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The Bullfinch
Look at the bright colours of this beautiful little bird: y...

The Flamingo
Is not this a beautiful bird, though rather singular in its...

The Swan
You are no doubt well acquainted with this beautiful bird, ...

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

The Eagle
The Eagle is often called the King of Birds, and therefore ...

The Albatross
This is the largest of all sea-birds, and you are not very ...

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

The Duck
There is so much that is interesting to tell you about the ...

The Robin Redbreast
Every little boy and girl well knows this pretty little bir...

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


Least Viewed

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

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

The Magpie
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...

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

The Robin Redbreast
Every little boy and girl well knows this pretty little bir...

The Duck
There is so much that is interesting to tell you about the ...

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



The Swan








You are no doubt well acquainted with this beautiful bird, and have
perhaps fed some of its species, by the ornamental waters of the parks.
Or perhaps, and that is far better, you have seen it sailing
majestically down the river Thames, free and unconfined, enjoying its
perfect liberty. The swan has been called a royal bird, being formerly
regarded as the exclusive property of the crown, and even now there are
but few exceptions to the rule. The royal swans, that is those belonging
to the Crown, are marked in a particular manner on the bill, and every
year, on the first Monday in August, men, now called swan-hoppers (a
corruption of the old term swan-uppers, because they went up the
river after the swans), proceed up the Thames to mark the young swans
hatched during the year. The Dyers' Company and the Vintners' Company
also own swans in the Thames, which were granted to them in olden times.
The Vintners' mark for their swans is a nick or notch on each side of
the beak, from which their swans have been called, merrily, "swans with
two necks" (nicks). Perhaps you have heard of an inn, which has a swan
with two necks as a sign; now you will understand how it came by so
strange a name.



The swan builds his nest of sticks near the river side, generally
amongst the reeds. If disturbed, the male bird assumes a very warlike
attitude, and will attack the intruder with great violence. The swan is
a strong, powerful bird, and I have heard of a boy whose arm was broken
by a blow from a swan's wing, because he ventured too near the nest. But
when not sitting, swans are harmless, gentle birds. They live to a great
age, feeding on coarse grass and water-weeds. Young swans are called
cygnets, and are at first quite grey or light brown; they do not become
perfectly white until the beginning of the third year. The swan is not a
native of our island, but comes originally from the East, and is, when
in a state of nature, migratory in its habits. One species of wild swan,
called the Hooper, or Whistling Swan, spends the winter in warm
climates, sometimes flying as far south as Africa, and returns in spring
to Iceland, Norway, Lapland, and Siberia. This bird is hunted eagerly by
the Icelanders for its soft white down. The season chosen is the
moulting time, when the poor birds, having lost their quill feathers,
are unable to fly away; and with trained dogs which catch them by the
neck, and little ponies which ride them down, the swans are taken in
great numbers.

The Black Swan is another variety, found in Australia. Formerly this
bird was considered very rare, but now it may be seen any day in one or
other of the parks. Swans are very particular in not allowing their
neighbours to intrude on their domains. If a strange swan comes to that
part of the river which has been already appropriated, he is instantly
pursued and compelled to return to his own family. Once two White Swans
attacked a poor Black Swan on the lake in the Regent's Park, and at last
drove him ashore so exhausted that he fell dead. The White Swans kept
sailing up and down to the spot where he fell, with every feather on
end, and apparently proud of their conquest. Swans are fond of their
young, and the mother will often carry her young ones to another part of
the river on her back. Cygnets are good to eat, and the corporation of
Norwich, who boast this treat at their public dinners, are bound, by
some old regulation, to present the Duke of Norfolk every year with an
immense cygnet pie.

The Wild Swan has a very loud call, and utters a melancholy cry when one
of the flock is killed. The Wild Swans of Hudson's Bay furnish the
finest quills used for writing. Swans and their eggs are still protected
by several statutes, and to steal the latter is felony.

I will copy for you an instance in which a swan once showed that
wonderful instinct with which all animals are gifted by God. "Whilst
sitting on her eggs, she was one day seen to be very busy, collecting
weeds, grasses, and other materials to raise her nest. A farming man was
ordered to take down half a load of haulm, with which she most
industriously elevated her nest and eggs two feet and a half. That very
night there came down a tremendous fall of rain, which flooded all the
malt-kilns, and did great damage. _Man_ made no preparation, the _bird_
did. Her eggs were above, and only just above, the water."





Next: The Kestrel

Previous: The Flamingo



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