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Birds of the United States. 











Editor's PBErAOE, .... 
Preface to the Life of Wilson, 
Sketch of the Life of Wilson, 
Introduction, .... 

Vultur aura, Turkey Vulture or Turkey-buzzard, 

jota, Black Vulture or Carrion Crow, 
Fako peregrinus, Great-footed Hawk, 

Sparverius, American Sparrow Hawk, female, 


Columbarius, Pigeon Hawk, 

hucocephalus, White-headed or Bald Eagle,, 

ossifragus, Sea Eagle, 

fulvus, Ring-tail Eagle, . ' . ' 

haliaetus, Fish-Hawk or Osprey, 

atricapillus, Ash-colored or Black-cap Hawk 

borealis, Red-tailed Hawk, 

Leverianus, American Buzzard, 

Pennsylvanicus, Slate-colored Hawk, 

velox, Sharp-shinned Hawk, 

Pennsylv aniens, Broad-winged Hawk, 

furcatus, Swallow-tailed Hawk, 

Mississippiensis, Mississippi Kite, 

lagopus, Rough-legged Falcon, 

niger, Black Hawk, 


h/emalis. Winter Falcon, 

lineatus, Red-shouldered Hawk, 

uUginosus, Marsh Hawk, 
Strix nyctea, Snow Owl, 

Hudsonia, Hawk Owl, 

nebulosa, Barred Owl, . 

flammea, White or Barn Owl, 

passerina, Little Owl, 






Sti-ix hrachyotos, Short-eared Owl, 

Virginiana, Grreat-horned Owl, 
otus, Long-eared Owl, ... 

nsevia, Mottled Owl, .... 
asio, Red Owl, .... 

Lanius excubitor, Great American Shrike or Butcher-bird, 

Caroltnensis, Loggerhead Shrike, 
Psittacus Carolmensis, Carolina Parrot, 
Corvus corax, Raven, .... 

corone, Crow, . . . • • 

Columbianns, Clark's Crow, 
ossifragus, Fish Crow, 
pica, Magpie, . . 

cristatus, Blue Jay, .... 
Canadensis, Canada Jay, 
Oriolus Baltimorus, Baltimore Oriole, male, 

female, . 
mutatus, Orchard Oriole, . . . 

Gracula ferruginea. Rusty Grakle, 

quiscala, Purple Grakle, 
Cuculus Carolinensis, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, 

eryihrophthalmus. Black-billed Cuckoo, 
Picus principalis, Ivory-billed Woodpecker, 
pileatus, Pileated Woodpecker, . 
auratus, Golden winged Woodpecker, 
erythrocephalus, Red-headed Woodpecker, 
varius, Yellow-bellied Woodpecker, 
vilhsus, Hairy Woodpecker, 
puhescens. Downy Woodpecker, 
querulus, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, 
torquatus, Lewis's Woodpecker, 
Carolinus, Red-bellied Woodpecker, 
Sitta Carolinensis, White-breasted Nuthatch, 
varia. Red-bellied Nuthatch, 
pusiUa, Brown-headed Nuthatch, » 
Alcexlo alcyon. Belted Kingfisher, 
Certhia familiaris, Brown Creeper, 

maculata, Black and White Creeper, 
Caroliniana, Great Carolina Wren, 
paliistris, Marsh Wren, 
Trochilus coluhris, Humming Bird, 





162 . 

163 ' 

Plate 1— 1. Blue Jay. 2. Yellow-bird, or Guldflnch. 3. 

Plate 2.— 1. Wood Thrush. 2. Red-breasted Thrush, or 
Robin. 3. White-breasted, Black-capped Nuthatch. 4. Red- 
bellied, Black-capped Nuthatch. 

Plate 3.— 1. Gold-winged Woodpecker. 2. Black-throated 
Bunting. 3. Blue-bird. 

Plate 4.— DrclLard Oriole. 1. Female. 2 and 8. Males of 
the second and third years. 4. Male in complete plumage, 
li. Egg of the Orcliard Oriole, h. Egg of the Baltimore Oriole 

Plate 5.— 1. Great Araerican Shrike, or Butcher-bird. 2. Plate 6.— 1. Maryland Yellow-throat. 2. Yellow-breasted 

Pine Grosbeak. 3. Euby-erowned Wreu. 4. Shore Lark. Chat. 3. Summer Red-bird. 4. Female. 5. Indigo-bird. 6. 

American Redstart. 

Plate 7,-1. Cedar-bird. 2. Red-bellied Woodpecker. 3, Plate 8.— 1. Brown Creeper. 2. (iolden-erested Wren. 3. 

Yellow-throated Flycatcher. 4. Purple Finch. House Wren. 4. Black-capped Titmouse. 5. Crested Titmouse. 

6. Winter Wren. 

Plate 9.— 1. Red-headed Woodpecker. 2. Yellou'-bollied Plate 10.— 1. Mocking-bird. 2. Eggs. :i and 4. Mule and 

Woudpecker. 3. Hairy Woodpecker. 4. Downy Woodpecker. female Humming-bird, nest and eggs. 5. Towhe Bunting. G. 


Plate 11.— 1. Cardinal Grosbeak. 2. Female and 
Red Tanager. 4. Female and egg. 

egg. 3. Plate 12.— 1. Eke Bunting. 2. Female. 3. Red-eyed Fly- 

catcher. 4. Marsh Wren. 5. (ireat Carolina Wren. 6. Yel- 
low-throat Warbler. 

Plate 13.— 1. Tyrant Flycatcher. 2. Great Crested Fly- 
catcher. 3. Small Green Crested Flycatcher. 4. Pewit Fly- 
catdu-r. B. Wood Pewit Flycatcher. 

Plate 14. — 1. Brown Thrush, -l. Golden-crowned Thrush. 
3. Cat-bird. 4. Bay-breasted Warbler. 5. Chestnut-sided ^^'ar- 
bler. 6. Mourning Warbler. 

Plate 15.— 1. Eed-cockaded Woodpecker. 2. Brown-headed Plate 10.— 1. American Sparrow Hawk. 2. Field Sparruiv. 

Nuthatch. 3. Pigeon Hawk. 4. Blue-winged Yellow War- 3. Tree Sparrow. 4. Song Sparrow. 5. Chipping Sparrow. 6. 

bier. 5. Golden-winged Warbler. 6. Blue-eyed Yellow War- .Snowbird, 
bier. 7. Black-throiiterl Hlue Warliier. 

I-LATE n.-l. American Siskin. 2. Rose-breasted Gvos- Plate 18,-]. Cow Bunting. 2. Female 3 Young 4 

beak. 3. Green Black-tbrcted Warbler. 4. Yellow-rump Maryland Yellow-throat, a. Klue-grev Flycatcher 6 White' 
Warbler. 5. Coerulean Warbler. 6. [Solitary Flycatcher. eyed Flycatcher. 

PI.ATI5 19.-1. Mottled Owl. 2. Meadow Lark. .3. Black- Plate 20.-1. Louisiana Tanager. 2. Clark's Crow :) 

and-white Creeper. 4. Pine-creeping Warbler. Lewis's Woodpecker. 

Plate 21.— 1. Canada Tay. 
Grakle. 4, Purple Grakle. 

2. Snow Bunting. 3. Rusty 

Plate 22.— 1. riw:ini[) Sparruw. 2. White tliroated Sparrow. 
.!. Savannah Sparrow. 4. Fox-colored Sparrow. 5. Logger- 
head Shrike. « 

Platk 23.-1. Belted Kingfisher.^2. Black-and-yellow War- 
bler. 3. Blackburniau Warbler. 4. Autumnal Warbler. '). 
Water Thrush. 

Plate 24.— 1 Painted Biintinpc. 2. Female, o. Prothuno- 
tary Warbler. 4. Wornieating Wnrblei-. H. Yellow-winged 
Sparrow. 6. Blue Gro.sheak. 

Plate 25.— 1. MisMbsippi Kite. 2. Tennessee Warbler. 26.— 1. Ciiroliua, I'arrot. 2. Canada Flycatcher, 

a Kentucky Warbler. 4. Prairie Warblor. Hooded Flycatober. 4. fireen Black-capped Flycatcher. 

Plate 27.— 1. Pinnated Grouse. 2. Blue-green Warbler. Plate 28.— 1. Carolina Cuckoo. 2. Black-billed (.'uikoo. 

.1. Nashville Warbler. 3. Blue Yellow-hark Warbler. 4. Yellow Red-poll Warbler. 

Plate 29— 1, Ivory-billed Woodpecker. 2. PUeated Wood- Plate 30.— 1. Red-winged Starling. 2. Female. 3. Black 

pecker. 3. Bed-headed Woodpecker. po" Warbler. 4. Lesser Red-poll. 

Plate :j1. — 1. American Crossbill. 2. Female. 3. White- 
winged Crossbill, i. Wliite-crowned Bunting. 5. Bay-winged 

Plate 32.-1. Snow llwl. 2 Male Sparrow-hawk. 

Plate S3.— 1. Rough-legged Falcon. 2. Barred Owl. 3. 
Short-eared Owl. 

Platk 34.— 1. Little Owl. 2. Seaside Finclj. 3. Sharp-tailed 
Fiuch. 4. Savannah Fineh. 

Plate 35.— 1. Winter Falcon. 2. Magpie. 3. Crow. 

Plate 37.— 1. Fish-hawk 2. 3. Ring Plover. 
4. Least Snipe. 

Plate 36.— White-headed Eagle. 

PLATE 38.-1. Barn swallow. 2. Female. 3. White-bellied 
Swallow. 4. Bank Swallow. 

Platk 39.— 1. Cllilliney Swallow. 
Female. 4. Connecticut Warhler. 

2. Purple Martin. 

Plate 40.— 1. Night-hawk. 2. Female. 

Plate 41.-1. Whip-poor-will. 2. Female. 

Plate 42.— 1. Bed Owl. 2. Warbling Flycatcher. 3. Pur 
pie Finch. 4. Brown Lark. 

Plate j:h.— 1. Turtle Dove. 2. Hermit Thrush. 3. Tawny Plate 44.— 1. Passenger Pigeon. 2. Blue-mountaiu Wiir- 

Thrush. 4. Pine-swamp Warbler. bier. 3. Hemlock Warbler. 

Plate 4,i.— 1. Sharp-shinned Hawk. 2. Redstart. :J. Yellow-rump. 

^^-^W'-'i^ mm 

S il I 

Plate 50.— 1. Great Horned Owl. 2. Barn Owl. 5. Small- 
headed Flycatcher. 0. Hawk Owl. 

Plate 51. — 1. Long-eared Owl. 2. Miir.sli Hawk. H. Swai- 
low-tailed Hawk. 

Plate 52.—]. Red-tailed Hawk. i. ,\niericaii Buzzard. :t. 
Ash-colored Hawk. 

Plate 53.— 1. Black Hawk. 2. Variety uf Black Hawk. 3. 
Red-shouldered Hawk. 4. Female Baltimore Oriole. 5. Fe- 
iJinlH Towh? Bllntin■,^ 

Plate 54.— 1. Broaa-winged Hawk. 2. Cliuck-will's-widow. 
3. Cape May Warbler. 4. Female Black-cap Warbler. 

Plate 55.— 1. Ring-tail Eagle. 2. Sea Eagle. 

Plate 56. — 1. Esquimaux Curlew. 2. Red-backed Snipe. 3. SL'ini-palmated Snipe. 
4. IMarbled God wit. 

CO ^ 

2- "^ 

2 I. 


a- ►a 

Plate 61.— 1. Green Heron. 2. Niglit Heron. 3. Y 
4. Great White Heron. 

0""g. Plate 63.— 1. Roseate Spoonbill. 2. American Avoset. 3. 

Ruddy Plover. 4. Semipalmated Sandpiper. 

Plate 64.— 1. Louisiana Heron. 2. Pied Oyster-catcher. Plate 65.-1. Yellow-crowned Heron. 2. Great Heron. 

3. Whooping Crane. 4 Long-billed Curlew. American Bittern. 4. Least Bittern. 





? 8 

s 5 

:l^ ,.I 

" i 

Plate B, 1.— 1. Fork-tailed Flycatclu-r. "_'. Rocky Muuii- Plate B, 2.— 1. Swallow-tailed Flycatcher. 2. Arkansas 

tain Antcatcher. 3. Female Golden-winged Warbler. Flycatcher. 3. Say's Flycatcher. 4, Female Golden-crested 


Plate B, 3.— 1. Yellow-headed Blackbird. 2. Female. 
Female Tape May Warbler. 

Plate B, 4.— 1. Great Crow Blackbird. 2. Female. 

Plate B, 5.—]. Female Crow Blackbird. 2. Orange-crowned Plate B, 6.— 1. Crimson-headed Bullfincli. 2, Female. 

Warbler. 3. Lark Finch. 3. Arkansas Siskin. 4. Female American Goldfinch. .'). La- 

zuli Finch. 

Plate B, 7.— 1. Fulvous or Cliff Swallow. 2 Burrowing 

Plate B, 8.— 1 and 2. Young Yellow-bellied Woodpeckers. 
. Band-tailed Pigeon. 

Plate B, 9 —Wild Turkey, Male and Female. 

Plate B, 10— 1. Cooper's Hawk. 2. Palm Warbler, 

■rtl J* « V 


Plate B, 11.— 1. White- tailed Hawk. 2. Female Coerulean 

Plate B, 12.— Blue Hawk or Hen Harrier. 

Platk B, 13.-1, Stellers Jay. a. Lai]|anil Longspur. 3. Plate B, U.— 1. Florida Jay. 2. Northern Three-tned 

Female, Woodpecker. 3, Young Redheaded Woodpecker. 

Plate B, 15.— 1. Evening Grosbeak. 2. Female Hose- Plate B, 16.— 1. Pallas' Dipper. 2. Bohemian Waxwijig. 

breasted Grosbeak. 3. Female White-winged Crossbill. 4. 3. Female Fine Bullfinch, 
Female Indigo Finch. 


B, 22.-Young Male Condor. 

V 1 1^ ' 

35 B 

EL ^ 
to ca 

Plate B, 26.— 1. Peale's Egret Heron. 2. Scolopaceous Courlan. 3. Esquimaux 


Plate B, 27.— 1. FInrirIa Gallijiiile. 2. Yellow-breasted 




In the preface to the first edition of this biographical sketch, the 
motives of the publication are stated, and the peculiar circumstances 
under which its author was placed, in respect to materials, are detailed ; 
there is, therefore, no need of repeating them. 

It has teen thought proper to augment the volume, by a selection 
from the series of interesting letters, which were put into the writer's 
hands by some of- Wilson's personal friends, who were anxious that these 
memorials shpuld not be lost. It may be, perhaps, objected, that some 
of them are of too trifling a nature for publication ; but let it be 
observed that they all, more or less, tend to throw light upon the em- 
ployments, and peculiarities of character, of an individual of no every 
day occurrence ; one of those to whose genius we would render homage, 
and the memory -of whom we delight to cherish. 

Por the particulars of Wilson's early life, the writer has been indebted 
to a narrative, in manuscript, which was communicated to him by Mr. 
William Duncan. This information, coming from a nephew of Wilson's, 
and his confidential friend for many years, must be deemed authentic ; 
and we, have to regret that the plan and limits of our publication, did 
not allow us to make a freer use of what was so kindly placed at our 
disposal. - 

To Mr. Duncan, Mr. Miller, and Mr. Lawson, the writer owes many 

obligations, for the promptitude- with which they intrusted to him their 

letters ; and his acknowledgments are equally due to Colonel Robert 

Carr, who furnished him with the letters to the late William Bartram. 

The friendship which subsisted between Wilson and the latter was of the 

most exalted kind; and the warm expressions of confidence and regard 

which characterize these letters, will afibrd a proof of how much of the 



writer's happiness was derived from this amiable intercourse. The 
reader's obligations to Colonel Carr will not be ^essened, when it is 
stated, that the greater part of these interesting epistles were mislaid 
during the latter days of the venerable botanist to whom they were 
addressed ; and that it was through the care of the above-mentioned 
gentleman they were rescued from oblivion. 

It will be long ere the lovers of science will cease to deplore the 
event, which snatched from us one so eminently gifted for natural 
investigations, by his zeal, his industry, his activity, and his intelligence ; 
one who, after a successful prosecution of his great undertaking through 
a series of eventful years, was deprived of his merited reward, at the 
moment when he was about putting the finishing hand to those labors, 
which have secured to him an imperishable renown. " The hand of 
death," says Pliny, "is ever, in my estimation, too severe, and too 
sudden, when it falls upon such as are employed in some immortal work. 
The sons of sensuality, who have no other views beyond the present 
hour, terminate with each day the whole purpose of their lives ; but 
those who look forward to posterity, and endeavor to extend their 
memories to future generations by useful labors ; — to such, death is 
always immature, as it still snatches them from amidst some unfinished 

But although that Being, who so often frustrates human purposes, 
thought proper, in his wisdom, to terminate the " unfinished design" of 
our lamented friend, yet were his aspirations after an honorable distinc- 
tion in society fully answered. The poor despised weaver of Paisley 
takes his rank among the writers of our country ; and after ages shall 
look up to the Father • of American Ornithology, and bless that Provi- 
dence, which, by inscrutable ways, led him to the only spot, perhaps, 
of the civilized earth, where his extraordinary talents would be encour- 
aged to develop themselves, and his estimable qualities of heart would 
be duly appreciated. 

Wilson has proved to us what genius and industry can efi'ect in despite 
of obstacles, which men of ordinary abilities would consider insurmount- 
able. His example will not be disregarded; and his success will be 
productive of benefits, the extent of which cannot now be estimated. 




Alexander Wilson was born in the town of Paisley, in the west of Scot- 
land, on the sixth day of July, 1766. His father, who was also named Alex- 
ander, followed the distilling business ; an humble occupation, which neither 
allowed him much time for the improvement of his mind, nor yielded him 
much more than the necessaries of life. He was illiterate and poor; and died 
on the 5th June, 1816, at the age of eighty-eight. His mother was a native 
of Jura, one of the Hebrides or Western Islands of Scotland. She is saidto 
have been a woman of delicate health, but of good understanding, and pas- 
sionately fond of Scotch music, a taste for which she early inculcated on her 
son, who, in his riper years, cultivated it as one of the principal amusements 
of his life. She died when Alexander was about ten years old, leaving him, 
and two sisters, to mourn their irreparable loss ; a loss which her affectionate 
son never ceased to deplore, as it deprived him of his best friend ; one who 
had fostered his infant mind, and who had looked forward, with fond expecta- 
tion, to ,that day, 

"When, clad in sable gown, with solemn air, 

" The walls of God's own house should echo back his prayer;" 

for it appears to have been her wish that he should be educated for the 

At a school in Paisley, Wilson was taught the common rudiments of learn- 
ing. But what proficiency he made, whether he was distinguished from his 
schoolmates or not, my memorials of his early life do not inform me. It appears 
that he wag initiated in the elements of the Latin tongue ; but having been re- 
moved from school at the age of twelve or thirteen, the amount of knowledge 
acquired could not have been great, and I have reason to believe that he never 
afterwards resumed the study. His early productions show that/ his English 
education had not only been greatly circumscribed, but very imperfect. He 
wrote, as all self-taught authors write, carelessly and incorrectly. His sen- 



tences, constructed by the ear, often displease one by their gross violations of 
the rules of grammar, an essential part of learning to ■frhich he never seriously 
applied himself until, after his arrival in America, he found it necessary to 
qualify himself for an instructor of youth. 

Wilson's father, feeling the want of a helper in the government of an infant 
family, again entered into the matrimonial state. The maiden name of this 
second wife was Brown. 

It was the intention of the father that Alexander should be educated for a 
physician; but this design was not relished by the son, who had, through the- 
impertinent interference of some persons, imbibed some prejudices against the 
profession, which were the cause of the project's being abandoned. 

It being the wish of the step-mother that the boy should be put to a trade, 
he was accordingly apprenticed to his brother-in-law, William Duncan, who 
then resided in Paisley, to learn the art of weaving. That this determination 
was the result of good sense there can be no doubt ; the employment had the 
tendency to fix a disposition somewhat impetuous and wavering; and the useful 
knowledge acquired thereby he was enabled, at a subsequent period of life, to 
turn to account, when mental exertion, even with superior resources, would 
have availed him but little. 

The scheme of being taught a trade met with little or no opposition from 
the subject of this memoir ; his father's house no longer affording him that 
pleasure which it had done during the life of her who had given him existence. 
Some difference had arisen between him and his step-mother, whether from 
undutiful conduct of his, or harsh treatment of hers, I know not; but it may 
be asserted with truth, that she continued an object of his aversion through 
life : which was manifest from the circumstance that, in the many letters which 
he wrote from America to his father, he seldom, if ever, mentioned her name. 
She is still living, and must, doubtless, feel not a little rejoiced that her predic- 
tions with respect to the " lazy weaver," as Sandy was termed at home, who, 
instead of minding his business, misspent his time in making verses, were 
never verified. But, in justice to her character, we must state that, if she was 
an unkind step-mother, she nevertheless proved herself to be a faithful and 
affectionate wife; and supported by her industry, her husband, when he became 
by age and infirmities, incapable of labor. 

At an early period of his life Wilson evinced a strong desire for learning; 
and this was encouraged by a spirit of emulation which prevailed among his 
youthful acquaintance, who, like himself, happily devoted many of their vacant 
hours to literary pursuits. He had free access to a collection of magazines and 
essays, which, by some good luck, his father had become possessed of; and 
these, as he himself often asserted, " were the first books that gave him a 
fondness for reading and reflection." This remarkable instance of the benefi- 
cial tendency of periodical publications we record with pleasure; and it may 
be adduced as an argument in favor of affording patronage, in our young coun- 
try, to a species of literature so well adapted to the leisure of a commercial 
people; and which, since the days of Addison, has had so powerful an influ- 
ence on the taste and morals of the British nation. 

Caledonia is fruitful of versemen : every village has its poets; and so preva- 


lent is the habit of jingling rhymes, that a scholar is considered as possessing 
no taste, if he do not attune the Scottish lyre to those themes which the amor 
pairise, the national pride of a Scotsman, has identified with his very exist- 

That poetry would attract the regard of Wilson was to be expected ; it was 
the vehicle of sentiments which were in unison with his sanguine tempera- 
ment; he had early imbibed a love of virtue, and it now assumed a romantic 
cast by assimilation with the high-wrought efforts of fancy, combined with the 
melody of song. 

After an apprenticeship of about five years, Wilson became his own master ; 
and, relinquishing the occupation of weaving, he resolved to gratify his taste 
for rural scenery, by journeying into the interior of the country in the capacity 
of a peddler. He was now about eighteen, full of ardor and vivacity ; had a 
constitution capable of great exertion; and a mind which promised resources 
amid every difficulty. Having been initiated in the art of trading, he shoul- 
dered his pack, and cheerfully set out in quest of riches. In a mind of a 
romantic turn, Scotland affords situations abundantly calculated to arouse all 
those associations which the sublime and beautiful in nature inspire. Wilson 
was an enthusiast; and the charms of those mountains, valleys, and streams, 
which had been immortalized in song, filled his soul with rapture, and incited 
some of the earliest efforts of his youthful muse. 

To him who would accumulate wealth by trade, the Muses must not be pro- 
pitious. That abstraction of mind from worldly concerns which letters re- 
quire, but ill qualifies one to descend to those arts, which, in order to be suc- 
cessfully practised, must be the unceasing objects of solicitude and attention. 
While the trader was feasting his eyes upon the beauties of a landscape, or 
inditing an elegy or a song, the auspicious moment to drive a bargain was ne- 
glected, or some more fortunate rival was allowed to supplant him. From the 
habit of surveying the works of nature arose an indifference to the employment 
of trading, which became more disgusting at each interview with the Muses ; 
and nothing but the dread of poverty induced him to conform to the vulgar 
avocations of common life. 

Burns was now the favorite of the public; and from the unexampled success 
of this humble son of genius many aspired to the honors of the laurel, who 
otherwise would have confined theirViews of renown to the limited circle of their 
family or acquaintance. Among this number may be reckoned our Wilson ; who, 
believing that he possessed the talent of poetical expression, ventured to exhibit 
his essays to his friends, whose approbation encouraged him to renewed perse- 
verance, in the hope of emerging from that condition in society which his as- 
piring soul could not but disdain. 

In consequence of his literary attainments and correct moral deportment, he 
was admitted to the society of several gentlemen of talents and respectability, 
who descried in our youth the promise of eminence. Flattered by attentions, 
which are always grateful to the ingenuous mind, he was emboldened to the 
purpose of collecting and publishing his poetical attempts, hoping thereby to 
secure funds sufficient to enable him to persevere in the walks of learning, 
which, to his glowing fancy, appeared to be strewed with flowers. 


In pursuance of this design he printed proposals; and being " resolved," tc 
adopt his own language, " to make one bold push for the united interests of 
Pack and Poems," he once more set out to sell his merchandise, and obtain 
patronage to his work. 

This expedition was unprofitable : he neither advanced his fortune nor re- 
ceived the encouragement of many subscriptions. Fortunate would it have 
been for him if, instead of giving vent to his spleen at the supposed want of 
discernment of rising merit, or lack of taste for the effusions of genius, he 
had permitted himself to be admonished of his imprudence by the indifference 
of the public, and had taken that for an act of friendship which his wounded 
feelings did not fail to construe into contempt. 

But in defiance of discouragement he published his volume, under the title 
of " Poems, Humorous, Satirical and Serious." The writer of this sketch has 
it now before him ; and finds in it the following remarks, in the handwriting of 
the author himself: " I published these poems when only twenty-two — an age 
more abundant in sail than ballast. Reader, let this soften the rigor of criti- 
cism a little." Dated, " Gray's Ferry, July 6th,- 1804." These poems were, 
in truth, the productions of a boy, who composed them under the most disad- 
vantageous circumstances. They answered the purpose for which they were 
originally intended — to gratify the partiality of friendship, and alleviate mo- 
ments of solitude and despondency. Their author, in his riper years, lamented 
his rashness in giving them to the world ; and it is to be hoped that no one will 
be so officious as to draw them from that obscurity to which he himself sin- 
cerely rejoiced to see them condemned. They went through two small editions 
in octavo, the last of which appeared in 1791. The author reaped no benefit 
from the publication. 

Mortified at the ill success of his literary undertaking, and probably with 
the view of withdrawing himself from associates who, instead of advancing, 
rather tended to retard his studies, Wilson retired to the little village of Loch- 
winnoch, situated in a delightful valley, a feW miles from Paisley. In this 
sequestered place he had before resided, and he now resorted to it under the 
pressure of disappointment, and soothed his mind with the employment of let- 
ters, and spent his vacant hours amid the romantic scenery of a country which 
was well calculated to captivate one who had devoted himself to the service of 
the muses. 

While residing at Lochwinnoch he contributed some short prose essays to 
The Bee, a periodical work which was published at Edinburgh by Dr.' Ander- 
son. Of the merits of these essays I cannot speak, as I have never seen them. 
He also occasionally visited the latter place, to frequent the Pantheon, wherein 
a society for debate held their meetings. In this assembly of minor wits he 
delivered several poetical discourses, which obtained him considerable applause. 
The particulars of these literary peregrinations have been minutely related to 
, me ; but at this time I will merely state, that he always performed his journeys 
on foot, and that his ardor to obtain distinction drawing him away from his 
profession, the only means of procuring subsistence, he was frequently reduced 
to the want of the necessaries of life. 

Wilson, in common with many, was desirous of becoming personally 


acquainted with the poet Burns, who was now in the zenith of his glory ; and an 
accidental circumstance brought them together. The interview appeared to be 
pleasing to both ; and they parted with the intention of continuing their ac- 
quaintance by a correspondence. But this design, though happily begun, was 
frustrated by an imprudent act of the former, who, in a criticism on the tale 
of Tam O'Shanter, remarked, of a certain passage that there was " too much of 
the hrute" in it. The paragraph alluded to is that which begins thus : 

" Now, Tam, Tam I had thae been queans." 

Burns, in reply, observed : " If ever you write again to so irritable a creature 
as a poet, I beg you will use a gentler epithet than to say there is ' too much 
of the hrute' in anything he says or does." Here the correspondence closed. 

From Lochwinnoch Wilson returned to Paisley, and again sought subsistence 
by mechanical labor. But at this period the result of the French Revolution 
had become evident by the wars enkindled on the continent ; and their influ- 
ence on the manufactures of Great Britain, particularly those of Paisley, began 
to be felt. Revolution principles had also crept in among the artisans, which, 
superadded to the decline of business, were the means of many being thrown 
out of stated employment; and the distress of others was not a little aggravated 
by exactions which, it was supposed, neither policy nor justice ought to have 
dictated. Hence arose a misunderstanding between the manufacturers and the 
weavers, which soon grew into a controversy, that awakened the zeal of both 
parties; and Wilson, incited by principle as well as interest, remained not idle 
on an occasion which seemed to demand the exercise of his talents for the 
benefit of the poor and the oppressed. 

Among the manufacturers there was one of considerable wealth and influ- 
ence, who had risen from a low origin by a concurrence of fortunate circum- 
stances, and who had rendered himself greatly conspicuous by his avarice and 
, knavery. This obnoxious individual was arraigned in a galling satire, written 
in the Scottish dialect, which is well known to be fertile of terms of sarcasm 
or reproach. The piece was published anonymously ; and, being suited to the 
taste of the multitude, was read with eagerness. But the subject of it, stung 
to the quick by the severity of the censure, sought revenge of his concealed 
enemy, who, through some unforeseen occurrence, was revealed in the person 
of Wilson. A prosecution for a libel was the consequence of the disclosure; 
and our satirist was sentenced to a short imprisonment, and to burn, with his 
own hands, the poem at the public cross in the town of Paisley. Wilson un- 
derwent the sentence of the law surrounded by his friends, a gallant and 
numerous band, who viewed him as a martyr to the cause of honor and truth ; 
and who, while his character was exalted in' their opinion, failed not to stig- 
matize that of his adversary in all the bitterness of contempt. The printer, it 
is said, was fined for his share in the publication. 

In the year 1792, Wilson wrote his characteristic tale of " Watty and Meg," 
the last poem which he composed in Scotland. It was published without a 
name ; and, possessing considerable merit, was, by many, attributed to Burns. 
This ascription certainly showed a want of discrimination, as this production 
displays none of those felicities of diction, none of that peculiar intermixtur" 


of pathos and humor, which are so conspicuous in the writings of Burns. It 
has obtained more popularity in Scotland than any of the minor essays of our 
author ; and has been ranked with the best productions of the Scottish muse. 

Cromek, in his sketch of Wilson's life, adverting to the prosecution above 
mentioned, says, that " the remembrance of this misfortune dwelt upon his 
mind, and rendered him dissatisfied with his country. Another cause of Wil- 
son's dejection was the rising fame of Burns, and the indifference of the public 
to his own productions. He may be said to have envied the Ayrshire bard, 
and to this envy may be attributed his best production, ' Watty and Meg,' 
which he wrote at Edinburgh in 1793 (1792). He sent it to Nielson, printer, 
at Paisley, who had suffered by the publication of his former poems. As it 
was, by the advice of his friends, published anonymously, it was generally as- 
cribed to Burns, and went rapidly through seven or eight editions. Wilson, 
however, shared no part of the profits, willing to compensate for the former 
losses his publisher had sustained." * 

The sketch above mentioned the author of this narrative showed to Wilson, 
and the latter told him that the relation was wanting in correctness. He 
pointedly denied the charge of envying the Ayrshire bard, and felt not a little 
scandalized at the unworthy imputation. He added, that no one entertained a 
more exalted idea of Burns's genius, or rejoiced more at his merited success, 
than himself. 

Wilson now began to be dissatisfied with his lot. He was poor, and had no 
prospect of bettering his condition in his native country. Having heard flat- 
tering accounts of America, he conceived the design of emigrating thither, and 
settling in the United States. 

It was some time in the latter part of the year. 1793 that the resolution was 
formed of forsaking the land of his forefather^. His eye having been acci- 
dentally directed to a newspaper advertisement, which stated that the American 
ship Swift would sail from the port of Belfast, in Ireland, on the first of May 
following, with passengers for Philadelphia, he communicated his scheme, in 
confidence, to his nephew, William Duncan, then a lad of sixteen, who con- 
sented to become his fellow-traveller in the voyage ; and an agreement was en- 
tered into of departing in the above-mentioned ship. 

The next subject of consideration was the procuring of funds ; and as weav- 
ing presented the most eligible plan for this purpose, to the loom Wilson ap- 
plied himself, for four months, with a diligence and economy almost surpassing 
belief; the whole of his expenses during this period amounting to less than 
one shilling per week. 

All matters being finally arranged, he set out on foot for Port Patrick, 
whence he embarked for Ireland. On reaching Belfast it was found that the 
ship had her complement of passengers ; but, rather than remain after so 
much exertion, Wilson and his companion consented to sleep upon deck, and, 
consequently, they were permitted to depart in the ship, which sailed about 
the middle of May, and arrived at Newcastle, in the state of Delaware, on the 
fourteenth of July, 1794. 

* Cromek's " Select Scottish Songs," vol. 2, p. 214. London, 1810. 


We now behold Alexander Wilson in a strange land, without an acquaint- 
ance on whose counsels and hospitality he could rely in that state of uncer- 
tainty to which, having no particular object in view, he was of course subjected ; 
without a single letter of introduction, and with not a shilling in his pocket.* 
But every care was forgotten in his transport at finding himself in the land of 
freedom. He had often cast a wishful look towards the western hemisphere, 
and his warm fancy had suggested the idea that among that people, only, who 
maintained the doctrine of an equality of rights, could political justice be 
found. He had become indignant at beholding the influence of the wealthy 
converted into the means of oppression ; and had imputed the wrongs and suf- 
ferrings of the poor, not to the condition of society, but to the nature and 
constitution of the government. He was now free ; and exulted in his release, 
as a bird rejoices which escapes from the confinement of the cage. Impatient 
to set his foot upon the soil of the New World, he landed at the town of New- 
castle, and, shouldering his fowling-piece, he directed his steps towards Phila- 
delphia, distant about thirty-three miles. The writer of this biography has a 
distinct recollection of a conversation with Wilson on this part of his history, 
wherein he described his sensations on viewing the first bird that presented 
itself as he entered the forests of Delaware; it was a red-headed woodpecker, 
which he shot, and considered the most beautiful bird he had ever beheld. 

On his arrival at Philadelphia, he deliberated upon the most eligible mode 
of obtaining a livelihood, to which the state of his funds urged immediate at- 
tention. He made himself known to a countryman of his, Mr. John Aitken, 
a copper-plate printer, who, on being informed of his destitute situation, gave 
him employment at this business, at which he continued for a few weeks, but 
abandoned it for his trade of weaving; having made an engagement with Mr. 
Joshua Sullivan, who resided on the Pennypack creek, about ten miles north 
of Philadelphia. 

The confinement of the loom did not agree either with Wilson's habits or 
inclinations ; and learning that there was considerable encouragement afibrded 
to settlers in Virginia, he imigrated thither, and took up his residence near 
Shepherd's Town, in that part of the state known by the name of New Vir- 
ginia."}" Here he again found himself necessitated to engage in the same 

* This is literally true. The money which bore his expenses from Newcastle to Phila- 
delphia was borrowed of a fellow passenger. The same generous friend, whose name was 
Oliver, made him subsequently a loan of cash to enable him to travel into Virginia. 

t The habits of the people with whom Wilson was compelled to associate, in this section 
of the state, it should seem gave him no satisfaction ; and the life he led added not a lit- 
tle to the chagrin which he suffered on finding himself an alien to those social pleasures 
which, hitherto, had tended to sweeten his existence. His letters at this period would, no 
doubt, afford some curious particulars, illustrative of his varied life ; but none of them 
have fallen into my hands. The following extract from some of his manuscript verses, 
will lead to the conclusion that he did not quit Virginia with regret : 

" Farewell to Virginia, to Berkley adieu, 
Where, like Jacob, our days have been evil and few I 
So few — they seemed really but one lengthened curse ; 
And so bad — that the Devil only could have sent worse." 
Vol. I.— B 


sedentary occupation ; and soon becoming disgusted with the place, he returned 
to the mansion of his friend, Mr. Sullivan. 

I find from one of his journals that, in the autumn of the year 1795, he 
travelled through the north part of the state of New Jersey, with an acquaint- 
ance, in the capacity of a pedler, and met with tolerable success. 

His diary of this journey is interesting. It was written with so much care, 
that one is tempted to conjecture that he spent more time in literary occupation 
than in vending his merchandise. It contains observations on the manners of 
the people, and remarks on the principal natural productions of New Jersey, 
with sketches of the most noted indigenous quadrupeds and birds. In these 
sketches one is enabled to perceive the dawning of that talent for description 
which was afterwards revealed with so much lustre. 

