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Full text of "The birds of Ontario in relation to agriculture"

biomed 

SB 

995 

N171b 

1898 



THE GIFT OF 

FLORENCE V. V. DICKEY 

TO THE 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 
AT LOS ANGELES 




THE DONALD R. DICKEY 

LIBRARY 
OF VERTEBRATE ZOOLOGY 



THE 



:RDS OF ONTARIO 

N RELATION TO 
AGRICULTURE 

CHARLES W. NASH, Toronto 



PUBLISHED BY THE . . . 

DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, TORONTO 



THE BIRDS OF ONTARIO 



IN 



RELATION TO AGRICULTURE 



BY 



CHARLES W. NASH, TORONTO. 



(PUBLISHED BV THE ONTARIO DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, TORONTO.) 




TORONTO: 

WARWICK BRO'S & RUTTER, PRINTERS AND BOOKBINDERS, 63 AND 70 FRONT ST. 

1898. 



REPRINTED 



FROM THE REPORT OF THE FARMERS INSTITUTES OF ONTARIO. 



1897-8. 



[2] 




THE BIRDS OF ONTARIO 



IX 



RELATION TO AGRICULTURE. 



BY CHAELES W. NASH, TORONTO, ONT. 

The agriculturist in the Province of Ontario has annually to suffer great loss 
from the depredations of two classes of enemies, both individually insignificant, 
but, by reason of their numbers, very formidable. These are insects and small 
rodents, chief among the latter being rats and all the animals usually classed as 
mice. 

It is very difficult to make anything like a correct estimate of the average 
damage inflicted upon the farmer by these little animals, but every man engaged 
in farming knows by sad experience that he continually suffers from their work. 
The enormous amount of grain they destroy, and the young trees girdled and 
killed by them are visible to everyone ; but the creatures themselves, owing to 
their nocturnal habits and secretive lives, are comparatively seldom seen. Their 
enormous increase and consequent capacity for serious mischief is, of course, owing 
to the fact that man has interfered seriously with the balance of nature, and has 
thoughtlessly, perhaps, destroyed the principal natural enemies of these creatures. 
Man himself is almost powerless to stop their ravages to any very great extent. 
The constant exercise of his ingenuity in trapping, and so forth, results in very 
little and occupies his time to no purpose. The natural enemies of these animals 
are gifted with special faculties for their destruction, and so are able to cope with 
them. Chief among the enemies of this class of farm pests, and the only ones we 
shall consider now, are the birds of prey. These birds are wonderfully provided 
by nature with the means to fulfil their part in .maintaining the correct balance 
between the small rodents and the vegetable kingdom. They are in a manner 
nature's police, and if not destroyed by man would so keep down the numbers of 
these small four-footed thieves that their plundering would be scarcely noticeable. 
Our birds of prey may be roughly divided into two classes, the hawks and the 
owls, the first feeding by day and the other by night. Of the eagles we need say 
but little. They are now so rarely found in the civilized districts that their influ- 
ence for good or ill is practically nothing, except upon the game, and of that no 
doubt,^they destroy a large quantity. 



HAWKS. 

Of the hawks there are eleven species, occurring regularly in this Province 
in greater or less abundance every season. These are the Marsh Hawk, Sharp- 
shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Goshawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered 
Hawk, Broad winged Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Duck Hawk, Pigeon Hawk 

[3] 



53522ft 



and Sparrow Hawk ; there are two or three others, but they are only occasional 
visitors. Of these eleven, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Goshawk, 
Duck Hawk and Pigeon Hawk are the species which occasionally make raids upon 
the poultry yards, and which at all times seem to prefer feathered game to either 
fur or insects ; these should, therefore, be shot whenever the opportunity is given. 
The Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper's Hawk are the two species which most 
frequently attack the poultry. They are both small hawks, but make up for 
their lack of size by their boldness and dexterity. It is but seldom that they 
attack a full-grown fowl, but if they once find an accessible lot of chickens they 
will continue to visit the flock until they have taken them all, or are killed in the 
attempt to do so. The mischief done by these two species has been the principal 
cause of the prejudice existing in the farmer's mind against all the hawk tribe, 
and is usually given as the excuse for the slaughter of all the valuable species 
whose constant work inures to man's benefit. The food of the Duck Hawk and 
the Pigeon Hawk consists chiefly of wild birds, but they rarely visit the farms, 
their usual resort being the marshes and shores of lakes frequented by water 
fowl. The Pigeon Hawk is not so named because it has any preference for pig- 
eons, either wild or domestic, but because it slightly resembles a pigeon in shape 
both when on the wing and when at rest. 

The Goshawk fortunately does not visit the cultivated portion of Ontario in 
any numbers regularly ; it is a winter visitor only, and rather an expensive one to 
entertain when it does come. The winter of 1896-97 was one of the seasons 
in which it was particularly abundant throughout southern Ontario, and poultry 
owners suffered greatly from its destructive powers in consequence. This hawk 
is a large, powerful bird, quite capable of killing and carrying oft' a full grown 
hen. The adult is dark, slaty blue above, blackish on the h^ad, the breast and 
belly barred pale slate and white with sharp black streaks : the voung, dark 
brown above, white beneath with oblong brown spots ; length, about two feet. 
Owing to its boldness and strength it is capable of doing a good deal of damage, 
and should consequently be killed whenever seen. As previously stated, this 
hawk only occurs in winter, and therefore it is not likely to be mistaken for any 
of the hawks whose food habits are of benefit to mankind. As a general rule, if 
a hawk is seen about the farm-yard during the winter it is safe to assume that it 
is there for no good purpose, and the gun should be brought into requisition at 
once, as all our beneficial hawks migrate southward when cold weather sets in. 

From the above species, all of which are undoubtedly injurious to the inter- 
ests of the agriculturist by reason of the destruction they work in the poultry 
yard, and amongst our insectivorous wild birds, we turn to the remaining six 
species of the hawks frequenting this Province, every one of which spends the 
greater part of its time and devotes its energies to work the destruction of the 
animals and insects which are known to be amongst the greatest pests the farmer 
has to contend with; these are the Marsh Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Red- shouldered 
Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk and Sparrow Hawk. 

Nearly everyone knows the Marsh Hawk and has seen it gracefully skim- 
ming over the low meadows, occasionally hanging poised over one spot for a 
second or two, and then dropping down into the long grass ; this drop generally 
means the death of a meadow mouse, sometimes, but more rarely, a Irog ; of these 
two creatures its food principally consists, and the number of meadow mice 
destroyed by each of these birds in a season must be something enormous. As 
many as eight have been found in the stomach of one of these hawks, and four 
or five quite frequently. The hawk's digestion is very rapid, and their hunting 
and feeding is continued with but few intermissions from daylight until dark. 



How many mice each bird would take on the average each day would be difficult 
to state exactly, but it is safe to assume that at least six would be required. Now 
multiply that by the vast army of these hawks that resort to this Province and 
the total number of mice destroyed would be amazing; and then against this good 
work constantly going on there is no damage to be set off. Not one instance, in 
thirty years' observation of this bird's habits, has ever come to the writer's know- 
ledge of their having attacked a single domestic fowl. It does sometimes take a 
meal off a dead duck or other bird it may find lying in the inarches, but it is 
doubtful if it ever kills for itself a bird of any kind, at any rate in this Province. 
Every farmer and every sportsman in the land should do his utmost for the pro- 
tection of this bird. Unfortunately they are constantly destroyed by persons 
who are ignorant of the good they do, and thousands are killed every autumn by 
mischievious people who must shoot at everything the}' see that has life in it. If 
people who wantonly shoot hawks would sometimes look at the stomach contents 
of the birds they kill they would soon be convinced of the wrong they were 
doing and would perhaps exercise sufficient common sense to refrain from con- 
tinuing the evil practice. 

For the sake of brevity the Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, and 
Broad-winged Hawk may b^ considered together. These three common species 
are usually known as " Hen Hawks." Why however, it would be difficult to say. 
They are all fairly large, slow, heavy flying birds, whose food consists principally 
of mice, squirrels, toads, frogs and snakes ; very rarely do they ever take a bird 
of any kind. In fact it would be extremely difficult for them to do so, unless the 
bird was very young, or injured seriously. They will, when pressed by hunger, 
feed on carrion, but the staple article of diet with them is meadow mice and 
squirrels, varied, as before stated, by toads, frogs and snakes, besides grasshoppers 
and other insects. 

I have specially omitted from this group, to which it really belongs, the 
Rough -legged Hawk. This is done purposeiy, because the great value of the 
species to the farmer should be particularly pointed out, the bird having been 
most unjustly persecuted. It is the largest of the Canadian hawks, and one that 
deserves the greatest consideration and protection from every man having an 
interest in agriculture. It can be safely said that this so-called " Hen-Hawk " 
has never killed a head of poultry at any time, nor do they ever kill birds of any 
sort. During the fall of 1895 these hawks were very abundant in southern 
Ontario and large numbers were killed. I obtained all the bodies I could for the 
purpose of investigating the contents of their stomachs, and I spent much time 
in watching their habits whilst feeding. All day long, every day from the first of 
October of that year to November 28th, the birds were constantly passing slowly 
along through southern Ontario, feeding as they went, and not one fowl was taken 
or attacked by them anywhere, so far as I could learn, and I made enquiries from 
poultry keepers wherever I could. In all, 32 specimens were examined by me, 
and the result corroborated my experience during the last thirty years. In one 
stomach I found a frog, in another the flesh of a musk rat taken from a pile of 
bodies of these creatures which had been thrown together hi Ashbridge's Marsh. 
Another stomach was filled with large grasshoppers, and the rest contained mice, 
and nothing but mice, or traces of them, ranging in quantity from a little fur and 
a few bones to seven whole ones. From this it can be judged whether or not the 
Rough-legged Hawk is the friend of the farmer. 

The attention of the Department of Agriculture at Washington was some 
time ago called to the fact that mice and other destructive rodents were largely 
increasing throughout the United States, and it was suggested that the constant 
destruction of the hawks and owls was the reason for it. In consequence of this 



the Department placed the matter in the hands of Dr. Merriam and Dr. Fisher, 
two of the leading ornithologists of America, with instructions to prepare a report 
on the subject. This they have done, and the result of their investigations, which 
I shall give at the end of this chapter, shows conclusively that all the hawks which 
I have referred to as being beneficial to agriculture are of the greatest possible 
value in ridding us of enormous numbers of destructive animals, and that they are 
practically innocent of the commonly urged charge against them of poultry-killing. 
There is only one more species of hawk to be considered, and that is the 
beautiful little Sparrow Hawk, probably the commonest of all our hawks, and 
which may be distinguished from any of the others by its smaller size and red 
back. It may be constantly seen hovering over fields in Ontario, all through the 
summer, for it breeds with us, raising its young in a convenient hole in a tree, 
frequently choosing one that has been deserted by one of the large woodpeckers. 
The very small size of this bird precludes the idea that it can take a full grown 
fowl or even a pigeon, and I have never known in my own experience that it has 
ever taken a young chicken. Its principal food consists of mice and grasshoppers, 
of both of which it consumes immense quantities, but it does occasionally take wild 
birds, more particularly those which frequent the open fields and skulk in the 
grass or run about the stubbles. The birds taken by these species are, however, 
so few in number compared to the number of mice which it destroys, and the 
good it does in reducing the swarms of grasshoppers which infest our fields, that 
we may well forgive its slight trespasses, the balance of good over evil being so 
great that the birds deserve our protection. The following shows the result of 
the investigation made by Dr. Fisher at the request of the Department of Agri- 
culture of the United States : 

Red-tailed Hawk. 562 stomachs examined : 54 contained poultry or game 
birds ; 51, other birds ; 409, mice and other animals ; 37, reptiles, etc. ; 47, insects; 
9, crawfish, etc. ; 13, oftal ; and 89 were empty. 

