|Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916.|
Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
|By Gilbert White (17201793)|
From Natural History of Selborne
ON the twelfth of July I had a fair opportunity of contemplating the motions of the caprimulgus, or fern-owl, as it was playing round a large oak that swarmed with Scarabæi solstitiales, or fern-chafers. The powers of its wing were wonderful, exceeding, if possible, the various evolutions and quick turns of the swallow genus. But the circumstance that pleased me most was, that I saw it distinctly, more than once, put out its short leg while on the wing, and, by a bend of the head, deliver somewhat into its mouth. If it takes any part of its prey with its foot, as I have now the greatest reason to suppose it does these chafers, I no longer wonder at the use of its middle toe, which is curiously furnished with a serrated claw.