On his return from this trading adventure, he opened a school on the Ox- 
ford road, about five miles to the north of Frankford, Pennsylvania;, but being 
dissatisfied with this situation, he removed to Milestown, and taught in the 
school-house of that village. In this latter place hie continued for several 
years, and, being deficient in the various branches of learning necessary to 
qualify him for an instructor of youth, he applied himself to study with great 
diligence; and acquired all his knowledge of the mathematics, which was con- 
siderable, solely by his own exertions. To teaching he superadded the vocation 
of surveying, and was occasionally employed by the neighboring farmers in 
this business. 

Whilst residing at Milestown, he made a journey, on foot, to the Genesee 
country, in the state of New York, for the purpose of visiting his nephew, 
Mr. William Duncan, who resided upon a small farm, which was their joint 
property. This farm they had been enabled to purchase through the assistance 
of Mr. Sullivan, the gentleman in whose employ Wilson had been, as before 
stated. The object of this purchase, which some might deem an act of im- 
prudence in those whose slender funds did not suffice without the aid of a loan, 
was to procure an asyluin for Mr. Duncan's mother and her family of small 
children, whom poverty an(i misfortune had, a short time before, driven to this 
country. This was somewhat a fatiguing journey to a pedestrian, who, in the 
space of twenty-eight days, travelled nearly eight hundred miles. 

The life of Wilson now becomes interesting, as we are enabled, by a selection 
from his letters, to present him to the reader as his own biographer. 

To Mr. William Duncan.* 

Milestown, July 1, 1800. 
" Dear Bill 

" I had the pleasure of yours by the hands of Mr. P. this day, and about 
four weeks ago I had another, directed to Mr. Dobson's care, both of which 
were as welcome to me as anything, but your own self, could be. I am just as 
you left me, only my school has been thinner this season than formerly. 

* Mr. Duncan at this time resided upon the farm mentioned above, which was situated 
in the township of Ovid, Cayuga county. New York. 


" I have had four letters from home, all of which I have answered. Their 
news are — Dull trade — provisions most exorbitantly high — R.'s sister dead — 
the Seedhills mill burnt to the ground — and some other things of less conse- 

" I doubt much if stills could be got up in time to do anything at the dis- 
tilling business this winter. Perhaps it might be a safer way to take them up, 
in the spring, by the Susquehanna. But if you are determined, and think 
that we should engage in the business, I shall be able to send them up either 
way. P. tells me that his two stills cost about forty pounds. I want to hear 
more decisively from you before I determine. Sooner than live in a country 
exposed to the ague, I would remain where I am. 

"0. comes out to stay with me two months, to learn surveying, algebra, &c. 
I have been employed in several places about this summer to survey, and have 
acquitted myself with credit and to my own satisfaction. I should not be 
afraid to engage in any job with the instruments I have. * * 

" S. continues to increase in bulk, money and respectability; a continual 
current of elevenpenny hits pouring in, and but few running out. * * 

"We are very anxious to hear how you got up; and well pleased that you 
played the Horse Jockey so luckily. If you are fixed in the design of distil- 
ling, you will write me, by the first opportunity, before winter sets in, so that 
I may arrange matters in time. 

" I have got the schoolhouse enlarged, by contributions among the neigh- 
bors. In summer the school is, in reality, not much ; but in winter I shall be 
able to teach with both pleasure and profit. 

" When I told R. of his sister's death, ' I expected so,' said Jamie, ' any 
other news that's curious V So completely does long absence blunt the 
strongest feelings of afiection and friendship. May it never be so with you 
and me, if we should never meet again. On my part it is impossible, except 
God, in his wrath, should deprive me of my present soul, and animate me with 
some other." 

Wilson next changed his residence for one in the village of Bloomfield, New 
Jersey, where he again opened a school. But being advised of a more agree- 
able and lucrative situation, he solicited, and received, an engagement from 
the trustees of Union School, situated in the township of Kingsess or King- 
sessing, a short distance from G-ray's Ferry, on the river Schuylkill, and about 
four miles from Philadelphia. 

This removal constituted an important era in the life of Wilson. His 
school-house and residence being but a short distance from Bartram's Botanic 
Garden, situated on the western bank of the Schuylkill, — a sequestered spot, 
possessing attractions of no ordinary kind, — an acquaintance was soon con- 
tracted with that venerable naturalist, Mr. William Bartram,* which grew into 

*The author of " Travels through North and South Carolina, Gebrgia, East and West 
Florida," &c. This excellent gentleman closed his long and useful life on the 22d July, 
1823, in the eighty-fourth year of his age. 


an uncommon friendship, and continued without the least abatement until sev- 
ered by death. Here it was that Wilson found himself translated, if we may 
so speak, into a new existence. He had long been a lover of the works of 
Nature, and had derived more happiness from the contemplation of her simple 
beauties than from any other source of gratification. But he had hitherto 
been a mere novice ; he was now about to receive instructions from one whom 
the experience of a long life, spent in travel and rural retirement, had rendered 
qualified to teach. Mr. Bartram soon perceived the bent of his friend's mind, 
and its congeniality to his own ; and took every pains to encourage him in a 
study which, while it expands the faculties, and purifies the heart, insensibly 
leads to the contemplation of the glorious Author of Nature himself. From 
his youth Wilson had been an observer of the manners of birds ; and, since his 
arrival in America, he had found them objects of uncommon interest; but he 
had not yet viewed them with the eye of a naturalist. 

Mr. Bartram possessed some works on natural history, particularly those of 
Catesby and Edwards. Wilson perused them attentively ; and found himself 
enabled, even with his slender stock of information, to detect errors and ab- 
surdities into which these authors had fallen from a defective mode of study- 
ing Nature : a mode which, while it led them to the repositories of dried skins 
and preparations and to a reliance on hearsay evidence, subjected them to the 
imputation of ignorance, which their lives, devoted to the cultivation and pro- 
motion of science, certainly would not justify. Wilson's improvement was 
now rapid ; and the judicious criticisms which he made on the above-mentioned 
authors gratified his friend and instructor, who redoubled his encouraging as- 
sistance, in order to further him in a pursuit for which his genius, now begin- 
ning to develop itself, was evidently fitted. 

" To Mr. William Duncan. 

"Gray's Ferry, October 30th, 1802. 
" Dear Billt. 

" I was favored with your despatches a few hours ago, through the kind- 
ness of Colonel Sullivan, who called on me for that purpose. I have read and 
re-read, over and over again, their contents; and shaH devote the remainder of 
this evening to reply to you, and the rest of the family, now joint tenants of 
the woods. By the arrival of John P. here, in August last, I received one 
letter from my brother David, one from Thomas W. and one for Alexander 
from David Wilson ; and last week another packet arrived from Belfast, con- 
taining one letter from your father to myself; and to your mother, brother- 
and brother-in-law, and yourself, one each, all of which I have herewith sent, 
and hope they may amuse a leisure hour. F. has been wofully disappointed in 
the expectations he had formed of his uncle. Instead of being able to assist 
him, he found him in the depth of poverty; and fast sinking under a severe 
fever ; probably the arrival of a relation contributed to his recovery ; he is 
now able to crawl about. F. has had one child born and buried since his 
arrival. He weaves with Eobertson, but neither likes the situation nor em- 
ployment. He is a stout, active and ingenious felloV, can turn his hand to 
almost anything, and wishes as eagerly to get up to the lakes as ever a saint 


longed to^get to heaven. He gives a most dismal description of the situation 
of the poor people of Scotland in 1800. 

" Your letters, so long expected, have at length relieved me from much 
anxiety. I am very sorry that your accommodations are so few, for my sister's 
sake, and the children's; a fireplace and comfortable house for the winter 
must, if possible, be got up without delay. If masons are not to be had, I 
would attempt to raise a temporary one myself, I mean a fireplace — but surely 
they may be had, and lime and stones are also attainable by dint of industry. 
These observations are made not from any doubts of your doing everything in 
your power to make your mother as comfortable as possible, and as your means 
will enable you, but from a solicitude for a sister's health, who has sustained 
more distress than usual. I know the rude appearance of the country, and 
the want of many usual conveniences, will for some time afi"ect her spirits ; let 
it be your pleasure and study to banish these melancholy moments from her as 
much as possible. Whatever inconveniences they may for a while experience, 
it was well they left this devoted city. The fever, that yellow genius of de- 
struction, has sent many poor mortals to their long homes since you departed ; 
and the gentleman who officiates as steward to the hospital informed me yes- 
terday evening that it rages worse this week than at any former period this 
season, though the physicians have ceased reporting. Every kind of business 
has been at a stand these three months, but the business of death. 

•' You intimate your design of coming down next spring. Alexander seems 
to have the same intention. How this will be done, consistent with providing 
for the family, is not so clear to me. Let me give my counsel on the subject. 
You will see by your father's letters that he cannot be expected before next 
July or August perhaps, a time when you must of necessity be at home. 
Your coming down, considering loss of time and expenses, and calculating 
what you might do on the farm, or at the loom, or at other jobs, would not 
clear you more than twenty dollars difference, unless you intended to remain 
here five or six months, in which time much might be done by you and Alex- 
der on the place. I am sorry he has been so soon discouraged with farming. 
Were my strength but equal to my spirit, I would abandon my school for ever 
for such an employment. Habit will reconcile him to all difficulties. It is 
more healthy, more independent and agreeable than to be cooped up in a sub- 
terraneous^dungeon, surrounded by gloomy damps, and breathing an unwhole- 
some air from morning to night, shut out from Nature's fairest scenes and the 
pure air of heaven. When necessity demands such a seclusion, it is noble to 
obey; but when we are left to choice, who would bury themselves alive ? It. 
is only in winter that I would recommend the loom to both of you. In the 
month of March next I shall, if well, be able to command two hundred dollars 
oash once more. Nothing stands between me and this but health, and that I 
hope will continue at least till then. You may then direct as to the disposal 
of this money — I shall freely and cheerfully yield the whole to your manage- 
ment. Another quarter will enable me to settle John M.'s account, about the 
time it will be due; and, instead of wandering in search of employment five 
or six hundred miles for a few dollars, I would beg of you both to unite in 
putting the place and house in as good order as possible. But Alexander can 


get nothing but wheat and butter for this hagging and slashing I Never 
mind, my dear namesake, put up awhile with the rough fare and rough cloth- 
ing of the country. Let us only get the place in good order, and you shall be 
no loser by it. Next summer I will assuredly come up along with your father 
and George, if he comes as I expect he will, and everything shall flourish. 

" My dear friend and nephew, I wish you could find a leisure hour in the 
evening to give the children, particularly Mary, some instruction in reading, 
and Alexander in writing and accounts. Don't be discouraged though they 
make but slow progress in both, but persevere a little every evening.- 1 think 
you can hardly employ an hour at night to better purpose. And make James 
read every convenient opportunity. If I live to come up beside you, I shall 
take that burden off your shoulders. Be the constant friend and counsellor 
of your little colony, to assist them in their difficulties, encourage them in their 
despondencies, to make them as happy as circumstances will enable you. A 
mother, brothers and sisters, in a foreign country, looking up to you as their 
best friend and supporter, places you in a dignified point of view. The future 
remembrance of your kind duty to them now, will, in the hour of your own 
distress, be as a healing angel of peace to your mind. Do everything possible 
to make your house comfortable — fortify the garrison in every point — stop 
every crevice that may let in that chilling devil, the roaring blustering north- 
west — heap up fires big enough for an Indian war-feast — keep the flour-barrel 
full — bake loaves like Hamles Head* — make the loom thunder, and the pot 
boil ; and your snug little cabin re-echo nothing but sounds of domestic feli- 
city. I will write you the moment I hear of George. I shall do everything 
I have said to you, and never lose sight of the eighteenth of March ; for 
which purpose I shall keep night-school this winter, and retain every farthing 
but what necessity requires — depend upon me. These are the outlines of my 
plan. If health stand it, all will be well ; if not, we cannot help it. Rumi- 
nate on all this, and consult together. If you still think of coming down I 
hope you would not hesitate for a moment to make my neighborhood your 
home. If you come I shall be happy to have you once more beside me. If 
you resolve to stay on the farm, and put things in order as far as possible, I 
will think you have done what you thought best. But I forget that my paper 
is done. 

" Robb, Orr, &c., have escaped as yet from the pestilence ; but Robb's three 
children have all had the ague. Rabby Rowan has gone to Davie's Locker at 
last : he died in the West Indies. My brother David talks of coming to 
America, and my father, poor old man, would be happy to be with you, rough 
and uncomfortable as your situation at present is. As soon as I finish this I 
shall write to your mother and Alexander. There is a letter for John M., 
which he is requested to answer by his father-in-law. I hope John will set a 
firm resolute heart to the undertaking, and plant a posterity in that rich west- 
ern country, to perpetuate his name for ever. Thousands here would rejoice 
to be in his situation. How happy may you live thus united together in a 

* The name of a rock near Paisley. 


free and plentiful country, after so many years of painful separation, where the 
bare necejisaries of life were all that incessant drudgery could procure, and 
even that but barely ! Should even sickness visit you, which God forbid, each 
of you is surrounded by almost all the friends you have in the world, to nurse 
you, and pity and console you ; and surely it is not the least sad comfort of a 
death-bed, to be attended by affectionate relatives. Write me positively by 
post, two or three times. My best love to my sister, to Isabella, Alexander, 
John, the two Maries, James, Jeany, little Annie. God Almighty bless you 

" Your ever affectionate friend, 

" Alex. Wilson." 

To Alexander Duncan. 

" October 31st, 1802. 
" Dear Alexander. 

" I have laughed on every perusal of your letter. I have now deciphered 
the whole, except the blots, but I fancy they are only by the way of half 
mourning for your doleful captivity in the backwoods, where there is nothing 
but wheat and butter, eggs and gammon, for hagging down trees. Deplorable ! 
what must be done ? It is a good place, you say, for a man who has a parcel 
of weans /***** 

"But forgive this "joking. I thank you, most heartily, for this your Jirst 
letter to me ; and I hope you will follow it up with many more. I shall always 
reply to them with real pleasure. I am glad that your chief objection to the 
country is want of money. No place is without its inconveniences. Want of 
the necessaries of life would be a much greater grievance. If you can, in 
your present situation, procure sufficient of these, though attended with par- 
ticular di^dvantages, I would recommend you to persevere where you are. I 
would wish you and William to give your joint labors to putting the place in 
as good order as possible. A farm of such land, in good cultivation, is highly 
valuable ; it will repay all the labor bestowed upon it a hundred-fold ; and 
contains within it all the powers of plenty and independence. These it only 
requires industry to bring forth, and a small stock of money to begin with. 
The money I doubt not of being able to procure, next summer, for a year or 
two, on interest, independent of two hundred dollars of my own, which I hope 
to possess on or before the middle of March next. C. S. is very much at- 
tached to both your brother and me ; and has the means in his power to assist 
us — and I know he will. In the meantime, if you and William unite in the 
undertaking, I promise you as far as I am concerned, to make it the best plan 
you could pursue. 

"Accustom yourself, as much as you can, to working out. Don't despise 
hagging down trees. It is hard work, no doubt ; but taken moderately, it 
strengthens the whole sinews; and is a manly and independent employment. 
An old weaver is a poor, emaciated, helpless being, shivering over rotten yarn, 
and groaning over his empty flour barrel. An old farmer sits in his armchair 
before his jolly fire, while his joists are crowded with hung beef and gammons, 
and the boanties of heaven are pouring into his barns. Even the article of 


health is a consideration sufficient to make a young man prefer the labors of 
the field : for health is certainly the first enjoyment of human life. But per- 
haps weaving holds out ^advantages that farming does not. Then blend the 
two together; weave in the depth of winter, and work out the rest of the 
year. We will have it in our power, before next winter, to have a shop, looms, 
&c., provided. Consider all I have said, and if 1 have a wrong view of the 
subject, form your own plans, and write me without delay." 

To Mr. William Duncan, 

" Grat's Ferry, December 23d, 1802. 

" The two Mr. Purdies popped into my school, this afternoon, as unexpected 
as they were welcome, with news from the promised land. I shall detain them 
with me all night, on purpose to have an opportunity of writing you a few lines. 
I am glad you are all well. I hope that this is the last devilish slough of de- 
spond which you will have to struggle in for some time. I. will do all that I 
said to you, in my last, 'by the middle of March ; so let care and sorrow be 
forgotten; and industry, hope, good humor and economy, be your bosom 
friends. ***** 

'' I succeed tolerably well ; and seem to gain in the esteem of the people 
about. I am glad of it, because I hope it will put it in my power to clear the 
toad a little before you, and banish despondence from the heart of my dearest 
friend. Be assured that I will ever as cheerfully contribute to your relief in 
difficulties, as I will rejoice with you in prosperity. But we have nothing to 
fear. One hundred bushels of wheat, to be sure, is no great marketing ; but 
has it not been expended in the sup{)ort of a mother, and infant brothers and 
sisters, thrown upon your bounty in a foreign country ? Robert Burns, when 
the mice nibbled away his corn, said : 

" ' I'll get a blessin wi' the lave, 
And never miss 't.' 

" Where he expected one, you may a thousand. Bobin, by his own confession, 
ploughed up his mice out of ha' and home. You have built for your little 
wanderers a cozie hield, where none dare molest them. There is more true 
greatness in the affectionate exertions which you have made for their subsist- 
ence and support, than the bloody catalogue of heroes can boast of. Your own 
heart will speak peace and satisfaction to you, to the last moment of your life, 
for every anxiety you have felt on their account. Colonel Sullivan talks with 
pride and affection of you. 

" I wish Alexander had written me a few lines of the old German text. I 
-augh every time I look at his last letter : it's a perfect antidote against the 
spleen. Well, Alexander, which is the best fun, handling the shuttle, or the 
axe? When John M. comes down, write me largely. And, dear sister, let me 
hear from you also. * * * * 

" I would beg leave to suggest to you the propriety of teaching the children 
to behave with good manners, and dutiful respect, to yourself, each other, and 


" You must excuse me for anything I may have said amiss, or anything I 
may have omitted to mention. I am, with sincere attachment, your affection- 
ate friend." 

The foregoing letters place the character of Wilson in the most amiable 
point of view ; and they entirely supersede any remarks which I might make 
upon those social affections that distinguished him through life. 

In his new situation Wilson had many enjoyments; but he had likewise mo- 
ments of despondency, which solitude tended to confirm. He had addicted 
himself to the writing of verses, and to music ; and, being of a musing turn 
of mind, had given way to those seductive feelings, which the charming 
scenery of the country, in a sensible heart, never fails to awaken. This was a 
fatal bias, which all his efforts could not counteract or remove. His acquaint- 
ance perceived the danger of his state ; and one in whose friendship he had 
placed strong reliance, and to whom he had freely unburthened himself, Mr. 
Lawson, the engraver, entertained apprehensions for the soundness of his in- 
tellect.* There was one subject which contributed not a little to increase his 
mental gloom, and this was the consideration of the life of penury and de- 
pendence to which he seemed destined as the teacher of a country school. 
Mr. Lawson immediately recommended the renouncing of poetry and the flute, 
and the substituting of the amusement of drawing in their stead, as being 
most likely to restore the balance of his mind ; and as an employment well 
adapted to one of his recluse habits and inclinations. To this end sketches 
of the human figure, and landscapes, were provided for him ; but his attempts 
were so unpromising that he threw them aside with disgust ; and concluded 
that one at his period of life could never succeed in the art of delineation. 
Mr. Bartram now advised a trial at birds ; and being tolerably skilful himself, 
exhibited his portfolio, which was graced with many specimens from his own 
hands. The attempt was made, and succeeded beyond the expectation of 
Wilson, or that of his friends. There was a magic in the employment which 
aroused all the energies of his soul ; he saw, as it were, the dayspring of a 
new creation ; and, from being the humble follower of his instructors, he 
was soon qualified to lead the way in the charming art of imitating the works 
of the Great Original. 

That Wilson likewise undertook the task of delineating flowers, appears 
from the following note to Mr. Bartram, dated November 20th, 1803 : 

*The following incident was communicated to me by Colonel Carr, who had it from 
Wilson himself. While the latter labored under great depression of spirits, in order to 
soothe his mind he one day rambled with his gun. The piece by accident slipped from his 
hand, and, in making an effort to regain it, the lock was cocked. At that moment had 
the gun gone off, it is more than probable that he would have lost his life, as the muzzle 
was opposite to his breast. When Wilson reflected on the danger which he had escaped, 
he shuddered at the idea of the imputation of suicide, which a fatal occurrence, to one in 
his frame of mind, would have occasioned. There is room to conjecture that many have 
iccidentally met their end, whose memories have been sullied by the alleged crime of 


" I have attempted two of those prints which Miss Nancy* so obligingly, 
and with so much honor to her own taste, selected for me. I was quite dd^ 
lighted with the anemone, but fear I have made but bungling work of it. 
Such as they are I send them for your inspection and opinion j neither of them 
is quite finished. For your kind advice towards my improvement I return my 
most grateful acknowledgments. 

" The duties of my profession will not admit me to apply to this study with 
the assiduity and perseverance I could wish. Chief part of what I do is 
sketched by candle-light ; and for this I am obliged to sacrifice the pleasures 
of social life, and the agreeable moments which I might enjoy in company 
with you and your amiable friend. I shall finish the other some time this 
week; and shall be happy if what I have done merit your approbation." 

As Wilson advanced in drawing, he made corresponding progress in the 
knowledge of Ornithology. He had perused the works of some of the natu- 
ralists of Europe, who had written on the subject of the birds of America, 
and became so disgusted with their caricatured figures, fanciful theories, 
fables and misrepresentations, that on turning, as he himself observes, from 
these barren and musty records to the magnificent repository of the woods and 
fields — the Grand Aviary of Nature, his delight bordered on adoration. It 
was not in the inventions of man that the Divine Wisdom could be traced ; 
but it was visible in the volume of Creation, wherein are inscribed the Author's 
lessons of goodness and love, in the conformation, the habitudes, melody and 
migrations, of the feathered tribes, that beautiful portion of the work of his 

To invite the attention of his fellow-citizens to a study, attended with so 
much pleasure and improvement, was the natural wish of one who had been 
educated in the School of Wisdom. He humbly thought it would not be render- 
ing an unacceptable service to the Great Master op Creation himself, to 
derive from objects that everywhere present themselves in our rural walks, not 
only amusement and instruction, but the highest incitements to piety and virtue. 
Moreover, self-gratification, that source of so many of our virtuous actions, had 
its share in urging him to communicate his observations to others.f He 
examined the strength of his mind, and its resources ; the undertaking seemed 
hazardous; he pondered it for a long while before he ventured to mention it to 
his friends. At length the subject was made known to Mr. Bartram, who freely 
expressed his confidence in the, abilities and acquirements of Wilson ; but, from 
a knowledge of the situation and circumstances of the latter, hinted his fears 
that the difiiculties which stood in the way of such an enterprise were almost 
too great to be overcome. Wilson was not easily intimidated ; the very mention 
of difiiculties suggested to his mind the means of surmounting them, and the 
glory which would accrue from such an achievement. He had a ready answer 
to every objection of his cautious friend; and evinced such enthusiasm,'that 
Mr. Bartram trembled lest his intemperate zeal should lead him into a situation, 
from the embarrassments of which he could not well be extricated. 

* Mr. Bartrara's niece, now the consort of Colonel Carr. 
t Introduction to Vol. I. 


The scheme was unfolded to Mr. Lawson, and met with his cordial approba- 
tion. But he observed that there were several considerations which should have 
their weight, in determining in an affair of so much importance. These were 
frankly stated; and followed by advice, which did not quadrate with the tempera- 
ment of Wilson ; who, vexed that his friend would not enter into his feelings, 
expressed his scorn of the maxims of prudence with which he was assailed, by 
styling them the offspring of a cold, calculating, selfish philosophy. Under date 
of March 12th, 1804, he thus writes to the last-named gentleman : " I dare 
say you begin to think me very ungenerous and unfriendly in not seeing you 
for so long a time. I will simply state the cause, and I know you will excuse 
me. Six days in one week I have no more time than just to swallow my meals, 
and return to my sanctum sanctorum. Five days of the following week are 
occupied in the same routine of pedagoguing matters ; jind the other two are 
sacrificed to that itch for drawing, which I caught from your honorable self. 
I never was more wishful to spend an afternoon with you. In three weeks I 
shall have a few days' vacancy, and mean to be in town chief part of the time. 
I am most earnestly bent on pursuing my plan of making a collection of all the 
birds in this part of North America. Now I don't want you to throw cold 
water, as Shakspeare says, on this notion. Quixotic as it may appear. I have 
been so long accustomed to the building of airy castles and brain windmills, 
that it has become one of my earthly comforts, a sort of a rough bone, that 
amuses me when sated with the dull drudgery of life." 

To Mr. "Wm. Baeteam. 

" March 29th, 1804. 

"Three months have passed away since I had the pleasure of seeing you; 
and three dark and heavy months they have been to your family. My heart 
has shared in your distress, and sincerely sympathizes with you for the loss you 
have sustained. But Time, the great curer of every grief, will gradually heal 
those wounds which Misfortune has inflicted ; and many years of tranquillity 
and happiness are, I sincerely hope, reserved for you. 

" r have been prevented from seeing you so long by the hurry of a crowded 
school, which occupied all my hours of daylight, and frequently half the others. 
The next quarter will leave me time enough ; and, as there is no man living in 
whose company I have more real satisfaction, I hope you will pardon me if I 
now and then .steal a little of your leisure. 

" I send for your amusement a few attempts at some of our indigenous birds, 
hoping that your good nature will excuse their deficiencies, while you point 
them out to me. I intended to be the bearer of them myself, but having so 
many little accounts to draw up before to-morrow, I am compelled to plead this 
as my excuse. I am almost ashamed to send you these drawings ; but I know 
your generous disposition will induce you to encourage 6ne in whom you perceive 
a sincere and^ager wish to do well. They were chiefly colored by candle-light. 

" I have now got my collection of native birds considerably enlarged; and 
shall endeavor, if possible, to obtain all the smaller ones this summer. Be 
pleased to mark on the drawings, with a pencil, the names of each bird, as 

xxviii LIFE OF "WILSON. 

except three or four, I do not know them. I shall be extremely obliged to yoti 
for every hint that will assist me in this agreeable amusement. 

" I am very anxious to see the performances of your fair pupil ; and beg you 
would assure her from me that any of the birds I have are heartily at her ser- 
vice. Surely nature is preferable, to copy after, to the works of the best mas- 
ters, though perhaps more difficult; for I declare that the face of an owl, and 
the back of a lark, have put me to a nonplus ; and if Miss Nancy will be so 
obliging as to try her hand on the last mentioned, I will furnish her with one 
in good order; and will copy her drawing with the greatest pleasure ; having 
spent almost a week on two different ones, and afterwards destroyed them both, 
and got nearly in the slough of despond." 

Tc Mb. Wm. Baetram. 

" KiNGSESsiNG, March Slst, 1804. 

" I take the first few moments I have had since receiving your letter, to 
thank you for your obliging attention to my little attempts at drawing, and for 
the very affectionate expressions of esteem with which you honor me. But sorry 
I am, indeed, that afflictions so severe, as those you mention, should fall 
where so much worth and sensibility reside, while the profligate, the unthink- 
ing and unfeeling, so frequently pass through life, strangers to sickness, ad- 
versity or suffering. But God visits those with distress whose enjoyments 
he wishes to render more exquisite. The storms of affliction do not last for ever; 
and sweet is the serene air, and warm sunshine, after a day of darkness and 
tempest. Our friend has, indeed, passed away, in the bloom of youth and 
expectation ; but nothing has happened but what almost every day's experi- 
ence teaches us to expect. How many millions of beautiful flowers have 
flourished and faded under your eye ; and how often has the whole profusion 
of blossoms, the hopes of a whole year, been blasted by an untimely frost! 
He has gone only a little before us ; we must soon follow ; but while the feel- 
ings of nature cannot be repressed, it is our duty to bow with humble resig- 
nation to the decisions of the great Father of all, rather receiving with grati- 
tude the blessings he is pleased to bestow, than repining at the loss of those 
he thinks proper to take from us. But allow me, my dear friend, to withdraw 
your thoughts from so melancholy a subject, since the best way to avoid the 
force of any overpowering passion, is to turn its direction another way. 

" That lovely season is now approaching, when the garden, woods and 
fields, will again display their foliage and flowers. Every day we may expect 
strangers, flocking from the south, to fill our woods with harmony. The pencil 
of Nature is now at work, and outlines, tints, and gradations of lights and 
shades, that baffle all description, will soon be spread before us by that great 
master, our most benevolent friend and Father. Let us cheerfully participate 
in the feast he is preparing for all our senses. Let us survey those millions 
of green strangers, just peeping into day, as so many happy messengers come 
to proclaim the power and munificence of the Creator. I confess that I was 
always an enthusiast in my admiration of the rural scenery of Nature ; but, 
since your example and encouragement have set me to attempt to imitate her 
productions, I see new beauties in every bird, plant or flower, I contemplate ; 


and find my ideas of the incomprehensible First Cause still more exalted the 
more minutely I examine bis works. 

" I sometimes smile to think that while others are immersed in deep sebemea 
of speculation and aggrandizement — in building towns and purchasing planta- 
tions, I am entranced in contemplation over the plumage of a lark, or gazing 
like a despairing lover, on the lineaments of an owl. While others are hoard- 
ing up their bags of money, without the power of enjoying it, I am collecting, 
without injuring my conscience, or wounding my peace of' mind, those beauti- 
ful specimens of Nature's works that are for ever pleasing. I have had live 
crows, hawks and owls — opossums, squirrels, snakes, lizards, &c , so that my 
room has sometimes reminded me of Noah's ark ; but Noah had a wife in 
one corner of it, and in this particular our parallel does not altogether tally. 
I receive every subject of natural history that is brought to me, and though 
they do not march into my ark, from all quarters, as they did into that of our 
great ancestor, yet I find means, by the distribution of a few fivepenny hits, 
to make them find the way fast enough. A boy, not long ago, brought me a 
large basket full of crows. I expect his next load will be bull-frogs, if I 
don't soon issue orders to the contrary. One of my boys caught a mouse in 
school, a few days ago, and directly marched up to me with his prisoner. I 
set about drawing it that same evening, and all the while the pantings of its 
little heart showed it to be in the most extreme agonies of fear. I had in- 
tended to kill it, in order to fix it in the claws of a stufi"ed owl, but happening 
to spill a few. drops of water near where it was tied, it lapped it up with such 
eagerness, and looked in my face with such an eye of supplicating terror, as 
perfectly overcame me. I immediately untied it, and restored it to life and 
liberty. The agonies of a prisoner at the stake, while the fire and instruments 
of torment are preparing, could not be more severe than the sufierings of that 
poor mouse; and, insignificant as the object was, I felt at that moment the 
sweet sensations that mercy leaves on the mind when she triumphs over cruelty. 
" My dear friend, you see I take the liberty of an old acquaintance with 
you, in thus trifling with your time. You have already raised me out of the 
slough of despond, by the hopes of your agreeable conversation, and that of 
your amiable pupil. Nobody, I am sure, rejoices more in her acquisition of 
the beautiful accomplishment of drawing than myself. I hope she will per- 
severe. I am persuaded that any pains you bestow on her will be rewarded 
beyond your expectations. Besides, it will be a new link in that chain of 
friendship and consanguinity by which you are already united ; though I fear 
it will be a powerful addition to that attraction which was fully sufiicient 
before, to make even a virtuoso quit his owls and opossums, and think of 
something else." 

To Mr. Wm. BlRTRAM. 

" May 2l8t, 1804. 
"I send you a few more imitations of birds for your opinion, which I value 
beyond that of anybody else, though I am seriously apprehensive that I am 
troublesome. These are the last I shall draw for 'some time, as the employ- 
ment consumes every leisure moment, leaving nothing for friendship, or those 


rural recreations which I so much delight in. Even poetry, whose heavenly 
enthusiasm I used to glory in, can hardly ever find me at home, so much has 
this bewitching amusement engrossed all my senses. 

" Please to send me the names of the birds. I wish to draw a small 
flower, in order to represent the humming-bird in the act of feeding : will 
you be so good as to send me one suitable, and not too large ? The legs and 
feet of some are unfinished ; they arc all miserably imperfect, but your gener- 
ous candor I know to be beyond all their defects." 

To Mr. Wm. Bartram. 

"June 15th, 1804. 
"I have arranged my business for our little journey; and, if to-morrow be 
fair, I shall have the chaise ready for you at any time in the morning, say 
seven o'clock. Or if you think any other hour more suitable, please to let 
me know by the bearer, and I shall make it answerable to me." 

"June 16th, 1804. 
" I believe we had better put off our intended jaunt until some more aus- 
picious day. 

" Clouds, from eastern regions driven, 
Still obscure the gloomy skies ; 
Let us yield, since angry Heaven 
Frowns upon our enterprise. 

" Haply some unseen disaster 

Hung impending o'er our way, 
Which our kind Almighty Master 
Saw, and sought us thus to stay. 

" By and by, when fair Aurora 
Bids the drowsy fogs to fly, 
And the glorious god of Flora 
Rises in a cloudless sky, 

Then, in whirling chariot seated, 

With my friend I'll gladly go : 
With his converse richly treated — ■ 

Happy to be honored so." 

The inconveniences of his situation, as teacher of a country school, deter- 
mined Wilson to endeavor after some employment more congenial to his dis- 
position; and that would enable him to attain to that distinction, as a scholar, 
which he was anxious to merit. He consequently directed his views to the 
" Literary Magazine," conducted by C. B. Brown, a monthly publication of 
some note, as a suitable vehicle for the diffusion of those productions which he 
hoped would arrest the attention of the public. In this magazine appeared 
his " Rural Walk," and his " Solitary Tutor ;" but it does not appear that 
their author received any other reward for his well-meant endeavors than the 
thanks of the publisher. He was flattered, it is true, by a republication, in 


the " Port Polio," of the " Rural Walk," with some " commendations of its 
beauties;" but I must confess that my perspicacity has not enabled me to 
detect them. 

The then editor of the " Port Folio," Mr. Dennie, enjoyed the reputation 
of being a man of taste and judgment; and the major part of his selections 
should seem to prove that his character, in these respects, was well founded. 
But with regard to the poem in question, I am totally at a loss to discover 
by what principles of criticism he judged it, seeing that his opinion of it will 
by no means accord with mine. The initial stanza, which is not an unfair 
specimen of the whole, runs thus : 

" The summer sun was riding high, 

The woods in deepest verdure drest ; 
From care and clouds of dust to fly, 
Across yon bubbling brook I past." 

The reader of classical poetry may well pardon me if, out of an efiusion 
consisting of forty-four stanzas, I save him the task of perusing any more than 

To Mr. Lawson. 

"Gray's Ferry, August 14th, 1804. 
" Dear Sir, 

" Enclosed is a copy of the ' Solitary Tutor' which I should like to see 
in the ' Literary Magazine' of this month, along with the other poem which 
I sent the editor last week. Wishing, for my future benefit, to call the public 
attention to these pieces, if, in the editor's opinion, they should seem worthy 
of it, I must request the favor of you to converse with him on this subject. 
You know the numerous pieces I am in possession of, would put it in my 
power to support tolerably well any recommendation he might bestow on these j 
and while they would not, I trust, disgrace the pages of his valuable publica- 
tion, they might serve as my introduction to the literary world, and as a sort 
of inspiration to some future and more finished attempts. Knowing that you 
will freely pardon the quantum of vanity that suggested these hmts, 
" I remain, with real regard, &c." 

To Mr. Wm. Baktram. 

"Union School, September 17th, 1804. 

"The second volume of Pinkerton's Geography has at length made its 
appearance; and I take the freedom of transmitting it, and the atlas, for your 
amusement. To condemn so extensive a work before a re-perusal, or without 
taking into consideration all the difiSculties that were to be surmounted, is, 
perhaps, not altogether fair. Yet we almost always form our judgment from 
the first impressions, and this judgment is very seldom relinquished. You 
will, therefore, excuse me if I give 'you some of the impressions made on 
myself by a cursory perusal. 

" Taking it all in all, it is certainly the best treatise on tlje subject hitherto 
published; though had the author extended his plan, and, instead of two, 
given us four volumes, it would not frequently have laid him under the neees- 


sity of disappointing his reader by the bare mention of things that required 
greater illustration ; and of compressing the natural history of whole regions 
into half a page. Only thirty-four pages allotted to the whole United States ! 
This is brevity with a vengeance. I had indeed expected from the exertions of 
Dr. Barton, as complete an account of the natural history of this part of the world 
as his means of information, and the limits of the work, would admit. I have 
been miserably disappointed; and you will pardon me when I say that 
his omitting entirely the least reference to your researches in botany and 
zoology, and seeming so solicitous to let us know of his own productions, 
bespeak a narrowness of mind, and self-consequence, which are truly despica- 
ble. Every one acquainted with you both, would have confidently trusted 
that he would rejoice in the opportunity of making the world better acquainted 
with a man whose works show such a minute and intimate knowledge of these 
subjects; and from whom he had received so much information.' But no — 
not even the slightest allusion, lest posterity might discover that there existed, 
at this time, in the United States, a naturalist of information superior to his. 
My dear sir, I am a Scotchman, and don't love my friends with that cold selfish 
prudence which I see in some ; and if I ofi^end in thus speaking from the 
fulness of my heart, I know you will forgive me. 

