Imágenes de páginas

find its name occurring in the list of birds in the famous feast of archbishop Neville in the reign of Edward iv.; it does not appear on the duke of Northumberland's household-book, 1512, nor is it alluded to in the householdbook of Henry vill., yet in these lists of flesh and fowl for the table, the peion, or peacock, is distinctly and conspicuously noted. It would appear, then, not to have been introduced until after the turkey ;-(we must pardon Belon,)-probably not until the end of the seventeenth, or beginning of the eighteenth century. Even at present, in our country, it is far less generally kept than the turkey. In the colder latitudes of Europe, it is yet scarcely known. Linnæus does not mention it in his “Fauna Suecica," and we believe that neither Denmark, Norway, nor Northern Russia possesses it; at all events it is scarce. In India, the guinea-fowl is to be seen only in a domestic state, and is bred almost exclusively by European gentlemen. It thrives as well as in its native country. (See Proc. Zool. Soc., 1832, p. 152.)

Such is the meagre outline of facts which we have been able to collect respecting the European naturalization of the guinea-fowl.

The guinea-fowl retains in a state of domestication no small share of its original wildness, and restless wandering habits, and hence when closely confined it becomes dull and pining, and little disposed to breed; it loves a wide range of thickets, fields, and pasture grounds, and the run of open farm-yards, where it searches for insects, seeds, and green herbage, the flock traversing the hedge-rows and brakes, in the same manner as do turkeys. Like the turkey, too, the hen guinea-fowl conceals her nest from the male ; for though at other times he is affectionate and solicitous, yet he evinces a great dislike to incubation, and on discovering the eggs never fails to destroy them. The hen, consequently, makes choice of the most secluded spot, so much so, that it is not without difficulty her retreat is discovered; and instances have come under our own notice in which a hen guinea-fowl has appeared in the farm-yard with a young brood attending upon her, after she had been given up as lost, or accidentally killed. In these instances, the eggs and young are subject to the attacks of foxes, polecats, weasels, and birds of prey; and as the guinea-fowl seldom shows much disposition to incubate if kept under restraint, it is a

common practice to place the eggs under a common fowl, the risk of the loss of the brood being thus avoided. The natural period of incubation is from twenty-eight to twenty-nine days. The female guinea-fowl commences laying in May, and continues to lay during the summer, and it is not until the latter part of the summer that, if left to her instinct, she begins to sit upon her eggs; these are smaller than those of the ordinary barn-door fowl, and are remarkable for the hardness of the shell, which is of a pale yellowish red, finely dotted with a darker tint. Their flavour is reckoned very superior.

The guinea-fowl may be said to succeed the pheasant in the London market, coming in after the season of the latter is over, and it must be acknowledged that the flesh of the young bird is very delicate, juicy, and well-flavoured—this remark, however, only applies to the young, for old birds, even those of the second year, are dry, tough, and tasteless, nor will the larding of the poulterer improve them.

The guinea-fowl is too well known to need a detailed description, nor is it subject to much variation of plumage. Individuals with the breast or under parts more or less extensively

white are common; and we have occasionally seen cream-coloured birds, in which, however, the white spots are clearly to be distinguished. Trees, where accessible, or tall thick bushes, are its favourite roosting-places, and on these the flock cluster, even during the winter, the cold of which they endure with great hardiness. We have noticed this indifference to cold in the pea-fowl, originally from India, and the same observation applies to the guinea-fowl of Africa, and we may also add the common fowl, of Indian origin; nor can we avoid seeing in these facts a wise provision, for the express purpose of facilitating the diffusion of species eminently useful to man.

The domestic guinea-fowl is by no means strong on the wing. Its note is a peculiar harsh querulous sound, often repeated, and certainly not agreeable ; it reminds us of the noise of a cart-wheel turning on an ungreased axle-tree, or the ereaking of rusty hinges. Besides the common guinea-fowl, (Numida meleagris,) several other wild species are known, some of which are remarkable for their beauty. All are African. numida, the males are destitute of spurs.

In the genus

[ocr errors]


Very numerous are the species comprehended under the term pigeon, (Columba,) and many are the genera into which they are resolvable. Their geographic distribution is most extensive. Some species seem very widely spread, as the rock-dove, found alike in Europe, Asia, and Africa, while others are restricted in the range of their natural territory. Europe, Asia, Africa, America, Australia, the Indian Archipelago, New Zealand, and various islands in the southern ocean, present us with various and beautiful species of the columbine group; of these, some are exclusively arboreal and fruiteaters ; as the aromatic pigeon of Java, the manosope of New Guinea, and the nutmeg pigeon of the Moluccas; others are partially terrestrial in their habits, as the ring-pigeon or cushat, and the stock-dove or wood-pigeon of Europe ; and others are exclusively terrestrial, as the carunculated pigeon (Geophilus carunculatus) of South Africa, and some American and Australian species. A few, as the rock-pigeon, (Columba livia,) frequent abrupt and inaccessible precipices, along the shores of the sea,

« AnteriorContinuar »