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Full text of "Egyptian birds for the most part seen in the Nile Valley"

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1869 
THE LIBRARY 



EGYPTIAN BIRDS 



IN THE SAME SERIES. 



EGYPT 

PAINTED AND DESCRIBED BY 

R. TALBOT KELLY 

R.I., R.B. A., F.R.G.S. , F.Z.S. 

Containing 75 Full-page Illustrations in 
Colour. 

Price 20s. net. 

(Post free, price 20s. 6d.) 



Published bv 
A. & C. BLACK, SoHo Square, LONDON, W. 



AGENTS 

America . The Macmillan Company 

64 & 66 Fifth Avenue, New York 

Australasia The Oxford University Press 

205 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 

Canada . The Macmillan Company of Canada, Ltd. 
27 Richmond Street West, Toronto 

India . . Macmillan & Company, Ltd. 

Macmillan Building, Bombay 

309 Bovfc' Bazaar Street, Calcutta 






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COOT 

The Sacred Lake, Karnak. 






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EGYPTIAN 

FOR THE MOST PART SEEN IN 
THE NILE VALLEY 



BY 

CHARLES WHYMPER 



LONDON 

ADAM AND CHARLES BLACK 

1909 



DEDICATED TO 

1bt0 1biGbne00 Zbc IkbcMvc 

IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION 

OF MUCH PERSONAL KINDNESS AND INTEREST 

SHOWN TO 

THE AUTHOR 



FOREWORD 

The question is so often asked, " What is the name 

of that bird ? " that the author has tried in plainest 

fashion to answer such questions. The scientific 

man will find little that is new in these pages ; 

they are not meant for him — they are alone meant 

for the wayfaring man who, travelling this ancient 

Egypt, wishes to learn something of the birds he 

sees. 

C. W. 



Houghton, Huntingdonshire, 
1909, 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



1. Coot 




Frontisjnece 

FACING PAGE 


2. Birds in Mid-air .... 




1 


3. A View on the Nile near Minieh 






10 


4. Griffon Vulture .... 






14 


5. Egyptian Vulture 






20 


6. Egyptian Kite 






30 


7. Kites in Flight 






32 


8. Barn-Owl 






34 


9. Little Owl 






38 


10. Egyptian Eagle Owl 






42 


11. Hoopoe ...... 






46 


12. Common Kingfisher .... 






50 


13. Black and White Kingfisher 






52 


14. Little Green Bee-Eater . 






54 


15. Common Swallow and Egyptian Swallow 






60 


l6. Pale Crag Swallow .... 






62 


17. White Wagtail .... 






G6 


18. Crested Lark 






70 


19. White-rumped Chat and Rosy Chat . 






72 


20. Blue-throated Warbler 






74 


21. Reed Warbler 






78 


22. Sparrow ...... 






82 



IX 



EGYPTIAN BIRDS 



fACIKG PAGE 

23. Desert Bullfinch or Trumpeter Finch ... 86 

24. Hooded Crow 90 

25. Egyptian Palm Doves . . . . . . 92 

26. Sand-Grouse ........ 94 

27. Hey's Sand-Partridge 100 

28. Quail 104 

29. Cream-coloured Courser . . . . . .108 

30. Green Plover or X,apwing 112 

31. Spur-winged Plover . . . . . . .114 

32. Black-headed Plover II6 

33. Ringed Plover . , 120 

34. Common Snipe . . . . . . .126 

35. Painted Snipe 128 

36. Avocet 130 

37. Sacred Ibis and Papyrus 132 

38. Cranes 136 

39. Spoonbills 140 

40. Black Stork 142 

41. Shoebill Stork 148 

42. Herons 152 

43. BufF-backed Heron 156 

44. Night Heron I60 

45. Flamingo ......... l62 

46. Studies of Gallinule I68 

47. Egyptian Geese . . . . . . .174 

48. Pintail, Teal;, and Shoveller Duck . . . . 178 

49. White Pelicans 186 

50. Cormorants . . . . . . . .192 

51. Lesser Black-backed Gull and Black-headed Gull . 198 



Also eleven line drawings in the text. 





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ilRDS IN MID-AIR 



EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

Pliny declares that it was by watching the flight 
of birds in general, and of the Kite in particular, 
that men first conceived the idea of steering their 
boats and ships with a tail or rudder, for, says he, 
'* these birds by the turning and steering by their 
tails showed in the air what was needful to be done 
in the deep." Nowhere can the aerial movements 
of birds be better studied than on the Nile, and as 
one's eye becomes trained it is just by the varying 
individual methods of flight that one is often able 
to identify the particular species of birds. This is 
to the most casual observer self-evident in those 
birds that fly close, near, or over one's head ; but it 
is astonishing how, as the eye gets trained, even a 
faint speck high up in mid-air can be absolutely 
identified by some peculiarity of shape and move- 
ment. On Plate 2 are some half-dozen different 
birds depicted as in flight, to assist the reader to 
identify the birds he will frequently see. 

No. 1 is the ordinary Kite of Egypt. Seen as 

soon as one lands at Alexandria or Port Said : 

1 1 



2 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

it is with us everywhere. Its most distinctive 
characteristics are the forked shape of its tail, and 
its familiarity with man, the latter leading it to 
have no sort of fear of flying near one, so near 
that its yellow beak and ever-restless eye, as it 
turns its head this way or that, can easily be seen, 
whilst its tail, moving in sympathy, sweeps it 
round to right or left. 

No. 2 is the Kestrel, or Windhover of England. 
A s this hawk is not a devourer of carrion, but feeds 
on mice, lizards, beetles, and other living things, 
it does not usually come so near the habitations of 
men, and is rarely seen in the centre of cities, but 
on the outskirts of towns and up the country it is 
common enough. When seen hovering with its 
body hanging in mid-air, with its wings rapidly 
beating above its head as shown, there should be 
no difficulty in recognising it. Again, when flying 
low its rich brown-red plumage and sharp-pointed 
wings should be noted, and if seen dashing into 
some cleft of ruined masonry or rocky cliff'-side it 
can often be identified by the incessant, penetrat- 
ing, squeaky call of the young in the nest, for by 
the time most visitors are in the country, ie. March 
and April, it has its young nearly fully fledged. 

No. 3 is a Peregrine Falcon. In general shape 



EGYPTIAN BIRDS 3 

this is typical of all the falcons, and gives a 
characteristic attitude in its rushing downward 
swoop. The head is blunt and sunk into the 
shoulders, the wings are stiff, rigid, pointed and 
powerful, the tail straight and firm. 

Nos. 4 and 5 are Vultures shown flying farther 
away from the spectator's eye, and consequently on 
a smaller scale. The black and white of the adult 
Egyptian Vulture, No. 4, is such a distinctive 
characteristic that recognition is easy, but in the 
case of the young bird the plumage is dirty brown 
and grey with faint dark streaks on it, and at that 
stage might be confused with Griffon Vultures, if 
it were not for its smaller size. In flying, the way 
it tucks its head in so that only its bill seems 
visible, and the very small tail in proportion to 
the wing area, are the outstanding peculiarities of 
this, and indeed all Vultures. 

No. 5 shows a distant group of Griffons, purposely 
placed at a distance, as on the small space of a page, 
if they were brought as near the eye as the other 
birds, they would completely cover the whole space, 
for they have an enormous span of wing. Note 
how small the tail is, and how the head is practi- 
cally invisible. 

Nos. 6 and 7 are of different orders of birds 



4 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

altogether, one being a Stork, the other the Heron. 
The Storks fly with outstretched neck, whilst all 
of the great family of Herons fly with their neck 
doubled up and the head rather tucked back 
towards the shoulders. 

If these seven characteristic diagrammatic pic- 
tures of birds are once really learnt, it will enable 
the most ordinary observer not only to know those 
particular six birds, but the whole families, meaning 
many scores of birds of which these are chosen as 
representatives. The eyesight of some may need 
help in the form of a good field-glass. What is a 
good field-glass each individual must discover for 
him or herself, since the good glass is the one 
that really suits the sight of its owner. Some of 
the most noted glasses of to-day are not, anyhow 
to myself, of as much use as an old-fashioned one 
that I have had for years, and with which I am 
able at 07we to *'get on" to the object I wish to 
observe. This is a most important detail, because 
birds are rarely still or quiet for long. When flying, 
this is particularly the case, and the simpler the 
glass and its mechanism the quicker you are on 
the object, — and this when, perhaps, you have only 
a matter of seconds for your observation is of 
first importance. As I do not wish either to 



EGYPTIAN BIRDS 5 

embark on a libel action on the one side, or act as 
an advertiser of any maker, not even of the maker 
of my own glass, I praise or blame none, but suggest 
with all earnestness to every one who desires to 
really enjoy the study of bird life on the Nile or 
in their own country, without fail to get a glass 
that suits them, and which they can handle with 
lightning speed. I dwell on this because I have 
met so many having most expensive modern glasses 
who say they cannot find any pleasure in using 
them on birds, and I generally find that it is owing 
to tjie small field that their glasses cover. Some- 
times these glasses are of quite extraordinary 
power, so that I have heard a man declare he could 
see a fly crawling over a carved face on the tip-top 
of some far-away temple, but that type of glass is 
not what is wanted for rough and ready quick field 
work, and it is of no more use than the three-feet 
long telescope still beloved by the Scotch stalkers. 
Birds rarely if ever allow time for one to lie down 
on one's back, and with help of stout stick and the 
top of knee make a firm stand on which to place 
the glass and get the range. Over twenty -five 
years ago I wrote on "Nature through a Field - 
glass," ^ and although since then one has had to alter 

' In The Art Journal. 



6 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

one's views on so many different points, I do not 
think I would wish to alter one single word in the 
claim made for the value of this aid to Nature 
study. So many birds are such small objects, that 
ten or fifteen paces away they are mere spots, and 
very difficult to recognise, as the detail of their 
plumage at that distance is lost, and all you can 
say is, that it is some small bird, but with a glass 
you can have it brought up to your very eye, you 
can see the arrangement of the masses of the 
feathers, and note even the ever lifting and falling 
of its little crest, as it goes creeping and stealthily 
gliding through the twigs and bushes after its 
insect food. 

Egypt certainly is singularly fortunate in that 
birds here are far tamer than we find them at 
home, and so admit of a closer inspection ; but 
even so, I should have been, times without number, 
utterly at a loss to exactly identify certain birds 
if it were not for my trusty glasses. There 
are some occasions where, owing to the extra- 
ordinary tameness of birds, no glasses are needed, 
and I recommend to all bird enthusiasts the 
ground within the areas under the control of the 
Antiquities Department. No guns are allowed 
there, as they are up and down the Nile, and the 



EGYPTIAN BIRDS 7 

birds know it. One of my favourite places of 
observation was at the Sacred Lake at Karnac. 
By the courtesy of Mr. Weigall, Chief Inspector 
of Antiquities, Upper Egypt, I was allowed to 
sleep in a disused building by the water-side, and 
by that means enjoyed opportunities, which fall to 
the lot of few, of studying bird life from midnight 
to early morning, and it is astonishing the number 
of birds that foregather to that quiet spot. Practi- 
cally all night through there were sounds of birds 
coming or going at intervals. The calling of Coots 
one to another were the commonest sounds during 
the darkest hours; but at about 3 a.m., when 
I thought I could discern a little light, I would 
distinctly hear the "scarpe scarpe" cry of Snipe. 
A little later the hooting of the Eagle Owl, whom 
I knew had his nest up on the top of one of the end 
columns of the great hall, and then gradually from 
this side, then from that, came an ever-increasing 
series of calls and pipings, and one could make 
out flocks of Duck disappearing over the ridge of 
sand and broken-up masses of masonry. Later, 
shadowy forms of Greenshank or Plover showed as 
they went paddling by some faintly lighted-up pool, 
till at last the sun was up, and crested Larks 
were running round the banks fearlessly, and blue- 



8 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

throated warblers were hopping about the few 
bushes at the edge, and ever and anon flitting 
down to the ground and back again to the leafy 
shelter. 

The question is asked and asked, but no very 
distinct answer comes, why are the birds so tame 
in Egypt ? I am at a loss to know myself, for the 
land teems with foxes, jackals, kites, vultures, 
eaffles, falcons, and hawks without end, all with 
an eye to business, ever circling round ready to 
devour any unprotected thing they can lay claws 
upon, and yet this seemingly utter fearlessness 
of all these mild-natured, defenceless little birds. 
Further, here in Egypt are perhaps more " demon 
boys " than are to be found elsewhere, and I hold 
firmly with the ancient sage, who said " that of all 
savage beasts the boy is the worst," so that the 
tameness of some of Egypt's birds is one more 
mystery of this land of mysteries. 

In the following pages I have almost entirely 
spoken of the particular birds pictured in the 
illustrations. I am quite prepared for the question, 
however, " But why did you not include such and 
such a bird ? " and my defence can only be the old 
one of the difficulty of settling various person's 
ideas of what should be considered the best 



EGYPTIAN BIRDS 9 

representative list of anything — whether it be birds, 
books, or pretty women. It must also be remem- 
bered that Egypt proper — the area alone treated 
upon in these pages — begins at Alexandria and 
ends at Assoan, a stretch of country of about 525 
miles, whilst the breadth may be anything from 
fifty miles to less than one. From that area our 
selection has had to be mainly confined, and it 
has meant excluding a certain number of very 
beautiful and interesting forms. 

Bird lovers should remember that when the, 
at first, seemingly rather extortionate demand 
of 120 piastres is made, before they are given 
the card which admits them to the temples, 
tombs, and areas under the control of the 
Antiquities Department, they are, in a very 
important way, really helping on the preservation 
of birds, for, as already has been said, on no 
ground under the control of the Department are 
birds allowed to be shot, and as these spots are 
the very ones in all Egypt most visited, it is very 
necessary, as amongst the thousands of tourists 
that are made familiar with the fact that wild 
duck, snipe, and waders were very tame at these 
places, there would always be some unsportsman- 
like guns, who would seize the opportunity of 



10 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

going to those very places. Then no longer would 
the hooting of owls be heard in the ruins, no 
swallows nesting in the rock-hewn tombs, and no 
coot and wildfowl would ever be seen on the 
small sheets of water or sacred lakes that adjoin the 
temples. That all these birds are there means a 
very great added interest to these places to every 
one, and to some of us bird enthusiasts the living 
interest is greater than that which we can whip 
up for those heavy, severe, architectural achieve- 
ments, or wild chaotic masses of ruined masonry. 

Elsewhere the point of the scarcity of bird life 
in the hot summer months has been spoken of, 
but it is also curious to note that there are just 
about three to five weeks of mid-winter during 
which there is no migratory wave seemingly going 
on at all, up or down the Nile valley. No bands, 
great or small, of birds heading due north or due 
south are ever to be seen, and the remark is often 
made on the paucity of bird life, some persons even 
declaring that it is "a birdless land." That the 
native birds are very small in number is true, but the 
total number of birds, and varieties of birds, that 
come for a time and pass on is very great. Those 
that live in temperate climes do, however, have the 
best of the deal, as it must ever be a greater 



A VIEW ON THE NILE NEAR MINIEH 




»» 

t 



EGYPTIAN BIRDS 11 

possession to have the birds nesting around one 
than merely passing by in migrating flights, be those 
flights as amazing as they may. Birds, from what- 
ever reason is not certainly known, do not love the 
excessively hot or cold areas as breeding-places, but 
do seem to love the more moderate temperate 
climes. In Great Britain the number of birds that 
will and do breed within a very small tract of 
ground is amazing, and Mr. Kearton tells of a 
small copse in Hertfordshire in which were the 
nests, with eggs or young, of nine different species 
of birds, all within fifty yards of one another ; and 
in another case, within a space of ten yards, were 
a tit's, a flycatcher's, and a wood wren's nest. In 
Egypt, the number of birds breeding is not large, 
and excepting some of the great lakes with their 
margins of shallow water and swampy reeds, there 
are few places that offer any attractions for birds to 
nest in any numbers. In the groves of palms you 
do get many doves building in close proximity 
with kites and crows, and along certain stretches 
of the Nile banks large colonies of sand-martins 
build, but with these exceptions the fact remains 
that this country has not a large list of birds 
breeding in any numbers. In the great lakes of 
Lower Egypt and the Fayoum there are, however, 



13 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

enormous areas of some of the best feeding-grounds 
imaginable for water-fowl, and the fowl know it ; 
nowhere can be seen more variety of duck, and 
herons, and waders, and shore birds, than at Lake 
Menzaleh. Elsewhere, I have already referred to 
my visit in March and April to this little known 
part of Egypt, and I wish that those who say this 
is " a birdless land," would only go and stay a few 
days at Kantara, Matariya, Damietta or Port Said, 
and then see if they could still call it "birdless." The 
extreme north and east side of the lake is separated 
only from the Mediterranean by a narrow bank of 
sand. Its waters are brackish, the Nile contributes 
but little to its bulk, and the opinion is largely 
held that if it could be made to contribute more, 
the food supply for the fish in it would be consider- 
ably increased, to the very great benefit of the fish 
supply of the country. Every village and town on 
the lake has many fishermen with boats out night and 
day. They catch a very large quantity, but it is 
said every year the size of the fish caught is steadily 
decreasing, and to increase the food-supply for the 
fish is now the aim of the authorities. This matter 
does not immediately affect the birds, as they love 
the small fry, but if Lake Menzaleh were to once 
lose its value as a supplier of profitable fish food, 



EGYPTIAN BIRDS 13 

it might come to pass that some future engineer 
would turn his attention to this great area of waste 
water, and turn it into profitable cultivated ground, 
and then the birds would be driven away here as 
completely as they were in England when our fens 
and meres were drained to make good corn land. 
Therefore, this proposal to let in more Nile water is 
of much importance to Menzaleh remaining the 
great stronghold of bird life in Egypt. At present 
the spectacle it presents of its crowds of birds seen 
under the almost constant blue sky, is one that 
all would be very sorry to lose. The Flamingo 
come as its crowning glory, but the list of birds is 
long, and Mr. M. J. Nicoll tells how in only one 
week's stay, at Gheit-el-Nassara, on the north-west 
side of the lake, he met with no less than eighty- 
seven species. The ordinary visitor to Egypt 
hurries away from Alexandria or Port Said, but 
any who love Nature ought to leave a few days for 
places other than the Nile, if they are to obtain 
anything at all like a complete knowledge of 
Egyptian Birds. 



THE GRIFFON VULTURE^ 

Gyps fulvus 

Arabic, Eakham. 

Head and neck bare of fine feathers, but covered with 
short white down. Lower part of the neck surrounded by a 
ruff of long, thin, lance-shaped feathers, generally but not 
always white ; sometimes it is huffish, sometimes rich rufous ; 
wings at shoulders are light greyish brown, getting darker to 
nearly black on the large flight feathers. Breast and flanks 
grey, brown under tail-coverts a brighter burnt-sienna tone. 
Legs dull grey ; base of beak yellow. Young birds are gen- 
erally duller and lighter coloured than adults. 

Length, 48 inches, but individuals vary greatly. 

This is the Vulture so constantly depicted on the 
monuments of Egypt, and I do not think that 
any one has ever raised the slightest doubt of its 
identity ; but the same can hardly be said of all the 
birds thereon figured. 

1 EAGLES, VULTURES, HAWKS 

Many different arrangements have been made of the order in which 
birds should be placed, some placing one, others, another family first, and 
the wise men are even yet not all agreed, so that the old-time method has 
been adopted of beginning with the birds of prey, since it is probably the 
order with which the ordinary reader is most familiar. 

Eagles are not common, and though in the complete list of Egyptian 
birds the names of four are given, it is hardly likely to be a bird seen, 
whilst Vultures and Kites, and certain Hawks, most certainly will be. 

14 



GRIFFON VULTURE 






^ 




THE GRIFFON VULTURE 



15 



Mr. Howard Carter, whose long connection 
with the work of the Antiquities of Egypt gives 
him the right to speak with authority, is now 
preparing for publication a book on this whole 
subject of the portrayal of animal life by Egyptian 
art, which is awaited with great interest, as he 
has given years of study to this one branch ; and 
though I may ven- 
ture to say something 
now and again of the 
present-day birds, and 
their pictured present- 
ments in temples or 
tombs, the reader will 
do well to wait till 
Mr. Carter's book is Fie, i 

published before com- gyps fulvus— griffon vulture. 

mrr +n tnn ■noQitlvf From a monument of Nectanebo in the Louvre. 

a conclusion on a rather vexed subject. Of the 
Vulture there is no doubt, but of which of the 
existing hawks was the model of the Hawk almost 
as frequently depicted as the Vulture few are 
agreed, and personally I can arrive at no very 
satisfactory conclusion. 

The Griffon Vulture is common now, and 
probably always has been. Its usefulness is 




16 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

undeniable, and it practically does no harm. It 
takes no toll of lambs or kids, and I never have 
heard of it snatching up the smallest of chickens. 
Its food is entirely carrion with the addition, 
possibly, of an occasional lizard or small snake. 
Vultures and Kites together are the very best of 
workmen, for the work they undertake they do 
absolutely thoroughly. No one has to go after 
them and clear up what they leave half-done, 
for they never leave anything half-done, be it 
a dead camel, or ten dead donkeys, or a mass of 
putrid offal from the shambles. They come ; they 
see ; they swallow ; and not one speck or scrap of 
flesh or sinew will be left to-morrow on all those 
snow-white bones, and not the slightest sign of any- 
thing that can putrefy will even stain the ground ; 
all is cleared away, and all corrupting danger gone 
by the time they have flown. They will remain all 
night through and the next day, if the job is a big 
one, and never dream of charging overtime ! It is 
doubtless this that makes the natives of Eastern 
countries so unspeakably careless, as we think, 
of all sanitary precautions. They know that 
they need take no trouble ; in a matter of hours, 
days at most, these winged scavengers will come, 
save them all bother and trouble, and clear the 



THE GRIFFON VULTURE 17 

mess away. It is also this, one is disposed to 
think, and this alone, that is at the bottom of what 
to us seems an amazing fact, that they never destroy 
birds, so that even birds whose travels take them 
out of Egypt for a season, returning, know that 
here anyhow they will not be molested, and show 
themselves familiarly where in other countries they 
would exhibit the very opposite tendency. 

Of late years a change has undoubtedly taken 
place in some birds owing to the ever-increasing 
number of visitors, many of whom come with 
guns determined to get specimens. Birds are not 
fools, and the great Griffon in particular seems to 
have learnt that it behoves him to have a care, 
and distrust the too near approach of the white 
man who may desire to possess his great wings 
to mount as trophies : and one has heard of its 
becoming quite a difficult matter to get within 
range of these grand birds. Grand birds they are 
indeed when seen on the wing fairly near. When 
far up in mid-air they strike your imagination as 
mysterious, marvellous masters of the air, but 
see them close enough to make out their very 
feathers, and then no other word comes to your 
lips but, "What grand birds!" All the sleepy, 
dull, heavy look that they have when clumsily 



18 EGYFIIAN IJIRDS 

walkiii<r, half hopping, on the ground, or when 
sitting liuddled up, at once di.saf)peurs, and you 
acclaim the Griffon the king of flying things. A 
sea-gull, a swallow, an eagle, and nnany another, are 
all splendid in their graceful mastery over, and use of, 
the air we live in, but for sheer majesty of dominion 
I know no equal to the great Griffon Vulture. 

One has often seen it on the sand -banks by 
the river's side, sitting perhaps, either dozing after 
a gorge or waiting for the late lamented to reach 
just that nice point which means dinner-time. 
Sometimes they mildly squabble amongst them- 
selves ; sometimes they advance open-mouthed 
on some late arrival who comes swooping down 
with feet and legs stretched out well in front of 
him. But on the whole, I think, after its flight, 
its one outstanding virtue is its sociability. We 
none of us quite like that person who shuns his 
fellows, and was never known to have any gather- 
ing of friends even in simplest social fashion, and 
with birds there are some of those selfish kinds 
who prefer to live alone and feed alone, and 
absolutely resent any attempted sociability. But 
the Vulture, in spite of his rather forbidding face, 
is a downright sociable creature. On many a time 
one has seen Egyptian Vultures feeding with a 



THE GRIFFON VULTURE 19 

dozen of their bigger cousins, who, when themselves 
well fed, have allowed even the despised crows 
to have some pickings from the feast. 

Being tied up to a bank for two or three days 
during the Hamseen wind, which was blowing 
a perfect gale right in our teeth, I saw a 
curious sight of Vultures turning themselves 
into a sort of coroner's jury on a dead buffalo. 
In the centre of a little sheltered bay was the 
"dear departed," who was being closely examined 
and overhauled by a gaunt, sandy-coloured native 
dog. There he sat like a coroner growling out his 
observations, whilst the twelve — there were just a 
dozen Vultures — sat placidly waiting their turn 
for a closer study of the remains. They sat 
so long and patiently that one was surprised 
they did not end the matter in force, drive away 
the presiding officer, and get to real business, but 
we left them still waiting and seemingly discuss- 
ing what was to be the verdict. 

Whenever one has been taken to see a Vulture 
in captivity, either in hotel or other gardens, it 
has usually been this, the Griffon Vulture, that 
has been the unhappy captive. 



THE EGYPTIAN VULTURE 

Neophron percnopterus 

Racham, Arabic 

White all over body, wings black, a curious fringe of long 
feathers round the head ; these sometimes get stained a more 
or less strong yellow ; bare parts round eye and beak, yellow. 
Legs pinky, eyes carmine red, but Shelley says they do not 
get the full red eye till their fourth year. 

Entire length, 27 inches. 

This vulture, as shown by the above description, 
is markedly different from the great Griffon Vul- 
ture, and there can be no possible mistake in re- 
cognising it. From the tail-piece, which is taken 
from a painting of one on the inside of a wooden 
outside coffin casing, one can easily see the pecu- 
liarities of this bird ; and at Deir-el-Bahari there are 
many painted examples showing the bird more or less 
in its natural colours, the bright yellow of the bill is 
shown, and the dark wings are rendered in a dull 
green. Why they should render one colour by 
another seems strange, but here again we must 
wait till Mr. Howard Carter gives us his explana- 
tion of this and the many other points he is still 
patiently working out. The wonderful way in 

20 



EGYPTIAN VULTURE 



THE EGYPTIAN VULTURE 21 

which the vultures assemble directly there is 
anything in the way of carrion has been often 
noticed : they will appear where a moment before 
there was not one to be seen either on the 
earth or in the blue vault. And this was at 
one time regarded as one of the wonders of the 
bird world ; but as is so often the case, more 
exact knowledge rather reduces the marvellous. 
The habit of vultures is to fly at a very great 
height and to keep circling round ; each bird prac- 
tically keeps to one area, another takes a great 
sweeping circle adjoining ; and others all the way 
round are in the same fashion, ever circling on the 
look-out. The moment one discerns anything down 
he swoops ; this is instantly observed by the bird on 
the adjoining beat, and down he rushes ; this again 
is repeated indefinitely, and so in a few minutes a 
dozen or more vultures may be there at the find 
where before were none. The circles that each make 
are frequently very large, perhaps many miles ; 
it can easily be imagined, therefore, what a large 
area can be covered, and covered most minutely, 
by, say, half a dozen birds. The young are very 
different in plumage, being a rather dirty grey- 
brown all over, with brown eyes, and they retain 
this peculiarity till their fourth year, when they get 



22 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

the white and black phimage. But they somehow 
always look untidy birds. This perhaps holds good 
of all vultures when sitting in repose ; their wings 
seem to be too loose jointed, and they hang their 
feathers so as to give the impression that they 
are not firmly fixed in and might fall out, but 
the moment they spring into the air their wings 
gain at once a sort of rigidity, and all the sloppy, 
untidy effect disappears. This bird is certainly more 
often seen than the preceding, since it is not afraid 
of the haunts of man ; but one is not at all certain 
that it is really commoner. In all the representa- 
tions of this as of other birds, the old Egyptian 
artists have a curious habit of depicting their birds 
with their legs stretched out too far in front, and 
looking as if the bird were in danger of falling over 
backwards. 

Once as we were drifting by a bit of sand-bank, 
the river being very low, I remember well an awful- 
looking, unrecognisable object, dirty, dishevelled, 
and, as children say, "very bluggy," coming 
towards us over the skyline. It more resembled 
some poor drunk man who had been fighting and 
had got fearfully knocked about, and what bird it 
was, if bird at all, we knew not. Well, this dilapi- 
dated-looking thing walked slowly down the slope 



THE EGYPTIAN VULTURE 23 

to the water's edge ; then we saw it had been 
having a real gorge ; it was hideously rotund, and 
had apparently been living inside "the joint" until, 
sick with repletion, unable to fly, its very feathers 
clogged with gore, it made its way down to refreshen 
and clean itself, which when done, to our surprise 
it turned out to be just a common Egyptian 
Vulture. 

Why the Vultures are featherless on neck and 
head is told in an old story in Curzon's Monasteries 
of the Levant, King Solomon, according to this 
account, was journeyhig in the heat of the day. 
"The fiery beams were beginning to scorch his 
neck and shoulders when he saw a flock of vultures 
flying past. * O Vultures I ' cried King Solomon, 
* come and fly between me and the sun, and 
make a shadow with your wings to protect me, 
for its rays are scorching my neck and face.' But 
the Vultures would not, so the King lifted up his 
voice and cursed them, and told them that as 
they would not obey, ' The feathers of your neck 
shall fall off*, and the heat of the sun, and the 
cold of the winter, and the keenness of the wind, 
and the beating of the rain, shall fall upon your 
rebellious necks, which shall not be protected like 
other birds. And whereas you have hitherto fared 



24 



EGYPTIAN BIRDS 



delicately, henceforth ye shall eat carrion and feed 
upon ofFal ; and your race shall be impure till the 
end of the world.' And it was done unto the 
Vultures as King Solomon had said." 





Figs, 8 and 4. 

Drawing from a painting of a Hawk at Karnak, to show the overlap 
of the wing feathers. 



THE KESTREL 



Falco tinnunculus 



The male has the upper plumage of head, back, and wings 
red-brown, spotted and barred with black ; under-parts bufF 
with black spots on flanks, and which on breast are smaller 
and closer together, making long lines. Rump and tail blue- 
grey, barred with black, one broad bar at end of tail tipped 
with pure white, base of bill and legs yellow, eyes brown. 
The female is without the blue-grey, and is more evenly 
brown all over, with spots and bars on the tail. 

Length, 13 '5 inches. 

