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CHAP. 30. (23.)—CRANES.

By the departure of the cranes, which, as we have already stated,1 were in the habit of waging war with them, the nation of the Pygmies now enjoys a respite. The tracts over which they travel must be immense, if we only consider that they come all the way from the Eastern Sea.2 These birds agree by common consent at what moment they shall set out, fly aloft to look out afar, select a leader for them to follow, and have sentinels duly posted in the rear, which relieve each other by turns, utter loud cries, and with their voice keep the whole flight in proper array. During the night, also, they place sentinels on guard, each of which holds a little stone in its claw: if the bird should happen to fall asleep, the claw becomes relaxed, and the stone falls to the ground, and so convicts it of neglect. The rest sleep in the meanwhile, with the head beneath the wing, standing first on one leg and then on the other: the leader looks out, with neck erect, and gives warning when required. These birds, when tamed, are very frolicsome, and even when alone will describe a sort of circle, as they move along, with their clumsy gait.

It is a well-known fact, that these birds, when about to fly over the Euxine, first of all repair to the narrowest part of it, that lies between the two3 Promontories of Criumetopon and Carambis, and then ballast themselves with coarse sand. When they have arrived midway in the passage, they throw away the stones from out of their claws, and, as soon as they reach the mainland, discharge the sand by the throat.

Cornelius Nepos, who died in the reign of the late Emperor Augustus, after stating that thrushes had been fattened for the first time shortly before that period, has added that storks were more esteemed as food than cranes: whereas at the present day, this last bird is one of those that are held in the very highest esteem, while no one will so much as touch the other.

1 B. iv. c. 18, and B. vii. c. 2.

2 In B. vii. c. 2, Pliny speaks of the Pygmies as living to the far East of India.

3 See B. iv. cc. 20 and 26; and B. vi. c. 2.

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