The organisation of such an insect is a marvellous adaptation of physical form to special circumstances. As the nycteribia has to make its way through fur and hairs, its feet are furnished with prehensile hooks that almost convert them into hands; and being obliged to conform to the sudden flights of its patron, and accommodate itself to inverted positions, all attitudes are rendered alike to it by the arrangement of its limbs, which enables it, after every possible gyration, to find itself always on its feet.
Of the Birds of the island, upwards of three hundred and twenty species have been indicated, for which we are indebted to the persevering labours of Dr. Templeton, Dr. Kelaart, and Mr. Layard; but many yet remain to be identified. In fact, to the eye of a stranger, their prodigious numbers, and especially the myriads of waterfowl which, notwithstanding the presence of the crocodiles, people the lakes and marshes in the eastern provinces, form one of the marvels of Ceylon.
In the glory of their plumage, the birds of the interior are surpassed by those of South America and Northern India; and the melody of their song will bear no comparison with that of the warblers of Europe, but the want of brilliancy is compensated by their singular grace of form, and the absence of prolonged and modulated harmony by the rich and melodious tones of their clear and musical calls. In the elevations of the Kandyan country there are a few, such as the robin of Neuera-ellia and the long-tailed thrush, whose song rivals that of their European namesakes; but, far beyond the attraction of their notes, the traveller rejoices in the flute-like voices of the Oriole, the Dayal-bird, and some others equally charming; when, at the first dawn of day, they wake the forest with their clear reveille.
[Footnote 1: Pratincola atrata, Kelaart.]
[Footnote 2: Kittacincla macroura, Gm.]
[Footnote 3: Copsychus saularis, Linn. Called by the Europeans in Ceylon the “Magpie Robin.” This is not to be confounded with the other popular favourite, the “Indian Robin” (Thamnobia fulicata, Linn.), which is “never seen in the unfrequented jungle, but, like the coco-nut palm, which the Singhalese assert will only flourish within the sound of the human voice, it is always found near the habitations of men.”—E.L. LAYARD.]
It is only on emerging from the dense forests, and coming into the vicinity of the lakes and pasture of the low country, that birds become visible in great quantities. In the close jungle one occasionally hears the call of the copper-smith, or the strokes of the great orange-coloured woodpecker as it beats the decaying trees in search of insects, whilst clinging to the bark with its finely-pointed claws, and leaning for support upon the short stiff feathers of its tail.