The cuckoo seems to be but another form of the hawk,[167] which 울산오피 at a certain season of the year changes its shape; it being the fact that during this period no other hawks are to be seen, except, perhaps, for a few days; the cuckoo itself is only seen for a short period in the summer, and does not make its appearance after. It is the only one among the hawks that has not hooked talons; neither is it like the rest of them in the head, or in any other respect, except the color, while in the beak it bears a stronger resemblance to the pigeon. In addition to this, it is devoured by the hawk, if they chance at any time to meet; this being the only one among the whole race of birds that is preyed upon by those of its own kind. It changes its voice also with its appearance, comes out in the spring, and goes into retirement at the rising of the Dog-star. It always lays its eggs in the nest of another bird,—mostly a single egg, a thing that is the case with no other bird; sometimes however, but very rarely, it is known to lay two. It is supposed, that the reason for its thus substituting its young ones, is the fact that it is aware how greatly it is hated by all the other birds;[168] for even the very smallest of them will attack it. So, thinking that its own race will stand no chance of being perpetuated unless it contrives to deceive them, it builds no nest of its own: and, besides, it is a very timid animal. In the mean time, the female bird, sitting on her nest, is rearing a supposititous and spurious progeny; while the young cuckoo, which is naturally craving and greedy, snatches away all the food from the other young ones, and by so doing grows plump and sleek, and quite gains the affections of his foster-mother; who takes a great pleasure in his fine appearance, and is quite surprised that she has become the mother of so handsome an offspring. In comparison with him, she discards her own young as so many strangers, until at last, when the young cuckoo is now able to take the wing, he finishes by devouring her.[169] For sweetness of the flesh, there is not a bird in existence to be compared to the cuckoo at this season.

The kite, which belongs to the same genus, is distinguished from the rest of the hawks by its larger size. It has been remarked of this bird, extremely ravenous as it is, and always craving, that it has never been known to seize any food either 191 from among funeral oblations or from the altar of Jupiter at Olympia; nor does it ever seize any of the consecrated viands from the hands of those who are carrying them; except where some misfortune is presaged for the town that is offering the sacrifice. These birds seem to have taught man the art of steering, from the motion of the tail, Nature pointing out by their movements in the air the method required for navigating the deep. Kites also disappear during the winter months, but do not take their departure before the swallow.

The crow, among other kinds of food, feeds upon nuts. If these prove too hard for his beak to break, the crow flies to a great height, and then lets them fall again and again upon the stones and tiles beneath, until at last the shell is cracked, and the bird is able to open them. The crow is a bird of a very ill-omened garrulity, though it has been highly praised by some. It is observed, that from the rising of the constellation Arcturus until the arrival of the swallow, it is rarely to be seen about the sacred groves and temples of Minerva, and in Athens not at all. It is the only bird that continues to feed its young for some time after they have begun to fly. The crow is most inauspicious at the time of incubation, or, in other words, just after the summer solstice.

All the other birds of the same kind—like the raven, for example—drive their young ones from their nest, and compel them to fly. In small hamlets there are never more than two pairs to be found; and in the neighborhood of Crannon, in Thessaly, never more than one, the parents always quitting the spot to give place to their offspring. Ravens are the 192 only birds that seem to have any comprehension of the meaning of their auspices; for when the guests of Medus were assassinated, they all took their departure from Peloponnesus and the region of Attica. They are of the very worst omen when they swallow their voice, as if they were being choked.

The birds of the night—the owlet, the horned owl, and the screech-owl—have crooked talons, and the sight of all is defective in the day-time. The horned owl is especially funereal, and is greatly abhorred in all auspices of a public nature; it inhabits desolate spots of a frightful and inaccessible nature: the monster of the night, its voice is heard, not with any tuneful note, but emitting a sort of shriek. It is therefore looked upon as a direful omen to see it in a city. I know, however, for a fact, that it is not portentous of evil when it settles on the top of a private house. It cannot fly whither it wishes in a straight line, but is always carried forward by a sidelong movement. A horned owl entered the very sanctuary of the Capitol, in the consulship of Palpelius and Pedanius; in consequence of which, Rome was purified on the nones of March in that year.

An inauspicious bird also is that known as the “incendiary,” on account of which we find in the Annals, the City has had to be repeatedly purified; as, for instance, in the consulship of Cassius and Marius, in which year also it was purified, in consequence of a horned owl being seen. What kind of bird this incendiary[170] was, we do not find stated, nor is it known by tradition. Some persons explain the term this way; they say that the name “incendiary” was applied to every bird that was seen carrying a burning coal from the pyre, or altar.

The owlet shows considerable shrewdness in its engagements with other birds; for when surrounded by too great a 193 number, it throws itself on its back, resists with its feet, and rolling up its body into a mass, defends itself with the beak and talons, until the hawk, attracted by a certain natural affinity, comes to its assistance, and takes its share in the combat. Nigidius says that the owlet has nine different notes.