This is the commonest Hawk, and nests in nearly- 
all the ruins of temples and old buildings up and 

25 4 



26 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

down the land, and, as already stated, the young are 
often to be heard when they cannot be seen, calling 
with their incessant squeaky voice for their devoted 
parents. The parents are to be seen searching for 
food, hovering over the fields in the same way 
that they do at home, for this bird is the familiar 
Windhover (see Plate II.). The quantity of mice 
that it consumes is enormous, and of lizards, 
beetles, and particularly locusts, it also takes toll. 
So that though it does not do the useful work 
that the Kites are doing day by day, it still clears 
the land of what would otherwise be grave 
scourges. 

The Kestrel is one of the birds of which large 
quantities of mummies have been found, and it 
was clearly treated with quite sacred rites, lending 
colour to the views of some that this is the 
original of the Hawk so frequently pictured and 
sculptured. This question is one, however, that as 
doctors disagree upon, it is not for a layman to 
venture judgment ; but several of the best pre- 
served specimens of wall-paintings at Deir-el- 
Bahari in their drawing suggest much more the 
shape of a long-legged Sparrow Hawk than the 
compact Kestrel. The colouring of these pictures 
is so different, sometimes one part of a bird will be 



THE KESTREL 27 

in red, in others it will be green. We are told, 
however, that this is all right and they both are 
right ; this is something of a mystery and passes 
my own comprehension. The view is certainly 
possible that these ancient artists never thought 
any future race of mankind would come worrying 
round to know what particular specific kind of 
bird was meant, they alone desiring to give a 
rendering of a typical Hawk. 

Honestly admiring the fine work of these old 
artists, I yet retain my own liberty to point out 
what is wrong, and the accompanying illustrations 
show a very glaring error which is repeated over 
and over again, a thousand times, throughout the 
temples and tombs of the country. Fig. 3 shows 
the two wings of a painted hawk at Karnak ; the 
right wing shows the outside, the left the inside 
of the wing. In the right wing the feathers are 
shown with their front edge lapping over the hind 
edge of the feather next in front. This gives a 
certain strength to the whole surface of the wing- 
area needed for flight, and if that be an accurate 
representation of the outside of a Hawk's wing 
in nature, and it is, then it follows that the inside 
surface would show the reverse ; that is to say, 
the free edge of each feather would show over- 



28 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

lapping the feather next behind it, as shown in 
figures Nos. 4 and 5. But Fig. 3 shows how the 
ancients thought birds should have their feathers 
placed, back and front, both identical. In all 
humility, I have once or twice pointed this out to 
devout Egyptologists, but they pass it over. " A 




Fig. 5. 

Drawing of the primary quills of a Hawk, from Nature. Seen from 
the under surface to show the overlap of the feathers. 

mere convention," they say ; " they always render 
wings so ; worship, worship ! " 

Mr. J. H. Gurney says that Egyptian Kestrels 
are certainly bolder than the British, and that he 
has "seen one swoop at a Booted Eagle," and 
another '* feather a Hooded Crow which ventured 
too near its nest." He also draws attention to its 
size, and I think that it is certainly frequently of 
smaller dimensions than those at home ; indeed, on 



THE KESTREL 29 

the score of size, it is not easy to distinguish it 
from the Lesser Kestrel. 

There are two Kestrels in Egypt : the one we 
have already described, and the Lesser Kestrel, 
which is like a small edition of the former, with 
the exception that his back and wings of bright 
red-brown are without spots, and the breast is only 
marked with small black spots, while the claws are 
yellowish white. Its length is 11*5 inches. When 
seen flying it is well-nigh impossible to identify it 
from the larger species, and I have heard of cases 
of men having shot what they thought was the 
Common Kestrel, and finding to their astonishment 
that it was the much rarer Lesser Kestrel. Its 
food consists mainly of insects and beetles, but 
it varies this stock diet with mice. I have seen 
it sitting in a cleft of the wall of the Ramaseum 
and other temples, but it is by no means a 
common bird. It nests commonly in the ruins and 
temples, and on the high cliffs, and its young can 
be oftener heard than seen, as they utter a very 
penetrating squeak, squeak, squeak call. 



THE PARASITIC KITE OR 
EGYPTIAN KITE 

Milvus aegyptius 

Arabic, Hiddayer 

Plumage — Head and neck grey ; back and wings dark 
brown, under parts a rufous brown, the edges of the feathers 
lighter than the centres, which have a dusky streak, whilst the 
tail is broadly barred. Cere and legs yellow. 

This Kite, which is seen everywhere, is not the 
Kite which we have accounts of as being once 
common in England, and which could be seen long 
years ago flying round St. Paul's Cathedral ; but it 
is a true Egyptian native. I have it from men 
who have lived long in Egypt, through summer 
as well as winter, that in the really hot months 
this bird is practically the only feathered fowl one 
ever does see during those glaring months. There 
may be other birds left in the country, but you 
do not see them ; they wisely keep out of sight in 
whatever isolated shaded place they can find. The 
Kite alone bears the full glare of that broiling sun, 
ever on the look out for every chance of a mouth- 
ful of any decaying nastiness it can secure, and 

30 



EGYPTIAN KITE 



THE PARASITIC KITE 31 

in this is the secret of its privileged position ; 
unmolested even in the busiest haunts of men, 
secure in crowded city or up-country village, its 
services as scavenger are invaluable, and when 
every other bird has fled it never for a day quits 
its post or ceases its labours. 

We will spare the reader a detailed menu of 
this omnivorous bird, but all who visit Egypt 
ought to bless it, as until some enlightened system 
of sanitation is adopted, this bird, almost unaided, 
makes the land possible to live in, or to be visited 
with any safety or pleasure. If it were exterminated 
as the Kites have been in Great Britain, it is almost 
impossible to exaggerate what would be the dire 
results to the health of the newcomers to this 
old Eastern country. Mercifully there seems no 
sort of chance of its numbers decreasing. Indeed, 
in 1908 I saw behind the New Winter Palace 
Hotel at Luxor, a flock which certainly ran into 
hundreds ; two dead donkeys thrown out behind 
the walls of the Hotel grounds were the cause of 
this vast congregation. They never leave a shred of 
anything more than the bones, picked as clean and 
white as the paper this is printed on ; they tidy it 
all up, and for days after the main body of birds 
have left, a stray bird or two comes sweeping down 



32 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

to see if there is any tiny scrap of flesh, or skin, or 
sinew left hidden away under stone or sand. On 
several occasions I have seen Kites bathing in the 
water, so presumably, although they are called 
unclean birds, they are in reality as cleanly as most. 
As far as personal observation goes I should call 
the Swifts and Swallows the dirtiest birds ; anyhow 
they are more infested with odious parasites than 
any other birds I have handled. Kites build un- 
tidy, clumsy nests of sticks ; rubbish, rags, and 
even bits of newspapers are to be sometimes found 
hanging on the outside : they are generally placed 
in the upper boughs of some high tree, and in 
many of the gardens in the centre of squares in 
Cairo you can watch them bringing food to their 
squealing young. They breed very early, and 
often they have a brood hatched by the end of 
January. 

There is something very fascinating in watch- 
ing their flight, it seems so easy and strong, and 
from its complete fearlessness it approaches so 
near the spectator that the movement of the tail 
as it turns to right or left can be seen acting as a 
well-directed rudder. As already stated, Pliny 
says it was observing this that gave man his first 
idea of how to steer his boats and ships. And 



KITES IN FLIGHT 



THE PARASITIC KITE 33 

the frequent stooping of the head down to the 
food it holds in its feet is another interesting 
action that can be watched clearly without the aid 
of field-glasses, as it passes close overhead. The 
tail of the young is not so forked as in the 
adult, and the general plumage duller coloured 
all over. 

The Black Kite, Milvus migrans^ is said to be 
a very rare bird in Egypt, but I certainly think it 
is commoner than some imagine. It is very similar 
in general appearance to the last, and unless seen 
very near is hard to identify. On 13th January 
1908 I was fortunate, however, in seeing some 
three or four at the river-side at Karnak, beaten 
down low by a high wind, with completely black 
beaks and very dark rich black-brown plumage. 
Mr. Erskine Nicol, who was with me, also noted 
them. Shelley says, "The general shade of the 
plumage is blacker. The dark streaks down the 
centres of feathers on throat and crop are broader 
than in the Egyptian Kite, and the bill is entirely 
black." 

Length, 23 '3 inches. 



BARN OWL 
WHITE OWL, SCREECH OWL 

Strix flammea 

ArabiCj Boma buda 

Plumage of upper-parts a tawny yellow, mottled, speckled, 
and pencilled with delicate grey, black and white ; face white, 
as are the under-parts ; individuals vary in being lighter or 
darker ; huffish- white on chest, feet pinkish, beak yellowish. 
Entire length, 13 "5 inches. 

Either of the two last English names are perhaps 
in this case more suitable than the first, as barns 
in Egypt are scarce, whilst this owl is common, 
and is met with in temples and tombs fairly 
frequently. 

In the past it must always have been a common 
bird, as it is one of the few quite easily identified 
birds used in hieroglyphics (in spite of which, to 
my astonishment, in a recent work on Egypt this 
owl is called the Horned Owl). 

The Barn Owl has practically a world-wide range, 
being found not only in Europe but Africa, Asia, 
Australia, and America, and though examples from 
certain localities do show some variation in plumage, 
it is still always unmistakably the Barn Owl. It 

34 



BARN-OWL 



BARN OWL, WHITE OWL, SCREECH OWL 35 

is, however, not met with within the Arctic Circle. 
At home its food is nearly entirely mice, but in 
Egypt it has no hedgerows to hunt, no large farm- 
yards and rich granaries, and though it does get 
some mice it has to take lizards, an occasional small 
bird, and sometimes fish, or even scraps of carrion. 
Of all the owls this has the softest, most silent 
flight, and this in itself is somewhat uncanny as it 
quite quietly passes close to you, and then dis- 
appears in the gloom, from which a little later may 
come a terrifying screech as of a strangled infant. 
There is little room for wonder, then, that all simple 
folk should have regarded this bird as evil-omened : 
and the old Scriptures have many references in 
this spirit when describing places haunted, desolated, 
the "abode of owls and dragons." To this day, 
in our own country, the feeling is evinced most 
strangely in spite of all our modern education. 
Very cleverly the early Egyptians caught the 
most salient feature — the extraordinary large mask- 
like face — and in some of the wall decorations at 
Deir-el-Bahari, which are in perfect preservation, 
it would be well-nigh impossible to improve on 
them as exact portraits of the Barn Owl. A 
possible cause of the choice of this bird is that it 
is one of the best-known species : for of all the 



36 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

owls this one is quite peculiar in its habit of rather 
courting than flying from the haunts of man ; for 
though it is in the ruins of temples it is also to be 
found in the thick foliage near villages and towns, 
and has even been noticed flying about in the 
very heart of Cairo in the Ezbekeir Gardens, as 
recorded by Mr. J. H. Gurney in his Rambles of 
a Naturalist — and the habit of attaching itself to 
human habitations is universal wherever it is met 
the world round. 

The Barn Owl has a custom which those who 
suffer from indigestion may well envy, and that is 
its power of disgorging, after every meal, all the 
indigestible portions of its dinner in a compact, 
round, hard pellet, about the size of a nut : and 
from under some of its roosting -places great 
basketsfull of these pellets have been collected, 
and men of science analyzing these have obtained 
therefrom the most precise information as to the 
diet of this much-persecuted bird. From such 
observations the value of its services in our own 
country were rather tardily recognised. But now 
that it is established that nine-tenths of its food 
consists of mice and rats, the law of the land has 
been invoked to protect it. Lord Lilford writes 
on the extraordinary appetite of young owls, that 



BARN OWL, WHITE OWL, SCREECH OWL 87 

" I have seen a young Barn Owl take down nine 
full-grown mice one after another till the tail of 
the ninth stuck out of his mouth, and in three 
hours' time the young 'gourmand' was crying out 
for more." 




Fig. 6. 
From Deir-el-Bahari. 



THE LITTLE OWL 

Carine meridionalis 

Plumage — A plain greyish-brown with dark markings 
and spots on the breast ; eyes yellow. Entire length, 8*5 
inches. 

The Little \ Owl is a common bird, but it is 
not, when flying, very owl-like in appearance ; and 
doubtless it is very often seen and not recognised 
as an owl at all, especially as it flies freely in the 
daytime, and I have even seen it sitting facing 
the sun on some wooden trellis-work in a garden 
at mid-day ; and not only once, but morning after 
morning it could be seen enjoying the warmth. 
This peculiarity, the very opposite of what we 
find in most owls, has led to an awkward 
position in some parts of England — for in certain 
of the Midland counties this owl is rapidly be- 
coming a perfect scourge. Some distinguished 
naturalists in Northamptonshire and other counties 
thought it would be good to introduce this 
undoubtedly rather fascinating bird from the 
Continent — where it is common — into the British 
Isles — where it was very rare — so year after year 

38 



LITTLE OWL 



THE LITTLE OWL 39 

they obtained large numbers of these owls, and 
liberated them in the hope that they would breed 
and multiply. Their hopes have been more than 
justified, for they did at once settle down and 
increase ; they passed first from the county they 
were liberated in to the adjoining county of 
Huntingdon ; then, spreading over that, they ex- 
tended their area into Cambridgeshire, then on 
into Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk. Every one was 
at first delighted, and keepers were given strict 
injunctions on no account to worry the new- 
comers ; but gradually the keepers' faces began to 
get long, and first one and then another reported 
strange stories of depleted coops shortly after the 
foster-hen was put out into the open with her 
family of ten or more young birds. Ornithologists 
were scandalised at these stories — an owl take a 
young game-bird : impossible ! — but what is im- 
possible in the eyes of men of science has turned 
out to be a fact, and this charming-looking Little 
Owl is found to be one of the worst vermin on 
the whole list which vexes the soul of the game 
preserver. For it is just this, that at the very 
time the young pheasants or hand-reared partridges 
are put out, the Little Owl has its own little 
family to feed ; the foster-mother, the hen, being 



40 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

always kept shut in the coop, the little puff-balls 
of pheasants, as they are in those early days, 
run in and out between the bars, and once 
outside are, of course, without protection. The 
Owl has noticed this fact, and it may be seen 
sitting on the top of the coop watching till one 
of the little birds is conveniently near, and down 
it swoops and carries it away for its own family's 
dinner ; this it will repeat time after time till it 
has cleared off the whole lot. This can only 
happen, of course, when the young pheasants are 
very very small — a few days old — and hand-reared, 
for if they were out and about with their own 
mother — or in the case of partridges their own 
father — they would be safe, as neither would allow 
such an impudent attack to be made without 
going for the murderous marauder. It has only 
been after years and years of persistent effort that 
gamekeepers have been induced to learn that all 
ordinary owls flying at night-time — when all young 
birds are safe under their mothers' wings — are 
harmless, and that from the good they do in 
clearing off hundreds of mice and young rats, 
should be, and must be, protected. They are 
now protected ; but this newcomer arrives — 
not an ordinary night owl at all — and the whole 



THE LITTLE OWL 41 

position is changed, and years of teaching will 
be thrown to the winds, as it will be hard indeed 
to persuade the average thick-headed keeper that 
he was not right all along, and that every owl of 
every sort ought to be shot at sight and nailed 
to the pole. So much for benevolent intentions 
of increasing the variety of a country's fauna. 
Nearly always it is best not to interfere with 
Nature's order, and the rabbit pest in Australia, 
and the sparrows in America, are already known 
to most as illustrations of this fact. 

The Little Owl makes a quaint pet, and 
thrives well in confinement ; its antics and poses 
are really droll, and the big eyes look at you with 
a seeming deep intelligence. This is the owl, by 
the way, that, by the ancient Greeks, was made 
sacred to Pallas Athene and used as a symbol of 
wisdom ; furthermore, it was engraved on many of 
their coins. 

In Egypt it is everywhere — in town and 
country, in ruined temples, dismal tombs, and 
gardens bright with flowers and sunshine. I have 
seen it sitting on the upright poles of shadoofs, 
and on the tops of high stalks of growing maize, 
and once I saw it, in broad daylight, on the back of 
a recumbent buffalo. 

6 



EGYPTIAN EAGLE OWL 

Bubo ascalaphus 

Arabic, Burna 

Plumage a rich buff-brown, with darker markings of black, 
brown, and grey. Large wing-feathers and tail broadly 
barred with blackish brown ; chin and upper throat white ; 
under-plumage bright golden buff, with blotches and streaks 
on the flanks ; beak black ; eyes of most intense flame-like 
orange. Total length, 20 inches. 

This name Eagle Owl is almost more imposing 
than the bird itself, as, though large, it is much 
smaller than the Eagle Owl of Europe. 

It is to be found in some of the very largest 
of the temples, ruined or otherwise, but, as far 
as my own knowledge goes, not in many of the 
smaller buildings. Its principal haunts are the 
steep clifF-like sides of the hills and mountains. 

When staying in the Valley of the Tombs of 
the Kings, every night regularly as the sun sank 
behind the ridge, the first weird ** Booom " rang 
out, soon to be answered by another similar call 
from another part of the hills, and then, soon and 
silently, there floated past the big dull brown form. 
Sailing away to the opposite side, with my glasses 

42 



EGYPTIAN EAGLE OWL 



EGYPTIAN EAGLE OWL 43 

I could see it stretch out its legs forward as 
it settled on to some favourite ledge of rock, 
and turning its great head round, so that I could 
see its glorious coloured eyes, would utter a still 
louder booming challenge. This was so absolutely 
regular that when working I knew exactly where 
certain purple-blue shadows would be across the 
face of the otherwise golden clifF-side, when I 
heard its first call. Twice I had one in cap- 
tivity ; one died, but the other seemed to recover 
so well from a damaged wing, that as soon as I 
had finished the studies needed, I decided to let 
it go free, and let it out ; but, stupefied by 
confinement, or else because the wing was not 
really strong enough to make flight easy, it only 
hopped and walked about in a rather aimless 
way, and was in danger of being attacked by the 
dogs of our camp. So I had to catch, and in 
my arms carry my captive right high up the 
Deir-el-Bahari cliffs — and any that have been 
there know what that means — and at a safe place 
near a cleft I had often seen them at, set it 
free ; neither then, nor during my toil up that 
cliff was I rewarded by the slightest sign of 
gratitude ; on the contrary, hissing viciously and 
clawing right and left with its big talons, intent 



44 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

on doing me serious damage, my prisoner strove 
with me. That was in the evening ; very early 
the next day I went right up the same place, 
and as there were no feathers or other marks of 
murder, I sincerely hope the poor bird got safely 
away to some sheltering cave, there to be welcomed 
by wife or husband, as the case might be, and 
regaled with great store of such food as Eagle 
Owls love. When with me, sardines, scraps of 
meat, and bits of bony chicken were readily eaten, 
but a great dislike was shown to being watched 
at meals. 



THE HOOPOE 

Upupa epops 

Aral)ic, Hud Hud 

Head and crest rich rusty orange ; the tips of feathers of 
crest black ; the neck and chest rufous changing to a pink 
hue on breast ; wings and tail black with broad white parallel 
bars ; under-parts buff to white ; legs brown ; beak black ; 
eyes brown. Length, 12 inches. 

The hoop-hoop-hoop cry of this bird is almost 
as curiously attractive as its varied plumage and 
magnificent crest. You see it everywhere, and it 
loves the haunts of man. It is not well to know 
too much of one's heroes, and it certainly is well 
not to know too much of the habits of some of the 
wild children of the earth and air. The repulsive- 
ness of the menu of the Hoopoe is enough to make 
one put one's pen through its name and never 
mention it. But it is not always feeding, and when 
walking about in stately fashion on some mud wall, 
lifting its great circular crown of feathers ever and 
again, whilst it utters its call-name hoop-hoop- 
hoopoe, it is so picturesque and charming one has 
to pass its nasty little peculiarities by. We have 
to do this frequently with our own unfeathered 

45 



46 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

friends for the good we presume they possess, and 
there is much that is good in this perky little bird. 
Time was, it is said, when the Hoopoe had no 
crest, and he only got one granted by royal favour. 
The king of those days was importing a new bride 
from Asia, and decided to have her met at the port 
on the Red Sea where she landed, with unusual 
pomp. His army was to go down and escort her 
to the royal city, and all the birds of the air were 
instructed also to wait her arrival and form a flying 
sunshade with their wings, and fan the air with 
their pinions, whilst all should fill the heavens 
with their sweet songs — and thus she should come. 
The birds agreed, all but the Hoopoe. He objected, 
he knew something about the lady, and he wouldn't 
consent to go. Saying he would rather not, he flew 
away to a cave in some far-away mountain in the 
desert. When the king heard of this he was very 
wroth. Anyhow, he had the culprit sent for, and 
now the poor Hoopoe is brought before his enraged 
majesty, but so bravely did he comport himself, and 
so well did he defend his position, showing that if 
he did that for which he had conscientious objec- 
tions, he would suffer grave moral and intellectual 
damage, and therefore it was with all respect he 
begged to be excused. His Majesty was so amazed 



HOOPOE 

On the house-tops. 



THE HOOPOE 47 

with his bravery and intelligence that he took from 
off his own head the royal crown and placed it on 
the Hoopoe's, saying, truly thou art a very king 
amongst birds, and shall for ever be crowned. To 
show the truth of this story, it is only necessary to 
come to Egypt, when the most sceptical will be at 
once converted, as he will see that every single 
Hoopoe to this day is indeed right royally crowned 
as no other bird is.^ 

The Cairo Zoological Gardens report it as "a 
fairly numerous visitor in spring and autumn" to 
the gardens, and of course most know that it is a 

^ A variation of this story is given by the Hon. Robert Curzon, in his 
Vimfs to Monasteries in the Levant. There the Hoopoe was told by the king 
to go home and consult his spouse, as to what should be the royal gift, 
and she, like a true feminine, on being questioned, said, " Let us ask for 
crowns of gold on our heads, that we may be superior to all other birds." 
The request was granted, but the king forewarned them that they would 
see the folly of their request ; and all Hoopoes of both sexes strutted 
about with solid gold crowns, and " the queen of the Hoopoes gave her- 
self airs, and sat upon a twig, and refused to speak to the Merops, her 
cousin " (bee-eater), but a certain fowler, who set traps and nets for birds, 
put a broken mirror into his traps. The queen of course went to look into 
it to the better see herself and her golden crown, and got caught. The 
value of these solid gold crowns soon led to every man's hand being 
against the vain Hoopoes. " Not a Hoopoe could show its head, but it 
was slain or taken captive, and the days of the Hoopoes were numbered ; 
then their minds were filled with sorrow and dismay." The king of the 
Hoopoes went back to the monarch and related their piteous plight, and 
Solomon said, " Behold, did I not warn thee of thy folly, in desiring to 
have crowns of gold ? Vanity and pride have been thy ruin. But now, 
that a memorial may remain of the service which thou didst render unto 
rae, your crowns of gold shall be changed into crowns of feathers, that 
ye may walk unharmed upon the earth." 



48 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

casual visitor to the British Isles ; but there it is at 
once shot, as soon as seen, and is then mounted by 
the local taxidermist. Few collections of stuffed 
birds, however modest, are without examples of 
British-killed Hoopoes. That it will ever therefore 
become common with us is impossible, but that it 
might be a regular visitor is certain, for, as long 
as there have been any records kept, its appearance 
in the summer has been noted, and no farther than 
the Continent it is a regular and honoured visitor. 
The last Hoopoe I saw in Egypt was on April 6, 
on Lake Menzaleh ; it rose from a mere scrap of 
an island all soft sand, and headed to the dunes 
that separate the lake from the Mediterranean, 
and the last I saw of it, was it still flying with 
its head pointed to European shores. 



THE KINGFISHER 

Alcedo ispida 

General plumage a metallic blue ; the under parts, lores, 
and ear coverts are bright chestnut ; throat, white ; the top 
of the head is a greenish turquoise with darker markings ; 
the back is a brilliant cobalt blue shading into darker 
ultramarine blue on rump and tail ; legs, red ; eyes, brown. 
Length 7 inches, but individuals vary much. 

In Egypt this bird is common, and would be 
commoner if it were not in some parts relentlessly 
pursued for its brilliant plumes. When at Matariya 
on Lake Menzaleh I heard that the regular price 
was a half piastre (or a penny farthing) per skin, 
and that at that price hundreds were obtained. 
As we at home are not entirely blameless on this 
point much must not be said, but it is nevertheless 
to be regretted, as its brilliant plumage is such a 
valuable addition to the frequently colourless river 
scenery. Wherever there is water both in Upper 
and Lower Egypt this bird will be met with, and 
in the Luxor district it is really common. It is 
a bird that loves some particular spot, and clings 
to some one reach or another, so that where once 
seen it is highly probable to be seen again. It 

49 7 



50 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

is said to breed in Egypt, and probably does in 
localities suited to it. 

The food is chiefly fish, and it has often been 
noted that it swallows such prey, after one or two 
preparatory blows, head foremost. In flight it 
hardly seems to move its wings, or they are moved 
so quickly that the eye does not catch the move- 
ment, it seems to pass along smoothly, literally like 
an arrow. This bird, like so many bright plumaged 
ones, is no songster, and has only a sort of shrill call 
note. Both male and female are alike in plumage, 
but the female has more red on the lower bill. 

There is one other Kingfisher that may be 
met with, the Little Indian Kingfisher, very 
similar in plumage to the last, but it is a smaller 
bird and its bill is longer. I do not think I have 
ever seen it, though I know those who say they 
have noticed it several times on the rushing water 
in the Assoan district. 



COMMON KINGFISHER 



BLACK AND WHITE KINGFISHER 

Ceryle rudis 

The whole plumage black and white ; feathers on top of 
head form crest ; under surface white. In the male two dark 
bands cross the upper breast, in the female only one ; both 
have some thin lance-shaped black markings on the sides ; 
beak and legs black ; eyes brown. Length, 11 "5 inches. 

This is a bird few know till they have been up 
the Nile ; but when they have, they know it well, 
for it is not at all of a retiring nature, but boldly 
shows itself, and is very fond of sitting in con- 
spicuous places, on the tops of poles, or on the 
dahabeah chains. Many seem to find it difficult 
to understand this is a Kingfisher, since they 
have a preconceived idea that Kingfishers must 
all necessarily be bright-plumaged birds, like the 
preceding species ; but the Kingfishers are a very 
large family, and very various in size and colour. 
The Australian " Laughing Jackass " is a King- 
fisher, and there are many others that possess no 
very special brilliance of plumage. 

This Black and White Kingfisher is a true 
resident in Egypt, and just about the time we all 
leave for our homes it sets to work to make one, 

51 



52 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

and digs out a hole in the soft sides of the Nile 
bank. In some cases it burrows back two to three 
feet before it widens out the chamber in which 
the nest is made. I do not know that the bird 
is in any way persecuted, but it is not beloved of 
the people, as they accuse it of eating too many 
of their young fish. Visitors who do not like their 
muddy Nile fish do not see any great offbnce in 
this, but I can quite see the matter from the 
native's point of view, and am a little astonished 
that it has been allowed to increase and multiply 
as it has. Last year, each evening, something like 
thirty used to roost on the chain cable of Mr. 
Davis's dahabeah, moored just opposite Luxor. 
Where they all came from was something of a 
mystery, as, though you would see one now and 
again on that reach of river, you would never 
be able to see anything like that number ; yet 
every evening in they used to come, and after a 
rather excited noisy discussion settled down to 
roost for the night. 

A most interesting thing in this bird is its 
singular habit of hanging in mid-air, above the 
water, on the look - out for fish. Although I 
have said fish, it is certain it must take other 
creatures than fish, for I have often seen it, not 



BLACK AND WHITE KINGFISHER 



BLACK AND WHITE KINGFISHER 53 

only hovering over the Sacred Lake at Karnak, 
but also plunging head foremost down into its 
waters, and securing some food or other, with 
which it has at once flown away to some con- 
venient perch and there swallowed it. Now there 
are no fish in the Karnak Lake, and it is clear 
that what the Kingfisher goes for must be some 
variety of its ordinary fishy food, and must be some 
larvsB or fine fat water -beetle. When hanging 
thus in mid -air it reminds me a little of our 
own Windhover or Kestrel, in its quick clapping 
stroke of wings, whilst its body and tail hang 
nearly perpendicularly down, till it sees what 
it wants ; then the position of its body alters in 
a flash, and down it plunges, and is lost for a 
moment in the splash and spray that it raises by 
the impact with the water. 



THE LITTLE GREEN BEE-EATER 

Merops viridis 

The plumage throughout is green, with a black eye-stripe 
and a black marking in front on chest ; legs brown, beak 
black, eyes crimson, two centre tail-feathers very elongated. 
Total length, 11 inches. 

There are three species of Bee-eaters, but this, the 
Little Green Bee-eater, is chosen because it is 
resident, and because it must be seen by every one 
in Upper Egypt. The other two species are both 
birds of passage through Egypt, and are seldom 
seen or heard till April or May, when most people 
have left. This bird is well called the Green Bee- 
eater since it is green right over every part of its 
upper plumage, but owing to the shading of parts 
not in the full light of the sun it often appears as 
if its head were of burnished gold, and again when 
it flies, if the light be at all behind it, the trans- 
parent outstretched wings look a brilliant orange 
owing to the under-sides being of that rich warm 
colour. In habits it will remind any observer 
of our Fly -catchers at home, for it sits rather 
humped up on a dead twig, wall, or post till, 
suddenly observing some passing bee or fly, it 

54 



LITTLE GREEN BEE-EATER 



THE LITTLE GREEN BEE-EATER 55 

swoops down on its prey and then back again to 
its perch to enjoy its food. This it will continue 
to do by the hour together, till, first stretching 
out one wing and leg, and then the other, it 
decides to set out for pastures new, and with an 
easy, long, sweeping flight, rising and then falling, 
it disappears from view. It is a very tame little 
bird, and is met with literally everywhere ; but 
it is undoubtedly most fond of the wells with 
a few trees growing round them, or the gardens 
or palm-groves. I do not remember to have seen 
one actually on the ground, in which matter it is 
similar to all very short-legged birds, and its legs 
are very short. 

It is a melancholy fact to have to record that it 
is far too often shot by visitors ; and worse, some- 
times now native boys catch it for the delectation 
of tourists, and, tying a bit of string round its 
legs, hold it as if it were perching naturally on 
their hands. They then offer it to tourists as a 
tame, pet bird, and I fear the tourist too often 
buys of them, for otherwise these utterly mercenary 
little rascals would not indulge in this traffic. 
Needless to say the poor bird always dies — indeed, 
is more often than not half-dead when in the boy's 
hand, as its half-glazed eye only too plainly shows. 



