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Beebe W. The bird, its form and function

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Beebe W. The bird, its form and function
New York: H. Holt and company, 1906. - 496 p.
We find today some thirteen or fourteen thousand different forms, or species, of birds upon the earth. For many years ornithologists have laboured to name, and to arrange in some rational order, these multitudinous forms of bird life. Some such arrangement is, of course, a necessity — without a handle we should indeed be handicapped in studying a bird; but let us not forget that classification is but a means to an end.
Far too many students of birds follow some such mode of procedure as this: when a new bird is found, it is shot, labelled, preserved in a collection and forgotten; or, if studying the bird with a glass, all efiort is centred in finding some characteristic by which it can be named, and, succeeding in this, search is at once made for still another species, whose name can in turn be added to a list. Observing the habits, the courtship and nest-building, and memorizing the song, is a third phase of bird-study — the best of all three methods; but few indeed have ever given a moment's thought to the bird itself.
I have lectured to an audience of teachers, every one of whom was able to identify fifty birds or more, but not one among them knew the significance of the scales on a bird's foot. It is to bridge this gap that this book is intended — an untechnical study of the bird in the abstract. This, it seems to me, is the logical phase of bird life, which, with an earnest nature-lover, should follow the handbook of identification — the study of the physical life of the bird itself preceding the consequent phase of the mental life, with its ever-varying outward expression.
Far from considering this treatment exhaustive, one must remember that any chapter subject could easily be elaborated into one or more volumes. I have intended the book more as an invitation than aught else: for each to observe for himself the marvellously fascinating drama of evolution; to pass on from the nature stories of idealized composite animals and birds to the consideration of the evolution of all life; to the tales of time and truth which have been patiently gleaned by the life-long labours of thousands of students.
Whenever possible I have illustrated a fact with a photograph from a preparation or from a living bird, believing that, where verbal exposition fails, pictorial interest will often fix a fact in the memory. First of all we must consider a few of the more important and significant of the bird-forms of past ages; because no one who is interested in living birds from any standpoint should be entirely ignorant of a few facts concerning the ancestors of these creatures. Otherwise it is as if one entirely ignoring the rest of the plant, studied certain leaves and flowers, knowing not whether they came from tree or vine.
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