« AnkstesnisTęsti »
tends to become obliterated, owing to the males fight and kill one another
It treads care- there is a certain number of redundant fully among them, arranges its feet at females. When several of these attach the proper distance apart, then sinks themselves to an already married male, back until its tarsi lie horizontally the consequences are apt to be disason the ground. This brings the bulk trous. of the body outside a section of the When a nest contains too many eggs, ridge, and in working itself in so as to the latter cannot all be covered by the cover the clutch of eggs, the bird drags sitting bird. About twenty is the numthe sand, of which the ridge is form- ber giving the best results. Instances ed, in with it. However, the ridge is have been recorded of as many as a rebuilt in a curious manner. The sit- hundred and fifty eggs lying in and ting bird, if excited in any way, more around a single nest. In such a case, especially if alarmed, — pecks at the not a single chick would be hatched sand outside the nest and, lifting it out. However, the question as to in beakfuls, deposits it on the raised whether the ostrich has been born polymargin.
gamous, has achieved polygamy, or Mr. Cronwright-Schreiner, probably has had polygamy thrust upon him, the best authority regarding ostriches must for the present remain unsettled. in a state of domestication, considers The cock sits on the eggs from about that monogamy is normal among these four o'clock in the afternoon until birds, and that such is the only condi- about eight next morning. Although tion quite favorable in the matter of he sits for approximately sixteen hours the hatching out of the young. The to the hen's eight, the actual trouble subject is an interesting one, the evi- incidental to hatching is more or less dence in favor of both monogamy and evenly apportioned between the two. polygamy being very strong. My own About eight hours of the cock's sojourn experiences among wild birds led me
are spent in sleep. He has an unbroken to conclude that the usual breeding eight-hour period wherein to feed. The family consisted of a cock and two hen, on the other hand, has two fourhens. Mr. Schreiner's main points are, hour periods. In feeding the birds (1) that a pair make the nest, and (2) stroll leisurely along, cropping suitable that the best results ensue when there herbage on their course. In leaving the is only one hen. The circumstance of nest or returning thereto, the wild bird the pair making the nest is not, it is never takes a straight course. The submitted, of any particular signifi- motive underlying this is obvious. cance. The South African Bantu are a polygamous people, but no Bantu
III will marry more than one wife on one occasion. That the best results in the At the end of about six weeks the matter of incubation are found in chicks will have hatched out. At first monogamy is undoubted.
they are weak, utterly helpless creaIt may be that the ostrich is poly- tures, with strange swellings on head, gamous against his will, but in his neck, and foot. However, within a few natural condition his polygamy days they become active and, on the at least bigamy - is hardly to be approach of danger, will scatter and doubted. The original numerical pro- take cover quite skillfully. They are portion of the sexes is about equal, but a dull yellowish brown in color, with
irregular longitudinal stripes of darker observe successfully only by locating brown on the neck. The body covering the nest by day, and afterwards apis of down, interspersed with thick, proaching it before dawn. Even this short feathers with pointed tips. These course is only occasionally successful. suggest minute porcupine quills. Be The level desert rarely contains any fore eating food the chicks pick up landmarks recognizable in the dark, so small stones wherewith to furnish their - unless one be accompanied by a gizzards. During the later stages of Bushman guide, and Bushmen nowaincubation - probably owing to want days are scarce there is considerable of exercise - the parent birds become danger of missing the located spot. constipated; their excrement is emitted Moreover, there is always the chance in small, hard lumps. This forms the of disturbing one or other of the hens first food of the chicks. The latter do resting in the darkness, and her flight not all emerge from the shells on the may cause the cock to rise from the same day; it usually takes about four nest and decamp. However, let us asdays for the whole brood to appear. sume success, and that, after a tramp
After the first chicks have advanced of several hours across the darkened from their stage of helpless bewilder- waste, we have reached the place apment and are able to move about, the pointed for observation. The pulsing cock-bird leads them for short excur- stars are above and around almost sions in the vicinity of the nest, where incredibly lustrous. In our journey we they begin to peck feebly at whatever have disturbed many a wild creature herbage exists. It is not unusual to in those mysterious avocations which see the cock leading five or six chicks are hardly even suspected by day. afield, while another five or six lie or The long-drawn, nasal Yonk, yonk, yowcrouch stupidly on the raised margin e-e-aow' of many a questing jackal has of the nest, and yet another five or six sounded across the waste, awakening are cheeping within the yet unbroken answers from kindred spirits far and prison of the shell. There is considerable difference of opinion on the point At length we have reached the obas to whether one of the parent birds jective - a patch of low, loose bush breaks the shells to free chicks whose some ten feet in diameter. About two emergence is unduly delayed. My own hundred yards away is the nest; it will strong opinion is to the effect that the be in full view after day has come, for wild hen does so, by carefully pressing we are on an almost imperceptible rise. the eggs with the sternum plate. Dur- Pallid grows the east. For a while ing the final period of hatching, both flaming Phosphor outshines the dawn, male and female — especially the lat- but soon merges into the general effulter -- betray great excitement, and gence. Then the black, mound-like will fiercely attack any animal which body of the sitting cock becomes visihappens to come near. The cry of the ble. He lies as still as a rock, with his chick is pitched in a high key. When long, snake-like neck stretched straight the chick is very young the note is before him on the sand, his wings and tremulous; it is always liquid and tail spread tent-wise over the raised plaintive.
