Friday, August 22, 2008

Twillick tangent: Audubon's Twillick was a Tell-tale Tatler

TOTANUS VOCIFERUS, Wils. [Tringa melanoleuca.]

It is my opinion that they who have given so much importance to the cry of this bird, as to believe it to be mainly instrumental in ensuring the safety of other species, and in particular of Ducks, have called in the aid of their imagination to increase the interest of what requires no such illustration. A person unacquainted with this Godwit would believe, on reading its history as recorded in books, that the safety of these birds depends on the friendly warning of their long-billed and long-tongued neighbour. And yet it is at no season more noisy or more vigilant than the Kildeer Plover, nor ever half so much so as the Semipalmated species, the reiterated vociferations of which are so annoying. It is true that the Tell-tale is quite loquacious enough; nay, you, reader, and I, may admit that it is a cunning and watchful bird, ever willing to admonish you or me, or any other person whom it may observe advancing towards it with no good intent, that it has all along watched us. But then, when one has observed the habits of this bird for a considerable time, in different situations, and when no other feathered creatures are in sight, he will be convinced that the Tell-tale merely intends by its cries to preserve itself, and not generously to warn others of their danger. So yon may safely banish from your mind the apprehension, which the reading of books may have caused, that duck-shooting in the marshes of our Middle Districts, is as hopeless a pursuit as "a wild goose chase."

Read the rest of Audubon's Account of the Greater Yellow-Legs or Twillick, here.

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