Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/262

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apt to quit the spot), but by means of a long stick they rake them out of the nest as fast as the birds lay them."

A peculiarity in regard to the eggs of the ostrich, and, so far as I am aware, confined to the eggs of this bird alone, is mentioned by several African travelers. For example: "The farmer here likewise informed me," says the author just quoted, "that a stone or two is sometimes found in the ostrich's eggs, which is hard, white, rather flat and smooth, and about the size of a bean. These stones are cut and made into buttons, but I never had the good fortune to see any of them."

Again: "In these eggs," writes Barrow, "are frequently discovered a number of small oval-shaped pebbles, about the size of a marrowfat pea, of a pale yellow color, and exceedingly hard. In one egg we found nine, and in another twelve of such stones."

Notwithstanding the number of eggs laid, seldom more than thirty to thirty-five are hatched. Almost as soon as the chicks (which are about the size of pullets) have escaped from the shell, they are able to walk about and to follow the mother, on whom they are dependent for a considerable period. And Nature, with her usual care, has provided the young with a color and a covering admirably suited to the localities they frequent. The color is a kind of pepper-and-salt, harmonizing wonderfully with the variegated sand and gravel of the plains which they are in the habit of traversing. Indeed, when crouching under my very eyes, I have had the greatest difficulty in discerning the chicks. The covering is neither down nor feathers, but a kind of "prickly external," which, no doubt, is an excellent protection against injury from the coarse gravel and the stunted vegetation among which they dwell.

The flesh of the young ostrich is not unpalatable, but that of the old bird is any thing but good. To my notion, it tastes very much like that of the zebra. According to the