PREFACE

PREFACE.

IN the Preface to the second volume, a change in the original plan of the ' Birds' was announced. It was still proposed to complete the work in three volumes, but as the second was shorter than usual it was announced that the deficiency would be made good in the third, which would contain descriptions of all Indian birds except Passeres. As the work progressed, however, further modification became necessary, as it was evident that the proposed third volume would be of inconvenient size, and it has now been decided to divide it into two. The birds will therefore occupy four volumes instead of three, and of these the third is herewith published. The fourth volume is in preparation and a considerable portion is written. The publishing price of the last three is reduced, so that the cost of the whole work is only increased by a very small amount.

Mr. Oates, after writing the two volumes containing the descriptions of the Passeres, was obliged to return to his appointment in India, as explained in the Preface to the second volume. The continuation of the ' Birds' has been left in my hands, and I have endeavoured to keep the work uniform in general plan, and to render the change of authorship as little conspicuous as possible ; but I fear there are many, besides myself, who will see cause for regret that the able ornithologist who commenced the work was prevented by circumstances from finishing it.

The birds of which descriptions appear in the present volume are the Eurylaemi, the various groups known collectively as Picarian or non-Passerine perching birds, the Parrots, and the nocturnal and diurnal Birds of Prey. Thus the first three volumes of the present work correspond to the first two of Jerdon's, and contain the same families of Birds, though differently arranged.

The question of the system to be employed in dividing the Birds of India into Orders did not present itself in the first two volumes, which were occupied by the Passeres, now regarded by all ornithologists as a distinct order, and the highest of the class. But in the present volume a general scheme of classification became a necessity: the arrangement hitherto adopted in the majority of works on Indian Ornithology—Legge's ' Birds of Ceylon' and Oates's ' Birds of Burmah' being the most important exceptions—has been that of Jerdon's great work, and was taken from G. B. Gray's, which again was but slightly modified from that of Cuvier. This classification, proposed in the early part of the present century, when the anatomy of birds had received but little attention, was founded exclusively on the characters of the beak and feet. It was soon found that there were defects in the Cuvierian system, one of the leaders in the path of reform being Edward Blyth, the pioneer of Indian scientific ornithology; but it was long before a satisfactory natural system could be devised, and even now birds are by no means so clearly arranged, or divided into orders so well defined, as mammals and reptiles are. Still some of the later attempts to arrange the intricate groups of birds have been fairly successful in consequence of their depending not on one or two characters but on several, of their taking into consideration both internal anatomy and external structure, and of their making use of such clues to affinity as are afforded by nidification, oology, and the changes of plumage in the young.

The system adopted in the present work is, in the main, identical with those of Sharpe and Gadow, and differs in no important point from the classifications of Sclater and Newton. References will be found on page 15. The chief difference between the plan here followed and those proposed by the ornithologists named, is that no attempt has been made in the present work to arrange in larger categories the groups here termed orders. This is due to the circumstance that there is a much wider general agreement as to the distinctness of the smaller ordinal or subordinal groups than as to their relations to each other.

The principal anatomical characters by which the different orders are distinguished are furnished by the bones of the palate, shoulder-girdle and sternum, and the vertebrae; by the occurrence of caeca in the intestines, the presence or absence of particular muscles in the thigh, and the characters of the deep plantar tendons. Amongst the external characters, pterylosis, or the disposition of the feathers with regard to the clad and naked tracts of the body (pterylae and apteria), the presence or absence of an aftershaft on the body-feathers, the occurrence of down, the presence or absence of a uropygial oil-gland, and its being tufted, i. e. partially surrounded by a circlet of feathers, or naked, and the number of remiges and rectrices, are amongst the points of importance. Latterly, since the late Mr. R. S. Wray, in the ' Proceedings of the Zoological Society' for 1887, showed that, in several orders, the fifth secondary quill or cubital, counting from the distal extremity of the ulna, is wanting, some importance has been attached to the fact, and those birds have been termed quincubital which retain the remex in question, whilst those forms in which it is absent are distinguished as aquincubital.

Most of the terms employed are easily understood, but four diagrams are added for the explanation of the names applied to the bones of the palate and the muscles of the thigh. The two figures illustrative of the former, which are used by permission of their author, the late Professor Huxley, and are taken from his classical paper in the 1 Proceedings of the Zoological Society' for 1867, serve to explain the two most important types of palatal structure in carinate birds— the " schizognathous " and " desmognathous." In the des-mognathous palate the maxillo-palatines are united across the median line, and the vomer is either small and slender or rudimentary. In schizognathous skulls the maxillo-palatines are usually elongate and lamellar and do not unite either with the vomer or with each other. In both the vomer, if present, is pointed in front, not broadly truncated as in the aegithognathous type, represented by the Raven (Vol. I. p. 4). There are other distinctions in these three types of bony palate, but those mentioned are the most conspicuous. The fourth principal type, the dromaeognathous, is not found in any Indian birds.

