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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/422

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Alcedo Alcyon, Linn,

PLATE LXXVII. Male and Female.

You must not suppose, good-natured reader, that the lives which I try to write, are short or lengthy according to the natural dimensions of the objects themselves; for if with the representation of a large bird, I present you with a long history of its habits, it is merely because that bird, being perhaps more common, and therefore more conspicuous, I have had better and more frequent opportunities of studying them. This happens to be the case with the bird which I proceed to describe.

The Belted Kingsfisher!—Now, kind reader, were I infected with the desire of giving new names to well-known objects, you may be assured that, notwithstanding the partly appropriate name given to this bird, I should call it, as I think it ought to have been called, the United States' Kingsfisher. My reason for this will, I hope, become apparent to you, when I say that it is the only bird of its genus found upon the inland streams of the Union. Another reason of equal force might be adduced, which is, that, although the males of all denominations have, from time immemorial, obtained the supremacy, in this particular case the term Belted applies only to the female, the male being destitute of the belt or band by which she is distinguished. But names already given and received, whether apt or inapt, I am told, must not be meddled with. To this law I humbly submit, and so proceed, contenting myself with feeling assured that many names given to birds might, with much benefit to the student of nature, become the subjects of reform.

The Belted Kingsfisher is a constant resident in the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and all the districts that lie to the south of North Carolina. Its inland migrations along the windings of our noble rivers extend far and wide, over the whole of the United States. In all those portions which I have visited it also breeds, although it returns to the south from many parts during severe winters.

The flight of this bird is rapid, and is prolonged according to its necessities, extending at times to considerable distances, in which case it is performed high in the air. When, for instance, the whole course of one