" Pinkerton has, indeed, furnished us with many curious particulars 
unknown, or, at least, unnoticed, by all former geographers; and also with 
other items long since exploded as fabulous and ridiculous ; such is his account 
of the Upas or poisonous tree ; and of children having been lost in some of 
our American swamps, and of being seen many years afterwards, in a wild, 
savage state ! But he very gravely tells his readers that the people of Scot- 
land eat little or no pork from a prejudice which they entertain against swine, 
the Devil having taken possession of some of them two thousand years ago ! 
"What an enlightened people these Scots must be; and what a delicate taste 
they must be possessed of! Yet I have traversed nearly three-fourths of that 
country, and mixed much with the common people, and never hoard of such 
an objection before. Had the learned author told his readers that, until late 
years, Scotland, though abounding in rich pastures, even to its mountain tops, 
was yet but poorly productive in grain, fruit, &c., the usual food of hogs, and 
that on this account innumerable herds of sheep, horses and cattle were 
raised, and but very little pork, he would then have stated the simple facts; 
and not subjected himself to the laughter of every native of that part of 

" As. to the pretended antipathy of the Scots to eels, because they resemble 
snakes, it is equally ridiculous and improbable; ninety-nine out of a hundred 
of the natives never saw a snake in their lives. The fact is, it is as usual to 
eat eels in Scotland, where they can be got, as it is in America ; and although 
I have frequently heard such objections made to the eating of eels here, 
where snakes are so common, yet I do not remember to have heard the com- 
parison made in Scotland. I have taken notice of these two observations of 
his, because they are applied generally to the Scots, making them appear a 
weak, squeamish-stomached set of beings, infected with all the prejudices and 
antipathies of children. 


" These are some of my objections to this work, which, however, in other 
respects, does honor to the talents, learning, and industry of the compiler." 

In the month of October, 1804, Wilson, accompanied with two of his 
friends, set out on a pedestrian journey to visit the far-famed cataract of 
Niagara, whereof he had heard much, but which he had never had an oppor- 
tunity of beholding. The picturesque scenery of that beautiful river, the 
vastness and sublimity of the cataract, as might be expected, filled the bosom 
of our traveller with the most rapturous emotions. And he ever after 
declared, that no language was sufficiently comprehensive to convey an adequate 
idea of that wonderful curiosity. 

On the return of Wilson, he employed his leisure moments in writing a 
poetical narrative of the journey. This poem, which contains some inter- 
esting description, and pleasing imagery, is entitled " The Foresters ;" and 
was gratuitously tendered to the proprietors of the Port Folio, and published 
in that excellent miscellany, in the years 1809-10. 

This expedition was undertaken rather too late in the season, and, conse- 
quently, our travellers were subjected to hardships of which they were not 
aware. Winter overtook them whilst in the Genesee country, in their return 
by the way of Albany ; and they were compelled to trudge, the greater part 
of the route, through snow midleg deep. 

To Mr. Wm. Bartram. 

" Grat's Ferry, December 15th, 1804. 
" Though now snug at home, looking back in recollection on the long, cir- 
cuitous journey which I have at length finished, through deep snows, and 
almost uninhabited forests ; over stupendous mountains, and down dangerous 
rivers : passing over, in a course of thirteen hundred miles, as great a variety 
of men and modes of living, as the same extent of country can exhibit in any 
part of the United States — though in this tour I have had every disadvantage 
of deep roads and rough weather; hurried marches, and many other incon- 
veniences to encounter, — yet so far am I from being satisfied with what I 
have seen, or discouraged by the fatigues which every traveller must submit 
to, that I feel more eager than ever to commence some more extensive expedi- 
tion ; where scenes and subjects entirely new, and generally unknown, might 
reward my curiosity; and where perhaps my humble acquisitions might add 
something to the stores of knowledge. For all the hazards and privations 
incident to such an undertaking, I feel confident in my own spirit and resolu- 
tion. With no family to enchain my affections ; no ties but those of friend- 
ship ; and the most ardent love of my adopted • country^-with a constitution 
which hardens amidst fatigues ; and a disposition sociable and open, which can 
find itself at home by an Indian fire in the depth of the woods, as well as in 
the best apartment of the civilized ; I have at present a real design of becom- 
ing a traveller. But I am miserably deficient in many acquirements abso- 
lutely necessary for such a character. Botany, mineralogy, and drawing I 
most ardently wish to be instructed in, and with these I should fear nothing. 
Can I yet make any progress in botany, sufficient to enable me to be useful, 
and what would be the most proper way to proceed ? I have many leisure 
Vol. I.— C 


moments that should be devoted to this pursuit, provided I could have hopes 
of succeeding. Your opinion on this subject will confer an additional obliga- 
tion on your affectionate friend." 

It is worthy of remark, that when men of uncommon talents conceive any 
great scheme, they usually overlook those circumstances of minor iinportance. 
which ordinary minds would estimate as first deserving attention. Thus Wil- 
son, with an intellect expanded with information, and still grasping at further 
improvement as a means of distinction, would fain become a traveller, even at 
the very moment when the sum total of his funds, amounted to seventy-five 
cents ! 

To Mr. Wm. Duncan. 

" Gray's Febrt, December 24th, 1804. 

" You have no doubt looked for this letter long ago, but I wanted to see 
how matters would finally settle with respect to my school before I wrote ; 
they remain, however, as uncertain as before ; and this quarter will do little 
more than defray my board and firewood. Comfortable intelligence truly, 
methinks I hear you say ; but no matter. * * * * 

" I shall begin where you and I left off our story, viz. at Aurora, on the 
shores of the Cayuga.* The evening of that day, Isaac and I lodged at the 
outlet of Owasco Lake, on the turnpike, seven or eight miles from Cayuga 
bridge; we waded into the stream, washed our boots and pantaloons, and 
walked up to a contemptible dram-shop, where, taking possession of one side 
of the fire, we sat deafened with the noise and hubbub of a parcel of drunk 
tradesmen. At five next morning we started; it had frozen; and the road 
was in many places deep and slippery. I insensibly got into a hard step of 
walking; Isaac kept groaning a rod or so behind, though I carried his gun. 
* * * "^g ggt off again ; and we stopped at the outlet of Skane- 
ateles Lake ; ate some pork-blubber and bread ; and departed. At about two 
in the afternoon we passed Onondaga Hollow, and lodged in Manlius Square, 
a village of thirty houses, that have risen like mushrooms in two or three 
years; having walked this day thirty-four miles. On the morning of the 
22d we started as usual by five — road rough — and Isaac grunting and lagging 
behind. This day we were joined by another young traveller, returning 
home to his father's on the Mohawk ; he had a pocket bottle, and made fre- 
quent and long applications of it to his lips. The road this day bad, and 
the snow deeper than before. Passing through Oneida castle, I visited every 
house within three hundred yards of the road, and chatted to the copper- 
colored tribe. In the evening we lodged at Lard's tavern, within eleven miles 
of Utica, the roads deplorably bad, and Isaac and his disconsolate companion 
groaning at every step behind me, so that, as drummers do in battle, I was 
frequently obliged to keep before, and sing some lively ditty, to drown the 
90und of their ohs ! and ahs ! and Lords ! The road for fifteen or twenty 
miles was knee-deep of mud. We entered Utica at nine the next morning. 
This place is three times larger than it was four years ago ; and from Oneida 

*Mr. Duncan remained among his friends at Aurora. 


to Utica is almost an entire continued village. This evening we lodged on 
the east side of the Mohawk, fifteen miles below Utica, near which I shot a 
bird of the size of a mocking-lsird, which proves to be one never yet described 
by naturalists. I have it here in excellent order. From the town called Her- 
kimer we set off through deep mud, and some snow; and about mid-day, be- 
tween East and West Canada Creeks, I shot three birds of the jay kind, all 
of one species, which appears to be undescribed. Mr. Bartram is greatly 
pleased at the discovery; and I have saved two of them in tolerable condition. 
Below the Little Falls the road was excessively bad, and Isaac was almost in 
despair, in spite of all I could do to encourage him. We walked this day 
twenty-four miles ; and early on the 25th started off again through deep mud, 
till we came within fifteen miles of Schenectady, when a boat coming down 
the river, Isaac expressed a wish to get on board. I walked six miles after- 
wards by myself, till it got so dark that I could hardly rescue myself from the 
mud-holes. The next morning I entered Schenectady, but Isaac did not arrive, 
in the boat, till noon. Here we took the stage-coach for Albany, the roads 
being excessively bad, and arrived there in the evening. After spending two 
days in Albany, we departed in a sloop, and reached New York on Saturday, 
at noon, the first of December. My boots were now reduced to legs and upper 
leathers ; and my pantaloons in a sad plight. Twelve dollars were expended 
on these two articles. ****** 

" On Friday, the 7th December, I reached Gray's Ferry, having walked 
forty-seven miles that day. I was absent two months on this journey, and I 
traversed in that time upwards of twelve hundred miles. 

" The evening of my arrival I went to L***h's, whose wife had got twins, 
a boy and a girl. The boy was called after me : this honor took six dollars 
more from me. After paying for a cord of wood, I was left with only three 
quarters of a dollar." 

To Mr. Wm. Bartram. 

" Union School, December 24th, 1804. 

" I have perused Dr. Barton's publication,* and return it with many thanks 
for the agreeable and unexpected treat it has afforded me. The description of 
the Falls of Niagara is, in some places, a just, though faint, delineation of that 
stupendous cataract. But many interesting particulars are omitted; and much 
of the writer's reasoning on the improbability of the wearing away of the pre- 
cipice, and consequent recession of the falls, seems contradicted by every ap- 
pearance there ; and many other assertions are incorrect. Yet on such a sub- 
ject, everything, however trifling, seems to. attract attention : the reader's 
imagination supplying him with scenery in abundance, even. amidst the feeble- 
ness and barrenness of the meanest writer's description. 

"After this article, I was most agreeably amused, with 'Anecdotes of an 
American Crow,' written in such a pleasing style of plajrful humor, as I have 
seldom seen surpassed ; and forming a perfect antidote against the spleen ; 

*The Philadelphia Medical and Physical Journal, Vol. I. 


abounding, at the same time, with observations and reflections not unworthy of 
a philosopher. 

" The sketch of your father's life, with the extracts from his letters, I read 
with much pleasure. They will remain lasting monuments of the worth and 
respectability of the father, as well as of the filial affection of the son. 

" The description of the Choctaw Bonepickers is a picture so horrible, -that 
I think nothing can exceed it. Many other pieces in this work are new and 
interesting. It cannot fail to promote the knowledge of natural history, and 
deserves, on this account, every support and encouragement." 

To Mr. Wm. Barteam. 

"December 26th, 1804. 
" I send for your amusement the " Literary Magazine" for September, in 
which you will find a well-written, and, except in a few places, a correct de- 
scription of the great Falls of Niagara. I yesterday saw a drawing of them, 
taken in 1768, and observe that many large rocks, that used formerly to appear 
in the rapids above the Horseshoe Falls, are now swept away ; and the form of 
the curve considerably altered, the consequence of its gradual retrogression. 
I hope this account will entertain you, as I think it by far the most complete 
I have yet seen. 

To Mr. Wm. Duncan. 

" KiNGSESSiNG, February 20th, 1805. 

"I received yours of January 1st, and" wrote immediately; but partly 

through negligence, and partly through accident, it has not been put into the 

post-office ; and I now sit down to give you some additional particulars. 

" This winter has been entirely lost to me, as well as to yourself. I shall 
on~ the twelfth of next month be scarcely able to collect a sufficiency to pay my 
board, having not more than twenty-seven scholars. Five or six families, who 
used to send me their children, have been almost in a state of starvation. 
The rivers Schuylkill and Delaware are still shut, and wagons are passing and 
repassing at this moment upon the ice. 

" The solitary hours of this winter I have employed in completing the poem 
which I originally intended for a description of your first journey to Ovid. It 
is now so altered as to bear little resemblance to the original ; and I have 
named it the ^Foresters' It begins with a description of the Fall or Indian 
Summer, and relates, minutely, our peregrinations and adventures until our 
arrival at Catharine Landing, occupying ten hundred and thirty lines. The 
remainder will occupy nearly as much ; and as I shall, if ever I publish it, 
insert numerous notes, I should be glad if, while you are on the. spot, you 
would collect every interesting anecdote you can of the country, and of the 
places which we passed through. Hunting stories, &c., peculiar to the 

would be acceptable. I should be extremely glad to spend one after- 
noon with you for the benefit of your criticisms. I lent the poem to Mr. * 

* * * our senator, who seems to think it worth reading ; and * * 

* * has expressed many flattering compliments on my labors ; but I don't 


value either of their opinions so much as I would yours. I have bestowed 
more pains upon this than I ever did upon any former poem ; and if it contain 
nothing really good, I shall for ever despair of producing any other that will." 

To Me. Wm. Bartram. 

" March 4th, 1805. 
" My Dear Friend, 

" This day the heart of every republican, of every good man, within the 
immense limits of our happy country, will leap with joy ! 

" The re-appointment and continuance of our beloved Jefferson to superin- 
tend our national concerns, is one of those distinguished blessings whose bene- 
ficent effects extend to posterity ; and whose value our hearts may feel, but 
can never express. 

" I congratulate with you, my dear friend, on this happy event. The 
enlightened philosopher, — the distinguished naturalist, — the first statesman on 
earth, — the friend, the ornament of science, is the father of our country, 
the faithful guardian of our liberties. May the precious fruits of such pre- 
eminent talents long, long be ours : and the grateful effusions of millions of 
freemen, at a far distant period, follow their aged and honored patriot to the 
peaceful tomb. ' 

" I am at present engaged in drawing the two birds which I brought from 
the Mohawk ; and, if I can finish them to your approbation, I intend to trans- 
mit them to our excellent president, as the child of an amiable parent presents 
to its affectionate father some little token of its esteem. 

To Mr. Wm. Duncan. 

Gray's Ferky, March 26th, 1805. 

" I received your letter of January 1st, some time about the beginning of 
February ; and wrote the same evening very fully ; but have heard nothing in 
return. Col. S. desires me to tell you to be in no uneasiness, nor part with 
the place to a disadvantage on his account. His son has been with me since 
January. I told you in my last of the thinness of my school : it produced me 
the last quarter only twenty-six scholars ; and the sum of fifteen dollars was 
all the money I could raise from them at the end of the term. I immediately 
called the trustees together, and, stating the affair to them, proposed giving 
up the school. Two of them on the spot offered to subscribe between them 
one hundred dollars a-year, rather than permit me to go; and it was agreed to 
call a meeting of the people : the result was honorable to me, for forty-eight 
scholars were instantly subscribed for; so that the ensuing six months my 
school will be worth pretty near two hundred dollars. So much for my 
affairs. ******** 

" I have never had a scrap from Scotland since last summer ; but I am 
much more anxious to hear from you. I hope you have weathered this terri- 
ble winter, and that your heart and your limbs are as sound as ever. I also 
most devoutly wish that matters could be managed so that we could be 
together. This farm must either be sold, or let ; it must not for ever be a 
great gulf between us. I have spent most of my leisure hours this winter in 

xxxviii LIFE OF WILSON. 

writing the " Foresters" a poem descriptive of our journey. I have brought 
it up only to my shooting expedition at the head of the Seneca Lake; and it 
amounts already to twelve hundred lines. I hope that when you and I meet, 
it will afford you more pleasure than any of my productions has ever done. 
The two nondescript birds* which I killed on the Mohawk, attracted the notice 
of several naturalists about Philadelphia. On the 4th of March I set to work 
upon a large sheet of fine drawing-paper, and in ten days I finished two faith- 
ful drawings of them, far superior to any that I had done before. In the 
back ground I represented a view of the Falls of Niagara, with the woods 
wrought in as finely as I possibly could do. Mr. Lawson was highly pleased 
with it, and Mr. Bartram was even more so. I then wrote a letter to that best 
of men, Mr. Jefferson, which Mr. Bartram enclosed in one of his (both of 
which, at least copies of them, I shall show you when we meet), and sent off 
the whole, carefully rolled up, by the mail, on the 20th inst., to Monticello, in 
Virginia. The jay I presented to Mr. Peale, at his request, and it is now in 
the Museum. I have done but few other drawings, being so intent on the 
poem. I hope if you find any curious birds, you will attempt to preserve 
them, or at least their skins ; if a small bird be carefully skinned, it can easily 
be set up at any time. I still intend to complete my collection of drawings ; 
but the last will be by far the best. * * * * 

" The poor of Philadelphia have suffered extremely this winter, the river 
having been frozen up for more than two months, yet the ice went away with- 
out doing any damage. I must again request that you and Alexander would 
collect the skins of as many birds as you have not seen here. * * * * 
The process of skinning the birds may amuse you ; and your collection will be 
exceedingly agreeable to me. In the mean time never lose sight of getting 
rid of the troublesome farm, if it can be done with advantage; so that we 
may once more be together; and write to me frequently. 

" I have now nothing more to say, but to give my affectionate compliments 
to your mother and all the family, and to wish you every comfort that the state 
of society you are in can afford. With the great volume of nature before 
you, you can never, while in health, be without amusement. Keep a diary of 
every thing you meet with that is curious. Look out, now and then, for 
natural curiosities as you traverse your farm ; and remember me as you wander 
through your woody solitudes. 

From Mr. Jefferson. 

"Monticello, April 7th, 1805. 

" I received here yesterday your favor of March 18th, with the elegant 
drawings of the new birds you found on your tour to Niagara, for which I pray 
you to accept my thanks. The jay is quite unknown to me. From my 
observations while in Europe, on the birds and quadrupeds of that quarter, I 
am of opinion there is not in our continent a single bird or quadruped which 

* One of these birds was the Canada Jay (Am. Orn. vol. 3, p» 33, ed. 1st) which was 
known to naturalists. 


is not sufficiently unlike aJl the members of its family there to be considered 
as specifically different; on this general observation I conclude with confidence 
that your jay is not a European bird. 

"^The first bird on the same sheet I judge to be a Mnscicapa from its bill, 
as well as from the following circumstance. Two or three days before my 
arrival here a neighbor killed a bird, unknown to him, and never before s"een 
here, as far as he could learn ; it was brought to me soon after I arrived ; but 
in the dusk of the evening, aud so putrid that it could not be approached but 
with disgust. But I retain a sufficiently exact idea of its form and colors to 
be satisfied it is the same with yours. The only difference I find in yours is 
that the white on the back is not so pure, and that the one I saw had a little 
of a crest. Your figure, compared with the white-bellied Gobe-mouclie, 8 Buff. 
342, PI. enlum. 56% shows a near relation. Buffon's is dark on the back. 

" As you are curious in birds, there is one well worthy your attention, to be 
found, or rather heard, in every part of America, and yet scarcely ever to be 
seen ; it is in all the forests, from spring to fall, and never but on the tops of 
the tallest trees, from which it perpetually serenades us with some of the 
sweetest notes, and as clear as those of the nightingale. I have followed it 
for miles without ever, but once, getting a good view of it. It is of the size 
and make of the mocking-bird, lightly thrush-colored on the back, and a gray- 
ish-white on the breast and belly. Mr. Randolph, my son-in-law, was in pos- 
session of one which had been shot by a neighbor; he pronounces this also a 
Muscioapa, and I think it much resembling the Mouche-rolle de la Martinique, 
8 Buffon, 374, PI. enlum. 568. As it abounds in all the neighborhood of 
Philadelphia, you may perhaps by patience and perseverance (of which much 
will be requisite) get a sight, if not a possession of it. I have for twenty 
years interested the young sportsmen of my neighborhood to shoot me one; 
but as yet without success. Accept my salutations and assurances of respect. 

Th. Jefferson." 

To Mr. Wm. Bartram. 

" April 18th, 1805. 

" By Mr. Jefferson's condescending and very intelligent letter to me, which 
I enclose for your perusal, it appears that our jay is an entirely new, or rather 
undescribed bird, which met me on the banks of the Mohawk, to do me the 
honor of ushering him to the world. This duty I have conscientiously dis- 
charged, by introducing him to two naturalists : the one endeared to me, and 
every lover of science, by the benevolence of his heart; and the other or- 
dained by Heaven to move in a distinguished orbit — an honor to the human 
race — the patron of science, and best hope of republicans ! I say, that no bird, 
since Noah's days, could boast of such distinguished honor. 

" Mr. Jefferson speaks of a very strange bird ; please let me know what it 
is ; I shall be on the look-out, and he must be a sly fellow if he escape me. I 
shall watch his motions, and the sound of his serenade, pretty closely, to be 
able to transmit to our worthy president a faithful sketch of a bird, which he 
has been so long curious to possess." 


' To Mr. "Wm. Duncan. 

" Gray's Ferry, May 8th, 1805. 

" I am glad to understand that the plantation is increasing so fast in value, 
but more so that it is not either sold or otherwise disposed of at the low- rate 
at which we would have once thrown it away ; yet it is the perpetual cause of 
separating us, which I am very sorry for. I am living a mere hermit, not 
spending one farthing, to see if I possibly can reimburse ****, who I can see 
is not so courteous and affable as formerly. I hope to be able to pay him one 
hundred dollars, with interest, next October, and the remainder in the spring, 
we shall then be clear of the world ; and I don't care how many privations I 
suffer to effect that. I associate with nobody ; spend my leisure hours in 
drawing, wandering through the woods, or playing upon the violin. 

'' I informed you in my last of sending Mr. Jefferson drawings of the Falls, 
and some birds, which I found on the Mohawk, and which it seems have never 
been taken notice of by any naturalist. He returned me a very kind and 
agreeable letter, from Monticello, expressing many obligations for the drawings, 
which he was highly pleased with ; and describing to me a bird, which he is 
very desirous of possessing, having interested the young sportsmen of his 
neighborhood, he says, these twenty years, to shoot him one, without success. 
It is of the size and make of the mocking-bird, lightly thrush-colored on the 
back, and grayish-white on the breast; is never heard but from the tops of 
the tallest trees, whence it continually serenades us with some of the sweetest 
notes, and as clear as those of the nightingale. Mr. Bartram can give no ac- 
count of this bird, except it be the wood robin, which I don't think it is ; for 
Mr. Jefferson says, ' it is scarcely ever to he seen ;' and ' I have followed it for 
miles without ever, but once, getting a good view of it.'* I have been on the 
look-out ever since, but in vain. If you can hear of such a bird, let me know. 
I wish you also to look for the new bird which I discovered. It is of the 
size of the blue jay; and is of that genus^of a dull lead color on the back — 
the forehead white — black on the back of the neck — the breast and belly a 
dirty, or brownish white, with a white ring round its neck — its legs and bill 
exactly the jay's. Pray inquire respecting it, and any other new bird. If 
they could be conveyed to me, drawings of them, presented to the same dig- 
nified character, might open the road to a better acquaintance, and something 
better might follow. Alexander and you, will, I hope, be on the look-out with 

* After many inquiries, and an unwearied research, it turned out that this invisible mu- 
sician was no other than the Wood Robin, a bird which, if sought for, in those places 
which it affects, may be seen every hour of the day. Its favorite haunts Wilson has 
beautifully described in its history; but so far from being found always "on the tops 
of the tallest trees," it is seldom seen in such places, but seems to prefer the horizontal 
branches, at no great height, especially when piping its exquisitely melodious song. One 
of its names, the Ground Robin, is derived from the circumstance of its being frequently 
seen upon the ground. Its song consists of several distinct parts, at the conclusion of 
each of which it commonly flies a few feet and rests just long enough to continue the 
strain. A person unacquainted with these particulars, would suppose thftt he heard several 
birds, in various quarters, responding to each other, and would find it hard to believe 
that the whole was the performance of one. 


the gun, and kill every bird that comes in your way; and keep written de- 
scriptions, or the skins, if possible, of those you don't know. Were I able, I 
would undertake another journey up to you through the woods, while the birds 
are abundant; and nothing would give me so much pleasure as to make another 
extensive tour with you for this purpose ; • for I am persuaded that there are 
many species yet undescribed ; and Mr. Jefferson is anxious to replenish his 
museum with the rare productions of his country." 

To Mr. Wm. Duncan. 

"Grat's Ferry, May Slat, 1805. 

" Yesterday evening I was finishing a hanging-bird in my silent mansion, 
musing upon a certain affair, when Mr. L. popped his head in at the window, 
with a letter. I instantly laid down my pencil, and enjoyed a social crack 
with my distant friend ; and was heartily and truly pleased with the upshot. 
In everything relative to this land business, you have acted amidst difficulties 
and discouragements with prudence and discretion. In refusing to engage 
with ****** jQu acted well; and I doubt not but you will be equally 
circumspect in making a transfer of the property, so that the Yankee will not 
be able, even if he were willing, to take you in. More than half of the 
roguery of one-half of mankind is owing to the simplicity of the other half. 
You have my hearty foncurrence in the whole affair, for I impatiently wish 
you beside me, not only to enjoy your society and friendship, but to open to 
you the book of knowledge, and enable you, in your turn, to teach it to others. 
In plain language, I wish you to prosecute your studies with me a few 
months ; a school will soon be found, and you can then pursue them without 
expense, and I trust with pleasure. The business has indeed- its cares, but 
affords leisure for many amusements ; , and is decent and reputable when 
properly discharged. I am living in solitude; spending nothing; diligently 
attending to the duties of the day; and filling up every leisure moment 
with drawing and music. I have bought no clothes, nor shall I, this sum- 
mer ; therefore if you settle the matter with *' * * as you have agreed, we 
can discharge our obligations to * * * *, and be in a state to go on with 
your studies for at least six mouths. Mr. * * * * was here yesterday, and 
expressed many acknowledgments for the rapid progress ***** ig making, 
for indeed I have exerted myself to pay my obligations to the father by my 
attentions to the son. 

"I wrote you respecting the letter I had from the president. I have 
never been able to get a sight of the bird he mentions. I hope you will not 
neglect to bring your gun with you, and look out as you come along. 

" I have done no more to the 'Foresters' The journey is brought up to 
my expedition upon the Seneca Lake. I am much in want of notes of the 
first settlement, and present state, of the different places that we passed, as we 
went up the Susquehanna; everything of this kind, with hunting anecdotes, 
&c., I- wish you to collect in your way down. The remainder of the poem will, 
I hope, be superior to what is already written, the scenery and incidents being 
more interesting; and will extend to at least another fifteen hundred lines, 


wLich will make in all about three thousand.* The- notes will swell it to a 
tolerable size. 

" The ' Rural Wallc,' which I published last summer in the Literary Maga- 
zine, has been lately republished in the Port Folio,'}" with many commendations 
on its beauties. The ' Solitary Tutor' met with much approbation. But I 
reserve my best efforts for the remainder of the ' Foresters'- * * 

" I have not mentioned anything of the sale of the land, nor shall I until 
the business is finally concluded. I shall expect to hear from you at least 
twice yet before you arrive ; and I hope you will make no unnecessary delay 
in returning. As you cut a pretty ragged appearance at present, and want 
something to laugh at, suppose you set your muse to work upon your tatterde- 
malian dishabille. The former neatness of your garb, contrasted with its pre- 
sent squalidness, would make a capital subject for a song, not forgetting the 
causes. But you are in the dress of the people you live among : you are 
therefore in character. B. had a hat on when I was up in your quarter, the 
rim of which had been eaten off, close to his head, by the rats, or, perhaps, cut 
off to make soles to his shoes ; yet it was so common as to escape observation. 
I say another fellow, too, at the tavern, who had pieces cut out of his behind, 
like a swallow's tail." 

The spring of the year 1805 gave to the enraptured view of our naturalist 
his interesting feathered acquaintance. He listened to their artless songs; he 
noticed their habitudes; he sketched their portraits. And, after having 
passed a few months varied with this charming occupation, he again writes to 
the respected inhabitant of the Botanic Garden : 

Union School, July 2d, 1805. 

"I dare say you will smile at my presumption, when I tell you that I have 
seriously begun to make a collection of drawings of the birds to be found in 
Pennsylvania, or that occasionally pass through it : twenty-eight, as a begin- 
ning, I send for your opinion. They are, I hope, inferior to what I shall pro- 
duce, though as close copies of the originals as I could make. One or two of 
these I cannot find either in your nomenclature, or among the seven volumes 
of Edwards. I have never been able to find the bird Mr. Jefferson speaks of, 
and begin to think that it must be the Wood Eobin, though it seems strange 
that he should represent it as so hard to be seen. Any hint for promoting my 
plan, or enabling me to execute better, I will receive from you with much 
pleasure. I have resigned every other amusement, except reading and fiddling, 
for this design, which I shall not give up without making a fair trial. 

" Criticise these, my dear friend, without fear of offending me — this will 
instruct, but not discourage me. — For there is not among all our naturalists 
one who knows so well what they are, and how they ought to be represented. 
In the meantime accept of my best wishes for your happiness — wishes as sin- 
cere as ever one human being breathed for another. To your advice and 

* This poem, as published in the " Port Folio," contains two thousand two hundred and 
eighteen lines. It is illustrated with four plates, two of which were engraved by George 
Cooke of London. 

t For April 27th, 1805. 


encouraging encomiums I am indebted for these few specimens, and for all that 
will follow. They may yet tell posterity that I was honored with your friend- 
ship, and that to your inspiration they owe -their existence." 

The plates illustrative of the natural history of Edwards were etched by the 
author himself. Wilson had examined them very attentively, and felt assured 
that, with a little instruction in the art of etching, he could produce more 
accurate delineations ; and would be enabled, by his superior knowledge of 
coloring, 'to finish, the figures for his contemplated work, in a style not inferior 
to his spirited and beautiful drawings from nature. 

Mr. Lawson was of course consulted on this occasion, and cheerfully con- 
tributed his advice and assistance in the novel and difficult enterprise. 
Wilson procured the copper; and, the former having laid the varnish, and 
furnished the necessary tools, he eagerly commenced the important operation, 
on the successful termination of which his happiness seemed to depend. 

Let the reader pause and reflect on the extravagance of that enthusiasm, 
which could lead a person- to imagine, that, without any knowledge pf an art 
derived from experience, he could at once produce that effect, which is the 
result only of years of trial and diligence. 

The next day after Wilson had parted from his preceptor, the latter, to use 
his own words, was surprised to behold him bouncing into his room, crying 
out — " / have finished' my plate ! let us bite it in with the aquafortis at once, for 
I must have a proof before I leave town!"* Lawson burst into laughter at 
the ludicrous appearance of his friend, animated with impetuous zeal ; and to 
humor him granted his request. A proof was taken, but fell far short of 
Wilson's expectations, or of his ideas of correctness. However, he lost no 
time in conferring with Mr. Bartram, to whom he wrote as follows : 

" November 29th, 1805. 

"I have been amusing myself this some time in attempting to etch; and 
now send you a proof sheet of my first performance in this way. Be so good 
as communicate to me your own corrections, and those of your young friend 
and pupil. I will receive them as a very kind and particular favor. The 
drawings which I also send, that you may compare them together, were done 
from birds in full plumage, and in the best order. My next attempt in etching 
will perhaps be better, everything being new to me in this. I will send you 
the first impression I receive after I finish the plate." 

In a short time aiiother plate was prepared and completed with the despatch 
of the former. In fulfilment of his promise to his friend, he transmits a 
proof, accompanied with the following note : 

* For the information of those of our readers who are unacquainted with the process 
of etching, we subjoin the following explanatory note : — 

Upon the polished copper plate, a coat of varnish, of a particular composition, is thinly 
spread. The design is then traced, and cut through to the copper, with an instrument 
termed a point. A bank of wax is now raised around the plate, and aquafortis poured 
into the enclosure, which acid eats into the copper only where the point had passed. The 
length of time requisite for the successful action of the aquafortis, must be determined by 
the judgment of the operator. 


" Mr. Wilson's affectionate compliments to Mr. Bartram ; and sends for his 
amusement and correction another proof of his Birds of the United States. 
The coloring being chiefly done last night, must soften criticism a little. Will 
be thankful for my friend's advice and correction. 

"Mr. Wilson wishes his beloved friend a happy new year, and every 

;' Saturday, January 4th, 1806." 

These essays in etching,* though creditable to Wilson's ingenuity and per- 
severance, yet by no means afforded satisfaction. He became now convinced 
that the point alone was not sufficient to produce the intended effect; and that 
nothing short of the accuracy of the graver would in anywise correspond to 
his ideas of excellence. But in the art of engraving he had never been in- 
structed ; and he could not command means sufficient to cover the expense of 
the plates even of a single volume, on the magnificent plan which his compre- 
hensive mind had delineated. A proposition was now made to Mr.' Lawson to 
engage in the work, on a joint concern. But there were several objections 
which this gentleman urged, sufficiently weighty, in his opinion, to warrant 
his non-acceptance of the offer. Wilson, finding his schemes thus baffled, 
declared, with solemn emphasis, his resolution of proceeding alone in the 
publication, if it should even cost him his life. " I shall at least leave" 
continued he, " a small beacon to point out where I perished." 

To Mr. Wm. Barteam. 

" January 27th, 1806. 
" Being in town on Saturday, I took the opportunity of calling on Mr. 
-, who, in 1804, went down the Ohio, with one companion, in a small 

batteau. They sometimes proceeded seventy miles in twenty-four hours, going 
often night and day. They had an awning; and generally slept on board the 
boat, without ever catching cold, or any inconvenience by musquitoes, except 
when in the neighborhood of swamps. He describes the country as exceed- 
ingly beautiful. The object of their journey being trade, they had neither 
gun nor fishing-tackle; and paid little or no attention to natural objects. He 
says the navigation of a batteau is perfectly easy, and attended with no hazard 
whatever. One solitary adventurer passed them in a small boat, going from 
Wheeling to New Orleans. 

" If, my dear friend, we should be so happy as to go together, what would 
you think of laying our design before Mr. Jefferson, with a view to procure 
his advice, and recommendation to influential characters in the route ? Could 
we procure his approbation and patronage, they would secure our success. 
Perhaps he might suggest some improvements in our plan. Had we a good 
companion, intimately acquainted with mineralogy, who would submit to our 
economical plan of proceeding, it would certainly enhance the value of the 
expedition. However, this I have no hopes of 

* The two first plates of the Ornithology are those which the author etched himself. 
The writer of this sketch has in his possession a proof of the first one, which he preserves 
as a relic of no small value. It is inscribed with the author's name. 


" I see, by the' newspapers, that Mr. Jefferson designs to employ persons to 
explore the shores of the Mississippi the ensuing summer : surely our exer- 
tions would promote his wishes. I write these particulars that you may give 
them the consideration they deserve; and we call upon you to deliberate 
further on the affair. 

To THE Same. 

" February 3d, 1806. 
" The enclosed sketch of a letter is submitted for your opinion, and, if 
approved, I must request of you the favor to enclose it in one of your own to 
Mr. Jefferson. You see I am serious in my design of traversing our southern 
wildernesses. Disappointed in your company, I have no hopes in another's 
that would add any value to the Ohio tour. I am therefore driven to this 
expedient, and I hope it will succeed. Please to let me hear your sentiments 
on this affair to-morrow morning ; and oblige yours, &c." 

To THE Same. 

" February 5th, 1806. 
" I am infinitely obliged to you, my dear friend, for your favorable opinion 
of me, transmitted to the president. Should an engagement be the conse- 
quence, I will merit the character which you have given of me, or perish in 
the endeavor to deserve it. Accept my assurances of perpetual affection and 

" The letters go off to-morrow." 

It will be perceived, by the foregoing letters, that the President of the 
United States had it in contemplation to despatch men of science, for the pur- 
pose of exploring the country of the Mississippi. Wilson now conceived that 
a favorable opportunity would be afforded him of gratifying a desire, which he 
had long indulged, of visiting those regions, which he was convinced were rich 
in the various objects of science; and, particularly, where subjects, new and 
interesting, might be collected for his embryo work on the ornithology of our 
country. He expressed his wishes to Mr. Bartram, who approved of them; 
and the latter cheerfully wrote to his correspondent, Mr. Jefferson, stating 
Wilson's character and acquirements; and recommending him as one highly 
qualified to be employed in that important national enterprise. This intro- 
ductory letter, indited in the most respectful terms, was accompanied with an 
application from Wilson himself, which, as a faithful biographer of my friend, 
I here think proper to insert entire : 

To HIS Excellency Thomas Jefferson, 

President of the United States. 

