Page:Ornithological biography, or an account of the habits of the birds of the United States of America, volume 1.djvu/246

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218
RUFFED GROUSE.

Hawk. The former watches their motions from the tops of trees, and falls upon them with the swiftness of thought, whilst the latter seizes upon them as he glides rapidly through the woods. Pole-cats, weasels, raccoons, oppossums, and foxes, are all destructive foes to them. Of these, some are content with sucking their eggs, while others feed on their flesh.

I have found these birds most numerous in the States of Pennsylvania and New York. They are brought to the markets in great numbers, during the winter months, and sell at from 75 cents to a dollar a-piece, in the eastern cities. At Pittsburg I have bought them, some years ago, for 12½ cents the pair. It is said that when they have fed for several weeks on the leaves of the Kalmia latifolia, it is dangerous to eat their flesh, and I believe laws have been passed to prevent their being sold at that season. I have, however, eaten them at all seasons, and although I have found their crops distended with the leaves of the Kalmia, have never felt the least inconvenience after eating them, nor even perceived any difference of taste in their flesh. I suspect it is only when the birds have been kept a long time undrawn and unplucked, that the flesh becomes impregnated with the juice of these leaves.

The food of this species consists of seeds and berries of all kinds, according to the season. It also feeds on the leaves of several species of evergreens, although these are only resorted to when other food has become scarce. They are particularly fond of fox-grapes and winter-grapes, as well as strawberries and dewberries. To procure the latter, they issue from the groves of the Kentucky Barrens, and often stray to the distance of a mile. They roost on trees, amongst the thickest parts of the foliage, sitting at some distance from each other, and may easily be smoked to death, by using the necessary precautions.

I cannot conclude this article, kind reader, without observing how desirable the acquisition of this species might be to the sportsmen of Europe, and especially to those of England, where I am surprised it has not yet been introduced. The size of these birds, the beauty of their plumage, the excellence of their flesh, and their peculiar mode of flying, would render them valuable, and add greatly to the interest of the already diversified sports of that country. In England and Scotland there are thousands of situations that are by nature perfectly suited to their habits, and I have not a doubt that a few years of attention would be sufficient to render them quite as common as the Grey Partridge.