Red -shouldered Hawk. 220 stomachs were examined : 3 contained poultry 
12, other birds ; 142, mice and other mammals; 59, reptiles, etc. ; 109, insects 
7, crawfish ; 2, offal ; 3, fish ; and 14 were empty. 

Broad-winged Hawk. 65 stomachs were examined: 2 contained small birds ; 
28, mice and other mammals ; 24, reptiles, etc. ; 32, insects, etc. ; 4 crawfish ; and 

7 were empty. 

Rough-legged Hawk. 49 stomachs examined : 45 contained mice and other 
mammals ; 1, lizards ; 1, insects ; and 4 were empty. 

Sparrow Hawk. 320 stomachs examined : 1 contained a quail ; 53 other 
birds; 101, mice and other mammals; 11, reptiles, etc. ; 244, insects, etc.; and two 
were empty. 

Marsh Hawk. 124 stomachs examined : 7 contained poultry or game birds; 
34, other birds ; 79, mice and other mammals ; 9, reptiles, etc. ; 14, insects ; and 

8 were empty. 

Thus it can be seen that of the 49 stomachs of the Rough-legged Hawk 
examined by Dr. Fisher, and the 32 examined by me, in 1895, not one contained 
a trace of any domestic fowl and nearly everyone contained mice. Yet many 
people persist in calling this bird the " Big Hen Hawk " and in treating it as an 
enemy, when both by law and public opinion it should be protected by every pos- 
sible means. The statement as to all the other species that I have referred to as 
beneficial is equally corroborated by my own experience, and shows how well 
entitled these birds are to consideration at our hands instead of the persecution 
they usually meet. 



OWLS. 

For some reason owls have always been treated with a certain amount of 
ridicule and contempt. In the minds of the ignorant and superstitious they were 
associated with cats and witches, and were supposed to possess a certain amount 
of influence with the latter, whose orgies they entered into with a good deal of 
spirit. In mythology, however, this bird was treated respectfully. Minerva, the 
goddess of wisdom, selected it as her attendant, and "as wise as an owl" has 
passed into a proverb by reason thereof. 

Most of the owls seen in the day-time appear to be stupid, clumsy and inert 
creatures, as they sit winking and blinking in the unaccustomed light, striving 
as much as possible to shade their wonderful eyes from the too-powerful rays ; 
but see these birds at dusk and after what a transformation takes place ! They 
are then as alert as any hawk ; their soft plumage enables them to skim noise- 
lessly around our farm buildings and over the fields in search of their food, 
unlucky then is the mouse or rat that ventures to show itself, or even utter a 
squeak from its hiding place in the grass, (for an owl's ears are as wonderfully 
constructed as its eyes, and their hearing is as acute as their sight). The fate of 
that mouse will be sealed, and it will vex the farmer no more. 

Some of the owls however, are day feeders the Snowy Owl and the Hawk 
Owl I think entirely so while the Great Horned Owl seems to be almost as 
active on dull days as at night ; and whether the day be bright or dull these birds 
can always see well enough to take care of themselves and keep out of the range 
of a gun. In the cultivated portions of the Province of Ontario we have five 
species of owls that may be treated here as residents. They are not strictly so, 
as there is a certain migratory movement amongst them, caused probably by the 
failure or abundance of their food supply, which may cause them to either leave 
certain districts for a time or gather there in larger numbers than usual. Many 
instances are on record of plagues of mice having been stayed and the trouble 
removed by the arrival on the infested spot of large numbers of owls ; these birds 
rapidly killed off the mice and then scattered again. Our resident species are the 
Great-Horned Owl, Long-eared Owl, Short-eared Owl, Barred Owl and Screech 
Owl. 

The Great Homed Owl, or "Cat Owl," as it is often called, is the only one I 
have ever know to attack poultry, and it can work havoc amongst them if they 
are left out to roost in unprotected places. The destruction of this owl is cer- 
tainly justifiable and necessary where it has taken up its quarters in a locality in 
which poultry is kept. It also captures great quantities of our favorite game 
birds, more particularly Ruffed Grouse, many a brood of which goes to satisfy the 
hunger of the Horned Owl's family, and are so lost to the sportsman. But as 
against the charge of poultry and game killing which has been proven against it, 
this owl has some redeeming qualities. It kills great numbers of rats, mice, 
squirrels and other rodents that are injurious to farmers, and strange to say it 
seems to be a determined enemy to the skunk. Numbers of cases have been 
cited in which the flesh and hair of this animal have been found in the stomachs 
of these owls, more particularly in the spring, and I know that fully one-half of 
the bodies of these birds that I have handled, were well perfumed with the odor 
of skunk in many cases so much so, that I have had to throw away many fine 
specimens the smell being quite unbearable. Possibly these birds are fond of 
strong odor, for those whose feathers are not scented with skunk perfumery, 
have generally a strong odor of muskrat, the flesh of which they also appreciate. 
I have frequently known them to hunt and kill these rats in the spring, during 1 



the day time when they were about the banks of the creeks, driven there by the 
high water of our usual spring freshet. These owls are very powerful birds r 
usually killing for themselves all the food they eat, and only resorting to carrion 
in the direst extremity of hunger. Turkeys and guinea fowls, from their habit 
of roosting in trees, frequently fall victims to the strength and rapacity of these 
creatures. In such cises only the head and neck of the slain will be eaten, the 
bodies being left to animals of less power, or meaner ambition, to finish. 

The Long-eared Owl is a much smaller bird than the last (being about fifteen 
inches in length), and contents itself with much humbler fare than its big cousin. 
It is fairly common throughout the cultivated districts, particularly in the autumn, 
when it may often be found in clumps of willows and alders that have been left 
in the low places about the fields and pastures. Quite frequently a pair will be 
found together. These are not, however, always male and female. I have never 
seen any evidence to show that this owl ever attacks poultry, and I do not believe 
that it could kill any domestic fowl larger or stronger than a pigeon. It* 
chief food consists of mice, varied occasionally by small birds and insects, more 
particularly the wood-boring beetles ; of these one or more will generally be 
found in the stomach or crop of every specimen examined. It is nocturnal in its 
habits, rarely moving about during the day unless disturbed, and even then it seems 
loth to move. Only once have I seen it attempting to hunt in daylight, and that 
occurred in western Ontario on a very dull, still day in November, when about 
four o'clock in the afternoon I saw a pair of them hovering over a field of long grass 
into which we had driven a bevy of quail. I suspected the owls of quail-hunting on 
their own account so followed them and shot both, but their stomachs contained no 
tracp of feathers nothing but mice. The only harm these owls can ever 
justly be accused of doing is the occasional killing of a small bird, and that is so 
far overbalanced by the great amount of good they do, that they are entitled to 
all the protection possible. 

The Short-eared Owl is about the same size as the last named species, but 
may be distinguished from it by the absence of the long ear-tufts, which are a 
conspicuous feature in the latter. This is probably the most abundant of all our 
owls, but it seldom frequents cultivated land, usually resorting to low-lying 
meadows and marsh hay lands. It is most commonly seen in the autumn, and 
appears to be somewhat gregarious, large numbers sometimes arriving at one of 
their feeding grounds together, and remaining there for a few days, then all move- 
off again as they came, to be replaced after a short interval by another lot. The 
great bulk of them leave this Province b}^ midwinter, or before if the snow 
should become deep, their movement towards the south being regulated entirely 
by the depth of snowfall. Whilst the ground is uncovered they are able to obtain 
a full supply of mice, which form the staple article of their diet ; when the snow 
is deep the mice work underneath it. The supply being cut off, they are driven 
southward, whither the small birds have already gone, so they cannot fall back 
upon them. Unfortunately this is a bad failing with the Short-eared owl in fact 
my experience shows that it feeds upon mice and small birds indiscriminately,, 
and what is worse, I am satisfied that it kills far more birds than it can eat. 
Near my home there is a large marsh partially surrounded by low meadows, 
which support a rank growth of grass, rushes and weeds of various kinds. This 
place is much frequented in the autumn by sparrows and warblers, migrating 
southward ; in fact at times the place fairly swarms with them. Suddenly a 
number of Short-eared owls will appear on the scene, and then numbers of small 
birds will be found lying about dead, some partly eaten and others with only 
the skull crushed and a few feathers plucked off. At these times I have shot many 
'of the owls, and found the crops and stomach to contain mice and small birds. 



mixed. This will go on for a few days, or until the owls leave, and each morning 
the number of dead birds lying about will have increased. After the owls have gone 
the destruction ceases, only to begin again when the next lot of owls arrive. The 
small birds thus destroyed are of the greatest value to an agricultural community, 
and their loss is much to be deplored ; but on the other hand the owls destroy an 
immense number of mice, so that the good they do probably balances the evil, and 
in such a case the best way is to let nature take its course without our intervention. 

The Barred Owl is so rare with us that its influence on agriculture, either 
for good or ill, is practically nothing. The few I have found in this Province 
have always contained mice, but to the south of us, where the poultry are allowed 
to roost in trees, it is charged with occasionally killing half-grown chickens. 

The noisy little Screech Owl, that may in some winters be found in half the 
barns in the country, is well known to every one, and should be protected by 
every farmer. It watches the granary, the barnyard and the garden, and is the 
most indefatigable mouser we have. It seems not only to kill mice for its 
immediate wants but also for the pleasure of hunting them. If the roosting place 
of one of these birds is examined after the bird has used it for a short time, 
numbers of dead mice will be found, most of them untouched after being killed 
and deposited there ; probably they lay up this store in order to provide against 
nights of scarcity, but in nearly all cases it will be found that they are well ahead 
of any danger ot' famine. Not only does this little owl rid the country of num- 
berless mice but in towns and cities it does useful work in keeping the common 
House Sparrow within proper limits. During the winter particularly, it may 
often be seen hunting about verandahs, under eaves and among the Virginia 
creeper growing around dwelling houses, for the sparrows that roost there, and it 
will go regularly over the same beat night after night, until the accessible spar- 
rows are thinned down, so that it tinds it more profitable to change its hunting 
ground. Besides its great value as a destroyer of mice and House Sparrows, the 
Screech Owl eats large numbers of large beetles, particularly the wood-borers 
and May beetles, both of which classes of insects are capable of doing great injury 
if suffered to become too numerous. Grasshoppers also form a considerable article 
of this bird's diet. The good qualities of this little owl cannot be overestimated. 
Its food consists entirely of such creatures as are most injurious to the crops, and 
it has not a single evil habit. It should, therefore, be carefully pi elected and 
encouraged to take up its abode in and about the farm buildings. This I believe 
it would readily do if it was left unmolested. All it asks in return for its valu- 
able services, is peace and quiet, and a dark corner to roost in during the day. 

The Great Gray Owl, the Snowy Owl, the Hawk Owl, Richardson's Owl and 
the Saw- whet Owl are only irregular visitors, usually occuring in the winter. The 
two first named are large birds whose food consists chiefly of game birds when 
in their northern home ; here they feed upon the small rodents. 

The island and sandbar to the south of Toronto is usually visited by a few 
Snowy Owls every winter. Here the birds feed upon the common house rats 
which are altogether too abundant at this spot. As every owl of any kind that 
visits the place is at once shot the rats, having it all their own way, are increasing 
rapidly. 

The Hawk Owl hunts by day on the prairies of the Northwest, and where it 
occurs in sufficient numbers it must do much good by the destruction of meadow 
mice. Its visits to us are so rare, however, that it need not be considered here. 

Richardson's Owl and the Saw-whet Owl are two little owls that destroy 
many mice and noxious insects, but are too rare to need further mention. 