There are some small birds which have hooked talons; the woodpecker, for example, surnamed “of Mars,” of considerable importance in the auspices. To this kind belong the birds which make holes in trees, and climb stealthily 울산오피 up them, like cats; mounting with the head upwards, they tap against the bark, and learn by the sound whether or not their food lies beneath; they are the only birds that hatch their young in the hollows of trees. It is a common belief, that if a shepherd drives a wedge into their holes, they apply a certain kind of herb and it immediately falls out. Trebius informs us that if a nail or wedge is driven with ever so much force into a tree in which these birds have made their nest, it will instantly fly out, the tree making a loud cracking noise the moment that the bird has lighted upon the nail or wedge.

These birds have held the first rank in auguries, in Latium, since the time of the king who has given them their name.[171] One of the presages that was given by them, I cannot pass over in silence. A woodpecker came and lighted upon the head of Ælius Tubero, the City prætor, when sitting on his tribunal dispensing justice in the Forum, and showed such tameness as to allow itself to be taken with the hand; upon which the augurs declared that if it was let go, the state was 194 menaced with danger, but if killed, disaster would befall the prætor; in an instant he tore the bird to pieces, and before long the omen was fulfilled.[172]

Many birds of this kind feed also on acorns and fruit, but only those which are not carnivorous, with the exception of the kite; though when it feeds on anything but flesh, it is a bird of ill omen.

The birds which have hooked talons are never gregarious; each one seeks its prey by itself. They nearly all of them soar to a great height, with the exception of the birds of the night, and more especially those of larger size. They all have large wings, and a small body; they walk with difficulty, and rarely settle upon stones, being prevented from doing so by the curved shape of their talons.

We shall now speak of the second class of birds employed in augury, which is divided into two kinds; those which give omens by their note, and those which afford presages by their flight. The variation of the note in the one, and the relative size in the other, constitute the differences between them. The peacock shall have precedence of all the rest, as much for its singular beauty as its superior instinct, and the vanity it displays.

When it hears itself praised, this bird spreads out its gorgeous colors, especially if the sun happens to be shining at the time, because then they are seen in all their radiance, and to better advantage. At the same time, spreading out its tail in the form of a shell, it throws the reflection upon the 195 other feathers, which shine all the more brilliantly when a shadow is cast upon them; then at another moment it will contract all the eyes depicted upon its feathers in a single mass, manifesting great delight in having them admired by the spectator. The peacock loses its tail every year at the fall of the leaf, and a new one shoots forth in its place at the flower season; between these periods the bird is abashed and moping, and seeks retired spots. The peacock lives twenty-five years, and begins to show its colors in the third. By some authors it is stated that this bird is not only a vain creature, but of a spiteful disposition, just as they attribute bashfulness to the goose. The characteristics, however, which they have thus ascribed to these birds, appear to me to be utterly unfounded.

The orator Hortensius was the first Roman who had peacocks killed for the table; it was on the occasion of the banquet given by him on his inauguration in the college of the priesthood. Marcus Aufidius Lurco was the first who taught the art of fattening them, about the time of the last war with the Pirates. From this source of profit he acquired an income of sixty thousand sesterces.

Next after the peacock, the animal that acts as our watchman by night, and which Nature has produced for the purpose of arousing mortals to their labors, and dispelling their slumbers, shows itself most actuated by feelings of vanity. The cock knows how to distinguish the stars, and marks the different periods of the day, every three hours, by his note. These animals go to roost with the setting of the sun, and at the fourth watch of the camp recall man to his cares and toils. They do not allow the rising of the sun to creep upon us unawares, but by their note proclaim the coming day, and they prelude their crowing by clapping their sides with their wings. They exercise a rigorous sway over the other birds of their kind, and, in every place where they are kept, hold the supreme command. This, however, is only obtained 196 after repeated battles among themselves, as they are well aware that they have weapons on their legs, produced for that very purpose, and the contest often ends in the death of both the combatants at the same moment. If, on the other hand, one 울산오피 of them obtains the mastery, he instantly by his note proclaims himself the conqueror, and testifies by his crowing that he has been victorious; while his conquered opponent silently slinks away, and, though with a very bad grace, submits to servitude. And with equal pride does the throng of the poultry yard strut along, with head uplifted and crest erect. These, too, are the only ones among the winged race that repeatedly look up to the heavens, with the tail raised aloft, which in its drooping shape resembles that of a sickle, and these birds inspire terror even in the lion, the most courageous of all animals.

Some of these birds, known as game-cocks, are reared for nothing but warfare and perpetual combats, and have even shed a lustre thereby on their native places, Rhodes and Tanagra. The next rank is considered to belong to those of Melos and Chalcis. Hence, it is with very good reason that the consular purple of Rome pays these birds such singular honors. From the feeding of these creatures the omens by fowls are derived; they regulate day by day the movements of our magistrates, and open or shut to them their own houses, as the case may be; they give an impulse to the fasces of the Roman magistracy, or withhold them; they command battles or forbid them, and furnish auspices for victories to be gained in every part of the world. It is these that hold supreme rule over those who are themselves the rulers of the earth, and whose entrails and fibres are as pleasing to the gods as the first spoils of victory. Their note, when heard at an unusual hour or in the evening, has also its peculiar presages; for, on one occasion, by crowing the whole night through for several nights, they presaged to the Bœotians that famous victory which they gained over the Lacedæmonians; 197 such, in fact, being the interpretation that was put upon it by way of prognostic, as this bird, when conquered, is never known to crow.