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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/511

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Corvus bullockii.


The genus Corvus consists of birds which differ considerably in their appearance and manners. This circumstance has given rise to various separations and groupings. It may, in fact, be considered analogous to the great genera Falco, Psittacus and Columba, which, although the species composing them exhibit great diversity, may be allowed to retain their integrity, because the gradations between the species are so minute that each group presents an uninterrupted series. Were one to compare the Golden Eagle with the Swallow-tailed Hawk, the Red Macaw with the Ground Parrot of New Holland, or the Great Crested Pigeon with the Turtle Dove, he might doubtless find reasons for separating these birds into genera, could he but forget that the intermediate gradations are to be seen. It is so with the Crows and Jays. The former are characterized by a certain gravity of aspect; their flight is regular, protracted, and performed by easy flappings and sailings; they frequent open places, and feed on almost all kinds of food indiscriminately; their cry is a dull croak or scream. The latter are much smarter in their appearance, more lively in their motions; their flight is less protracted, and performed by short flappings; they frequent woods and thickets, and live chiefly on fruits; and their notes are emitted in noisy chatterings. The bill of the Crows is large, robust, cultriform, covered at the base with long, stiffs, closely adpressed, reversed, bristly feathers; that of some of the Jays is much smaller, not robust, and approaching to the form of that of Thrushes and Nutcrackers, and the basirostral feathers are diminished in size and rigidity. The Crows have shortish, even or rounded tails, with long and sometimes rather sharp wings. The Jays have the tail often greatly elongated and cuneiform or graduated, with short, much rounded, concave wings. Numerous other contrasts are afforded, the Crows, for example, being generally dull and uniform in their colours, the Jays variegated and often brilliant. All these circumstances I intend to discuss in another work, and in the mean