" Having been engaged, these several years, in collecting materials, and 
furnishing drawings from nature, with the design of publishing a new Orni- 
thology of the United States of America, so deficient in the works of Catesby, 
Edwards, and other Europeans, I have traversed the greater part of our 
northern and eastern districts ; and have collected many birds undescribed by 


these naturalists. Upwards of one hundred drawings are completed ; and two 
plates in folio already engraved. But as many beautiful tribes frequent the 
Ohio, and the extensive country through which it passes, that probably nerer 
visit the Atlantic states; and as faithful representations of these can be taken only 
from living Nature, or from birds newly killed ; I had planned an expedition 
down that river, from Pittsburgh to the Mississippi, thence to New Orleans, 
and to continue my researches by land in return to Philadelphia. I had 
engaged as a companion and assistant Mr. William Bartram, of this place, 
whose knowledge of Botany, as well as Zoology, would have enabled me to 
make the best of the voyage, and to collect many new specimens in both those 
departments. Sketches of these were to have been taken on the spot; and 
the subjects put in a state of preservation to finish our drawings from, as 
time would permit. We intended to set out from Pittsburgh about the begin- 
ning of May ; and expected to reach New Orleans in September. 

" But my venerable friend, Mr. Bartram, taking into more serious considel-a- 
tion his advanced age, being near seventy, and the weakness of his eye-sight; 
and apprehensive of his inability to encounter the fatigues and deprivations 
unavoidable in so extensive a tour; having, to my extreme regret, and the 
real loss of science, been induced to decline the journey; I had reluctantly 
abandoned the enterprise, and all hopes of accomplishing my purpose; till 
hearing that your excellency had it in contemplation to send travellers this 
ensuing summer up the Red River, the Arkansas, and other tributary streams 
of the Mississippi ; and believing that my services might be of advantage to 
some of these parties in promoting your excellency's design; while the best 
opportunities would be afforded me of procuring subjects for the work which 
I have so much at heart; under these impressions I beg leave to offer myself 
for any of these expeditions ; and can be ready at a short notice to attend 
your excellency's orders. 

" Accustomed to the hardships of travelling, without a family, and an en- 
thusiast in the pursuit of Natural History, I will devote my whole powers to 
merit your excellency's approbation; and ardently wish for an opportunity of 
testifying the sincerity of my professions, and the deep veneration with which 
I have the honor to be, 

" Sir, 

" Your obedient servant, 

" Alex. Wilson.* 
"KiNGSESS, February 6th, 1806." 

Mr. Jefferson had in his port folio decisive proofs of Wilson's talents as an 
ornithologist, the latter having some time before, as the reader will haye ob- 
served, transmitted to his excellency some elegant drawings of birds, accom- 
panied with descriptions. Yet, with these evidences before him, backed with 
the recommendation of a discerning and experienced naturalist, Mr. Jefferson 

* Wilson was particularly anxious to accompany Pike, who commenced his journey 
from the cantonment on the Missouri, for the sources of the Arkansas, &c., on the 15th 
July, 1806. 


was either so scandalized at the iaformal application of our ornithologist, or 
so occupied in the great concerns of his exalted station, that no answer was 
returned to the overture ; and the cause of the supposed contemptuous ne- 
glect, neither Wilson nor Bartram could ever ascertain. 

Whatever might have been the views of the president, who unquestionably 
bore an effective part in scheming and encouraging the expeditions commanded 
by Lewis and Clark, and Pike, there can be but one opinion on the insuffi- 
ciency of that plan of discovery which does not embrace the co-operation of 
men of letters and science : those whose knowledge will teach them to select 
what is valuable, and whose learning will enable them to digest it for the 
advantage of others. We would not draw an invidious comparison between 
the expeditions above-mentioned, and those under the command of Major 
Long; but we will rest in the hope that, as the government now appears to 
be sensible of the beneficial effects resulting from a liberal and enlightened 
policy, it will continue to foster that spirit of enterprise which distinguishes 
some of our citizens; and which, if properly directed, will redound to the 
honor and glory of our country. 

To Mr. William Duncan. 

" Okay's Fekrt, February 26th, 1806. 

" Notwithstanding the great esteem I have for your judgment, in prefer- 
ence, many times, to my own, yet I believe we are both wrong in the proposed 
affair of Saturday week. I have not the smallest ambition of being considered 
an orator; and would it not, by some, be construed into vanity, or something 
worse, for me to go all the way from this place to deliver a political lecture 
at Milestown? Politics has begot me go many enemies, both in the old and 
new world, and has done me so little good, that I begin to think the less 
you and I harangue on that subject the better. I do not say this from any 
doubt I have of being able to say something on the subject, but much question 
the policy and prudence of it. If you and I attend punctually to the duties 
of our profession, and make our business our pleasure ; and the improvement 
of our pupils, with their good government, our chief aim; honor, and re- 
spectability, and success will assuredly attend us, even if we never open our 
lips on politics. 

" These have been some of my i-eflections since we parted. I hope you 
will weigh them in your own mind, and acquiesce in my resolution of not inter- 
fering in the debate on Saturday, as we talked of. At the same time I am 
really pleased to see the improvement the practice has produced in you; and 
would by no means wish to dissuade you from amusing and exercising your 
mind in this manner; because Lknow that your moderation in sentiment and 
conduct will always preserve you from ill will on any of these scores. But 
as it could add nothing to my fame, and as they have all heard me, often 
enough, on different subjects, about Milestown ; and as it would raise no new 
friends to you, but might open old sores in some of your present friends, I 
hope you will agree with me that it will be prudent to decline the affair. 
And as you have never heard me deliver any of my own compositions in this 


way, I will commit a speech to ■memory which I delivered at Milestown, in the 
winter of 1800, and pronounce it to you when we are by ourselves in the 
woods, where we can offend nobody. 

"I have heard nothing from Washington yet; and I begin to think that 
either Mr. Jefferson expects a brush with the Spaniards, or has not received 
our letters; otherwise he would never act so unpolitely to one for whom he 
has so much esteem as for Mr. Bartram. No huri'y of business could excuse it. 
But if affairs are not likely to be settled with Spain, very probably the design 
of sending parties through Louisiana will be suspended. Indeed I begin to 
think that if I should not be engaged by Mr. Jefferson, a journey by myself, 
and at my own expense, at a time, too, when we are just getting our heads 
above water, as one may say, would not be altogether good policy. Perhaps in 
another year we might be able, without so much injury, to make a- tour 
together, through part of the south-west countries, which would double all the 
pleasures of the journey to me. I will proceed in the affair as you may 
think best, notwithstanding my eager wishes, and the disagreeableness of my ~ 
present situation. I write this letter in the school-house — past ten at night — 
L.'s folks all gone to roost — the flying squirrels rattling in the loft above 
me, and the cats squalling in the cellar below. Wishing you a continuation 
of that success in teaching, which has already done you so much credit, I 
bid you for the present good-night." 

We now approach that era of Wilson's life, in which we behold him 
emerging from the vale of obscurity, and attaining that enviable distinction, 
in the republic of science and letters, which it is the lot of but few to enjoy. 

Mr. Samuel F. Bradford, bookseller, of Philadelphia, being about to pub- 
lish an edition of Rees's New Cyclopaedia, Wilson was introduced to him as 
one qualified to superintend the work ; and was engaged, at a liberal salary, 
as assistant editor. The articles of agreement are dated the 20th of April, 

To Me. Wm. Bartram. 

" Philadelphia, April 22d, 1806. 
" My Dear Friend. 

"I take the liberty of informing you that having been importuned to en- 
gage as assistant editor of that comprehensive and voluminous work, Eees's 
New Cyclopaedia, now publishing here, and a generous salary offered me, I 
have now accepted of the same, and will commence my new avocation on 
Monday next. 

" This engagement will, I hope, enable me, in more ways than one, to pro- 
ceed in my intended Ornithology, to which all my leisure moments will be de- 
voted. In the meantime I anticipate, with diffidence, the laborious, and very 
responsible, situation I am soon to be placed in, requiring a much more general 
fund of scientific knowledge, and stronger powers of mind, than I am pos- 
sessed of; but all these objections have been overruled, and I am engaged, in 
conjunction with Mr. S. F. Bradford, to conduct the publication. ' In this 
pursuit I will often solicit your advice, and be happy to communicate your ob- 


serrations to posterity. Shut up from the sweet scenes of rural nature, so 
dear to my soul, conceive to yourself the pleasures I shall enjoy in sometimes 
paying a visit to your charming Retreat, and you cannot doubt of frequently 
seeing your very sincere friend." 

Not long after his engagement, he unfolded his mind to Mr. Bradford on 
the subject of his projected Ornithology; and exhibited such evidence of his 
talents for a work of that nature, that the latter promptly agreed to become 
the publisher of it, and to furnish the requisite funds ; and now, for the first 
time, Wilson found those obstructions removed, which had opposed hi." 
favorite enterprise. 

To Mr. Wilson, at the Falls of Niagara. 

" Philadelphia, July 8th, 1806. 
" Dear Sir. 

" This will be handed to you by Mr. Michaux, a gentleman of an amiable 
character, and a distinguished naturalist, who is pursuing his botanical re- 
searches through North America, and intends visiting the Cataract of Niagara. 
The kindness I received from your family in 1804 makes me desirous that my 
friend, Mr. Michaux, should reside with you during his stay at Niagara ; and 
any attention paid to him will be considered as done to myself, and suitable 
acknowledgments made in person by me on my arrival at Niagara, which I 
expect will be early next spring. 

" You will be so good as give Mr. Michaux information respecting the late 
rupture of the rock at the Falls, of the burning spring above, and point out 
to him the place of descent to the rapids below, with any other information 
respecting the wonderful scenery around you. 

" In the short stay I made, and the unfavorable weather I experienced, I 
was prevented from finishing my intended sketch equal to my wishes; but I 
design to spend several weeks with you, and not only take correct drawings, 
but particular descriptions of everything relating to that stupendous Cataract, 
and to publish a more complete and satisfactory account, and a better repre- 
sentation of it, than has been yet done in the United States.* 

" I had a rough journey home through the Genesee country, which was 
covered with snow to the depth of fifteen inches, and continued so all the way 
to Albany. If you know of any gentlemen in your neighborhood acquainted 
with botany, be so good as introduce Mr. Michaux to them." 

To Mr. Wm. Duncan. 

" Philadelphia, April 8th, 1807. 
" Enclosed is a proof-sheet of our prospectus; as soon as the impressions are 
thrown off on fine paper, I will transmit one for Mr. L. This afternoon Mr. 

* Wilson's subsequent engagements prevented his return to the Falls, in conformity 
with his wishes ; but his sketches were completed by an artist, engraved by George Cooke 
of London, and illustrate his poem of the "Foresters," which was published in the Port 
Folio. These well-engraved views, which are two in number, convey a good idea of the 
famous Cataract ; the " Great Pitch," in particular, is admirably represented. 

Vol. I.— D 


Lawson is to have one of the plates completely finished ; and I am going to 
set the copper-plate printer at work to print each bird in its natural colors, 
which will be a great advantage in coloring, as the black ink will not then stain 
the fine tints. We men tu bind in the prospectus at the end of the next 
half volume, for which purpose twenty-five hundred copies are to be thrown 
off; and an agent will be appointed in every town in the Union. The pros- 
pectus will also be printed in all the newspapers; and everything done to pro- 
mote the undertaking. 

" I hope you have made a beginning, and have already a collection of heads, 
bills and claws, delineated. If this work should go on, it will be a five years' 
affair ; and may open the way to something more extensive ; for which reason 
I am anxious to have you with me to share the harvest. 

" I started this morning, by peep of day, with my gun, for the purpose of 
shooting a nuthatch. After jumping a hundred fences, and getting over the 
ankles in mud (for I had put on my shoes for lightness), I found myself almost 
at the junction of the Schuylkill and Delaware, without success, there being 
hardly half an acre of woodland in the whole Nude; and the nuthatch gene- 
rally frequents large-timbered woods. I returned home at eight o'clock, after 
getting completely wet, and in a profuse perspiration, which, contrary to the 
maxims of the doctors, has done me a great deal of good; and I intend to 
repeat the dose ; except that I shall leave out the ingredient of the wet feet, 
if otherwise convenient. Were I to prescribe such a remedy to Lawson, he 
would be ready to think me mad. Moderate, nay even pretty severe exercise, 
is the best medicine in the world for sedentary people, and ought not to be 
neglected on any account." 

To Mr. Wm. Bartram. 

" Philadelphia, April 29th, 1807. 
" My Dear Sir. 

" The receipt of yours of the 11th inst., in which you approve of my in- 
tended publication of American Ornithology, gave me much satisfaction ; and 
your promise of befriending me in the arduous attempt commands my un- 
feigned gratitude. From the opportunities I have lately had of examining 
into the works of Americans who have treated of this part of our natural his- 
tory, I am satisfied that none of them have bestowed such minute attention 
on the subject as you yourself have done. Indeed they have done littl^ more 
than copied your nomenclature and observations, and referred to your authority. 
To have you, therefore, to consult with in the course of this great publication 
I consider a most happy and even auspicious circumstance ; and I hope you 
will, on all occasions, be a rigid censor, and kind monitor, whenever you find 
me deviating from the beauties of nature, or the truth of description. 

" The more Lread and reflect upon the subject, the more dissatisfied I am 
_with the specific names which have been used by almost every writer. A name 
should, if possible, be expressive of some peculiarity in color, conformation, or 
habit ; if it will equally apply to two different species, it is certainly an im- 
proper one. Is migratorius an epithet peculiarly applicable to the robin 1 
Is it not equally so to almost every species of tiirdus we have ? Europea haa 


been applied ^y Pennant to our large sitfa or nuthatch, which is certainly a 
different species from the European, the latter being destitute of the black 
head, neck and shoulders of ours. Latham calls it carolinensis, but it is as 
much an inhabitant of Pennsylvania and New York as Carolina. The small 
red-bellied sitfa is called canadensis by Latham, a name equally objectionable 
with the other. Turdus ni?nor seems also improper; in short I consider this 
part of the business as peculiarly perplexing; and I beg to have your opinion 
on the matter, particularly with respect to the birds I have mentioned, 
whether I shall hazard a new nomenclature, or, by copying, sanction what I do 
not approve of. 

" I hope you are in good health, enjoying in your little paradise the advances 
of spring, shedding leaves, buds and blossoms, around her; and bringing in 
her train choirs of the sweetest songsters that earth can boast of; while every 
zephyr that plays around you breathes fragrance. Ah ! how different my 
situation in this delightful season, immured among musty books, and com- 
pelled to forego the harmony of the woods for the everlasting din of the city ; 
the very face of the blessed heavens involved in soot, and interrupted by 
walls and chimney tops. But if I don't launch out into the fields and woods 
oftener than I have done these twelve months, may I be transformed into a 
street musician." (The remainder of the MS. defaced.) 

All things being happily arranged, Wilson applied himself to his varied and 
extensive duties with a diligence which scarcely admitted repose ; until finding 
his health much impaired thereby, he was induced to seek the benefits of 
relaxation, in a pedestrian journey through a part of Pennsylvania; which 
afforded him a favorable opportunity of procuring specimens of birds; and 
some additional information relating to them, of which he was very desirous 
to be possessed. This excursion was made in the month of August, 1807 ; 
and on his return he engaged in his avocations with renewed ardor; devoting 
every moment which could be spared from his editorial duties to his great 

At length, in the month of September, 1808, the first volume of the 
"American Ornithologi/" made its appearance. From the date of the arrange- 
ment with the publisher, a prospectus had been issued, wherein the nature and 
intended execution of the work were .specified; but yet no one appeared to 
entertain an adequate idea of the elegant treat which was about to be afforded 
to the lovers of the arts, and of useful literature. And when the volume was 
presented to the public, their delight was only equalled by their astonishment, 
that our country, as yet in its infancy, should produce an original work in 
science, that could vie, in its essentials, with the proudest productions of a 
similar nature of the European world. 

To Mr- Wm. Bartram. 

" Philadelphia, September 21st, 1808. 
" In a few minutes I set out for the Eastern States, through Boston to 
Maine, and back through the state of Vermont, in search of birds and sub- 
scribers. I regret that I have not been able to spend an evening with you 


before my departure. But I shall have a better stock of adventures to relate 
after my return. 

" I send a copy of the prospectus, and my best wishes for the happiness 
of the whole family. I leave ray horse behind, and go by the stage coach, as 
being the least troublesome. I hope to make some discoveries in my tour, the 
least agreeable of which will, I fear, be — that I have bestowed a great deal of 
labor and expense to little purpose. But all these things will not prevent me 
from enjoying, as I pass along, the glorious face of Nature, and her admirable 
productions, while I have eyes to see, and taste and judgment to appreciate 

After despatching the above note, Wilson set out on a journey to the east- 
ward, to exhibit his book, and procure subscribers. He travelled as far 
as the District of Maine; and returned through Vermont, by the way of 
Albany, to Philadelphia. From a letter to a friend, dated Boston, October 
10th, 1808, we have made the following extract: 

" I have purposely avoided saying anything either good or bad, on the 
encouragement I have met with. I shall only say, that among the many 
thousands who have examined my book, and among these were men of the first 
character for taste and literature, I have heard nothing but expressions of the 
highest admiration and esteem. If I have been mistaken in publishing a 
work too good for the country, it is a fault not likely to be soon repeated, and 
will pretty severely correct itself. But whatever may be the result of these 
matters, I shall not sit down with folded hands, while anything can be done to 
carry my point : since Grod helps them who help themselves. I am fixing cor- 
respondents in every corner of these northern regions, like so many pickets 
and outposts, so that scarcely a wren or tit shall be able to pass along, from 
York to Canada, but I shall get intelligence of it." 

To Mr. D. H. Miller. 

" Boston, October 12th, 1808. 
''Dear Sir. 

" I arrived here on Sunday last, after various adventures, the particulars of 
which, as well as the observations I have had leisure to n^ake upon the passing 
scenery around me, I shall endeavor, as far as possible, to compress into this 
letter, for your own satisfaction, and that of my friends who may be interested 
for my welfare. My company in tlie stage-coach to New York were all un- 
known to me, except Colonel S., who was on his route to Fort Oswego, on 
Lake Ontario, to take command of the troops intended to be stationed on that 
part of the frontier, to prevent evasions of the embargo law. The sociable dis- 
position and affability of the Colonel made this part of the journey pass very 
agreeably, for both being fond of walking, whenever the driver stopped to 
water, or drink grog, which was generally every six or eight miles, we set out 
on foot, and sometimes got on several miles before the coach overhauled us. 
By this method we enjoyed our ride, and with some little saving of horseflesh, 
which I know you will approve of At Princeton I bade my fellow-travellers 
good-by, as I had to wait upon the reverend doctors of the college. I took 
my book under my arm, put several copies of the prospectus into my pocket, 


and walked up to this spacious sanctuary of literature. I could amuse you 
with some of my reflections on this occasion, but room will not permit. Dr. 
Smith, the president, and Dr. M'Lean, Professor of Natural History, were the 
only two I found at home. The latter invited me to tea, and both were much 
pleased and surprised with the appearance of the work. I expected to receive 
some valuable information from M'Lean, on the ornithology of the country, 
but I soon found, to my astonishment, that he scardely knew a sparrow from a 
■woodpecker. At his particular request, I left a specimen of the plates with 
him; and from what passed between us, I have hopes that he will pay more 
attention to this department of his profession than he has hitherto done. I 
visited several other literary characters ; and, at about half-past eight, the Pilot 
coming up, I took my passage in it to New Brunswick, which we reached at 
midnight, and where I immediately went to bed. 

" The next morning was spent in visiting the few gentlemen who were likely 
to patronize my undertaking; I had another task of the same kind at Eliza- 
bethtown ; and, without tiring you with details that would fill a volume, I shall 
only say that I reached Newark that day, having gratified the curiosity, and 
feasted the eyes, of a great number of people, who repaid me with the most 
extravagant compliments, which I would have very willingly exchanged for a 
few simple subscriptions. I spent nearly the whole of Saturday in Newark, 
where my book attracted as many starers as a bear or a mammoth would, have 
done ; and I arrived in New York the same evening. The next day I wrote 
a number of letters, enclosing copies of the prospectus, to difierent gentlemen 
in town. In the afternoon of Tuesday I took my book, and waited on each of 
those gentlemen to whom I bad written the preceding day. Among these I 
found some friends, but more admirers. The Professors of Columbia College 
expressed much esteem for my performance. The professor of languages, 
being a Scotchman, and also a Wilson, seemed to feel all the pride of national 
partiality so common to his countrymen ; and would have done me any favor in 
his power. I^pent the whole of this week traversing the streets, from one 
particular house to another, till, I believe, I became almost as well known as 
the public crier, or the clerk of the market, for I could frequently perceive 
gentlemen point me out to others as t passed with my book under my arm. 

" On Sunday morning, October 2d, I went on board a packet for New 
Haven, distant about ninety miles. The wind was favorable, and carried us 
rapidly through Hellgate (a place I had no intention of calling at in my tour), 
on the other side of which we found upwards of sixty vessels beating up for 
a passage. The Sound here, between Long Island and the main, is narrowed 
to less than half a mile, and filled with small islands, and enormous rooks 
under water, among which the tide roars and boils violently, and has proved 
fatal to many a seaman. At high water it is nearly as smooth as any other 
place, and can then be safely passed. The country, on the New York side, ia 
ornamented with handsome villas, painted white, and surrounded by great 
numbers of Lombardy poplars. The breeze increasing to a gale, in eight 
hours from the time we set sail the high red-fronted mountain of New Haven 
rose to our view. In two hours more we landed; and, by the stillness and 


solemnity of the streets, recollected we were in New England, and that it was 
Sunday, which latter circumstance had been almost forgotten on board the 

" This town is situated upon a sandy plain ; and the streets are shaded with 
elm trees and poplars. In a large park or common, covered with graSs, and 
crossed by two streets, and several foot-paths, stand the church, the State-house 
and college buildings, which last are one hundred and eighty yards in front. 
From these structures rise four or five wooden spires, which, in former time, 
as one of the professors informed me, were so infested by woodpeckers, which 
bored them in all directions, that, to preserve their steeples from destruction, 
it became necessary to set people, with guns, to watch and shoot these invaders 
of the sanctuary. Just about the town the pasture-fields and corn look well, 
but a few miles ofl", the country is poor and ill cultivated. 

"The literati of New Haven received me with politeness and respect; and 
after making my usual rounds, which occupied a day and a half, I set off 
for Middletown, twenty-two miles distant. The country through which I 
passed was flat and sandy — in some places whole fields were entirely covered 
with sand, not a blade of vegetation to be seen, like some parts of New Jersey. 
Round Middletown, however, the country is really beautiful — the soil rich; 
and here I first saw the river Connecticlit, stretching along the east side of 
the town, which consists of one very broad street, "with rows of elms on each 
side. On entering I found the street filled with troops, it being muster-day ; 
and I counted two hundred and fifty horse, and six hundred foot, all in uniform. 
The sides of the street were choked up with wagons, carts and wheel-barrows, 
filled with bread, roast beef, fowls, cheese, liquors, barrels of cider, and rum 
bottles. Some were singing out, ' Here's the best brandy you ever put into 
your head!' others in dozens shouting, ' Here's the round and sound ginger- 
bread ! most capital gingerbread !' In one place I observed a row of twenty 
or thirty country girls, drawn up with their backs to a fence, and two young 
fellows supplying them with rolls of bread from a neighboring stall, which 
they ate with a hearty appetite, keeping nearly as good time with their grind- 
ers as the militia did with their muskets. In another place the crowd had 
formed a ring, within which they danced to the catgut scrapings of an old 
negro. The spectators looked on with as much gravity as if they were listen- 
ing to a sermon ; and the dancers labored with such seriousness, that it seemed 
more like a penance imposed on the poor devils, for past sins, than mere 

" I waited on a Mr. A. of this town ; and by him I was introduced to sev- 
eral others. He also furnished me with a good deal of information respecting 
the birds of New England. He is a great sportsman — a man of fortune and 
education — and has a considerable number of stuffed birds, some of which ho 
gave me, besides letters to several gentlemen of influence in Boston. I endea- 
vored to recompense him in the best manner I could, and again pursued my 
route to the north-east. The country between this and Hartford is extremely 
beautiful, much resembhng that between Philadelphia and Frankford. The 
road is a hard sandy soil; and in one place I had an immense prospect of the 
■jurrounding country, nearly equal to that which we saw returning from Easton, 


but less coveted with woods. On reaching Hartford, I waited on Mr. G., a 
member of congress, who recommended me to several others, particularly a 
Mr. W., a gentleman of taste and fortune, who was extremely obliging. The 
publisher of a newspaper here expressed the highest admiration of the work, 
and has since paid many handsome compliments to it in his publication, as 
three other editors did in New York. This is a species of currency that will 
neither purchase plates, nor pay the printer; but, nevertheless, it is gratifying 
to the vanity of an author — when nothing better can be got. My journey from 
Hartford to Boston, through Springfield, Worcester, &c., one hundred and 
twenty-eight miles, it is impossible for me to detail at this time. From the 
time I entered Massachusetts, until within tea miles of Boston, which distance 
is nearly two-thirds the length of the whole jtate, I took notice that the prin- 
cipal features of the country were stony mountains, rocky pasture-fields, and 
hills and swamps adorned with pines. The fences, in every direction, are com- 
posed of strong stones; and, unless a few straggling, self-planted, stunted apple 
trees, overgrown with moss, deserve the name, there is hardly an orchard to 
be seen in ten miles. Every six or eight miles you come to a meeting-house, 
painted white, with a spire. I could perceive little difference in the form or 
eleyation of their steeples. 

"The people here make no distinction between town and townships and 
travellers frequently ask the driver of the stage-coach, ' What town are we 
now in V when perhaps we were upon the top of a miserable barren mountain, 
several miles. from a house. It is in vain to reason with the people on the 
impropriety of this — custom makes every absurdity proper. There is scarcely 
any currency in this country but paper, and I solemnly declare that I do not 
recollect having seen one hard dollar since I left New York. Bills even of 
twenty-five cents, of a hundred diflTerent banks, whose very names one has 
never heard of before, are continually in circulation. I say nothing of the 
jargon which prevails in the country. Their boasted schools, if I may judge 
by the state of their school-houses, are no better than our own. 

" Lawyers swarm in every town, like locusts ; almost every door has the 
word Office painted over it, which, like the web of a spider, points out the 
place where the spoiler lurks for his prey. There is little or no improvement 
in agriculture; in fifty miles I did not observe a single grain or stubble field, 
though the country has been cleared and settled these one hundred and fifty 
years. In short, the steady habits of a great portion of the inhabitants of 
those parts of New England through which I passed, seem to be laziness, law 
bickerings and * * * *. A man here is as much ashamed of being seen 
walking the streets on Sunday, unless in going and returning from church, as 
many would be of being seen going to a ***** *. 

" As you approach Boston the country improves in its appearance ; the stone 
fences give place to those of posts and rails ; the road becomes wide and spa- 
cious ; and everything announces a better degree of refinement and civilization. 
It was dark when I entered Boston, of which I shall give you some account 
in my next. I have visited the celebrated Bunker's Hill, and no devout pil- 
grim ever approached the sacred tomb of his holy prophet with more awful 
enthusiasm, and profound veneration, than I felt in tracing the grass-grown 


entrenchments of this hallowed spot, made immortal by the bravery of those 
heroes who defended it, whose ashes are now mingled with its soil, and of 
whom a mean, beggarly pillar of hricks is all the memento." 

To Mr. D. H. Miller. 

" Windsor, Vt., October 26th, 1808. 
" Dear Sir 

" I wrote you two or three weeks ago from Boston, where I spent about a 
week. A Mr. S., formerly private secretary to John Adams, introduced me to 
many of the first rank in the place, whose influence procured me an acquaint- 
ance with others; and I journeyed through the streets of Boston with my 
book, as I did at New York and other places, visiting all the literary charac- 
ters I could find access to. 

" I spent one morning examining Bunker's Hill, accompanied by Lieutenant 
Miller and Sergeant Carter, two old soldiers of the Revolution, who were both 
in that celebrated battle, and who pointed out to me a great number of inter- 
esting places. The brother of General Warren, who is a respectable physician 
of Boston, became very much my friend, and related to me many other matters 
respecting the engagement. 

" I visited the University at Cambridge, where there is a fine library, but 
the most tumultuous set of students I ever saw. 

" From the top of Bunker's Hill, Boston, Charlestown, the ocean, islands 
and adjacent country, form the most beautifully varied prospect I ever beheld. 

"The streets of Boston are a perfect labyrinth. The markets are dirty; 
the fish-market is so filthy that I will not disgust you by a description of it. 
Wherever you walk you hear the most hideous howling, as if some miserable 
wretch were expiring on the wheel at every corner ; this, however, is nothing 
but the draymen shouting to their horses. Their drays are twenty-eight feet 
long, drawn by two horses, and carry ten barrels of flour. From Boston I 
set out for Salem, the country between swampy, and in some places the most 
barren, rocky, and desolate in nature. Salem is a neat little town. The 
wharves were crowded with vessels. One wharf here is twenty hundred and 
twenty-two feet long. I staid here two days, and again set off for Newbury- 
port, through a rocky, uncultivated, sterile country." 

* * * He :|c * 

" I travelled on through New Hampshire, stopping at every place where I 
was likely to do any business ; and went as far east as Portland in Maine, 
where I staid three days, and, the supreme court being then sitting, I had an 
opportunity of seeing and conversing with people from the remotest boundaries 
of the United States in this quarter, and received much interesting informa- 
tion from them with regard to the birds that frequent these northern regions. 
From Portland I directed my course across the country, among dreary savage 
glens, and mountains covered with pines and hemlocks, amid whose black 
and half-burnt trunks the everlasting rocks and stones, that cover this country, 
' grinned horribly.' One hundred and fifty-seven miles brought me to Dart- 
mouth College, New Hampshire, on the Vermont line. Here I paid my ad- 
dresses to the reverend fathers of literature, and met with a kind and obliging 


reception. Dr. Wheelock, the president, made me eat at his table, and the 
professors vied with each other to oblige me. 

" I expect to be in Albany in five days, and if the legislature be sitting, I 
shall be detained perhaps three days there. In eight days more I hope to be 
in Philadelphia. I have labored with the zeal of a knight-errant in exhibiting 
this book of mine, wherever I went, travelling with it, like a beggar with 
his bantling, from town to town, and from one country to another. I hav« 
been loaded with praises — with compliments and kindnesses — shaken almost 
to pieces in stage-coaches ; have wandered among stfangers, hearing the same 
Oh's and Ah's, and telling the sam^ story a thousand times over — and for 
what ? Ay, that's it ! You are very anxious to know, and you sliall know the 
whole when I reach Philadelphia." 

To Mr. Alexander Lawson. 

" Albany, November 3d, 1808. 
" Dear Sir. 

" Having a few leisure moments at disposal, I will devote them to your 
service in giving you a stetch of some circumstances in my long literary pil- 
grimage, not mentioned in my letters to Mr. Miller. And in the first place, I 
ought to thank you for the thousands of compliments I have received for my 
birds, from persons of all descriptions; which were chiefly due to the taste and 
skill of the engraver. In short, the book, in all its parts, so far exceeds the 
ideas and expectations of the first literary characters in the eastern section of 
the United States, as to command their admiration and respect. The only 
objection has been the sum of one hundred and twenty dollars, which, in 
innumerable instances, has risen like an evil genius between me and my hopes. 
Yet I doubt not but when those copies subscribed for are delivered, and the 
book a little better known, the whole number will be disposed of, and perhaps 
encouragement given to go on with the rest. To efi'ect this, to me, most de- 
sirable object, I have encountered the fatigues of a long, circuitous, and ex- 
pensive journey, with a zeal that has increased with increasing difficulties ; 
and sorry I am to say that the whole number of subscribers which I have 
obtained amounts only to forty-one. 

" While in New York I had the curiosity to call on the celebrated author 
of the ' Rights of Man.' He lives in Greenwich, a short way from the city. 
In the only decent apartment of a small indifferent-looking frame house, I 
found this extraordinary man, sitting wrapped in a night-gown, the table before 
him covered with newspapers, with pen and ink beside him. Paine's face 
would have excellently suited the character of Bardolph ; but the penetration 
and intelligence of his eye bespeak the man of genius, and of the world. 
He complained to me of his inability to walk, an exercise he was formerly fond 
of; — he examined my book, leaf by leaf, with great attention — desired me to 
put down his name as a subscriber; and, after inquiring particularly for Mr. 
P. and Mr. B., wished to be remembered to both. 

" My journey through almost the whole of New England has rather lowered 
the Yankees in my esteem. Except a few jaeat academies, I found their 


school-houses equally ruinous and deserted with ours — fields covb/ed with 
stones — stone-fences — scrubby oaks and pine trees — wretched orcha^rds — 
scarcely one grain-field in twenty miles — the taverns along the road dirty, 
and filled with loungers, brawling about lawsuits and politics — the people 
snappish, and extortioners, lazy, and two hundred years behind the Pennsyl- 
vanians in agricultural improvements. I traversed the country bordering the 
river Connecticut for-nearly two hundred miles. Mountains rose on either 
side, sometimes three, six, or eight miles apart, the space between almost alto- 
gether alluvial; the plains fertile, but not half-cultivated. From some pro- 
jecting headlands I had immense prospects of the surrounding countries, 
everywhere clothed in pine, hemlock, and scrubby oak. 

"It was late in the evening when I entered Boston, and, whirling through 
the narrow, lighted streets, or rather lanes, I could form but a very imperfect 
idea of the town. Early the next morning, resolved to see where I was, I 
sought out the way to Beacon Hill, the highest part of the town, and whence 
you look down on the roofs of the houses — the bay interspersed with islands 
— the ocean — the surrounding country, and distant mountains of New Hamp- 
shire; but the most singular objects are the long wooden bridges, of which 
there are five or six, some of them three-quarters of a mile long, uniting the 
towns of Boston and Charlestown with each other, and with the main land. 
I looked round with an eager eye for that eminence so justly celebrated in 
the history of the Revolution of the United States, Bunker's Hill, but I 
could see nothing that I could think deserving of the name, till a gentleman, 
who stood by, pointed out a white monument upon a height beyond Charles- 
town, which he said was the place. I explored my way thither without paying 
much attention to other passing objects ; and, in tracing the streets of Charles- 
town, was astonished and hurt at the indifierence with which the inhabitants 
directed me to the place.* I inquired if there were any person still living 
here who had been in the battle, and I was directed to a Mr. Miller, Who was 
a lieutenant in this memorable afi'air. He is a man of aboui. sixty — sb^ut, 

* We have here a trait of character worthy of note. Wilson's enthusiasm did not per- 
mit him to reflect, thnt an object which presents uncommon attractions to one who beholds 
it for the first time, can have no such effect upon the minds of the multitude, accustomed 
to view it from their infancy ; and in whose breasts those chaste and exquisite feelings 
which result from taste, refined by culture, can have no place. 

But what Wilson felt upon this occasion, was that which almost all men of genius and 
sensibility experience when similarly situated — that divine enthusiasm, which exalts one, 
as it were, above mortality, and which commands our respect in proportion as the subject 
of it is estimable or great. 

Who has not read, or having read, who can forget, that admirable passage in Johnson's 
Journey to the Hebrides, wherein the illustrious traveller relates his reflections on his 
landing upon the island of Icolmkill ! " Far from me, and from my friends,'-' says he, 
"be such frigid philosophy as may conduct us indifferent and unmoved over any ground 
which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue." That this frigid philosophy 
was a stranger to the soul of Wilson, we have his own declaration in evidence ; and so 
little skilled was he in the art of concealing his emotions, that, on any occasion which 
awakened his sensibility, he would exhibit the impulse of simple nature by weeping like 
a child. 


remarkably fresh-colored, with a benign and manly countenance. . I introduced 
myself without ceremony — shook his hand with sincere cordiality, and said, 
with some warmth, that I was proud of the honor of meeting with one of the 
heroes of Bunker's Hill — the first unconquerable champions of their country. 
He looked at me, pressed my hand in his, and the tears instantly glistened in 
hia eyes; which as instantly called up corresponding ones in my own. In our 
way to the place he called on a Mr. Carter, who he said was also in the action, 
and might recollect some circumstances which he had forgotten. With these 
two veterans I spent three hours, the most interesting to me of any of my life. 
As they pointed out to me the route of the British — the American intrench- 
ments — the place where the greatest slaughter was made — the spot where 
Warren fell, and where he was thrown amid heaps of the dead, I felt as though 
I could have encountered a whole battalion myself in the same glorious cause. 
The old soldiers were highly delighted with my enthusiasm ; we drank a glass 
of wine to the memory of the illustrious dead, and parted almost with regret. 

" From Boston to Portland, in the district of Maine, you are almost always 
in the neighborhood, or within sight, of the Atlantic. The country may be 
called a mere skeleton of rocks, and fields of sand, in many places entirely 
destitute of wood, except a few low scrubby junipers, in others covered with 
pines of a diminutive growth. On entering the tavern in Portland, I took up 
the newspaper of the day, in which I found my song of Freedom and Peace,^ 
which I afterwards heard read before a numerous company (for the supreme 
court was sitting), with great emphasis, as a most excellent song; but I said 
nothing on the subject. 

" From Portland I steered across the country for the northern parts of Ver- 
mont, among barren, savage, pine-covered mountains, through regions where 
nature and art have done infinitely less to make it a fit residence for man than 
any country I ever traversed. Among these dreary tracts I found winter had 
already commenced, and the snow several inches deep. I called at Dartmouth 
College, the president of which, as well as of all I visited in New England, 
subscribed. Though sick with a severe cold, and great fatigue, I continued 
my route to this place, passing and calling at great numbers of small towns in 
my way. 

