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

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

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The Magpie is a very pretty and cunning bird. It is easy to...

The Lapwing
This little bird which is often called the Pewit, from its ...

The Goose
Have you not often heard people say "as silly as a goose"? ...

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

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



The Quail








The quail is the smallest of the poultry tribe, and is a pretty little
bird, something like a partridge, but not so large. I dare say you have
sometimes seen quails alive in a poulterer's shop, where they are often
displayed in long narrow cages, and are sadly crowded together. The
quail is a migratory bird, except in those countries blessed with an
equable temperature, such as Italy, Portugal, etc., where it is to be
found in all seasons. In warm weather the quail visits our island, but
nearly all those sold in London are brought from France, where they are
caught in hundreds by means of a quail-pipe as it is called. This is a
little instrument which imitates the cry or call of the quail so
successfully that the bird is deceived, and, following the note, is
easily ensnared. Africa is the head-quarters of quails in the winter,
but in the summer they come in vast flocks and take up their abode in
Europe and Asia. In the Crimea and Egypt they are caught in immense
numbers whilst exhausted by their long flight. We are told in Stade's
Travels in Turkey, that, "near Constantinople in the migrating season,
the sun is often nearly obscured by the prodigious flights of quails,
which alight on the coasts of the Black Sea, near the Bosphorus, and are
caught by means of nets spread on high poles, planted along the cliff,
some yards from its edge, against which the birds, exhausted by their
passage over the sea, strike themselves and fall." The Arabs also catch
quails by thousands in nets, when they visit Egypt, about harvest time.
The observations of modern travellers have confirmed in a very
interesting manner the account given us of quails in the Bible. Do not
you remember reading of the multitude of quails that were sent by God as
food for the children of Israel whilst wandering in the desert, when
they grew tired of the sweet manna God had rained upon them from heaven,
and desired flesh? "They gathered the quails," we are told, in great
quantities, "and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about
the camp."--Numbers xi. 32. This was done in order to dry them, and this
method of preserving not only quails, but other flesh and fish, is still
followed by the Arabs. There is one particular island off the coast of
Egypt where myriads of quails are caught, and, being stripped of their
feathers, are dried in the burning sand for about a quarter of an hour,
after which they are sold for as little as a penny a pound. The crews
of those vessels which in that season lie in the adjacent harbour, have
no other food allowed them. The quails, when migrating, fly so near the
ground that they are very easily knocked down and secured. The nest of
the quail is very simple. It consists merely of a few dried sticks in a
wheat-field, and contains from twelve to eighteen pretty little green
and brown eggs. The quail itself is very prettily coloured with black,
chestnut, yellow, and white, and the males have a black collar round
their throats. The old Romans would not eat the flesh of the quail,
because it feeds on the grains of a poisonous plant. But we moderns are
not so scrupulous, and find it very delicious food. I am sorry to tell
you this little bird is so fond of fighting that there was an old
proverb, "as quarrelsome as quails in a cage." And the Greeks and
Romans kept quails on purpose to see them fight, as some people did
formerly (I hope not now), game-cocks. Even to this day this is the
custom in India and China.

I always like to conclude with a pretty story for you if I can, but I
can find nothing likely to amuse you about the quail, except the
following account of the Virginian quail, related by a gentleman
residing in Canada. He "happened to have above a hundred at one period
alive, and took much pleasure in the evening, watching their motions
where they were confined. As it grew dusk, the birds formed themselves
into coveys or parties of twelve or fifteen in a circle, the heads out
and tails clustered in the centre. One bird always stood guard to each
party, and remained perfectly stationary for half an hour, when, a
particular _cluck_ being given, another sentinel immediately took his
place, and relieved him with as much regularity as any garrison could
boast. It became a matter of further curiosity to observe how they would
meet the extra duty occasioned by the havoc of the _cook_. For this also
a remedy was found, and the gentleman remarked with admiration that, as
their number decreased, the period of watch was extended from a half to
a whole hour, in the same form, and with unfailing regularity."





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Previous: The Duck



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