Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon eBook

J. Emerson Tennent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 590 pages of information about Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon.

Phoenicophaus pyrrhocephalus.  The malkoha, is confined to the southern highlands.

Treron Pompadoura.  The Pompadour pigeon.  “The Prince of Canino has shown that this is a totally distinct bird from Tr. flavogularis, with which it was confounded:  it is much smaller, with the quantity of maroon colour on the mantle greatly reduced.”—­Paper by Mr. BLYTH, Mag.  Nat.  Hist. p. 514:  1857.

Carpophaga Torringtoniae.  Lady Torrington’s pigeon; a very handsome pigeon discovered in the highlands by Dr. Kelaart.  It flies high in long sweeps, and makes its nest on the loftiest trees.  Mr. Blyth is of opinion that it is no more than a local race, barely separable from C. Elphinstonii of the Nilgiris and Malabar coast.

Carpophaga pusilla.  The little-hill dove a migratory species found by Mr. Layard in the mountain zone, only appearing with the ripened fruit of the teak, banyan, &c., on which they feed.

Gallus Lafayetti.—­The Ceylon jungle fowl.  The female of this handsome bird was figured by Mr. GRAY (Ill.  Ind.  Zool.) under the name of G. Stanleyi.  The cock bird had long been lost to naturalists, until a specimen was forwarded by Dr. Templeton to Mr. Blyth, who at once recognised it as the long-looked-for male of Mr. Gray’s recently described female.  It is abundant in all the uncultivated portions of Ceylon; coming out into the open spaces to feed in the mornings and evenings.  Mr. Blyth states that there can be no doubt that Hardwicke’s published figure refers to the hen of this species, long afterwards termed G. Lafayetti.

Galloperdix bicalcaratus.  Not uncommon in suitable situations.



LIZARDS. Iguana.—­One of the earliest, if not the first remarkable animal to startle a stranger on arriving in Ceylon, whilst wending his way from Point-de-Galle to Colombo, is a huge lizard of from four to five feet in length, the Talla-goy[=a] of the Singhalese, and Iguana[1] of the Europeans.  It may be seen at noonday searching for ants and insects in the middle of the highway and along the fences; when disturbed, but by no means alarmed, by the approach of man, it moves off to a safe distance; and, the intrusion being at an end, it returns again to the occupation in which it had been interrupted.  Repulsive as it is in appearance, it is perfectly harmless, and is hunted down by dogs in the maritime provinces, and its delicate flesh, which is believed to be a specific in dysentery, is converted into curry, and its skin into shoes.  When seized, it has the power of inflicting a smart blow with its tail.  The Talla-goy[=a] lives in almost any convenient hollow, such as a hole in the ground, or a deserted nest of the termites; and some small ones, which frequented my garden at Colombo, made their retreat in the heart of a decayed tree.

[Footnote 1:  Monitor dracaena, Linn. Among the barbarous nostrums of the uneducated natives, both Singhalese and Tamil, is the tongue of the iguana, which they regard as a specific for consumption, if plucked from the living animal and swallowed whole.]

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Sketches of Natural History of Ceylon from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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