Bird is a biped animal, provided with a bill, and covered with feathers, having two wings, by which it is enabled to fly, except in a few instances. The science which treats of birds, in general, is called Ornithology: to which article we refer the reader, for farther particulars respecting the feathered tribe. But the uses, etc. of the various species, will be stated under their different heads.
Bird-Call is a stick split atone end, and containing a leaf of some plant, by which the notes of different birds are imitated, and they are thus attracted to the net, snare, or lime-twig. Thus, a laurel-leaf fitted to the bird-call, enables a skilful whistler to produce accents resembling those of lapwings ; a leek, those of nightingales, etc.
Bird-Catching is the art of taking birds, whether for the table, for the pleasure of their song, or with a view to destroy them, on account of their depredations.— This art is practised by several persons in the vicinity of London, for a livelihood; and is now reduced to a degree of systematic perfection. It is, however, attended with considerable expence, and the whole process is little known in other parts of Britain. We shall, therefore, as concisely as possible, describe the ingenious contrivances of bird-catchers, chiefly for the information and amusement of our country readers.
The nets are a most curious invention, about twelve yards and a half in length, and two and a half wide : the birds are caught by the nets flapping over each other.
Wild birds fly, as the bird-catchers term it, chiefly during September, October, and Novem-ber ; and also in March, though not in such abundance. The pip-pet, a small species of lark, appears about Michaelmas, and is succeeded by the wood-lark, linnet, gold-finch, chaff-finch, etc. none of which can be caught in great numbers at any other time. The birds are, generally, on the wing from day-break till noon ; and, as they always fly against the wind, there is great contention among the bird-catchers, to obtain the best situation ; for example, if the wind be westerly, the person who arranges his nets farthest to the east, uniformly has the greatest success. The bird-catcher is generally provided with five or six linnets, two gold-finches, two greenfinches, one wood-lark, a red-pole, yellow-hammer, and, perhaps, a bull-finch: these are placed at short distances from the nets, in small cages: he has, besides, what are called flur birds, which are fastened to a moveable perch, placed within the net, where they can be raised at pleasure, and gently lowered when the wild bird approaches.
As there is known to be a superiority between different birds of the same, species, with respecl: to their song, bird-catchers always contrive, that their call-birds may moult before the usual time. This is effected by putting them into a close box for a month, under two or three folds of blankets, and leaving their dung in the cage, to increase the beat. In consequence of - premature moulting, the captive bird not only begins to sing at a time when the wild ones are out of song, but his notes likewise are louder and more shrill than theirs.
Having arranged his nets, the bird-catcher disposes the call-birds at proper intervals ; as their sight and hearing is infinitely superior to his own. As soon as the wild birds are perceived, notice is given by one of the call-birds to the rest they invite the wild ones by what is called short jerks : this invitation is so strong, that the latter are stopped in their course, and, it frequently happens, that, if half a flock only are caugh the remainder will immediately afterwards alight in the nets.
Nightingales are not birds of flight: like the wren, and other singing birds, they only move from hedge to hedge; and are caught by a trap-net, , somewhat larger than a cabbage-net, and the bottom of which is surrounded by an iron ring: the trap is baited with a meal-worm.
The common way of taking larks is by nets, called trammels, which are thirty-six yards long, and six yards broad ; they have six ribs of packthread, which are fastened to poles at the ends, about sixteen feet in length. A net thus prepared, is in the night drawn by five or six men over the ground, which it is made to touch at short intervals. When the birds fly up against the net, it is let down, and all under it are taken; such as woodcocks, snipes, partridges, quails, etc. Larks in the day-time are caught in clap-nets, fourteen or fifteen yards long, and two and a half wide. They are enticed by a decoy-lark, and likewise by small fragments of looking-glass fixed in a piece of wood, and placed in the middle of the net, so as to receive a quick and circular motion, by means of a string. This net, however, is employed only till the second week in November, as larks do not sport in the air, except in fine weather. But in gloomy days, the larker changes his engine, and makes use of, a trammel-net, about twenty-seven feet long, and five broad ; which is fixed on two poles eighteen feet long ; and carried by men who, when passing over the fields, and perceiving a lark hit the net, drop it, and thus secure the bird.
We shall pass over the singular and hazardous methods of bird-catching practised by the inhabitants of the Orkney Islands, and in other parts of the world. But the following manner of taking birds alive, by means of a fusee or musket, is so ingenious, that we shall communicate it to our readers. It was invented by M. de Vaillant, during his travels in Africa : if his plan be practicable, it will certainly facilitate the researches of the Or-nithologist.—Put a smaller or larger quantity of gunpowder into the musket, according as circumstances may require. Immediately above it, place the end of a candle of sufficient thickness, ramming it well down; and then fill the barrel with water up to the mouth. When at a proper distance, fire the musket thus loaded at a bird, which will only be stunned, by watering and moistening its feathers, and may be easily laid hold of, before it has time, by fluttering, to injure its plumage.
Bird. - Although some kinds of the leathered tribe are of eminent service to agriculturists and gardeners, by devouring innumerable insects, yet as great injury is committed, especially by crows, we shall here briefly state a few expedients that have been lately recommended. - In some parts of England, farmers employ children to drive away such depredators by shouting : in others, the firing of serpents from guns, among flocks of crows, has likewise been found very efficacious; but the most simple and least expensive contrivances, are rattles, similar to those employed by the watchmen of the metropolis, which may be set in motion by children : - their terrific noise will effectually disperse predatory birds of every description.