10 



Of the ten species of owls before mentioned, nine of them are among the best 
of the farmer's friends, watching and working when he is sleeping. In following- 
out the natural law which governs their lives they greatly help to keep in check 
that vast army of little animals which, if allowed to increase unrestrained by 
their natural enemies, would in a few seasons destroy all vegetation on the face 
of the earth. The chief and most effective check upon the undue increase of this 
army of rats, mice, etc., are the birds of prey. These birds are endowed with 
natural faculties specially adapted for the work they do, and they do it well, the 
only trouble is that we have too few of them. If, however, public opinion can be 
brought to bear on this important matter before it is too late, and the wanton and 
useless destruction of our beneficial hawks and owls stopped at once, the balance 
of nature may be restored, to the great advantage of mankind. 

The following shows the result of Dr. Fisher's investigation of the food habits 
of the owls as reported to the Department of Agriculture at Washington. 

Great Horned Owl. 127 stomachs examined : 31 contained poultry or game 
birds; 8, other birds ; 13, mice ; 65, other mammals ; 1, insects, etc. : 1, fish, and 
17 were empty. 

This shows that althought the birds does some injury by its raids upon game 
an'l poultry, yet its evil propensities are somewhat counterbalanced by its destruc- 
tion of mice, rats, rabbits and other small mammals. It is the only one of the 
owls about whose record for good there can be any doubt. All the others should 
be protected, while this one should certainly be killed off', if it takes to visiting the 
barnyard. 

Long-eared Owl. 107 stomachs examined: 1 contained a game bird; 15, 
other birds; 84 contained mice; 5, other mammals; 1, insects, and 15 were empty. 

Short eared Owl. 101 stomachs examined: 11 contained small birds; 77 
contained mice ; 7, other mammals; 7, insects, and 14 were empty. My own 
experience shows a larger proportion of small birds than the above. 

Barred Owl. 109 stomachs examined . 5 contained poultry or game birds ; 
13, other birds; 46, mice ; 1 8, other mammals ; 10, frogs, lizards, etc. ; 16, insects; 
etc., and 20 were empty. 

Screech Oivl. 254 stomachs examined : 1 contained the remains of a pigeon 
38, other birds ; 91, mice ; 11, other small mammals ; 25, frogs, lizards, etc. ; 107 
insects, etc., and 43 were empty. 

The above examinations of the stomachs of our resident species show most 
positively that, with the exception of the Great-horned Owl, the whole family are 
of the greatest value to the farmer. My own experience, both in Manitoba and 
Ontario, corroborates this, and is perhaps a little more favorable to the owls, for 
(always excepting the Great-horned Owl) I have never found a trace of a game 
bird or domestic fowl in any of them. 



CROWS, BLACKBIRDS, ORIOLES, ETC. 

In this chapter I will deal with two families of birds, both of which are 
charged with being amongst the worst of the feathered enemies of the farmer. 
The mischief they do is plainly visible ; the good not always seen. When the 
crow visits the corn field in the spring, and is seen digging into the hills, abstract- 
ing the half-sprouted grain, and when the blackbirds in clouds alight on the 



11 



ripe wheat and oats, eating much and threshing out more, so that it is lost to its 
lawful owner, it is not to be wondered at that the farmer loses his temper and 
says in his wrath that all birds are a nuisance ; but these birds also do some good, 
though, as they have not acquired the knack of advertising it, their benefits are 
quite overlooked. If their case is tried impartially it may be found that even the 
Crow, like another celebrated personage, is not quite " so black as he is painted." 
I do not think the merits of the crows, or any of the so-called blackbird family, 
will be found sufficiently great to entitle them to protection, but their faults 
scarcely warrant their extermination, except in the case of the cow-bird, to be 
spoken of hereafter. 

Grow. Twenty-five years ago the Crows of the Province of Ontario were as 
regularly migratory as the Robins. A few occasionally stayed through the winter 
with us, and their doing so was considered a sign that we would have a mild 
season. As the land has been brought under cultivation, and more particularly in 
neighborhoods where market-gardening is carried on extensively, the number 
remaining through the winter has steadily increased, so that the species may now 
be considered a resident one. In the vicinity of Toronto vast flocks gather at the 
close of the autumn, feeding on the refuse vegetables left in the market gardens 
outside the city, and resorting at night to some of the pine woods still left stand- 
ing. In these they roost all through the winter. They may sometimes be pinched 
by hunger, but, unless the snow becomes too deep, they can generally get at the 
piles of manure drawn out on the market gardens, and other refuge left about 
the land. At this time they do no harm, and probably a little good, as they pick 
up many mice and insects in their foraging, but when spring opens they again 
scatter over the country and seek their nesting places. Seeding operations are 
now going on, and the first of the Crow's mischievous propensities asserts itself as 
soon as the grain has absorbed sufficient moisture from the ground to become soft 
and has slightly sprouted ; then it becomes a favorite morsel for the crows. Corn 
is preferred to any other grain. I have rarely found any quantity of any other 
grain in the stomach of a Crow, and even when the birds have been seen feeding 
among the hills of sprouting corn and have been shot right on the spot, I have 
always found the stomach contained quite as large an amount of insect remains 
as of corn, the cut-worm forming one of the Crow's choicest articles of diet, and 
the question arises as to whether it is not better to let the Crow have a little corn 
and get rid of the cut-worm, than to let the cut-worm take off a lot of corn if we 
get rid of the crow. Later on I will say something about the history of this same 
cut- worm. It is always wisest " of two evils to choose the least," and it must be 
-conceded that the corn-eating propensity of the crow is an evil ; but it is certainly 
less than the evil done by the cut-worm. So perhaps, so far as the Crow's 
case goes here, it would be as well to call the balance even and give the Crow the 
benefit of it. 

The next scene in the Crow's proceedings shows him with a lively and 
decidedly hungry family of four or five little ones, whose cravings demand con- 
stant attention from their parents ; the variety of food supplied to these insatiable 
youngsters will vary somewhat according to the locality in which they are placed ; 
in any case, no more grain will be taken by the parent birds ; their food now will 
consist entirely of insects, mice and the young of other birds. Nor will they stop 
at the young if they can catch an adult small bird. Sometimes they will try to 
elude the viligance of an old hen and will snatch up her chickens more adroitly 
than any hawk ; ducklings fall easy victims to their cunning. It is at this season 
they do the greatest amount of mischief, by destroying the nests and young of 
more valuable birds, particularly of such as nest upon the ground. For this 



12 



reason chiefly Crows should be kept within proper limits as to numbers. Of late 
years they have increased altogether too fast, and our small birds have suffered 
in consequence. 

After the younij birds leave the nest they move about with their parents and 
feed on a most varied diet. They will make a raid on the fruit grower, and 
demolish his cherries or raspberries if the idea strikes them, or they will prowl 
along the lake shore and enjoy themselves for a few days on fish fare, after which 
they will visit a pasture field and clear out all the wire worms, grubs and mice 
they may find there : in fact, very few things come amiss to them, as they roam 
about through the country until the cold nights warn them to get together in 
some place where they can get at least a bare subsistence to carry them over the 
winter. 

As I have said before, Crows have increased too fast of late years, and we 
have now too many of them in the country ; their numbers can easily be reduced 
if a little attention be paid to the matter in the spring. Just at nesting time they 
are less shy and wary than at any other season and can be approached in the trees- 
within shooting distance. If one of each pair was shot off their numbers would 
soon be reduced to such an extent that the damage they could do would not be 
noticeable. These birds are so well able to take care of themselves that even 
more stringent measures might be adopted against them without any danger of 
extermination, their natural enemies being very few, and those, of that class- 
against which man has carried on a most successful war. Of these the Great- 
horned Owl was the most noteworthy, but the Great-horned Owl will kill the 
poultry of a farmer who allows his fowls to roost out on winter nights, and so 
the Owl must go and the Crow has one enemy the less. 

Raven. This species only occurs in the more northerly portions of the Pro- 
vince, having retired before the encroachments of civilization. To the pioneer it 
is sometimes a nuisance, poultry and young lambs falling easy victims to this- 
bird's strength and rapacity. They also destroy a large quantity of game, but 
fortunately their number is so small, and the birds themselves so conspicuous, 
that it is not difficult to get rid of then . 

Blue Jay. It is a pity that so beautiful and interesting a bird as this should 
be possessed of such mischievous propensities as it is, but I am afraid that neither 
its good looks nor its good acts can be said to balance its evil deeds. This bird, 
like the common Crow, seems to forget its usual shyness when spring arrives and 
will leave its wooded haunts and build its nestnn gardens.orchards and shrubberies, 
close to houses and quite within reach of every person passing, nor does it affect 
any sort of concealment as a rule. 1 have seen many nests so placed that they 
were visible from public roads where people and vehicles were continually passing. 
The female could quite readily be seen sitting, yet the birds carried on their duties 
regardless of prying eyes. It seems a pity that their confidence should be abused, 
but I am compelled to say that in all cases that came under my observation the 
Blue Jays badly repaid the persons in whose gardens they were protected and 
allowed to raise their young. In the first place the> steal a large amount of small 
fruit, and, further they rob and destroy the nests and young of other birds to 
such an extent that they are positively injurious to agriculture, the birds they 
destroy being all of that class whose food consists principally of insects, and with- 
out whose assistance I doubt if we could succeed in raising any crop to maturity. 
The Blue Jays themselves, however, destroy no inconsiderable number of 
insects, and they do no damage to grain ; they may occasionally pick off a little 
, corn from the cob, but that is about the extent of the injury they do in that 
direction. Their unfortunate fondness for the young of other birds more valuable 



13 



than themselves makes it necessary that they should be destroyed when 
take up their residence about our gardens, for it is there, and in our cultivated 
fields, that our insectivorous birds do the most good, and to get them there we 
must give them as much protection as possible from their natural enemies, and 
teach them that they are in greater safety near our dwellings than they would 
be in the woods. Birds of all kinds soon lose their fear of man if unmolested by 
him, and particularly if they find that in his immediate neighborhood they can 
raise their young safely. I know of several farms and large gardens where birds 
have been encouraged and protected from their enemies ; to these places they 
return in increased numbers year after year, until nearly all available breeding 
places are taken up. On these premises the owners rarely suffer from the 
depredations of cut worms or other insects, and so find themselves well repaid for 
the little care they require to exercise on behalf of their feathered friends. 

Bronze Grackle, better known throughout the country as the " crow black- 
bird," is, when in full plumage, a very handsome bird, and may be distinguished 
from the other so-called blackbirds by its large size and the brilliant metallic 
lustre of its feathers. Like the Rook of Europe, it breeds in colonies, and is gre- 
garious at all times of the year. To the farmer, the fruit grower and the lover 
of birds generally, this bird is a nuisance ; all that can be said in its favour is, 
that it is very beautiful and that it does, at times, eat a Jarge number of cut 
worms, for which it may often be seen working industriously on the lawns and 
grass fields near its nesting place, but as against that it has a heavy record of 
crimes to answer for. They are early migrants, arriving here about the end of 
March and resorting at once to their nesting places. From this time until the 
oats are sown they probably feed entirely on insects, but as soon as the grain is 
in the ground they visit the newly sown fields and help themselves liberally, 
varying their diet by taking as many small birds' eggs and young as they can 
conveniently get at. I have on several occasions seen them attack and carry off 
young Robins, in spite of the vigorous defence set up by the victim's parents and 
all the friends they could summon to their assistance. The row made by the 
despoiled nest owners on these occasions, together with the frantic dashes they 
made at the robber, would be sufficient to shake the nerves of one of the hawk 
family, but the Crow blackbird disregards it all, and goes off with its prey. 

