THERE were, according to 8 the old Mosaic Law. certain birds that were to be avoided by the Children of Israel, for these birds, most of them scavengers, were "an abominatlon among the fowls." There MIS one of them. however, that was not a scavenger, he was not even carnivorous; this was the bird that we now call the cuckoo and there was evidently some serious reason why he was to be anathema to the Children of Israel. What that reason was has never been explained and the bird itself has remained a mystery to all naturalists and ornithologists. Now. in "The Cuckoo and Other Bird Mysteries " (Eyre and Spartiswoode, 10s. 6d.) Captain Bernard Acworth, after a lucid exposition of the laws of flight and their bearing on bird phenomena, builds up a breath-taking and thoroughly scandalous case against the bird whose eggs are found in nests that are frequently—either from their shape, ,size (Jr position—apparently inaccessible to it.
THE cuckoo, he contends, is
the hybrid progeny of the male cuckoo and the female bird in whose nest the egg is laid I There are. he states, certain queries that must be answered before this theory cart be either proved or disproved. and to these he proffers Ingeniously convincing
answers. The further objection that hybrids are popularly supposed to be sterile he counters with the fact that although sterility is an iron law between the male and female mule, it is not so. apparently, between the mule and one of the two species that produced it.
There are marry who, following this writer's arguments, will simply put them down as fantastic, but I doubt if any serious naturalist or ornithologist will do this, for startling as the writer's conclusions may be, they pale before the known facts about this " abomination among the fowls."
The great attraction of this book lies in its absence of dogmatk statement. Facts are marshalled and theories put forward, but the author's' only definite claim is that—unlike all other cuckoo theories—his is capable of proof or disproof. And as an undercurrent to the iyhole argu merit runs the writer's own compelling conviction that — in the words of da Vinci which he quotes on his title-page: " Learning the laws of nature, we magnify the First Inventor, the Designer of the world; and we' learn In love Him, for great love of God results front great knowledge."