56 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

One hardly knows how to cure this cruelty, 
for the humane nearly always rebuke the boy, 
give him a piastre or two, and liberate the bird, 
and pass on thinking they have done a good deed. 
The bird can only flutter feebly away, and the boy 
of course re-catches it and goes through the same 
performance with the next kind-hearted, foolish 
visitor. It is with regret I write it, but I do not 
in the least now believe in the Egyptian's love for 
birds, or anything other than backsheesh. Why 
the birds are or were so imiversally tame is not 
because of their kindliness, but simply because of 
their apathy. The moment it dawns on them 
that there is anything to be made out of birds or 
any other lovely thing they are as brutal as the 
very worst British hooligan. 

I have sometimes seen Bee-eaters in the ruins 
and temples, and in this connection it is interesting 
to recall that there is a very good representation of 
one flying, in the celebrated series of pictures of the 
expedition to Punt at Deir-el-Bahari, the only case 
I can remember of a Bee-eater being so represented. 
It is entirely insectivorous, and is one of the many 
birds which ought, in this insect-infested country, 
to be strictly preserved, for it is appalling to think 
what an unbearable land this would be for us thin- 



THE LITTLE GREEN BEE-EATER 57 

skinned people if the teeming clouds of flies and 
mosquitoes were not held in some check by these 
industrious birds, which are all day long steadily 
trying to reduce their numbers. 

By modern naturalists the Common Swift is 
not placed along with the Swallow, but comes 
near the Bee-eaters and Nightjars, and I therefore 
place my notes on this bird at this point. 

When I arrived early in October 1907 at Deir-el- 
Bahari, I saw thousands upon thousands of Swifts 
flying round in never-ending circles, and all, as far 
as I was able to identify them, the same Swift 
that goes shrieking its weird song down every town 
and village in rural England. Night after night, in 
the wonderful glow that follows the actual sunset, 
I used to go to the top of the great cliffs that over- 
hang Queen Hatashu's temple, where round me 
raced here, there, and everywhere, these great clouds 
of birds, sometimes so near me, as I sat quietly hidden 
in a niche of the rocks, that I could easily have 
knocked them down with a stick ; whilst others 
were high, high up, circling round. Every now and 
then so close they came, shrilly shrieking and scream- 
ing, one after another, in follow-my-leader fashion, 
that I felt the cool fanning of the air from their 



58 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

beating wings. In the early morning they were 
out again, but during the middle of the day they 
were rarely if ever to be seen. By the end of 
November there were but few, and when I returned 
after Christmas there was hardly one to be seen. 
About the middle of January I saw flocks of them 
again at Karnak, which is only just on the other 
side of the river. 

Shelley seems to speak of the Common Swift as 
rare, and he is most probably right, but I have no 
doubt whatever of the identity of those I saw in 
the neighbourhood of Thebes at that particular 
time. The Swift that really breeds here is the Pale 
Swift, which, instead of being almost black all over 
like the Common Swift, has a more or less uniform 
greyish-brown plumage, and is considerably smaller ; 
Shelley says two inches. 

In the report of the Giza Zoological Society on 
the wild birds that have been observed in the 
gardens, both species of Swifts are noticed as 
having occurred there, and it is probable that both 
kinds are spread over the whole of Egypt. Why 
it is not generally noticed is because, as has been 
said, it flies out rather late, and keeps to great 
heights, never within my own experience flying as 
at home a foot or so above the ground. 



THE LITTLE GREEN BEE-EATER 59 

The Pale Swift I have often seen, and so close 
to me that the main difference in plumage to the 
Common Swift has been definitely noted. I my- 
self have never heard it make the wild shrieking 
note our own bird makes, but then I have only 
seen it in the mid-winter months. 



THE SWALLOWS 

Hirundo rustica Hirundo savignii 

European Common Chimney Swallow Egyptian 

Upper plumage from forehead to tail, deep metallic steel 
blue-black ; forehead and throat, rich red-brown ; a band 
of the blue borders the red on throat ; underparts creamy- 
white ; beak very short and black ; eyes, dark brown. Length, 
8 inches. 

The above description is of the Common or 
Chimney Swallow, and if for the creamy -white 
underparts, you read red-brown underparts, lengtli 
7 inches, you have an accurate description of the 
Egyptian or Oriental Chimney Swallow. As the 
Egyptian Swallow and our own Common Swallow 
are so similar in appearance and habits, both are 
dealt with in this article. With so little difference 
between the two species, it is not strange that 
persons seem to find it hard to distinguish the one 
from the other ; but really, if one watches at all 
carefully, he will soon note if the individual bird 
has the creamy-white underparts or no, as it is 
seldom that any swallow flies long without that 
sideway swerve which shows the wing lifted free 
above the body. The first date I have noted as 

60 



COMMON SWALLOW AND EGYPTIAN SWALLOW 



THE SWALLOWS 61 

seeing the Common Swallow was February 1, 
1908, at the Mut Lake, Karnak ; but I have no 
doubt that at some parts up or down the river 
they can be seen all the winter through. After 
February, day by day, the great hosts of them, all 
flying with earnest intent due north, makes one 
of the most interesting sights to English eyes in 
all Egypt, as one can well believe that some of 
those very birds will be the first to greet one on 
his return home in April or May. I have often 
seen them hawking about over the waters of some 
small insect -haunted pool in friendly company 
with their Oriental cousins, and have always 
marvelled at their leaving a land with its constant 
sun and amazing wealth of flies and insects, for 
our own comparatively inclement clime and poor 
food-supply. In a room I slept in, at the hut at 
Deir-el-Bahari, there was a swallow's nest just 
over my bed, and though it was too early when 
I was there in January for them to start breeding, 
on several occasions the Egyptian Swallows came 
fluttering in through the unglazed windows, just 
to take a look round and see that all was right 
for later on. On February 14 I saw two, which 
were clearly mated birds, on the ground, picking 
up scraps of twigs and straw, and then rapidly 



62 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

fly away. In a few minutes both were back again, 
and one seemed to be taking mud, whilst the 
other kept searching for just the right -sized bit 
of dry grass or straw ; it took up many bits, but 
they did not seem to satisfy the requirements 
and were dropped, till just the right-sized piece 
was forthcoming. So it is clear they must start 
nesting very early, and pretty certainly will have, 
as our British bird does, two broods in the season. 
There is practically little or no difference in the 
habits of either of these two Swallows — the one 
might be the other — and though I have watched 
them long and carefully, I am unable to recall 
any single peculiarity that our Swallow has from 
the Egyptian. Both alike have that habit of 
dipping momentarily into the water, then rising 
for a short distance, and again fluttering down on 
to the surface with a slight splash, and both kinds 
seem to have boundless energy and strength, 
tearing up and down incessantly by the hour 
together. So many birds rest in flight by making 
long sweeping curves with rigidly outstretched 
wings. Kites and Vultures are great exponents 
of this power, but the Swallows, though they can 
do it of course, are nearly all the day careering 
in headlong flight with restless energy, and the 



PALE CRAG SWALLOW 



THE SWALLOWS 63 

long journey they take in migration is probably, 
under fair climatic conditions, nothing at all 
formidable to them. If, however, they get caught 
in some storm or blizzard - like gale, it is an 
altogether different matter, and there are many 
records of the Mediterranean coast beinec littered 
with hundreds of dead bodies of the Swallows 
that have succumbed and fallen helplessly into 
the sea. Watching them flying about the river, 
or above the growing crops, one finds it difficult 
to picture a more perfectly happy existence — food 
in abundance, sunshine all day long, and a kindly 
welcome at roosting time in every house or rough 
mud-hut — and cheery and grateful it seems for it 
all, if one may judge by its lively twittering 
song. No wonder every country has made a 
special favourite of the Swallow. It is entirely 
insectivorous, and, as has been said of several other 
birds, the use that they are in this land of plagues 
of flies is enormous. 

Swallows' nests, as is well known, are generally 
placed on some horizontal beam or masonry. 
Martin's nests are placed on the perpendicular sides 
of buildings, and by choice close under the eaves 
of our broad-roofed houses. Both are built of mud, 
and the mud is very generally obtained from road- 



64 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

sides or by the river's edge, but if any of my readers 
will endeavour to build up a nest with such mud 
against an upright wall, they will attempt an all 
but impossible task, for as the curve begins to grow 
outwards it will with its own weight fall away from 
the wall. What is it, then, that the Swallows and 
Martins do to make their nests adhere ? If you 
examine an old last year's nest and try and break 
the outer shell, you will find it very tough consider- 
ing the material it is made of, and the toughening 
matter is a secretion of saliva. In the case of some 
species of Swallows this secretion is so great that 
the whole of the nest is made of that substance 
alone, with the lining of a few feathers. And it is 
this nest, cleaned of all foreign matter which is the 
base of the much-esteemed delicacy known as bird- 
nest soup. Few who have partaken of this luxury 
are perhaps aware that it is simply solidified saliva. 
Of Martins there are two — the House-Martin 
and the Sand-Martin, both birds common to Great 
Britain. Of the latter, literally thousands and 
thousands will be seen nesting in colonies in the 
mud banks by all who go up and down the river ; 
restless and cheerful, they are one of the welcome 
sights of the Nile trip, and often for miles at a 
stretch the whole banks are honeycombed with 



THE SWALLOWS 65 

their nesting holes, and ever and again, moved by 
some common impulse, hundreds come rushing out 
and over the boat with noisy twitterings, and then 
scattering, gradually return in ones and twos to 
their homes again. 



WHITE WAGTAIL 

Motacilla alba 

Crown of head and nape dark grey or black, upper plumage 
delicate grey, wings brownish, some of the feathers edged 
with white ; tail dark-brownish, two outer feathers on each 
side white ; forehead, most of the cheek and under-parts white, 
black collar, legs and bill black, eyes brown. Length, 7 inches. 

I HAVE pictured this particular Wagtail as it is 
perhaps the commonest of all, but there are several 
other kinds that at certain seasons might dispute 
the point and run it very close. It is very similar, 
superficially, to the familiar Pied Wagtail, but is 
greyer, less positively black and white, and might 
well be called the Grey rather than the White 
Wagtail. In the winter months, in Egypt, at 
whatever part of the country, north or south, you 
may be, you will see Wagtails of some sort or 
another busily chasing flies with ever - restless 
activity, and the numbers that there must be of 
this most useful bird is past all computation. 
Wagtails are peculiar in that they are about the 
smallest birds that really walk and run. All other 

66 



WHITE WAGTAIL 



WHITE WAGTAIL 67 

small birds — finches, warblers, and the rest — move 
by hopping ; but Wagtails all run, and hardly 
ever make any semblance of a hop unless the 
sudden bound into the air after some passing fly be 
called a hop. No bird is neater or more graceful in 
line than this, and I am sadly conscious of how little 
of its real beauty the drawing gives ; the dainti- 
ness with which it does everything is singularly 
beautiful. Though many pass the winter in 
Egypt some must go farther south, as when the 
time comes for their return to their northern 
breeding-places in February and March there 
is a notable increase in their numbers, and I 
remember one particular evening in March when 
the whole cultivated ground round the Ramaseum, 
Thebes, was literally covered with them, and as 
darkness came on even more seemed to be dropping 
in on every side. The next day, when I went to 
the same place, the bulk had already gone, and 
there were hardly more than you could see at any 
time. 

The Yellow Wagtail is a smaller bird than the 
White. Ornithologists record no less than three 
species as found in Egypt, all having yellow 
breasts. The Grey-headed Yellow Wagtail is the 
one most abundant, and for beauty is unsurpassed. 



68 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

Its tail is notably shorter than in other Wagtails, 
and from my own observation I should say it is 
a more timid little bird than others of its 
kindred. 



THE CRESTED LARK 

Galerita cristata 

All upper plumage brown ; the large feathers of wings 
and tail edged with a lighter huffish tone ; crest of narrow 
dark-brown feathers with light edges ; back of crest, as one 
sees under it when raised, tells very rich dark brown ; under- 
parts white spotted and streaked on breast with dark brown. 
Length, 61 inches. 

For once the name does really describe the bird, 
so that none may be in any doubt whatever. For 
the crest is the one thing noticed. I have drawn 
one with a fine crest, but have been afraid to make 
it as big as I have in one or two cases seen it. 
Early in February I saw some that I really think 
had the crest a full eighth of an inch higher than 
my drawing shows. In each case they were un- 
doubtedly showing off to their lady-love. The 
crest can be, and often is, raised at an absolute 
right angle as to a line horizontal with the beak. 
The bird is so tame that frequently it sits on the 
path so that you fear your donkey will tread on it, 
and so common that no one, however unobservant, 
but must notice it ; it is particularly in evidence 
on the great Thebes plain across which all go to the 

69 



70 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

Tombs of the Kings. Its song, as far as I have 
heard it, is distinctly pleasant ; Captain Shelley calls 
it " but an indifferent song," which is severe, as it 
is a happy little rippling series of true lark-like 
notes. It has a good mixed diet, animal and 
vegetable, hard grain and soft blade of growing 
things. When the weather begins to get warm you 
will often see this lark, as you may many other 
birds, sitting with its mouth open as if gasping for 
breath ; that this is a sign they do feel the heat is 
certain, but I do not tliink that it shows they are 
suffering from thirst, for in the cultivation they 
always have water all round them in the little 
canals that run everywhere through the crops, and 
if they were thirsty they could very soon quench 
it. When on Lake Menzaleh, just on the very 
limit of Egyptian soil and Mediterranean Sea, I 
came across many taking a last rest on the sand- 
banks before migrating, and was very struck with 
their altered bearing. They were shy and timid, 
never allowed a close inspection, and flew away in 
hurried fashion. This was in the early weeks of 
April. 



CRESTED LARK 



THE WHITE-RUMPED CHAT 

Saxicola leucopygia 

General plumage, black with slae-blue reflections ; rump, 
white ; tail, black ; outside feathers, white ; beak and 
legs, black ; eyes, brown. Length varying from 6^ to 7 
inches. 

I CONFESS to finding the Chats a puzzling order of 
birds to identify when seen in the open. In the 
case of some, not only is the female larger, but of 
such a different aspect and dull sandy colour that 
it is really difficult to believe that it is in any 
way related to the startlingly plumaged black and 
white male bird. All the Chats love the desert 
more than the cultivated ground, and I myself 
have never seen this Chat save on rocks or sand. 
The visitor going to the Tombs of the Kings at 
Thebes, or around the Pyramids, should certainly 
see this bird, as it is there common, and owing to 
its way of flitting sharply from one point to another, 
and sitting high up on the top of some boulder, with 
its strongly contrasted black and white plumage, is 
always a very conspicuous object. What it gets 
to live on in these desert places is hard to see, but 

71 



72 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

it does manage to pick up a living on grass or other 
seeds and small insects. 

Two other Chats very closely related are the 
Hooded Chat and the Mourning Chat. The former 
is very similarly marked on the body, but has a 
white top or hood on its head, whilst the latter has 
the top of its head a delicate dull grey, and a 
huffish tone over the under tail-coverts. 



ROSY-VENTED CHAT 

Saxicola moesta 

Black on sides of face ; wings, a blackish brown with 
lighter margins ; under parts a warm white gradating into a 
pinkish rufous as it nears tail ; tail, dark at end, white at 
base ; eyes, brown. Length, 6*2 inches. 

This is not so common a bird as the preceding, 
but still if a sharp look-out be kept it ought to be 
seen. It inhabits the desert, but I have twice seen 
it on the edge of cultivation, and the particular bird 
I made my drawing from got up from stubble just 
by the river-side. Both this bird and the White- 
rumped are closely related to our own Wheatear 
on one side and to our Stone-chat on the other. 
All these birds are alike in the continued restlessness 



WHITE-RUMPED CHAT AND ROSY CHAT 



THE WHITE-RUMPED CHAT 7S 

of their movements, and their habit of flying on 
in advance as one approaches, and then settUng 
again on some prominent point till a nearer approach 
sends it on again with a flick of its tail till it 
finds another suitable perching spot. In the most 
out-of-the-way desolate places, where not one blade 
of vegetation shows itself, and all is yellow sand and 
hard grey rock baking in the sun, there you will as 
likely as not find Chats of one kind or another, the 
only living thing, seemingly, in this great dreary 
expanse ; the dreariness never, however, seems to 
affect them. No one has ever seen a Chat in low 
spirits ; it is always happy and lively, a very Mark 
Tapley amongst birds. 



10 



THE BLUE-THROATED WARBLER 

Cyanecula suecica 

Plumage of back and top of head dull grey-brown ; a 
light buft' stripe above eye ; throat and breast brilliant 
cobalt-blue, with a white spot at the top of breast, a bright 
rufous bar edges the blue on the lower breast, this red bar 
sometimes being separated from the blue by a thin white 
stripe ; under-parts white. The hen bird is a dull edition of 
the above, with a buffish-coloured throat, and more black 
than blue showing on the breast ; legs, beak, and eyes 
brown. Total length, 5-5 inches. 

This is a common bird throughout Egypt, where 
it winters. It is related to our common Robin, 
to which it bears some resemblance ; but it is 
rather longer in shape and higher on the leg than 
the Redbreast. 

The Bluethroat is well named, and having 
once seen this charming little warbler, it is by 
its blue throat it will be remembered. The first 
time I came across this bird was long ago ; 
but I remember, as if it were to-day, my delight 
when the little bird, which had been flitting about 
— now on the ground, now in the lower branches 
and twigs of a bushy osier — turned so that I saw 

74 



BLUE-THROATED WARBLER 



THE BLUE-THROATED WARBLER 75 

its brilliant ultramarine-blue gorget fringed with 
a rust-red band. It had been for some minutes 
feeding and moving about in the bush and on the 
ground, and yet, during the whole of that time, 
it had never once turned right head on, and that 
which was my first experience is, one finds, a quite 
usual peculiarity. It always seems to give you 
a back view, and from that view you might be 
justified in thinking it was a Redstart, as it has 
the same habit of flitting its tail up and down, 
and showing the very orange - red under - parts. 
Whether it was an accidental visitation I do not 
know, but early in the year 1908 the gardens of 
the old Luxor Hotel were full of Eluethroats — as 
soon, pretty well, as you passed one you came on 
another. The little water- channels running about 
these well-kept grounds seemed to be the point of 
attraction, as they were busily hopping about and 
sometimes into them, and splashing merrily — hardly 
serious washing, but a sort of childlike abandon of 
pleasure in pleasant surroundings ; but even with 
so many visible, and seen under such familiar 
conditions, it was astonishing how seldom any gave 
one a front face view. There is a point of great 
interest in the two races of Bluethroat, one 
having a red, the other a white spot on the blue 



76 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

shield : and this because the red-spotted species 
goes for its breeding quarters to the most northern 
parts of Scandinavia, whilst its white -spotted 
cousin goes no farther north than Germany. And 
we are told that in spite of Germany's numerous 
and well-instructed ornithologists no case has been 
observed of the red -spotted form ever having 
stopped in its transit from Africa, although it 
must pass right over the country, till it reaches 
its nearly Arctic home. This seems to show that 
this delicately built, tender little bird probably 
makes its journey by night, and so high up that it 
escapes all observation ; and when you consider the 
vast distance from Egypt's shores to the far-away 
mosses of Scandinavia, it is about as marvellous 
a journey without a halt as one can conceive of. 
Flies, insects, caterpillars, and, when it can get it, 
fruit of any kind, form its diet. 

The Bluethroat is on the list of British birds, 
but is one more case of a bird being so included 
that really hardly should be, for it is but an 
accidental visitor ; probably it never meant to 
come to Britain and only got there by mistake, 
when it is generally shot at sight. It is particu- 
larly upright in its carriage and sprightly in its 
movements ; so quick that eyes unaccustomed to 



THE BLUE-THROATED WARBLER 77 

observing birds find it difficult to see it at all, as 
with a series of running hops it darts under the 
shade of overhanging bush or shrub. In the 
winter months it hardly utters more than a simple 
call-note, but as spring approaches it breaks into 
song, and at the end of March I have several times 
heard it singing most enchantingly. It seems to 
sing when on the ground, and not when perched 
amongst the bushy undergrowth ; and I remember 
watching one, singing as lustily as any nightingale, 
as it stood on a bare bit of stony, sandy soil, 
bordering a little pool, fully exposed to view, 
while I sat quietly not three yards away. 



THE REED WARBLER 

Acrocephalus streperus 

'General plumage a greyish browM ; a wanner brown on 
the wings, and brighter brown on runij) ; under parts a 
delicate white, shading into buH on the flanks and under tail 
coverts ; a faint light stripe above eye ; legs and beak, brown ; 
eyes, hazel brown. Length, 5\ inches. 

The song of any bird is one of the most certain 
methods, when really known, of identification. In 
the case of Warblers and other small birds that flit 
about rapidly, and always half-sheltered by vegeta- 
tion, it is often exceedingly difficult to get a near 
and clear view, and very hard to know exactly to 
what species it belongs. This is particularly the 
case with the Reed and the Sedge Warblers ; they 
stick so close to their beloved shelter that you 
rarely get a complete view of them, but if you 
will wait quietly and patiently you are sure to 
hear them burst out into a shorter or longer song 
— then is your chance — and if you have the very 
slightest sense of music, you will catch the notes 
peculiar to that bird and that bird alone. The 
Reed Warbler's song is very peculiar ; it is a running 
trill of notes given out exceedingly quickly, and in 

78 



REED WARBLER 



THE REED WARBLER 79 

an exceedingly loud, noisy, boisterous voice, as if 
the bird were in the highest possible spirits. Very 
unlike that of many of the singers ; the Nightingale, 
for instance, to every one sounds sad, plaintive, 
beautiful, but distinctly not cheerful. I have heard 
the Reed Warbler very often at many points on 
the Nile where there were no reed beds, but only 
stunted tamarisk or other shrubs, but in the great 
reed beds on and outside Lake Menzaleh I have 
both seen and heard it in great numbers, and the 
quite extraordinary penetrating noise that a number 
make when together is most remarkable. It is a 
most charming active little bird, a perfect acrobat, 
and it sings as blithely upside down as it does 
right side up. But the most attractive thing about 
its life-history is its nest ; this it builds in the 
very heart of some thick clump of reeds. The 
accompanying picture shows how when the wind 
blows the cradle does rock ; but it matters not how 
much it rocks, the wise bird builds the nest so 
deep that the eggs lying snug at the bottom 
never get tilted out. In Egypt the bird is, like 
the bulk of visitors, but a winter migrant. As it 
is insectivorous it is of some use in keeping down 
the host of flies great and small, and it is said to 
be partial to mosquitoes, which should make every 



80 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

one look with favour on this cheery little songster. 
I often think it is a mercy that practically all the 
song birds are small, for consider what it would 
mean if the large birds made noise in the same 
proportion to their size that the Reed Warbler 
does to his, — the world would be a veritable Babel. 



THE SPARROW 

Passer domesticus 

Top of head a bluish-grey, margined with deep chestnut 
band over the eye and ear-coverts ; black chin and collar ; 
a white spot behind the eye ; under - parts a silvery 
grey ; wing chestnut with black spots, with a white bar 
across it ; tail-feathers brown with lighter edges ; eyes 
hazel ; legs and beak pale brown. Entire length, 5*5 
inches. 

Mr. M. J. NicoLL thinks that the Egyptian 
Sparrow is a separate local variety, being always 
lighter and brighter coloured on the back. Spar- 
rows here, as elsewhere, distinctly follow man. 
Where no men are, you will find no Sparrows. 
Get only half a mile into the sandy plain that 
fringes the cultivation and you will look in vain, or 
go up the steep hills, and you may walk for miles 
and miles and never see one. But if you come 
across some of the old-time caravan roads, or a 
place where there has been an encampment, then, 
however wild the surroundings and otherwise far 
away from civilized life, you will very likely find a 

81 11 



82 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

Sparrow or two looking after some of the drop- 
pings from the nose-bags. 

In winter they get spread about and are 
not very noticeable, but when the corn ripens 
then they all seem to multiply in extraordinary 
fashion. Clouds of them rise up and fly round, 
startled by the loud cry or stone slung by the 
ragged urchin of a bird scarer. I remember well 
Leighton's picture of a bird scarer, showing an 
athletic young fellow, stripped to the waist, poised 
on one foot, body bent back, hurling the stone as 
David did at Goliath. But in the years I have 
known Egypt I have never seen in real life any- 
thing approaching that picture, for it is generally a 
blear-eyed small boy, half-clothed and hideously 
dirty, who, standing on the pathway, yells dis- 
cordantly and purposely just as you pass him, 
sometimes accompanying the cry with a mild little 
jerky underhand throw of some clot of hardened 
soil which possibly breaks in mid-air before reach- 
ing the birds. So no lives are lost, and the birds 
just fly away contemptuously to another part of 
the field. In Nubia it is different, and there girls 
as well as boys do really sling stones, and with some 
effect. I do not think there is any peculiarity 
of the life-history of the Sparrow in Egypt that is 



SPARROW 

In the Temple at Deir-el-Bahari. 



THE SPARROW 83 

not equally noticeable wherever it is met with, 
but whereas at home it becomes almost a pest from 
its numbers, here it is not so noticeable, and its 
jaunty, sprightly air and carriage are often in 
agreeable contrast to the depressing squalor and 
monochrome, dismal surroundings. So here it gets 
blessings and not cursings poured on its head, and 
no one calls it " Avian Rat," or any other rude 
name. I have pictured it as I often saw it, 
playing in and out of the decorated temple walls, 
in a cleft of which possibly it was born, and the 
pictures of which it can honestly say it has been 
familiar with from earliest childhood. One cannot 
help but speculating, does the Sparrow recognize 
in the painting its arch-enemy, for the pictured 
Hawk shown may well, as far as form is concerned, 
be meant for a Sparrow Hawk ; which Hawk, true 
to its name, takes daily toll of all small birds and of 
Sparrows in particular. I remember well one day 
at the Ramaseum where I was painting — the quick 
passing shadow and the instant silencing of the 
cheery chattering of a host of Sparrows that were 
all sitting on a small bush just near me, and look- 
ing up, I saw a Sparrow Hawk dash away with a 
Sparrow in its talons, whilst the others were 
flying precipitately away in all directions. The 



84 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

Sparrow is an omnivorous feeder here, in Egypt, 
as it is at home, where nothing that grows comes 
amiss to it, not even the early crocuses of our 
gardens. 



THE DESERT BULLFINCH 

OR 

TRUMPETER FINCH 

Erythrospiza githaginea 

General Plumage — Sandy-grey, darker on wings, the larger 
feathers of which are edged with bright pink ; rump and 
upper tail-coverts bright pink, under-parts all creamy pink 
with the ends of the feathers carmine, beak large and bright 
red, legs pinkish flesh-colour, eyes brown. Total length, 5 
inches. 

The above description, as are all these descriptions, 
is of the adult male bird in full plumage, but 
the reader must remember that this full, brilliant 
plumage is generally worn only during the spring 
months, and that if any bird is observed in 
November or December, it naturally will not be 
then wearing its wedding - garment. This is 
especially true of the present species ; in the 
winter months it is a quiet-coloured little bird, 
hardly to be noticed as it hops about on the cleared 
ground, to which its colour is very similar, its red 
beak alone showing brightly ; and it is only in 
January that it begins to show any alteration, and 

85 



86 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

not till the end of February does it look the 
brilliant pink bird described above ; then it is 
almost impossible to over-describe its beauties, and 
one is in some danger of over-painting it. Shelley 
says that the young have the bill pale yellowish- 
brown, but I have seen little flocks together, which 
I take were families, in November, and every 
member of the party had brilliant red beaks, 
though otherwise they were all dull sandy colour. 
This bird has a peculiar song or call-note that 
is absurdly like that of a little tin trumpet, and 
this call it continually utters, especially as it flits 
about, so that it can thus often be identified even 
when too distant to be accurately seen. It is really 
a very common bird, but on account of its incon- 
spicuous winter plumage, is not always noticed. 
In December 1908, in walking across the cultivated 
Thebes valley up to the Tombs of the Kings, I 
must have seen many hundreds in those few miles, 
and when I did not see them I could frequently 
hear them. Most people really do not give them- 
selves much chance of seeing any of the details 
of bird-life, as they go everywhere on donkey 
back, with chattering, ill-behaved boys as retinue, 
and though the birds are tame, they naturally 
fly away at the approach of these noisy cavalcades. 



DESERT BULLFINCH OR TRUMPETER FINCH 



THE DESERT BULLFINCH 87 

But if only people would walk — and I can see no 
earthly reason why they shouldn't, they probably 
would at home — they would see such a wealth of 
charming pictures of bird-life that they would be 
well rewarded. As it is I have sometimes asked 
friends if they had noticed the extraordinary 
number of Wagtails, or whatever bird was passing 
by on its migration at the time, and have been 
astonished to find they had seen none, when 
sometimes the ground has been literally covered 
with them. But no, they go clanging and jolting 
along, and I suppose do really see nothing. 

At Assuan among the sand and rocks I have seen 
quite wonderfully brilliant male birds sitting sing- 
ing something almost worthy to be called a song, 
— the ordinary sound is this rather monotonous 
single note-call. Its food is distinctly hard food, 
as we say of a cage-bird, and it spares no growing 
crop — maize, grass, mustard, corn, all come alike 
to it — but with this bird, as with many others, 
one does wonder how they support existence 
in the arid, plantless deserts, for you see them 
quite commonly there, as well as on cultivated 
ground. I have seen them in English bird-fanciers' 
shops, but have no knowledge as to whether they 
are good cage-birds ; the one thing, however, which 



88 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

might make them such is of course in their love 
of hard grain food, and if they can be kept in 
health, they would certainly be most engaging pets, 
as they are very lively in their movements, and 
always seem to be bright and cheery. 



HOODED CROW 

Corvus cornix 

Head, throat, wings, tail, beak, and legs black, with a 
gloss of purple or green on most of the feathers ; remainder 
of plumage grey, eyes dark-brown. Total length, 18 inches. 

A VERY common bird throughout Egypt. It seems 
strange that this should be the only Crow — the pure 
black one has never been noticed — and if any black 
crow-like bird is noticed it will probably be found 
to be the Raven. Shelley says, " It begins breed- 
ing towards the end of February, when its nest 
may be procured in every clump of sont trees," ^ but 
I have seen young ones with their parents flying 
about in early February, which would mean they 
must have been hatched much earlier, and it would 
therefore seem certain that they rear two broods 
in the year. It does not seem here to have quite 
the same character that it has elsewhere — it is less 
aggressive, tamer, not such a highwayman-robber 
sort of bird — and though it is so common I cannot 
ever remember to have seen a flock of them 
together in the real open country, they seem to 

^ The term " sont trees " in Egypt is applied to acacia trees. 
89 12 



90 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

go in pairs generally ; but in towns and such places 
as the Zoological Gardens of Cairo they do fore- 
gather in large numbers. Its food is generally 
carrion, but it will take any living thing — lizards, 
mice, and even beetles — that comes in its way, 
and I have no doubt rob the nests of small birds, 
not only of eggs but also of the unfledged young. 
It is distinctly a handsome bird and it walks well, 
holding its head high, whilst its flight is strong and 
easy. 