As soon as the strawberries, cherries, etc., are ripe these birds display a fond- 
ness for fruit, and a persistency in gratifying it, that is maddening to the fruit 
grower, whose profits dwindle day by day by reason of the visits of these thieves, 
who will continue to carry it off until the young leave the nest. When the young 
Grackles can fly they gather in large flock's and roam about the country all day, 
roosting together in vast numbers in some marsh every night. The Dundas 
marsh, near Hamilton, used to be much favored by them for this purpose ; it is 
at this season they do the worst of their mischief to the fields of wheat and oats. 
Not only do they eat an immense quantity, but as they flutter and struggle in 
their efforts to balance themselves upon the straw of the standing grain, they 
thresh out and cause the loss of much more. Nor does the cutting and shocking 
stop their ravages : they still continue to feed upon it, until the last sheaf is in 
the barn In the Province of Manitoba where these birds are abundant, I have 
seen all the grain threshed out from the ears for a space of ten yards in width, 
round fields which had been selected by them for their feeding ground. In this 
Province they are rarely to be found in sufficient numbers to do as much damage 
as that, nor are they likely to become so, for although their chief natural enemies, 
the hawks and owls, have been too much reduced to be able to keep them entirely 
in check, yet their number is still manageable and may be kept so by the judicious 



14 



use of the gun. I advise anyone who shoots them, particularly in the early 
autumn, to try blackbird pie. Whoever does so will, I think, want to repeat the 
experiment. 

Rusty Grackle. This is a much smaller species than the last and is not of 
any importance to us from an agricultural point of view. I merely mention it 
as it occurs here in considerable numbers for a short time in the autumn, but as- 
it does not arrive until the early part of September, the crops are safe from its 
ravages. In Manitoba, where it is very abundant, it unites with the other black- 
birds and destroys a large amount of grain. A few pass through this Province 
in the spring on their way to the north to breed, but they make no delay and are 
not noticeable. 

Red-winged Blackbird. From an agricultural standpoint this bird has little 
to recommend it, but to the lover of nature its beautiful coloring and cheery note 
in early spring render it an object of interest. They are among our earliest 
migrants, arriving about the middle of March, and resorting at once to the 
marshes, in which they remain until after the young are able to fly. While in 
the swamps their food consists almost entirely of aquatic insects, of which the 
larvae of the dragon flies form the principal part. As these larvae form an import- 
ant item in the food of some of our most valuable fish, and the mature dragon 
flies feed largely on mosquitos and other small winged insects, the blackbirds are 
not doing mankind a particularly friendly service by destroying them. This, 
would perhaps not be worth sufficient consideration to warrant our interference 
with the birds, were it not for their other and more serious failing. As soon as. 
the young are able to fly strongly, which is about the middle of July, they leave 
the marshes in which they were bred, and in great flocks resort to the grain fields, 
where, like the grackle, with which they frequently associate, they do much 
damage, particularly to oats, which they seem to prefer to any other grain. As 
these birds are very abundant, the loss caused by their plundering must be very 
great, but they can fortunately easily be managed if a little attention is paid to- 
them in the spring, when they may be shot off on their breeding grounds. 

After the grain is carried, they again return to the marshes and gorge them- 
selves on the wild rice, until not a grain of it is left, thereby depriving the wild 
ducks, etc., of a most attractive food. As soon as the first frost comes they retire 
to the south, where they cause much worry to the rice-grower. Little can'be said 
in extenuation of these serious faults. They never interfere with other birds or 
their ne?ts, and they probably destroy some noxious insects, such as cut worms,, 
etc., in meadows, lying near the swamps they frequent in the early part of the 
season, but this is all that can be urged in their favor. 

Cow Bird. Male in summer, all over, except the head, a lustrous, glossy 
black ; the head glossy chestnut. Female and young dull, sooty black. Length 
of male, about seven inches, female rather smaller. This bird should be known 
to everyone, and should be destroyed whenever the opportunity occurs. It is the 
only feathered creature against which I would advocate a war of extermination, 
and this I do, because it is not only of no value in itself, but the rearing of each 
one of its young means a loss to the country of an entire brood of one of our 
valuable insectivorous birds. It is true that during the early part of the season 
it frequents the pasture fields where cattle are grazing, and" feeds principally on 
the insects affecting such places, but this is easily counterbalanced by the grain it 
destroys later on. These birds do not mate, nor do they build a nest for them- 
selves, but the female deposits each of her eggs in the nest of some other small 
bird The egg is whitish, thickly covered with greyish brown dots. I have 
found the eggs of this bird in the nests of nearly all the sparrows, finches, and 



warblers that breed in the Province. After the egg of the Cow bird is deposited, 
the female takes no further interest in the matter, but leaves it to be hatched by 
the real owner of the nest in which it has been placed ; in due time the young 
will appear and then the trouble arises. In a few days the young Cow bird has 
far outgrown its fellow nestlings, in size, strength and voracity, so that it requires 
and manages to get all the food the parent birds bring to the nest, the result 
being that the proper occupants of the nest are either starved to death or crowded 
out by the interloper, who from that time until it is full grown taxes to the 
utmost all the energies of its foster parents to supply its voracious appetite' 
Nothing can be more pitiable than the plight of a pair of small birds upon whom 
one of these parasites has been foisted. They are forced to raise an ugly foundling 
instead of their own young, and then by reason of the long continued helplessness 
of their foster child, they are prevented from raising a second brood ; for although 
it quickly grows large and strong enough to crowd out its fellow nestlings and 
its body develops rapidly, so that it can leave the nest and follow its foster 
parents through the trees, yet its energy does not develop proportionately with 
its body, and it requires to be fed for a longer period than the young of any other 
small bird. The destruction of the natural enemies of this bird, and the con- 
stantly enlarging area of cultivated land, both operate favorably for the increase 
of this pest, so that of late years it has become altogether too abundant, Last 
year (1897) in the southern part of Ontario it swarmed every where, and I noticed 
an egg of this bird's in quite half the nes+s of other small species that I chanced 
to tind ; of course, in every case I took it out and promptly smashed it, thereby 
saving the proper brood. It is to the increase of these creatures that I attribute 
almost wholly the decrease which has become so noticeable in our more useful 
species. Some idea may be obtained of the terrible destruction worked among 
the valuable species by Cow birds by just noticing the immense flocks of them 
that occur here in the autumn, and remembering that for every one of those Cow 
birds, a brood of some other species has perished. Most of our insectivorous 
birds produce an average of about four young to a brood, and some of them 
would raise two broods in a season ; the deposit of an egg by the Cow bird in a. 
nest prevents the raising of any young at all of its own by the bird victimized. 
Just how many eggs each Cow bird lays each season is rather uncertain ; in all 
probability four or five are deposited. If that is so, every female Cow bird that 
arrives here in the spring and is allowed to follow her own method of reproduc- 
tion, causes the loss of from fifteen to twenty-five of the young of our most 
valuable birds. In view of the great increase that has taken place in the num- 
bers of this bird of late years, it is not to be wondered at that our other native 
species are decreasing, and we should take steps at once to regulate matters. 
Every person on finding a nest of any of our small birds should look over the 
eggs contained in it, and if one is found therein differing from the others and 
corresponding to the description of the egg of the Cow bird which I have already 
given, that egg should be taken out and destroyed. School teachers throughout 
the country would do well to impress this upon their pupils. 

Shooting the females in early spring is perhaps the most satisfactory way of 
keeping down the number of this most undesirable bird, and I strongly urge 
everyone who has access to a gun to use it for this purpose, about his own prem- 
ises ; for, as I have already pointed out, every Cow bird killed at this season 
means the salvation of much valuable bird life and a corresponding lessening of 
our insect pects. 

Bobolink.^ One of the most familiar sounds of summer in the country is the 
merry rollicking song of the Bobolink, to be heard at all times in the fields of 
scent-laden clover ; its bubbling notes, poured out in the exuberance of its spirits, 



16 



.seem to express the feeling of joy that pervades all nature in June. The birds 
arrive here about the middle of May, the males coming a few days before the 
females. They resort at once to the hay meadows, and remain there through the 
nesting season which is concluded by the time the hay is ready to cut. Whilst 
on the farms their food consists entirely of insects, of which the caterpillars that 
feed on clover form the greater part. These caterpillars are very abundant, and, 
where they are not kept in check by the birds, sometimes do serious injury, so 
that apart from its appearance, and its good qualities as a musician, the Bobolink 
has a claim upon us which 'entitles it to our best care and protection. After the 
hay is cut the males lose their black and white plumage, and become like the 
females and young in appearance, of a yellowish brown color. They then asso- 
ciate in small flocks and frequent the marshes, feeding on wild rice and the seeds 
of some rush-like plants until the first frosts come, when they retire to the south 
for the winter. 

In the rice growing States these birds are sometimes accused of doing con- 
siderable mischief to the planters' crops, but I am inclined to think that the 
various species of blackbirds which also resort to these States, are the principal 
depredators, and by reason of their greater abundance do the most of the damage. 

Meadouiark. The Meadowlark is a common though, unfortunately, not 
now an abundant bird on the farm. Some years ago it could be found wherever 
the land was cultivated, all through the Province, but owing to its size and slow 
straight flight, which makes it an easy mark for the gunner, its numbers are 
decreasing very fast. This is a great pity, for it is an exceedingly valuable bird 
to the farmer. From the time of its arrival here in March until its departure in 
November it resorts to the cultivated land and grass meadows, feeding entirely 
on insects, and never indulging in grain or fruit of any kind. All its work being 
done amongst the crops upon which man expends his labor and to which lie is 
compelled to look for his subsistence, the benefit conferred is direct and should 
be appreciated. We cannot make any return for the good it does, but we can at 
least refrain from destroying its life, and exert ourselves a little to prevent others 
from doing so. The class of insects upon which this bird feeds during the early 
part of the season is perhaps the most injurious to vegetable life of all our insect 
enemies. Its food consists chiefly of those known as cut worms, wire worms, etc.. 
all of which work underground for the most part during the day and only emerge 
from their hiding places at night. By some highly developed faculty the 
Meadowlark is enabled to locate these creatures in their hiding places, and being 
provided with a sharp beak of sufficient length for the purpose, is able to drag 
them out and devour them. Of all the stomachs I have examined prior to 
July, the principal contents were wire worms, cut worms, and some few 
other caterpillars and beetles ; later in the season the food consisted principally 
of grasshoppers. On two or three occasions I have found a few of these birds 
wintering with us, in the vicinity of market gardens, and being curious to know 
if at that season they had been compelled to fall back on a seed or vegetable diet, 
I shot one out of each lot, and I found the birds were in remarkably good 
condition. Their stomachs contained, however, nothing but insects, chiefly bugs 
and beetles, which they had probably obtained from manure heaps and the 
refuse cabbages left in the gardens. These birds build a domed nest on the ground, 
in grass fields ; their eggs and young are therefore liable to be destroyed by Crows, 
skunks and other vermin, and those that escape their natural enemies are subject 
to such continued persecution from gunners who ought to know better, that our 
beautiful and useful Meadowlark is in danger of extermination, unless some 
effort is made for its protection. 



