Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/707

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
687
FLAMINGOES AT HOME.

us, hatless as we now were, from a cloudless sky; but I suppose that our profuse perspiration saved us from any ill effects, the rapid evaporation counteracting the sun's heat. It may be that I was too anxious about reaching a favorable point of observation to think of it, but I can not say that I even suffered any inconvenience.

At length, having crawled under the roots of the dwarf. mangroves that covered the slob like a network of croquet-hoops, we found ourselves at the edge of the marl, and within one hundred and fifty yards of the birds, who were still undisturbed. Here, with my glasses, I could see every feather, note the color of the eyes, and watch every movement. There were, we calculated, between seven hundred and a thousand birds, and a continuous low, goose-like cackling was kept up. Never did I see a more beautiful mass of color. The male birds had now all got together, standing about five feet high, and with necks extended and heads erect were evidently watching events, preserving in the mean time a masterly inactivity. Now and again one would stretch out his great black and scarlet wings, but the general effect was the most exquisite shade of pink, as the feathers of the breast and back are much lighter than those of the wings.

The hens sat on the nests, and some were sitting down in the muddy lagoon. I watched them carefully for nearly an hour, and looked at every nest to see if the legs were extended along the side. In no case did I see a leg. I saw the birds go on to the nest and sit down. I saw them get up, and step down from the nest. In every instance the legs were folded under the bird in the usual manner. In my opinion my observation settles the point as to the mode of sitting; for even if, as I had been assured, the birds sit both ways, it is improbable that among the hundreds then sitting not one would have extended the legs. Remembering the great length of the flamingo's legs, it is evident that on a new nest, not more than eight inches high, the hen could not thus sit, nor would even the highest nest allow of the legs being extended while the bird sat upon it.

After having watched the birds for the time named, we showed ourselves; but whether they had observed us before, and become somewhat accustomed to our presence, or that when sitting they are more easy to approach than I thought, the only effect was that the hens left the nest, and, joining the male birds, prepared for eventualities, nor did they take wing until we had begun to walk up to the rookery. While we were examining it, the birds flew round us within forty yards, so that we could have shot them easily. Of course, we did not do so. To prevent the destruction of flamingoes and pigeons by their wholesale slaughter during the breeding-season, the Bahamas Legislature passed in 1885 a Wild Birds' Protection Act, from which I hope for good results.

Having taken a few eggs as specimens, and lifted carefully on to a board a nest destined for presentation to the Zoological Society,