The muscles of the thigh are shown in the two figures taken from the works of Garrod and Forbes, the former of whom attached great importance to them as evidence of affinity. The ' ambiens' muscle was regarded by him as affording a clue to the whole system, and by means of it he divided all Carinate birds into Homalogonatae, in which the muscle (with a few aberrant exceptions) was present, and the Anomalogonatae, in which it was absent. The other thigh-muscles, to the presence or absence' of which he attached importance, were the femoro-caudal, accessory femoro-caudal, semitendinosus, and accessory semitendinosus.

The parts of the sternum occasionally mentioned in the descriptions of orders are 'well known, with perhaps the exception of the manubrium or manubrial process, called by some writers the rostrum. This is a simple or compound process, projecting forward at the middle of the anterior border, just where the keel of the sternum joins the body, and in front of the inner terminations of the coracoids. It comprises a distal spine {spina externa) and a proximal one [spina interna'), either of which may be wanting. The spina externa is either simple or forked.

The descriptions in this, as in other volumes of the Fauna of British India, are taken from the magnificent series of Indian Birds in the British Museum (Natural History), and every facility and assistance has been afforded to Mr. Oates and myself by Sir W. H. Flower, the Director of the Natural History Museum, and Dr. A. Gunther, Keeper of the Department of Zoology. Especially we are under the greatest obligations to the officers in charge of the bird collection. Dr. R. B. Sharpe and Mr. W. B. Ogilvie Grant, for aid of every kind most freely and kindly afforded during the progress of the present work. Mr. Oates, when he left England, made over to me all the notes he had prepared for the continuation of the work, and they have been of very great service. I have also to express my obligations to Dr. J. A. Waddell for a proof in advance of his excellent notes on Sikhim birds prepared for the 'Gazetteer' of that province; to Col. C. T. Bingham and Mr. Hauxwell for information about Burmese species; and to Dr. Warth and Mr. W. M. Daly for lists of birds obtained in the Shevroy Hills.

Whilst I regret that this is not the last of the series of volumes containing the descriptions of Indian Vertebrata, I hope the final part will not be long delayed.

W. T. BLANFORD.
August 1st, 1895.

Figures to illustrate Structure of Palate

There two figures are copied by permission from the late Prof. Huxley's paper on the Classification of Birds (P. Z. S. 1867, pp. 427, 444).—Pmx, the premaxilla; Mx, the maxilla; Mxp, its maxillo-palatine process; Pl, the palatine bone; Vo, the vomer; Pt, the pterygoid; Qu, the quadrate bone; X the basipterygoid process; * the prefrontal process.

" In the large assemblage of birds belonging to the Cuvierian orders Gallinae, Grallae, and Natatores, which may be termed Schizognathous, the vomer, sometimes large and sometimes very small, always tapers to a point anteriorly; while posteriorly it embraces the basisphenoidal rostrum, between the palatines.

" The maxillo-palatines are usually elongated and lamellar; they pass inwards over the anterior processes of the palatine bones, with which they become united, and then bending backwards, along the inner edge of the palatines, leave a broader or a narrower fissure between themselves and the vomer and do not unite with it or with one another."— HUXLEY, P. Z. S. 1867, p. 426.

" In Desmognathous birds the vomer is often either abortive, or so small that it disappears from the skeleton. When it exists it is always slender and tapers to a point anteriorly.

" The maxillo-palatines are united across the middle line, either directly or by the intermediation of ossifications in the nasal septum.

" The posterior ends of the palatines and the anterior ends of the pterygoids articulate directly with the rostrum, as in the preceding division" [and not with the diverging posterior ends of the vomer as in Dromaeognathous birds and generally in Batitse].—HUXLEY, l. c. p. 435.

In the Aegithognathous type of palate (figured Vol. I. of the present work, p. 4), " the vomer is a broad bone, abruptly truncated in front, and deeply cleft behind, embracing the rostrum of the sphenoid between its forks. The palatines have produced postero-external angles. The maxillo-palatines are slender at their origin, and extend inwards and backwards obliquely over the palatines, ending beneath the vomer in expanded extremities, which do not become united by bone, either with one another or with the vomer."—HUXLEY, I. c. p. 450.

BookTitle: 
The Fauna Of British India including Ceylon and Burma
Reference: 
Blanford, William Thomas, ed. The Fauna of British India: Including Ceylon and Burma. Vol.3 1895.
Title in Book: 
PREFACE
Book Author: 
William Thomas Blanford
Year: 
1895
Page No: 
1
Volume: 
vol. 3
id: 
1277

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