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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/269

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WINGLESS BIRDS.

the wings of which are so poorly developed as to be wholly unsuitable for flight. As an offset and just compensation for this, their long and robust legs permit them to run with extraordinary speed. For that reason they have been called running birds, in distinction from other kinds that constitute the group of flying birds. Among them are some gigantic birds, and also some that have no visible wings on the outside of their bodies, and may therefore be properly called wingless.

The ostrich is a member of this group. With its bare, callous head and short bill, its long, featherless neck, and its massive body, supported by long, half-bare legs, ending in two large toes; its very short wings, formed of soft and flexible feathers; and its plume-shaped tail, it presents a very special appearance among the birds.

The nandous, the American representatives of the ostrich, have still shorter wings, which have no remigia at all, and terminate in a horny appendage, and they have no tail feathers.

The cassowary and the emu also resemble the ostrich in many points, but their wings are still more reduced than those of the nandou. They are only slightly distinct, and can not be seen when the bird holds them close up to its body. In the Apteryx, the name of which, from the Greek, means without wings, the organs of flight are hardly apparent, and consist simply of a very short stump bearing a thick and hooked nail. The Apteryx, which is also called Kiwi, a native of New Zealand, is the most singular of living birds. The neck and the body are continuous, and the moderately sized head is furnished with a long beak resembling that of the ibis. Having long hairs similar to the mustaches of cats at its base, it is different from the bills of all other existing birds in possessing nostrils that open at its upper point. Although the Apteryx can not fly, it runs very fast, despite the shortness of its legs, and can defend itself very effectively against assailants by the aid of its long-nailed and sharp-nailed feet. The tail is absent like the wings. The very pliant feathers are extremely curious, of the shape of a lance-head, pendent, loose, silky, with jagged barbs, and increase in length as they go back from the neck. The bird is of the size of a fowl, and when in its normal position stands with its body almost vertical, and carries the suggestion of a caricature—resembling, we might say, a feathered sack, with only a long-billed head and the claws projecting, and one beholding it feels that he is looking at some unfinished creature. It is a nocturnal bird, of fierce temper, and has become rare in consequence of the merciless war that is made upon it. Everything is strange about it, even the single egg it lays, which weighs about a quarter as much as its body.