Portrait of a blue bird with webbed feet and a saw bill, a Halcyon.

Portrait of a blue bird with webbed feet and a saw bill, a Halcyon.

Text Translation:

[Of the halcyon] The halcyon is a seabird which produces its young on the shore, depositing its eggs in the sand, around midwinter. It chooses as the time to hatch its young, the period when the sea is at its highest and the waves break more fiercely than usual on the shore; with the result that the grace with which this bird is endowed shines forth the more, with the dignity of an unexpected calm. For it is a fact that when the sea has been raging, once the halcyon’s eggs have been laid, it suddenly becomes gentle, all the stormy winds subside, the strong breezes lighten, and as the wind drops, the sea lies calm, until the halcyon hatches its eggs.

The eggs take seven days to hatch, at the end of which the halcyon brings forth its young and the hatching is at an end. The halcyon takes a further seven days to feed its chicks until they begin to grow into young birds. Such a short feeding-time is nothing to marvel at, since the completion when the hatching process takes so few days.

This little bird is endowed by God with such grace that sailors know with confidence that these fourteen days will be days of fine weather and call them ‘the halcyon days’, in which there will be no period of stormy weather.

Folio 54v – the partridge, continued. [De altione]; Of the halcyon.


  1. lumipuna says

    Hey, that’s clearly a late-surviving pelagornithid!


    The Pelagornithidae… are a prehistoric family of large seabirds. Their fossil remains have been found all over the world in rocks dating between the Late Paleocene and the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary.[1]

    Most of the common names refer to these birds’ most notable trait: tooth-like points on their beak’s edges, which unlike true teeth contained Volkmann’s canals and were outgrowths of the premaxillary and mandibular bones. Even “small” species of pseudotooth birds were the size of albatrosses; the largest ones were truly gigantic,with wingspans estimated at 5–6 metres (15–20 ft) and were among the largest flying birds ever to live. They were the dominant seabirds of most oceans throughout most of the Cenozoic, and modern humans apparently missed encountering them only by a hair’s breadth of evolutionary time…

  2. says

    Well, the halcyon is a mythical bird. The colouring was based on a kingfisher, but the rest of it, well, who knows.

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