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not believe a space of the heavens of more than fifteen degrees above the horizon is commonly viewed with any attention by a person, either walking or on horseback. If such be the case, and the vulture is on the wing at a height of between three and four thousand feet, before it could come within the range of vision its distance in a straight line from the beholder's eye would be rather more than two British miles. Might it not thus readily be overlooked? When an
. animal is killed by the sportsman in a lonely valley, may he not all the while he watched from above by the sharp-sighted bird ? And will not the manner of its descent proclaim throughout the district to the whole family of carrion-feeders that their prey is at hand ?
When the condors are wheeling in a flock round and round any spot, their flight is beautiful. Except when rising from the ground, I do not recollect ever having seen one of these birds flap its wings. Near Lima, I watched several for nearly half an hour, without once taking off my eyes: they moved in large curves, sweeping in circles, descending and ascending without giving a single flap. As they glided close over my head, I intently watched from an oblique posi. tion the outlines of the separate and great terminal feathers of each wing; and these separate feathers, if there had been the least vibratory movement, would have appeared as if blended together; but they were seen distinct against the blue sky. The head and neck were moved frequently, and apparently with great force; and the outstretched wings seemed to form the fulcrum on which the movements of the neck, body, and tail acted. If the bird wished to descend,
the wings were for a moment collapsed; and when again expanded with an altered inclination, the momentum gained by the rapid descent seemed to urge the bird upward with the even and steady movement of a paper kite. It is truly wonderful and beautiful to see so great a bird, hour after hour, without any apparent exertion, wheeling and gliding over mountain and river.
On the fine plains of turf in Banda Oriental we saw many ostriches (Struthio rhea). Some of the flocks contained as many as twenty or thirty birds. These, when standing on any little height and seen against the clear sky, presented a very noble appearance. I never met with such tame ostriches in any other part of the country: it was easy to gallop up within a short distance of them; but then, expanding their wings, they made all sail before the wind, and soon left the horse astern.
The ostrich is the largest of the birds which are common on the wild plains of Northern Patagonia. It lives on vegetable matter, such as roots and grass; but at Bahia Blanca I have repeatedly seen three or four come down at low water to the extensive mud-banks, which are then dry, for the sake, as the Gauchos say, of feeding on small fish. Although the ostrich in its habits is so shy, wary, and sol. itary, and although so fleet in its pace, it is caught without
, much difficulty by the Indian or Gaucho armed with the bolus (two round stones, covered with leather, and united
by a thin plaited thong about eight feet long). When sev. eral horsemen appear in a semicircle, the bird becomes confounded, and does not know which way to escape. They generally prefer running against the wind, yet at the first start they expand their wings, and like a vessel make all sail. On one fine hot day I saw several ostriches enter a bed of tall rushes, where they squatted concealed till quite closely ap
proached. It is not general- . ly known that ostriches read. ily take to the water. Mr. King informs me that at the Bay of San Blas, and at Port Valdes, in Patagonia, he saw these birds swim. ming several times from isl. and to island. They ran into the water, both when driven down to a point, and likewise of their own accord when not frighten. ed; the distance crossed was
about two hundred yards. When swimming, very little of their bodies appears above water; their necks are stretched a little forward, and their progress is slow. On two occasions I saw some ostriches swimming across the Santa Cruz River, where its course was about four hundred yards wide and the stream rapid. Captain Sturt, when descending the Murrumbidgee, in Australia, saw two emus in the act of swimming.
SKELETON OF AN OSTRICH.
The inhabitants of the country can readily tell, even at a distance, the cock bird from the hen. The former is larger, and darker colored, and has a bigger head. The ostrich (I believe, the cock) utters a singular deep-toned, hissing note; when I first heard it, standing in the midst of some sand-hil. locks, I thought it was made by some wild beast, for it is a
I sound that one cannot tell whence it comes or from how far distant. When we were at Bahia Blanca, in the months of September and October, the eggs, in extraordinary numbers, were found all over the country. They lie either scattered and single (in which case they are never hatched, and are called by the Spaniards huachos), or they are collected together into a shallow excavation, which forms the nest. Out of the four nests which I saw, three contained twenty-two eggs each, and the fourth twenty-seven. Each of these is said to equal in weight eleven hen eggs; so that we obtained from this last nest as much food as two hundred and ninety-seven hen eggs would have given. The Gauchos all agree in saying that there is no reason to doubt that the male bird alone hatches the eggs, and for some time afterward accompanies the young. The cock, when on the nest, lies very close; I have myself almost ridden over one. At such times they are said to be occasionally fierce and even dangerous, and to have been known to attack a man on horseback, trying to kick and leap on bim. My informer pointed out to me an old man whom he had seen much terrified by one chasing him. I observe, in Burchell's trav. els in South Africa, that he remarks, “ Having killed a male ostrich, and the feathers being dirty, it was said by the Hot
tentots to be a nest bird.” I understand that the male emu in the London Zoological Gardens takes charge of the nest: this habit, therefore, is common to the family.
The casarita (little housebuilder) as the Spaniards call it, from its resemblance to the casara (housebuilder or oven. bird), makes its nest at the bottom of a narrow cylindrical hole, which is said to extend horizontally to nearly six feet under ground. Several of the country people told me that when boys they had attempted to dig out the nest, but bad scarcely ever succeeded in getting to the end of the passage. The bird chooses any low bank of firm sandy soil by the side of a road or stream. Here (at Bahia Blanca) the walls round the houses are built of hardened mud, and I noticed that one, which enclosed a court. yard where I lodged, was bored through by round holes in a score of places. On ask. ing the owner the cause of this, he bitterly complained of the little casarita, several of which I afterward observed at work. It is rather curious to find how unable these birds must be to get any idea of thickness, for although they were constantly flitting over the low wall, they kept on vainly boring through it, thinking it an excellent bank for their nests. I do not doubt that each bird, as often as it came to daylight on the opposite side, was greatly surprised at the marvellous fact.