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Mirrour would say—reminds me of a somewhat similar, but more aggravated case; that of an upstart who considered the vernacular-and proper-name of our noble buttonwood tree vulgar (!) and knowing no other English name—as plane tree-called it a sycamore !! He might with equal propriety have called it a cherry-tree. It is an excellent thing to “call things by their right names.”
To insure an insertion in a sporting magazine, I must admit that this letter is witten in sport, and the admission, I hope, will prevent your correspondent from taking offence and forcing me to take the field, for the liberty I have taken with his very well written article.
OR ERRORS OF OTHERS THAN "CYPRESS" CONCERNING QUAIL.
To the Editor of the "American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine"
With no slight interest, dear Editor, have I, at various times, and through the medium of most incongruous and oddly chosen pages, perused the various lucubrations, on sundry sporting matters, of our friend Cypress. "Nor has it not been most apparent to me, that our said friend doth entertain strange fancies, most heretical, unauthorized, and wild, concerning the nomenclature, whether in the vernacular or in the learned tongues, of the winged game of the United States ; nor here
tofore has this opinion been concealed from the delinquent. It is not, therefore, to uphold J. Cypress, Jr., that I address you now, but rather—while admitting all his errors, as pointed out in your December number, under the head of Corrigenda,
to add my mite of information on the subject, and to show that in some cases his corrector is perhaps scarcely less er
The errors of Cypress are for the most part contained in a note, wherein he erroneously and somewhat flippantly attacks the Latin nomenclatures of the birds, which we usually designate game, of the gallinaceous order. His attack, though somewhat desultory, is directed principally to two points-in both of which we humbly think he errs. First, he objects to the statement of Audubon and Wilson that the quail is migratory, and to the use of the word “flocks,” in speaking of this migratory habit. Secondly, he insinuates an objection to the use of the word “partridge,” as applied to the American quail. And thirdly, he charges all these faults to the score of the whole race of ornithologists, who, he says, have given the name Tetrao, “which means a bustard or wild turkey,” to the partridge, and who have called the American quail perdix virginiana, whereas they would have found, under certain con. tingencies, that the true appellation is coturnix.
Now in all this, except in his condemning the southern application of the word “ partridge” to the American quail, he is clearly wrong.
For as to the word " Flocks," it is correctly used-and the word “ bevies,” which he would substitute, would in the sense of the context be manifestly incorrect. A bevy of quail is, so many as are hatched of one pair in the course of one season, remaining under the guardianship of the old birds, and unmixed with any other bevy. When two or three bevies join together—as is not uncommonly the case late in the season, particularly in wild and windy weather--the united bevies constitute a “flock !" The same habit is observed in the English partidge, Tetrao perdix—and in the Red Grouse of the British isles Tetrao Scoticus; and in both of these the habit of so joining covies or broods is properly termed packing; and the united covies designated as packs. The man who would call three hundred brace of moorfowl on the wing together, which glorious sight I have seen both in Cumberland and Fifeshire, a covey, would be voted a tailor on a very large scale, indeedand I think the wight who should apply the term bevy to a similar or larger company of quail—and they do migrate unquestionably in larger bodies than that, would have some difficulty in avoiding the same inculpatory title.
With regard to his Latinity, Cypress is yet more widely out—" Tetrao” does not mean, nor ever did, either bustard or wild turkey—the ornithological and classical name for the bustard being "otis," as your correspondent H. has justly remarked-while that for the wild turkey would by analogy, be “meleagris fera," or " sylvestris,"—the word meleagris being the term adapted to the turkey from some unknown bird-probably the guinea fowl-mentioned by classical writers.
To what bird the word Tetrao in Latin, terpà; in Greek, was originally applied, it is not easy now to discover; it was, however, of the gallinaceous order, and obtained its name from four wattles, which it is described as having possessed, bare of feathers. This word Tetrao has been applied—and, as it seems to me, very judiciously—to gallinaceous game in general, from the great Capercali of Northern, down to the minute quail of Southern Europe, by Linnæus. The generic differences are expressed by the second noun attached, as Tetrao perdix—the English partridge-Tetrao Rufus, the red
legged partridge-Tetrao coturnix, the quail, &c., &c., ad infinitum. So that Cypress is, in fact, entirely in error with regard to the alleged misapplication of both terms; and is clearly wrong in his Latinity. If, moreover, there be an error in the name perdix virginiana, it is attributable, not to the whole race of naturalists, but merely to those naturalists who have created a new name for a new bird.
Now in my humble opinion, Corrector is no less in erroras I shall endeavor to show-in his corrigenda. “Thus"he says—"he-Cypress—is writing about the perdix Virginiana, Virginian partridge, and not about the Perdix Coturnix, European quail. The first is a true partridge, belonging to the same subgenus with the European, viz. ortyx ; whilst the quail belongs to the subgenus coturnix. In Pennsylvania and southward, and in English books, our bird is called-and correctly—partridge."
Now the gist of all this amounts to a simple assertion that the American bird belongs to a different genus from the English quail, and is a partridge. Now this I am satisfied is an
From what book your correspondent H. draws his nomenclature I have not been able to discover ; but from whatsoever, it is not a distinct, or, in my opinion, correct
In no book that I have or can refer to, is the European partridge-English partridge ?—classed as ortyx—nor the quail as Perdixbut both are generally classed as Tetrao, with the definitions perdix and coturnix. Such is the nomenclature of Linnæus, Buffon, and Bewick-the last decidedly the best British ornithologist. The subgeneric nomenclatures alluded to by your correspondent H. have no foundation in classical propriety, ortyx being merely the Greek—opuš—and coturnix the Latin for Quail. So that as an appellation intended to convey a distinction, the new term ortyx, as opposed to co
turnix, is absurdly ill chosen-being a distinction without a difference !-With regard to habits, the American bird is infinitely more similar to the quail than to the partridge ; whether English or red-legged. The partridge is a bolder bird, stronger, and freer of wing, less apt to skulk, or run before dogs—and never perching, even on rails, much less on trees or bushes—and rarely flying to any woody covert. The European quail skulks, and runs, almost precisely as its American congener, flies, immediately on its being roused, to the nearest brake or thicket, and is with great difficulty flushed a second time; it likewise occasionally, though not often, perches on low shrubs. It is, moreover, migratory, which the partridge is not, and which the American quail most certainly is, as I can testify from my own observation ; while in size, general appearance, character of plumage, and cry, it is much more nearly connected with the English quail, than with any partridge existing.
In my opinion, therefore--and I am satisfied that facts will bear out my opinion—the Perdix Virginiana is not a true partridge—and is not correctly termed a partridge in Pennsylvania and southward—any more than the ruffed grouse—Tea trao umbellus—is correctly termed a pheasant in the same regions. The English books, to which your correspondent refers, are probably books of travels, using the term in describing the bird which the authors have heard applied to it here
- for we are aware of no English ornithological work of authority describing the birds of America. As to whether the nomenclature Perdix virginiana be correctly deduced or not, is a different question ; and bears nothing on the point at is
I should rather prefer myself to designate it as Tetrao coturnix ; varietas Virginiana ; or more simply Tetrao Virginianus ; but so that it is made evident what bird is meant,