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BIRD-LOUSE—BIRDS OF PARADISE


Sub-order 7. Pici.—Zygodactylous. Tendon of the flexor hallucis longus muscle sending a strong vinculum to that of the flexor profundus muscle, the tendon of which goes to the third toe only. Galbulidae, puff-birds and jacamars, neotropical. Capitonidae, barbets, tropical. Rhamphastidae, toucans, neotropical. Picidae, woodpeckers, cosmopolitan, excepting Madagascar and Australian region.
14. Order Passeriformes.—Nidicolous. Aegithognathous, without basipterygoid processes. Spina externa sterni large, spina interna absent. Quinto-cubital, toes normal. Apparently since the upper Eocene.
Sub-order 1. Passeres Anisomyodae.—Syrinx muscles entirely lateral or attached to the dorsal or ventral corners of the bronchial semi-rings, (1) Subclamatores. Deep plantar tendons connected by a vinculum. Eurylaemidae, broadbills, Indian and Indo-Malayan. (2) Clamatores. Deep flexor tendons not connected. Pittidae, palaeotropical. Xenicidae, New Zealand. Tyrannidae, American, Formicariidae, Pteroptochidae, neotropical.
Sub-order 2. Passeres Diacromyodae.—Syrinx muscles of either side attached to the dorsal and ventral corners of the rings. Hallux strong, with a large claw, (1) Suboscines with Menura, lyre-bird, and Atrichia, scrub-bird, in Australia. (2) Oscines, the true singing-birds, with more than 5000 recent species, are mostly divided into some thirty “families,” few of which can be defined.

The fourteen orders of the Carinatae are further congregated into four “Legions”:—

 I. COLYMBOMORPHAE = Ichthyornithes + Colymbiformes + Sphenisciformes + Procellariiformes.

 II. PELARGOMORPHAE = Ciconiiformes + Anseriformes + Falconiformes.

III. ALECTOROMORPHAE = Tinamiformes + Galliformes + Gruiformes + Charadriiformes.

IV. CORACIOMORPHAE = Cuculiformes + Coraciiformes + Passeriformes.

These four legions are again combined into two “Brigades,” the first of which comprises the first and second legions, while the second brigade contains the third and fourth legions.

Thus the whole classification becomes a rounded-off phylogenetic system, which, at least in its broad outlines, seems to approach the natural system, the ideal goal of the scientific ornithologist. The main branches of the resultant “tree” may be rendered as follows:—


1911 Britannica-Bird- Main branches.png


The Odontolcae seem to be an early specialized offshoot of the Colymbo Pelargomorphous brigade, while the Ratitae represent a number of side branches of early Alectoromorphae. The Ratitae branched off, probably during the Eocene period, from that still indifferent stock which gave rise to the Tinami + Galli + Gruiformes, when the members of this stock were still in possession of those archaic characters which distinguish Ratitae from Carinatae. It follows that new groups of Ratitae can no longer be developed since there are no Carinatae living which still retain so many low characters, e.g. configuration of the palate, precoracoid, pelvis, intestinal convolutions, copulatory organ, &c. Loss of the keel is co-ordinated with the power of using the forelimbs for locomotion; although a “Ratite” character, it is not sufficient to turn a Notornis, Cnemiornis or Stringops, not even a Phororhacos into a member of the Ratitae.

Another branch of the Alectoromorphae, in particular of the Galliformes, when these were still scarcely separated from the Gruiformes, especially rail-like birds, leads through Opisthocomi to the Cuculiformes. These are, again in an ascending direction, connected with the Coraciiformes, out of which have arisen the Passeriformes, and these have blossomed into the Oscines, which, as the apotheosis of bird life, have conquered the whole inhabitable world.

 (H. F. G.) 

BIRD-LOUSE, any small flat degenerate wingless neuropterous insect of the group Mallophaga, parasitic upon birds and mammals and feeding upon dermal excretions or upon the softer parts of hair and feathers. The term “biting-lice” is sometimes given to these parasites, in allusion to the mandibulate character of their mouth-parts, which serves to distinguish them at once from the true lice of the order Rhynchota in which the jaws are haustellate.