17 



Baltimore Oriole. The Golden Robin, Fire Bird or Hang-nest, as this bird is 
sometimes called, is of more importance to the fruit grower than the grain farmer, 
.as it gleans its food entirely among the branches, only visiting the ground for 
material with which to construct its purse -like nest. Its food consists largely of 
leaf-eating caterpillars and beetles. It is also particularly fond of the moths 
which frequent the trees for the purpose of laying their eggs ; of these moths it 
devours large numbers, and in this way it materially assists in keeping down the 
army of leaf eaters which so frequently strip our trees of their foliage. Very 
few of our birds will eat a hairy caterpillar, but when they eat a female moth 
before she has laid her eggs they destroy at one stroke a whole brood of these 
pernicious creatures, and to this work the Oriole devotes itself with great industry. 
I have on several occasions obtained a brood of young Orioles and hung them 
out in a cage near my house for the purpose of discovering the nature of the food 
brought to them, and found that fully one-half consisted of moths ; unfortunately 
I did not keep a record of the number of these brought in any one day, but it 
was very large, and the usefulness of this bird in keeping down the swarms of 
destructive caterpillars, by cutting off the source of supply, was clearly exempli- 
fied. When the cherries ripen the Oriole displays a certain partiality for fruit, 
but the small quantity they take may well be spared them, more particularly as 
it is only in this direction that they levy any toll for their services. The bril- 
liant coloring of the male, his flute like note, and the ingenuity displayed in the 
construction of the nest, all commend these birds to the lover of nature, and 
we could well spare a few cherries for the sake of having them about our gardens, 
even if their usefulness was less pronounced than it is. In the south-western 
portions of our Province the Orchard Oriole occurs. It differs from the Baltimore 
in being smaller and in color being chestnut and black, instead of the orange and 
black which marks the present species. Its habits are much the same as those 
of the familiar Baltimore, but it is too rare to have any economic valne. 



WOODPECKERS, NUTHATCHES, TITMICE, ETC. 

The various species which constitute these families have been grouped 
together, because of certain similarities in their habits, although structurally they 
differ widely. They are all tree climbers, and obtain the greatest part of their 
food from the trunks of trees, some of them by laboriously digging out the grubs 
which bore into the solid wood, others by prying into every crack and crevice of 
the bark, where they find insects in various stages of development. 

Of the Woodpeckers we have in Ontario nine species, namely, the Pileated 
Woodpecker (better known as the " Cock of the Woods "), the Arctic Three-toed 
Woodpecker, the American Three-toed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy 
Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Woodpecker, Golden- winged Woodpecker, Red -headed 
Woodpecker, and Red-bellied Woodpecker. The first three are true birds of the 
forest, very seldom showing themselves in the neighborhood of cultivation, so 
that, although their services are of great value to the country, by reason of the 
constant war they carry on against the borers, which are so injurious to our 
timber, we need not consider them in this paper. The Hairy Woodpecker and 
the Downy Woodpecker are two species that almost exactly resemble each other 
both in habits and appearance, the only material difference being in their size, 
the Hairy Woodpecker measuring about nine inches in length, the Downy 
about six inches. Their food, which consists almost entirely of insects, is 
2 



18 



obtained either by digging the grubs out of the wood, or picking them out of the 
crevices of the bark in which they hide during the day. Sometimes during the 
winter I have found the stomachs of these birds filled with the seeds of the hem- 
lock. These seeds seem to form a favorite food with many of our birds at this 
season ; the berries of the sumach are also occasionally eaten by the little Downy, 
perhaps for the sake of the small beetles that are always to be found amongst 
them. These are the only two vegetable substances that I have ever known 
either of these species to feed upon. 

Both these Woodpeckers are accused of injuring trees by boring holes in 
them to obtain a flow of sap, which they are said to drink. This is a mistake. 
The bird having the sap-sucking habit is the Yellow-bellied Woodpecker, an 
entirely different species, of which I shall speak presently. Nature has most 
perfectly fitted these birds for their task of ridding the trees of the grubs which 
bore into them. Their beaks are hard, sharp and chisel-like, so that they are 
enabled to enlarge the holes inhabited by these insects sufficiently to enable them 
to insert their long, barbed tongue, with which they extract the larvse from their 
hiding places. In the winter these birds frequently visit the orchard, garden 
and shrubbery, and there they do most valuable work, by destroying the chrysa- 
lids of the moths that produce the leaf-eating caterpillars. The toughest cocoon 
ever spun by a caterpillar is no protection against the sharp beaks of these birds, 
even the strong case which encloses the chrysalis of the large Cecropia moth is 
soon torn open when found by a Downy Woodpecker and the contents devoured. 
Ants and borers in the trees are also greedily eaten by both species ; in fact, 
nothing in the shape of insect life comes amiss to them, that can be found within 
their reach. The valuable work done by these birds for the protection of our 
trees should commend them to every lumberman, fruit grower and nurseryman, 
and though we cannot do very much to protect them from their natural enemies, 
we can cease destroying them ourselves and discountenance it in others. 

Red-headed Woodpecker. This is the most beautiful bird of the whole 
Woodpecker family, the strong contrast of the glossy black and the white of its 
body and the brilliant crimson of the head of the adult birds render them very 
conspicuous objects of the country ; their value from an economic point of view, 
however, is debatable. From the time of their arrival here in April until the 
first strawberry ripens these birds feed on insects entirely, and in pursuit of their 
food they often adopt the tactics of the fly-catchers by mounting to the top of a 
telegraph pole or bare limb of a tree, and from thence darting out at any passing 
insect large enough to attract their attention, if the location selected is a favor- 
able one and food abundant, they will remain at the same spot for some time ; but 
after the small fruits ripen their tastes change, and they then visit the strawberry 
patches, both wild and cultivated, and cherries and raspberries are also eaten by 
them, and carried to their young. When the season for small fruit is over they 
again resort to their insect eating habit, and so far as I have been able to observe, 
are not in this Province ever addicted to pilfering grain. I have occasionally 
seen an odd one make a raid on a vineyard and take a few grapes, and once or 
twice have seen them pick holes in apples, but the habit does not seem general. 

There is no doubt that in the spring they do much good by destroying num- 
bers of mature insects which, if allowed, would deposit eggs to produce vast num- 
bers of injurious caterpillars. Tt is true also that in districts where small fruit 
is cultivated for profit they do much harm if they become sufficiently numerous. 
As the case now stands they are too scarce to do much injury and, except when 
they are too persistent in their visits to a garden or orchard, they may well be 
left alone. Although these birds are regular migrants, arriving here about the 



middle of May and leaving in September, I have once or twice met with them in 
sheltered woods in south-western Ontario in the winter, where the bright plumage 
showed to great advantage against the evergreens. 

The habits of the Red-bellied Woodpecker are very similar to those of the 
above species and its economic value about the same, but as it only occurs in the 
south-western counties of the Province, and then in very small numbers, it need 
not be further considered. 

Golden-winged Woodpecker. Flicker, High Holder, Yellow Hammer, Pigeon 
Woodpecker, and half a dozen other aliases, testify that this is a well known if 
not always a popular character. Like the last species, the value of this bird from 
the fruit-growers' standpoint is debatable, but it is not quite so much given to 
fruit eating as the Red-head, though when it has seven or eight hungry young 
ones to feed and it finds a cherry orchard handy, it will help itself to a good 
many cherries, for which it has a decided predilection. Apart from this unlucky 
habit the bird has many good qualities. In some of its ways, it much resembles 
the Meadowlarks ; like them it may often be seen stalking about on the ground 
searching for ants, of which it destroys vast quantities. I have often found their 
stomachs filled with them, and have rarely examined one without finding it con- 
tained some of these insects ; it also devours great numbers of grasshoppers, 
beetles, moths and other ground insects. This bird is really a ground feeder, for, 
though classed among the Woodpeckers by reason of certain similarities of struc- 
ture, it does less woodpecking than any other of its class, the beak not being as 
well fitted for that operation as the beaks of the others. It has also the peculiarity 
of being able to perch crosswise on a branch, a method rarely adopted by its rela- 
tions. There is one other evil trait I have seen this bird exhibit, on two occa- 
sions only, that is the destruction by it of nests of the Bluebird : both the nests 
destroyed were built by the Blue-birds in holes in trees much higher than usual, 
probably from forty to fifty feet from the ground. I am not certain what the 
nests contained at the time, but I saw the woodpeckers pull out the nests and 
throw them piecemeal to the ground in spite of the resistance of the Bluebirds, 
but I found no trace of eggs or young ; if there were any they must have been 
eaten. It is probable that the woodpeckers wanted the nesting site for them- 
selves, and so dispossessed the owners. If so they were disappointed, for I settled 
the question by killing them, but am sorry to say I omitted to examine the 
stomachs to see whether or not they had devoured the young Bluebirds, if there 
were any. I am inclined to think these were exceptional cases ; they occurred 
over twenty years ago and I have never seen a repetition of the trick. If these 
birds become a nuisance in a garden or orchard, they can easily be killed off while 
they are comitting their offence, but I think that through the country generally, 
the good they do far overbalances the little damage they may do locally. 

Yellow-bellied Woodpecker or Sapsucker. Adult male, crown and chin 
crimson, back and wing coverts black and white, wings black with a large white 
bar, tail black, inner web of the two central feathers white with black spots, 
breast black edged with yellowish, the rest of the under parts dull yellowish, the 
sides white with black streaks. In the female the crimson of the crown and chin 
is wanting, the crown is black with sometimes a few traces of crimson on the 
forehead, the chin is white. I give a description of this species in order that it 
may be distinguished from the other small Woodpeckers, because it is principally 
owing to the propensity for drinking sap which the bird has, that a certain pre- 
judice exists in some localities against all the Woodpeckers or Sap suckers as 
they are called. It is quite true that these Woodpeckers do, in the spring, when 
the sap is rising, bore small holes in the bark of various trees for the purpose of 



20 



obtaining the sap as it flows from them, and also to attract the insects upon which 
they feed to the same spot, so that they can satisfy their hunger and thirst with- 
out having to over-exert themselves in so doing. If life was not so short I 
might be tempted here to go into the question as to whether this bird had to 
acquire this habit because its tongue was peculiarly fitted for it, or whether the 
tongue became modified so as to just suit the habit after the bird had acquired 
it ; for the bird's tongue certainly differs from that of other Canadian Wood- 
peckers and is admirably fitted for the use to which it is put. A discussion of 
the question would exceed the scope of this article, and probably not lead to 
anything after all. We know the bird has this habit and the question is, what 
is the effect of it upon the trees which are bored ? I have made what obser- 
vations I could, and as many enquiries from others as possible, and have come 
to the conclusion that the only real damage done is that a young tree may be 
tendered unsightly for a time, or it may even be permanently disfigured by some 
peculiarity in the healing of the bark, but usually no harm ensues. That a tree 
ever was or could be killed by it I do not believe, for I have never yet seen or 
heard any evidence in proof of it. 

Apart from its sap drinking peculiarity the bird's record is excellent ; it is 
not a fruit or grain eater, but devotes itself to the destruction of insects that 
live on the trees or hide in the loose bark. Ants form a large proportion of its 
food. These it obtains from the rotten wood in which they burrow, as it does 
not descend to the ground in search of them. Beetles and moths are also sought 
out and devoured, but as this bird's tongue is not as well barbed as that of some 
of the other Woodpeckers, fewer grubs of the wood-boring class are eaten by it. 
I suppose if any man believes that these birds are doing an injury to his trees 
he should be allowed to protect himself in the only way possible, viz., by getting 
rid of the birds on his own premises; but for his own sake he should be sure he gets 
rid of the right one, and that neither the Downy nor the Hairy is destroyed by 
mistake. Both the Downy and the Hairy Woodpecker remain with us all through 
the year, whilst the Sapsucker is a summer resident only; so that whenever a Wood- 
pecker is seen in the winter it should be spared, for it is most certainly a bene- 
ficial one. 

