Sunday, January 29, 2006

Strang birds

Brian at The Natural Stone has some cracking photos of Crossbills at Southey Wood. I've never seen one of these strange northern parrot-birds close up. Only far away, chittering in flocks at the tops of high pines in Scotland and Thetford. An irruption of crossbills in 1640 elicited this fabulous contemporary account. I've lost the correct reference, but it's reprinted in Ian Newton's book on Finches:

"...there was greate plenty of strang birds, that shewed themselves at the time the apples were in full rype, who fedde upon the kernells onely of these apples, and haveinge a bill with one beake wrythinge over the other... The oldest man living had never heard or reade of any such like bird... They were very good meate."

Look at that extra information, there. I never knew crossbills were yummy! A couple of years ago, while working on dictionary entries on 19th century zoologists, I kept reading how, for example, ichthyologists fried up new fishy discoveries at the end of a hard day's collecting. Important research.

Edibility is so rarely a feature of species accounts and taxonomic decisions these days...

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