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The Bullfinch
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The Swan
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The Kestrel
This picture represents the kestrel, one of the smallest an...

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The Vulture
This strange looking bird is also a bird of prey; but it fe...

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[illustration: The Goose]
Amongst the Romans this bird was held sacred to Juno, their s...

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This beautiful bird comes originally from the East, and tak...

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This solemn looking bird is seldom to be seen by day. It is...

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The quail is the smallest of the poultry tribe, and is a pr...

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Every little boy and girl well knows this pretty little bir...

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This strange looking bird is also a bird of prey; but it fe...

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The Kestrel








This picture represents the kestrel, one of the smallest and most
beautiful of hawks. The hawk is a bird of prey, feeding on small birds,
chickens and mice. In order to secure his prey the hawk holds himself
suspended, as it were, in the air on his wide spread wings, until he
sees a favourable opportunity, and then suddenly pounces down upon his
victim. Other birds well know the predatory habits of the hawk, and when
one appears in sight they fly with loud screams of fear. Little chickens
throw themselves upon their backs, if one hovers over the poultry yard,
from some instinctive notion of defending themselves with their feet,
whilst all the hens shriek in concert, and prepare for a desperate
defence. But though so great an enemy of young poultry, a singular
instance is recorded of a hawk, which not only sat upon the eggs of a
common fowl, but even attended with great care to the little ones when
they were hatched.



Many of the different kinds of hawk were used in olden times for a sport
called hawking. That is, they were trained to fly at game and return
with it to their masters. Large gay parties of ladies and gentlemen used
then to go out on horseback with their hawks for a day's sport, just as
now they go for a pic-nic, or a day in the woods. This was before guns
were used. But to this day hawking is practised in China, where the
emperor goes on "sporting excursions with his grand falconer and a
thousand of inferior rank; every bird having a silver plate fastened to
its foot, with the name of the falconer who has the charge of it." The
bird used on these occasions is the species known as the Gos-hawk, which
was always with us most highly esteemed in falconry. These birds were
carried on the wrist, bells were hung to their legs, and their heads
were hooded or covered until the moment came for letting them fly at the
game. Whilst under training a string was fastened to them that they
might be "reclaimed," as it was called, at the pleasure of their owners.
The person, who carried the hawk, wore gloves to protect his hand from
the sharp talons of the bird. The kestrel migrates in autumn, going away
at the same time with the larks, which are its favourite food.

The Sparrow-hawk is a larger and fiercer bird, and the one that preys
most frequently on chickens. A gentleman once missed a great many
chickens from his poultry yard, and, after a little careful watching,
he found the plunderer was none other than a large, hungry Sparrow-hawk.
To catch the thief, he ordered a net to be hung up in such a way that
the hawk in his next visit could not fail to be entangled. The net was
hung, the thief was caught, and, in order to punish the murderer as he
deserved, the gentleman gave him over to the tender mercies of the brood
hens whose families he had desolated. That he might be helpless in their
hands, his wings and talons were cut, and a cork was put on his beak.
The cries and screams of the bereaved mothers were said, by Mr. White,
the charming naturalist of Selborne, to be wonderfully expressive of
rage, fear, and revenge; they flew upon him in a body, they
"upbraided--they execrated--they insulted--they triumphed--in a word
they never desisted from buffeting their adversary until they had torn
him in a hundred pieces."

The Hawk is very bold. Mr. P. John tells of one that he found calmly
plucking the feathers of a large pigeon on the drawing-room floor,
having followed the poor bird through the open window into the room and
there killed it. And another actually chased a pigeon through the glass
of his "drawing-room window, out at the other end of the house through
another window, not at all scared by the clattering of the broken
glass."





Next: The Vulture

Previous: The Swan



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