It was entirely owing to a certain Crow, we 
are told, that Cairo got its name, for it seems 
that when the architect was planning out the 
city, he arranged that the first stone of the great 
surrounding wall should be laid at a particular 
moment dictated by the astrologers. This moment 
was to be made known to the architect by the pull- 
ing of a cord extending from where he was to the 
place where the astrologers were assembled. The 
momentous day arrived, the architect awaited the 
signal, and suddenly the cord was shaken, and the 
stone was laid. But a horrid mistake had been 
made. The astrologers had not pulled the cord ; a 
wretched old Crow had heavily perched upon it, 
and shaken by his weight, the unlucky signal was 
given ! From the vexation caused by this incident 



HOODED CROW 




?f 



f 



t^ 



HOODED CROW 91 

the city was called Kahira^ (the "vexatious" or 
" unlucky "). Kahira softened, soon became Cairo. 
The Raven, as already stated, is to be seen from 
time to time, and especially where the cliffs come 
down close to the river. It is so similar to the 
ordinary Raven that it is only after the feathers of 
the head and neck have been worn for some time 
that the brown look appears which has given rise 
to the specific name of the Brown-necked Raven. 
Shelley says it nests in date-palm trees, but the 
only nests I myself have seen have been in the 
lofty cliffs of Deir-el-Bahari and Abu Feada, and 
again in some of the ruins of temples, at Karnak 
for instance. There is, further, one more Raven, 
the Abyssinian, which is smaller by some three 
inches than the Brown-necked, but it is very 
similar in all other respects. 

^ Curzon's Monasteries of the Levant. 



EGYPTIAN TURTLE-DOVE 

OR 

PALM DOVE 

Turtur senegalensis 

General plumage a dull pinky light brown, brighter on 
head and breast, which gradually shades off into white under 
the tail ; wings, warm tones of dull umber brown, which 
colour also is on the tail coverts and two central tail feathers ; 
the rest of the tail is blue-grey with broad white tips, a part 
of the wing coverts a bright blue-grey ; it has a not very pro- 
nounced collar of black and bright golden brown feathers on 
the sides and front of neck, eyes crimson, legs and feet pink. 
Total length, 11 inches. 

The Doves have all had a sort of saintly character 
thrust on them, which they hardly deserve, as they 
are about the most pugnacious of birds, which is 
hardly a saintly qualification ! It is true a pair of 
Doves by themselves, kept in semi-domestication, 
do show a sort of maudlin affection, but many of the 
smaller birds — Wrens, Tits, Warblers, and Swallows, 
and many others — all show equal, if not greater true 
affection to each other and absolute self-abnegation 
in their untiring devotion to their offspring. Why, 
therefore, the Dove has been peculiarly ticketed as 

92 



EGYPTIAN PALM DOVES 



EGYPTIAN TURTLE-DOVE 93 

a model of connubial affection I really do not know, 
but it has, and I suppose it will be treated as a sort 
of sacred symbol to the end of time. 

This particular Egyptian Turtle-dove is also 
sometimes called the Palm-dove ; a good name, as it 
is always to be found wherever there are palm trees ; 
on them it roosts and in their branches it nests. 
When flying it opens its tail wide, and then shows 
the broad white and lilac-grey of those side feathers 
which when sitting are all hidden away under the 
two central dull brown tail feathers. Its flight 
through and among trees is very rapid and tortuous, 
and it is perhaps when in the dense clump of palm 
trees that it is most interesting, as it is so tame 
that it allows of a close approach. In any of 
the palm groves, and palms are everywhere in 
Egypt, the bird lover will be able to learn some- 
thing of this very Oriental Dove. The first thing 
he will note is that clearly some of the many that 
are flying here and there, and feeding on the ground 
around him, are quite young birds, even though it 
may be December or January, and it is certain that 
this true inhabitant of warm sunny Egypt has two 
broods at least in the year. 



SENEGAL SAND-GROUSE 

Pterocles senegallus 

Arabic, Gutta 

Back and general tone of feathers sandy, top of head 
and breast a delicate pinkish-lilac, cheeks and throat a 
strong brilliant orange-yellow, wings spotted with chocolate- 
brown markings, legs feathered, centre of chest and stomach 
dark dull brown, two centre tail-feathers elongated, black 
at points, barred at base. The female is not nearly so 
brightly marked, indeed, is mainly sand-coloured ; eyes brown, 
beak dull grey. Total length, 12 inches. 

There are three different varieties of Sand-grouse 
in Egypt — the Singed, the Coroneted, and the 
Senegal. The last has been selected as it is the one 
with which I am best acquainted, but either of the 
others have an equal claim, since, though occupy- 
ing different local ties, they are to be met with 
throughout the area covered by this book. All 
the Sand-grouse are very similar in their habits, 
they are all children of the desert, but come 
down, either to feed or to water, to the cultivated 
ground at morning and evening. Captain Shelley 
gives absolute localities where they might be found 
(he was writing in 1872), and ever since he gave 

94 



SAND-GROUSE 



SENEGAL SAND-GROUSE 95 

that information there has been each winter a 
regular invasion of British and other ardent sports- 
men, to each of the places named, to have "a 
little Sand-grouse shooting." Result : at those 
places there are now none whatever, and no one 
living there seems to know anything more about 
Sand-grouse than that annually large numbers of 
men come with shooting equipment ready to make 
record bags, and go away without firing a shot. 
This being so, the present author thinks it best 
not to give localities, for though there is no 
danger of Sand-grouse ever being exterminated, as 
if persecuted they have the whole of these great 
African deserts to fall back and back upon, yet the 
hunger of the modern man to go out and kill 
something bearing the least resemblance to a game- 
bird is such, that if it were told that at certain 
places near the river they could be got, in a single 
season or two that place would be absolutely 
cleared. It seems rather churlish perhaps, but 
this book is not written to aid men to shoot 
Egyptian birds, but simply to recognise the 
birds seen ; and the first essential is that there 
should be birds to see. Sand-grouse seem to be 
pleasant sociable birds, happy in their family life ; 
at the non-breeding season they foregather into 



96 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

large companies, in which order they fly great dis- 
tances to and fro to whatever pools or water they 
customarily visit each evening, and it is at these 
places that the most deadly shooting can take 
place, for they are very regular in their " flighting." 
Captain Tindall Lucas tells me that the Coroneted 
Sand-grouse drinks later in the evening and earlier 
in the morning than the other forms and practically 
when all light has gone ; the more usual time being 
just before the sun sets. The freedom with which 
they fly is extraordinary, it is more with the power 
of the Swallow than any game-bird ; they mount 
very high up into the air, and go wheeling round 
and round, now mounting nearly out of sight, then 
rushing headlong down in a long swooping curve 
till near the earth, when, perhaps, they will turn 
off sharp at some angle and go tearing away in 
some opposite direction. This is when they are in 
flocks, and out on the wide open desert ; when 
coming down to water, or near cultivation, or 
among the coarse Haifa grass, they fly with direct 
intent, and waste no time about it. 

Their cry must be heard to be appreciated ; it 
is usually written as "gutta, gutta, gutta," but no 
description of birds' notes ever seems to be of much 
value ; it is, however, so very individual that once 



SENEGAL SAND-GROUSE 97 

heard would never be forgotten, and it has, as all 
Nature's notes have, an entire suitability to the 
surroundings, and like the boundless, yellow, dry, 
herbless desert it is wild and weird, yet beautiful. 

I remember once a quite intelligent Scotch 
keeper answering an inquiry, as to what Ptarmi- 
gan found to eat amongst the barren hill- 
tops where they live with the amazing statement, 
delivered in the most solemn manner, " that they 
just lived on the little stones," and when doubt 
was thrown on his information, declared that he had 
often cut them open to see, and had never found 
anything in their crops "but just the wee stones." 
And the inquiry might well be made as to the 
source of food of the Sand-grouse when one sees a 
large flock in the desert places that they love to be 
in during the day, if one did not know of their 
wondrous powers of flight, which make nothing of 
flying scores of miles to the far-distant edges of 
cultivated ground. 

I have watched Sand-grouse quite close at hand, 
and when on the ground they are rather dumpy- 
shaped and uninteresting; if disturbed, they pull 
themselves together a bit and run off to a short 
distance, and settle down again in a crouching 
position ; if again disturbed they probably rise 

13 



98 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

altogether, with their " gutta, gutta " cry and fly 
miles away. In running they go like clockwork 
mice ; you hardly see their legs or feet, and they 
rise and fall over the varying contours of the 
ground just like a little running wave. 

From Alexandria to Assoan and beyond right 
to the Soudan, Sand-grouse are to be met with, 
and though every one may not see this typical desert 
bird, it is there if only they know where to look 
for it. 



SAND PARTRIDGE 

Ammoperdix heyi 

The colour of the upper plumage on body is so delicate 
in quality that it is hard to say if it should be called a lilac 
grey or pinky grey, whilst in certain lights it might be called 
a sandy brown; the head is, with the cheeks, neck, and breast, 
a pearly pink ; the flanks are barred with rich chestnut and 
black on a warm white breast ; white on the ear coverts and 
a white spot in front of the eye in the variety kno^vn as 
Cholmondely ; legs yellow ; eyes brown ; beak a brilliant 
orange. The hen bird is without the bright chestnut bars 
on the flanks, and is altogether a paler-coloured greyish-buff, 
and without white on the face. Total length, 9 inches. 

This is a resident Egyptian bird, and I include 
it in my list because, though the traveller up 
the Nile may not see it, any who go across 
the desert around the Pyramid district, and even 
those who journey only a little out of Assoan, 
ought quite certainly to come across it. It is a 
most charming, lively little bird, bustling about ; 
you rarely see it quiet for long, even in January 
it still keeps in coveys, and they go running along 
in and out of the boulders, and, if on a hillside, 
they are very quick and agile in hopping high up 
on to the rocks above them. They very seldom 

99 



100 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

fly if they can possibly get out of your way by 
running. I very well remember seeing them on 
the old-time road from Kennah to Kosseir on the 
Red Sea. I saw them first before reaching Wady 
Hammamat, and then more frequently as we passed 
through the ancient quarries. They seem to use 
this old roadway as their regular feeding-ground, 
for there, owing to the passage of caravans back- 
wards and forwards, they find a perpetual source 
of food from the frequent droppings. Their move- 
ments were so quick and their little bodies so 
round and plump that, even with my glass on 
them, I could not settle the colour of their legs, 
till I got a closer inspection of those in the Cairo 
Zoological Gardens. As they run they utter a 
little cheery sort of "cheep, cheep" call, and the 
whole party seem always happy, if not in boisterous 
spirits, which, when one considers the hardness of 
their life in these sterile wastes, seems somewhat 
remarkable. Grain and seeds are their staple food, 
but I distinctly saw one once and again make a 
dart at some passing insect, and no doubt here, as 
at home, they love the ants' eggs that must exist, 
as ants are ever present with you in this hot desert 
country. As far as my own notes go, 1 do not 
think they ever come down even to the outskirts 



HEY S SAND-PARTRIDGE 



SAND PARTRIDGE 101 

of the cultivation, but keep exclusively to the sand 
(possibly in spring or summer they may approach 
nearer to the haunts of man, but I have no 
evidence), w^hich makes the fact of their being, 
as it is alleged they are, exceedingly good eating, 
very remarkable, for one would be disposed to 
think they would be thin, tough, and tasteless. I 
have it on good authority, that as a game-bird 
for the table, they are far to be preferred to our 
own Partridge, being, though small, very plump 
and of a fine game flavour. All Partridges seem 
peculiar in doing well on very little — at home 
one often wonders during a hard winter at their 
surviving at all — for they are never fed like the 
pampered Pheasants, and not only do they survive, 
but they seem to carry as much flesh when shot 
in a hard winter as they do in September when 
grain lies scattered in profusion on every stubble. 
Although one has praised its seeming happy way 
of living, no account of this bird would be complete 
without some notice of its extraordinary pugnacity. 
This is confined admittedly to the males, but 
with them it is, as with all so-called game-birds, 
a ruling passion, of which our game-cocks are 
of course well-known examples; but it may not 
be so generally known that in many countries — 



102 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

Greece, amongst others — Partridges are kept for 
this special purpose of fighting for the delectation 
of their owners, and though I am not aware of 
this little sportsman, the Sand Partridge, having 
been kept for this purpose, I am sure if it was 
it would not disgrace the traditions of its family, 
for a more pugnacious little bird than it never 
walked. The males have a peculiar habit of 
standing ever and anon quite upright puffing out 
all their breast feathers, so that they display all 
the beauty of their rich chestnut and black-barred 
plumage. The naturalists have discovered that in 
certain districts the birds all have a white spot 
over the beak on the forehead, and to this variety is 
given the name of Cholmondely's Sand Partridge, 
whilst the other type, with only one white spot 
behind the eye on the cheeks, is known as Hey's 
Sand Partridge. Here, as in the case of most 
birds, the description of the plumage is taken 
from the male bird, the female nearly always being 
very much more sober coloured. This cannot too 
often be repeated, as not recognizing this fact 
often leads to mistake ; and again, in the matter of 
the measurements of the birds, the size given is 
that of the average bird, for in almost all birds you 
get larger or smaller individuals, and that veteran 



SAND PARTRIDGE 103 

naturalist Wallace has just lately drawn attention 
to the quite extraordinary variations in the different 
parts of the Common Redwing, showing that 
even in twenty birds the dimensions varied 
considerably. 



THE QUAIL 

Coturnix communis 

Arabic, Salwa 

Plumage — Upper parts brown marked with grey, rufous, 
and black, a buff line over eye and on crown of head, a 
semicircular collar of dark brown on throat ; lower parts 
lighter, streaked with black down centre of feathers, beak 
brown, legs pale warm brown, eyes hazel. Total length, 
7*5 inches. 

The call of the male Quail is one of those strange 
sounds that have around it much of the halo 
that the song of the Cuckoo has at home, be- 
cause it marks a definite date — the passing of 
winter and the coming of summer. For the 
ordinary traveller this call, which by some has 
been rendered as sounding like " What we whee," 
is all that he will ever know of the bird's presence, 
as it is curiously skulking in habits, and never 
rises unless suddenly alarmed by one's walking 
through the cover in which it hides. Personally 
1 agree with a friend who said the sound was 
identical with the sort of cheeping call of a young 
turkey poult, but all descriptions of birds' songs 
I hold to be rather vain. Each one for himself 

104 



QUAIL 

Flying over growing corn. 



THE QUAIL 105 

must notice and learn from actual experience, and 
the various calls and notes are so individual that 
when once really noted are never forgotten, and 
to at all a good ear these aids to identification 
are as sure as if the very bird were placed in 
his hands. Quail pass through Egypt when on 
their way to their more northerly breeding quarters 
early in March and April. Some few may remain 
the year through, but they are a small minority. 
The return to Egypt is from September to 
November, and it is during these journeyings that 
the vast quantities are caught in nets, which later 
are sent to every European city for the tables of 
the rich. Mr. C. D. Burnett-Stuart very kindly 
has given me the following notes : — 

"From Alexandria to Port Said the whole 
length of coast is practically hung with nets ; but 
Government lately has forbidden the placing of 
the nets on the actual foreshore which it controls, 
which were the most killing positions, and the 
nets can now only be placed farther back on 
private and cultivated ground. The numbers of 
Quail which must migrate passes belief, for it is 
recorded that in Coronation Year five million were 
ordered and supplied for the English market alone." 

" The route which they take leaving Egypt 

14 



106 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

seems to be roughly the great valley of the Nile 
right to its entrances to the Mediterranean ; but 
on the return journey from Europe they seem to 
reach the shores of Egypt, then turn eastwards 
and follow the line of the Suez Canal and Red 
Sea to about Kosseir and the old river-bed, then 
across the desert to the Nile, and away spread- 
ing themselves over the heart of Africa." 

*' On their arrival in Egypt they are so dog- 
tired that they can sometimes be caught by hand, 
and have been actually so caught in houses that 
they have entered in a sort of dazed condition. 
The poor Quail are also caught in large numbers 
by a drop-net whilst on passage down the river, 
in clover, or any other suitable crop, the fowler call- 
ing them up to his net by a reed whistle. Quail 
shooting used to be a more favourite sport than 
it is now since Denshawie days, and two guns 
have on one occasion obtained 252 birds in the 
day at Ayat, fifty miles south of Cairo." 

After this one is not disposed to say " liar " 
even to the ancient historian who recorded the sink- 
ing of certain vessels in the ocean, because of the 
innumerable Quail that settled on them ; and one 
readily accepts the story of the Israelites' camp 
being covered all over two cubits high by falling 



THE QUAIL 107 

Quails. Canon Tristam has a note on this incident 
and "the fully satisfied hungry people," that the 
very " Hebrew name selav^ in its Arabic form 
salwa, signifies fat, very descriptive of the round 
plump form and fat flesh of the Quail." 

Ten is said to be the average of the clutch 
of eggs laid, which number partly explains the 
enormous flocks which come year after year in 
spite of the incessant raids made upon them. If 
by chance you do see Quails rise from the crops 
you are instantly reminded of partridges ; but 
they never rise as high as the latter birds, and 
though I have heard of their answering to being 
"driven," I should think they give very un- 
satisfactory shooting, as they are rarely more than 
a foot or two above the crops, whether they be 
clover or young corn. 



CREAM-COLOURED COURSER 

Cursorius gallicus 

General plumage a bright clear yellowish sand colour ; 
forehead a bright burnt sienna ; crown of head a light lilac- 
grey ; eyebrows white ; eyes brown ; legs white. Length, 
10 inches. 

This is one of the birds commonly selected as an 
illustration of "protective coloration." It lives 
in the sandy deserts, and its plumage displays a 
curiously harmonious blending of the various 
colours to be found on the dry, stony, sandy soil. 
The very markedly contrasting colours of the head 
are just the very same that you see in the pebbles 
or stones, and the smoother passages of delicate 
buff and greyish -yellow are the counterpart of 
the curving slopes of pure sand ; whilst even the 
startling enamel-like white of the legs resembles 
the bleached, hard, dry stalks of the desert vege- 
tation. When the bird crouches down it is 
practically invisible, though, as the phrase is, it 
may be " right under your nose," but as a matter 
of fact it seems most often to perversely upset 
the whole value of what we men deem its valuable 

108 



CREAM-COLOURED COURSER 





«<S| 







%>^ 



CREAM-COLOURED COURSER 109 

protective asset by running about, and drawing 
attention to itself by continually uttering its peculiar 
cry. And when it rises and flies off, as it frequently 
does, in little bands or parties, all utter the same 
note with incessant, noisy reiteration. I first saw 
this bird when riding across the desert towards 
Kosseir on the Red Sea, and I well remember my 
surprise at seeing how completely different was the 
position assumed by the birds to that which all 
the pictures with which I was familiar had led me 
to expect. It runs about very high on the legs, 
and every other moment lifts its body up nearly 
perpendicularly, looking sharply round right and 
left before again making another quick little run 
in search of some speck of food. It struck me as 
being a peculiarly cheery little bird, and seemed 
to be of a sociable nature, always being in little 
parties, and often when they all rose together they 
would be quickly joined by some others, who had 
been before out of sight, and together they would 
go wheeling about in mid-air, mounting high up 
into the sky, till the eye unaided lost sight of 
them, but all the time their whereabouts was 
certain, because of their most musical, reiterated 
cry, which somewhat resembles that of the Sand 
Grouse. 



110 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

It loves the deserts, and as far as I know never 
leaves them save to come down, as the Sand-grouse 
do, to some water-hole. Round the Pyramids, and 
even within sight of the babel of guides and donkey 
boys, this child of the desert may be seen, but it 
always keeps, as it were, in touch with the bound- 
less open sandy tracts to which it can beat a safe 
retreat. In one of the large show-cases in the 
great Central Hall of the British Museum of 
Natural History, they are shown in a group with 
other desert birds and beasts, but it is sad to 
see how the colours of their plumage get — even 
with all the care of dust-proof cases — dull, faded 
and dingy, giving little idea of the brilliantly clear, 
delicately coloured plumage of the living bird, as 
seen under the clear blue of an Egyptian sky. 



THE GREEN PLOVER OR LAPWING 

Vanellus cristatus 

Upper plumage dark metallic alternating green and 
purple ; a dark crest of upward curling pointed feathers ; 
under plumage white ; black chest ; orange under tail 
coverts ; beak black ; legs brown ; eyes dark brown. Total 
length, 13 inches. 

This is the " Lapwing " or " Peewit " of England, 
and is a rarer bird in Egypt than at home. But if 
you look sharp out, you ought to see it at least 
once or twice in a run up the river, in small or 
larger flocks — I do not ever remember to have seen 
it singly. Why I have chosen this bird as one of our 
fifty is, because go where you will, north or south, 
you see the undoubted counterfeit presentment of 
this bird engraven on the walls of all the temples. 
Many see it, but are misled by the rather mad 
armlike -looking thing brandished out in front of 
the bird's face, and never see the undoubted portrait 
of a Plover till it is actually pointed out. Why 
this bird should have been chosen, and why the 
owl and the vulture should have been selected 
from the great mass of Egypt's birds, we cannot 

explain, but can only draw attention to the fact, 

111 



112 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

and find interest in the thought that just as now 
this bird may be seen, so in the old far-away 
dynastic days it must have been a familiar bird, 
or it would certainly not have been selected for 
use in picture and hieroglyph. Some few breed 
in Egypt, it is said ; but certainly the bulk all 
go north and west when spring-time comes. This 
is the bird that supplies gourmands with their 
annual dainty of Plovers' eggs ; it lays four in 
the simplest of nests — a mere slight depression in 
the ground — and as soon as the young are hatched, 
within a few hours of actual birth into the outer 
world, they are running about nimbly on their own 
little legs, and, at the instigation of their fond 
parents, catching flies and insects with their own 
little bills. In this matter of the helplessness, or 
reverse, of newly-hatched birds, is a most interest- 
ing field for research. The proud eagle's young are, 
for a long time, as helpless as our own babies, and, 
it is alleged, have sometimes to be forcibly pushed 
out of the home ; whilst, as we have seen. Plovers' 
young are born almost self-supporting. And this 
precocity, as it seems, is also seen in young ducklings, 
and in all the so-called game-birds : all they ask 
for is their mother's wings to protect them against 
the weather, and warmly shelter them at night. 



GREEN PLOVER OR LAPWING 




(iiil 



SPUR-WINGED PLOVER 

Hoplopterus spinosus 

Arabic, Zie-zac 

Crown, nape, chin, centre of throat, breast, and tail black ; 
white cheeks, white under and above tail, back and sides of 
wings a grey-brown, a sharp hard spur on point of shoulder, bill, 
feet and legs black, eyes rich crimson. Entire length, 12 ins. 

Whether this or the Black-headed Plover is to 
have the honour of being the bird Herodotus has 
made famous will probably ever be a matter for the 
Schoolmen to argue over, but lately I came across 
Dr. Leith Adam's note, explaining the reason why 
he insists that the Spur- winged Plover is the real 
friend of the crocodile and not the Black-headed, — 
i.e. " Codling not Short." " The crocodile, tired of 
keeping its jaws wide open, just shuts them, to the 
everlasting peril of the bird ; were it not for those 
two sharp spurs on his wings he of course would be 
suffocated and later doubtless swallowed, but by 
these spurs, when the roof comes down on the top 
of him, he just reminds his patron of his existence, 
by jabbing the tenderest parts of the interior of his 
mouth." This is said invariably to refreshen the 
sleepy crocodile's faculties, so that he remembers 

113 15 



114 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

his faithful dentist and immediately opens his jaws 
and releases the prisoner, to whom one hopes he 
expresses profound regret. 

It is to be seen on the sand-banks in Lower 
Egypt, but gets noticeably less frequent as one 
journeys into Upper Egypt, and one is disposed 
to think is growing less in number year by year, as 
so many of the pure river-side birds are, by reason 
of the now continually passing, noisy, wash-pro- 
ducing steamers. 

It seems to be distinctly a quarrelsome bird, 
anyhow when breeding, and both male and female 
are more often than not to be seen having 
some row or another with some poor inoffensive 
bird who has ventured too near their nest. At 
times it stands up practically perpendicular, and 
jerks its head and body up and down with clock- 
work regularity till the cause of its upset has 
ceased, when it draws in its head and sinks it 
deep between its shoulders, as is shown in the 
accompanying drawing. Its nest is a mere de- 
pression in the sand, and it lays three or four eggs 
which are very similar to our common Green 
Plover or Lapwing. 

Von Heuglin relates a Mohammedan legend : 
That Allah, having asked all things great and small 



SPUR-WINGED PLOVER 



SPUR-WINGED PLOVER 115 

to come to a great feast, all came except this 
Plover. Allah rebuked him. The Plover said he 
had fallen asleep and forgot all about the fixture. 
Allah, who knows all things, knew he lied, and 
answered, " Then from this time forth thou shalt 
know no sleep," and he made these two spurs to 
grow on the points of his shoulders so that he shall 
suffer great pain if he try to sleep by putting his 
head under his wing. 



BLACK-HEADED PLOVER 

Pluvianus aegyptius 

Arabic, Ter el timsah 

Top of head black, as also is a band through eye which 
meets the black and across chest ; wing and sides of back 
a very beautiful pale lilac blue-grey, under-parts white, lower 
throat and flanks a creamy rufous, legs bluish, eye brown. 
Total length, 8'5 inches. 

This is regarded as quite certainly the bird known 
in ancient days as the Crocodile Bird. It was 
held to be the faithful attendant of this fear- 
some reptile, warning it of danger : and when the 
creature it fed was full, this little bird was supposed 
to attend to the proper cleaning of the ogre's teeth I 
For this purpose, we are told, the crocodile would 
lie quietly with its great mouth wide open whilst 
this brave little dentist ran about briskly right 
into the open jaws and deftly removed noisome 
leech or scrap of food left between those ugly 
fangs, and never showing the slightest fear. It is 
a pretty story, but as there are now no crocodiles 
in Egypt proper, the ordinary traveller has no 
chance of seeing if this be so or no. But though 
the crocodiles are gone the Black-headed Plover is 

116 



BLACK-HEADED PLOVER 



'A- 




BLACK-HEADED PLOVER 117 

still to be seen by those going up or down by 
water. Mr. E. Cavendish Taylor, writing in 1867, 
says, "This bird is abundant all along the Nile 
above Cairo, wherever the banks of the river are 
muddy." Captain Shelley in 1870, referring to it, 
says, " It is plentifully distributed throughout 
Egypt and Nubia, but it is most abundant in 
Upper Egypt between Siool and Thebes." I 
myself saw it many times in 1875, whilst going up 
and returning, in good quiet-fashioned way, by 
dahabeah ; but when I again went over the same 
ground in 1908, although going very slowly and 
stopping every day, I only find, from my notebook, 
that we saw it three or four times in our six weeks' 
journey from Thebes to Cairo. All that we saw 
were wild and anything but the confiding birds one 
has been taught to regard them. I think by far 
the most notable thing about this bird is its curious 
habit of laying its eggs on the sand, and then care- 
fully burying them with the clear purpose of letting 
the genial sun do the bulk of the work of hatching 
out. Captain Verner gives a most interesting and 
detailed account of watching the movements of one 
of these birds on a sandbank. He went to the place, 
he writes, " And at the precise spot turned over the 
sand, and about half an inch below the surface 



118 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

discovered three fresh eggs, which the artful bird 
had completely buried. . . . Still I was unable 
to account in my own mind for the very energetic 
movements to and from the water which I had 
witnessed on this occasion, until I received an 
account from a cousin, Lieutenant George Verner, 
of the Borderers, who was stationed about forty 
miles farther down the river than I was, which 
solved the mystery, as follows : — * On 25th April 1 
was waiting in a boat alongside of a sandbank, and 
my attention was attracted by a pair of Black- 
headed Plovers which kept flitting about quite 
close to me. I noticed that one of them was 
continually wetting its breast at the water's edge 
about ten yards below our boat, and then running 
up the bank to a spot about the same distance in- 
shore of us, when it would squat down and remain 
about two minutes or so, after which it would get 
up, and, running down to the water's edge above 
us, fly round to the spot where it had dabbled 
previously. . . . At the spot where the bird had 
been crouching I found a clutch of eggs half 
buried in the sand, their tops only being visible ; 
the sand immediately surrounding them was moist, 
although the bank I was on was an expanse of dry 
burning sand." From this it seems clear, as 



BLACK-HEADED PLOVER 119 

Captain Verner says, that this plover has learnt that 
with judicious damping, the sand and the sun will 
do the hatching, thereby removing the necessity 
of having to spend long days and nights brooding 
over the eggs. It is, however, very curious that 
no other of the large number of birds that lay their 
eggs on the desert sand or hard dry mud-banks 
should do this : and especially curious since these 
birds are first cousins, as one might say, to the 
Spur-winged Plover — which breeds often within a 
few hundred yards of where Black-headed ones are 
— and this bird sits continuously till the young 
are hatched. The egg resembles that of the Red 
Grouse and is not very plover-like in character — 
indeed, some ornithologists will have it this bird is 
not really a Plover, but is more allied to the 
Coursers. 



LITTLE RINGED-PLOVER 

Aegialitis minor 

General colour of upper plumage a delicate grey-brown ; 
under plumage white, with a black bar through the eye, and 
a dark mark on the forehead, bordered at its lower and upper 
margin with white ; and a rich black collar going nearly all 
round body; legs reddish. Total length, 6'5 inches. 