" The legislature is at present in session — the newspapers have to-day taken 
notice of my book, and inserted my advertisement — I shall call on the princi- 
pal people — employ an agent among some of the booksellers in Albany, and 
return home by New York." 

Wilson, after tarrying at home a few days, departed to the southward, visit- 
ing every city and town of importance as far as Savannah, in the state of 
Georgia. This journey, being performed in the winter, and alone, was of 
course not a.ttended with many travelling comforts; and, to avoid the incon- 
veniences of a return by land, he embarked in a vessel, and arrived at New 

* A certain military association of Philadelpliia, being disposed to dignify the national 
celebration of this year, offered a gold medal for the best song which should be written 
for the occasion ; and Wilson bore away the prize from many competitors, 


York in the month of March, 1809. This was rather an unproductive tour; 
but few subscriptions being obtained. 

To Mr. D. H. Miller. 

"Washington City, December 24th, 1808. 
" Dear Sir. 

" I sit down, before leaving this place, to give you a few particulars of my 
expedition. I spent nearly a week in Baltimore, with tolerable success, having 
procured sixteen subscribers there. In Annapolis I passed my book through 
both houses of the legislature : the wise men of Maryland stared and gaped, 
from bench to bench ; but having never heard of such a thing as one hundred 
and twenty dollars for a booJc, the ai/es for subscribing were none ; and ■ so it 
was unanimously determined in the negative. Nowise discouraged by this sage 
dejision, I pursued my route through the tobacco fields, sloughs and swamps, 
of this illiterate corner of the state, to Washington, distant thirty-eight miles ; 
and in my way opened fifty-five gates. I was forewarned that I should meet 
with many of these embarrassments, and I opened twenty-two of them with all 
the patience and philosophy I could muster; but when I still found them 
coming thicker and faster, my patience and philosophy both abandoned me, 
aud I saluted every new gate (which obliged me to plunge into the mud to open 
it) with perhaps less Christian resignation than I ought to have done. The 
negroes there are very numerous, and most wretchedly clad ; their whole cover- 
ing, in many instances, assumes the appearance of neither coat, waistcoat, nor 
breeches, but a motley mass of coarse, dirty woollen rags, of various colors, 
gathered up about them. When I stopped at some of the negro huts to 
inquire the road, both men and women huddled up their filthy bundles of rags 
around them, with both arms, in order to cover their nakedness, and came out, 
very civilly, to show me the way. ' 

" I cannot pretend, within the bounds of a letter, to give you a complete 
description of Washington. It consists of a great extent of confined com- 
mons, one-half of which is nearly level, and little higher than the'Potomac; 
the other parts, on which the Capitol and President's house-are built, are high 
and commanding. The site is much better than I expected to find it; and is 
certainly a noble place for a great metropolis. I saw one brick house build- 
ing, which is the only improvement, of that kind, going on at present. The 
taverns and boarding-houses here are crowded with an odd assemblage of 
characters. Fat placemen, expectants, contractors, petitioners, office-hunters, 
lumber-dealers, salt-manufacturers, and numerous other adventurers. Among 
the rest are deputations from different Indian nations, along our distant fron- 
tiers, who are come hither to receive their last alms from the President, pre- 
vious to his retirement. 

" The President received me very kindly. I asked for nobody to introduce 
me, but merely sent him in a line that I was there ; when he ordered me to be 
immediately admitted. He has given me a letter to a gentleman in Virginia, 
who is to introduce me to a person there, who, Mr. Jefierson says, has spent 
his whole life in studying the manners of our birds; and from whom I am to 
receive a world of facts and observations. The President intended to send 
for this person himself; and to take down, from his mouth, what he knows on 


the subject; thinking it a pity, as he says, that the knowledge he possesses 
should die with him. But he has intrusted the business to me; and I have 
promised him an account of our interview. 

"All the subscribers I have gleaned here amount to seventeen. I shall set 
off, on finishing this letter, to Georgetown and Alexapdria. I will write you, 
or some of my friends, from Richmond." 

To Mk. D. H. Miller. 

" Charleston, February 22d, 1809. 
" Dear Sir. 

" I have passed through a considerable extent of country since I wrote you 

last ; and met with a variety of adventures, some of which may perhaps amuse 

you. Norfolk turned out better than I expected. I left that place on one 

of the coldest mornings I have experienced since leaving Philadelphia. 

" I mentioned to you in my last that the streets of Norfolk were in a most 
disgraceful state ; but I was informed that some time before, they had been 
much worse ; that at one time the news-carrier delivered his papers from a 
boat, which he poled along through the mire ; and that a party of sailors, 
having nothing better to do, actually launched a ship's long-boat into the 
streets, rowing along with four oars through the mud, while one stood at the 
bow, heaving the lead, and singing out the depth. 

" I passed through a flat, pine-covered country, from Norfolk to Suffolk, 
twenty-four miles distant; and lodged, in the way, in the house of a planter, 
who informed me that every year, in August and September, almost all his 
family are laid up with the bilious fever; that at one time forty of his people 
were sick; and that of thirteen children, only three were living. Two of 
these, with their mother, appeared likely not to be long tenants of this world. 
Thirty miles farther, I came to a small place on the river Nottaway, called 
Jerusalem. Here I found the river swelled to such an extraordinary height, 
that the oldest inhabitant had never seen the like. After passing along the 
bridge, I was conveyed, in a boat termed a flat, a 'mile and three-quarters 
through the woods, where the torrent sweeping along in many places rendered 
this sort of navigation rather disagreeable. I proceeded on my journey, pass- 
ing through solitary pine woods, perpetually interrupted by swamps, that 
covered the road with water two and three feet deep, frequently half a mile 
at a time, looking like a long river or pond. These in the afternoon were 
surmountable ; but the weather being exceedingly severe, they were covered 
every morning with a sheet of ice, from half an inch to an inch thick, that 
cut my horse's legs and breast. After passing a bridge, I had many times to 
wade, and twice to swim my horse, to get to the shore. I attempted to cross 
the Roanoke at three different ferries, thirty-five miles apart, and at last suc- 
ceeded at a place about fifteen miles below Halifax. A violent snow storm 
made the roads still more execrable. 

" The productions of these parts of North Carolina are hogs, turpentine, tar, 
and apple brandy. A tumbler of toddy is usually the morning's beverage of 
the inhabitants, as soon as they get out of bed. So universal is the practice, 



that the first thing you find them engaged in, after rising, is preparing the 
brandy toddy. You can scarcely meet a man whose lips are not parched and 
chopped or blistered with drinking this poison. Those who do not drink it, 
they say, are sure of the ague. I, however, escaped. The pine woods have a 
singular appearance, every tree being stripped, on one or more sides, of the 
bark, for six or seven feet up. The turpentine covers these parts in thick 
masses. I saw the people, in diflferent parts of the woods, mounted on benches, 
chopping down the sides of the trees ; leaving a trough or box in the tree for 
the turpentine to run into. Of hogs they have immense multitudes; one 
person will sometimes own five hundred. The leaders have bells round their 
necks ; and every drove knows its particular call, whether it be a conch-shell, 
or the bawling of a negro, though half a mile off. Their owners will some- 
times drive them for four or five days to a market, without once feeding them. 

" The taverns are the most desolate and beggarly imaginable : bare, bleak, 
and dirty walls; — one or two old broken chairs, and a bench, form all the 
furniture. The white females seldom make their appearance ; and every 
thing must be transacted througli the medium of negroes. At supper, you 
sit down to a meal, the very sight of which is sufiicient to deaden the most 
eager appetite ; and you are surrounded by half a dozen dirty, half-naked 
blacks, male and female, whom any man of common scent might smell a 
quarter of a mile off. The house itself is raised upon props, four or five feet; 
and the space below is left open for the hogs, with whose charming vocal per- 
formance the wearied traveller is serenaded the whole night long, till he is 
forced to curse the hogs, the house, and everything about it. 

"I crossed the river Taw at Washington, for Newbern, which stands upon 
a sandy plain, between the rivers Trent and Neuse, both of which abound with 
alligators. Here I found the shad fishery begun, on the 5th instant; and 
wished to have some of you with me to assist in dissecting some of the finest 
shad I ever saw. Thence to Wilmington was my next stage, one hundred 
miles, with only one house for the accommodation of travellers on the road; 
two landlords having been broken up with the fever. 

" The general features of North Carolina, where I crossed it, are immense, 
solitary, pine savannas, through which the road winds among stagnant ponds, 
swarming with alligators; dark, sluggish creeks, of the color of brandy, over 
which lire thrown high wooden bridges, without railings, and so crazy and 
rotten as not only to alarm one's horse, but also the rider, and to make it a 
matter of thanksgiving with both when they get fairly over, without going 
throvgh; enormous cypress swamps, which, to a stranger, have a striking, 
desolate, and ruinous appearance. Picture to yourself a forest of prodigious 
trees, rising, as thick as they can grow, from a vast flat and impenetrable morass, 
covered for ten feet from the ground with reeds. The leafless limbs of the 
cypresses are clothed with an extraordinary kind of moss {Tillandsia usneoides), 
from two to ten feet long, in such quantities, that fifty men might conceal 
themselves in one tree. Nothing in this country struck me with such surprise 
as the prospect of several thousand acres of such timber, loaded, as it were, 
with many million tons of tow, waving in the wind. I attempted to penetrate 
several of these swamps, with my gun, in search of something new ; but, except 


in some chance places, I found it altogether impracticable. I coasted along 
their borders, however, in many places, and was surprised at the great profusion 
of evergreens, of numberless sorts ; and a variety of berries that I knew nothing 
of. Here I found multitudes of birds that nevei- winter with us in Pennsyl- 
vania, living in abundance. Though the people told me that the alligators are 
so numerous as to destroy many of their pigs, calves, hogs, &c., yet I have 
never been enabled to get my eye on one, though I have been several times in 
search of them with my gun. In Georgia, they tell me, they are ten times 
more numerous; and I expect some sport among them. I saw a dog at the 
river Santee, who swims across when he pleases, in defiance of these voracious 
animals ; when he hears them behind him, he wheels round, and attacks them, 
often seizing them by the snout. They generally retreat, and he pursues his 
route again, serving every one that attacks him in the same manner.* He 
belongs to the boatman ; and, when left behind, always takes to the water. 

" As to the character of the North Carolinians, were I to judge of it by the 
specimens which I met with in taverns, I should pronounce them to be the 
most ignorant, debased, indolent and dissipated portion of the union. But I 
became acquainted with a few such noble exceptions, that, for their sakes, I am 
willing to believe they are all better than they seemed to be. 

" Wilmington contains about three thousand souls; and yet there is not one 
cultivated field within several miles of it. The whole country, on this side of 
the river, is a mass of sand, into which you sink up to the ankles; and.,hardly 
a blade of grass is to be seen. All about is pine barrens. * * * * 

" From Wilmington I rode through solitary pine savannas, and cypress 
swamps, as before ; sometimes thirty miles without seeing a hut, or human 
being. On arriving at the Waokamaw, Pedee, and Black river, I made long 
zigzags among the rich nabobs, who live on their rice plantations, amidst large 
villages of negro huts. One of these gentlemen told me that he had " some- 
thing better than six hundred head of Hacks !" These excursions detained me 
greatly. The roads to the plantations were so long, so diiEcult to find, and so 
-bad, and the hospitality of the planters was such, that I could scarcely get away 
again. I ought to have told you that the deep sands of South Carolina had so 
worn out my horse, that, with all my care, I found he would give up. Chance 
led me to the house of a planter, named V., about forty miles ngrth of the 
river WackamawJ where I proposed to bargain with him, and to give up my 

* This is an uncommon Instance of intrepidity in the canine race, and is worthy of 
record. It is well known that the alligator is fond of dog-flesh ; and the dog appears to 
be instructed by instinct to avoid so dangerous an enemy, it being difficult to induce him 
to approach the haunts of the alligator, even when encouraged by the example of his 
master. A fine stout spaniel accompanied me to East Florida. Being one day engaged 
in wading through a pond, in pursuit of ducks, with my dog swimming behind me, appa- 
rently delighted with his employment, he smelt an alligator : he immediately made to the 
shore, fled into the forest, and all my endeavors to prevail with him to return were inef- 
fectual. Ever after, when we approached that pond, he exhibited such evidences of 
apprehension, that I was fain to retire with him, lest his terror should again induce him to 
dee, where he would have, probably, been lost. 


young blood Jiorse for another in exchange ; giving him at least as good a char- 
acter as he deserved. Be asked twenty dollars to boot, and I thirty. We 
parted, but I could perceive that he had taken a liking to my steed j so I went 
on. He followed me to the seabeach, about three miles, under pretence of 
pointing out to me the road ; and there, on the sands, amidst the roar of the 
Atlantic, we finally bargained ; and I found myself in possession of a large, 
well formed and elegant sorrel horse, that ran off with me, at a canter, 
for fifteen miles along the sea shore; and travelled the same day forty-two 
miles, with nothing but a few mouthfuls of rice straw, which I got, from a 
negro. If you have ever seen the rushes with which carpenters sometimes 
smooth their work, you may form some idea of the common fare of the South 
Carolina horses. I found now that I had got a very devil before my chair; 
the least sound of the whip made him spring half a rod at a leap ; no road, 
however long or heavy, could tame him. Two or three times he had nearly 
broke my neck, and chair to boot ; and at Georgetown ferry he threw one of 
the boatmen into the river. But he is an excellent traveller, and for that one 
quality I forgave him all his sins, only keeping a close rein, and a sharp look- 

* * * * 

" I should now give you some account of Charleston, with the streets of 
which I am as well acquainted as I was with those of New York and Boston ; 
but I resei-ve that till we meet. I shall only say, that the streets cross each 
other at right angles — are paved on the sides — have a low bed of sand in the 
middle ; and frequently are in a state fit to compare to those of Norfolk. The 
town, however, is neat — has a gay appearance — is full of shops ; and has a 
market-place which far surpasses those of Philadelphia for cleanliness, and is 
an honor to the city. Many of the buildings have two, three, and four ranges 
of piazzas, one above another, with a great deal of gingerbread work about 
them. The streets are crowded with negroes ; and their quarrels often afford 
amusement to the passengers. In a street called Broad street, I every day see 
a crowd of wretchedly clad blacks, huddled in a corner for sale : people hand- 
ling them as they do black cattle. Here are female chimneysweeps; stalls 
with roasted sweet-potatoes for sale ; and on the wharves clubs of blacks, male 
and female, sitting round fires, amid heaps of oyster-shells, cooking their vic- 
tuals — these seem the happiest mortals on earth. The finest groups for a comic 
painter might every day be found here that any country can produce. 

" The ladies of Charleston are dressed with taste ; but their pale and languid 
countenances by no means correspond with their figures. * * * * 

" To-morrow afternoon I shall set off for Savannah. I have collected one 
hundred and twenty-five subscribers since leaving home." 

" Savannah, March 5th, 1809. 
" Dear Sir. 

" I have now reached the ne plus ultra of my peregrinations, and shall 
return home by the first opportunity. Whether this shall be by land or water, 
depends on circumstances; if the former, I shall go by Augusta, where I am 
told twelve or fifteen subscribers may be procured. These, hpwever, would 


be insufficient to tempt me that way, for I doubt whether my funds would be 
sufficient to carry me through. 

"The innkeepers in the southern states are like the vultures that hover 
about their cities ; and treat their guests as the others do their carrion : are as 
glad to see them, and pick them as bare. The last letter I wrote you was on 
my arrival in Charleston. I found greater difficulties to surmount there than 
I had thought of. I solicited several people for a list of names, but that abject 
and disgraceful listlessness and want of energy, which have unnerved the 
whites of all descriptions in these states, put me off from time to time, till at 
last I was obliged to walk the streets, and pick out those houses which, from 
their appearance, indicated wealth and taste in the occupants, and introduce 
myself. Neither M., Dr. R., nor any other that I applied to, gave me the 
least assistance, though they promised, and knew I was a stranger. I was 
going on in this way, when the keeper of the library, a Scotsman, a good man, 
whose name had been mentioned to me, made me out a list from the directory ; 
and among these I spent ten days. The extreme servility, and superabund- 
ance of negroes, have ruined the energy and activity of the white population. 
M. appears to be fast sinking into the same insipidity of character, with a 
pretty good sprinkling of rapacity. In Charleston, however, I met with some 
excellent exceptions, among the first ranks of society; and the work excited 
universal admiration. Dr. D. introduced it very handsomely into the Courier. 
On hearing of General Wilkinson's arrival, I waited on him. He received 
me with kindness — said he valued the book highly — and paid me the twelve 
dollars ; on which I took occasion to prognosticate my final success on receiving 
its first fruits from him. 

" I will not tire you by a recital of the difficulties which I met with between 
Charleston and Savannah, by bad roads, and the extraordinary flood of the 
river Savannah, where I had nearly lost my horse, he having, by his restiveness, 
thrown himself overboard j and, had I not, at great personal risk, rescued him, 
he might have floated down to Savannah before me. 

" I arrived here on Tuesday last, and advertised in the Eepublican, the 
editors of which interested themselves considerably for me, speaking of my 
book in their Thursday's paper with much approbation. The expense of adver- 
tising in the southern states is great ; but I found it really necessary. I have 
now seen every person in this place and neighborhood, of use to be seen. Here 
I close the list of my subscriptions, obtained at a price worth more than flve 
times their amount. But, in spite of a host of difficulties, I have gained my 
point; and should the work be continued in the style it has been begun, I have 
no doubt but we -may increase the copies to four hundred. I have endeavored 
to find persons of respectability in each town, who will receive and deliver the 
volumes, without recompense, any further than allowing them to make the first 
selection. By this means the rapacity of some booksellers will be avoided. 

" The weather has been extremely warm these ten days, the thermometer 
stood in the shade on Friday and Saturday last, at 78° and 79°- I have seen 
no frost since the 5th of February. The few gardens here are as green and 
luxuriant as ours are in summer — full of flowering shrubbery, and surrounded 
with groves of orange trees, fifteen and twenty feet high, loaded with fruit. 
Vol. I.— E 


The streets are deep beds of heavy sand, without the accommodation of a foot 
pavement. I most sincerely hope that I may be able to return home by water; 
if not, I shall trouble you with one letter more.'' 

To Mr. William Bartkam. 

" Savannah, March 5th, 1809. 
" Three months, my dear friend, are passed since I parted frorn you in 
Kingsess. I have been travelling ever since; and one half of my journey is 
yet to be performed — but that half is homewards, and through old Neptune's 
dominions, where I trust I shall not be long detained. This has been the most 
arduous, expensive, and fatiguing expedition I ever undertook. I have, how- 
eyer, gained my point in procuring two hundred and fifty subscribers, in all, 
for my Ornithology; and a great mass of information respecting the birds that 
winter in the southern states, and some that never visit the middle states ; and 
this information I have derived personally, and can therefore the more certainly 
depend upon it. I have, also, found several new birds, of which I can find 
no account in Linneus. All these things we will talk over when we meet. 
* * * * 

"I visited a great number of the rich planters oil the rivers Santee and 
Pedee, and was much struck with the miserable 'swarms of negroes around 
them. In these rice plantations, there are great numbers of birds, never sup- 
posed to winter so far north, and their tameness surprised me. There are also 
many here that never visit Pennsylvania. Round Georgetown I also visited 
several rich planters, all of whom entertained me hospitably. I spent ten 
days in Charleston, still, in every place where I stopped a day or two, making 
excursions with my gun. 

" On the commons, near Charlekon, I presided at a singular feast. The 
company consisted of two hundred and thirty-seven Carrion Crows ( Vultvr 
atratus), five or six dogs, and myself, though I only kept order, and left the 
eating part entirely to the others. I sat so near to the dead horse, that my 
feet touched his, and yet at one time 1 counted thirty-eight vultures on and 
within him, so that hardly an inch of his flesh could be seen for them. Lin- 
neus and others have confounded this Vulture with the Turkey Buzzard, but 
they are two very distinct species. 

" As far north as Wilmington, in North Carolina, I met with the Ivory- 
billed Woodpecker. I killed two, and winged a male, who alarmed the whole 
town of Wilmington, screaming exactly like-a young child crying violently, 
so that everybody supposed I had a baby under the apron of my chair, till I 
took out the bird to prevent the people from stopping me. This bird I con- 
fined in the room I was to sleep in, and in less than half an hour he made his 
way through the plaster, the lath, and partly through the weather boards; 
and would have escaped, if I had not accidentally come in. The common 
people confound the P. prindpalis and P.pileatm together. 

* * Ht * 

" I am utterly at a loss in my wood rambles here, for there are so many 
trees, shrubs, plants, and insects, that I know nothing of. There are immense 
quantities of elegant butterflies, and other singular insects. I met with a 


grasshopper so big that I took it for a bird ; settles upon trees and bushes. I 
have kept a record of all the birds which I have seen or shot since I left home. 

" This journey v?ill be of much use to me, as I have formed acquaintance in 
almost every place who are able to transmit me information. Great numbers 
of our summer birds are already here ; and many are usually here all winter. 

" There is a Mr. Abbot here, who has resided in Georgia thirty-three years, 
drawing insects and birds. I have been on several excursions with him. He 
is a very good observer, and paints well. He has published, in London, one 
large folio volume of the Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia. It is a very 
splendid work. There is only one vessel here bound to New York ; she sails 
some time next week, and I shall take my passage in her. I caught a fever 
here by getting wet; I hope the sea air, and sea-sickness, will carry it off." 

" Savannah, March 8th, 1809. 
" Dear Sir. 

" Having now visited all the towns within one hundred miles of the Atlantic, 
from Maine to Georgia, and done as much for this bantling book of mine as 
ever author did for any progeny of his brain, I now turn my wishful eye to- 
wards home. There is a charm, a melody in this little word home, which only 
those know, who have forsaken it to wander among strangers, exposed to dan- 
gers, fatigues, insults and impositions, of a thousand nameless kinds. Perhaps 
I feel the force of this idea rather more at present than usual, being indisposed 
with a slight fever these three days, which a dose of sea-sickness will, I hope, 
rid me of. The weather since my arrival in this place has been extremely 
warm for the season. The wind generally southwest, and the thermometer 
ranging between 75 and 82. To me it feels more intolerable than our sum- 
mer heat in Philadelphia. The streets of Savannah are also mere beds of 
burning sand, without even a foot pavement; and until one learns to traverse 
them with both eyes and mouth shut, both are plentifully filled with showers 
and whirlwinds of sand. I was longer detained in Charleston than I expected, 
partly on account of the races, which occupied the minds of many I wished 
to visit, to the exclusion of everything else. At nine they were in bed ; at 
ten breakfasting — dressing at eleven — gone out at noon, and not visible again 
until ten next morning. I met, however, with some excellent exceptions, among 
the first ranks of society, and my work excited universal admiration. Dr. D. 
introduced it very handsomely into the Courier. 

" The indolence, want of energy, and dissipation, of the wealthy part of the 
community in that place, are truly contemptible. The superabundance of ne- 
groes in the southern states has destroyed the activity of the whites. The 
carpenter, bricklayer, and even the blacksmith, stand with their hands in their 
pockets, overlooking their negroes. The planter orders his servant to tell the 
overseer to see my horse fed and taken care of; the overseer sends another 
negro to tell the driver to send one of his hands to do it. Before half of this 
routine is gone through, I have myself unharnessed, rubbed down, and fed 
my horse. Everything must be done through the agency of these slovenly 
blacks. * * * These, however, are not one-tenth of the curses slavery has 
brought on the southern states. Nothing has surprised me more than the 


cold melancholy reserve of the females, of the best families, in South Carolina 
and Georgia. Old and young, single and married, all have that dull frigid in- 
sipidity, and reserve, which is attributed to solitary old maids. Even in their 
own houses they scarce utter anything to a stranger but yes or no, and one is 
perpetually puzzled to know whether it proceeds from awkwardness or dislike. 
Those who have been at some of their balls say that the ladies hardly ever 
speak or smile, but dance with as much gravity as if they were performing 
some ceremony of devotion. On the contrary, the negro wenches are all 
sprightliness and gayety; and if report be not a defamer — (here there is a 
hiatus in the manuscript') which render the men callous to all the finer sensa- 
tions of love, and female excellence. 

" I will not detain you by a recital of my journey from Charleston to Savan- 
nah. In crossing the Savannah river, at a place called the Two Sisters' Ferry, 
my horse threw himself into the torrent, and had I not, at the risk of my own 
life, rescued him, would have been drowned." 

Of the first volume of the Ornithology, only two hundred copies had been 
printed. But it was now thought expedient to strike off a new edition of three 
hundred more; as , the increasing approbation of the public warranted the 
expectation of corresponding support. 

To Mr. Wm, Bartram. 

" Philadelphia, August 4th, 1809. 
" The second volume of ' American Ornithology' being now nearly ready to 
go to press, and the plates in considerable forwardness, you will permit me to 
trespass on your time, for a few moments, by inquiring if you have anything 
interesting to add to the history of the following birds, the figures of which 
will be found in this volume. 

5^c 'Pfi- -S 'P 'l^ 'K 

" I have myself already said everything of the foregoing that my own ob- 
servations suggested, or that I have been enabled to collect from those on 
whom I could rely. As it has fallen to my lot to be the biographer of the 
feathered tribes of the United States, I am solicitous to do full justice to every 
species; and I would nol conceal one good quality that any one of them pos- 
sesses. I have paid particular attention to the mocking-bird; humming-bird, 
king-bird and cat-bird; all the principal traits in their character I have ddi- 
neated at full. If you have anything to add on either of them, I wish you 
would communicate it in the form of a letter, addressed particularly to me. 
Your favorable opinion of my work (if such you have) would, if publicly 
known, be of infinite service to me, and procure me many friends.* 

* This instaocc of Wilson's diffidence of his own talents and acquirements Is too re- 
markable to be passed over without a note. He seemed to fear lest the intrinsic merit of 
his work should not be sufficient, of itself, to get it into notice ; and therefore he solicited 
the favorable opinion of one, to whose judgment in these matters, he felt assured, the 
public paid a deference. Contrasted with this modest deportment, how contemptible is the 
vanity, and self-conceit, of those writers, who, whether they compose a superficial essay, 


" I assure you, my dear friend, that this undertaking has involved n^e in 
many difficulties and expenses which I never dreamt of; * and I have never 
yet received one cent from it. I am, therefore, a volunteer in the cause of 
Natural History, impelled by nobler views than those of money. The second 
volume will be ready for delivery on the first of January next. I ha re re- 
ceived communications from many different parts of the United States; with 
some drawings, and ofiFers of more. But these are rarely executed with such 
precision as is necessary for a work of this kind. 

" Let me know if you have ever seen the nest of Catesby's cotvpen-bird. I 
have every reason to believe that this bird never builds itself a nest, but, like 
the cuckoo of Europe, drops its eggs into the nests of other birds ; and leaves 
the result to their mercy and management. I have found no less than six nesta 
this season, with each a young cow-bird contained in it. One of these, which I 
had found in the nest of the Maryland yellow-throat, and which occupied the 
whole nest, I brought home, and put it into the cage of a crested red-bird, who 
became its foster-father, and fed, and reared it, with great affection. It begins 
to chant a little. 

'•' I have just heard from our old friend M* *. He has not yet published 
the first number of his work ; and Bonaparte has been so busy with cutting 
throats, and building bridges, in the forests of Austria, that the Inspector of 
the Forests of France has not yet received his appointment." 

To Mr. Wm. Bartram. 

"October 11th, 1809. 

"Thanks for your bird, so neatly stuffed, that I' was just about to skin it. 
It is the Rallus virginianus of Turton, and agrees exactly with his description. 
The one in company was probably the female. Turton meutions four species 
as inhabitants of the United States. I myself have seen six. Mr. Abbot of 
Savannah showed me two new species. I found the sora, as the Virginians 
call it, in the rice flats near Savannah, in March. General Wilkinson told me 
that the sora was in multitudes at Detroit. Query — don't you think they 
breed in the north, like the rice-birds ? Are not the European naturalists 
mistaken in saying that the reed-birds or rice-birds pass from the island of 
Cuba, in September, to Carolina ? All the Spaniards with whom I have con- 
fer the transactions of a learned society, or compile a bald and meagre pamphlet, present 
themselves before the public with an air of importance, which should seem to demand that 
countenance and applause, as a matter of right, which true merit humbly requests as a 
favor ! 

* The great expense of the publication prevented the author from giving all his plates 
that finish which his taste and judgment would have approved ; but that in some instances 
extraordinary pains were bestowed upon them, a cursory glance will render evident. I 
have Mr. Lawson's authority for asserting, that, so anxious was he to encourage his friend, 
frequently after computing the time spent upon perfecting his work, he found his reward 
did not amount to more ihsm fifty cents per day. 

From a note to this gentleman, I make the following extract, relating to the bald eagle ; 

" I hope you go on courageously with the eagle ; let no expense deter you from giving 
it the freest and most masterly touches of your graver. I thinit we shall be able to offer 
it as a competitor with the best that this country or Europe can produce." 


versed, say that these birds are seen in Cuba, early in the spring only, anc 
again in October. And the people of the district of Maine, of all the New 
England states, and those who have lived on the river Illinois, declare that 
these birds breed there in vast numbers. 

" I have many times been told that cur small snow-bird (J'ringilla hudsonia) 
breeds in the Great Swamp, which I can hardly believe. When I was in 
Williaffisburg, Virginia, Bishop Madison told me of a mountain, in the interior 
of that state, where they bred in multitudes. I have latelj' had the most posi- 
tive assurances from a 'gentleman who lived on the ranges of the Alleghany, 
about two hundred and fifty miles distant, that he saw them there four" months 
ago ; and that they built their nests almost everywhere among the long grass. 
He said he took particular notice of them, as he had heard it said down here, 
that they changed to chipping-sparrows in summer. What think you of these 
matters t" 

To Mk. Wm. Bartram. 

"Philadelphia, November Uth, 1809. 
" Dear Sir. 

" Since I parted from you yesterday evening, I have ruminated a great deal 
on my proposed journey; I have considered the advantages and disadvantages 
of the three modes of proceeding : on horseback — in the stage-coach, and on 
foot. Taking everything into view, I have at length determined to adopt the 
last, as being the cheapest, the best adapted for examining the country we pass 
through ; the most favorable to health ; and, in short, except for its fatigues, 
the best mode for a scientific traveller or naturalist, in every point of view. I 
have also thought that by this determination I will be so happy as to secure 
your company, for which I would willingly sustain as much hardship, and as 
many deprivations, as I am able to bear. 

" If this determination should meet your approbation, and if you are willing 
to encounter the hardships of such a pedestrian journey, let me know as soon 
as is convenient. I think one dollar a day, each, will be fully sufiicient for our 
expenses, by a strict regard, at all times, to economy." 

The second volume of the Ornithology was published in January, 1810 ; and 
Wilson set out for Pittsburgh, the latter part of the same month, in his route 
to New Orleans. I trust that no apology is necessary for introducing the fol- 
lowing letters, addressed to Mr. Lawson, into these memoirs, notwithstanding 
th'-ee of them are well known to the public, having originally appeared in the 
Pert Folio.* 

To Mb. Alexander Lawson. 

" Pittsburgh, February 22d, 1810. 
" Dear Sir. 

" From this first stage of my Ornithological pilgrimage, I sit down, with 

pleasure, to give you some account of my adventures since we parted. On 

arriving at Lancaster, I waited on the governor, secretary of state, and such 

other great folks as were likely to be useful to me. The governor received mc 

* New Series, vols. III., 499, IV., 310, VII., 34. 


with civility, passed some good-natured compliments on the volumes, and 
readily added his name to my list. He seems an active man, of plain good 
sense, and little ceremony. By Mr. L. I was introduced to many members of 
both houses, but I found them, in general, such a pitiful, squabbling, political 
mob; so split up, and justling about the mere formalities of legislation, with- 
out knowing anything of its realities, that I abandoned them in disgust. I 
must, however, except from this censure a few intelligent individuals, friends 
to science, and possessed of taste, who treated me with great kindness. On 
Friday evening I set out for Columbia, where I spent one day in vain. I 
crossed the Susquehanna on Sunday forenoon, with some difficulty, having to 
cut our way through the ice for several hundred yards ; and passing on to York, 
paid my respects to all the literati of that place without success. Five miles 
north of this town lives a very extraordinary character, between eighty and 
ninety years of age, who has lived by trapping birds and quadrupeds these 
thirty years. Dr. F. carried me out in a sleigh to see him, and presented me 
with a tolerably good full length figure of him ; he has also promised to trans- 
mit to me such a collection of facts relative to this singular original, as will 
enable me to draw up an interesting narrative of him for the Port Folio. I 
carried him half a pound of snuff, of which he is insatiably fond, taking it by 
handfuls. I was much diverted with the astonishment he expressed on looking 
at the plates of my work — he could tell me anecdotes of the greater part of the 
subjects of the first volume, and some of the second. One of his traps, which 
he says he invented himself, is remarkable for ingenuity, and extremely simple. 
Having a letter from Dr. Muhlenberg to a clergyman in Hanover, I passed on 
through a well cultivated country, chiefly inhabited by Germans, to that place, 
where a certain judge took upon himself to say, that such a book as mine 
ought not to he encouraged, as it zvas not leithin the reach of the commonality ; 
and there/ore inconsistent with our republican institutions ! By the same mode 
of reasoning, which I did not dispute, I undertook to prove him a greater 
culprit than myself, in erecting a large, elegant, three-story brick house, so 
much beyond the reach of the commonality, as he called them, and conse- 
quently grossly contrary to our republican institutions. I harangued this 
Solomon of the Bench more seriously afterwards, pointing out to him the great 
influence of science on a young rising nation like ours.jind particularly the 
scien,ce of Natural History, till he began to show such symptoms oi intellect, as 
to seem ashamed of what he had said. 

" From Hanover I passed through a thinly inhabited country ; and crossing 
the North Mountain, at a pass called Newman's Gap, arrived at Chambersburg, 
whence I next morning returned to Carlisle, to visit the reverend doctors of 
the college. * * * * 

'' The towns of Chambersburg and Shippensburg produced me nothing. On 
Sunday, the 11th, I left the former of these places in the stage-coach ; and in 
fifteen miles began to ascend the Alpine regions of the Alleghany mountains, 
where above, around, and below us, nothing appeared but prodigious declivities, 
covered with woods ; and, the weather being fine, such a profound silence 
prevailed among these aerial solitudes, as impressed the soul with awe, and a 
kind of fearful sublimity. Something of this arose from my being alone, hav 


ing'left the coach several miles below. These high ranges continiied for more 
than one hundred miles to Greensburg, thirty-two miles from Pittsburgh ; 
thence the country is nothing but an assemblage of steep hills, and deep valleys, 
descending rapidly till you reach within seven miles of this place, where I 
arrived on the 15th instant. We were within two miles of Pittsburgh, when 
suddenly the road descends a long and very steep hill, where the Alleghany 
river is seen at hand, on the right, stretching along a rich bottom, and bounded 
by a high ridge of hills on the west. After following this road, parallel with 
the river, and about a quarter of a mile from it, through a rich low valley ,-a 
cloud of black smoke, at its extremity, announced the town of Pittsburgh. On 
arriving at the town, which stands on a low flat, and looks like a collection of 
blacksmith's shops, glasshouses, breweries,, forges and furnaces, the Monou- 
gahela opened to the view, on the left, running along the bottom of a range of 
hills so high that the sun, at this season, sets to the town of Pittsburgh at a 
little past four : this range continues along the Ohio as far as the view reaches. 
The ice had just begun to give way in the Monongahela, and came down in 
vast bodies for the three following days. It has now begun in the Alleghany, 
and, at the moment I write, the river presents a white mass of rushing ice. 

"The country beyond the Ohio, to the west, appears. a mountainous and 
hilly region. The Monongahela is lined' with arks, usually called Kentucky- 
boats, waiting for the rising of the river, and the absence of the ice, to descend. 
A perspective view of the town of Pittsburgh at this season, with the numerous 
arks- and covered keel-boats preparing to descend the Ohio; its hills, its great 
rivers — the pillars of smoke rising from its furnaces and glass-works — would 
make a noble picture. I began a very diligent search in this place, the day 
after my arrival, for subscribers, and continued it for four days. I succeeded 
beyond expectation, having got nineteen names of the most wealthy and 
respectable part of the inhabitants. The industry of Pittsburgh is remarkable ; 
everybody you see is busy; and as a proof of the prosperity of the place, an 
eminent lawyer told me that there has not been one suit instituted against a 
merchant of the town these three years. 


