(17) Arabia - Birds. Arabian Birds.
Birds in Arabia
The ornithology of Arabia is copious, but has been little studied. Birds of prey, grey eagles, vultures, bustards, and sparrow-harks, abound in the open lands; while partridges, especially of the mottled kind called "kata," are to be seen crossing the desert in quest of water by flocks; quails frequent the mountain district in immense numbers, so also do rock-pigeons, wood-pigeons, and a species of wild guinea fowl; wild ducks are met with in plenty along the coast. Cranes, larks, sparrows, finches, and the like, frequent the cultivated lands; so also does the hoopoe, a bird held in high honour by the Arabs on account of its traditional services as messenger between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba or Belkeys. A large mottled thrush, also considered to be of good omen, is seen everywhere. Flocks of swallows, the flight of which is invariably from the east, pay annual visits to Arabia, where they are very useful in diminishing the swarms of locusts, their favourite food; one species of this bird appears, however, to be indigenous to Yemen. Peacocks and parrots are also found in the southern provinces, and in Nejd, Hasa, and Oman; hawks are kept by many, and are carefully instructed for the purpose of falconry.
Ostriches in Arabia
But the most remarkable bird of Arabia, and the only one which forms a regular object of chase among the natives, is the ostrich. Its extreme timidity, joined to the swiftness of its pace-for although it does not fly, it assists its running by the movement of its extended wings-renders it in vain for the hunter to attempt overtaking it on horse-back; he therefore seeks to approach it generally when on its nest by artifice, and kills it by a long shot; sometimes he snares it by a running noose. The feathers, the best of which belong to the male bird, are sold at Damascus or Baghdad; the eggs are eaten, and the shells are used for ornament. The finest ostriches are those of the nieghbourhood of Shomer and the uplands of Toweyk; they are often to be seen, but at a safe distance, scudding across the sands in a file of twenty or thirty at a time.
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Arabia - Table of Contents