margin of the nest. The white plumes The observation of wild birds en- are almost completely hidden under gaged in the process of hatching is one the drooping fringe of black feathers. of the most difficult operations a natu- Herein is an undoubted instance of ralist can undertake. It is possible to protective coloration. The cock, being
jet-black, cannot be seen at night; the noted, is the practice of all desert antehen, which sits throughout the greater lopes, whereas, in the flight of antepart of the day, is more or less the lopes of the forest, it is the male which color of the desert sand. She thus at- covers the retreat. To these rules tains a maximum of invisibility while there are, I think, no exceptions. But on the nest.
if, in the case of the ostrich brood, At the appointed time the hens may the danger be formidable and close be seen approaching - usually from at hand, the chicks will immediately different directions, but never in a scatter and squat, skillfully making straight line. They have, if the herb- use of any available inequality in the age be more than ordinarily scanty, ground. Then the parents will enperhaps slept miles away. At dawn
deavor to attract attention to themthey rose and started on their respec- selves by falling to the ground and tive devious courses, cropping con- pretending to be injured. As the enemy stantly at the herbage. When one of approaches, the bird will spring up, the hens has reached the vicinity of run a short distance, and fall again. In the nest, the cock will rise, carefully this procedure the ostrich imitates the extracting his tarsi from among the sand-piper with extraordinary exacteggs. As a rule the hen takes his place ness. The danger over, the chicks run at once, but occasionally the eggs seem about uttering their distinctive call. to be deliberately left to cool, as in the The parent birds do not reply; they case of the domestic fowl. On one move slowly about within the area occasion I saw a cock come in swiftly containing the chicks, and their comfrom his feeding, sweep round the nest, manding height enables the latter to and force the hen, which had left it, see and rally round them. The ostrich back to her incubation duties. He knows its own chicks, and will kill any butted her with his breast-bone and others seeking its protection. showed every sign of indignation, One of the most remarkable habits flicking his wings and snapping his of the ostrich is that of waltzing, or beak. It was evident that he consid- gyrating. So far as I have been able ered that she had left the eggs for too to ascertain, this habit is confined to long a period. The second hen usually domesticated birds. None of the old sits on the edge of the nest, or, if eggs observers mention it. I have spoken are lying outside the rim, she often sits to many Bushmen and others familiar on them. It was not possible to as- with the ostrich in its wild state; not certain whether or not the same hen one of them had ever seen or heard of invariably took the most important wild birds gyrating. I have personally position on the nest.
had wild ostriches under observation When the chicks have all become from a place of concealment at every stronger on their legs, the parents lead season and at each hour of the day, them away to pastures they have al- but never have I seen them gyrating. ready located, where suitable food is Yet among domesticated birds the to be found. Should danger occur, the practice is universal. old birds utter a single note of alarm; It is usually indulged in when they then the cock hurries the brood away. are released from an enclosure in the Hissing violently, crouching forward early morning. Then the birds will run and with her wings forming a flutter- swiftly for a short distance, stop suding shield before her body, the hen denly, lift their wings, and spin rapfaces the enemy. This, it may be idly round and round, using a perfect
waltz-step. They turn indifferently ostrich is that known as rolling. It is from left to right or otherwise. Before almost exclusively confined to the male the gyration begins, they will often bird. Under sexual excitement or anger rush about on a zig-zag course; when a bird will sink down on his ankleit comes to an end, they will some- joints with his tarsi horizontal, the times run for a considerable distance tibia remaining erect. He will then at top speed. Sometimes during gyra- open his wings forward and swish them tion they become quite dizzy and fall alternately over his back. The head to the ground; if they meet an obsta- and neck, depressed backward, swing cle and trip, a broken tarsus is apt to with the motion of the wings, the head result.
