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excellently adapted for carving fish. A
bream or a roach has no sooner been disgorged
from the elastic neck of a heron upon the floor
of a nest, then the beak acting as a pickaxe and
pincers, and the young receiving their portions,
the fish is cleaned to the bone in an incredibly
short time.

The heron, which hunts the small fish, reptiles,
and mammals found in shallow water, risks little
in the pursuit of its prey. But a vignette in
Yarrell's British Birds represents an instance in
which an eel killed a heron. One evening a
heron was seen going to a piece of water to
feed; the spot being visited next morning, the
heron and an eel were both found dead. The
heron had sent his beak through the head of
the eel, piercing both eyes; the eel had coiled
himself so tightly round the neck of the heron
as to stop his breath. Macgillivray records a
similar occurrence in Dalkeith Park.

Mr. Knox describes from personal observation,
how the heron, spider-like in his patience in
watching for his prey, and cat-like in his activity
in securing it, catches the water-rat when crossing
a brook. The little animal, unconscious of
danger, with its snout above the surface and its
tail extended behind it, swims steadily across to
the spot where the motionless bird is waiting
for its arrival. Not a muscle of the heron,
whose snake-like neck is still coiled up, betrays
the slightest consciousness of the approach of
the victim. But a breeze ruffles the plumage
of the heron, and the water-rat disappears.
"Now then the danger is over, and you feel
sure that it has eluded the vigilance of the
feathered tiger, and reached its hole in safety;
but a sudden splash makes you start, and you
are convinced of your mistake when you see the
little quadruped writhing in the mandibles of
the bird as he flies away, to gorge it at his

The size and elasticity of the gullet (oesophagus)
of the heron has long excited the astonishment
of physiologists. Eight years ago, a
preparation of an oesophagus and stomach of the
common heron (Ardea cinera) was exhibited to
the Zoological Society, distended with air for
the purpose of showing the large size of the
gullet. It measured two inches across. The
stomach contained the skin, tail, and bones of a
large rat: and the gastric juice had removed
the flesh from the bones. This bird was a large
one, more than three feet long, and measuring
six feet from the tip of each wing. Soles and
plaice, several inches broad, have been taken
from the stomach of a heron.

Dr. Neill of Edinburgh kept a heron alive in
his garden near Cannon Mills, having partially
clipped his wings. This heron would feed on
water-hens, and swim through a pond to reach
them. "A large old willow had fallen down
into the pond, and at the extremity, which is
partly sunk in the sludge and continues to
vegetate, water-hens breed. The old cock heron
swims out to the nest and takes the young if
he can. He has to swim ten or twelve feet,
where the water is between two and three feet
deep. His motion through the water is slow,
but his carriage stately."

This is not the only departure which the
heron makes from his ordinary habits for the
sake of food. A Scottish observer describes
three or four of them as standing weird-like in
a ploughed field, where they were on the look-
out for such game as it might yield them. Love
makes them social, hunger makes them solitary.
During the reproductive period they combine to
defend their nests from the rooks; when food
becomes scarce, they disperse, every one shifting
for himself.

Mr. Macgillivray paints a picture of the
solitary heron, as seen in the depth of winter in
a desert bay or loch, on the most northern coast
of Scotland. Done into English, his account
is as follows:—There has been a thaw. The
pastures have been drenched by the rains, the
brown torrents seam the heathy slopes, and the
hill-sides are still patched with snow. The
blasts are ruffling the surface of the loch, which
scarcely reflects the rocks of rusty gneiss frowning
down on it, or the tufts of withered herbage
in their crevices, or the stunted birches and
alders on their tops. Over the long muddy
beach are scattered blocks of stone covered
with dusky weeds. Here and there, gulls are
flying buoyantly about; dunlins, sea-sandpipers
(tringas), and turnstones, are on the alert;
on a gravel bank, oyster-catchers are seen
reposing, their bills buried in their plumage; and
there on a low shelf a solitary heron is perched
as if turned to stone.


THE 9.30 P.M. train had left me on the
platform of the Carlisle station; I was on my
way to Glasgow, and had resolved to break the
journey by sleeping at the Railway Hotel,
because it had a convenient entrance from the

As I was seeing my luggage put on a truck,
a middle-aged portly man of gentleman-like
manner, and with a fine full voice, came up
to where I stood, and commenced an elaborate
search among the pile of baggage for a trunk lie
had losta black trunk with white diamonds
on it. He expressed himself vexed and
distressed at having lost it, and seemed quite
unable to determine what course to pursue. I
sympathised with him, and went with him to
the telegraph-office, where he telegraphed to
Dover for the lost luggage.

"What hotel do you go to?" said the stranger,
in a deep rich comfortable voice.

I replied, "To the Railway Hotel, as I leave
by the 6.15 train in the morning for Glasgow."

"That is my train, and my destination," said
the stranger; "so I will go to the same hotel."

He was a stout man, standing above five feet
seven, neatly dressed in a dark frock-coat,
lemon-coloured Marsala waistcoat, and black
neckcloth. He wore the sharp-standing collars
of the last fashion but one, and carried an