Page:The Passenger Pigeon - Mershon.djvu/40

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The Passenger Pigeon

tracts of the earth, otherwise they must have perished in the districts where they resided, or devoured up the whole productions of agriculture, as well as those of the forests.

A few observations on the mode of flight of these birds must not be omitted. The appearance of large detached bodies of them in the air and the various evolutions they display are strikingly picturesque and interesting. In descending the Ohio by myself in the month of February I often rested on my oars to contemplate their aerial manoeuvres. A column, eight or ten miles in length, would appear from Kentucky, high in air, steering across to Indiana. The leaders of this great body would sometimes gradually vary their course until it formed a large bend of more than a mile in diameter, those behind tracing the exact route of their predecessors. This would continue sometimes long after both extremities were beyond the reach of sight, so that the whole, with its glittery undulations, marked a space on the face of the heavens resembling the windings of a vast and majestic river. When this bend became very great the birds, as if sensible of the unnecessary circuitous course they were taking, suddenly changed their direction, so that what was in column before, became an immense front, straightening all its indentures, until it swept the heavens in one vast and infinitely extended line. Other lesser bodies also united with each other as they happened to approach