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Essays on early ornithology and kindred subjects   By:

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[Illustration: Casuarius uniappendiculatus, juv. ]


By JAMES R. McCLYMONT M.A., Author of 'Pedraluarez Cabral' 'Vicente Añes Pinçon'

With Three Plates




PAGE The Rukh of Marco Polo 3 The Penguins and the Seals of the Angra de Sam Bràs 7 The Banda Islands and the Bandan Birds 15 The Etymology of the Name 'Emu' 21 Australian Birds in 1697 25 New Zealand Birds in 1772 32


I. CASUARIUS UNIAPPENDICULATUS, Blyth. ( juv. ). From an example in the British Museum of Natural History. By permission of the Director. Frontispiece

This plate should be compared with that opposite p. 22, which represents a cassowary with two wattles probably an immature Casuarius galeatus, Vieill. for that is the species which is believed to have been brought alive to Europe by the Dutch in 1597. An immature example of that species was not available for reproduction.

II. ABRIS DES WVNDERBAREN VOGELS EME. From the fifth edition of Erste Schiffart in die orientalische Indien so die holländische Schiff im Martio 1595 aussgefahren vnd im Augusto 1597 wiederkommen verzicht ... Durch Levinvm Hvlsivm. Editio Quinta. Getruckt zu Franckfurt am Mäyn durch Hartmann Palthenium in Verlegung der Hulfischen. Anno M.DC.XXV., From a copy of the book in the British Museum. By permission of the Keeper of Printed Books. p. 22

III. THE MASKED OR BLUE FACED GANNET ( Sula cyanops , S. personata ). From an example in the Royal Scottish Museum. By permission of the Director. p. 35

In the Manuel d'Ornithologie (1828) Lesson writes: 'Le Fou Manche de Velours, "manga de velado" des navigateurs portugais, que l'on dit être le fou de Bassan, est de moitié plus petit. Ce serait donc une race distincte.' tom. II. p. 375. And in the Traité d'Ornithologie the same author amplifies thus what he has written: 'Fou Manche de Velours; Sula dactylatra, Less. Zool. de la Coq., Texte, part. 2, p. 494. Espèce confondue avec le fou de Bassan adulte; est le manga de Velado des Portugais. Plumage blanc pur; ailes et queue noires; bec corné; tarses jaunes; la base du bec cerclée d'une peau nue, qui s'étend sur la gorge en forme de demi cercle. Femelle: Grise. L'île de l'Ascension, les mers chaudes des Tropiques.' Texte, p. 601.


Marco Polo, had he confined himself to a sober narration of his travels, would have left to posterity a valuable record of the political institutions and national customs of the peoples of his day in the Far East. He was not satisfied with doing this, but added to his narrative a number of on dit more or less marvellous in character, which he collected from credulous or inventive persons with whom he came into contact, principally from mariners and from other travellers.

Of these addenda to his story not one is more incredible than that of the rukh, and yet that addendum may be regarded as indicating the transition from the utterly incredible to the admixture of truth with fiction in bird lore. For, whilst the rukh possessed some characteristics which are utterly fabulous, others are credible enough. We are told, for example, that it resembled an eagle, that it was carnivorous, that it possessed remarkable powers of flight, and that it visited islands which lay to the south of Zanzibar, within the influence of an ocean current which rendered difficult or impossible a voyage from these regions to India, and which therefore must have tended in a southerly direction... Continue reading book >>

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