CHAP. 61. (44.)—THE BIRDS OF DIOMEDES.
Nor yet must I pass by the birds1
of Diomedes in silence.
Juba calls these birds "cataractæ," and says that they have
teeth and eyes of a fiery colour, while the rest of the body is
white: that they always have two chiefs, the one to lead the
main body, the other to take charge of the rear; that they excavate holes with their bills, and then cover them with hurdles,
which they cover again with the earth that has been thus
thrown up; that it is in these places they hatch their young;
that each of these holes has two outlets; that one of them looks
towards the east, and that by it they go forth to feed, returning by the one which looks towards the west; and that when
about to ease themselves, they always take to the wing, and fly
against the wind. In one spot only throughout the whole
earth are these birds to be seen, in the island, namely, which
we have mentioned2
as famous for the tomb and shrine of
Diomedes, lying over against the coast of Apulia: they bear
a strong resemblance to the coot. When strangers who are
barbarians arrive on that island, they pursue them with loud
and clamorous cries, and only show courtesy to Greeks by
birth; seeming thereby, with a wonderful discernment, to pay
respect to them as the fellow-countrymen of Diomedes.
Every day they fill their throats, and cover their feathers, with
water, and so wash and purify the temple there. From this
circumstance arises the fable3
that the companions of Diomedes
were metamorphosed into these birds.