in the year of God 1500, a hundred gold crowns were paid, is believed to have been of this species ; and so was the bird of which M. de la Borde declares that it served as chaplain to a vessel, reciting the prayer to the sailors, and afterwards repeating the rosary
“ It was a Parrot of orders gray
Went forth to tell his beads." * Clusius, his Discourse-Willughby's Translation. + Psittacus Amazonicus of authors.
Psittacus erithacus of Linnæus.
The Gray Parrot will breed in captivity under favourable circumstances. Buffon speaks of a pair in France that nestled in a cask with “ lots of sawdust"- !--no bad representative of a hole in a decayed tree-and produced and brought up their young for five or six successive years. Sticks were placed inside and outside of the barrel, that the gentleman might ascend and descend to the lądy in the sawdust whenever he pleased. Nothing could be more amiable than his conduct to her ; but it was absolutely necessary to go booted into the room if the visitor wished to go out of it with unwounded legs. Those who have felt the gripe of a parrot's bill will easily understand that it was not likely that any gentleman should enter the sanctuary in silk stockings a second time. Father Labat also gives an account of a pair whose loves were blessed with several broods in Paris.
An attempt has been made by some of the parrots in the brilliant collection of the Zoological Society of London to fulfil the great law of nature. We saw one pair, of the long-tailed division, very fussy, and busy, and nestifying, and we believe an egg or so made its appearance ; “but,” as Dr. Johnson said on a more solemn occasion, nothing came of it.”*
That parrots will live to a very great age there is no doubt. Le Vaillant saw one that had lived in captivity, or rather in a domesticated state for ninety-three years.
When he saw the ancient it was in the last stage of all. It had been celebrated in its youth for its vigour, its docile and amiable disposition, the alert air with which it would fetch its master's slippers and call the servants,-above all, for its flashes of merriment :--and there it was, entirely decrepit, lethargic, its sight and memory gone, lingering out existence, and kept alive by biscuit soaked in Madeira wine. Somewhere about the age of sixty it began to lose its memory, and, instead of acquiring any new phrase, it forgot some of those it had learnt, and began to talk a jumble of words. At the
* Our recently lost George Coleman used to relate a circumstance connected with this subject, curiously illustrative of the manners and gaieties of his
youthful days.” A Lady Reid, a celebrated ornithologist of that time, had, amongst a multitude of birds, a cock maccaw, which, according to her Ladyship's account, and to her infinite surprise, one day laid an egg! The story, told by her Ladyship with perfect gravity, and in the full persuasion of its truth, soon got about town. One day it reached the Cocoa-Tree, where, amongst others, Coleman and Francis North (afterwards fourth Earl of Guildford) were dining, at about three o'clock, in May or June; whence, upon obtaining this marvellous information, Coleman, North, and a third-I am not sure that it was not the late accomplished and amiable Sir George Beaumont—issued forth, and proceeded to the top of St. James's-street, where, having made for themselves trumpets of twisted paper for the purpose, they gave a flourish, and proclaimed aloud the astounding words, “ Cock maccaws lay eggs!” and this was repeated in the front of White's ; after which they returned to finish their wine,-their costume then being that which is now confined to the Court or full dress parties.—THEODORE E. Hook.
of sixty its moulting became irregular, the tail became yellow, and afterwards no change of plumage took place.
We will now draw upon the same Le Vaillant for the manners of another African species in a state of nature. The Robust Parrot (Pionus Le Vaillantii of Wagler, Psittacus robustus of Latham) haunts the woods of the eastern part of the continent as high as the thirty-second degree of latitude, in the breeding season only, leaving them at the approach of the rainy season, after it has brought up its young, for warmer skies. A hollow tree is, as usual, the receptacle for the eggs, which are four in number, and about the size of those of a pigeon: both parents share in the pleasing care of incubation. The nestlings are naked when they first quit the eggs, and are soon covered with a grayish down ; but their plumage is not complete till six weeks have elapsed, and they keep to the nest a considerable time longer, during which period they are fed from the crop of the old ones, like the pigeons. When the periodical migration takes place, the flocks fly so high that they are lost to the sight, though their call-notes still reach the ear. The history of their day is not uninteresting. At dawn, the whole flock of the district assembles, and with much noise settles on one or more dead trees : there they display their wings to the first rays of the sun, whose rising they seem to hail. They are then drying their plumage charged with the night dews. As soon as they are warmed and dried, they separate into small breakfast parties, and fly in quest of their favourite cherry-like fruit, the stone of which they crack, and regale on the kernel. They like to linger over their breakfast, which continues till about ten or eleven o'clock : and the different parties then go to take their bath. The heat by this time is getting intense, and they retire to the deepest shades of the woods to take their siesta. There they remain in profound repose, and all is so still, that the traveller resting beneath a tree shall not hear a sound, though legions of parrots crowd the branches above him. The report of a gun instantly puts to flight the whole flock, screaming most discordantly.
When undisturbed, and their period of rest is terminated, they again disperse in small dinner parties, and, after the conclusion of the evening repast, there is a general assembly of all the flocks of the district, and a conversazione of considerable ani. mation: this ended, away they all fly to take their second bath ; and there they may be seen on the margin of the limpid pool, for no water that is not “ clear as diamond-spark” will please them, scattering the water-drops over their plumage with their