" Gentlemen here assure me that the road to Chilieothe is impassable on 
foot by reason of the freshets. I have therefore resolved to navigate myself a 
small skiff, which I have bought, and named the Ornithologist, down to 
Cincinnati, a distance of five hundred and twenty-eight miles; intending to 
visit five or six towns that lie in my way. From Cincinnati I will cross over 
to the opposite shore, and, abandoning my boat, make my way to Lexington, 
where I expect to be ere your letter can reach that place. Were I to go by 
Chilieothe, I should miss five towns, as large as it. Some say that I ought 
not to attempt going down by myself — others think I may. I am determined 
to make the experiment, the expense of hiring a rower being considerable. As 
soon as the ice clears out of the Alleghany, and the weather will permit, I shall 
shove off, having everything in, readiness. I have ransacked the woods and 
fields here without finding a single bird new to me, or indeed anything but a 
few snow-birds and sparrows. I expect to have something interesting to com- 
municate in my next. 



'' My friends will please accept through you my best wishes and kindest 
respects; and I regret that while the grand spectacle of mountains, regions 
of expanded forests, glittering towns, and noble rivers, are passing in rapid 
succession before my delighted view, they are not beside me to enjoy the vary- 
ing scenery ; but as far as my pen will enable me, I will freely share it with 
them, and remember them affectionately until I forget myself. 

"February 23d. My baggage is on board — I have just to despatch this 
and set off. The weather is fine, and I have no doubt of piloting my skiff in 
safety to Cincinnati. Farewell ! God bless you 1" 

To Mr. Alexander Lawson. 

" Lexington, April 4th, 1810. 
" My Dear Sir. 

" Having now reached the second stage of my bird-catching expedition, I 
willingly sit down to give you some account of my adventures and remarks since 
leaving Pittsburgh ; by the aid of a good map, and your usual stock of patience, 
you will be able to listen to my story, and trace all my wanderings. Though 
generally dissuaded from venturing by myself on so long a voyage down the 
Ohio, in an open skiff, I considered this mode, with all its inconveniences, as 
the most favorable to my researches, and the most suitable to my funds, and I 
determined accordingly. Two. days before my departure, the Alleghany river 
was one wide torrent of broken ice, and I calculated on experiencing consider- 
able difficulties on this score. My stock of provisions consisted of some biscuit 
and cheese, and a bottle of cordial presented me by a gentleman of Pittsburgh ; 
my gun, trunk, and great-coat, occupied one end of the boat; I had a small 
tin occasionally to bale her, and to take my beverage from the Ohio with ; 
and, bidding adieu to the smoky confines of Pitt, I launched into the stream, 
and soon winded away among the hills that everywhere enclose this noble river. 
The weather was warm and serene, and the river like a mirror, except where 
floating masses of ice spotted its surface, and which required some care to steer 
clear of; but these, to my surprise, in less than a day's sailing, totally dis- 
appeared. Far from being concerned at my new situation, I felt my heart 
expand with joy at the novelties which surrounded me; I listened with 
pleasure to the whistling of the Red-bird on the banks as I passed, and con- 
templated the forest scenery as it reced'ed, with increasing delight. The 
smoke of the numerous sugar camps, rising lazily among the mountains, gave 
great effect to the varying landscape ; and the grotesque log cabins, that here 
and there opened from the woods, were diminished into mere dog-houses by the 
sublimity of the impending mountains. If you suppose to yourself two parallel 
ranges of forest-covered hills, whose irregular summits are seldom more than 
three or four miles apart, winding through an immense extent of country, and 
enclosing a river half a mile wide, which alternately washes the steep declivity 
on one side, and laves a rich, flat, forest-clad bottom on the other, of a mile or 
so in breadth, you will have a pretty correct idea of the appearance of the 
Ohio. The banks of these rich flats are from twenty to sixty and eighty feet 
high, and even these last were within a few feet of being overflowed in Decem- 
ber, 1808. 



" I now stripped, with alacrity, to my new avocation. The current wont 
about two and a half miles an hour, and I added about three and a half miles 
more to the boat's way with my oars. In thfe course of the day I passed a 
number of arks, or, as they are usually called, Kentucky boats, loaded with 
what it must be acknowledged are the most valuable commodities of a country ; 
viz., men, women and children, horses and ploughs, flour, millstones, &c. Several 
of these floating caravans were loaded with store goods for the supply of the 
settlements through which they passed, having a counter erected, shawls, mus- 
lins, &c., displayed, and everything ready for transacting business. On 
approaching a settlement they blow a horn or tin trumpet, which announces to 
the inhabitants their arrival. I boarded many of these arks, and felt much 
intereste i at the sight of so many human beings, migrating like birds of pass- 
age to tl e luxuriant regions of the south and west. The arks are built in the 
form of a parallelogram, being from twelve to fourteen feet wide, and from 
forty to seventy feet long, covered above, rowed only occasionally by two oars 
before, and steered by a long and powerful one fixed above, as in the annexed 


Barge /or passing np sti-eam. 

" The barges are taken up along shore by setting pules, at the rate of twenty 
miles or so a day; the arks cost about one hundred and. fifty cents per foot, 
according to their length; and when they reach their places of destination, 
seldom bring more than one-sixth their original cost. These arks descend 
from all parts of the Ohio and its tributary streams, the Alleghany, Monon- 
gahela, Muskingum, Sciota, Miami,, Kentucky, Wabash, &c., in the months of 
March, April, and May particularly, with goods, produce, and emigrants, the 
two former for markets along the river, or at New Orleans; the latter for 
various parts of Kentucky, Ohio, and the Indiana Territory. I now return to 
my own expedition. I rowed twenty odd miles the first spell, and found I 
should be able to stand it perfectly well. About an hour after night I put up 
at a miserable cabin, flfty-two miles from Pittsburgh, where I slept on what I 
supposed to be corn-stalks, or something worse; so, preferring the smooth 
bosom of the Ohio to this hrush, heap, I got up long before day, and, being 
under no apprehension of losing my way, I again pushed out into the stream. 
The landscape on each side lay in one mass of shade, but the grandeur of the 
projecting headlands and vanishing points, or lines, was charmingly reflected 
in the smooth glassy surface below. I could only discover when I was passing 
a clearing, by the crowing of cocks ; and now and then, in more solitary places, 


the big-borned owl made a most hideous hallooing, that echoed among the 
mountains. In this lonesome manner, with full leisure for observation and 
reflection, exposed to hardships all day, and hard berths all night, to storms 
of rain, hail, and snow, for it froze severely almost every night, I persevered, 
from the S4th of February to Sunday evening, March 17th, when I moored 
my skiff safely in Bear-Grass Creek, at the Rapids of the Ohio, after a voyage 
of seven hundred and twenty miles. My hands suffered the most; and it 
will be some weeks yet before they recover their former feeling and flexibility. 
" It would be the task of a month to detail all the particulars of my nume- 
rous excursions, in every direction from the river. In Steubenville, Charles- 
town and Wheeling, I found some friends. At Marietta I visited the cele- 
brated remains of Indian fortifications, as they are improperly called, which 
cover a large space of ground on the banks of the Muskingum. Seventy 
miles above this, at a place called Big-Grave Creek, I examined some extraor- 
dinary remains of the same kind there. The big grave is three hundred 
paces round at the base, seventy feet perpendicular, and the top, which is about 
fifty feet over, has sunk in, forming a regular concavity, three or four feet 
deep. This tumulus is in the form of a cone, aud the whole, as well as its 
immediate neighborhood, is covered with a venerable growth of forest, four or 
five hundred years old, which gives it a most singular appearance. In clam- 
bering around its steep sides, I found a place where a large white-oak had been 
lately blown down, and had torn up the earth to the depth of five or six feet. 
In this place I commenced digging, and continued to labor for about an hour, 
examining every handful of earth with great care, but except some shreds of 
earthen ware, made of a coarse kind of gritty clay, and considerable pieces of 
charcoal, I found nothing else; but a person of the neighborhood presented 
me with some beads, fashioned out of a kind of white stone, which were found 
in digging on the opposite side of this gigantic mound, where I found the hole 
still remaining. The whole of an extensive plain a short distance from this is 
marked out with squares, oblongs and circles, one of which comprehends seve- 
ral acres. The embankments by which they are distinguished are still two or 
three feet above the common level of the field. The Big Grave is the property 
of a Mr. Tomlinson, or Tumblestone, who lives near, and who would not expend 
three cents to see the whole sifted before his face. I endeavored to work on 
his avarice, by representing the probability that it might contain valuable 
matters, and suggested to him a mode by which a passage might be cut into 
it level with the bottom, and by excavation and arching, a most noble cellar 
might be formed for keeping his turnips and potatoes. " All the turnips and 
potatoes I shall raise this dozen years," said he, " would not pay the expense." 
This man is no antiquary, or theoretical farmer, nor much of a practical one 
either I fear ; he has about two thousand acres of the best land, and just makes 
out to live. Near the head of what is called the Long Reach, I called on a 
certain Michael Cressap, son to the noted Colonel Cressap, mentioned in Jef- 
ferson's Notes on Virginia. From him I received the head of a Paddle fish, 
the largest ever seen in the Ohio, which I am keeping for Mr. Peale, with 
various other curiosities. I took the liberty of asking whether Logan's accu- 
sation of his father having killed all his family, had any truth in it ; but he 


replied tliat it had not. Logan, he said, had been misinformed ; he detailed 
to me all the particulars, which are too long for repetition, and concluded by 
informing me that his father died early in the revolutionary war, of the camp 
fever, near New York. 

" Marietta stands on a swampy plain, which has evidently once been the 
ancient bed of the Muskingnm, and is still occasionally inundated to the depth 
of five or six feet. A Mr. Putnani, son to the old general of Bunker's Hill 
memory, and Mr. Gillman and Mr. Fearing, are making great exertions here, 
in introducing and multiplying the race of merinos. The two latter gentlemen 
are about establishing works by steam, for carding and spinning wool, and 
intend to carry on the manufacture of broadcloth extensively. Mr. Gillman 
is a gentleman of taste and wealth, and has bo doubts of succeeding. Some- 
thing is necessary to give animation to this place, for since the building of 
ships has been abandoned here, the place seems on the decline. 

" The current of the Muskingum is very rapid, and the ferry boat is 
navigated across in the following manner. A strong cable is extended from 
bank to bank, forty or fifty feet above the surface of the river, and fastened 
tight at each end. On this cable are two loose running blocks; one rope from 
the bow of the boat is fastened to the first of these blocks, and another from 
the after part of the boat to the second block,, and by lengthening this last a 
diagonal direction is give to the boat's head, a little up stream, and the current 
striking forcibly and obliquely on her aft, she is hurried forward with amazing 
velocity without any manual labor whatever. I passed Blannerhasset's island 
after night, but the people were burning brush, and by the light I had a dis- 
tinct view of the mansion house, which is but a plain frame of no great dimen- 
sions. It is now the property of a Mr. Miller from Lexington, who intends 
laying it chiefly in hemp. It is nearly three miles long, and contains about 
three hundred acres, half of which is in cultivation ; but like all the rest of 
the numerous islands of the Ohio, is subject to inundations. At Galliopolis, 
which stands upon a high plain, and contains forty or fifty scattered houses, I 
found the fields well fenced and well cultivated, peach and apple orchards nu- 
merous, and a considerable appearance of industry. One-half of the original 
French settlers have removed to a tract of land opposite to the mouth of Sandy 
river. This town has one shop and two taverns ; the mountains press in to 
within a short distance of the town. I found here another Indian mound 
planted with peach trees. On Monday, March 5th, about ten miles below the 
mouth of the great Sciota, where I saw the first flock of paroquets, I encoun- 
tered a violent storm of wind and rain, which changed to hail and snow, blow- 
ing down trees and limbs in all directions ; so that for immediate preservation 
I was obliged to steer out into the river, which rolled and foamed like a sea, 
and filled my boat nearly half full of water; and it was with the greatest diffi- 
culty I could make the least headway. It continued to snow violently un^il 
dusk, when I at length made good my landing at a place on the Kentucky 
shore, where I had perceived a cabin ; and here I spent the evening in learning 
the art and mystery of bear-treeing, wolf-trapping, and wild-cat hunting, from 
an old professor. But notwithstanding the skill of this great master, the 
country tere is swarming with wolves and wild-oats, black and brown ; accord- 


ing to this hunter's own confession he had lost sixty pigs since Christmas last ; 
and all night long the distant howling of the wolves kept the dogs in a per- 
petual uproar of barking. This man was one of those people called squatters, who 
neither pay rent nor own land, but keep roving on the frontiers, advancing as 
the tide of civilized population approaches. They are the immediate succes- 
sors of the savages, and far below them in good sense and good manners, as 
well as comfortable accommodations. An engraved representation of one of 
their cabins would form a striking embellishment to the pages of the Port 
Folio, as a specimen of the Jirst order of American Architecture. 

" Nothing adds more to the savage grandeur, and picturesque effect, of the 
scenery along the Ohio, than these miserable huts of human beings, lurking at 
the bottom of a gigantic growth of timber, that I have not seen equalled in 
any other part of the United States. And it is truly amusing to observe how 
dear and how familiar habit has rendered those privations, which must have 
been first the offspring of necessity. Yet none pride themselves more on their 
possessions. The inhabitants of these forlorn sheds will talk to you with pride 
of the richness of their soil, of the excellence and abundance of their country, 
of the healthiness of their climate, and the purity of their waters ; while the 
only bread you find among them is of Indian corn, coarsely ground in a horse- 
mill, with half of the grains unbroken ; even their cattle are destitute of sta- 
bles and hay, and look like moving skeletons ; their own houses worse than 
pig-sties; their clothes an assemblage of rags; their faces yellow, and lank 
with disease ; and their persons covered with filth, and frequently garnished 
with the humors of the Scotch fiddle ; from which dreadful disease, by the 
mercy of .God, I have been most miraculously preserved. All this is the 
effect of laziness. The corn-is thrown into the ground in the spring, and the 
pigs turned into the woods, where they multiply like rabbits. The labor of 
the squatter is now over till autumn, and he spends the winter in eating pork, 
cabbage and hoe-cakes. What a contrast to the neat farm, and snug, cleanly 
habitation, of the industrious settler, that opens his green fields, his stately 
barns, gardens and orchards, to the gladdened eye of the delighted stranger ! 

" At a place called Salt Lick, I went ashore to see the salt works, and to 
learn whether the people had found any further remains of an animal of the 
ox kind, one of whose horns, of a prodigious size, was discovered here some 
years ago, and is in the possession of JMr. Peale. They make here about one 
thousand bushels weekly, which sells at one dollar and seventy-five cents per 
bushel. The wells are from thirty to fifty feet deep, but nothing curious has 
lately been dug up. I landed at Maysville, or Limestone, where a considerable 
deal of business is done in importation for the interior of Kentucky. It stands 
on a high narrow plain between the mountains and the river, which is fist 
devouring the bank, and encroaching on the town ; part of the front street is 
gone already, and unless some effectual means are soon taken, the whole must 
go by piecemeal. This town contains about one hundred houses, chiefly log 
and frames. From this place I set out on .foot for Washington. On the road, 
at the height of several hundred feet above the present surface of the river, 
I found prodigious quantities of petrified shells, of the small cockle and fan- 
sha,ped kind, but whether marine remains or not am uncertain. I have since 


found these petrified concretions of shells universal all over Kentucky, where- 
ever I have been. The rocks look as if one had collected heaps of broken 
shells, and wrought them up among clay, then hardened it into stone. These 
rocks lie universally in horizontal strata. A farmer in the neighborhood of 
Washington assured me, that from seven acres he reaped at once eight thousand 
Tceight of excellent hemp, fit for market. 

"Amidst very tempestuous weather, I reached the to,wn of Cincinnati, which 
does honor to the name of the old Roman, and is the neatest and handsomest 
.situated place I have seen since I left Philadelphia. You must know that 
during an unknown series of ages, the river Ohio has gradually sunk several 
hundred feet below its former bed, and has left on both sides, occasionally, 
what are called the first or nearest, and the second or next, high bank, the 
latter of which is never overflowed. 

" The town of Cincinnati occupies two beautiful plains, one on the first, and 
the other on the second bank, and contains upwards of five hundred houses, 
the greater proportion of which are of brick. One block house is all that 
remains of Fort Washington. The river Licking comes in from the opposite 
shore, where the town of Newport, of forty or fifty houses, and a large arsenal 
and barracks are lately erected. Here I met with Judge Turner, a man of 
extraordinary talents, well known to the literati of Philadelphia. He exerted 
himself in my behalf with all the ardor of an old friend. A large Indian 
mound in the vicinity of this town has been lately opened by Doctor Drake, 
who showed me the collection of curiosities which he had found in that and 
others. In the centre of this mound he also found a large fragment of earthen 
ware, such as I found at the Big Grave, which is a pretty strong proof that 
these works had been erected by a people, if not the same, differing little 
from the present race of Indians, whose fragments of earthen ware, dug up 
about their late towns, correspond exactly with these. Twenty miles below 
this I passed the mouth of the Great Miami, which rushes in from the north, 
and is a large and stately river, preserving its pure waters uncontaminated for 
many miles with those of the Ohio, each keeping their respective sides of the 
channel. I rambled up the banks of this river for four or five miles, and in 
my return shot a turkey. I also saw five or six deer in a drove, but they were 
too light-heeled for me. 

" In the afternoon of the 15th, I entered Big-Bone Creek, which being pass- 
able only about a quarter of a mile, I secured my boat, and left my baggage 
under the care of a decent family near, and set out on foot five miles through 
the woods for the Big-Bone Lick, that great antediluvian rendezvous of the 
American elephants. This place, which lies " far in the windings of a shel- 
tered vale," afforded me a fund of amusement in shooting ducks and paroquets 
(of which last I skinned twelve, and brought off two slightly wounded), and 
in examining the ancient buffalo roads to this great licking-place. Mr. 
Colquhoun, the proprietor, was not at home, but his agent and manager enter- 
tained me as well as he was able, and was much amused with my enthusiasm. 
This place is a low valley, everywhere surrounded by high hills; in the centre, 
by the side of the creek, is a quagmire of near an acre, from which, and 
another smaller one below, the chief part of these large bones have been taken; at 


the latter places I found numerous fragments of large bones lying scattered 
about. In pursuing a wounded duck across this quagmire, I had nearly depo- 
posited my carcass among the grand congregation of mammoths below, having 
sunk up to the middle, and had hard struggling to get out. As the proprietor 
intends to digin various places this season for brine, and is a gentleman of 
education and intelligence, I have strong hopes that a more complete skeleton 
of that animal called the mammoth, than has yet been found, will be procured 
[ laid the strongest injunctions on the manager to be on the lookout, and to 
preserve everything ; I also left a letter for "Mr. Colquhoun to the same pur- 
port, and am persuaded that these will not be neglected. In this neighbor- 
hood I found the Columbo plant in great abundance, and collected some of the 
seeds. Many of the old stalks were more than five feet high. I have since 
found it in various other parts of this country. 

" In the afternoon of the next day I returned to my boat, replaced my bag- 
gage, and rowed twenty miles to the Swiss settlement, where I spent the night. 
These hardy and industrious people have now twelve acres closely and cleanly 
planted with vines from the Cape of Good Hope. They last year made seven 
hundred gallons of wine, and expect to make three times as much the ensuing 
season. Their houses are neat and comfortable, they have orchards of peach 
and apple trees, besides a great number of figs, cherries, and other fruit trees, 
of which they are very curious. They are of opinion that this part of the 
Indiana Territory is as well suited as any part of France to the cultivation of 
the vine, but the vines they say require different management here from what 
they were accustomed to in Switzerland. I purchased a bottle of their last 
vintage, and drank to all your healths as long as it lasted, in going down the 
river. Seven miles below this I passed the mouth of Kentucky river, which 
has a formidable appearance. I observed twenty or thirty scattered houses 
on its upper side, and a few below, many of the former seemingly in a state of 
decay. It rained on me almost the whole of this day, and I was obliged to 
row hard and drink healths to keep myself comfortable. My birds' skins were 
wrapped up in ray great coat, and my own skin had to sustain a complete drench- 
ing, which, however, had no bad eflFects ^ 

" This evening I lodged at the most wretched hovel I had yet seen. The 
owner, a meagre dimiiyitive wretch, soon began to let me know of how much 
consequence he had formerly been ; that he had gone through all the war with 
General Washington — had become one of his lifeguards, and had sent many a 
British soldier to his long home. As I answered him with indifi'erence, to inter- 
est me the more he began to detail anecdotes of his wonderful exploits ; ' One 
grenadier,' said he, ' had the impudence to get up on the works, and to wave his 
cap in defiance; my commander (General Washington I suppose) says to me, 
' Dick, says he, can't you pepper that there fellow for me ?' says he. ' Please 
your honor,' says I, ' I'll try at it;"^ so I took a fair, cool and steady aim, and 
touched my trigger. Up went his heels like a turkey ! down he tumbled ! one 
buckshot had entered here and another here (laying a finger on each breast), 
and the bullet found the way to his brains right through his forehead. By God 
he was a noble-looking fellow !' 

Though I believed every word of this to be a lie, yet I could not but look 


with disgust on tte being who uttered it. This same miscreant pronounced a 
long prayer before supper, and immediately after called out, in a splutter of 
oaths, for the pine splinters to be held to let the gentleman see. Such a far- 
rago of lies, oaths, prayers and politeness, put me in a good humor in spite of 
myself. The whole herd of this filthy kennel were in perpetual motion with 
the itch ; so having procured a large_fire to be made, under pretence of habit 
I sought for the softest plank, placed my trunk and great coat at my head, 
and stretched myself there till morning. I set out early and passed several 
arks. A number of turkeys which I observed from time to time on the Indiana 
shore, made me lose half the morning in search of them. On the Kentucky 
shore I was also decoyed by the same temptations, but never could approach 
near enough to shoot one of them. These afiuirs detained me so, that I was 
dubious whether I should be able to reach Louisville that night. Night came 
on, and I could hear nothing of the Falls; about eight I first heard the roaring 
of the Rapids, and as it increased I was every moment in hopes of seeing the 
lights of Louisville; but no lights appeared, and the noise seemed now within 
less than half a mile of me. Seriously alarmed, lest I might be drawn into 
the suction of the Falls, I cautiously coasted along shore, which was full of 
snags and sawyers, and at length, with great satisfaction, opened Bear-Grass 
Creek, where I secured my skiiF to a Kentucky boat, and loading myself with 
my baggage, I groped my way through a swamp up to the town. The next 
day I sold my skiff for exactly half what it cost me ; and the man who bought 
it wondered why I gave it such a droll Indian name, (the Ornithologist,) 
' some old chief or warrior I suppose,' said he. This day I walked down along 
shore to Shippingport, to take a view of these celebrated Rapids, but they fell 
' far short of my expectation. I should have no hesitation in going down them 
in a skiflF. The Falls of Oswego, in the State of New York, though on a 
smaller scale, are far more dangerous and formidable in appearance. Though 
the river was not high, I observed two arks and a barge run them with great 
ease and rapidity. The Ohio here is something more than a mile wide, with 
several islands interspersed ; the channel rocky, and the islands heaped with 
drift wood. The whole fall in two miles is less than twenty-four feet. The 
town of Louisville stands on a high second bank, and is about as large as 
Frankford, having a number of good brick buildings and valuable shops. The 
situation would be as healthy as any on the river, but for the numerous swamps 
and ponds that- intersect the woods in its neighborhood. These from their 
height above the river might all be drained and turned into cultivation ; but 
every man here is so intent on the immediate making of money, that they have 
neither time nor disposition for improvements, even where the article health 
is at stake. A man here told me that last fall he had fourteen sick in his own 
family. On Friday the 24th, I left my baggage with a merchant of the place 
to be forwarded by the first wagon, and set out on foot for Lexington, seventy- 
two miles distant. I passed through Middletown and Shelbyville, both incon-_ 
siderable places. Nine-tenths of the country is in forest; the surface undu- 
lating into gentle eminences and declivities, between each of which generally 
runs a brook, over looseflags of limestone. The soil, by appearance, is of the 
richest sort. I observed immense fields of Indian corn, high excellent fences, 


few grain fields, many log houses, and ttose of the meaner sort. I took notice 
of few apple orchards, but several very thriving peach ones. An appearance 
of slovenliness is but too general about their houses, barns, and barn-yards. 
Negroes are numerous ; cattle and horses lean, particularly the former, who 
appear as if struggling with starvation for their existence. The woods are 
swarming with pigs, pigeons, squirrels and woodpeckers. The pigs are univer- 
sally fat, owing to the great quantity of mast this year. Walking here in wet 
weather is most execrable, and is like travelling on soft soap; a few days of 
warm weather hardens this again almost into stone. Want of bridges is the 
greatest inconvenience to a foot traveller here. Between Shelbyville and 
Frankfort, having gone out of my way to see a pigeon-roost, (which by-the-by 
is the greatest curiosity I have seen since leaving home), I waded a deep creek 
called Benson, nine or ten times. I spent several days in Frankfort, and in 
rambling among the stupendous cliiFs of Kentucky river. On Thursday even- 
ing I entered Lexington. But I cannot do justice to these subjects at the 
conclusion of a letter, which, in spite of all my abridgments, has far exceeded 
in length what I first intended. My next will be from Nashville. I shall 
then have seen a large range of Kentucky, and be more able to give you a 
correct delineation of the country and its inhabitants. In descending the 
Ohio, I amused myself with a poetical narrative of my expedition, which I 
have called ' The Pilgrim,' an extract from which shall close this long and I am 
afraid tiresome letter." 

To Mr. Alexander Lawson. 

" Nashville, Tennessee, April 28th, 1810> 
" My Dear Sir. 

" Before setting out on my journey through the wilderness to Natchez, I sit 
down to give you, according to promise, some account of Lexington, and of my 
adventures through the state of Kentucky. These I shall be obliged to sketch 
as rapidly as possible. Neither my time nor my situation enables me to detail' 
particulars with any degree of regularity ; and you must condescend to receive 
them in the same random manner in which they occur, altogether destitute of 
fanciful embellishment; with nothing but their novelty, and the simplicity of 
truth, to recommend them. 

" I saw nothing of Lexington till I had approached within half a mile of the 
place, when the woods opening, I beheld the town before me, on an irregular 
plain, ornamented with a small white spire, and consisting of several parallel 
streets, crossed by some others ; many of the houses built of brick ; others of 
frame, neatly painted ;■ but a great proportion wore a more humble and inferior 
appearance. The fields around looked clean and well fenced; gently undu- 
lating, but no hills in view. In a hollow between two of these parallel streets, 
ran a considerable brook, that, uniting with a larger a little bebw the town, 
drives several mills. A large quarry of excellent building-stone also attracted 
my notice as I entered the town. The main street was paved with large masses 
from this quarry, the foot path neat, and guarded by wooden posts. The 
numerous shops piled with goods, and the many well dressed females I passed 

Vol. I.— F 


in the streets; the sound of social industry, and the gay scenery of 'the 
busy haunts of men,' had a most exhilarating effect on my spirits, after being so 
long immured in the forest. My own appearance, I believe, was to many equally 
interesting; and the shopkeepers and other loungers interrogated me with their 
eyes as I passed, with symptoms of eager and inquisitive curiosity. After fix- 
ing my quarters, disposing of my arms, and burnishing myself a little, I walked 
out to have a more particular view of the place. 

" This little metropolis of the western country is nearly as large as Lancaster 
in Pennsylvania. In the centre of the town is a public square, partly occupied 
by the court-house and market-place, and distinguished by the additional orna- 
ment of the pillory and stocks. The former of these is so constructed as to 
serve well enough, if need be, occasionally for a gallows, which is not a bad 
thought; for as nothing contributes more to make hardened villains than the 
pillory, so notliing so effectually rids society of them as the gallows ; and every 
knave may here exclaim, 

" My bane and antidote are both before me." 

I peeped into the court-house as I passed, and though it was court day, I was 
struck with the appearance its interior exhibited ; for, though only a plain 
square brick building, it has all the gloom of the Gothic, so much admired of 
late, by our modern architects. The exterior walls, having, on experiment, 
been found too feeble for the superincumbent honors of the roof and steeple, it 
was found necessary to erect, from the floor, a number of large, circular, and 
unplastered brick pillars, in a new order of architecture (the thick end upper- 
most), which, while they serve to impress the spectators with the perpetual 
dread that they will tumble about their ears, contribute also, by their number 
and bulk, to shut out the light, and to spread around a reverential gloom, pro- 
ducing a melancholy and chilling effect ; a very good disposition of mind, , 
certainly, for a man to enter a court of justice in. One or two solitary indivi- 
duals stole along the damp and silent floor; and I could just descry, elevated 
at the opposite extremity of the building, the judges sitting, like spiders in a 
window corner, dimly distinguishable through the intermediate gloom. The 
market-place, which stands a little to the westward of this and stretches over 
the whole breadth of the square, is built of brick, something like that of Phi- 
ladelphia, but is unpaved and unfinished. In wet weather you sink over the 
shoes in mud at every step ; and here again the wisdom of the police is mani- 
fest; as nobody at such times will wade in there unless forced by business or 
absolute necessity; by which means a great number of idle loungers are, very 
properly, kept out of the way of the market folks. 

" I shall say nothing of the nature or quantity of the commodities which I 
saw exhibited there for sale, as the season was unfavorable to a display of their 
productions ; otherwise something better than a few cakes of black maple sugar, 
wrapped up in greasy saddle-bags, some cabbage, chewing tobacco, catmint and 
turnip tops, a few bags of meal, sassafras-roots, and skinned squirrels cut up into 
quarters — something better than all this, I say, in the proper season, certainly 


covers the stalls of this market-place, in the metropolis of the fertile country 
of Kentucky.* 

" The horses of Kentucky are the hardiest in the world, not so much by 
nature as by education and habit. From the commencement of their existence 
they are habituated to every extreme of starvation and gluttony, idleness and 
excessive fatigue. In summer they fare sumptuously every day. In winter, 
when not a blade of grass is to be seen, and when the cows have deprived 
them of the very bark and buds of every fallen tree, they are ridden into 
town, fifteen or twenty miles, through roads and sloughs that would become 
the graves of any common animal, with a fury and celerity incomprehensible 
by you folks on the other side of the Alleghany. They are there fastened to 
the posts on the sides of the streets, and around the public square, where 

* This letter, it should seem, gave offence to some of the inhabitants of Lexington ; and 
a gentleman residing in that town, solicitous about its repiitation, undertook, in a letter to 
the editor of the Port Folio, to vindicate it from strictures which he plainly insinuated 
were the offspring of ignorance, and unsupported by fact. 

After a feeble attempt at sarcasm and irony, the letter-writer thus proceeds : " I have 
too great a respect Cor Mr. Wilson, as your friend, not to bel^eTe he had in mind some 
other market-house than that of Lexington, when he speaks of it as ' unpaved and un- 
finished I' But the people of Lexington would be gratified to learn what your ornitho- 
logist means by ' skinned squirrels cut up into quarters,' which curious anatomical prepa- 
rations he enumerates among the articles he saw in the Lexington market. Does Mr. 
Wilson mean to joke upon us ? If this is wit we must confess that, however abundant our 
country may be in good substantial matter-of-fact salt, the attic tart is unknown among us. 

" I hope, however, soon to see this gentleman's American Ornithology. Its elegance 
of execution, and descriptive propriety, may assuage the little pique we have taken from 
the author." 

The editor of the Port Folio having transmitted this letter to Wilson, previous to send- 
ing it to press, it was returned with the following note : 

"To THE Editor of the Port Folio. 

" Bartram's Gardens, July 16, 1811. 
"Dear Sir. 

"No man can have a more respectful opinion of the people of Kentucky, particularly 
those of Lexington, than myself ; because I have traversed nearly the whole extent of their 
country, and witnessed the effects of their bravery, their active industry, and daring spirit 
for enterprise. But they would be gods, and not men, were they faultless. 

" I am sorry that truth will not permit me to retract, as mere jokes, the few disagreeable 
things alluded to. I certainly had no other market-place in view, than that of Lexington, 
in the passage above mentioned. As to the circumstance of ' skinned squirrels, cut up 
into quarters,' which seems to have excited so much sensibility, I candidly acknowledge 
myself to have been incorrect in that statement, and I owe an apology for the same. On 
referring to my notes taken at the time, I find the word 'halves,' not quarters ; that is, 
those ' curious anatomical preparations' (skinned squirrels) were brought to market in 
the form of a saddle of venison ; not in that of a leg or shoulder of mutton. 

" With this correction, I beg leave to assure your very sensible correspondent, that the 
thing itself was no joke, nor meant for one ; but, like all the rest of the particulars of that 
sicetch, ' good substantial matter of fact.' 

"If these explanations, or the perusal of my American Ornithology, should assuage 
the ' little pique' in the minds of the good people of Lexington, it will be no less honor- 
able to their own good sense, than agreeable to your humble servant," &c. Port Folio 
fo> August, 1811. 


hundreds of them may be seen, on a court day, hanging their heads from 
morning to night, in deep cogitation, ruminating perhaps on the long-expected 
return of spring and green herbage. The country people, to their credit bg 
it spoken, ai-e universally clad in plain homespun; soap, however, appears to 
be a scarce article ; and Hopkins' double cutters would find here a rich harvest, 
and produce a very improving effect. Though religion here has its zealous 
votaries, yet none can accuse the inhabitants of this flourishing place of 
bigotry, in shutting out from the pa,le of the church or churchyard any human 
being, or animal whatever. Some of these sanctuaries are open at all hours, 
and to every visitor. The birds of heaven find a hundred passages through 
the broken panes ; and the cows and hogs a ready access on all sides. The 
wall of separation is broken down between the living and the dead; and dogs 
tug at the carcass of the horse, on the grave of his master. Lexington, how- 
ever, with all its faults, which a few years will gradually correct, is an honor- 
able monument of the enterprise, courage, and industry of its inhabitants. 
Within the memory of a middle aged man, who gave me the information, there 
were only two log huts on the spot where this city is now erected ; while the 
surrounding country was a wilderness, rendered hideous by skulking bands 
of bloody and ferocious Indians. Now, numerous excellent institutions for 
the education of youth, a public library, and a well-endowed university, under 
the superintendence of men of learning and piety, are in successful operation. 
Trade and manufactures are also rapidly increasing. Two manufactories for 
spinning cotton have lately been erected; one for woollen; several extensive 
ones for weaving sail-cloth and bagging; and seven ropewalks, which, accord- 
ing to one of the proprietors, export, annually, ropeyarn to the amount of 
150,000 dollars. A taste for neat, and even elegant, buildings is fast gaining 
ground; and Lexington, at present, can boast of men who do honor to science, 
and of females whose beauty and amiable manners would grace the first circles 
of society. 

"On Saturday, April 14th, I left this place for Nashville, distant about 200 
miles. I passed through Nicholasville, the capital of Jessamine county, a 
small village begun about ten years ago, consisting of about twenty houses, 
with three shops and four taverns. The woods were scarcely beginning to look 
green, which to me was surprising, having been led by common report to 
believe that spring here is much earlier than in the lower parts of Pennsyl- 
vania. I must further observe, that, instead of finding the woods of Kentucky 
covered with a profusion of flowers, they were, at" this time, covered with 
rotten leaves and dead timber, in every stage of decay and^ confusion ; and I 
could see no difference between them and our own, but in the magnitude of 
the timber, and superior richness of the soil. Here and there the white blos- 
soms of the Sanguinaria canadensis, or red root, were peeping through the 
withered leaves ; and the buds of the buckeye, or horse chestnut, and one or 
two more, were beginning to expand. Wherever the hackberry had fallen, or 
been cut down, the cattle had eaten the whole bark from the trunk, even to 
that of the roots, 

"Nineteen miles from Lexington, I descended a long, steep, and rocky 
declivity, to the banks of Kentucky river, which is here about as wide as the 


Schuylkill; and winds away between prodigious perpendicular clifis of solid 
limestone. In this deep and romantic valley the sound of the boat horns, from 
8ever3,l Kentucky arks, which were at that instant passing, produced a most 
charming effect. The river, I was told, had already fallen fifteen feet ; but 
was still high. I observed great numbers of uncommon plants and flowers, 
growing among the cliffs; and a few solitary bank swallows were skimming 
along the surface. Keascending from this, and travelling for a few miles, I 
again descended a vast depth to another stream called Dick's river, engulfed 
among the same perpendicular masses of rock. Though it was nearly dark, I 
found some curious petrifactions, and some beautiful specimens of mother-of- 
pearl on the shore. The roaring of a mill-dam, and the rattling of the mill, 
prevented the ferryman from hearing me till it was quite night; and I passed 
the rest of the road in the dark, over a rocky country, abounding with springs, 
to Danville; This place stands on a slight eminence, and contains about eighty 
houses, chiefly log and frame buildings, disposed in two parallel streets, crossed 
by several others. It has two ropewalks and a woollen manufactory ; also nine 
shops and three taverns. I observed a great many sheep feeding about here, 
amidst fields of excellent pasture. It is, however, but a dull place. A Roman 
Catholic chapel has been erected here, at the expense of one or two individuals. 
The shopkeepers trade from the mouth of Dick's river down to New Orleans, 
with the common productions of the country, flour, hemp, tobacco, pork,~corn, 
and whiskey. 

