History of Animals
beautiful plumage, makes a living cleverly, and is graceful in form;
it appears to be alien to our country; at all events it is seldom seen
at a distance from its own immediate home.
The crake is quarrelsome, clever at making a living, but in
other ways an unlucky bird. The bird called sitta is quarrelsome,
but clever and tidy, makes its living with ease, and for its
knowingness is regarded as uncanny; it has a numerous brood, of
which it is fond, and lives by pecking the bark of trees. The
aegolius-owl flies by night, is seldom seen by day; like others we
have mentioned, it lives on cliffs or in caverns; it feeds on two
kinds of food; it has a strong hold on life and is full of resource.
The tree-creeper is a little bird, of fearless disposition; it lives
among trees, feeds on caterpillars, makes a living with ease, and
has a loud clear note. The acanthis finds its food with difficulty;
its plumage is poor, but its note is musical.
Of the herons, the ashen-coloured one, as has been said, unites
with the female not without pain; it is full of resource, carries
its food with it, is eager in the quest of it, and works by day; its
plumage is poor, and its excrement is always wet. Of the other two
species-for there are three in all-the white heron has handsome
plumage, unites without harm to itself with the female, builds a
nest and lays its eggs neatly in trees; it frequents marshes and lakes
and Plains and meadow land. The speckled heron, which is nicknamed
'the skulker', is said in folklore stories to be of servile origin,
and, as its nickname implies, it is the laziest bird of the three
species. Such are the habits of herons. The bird that is called the
poynx has this peculiarity, that it is more prone than any other
bird to peck at the eyes of an assailant or its prey; it is at war
with the harpy, as the two birds live on the same food.
There are two kinds of owsels; the one is black, and is found
everywhere, the other is quite white, about the same size as the
other, and with the same pipe. This latter is found on Cyllene in
Arcadia, and is found nowhere else. The laius, or blue-thrush, is like
the black owsel, only a little smaller; it lives on cliffs or on
tile roofings; it has not a red beak as the black owsel has.
Of thrushes there are three species. One is the misselthrush; it
feeds only on mistletoe and resin; it is about the size of the jay.
A second is the song-thrush; it has a sharp pipe, and is about the
size of the owsel. There is another species called the Illas; it is
the smallest species of the three, and is less variegated in plumage
than the others.
There is a bird that lives on rocks, called the blue-bird from its
colour. It is comparatively common in Nisyros, and is somewhat less
than the owsel and a little bigger than the chaffinch. It has large
claws, and climbs on the face of the rocks. It is steel-blue all over;
its beak is long and slender; its legs are short, like those of the
The oriole is yellow all over; it is not visible during winter,
but puts in an appearance about the time of the summer solstice, and
departs again at the rising of Arcturus; it is the size of the
turtle-dove. The so-called soft-head (or shrike) always settles on one
and the same branch, where it falls a prey to the birdcatcher. Its