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Some Familiar Birds.
By " A Busu Naturalist."
Very similar in coloring and much about the Bamo bi'zo and appoaranco as the black fantail is another specieB of the flycatcher, almost equally common and as generally known. It is well named the restless flycatcher, or Seisura inquieta. It ia tho only Australian representative of the genua Seisura, although there are four other species that inhabit the various islands of the Australian region.
This familiar and friondly bird is better kuowu to all btishmen as the "razor-grinder." Australia certainly does produce some anomalous natural facts, amongst which aro the uu-birdlike vocal powers possessed by two of its birds - tho "laughing" dacelo aud tho "razor-grinding" seisura. Any stranger, ovon although ho wero an ornithologist, hoaring for the first timo the " Bong" of either of theBO two birds, and not seeing them, would never evon guess that it waa a bird at all which was the originator of auch a peculiar sound. In the case of this little fly- catcher tho sound is, without aBy exaggeration, almoat au exact reproduction of the rattling grating produced when a knife or scissor grinder appliea the steel blade to the rapidly-revolviug wheel. It ie just such an instance of curious natural development as would doubtless delight Messrs. Wallace and Darwin to account for.
Another Btrango peculiarity of this homely little bird is that, while it utters this song, it ¡h always hovering in the air and only a few feet from the ground ; rapidly does it then vibrato it« wings, and yet it remains stationary-poised exactly like the European kestrel when about to seize its prey. After keeping up this hovering and rattle for a minute or two, it suddenly drops to the ground. Gilbert, the obBervant aa Biitant of Gould in his great ornithological work, thinks that the object of the noise is to attract the notice of insects, and bo cause them to mo- mentarily show themBolves ; and this exposure is then taken advantage of by the bird to capture it. If this be so-and I confess to Btrongly leaning towards that opinion-it is a strange, and I should say unique, instance of a bird or animal of prey making a noise in order to attract its victim ; in every other case, so far as I can remember, quietness ¡b an absolute necessity for successful hunting. Wo are accustomed to con- sider the vocal power in birds to be called forth either by the powerful impulse of lovo, or out of pure joy of existence, or vanity of appearance, or rivalry of another, or as an aid towards dis- covering one another and so keeping a flock together, or as an alarm in case of danger ; but here we see it employed apparently either to attract or to frighten its living prey-for it is never uttered except the bird is hunting, and it almost invariably finishes off suddenly by the perpendicular drop and seisure of the insect. The usual note of the bird is shrill, harsh, and quite different to tho rattle emitted when hovering. This hoveripg motion is exceedingly graceful ; also the usual mode of flight of this elegant-shaped bird is more graceful than that of any other of the family group, for it does not indulge in the eccentric movements of the genus rhipi lura. Like all of the tribe the flight is never higher than to the tops of the trees, nor is it kept up for any great distance at a time.
The nest is round and cup-shaped, and almoBt exactly the same as that of the black fantail, being quite as neatly made and as compactly woven. It is, I think, more difficult to find-at least I have never found nearly so many ; and the reason is that as a general rule it builds Higher up from the ground, and, like the genus micrwca, frequently chooses the last fork of a horizontal dead branch, or the upper side of a bare bough that hangs a considerable distance over water, for the situation of its nest. The eggs also are, like those of the black fantail, of a greenish dirty white, zoned around the larger end with spots and markings of brown ; three is the number I have usually found, but sometimes only two. I do not know what time of the year it nests in Queensland, but in Victoria it is a late breeder.
It has a great range of habitat, for I have seen it in all places from Adelaide to Moreton Bay ; but I de not remember noticing it on the Gulf Bhores or in Northern Queensland.
I append Gould's description, so that the reader can if he like verify the bird :-" Head and .all the upper surface, shining bluish black ; tail, brownish black ; lores', deep velvety black ; under surface, silky white, with the exception of the Bides of the chest, which are dull black ; irides, dark brown. The sexes are very similar in plumage, but the female and young males have the lores, or space between the bill and th« eye, not so deep a black as in the male."