THE crow family, of which the raven is chief, contains many birds of strongly marked individuality and intelligence. They are well known for the uniform sombreness of some species, though the jays and pies do much to redeem
it by the beauty of their bright colouring. Though apparently not related, the Birds of Paradise are of this family, and surpass all other birds by the range and brilliance of colouring they display, joined to the greatest variety in feather decoration, sometimes bordering on the eccentric.
At first sight, swifts and Humming Birds might not appear similar, but both these wonderful flyers are of the same group. Humming Birds are swift-moving atoms of bright metallic colour, like living jewels. There are over four hundred species, often not more than twenty grains in weight, feeding only on the juices of flowers, which they drink with their long, hollow tongues.
There is no difficulty in recognising members of the parrot tribe, because they are distinguished by their sharply-hooked beaks. They have a thick, fleshy tongue which has helped them in their well-known faculty for imitating all kinds of sounds, including human speech. The macaws and parakeets are amongst the most vividly coloured of all birds, the brightest scarlets, greens, blues and yellows being their most prevalent colours.
The Kea, or owl-parrot of New Zealand, is an almost wingless species with habits different from those of any other parrot. Formerly a vegetarian, it has latterly become obnoxious by killing lambs.