Nuthatches, Chickadee and Tree Creeper. Of these we have two species of 
Nuthatches, the White-breasted and Red-breasted, one Chickadee and one 
Creeper. They are all resident species, though more frequently seen about culti- 
vated lands in the winter than in any other season. They are among the most 
active insect destroyers we have, gleaning their food from the bark, branches 
and leaves of trees, and seldom descending to the ground, though when wood- 
chopping is going on in the bush the logs, sticks and chips will all be carefully 
searched for grubs which have been exposed by the axe. The familiarity dis- 
played by these little creatures at this time is very pleasing. As soon as work 
begins and the first few strokes of the axe sound through the bush, they gather 
round and investigate every piece of bark and decayed wood thrown open, and 
from each one gather some prizes. It is very amusing to watch the little Chickadee 
when he finds a large grub of one of the borers partly exposed. He pulls and 
tugs at it until it comes out, and then securely holding it down with his feet he 
tears it in pieces and devours it. Without the assistance of the chopper it is 
but seldom that they can get at the larger grubs that bore deeply into the solid 
wood, as they have neither the strength nor proper tools for digging them out ; 
but th^y have found out that when the farmer gets out his cordwood their oppor- 
tunity for a feast arrives, and so they take advantage of it. As a general rule, 
however, they scour the bush, orchard and shrubbery in merry little parties 
searching for food, from time to time uttering their musical notes, which always 



21 



have a peculiar " woodsy" quality about them. The seeds of the hemlock are 
occasionally eaten by the Chickadee and Red-breasted Nuthatch, and the White- 
breasted Nuthatch is said to sometimes eat beechnuts and acorns, but I have 
never found any trace of them. The Tree Creeper eats no vegetable substance 
whatever. 

This little group of birds is of the greatest value to the fruit-grower, as 
they feed principally on the minute insects and their eggs, which are individually 
so small that they escape our observation until, having seen the damage done by 
them, our attention is called to their existence, and then it is too late to enable 
us to remedy the matter for the season. 



THRUSHES. 

We have in Ontario seven species belonging to this family, all of them 
migratory, arriving here from the south in early spring and leaving us in the 
autumn, as cold weather sets in. They are the Wood Thrush, Wilson's Thrush, 
Grey cheeked Thrush, Olive-backed Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Robin and Bluebird. 
The Olive-backed Thrush, Hermit Thrush and Grey-cheeked Thrush pass on and 
raise their young to the north of us ; the others remain throughout the summer 
and breed here. 

The Wood Thrush and Wilson's Thrush, or Veery, as it is sometimes called, 
are strictly birds of the woodlands, and seldom venture far from the edge of the 
bush, though both species will at times select a garden where there are shrubs 
for their summer residence, if they find themselves unmolested, particularly if 
there are no domestic cats about the premises. The cats at all times prefer young 
birds to mice or rats, and are as much to blame for the decrease of our native 
birds as bird-nesting boys or anything else, perhaps, except the Cow bird. Wil- 
son's Thrush is one of our most abundant species, but it has the faculty of 
concealing itself to such perfection that it is often overlooked though there may 
be many within a few yards of where a person is standing. The Wood Thrush 
is very rare with us. which is to be regretted, as it is a beautiful songster. 

All these thrushes are very valuable birds to the agriculturist, their food 
consisting for the most part of grubs that live under the surface of the ground, 
and caterpillars. In the autumn they eat many wild berries, those of the 
Elder and Viburnum being especial favorites, but they never help themselves to 
the produce of the farm or garden. The best known and most familiar of the 
thrush family is the Robin, and opinion is very strongly divided as to its utility. 
Many fruit growers condemn this bird with great emphasis, stating that it is the 
worst enemy they have ; others weigh its merits and demerits more carefully, 
and are inclined to think that it at least pays for the fruit it eats by the destruc- 
tion of insects. No doubt it does take a large number of cherries, strawberries 
and raspberies, and some grapes, but it is open to question if it were not for the 
birds whether there would be any cherries, strawberries or grapes, or, indeed, 
whether any crop could be brought to maturity. The great merit of the Robin is 
that in the early part of the season it feeds itself and its young almost entirely 
on cut worms and on the large white grub, the larva of the May beetle. Of all 
our insect enemies the underground cut worm is about the most destructive, for 
in feeding it just comes above the surface and cuts off the entire plant, or if the 
plants are very young and the stems small it cuts off half a dozen or more at one 



22 



time, only eating a small section out of the stem of each and leaving the plants 
dead on the surface of the ground. Whole rows of peas, corn, beets, cabbage and 
cauliflower are often so treated ; tomatoes, too, fare badly with them. The only 
remedy that seems effectual against their attacks is to wrap paper around the 
stems of the plants from the surface of the soil to the height of about three inches 
above it. This is obviously impossible in the case of field crops, and it is equally 
impossible to go over the fields and take the worms out by hand, so that we must 
rely, for the most part, upon the ground feeders amongst the birds ; these are fitted 
by nature for digging out the insects and devouring them. 

Robin. Among the most conspicuous of these birds is the Robin and one 
need only watch one of them at work in the garden, from April to about the 
middle of June (which is the season of the cut worm's activity) to be satisfied as 
to the Robin's good work. I will give the result of an experiment carried on by 
myself, which will satisfy anyone as to the number of these insects a pair of 
Robins will destroy when they are feeding a brood of young. In May, 1889, I 
noticed a pair of Robins digging out cut worms in my garden, whu-h was infested 
with them, and saw they were carrying them to their nest in a tree close by. On 
the 21st of that month I found one of the young on the ground, it having fallen 
out of the nest, and in order to see how much insect food it required daily I took 
it to my house and raised it by hand. Up to the 6th of June it had eaten from 
fifty to seventy cut worms and earth worms every day. On the 9th of June I 
weighed the bird; its weight was exactly three ounces, and then I tried how 
much it would eat, it being now quite able to feed itself. With the assistance of 
my children I gathered a large number of cut worms and gave them to the Robin 
after weighing them. In the course of that day it ate just five and one-half 
ounces of cut worms. These grubs averaged thirty to the ounce, so the young 
Robin ate one hundred and sixty-five cut worms in one day. Had it been at 
liberty it would probably have eaten some insects of other species and fewer cut 
worms, but this shows near about what each young Robin requires for its main- 
tainance when growing ; the adult birds require much less, of course. The aver- 
age number of young raised by a Robin is four, and there are usually two broods 
in the season A very simple calculation will give a good idea of the number of 
insects destroyed while the young are in the nest. After the young have flown 
they are apt to visit the small fruit, and it is no doubt very provoking to find a 
flock of them helping themselves to strawberries, etc. If possible, they should be 
kept off" without destroying them, a resort to the gun being avoided as long as 
possible. 

Bluebird. Twenty years ago the Bluebird was one of the most abundant of 
the summer residents in the cultivated districts of the Province ; there was 
scarcely a farm throughout southern Ontario upon which two or more pairs of 
these birds did not breed. The same birds seemed to return regularly to occupy 
their holes in the old apple trees and fence posts, year after year, and so familiar 
were they that they actually seemed to know the members of the family whose 
premises they occupied. In one case, near Niagara, a pair of Bluebirds for sev- 
eral year in succession built their nests in a letter box which was placed at the 
gate of the farm, opening on the main road. The mail carrier deposited letters 
and newspapers in the box every day, which were duly taken out by the members 
of the family. To all this the birds paid no attention whatever, but would con- 
fidently sit upon their eggs or visit their young while the box was opened and 
people stood close to them ; and I have seen many similar instances of confidence 
on the part of these birds. 

Of late years the Bluebirds have not remained with us, and they have been 
much missed. Enquiries are constantly being made as to where the Bluebirds 



have gone ? That is not so easy to answer, but that they still exist in undimin- 
ished numbers I am able to state positively, for so late as last March (189) I saw 
many thousands passing over Toronto from west to east. The flight lasted from 
daylight to nine or ten o'clock every fine morning for about a week. I have seen 
this same movement every spring for years. My opinion is that the birds have 
gone back to the new settlements, where they can still Hnd snake fences and 
pastures in which the old stumps are standing our modern barbed wire which 
which has taken the place of the old stake and rider fence having deprived them 
of a favorite nesting place. The up-to-date fruit grower, too, no longer allows 
his apple trees to go untrimmed and full of holes, but cuts out the old trees and 
replaces them with young ones. This has removed many of the old nesting sites, 
and the birds have spread out over the large area of new country now being 
brought under cultivation. They introduced themselves to the Province of Mani- 
toba about 1884, and have since become quite common there, having evidently 
followed the settlers, as they were quite unknown in that country before it was 
brought under general cultivation. The utility of this bird as an insect destroyer 
is beyond question. It eats neither grain nor fruit ; occasionally in stormy 
weather, in early spring when insect food is hard to obtain, it will eat the 
berries of the sumach, but that is the only vegetable substance I have ever known 
it to take. The beauty of its plumage, its sprightly spring song . and even the 
rather melancholy farewell notes in which it bade us good-bye, as it drifted 
southward in the last days of October, made it a f^reat favorite everywhere, and 
every lover of nature would be glad to see it return and take its old place about 
the farm once more. 

Gat bird. Neither this nor the succeeding species belong to the Thrush 
family, but there is a sufficient similarity in their food habits to warrant our con- 
sidering them here. They are closely allied to the famous Mocking Bird of the 
south, and their musical powers are not very much inferior to that splendid 
songster. They do not, however, so frequently exercise their power of mimicry. 
The peculiar mewing note uttered by the Cat bird has caused a certain amount 
of prejudice to exist against it, and has made it subject to persecution at the 
hands of most boys ; but apart from this unpleasant note, the Cat bird is one of 
the most accomplished musicians we have, and it is more to be admired because 
it does not retire into solitude to pour out its joyous songs, but rather seeks the 
society of mankind, and in the morning and evening will sing its clear notes from 
the top of some tree in close proximity to the dwelling house. Its food in the 
early part of the season consists almost entirely of caterpillars and beetles, which 
it obtains generally from the branches and leaves of trees, though sometimes 
after rain it seeks for cut worms and other grubs from the ground. Later in the 
year it feeds largely upon elderberries and other small wild fruits, and does occas- 
sionally levy some slight toll from the garden ; but for all the cultivated fruit it 
takes it has amply repaid the gardener by its efforts in the destruction of the 
insect tribe. 

Brown Thrush or Tkrasher. All that I have said of the Cat Bird applies to 
this species, but it is not quite so familiar and confiding in its habits. It displays 
a decided preference for thick shrubbery at some little distance from the house 
Here it remains in seclusion for the greater part of the day, but in the early morn- 
ing and evening the male bird mounts to the top of some tall tree near its haunt, 
and for an hour or so will sing his beautiful song, which is much louder, though 
less varied, than that of the Cat bird. 

Wrens. This is a most interesting and useful family of very small birds. Four 
species of them are found in this Province in the summer. Two of them-, the 



24 



Long-billed Marsh Wren, and the Short-billed Marsh Wren, as their name implies, 
frequent our marshes and low swampy meadows, where they assist in keeping, 
down the hordes of mosquitos that are bred in such places. The Winter Wren i& 
a more transitory visitor, the great bulk of them only passing through here in the 
spring and fall migrations. A few, however, remain here through the summer 
and nest in some secluded ravine in the woods. 

The pert little House Wren takes up its abode right in and around the farm 
buildings, and even in our cities it will find a resting place, if it can get access to 
sufficient garden room to give it a hunting ground, and as it is quite satisfied to 
place its nest in a crevice or hole at no great height from the ground, it is not so 
likely to be dispossessed of its home by the European House sparrow as are birds that 
prefer a higher location. They are most indefatigable insect hunters, and should 
be encouraged to build in every garden. All that is necessary is to furnish them 
with a small box having a hole about one and one-half inches in diameter. Nail 
this up to a fence or building, about eight or ten feet from the ground, so that 
cats cannot get at it ; and if any wrens come that way in the spring they are 
almost sure to take possession of it, and having once occupied it, they will in all 
probability return every year. The domestic cat is their worst enemy, and they 
seem to know it, for as soon as they catch sight of one of these detested creature* 
they start such a scolding that they arouse the whole feathered tribe in their 
neighborhood. In the autumn they eat a few elderberries, but this is the only 
vegetable food I have known them to take. 