This bird no one can fail to see, as, though it is 
in other countries a shy bird, it is here amazingly 
tame and familiar. By the river, by canal-side, 
round every small pool or watercourse, there you 
will see this cheerful little compact-shaped bird. 
All last winter, 1907-8, I had seen great numbers 
in the Thebes district, but in this winter of 1909 I 
have on Lake Menzaleh seen literally thousands of 
Ring-Plover. I cannot be sure they were all " the 
Little Ring-Plover " ; that they were Ring-Plovers, 
I am certain, but as there are three species of 
Ring -Plover — the Great, the Middle, and the 
Little (and Captain Shelley strangely gives the 
dimensions of the Middle form as smaller than 
the Little) — it is safest not to be too dogmatic, 
and only call them Ring-Plovers. It is a very 
active bird, incessantly on the search for food, 

120 



RINGED-PLOVER 



LIITLE RINGED-PLOVER 121 

and the pace that those little legs can go, when 
they do their best, is amazing. It has a charming 
way of ever and anon stopping suddenly still and 
looking steadily at you, with head held very 
slightly aside, seeming to try to read right 
through you, and discover if you are friend or 
foe. When it flies its wings are seen to be very 
sharp and pointed, and bearing some resemblance 
to a snipe's — a bird it is often made to do duty for 
by those romancers, the native gunners, who tempt 
the uninitiated to accompany them for snipe- 
shooting, and assure the new-comer these poor 
little Plover are Snipe — " Egyptian " Snipe. 



16 



THE SNIPE 

Qallinago coelestis 

Top of head, back, and upper feathers of wings dark brown, 
in parts nearly black with a bluish gloss, two buff streaks on 
each side of shoulders; face and chest spotted with dusky 
brown, whilst the flanks are barred with the same colour ; tail 
bright chestnut, barred with black and tipped with white ; 
legs greenish ; bill brown, at base flesh colour ; eyes dark 
brown. Length, 11-5 inches. 

The Snipe in some parts of Upper Egypt are so 
extraordinarily tame — and hardly behave as Snipe 
do generally — that I have no doubt they are often 
seen by many who never recognise them as Snipe 
at all. At the Sacred Lake at Karnak I have seen 
veritable processions of visitors, headed by a talk- 
ing dragoman, walk along the path quite near one 
which was standing at the water's edge, and if none 
left the pathway it would remain stolid, but if any 
boy, or workman, came down to bathe or drink, it 
just flew across to the other side and at once settled 
down again. And in the very early morning before 
the workers arrive, I have stood right on the shore, 
not screened or hidden in any way, and had Snipe 
dibblinff about in the water not more than five or 

o 

122 



THE SNIPE 123 

six yards away. The first time this happened I 
thought the bird must be wounded or unable to fly, 
but it was not, and it is only one more proof of the 
benefit that the Antiquities Department has pro- 
duced by exercising its authority over the areas it 
controls. No shooting is allowed on " Antiquities 
ground," and birds very soon get to know this, 
gain confidence, and lose all their natural shyness. 
Needless to say, in those parts where they are shot 
they behave as warily as Snipe do at home, and are 
up and away with their curious "scarpe, scarpe" 
cry. Years ago the Delta was one of the best 
snipe-grounds in the world, and an old sportsman 
in Cairo told me of his getting 93 couples in a day, 
and as late as 1902 a certain five days' shooting 
gave an average of 72 couple per day. In nearly 
all such bags some Jack Snipe were obtained ; and 
in Mr. M. J. Nicoll's notes on birds met with at 
Menzaleh the Jack Snipe is given as the commoner 
of the two species. 

There is nothing to show that Snipe ever breed 
in Egypt, though there are many localities where 
it well might, and it is another of the great army 
of winter migrant visitors that go to the north as 
spring comes on. It lives entirely on insects and 
worms, which it procures by probing the soft, black 



124 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

mud with its long, sensitive bill. I have seen Snipe 
in most unlikely places, and once saw one fly right 
through an open space at the Ramaseum Temple. 
From my notes of a night's watching at a pool I 
borrow the following : *' 14M Janua7'y, 7.30 p.m. — 
Snipe are squawking, and can hear them coming in 
on all sides throughout night, which is a dark one ; 
could hear only faint rippling noise at intervals, as 
some duck or wader moved about, and the earliest 
call was at 3 a.m., when a Snipe squawked once 
or twice, then silence again, and only a faint, 
far-away dog's bark, and a cricket in the sand- 
bank near my side began churring. At 5 a.m. 
great splashing at end of pool, and coot began 
moving. No light showed till after 6, and then 
one could see duck feeding and moving ofF, and 
again little wisps of Snipe went over my head 
and away." 



THE WOODCOCK 

Scolopax rusticula 

The plumage is grey below, faintly barred on flanks. The 
head barred on top and spotted on sides. The wings are 
rich chestnut-brown with transverse bars of black ; a narrow 
stripe of rich yellow triff edged with black runs along the 
scapulars ; tail short and pointed, barred with chestnut and 
black, is tipped with grey above and pure white beneath. 
Legs a pale flesh colour ; beak reddish at base, brown at tip. 
Eyes, peculiarly large and of a rich brown, are placed more 
backward than in most birds. Total length, 14'25 inches. 

Accounts in 1907-8 show that the Woodcock has 
been obtained fairly frequently, and a case was 
told me of two being obtained literally by the side 
of the road from Cairo to the Pyramids in one 
morning. It is very usual to deplore the existence 
of "the man with the gun" without in the least 
really considering the whole matter. That certain 
men with guns shoot at everything and at all times, 
breeding season or otherwise, and without any object 
in killing their victims, is of course deplorable ; but 
the killing of birds in season that can be used as 
food for man is no offence whatever. Further, from 
observant good sportsmen has come a full half of 
all the knowledge of birds that exists, and this 

125 



126 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

cannot be too often dwelt upon, as enthusiasts run 
riot on this subject, and do damage to a good cause 
by injudicious condemnation. The accompany- 
ing illustration is a small example of what I 
mean. All know that birds, like ourselves, have 
eyes and ears, and one knows that the relative 
positions thereof are as in ourselves — the ear lies 
behind the eye. No book that I am aware of 
has any intimation that any other order exists ; 




Fig. 7. 
Head of Woodcock^ to shorn tJie position of tlis Ear, 

but one day, a winter or so ago, I shot a Wood- 
cock, and for the purpose of making a minute 
study of the bird examined it closely, when I 
found that the ear was in front of the eye. I at 
once consulted all my bird books, but found no 
reference to this strange fact. I then examined 
ten other birds, and though they varied individually, 
not one but had the ear somewhat in front of the 
eye. 

The woodcock's food is mainly obtained by 



COMMON SNIPE 



THE WOODCOCK 127 

probing. Its bill is richly supplied with very 
delicate nerves, and it probes the soft mud and 
ooze in search of those grubs and insects that live 
there. It also feeds on worms that it obtains 
above ground, and indeed has a varied diet. 



THE PAINTED SNIPE 

Rhynchoea capensis 

Head and neck a rich red-brown, darkest on the lower 
neck or breast ; dark streak through eye ; buff marking from 
beak to top of head ; back a changing brown with purple 
and green reflections on the wing, barred with darker mark- 
ings ; the large wing-feathers have rows of bright buff" spots 
on their outer margins ; rump a dark slaty grey with darker 
wavy bars ; buff" stripes on shoulders ; legs greenish ; beak 
reddish-brown ; eyes brown. Length, 9'3 inches. 

This name is unfortunate, for some people seem to 
imagine that the bird will be found to have paint on 
it, like a painted Sparrow ! Though a handsomely 
marked bird, those who have shot much say that as 
a sporting bird it is not to be compared with the 
common Snipe, as it rises slowly, it does not twist 
or zig-zag about, and is content with a very short 
flight. It is a resident bird, and breeds in May in 
Lower Egypt. I met with it at Lake Menzaleh 
when there in April, and it possibly is more common 
throughout the country than is imagined, as it lies 
very close in cover, and rarely shows itself unless 
compelled to by being almost trodden upon. 



128 



PAINTED SNIPE 



THE AVOCET 

Recurvlrostra avocetta 

Whole plumage white, excepting the following parts, which 
are black — top of head and back of neck, a band between the 
shoulders, inner part of scapulars, wing-coverts, and prim- 
aries ; beak long and slender, and turned upwards ; legs, 
slaty-blue-green colour. Total length, 17 inches. 

I HAVE included this bird because it is like the 
Spoonbill, so singular in the form of its bill, and so 
interesting to us, because at one time it was fairly 
common in Great Britain. If it is seen it ought to 
be easily identified, not only because of its black 
and white plumage, but also because of the curious 
sweeping movement it makes with its bill as it 
searches the water for its prey, something sug- 
gestive of a mower with a scythe. Captain Shelley 
says it is met with in large flocks on the Nile, but 
I have only seen it in very small parties, six being 
the largest number that I have seen together on the 
river, but at Lake Menzaleh I have seen hundreds 
together. Von Heuglin says they are very abund- 
ant on the shores of the Red Sea, but on the two 
occasions I was on those shores — the last time at 
Kosseir — I was not fortunate enough to observe it. 
On the sandbanks — those that are very low, with 
wet spots and little pools — it can be seen better 

129 17 



130 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

than when they are in big flocks on the salt lakes. 
Those who travel up and down the Nile in the 
only way one should do the river journey, namely, 
by sailing dababeah, should keep a good lookout 
for this beautiful bird ; but I fear that those who 
pass by in great steamers have less chance, as I have 
often noticed when my boat has been moored to 
the bank that on the approach of these monsters 
pouring out their black clouds of smoke, every 
bird, great and small, hurries off in disgust if not 
in absolute alarm. The Avocet is not a permanent 
resident in Egypt, but comes from a northern 
home to winter here. It is entirely dependent on 
the water for its food, obtaining therefrom endless 
minute specks of life by means of its bill, moved 
from side to side on the top, or just under the sur- 
face of the muddy pools. When at Lake Menza- 
leh in March and April I saw great flocks of many 
hundreds just near the last sandbank that separates 
the lake from the Mediterranean, and Mr. M. J. 
Nicoll has seen it there in January. They are 
web-footed, a peculiarity that they share with 
the Flamingo, another very long - legged wading 
bird, but whereas the latter is really in form rather 
an ugly, ungainly bird, the Avocet is peculiarly 
elegant and graceful in all its movements. 



N 



AVOCET 



THE SACRED IBIS 

Ibis aethiopica 

General plumage white ; a mass of almost hair-like 
feathers falls over the wings and tail — these feathers are a 
rich metallic black with deep blue reflections ; head and 
neck bare of all feathers, showing black wrinkled skin ; beak 
and legs black ; eyes brown. Length, 28 inches. 

This is one of the birds the selection of which I 
fully expect to get criticism on. But I have chosen 
it for two reasons that, I think, justify its inclusion. 
The first is, that from one cause or another the 
Sacred Ibis is a bird so wrapped up with all our 
ideas of Egypt, and almost representative of the 
birds of Egypt, that most, although they do not 
know the bird, are interested in its existence. 
The second is one that follows this known interest, 
namely, the exposing of the dragoman's oft-repeated 
impudent lie, that he can, and does, show the new- 
comer Sacred Ibises, whereas he does not and 
cannot. 

Why, exactly, this bird was treated with reverence 
in its lifetime as a sacred being, and embalmed 
and mummified when dead, is not known. That it 
was is certain ; and most museums can show many 

131 



132 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

many examples. Then again, it was taken and 
placed on the body of a man, and made a symbol 
of the god Thoth, who presided over arts, in- 
ventions, writing, and literature. So it has come 
to pass that all of us, before even our first visit to 
the Nile, know of this bird, anyhow by name, and 
being here, very naturally desire to see it. The 
dragoman, being asked so frequently to point out 
Sacred Ibises, long ago settled that it would be 
best to please and humour his patrons, and deter- 
mined to call all Egrets, Spoonbills, and Buff- 
backed Herons, being white birds with long necks 
and legs. Sacred Ibises. Time after time I have 
been solemnly informed that four or five, or a 
round dozen. Ibises had been seen at such a place. 
On inquiry I have been told there could be no 
mistake, as dear So-and-so, the dragoman, had 
pointed them out and assured all and sundry that 
they were " genuine Sacred Ibis." And though 
strange, it is true, people prefer to believe a lie if 
it confirms what they wish, than the truth if it 
does not. The sad truth is, there are no Sacred 
Ibises in Egypt at all, and the dragomans — any- 
how, most of them — know this elementary bit of 
ornithology perfectly well, but they prefer to lie, 
and live in the perpetual atmosphere of mild 



SACRED IBIS AND PAPYRUS 



THE SACRED IBIS 133 

admiration and interest that follows their every 
utterance. No, the first place that you can at all 
safely look for Ibis in is south of Kartoom. It 
needs the great jungle-like brakes of papyrus that 
grow rampantly along the river-course, and which 
help to constitute the dread " sudd " of those 
waters. Immense masses of it, we are told, get 
torn off and detached when the new year's flood 
comes rushing down, and along with other masses go 
floating onwards till they meet with some stoppage 
and then they form a dam, new masses coming 
down and down, till there may be miles of this 
floating jungle, which can, and does, get so packed 
and compressed by the weight behind it that it 
becomes nearly solid. In country like that the 
Ibis lives, and that is, all will see at once, not the 
country that Egypt is like, and therefore the Ibis 
is an absentee from the big, gently-flowing Nile 
from Assoan to Alexandria. Was it ever common 
in ancient Egypt ? Not unless the conditions of 
those days were markedly different to these. The 
river rose each year then as now, and then as now 
by its rise and rush of waters must have kept 
the channel clear and the banks bare ; but it is 
possible that there may have been at certain points 
big swamps where the papyrus grew, which have 



134 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

now become cultivated ground. This view might 
be taken from the extensive use of papyrus in 
dynastic days, almost implying that it grew 
commonly near at hand. What is certain, how- 
ever, is that it does not do so now ; and Ibis and 
papyrus are so joined together that, the one being 
absent, the other is also. In the plate I have there- 
fore shown Ibis in a regular jungle of papyrus.^ 
There is something strange, almost weird, about 
the appearance of this bird, with his bald black 
head ; something almost priestly about the black 
and white drooping wings forming a vestment from 
which springs the thin, black, naked neck and back. 
Some will see none of these things, and only find 
a resemblance to an ugly vulture. It is rather a 
moody sort of bird, and does not get on over well 
with other birds when kept in confinement. It 
eats nearly anything that comes out of the water, 
and is especially partial to a nice young fat frog. 

1 It was by M. Legran's courtesy that I was allowed to make ray first 
drawings of papyrus, from some that was found growing in the garden of 
his charming house at Karnak. 



THE CRANE 

Qrus communis 

The whole of the body a delicate lilac grey, flight feathers 
dark. Secondary wing-feathers very long, covering with a 
plume-like mass the wings and tail. Sides of face white, as 
are the sides of neck, which is black in front ; top of head 
black, the centre of the crown bare of feathers and of a 
brilliant red ; beak greenish-yellow ; eyes red-brown. Total 
length, 46 inches. 

Cranes will only be seen flying in flocks high in 
air, or else resting after a day's flight on some 
sandbank by the river-side. As soon as they have 
rested, fed, and refreshed themselves, they are up 
and away again, and, as far as I know, they do not 
now remain anywhere in Egypt a day longer than 
is necessary. They are as rapid in their visits as 
the most scampering of tourists, who only allot so 
many days for a whole continent. But owing to 
the enormous numbers that there are of these 
birds, some of the migrating armies of them may 
be seen either in the autumn when they are all 
going due south, or on the break-up of the winter 
when they are all going due north. It seems 
strange that they should get so far north as 

135 



136 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

Lapland and Siberia, but that they do there is 
abundance of proof; and it must always be 
remembered that these migrant birds seem to 
choose the most northerly point of their migration 
to breed and rear their young, so that when you 
see flocks wending their way back in the spring- 
time all up the Nile valley you must picture them 
as on their way to their northern homes, either 
in North Germany, Russia, or Scandinavia. They 
make but a rough nest on the ground in some 
parts of the great marshes they love, on little 
islands or tussocks of coarse grass. Only two 
eggs are laid, of a rich brown colour with dark 
spots : and the young are especially lively, running 
about with ease a few days after being hatched. 
Therein they contrast strongly with the young of 
the Heron, which remain in the nest for long 
weeks, and must have every scrap of food brought 
right up to their nursery. 

Cranes' plumage, after the summer's work is over, 
fades very greatly, and I have seen it stated that 
the lovely lilac-grey altogether vanishes, leaving but 
a very dirty, grey-brownish plumage. This is also 
true of the Heron, and doubtless of all birds whose 
delicately coloured plumage is put on for the breed- 
IniT season, for the wear and tear that these delicate 



CRANES 



THE CRANE 137 

feathers have to pass through in all that long nest- 
ing period is enough to soil and spoil everything. 

Their food is very varied. In captivity they 
seem as if they could, and would, eat anything, and 
I remember once seeing one trying to swallow a 
kid glove that had accidentally been dropped into 
its enclosure ; possibly it thought it was some sort 
of dried frog ! Insects, snails, frogs, and anything 
it can get from the water, as well as seeds and 
grasses, are its stock articles of diet. 

M. Maspero told me that in his opinion there 
was a notable diminution of their number and of 
the time they spend in Egypt every winter — a 
view I also take most decidedly with my own 
recollections of twenty-five years ago, when I saw 
them so frequently that then they were one of the 
commonest sights on the Nile, whilst in the 
winters of 1907-1908 I was only once able to make 
drawings of them on a sandbank near Minieh, and 
saw but two or three flocks during the whole time 
flying high in air. This is entirely owing to the 
great increase of large steamers which, passing up 
and down, disturb the quiet of the water. If one 
is fortunate enough to hear them calling one to 
another as they fly above your head, one will ever 
afterwards be able to identify them, even though 

18 



138 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

they be mere specks in high heaven, as the sound 
is peculiarly trumpet-like and sonorous. It carries 
an enormous distance, and attention may perhaps 
be drawn to their coming before the faintest sign 
of them can otherwise be seen. 

Most would think, from a general glance at the 
Crane, that it was a Heron of some sort, but 
scientists tell us that it is a long way removed 
from them, and indeed some place it nearer the 
Bustards. There are many species of Cranes, and 
they are to be found practically the world over, for 
not only in Africa and Europe, but Asia, and 
Australia, and America all have their special Cranes. 

In many of the wall-paintings throughout Egypt 
Cranes are shown, and in none are they in more 
exact truth than in the temple at Deir-el-Bahari. 
There they are shown walking in stately fashion 
between slaves bearing precious burdens ; whilst 
some carry garden produce, rich fruits, and flowers, 
others are laden with ready trussed fowls and 
ducks, and amidst them all the graceful bird walks 
on. One wonders it does not fly away, for these 
good things do but foreshadow its own end ; but 
if you look closely you will see its bill is tied 
down close to its neck, for these old-time people 
knew well the habits of the beasts and birds, and 



THE CRANE 



139 



knew that if it could not stretch out head and 
neck it could not fly. All Cranes, and indeed 
many other birds, seem unable to start flight 
without a certain momentum given by a run 
forward with wings outspread and stretched-out 
neck. With head tied down it could get no 
balance, and would flap and flop, and then fall 
to the ground. It is in little details such as this 
that the more you know the more you respect the 
knowledge of these old artists, and admit the truth 
and merit of their unrivalled art. 




Fig. 8. 



THE SPOONBILL 

Platalea leucorodea 

Plumage white all over, tinged with buff on the lower 
part of the neck ; head crested ; beak flattened from above 
downward, and terminating in a broad spoon-shaped expan- 
sion ; eye red. 

When seen flying the Spoonbill can be readily 
distinguished from the only other white Egyptian 
bird, i.e. the Egret, because the former flies with 
its neck extended, whilst the latter, being of the 
Heron tribe, flies with its neck drawn back close 
to the body. 

I have seen pictures in some of the Gurnah 
tombs which, though crudely drawn, were un- 
doubtedly meant for the Spoonbill. The old-time 
artist was apparently so struck with the flat, spoon- 
shaped beak that he deemed it a worthy subject 
for the exercise of his art. But though faithfully 
drawn in so far as its form is concerned, it is wrongly 
depicted in its relation to the head, since the head 
is shown in profile, while the beak is drawn as 
though it were seen from above ! In no picture 
that I can recall by these ancient draughtsmen is 
any bird ever shown in the very slightest degree 
foreshortened. 

140 



SPOONBILLS 
On a mud-bank. 



THE SPOONBILL 141 

The use of this very remarkable beak is apparent 
when the bird is seen feeding ; it is held low down 
on the surface of the water, and pushed along, like 
a shrimper's net, in front of the bird, so as to 
collect the minute organisms which constitute its 
food. I have also seen this beak driven deep down, 
and brought to the surface bearing long strings of 
grass and other water weeds. In February 1909, 
when walking along the front at Luxor, — with its 
hotels and shops, crowds of people and noisy 
donkey-boys, — I was startled by quite a big flock of 
Spoonbills that were beaten down low by a strong 
wind. They passed so close over my head that I 
saw their big flat beaks and long extended necks 
quite plainly : as they got farther away their general 
likeness to Swans in flight was most striking. 

Like all birds showing any marked peculiarity 
in the shape or size of the beak, the Spoonbill 
wears a somewhat melancholy air, and my readers 
will doubtless recall this appearance in the case of 
Herons and Storks, Pelicans and Cormorants. 

Time was when the Spoonbill was once common 
in Great Britain ; this is now, unhappily, no longer 
the case, but no farther away than Holland it still 
lives and breeds. 



THE STORKS 

THE WHITE STORK 

Ciconia alba 

The White Stork is white all over, save for all the true 
wing feathers, which are black. Beak and bare skin round 
eye, legs and feet, bright red ; eyes brown. Total length, 
44 inches. 

THE BLACK STORK 

Ciconia nigra 

The Black Stork is a bronzy black with purple and green 
reflections all over head, neck, back, and wings. The lower 
parts white, and beak and bare skin, legs and feet, bright red ; 
eyes brown. Total length, 42 inches. 

Facing page 1 is shown a White Stork flying, and 
the fact that all Storks, in distinction to Herons, 
fly with their heads and their legs stretched out to 
their fullest extent, has been already pointed out. 
This Stork is nearly always seen in large flocks, and 
there must be ten to one of the white to the black 
species. The white bird is eminently a gregarious 
bird, sociable with its fellows, and this sociability 
extends also to mankind ; and most have seen the 
old wheels stuck on poles and rough platforms 

142 



't-- 




^ 



THE STORKS 143 

built on the top of buildings and barns in Holland 
or Germany to encourage the bird to come and 
nest. The Stork and the Swallow know their 
seasons, and people love to have these messengers 
of the coming summer make their home with 
them ; and in many places there are traditions of 
the same site having been used by them for nesting 
in for hundreds of years. Of all this side of their 
life, however, those seen in Egypt show nothing, 
as nearly all that come are simply migrating still 
farther south. A very few do remain throughout 
the winter in one or two exceptionally favoured 
feeding - grounds ; Lake Menzaleh, for instance, 
with its great area of shallow water teeming with 
fish and aquatic insect life, is a favourite haunt. 
The profusion of life in every pool and puddle 
throughout Egypt is really astonishing. I have 
seen isolated spaces hardly exceeding a couple of 
square yards absolutely teeming and heaving with 
innumerable beetles and larvse of flies and insects. 
I can also recall one little pool in the centre of 
one of the many small nameless islands in Lake 
Menzaleh : when I approached it, from its glitter- 
ing whiteness I took it to be one of those salt- 
covered basins that are everywhere, but when I 
looked close the whole floor of what had been a 



144 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

small pool was one solid mass of dead fry, none 
longer than an inch and a half. The water had 
been all over the island, but when I was there in 
April it had gone down, and this mass of im- 
prisoned little fish had died as the water gradually 
dried up. How long they may have been dead I 
do not know, but the level mass of them was so 
untouched that it was clear no gull or heron or 
stork had been there, and yet the district was full of 
these birds ; but I presume living food being in 
such profusion round them, they cared not to 
trouble about dead. The pool looked like a large 
basin of the most wonderfully silvery whitebait. 

Up the Nile when flocks of Storks are seen 
they are always either heading due north in spring, 
or due south in autumn. Every now and again 
they indulge, however, sometimes for hours together, 
in curious aerial exercises high up in mid-air over 
one spot — why this is I do not know. This, as is 
the case with so many of birds' habits, is all that 
can be done — note the fact. Conclusions drawn 
from these facts are vain, as too often man reads 
into these birds' actions the reasons that would 
occur in his life ; and the life of a bird is not as that 
of a man, and the sooner man throws over all such 
ideas that he can tell anything of the causes of 



THE STORKS 145 

birds' actions by reading himself into their lives, 
the sooner he may get at the real truth of the 
matter. I say this because I have been asked so 
often the question, Why do the Storks behave in 
this curious way ? I don't know, and at present I 
don't think any man knows ; for if they are on a 
journey the only stop you would think they would 
make would be for rest or food, yet for hours, 
sometimes almost for the best part of a day, they 
do stop over one spot, and you will see these vast 
flocks high up, so that they look like mere specks, 
going round and round, sometimes higher, some- 
times lower, but never going far from some unseen 
centre of attraction till the spirit moves them ; 
and swinging out of the great circle, they one by 
one take their places in the wake of some chosen 
leader to the land to which they would go. 

The White Stork makes a curious clattering 
noise with its bill. Its food is mainly derived from 
the water ; and frogs, a plague of which is always 
over Egypt, are favourite morsels. 

If sailing down the river you chance on a large 
flock resting on some sandbank, you will see a 
picture which would be exceedingly difficult to 
surpass in beauty and interest. The white of the 
great masses of birds comes in fine contrast with 

19 



146 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

the reds of their legs and the golden yellow of 
the sand, and if on your nearer approach they all 
simultaneously rise together into mid-air you will 
be hardly likely to forget the scene for a whole 
lifetime. 

The Black Stork is not so interesting as the 
above, but it is a remarkably handsome bird in 
itself. All its peculiarities are just the opposite 
of the White Stork. It is not gregarious, but 
generally rather a solitary bird ; it does not love 
its own species, and it certainly does not court the 
proximity of man. On the scale that our drawing 
has had to be reduced to, to suit these pages, it 
comes very small, but not too small to show the 
general disposition of the colours of its plumage. 
We came very early in the morning on this group 
standing at the end of a long sand-bar, just ten 
miles south of Sohag, and they never got up as 
the boat sailed comparatively close by them. The 
group was a very mixed one, as in addition to the 
four Black Storks there were two Spoonbills and a 
Heron ; and I find another note that once I saw 
three Black Storks, one White Stork, and several 
Herons all in a bunch together, this also in the grey 
of an early March morning. These two cases of a 



THE STORKS 147 

contradiction of what we are generally told is the 
ordinary habit of shunning their own species is 
only another of the endless cases that I have met 
with of the variation of the individual in absolutely 
everything. All that can be done is to give what 
is believed to be the average customary habit, but 
ever be prepared for individuals contradicting the 
rule. To dogmatise as to what a child or a bird 
will do is always JNIarch madness. The Black Stork 
is like his white cousin, of great use in keeping 
down the Egyptian plague of frogs. 



THE SHOEBILL OR WHALE- 
HEADED STORK 

Balaeniceps rex 

Arabic name, Abu-markub, or Father of a Slipper 

The whole plumage is a faded blue-grey running into 
•darker tones on the wing. The primaries and tail being 
nearly black, eyes light yellow, legs dark brownish-black. 
Bill, huge, boat-shaped. 

This bird I have included, though hardly a true 
Egyptian bird, its home being in the Soudan and 
south to Uganda, where Sir H. Johnston commonly 
saw it. It is the greatest show-bird the Cairo 
Zoological Gardens possesses, and by the ordinary 
person can be alone seen in Egypt. It is so 
exceedingly quaint and grotesque, that even when 
desiring to give an accurate representation of it, 
one is conscious that one's drawing seems to look 
rather like a caricature. When it stands still there 
is something suggestive of a crabbed, disagreeable 
old person ; and when it walks, the slow pedantic 
gait with the leg shot forward, with distended toes 
pointing outwards, inevitably suggests the drum- 
major or the dancing -master. So many people 

148 



SHOEBILL STORK 



THE SHOEBILL 149 

visiting the Cairo Gardens remember only this 
quaint bird, that it has become one of the most 
popular birds of the country, and is better known 
than very many of the true native Egyptian birds. 

Captain Stanley S. Flower says " he saw per- 
haps as many as forty in one day" during a trip 
on the White Nile. "They were to be seen 
usually singly, sometimes two or three within a 
score of yards of each other, standing about on the 
edges of the marsh, always in the same attitude. 
In the motionless way in which they stand, their 
solitariness, and their flight, they are more like a 
Heron than a Stork. In fact, at a distance, unless 
you can see the bill, it is impossible to tell them 
when on the wing from the Goliath Heron." 

Mr. A. L. Butler says of it in its native wilds : 
"They seem of a very sluggish nature, and I sel- 
dom observed them on the wing unless put up by 
our steamer." And as to its food, he writes : " I 
have never known it attempt to eat shell-fish ; the 
bird is a fisher pure and simple, but doubtless, like 
a Heron, will eat any small mammal or young 
water-bird that comes within reach." Heron-like, 
Balaeniceps, instead of searching for its prey, waits 
patiently for it to come to it. It is generally 
to be seen standing motionless on newly-burnt 



150 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

swampy ground, or short grass flooded with an 
inch or two of water, inside the fringe of papyrus, 
or "um suf" sudd which separates the channel of 
the Bahr-el-Ghazal from the plains. I never saw 
the bird actually wading in water. Its food 
consists principally of Polypterus senegalus, which 
wanders a great deal into flooded grass-land. 
Sometimes the bird will perch on the top of a tree, 
but trees are scarce in its haunts. Its flight is 
heavy, but powerful ; the neck is drawn back like 
a Heron's. " It seems to be rather a quarrelsome 
bird ; on its first arrival at Khartoum, it seized 
a fox terrier which approached it so sharply that 
the dog fairly yelled." Some of its habits are as 
peculiar as its appearance, for, later on, Mr. Butler 
tells us, " They have a curious trick of repeatedly 
bringing up their food before finally swallowing it. 
This often results in the disgorged fishes being 
snatched up by Kites " ; and every visitor to the 
Giza Gardens must have noticed its curious habit 
of rattling its bill as it alternately lifts and lowers 
its head as a sort of welcome to its keeper. When 
it stands thus with its head lowered, its bill clatter- 
ing, and its neck slightly swollen and held straight 
as a stick, it is about the most curious -looking 
bird possible. At the date of writing, I believe 



THE SHOEBILL 151 

these three specimens at Giza are the only ones 
in any zoological gardens in the world, and the 
authorities are naturally very proud of them ; but 
we do hope that some day we shall have some in 
our own Zoological Gardens in London, as they 
are birds that can stand captivity well. 



THE COMMON HERON 

Ardea cinerea 

The top of head, neck, and under-parts white ; a stripe 
above the eye, back of head, and long, thin crest-feathers ; 
spots on breast, and larger wing-feathers black ; flanks a very 
light grey ; rest of plumage a delicate slaty-grey shading 
on the wings to a darker hue ; beak yellowish-green ; legs 
greenish-black ; eyes yellow. Entire length, 38 inches. 

