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Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/419

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VIRGINIAN PARTRIDGE.

once falls to placing it, so that his companions can easily drive the Partridges into it. No sooner is the machine ready, than the net-bearer remounts and rejoins the party. The sportsmen separate to a short distance, and follow the Partridges, talking and whistling, clapping their hands, or knocking upon the fence-rails. The birds move with great gentleness, following each other, and are kept in the right direction by the sportsmen. The leading bird approaches and enters the mouth of the net, the others follow in succession, when the net-bearer leaps from his horse, runs up and secures the entrance, and soon dispatches the birds. In this manner, fifteen or twenty Partridges are caught at one driving, and sometimes many hundreds in the course of a day. Most netters give liberty to a pair out of each flock, that the breed may be continued.

The success of driving depends much on the state of the weather. Drizzly rain or melting snow are the best, for in such weather Partridges and Gallinaceous Birds in general will run to a great distance rather than fly; whereas if the weather be dry and clear, they generally take to wing the moment they discover an intruder, or squat so that they cannot be driven without very particular care. Again, when the flocks are found in the woods, they run off so briskly and so far, that it is difficult for the net-bearer to place his machine in time.

The net is cylindrical, thirty or forty feet in length, by about two in diameter, excepting at the mouth or entrance, where it is rather larger, and at the extremity, where it assumes the form of a bag. It is kept open by means of small wooden hoops, at a distance of two or three feet from each other. The mouth is furnished with a semicircular hoop, sharpened at both ends, which are driven into the ground, thus affording an easy entrance to the birds. Two pieces of netting called wings, of the same length as the cylindrical one, are placed one on each side of the mouth, so as to form an obtuse angle with each other, and are supported by sticks thrust into the ground, the wings having the appearance of two low fences leading to a gate. The whole is made of light and strong materials.

The Virginian Partridge is easily kept in cages or coops, and soon becomes very fat. Attempts at rearing them from the eggs have generally failed, probably for want of proper care, and a deficiency of insects, on which the young feed. The ordinary food of the species consists of seeds of various kinds, and such berries as grow near the surface of the