bird species black eggs birds
IBIS, one of the most sacred birds of the ancient Egyptians, which in modern times was identified by Prime (Travels, v. p. 173, pl.) with the A bon-Hannes or " Father John" of the Abyssinians, and in 1790 received from Latham (Index Ornithologicus, p. 706) the name of Tantalus cetkiopicus. This determination was placed beyond all question by envier (Ann. du Museum, iv. pp. 116-135) and Savigny (Hist. Aral. et Mythol. de l'Ibis) in 1805. They, however, shelved tho removal of the bird from the Linmean genus Tantalus to be necessary, and, Lacapede having some years before founded a genus _Ibis, it was transferred thither, and is now generally known as alltiopica, though some speak of it as I. religiosa. No useful purpose would be served by dwelling on the vain attempts of older writers to discover what the much venerated bird was, or on the other synonyms applied to it by later ornithologists, some of whom (and among them the most recent) have shewn little acquaintance with the literature of the subject. Nor can the Ibis be here treated from a mythological or antiquarian point of view. Savigny's memoir above noticed contains a great deal of very interesting matter on the subject. Wilkinson (Ancient Egyptians, ser. 2, ii. pp. 217-224) lies thereto added some of the results of modern research, and latest of all Mr lienouf in his Ilibbert Lectures concisely explains the origin of the myth.
The Ibis is chiefly an inhabitant of the Nile basin in Nubia, from Dongola southward, as well as of Kordofan and Sennaar ; whence (according to Savigny, whose opportunities for observation seem to have been greater than those enjoyed by any European since his time) about midsummer, as the river rises, it moves northwards to Egypt, and reaches the delta,1 passing over the intermediate districts, in a way not unknown elsewhere among migratory birds. In Lower Egypt it bears the name of A bon-menyel, or " Father of the Sickle," from the form of its bill, but it does not stay long in that country, disappearing by all accounts when the inundation has subsided. Hence doubtless arises the fact that almost all European travellers have failed to meet with it there,2 since their acquaintance with the birds of Egypt is mostly limited to those Which frequent the country in winter, and consequently writers have not been wanting to deny to this species a place in its modern fauna (cf. Shelley, Birds of Egypt, p. 261) ; but, in December 1864, Von Heuglin (Journ. fur Ornithologie, 1865, p. 100) saw a young bird which had been shot at Gata in the delta, and subsequently Mr E. C. Taylor (ibis, 1878, p. 372) saw an adult which had been killed near Lake Menzaleh in November 1877. The old story told to Herodotus of its destroying snakes is, according to Savigny, devoid of truth,' and that naturalist found, from dissection of the examples he obtained, that its usual food was freshwater univalve mollusks ; but Cuvier asserts that he discovered partly digested remains of a snake in the stomach of a mum mied Ibis which lie examined, and there can be little doubt that insects and crustaceans, to say nothing of other living creatures, enter on occasion into the bird's diet.
The Ibis is somewhat larger than a Curlew, Numenins arrinata, which bird it in appearance calls to mind, with a much stouter bill and stouter legs. The head and greater part of the neck are bare and black. The plumage is white, except the primaries which are black, and a black plume, formed by the secondaries, tertials, and lower scapulars, and richly glossed with bronze, blue, and green, which curves gracefully over the bind-quarters. The bill and feet are also black. The young lack the ornamental plume, and in them the head and neck are clothed with short black feathers, while the bill is yellow. The nest is placed in bushes or high trees, the bird generally building in companies, and in the middle of August Von Heuglin (Orm. Xord Ost Afrika's, p. 1138) found that it had from two to four young or much incubated eggs.' These are of a dingy white, splashed, spotted, and speckled with reddish-brown.
Congeneric with the typical ibis are two or three other species, the S. melanocephala of India, the S. molncca, or strictipelds, of Australia, and the S. Bernier i of Madagascar, all of which closely resemble S. alidopica; while many other forms not very far removed from it, though placed by authors in distinct genera,' are also known. Among these are several beautiful species such as the Japanese Gerontiens nippon, the Lophotibis eristata of Madagascar, and the Scarlet Ibis,4 Eadocimus ruber, of America; but here there is only room to mention more particularly the Glossy Ibis, Plegadis .fideinellns, a species of very wide distribution in both hemispheres, being found throughout the West Indies, Central and the south-eastern part of North America, as well as in many parts of Europe (whence it not 'infrequently strays to the British islands), Africa, Asia, and Australia. This bird, which is no doubt the second kind of Ibis spoken of by Herodotus, is rather smaller than the Sacred Ibis, and mostly of a dark chestnut colour with brilliant green and purple reflexions on the upper parts, exhibiting, however, when young little of this glossiness. One of the most remarkable things about this species is that it lays eggs of a deep sea-green colour, having wholly the character of Heron's eggs, and it is to be noticed that it often breeds in company with Herons, while the eggs of all other Ibises whose eggs are known resemble those of the Sacred Ibis. Congeneric with the Glossy Ibis, some three or four other species, all from South America, have been described ; but the propriety of deeming them distinct is questioned by some authorities.
Much as the ibises resemble the Curlews externally, there is no real affinity between them. The Ibididw are more nearly related to the Storks, eiconiidte, and still more to the Spoonbills, Plataleidw, with which latter many systematists consider them to form one group, the llemiglottides of Nitzsch. They belong to the Pelargontorplue of Professor Huxley, one of the divisions of his Desmognatha,, while the Curlews arc Schizognathous. The true Ibises above spoken of are also to be clearly separated from the Wood-Ibises, Tatdatidce, of which there are four or five species, by several not unimportant structural characters, which cannot here be particularized for want of space. Fossil remains of a true Ibis, I. pagama, have been found in considerable numbers in the middle Tertiary beds of France.' (A. N.)