This is the common Heron of England, and is 
evenly distributed over the country. It needs 
water, and from that cause is more often seen 
in Lower than Upper Egypt. It seems to be a 
visitor and not a resident. Mr. M. J. Nicoll tells 
me that from August to April it is steadily seen 
either in, or flying over, the Zoological Gardens 
at Cairo, and if it were a resident bird it would be 
one of the first to make the Gardens a breeding- 
place, as the thick trees and quiet pools of water 
are all to its liking ; but I have not heard that it 
ever occurs there during the summer months. The 
group I sketched were standing together at the 
edge of a pool on the river, gazing stolidly at a 
solitary pelican. At home, it always nests in colonies 
known as heronries, and I believe that in England 

152 



HERONS 

At (lawn on the Nile. 



Vs. 




THE COMMON HERON 153 

it is rather increasing than decreasing in numbers. 
The young birds are peculiarly ugly, and have 
a rather mad-looking hairy down covering on their 
heads, which is retained till they have become 
almost fully fledged. When I have been watching 
Herons standing, patiently waiting by the hour 
together, for fish to come within striking distance, 
I have often wondered if there was any truth in 
the old homely legend of their legs having some 
potent fascination by reason of an exuded oil 
wiiich the fish love, that tempts them to come 
swimming round and round till they approach too 
near and are adroitly caught. Anyhow this is 
certain, it does not walk after them ; they come 
to it. Having chosen its spot, it remains there 
as quiet as a mouse, and with the true fisherman's 
patience bides its time. It is a curious sight 
to see the way in which it perches on a branch. 
It drops its long, thin legs and seizes it with its 
extended toes, but always seems to find it hard 
to get its balance, and as the branch sways with 
its weight it bends its body this way and that, 
all the time keeping its wings expanded as if 
trying to get just the right balance, and you realise 
then that it is no true "perching bird." It lends 
its picturesque form to Egyptian scenery, just 

20 



154 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

as it does to our homely English waters or wilder 
Scotch lochs ; it always, somehow, goes well with 
the landscape. Shelley says, " It may be seen in 
considerable numbers in company with Spoonbills, 
Pelicans, and other waders." And it is one of the 
curious facts about bird life here, that so many 
of the birds that we know only as solitary and not 
at all given to consorting in flocks, either with 
their own species or any other, save at their 
breeding stations, frequently do show a complete 
difference of habit in this respect in this country. 
From the boat I remember seeing a singular line 
of seven birds flying towards us. The first was 
a Heron, then a Spoonbill, then a Heron followed 
by two Spoonbills, and the straight line ended with 
two Herons, all so close together, the bill of one 
nearly touching the tail of the other, and all 
keeping time with the utmost precision. 

To enumerate all the places I have watched 
this bird at is unnecessary, as at one time or another 
I have seen it everywhere. Its food is fish, frogs, 
and it is particularly fond of eels. 



BUFF-BACKED HERON 

Ardeola russata 

General plumage white, delicately tinged with buff on head, 
nape, crop, and back ; beak and bare skin round eye, 
yellow ; eye, light yellow ; legs, olive-black. Total length, 
20-5 inches. 

This is the bird that is most often called the Egret, 
and it is very similar, as in its winter plumage it is 
practically white all over — just a line of buff on 
the crown. It is of the greatest service to the 
cattle when feeding or resting, as it seems to know 
no fear, and settles on their backs, one or two at a 
time, and diligently searches for flies and ticks and 
all those parasitic things that infest the poor brutes. 
I have seen them walk right up to one of the 
recumbent buffaloes, and go solemnly picking 
things off it all the way round its face, even off its 
eyes, whilst the creature never ceased chewing the 
cud, and one saw its jaw going solemnly round and 
round whilst the bird did its best to free it from 
the pests. What Egypt would be without all 
these birds, who are ceaselessly at work clearing the 
air of insect life, it is appalling to contemplate, for 
with them the clouds of flies, midges, mosquitoes 

155 



156 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

and the rest render life in some places intolerable. 
No one quite knows what flies are till one tries 
sketching out of doors here. With your palette 
on one hand and brushes in the other, you are an 
easy prey to them, and they take every advantage 
of the fact. They will cluster by the dozen on 
your face, walk in brigades over the ridge of 
your nose, sting you on the hand, at the back 
where your palette hides them from your view, 
and even if you have a boy with a fly -wisp they 
will never leave you. I have found them at their 
worst at the edges of the cultivated land, where 
trees are often growing picturesquely, tempting 
the artist to sit in their seductive shade ; with 
most dire results, as one is almost eaten alive, and 
one envies the cattle who are being so assiduously 
attended to by these kindly fly -catchers. 

The Egret is one of the many birds that the 
dragoman makes the tourist happy by calling " the 
Ibis," and the number that return to their friends 
gleefully telling how they saw a flock of Ibises 
grows every season. In the article on the Ibis it 
is shown how ludicrously untrustworthy is the 
dragoman's Natural History information. 

The Buff*-backed Heron may often be seen 
flying up or down the river in little parties of 



BUFF-BACKED HERON 



BUFF-BACKED HERON 157 

five or six. They look snow-white, and are then 
hard to tell from Spoonbill or Egret ; but they 
ouffht not to be mistaken for the first -named 
bird, for, being Herons, they fly as all Herons do, 
with head tucked in, whilst the Spoonbill flies 
with extended neck. This is a real resident bird. 
Captain Shelley says it breeds in August in large 
colonies in the sont trees, and that, in addition to 
being useful to the poor cattle, it is of the greatest 
use to Egypt, as it wages war on the locusts that 
would otherwise devastate the green crops and all 
growing things. ' 

I regret, however, that every year, according to 
the best evidence, this bird is less and less seen. 
Twenty-five years ago it was to be met with, off 
and on, everywhere, and in the Delta it was 
absolutely one of the commonest of birds. The 
cause of its lessening numbers is not certain, but 
when it is recalled that it is a form of Egret, and 
that from Egrets come "aigrettes," one solution 
is apparent. Against that view, however, in 
common justice, I must say that I have no scrap 
of evidence that these birds are at all largely 
persecuted in Egypt, and they are, as already said, 
a resident bird. Some undoubtedly migrate north ; 
it may be they never return, and so the annual 



158 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

decrease. Of the decrease there is no doubt, and 
1 have been told that now the natives — the men 
who till the soil and benefit by its products — 
openly say that certain insect pests the much-valued 
cotton suffers from nowadays is due, in their opinion, 
to the reduced number of " little white birds " 
who used to come in flocks, by hundreds, and search 
and find and devour these same insect pests. 



THE NIGHT HERON 

Nycticorax griseus 

Upper plumage dark to black, with blue-green reflections ; 
two long plumes from head ; white wings and tail grey ; 
under-parts a grey buff-white ; eyes crimson ; young are dull 
grey and brown, mottled and spotted. Total length, 21 
inches. 

This is a really common bird, but being nocturnal 
it is not very often noticed. Many a sont or palm 
tree that people walk under may have four or five 
sitting so quietly among the branches that they are 
not observed ; but towards evening — before the 
sun has actually dropped behind the horizon — they 
begin to waken up ; and curious " squawk, squawk " 
calls, then flappings about as they move from branch 
to branch, will be heard, till, as the afterglow begins, 
they all start mounting into the air and taking great 
circles round and round, or away in a bee-line to 
some favourite feeding-ground, where they remain 
all night, and return at dawn to their roosting- 
places. In some trees in the garden of the old 
Luxor Hotel, there is, as I write in 1909, a colony 
— two of the trees they roost in hang over the 
very carriage roadway up to the station, — noisy and 

159 



160 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

bustling for three months of the year, yet they 
remain in this old-time haunt undisturbed by all 
the changes that have taken place in this ancient 
town. Twenty-seven years ago I saw them there, 
but I have met people who declare there never 
was a time known when Night Herons did not 
frequent this spot. There is a certain seat on 
the front where one enters the hotel grounds, 
that is under some Lebekh trees these Herons 
love, and I was early in the season horrified to 
hear that the order had gone out to shoot all 
those that were there, as they sometimes soiled 
the monstrous hats that the ladies were wearing. 
I appealed in vain to the management — "They 
had had so many complaints," etc. — it must be, 
and was. I never dared ask how many were 
shot ; and I really do not see why the ladies could 
not take their hats off, or else put up parasols. 
Anyhow, just because of women's hats, an historic 
colony of these interesting birds in a very re- 
markable situation has been in danger of being 
driven away. This Heron is not nearly so big 
as our own familiar bird, and is rather squat and 
dumpy in shape, but he is a fascinating, rather 
weird-looking creature. Occasionally, one or two 
stray as far as Great Britain ; but here in Egypt it 



NIGHT HERON 



THE NIGHT HERON 161 

is to be met with, where it estabhshes a colony, in 
quite large numbers, and, in the report I have 
frequently referred to on wild birds that visit 
the Giza Zoological Gardens, it is stated that 
"Night Herons begin to arrive during August, 
winter here, and leave during the spring months. 
A few individuals, however, are seen throughout 
the summer. The number of these birds, which 
spend the daytime in the gardens, has greatly 
increased during the last ten years. 108 were 
counted on January 15, 1900 ; 360 on December 
11, 1902. At present it is impossible to count 
them." 

All day long it sits moped up, out of the direct 
rays of the sun, in the centre of a mass of over- 
hanging foliage, and only wakes up when most 
other birds are just falling to sleep. It feeds on 
fish, frogs, and even water-beetles and insects. 



21 



THE FLAMINGO 

Phoenicopterus antiquorum 

Arabic, Basharoush 

On the head, neck, and body, in the adult, a delicate 
coral pink tints all the white : in younger birds these parts 
are pure white ; large wing-feathers black, all the rest various 
tones of red, from a delicate rose to the deepest crimson ; in 
young birds the wings are of an ashy brown ; legs and base 
of bill in the adult a pink with a somewhat leaden hue ; in 
young birds legs leaden ; tip of bill black ; eyes, straw-yellow. 
Total length, 45 inches. 

If it were not for zoological collections few of us 
would be as familiar with the form of this strange 
bird as we are — for though there are thousands and 
thousands of them in Egypt, it is generally only 
seen when flying in great flocks high overhead, 
and it does not often give a chance of a close 
inspection. But owing to its peculiarities it is 
always a favourite, and young as well as old are 
interested in its extraordinary length of leg and 
neck, and charmed with its brilliant rosy -red 
plumage, so that all know something of its 
appearance if they do not know much of its life- 
history. The Flamingo loves most of all shallow 
water, and lives nearly all its days in the great 
brackish lakes of Lower Egypt. 

162 



FLAMINGO 




I 



.^ ' :m 



^4 



THE FLAMINGO 163 

H.H. the Khedive being informed of my 
desire to visit the Flamingo at its home in Lake 
INIenzaleh, exceedingly kindly granted me special 
facilities, and I was able to go from end to end of 
this great lake and from side to side, visiting every 
place where they were to be found. I was allowed 
the use of one of the coastguard dahabeahs. 
These boats are built on the lines of the native 
fishing-boats ; being practically flat-bottomed they 
draw but little water, which is necessary, as the 
lake for its size is very shallow. It is this 
shallowness which makes Menzaleh such a happy 
hunting-ground for all water-birds. It fairly teems 
with birds ; in February there are literally millions 
of Duck there, with Cormorants, Pelicans, Herons, 
Flamingoes, and Waders of every sort. In March 
they lessen in numbers, many only using it as 
a place to spend a few weeks at before going 
north to their summer homes, and by the time 
April comes there are not an overwhelming 
number ; but the Flamingoes keep there as a 
feeding-ground nearly all the year round, and it 
was to see if they had their nesting-quarters there 
that I went to Menzaleh early this year, 1909. 

You cannot be long on the lake before you 
begin to understand why birds love it so, for as 



164 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

you sail along you frequently see, first here, then 
there, fish jumping out of the water, and when 
you look into the shallows in all directions you 
see shoals of little fishes. Then the number of 
fishing-boats, with their great nets picturesquely 
hung up to dry, is another visible evidence of the 
teeming myriads of fish that this saltish-water lake 
contains. The first Flamingoes I saw were in the 
centre of a large flock of tufted Ducks. Leaving 
the dahabeah I got into the small boat and quickly 
paddled towards them, but they would not allow 
of a very near approach before up got the Duck, 
and then in another moment the Flamingoes, who 
had up to then been feeding with heads down in 
the water, were all on the wing — to rise they faced 
for one minute in my direction, and the great mass 
of crimson feathers under the wings made a most 
gorgeous spectacle against the blue sky ; then they 
swung round, and more white than red was visible, 
and quickly in a long irregular line they were away 
to some less disturbed place. Only once did I get 
really close up to one, and I found out afterwards 
by the hanging leg that it only allowed me to 
because it was some poor crippled bird. They 
are so shot at and persecuted generally that they 
are now exceedingly shy, and in spite of the good 



THE FLAMINGO 166 

feeding they get here it is surprising they still keep 
to these waters in the numbers they do. At a 
town called Matariya I visited a great local bird- 
dealer, one Angelino Tedeschi. His place was 
on the outskirts of the town, and was a collection 
of tumble-down shanties made of straw, matting, 
and boards. Behind his own dwelling, which was 
literally worse than any Irish cabin, were three 
enclosures made of tall reeds and split palm 
branches about eight feet high, with more open 
lattice-work on the top ; in these enclosures were 
fully fifty to sixty Flamingoes. I walked right in, 
and the birds did not stampede or dash themselves 
about, yet Angelino said they had not long been 
caught. They were all in surprisingly good 
condition, considering their numbers and cramped 
space. A door at one end was opened and they 
filed out into the adjoining enclosure to have their 
bath — a very dirty, muddy hole in the sodden 
ground, but they seemed to enjoy it ; one after the 
other, and sometimes two or three at a time, all 
went in, and drank and splashed about, trumpet- 
ing a little, and then they were driven back. I 
bought a particularly brilliant-coloured one which 
had died that day, for the price the man asked, 
three shillings, which seemed to me very cheap, as 



166 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

it was in perfect order. I wanted one to make 
detailed studies of, and I took it back to the boat 
with me, and worked from this poor bird till all 
the crew covered their noses with their hands as 
they came near my model, and I myself could 
stand it no longer, and it was tossed over as food 
for the fishes, who later again would be food for 
others of its own kindred. Scattered about 
Angelino's quarters were curious high crates made 
of split palm branches and lined with canvas. 
Asking what they were for, I was told they were 
the cages for the poor birds to be sent away — " to 
America," he said — and I could get no more out of 
him. We learned this man comes every winter 
from Alexandria, settles down in these remarkable 
quarters, and buys his Flamingoes from the local 
fishermen, who vary their ordinary pursuit by 
catching duck and any wildfowl that they can net, 
and the result is that, though years ago Flamingoes 
did nest on the lake, now not one does. 

The form of the bill in the Flamingo always 
suggests a man with a broken nose. The angular 
fall-back of the bill is nearly as singular as the 
upturned one of the Avocet. As the Flamingo 
obtains its insect and other food from the water, 
and the inside of its peculiar -shaped bill with 



THE FLAMINGO 



167 



which it has to obtain this food is provided with 
a tooth-hke serrated margin Uke a duck's, it follows 
that to get the water into its mouth it has to walk 
as shown in the illustration with its bill turned back- 
wards. This position I do not think is adopted by 
any other living bird, and is the one outstanding in- 
dividual peculiarity the Flamingo possesses. When 
seen thus feeding it is far from graceful ; the long 
neck is straightened out, and the top of the head is 
to the front in the direction of which it is moving, 
and the bill is pointed backwards towards the tail. 




Fig. 9. 



GREEN-BACKED GALLINULE 

Porphyrio Madagascariensis 

Arabic, Digmeh 

Whole plumage ultramarine blue shading into black, and 
on the back shading into bluish-green ; white under-tail ; 
frontal and bill blood-red, as are legs and feet ; claws black ; 
eye, deep crimson-brown. Total length, 18 inches. 

We have included this bird, as it is perhaps as 
handsome as any in all Egypt, but it may be 
questioned whether many of our readers will come 
across it, for it lives in dense reed beds which grow 
in the large lakes of the Delta and Fayoom, and 
rarely quits them for the waters of the Nile. Our 
own Waterhen, or Moorhen, is a sort of near 
cousin of this bird, but whereas our bird always 
gives the impression of being animated and cheery, 
this Egyptian Gallinule somehow looks depressed 
in spite of its brilliant plumage ; and when it walks, 
it does so with no indecent haste, but slowly lifts 
one leg whilst the long toes hang loosely, and then 
gently places it down on the ground, all the while 
holding its head and body nearly perpendicularly, 
whilst, when not taking this strenuous exercise, it 

168 



STUDIES OF GALLINULE 



asff 





GREEN-BACKED GALLINULE 169 

sits with rounded shoulders on some stump or dead 
herbage by the hour together. As its food seems 
to consist almost entirely of the inner and soft 
parts of the shoots of reeds and other water-plants 
amongst which it lives all its days, it does not 
have to make any special effort to obtain food, and 
conceivably it may be one of those birds which are 
on a slow downward grade towards extinction. 
There can be little doubt but that the matter of 
food -supply has led many birds to alter their 
methods of life. In some cases, finding an abund- 
ance of food ever ready to hand, the use of the 
wings was abandoned, and with the inevitable 
result that just as they ceased to fly so the wings 
ceased growing, till at last they became flightless 
birds and at the mercy of each and every enemy 
that might attack them. It may be that think- 
ing on these things has made the bird melancholy 
and depressed ; but nothing can save it but " buck- 
ing up " and using its powers. Mr. Erskine Nicol 
told me how once, when out shooting, he saw one 
in a cornfield near a stack ; he went towards it and 
the bird ran behind the stack ; when he followed, it 
would not leave the friendly shelter, but by simply 
running round and round always kept safe. Mr. 
Nicol at last got tired of this useless chase and 

22 



170 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

thought out a plan of campaign. Starting faster 
than ever, he ran round after the bird, and then 
suddenly turned and ran round the opposite way, 
when he met the melancholy Gallinule full face ; 
and so flustered it that it left the stack and flew at 
right angles away, giving a possible shot, which was 
taken advantage of. On another occasion one was 
seen swimming in a miserable little duck-pond 
outside a village, tenanted by tame ducks, and 
the Gallinule absolutely refused to leave the 
sheltering society of these farmyard birds. Both 
these incidents seem to point to the same sort of 
method of life : "just sit tight, don't fly into the 
open, risk nothing in the outside world, there are 
unknown dangers " : so it may be that this bird 
will sit, and sit, all humped up in its reed jungle 
till at last it loses the power of flight altogether ; 
and then, before long, it will certainly fall a prey 
to some force or enemy which it has no power of 
resisting or escaping from. Mr. J. H. Gurney has 
also written of this bird, that just in the early 
morning or towards sunset he has seen it leave 
the shelter of these great reed-beds, but keeping 
quite close thereto, and at the least sign of danger 
running back to them. Seldom or never has he 
seen it take even a flight of a few yards. Along 



GREEN-BACKED GALLINULE 171 

with its vegetable food it takes a certain number 
of small aquatic insects, and when this food cannot 
be obtained it is not averse to good hard grain of 
any kind. It lays six to eight eggs, which are 
ruddy-brown spotted with dark purple-brown. 



THE COOT 

Fulica atra 

General plumage a dark grey, almost sooty, but which in 
the sunlight shows a delicate, almost lilac sheen ; head black ; 
and the neck graduates from black into the general grey of 
body ; beak, white with a tinge of warm colour in it ; the 
frontal shield is pure ivory white ; legs, greenish-grey ; eyes, 
reddish-brown. Length, 16 inches. 

This is a common bird, and though nearly all 
migrate, I believe a few remain to breed in 
exceptionally favourable places, as I have heard 
that it has been observed throughout the summer 
months on certain waters. 

It is the same bird we get in Britain, and 
behaves in identically the same way. On pre- 
served waters, as for instance the Sacred Lake at 
Karnak, where every one may see it, it is, as it is 
at home, very tame, and rarely takes wing more 
than from one side to the other of the lake, and 
if you move quietly, or remain sitting for any 
length of time, they allow of a very near approach, 
and come swimming quite close up. Sometimes 
I have had them walk on to the bank within a few 
yards of me and start to preen their feathers. If 
at such a time the sun is shining brightly on them, 

172 



THE COOT 173 

this bird, which is generally described as being 
"black with a white bill," is seen to be a most 
delightful, almost dove-like coloured creature with 
jet black glossy head, and the neck with a blue or 
purple sheen. It is sociable, and though some- 
times it has some small squabble with a neighbour, 
it is in the main seemingly a cheery, good-tempered 
bird. Although it is not often seen to fly far, it 
can and does fly enormous distances and at a very 
great pace. The Coot does not belong to the Duck 
tribe ; it has not true webbed feet, but the web 
follows the line of the toes on each side. Some- 
times it goes in very large flocks, running into 
thousands, and I have heard of large bags being 
made ; but it seems rather a useless performance, 
as it is not a good bird for the table by any means, 
being very fishy flavoured, so fishy that it used to 
be allowed to be eaten as " fish " on holy days in 
French convents and monasteries. Its food seems 
to consist principally of aquatic weeds and grasses, 
and small fish and water creatures, and when it 
comes on shore it searches for insects and small 
slugs and snails, as it grazes goose -like on the 
young tender blades of grass. 

The nest and eggs of the Coot are very like 
those of the common Moorhen. 



THE EGYPTIAN GOOSE 

Chenalopex aegyptiacus 

Centre of head light brown ; upper part of throat and 
cheeks white, shading into brown ; forehead, round the eye, 
and neck, a chestnut bright brown ; upper parts of back, 
chest, and flanks, reddish buff, with dusky bars; large 
wing -feathers black; a metallic green bar crosses wing; 
lower half of back and tail black ; a deep chocolate patch 
on centre of breast; centre of abdomen white; under -tail 
coverts buff; legs, dark pink; beak, dull flesh colour; eyes 
brown. Total length, 26 inches. 

The Egyptian Goose is a handsomely coloured 
bird, and when seen sunning itself on some sand- 
bank it makes a brilliant picture. It is a real native 
of the Nile, and breeds in the early spring — March 
and April ; and sportsmen's records tell of its being 
a quite shootable bird in the first weeks of May. 
In 1907, only a quarter of a mile from the busiest 
part of Luxor, there might have been seen daily a 
charming little flotilla of the parents and four 
young ones swimming about round the promontory 
of land that there juts out. They had nested in 
the cultivation that at that point comes down to 
the very water's edge. This is the ideal position 
they love, as they can, on the approach of danger, 
slip at once into the water, where they are 

174 



EGYPTIAN GEESE 



€ i 







d| 



1. 



THE EGYPTIAN GOOSE 175 

comparatively safe. Many, who may not see this 
bird on the river, have probably often seen it at 
home, as it is frequently kept with other water-fowl 
on the ornamental waters of our parks. It is not a 
lively bird, and seems to spend a large part of the 
day standing in a hunched -up attitude on some 
sandbank, well in the middle of the stream, from 
which position it can see the approach of any 
enemy. In captivity it is rather morose, and fierce 
with any smaller fowl it can safely bully. It lives 
on all sorts of water-insects and weeds, and makes 
excursions at night-time to the fields and cultivated 
grounds for grass and corn. 




Fig. 10. 

Probably no single work of art in all Egypt has 
been more widely copied than the picture of geese 
which is now in the Museum at Cairo. It came 
from the tomb of Ne fer maat at Medum, and is 
universally known as "the oldest picture in the 
world," for it is ascribed to the earliest dynasty, 
and approximately about 4400 B.C. To a naturalist 
it is peculiarly interesting, but the interest is 



176 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

linked with sadness, as tlie subject of the picture 
being entirely of bird -life, one would have thought 
that bird -life would be a subject of continued 
interest ; but the reverse is very much the case, so 
much so, that though this very picture is known 
to thousands who have never been to Egypt, and 
many thousands more who have been to Egypt 
and gone to see this very picture, and bought 
photographs or copies of it, few or any have 
really interest enough in it even to learn or inquhe 
what are the names of the geese depicted. In the 
very rough little sketch on p. 175 the two geese at 
the extreme right and left are Bean Geese, birds 
that one might expect the old-time artist to be 
familiar with, and the same is true of the two geese 
in the left-hand group, which are White-fronted 
Geese, as both are winter migrants to Egypt, 
remaining till INIarch. Of the two remaining birds, 
from their markings the naturalist will have no 
doubt but that they are Red-breasted Geese ; and 
there is a mystery, as they never come to Egypt, and 
being a northern bird, one is utterly at a loss to ex- 
plain why the artist of that long-distant date should 
depict that special Goose. That he did see the bird, 
and with fidelity drew it, are facts, and one can only 
conclude that zoological collections are no new thing. 



THE EGYPTIAN GOOSE 



177 



but that men, nearly six thousand years ago, must 
have kept rare birds in captivity for the pleasure of 
their beauty, and that artists went to their zoological 
gardens or collections, and drew pictures of the 
inhabitants of far -distant climes for the walls of 
their temples or tombs. As a realistic study of 
bird-life this little picture is admirable, the set of 
the head and peculiar curve of the Feeding Geese 
is singularly true, whilst the whole is carried 
through in a broad decorative spirit. It is curious 
that in a country where the earliest art took subjects 
from Nature, there should now be such absolute 
apathy that in many cases the people have no 
separate names for the birds around them. Egypt 
has other geese that visit it, but none others native 
to it. The White-fronted Goose is said to be the 
most abundant of all, the Brent Goose and the 
Bean Goose, all three visiting the Nile and Delta 
in the winter months. 




PINTAIL-DUCK 

Dafila acuta 

Plumage of back and flanks grey ; the large scapulars are 
long-pointed and edged with buff; brilliant metallic green 
bar on wing ; head brown ; neck and under-parts white ; 
the tail long, and two centre feathers very narrow and longer 
than the rest ; beak slate-grey ; legs black ; eyes brown. 
The female is a plain, mottled brown bird, tail pointed but 
not so long as the drake. Entire length, 23 inches. 

At different times of the year different birds 
come in gigantic flocks. Thus at one time, owing 
to the vast migration of these Phitail-Ducks, it 
might well be said they were far and away the 
commonest ; but a little later you hardly see one, 
and wherever you go it is the Shoveller Duck that 
is met with, whilst at another time it would be 
the Teal, or the Pochard. So that to settle the 
point exactly — What is the commonest duck of the 
country ? — is not altogether an easy one, and I do 
not intend to speak dogmatically ; but I have placed 
this duck first on the list, because not only do you 
meet with it in enormous numbers, but you also 
see it represented more frequently on the walls of 
temples and tombs. The well-known hieroglyph 

178 



PINTAIL, TEAL, AND SHOVELLER DUCK 



PINTAIL-DUCK 179 

of a duck under a circle, which is translated as the 
Son of the Sun, was doubtless meant to represent 
this particular bird. Very often — not always — 
where the workmanship is of the finest and of a good 
period, the characteristics are exact, and the long 
pintail feathers are most plainly shown. Now, no 
duck that comes to this country has a long tail, 
other than the Pintail, therefore there can be no 
question that these old-time artists, for some reason 
best known to themselves, selected from all the 
various ducks they have, just this particular one 
to symbolize this royal conception. It is also 
shown on many wall-paintings in the tombs, flying 
with the tail spread, and the two long central 
feathers well marked. Going up the Nile some- 
times you pass great high bare sandbanks which 
have on the other side of them long narrow strips 
of shallow pools ; here, at certain times, is the 
place to see duck in their thousands — literally 
thousands. There they sit secure ; the high bank 
screens them from the river-way with its great 
sailing-boats and modern steamers ; they can see 
the tops of the spars and masts and the black 
smoke from the steamers' funnels, but neither boat 
nor steamer can see them. If you attempt an 
approach by land you can rarely surprise them, as 



180 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

they always have sentinels well posted up and 
down the reach of water, and a warnhig quack 
and all heads are up on a flash ; and if the quack 
has had a certain intonation they are all up and 
away at once. Then it is, if you are shooting, 
that you may, if you keep quiet, get a shot as 
they return sweeping down and round the water, 
which they will not completely leave unless very 
frightened. I have looked on to pools of this sort 
which have been absolutely black with birds, and 
amongst the whole, nine-tenths would be Pin- 
tail. Later it might be, at that same pool, all 
would be Shovellers or Pochard. The Pintail is 
what is known as a surface-feeding duck, and is 
placed near the common Wild Duck, the Mallard of 
English waters. It is distinctly peculiar in form ; 
the neck is long, and when alarmed the head is 
held high, and the whole neck looks very thin. 
These characters, as well as the long pintail, are 
well shown at Deir-el-Bahari and other temples, 
where the wall-painting is of a really good period, 
and from the frequency of its pictures one can 
only suppose that it was as common all those 
years ago as it is to-day. The Zoological Gardens 
at Cairo are visited nearly every winter by a few 
Pintails. They feed on grass and water-weeds, and 



PINTAIL-DUCK 181 

all the teeming larva of flies and other insects that 
haunt shallow pools and puddles. 



THE SHOVELLER DUCK 

Spatula clypeata 

Plumage of back brown, becoming black as it approaches 
the tail, which is also black with white edging to outer 
feathers ; head and neck black with green metallic lustre ; 
chest and lower parts white ; the scapulars, long and pointed, 
are blue and black and white ; wing has a metallic green 
bar, the small covert feathers are a very delicate blue-grey, 
and the flight feathers are dark brown ; the breast and flanks 
are a brilliant chestnut ; legs orange ; beak black ; eyes 
brown. The female is a dull brown colour with dark spots, 
and its bill often has looked to me even larger than the 
male's. Length, 20 '5 inches. 

The outstanding peculiarity of the Shoveller, male 
and female, is the large bill. Seen very near at 
hand it looks both large and clumsy, but it is a bill 
not made for ornament but for business, and carried 
low so that it just sweeps the water. As it swims 
along, a never-ending flow of insect-laden water 
enters it, and filtering through the plate-like 
serrations of the sides, leaves a rich deposit of 
food in the duck's mouth, and clearly the bigger 
the bill the more the water that can be filtered 



182 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

and dealt with, and the greater the consequent 
food-supply for the duck. 

