Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/794

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7 74 '^HE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

cuted by the writer, is adapted from two drawings given us by Newton; and this distinguished authority has said that "in sin- gularity of aspect few birds surpass Balixniceps, with its gaunt gray figure, some five feet in height, its large head surmounted by a little curled tuft, the scowling expression of its eyes, and its huge bill in form not unlike a whale's head this last suggesting its generic name but tipped with a formidable hook." These birds lay white eggs with faint markings upon them in an ordi- nary nest built in the high sedge in the near vicinity of the water. Before leaving this the young are fed by the parents for some time, as in the case of other heronlike types.

Flamingoes (Phoenicopferus) are other birds that formerly much exercised the avian taxonomer, and they were variously classified until Huxley and other anatomists clearly demonstrated that they should be awarded a group to themselves, and that they connected the ibises on the one hand with the anserine fowls (ducks, swans, geese, etc.) on the other, standing immediately be- tween these two groups. Not so easy, however, has it been to decide upon the relationships of another most singular bird that is, the screamer (Palamedea cornula, Fig. 8) of Guiana and the valley of the Amazon and it may with truth be said that its position in the system is as yet by no means fully under- stood. That in some strange way it is related to the duck group (Anseres) there seems now to be no question, but with what other main assemblages of birds there is a very considerable de- gree of doubt entertained. This form is as big as a small brant goose, and is noted for its very noisy screams, which make the very air resound when uttered. Either of its wings are armed with two sharp spurs, and on the crown of its head is reared a slender " horn," some three inches in length. Below it is white, while the rest of its general plumage is of a blackish gray, and its toes are very long for the size of the bird. Another strange thing about it is that its skin is separated from the muscles by an air filled cellular tissue, which gives rise to a crackling sound when the bird is handled, as in the case of certain gannets and cormorants. Screamers are abundant in some localities, where they live in pairs, especially in the marshy districts. They feed upon grain and aquatic herbs. A closely related genus is rep- resented by the "crested screamer" {Chauna cliavaria) of the swamps and sloughs of the lower Brazils and Paraguay, where it is known to the inhabitants as the " chaka." Not so large as its near ally and lacking its " horn," which latter is replaced by a hanging tuft of feathers, this species is as fully interesting to the ornithologist. It has considerable more white in its plumage, the face and throat being entirely so, while below it is more or less shaded with dusky. A black ring encircles the neck. Linnaeus

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