Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/325

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our peculiar little burrowing owls of the Western prairies (Speotyto). Again, it is said that such owls as our screech owls (Megascops) exhibit a dichromatism of plumage, being "rufous" in one and, when adult, "gray" in the other, and that they have "ear tufts" or plumicorns ornamenting their heads. Here it is interesting to know that in the Malay Archipelago and in China we meet with the goatsucker Lyncornis, which is also characterized by the possession of "aural tufts" and a dichromatism of plumage—the same species having been taken in both a rufous and a gray one. And so we might pass from one species to another, gathering one habit here, and another point in anatomical structure there, until the most skeptical person in the world would at last be convinced that the two groups (Caprimulgi and Striges) were in some strange way related.

Plumicorns are also possessed by the remarkable Indian caprimulgine bird Batrachostomus, a species which also occurs in the Malay Archipelago, and still other very curious genera of other parts are the Nyctibius and Ægotheles and Podargus; Podargus cuvieri being fully three times as large as any known North American species of goatsucker, being found in the island of Tasmania, where its peculiar cry has caused it to receive the name of "morepork" by the colonists of that distant quarter of the globe. But for the greatest oddities among these birds, especially in the matter of plumage, we must turn to Africa, and that paradise for the explorer, Madagascar. For instance, the Macrodipteryx of Africa has the ninth primary feather of either wing developed to a pennant-like length, and when the bird is seen during flight these appendages float out in the most striking manner; being still more peculiar in an allied species where the shaft of these elongated feathers is naked, and it is only at their extremities that a spatulate form of the web is retained. Madagascaran species exist that even have still more remarkably developed wing feathers, while in the South American Psalurus, again, it is the lateral tail feathers that are greatly lengthened.

In concluding this brief paper I would invite attention to the fact that we find the family of goatsuckers immediately following the family of owls in Audubon's Birds of America, and of the former he observes that they are "very nearly allied in some respects to the owls"; and I am strongly inclined to the belief that that "careful dissector of birds," the "Scotch anatomist" William Macgillivray, had much to do with bringing the mind of our distinguished Franco-American ornithologist to that opinion.