striking the ribs on each side. The tail Gyration is practiced by birds of all becomes widely distended. While thus ages
from about three months onward, engaged, the bird appears to be lost in but among adults it is not nearly so an ecstasy of excitement; he becomes common as among non-nubile birds; quite oblivious to his surroundings. therefore it can have no sexual signifi- It is somewhat remarkable that erotic
excitement and anger should be exTaking into consideration the con- pressed in exactly the same manner. stant menace under which these birds There is a kind of analogy to be found
a exist in their natural environment, the in certain behavior of the desert gageneral practice of gyration or of any zelle (Antidorcas euchore, miscalled the exercise calculated to attract the atten- springbuck). This animal in its morntion of enemies, is unthinkable. The ing play expands and erects its dorsal young wild ostrich survives only with mane of long snow-white hair, bends difficulty, and largely owing to its in- its back and sinks its head almost to conspicuousness; probably not more the level of its hoofs. Then it bounds than twenty per cent of those hatched into the air, swaying from side to side. out reach maturity. So far as one can But if suddenly alarmed by an enemy, judge, the gyration is a pure and sim- the gazelle acts in a precisely similar ple expression of the joy of life --- as manner. natural a manifestation of healthy and The ostrich emits several sounds, exuberant vitality as is the dancing of the best-known of which is the muffled children of all ages and climes. It is roar known as the 'boom' or the conventional, for all birds gyrate in 'brom,' which is uttered by the male exactly the same manner. It is to be bird - either as a challenge to a rival accounted for only on the hypothesis or as a love-note to the hen. The sound of race-memory. Probably the ostrich is divided into three utterances, the did not always dwell in an environ- first two being short and the third ment of danger; countless ages ago the long, with an interval of about a secspecies may have had its origin in some ond between. It is generated in a curivast Australian tract wherein carni- ous manner. The bird shuts its beak vora were scarce. And now, when the so tightly that no air can escape; then age-long menace has been lifted from it empties the lungs into the wesophagus the domesticated birds, a hint through the larynx, inflating the neck whisper down the interminable, echo- for its greater extent. The air thus ing corridors of the germ-plasm - may flows backward over the vocal chords. have awakened in them the long-dor- This sound has been compared to mant spirit of joy.
‘mourning' by the Prophet Micah; and Another remarkable habit of the at a certain distance, when some of the
elements have been subdued, it does the rule among birds that fly, quite disconvey a mournful suggestion. When connected and independent one of the heard close by, it suggests the utter- other. The quills, from their point of ance of an ox in pain, but at over a emergence from the socket, become thousand yards it startlingly resem- increasingly flexile and lithe. The bles the voice of the lion. The boom of plumes convey suggestions of luxuriant the ostrich is but rarely heard by day, ductility, of effortless grace, of sumptuand the bird can utter it only when ousness, and, above all, of purity. standing still. The other sounds are, From very ancient days they have respectively, a loud hiss of anger, a been used by man as a decoration, but gurgle expressive of alarm, and the not until quite recently by woman. sharp note uttered to warn the chicks The beauty of the plumes of the of danger.
ostrich and the mystery surrounding The ostrich is usually a vegetarian, its habits, have ever attracted the inbut his gizzard is a mill to which most terest of mankind. In ancient Egypt objects capable of being swallowed are the plume, on account of the matheacceptable grist. It contains a num- matical equality of the opposing barbs ber of large, rounded stones; almost in- in point of length, - a peculiarity not variably some of these are brightly present in the primary feathers of any colored. He will feed greedily upon other bird with which the Egyptians locusts in the wingless stage, and ap- were acquainted — was regarded as the parently considers a young tortoise to sacred symbol of Justice. Osiris was be a tit-bit. Domesticated ostriches represented with two ostrich plumes swallow the most extraordinary things; in his crown. The hieroglyph for the if one wears jewelry it is not safe to plume was ‘shoo.' This was probably approach the fence of an enclosure in onomatopoetic, and originated in the which friendly birds are kept. More soft sound made by the plumes, when than one lady has discovered this to used as a fan. her cost. With a lightning-like sweep The plume of the ostrich is in several of its beak over or through a fence, a respects the fairest thing which earth bird will annex a brooch, a locket, or has produced. The creature which it any other glittering object. Tennis- glorifies is a member of an archaic balls, kittens, the heels of glass bottles, class. Many of its congeners have cartridges, and small lengths of heavy disappeared; perhaps eliminated by wire, are among the articles which the mammal carnivora; perhaps owing ostriches have been observed to swal- to their expensiveness,' as Lafcadio low.
Hearn suggests in connection with the The plume of the ostrich is like elimination of the dragons of the prime. nothing else in Nature. The nearest One may see in certain museums the resemblance is to be found in an unbroken shell of the egg — fourteen ephemeral thing - the foam of a inches in length-of the Æpiornis, unbreaking wave. It must be unthink- earthed in Madagascar. The height of able ages since the wings of this bird this bird — possibly the roc of Eastern subserved any use but that of beauty; legend — may have been anything up their function in the matter of cover- to twenty feet. The Diornis of New ing the eggs during incubation is quite Zealand - another gigantic relative secondary and could easily be dis- was probably in existence in the sevpensed with. The perfectly even barbs enteenth century. Fossil bones of are soft as gossamer and, contrary to struthious birds have been found in