" I was now one hundred and eighty miles from Nashville, and, as I was 
informed, not a town or village on the whole route. Every day, however, was 
producing wonders in the woods, by the progress of vegetation. The blossoms 
of the sassafras, dog-wood, and red bud, contrasted with the deep green of the 
poplar and buckeye, enriched the scenery on every side ; while the voices of the 
feathered tribes, many of which were to me new and unknown, were continually 
engaging me in the pursuit. Emerging from the deep solitude of the forest, 
the rich green of the grain-fields, the farm-house and cabins embosomed amidst 
orchards of glowing purple and white, gave the sweetest relief to the eye. Not 
far from the foot of a high mountain, called Mulders Hill, I overtook one of 
those family caravans so -common in this country, moving to the westward. 
The procession occupied a length of road, and had a formidable appearance, 
though, as I afterwards understood, it was composed of the individuals of only 
a single family. . In the front went a wagon drawn by four horses, driven by 
a negro, and filled with implements of agriculture; another heavy-loaded 
wagon, with six horses, followed, attended by two persons; after which came 
a numerous and mingled group of horses, steers, cows, sheep, hogs, and calves 
with their bells ; next followed eight boys mounted double, also a negro wench 
with a white child before her ; then the mother with one child behind her, 
and another at the breast; ten or twelve colts brought up the rear, now and 
then picking herbage, and trotting ahead. The father, a fresh, good-looking 
man, informed me that he was from Washington county, in Kentucky, and was 
going as far as Cumberland river ; he had two ropes fixed to the top of the 
wagon, one of which he guided himself, and the other was intrusted to his 
eldest son, to keep it from oversetting in ascending the mountain. The singu- 


lar appearance of this moving group, the mingled music of the bells, and the 
shoutings of the drivers, mixed with the echoes of the mountains, joined to 
the picturesque solitude of the place, and various reflections that hurried 
through my mind, interested me greatly ; and I kept company with them for 
some time, to lend my assistance if necessary. 

" The country now became mountainous, perpetually ascending and descend- 
ing; and about forty-nine miles from Danville, I passed through a pigeon 
Toost, or rather breeding-place, which continued for three miles, and, from 
information, extended in length for more thau forty miles. The timber was 
chiefly beech ; every tree was loaded with nests, and I counted, in difierent 
places, more than ninety nests on a single tree. Beyond this I passed a large 
company of people engaged in erecting a horse-mill for grinding grain. The 
few cabins I passed were generally poor ; but much superior in appearance to 
those I met with on the shores of the Ohio. In the evening I lodged near 
the banks of Green river. This" stream, like all the, is sunk in a deep 
gulf, between high, perpendicular walls of limestone; is about thirty yards 
wide at this place, and runs with great rapidity ; but, as it had fallen consider- 
ably, I was just able to ford it without swimming. The water was of a pale 
greenish color, like that of the Licking, and some other streams, from whicb 
circumstance I suppose it has its name. The rocky banks of this river are 
hollowed out in many places into caves of enormous size, and of great extent. 
These rocks abound with the same masses of petrified shells so universal in 
Kentucky. In the woods, a little beyond this, I met a soldier, on foot, from 
New Orleans, who had been robbed and plundered by the Choctaws as he 
passed through their nation. ' Thirteen or fourteen Indians,' said he, 'sur- 
rounded me before I was aware, cut away my canteen, tore off' my hat, took 
the handkerchief from my neck, and the shoes from my feet, and all the money 
I had from me, which was about forty-five dollars.' Such was his story. He 
was going to Chilicothe, and seemed pretty nearly done up. 

" In the afternoon I crossed another stream of about twenty-five yards in 
width, called Little Barren ; after which the country began to assume a new 
and very singular appearance. The woods, which had hitherto been stately; 
now degenerated into mere scrubby saplings, on which not a bud was beginning 
to unfold, and grew so open that I could see for a mile through them. No 
dead timber or rotting leaves were to be seen, but the whole face of the ground 
was covered with rich verdure, interspersed with a variety of very beautiful 
flowers, altogether new to me. It seemed as if the whole country had once 
been one general level ; but that from some unknown cause, the ground had 
been undermined^ and had fallen in, in innumerable places, forming regular, 
funnel-shaped, concavities of all dimensions, from twenty feet in diameter, and 
six feet in depth, to five hundred by fifty, the surface or verdure generally 
unbroken. In some tracts the surface was entirely destitute of trees, and the 
eye was presented with nothing but one general neighborhood of these conca- 
vities, or, as they are usually called, sink-holes. At the centre, or bottom of 
some of these, openings had been made for water. In several places these 
holes had broken in, on the sides, and even middle of the road, to an 
unknown depth ; presenting their grim mouths as if to swallow up the unwaVy 


traveller. At the bottom of one of thosp declivities, at least fifty feet below the 
general level, a large rivulet of pure water issued at once from the mouth of a 
cave about twelve feet wide and seven high. A number of very singular 
sweet smelling lichens grew over the entrance, and a pewee had fixed her nest, 
like a little sentry-box, on a projecting shelf of the rock above the water. 
The height and dimensions of the cave continued the same as far as I waded 
in, which might be thirty or forty yards, but the darkness became so great that 
I was forced to return. I observed numbers of small fish sporting about, and 
I doubt not but these abound even in its utmost subterranean recesses. The 
whole of this country from Green to Red river, is hollowed out into these 
enormous caves, one of which, lately discovered in Warren couiit_), about 
eight miles from the Dripping Spring, has been explored for upwards of six 
miles, extending under the bed of the Green river. The entrance to these 
caves generally commences at the bottom of a sink-hole; and many of them 
are used by the inhabitants as cellars or spring-houses, having generally a 
spring or brook of clear water running through them. I descended into one 
of these belonging to a Mr. Wood, accompanied by the proprietor, who carried 
the light. At first the darkness was so intense that I could scarcely see a few 
feet beyond the circumference of the candle; but, after being in for five or 
six minutes, the objects around me began to make their appearance more dis- 
tinctly, the bottom, for fifteen or twenty yards at first, was so irregular, that 
we had constantly to climb over large masses of wet and slippery rocks ; the 
roof rose in many places to the height of twenty or thirty feet, presenting all 
the most irregular projections of surface, and hanging in gloomy and silent 
horror. We passed numerous chambers, or ofi-sets, which we did not explore ; 
and after three hours' wandering in these profound regions of glooms and 
silence, the particulars of which would detain me too long, I emerged with a 
handkerchief filled with bats, including one which I have never seen described; 
and a number of extraordinary insects of the Gryllus tribe, with antennae 
upwards of six inches long, and which I am persuaded had never before seen 
the light of day, as they fled from it with seeming terror, and I believe were- 
as blind in it as their companions the bats. 

" Great quantities of native glauber salts are found in these caves, and are 
used by the country people in the same manner, and with equal efi'ect, as those 
of the shops. But the principal production is saltpetre, which is procured 
from the earth in great abundance. The cave in Warren county above men- 
tioned, has lately been sold for three thousand dollars, to a saltpetre company, 
an individual of which informed me that, from every appearance, this cave had 
been known to the Indians many ages ago ; and had evidently been used for the 
same purposes. At the distance of more than a mile from the entrance, the 
exploring party, on their first visit, found the roof blackened by smoke, and 
bundles of half-burnt canes scattered about. A bark moccasin, of curious 
construction^ besides several other Indian articles, were found among the rub- 
bish. The earth, also, lay piled in heaps, with great regularity, as if in pre- 
paration for extracting the saltpetre. 

" Notwithstanding the miserable appearance of the timber on these barrens, 
the soil, to my astonishment, produced the most luxuriant fields of corn and 


wheat I had ever before met with. But one great disadvantage is the want 
of water, for the whole running streams, with which the surface of this coun- 
try evidently once abounded, have been drained oflf to a great depth, and -now 
murmur among these lower regions, secluded from the day. One forenoon I 
rode nineteen miles without seeing water; while my faithful horse looked 
round, but in vain, at every hollow, with a wishful and languishing eye, for 
that precious element. These barrens furnished me with excellent sport in 
shooting grouse, which abound here in great numbers ; and in the delightful 
groves that here and there rise majestically from these plains, I found many 
new subjects for my Ornithology. I observed all this day, far to the right, a 
range of high rocky detached hills, or knobs, as they are called, that skirt the 
barrens, as if they had been once the boundaries of the great lake that for- 
merly covered this vast plain. These, I was told, abound with stone coal and 
copperas. I crossed Big Barren river in a ferry boat, where it was about one 
hundred yards wide; and passed a small village called Bowling Green, near 
which I rode my horse up to the summit of one of these high insulated rocky 
hills, or knobs, which overlooked an immense circumference of country, 
spreading around bare and leafless, except where the groves appeared, i-n which 
there is usually water. 

" Fifteen miles from this, induced by the novel character of the country, I 
put up for several days,' at the house of a pious and worthy Presbyterian, 
whence I made excursions, in all directions, through the surrounding country. 
Between this and Red river the country had a bare and desolate appearance. 
Caves continued to be numerous ; and report made some of them places of 
concealment for the dead bodies of certain strangers, who had disappeared 
there. One of these lies near the banks -of the Red river, and belongs to a 

person of the name of , a man of notoriously bad character, and 

strongly suspected, even by his neighbors, of having committed a foul murder 
of this kind, which was related to me with all its minutiae of horrors. As this 
man's house stands by the road side, I was induced, by motives of curiosity, 
to stop and take a peep of him. On my arrival I found two persons in con- 
versation under the piazza, one of whom informed me that he was the land- 
lord. He was a dark mulatto, rather above the common size, inclining to cor- 
pulency, with legs small in proportion to his size, and walked lame. His 
countenance bespoke a soul capable of deeds of darkness. I had not been 
three minutes in company when he invited the other man (who I understood 
was a traveller), and myself, to walk back and see his cave, to which I imme- 
-diately consented. The entrance is in the perpendicular front of a rock, 
behind the house ; has a door with a lock and key to it, and was crowded with 
pots of milk, placed near the running stream. The roof and sides of solid 

rock were wet and dropping with water. Desiring to walk before 

with the lights, I followed with my hand on my pistol, reconnoitering on every 
side, and listening to his description of its length and extent. After examin- 
ing this horrible vault for forty or fifty yards, he declined going any further, 
complaining of a rheumatism ; and I now first perceived that the other person 
had stayed behind, and that wo two were alone together. Confident in my 
means of self-defence, whatever mischief the devil might suggest to him, I 


fixed my eyes steadily on his, and observed to him, that he could not be igno- 
rant of the reports circulated about the country relative to this cave. ' I 
suppose/ said I, ' you know what I mean ?' ' Yes, I understand you,' re- 
turned he, without appearing the least embarrassed, 'that I killed somebody 
and threw them into this cave — I can tell you the whole beginning of that 
damned lie,' said he ; and, without moving from the spot, he detaile'd to me a 
long story, which would fill half my letter, to little purpose, and which, with 
other particulars, I shall reserve for your amusement when we meet. I asked 
him why he did not get the cave examined by three or four i-eputable neigh- 
bors, whose report might rescue his character from the suspicion of having 
committed so horrid a crime. He acknowledged it would be well enough to 
do so; but did not seem to think it worth the trouble; and we returned as 

we advanced, walking before with the lights. Whether this man 

be guilty or not of the transaction laid to his charge I know not; but his 
manners and aspect are such as by no means to allay suspicion. 

" After crossing Red river, which is here scarce twenty yards broad, I found 
no more barrens. The timber was large, and the woods fast thickening with . 
green leaves. As I entered the state of Tennessee, the face of the country 
became hilly, and even mountainous. After descending an immense declivity, 
and coursing along the rich valley of Manskers creek, where I again met with 
large flocks of paroquets, I stopped at a small tavern, to examine, for three or 
four days, this part of the country. Here I made some interesting additions 
to my stock of new subjects for the Ornithology. On the fourth day I crossed 
the Cumberland, where it is about two hundred and fifty yards wide, and of 
great depth, bounded as usual with high precipitous banks, and reached the 
town of Nashville, which towers like a fortress above the river. Here I have 
been busily employed these eight days ; and send you the enclosed parcel of 
drawings, the result of every moment of leisure and convenience I could 
obtain. Many of the birds are altogether new ; and you will find along with 
them every explanation necessary for your purpose. 

" You may rest assured of hearing from me by the first opportunity after 
my arrival at Natchez. In the mean time I receive with much pleasure the 
accounts you give me of the kind inquiries of my friends. To me nothing 
could be more welcome ; for whether journeying in this world, or journeying 
to that which is to come, there is something of desolation and despair in the 
idea of being for ever forgotten in our absence, by those whom we sincerely 
esteem and regard." 

To Mr. Alexander Lawson. 

Natchez, Mississippi Territory, May 18th, 1810. 
" Dear Sir. 

" About three weeks ago I wrote to you from Nashville, enclosing three 

sheets of drawings, which I hope you have received.* I was at that time on 

the point of setting out for St Louis ; but being detained a week by constant 

and heavy rains, and considering that it would add four hundred miles to my jour- 

* These drawings never came to hand. 


ney, and detain me at least a month ; and the season being already far ad- 
vanced, and no subscribers to be expected there, I abandoned the idea, and 
prepared for a journey through the wilderness. I was advised by many not 
to attempt it alone ; that the Indians were dangerous, the swamps and rivers 
almost impassable without assistance, and a thousand other hobgoblins were 
conjured up to dissuade me from going alone. But I weighed all these mat- 
ters in my own mind ; and attributing a great deal of this to vulgar fears and 
exaggerated reports, I equipped myself for the attempt. I rode an excellent 
horse, on which I could depend ; I had a loaded pistol in each pocket, a loaded 
fowling piece belted across my shoulder,- a pound of gunpowder in my flask, 
and five pounds of shot in Tny belt. I bought some biscuit and dried beef, and 
on Friday morning. May 4th, I left Nashville. 'About half a mile from town 
I observed a poor negro with two wooden legs, building himself a cabin in the 
woods. Supposing that this journey might afford you and my friends some 
amusement, I kept a particular account of the various occurrences, and shall 
transcribe some of the most interesting, omitting everything relative to my 
Ornithological excursions and discoveries, as more suitable for another 

" Eleven miles from Nashville, I came to the Great Harpath, a stream of 
about fifty yards wide, which was running with great violence. I could not 
discover the entrance of the ford, owing to the rains and inundations. There 
was no time to be lost, I plunged in, and almost immediately my horse was 
swimming. I set his head aslant the current, and being strong, he soon landed 
me on the other side. As the weather was warm, I rode in my wet clothes with- 
out any inconvenience. The country to-day was a perpetual succession of steep 
hills and low bottoms ; I crossed ten or twelve large creeks, one of which I swam 
with my horse, where he was near being entangled among some bad driftwood. 
Now and then a solitary farm opened from the woods, where the negro children 
were running naked about the yards. I also passed along the north side of a 
high hill, where the whole timber had been prostrated by some terrible hurri- 
cane. I lodged this night in a miner's, who told me he had been engaged in 
forming no less than thirteen companies for hunting mines, all of whom had 
left him. I advised him to follow his farm, as the surest vein of ore he could 

" Next day (Saturday) I first observed the cane growing, which increased 
until the whole woods were full of it. The road this day winded along the 
high ridges of mountains that divide the waters of the Cumberland from those 
of the Tennessee. I passed few houses to-day ; but met several parties of boat- 
men returning from Natchez and New Orleans ; who gave me such an account 
of the road, and the difficulties they had met with, as served to stiffen my 
resolution to be prepared for everything. These men were as dirty as Hotten- 
tots ; their dress a shirt and trowsers of canvas, black, greasy, and sometimes 
in tatters ; the skin burnt wherever exposed to the sun ; each with a budget, 
wrapped up in an old blanket ; their beards, eighteen days old, added to the 
singularity of their appearance, which was altogether savage. These people 
came from the various tributary streams of the Ohio, hired at forty or fifty 
dollars a trip, to return back on their own expenses. Some had upwards of 


eight hundred miles to travel. When they come to a stream that is unfordable, 
they coast it for a fallen tree : if. that cannot be had, they enter with their 
budget on their head, and when they lose bottom, drop it on their shoulders, 
and take to swimming. They have sometimes fourteen or fifteen of such 
streams to pass in a day^ and morasses of several miles in length, that I have 
never seen equalled in any country. I lodged this night at one Dobbins's, 
where ten or twelve of these men lay on the floor. As they scrambled up in 
the morning, they very generally complained of being unwell, for which they 
gave an odd reason, lying within doors, it being the first of' fifteen nights they 
had been so indulged. 

" Next morning (Sunday) I rode six miles to a man's, of the name of 
Grinder, where our poor friend Lewis perished.* In the same room where 
he expired, I took down from Mrs. Grinder the particulars of that melancholy 
event, which afi'ected me extremely. This house, or cabin, is seventy-two miles 
from Nashville, and is the last white man's as you enter the Indian country. 
Governor Lewis, she said, came hither about sunset, alone, and inquired if he 
could stay for the night; and, alighting, brought his saddle into the house. 
He was dressed in a loose, gown, white, striped with blue. On being asked 
if he came alone, he replied that there were two servants behind, who would 
soon be up. He called for some spirits, and drank a very little. When the 
servants arrived, one of whom was a negro, he inquired for his powder, saying 
he was sure he had some powder in a canister. The servant gave no distinct 
reply, and Lewis, in the meanwhile, walked backwards and forwards before 
the door, talking to himself. Sometimes, she said, he would seem as if he 
were walking up to her; and would suddenly wheel round, and walk back as 
fast as he could. Supper being ready, he sat down, but had eaten only a few 
mouthfuls when he started up, speaking to himself in a violent manner. At 
these times, she says, she observed his face to flush as if it had come on him 
in a fit. He lighted his pipe, and drawing a chair to the door sat down, saying 
to Mrs. Grinder, in a kind tone of voice, ' Madam, this is a very pleasant even- 
ing.' He smoked for some time, but quitted his seat and traversed the yard 
as before. He again sat down to his pipe, seemed again composed, and casting 
his eyes wistfully towards the west, observed what a sweet evening it was. 
Mrs. Grinder was preparing a bed for him ; but he said he would sleep on the 
floor, and desired the servant to bring the bear-skins and buffalo robe, 
which were immediately spread out for him; and, it being now dusk, the 
women went oflF to the kitchen, and the two men to the barn, which stands 
about two hundred yards ofi'. The kitchen is only a few paces from the room 
where Lewis was, and the woman, being considerably alarmed by the behavior 
of her guest, could not sleep, but listened to him walking backwards and for- 

* It is hardly necessary to state, that this was the brare and enterprising traveller, 
whose journey across the Kooky Mountains, to the Pacific Ocean, has obtained for him 
well-merited celebrity. The true cause of his committing the rash deed, so feelingly 
detailed above, is not yet known to the public ; but his friends will not soon forget the 
base imputations and cruel neglect, which the honorable mind of the gallant soldier knew 
not how to brook. 

xcu i.lJ!'i!l OF WILSO . 

wards, she thinks, for several hours, and talking aloud, as she said, ' like a 
lawyei.' She then heard the report of a pistol, and something fall heavily on 
the floor, and the words ' Lord I' Immediately afterwards she heard another 
pistol, and in a few minutes she heard him at her door calling out ' 0, madam 1 
give me some water, and heal my wounds' The logs being open, and un- 
plastered, she saw him stagger hack and fall against a stump that stands 
between the kitchen and room. He crawled for some distance, and raised 
himself by the side of a tree, where he sat about a minute. He once more 
got to the room; afterwards. he came to the kitchen door, but did not speak: 
she then heard him scraping the bucket with a gourd for water ; but it appears 
that this cooling element was denied the dying man ! As soon as day broke, 
and not before, the terror of the woman having permitted him to remain for 
two hours in this most deplorable situation, she sent two of her children to 
the barn, her husband not being at home, to bring the servants; and on going 
in they found him lying on the bed; he uncovered his side, and showed them 
where the bullet had entered; a piece of the forehead was. blown off, and had 
exposed the brains, without having bled much. He begged they would take 
his rifle and blow out his brains, and he would give them all the money he had 
in his trunk. He often said, 'I am no coward ; but I am so strong, so hard 
to die.' He begged the servant not to be afraid of him, foi that he would not 
hurt him. He expired in about two hours, or just as the sun rose above the 
trees. He lies buried close by the common path, with a few loose rails thrown 
over his grave. I gave Grinder money to put a post fence round it, to shelter 
it from the hogs, and from the wolves ; and he gave me his written promise he 
would do it. I left this place in a very melancholy mood, which was not much 
allayed by the prospect of the gloomy and savage wilderness which I was just 



" I was roused from this melancholy reverie by the roaring of Buffalo river, 
which I forded with considerable difficulty. I passed two or three solitary 
Indian huts in the course of the day, with a few acres of open -land at each ; 
but 60 wretchedly cultivated, that they just make out to raise maize enough to 
keep in existence. They pointed me out the distances by holding up their 
fingers. This is the country of the Chickasaws, though erroneously laid down 
in soibe maps as that of the Cherokees. I slept this night in one of their 
huts ; the Indians spread a deer skin for me on the floor, I made a pillow of 
my portmanteau, and slept tolerably well ; an old Indian laid himself down 
near me. 

" On Monday morning I rode fifteen miles, and stopped at an Indian's to 
feed my horse. The sight of my paroquet brought the whole family around 
me. The women are generally naked from the middle upwards; and their 
heads, in many instances, being rarely combed, look like a large mop ; they 
have a yard or two of blue cloth wrapped round by way of petticoat, that 
reaches to their knees — the boys were generally naked; except a kind of bag 
of blue cloth, by way oi fig-leaf . Some of the women have a short jacket, 
with sleeves, drawn over their naked body, and the rag of a blanket is a general 
appendage. I met to-day two officers of the United States army, who gave me 


a better account of the road than I had received. I passed through many bad 
swamps to-day ; and at about five in the evening came to the banks of the 
Tennessee, which was swelled by the rains, and is about half a mile wide thirty 
miles below the Muscle Shoals, and just below a long island laid down in 
your small map. A growth of canes, of twenty and thirty feet high, covers 
the low bottoms ; and these cane swamps are the gloomiest and most desolate 
looking places imaginable. I hailed for the boat as long as it was light, with- 
out effect; I then sought out a place to encamp, kindled a large fire, stripped 
the canes for my horse, eat a bit of supper, and lay down to sleep ; listening to 
the owls, and the Chuck- Wills- Widow, a kind of Whip-poor- Will, that is very 
numerous here. I got up several times during the night to recruit my fire, 
and see how my horse did ; and, but for the gnats, would have slept tolerably 
well. These gigantic woods have a singular effect by the light of a large fire ; 
the whole scene being circumscribed by impenetrable darkness, except that in 
front, where every leaf is strongly defined, and deeply shaded. 

" In the morning I hunted until about six, when I again renewed my shout- 
ings for the boat, and it was not until near eleven that it made its appearance. 
I was so enraged at this delay, that, had I not been cumbered with baggage, I 
believe I should have ventured to swim the river. I vented my indignation 
on the owner of the boat, who is a half-breed, threatening to publish hiin in 
the papers, and advise every traveller I met to take the upper ferry. This man 
charges one dollar for man and horse, and thinks, because he is a chief, he may 
do in this way what he pleases. The country now assumed a new appearance ; 
no brushwood-^no fallen or rotten timber ; one cowld see a mile through the 
woods, which were covered with high grass fit for mowing. These woods are 
burnt every spring, and thus are kept so remarkably clean, that they look like 
the most elegant noblemen's parks. A profusion of flowers, altogether new to 
me, and some of them very elegant, presented themselves to my view as I rode 
along. This must be a heavenly place for the botanist. The most observable 
of these flowers was a kind of Sweet William, of all tints, from white, to the 
deepest crimson. A superb Thistle, the most beautiful I had ever seen. A 
species' of Passion flower, very beautiful. A stately plant of the Sunflower 
family — the button of the deepest orange, and thejadiating petals bright 
carmine, the breadth of the flower about four inches. A large white flower 
like a deer's tail. Great quantities of the Sensitive plant, that shrunk instantly 
on being touched, covered the ground in some places. Almost every flower was 
new to me, except the Carolina Pink-root, and Colombo, which grew in abun- 
dance on every side. At Bear creek, which is a large and rapid stream, I first 
observed the Indian boys with their blow-guns. These are tubes of cane seven 
feet long, and perfectly straight, when well made. The arrows are made of 
slender slips of cane, twisted, and straightened before the fire, and covered for 
several inches at one end with the down of thistles, in a spiral form, so as just 
to enter the tube. By a puff' they can send these with such violence as to enter 
the body of a partridge, twenty yards off. I set several of them a hunting 
birds by promises of reward, but not one of them could succeed. I also tried 
some of the blow-guns myself, but found them generally defective in straight- 
ness. I met six parties of boatmen to-day, and many straggling Indians, and 


encamped about sunset near a small brook, where I shot a turkey, and on 
returning to my fire found four boatmen, who stayed with me all night, and 
helped to pick the bones of the turkey. In the morning I heard the turkeys 
gobbling all round me, but not wishing to leave my horse, having no great 
faith in my guests' honesty, I proceeded on my journey. 

" This day (Wednesday) I passed through the most horrid swamps I had 
ever seen. These are covered with a prodigious growth of canes, and high 
woods, which together, shut out almost the whole light of day for miles. The 
banks of the deep and sluggish creeks, that occupy the centre, are precipitous, 
where I had often to plunge my horse seven feet down, into a bed of deep clay 
up to his belly ; from which nothing but great strength and exertion could 
have rescued him ; the opposite shore was equally bad, and beggars all descrip- 
tion. For an extent of several miles, on both sides of these' creeks, the dark- 
ness of night obscures every object around. On emerging from one of the 
worst of these, I met General Wade Hampton, with two servants, and a pack- 
horse, going, as he said, towards Nashville. I told him of the mud campaign 
immediately before him ; I was covered with mire and wet, and I thoiight he 
looked somewhat serious at the diflSculties he was about to engage. He has 
been very sick lately. About half an hour before sunset, being within sight 
of the Indian's where I intended to lodge, the evening being perfectly clear 
and calm, I laid the reins on my horse's neck, to hsten to a Mocking-bird, the 
first I had heard in the western country, which, perched on the top of a dead 
tree before the door, was pouring out a torrent of melody. I think I never 
heard so excellent a^ performer. I had alighted, and was fastening my horge, 
when hearing the report of a rifle immediately beside me, I looked up and saw 
the poor Mocking-bird fluttering to the ground. One of the savages had marked 
his elevation, and barbarously shot him. I hastened over into the yard, and 
walking up to him, told him that was bad, very bad ! That this poor bird had 
come from a far distant country to sing to him, and that in return he had 
cruelly killed him. I told him the Great Spirit was offended at such cruelty, 
and that he would lose many a deer for doing so. The old Indian, father-in- 
law to the bird-killer, understanding by the negro interpreter what I said, 
-replied, that when these birds come singing and making a noise all day near 
the house, somebody will surely die — which is exactly what an old superstitious 
German, near Hampton in Virginia, once told me. This fellow had married 
the two eldest daughters of the old Indian, and presented one of them with the 
bird he had killed. 

" The next day I passed through the Chickasaw Big-town, which stands on 
the high open plain, that extends through theif country, three or four miles in 
breadth, by fifteen in length. Here and there you perceive little groups of 
miserable huts, formed of saplings, and plastered with mud and clay ; about 
these are generally a few peach and plum trees. Many ruins of others stand 
scattered about, and I question whether there were twenty inhabited huts 
within the whole range of view. The ground was red with strawberries ; and 
the boatmen were seen in straggling parties feasting on them. Now and then 
a solitary Indian, wrapped in his blanket, passed sullen and silent. On this 
plain are beds of shells, of a large species of clam, some of which are almost 


entire. I this day stopped at the house of a white man, who had two Indian 
wives, and a hopeful string of young savages, all in their fig-leaves; not one 
of them could speak a word of English. This man was hy hirth a Virginian, 
and had been forty years among the Chickasaws. His countenance and man- 
ners were savage and worse than Indian. I niet many parties of boatmen to-day, 
and crossed a number of bad swamps. The woods continued to exhibit the 
same open luxuriant appearance, and at night I lodged at a white man's, who 
has also two wives, and a numerous progeny of young savages. Here I met 
with a lieutenant of the United States army, anxiously inquiring for General 

" On Friday the same open woods continued ; I met several parties of 
Indians, and passed two or three of their hamlets. At one of these were two 
fires in the yard, and at each, eight or ten Indians, men and women, squat on 
the ground. In these hamlets there is generally one house built of a circular 
form, and plastered thickly all over without and within with clay. This they 
call a hot house, and it is the general winter quarters of the hamlet in cold 
weather. Here they all kennel, and having neither window nor place for the 
smoke to escape, it must be a sweet place while forty or fifty of them have it 
in occupancy. Round some of theSe hamlets were great droves of cattle, 
horses and hogs. I lodged this night on the top of a hill far from water, and 
sufiFered severely for thirst. 

" On Saturday I passed a number of most execrable swamps, the weather 
was extremely warm, and I had been attacked by something Ijke the dysentery, 
which occasioned a constant burning thirst, and weakened me greatly. I stopped 
this day frequently to wash my head and throat in the water, to allay the burn- 
ing thirst, and putting on my bat, without wiping, received considerable relief 
from it. Since crossing the Tennessee the woods have been interspersed with 
pine, and the soil has become more sandy. This day I met a Captain Hughes, 
a traveller, on his return from Santa Fe. My complaint increased so much 
that I could scarcely sit on horseback, and all night my mouth and throat 
were parched with a burning thirst and fever. 

" On Sunday I bought some raw eggs which I ate. I repeated the dose at 
mid-day, and towards evening, and found great benefit from this simple 
remedy. I inquired all along the road for fresh eggs, and for nearly a week 
made them almost my sole food, till I completed my cure. The water in these 
cane swamps is little better than poison; and under the heat of a burning sun, 
and the fatigues of travelling, it is difiicult to repress the urgent calls of thirst. 
On the Wednesday following, I was assailed by a tremendous storm of rain, 
wind and lightning, until I and my horse were both blinded by the deluge, 
and unable to go on. I sought the first most open place, and dismounting 
stood for half an hour under the most profuse heavenly shower-hath I ever 
enjoyed. The roaring of the storm was terrible; several trees around me 
were broken ofi^, and torn up by the roots, and those that stood were bent almost 
to the ground : limbs of trees of several hundred weight flew past within a few 
yards of me, and I was astonished how I escaped. I would rather take my 
chance in a field of battle, than in such a tornado again. 

" On the fourteenth day of my journey, at noon, I arrived at this place 


having overcome every obstacle, alone, and without being acquainted with the 
country; and what surprised the boatmen more, without whiskey. On. an 
average I met from forty to sixty boatmen every day, returning from this place 
and New Orleans. The Chickasaws are a friendly, inoffensive people, and the 
Choetaws, though more reserved, are equally harmless. Both of them treated 
me with civility, though I several times had occasion to pass through their 
camps, where many of them were drunk. The paroquet which I carried with 
me was a continual fund of amusement to all ages of these people ; and as 
they crowded around to look at it, gave me an opportunity of studying their 
physiognomies, without breach of good manners. 

'• In thus hastily running over the particulars of this journey, I am obliged 
to omit much that would amuse and interest you ; but my present situation, 
a noisy tavern, crowded in every corner, even in the room where I write, with 
the sons of riot and dissipation, prevents me from enlarging on particulars. 
I could also have wished to give you some account of this place, and of the 
celebrated Mississippi, of which you have heard so much. On these subjects, 
however, I can at present only offer you the following slight sketch, taken the 
morning after my arrival here. 

" The best view of this place and surrounding scenery, is from the old Span- 
ish fort on the south side of the town, about a quarter of a mile distant. 
From thi.s- high point, looking up the river, Natchez lies on your right, a 
mingled group of green trees, and white and red houses, occupying an uneven 
plain, much washed into ravines, rising as it recedes from the bluff or high 
precipitous bank of the river. There is, however, neither steeple, cupola, nor 
distinguished object to add interest to its appearance. The country beyond it 
to the right is thrown up into the same irregular knolls ; and at the distance 
of a mile, in the same direction, you have a peep of some cultivated farms, 
bounded by the general forest. On your left you look down, at a depth of 
two or three hundred feet, on the river, winding majestically to the south; the 
intermediate space Exhibiting wild perpendicular precipices of brown earth. 
This part of the river and shore is the general rendezvous of all the arks or 
Kentucky boats, several hundreds of which are at present lying moored there, 
loaded with the produce of the thousand shores of this noble river. The busy 
multitudes below present a perpetually varying picture of industry; and the 
noise and uproar, softened by the distance, with the continual crowing of the 
poultry with which many of these arks are filled, produce cheerful and exhila- 
rating ideas. The majestic Mississippi, swelled by his ten thousand tributary 
streams, of a pale brown color, half a mile wide, and spotted with trunks of 
trees, that show the different threads of the current and its numerous eddies, 
bears his depth of water past in silent grandeur. Seven gun-boats, anchored 
at equal distances along the stream, with their ensigns displayed, add to the 
effect. A few scattered houses are seen on the low opposite shore, where a 
narrow strip of cleared land exposes the high gigantic trunks of some dead- 
ened timber that bound the woods. The whole country beyond the Missis- 
sippi, from south round to west, and north, presents to the eye one universal 
level ocean of forest, bounded only by the horizon. So perfect is this vast 
level, that not a leaf seems to rise above the plain, as if shorn by tho hands 


of heaven. At this moment, while I write, a terrific thunder storm, with all 
its towering assemblage of black alpine clouds, discharging lightning in every 
direction, overhangs this vast level, and gives a magnificence and sublime efibct 
to the whole." 

The foregoing letters present us with an interesting account of our author's 
journey, until his arrival at Natchez, on the seventeenth of May. In his 
diary he says — " This journey, four hundred and seventy-eight miles from 
Nashville, I have performed alone, through difficulties, which those who have 
never passed the road could not have a conception of." We may readily sup- 
pose that he had not only difficulties to encounter, encumbered as he neces 
sarily was with his shooting apparatus, and bulky baggage, but also dangers, 
in journeying through a frightful wilderness, where almost impenetrable cane- 
swamps and morasses present obstacles to the progress of the traveller, which 
require all his resolution and activity to overcome. Superadded to which, as 
we are informed, he had a severe attack of the dysentery, when remote from 
any situation which could be productive of either comfort or relief; and he 
was under the painful necessity of trudging on, debilitated and dispirited with 
a disease, which threatened to put a period to his exiptence. An Indian, hav- 
ing been made acquainted with his situation, recommended the eating of straw- 
berries, which were then fully ripe, and in great abundance. On this delight- 
ful fruit, and newly laid eggs, taken raw, he wholly lived for several days; and 
he attributed his restoration to health to these simple remedies. 

On the sixth of June our traveller reached New Orleans, distant from Nat- 
chez two hundred and fifty-two miles. As the sickly season was fast approach- 
ing, it was deemed advisable not to tarry long in this place; and his afiairs 
being despatched, he sailed on the twenty-fourth in a ship bound to New York, at 
which place he arrived on the thirtieth of July; and soon reached Philadelphia, 
enriched with a copious stock of materials for his work, including several 
beautiful and hitherto unknown birds.* , 

In the newly settled country through which Wilson had to pass in his last 
journey, it was reasonable not to expect much encouragement in the way of 

* The editor of Wilson's Poems, which were published at Paisley in 1816, gives what 
he states to be an extract from one of our author's letters to his father, wherein it is said 
that he had travelled through West Florida to New Orleans, and had "sailed thence to 
East Florida, furnished with a letter to the Spanish governor." This passage needs ex- 
planation. Wilson was never either in East or West Florida (except a small part of the 
latter province, through which the road to New Orleans passed) ; but, in the event of his 
going thither, had provided himself with a letter of introduction from Don Luis de Onis, 
the Spanish ambassador to the United States, to Don Enrique White, Governor of East 
Florida, and another to Don Vincente Folche, Governor of West Florida. In his pass- 
age from New Orleans to New York, he merely landed, for a few minutes, upon one~or 
two desert islands lying in the Florida Gulf. 

He departed from Philadelphia on the thirtieth of January, 1810 ; and returned on the 
second of August, of the same year. It is stated in his diary that the total amount of his 
expenses, until his arrival in New York, was the sum of four hundred and fifty-five dol- 
lars. This particular is given as a proof of how much may be performed, by a good eco- 
nomist, with slender means. 

Vol. I.— G 


subscriptions. Yet he was not only honored with the names of some respecta- 
ble individuals ; but also received hospitable treatment from several persons, 
and those, too, to whom he had not been introduced. It -is a singular fact, 
that from those to whom he had letters of introduction, and from whom most 
had been expected, he received the fewest acts of civility. 

The principal events of his journey have been given in his letters; but I 
might select from his diary many interesting passages, if the limits allotted to 
this memoir would admit of copiousness of detail. 

It is not unusual for scholars to keep diaries when they travel. These wri- . 
tings are commonly the objects of great curiosity, as we are all anxious to know 
what were the impressions which the incidents of a journey made upon the 
mind, when it was in the fittest state to receive them. 

