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It is for this that the halcyon1 is more especially remarkable; the seas, and all those who sail upon their surface, well know the days of its incubation. This bird is a little larger than a sparrow, and the greater part of its body is of an azure blue colour, with only an intermixture of white and purple in some of the larger feathers, while the neck2 is long and slender. There is one kind that is remarkable for its larger size and its note; the smaller ones are heard singing in the reed-beds. It is a thing of very rare occurrence to see a halcyon, and then it is only about the time of the setting of the Vergiliæ, and the summer and winter solstices; when one is sometimes to be seen to hover about a ship, and then immediately disappear. They hatch their young at the time of the winter solstice, from which circumstance those days are known as the " halcyon days:" during this period the sea is calm and navigable, the Sicilian sea in particular. They make their nest during the seven days before the winter solstice, and sit the same number of days after. Their nests3 are truly wonderful; they are of the shape of a ball slightly elongated, have a very narrow mouth, and bear a strong resemblance to a large sponge. It is impossible to cut them asunder with iron, and they are only to be broken with a strong blow, upon which they separate, just like foam of the sea when dried up. It has never yet been discovered of what material they are made; some persons think that they are formed of sharp fish-Bones, as it is on fish that these birds live. They enter rivers also; their eggs are five in number.

1 The king-fisher, or Alcedo ispida of Linnæus. There is no truth whatever in this favourite story of the ancients.

2 In copying from Aristotle, he has put "collum,"by mistake, for "rostrum," the "beak."

3 This bird in reality builds no nest, but lays its eggs in holes on the water side. The objects taken for its nest are a zoophyte called halcyonium by Linnæus, as Cuvier informs us, and similar in shape to a nest.

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