Cuckoos. These birds do not seem to be very well known in our Province, 
though we have two species, one of which is not uncommon. They are known as 
the Black -billed Cuckoo and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Both of them are slim birds 
about twelve inches in length, of an olive brown color above, and white beneath. 
The Yellow-billed may be distinguished from its relative by the light chestnut 
color of the inner webs of part of the wing feathers. This is quite noticeable 
when the bird is flying. It also has the under mandible of the beak clear yellow. 
In the Black-billed species, the beak is all black, sometimes showing slight dull 
yellow marks below. Although the birds themselves are not known, most resi- 
dents of the country must have noticed the loud harsh notes of ' kow kow " 
uttered by them, most frequently heard before and during rain, by reason of 
which the birds are in some localities called " rain crows." 

The well known Cuckoo of Europe has the bad habit of laying its eggs in 
the nests of other birds, but although I have heard our birds charged with the 
same thing, I have never yet come across an instance of it, but have always found 
their nesting habits to be quite orthodox, though the nest they build can hardly 
be considered a model of bird architecture. 

These two species of birds are the only ones, that to my knowledge habitu- 
ally eat hairy catepillars, and of these noxious insects they must destroy a large 
quantity, an examination of their stomachs generally showing a considerable num- 
ber of them. On one occasion I found the stomach of a Black-billed Cuckoo 
packed with the spiny caterpillar of Vanessa antiopa, an insect that feeds in col- 
onies and does much damage to the elm and willow trees. The habits of the two 
Cuckoos are much alike ; the only difference I have noticed is that the Yellow- 
billed species seems to prefer the upper branches of tall trees in which to obtain 
its food, while the Black-billed resorts more to orchard trees and shrubbery. I 
have not found any evidence of habitual fruit-eating against either of them, so 
that from an economic standpoint they must be considered as purely beneficial, 
even if they do occasionally deposit an egg in the nest of another bird. 



Warblers. This family contains a large number of species, among them 
being some of our brightest colored and most interesting birds, though none of 
them are remarkable as songsters. They are all entirely insectivorous, and con- 
sequently of great value from an economic point of view. Thirty-one species are 
known to occur in this Province ; of these five are so rare as to be considered acci- 
dental visitors. They are the Prothonotary, the Golden- Winged and Hooded 
Warblers, the Louisiana Water Thrush, and the Yellow-breasted Chat. Probably 
when they do occur, they remain and breed here. The Cape May, Orange-crowned, 
Tennessee, Cerulean, and Connecticut are regular but uncommon visitors. Of 
these the Cerulean is known to breed in some localities in southern Ontario, but it 
is not generally distributed. 

The Parula, Black-throated, Blue, Myrtle, Magnolia, Blackburnian, Bay- 
breasted, Black poll, Palm and Wilson's Warblers all pass on to the north before 
nesting. Just how far they go is difficult to say, but in all probability the major- 
ity of them at any rate will be found breeding in the unsettled districts of Mus- 
koka, Algoma, etc., and some even south of that. 

The Black and white, Nashville, Yellow, Chestnut-sided, Pine, Redstart, 
Black-throated green, Oven bird, Water Thrush, Mourning, Maryland, and Cana- 
dian Warblers, are generally distributed and breed with us in suitable localities 
and in varying numbers each season, the most familiar of them all being the 
Yellow Warbler which habitually raises its young in and about our orchards and 
shrubberies. All through the summer they are actively engaged in exterminating 
the hosts of our smaller insect enemies, and many thousands of broods of cater- 
pillars are destroyed by them before they have become large enough to do mis- 
chief. 

Flycatchers. These birds, as their name implies, subsist largely upon winged 
insects, which they capture by darting upon them from some elevated post over- 
looking an open space frequented by their prey. We have eight species, of which 
the Crested Flycatcher, the King bird, the Phoebe bird, the Wood Peewee and the 
Least Flycatcher are summer residents, and the Olive-sided, Yellow-bellied, and 
Traill's Flycatcher are transient visitors, passing through in their spring and fall 
migrations. 

The King bird is probably the most obtrusive creature of the whole feathered 
tribe in Canada. As soon as a pair take possession of a tree in an orchard they 
immediately proclaim the fact to the neighborhood, and then trouble befalls every- 
thing wearing feathers that ventures to trespass on what they are pleased to con- 
sider their domain. Crows, Hawks, Jays, and Blackbirds are their especial detes- 
tation, and should one of these birds appear near their tree an attack by the King 
birds immediately follows, the assault being kept up until the intruder is igno- 
miniously driven off, having lost a few feathers in the encounter, the loss serving 
to remind him that other people have rights which he is bound to respect. The 
King bird captures a vast number of mature insects, both in the air and on the 
ground, and as at least half these insects would produce eggs to become cater- 
pillars the service rendered is very great. In the early spring, when driven by 
hunger, the King bird will eat the berries of the sumach, but as the clusters of 
these berries form a favorite hibernating place for many beetles, it is quite possi- 
ble that the insects form the attraction and not the fruit. This is the only vege- 
table substance I have ever known the bird to touch. I have heard complaints 
from bee-keepers that these birds will destroy bees. It is just possible that they 
will occasionally take them, but I have seen no evidence that they have acquired 
the habit. In case the King birds should be seen frequenting the vicinity of 



26 



hives, it would be well to watch closely before shooting the birds, as they are too 
valuable to be wantonly destroyed, and in all cases an examination of the stomach 
contents should be made, and the information gained should be reported. 

There is scarcely a farm in the country that has not one or more pairs of 
Phoebe birds nesting in or about the buildings, and I fancy there are not many 
bridges of any size under which a nest may not be found ; and so I hope it may 
continue, for the Phoebe is a most useful and friendly little bird. It has all the 
good traits of the family without being too aggressive, and no suspicion of any 
act which is in the least injurious attaches to it. If the birds and their nests 
are left unmolested, they will return year after year to their old home, and as 
none of our feathered friends are more valuable than they, we should give them 
every encouragement to do so. 

I have particularly mentioned the King bird and Phoebe because they may 
be regarded as typical of the whole family to which they belong, and being 
familiar in their habits, they are likely to be well known to everyone. All the 
other species are more or less birds of the woods and orchards, but each one of 
them in its own chosen locality is rendering us good service the whole summer 
through. 



SPARROWS, FINCHES, ETC. 

This is a very large family represented in Ontario by thirty-four species. 
Want of space prohibits my calling attention to the food habits of each of these 
species in detail. It will, however, be sufficient for the purpose of this paper to 
refer particularly only to those which in some manner are specially beneficial 
or injurious to the crops usually cultivated for profit. All these birds are insect 
eaters in the summer months, and their young while in the nest are fed entirely 
on insects ; but in the autumn, winter and early spring, the mature birds subsist 
principally on the seeds of wild plants and forest trees. 

The Rose -breasted Grosbeak is one of the largest and most beautiful of the 
family, and is of more than usual interest because it is one of the very few birds 
that will eat the Colorado potato beetle and its larvae, and also the larvas of the 
Tussock moth, this last being a hairy caterpillar, very destructive to almost all 
shade and orchard trees. A specimen of this bird in my possession eats both 
these insects readily. Unfortunately, these Grosbeaks are of a retiring disposition, 
and usually resort to the seclusion of the woods, but it is one of the few species 
that seems to be increasing in Ontario, and if unmolested it may possible become 
more familiar in its habits. If so, its services in lessening the number of Tussock 
moths would be of great value. None of the native members of this family are 
addicted to eating the ordinary grain or fruit crops, but the Purple Finch (the 
adult male of this species is crimson, not purple) in the spring is sometimes injur- 
ious in orchards and gardens, where it destroys the buds of fruit trees. They 
will also devour great quantities of sunflowers and other seeds. They are not, 
however, generally sufficiently numerous to cause much loss. 

A member of this family about which there has been much controversy, is 
the imported European House Sparrow. This bird was introduced into Ontario 
about the year 1873 by some gentlemen who no doubt were under the impression 
that the sparrows would devote themselves exclusively to killing and eating the 
caterpillars that infest the shade trees in our towns. They either forgot or did 
not know that the sparrow belongs to a class of birds whose diet consists of 



27 



vegetable substance and insects in about equal proportion, and that the Sparrow, 
having attached itself to the haunts of man, usually obtains its vegetable food 
from the plants and seeds cultivated by men for their own use. I have read 
many reports of so-called observers, who have stated that the House Sparrow 
never eats insects of any kind, that it drives away our native birds, and that it 
is altogether an unmitigated nuisance. Sweeping assertions of this kind are only 
conclusive evidence that the so-called observer cannot observe. No onie with 
ordinary perceptive faculties can walk through our public parks, or along one of 
our streets where there are trees and grass in the summer time, without seeing 
some Sparrows industriously hunting for insects with which to feed their young, 
and should anyone have a sparrow's nest under his verandah or about his house 
in such a position that some of the food brought by the parent birds to their 
young will fall where it can be seen, the proof that they do eat insects, and in 
large quantities too, will be very clear. The old birds also eat insects at this 
season, varying their diet with such undigested grain as they may find in horse 
droppings, and with bread crumbs and such like refuse from houses. 

Sparrows, like the majority of birds, will not eat hairy caterpillars, but I 
have seen them eat the spiny larvae of Vanessa antiopa, which is one of our 
shade tree pests that few birds will touch. Besides this I have seen them take 
moths of almost any kind, including the large Cecropia and Luna moths and the 
Tussock moth (both the winged male and the wingless female), beetles of many 
kinds, even such large species as the aquatic Dytiscus, which they find on the 
sidewalks beneath the electric lights to which the beetles are attracted at night, 
the green cabbage worm (the larvae of the cabbage butterfly) of these they eat 
great numbers. They also hunt about fences, and take the pupa of this same 
butterfly. The currant worms and the mature insects are also taken in large 
numbers, as are also grasshoppers, and both the black and green aphides that 
occur on apple trees and rose bushes are eaten greedily. On one occasion a flock 
of Sparrows completely cleaned off the green aphis from some rose bushes near 
my windows. It took them several days to finish their work, but they did it 
effectually in the end. 

About harvest time the Sparrows show their grain-eaten proclivities, They 
then gather into large flocks, and, leaving the town where they were bred, visit 
the surrounding country and make serious raids upon the wheat and oats, and 
do more damage while the grain is standing by beating it out than by eating it. 
It is in early spring, however, that the worst trait in the sparrow's character 
becomes apparent. Vegetation awakens after the long winter's sleep ; the trees 
put forth their buds, and seedlings break through the soil. The Sparrow, pro- 
bably needing an alterative after the hard fare of the winter, attacks all these ; 
nothing green conies amiss to him, and then the gardener, wrathful at the loss of 
prospective fruit, vegetables and flowers, forgets the good qualities the bird has, 
and would have the whole tribe exterminated. Whether or not he would be the 
gainer by this is somewhat difficult to decide. My own opinion at present is, 
that the number we now have do as much good as they do harm, But that they 
should not be allowed to increase to any great extent. 

The Sparrow is also charged with driving away our native birds. This 
charge is well founded only in the case of such birds as were formerly in the 
habit of building in holes and crevices about our houses, such as the Swallows 
and the Wrens. In the case of the Wrens the difficulty can easily be got over by 
placing their nest boxes low down, say about eight feet from the ground ; the 
Sparrows will not then occupy them. But the Swallow problem is not so easy 
to solve. The trouble arises from the fact that the Sparrows remain here all 



28 



through the winter and use the Swallows' nests in that season as roosting places, 
As spring comes they build in them and so have possession when the Swallows 
return from the south. As they then, naturally enough, decline to turn out, the 
Swallows have to seek elsewhere for a home ; the result being that we lose a 
valuable, purely insectivorous bird and get in the place of it one whose value is 
questionable. Continually shooting off the Sparrows as they appear heems to be 
the only remedy, and I think eternal vigilance would be required to make it sue 
cessful in any place where the Sparrows are well established. 

