Popular Science Monthly/Volume 48/November 1895/Correspondence



Editor Popular Science Monthly:

In The Popular Science Monthly for March, 1894, page 615, Prof. J. Mark Baldwin says, in a footnote: "I know only the assertion of Vierordt that parrots grasp and hold food with the left claw, that lions strike with the left paw, and his quotation from Livingstone—i. e., 'All animals are lefthanded.' (Vierordt, loc. cit., page 428.) Dr. W. Ogle reports observations on parrots and monkeys in Trans. Royal Med. and Chirur. Society, 1871."

I have tried to verify these observations on two parrots lately brought from Mexico. I find that in grasping a finger offered as a perch the parrots almost always put the left foot forward. Usually the finger thus offered is that of the right hand. But when the left finger is offered to the parrots they put forward the right foot. There is, however, apparently a small residuum of preference for the left foot. This seems to be due to the fact that men are usually right-handed and offer the right hand to the parrot. The left foot is the one naturally put forward by the parrot in this case, and through repetition of this action a species of left-footedness is induced. My general conclusion is that there is no evidence that the parrot is naturally left-footed. The appearance of left-footedness is due entirely to the fact that those who offer the finger or food to parrots do so as a rule with the right hand. Repetition of this process makes the parrot more or less left-footed in time.

David S. Jordan.
Palo Alto, Cal., May 16, 1895.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: In reading Variation in the Habits of Animals, I see the author is not in line with The Study of Birds Out-of-doors, or she would not have written, "The practice of mocking the hawk is, at present at least, confined, so far as I know, to the individuals of such limited area—this one town—that with Mr. Ridgway we must believe this peculiarity exhibited by the blue jay to be scarcely the 'manifestation of a regional impress.'"

My boyhood and early manhood were spent in the country, in middle Tennessee, where I had ample opportunity to observe the habits and, I might say, peculiarities of certain birds. The blue jay not only mocks the hawk, which I have heard him do hundreds of times, but mocks also many other birds. The catbird possesses this faculty in a remarkable degree, and so rapidly does he "change his tune" that if he was not visible we should be apt to say. What a lovely mocking bird you have singing in your apple tree! Don't again mistake the jay for a hawk, for wherever you hear the jay he mocks the hawk, redbird, and many of his other neighbours.

Yours truly,
W. A. Howard, M. D.
Waco, Texas, September 7, 1895.

Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Dear Sir: I noticed in the September Monthly, in the article, Variation in the Habits of Animals, by G. C. Davenport, that the writer speaks of the blue jay (Cyanurus cristata, or more recently Cyanocitta cristata) as acquiring and using the cry of the hawk in order to assist in the fight with English sparrows, and she seemed to imply that it was an accomplishment of the blue jay in that region only. I have heard in the wooded lands of southeastern Indiana the blue jay give a fairly good imitation of the shrill, piercing, drawn-out cry of the large chicken liawk (Buteo borealis) at different times for as much as twenty years. I think this cry has not been developed in this region, at least, in the fight with recent enemies, but rather that the blue jay—robber and despoiler that he is—has now and then used this cry to terrify smaller birds for untold years.

Yours truly.
Prof. Glenn Culbertson.
Hanover College, Hanover, Ind.,
September 19, 1895.


Editor Popular Science Monthly:

Sir: In the September Forum appears an article on Prof. Huxley by Richard H. Hutton, editor of The Spectator, in which, on pages 27 and 28, he states that Prof. Huxley "claimed to be in the strictest sense an Agnostic," and further states that Prof. Huxley borrowed that term from an "incident related in the Acts of the Apostles," where reference is made to the fact that the Athenians had erected an altar "Agnosto Theo"—to the Unknown God. Is not Mr, Hutton mistaken in regard to the origin of this term? In a letter written to Mr. J. A. Skilton, December 10, 1889, and published in the Popular Science Monthly for June, 1890, Mr. Huxley expressly states that the term "Agnostic" was not suggested by the passage to which Mr. Hutton refers, but came into his mind "as a fit antithesis to 'Gnostic'—the 'Gnostics' being those ancient heretics who professed to know most about those very things of which I am quite sure I know nothing." As the use of the term in theological discussion has become universal, it is interesting to know how Prof. Huxley came to introduce it

J. T. Gorman.
Opelika, Ala., September 14, 1895.