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Pelecanus

birds, fishes, water, found, fish, bird, pelican, feet, surface and pouch

PELECANUS, the pelican, in natural history, a genus of birds of the order Anseres. Generic character : bill straight, honked at the point ; nostrils in an almost obliterated furrow ; face almost naked of feathers ; gullet naked, and capable of great distention ; four toes, all webbed to gether. There are thirty species, of which we shall notice the following : P. onocrotalus, or the great peliCan is sometimes of the weight of twenty-five pounds, and of the width, between the extreme points of the wings, of fifteen feet ; the skin, between the sides of the upper mandible, is extremely dilatahle, reaching more than half a foot down the neck, and capable of containing many quarts of water. This skin is often used by sailors for tobacco-pouches, and has been occasionally converted into elegant ladies' work-bags. About the Caspian and Black Seas, these birds are very nu merous and they are chiefly to be found in the warmer regions, inhabiting almost every country of Africa. They build in the small isles of lakes, far from the ha bitations of man. The nest is a foot and a half in diameter, and the female if mo lested will remove her eggs into the wa ter till the cause of 'annoyance is removed, returning them then to her nest of reeds and Frass. These birds, though living principally upon fishes, often build in the midst of desarts, where that element is rarely to be found. They are extreme ly dexterous in divingfor their prey, and after having filled their pouch, will retire to some rock, and swallow what they have taken at their leisure. They are said to unite with other birds in the pur suit of fishes. The pelicans dive, and drive the fish into the shallows. The cormorants assist, by flapping their wings on the surface, and forming a crescent, perpetually contracting, they at length accomplish their object, and compel vast numbers into creeks and shallows, where they gratify their voracity with perfect ease, and to the most astonishing excess. P. occidentalis, or the American peli can, is about the size of a goose : of this bird it is reported, that it will bring sup plies of food to any disabled and diseased companion; and that the natives of the island of Assumption, by confining ono near the shore, frequently induce others to make these generous presents, which are fradulently converted to the purpose of food for the islanders.

The red-backed pelican. One of these was in the possession of Mr. Latham, and was found, on an experiment purposely made, to store away ten fishes, weighing a pound each, in its pouch, arranging • them with the head towards the throat. It then marched away to swallow them at its leisure ; the pouch being extended nearly down to its feet.

P. aquilus, or the man of war bird, is small in body, but between the extremi ties of the wings fourteen feet in width. It is seldom seen but within the tropics, and not unfrequently is observed two hundred leagues from land. It watches the movements of fishes from a very con siderable height, and pounces upon them with unfailing success, returning from its immersion with equal rapidity. It also

often obliges other birds to quit the prey which they have just made, and are flying off with, and seizes it as it drops from them with a dexterity truly admirable. During the movements of flying fishes over the surface of the sea, which are previously indicated to this bird by the bubbling of the water, it is one of their most vigilant and fatal enemies.

P. carbo, or cormorant, is nearly as large as a goose, is found in many places both of the old and the new world, and is to be met with very common on the sea coast and harbours of the United States, known in many parts by the name of " Negro-Geese." They swim with the body under water, the neck and head on ly erect and above the surface ; at the flash of a gun or the approach of any danger they dive instantaneously, remain a considerable time under water, and rise at a distance. They have a very offensive smell, and the flesh is not pa lateable. These birds are shy and craf ty, but frequently eat to so great an ex cess as to induce a species of lethargy, in which, in England, they are caught by nets thrown over them without their making an effort to escape. They are trained by the Chinese to fish for them. By a ring placed round their necks, they are prevented from swallowing what they take, and, when their pouches are filled, they unload them, and, at the command of their owners, renew their two will be seen combining their efforts to secure a fish, too large for the manage ment of one only. When their work is finished to the employer's satisfaction, the birds have a full allotment of the spoil, for their reward and encourage ment. In Macao, also, these birds are thus domesticated, taking extreme de light in the exercise, and constituting a source of very considerable profit to their owners. They were formerly trained, and used in the same manner in England; and Charles I. had an officer of his household, called master of the cormo rants. See Ayes, Plate XI. fig. 3.

P. bassanus, or the island-goose, or gannet, weighs about seven pounds, and inhabits, in great numbers, the northern isles of Great Britain. It is migratory, and drawn to that country by the shoals of herrings and pilchards, whose move ments it watches with the most anxious vigilance. The young birds are sold in great plenty at Edinburgh, where they are frequently introduced before dinner as a stimulus to appetite. In St. Kilda, it is supposed that upwards of twenty thousand of these birds are taken annu ally. They constitute an important ar ticle of food to the inhabitants, who, to procure both the eggs and the young ones, expose themselves to the most im minent dangers on elevated and precipi tous cliffs, and, in several instances, have fallen victims to the hardihood with which they have pursued their researches. See Ayes, Plate XI. fig. 4.