That Sparrows are rather quarrelsome amongst themselves in the season of 
love-making is evident to everyone, but so far I have not seen them interfere 
with any other species whose nesting interests do not conflict with theirs. In 
my own neighborhood, House Wrens, Orioles, Vireos, Cat birds, Wilson's Thrushes, 
Robins, Chipping Sparrows, Song Sparrows, the American Goldfinch, and the 
Yellow Warblers have all bred in close proximity to many pairs of Sparrows and 
have not been interfered with by them ; but if I had not kept a pretty close 
watch over the nests, and taken out the eggs of the Cow birds which were 
deposited therein, but few broods would have been successfully raised. 

The Sparrow has one particularly good trait which should not be over- 
looked ; that is, its fondness for the seed of the knot grass or knot weed. This- 
pernicious plant frequently appears on our boulevards and lawns and destroys 
the grass completely. The Sparrows soon find it out, and small parties constantly 
visit it and feed upon it, so that it is kept down and in some cases is quite cleared 
out. 



SWALLOWS. 

Of this family we have five species, viz : the Purple Martin, the Barn 
Swallow, Cliff Swallow, White-breasted Swallow and Sand Martin, all regular 
summer residents. Another one, the Rough-winged Swallow, occasionally occurs- 
here, but as it closely resembles the Sand Martin its appearance is not readily 
noticed. 

The economic importance of these birds is very great ; without them the 
smaller winged insects would multiply to such an extent as to become an unbear- 
able nuisance to men and animals ; for it is, I believe, to these birds chiefly that 
we are indebted for our freedom in the cleared and cultivated parts of the country 
from the swarms of midges, black flies and gnats of various kinds that so abound 
in the woods. 

These birds seem to have a great predilection for the society of men, partly 
because the clearing he makes in a forest country opens up to them the necessary 
space for feeding grounds, arid partly because the buildings he erects affords them 
convenient nesting places, of which the House Sparrow unfortunately is dis- 
possessing them. 

Except in very stormy weather the Swallows usually capture their food 
whilst they are on the wing, but in the cold windy days that frequently occur in 
early spring the insects on which they depend are too chilled to fly, and then the 
Swallows seek them in open places on the ground. The sandy shores of our lakes 
are particularly resorted to at such times. 

In the latter part of July and the beginning of August the large female ants 
swarm from their nests, each one prepared to found a colony for herself were she 



29 



permitted ; the Swallows, fortunately for us, however, interfere and gorge them- 
selves upon these creatures, the Purple Martins particularly, destroying vast 
numbers of them, even after the ants have divested themselves of their wings; 
when this has taken place the Martins alight on the ground pursuing them there 
with the greatest activity. 

The Chimney Swift, which closely resembles the Swallows in its habits, except 
that it never alights on the ground even to obtain the materials for its curiously 
constructed nest, may be mentioned in connection with them, its economic value 
being equally great. 

Night Hawks. All the Swallow tribe gather their food during the day, and 
the hotter and brighter it is the more active they seem to be ; the Chimney Swift's 
period of greatest activity is the early morning and late evening. The Night 
hawk and Whip-poor-will commence their work at dusk and keep it up till sun- 
rise. Their food consists, for the most part, of the large night-flying moths and 
beetles ; on one occasion, however, I found the stomach of a Whip-poor-will filled 
with the large female wingless ants, which could only have been obtained from 
the ground, and in all probability in the day time. The common June bug is a 
favorite article of food with both these birds, and as this is a very destructive 
insect both in its larval and mature stages, the birds are entitled to our best con- 
sideration for the good work they do in lessening its numbers. None of the 
Swallows, Swifts or Night Hawks ever under any circumstances take any 
vegetable food, nor have they any habits that are open to objection of any kind, 
so that our utmost efforts should be put forth to preserve them and encourage 
them to build about our premises. 

I have heard one or two people state that they did not like Swallows about 
their houses because they brought bed bugs ; how such an idea got into any per- 
son's head is difficult to understand, and let me say most emphatically that there 
is no foundation for the belief whatever. Swallows, like all other living creatures, 
nave their insect parasites, but no parasite affecting the Swallows will ever trouble 
human beings. 



CONCLUSION. 

There are other families of birds more or less directly beneficial or injurious 
to our interest, but space will not permit an extended notice of each. I hope 
enough has been said to impress upon the mind of every one the great value of 
the majority of our birds to the agriculturist. 

I have seen some estimates of the amount of damage done to the crops by 
insects in various countries, including our own Province, and although they 
usually stand at some millions of dollars annually, I believe they are much below 
the mark. It is difficult to form an estimate of the yearly loss from this cause to 
ordinary field crops, because the plants are crowded so thickly together that a 
large proportion may be destroyed in the earlier growing stages without being 
noticed, and it is only when the matured crop fails to reach the expected quantity 
that we realize the fact that something has gone wrong, but unfortunately it is 
then too late to remedy the matter. In our gardens we can more readily see the 
amount of injury done by insects, and can take measures to reduce it, but in spite 
of our efforts the loss is still enormous, and consider what it would be if we had 
not the birds to assist in keeping down the swarm of insect life. The great trouble 
now is that we have not a sufficient number of birds to keep the balance between 
vegetable and insect life in our favor. 



30 



We all know that the common cut-worm causes great loss every year in spite 
of the fact that almost all our ground-feeding birds eat great numbers of them 
and that the birds that feed among the trees and on the wing destroy very many 
of the moths which produce them, and so we can easily imagine what the result 
would be to the crops if these creatures were allowed to increase unmolested 
by their natural enemies ; so prolific are they, that I believe the increase of one 
season would provide a sufficient number to clear off all the crops we cultivate. 

A constant war is being carried on between the insect world and the vege- 
table kingdom. The laws of nature would keep the balance about evenly 
adjusted. But man requires that it should be inclined in favor of the plants he 
cultivates for his own use. To obtain this end it is necessary that we should 
carefully protect and encourage all the forces that will work on our side against 
our insect enemies, and while they are not the only ones, yet the birds are the 
most important allies we can have in the struggle. We cannot very well increase 
their number or efficiency by any artificial means, but we can protect them from 
such of their natural enemies as occur in our own neighborhood, and we can 
encourage them to remain and breed about our farms and gardens. If this was 
done all over the country generally we should find ourselves amply repaid for the 
small amount of trouble expended, by the protection they would give our plant 
life against its destructive enemies. 



H 



ACT FOR THE PROTECTION OF INSECTIVOROUS AND 
OTHER BIRDS. 

CHAP. 289, R. S. O. 1897 

ER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative 
Assembly of the Province of Ontario, enacts as follows : 



1. Nothing in this Act contained shall be held to affect The Ontario Game 
Protection Act, or to apply to any imported cage birds or other domesticated 
bird or birds generally known as cage birds, or to any bird or birds generally 
known as poultry. 

2. (1) Except as in section 6 of this Act provided, it shall not be lawful to 
shoot, destroy, wound, catch, net, snare, poison, drug, or otherwise kill or injure, 
or to attempt to shoot, destroy, wound, catch, net, snare, poison, drug or other- 
wise kill or injure any wild native birds other than hawks, crows, blackbirds and 
English sparrows, and the birds especially mentioned in The Ontario Game 
Protection Act. 

(2) Any person may, during the fruit season, for the purpose of protecting 
his fruit from the attacks of such birds, shoot or destroy, on his own premises, 
the bird known as the robin without being liable to any penalty under this Act. 

3. Except as in section 6 of this Act provided, it shall not be lawful to take, 
capture, expose for sale or have in possession any bird whatsoever, save the 
kinds hereinbefore or hereinafter excepted, or to set wholly or in part any net, 
trap, spring, snare, cage, or other machine or engine, by which any bird whatso- 
ever, save and except hawks, crows, blackbirds, and English sparrows, might be 
killed and captured ; and any net, trap, spring, snare, cage or other machine or 
engine, set either wholly or in part for the purpose of either capturing or killing 
any bird or birds save and except hawks, crows, blackbirds and English sparrows, 
may be destroyed by any person without such person incurring any liability 
therefor. 

4. Save as in section 6 of this Act provided, it shall not be lawful to take, 
injure, destroy, or have in possession any nest, young, or egg of any kind what- 
soever, except of hawks, crows, blackbirds, and English sparrows. 

5. Any person may seize, on view, any bird unlawfully possessed, and carry 
the same before any justice of the peace, to be by him confiscated, and if alive, 
to be liberated ; and it shall be the duty of all market clerks and policemen or 
constables on the spot to seize and confiscate, and if alive, to liberate such birds. 

6. The chief game warden for the time being, under The Ontario Game 
Protection Act, may on receiving from any ornithologist, or student of 
ornithology, or biologist, or student of biology, an application and recom- 
mendation according to the forms A and B in the schedule hereto, grant to such 
an applicant a permit in the form in said schedule, empowering the holder to 
collect, and to purchase, or exchange all birds or eggs, otherwise protected by 
this Act, at any time or season he may require the same for the purposes of study, 
without the liability to penalties imposed by this Act. 



32 



7. The permits granted under the last preceding section shall continue in 
force until the end of the calender year in which they are issued, and may be 
renewed at the option of the chief game warden for the time being under The 
Ontario Game Protection Act. 

8 (1) The violation of any provision of this Act shall subject the offender 
to the payment of not less than one dollar and not more than twenty dollars 
with costs, on summary conviction, on information or complaint before one or 
more justices of the peace. 

(2) The whole of the fine shall be paid to the prosecutor unless the convict- 
ing justice has reason to believe that the prosecution is in collusion with and for 
the purpose of benefitting the accused, in which case the said justice may order 
the disposal of the fine as in ordinary cases. 

(3) In default of payment of the fine and costs, the offender shall be 
imprisoned in the nearest common gaol for a period of not less than two and not 
more than twenty days, at the discretion of the justice. 

9. No conviction under this Act shall be quashed for any defect in the 
form thereof, or for any omission or informality in any summons or other pro- 
ceedings under this Act so long as no substantial injustice results therefrom. 




SHARP-SHINNED HAWK 
Ac.cipiter velox 




GOSHAWK 
Accipiter atricapillus 




ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK 
Archibuteo lagopus sancti-johannis 




I 




SPARROW HAWK 
Falco sparverius 




GREAT HORNED OWL 
Bubo virginianus 




LONG-EARED OWL 

Asia icilsoiiianiis 




SCEEECH OWL 

Megascops asio 



- 



BRONZE GRACKLE 
Quiscalus qniscula ceneas 



Cow BIRD 

Molothrus ater 




MEADOW LARK 
Sturnella magna 




2 ^ 

A * 

O 5f 




RED-HEADED WOODPECKER 
Melanerpes erythroccphalus 




^ V 

y*y y v / __ 



YKLLOW-BELLIED WOODPECKER 
Sphyrapicus Varius 




DOWNY WOODPJBCKER 
Dryobates pubescens 




WHITE-BELLIED NUTHATCH 
Sitta carol inensis 




WOOD THRUSH 

Turdus mustelinus 




I 




HOUSE WREN 

Troglodytes aedon 




BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO 
Coccyzm erythrophthalmus 




YELLOW-HUMPED WARBLER 
Dendroica coronata 




REDSTART 

Setophaga ruticilla 




HORNED LARK 
Otccoris alpestris 




PH(EBE 

Sayornis phcebe 




WHIP-POOR-WILL 

Antrostomus vocijerus 




Fox SPARROW 
Passerella iliaca 




SONG SPARROW 
Melospiza fasciata 




PURPLE FINCH 
Carpodacus purpureus 




ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK 
Habia ludoviciana 




CEDAR WAXWING 
Ampelis cedrorum 




BARN SWALLOW 
Ghelidon erythrogastei 



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