The Happy Prince

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The story of The Happy Prince is set in Italy, a country located on the continent of Europe. One of the main characters in The Happy Prince is a swallow. Unlike many birds, swallows do not eat food off the ground. Swallows hunt in flight, catching flying insects like mosquitoes and moths. Their bodies are well built for this purpose. Their long wings and forked tails allow them to dip, dive, twist, turn and swoop at high speeds. This makes catching their prey an easy task. Swallows are widespread across Europe (including Italy) during the late spring and summer months when flying insects are plentiful. But as Autumn approaches and the weather grows colder, flying insects begin to disappear and the swallows must migrate to the continent of Africa where winters are warm and flying insects can still be found. Some swallows travel as far south as South Africa, the southern most country on the continent. While most migrating birds fly several thousand feet above land, swallows travel at almost ground level. This allows them to obtain food while on the move. To drink, swallows skim low over the surface scooping water with open beaks. In the early nineteenth century a famous European naturalist called Humboldt believed that swallows hibernated for the duration of the winter months in the mud at the bottom of ponds and marshy areas. People went on believing this for many years; they simply could not imagine that such tiny birds could fly more than one hundred and fifty miles a day in their long migration from Europe to Africa, some covering a total distance of over five thousand miles. The Happy Prince was written in 1888 by Oscar Wilde, an Englishman. By that time Mr. Wilde, along with most other Europeans shared the correct idea that swallows did indeed travel south for the winter. In fact, the swallow in The Happy Prince talks excitedly of his own winter destination, the country of Egypt. Here in the Western United States, swallows can be seen as early as April. In...
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