BIRD’S-EYE, a name applied to various small bright flowers, especially those which have a small spot or “eye” in the centre. The primula is thus spoken of, on account of its yellow centre, also the adonis, or “pheasant’s eye,” and the blue veronica, or germander speedwell. The word is also applied to a sort of tobacco, in which the stalks (of a mottled colour) are cut up together with the leaves. From a similar sense comes the phrase “bird’s-eye maple,” a speckled variety of maple-wood, or the “bird’s-eye handkerchief” mentioned in Thackeray’s novels.

BIRDSNESTING, a general term for the pursuit of collecting and preserving birds’ eggs, with or without the nests themselves. The nests and eggs of wild birds are nowadays protected by local laws almost everywhere in both Great Britain and the United States. By law they may be taken for scientific purposes only, by special licence. In order not to interfere seriously with breeding it is customary to take but one egg from a nest, and, if the nest itself be taken, to wait until the young birds have left it. Every egg, unless “hard-set,” should be blown as soon as removed from the nest. This is done by opening a small hole in its side by means of a drill with a conical head, manufactured for the purpose, a minute hole for the insertion of the drill-head having first been made in the shell with a needle, which is then used to stir up the contents, so that they shall flow easily. A blow-pipe with a curved mouth is then inserted, the egg is held hole downwards, and the contents blown out. The old-fashioned method of making two holes in the egg is thus superseded. Should the egg be “hard-set” a somewhat larger hole is made and its edges reinforced with layers of paper pasted round them. Minute forceps are then introduced and the embryo cut into pieces small enough to pass through the hole. The inside of the egg is then rinsed out with clean water, and also before being placed in the cabinet, with a solution of corrosive sublimate, which prevents decay and consequent discoloration of the inner membrane. Finally the egg is placed with the hole downwards upon a sheet of white blotting-paper to dry. The authentication of the eggs is the most important duty of an egg-collector, next to identifying the specimens. According to some the best method is to mark with a fine pen on the egg itself the variety, scientific name, locality of nest, date of taking and the initials of the collector, as well as a reference to his note-book or catalogue. Others advocate keeping the authentication separate with only a numbered reference on the egg itself. Eggs should not be transported in bran or sawdust, but in strong wool-lined boxes. The best cabinets are fitted with drawers, pulled out to inspect the eggs, but at other times closed to preserve them from the light, which is injurious to their delicate colouring. When an entire nest is taken it should be disinfected with hyposulphite of soda or insect-powder.

See Birdnesting and Bird-Skinning, by E. Newman (London, 1888); The Young Collector’s Handbook of British Birds’ Nests and Eggs, by W. H. Bath (London, 1888); Birds’ Nests, Eggs and Egg-Collecting, by R. Kearton (London, 1890); British Birds’ Eggs and Nests, by J. C. Atkinson (London, 1898); Nests and Eggs of North American Birds, by Ernest Ingersoll (1880-1881).


1911 Britannica-Birds of Paradise.png
Standard Wing Bird of Paradise (Semioptera wallacei).

BIRDS OF PARADISE, a group of passerine birds inhabiting New Guinea and the adjacent islands, so named by the Dutch voyagers in allusion to the brilliancy of their plumage, and to the current belief that, possessing neither wings nor feet, they passed their lives in the air, sustained on their ample plumes, resting only at long intervals suspended from the branches of lofty trees by the wire-like feathers of the tail, and drawing their food “from the dews of heaven and the nectar of flowers.” Such stories obtained credence from the fact that so late as the year 1760, when Linnaeus named the principal species apoda, or “footless,” no perfect specimen had been seen in Europe, the natives who sold the skins to coast traders invariably depriving them of feet and wings. The birds now usually included under this name belong to the family Paradiseidae, closely allied to the crows. The largest is the great emerald bird (Paradisea apoda), about the size of the common jay. Its head and neck are covered with short thick-set feathers, resembling velvet pile, of a bright straw colour above, and a brilliant emerald green beneath. From under the shoulders on each side springs a dense tuft of golden-orange plumes, about 2 ft. in length, which the bird can raise at pleasure, so as to enclose the greater part of its body. The