[Three Hundred Animals Contents]
HAD Nature united in the same creature the shape of man, as we perceive it in the largest monkies and apes; the intelligence of the elephant, who is so soon acquainted with the language of his keeper; and the faculty of speech, which she bestowed on the Parrot, we would have been at a loss to decide, whether this curious animal were not one of a family with the human species; but her wisdom directed the operations of classing the animals in a different way, and she separated her gifts, allowing the human speech to a bird, the intelligence to a being which, in shape, does not in the least resemble man, and in refusing both to the brute who, in outward appearance, approaches the most to the human form. The tongue of the Parrot is not unlike a black soft bean, and fills so completely the capacity of his beak, that the bird can easily modulate sounds, and articulate words; the beak is composed of two pieces, both moveable, which is a peculiarity belonging exclusively, it appears, to this class of creatures. The colour of the Parrot varies with the species; and nature seems to have indulged her fanciful mixture of green, red, yellow, and blue, upon these birds. The bill of the Parrot is strongly hooked, and assists him in climbing, catching hold of the boughs of the trees with it, and then drawing his legs upwards; then again advancing his beak, and afterwards his feet; for his legs are not adapted for hopping from bough to bough, as other birds use to do. Several stories are told of the sagacity of this bird, and of the aptitude of his interrogatories and answers, but most of them are the effect of chance. Parrots are very numerous in the East and West Indies, where they assemble in companies, like rooks, and build in the hollows of trees. The female lays two or three eggs, marked with little specks, like those of the partridge. They never breed in our climates, and yet live here to a great age. They feed entirely upon vegetables, yet when tame, they take out of the mouth of their master or mistress, any kind of chewed meat, and chiefly eggs, of which they seem particularly fond. They do not only articulate words, but also sing verses of songs, and their memory is astonishing. They bite or pinch very hard, and some of them possess so much strength in their beak, that they could easily cut a man’s finger in two, through the bone. The Parrot is sensible of attachment, as well as of revenge; and if they show, in their mimic attitudes, great pleasure at the sight of their feeders, they also fly up with anger, to the face of those who once have affronted or injured them.