History of Animals
avoid having to give battle to other males who might have heard him.
The partridge has not only the note here referred to, but also a
thin shrill cry and other notes. Oftentimes the hen-bird rises from
off her brood when she sees the male showing attentions to the
female decoy; she will give the counter note and remain still, so as
to be trodden by him and divert him from the decoy. The quail and
the partridge are so intent upon sexual union that they often come
right in the way of the decoy-birds, and not seldom alight upon
their heads. So much for the sexual proclivities of the partridge, for
the way in which it is hunted, and the general nasty habits of the
As has been said, quails and partridges build their nests upon
the ground, and so also do some of the birds that are capable of
sustained flight. Further, for instance, of such birds, the lark and
the woodcock, as well as the quail, do not perch on a branch, but
squat upon the ground.
The woodpecker does not squat on the ground, but pecks at the bark
of trees to drive out from under it maggots and gnats; when they
emerge, it licks them up with its tongue, which is large and flat.
It can run up and down a tree in any way, even with the head
downwards, like the gecko-lizard. For secure hold upon a tree, its
claws are better adapted than those of the daw; it makes its way by
sticking these claws into the bark. One species of woodpecker is
smaller than a blackbird, and has small reddish speckles; a second
species is larger than the blackbird, and a third is not much
smaller than a barn-door hen. It builds a nest on trees, as has been
said, on olive trees amongst others. It feeds on the maggots and
ants that are under the bark: it is so eager in the search for maggots
that it is said sometimes to hollow a tree out to its downfall. A
woodpecker once, in course of domestication, was seen to insert an
almond into a hole in a piece of timber, so that it might remain
steady under its pecking; at the third peck it split the shell of
the fruit, and then ate the kernel.
Many indications of high intelligence are given by cranes. They
will fly to a great distance and up in the air, to command an
extensive view; if they see clouds and signs of bad weather they fly
down again and remain still. They, furthermore, have a leader in their
flight, and patrols that scream on the confines of the flock so as
to be heard by all. When they settle down, the main body go to sleep
with their heads under their wing, standing first on one leg and
then on the other, while their leader, with his head uncovered,
keeps a sharp look out, and when he sees anything of importance
signals it with a cry.
Pelicans that live beside rivers swallow the large smooth
mussel-shells: after cooking them inside the crop that precedes the
stomach, they spit them out, so that, now when their shells are
open, they may pick the flesh out and eat it.
Of wild birds, the nests are fashioned to meet the exigencies of
existence and ensure the security of the young. Some of these birds
are fond of their young and take great care of them, others are
quite the reverse; some are clever in procuring subsistence, others
are not so. Some of these birds build in ravines and clefts, and on
cliffs, as, for instance, the so-called charadrius, or stone-curlew;
this bird is in no way noteworthy for plumage or voice; it makes an
appearance at night, but in the daytime keeps out of sight.
The hawk also builds in inaccessible places. Although a ravenous
bird, it will never eat the heart of any bird it catches; this has
been observed in the case of the quail, the thrush, and other birds.