Page images
PDF
EPUB

not infer that I undervalue the labors of Wilson, because I make a casual allusion to his errors. As an observer, as an ornithologist, he stands much above his successors, and we owe him our gratitude for his labors in clearing the subject of the rubbish with which it was encumbered. Wilson is the last man at whom I would presume to "fling a pirate shot," and I recently read with the greatest pleasure, the refutation of a charge of plagiarism preferred against him by Mons. Audubon. I may add that I felt this stroke of Mr. C. much more than any

other in the same article. Cypress Jr. alludes to the Maryland partridge of Latham, and wishes to know whether the bird might not be called Perdix Noveboracensis if found in New York ? By no means. Latham thought he was describing different species, it being a rather common occurrence for an ornithologist to mistake a female, or young, or birds in different plumage, for distinct species. In such cases the earliest name must stand, and the later and incorrect ones are cancelled the moment it is discovered that the supposed new species has—or have-no existence.

“ Latham, Audubon, and others, have wholly stricken Coturnix from existence, so far as this country is concerned,” because not a single species is found here, as I have endeavored to show. Jardine-who elevates Ortyx and Cortunix to the rank of

genera-says“ The genus Ortyx was formed by Stevens, the continuator of Shaw's General Zoology, for the reception of the thick and strong-billed partridges of the new world.” The Quails, forming the genus Coturnix of moderns, are at first sight so similar to the partridges, that they are not to be distinguished without a knowledge of their habits, and examination of their forms. In the bill and legs there are slight modifications, but the form of the wing is quite different, the first three quills being longest [and the third and fourth in Ortyx: Nutt.) and a rounded wing of less power is the consequence. It may be recollected that, though the partridges were said to migrate in some countries, the migration is comparatively very partial, and often only from one part of a continent to another; on the other hand,

almost all the quails migrate to a certain distance, and hence perform lengthened journeys, often across the seas. In their habits they also show considerable difference, as they never perch.”

Our bird does perch, however; ergo, it is not a quail. Taking English names as the standard, we certainly make ourselves ridiculous in applying them to our birds.

Thus we call vultures, buzzard and crow; a thrush, robin-the English blackbird is a thrush ;-a buzzard, hawk; and more locally, a grouse, partridge ; an ortyx, quail; and a perch, salmon!

Should a State Legislature make it penal to kill, " phea. sants, partridges, and quails,” I would not hesitate to incur a suit, as I could prove that these families are not in America. For my own part I like this confusion, and should like to see it ten times greater, as it would tend to throw the vulgar names into disrepute. I go so far as to erase the English names from the plates of my works of natural history. I believe I have stated all the facts of the case, and leave it with the reader to decide with what propriety he has hitherto applied certain English names to the Ortex VIRGINIANA and TETRAO UM

H.

BELLUS.

PARTRIDGE AND QUAIL

PERDIX-COTURNIX-ORTYX

To the Editor of the “ American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine"

DEAR EDITOR :—Having read with some interest a communication headed “ All in the wrong," from your correspondent H., of Marietta, I presume,-such at least was the date of his article, published in your December number—but not perceiving that he has shown that I am either all, or at all, in the wrong,

I wish to have one last word in the question. You will of course remember that this controversy arose from the fact of H. having put forth an article, entitled “ Corrigenda," in your December number, containing strictures on a very beautifully written, sportive, and humorous paper in your number for October—" Some Observations Concerning Quail”—by J. Cypress, Jr. This paper was evidently written as a jeu d'esprit, laying no pretension to ornithological research, or superior wisdom-but was clearly the production of the leisure moments of a sportsman, scholar, and gentleman -wherein, inter alia, he laughed at ornithologists for calling bevies of quail, flocks of partridge."

On this paper-my object is briefly to place before your readers the disjecta membra of the whole discussion-on this paper H. discourses thus ;

The writer proves himself entirely ignorant of ornithology, by his blunders in nomenclature. Thus he is writing about the Perdix Virginiana –Virginian Partridge,—and not about the Perdix Coturnix-European quail. The first is a true partridge belonging to the same genus with the European partridge, viz., ortyx ; whilst the quail belongs to the subgenus coturnix. In Pennsylvania and Southward, and in English books, our bird is called—and correctly-partridge.”

In reply to this, I-Frank Forester-observed in your January number, as follows, immediately after quoting the above extract;

“Now the gist of all this amounts to a single assertion that the American bird belongs to a different genus from the English Quail, and is a partridge. Now this I am satisfied is an error.

I proceed to state that “ as I can testify from my own observation, the American bird is, in size, general appearance, character of plumage, and cry, much more nearly connected with the English quail than with any partridge existing.”

Thirdly I said—"and I am satisfied that facts will bear out my opinion—that the Perdix Virginiana is not a true partridge -and is not correctly termed a partridge in Pennsylvania, any more than the ruffed grouse-Tetrao umbellusis correctly termed a pheasant in the same regions."

Lastly I said “that the term ortyx is an absurd term to use in opposition to coturnix, as distinguishing partridge from quail—because ortyx—•prut—is the Greek, and Coturnix the Latin, name for the European quail."

Now though in his article in your February number H. says that their-i. e. mine and Cypress's—views do not appear to him correct, I wish to point out to you that so far from confuting one of my positions, he has confirmed them all; and entirely changed his own ground.

In his first December paper he asserts—" that the American bird, Perdix virginiana, is a true partridge, belonging to the same subgenus with the European partridge, viz., ortyx.

To this I responded not that the American bird is a quailBut “ that it is not a true partridge—nor of the same subgenus with the European partridge-and farther that the word ortyx would be an absurd term as distinctive between partridge and quail.”

Now hear H. in his present paper-February No. p. 111 -“ Mr. Forester is right and I am wrong with regard to the subgenus of the European partridges, which belong to the subgenus perdix, or partridge proper !!"

Again he says-"Linnæus named the only North American bird of the family Tetrao ; 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 !"

Ergo! by his own showing, the American bird is not, as he asserted, and I denied, of the same subgenus with the European partridge ; nor a perdix—which he defines Partridge proper! and I defined true partridge !-at all.

So far, then, H. has left his position, and come over to mine!

In the next place I asserted that ortyx-jput in Greekwas an absurd word to use as a distinctive term between the quail and partridge. H. having asserted that the European partridge and American quail-so called commonly—are ortyges ; and the European quail a coturnix !

And the reason which I gave was, that the words óprut and coturnix are the same tern, meaning the same thing in two languages.

H. now admits that the new word ortyx is a term invented not to distinguish the quail from the partridge, but to distinguish the European Quail from a nameless American bird, which is neither quail nor partridge! In this sense Frank Forester never objected to the term ; and every part of his first position is carried out—excepting the remark that the American bird is more nearly connected with the European quail than with any partridge existing; and on this point I will say a few words anon.

H., then, has come over to my statements. First—that the American bird is not of the same subgenus with the European partridge, nor is a proper partridge at all!

Secondly, that the European partridge is not an ortyx ; and

Thirdly, that the term ortyx has not been applied as a distinction between quail and partridge ; but between quail and a bird hitherto nameless, and indeed seemingly so still in the vernacular.

Hear what he says !—“Whence the partridge, quail, and American bird belong to three"-misprinted those distinct

« PreviousContinue »