Page images

agree upon standard names to put at the head of their genus ?* And what is more natural than that they should, in a case like this, take the long, well-settled, and established word Coturnix for the name of the genus of the tribe, and then let the different species come in with their tributes of honor and respect? Yet Latham, Audubon, and others, have utterly stricken Coturnix from existence, so far as the country is concerned.

But enough. I forbear. I had not aspired to pull down, or even to amend the system as established, but have merely made a passing comment upon it, in one or two particulars.

The strictures of Mr. H. have compelled me to defend myself from the charge of entire ignorance, want of honesty, and constructive falsehood. Having thus the opportunity before me, I will assure Mr. H. that there is no authority of modern date, however potential, that will induce us sportsmen and farmers of the North to give up the name of “ quail.” When our New England forefathers first arrived in this country, some of them wrote back the most glowing ac. counts of their new home, and among other game enumerated “Quailes," appearing to observe no difference between those they found here and those they had left behind in England. Quails all over the world belong to the same genus. The quail of Cuba, which I have seen on its native island, is a bright various plumage-colored bird, painted as it were, with almost all the colors of the rainbow. But this is only his style of dress in the West Indian seas. The partridge—all

* The confusion and uncertainty produced by the affectation and vanity of ornithologists appear well illustrated even in the Rev. Gilbert White in his History of Selbourne. He speaks of the little American partridge, the Ortix borealis of Naturalists," Pray, what is that? Ortyx is Latin for a plantain.

+ Vide Hazard's State Papers.

animals there are gorgeously apparrelled. Still he is Coturnix. Such is his every day Spanish name.

The same is the case with Perdix. Permit me, then, to stand by the universal coturnix.—Good morning.

C., Jr.



The communications of Messrs. Forester and Cypress Jr., have recalled my attention to the nomenclature of the partridges; and as their views do not appear to me to be correct, and as I have myself committed an error, I think a few farther remarks may not be amiss, premising that I had the use of a good library at hand when I penned the former article, and can make no reference except to my own on this occasion. On account of their being standard modern works, I shall make use of the following, and the synonymes therein cited ; 1. Jardine's Natural History of Game Birds.

Edinburgh : 1834: 2. Jenyn's Manual of British Vertebrate Animals.*

Cambridge and London : 1835. 3. Audubon's Synopsis of the Birds of North America.

Edinburgh : 1839. 4. Nuttall's Ornithology of the United States and Canada.

Boston : 1840.

* Mr. Forester asserts that Bewick is “decidedly the best British ornithologist.” Bewick’s is certainly a good book, but there are better works

Vol I.-12

Linnæus, although a great naturalist, and the father of zoological nomenclature, had a very imperfect conception of what constitutes a genus.

Thus, besides including the brown, black, and white bears in the genus Ursus, he named our raccoon Ursus lotor although it is not a bear. It is now called Procyon lolor a new generic name being given to it, to which the old specific name has been added. The genus Tetrao of Linnæus is restricted to the grouse, and a more recent division separates the ptarmigans under the name Lagopus, generally considered a subgenus of the former. I will take the fox as an illustration of a subgenus. The Linnæan genus Canis includes the foxes, the European species being the Canis vulpes. But the foxes are not considered to differ sufficiently from the dogs to entitle them to a distinct generic appellation; hence they are placed in the subgenus Vulpes, being distinguished by the pointed muzzle, bushy tail, and especially by having a long narrow pupil, which in the dogs, is circular. Now if we call the foxes Vulpes, we cannot call the European species Vulpes vulpes, but must invent a new specific name, hence this animal is termed Vulpes vulgaris but it is a rule that no specific name can be changed unless a change like this occurs. Linnæus named the only North American bird of the partridge family Tetrao Virginianus ; when the genus Perdix was instituted, it became Perdix Virginianus, and now that a more minute-or subgeneric-distinction is thought necessary, it becomes an Ortyx. Those who do not admit the last division continue to call the genus Perdix ; and it would be just as absurd to call a raccoon and a badger Ursus as this bird Tetrao. If it is proper for those ornithologists who do not admit the

devoted exclusively to British birds ; as those of Selby, Yarrel, and Macgillivray, the two last beautifully illustrated with woodcuts.

Sir Wm. Jardine's work on the same subject is not all published.

subgenera Perdix, Ortyx, Coturnix, and Lophortix-Californian partridges with plumed heads,—to name all these Perdix, it is certainly not improper to term the Ortyges partridges, for although the quail of Europe may be considered a kind of partridge, no partridge or Ortyx can be considered a kind of quail. Mr. Forester is right, and I am wrong, with respect to the subgenus of the European partridges, which belong to the subgenus Perdix, or partridge proper ; whence the parttridge, quail, and American bird, belong to three* distinct subgenera, our bird being as far removed as ever from any species of quail, of which there are many.

Mr. Forester objects to the term Ortyx, but it cannot be changed, as being the first proposed for the section to which it is attached ; and it was chosen because it was easier to adopt, than to invent a new

The Turkey genus is called by a Latin name for the


same reason.

“ The English books" to which I referred in part, are those whose titles stand above. Jardine calls our bird “The Virginian quail or partridge,-following Wilson, of whose work he edited an English edition,—whilst Jenyn terms it “ Virginian partridge.” Latham makes three species of it, viz: “the Virginian, Maryland, and Mexican partridge,” the last being the young, according to Nuttall. Shaw calls it “ Northern Colin,” this term meaning “ a bird of the partridge kind.”[Webster.] Were the bird a quail, Shaw would have said so, being well acquainted with the quails. It is also the “ American partridge or quail” of Nuttall.

I inferred that Mr. Cypress Jr. had not read the modern authors on our ornithology, because he says the partridge is called Tetrao, and I think my inference a fair one. How

Originally printed those in the Turf Register. See p. 141.

ever, as the gentleman takes issue on this point, I explain the matter by supposing that he means grouse-Tetrao—when he writes “partridge.” Audubon, in his Synopsis, calls the ruffed grouse “Partridge Pheasant," although he refers to it as being described under the name of ruffed grouse in his fifth volume, the name given it by Wilson, Nuttall, Richardson, Swainson, and Jardine. I could not “ dream” that a writer could have consulted any of these authorities, and afterwards term a grouse “partridge.”

Mr. C. has fully succeeded in placing his errors in definition upon certain lexicographers, but these gentry know as little as any of us to what particular animals, plants, or minerals, the ancients attached certain names. You might puzzle a bishop, by showing him a mineral, and requesting to know whether it is the

of the Bible. Cuvier has done more, perhaps, than any lexicographer, to clear up the confusion existing in the definition of these names. He first informed us, for instance to what bird now known the name Ibis was applied. Birds must be known before they can be named, and lexicographers are not famous for their acquaintance with this subject. Natural history Latin may be bad enough, but depend upon it, Mr. Cypress, “ Law Latin" is equally defective.

The “ errors of Wilson" are those of nomenclature, and they were unavoidable, as I have already remarked. I made no allusion to his vulgar names, having referred to his systematic nomenclature alone, wherein he occasionally adds a new name to a species which had been named previously. It was not Audubon, but Bonaparte, who rectified these errors; and we are indebted to him moreover, for a continuation of Wilson in four volumes, containing the most elaborately finished plates of birds ever engraved. Mr. C. must

« PreviousContinue »