It is a really handsome bird in colour, the 
peculiar mass of light lilac blue -grey feathers of 
the wing contrasting vividly with the chestnut of 
the sides. Indeed, I do not know any duck that 
is superior to it in its vividly contrasting colora- 
tion. Although it is in form clumsy-looking, it is 
anything but clumsy or slow in getting up and on 
the wing, and I own to having been beaten often 
at pools similar to those described in reference to 
the Pintail, by the quickness and pace of its flight. 
The last visit I paid to the Cairo Zoological Gardens 
in March 1909, the ornamental waters there were 
crowded with duck, nearly all Shovellers. All had 
come in of their own accord, flew freely, and would, 
so Mr. NicoU informed me, shortly all be up and 
away till another season came round. And in the 
most interesting report of the Wild Birds of the 
Giza Gai'dens just published, figures are given. 
*' A few Shovellers arrive, in some years, as early 
as August, and they become more and more 
numerous during the autumn and winter. Some 
leave here in March, but the majority do so in 
April." "Up to 1902 twenty was the largest 
number of Shovellers seen, at one time, on our lake. 



THE SHOVELLER DUCK 183 

On the 18th of January 1903, 171 were counted ; 
on the 6th of March 1905, 443. Since then it is 
estimated that over 500 Shovellers take up their 
winter quarters with us." 



THE TEAL 

Querquedula crecca 

Arabic, Sharshare 

Head and neck chestnut-brown ; a patch of green encircles 
the eyes and cheeks, a light buff streak divides the green from 
the brown ; neck, back, and flanks grey, composed of delicate 
alternate black and white wavy lines. Scapulars white with 
rich black on their outer webs ; green metallic bar on wing ; 
under-parts white ; breast spotted with buffish-black ; under- 
tail coverts a clear, brilliant yellow-buff; beak and legs black ; 
eyes brown. The female looks smaller than the male, and 
is a sober-coloured brown bird, with darker, almost black, 
markings. Length, 15 '5 inches. 

As far as my own experience goes, I liave never 
seen any really large flock of duck, of whatever 
kind, but there have been Teal among them. I 
do not care to say that I think this is the very 
commonest of all the duck tribe. It is certainly 
met with very frequently, but Captain Shelley 
holds that it is absolutely "the most abundant 
species of water - fowl throughout Egypt," and 



184 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

possibly he is right. It is the same smart little 
bird we have at home, and the male has, when 
showing off, a most attractive appearance, of 
which it is fully aware, as is shown by its 
jaunty carriage. Of all duck, this is the quickest 
off the mark ; how it does it one can hardly see, 
but it leaves the water in one second, apparently 
at top speed, as if it had been going for some 
minutes. As with the Shoveller this duck comes 
in great numbers to the Cairo Zoological Gardens, 
and the ready intelligence it shows in remaining 
in full sight of men and flying close over their 
heads whilst in the Gardens, and the wary care 
it shows the moment it is outside the sanctuary, 
is most interesting. On wall-paintings I am told 
it is depicted, but I am not certahi that I have 
ever seen its small form shown ; in the matter 
of relative size of living and other objects, these 
old craftsmen were curiously capricious. A notable 
illustration of this is in the way they portrayed 
the wives of the heroic Rameses statues, where 
you will find the lady shown coming up only to 
the knee-joint of her gigantic lord and master. 
When they treated royal ladies in this way, it is 
useless to expect great accuracy in the matter of 
rendering the various relative sizes of humble water- 



THE TEAL 185 

fowl ! Teal may be seen in nearly all the winter 
months amongst the Coot at the Sacred Lake at 
Karnak, and at many other places guarded by 
the Antiquities Department. Mr. Nicoll writes : 
" Several hundred Teal winter on the lake in the 
Gardens (Zoological). In some years a few of 
them arrive as early as the latter part of August, 
and they have been known to stay as late as the 
8th of May." 



24 



THE WHITE PELICAN 

Pelecanus Onocrotalus 

General colour of plumage a rosy white ; the larger flight- 
feathers of wing, black ; beak grey ; pouch, a bright yellow ; 
eyes red. Entire length, 60 inches. 

The Pelican has the honour of being, in Egypt, as 
far as sheer length of wing goes, the largest bird 
that flies ; for the span of wings from tip to tip has 
been recorded as twelve feet. I believe the span 
of the Griffon Vulture is only about eight feet. 
Thirty years ago Pelicans were more often seen 
than they are to-day. This does not necessarily 
mean that they are less numerous, but only that, 
from some cause or another, they do not come 
within range of observation. I think the traffic on 
the river having so altered is the probable explana- 
tion. I can only recall one case of late, of seeing 
Pelican on a sandbank, and that was very early in 
the morning, practically daybreak. Years ago it 
was not an uncommon thing to see hundreds rest- 
ing and recruiting on some lonely reach of the river. 
Captain Shelley says that in *' April 1870, below 
Edfoo, we met with an immense flock of several 

186 



WHITE PELICANS 



THE WHITE PELICAN 187 

thousands, passing low along the river on their way 
north, and although fired at several times they still 
kept streaming onwards in one continuous flock." 
Nowadays you will quite possibly see immense 
flocks going south in November, or north in the 
spring, but they will all be flying high and well out 
of gun-shot. The largest flock I ever saw was in 
December of 1907 when living at Deir-el-Bahari. 
I was working outside the hut there, when some 
noise made me look up, and I saw an amazing sight, 
hundreds and hundreds of these great birds flying 
round and round in circles high above the chalk 
cliff: This was about 2 p.m., and they remained 
thus slowly circling round and round till nearly 
5 P.M., when gradually in small detachments they 
dwindled away, flying in a southerly direction. At 
times they came sufficiently low for me to see dis- 
tinctly the yellow pouch hanging from the under- 
bill, but then again they would rise in great spiral 
curves to such a height that even with my pet glass 
they were almost invisible. With every new curve 
they showed some alteration of colour, so that some- 
times they seemed a coral pink all over, and then 
again with some altered angle in relation to the sun 
they were a pure snow white. The two hours or 
more that they were over just this one spot where 



188 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

Queen Hatshepsut's temple stands, I worked hard 
at trying to sketch them till my eyes got blinded 
by staring up into the blue, and aching with trying 
to follow some individual bird sweeping right above 
my head. None but those who have tried it knows 
what an exhausting thing this is ; every bird is 
changing its place continually, one after another 
comes sweeping by, turning, rising, falling, inter- 
lacing, till one has to absolutely cease looking and 
close one's weary eyes. I heard later the rumour 
that this great flock rested the night on the top of 
one of the hills a mile farther back, and at dawn 
were all away south. 

Where, however, they can be still seen through- 
out the winter months and comparatively close at 
hand is on Lake Menzaleh. I saw them there in 
March, but by the 12th of April I could not see a 
single bird. The wonderful colour, a pale coral 
pink, that they show under the bright Egyptian sky, 
is something of a surprise to those who have only 
seen faded stuffed specimens in a museum, or the 
woebegone individuals in a menagerie. No one 
interested in birds should neglect the Cairo Zoo- 
logical Gardens at Giza ; there you will see all sorts 
of hot climate beasts and birds in the perfection of 
condition that they never show in our colder climes. 



THE WHITE PELICAN 189 

And the colour that the Pelican displays under 
these perfect conditions is a revelation. To the 
most casual it appears pinkish, but to the artistic 
and observant the brilliance of the carmine-pink 
revealed in the shadows, and the shell-like delicacy 
of colour of the feathers seen in full sunlight, is 
simply charming. I regret, however, that no 
amount of artistic enthusiasm can ever find any- 
thing else to praise in its personal appearance, as it 
really is most desperately ugly. It is said, how- 
ever, to be virtuous, and is to this day used as a 
symbol of beautiful self-sacrifice, and as an ecclesi- 
astical emblem of the feeding of the Holy Catholic 
Church.^ 

As a child I was much troubled with " the 
Pelican in the wilderness," but recently have been 
greatly relieved to hear, on the best authority, that 
though it says " wilderness " quite distinctly, it 

1 I regret, however, to have to write that this idea of self-sacrifice is 
really all bunkum. The tradition is, that when hard up, and the oflFspring 
were calling out for the food that was not, the mother bird would lacerate 
her own bosom and with her own life-blood feed and save her loved ones. 
Ages ago some poor, short-sighted man got this extraordinary notion from 
apparently watching the way the young are fed. The Pelican belongs to 
an order of birds that disgorges the food it has caught, in this case fish, 
into the upturned mouths of the young. Had this first short-sighted one 
only known that the Pelican's Hebrew name Kaath means " to vomit," 
this bird would hardly have been accredited with virtues it does not 
possess, or been painted, sculptured, and enshrined in thousands of holy 
places. 



190 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

doesn't, you know, mean wilderness at all ; the 
ordinary wilderness means a sandy, deserty sort 
of place, but this wilderness, we are told, means 
a wet sort of watery place. How nice it is 
to have these clear explanations from the best 
authorities of all those mysteries that darkened our 
early years ! The Pelican lives entirely on fish, and 
is therefore never far from water. Considering its 
rather clumsy form it is fairly agile, and it has been 
noted that it can and does perch freely on boughs 
that bend and swing with its weight when at large, 
and that in captivity at the London Zoological 
Gardens one habitually used to perch on the thin 
corrugated wire fence that bisects their small 
enclosure, an almost acrobatic feat one would not 
have expected it capable of performing. 

In books the statement has been made and often 
repeated that the Pelican breeds in Egypt, and my 
visit to Lake Menzaleh was very much taken just 
to settle whether it and Flamingoes did or did 
not breed there. I found they did not, and I 
should think it is very unlikely that they ever did, 
as though the lake is large the fact that fishermen's 
boats go all over it would hardly make it a safe 
place for these big birds ever to nest in. 



THE CORMORANT 

Phalacrocorax carbo 

Arabic, Agag 

Plumage dark bluish-black over head, breast, body ; dull 
greenish-brown on wings, each feather margined with a 
darker tone ; a pure white patch on cheeks, and another on 
the flanks ; feathers on top of head elongated and edged 
with white ; beak black at tip, yellow at base ; part of the 
pouch which is without feathers, blue ; legs black ; eyes 
green. Length, 36 inches. 

This is not a bird one would expect to see far 
away from the salt water, but there is anyhow one 
colony of them up the Nile atGebel Abu Feada — 
and any one going up the Nile must pass right 
by their breeding-place — and the birds in general 
seem to work rather south of that point than to 
the north. In March 1908 I saw them twice ; 
once, near Manfalut, a string of six flew low over 
the water in single file so near that one could 
with the glass see the very hook at the end of their 
long bills. Perhaps no point on the river is quite 
so magnificent as these cliffs of Abu Feada — the 
water rushes by their very feet, and their tops 
tower high in beautifully broken forms. The 

191 



192 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

limestones of which they are formed seem to have 
weathered and perished more than in other parts, 
and honeycombed masses, and caves large and 
small, are visible everywhere on its nearly perpen- 
dicular sides. It is in these caves that birds have 
found a happy nesting-ground, and the extent of 
the deposit of guano in them shows that they have 
inhabited them for centuries. 

The guide-books tell of these high cliffs—" sudden 

gusts of wind from the mountain often render great 

precaution necessary in sailing beneath them " ; and 

on the last occasion of passing there was evidence 

of this, as a regular gale came on us just as we were 

passing and drove us along at a great pace. This 

wildness is similar to the wild windiness of the 

sea-coast, and the Cormorants may in this fact find 

some attraction to this inland home. But I should 

think it is far more likely still, that the founders 

of that colony were birds that had been reared 

in some of the other breeding-places that exist in 

the great Salt Lakes of Lower Egypt, and that 

by some chance taking to the river, which at 

Menzaleh would not be more than a mile or two 

away, found that the river fish were excellent, 

that life was pleasant, and the cliffs suitable for 

safely nesting in. " Stomach rules the world " is 



CORMORANTS 

On the Nile at Gebel Aboofayda. 



THE CORMORANT 193 

as true of bird life as any other. Elsewhere I 
have referred to the beauty and charm of Lake 
Menzaleh to all naturalists, and I do really think 
that to get anything like a complete view of 
Egyptian bird life a visit ought to be paid to some 
one or other of the lakes, and of course Menzaleh 
is far and away the best and biggest. But though I 
suggest a visit, I would not care to have it under- 
stood I recommend it as a health resort or place to 
live in. I write this here, because there are two 
considerable Cormorant rookeries or breeding- 
stations that I visited on Lake Menzaleh — there 
may be others I did not find, but these two I did 
find, and they will ever live in my memory as the 
most poisonous plots of earth I have ever stood on. 
I have been to Cormorant rookeries before, and well 
know that they don't smell like rose-gardens. The 
peculiarity of this great lake is, that it is, and 
always has been, a great drainage-bed for the whole 
of Egypt. The result of having been a drainage- 
bed for all these untold years is that when you 
stick a pole, or your oar, into the mud and then 
pull it out, you seem to all at once take the 
cork out of a bottle containing the most appal- 
ling stinks and gases that ever were engendered. 
One day I was stalking Cormorants on a long flat 

25 



194 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

island of irregular shape, and came to a point 
where I had to cross about ten or fifteen yards of 
water. The island was in the middle of the lake, 
and far away from town or village, and without 
thinking of consequences I took my boots off and 
started to wade across. The first step or two was 
on the shallow shelly shore, but three or four feet 
and I sank into mud, and as at each step I lifted 
my feet I let loose ten thousand legions of ancient 
stinks, the water bubbled and fizzled with them, 
and even slimy, blear-eyed, unwholesome fish slunk 
hurriedly away. Reaching the other side, I looked 
for some clean water to wash my feet, and did so ; 
but it was awkward, as I had to hold my boots and 
socks in one hand and my nose in the other ; 
but wash as I would the atrocious smell would not 
go, and I declined to put those evil-smelling things 
into my boots, and I couldn't take my feet off; so 
there I was — the whole island was a swamp, couldn't 
sit down anywhere, all puddles and wet, and the 
more I dabbled and washed the more it seemed 
to stir up new combinations of flavours never before 
conceived. So I shouted and shouted, and at last 
one of the crew heard, and brought out the small 
boat and rescued me ; most mercifully I had car- 
bolic soap with me, and so managed to at last 



THE CORMORANT 195 

get clean. The lake is nowhere very deep, but 
is absolutely full of fish ; you constantly see them 
jumping out of the water for a breath of fresh air, 
and I don't blame them. The pools have crowds 
of small fry, and the larvEe of thousands of insects ; 
indeed, it is "a heaven for mosquitoes and a damp 
hell for men." It is this extraordinary profusion 
of life bred in the water that causes it to be such a 
fine feeding-ground for the birds, but everything 
that comes out of that lake is slimy and smelling. 
In April, when I was at Menzaleh, the birds had 
not begun nesting, but there was every sign of 
quite a big Cormorant colony. I counted the sites 
of more than twenty nests on one island alone, and 
I saw Cormorants off and on nearly every day of 
my two weeks' stay. 

Needless to say, the Cormorant is entirely a 
fish-feeding bird, and usually lives on or near 
the sea. The fact that a colony has been for so 
long now established up the river is certainly in- 
teresting, and it will be curious to see if these 
new great water -works do cause any further 
extension of their area. Mr. Erskine Nicol told 
me he saw two Cormorants flying down the river 
in February of this year (1909), at Luxor — one was 
an adult bird showing a very white head, — and 



196 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

that within his seventeeen years of residence he 
did not think he had ever seen them so far up 
as Luxor before. The young birds have no pure 
white on the head, and have the breast a more or 
less dull greyish-white. 



LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL 

Larus fuscus 

Back and wings dark slaty blackish grey ; primaries 
black, with a large white spot on first primary near the point ; 
rest of plumage pure white ; legs and gill yellow, latter with 
a red spot on lower mandible ; eyes yellow, eyelids red. 
Length, 23 inches. 

In all probability whenever a gull is seen it is most 
likely to be this one, as in my experience through- 
out Egypt it is, I think, the commonest of all. 
The next in order is the Black-headed Gull, but, 
unfortunately, in the winter months it is without its 
black cap, which causes it to escape notice. 

The Gulls do on the water what the Kites do on 
the land — they act as scavengers ; and it matters not 
whether you are arriving at Alexandria or on board 
a steamer at Assoan, you will, alike from end to 
end of Egypt, find these birds busy, searching for 
every scrap of waste thrown into the river, which 
river is the main drain of the country. The use 
that these birds are is therefore enormous, and 
they, in common with Vultures and Kites, ought 
to be protected and on no account shot. This 
year of 1909 I have seen more of these three 

197 



198 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

species shot than ever before. The wily native 
who stalks up and down outside hotels with a gun 
slung over his shoulder, and seizes on unwary new- 
comers with great promises of apocryphal quail- 
and snipe-shooting, frequently— so that his patron 
shall not come home without any bag at all — sug- 
gests shooting every poor inoffensive bird within 
range. That done, the poor Kite or Gull is borne 
home, and laid out on the hotel steps for the 
further honour, glory, and kudos of the native 
shekarry. 

It should always be remembered that the 
immature birds of most species differ materially 
from the adult : this is the case with all the Gulls, 
and, I own, makes their identification a matter of 
considerable difficulty. In the young there is no 
pure white and pearly grey plumage, but they are 
dirty-coloured, brown-spotted, rather uninterest- 
ing-looking birds, but as they have just as ravenous 
an appetite as their parents, and as they satisfy 
that appetite with the filth that is thrown out of a 
scavenger's basket, they are fully as useful as the 
more attractively plumaged adults. Where they 
can get it, they like fish before anything, be it the 
sprat of the clear ocean water, or the sweepings of the 
fish-market. At Damietta, where there is a great 



LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL AND BLACK-HEADED GULL 
On the river at Cairo. 



^ 



X' 



V 




'J 



LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL 199 

fish-market and salted fish is sent away all over 
Egypt, the ofial from the gutted fish is simply 
thrown out on to the shore, and work as hard as the 
Gulls do, they cannot clear all away that is daily 
added to this pestilential heap. Wherever Gulls 
come into a scene they add a sort of lightness and 
brightness to it. This is often felt at sea, where, 
after days and days of dreary water, at last some 
Gulls appear and give the needed brightening touch, 
and wherever they are seen their white wings 
make a charming point of contrast. Those who 
know London know what a boon they are to the 
leaden Thames, and even in sunny Egypt they are 
a welcome addition to river scenery. 



THE BLACK-HEADED GULL 

Larus ridibundus 

General plumage white below, wings a delicate lavender 
grey, the large flight-feathers black and white at their tips ; 
head and throat in breeding dress, a dark brown, in winter 
white ; legs and beak red ; eyes brown. Length, 15 inches. 

This ought to be called the Brown-headed Gull, as 
the colour is never black. In winter the whole 
head is practically white, and it is in that plumage 
that most visitors to Egypt will alone see it. 



200 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

It is a very lively little Gull ; its flight is much 
lighter than the preceding, and when several are 
together they can hardly ever keep quiet for long, 
but from time to time give vent to their peculiar 
cry, which by some has been likened to the sound 
of laughter. 

Captain Shelley says that, in a year where there 
was a terrible scourge of locusts, these Gulls were 
present in large flocks busily engaged in devouring 
these mischievous insects. In that way, and in the 
ordinary scavenger work that they share with all 
other Gulls, they are of great use to the country and 
should be protected. 

I have seen them in ones and twos everywhere 
up and down the river, but the larger flocks are 
only to be seen at the great lakes of the Fayoum 
or along the coast, and I particularly remember, 
because of the weirdness of the surroundings, one 
occasion when I saw large flocks on the shores of 
the Red Sea. It was at Kosseir, and the coast 
there is alternately gently shelving sandy shore, 
and jutting-out, flat-topped rocky reefs. To one 
of these reefs I went as the tide was leaving them 
exposed, whilst flocks of Gulls and Waders were 
waiting for their evening meal. 

The rock plateau going right out to sea was a 



THE BLACK-HEADED GULL 201 

coral reef, and the way in which pools led one into 
another by tunnels was most strange. Then the 
depths of some were great, as I found by sounding 
with a long rod, and some were past all sounding 
and seemed bottomless. It was evening when I 
got there, and soon became dark night, and it was 
then that the peculiar beauty of these pools came 
out, whilst the great flocks of Gulls and some Duck 
found new delights in them as the receding sea gave 
them more feeding-ground. Every pool was lighted 
up by the strange glowing eyes of some cuttle-fish 
— ever-moving, these jewel-like blue-green lights 
went passing round and round, sometimes the one 
becoming two as a turn of its head permitted my 
seeing both eyes, and then with another curve the 
two were one. Sometimes these strange lights 
were very very faint, but as I stood still they came 
nearer and nearer, and with my eyes riveted on 
them a most curious illusion followed. Nearer, 
nearer, stronger, more strong, these strange weird 
eyes advanced and crept up farther and farther, 
till time after time it was hard to believe that 
these glowing orbs had not left the water and were 
advancing right up to my own face. All the time 
the quiet of the place was only broken by the 
curious laughing-like call of the Gulls, and the 

26 



202 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

shrill piping and whistling of the dark, shadowy 
shore birds. 

Besides Gulls, the visitors to the Nile may see 
Terns, for there are some seven or eight species, 
but naturally these birds keep nearer the sea than 
elsewhere, yet it is pleasant to cherish the hope, 
founded on frequent reports, that Terns as well as 
several other birds that love the water are somewhat 
extending their area. Owing to the new barrage 
schemes making great permanent inland lakes 
which never existed before, the birds find a new 
home suitable to them, and which they have already 
begun to show they thoroughly appreciate. At 
home and in many other countries, the great 
reservoirs which supply the cities have always been 
favourite bird haunts, and it seems that here is 
one more benefit bestowed on Egypt consequent 
on British occupation. When at Lake Menzaleh 
this last winter, one of the most wonderful sights 
was the number of Terns, and on one occasion 
when I was trying to get near to Flamingo, a great 
flock of many hundreds of the large Caspian Tern 
came near enough for identification. 



LIST OF BIRDS 

Although the scope of this work is only to point 
out, by pictures, to the unlearned what birds he 
will most likely see during a winter in Egypt, yet 
I have felt that it would be wise to give a list of 
all the birds, as far as known ; for some, turning to 
these pages, may desire to learn if some one or 
other bird which they did not see amongst my 
necessarily limited selection of pictured birds, was 
an Egyptian bird or not. In the preparation of this 
list, it goes without saying, I have been constantly 
indebted to that book, A Handbook to the Birds 
of Egypt, which, published so long ago as 1872 by 
Captain C. E. Shelley, still remains the one classic on 
this subject, and I have adopted, as far as possible, 
his names for all the birds mentioned. In addition, 
year after year, some small knowledge has accumu- 
lated of new birds, not known in that day to visit 
this country, and I am particularly indebted to Mr. 
M. J. Nicoll, assistant-director of the Government 

203 



204 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

Zoological Gardens, Giza, for helping me to make 
this list as complete as possible. 

LIST OF THE BIRDS OF EGYPT 

1 . The Golden Eagle {Aquila fulva). Rare, Upper and Lower 

Egypt. 

2. The Imperial Eagle {^Aquila imperialis). Lower Egypt. 

3. White-tailed Eagle (Haliaetus albicilla). Lower Egypt. 

4. Tawny Eagle {Aquila tiaevoides). Rare, Upper and Lower 

Egypt. 

5. Spotted Eagle {Aquila naevia). Not very uncommon in both. 

6. Bonelli's Eagle {Aquila bonelli). Very rare. 

7. Booted Eagle {Aquila tennatd). A summer visitor. 

8. Short-toed Eagle {Circaetus gallicus). Rare. 

9. Osprey {Pandion haliaetiis). Fairly common in Nile Valley. 

10. Southern Bearded Vulture (Gy^ad?/* ra^^c/epe.?). Said to breed 

in Mokattam mountains. 

11. Black Vulture {Fultur monachis). Fairly common in Nile 

Valley. 

12. SociaXA^ YnXtvLxe {Vultur auricularis). Fairly common. 

13. Griffon Vulture {Gyps fulvus). Common. 

14. Egyptian Vulture {Neophron percnopterus). Common. 

15. Marsh - Harrier {Circiis aeruginosus). Not uncommon in 

Lower Egypt. 

16. Hen Harrier {Circus cyaneus). Rare. 

17. Pale-chested Harrier {Circus pallidus). Not uncommon 

throughout country. 

18. Montagu's Harrier (QVcM* a«erflce«*). Rare. 

19. Little Red-billed Hawk {Accipiter gabar). Very rare. 

20. Peregrine Falcon {Falco peregrinusy Not uncommon through 

country. 

21. Barbary Falcon {Falco barbarus). Rare. 

22. Lanner Falcon {Falco lanarius). Rare. 

23. Red-naped Falcon {Falco Babylonicus). Rare. 



LIST OF BIRDS 205 

24. Saker Falcon (Falco saker). Rare. 

25. Merlin (Falco aesalon). Common throughout. 

26. Hobby (Falco subbuteo). Fairly common. 

27. Sooty Falcon (Falco eleonorae). Rare. 

28. Red-legged Falcon (Falco vespeiiinus). Fairly common in 

Lower Egypt. 
29- Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus). Very abundant everywhere. 

30. Lesser Kestrel (Falco cenchris). Fairly abundant. 

31. Common Kite (Milvus regalis). Very rare. 

32. Parasitic Kite (Milvus aegyptius). Very abundant throughout 

Egypt. 

3S. Black Kite (Milvus migrans). Rare. 

34. Black-shouldered Hawk (Elanus coeruleus'). Fairly common 

south of Thebes. 

35. Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivonisy Exceedingly rare. 
SQ. Common Buzzard (Buteo vulgaris). Not common. 

37. African Buzzard (Buteo deseriorum). Exceedingly rare. 

38. Long-legged Buzzard (Buteo ferox). Fairly common. 

39. Barn Owl (Abico Jlammea). Common. 

40. Tawny Owl (Strix aluco). Not common. 

41. Tengmalm's Owl (Nyctala tengmalmi). Very rare. 

42. Little Owl (Athene noctua). Exceedingly abundant. 

43. Scops Owl (Scops giti). Rare north of Cairo. 

44. Long-eared Owl (Asio otus). Very rare. 

45. Shoi-t-eared Owl (Asio accipitrinus). Rare. 

46. Eagle Owl (Bubo ignavus). Very rare. 

47. Egyptian Eagle Owl (Bubo ascalaphus). Fairly common in 

Upper Egypt. 

48. Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus). A regular visitor in August and 

returning again in March. 

49. Great - spotted Cuckoo (Coccystes glandarius). Not un- 

common. 

50. Lark-heeled Cuckoo (Centropus aegyptius). Not uncommon 

in Fayum. 

51. Wryneck (Yunx torquilla). Common on migration. 

52. Hoopoe (Uptipa epops). Abundant everywhere. 



206 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

53. Common Kingfisher {Alcedo ispida). Abundant in Delta and 

common in many parts. 

54. Little Indian Kingfisher (^Alcedo hengalensis). Rare. 

55. Black and White Kingfisher {Ceryle rudis). Very common. 

56. Blue Roller (Coracias garruld). Not common. 

57. Common Bee-eater (Merops apiaster). Common only in 

April and August. 

58. Blue-checked Bee-eater (Merops aegyptius). Very common 

in April and again in autumn. 

59. Little Green Bee-eater (Merops viridis). Very common in 

Upper Egypt. 

60. Alpine Swift (Cypselus melhd). Rare. 

61. Common Swift {Cypselus apus). Not uncommon. 

62. Egyptian Swift (Cypselus pallidus). Very common. 

6S. Nightjar (Capriinulgus europaeus). Common in spring and 
autumn months. 

64. Egyptian Nightjar (Caprimulgus aegyptius'). Not uncommon 

in spring and autumn. 

65. Swallow (Hirundo rusticd). Common in spring and autumn 

only. 
Q6. Egyptian Swallow (Hirundo saoignii). A very common 
resident. 

67. House Martin (Chelidon urbica). Seen in small numbers in 

spring and autumn. 

68. Shelley's Sand - Martin (Cotile riparia shelleyii). Summer 

visitor. 

69. Sand-Martin (Cotile riparia). Abundant in Nile Valley. 

70. Lesser Sand-Martin (Cotile minor). Common. 

71. Rufous Swallow (Hirundo rufula). Rare. 

72. Crag Swallow (Cotile rupestris). Rare. 

73. Pale Crag Swallow (Cotile ohsoleta). Common in parts. 

74. White Wagtail (Motacilla alba). Exceedingly common. 

75. White -winged Wagtail (Motacilla vidua). Common at 

Assoan. 

76. Grey Wagtail (Motacilla boarula). Not uncommon. 

77. Blue-headed Wagtail (Motacilla jiava). Not uncommon. 



LIST OF BIRDS 207 

78. Tree-Pipit {Anthus trivialis). Occasionally seen in September 

and April. 

79. Meadow Pipit {Anthus pratensis). Rare. 

80. Red-throated Pipit {Anthus cervinus). Abundant everywhere. 

81. Water Pipit {Anthus spinoletus). Rare. 

82. Richard's Pipit {Anthus Richardt). Rare. 

83. African Tawny Pipit {Anthus raaltern). Rare. 

84. Tawny Pipit {Anthus campestris). Common. 

85. Bifasciated Lark {Certhilauda desertoruni). Rare. 

86. Desert Lark {Ammomanes lusitand). Not uncommon in 

Upper Egypt. 

87. Tristram's Desert Lark {Ammomanes Jrate7'culus). Not 

uncommon in Upper Egypt. 

88. Sandy-coloured Desert Lark {Ammomanes arenicolor). Rare. 

89. Crested Lark {Galerita cristatd). Nearly the commonest 

bird. 

90. Wood Lark {Alauda arborea"). Exceedingly rare. 

91. Sky Lark {Alauda ai'vensisy Occurs regularly in Lower 

Egypt. 

92. Short-toed Lark {Calandrella hrachydactyld). Abundant. 
^Z. Algerian Short-toed Lark {Calandrella reboudid). Rare. 

94. Lesser Lark {Calandrella ininor). Rare. 

95. Calandra Lark {Melafiocorypha calandra). Rare. 

96. Thick-billed Calandra {Rkamphocoris clot-bey). Very rare. 

97. Missel Thrush {Turdus viscivorus). Of very rare occurrence. 

98. Fieldfare {Turdus pilaris). A visitant to Lower Egypt. 
99- Song Thrush {Turdus musicus). Not uncommon. 

100. Blackbird {Turdus merula). Not uncommon. 

101. Ring-Ouzel {Turdus torquatus). Rare. 

102. White-vented Bulbul {Pycnonotus arsino'e). Common, Fayum. 

103. Yellow- vented Bulbul {Pycnonotus xanthopygiu£). Rare. 

104. Egyptian Bush-Babbler {Crateropus acaciae). Only rare 

visitor to Upper Egypt. 

