DARTERS and cormorants are all carnivorous, fish being the food preferred. Their methods of fishing are variable —some thrust their necks down into the water as they swim, others plunge from a height or even pursue their prey under water. The Chinese have long utilised tame cormorants for their skill in fishing. They fix a ring round their necks to prevent them swallowing the fish, and some birds are even trained to work without the collar. They were formerly used in this country in a similar manner, and are still common enough round our rocky coasts.
Next come the pelicans, who constitute a well-marked group. Most of them are large, heavy birds, awkward on land but splendid flyers and swimmers, sometimes spanning ten to fifteen feet across the wings. Found in large colonies, many of them are of snowy white plumage and have a pouch under the bill in which they carry the food they have caught, often giving it to their young in a half-digested state.
The wild duck is one of the best examples of the freshwater, non-diving ducks, and from this species all our domestic varieties are derived. This bird is a permanent resident in this country and is joined in the colder months of winter by great numbers from the Continent. The Drake, or Mallard (to give him his proper name), is a handsome bird and the rich green of his neck is one of the finest colours in nature.
Though often a by-word for stupidity, geese, at any rate in a wild state, are anything but stupid birds, and their wari ness and the way they post sentinels to warn them of approach ing danger have often stood them in good stead. Like swans they often assemble in great numbers for migratory flights, when they travel swiftly at a great height in a ‘V ‘-shaped formation with the strongest bird leading them. »_ Flamingoes are midway between swans and herons. They have webbed feet, but much longer slender legs. They are lovely in colour, white above and pink under the wings. One variety is completely rose-coloured. In Africa they are found in vast numbers and the sight of millions in flight is indescribably beautiful.