1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pratincole

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

PRATINCOLE, a word apparently invented by J. Latham (Synopsis, v. 222), being the English rendering of Pratincola, applied in 1756 by P. Kramer (Elenchus, p. 381) to a bird which had hitherto received no definite name, though it had long before been described and even recognizably figured by Aldrovandus (Ornithologia, xvii. 9) under the vague designation of “hirundo marina.” It is the Glareola pratincola of modern ornithologists, forming the type of a genus Glareola, founded by M. J. Brisson in 1760, belonging to the group Limicolae, and constituting together with the coursers (Cursorius) a separate family, Glareolidae. The pratincoles, of which some eight or nine species have been described, are all small birds, slenderly built and mostly delicately coloured, with a short stout bill, a wide gape, long pointed wings, and a tail more or less forked. In some of their habits they are thoroughly plover-like, running very swiftly and breeding on the ground, but on the wing they have much the appearance of swallows, and, like them, feed, at least partly, while flying.[1] The ordinary pratincole of Europe, G. pratincola, breeds abundantly in many parts of Spain, Barbary and Sicily, along the valley of the Danube, and in southern Russia, while owing to its great powers of flight it frequently wanders far from its home, and more than a score of examples have been recorded as occurring in the British Islands. In the south-east of Europe a second and closely-allied species, G. nordmanni or G. melanoptera, which has black instead of chestnut inner wing-coverts, accompanies or, farther to the eastward, replaces it; and in its turn it is replaced in India, China and Australia by G. orientalis. Australia also possesses another species, G. grallaria, remarkable for the great length of its wings and much longer legs, while its tail is scarcely forked—peculiarities that have led to its being considered the type of a distinct genus or sub-genus Stiltia. Two species, G. lactea and G. cinerea, from India and Africa respectively, seem by their pale coloration to be desert forms, and they are the smallest of this curious little group. The species whose mode of nidificatipn is known lay either two or three eggs, stone-coloured, blotched, spotted, and streaked with black or brownish-grey. The young when hatched are clothed in down and are able to run at once—just as are young plovers.  (A. N.) 

  1. This combination of characters for many years led systematizers astray, though some of them were from the first correct in their notions as to the Pratincole's position. Linnaeus, even in his latest publication, placed it in the genus Hirundo; but the interleaved and annotated copies of his Systema naturae in the Linnean Society's library show the species marked for separation and insertion in the Order GrallaePratincola trachelia being the name by which he had meant to designate it in any future edition. He seems to have been induced to this change of view mainly through a specimen of the bird sent to him by John White, the brother of Gilbert White; but the opinion published in 1769 by Scopoli (Ann. I. hist. naturalis, p. 110) had doubtless contributed thereto, though the earlier judgment to the same effect of Brisson, as mentioned above, had been disregarded. Different erroneous assignments of the form have been made even by recent authors, who neglected the clear evidence afforded by the internal structure of the Pratincole. For instance, Sundevall in 1873 (Tentamen, p. 86) placed Glareola among the Caprimulgidae, position which osteology shows cannot be maintained for a moment.