105. Rock-Thrush {Monticola saxatilis). Common, Upper Egypt. 

106. Blue-rock Thrush {Monticola cyaned). Fairly common 

resident in Upper Egypt. 



208 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

107. Common Wheatear {Saodcola oenanthe). Very common. 

108. Men^iries sWhesite^ar (^Saxicola saltatiix). Common resident. 

109. Eastern Black-eared Wheatear (*S'aj;«co/a a^MpAzVeMca). Fairly 

common in March and September. 

110. Egyptian Black-throated Wheatear {Saxicola eurymelana). 

Common. 

111. Black-throated Wheatear (Saxicola xanthomeloend). Common 

migrant. 

112. Desert Chat (Saxicola deserti). Common on the desert. 

113. White-throated Desert Chat (Saxicola hoynochroa). Not 

common. 

114. Rosy-vented Chat (Saxicola moestay Rare. 

115. Mourning ChaX (Saxicola lugens). Common on the desert 

throughout. 

116. Vie^d Chsil (Saxicola leucomelay Exceedingly rare. 

117. Hooded Chat (Saxicola monacha). Not uncommon on the 

desert. 

118. White-rumped Chat (Saxicola leucopygia). Common in 

deserts of Upper Egypt. 

119. Ahyssinian Chat (Saxicola st/enitica). Exceedingly rare. 

120. Whin Chat (Pratincola rubetra). Not uncommon. 

121. Stone Chat (P7-atincola rubicola). Common in Lower Egypt. 

122. Hemprich's Stonechat (Pratincola hemprickii). Rare. 

1 23. Redstart (Ruticilla phoenicura). Common in September and 

April. 

124. Black Redstart (Ruticilla titys). Rare. 

125. Palestine Redstart (Ruticilla seminrfa). Rare. 

126. Blue-throated Warbler (Cyanecula suecica). Very common. 

127. Robin (Erithacus ruheculay Common in Lower Egypt in 

winter. 

128. Hedge Sparrow (Accentor modularis). Rare. 

129. Nightingale (Philomela luscinia). Not uncommon. 

130. Thrush Nightingale (Philomela major). Very rare. 

131. Cetti's Warbler (Bradypterus cettii). Very rare. 

132. Rufous Warbler (Aedon galactodes). Common in summer, 

breeds in Egypt. 



LIST OF BIRDS 209 

133. Savi's Warbler (^Locustella luscinioides). Fairly common. 

134. River Warbler (Locustella Jluviatalis). Very rare. 

135. Sedge Warbler (^Acrocephalus strepents). Common. 

136. Aquatic Warbler {Calamodyta aquaticd). Fairly common. 

137. Moustached Warbler (Calamodyta). Common in Delta. 

138. Reed Warbler (^Acrocephalus arundinacea). Common in 

Delta. 

139. Marsh Warbler {Acrocepkalus palustris). Rare in Lower 

Egypt. 

140. Clamorous Sedge Warbler (^crocepAa/tw *<e«ton«*). Common 

in Delta. 

141. Great Sedge Warbler (^Acrocephalus turdoides). Rare. 

142. Arabian Sedge W^arbler (^Acrocepkalus arabicus). Rare. 

143. Fan-tailed Warbler (Cisticola sckoenicola). Abundant every- 

where. 

144. Graceful Warbler {Drymoeca gracilis). Common. 

145. Olive-tree Warbler (Hypolais olivetorum). Rare. 

146. Olivaceous Warbler (^Hypolais elaeica). Common, breeds. 

147. Wood Warbler {Phylloscopus sybillator). Rather rare. 

148. ^oneWi' sV^ aLxb\e,r {PhyllopneusteBonelli). Common in Upper 

Egypt. 

1 49. ChifFchafF Warbler {Phylloscopus minor). Common. 

150. Willow Warbler {Phylloscopus trochilus). Common. 

151. Melodious Willow Warbler {Hypolais hypolais). Rare. 

152. Vieillot's Willow Warbler {Phyllopneuste eversmanni). Rare. 

153. Garden Warbler {Sylvia hortensis). Not uncommon. 

154. Orphean Warbler {Sylvia orpheiis). Rare. 

155. Black-cap Warbler {Sylvia atricapilla). Rare. 

156. Ruppell's Warbler {Curruca rueppellii). Fairly common. 

157. Black-headed Warbler {Sylvia viomus). Common. 

158. ^laxAxnia^n ^ a.rh\G^r {Melizophilus sardus). Rare. 

159. Dartford Warbler {Melizophilus ujidatus). Rare. 

160. Subalpine Warbler {Sylvia subalpina). Rare. 

161. Spectacled Warbler {Sylvia conspicillata). Rare. 

162. Lesser Whitethroat {Sylvia curruca). Common. 

163. Whitethroat {Sylvia cinerea). Not uncommon. 

27 



210 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

164. Yellow-breasted Sun-Bird (Nectarinia metallica). Occurs 

only near Assoan. 

165. Wall Creeper {Tichodroma murari). Very rare. 

166. Great Grey Shrike {Lanius excubitor). Very rare. 

167. Pallid Shrike (Lanius lahtord). Not uncommon. 

168. Lesser Grey Shrike {Lanius minor). Rare. 

169. Masked Shrike {Lanius nuhicus). Common in February 

and March and in autumn. 

170. Woodchat Shrike {Lanius auriculatus). Fairly common in 

March. 

171. Red-backed Shrike {Lanius collurio). Not common. 

1 72. Spotted Flycatcher {Muscicapa gnsola). Rare. 

173. Pied Flycatcher {Muscicapa atricapillay Rare. 

174. White-collared Flycatcher {Muscicapa collaris). Rare. 

175. Red-breasted Flycatcher {Muscicapa parva). 

176. Common Bunting {Emherisa niilaria). Common in Lower 

Egypt. 

177. Ortolan Bunting {Emberiza horttdana). Rare. 

178. Cretzschmar's Bunting {Emberiza caesia). Common in 

Delta. 

179. Smaller Reed Bunting {Emberiza intermedia). Rare. 

1 80. Common Sparrow {Passer domesticus). Common everywhere. 

181. Italian Sparrow {Passer Italiae). Rare. 

182. Spanish Sparrow {Passer salicicola). Common. 

183. Tree Sparrow {Passer montanus). Rare. 

184. The Hawfinch {Coccothraustes vulgaris). Rare. 

185. Chaffinch {Fringilla coelebs). Rare, Lower Egypt. 

1 86. Goldfinch {Carduelis elegans). Common in Delta. 

187. Black-billed Finch {Estrelda melanorhynoba). Very rare. 

188. Lesser Redpole {Aegiothus rufescens). Very rare. 

189. Siskin {Carduelis spinus). Very rare. 

190. Serin {Serinus hortulanus). Rare. 

191. Linnet {Linota cannabina). Common in Lower Egypt. 

192. Desert Bullfinch {Erythrospiza githaginea). Common on 

deserts of Upper Egypt. 

193. Golden Oriole {Oriolus galbula). Common only in April. 



LIST OF BIRDS 211 

194. Starling {Stumus vulgaris). Fairly common throughout. 

195. Purple Starling {Sturnus unicolor). Exceedingly rare. 

196. Rose-coloured Pastor (Pastor roseus). Rare. 

197. Brown-necked Raven (Corvus umhrinus). Common in the 

deserts. 

198. Abyssinian Raven {Corvus affinis). Not common in towns. 

199. Crow (Hooded) (Corvus comix). Exceedingly common in 

towns. 

200. Rook (Corvus fruglegus). Common in Delta. 

201. Jackdaw (Corvus monedula). Not common anywhere. 

202. Magpie (Pica caudata). Rare. 

203. Chough (Pyrrhocorax alpinus). Exceedingly rare. 

204. Rock Dove (Colwnba livia). Very common. 

205. Schimper's Pigeon (Columba schimperi). Common. 

206. Stock Dove (Columba oenas). Very rare. 

207. Turtledove (TuHur auritus). Very common. 

208. Sharpe's Turtledove (Turtur sharpii). Common. 

209. Isabelline Turtledove (Turtur isabelinus). Rare. 

210. White-bellied Turtledove (Ti^r^Mr a/6wenfm). Rare. 

211. Egyptian Turtledove (Turtur senegalensis). Very common 

everywhere. 

212. Singed Sand-Grouse (Pterocles exustus). Common in deserts 

only. 

213. Senegal Sand-Grouse (Pterocles senegallus). Not common. 

214. Coroneted Sand-Grouse (Pterocles coronatus). Rare. 

215. Francolin (Francolinus vulgaris). Very rare. 

216. Hey's Sand-Partridge (Ammoperdix heyi). Only met on 

deserts. 

217. Cholmley's Sand -Partridge (Ammoperdix chobnleyi). Only 

met with on the desert. 

218. Quail (Coturnix communis). Very common in March and 

November. 

219. Andalusian Hemipode (Turnix sylvatica). Very rare. 

220. Houbara Bustard (Otis houbara). Met only on desert west 

of Nile. 

221. Little Bustard (Otis tetrax). Rare. 



212 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

222. Arabian Bustard (^Eupodotis arahs). Rare. 

223. Collared Pratincole {Glareola pratincola). Common in April 

and October. 

224. Black-winged Pratincole {Glareola nordmanniy Rare. 

225. Cream-coloured Courser {Cursoritts gallicus). Common on 

deserts. 

226. Thick-knee {Oedicnemus crepitans). Very common. 

227. Lapwing (Vanellus cristaUis). Very common. 

228. Spur-winged Plover (Hoploptenis spinosusy Common. 

229. Social Plover {Chettusia gregaria). Rare. 

230. White-tailed Plover {Chettusia villotaei). Not common. 

231. Black-headed Plover {Pluvianus aegypiius). Not common, 

Upper Egypt. 

232. Golden Plover {Charadrius pliivialis). Not common. 

233. Grey Plover {Squatarola helvetica). Rare. 

234. Dotterel {Eudromias morinellus). Very rare. 

235. Asiatic Dotterel {Eudromias asiaticus). Very rare. 

236. Large Sand-Plover (Aegialitis geoffroyi). Met with only 

on sea-coast. 

237. Mongolian Sand-Plover {Aegialitis mongolicus). Very rare. 

238. African Sand-Plover {Aegialitis pecuarius). Not common. 

239. Kentish Plover {Aegialitis cantianus). Very common every- 

where. 

240. Greater Ringed Plover {Aegialitis hiaticula). Rare. 

241. Middle Ringed Plover {Aegialitis intermedius). Common in 

Delta. 

242. Little Ringed Plover {Aegialitis minor). Very common 

everywhere. 

243. Oyster-Catcher {Haematopus ostralegus). Common on sea- 

coast. 

244. Curlew {Numenius arquata). Common in Delta. 

245. Whimbrel {Numenius phaeopus). Met with sparingly in 

Nile Valley. 

246. Slender-billed Curlew {Numenius tenuirostris). Rare. 

247. Black-tailed Godwit {Limosa aegocephala). Not uncommon. 

248. Ruff {Machetes pugnax). Common throughout Egypt. 



LIST OF BIRDS 213 

249. Woodcock (^Scolopax rusticold). Now more frequently 

recorded than formerly. 

250. Solitary Snipe {Gallinago majory Rare. 

251. Common Snipe (^Gallinago media). Common everywhere. 

252. Jack Snipe {Gallinago gallinuld). Common. 

253. Painted Snipe {Rhynchaea capensis). Fairly common 

throughout. 

254. Little Stint (Tringa minuta). Very abundant. 

255. Temminck's Stint {Tringa temminckii). Rather rare. 

256. Sanderling {Tringa arenaria). Not common. 

257. Dunlin {Tringa alpinus). Not common, and only on coast. 

258. Knot {Tringa canutus). Not common. 

259- Curlew Sandpiper {Tringa suharquata). Not common. 

260. Redshank {Toianus calidiis). Common in Delta, rare 

elsewhere. 

261. Dusky Redshank {Totanus fusciis). Rare. 

262. Greenshank {Totanus canescens). Common. 

263. Marsh Sandpiper {Totanus stagnatalis). Not common. 

264. Green Sandpiper {Totanus ochropusy Very common every- 

where. 

265. Wood Sandpiper {Totanus glareola). Common in Lower 

Egypt. 

266. Common Sandpiper {Actitis hypoleucosy Common. 

267. Black-winged Stilt {Himantopus candidusy Not uncommon. 

268. Avocet {Reairvirostra avocettd). Common only in Delta. 

269. Sacred Ibis {Ibis aethiopicay Very rare indeed. 

270. Glossy Ibis {Ibis falcinellusy Rare. 

271. African Wood Ibis {Tantalus ibis). Rare. 

272. CoTCixnon CraxiG^ {Gnis communisy Not uncommon in October 

and March. 

273. Demoiselle Crane {Grus virgo). Not common. 

274. Spoonbill {Platalea leucorodia). Common in all parts. 

275. White Stork {Ciconia alba). Common during migration 

months, October and March. 

276. Black Stork {Ciconia nigra). Not common. 

277. Shoebill or Whale-headed Stork {Balaeniceps rex). 



214 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

278. Common Heron (Ardea cinerea). Very common. 

279- Purple Heron (^Ardea purpurea). Only common in Lower 
Egypt. 

280. Great White Heron (i/erorfea* a/6a). Only common in Delta. 

281. Liittle ^gret (^He)-odias garsettd). Not common. 

282. Buff-hacked Heron {A rdeol a russatd). Commonest in Delta. 

283. Squacco Heron (Ardeola comata). Rare. 

284. Night Heron (Nycticorax griseus). Fairly common every- 

where. 

285. Bittern (^Botaurus stellaris). Not uncommon in Lower Egypt. 

286. Little Bittern (Botaurus minutus). Common. 

287. Flamingo (^Pkoenicopterus antiquorum). Common in Delta. 

288. Water Rail (Rallus aquatiais). Common in Lower Egypt. 

289. Land Rail {Ortygometra crex). Not common. 

290. Spotted Crake {Porzana maruetta). Common. 

291. BsaWoti s Criike (Porzaiia pygmaea). Very rare. 

292. Moorhen {Gallinula chloropus). Common in Lower Egj^pt. 

293. Allen's Gallinule (Poiphyrio Alleni). Very rare. 

294. Violet Gallinule (Porphyrio hyacinthinus). Common in 

Lower Egypt. 

295. Green-backed Gallinule {Porphyria viadagascariensis). Very 

rare. 

296. Common Coot (Fulica atrd). Common everywhere. 

297. Crested Coot (Fulica cristatd). Rare. 

298. Mute Swan {Cygnus olor). Rare. 

299. Hooper Swan {Cygnus musicus). Very rare. 

300. Egyptian Goose {Chenalopex aegyptiacus). Not common. 

301. White-fronted Goose {Anser albifrons). Not uncommon. 

302. Lesser White-fronted Goose {Anser erythropusy Rare. 

303. Bean Goose {Anser fabalis). Very rare. 

304. Brent Goose {Bernicla brentay Rare. 

305. Sheldrake {Tadorna vulpanser). Rare. 

306. Ruddy Sheldrake {Tadoma rutila). Not uncommon in 

Lower Egypt. 

307. Common Wild Duck {Anas boschas). Fairly common every- 

where. 



LIST OF BIRDS 215 

308. Gadwall (Anas strepera). Not very common. 

309. Pintail (Da/ila acuta). Very common throughout countr}'. 

310. Shoveller {Spatula clypeata). Exceedingly common. 

311. Teal (Querquedula creccd). Very common. 

312. Garganey Teal {Querquedula circia). Not common. 

313. Widgeon {Mareca penelope^ Very common indeed. 

314. Ferruginous Duck {Nyroca leucophtalma). Rare. 

315. Pochard {Fuligula ferind). Very common indeed. 

316. Red-crested Pochard {Netta rtifind). Lower Egypt. 

317. Scaup Duck {Fuligula 7narild). Not common. 

318. Tufted Duck {Fuligula cristatd). Exceedingly common. 

319. White-headed Duck {Erismatura leucocepkala). Rare. 

320. Velvet Scoter {Oedemia fusca). Rare. 

321. Dalmatian Pelican {Pelecanus crispus). Fairly common. 

322. White Pelican {Pelecanus onocrotalus). Fairly common. 

323. Lesser Pelican {Pelecanus minor). Fairly common. 

324. Masked Gannet {Sula cyanops). Very rare. 

325. Cormorant {Phalacrocorax carbo). Common in Lower Egypt, 

rare elsewhere. 

326. Little Cormorant {Phalacrocorax pygmaens). Rare. 

327. Caspian Tern {Sterna caspid). Fairly common near sea. 

328. Gull-billed Tern {Sterna anglica). Common in Lower Egypt. 

329. Sandwich Tern {Sterna cantiaca). Rare. 

330. Allied Tern {Sterna media). Common in Lower Egypt. 

331. Swift Tern {Sterna bergii). Not uncommon in Lower 

Egypt. 

332. Common Tern {Sterna Jluviatilis). Rare. 

333. Arctic Tern {Sterna hinmdo). Rare. 

334. Lesser Tei'n {Sterna mimitd). Very rare. 

335. Black Tern {Hydrochelidon Jissipes). Rare. 

S3Q. White-winged Black Tern {Hydrochelidon nigra). Rare. 

337. Whiskered Tern {Hydrochelidon leucopareia). Common on 

Nile. 

338. Scissor-billed Tern {Rhynchops jiavirostris). Rare. 

339. Greater Black-backed Gull {Larus mantius). Rare on coast 

only. 



216 EGYPTIAN BIRDS 

340. Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus). Fairly common. 

341. Mediterranean Herring Gull {Larus leucophaeus). Not 

uncommon. 

342. Herring Gull {Larus argentatus). Fairly common on coast. 

343. Common Gull {Larus canusy Not common. 

344. Slender-billed Gull {Larus gelastes). Rare. 

345. Great Black-headed Gull {Larus ichthyaetus). Rare. 

346. White-eyed Gull {Larus leucopthalmus). Very rare. 

347. Mediterranean Black-headed Gull {Larus melanocephalus). 

Not common. 

348. Black-headed Gull {Larus ridibundus). Common in Lower 

Egypt. 

349. Little Gull {Larus ?nmutus). Rare. 

350. Cinereous Shearwater {Puffinus kuhlii). Not rare on coast. 

351. Manx Shearwater {Puffinus anglonim). Rare on coast. 

352. Great-crested Grebe {Podicipides cristatus). Rare. 
S53. Eared Grebe {Podicipides nigricollis). Rare. 

354. Red-necked Grebe {Podicipides griseige7ia). Rare. 

355. Little Grebe {Podicipides minor). Common. 

356. Red-throated Diver {Colymhus septentrionalisy Rare. 



INDEX 



Avocet, 129, Plate, 130, 213 

Bee-eater, Blue-checked, 206 

Common, 206 

Little Green, 54, Plate, 206 
Birds in mid-air, 1, Plate 
Bittern, 214 

Little, 214 
Blackbird, 207 
Blue Roller, 206 
Bulbul, White-vented, 207 

Yellow-vented, 207 
Bullfinch, Desert, 86, Plate, 210 
Bunting, Common, 210 

Cretzschmar's, 210 

Ortolan, 210 

Smaller Reed, 210 
Bush-babbler, Egyptian, 207 
Bustard, Arabian, 211 

Houbara, 211 

Little, 211 
Buzzard, African, 206 

Common, 205 

Honey, 205 

Long-legged, 205 

Calandra, Thick-billed, 207 
Chaffinch, 210 
Chat, Desert, 208 

Hemprich's Stone-, 208 

Hooded, 73, 208 

Mourning, 73, 208 

Rosy-vented, 71, Plate, 208 

Stone-, 208 



Chat, Whin, 208 

White-rumped,7l,72, Plate,208 
White-throated Desert, 208 
Chough, 211 

Coot, Common, Frontispiece Plate, 
7, 172, 173, 214 
Crested, 214 
Cormorant, 191, Plate, 192, 193, 
194, 195, 196, 215 
Little, 215 
Courser, Cream-coloured, 110, 

Plate, 111, 112, 212 
Crake, Baillon's, 214 

Spotted, 214 
Crane, Common, 135, Plate, 136, 
137, 138, 139, 213 
Demoiselle, 213 
Crow, Hooded, 28, 89, Plate, 91, 

211 
Cuckoo, 205 

Great-spotted, 205 
Lark-heeled, 205 
Curlew, 212 

Slender-billed, 212 

Diver, Red-throated, 216 
Dotterel, 212 

Asiatic, 212 
Dove, Palm, 92, Plate 

Rock, 211 

Stock, 211 

Turtle, 92, Plate, 93, 211 
Duck, Common Wild, 7, 180, 214 

Ferruginous, 215 



217 



28 



218 



EGYPTIAN BIRDS 



Duck, Pintail, 178, Plate, 179, 
180, 215 
Scaup, 215 
Shoveller, 178, Plate, 181, 182, 

183, 215 
Tufted, 215 
White-headed, 215 
Duuliu, 213 

Eagle, Bonelli's, 204 

Booted, 28, 204 

Golden, 204 

Imperial, 204 

Short-toed, 204 

Spotted, 204 

Tawny, 204 

White-tailed, 204 
Egret, Little, 156, 167, 214 

Falcon, Barbary, 204 

Lanner, 204 

Peregrine, 3, 204 

Red-legged, 205 

Red-naped, 204 

Saker, 205 

Sooty, 205 
Fieldfare, 207 
Finch, Black-billed, 210 

Trumpeter, 85, Plate 
Flamingo, 13, 162, Plate, 163, 

164, 165, 166, 167, 214 
Flycatcher, Pied, 210 

Red-breasted, 210 

Spotted, 210 

White-collared, 210 
Francolin, 211 

Gad wall, 215 
Gallinule, Allen's, 214 

Green-backed, 168, Plate, 169, 
170, 171, 214 

Violet, 214 
Gannet, Masked, 215 
Godwit, Black-tailed, 212 
Goldfinch, 210 
Goose, Bean, 176, 177, 214 

Brent, 177, 214 



Goose, Egyptian, 174, Plate, 175, 
214 

Lesser White-fronted, 214 

Red-breasted, 176 

White-fronted, 176, 177, 214 
Grebe, Eared, 216 

Great-crested, 216 

Little, 216 

Red-necked, 216 
Greenshank, 7, 213 
Grouse, Coroneted Sand-, 94, 96, 
211 

Sand-, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98 

Senegal Sand-, 94, Plate, 211 

Singed Sand-, 94, 211 
Gull, Black-headed, 197, Plate, 
198, 199, 200, 201, 216 

Common, 216 

Great Black-headed, 216 

Greater Black-backed, 216 

Herring, 216 

Lesser Black-backed, 197, Plate, 
198, 216 

Little, 216 

Mediterranean Black -headed, 
216 

Mediterranean Herring, 216 

Slender-billed, 216 

White-eyed, 216 

Harrier, Hen-, 204 

Marsh-, 204 

Montagu's, 204 

Pale-chested, 204 
Hawfinch, 210 
Hawk, Black-shouldered, 205 

Little red-billed, 204 

Sparrow, 83 
Hemipode, Andalusian, 211 
Heron, Buff-backed, 164, Plate, 
156, 157, 214 

Common, 4, 152, Plate, 163, 
154, 214 

Great White, 214 

Night, 159, Plate, 160, 161, 214 

Purple, 214 

Squacco, 214 



INDEX 



219 



Hobby, 205 

Hoopoe, 46, 46, Plate, 47, 48, 205 

Ibis, African Wood, 213 
Glossy, 213 

Sacred, 131, Plate, 182, 133, 
134, 213 

Jackdaw, 211 

Kestrel, 2, 25, 26, 28, 29, 63, 206 

Lesser, 205 
Kingfisher, Black and White, 61, 
Plate, 62, 53, 206 

Common, 49, Plate, 206 

Little Indian, 50, 206 
Kite, Black, 33, 205 

Common, 2, 205 

Parasitic or Egyptian, 30, 
Plate, 31, 32, 33, 205 
Kites in flight, 32, Plate 
Knot, 213 

Lapwing, 111, Plate, 114, 212 
Lark, Algerian Short-toed, 207 

Bifasciated, 207 

Calandra, 207 

Crested, 69, Plate, 207 

Desert, 207 

Lesser, 207 

Sandy-coloured Desert, 207 

Short-toed, 207 

Sky, 207 

Tristram's Desert, 207 

Wood, 207 
Linnet, 210 

Magpie, 211 

Martin, House, 63, 64, 206 

Lesser Sand-, 206 

Sand-, 64, 206 

Shelley's Sand-, 206 
Merlin, 205 
Moorhen, 214 

Nightingale, 208 
Thrush, 208 



Nightjar, 67, 206 
Egyptian, 206 
Nile, a view on, 10, Plate 

Oriole, Golden, 210 
Osprey, 204 
Ouzel, Ring, 207 
Owl, Barn, 34, Plate, 35, 36, 37, 
205 

Eagle, 7, 42, 205 

Egyptian Eagle, 42, Plate, 43, 
205 

Little, 38, Plate, 39, 40, 41, 
205 

Long-eared, 205 

Scops, 205 

Short-eared, 205 

Tawny, 205 

Tengmalm's, 205 
Oyster-Catcher, 212 

Palm Dove, 93, Plate 
Partridge, Cholmley's Sand-, 
211 

Hey's Sand-, 99, Plate, 100, 101, 
102, 211 
Pastor, Rose-coloured, 211 
Pelican, Dalmatian, 216 

Lesser, 215 

White, 184, Plate, 187, 189, 190, 
216 
Pigeon, Schimper's, 211 
Pipit, African Tawny, 207 

Meadow, 207 

Red-throated, 207 

Richard's, 207 

Tawny, 207 

Tree, 207 

Water, 207 
Plover, African Sand-, 212 

Black-headed, 113, 116, Plate, 
117, 118, 119, 212 

Golden, 212 

Greater Ringed, 212 

Green, HI, Plate, 114 

Grey, 212 

Kentish, 212 



220 



EGYPTIAN BIRDS 



Plover, Large Sand-, 212 

Little Ringed, 120, Plate, 121, 212 

Middle Ringed, 212 

Mongolian Sand-, 212 

Social, 212 

Spur-winged, 118, Plate, 114, 
116, 119, 212 

White-tailed, 212 
Pochard, 215 

Red-crested, 215 
Pratincole, Black-winged, 212 

Collared, 212 

Quail, 104, Plate, 105, 106, 107, 21 1 

Rail, Land, 214 

Water, 214 
Raven, Abyssinian, 91, 211 

Brown-necked, 91, 211 
Redpole, Lesser, 210 
Redshank, 213 

Dusky, 213 
Redstart, 208 

Black, 208 

Palestine, 208 
Robin, 208 
Rook, 211 
Ruff, 212 

Sanderling, 213 
Sandpiper, Common, 213 

Curlew, 213 

Green, 213 

Marsh, 213 

Wood, 213 
Scoter, Velvet, 215 
Serin, 210 
Shearwater, Cinereous, 216 

Manx, 216 
Sheldrake, 214 

Ruddy, 214 
Shoebill, 148, Plate, 149, 150, 

151, 213 
Shoveller, 215 
Shrike, Great Grey, 210 

Lesser Grey, 210 

Masked, 210 



Shrike, Pallid, 210 

Red-backed, 210 

Woodchat, 210 
Siskin, 210 

Snipe, Common, 125, Plate, 127, 
213 

Jack, 126, 213 

Painted, 128, Plate, 213 

Solitary, 213 
Sparrow, Common, 81, Plate, 
210 

Egyptian, 81, 82, 83, 84 

Hedge, 208 

Italian, 210 

Spanish, 210 

Tree, 210 
Spoonbill, 129, 140, Plate, 154, 

157, 213 
Starling, 211 

Purple, 211 
Stilt, Black-winged, 213 
Stint, Little, 213 

Temminck's, 213 
Stork, Black, 142, Plate, 146, 
147, 213 

Whale-headed, 148, Plate, 149, 
150, 151 

White, 142, 145, 146, 213 
Sun-bird, Yellow-breasted, 210 
Swallow, 32, 57, 60, Plate, 63, 64, 
206 

Crag, 206 

Egyptian, 60, 61, 206 

Pale Crag, 64, Plate, 206 

Rufous, 206 
Swan, Hooper, 214 

Mute, 214 
Swift, Alpine, 206 

Common, 32, 57, 68, 69, 206 

Egyptian, 206 

Teal, 178, Plate, 183, 184, 186, 
215 

Garganey, 215 
Tern, 202 

Allied, 215 

Arctic, 215 



INDEX 



221 



Tern, Black, 215 

Caspian, 215 

Common, 215 

Gull-billed, 215 

Lesser, 215 

Sandwich, 215 

Scissor-billed, 215 

Swift, 215 

Whiskered, 215 

White-winged Black, 215 
Thick-knee, 212 
Thrush, Blue-rock, 207 

Missel, 207 

Rock, 207 

Song, 207 
Turtledove, Egyptian, 93, 211 

Isabelline, 211 

Sharpe's, 211 

White-bellied, 211 



Vulture, Black, 204 

Egyptian, 8, 19, 20, Plate, 22, 

23, 204 
Griffon, 3, 14, Plate, 15, 16, 17, 

18, 19, 186, 204 
Sociable, 19, 204 
Southern Bearded, 204 



Wagtail, Blue-headed, 206 

Grey, 206 

White, 66, Plate, 206 

White-winged, 206 

Yellow, 67 
Wall Creeper, 210 
Warbler, Aquatic, 209 

Arabian Sedge, 209 

Black-cap, 209 

Black-headed, 209 



Warbler, Blue-throated, 74, Plate, 
75, 76, 77, 208 

Bonelli's, 209 

Cetti's, 208 

Chiffchaff, 209 

Clamorous Sedge, 209 

Dartford, 209 

Fan-tailed, 209 

Garden, 209 

Graceful, 209 

Great Sedge, 209 

Marsh, 209 

Melodious Willow, 209 

Moustached, 209 

Olivaceous, 209 

Olive-tree, 209 

Orphean, 209 

Reed, 78, Plate, 79, 80, 209 

River, 209 

Rufous, 208 

Ruppell's, 209 

Sardinian, 209 

Savi's, 209 

Sedge, 78, 209 

Spectacled, 209 

Subalpine, 209 

Vieillot's Willow, 209 

Willow, 209 

Wood, 209 
Wheatear, Black-throated, 208 

Common, 208 

Eastern Black-eared, 208 

Egyptian Black-throated, 208 

Mene'tries's, 208 
Whimbrel, 212 
Whitethroat, 209 

Lesser, 209 
Widgeon, 215 

Woodcock, 122, 123, 124, 213 
Wryneck, 205 



THE END 



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