CASSICUS. Cuv. CAssiquE.
Bill large, quite conical, thick at the base, nicely whet ted at the point ; the junction of the mandibles in a broken line, or forming an angle, as in the starlings; nostrils small and round, and placed on the sides of the bill. These are American birds, in manners approximating to the star lings, living, like them, in flocks, often constructing their nests near one another, and with singular skill and artifice. They live on seeds and insects; and their numerous flocks frequently occasion serious injury to the cultivated fields. Their flesh has, for the most part, a very indifferent relish.
C. cmstutus, Cuv. Vieil. Oriolus cristatus, Lath. Creet ed Cassique, or Crested Oriole. Black, crested; lower part of the back, rump, and vent, chesnut; lateral tail feathers yellow. The colours of the female are less dis tinctly pronounced. Length of the body from eighteen to twenty inches, and extent of wing twenty-nine inches. This species, which is the largest of the tribe, occurs in Brazil, Guiana, and Paraguay; varies considerably both in dimensions and colours; lives both on insects and fruits, and is particularly fond of those of the Passiflora latifolia, and of a grain which gives a yellow tinge to its dung. Its flesh exhales a very strong odour of castoreum. When it utters its very varied and singular cry, which is not of ten the case, it is perched on the sloping branch of a tree, with its body stretched out, its head lowered, and its wings expanded, and smartly agitated. It is most generally ob served solitary, or in pairs, but sometimes in flocks of about a hundred, which fly and work in common, keep time with the beating of their wings, and occasionally halt on the tops of trees. Six of their hanging nests may be seen on the same tree, owing perhaps to the scarcity of the particular description of trees suited to their purpose; for they uniformly select only such as are dispersed on the outskirts of the woods, and have the trunk quite smooth to the height of thirty or forty feet, before they throw out their many horizontal branches. To the ex ttemity of one of- those branches, and at a great distance front the trunk, they suspend their nest, which is about thirty-six inches long, and resembles a purse or pouch, with the lower end hemispherical, and ten inches wide.
The male and female jointly manufacture it, by interlacing or knitting shreds of the bark of a species of aloe, termed caraguata, small rushes, and old man's beard, and lining the bottom with a thick layer of large dried leaves, pluck ed from the tree itself. In this rocking cradle the female lays three eggs, and feeds her young with worms. When
they have attained maturity, they greedily feed on the orange and pine-apple.
C. hemorrhou8,Cuv.Vieil. Oriolus hemorrhous, Lath. Red-rumped Cassique, or Oriole. Black, with the lower part of the back, rump, and vent, crimson. An elegant species, though of plain colouring. Length about eleven inches. Native of South America, particularly of Guiana. Builds its nest on branches which project over water, composing it of dried bents, and giving it the form of a narrow cucurbit with its alembic, the bottom in which the eggs are deposited being much thicker than the rest; the entrance is a little under the upper part, and the passage oblique, so that rain cannot gain admission, from whatever quarter it proceeds. The nest, which is suspended by the upper part, measures, externally about eighteen inches in length, and the internal cavity is about ten inches.
C. icteronotus, Vieil. Oriolus Persicus, Lin. Orioles Cacicus, Shaw. Grand Troupiale of Azara. Black and Yellow Cassique, Black and Yellow Oriole, Persian Pie, &c. Black, with the lower part of the back, spot on the wing-coverts, and base of the tail feathers, yellow. Size of a blackbird. The female is somewhat larger than the male, and has less brilliant plumage. The epithet Persian is quite inapplicable to the present species, which is found only in South America, and particularly in Cayenne. It is of a gregarious disposition, like the rooks in Europe, great numbers building near one another, insomuch that no fewer than four hundred nests have been seen on the same tree. They are shaped like an alembic, and about. eighteen inches in length. The upper portion by which they arc fastened to the branch is of a compact substance, the lower or purse forming the true nest. The whole is composed of dried grasses, and the fibres of the parasitical plant called Tallandaia usneoides, or old man's beard, which, in its dried state, bears a strong resemblance to horse hair. The eggs are dirty white, with small pale brown spots. This species is prolific, having three hatches in the year. They feed on grain and insects, perch on trees, and by the variety of their native whistle, and the different expressions of their warble, with which they blend imitative sounds, one would suppose that they were mocking the people who listen to them. They are very easily tamed, and very amusing in confinement, as they readily learn differ ent tunes, and counterfeit the cries of various animals, the barking of a dog, the laughing of a man, &c. Like the crested species, they smell strongly of castoreum.