The Bittern, pp.185-186.

[Three Hundred Animals Contents]

   IS as big as the common Heron; his head is small, narrow, and compressed at the sides. The crown is black, the throat and sides of the neck are red with narrow black lines, the back of a pale red mixed with yellow. The hinder claw of this bird has been frequently set in silver or other metal for a tooth pick, some people falsely imagining that it had the singular property of preserving the teeth. The most remarkable character in this bird is the hollow and yet loud rumbling of his voice; his bellowing is heard at the distance of a mile at sun set, and it is hardly possible to conceive at first how such a body of sound, resembling the lowing of an ox, can be produced by a bird comparatively so small; however naturalists seem to have been satisfied, by the inspection of his dissected throat, that it is capable of emitting such a noise, and thereby have set at rest all the wonderful stories propagated upon this bird. Sometimes in the evening he soars on a sudden in a straight, or, at other times, in a spiral line, so high in the air that he ceases to be perceptible to the eye. The flesh of this bird, who lives entirely upon fish, frogs, insects and vegetables, is considered delicious. The bill is four inches long, to enable him to seize upon his prey. As to the booming sound which this bird is in the habit of making in the evening and at night, the following lines seem to explain it satisfactorily: 

“- at dusk the Bittern loud 

Bellows and blows her ev’ning horn; half stunn’d 

The verdant frog, the frisky lizard, quit 

The troubled pool, whilst high, from yonder cloud, 

The soaring bird, with watchful eye, intent, 

Singles his prey, and makes his better chace 

From their imprudent fear.” 


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