Eor the gratification of the reader, I will make a few short extracts from 
Wilson's journal, as specimens of his mode of writing these unstudied narra- 

March 9. — Visited a number of the literati and wealthy of Cincinnati, 
who all told me that they would think of it, viz. of subscribing : they are a 
very thoughtful people. 

" March 17. — Rained and hailed all last night, set off at eight o'clock, after 
emptying my boat of the deluge of water. Rowed hard all day; at noon re- 
cruited myself with some biscuits, cheese and American wine. Reach the 
falls — night sets in — hear the roaring of the rapids. After excessive hard work 
arrive at Beargrass creek, and fasten my boat to a Kentucky one. Take my 
baggage and grope my way to Louisville — put up at the Indian Queen tavern, 
and gladly sit down to rest myself. 

" March 18. — Rose quite refreshed. Found a number t)f land speculators 
here. Titles to lands in Kentucky, subject to great disputes. 

" March 19. — Rambling round the town with my gun. Examined Mr. 

's drawings in crayons — very good. Saw two new birds he had, both 


" March 20. — Set out this afternoon with the gun — killed nothing new. 
People in taverns here devour their meals. Many shopkeepers board in 
taverns — also boatmen, land speculators, merchants, &c. No naturalist to 
keep me compant/. 

" March 21. — Went out this afternoon shooting with Mr. A. Saw a num- 
ber of sandhill cranes. Pigeons numerous. 

" March 23. — Packed up my things which I left in the care of a merchant 
here, to be sent on to Lexington ; and having parted, with great regret, with 
my paroquet, to the gentlemen of the tavern, I bade adieu to Louisville, to 
which place I had four letters of recommendation, and was taught to expect 
much of everything there ; but neither received one act of civility from those 
to whom I was recommended, one subscriber, nor one new bird; though I de- 
livered my letters, ransacked the woods repeatedly, and visited all the charac- 
ters likely to subscribe. Science or literature has not one friend in this place. 
Every one is so intent on making money that they can talk of nothing else ; 


and they absolutely devour their meals that they may return the sooner to their 
business. Their manners correspond with their features. 

" Good country this for lazy fellows : they plant corn, turn their pigs into 
the woods, and in the autumn feed upon corn and pork — they lounge about 
the rest of the year. 

" March 24. — Weather cool. Walked to Shelbyville to breakfast. Passed 
some miserable log-houses in the midst of rich fields. Called at a 'Squire C.'s, 
who was rolling logs. Sat down beside him, but was not invited in, though it 
was about noon. 

" March 29. — Finding my baggage not likely to come on, I set out from 
Frankfort for Lexington. The woods swarm with pigs, squirrels, and wood- 
peckers. Arrive exceedingly fatigued. 

" Wherever you go you hear people talking of buying and selling land ; no 
readers, all traders. The Yankees, wherever you find them, are all traders. 
Found one here, a house carpenter, who came from Massachusetts, and brought 
some barrels of apples down the river from Pennsylvania to this town, where 
he employs the negro women to hawk them about the streets, at thirty-seven 
and a half cents per dozen. 

" Restless, speculating set of mortals here, full of lawsuits, no great readers, 
even of politics or newspapers. 

" The sweet courtesies of life, the innumerable civilities in deeds and con- 
versation, which cost one so little, are seldom found here. Every man you 
meet with has either some land to bay or sell, some lawsuit, some coarse hemp 
or corn to dispose of; and if the conversation do not lead to any of these he 
will force it. Strangers here receive less civilities than in any place I have 
ever been in. The respect due to the fatigues and privations of travellers is 
nowhere given, because every one has met with as much, and thinks he has 
seen more than any other. No one listens to the adventures of another, with- 
out interrupting the narrative with his own ; so that, instead of an auditor, he 
becomes a competitor in adventure-telling. So many adventurers, also, con- 
tinually wandering about here, injure the manners of the people, for avarice 
and knavery prey most freely and safely upon passengers whom they may never 
meet again. 

" These few observations are written in Salter White's garret, with little or 
no fire, wood being a scarce article here— the forests being a full lialf mile 

"April 9. — Court held to-day, large concourse of people ; not less than one 
thousand horses in town, hitched to the side-posts — no food for them all day. 
Horses selling by auction. Negro woman sold same way : my reflections while 
standing by and hearing her cried, ' three hundred and twenty-five dollars for 
this woman and boy ! going ! going !' Woman and boy afterwards weep. 
Damned, damned slavery ! this is one infernal custom which the Virginians 
have brought into this country. Rude and barbarous appearance of the 
crowd. Hopkins's double cutters much wanted here. 

" April 10. — Was introduced to several young ladies this afternoon, whose 
agreeable society formed a most welcome contrast to that of the lower orders 
of the other sex. Mrs. * * *, an amiable, excellent lady ; think that savage 


ignorance, rudeness, and boorishness, were never so contrasted by female 
sweetness, affability, and intelligence. 

"April 12. — Went this evening to drink tea with Mr. * * *j was intro- 
duced to Mrs. * * *j a most lovely, accomplished and interesting woman. 
Her good sense and lively intelligence of a cast far superior to that of almost 
any woman I have ever seen. She is most unfortunately unwell with a ner- 
vous complaint, which affects her head. She told me, most feelingly, that the 
spring, which brings joy to every other being, brings sorrow to her, for in 
wiuter she is always well. 

" April 25. — Breakfasted at Walton's, thirteen miles from Nashville. This 
place is a fine, rich hollow, watered by a charming, clear creek, that never 
fails. Went up to Madison's Lick, where I shot three paroquets and some 
small birds. 

" April 26. — Set out early, the hospitable landlord, Isaac Walton, refus- 
ing to take anything for my fare, or that of my horse, saying : ' You seem to 
he travelling for the good of the loorld; and I canvot, I will not charge you 
anything. Whenever you come this way, call and stay with me, you shall be 
welcome!' This is the first instance of such* hospitality which I have met 
with in the United States. 

"Wednesday, May 23. — Left Natchez, after procuring twelve subscribers; 
and having received a kind letter of invitation from William Dunbar, Esq., I 
availed myself of his goodness, and rode nine miles along the usual road to 
his house; where, though confined to his bed by a severe indisposition, I was 
received with great hospitality and kindness; had a neat bedroom assigned 
■me ; and was requested to consider myself as at home during the time I should 
find it convenient to stay in exploring this part of the country." 

The letter above mentioned, which is now before me, is worthy of tran- 
scription : 

"Forest, 20th May, 1810. 
" Sir. 

" It is very unfortunate that I should be so much indisposed as to be con- 
fined to my bedroom ; nevertheless, I cannot give up the idea of having the 
pleasure of seeing you as soon as you find it convenient ; the perusal of your 
first volume of Ornithology, lent me by General Wilkinson, has produced in 
me a very great desire of making your acquaintance. 

" I understand, from my boy, that you propose going in a few days to New 
Orleans, where you will see some small cabinets of natural history that may 
interest you. But, as I presume it is your intention to prosecute your inquiries 
into the interior of our country, this cannot be done better than from my house, 
as your head-quarters; where everything will be made convenient to your 
wishes. My house stands literally in the forest, and your beautiful orioles, 
with other elegant birds, are our courtyard companions. 

* The editor of Wilson's Poems, in quoting this paragraph, omitted the word such, 
thereby intending to convey a charge of the want of hospitality in the American charac- 
ter, which our author rarely experienced. Wilson's meaning is suflficientiy obvious 
without comment. 


" The bearer attends you, with a couple of horses, on the supposition that 
it may be convenient for you to visit us to-day ; otherwise he shall wait upon 
you any other day that you shall appoint. 

"I am respectfully, &c., 

" William Dunbar." 

This excellent gentleman, whose hospitality was thus promptly excited, has 
since paid the debt of nature ; and his grateful guest fondly cherished, to the 
last hour of his existence, the remembrance of those happy moments which 
had been passed in his society, and that of his amiable and accomplished 

To Mr. William Bartram. , 

''Philadelphia, September 2d, 1810. 

" Incessant labor since my return, to make up my loss of drawings, which 
were sent by post from Nashville, has hitherto prevented me from paying you 
a visit. I am closely engaged on my third volume. Any particulars relative to 
the history of the meadow-lark, crow black-bird, snow-bunting, cuckoo, paroquet, 
nonpareil, pinnated grouse, or blue grosbeak, if interesting, would be received 
by me with much pleasure. I have lately received from Michaux a number 
of rich specimens of birds, printed in colors. I have since made some attempts 
at this kind of printing, and have succeeded tolerably ^ell. 

" Michaux has published several numbers of his American Sylva, in Paris, 
with colored plates. I expect them here soon. 

" I collected a number of entire new species in my south-western tour; and 
in my return I visited several of the islaads off the Florida shore, where I met 
with some very curious land birds. 

"Mr. Dunbar, of Natchez, remembered you very well, and desired me to 
carry his good wishes to you." 

To Mr. Wm. Duncan, Frankford, Penn. 

"Philadelphia, February 12th, 1811. 
" So you have once more ascended the preceptor's rostrum, to wield the 
terrors of the taws and hickory/. Trying as this situation is, and various and 
distracting as its avocations sometimes undoubtedly are, it is elysium to the 
scenes which you have lately emerged from ; and as far transcends these lat- 
ter, as honorable independence towers abcTve despised and insulted servitude. 
You wish me to suggest any hints I may think proper for your present situa- 
tion. Your own experience and prudence render anything I could advise 
unnecessary, as it is all included in the two resolutions which you have already 
taken ; first, to distinguish, as clearly as possible, the whole extent of your 
duty; and, secondly, to fulfil every item of that to the best of your abilities. 
Accordingly, the more extensive and powerful these are, the greater good you 
will be capable of doing; the higher and more dignified will your reputation 
be ; and the easier and calmer will your deportment be, under every circum- 
stance of duty. You have but these two things to surmount, and the whole 
routine of teaching will become an agreeable amusem-ent ; and every closing 
day will shed over your mind that blissful tranquillity, ' which nothing earthly 
gives or can destroy.' 


"Devote your whole time, except what is proper for needful exercise, tc 
rendering yourself completely master of your business. For this purpose rise 
by the peep of dawn ; take your regular walk ;• and then commence your 
stated studies. Be under no anxiety to hear what people think of you, or of 
your tutorship ; but study the improvement, and watch over the good conduct, 
of their children consigned to your care, as if they were your own. Mingle 
respect and affability with your orders and arrangements. Never show your- 
self feverish or irritated; but preserve a firm and dignified, a just and ener- 
getic deportment, in every emergency. To be completely master of one's 
business, and ever anxious to discharge it with fidelity and honor, is to be 
great, beloved, respectable, and happy. 

" 1 could have wished that you had been accommodated with a room and 
boarding in a more private and retired situation, where your time and jreflec- 
tions would have been more your own ; and perhaps these may be obtained 
hereafter. Try to discover your own defects, and labor with all your energy 
to supply them. Respect yourself, and fear nothing but vice and idleness. If 
one had no other reward for doing one's duty, but the grateful sensations arising 
therefrom on the retrospection, the recompense would be abundant, as these 
alone are able to bear us up amidst every reverse. 

" At present I cannot enlarge further, my own mind being harassed with 
difficulties relative to my publication. I have now no further dependence on 
Murray ; and I mean to make it consistent both with the fame, and the inter- 
est, of Lawson to do his best for me. I hope you will continue to let me hear 
from you, from time to time. I anticipate much pleasure from the improve- 
ments which I have no doubt you will now make in the several necessary 
departments of your business. Wishing you every success in your endeavors 
to excel, I remain, with sincere regard, &c." 

In the early part of the year 1812, Wilson published his fifth volume; and, 
as the preface is interesting, we here insert an extract from it, for the gratifi- 
cation of the reader. 

" The fifth volume of this extensive work is submitted to the public with all 
due deference and respect; and the author having now, as he conjectures, 
reached the middle stage of his journey, or in traveller's phrase, the ' half-way 
house,' may be permitted to indulge himself with a slight retrospect of the 
ground he has already traversed, and a glimpse of that which still lies before 

" The whole of our Land Birds (those of the sixth volume included, which 
are nearly ready for the press) have now been figured and described, probably 
a very few excepted, which, it is hoped, will also shortly be obtained. These 
have been gleaned up from an extensive territory of woods and fields, unfre- 
quented forests, solitary ranges of mountains, swamps and morasses, by succes- 
sive journeys and excursions of more than ten thousand miles. With all the 
industry which a single individual could possibly exert, several species have 
doubtless escaped him. These, future expeditions may enable him. to procure ; 
or the kindness of his distant literary friends obligingly supply him with. 


" In endeavoring to collect materials for describing truly and fully our 
feathered tribes, he has frequently had recourse to the works of those p]uropean 
naturalists who have written on the subject ; he has examined their pages 
with an eager and inquisitive eye; but his researches in that quarter have 
been but too fre((uently repaid with disappointment, and often with disgust. 
On the subject of the manners and migrations of our birds, which in fact con- 
stitute almost the only instructive and interesting parts of their history, all is 
a barren and a dreary waste. A few vague and formal particulars of their 
size, specific marks, &c., accompanied sometimes with figured representations 
that would seem rather intended to caricature than to illustrate their originals, 
is all that the greater part of them can boast of. Nor are these the most 
exceptionable parts of their performances; the novelty of fable, and the wild- 
ness of fanciful theory, are frequently substituted for realities ; and conjectures 
instead of facts called up for their support. Prejudice, as usual, has in 
numerous instances united with its parent, ignorance, to depreciate and treat 
with contempt what neither of them understood ; and the whole interesting 
assemblage of the feathered tribes of this vast continent, which in richness of 
plumage, and in strength, sweetness and variety of song, will be found to exceed 
those of 6ny other quarter of the globe, are little known save in the stufied 
cabinets of the curious, and among thcabstruse pages and technical catalogues 
of dry systematic writers. 

" From these barren and musty records, the author of the present work has 
a thousand times turned with a delight bordering on adoration, to the magni- 
ficent repository of the woods and fields — the Grand Aviary of Nature. In 
this divine school he has studied from no vulgar copy ; but from the works of 
the Great Master of Creation himself; and has read with rapture the 
lessons of his wisdom, his goodness and his love, in the conformation, the habi- 
tudes, melody and migrations of this beautiful portion of the work of his hands. 
To communicate as correct ideas of these as his feeble powers were capable of, 
and thus, from objects, that, in our rural walks, almost everywhere present 
themselves, to deduce not only amusement and instruction, but the highest 
incitements to virtue and piety, have been the author's most anxious and 
ardent wish. On many of his subjects, indeed, it has not been in his power to 
say much. The recent discovery of some, and the solitary and secluded habits 
of others, have opposed great obstacles to his endeavors in this respect. But 
a time is approaching when these obstacles will no longer exist. When the 
population of this immense western Republic will have diffused itself over 
every acre of ground fit for the comfortable habitation of man — when farms, 
villages, towns and glittering cities, thick as the stars in a winter's evening, 
overspread the face of our beloved country, and every hill, valley and stream 
has its favorite name, its native flocks and rural inhabitants ; then, not a 
warbler shall flit through our thickets, but its name, its notes and habits will 
be familiar to all ; repeated in their sayings, and celebrated in their village 
songs. At that happy period, should any vestige or memory of the present 
publication exist, be it known to our more enlightened posterity, as some apology 
for the deficiencies of its author, that in the period in which he wrote, three- 
fourths of our feathered tribes were altogether unknown even to the proprietor? 


of the woods wtich ttey frequented — that without patron, fortune or recom- 
pense, he brought the greater part of these from the obscurity of ages, gave to 
each ' a local habitation and a name' — collected from personal observation 
whatever of their characters and manners seemed deserving of attention; and 
delineated their forms and features, in their native colors, as faithfully as he 
could, as records, at least, of their existence. 

" In treating of those birds more generally known, I have endeavored to do 
impartial justice to their respective characters. Ignorance and stubborn- 
rooted opinions, even in this country, have rendered some odious that are 
eminently useful; and involved the manners of others in fable and mystery, 
which in themselves are plain and open as day. To remove prejudices when 
they oppose themselves to the influence of humanity is a difiScult, but, when 
effected, a most pleasing employment. If therefore, in divesting this part of 
the natural history of our country of many of its fables and most forbidding 
features, and thus enabling our youth to become more intimately acquainted 
with this charming portion of the feathered creation, I should have succeeded 
in multiplying their virtuous enjoyments, and in rendering them more humane 
to those little choristers, how gratifying to my heart would be the reflection ! 
For to me it appears that, of all inferior creatures, Heaven seems to have 
intended birds as the most cheerful associates of man ; to soothe and exhilarate 
him in his labors by their varied melody, of which no other creature, but man, 
is capable ; to prevent the increase of those supernumerary hosts of insects that 
would soon consume the products of his industry; to glean up the refuse of 
his fields, ' that nothing be lost,' and, what is of much more interest, to be to 
him the most endearing examples of the tenderest connubial love and parental 

To Mr. F. a. Michaux. 

" Philadelphia, June 6th, 1812. 
" My Dear Friend. 

" I had the pleasure of receiving a letter from you, dated April 10, 1812; 
but, living at Mr. Bartram's, I have not yet seen Mr. Correa, the gentleman who 
brought it over. I have also had the great satisfaction of examining the plates 
of your four numbers of Forest Trees, which are beautifully executed ; and I 
regret most sincerely that my little knowledge of the French language* pre- 
vents me from perusing with equal satisfaction the interesting particulars you 
relate of their history, I expected long before this to be able to congratulate 
you on the publication of a translation of your work here, and [ announced 
the same in the preface to one of my volumes ; but sorry I am to inform you 
that no steps have yet been taken to put that design in execution, and I fear 
none will be taken for many months to come. Unless there be an evident 
certainty of profit, booksellers, in general, are very indiff'erent to publish 

* Wilson's ignorance of French was a great disadvantage to him ; and he never ceased 
to regret his want of instruction in a tongue, which is considered not only important to 
the fcholar, but indispensable to the naturalist. The number of works, in the various 
depnrtmpnts of Nntural History, which France annually produces, is truly astonishing ; 
and fortunate is that student whose acquirements in her language enable him to profit of 
the knowledge of this illustrious nation. 


works of any kind, however great their merits may be ; and the poor author's 
feelings are little regarded. Pew men have known this more experimentally 
than myself. I have sacrificed everything to publish my Ornithology — have 
written six volumes, and am engaged on the seventh. * * * 

" I have frequently conversed with Mr. Bradford about publishing a trans- 
lation of your Forest Trees ; and you may rest assured that, should it be under- 
tfiken, I will use all my influence in its favor. Were you here yourself, I have 
no doubt but it would be undertaken, and I think with success, for all who 
have seen it admire it. I procured our good frifend, Mr. Wm. Bartram, a 
sight of it, and he was greatly delighted with its appearance. One of my 
friends read a great part of it in English to him, and he was highly satis- 
fied. * * * 

" Dr. Barton has not yet published his General Zoology* which he has 
been announcing, from time to time, for so many years. It is much easier to 
say these things than do them. * * * 

" Mr. Wm. Bartram is still as you left him, and you are frequently the 
subject of our conversation at table. I have made many extensive excursions 
lately, and have discovered, in all, about forty new species of Land Birds, 
never taken notice of by any other writer. I am now engaged on the Water 
Birds ; and had just returned yesterday from the seashore when your letter 
was presented to me. Pr. H. and Mr. P. have both publicly announced your 
work, but, as no translation has been yet made, it has not been reviewed by 
any of our writers. * * * 

"Wishing you all the success which is justly due to the labors, journeys, 
and investigations, you have made in behalf of Natural History, I remain, &c." 

In September, 1812, Wilson undertook a journey into the eastern states, for 
the purpose cff visiting his subscribers, and settling accounts with his agents. 

To Mr. George Ord. 

" Boston, October 13th, 1812. 
" Dear Sir. 

" It is not in my power at present to give you anything more than a slight 

sketch of my rambles since leaving Philadelphia. My route up the Hudson 

afforded great pleasure, mingled with frequent regret that you were not along 

with me, to share the enjoyment. About thirty miles south of Albany we 

passed within ten miles of the celebrated Catskill Mountains, a gigantic group, 

clothed with forest to the summits. In the river here I found our common 

* This work, -which it was the intention of the late learned professor to entitle " Ele- 
ments of Zoology," after being ten years in the press, was advanced no further ihaxi fifty- 
six pages, in octavo, at the death of the author. It does not appear that he left much 
manuscript matter in continuation, consequently the public will derive no benefit from a 
work, which is too incomplete for publication. The printed sheets I have read, not only 
with satisfaction, but instruction-, and cannot forbear expressing my regret that an under- 
taking, which Dr. Barton certainly knew how to perform, and to which his learning was 
adequate, should have been suffered to perish in embryo. The art of concentrating his 
talents, was one for which the professor was not greatly distinguished. 


reed (Zizania aquaticu) growing in great abundance in shoals extending along 
the middle of the river. I saw flocks of Ked-wings, and some Black Ducks, 
but no Rail, or Reed-birds. 

^ll •(» "t- 'f 

" From this place my journey led me over a rugged, mountainous country, 
to Lake Champlain, along which I coasted as far as Burlington, in Vermont. 
Here I found the little Coot-footed. Tringa or Phalaro^e* that you sent to Mr. 
Peale ; a new and elegantly-marked Hawk ; and observed some Black Ducks. 
The shores are alternate sandy bays, and rocky headlands running into the 
lake. Every tavern was crowded with officers, soldiers, and travellers. Eight 
of us were left without a bed ; but having an excellent great-coat, I laid my- 
self down in a corner, with a determination of sleeping in defiance of the 
uproar of the house, and the rage of my companions, who would not disgrace 
themselves by a prostration of this sort. 

^ If> ^ JfC 

" From Lake Champlain I traversed a rude mountainous region to Connecti- 
cut river, one hundred miles above Dartmouth College. I spent several days 
with the gun in Groton, and Ryegate townships, and made some discoveries. 
From this I coasted along the Connecticut to a place called Haverhill, ten 
miles from the foot of Moose-hillock, one of the highest of the White Moun- 
tains of New Hampshire. I spent the greater part of a day in ascending to 
the peak of one of these majestic mountains, whence I had the most sublime 
and astonishing view that was ever afforded me. One immensity of forest lay 
below, extended on ' all sides to the farthest verge of the horizon ; while the 
only prominent objects were the columns of smoke from burning woods, that 
rose from various parts of the earth beneath to the heavens ; for the day was 
beautiful and serene. Hence I travelled to Dartmouth, and thence in a direct 
course to Boston. From Boston I passed through Portsmouth to Portland, 
and got some things new ; my return was by a different route. I have pro- 
cured three new and beautiful Hawks ; and have gleaned up a stock of remarks 
that will be useful to me hereafter. 

" I hope, my dear sir, that you have been well since I left you. I have 
myself been several times afflicted with a violent palpitation of the heart,f and 
want to try whether a short voyage by sea will not be beneficial. 

" In New England the rage of war, the virulence of politics, and the pur- 
suit of commercial speculations, engross every faculty. The voice of Science, 
and the charms of Nature, unless these last present themselves in the form of 
prize sugars, coffee, or rum, are treated with contempt." 

The excursion to the White Mountains, above mentioned, was succeeded by 

rather an unpleasant occurrence. The good people of Haverhill perceiving a 

stranger among them of very inquisitive habits, and who evinced great zeal in 

■ exploring^ the country, sagaciously concluded that he was a spy from Canada, 

* P. Fulicarins. 

t This distressing disease, so well known to the literary student, Wilson was often 
afflicted with. 


employed in taking sketches of the place, to facilitate the invasion of the 
enemy. Under these impressions it was thought conducive to the public safety 
that Wilson should be apprehended; and he was accordingly taken into the 
custody of a magistrate, who, on being made acquainted with his character, 
and the nature of his visit, politely dismissed him, with many apologies for the 

The publication of the Ornithology now advanced as rapidly as a due regard ' 
to correctness and elegance would admit. In order to become better acquainted 
with the feathered tribes, and to observe their migrations with more accuracy, 
as well as to enjoy the important advantages of a rural retirement, Wilson re- 
sided the better part of the years 1811-12 at the Botanic Garden of his friend, , 
Mr. Bartram. There removed from the noise, bustle, and interruption of the 
metropolis, he was enabled to dispose of his- time to the best advantage ; for 
when fatigued with close application within doors, to recruit his mind and body 
he had only to cross the threshold of his abode, and he at once found himself 
surrounded with those acquaintance, the observing of whose simple manners 
not only afforded the most agreeable recreation, but who were perpetually con- 
tributing to the great undertaking which he was earnestly laboring to complete. 

In the month of March, 1812, Wilson was chosen a member of the Society 
of Artists of the United States ; but in the spring of the succeeding year, a 
greater honor was conferred- upon him, by his being elected a member of the 
American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia. 

To Me. Wm. Bartram. 

" Philadelphia, April 21st, 1813. 
" My Dear Friend. 

" I have been extremely busy these several months, my colorists having all 
left me ; so I have been obliged to do extra duty this last winter. Next week 
I shall publish my seventh volume; and sha,ll send you your copy with the ear- 
liest opportunity. I am now engaged with the ducks, all of which, that I am 
acquainted with, will be comprehended in the eighth volume. 

" Since I had the pleasure of seeing you, I have hardly left the house half 
an hour ; and I long most ardently to breathe once more the fresh air of the 
country, and gaze on the lovely face of Nature. Will it be convenient for the 
family to accommodate me (as I shall be alone) this summer ? Please to let 
me know. 

" I lately received from the celebrated Mr. West, a proof impression of his 
grand historical picture of the death of Admiral Nelson — a present which I 
highly value. 

" Th€ Philosophical Society of Philadelphia have done me the honor to elect 
me a member, for which I must certainly, in gratitude, make them a commu- 
^nication on some subject, this summer. I long very much to hear from you; 
and, with my best wishes for your health and happiness, am very truly . 

" Your sincere friend." 

As soon as the seventh volume of the Ornithology was published, its author, 
and the writer of this sketch, set out on their last expedition to Great Egg 


Harbor.* There they remained for nearly four weeks, constantly occupied in 
collecting materials for the eighth volume, which Wilson had resolved should 
in no respects fall short of the preceding ; but which should, if possible, enhance 
his reputation, by the value of its details, and the beauty of its embellishments. 
Immediately on his return to Philadelphia, he engaged anew in his arduous 
avocation ; and by the month of August he had succeeded in completing the 
letter-press of th^ eighth volume, though the whole of the plates were not 
finished. But unfortunately his great anxiety to conclude the work, condemned 
him to an excess of toil, which, inflexible as was his mind, his bodily frame 
was unable to bear. He was likewise, by this flood of business, prevented from 
residing in the country, where hours of mental lassitude might have been 
beguiled by a rural walk, or the rough but invigorating exercise of the gun. 
At length he was attacked by a disease, which, perhaps, at another period of 
his life might not have been attended with fatal eifects, but which now, in his 
debilitated state of body, and harassed mind, proved a mighty foe, whose 
assaults all the combined efibrts of friendship, science and skill, could not repel. 
The dysentery, after a sickness of ten days, closed the mortal career of Alexan- 
der Wilson, on the twenty-third of August, 1813. 

It may not be going too far to maintain, that in no age or nation has there 
ever arisen one more eminently qualified for a naturalist than the subject of 
these memoirs. He was not only an enthusiastic admirer of the works of 
creation, but he was consistent in research ; and permitted no dangers or fatigues 
to abate his ardor, or relax his exertions. He inured himself to hardships by 
frequent and laborious exercise ; and was never more happy than when employed 
in some enterprise, which promised from its difficulties the novelties of disco- 
very. Whatever was obtained with ease, to him appeared to be attended, 
comparatively speaking, with small interest : the acquisitions of labor alone 
seemed worthy of his ambition. He was no closet philosopher — exchanging the 
frock of activity for the night-gown and slippers. He was indebted for his 
ideas, not to books, which err, but to Nature which is infallible ; and the 
inestimable transcript of her works, which he has bequeathed to us, possesses a 
charm which aifects us the more, the better acquainted we become with the 
delightful original. His inquisitive habits procured him from others a vast 
heterogeneous mass of information ; but he had the happy talent of selecting 
from this rubbish whatever was valuable. His perseverance was uncommon ; 
and when engaged in pursuit of a particular object, he would never relinquish 
it, while there was a chance of success. His powers of observation were very 
acute, and he seldom erred in judgment, when favored with a fair opportunity 
of investigation. 

Credulity has been aptly termed " the vice of naturalists ;" but it may be 
said, to the honor of our author, that it would be difficult to find one less 
infected with this vice than himself. His mind, strongly imbued with common 
sense, and familiar with the general laws of nature, could not be imposed upon 

■ 5 — 

* .Wilson ">aiJe six journeys to the coast of New Jersey, in pursuit of water-birds, whict 
abound in the neighborhood of Great Egg Harbor. 


by appearances ; and marvellous narratives, in that science which he had so 
much at heart, were the objects of his decided disapprobation. The ridicule 
and scorn with which he treated the hypothesis of the annual torpidity of 
swallows are well known j and he regarded with equal contempt those tales 
of the fascinating faculty attributed to serpents, which are yet but too well 
adapted to the taste of the multitude to be effectively discredited. 

Having been " something of a traveller," it would be reasonable to conclude 
that Wilson had been familiar with " novel sights;" but we nowhere find that 
he ever beheld a toad leaping into day from its rocky domicil of five thousand 
years, or a mermaid " sleeking her soft alluring locks" in the sun. That won- 
der of the " vasty deep," the Sea Serpent of Grioucester, had not attracted the 
attention of the public in his time; but if it had, there is little doubt that he 
would have promptly exerted himself to expose one of the grossest fictions that 
was ever palmed upon the credulity of mankind. 

That the industry of Wilson was great, his work will for ever testify. And 
our admiration is excited, that so much should have been performed in so short 
a time. When we take into consideration the state of our country, as respects 
the cultivation of the physical sciences ; and that in the walk of Ornithology, 
particularly, no one, deserving the title of a Naturalist, had yet presumed to 
tread; when we view the labors of foreigners, who had interested themselves 
in our natural productions, and find how incompetent they were, through a defi- 
ciency of correct -information, to instruct; and then when we reflect that a 
single individual, " without patron, fortune, or recompense," accomplished, in 
the space of seven years, as much as the combined' body of European natural- 
ists took a century to achieve, we feel almost inclined to doubt the evidence 
upon which this conclusion is founded. But it is a fact, which we feel a pride 
in asserting, that we have as faithful, complete, and interesting, an account. of 
our birds, in the volumes of the American Ornithology, as the Europeans can 
at this moment boast of possessing of theirs. Let those who question the cor- 
rectness of this opinion examine for themselves, and determine according to 
the dictates of an unbiassed judgment. 

We need no other evidence of the unparalleled industry of our author, than 
the fact, that of two hundred and seventy-eight species, which have been figured 
and described in his Ormtbohgy, * Jl/ty-six had not been taken notice of by 
any former naturalist yf and several of the latter number are so extremely rare, 

* The whole numher of hirds figured is three hundred and twenty. 

t In this statement of the number of new species, I followed Wilson's own catalogue, 
wherein they are indicated. But it is proper to observe, that Vieillot's " Oiseaux de 
L'AmMque Septentrionale" was never seen by our author ; otherwise he would have 
taken notice that some of his supposed nondescripts were figured and described in the 
above-mentioned costly work, which was published in Paris in the year 1807. Vieillot 
travelled in the United States, with the view of giving an account of our birds ; he pub- 
lished only two folio volumes, with colored plates ; his publisher failed ; and the copper- 
plates of the work, including those intended for the third volume, were sold at public sale 
for old copper ; and are now (1825) in Philadelphia, and the property of William Ma- 
clnre, Esq., the President of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 


that the specimens, from which the figures were taken, were the only ones that 
he was ever enabled to obtain. This expensive collection of birds was the 
result of many months of unwearied research, amongst forests, swamps and 
morasses, exposed to all the dangers, privations and fatigues, incident to such 
an undertaking. What but a remarkable passion for the pursuit, joined with 
the desire of fame, could have supported a solitary individual, in labors of 
body and mind, compared to which the bustling avocations of common life are 
mere holiday activity or recreation ! 

Independent on that part of his work which was Wilson's particular province, 
viz. the drawing and describing of his subjects, he was necessitated to occupy 
much of his time in coloring the plates ; his sole resource for support being in 
this employment, as he had been compelled to relinquish the superintendence of 
the Cyclopaedia. This drudgery of coloring the plates is a circumstance much 
to be regretted, as the work would have proceeded more rapidly if he could 
have avoided it. One of his principal difficulties, in effect, and that which 
caused him no small uneasiness, was the process of coloring. If this could 
have been done solely by himself; or, as he was obliged to seek assistance 
therein, if it could have been performed immediately under his eye, he would 
have been relieved of much anxiety; and would have better maintained a due 
equanimity ; his mind being daily ruffled by the negligence of his assistants, 
who too often, through a deplorable want of skill and taste, made disgusting 
caricatures of what were intended to be modest imitations of simple nature.* 
Hence much of his precious time was spent in the irksome employment of in- 
specting and correcting the imperfections of others. This waste of his stated 
periods of labor, he felt himself constrained to compensate, by encroachments 
on those hours which Nature, tenacious of her rights, claims as her own : 
hours which she consecrates to rest — which she will not forego without a strug- 
gle ; and which all those, who would preserve unimpaired the vigor of their 
mind and body, must respect. Of this intense and destructive application his 
friends failed not to admonish him; but to their kind remonstrances he would 
reply, that " life is short, and without exertion nothing can be performed." 

* In the preface to the third volume, Wilson states the anxiety which he had suffered on 
account of the coloring of the plates ; and of his having made an arrangement, whereby 
his difficulties on that score had been surmounted. This arrangement proved in the end 
of greater injury than benefit. 

The art of printing in colors is but little known in our country, and seldom practised ; 
and the few attempts that have been made have only partially succeeded. An experiment 
of this nature was undertaken upon several plates of this work, but with a success by no 
means satisfactory. When Wilson commenced his labors, everything relating to them 
was new to him ■ and the difficulty of fixing the proper tints, upon an uniform black 
ground, was the greater, inasmuch as he had to experiment himself, unaided by the coun- 
sel or example of those to whom the process was familiar. 

The writer of this narrative .has thought it his duty to state some of the embarrassments 
under which Wilson labored, in the department of coloring the plates, in order to obviate 
criticisms, which too many are disposed to make, on supposed faults ; but if all the diffi- 
culties were made known, there would be no fear for the result, aihong readers of cando' 
and understanding. ' 


But the true cause of this extraordinary toil was his poverty. By the terms 
of agreement with his publisher, he was to furnish at his own cost, all the 
drawings and literary matter for the work ; and to have the whole under his 
control and superintendence. The publisher stipulated to find funds for the 
completion of the volumes. To support the heavy expense of procuring ma^ 
terials, and other unavoidable expenditures, Wilson's only resource, as has been 
stated, was in coloring the plates. 

In the preface to the fifth volume he observes : " The publication of an 
original work of this kind, in this country, has been attended with difficulties, 
great, and, it must be confessed, sometimes discouraging to the author, whose 
only reward hitherto has been the favorable opinion of his fellow-citizens, and 
the pleasure of the pursuit. 

" Let but the generous hand of patriotism be stretched forth to assist and 
cherish the rising arts and literature of our country, and both will most assuredly, 
and that at no remote period, shoot forth, increase and flourish, with a vigor, a 
splendor and usefulness, inferior to no other on earth." 

We have here an affirmation that the author had -labored without reward, 
except what was conferred by inefficient praise ; and an eloquent appeal to the 
generosity and patriotism of his fellow-citizens. Seven illustrious cities disputed 
the honor of having given birth to the Prince of Epic song. Philadelphia first 
beheld that phenomenon, the " American Ornithology," rising amidst her 
boasted opulence, to vindicate the claims of a calumniated portion of creation ; 
and to furnish her literary pride with a subject of exultation for ages to come. 
Yet duty calls upon us to record a fact, which may cause our native city to 
feel the glow of shame. Of all her literati, her men of benevolence, taste and 
riches, seventy only, to the period of the author's decease, had the liberality 
to countenance him by a subscription, more than half of whom were tradesmen, 
artists, and persons of the middle class of society ; whilst the little city of New 
Orleans, in the short space of seventeen days, furnished SIXTY subscribers to 
the " American Ornithology !" 

Wilson was possessed of the nicest sense of honor. In all his dealings he 
was not -only scrupulously just, but highly generous. His veneration for truth 
was exemplary. His disposition was social and affectionate. His benevolence 
was extensive. He was remarkably temperate in eating and drinking, his love 
of study and retirement preserving him from the contaminating influence of 
the convivial circle. But as no one is perfect, Wilson in a small degree partook 
of the weakness of humanity. He was of the genus irritabile, and was obstinate 
in opinion. It ever gave him pleasure to acknowledge error, when the convic- 
tion resulted from his own judgment alone, but he could not endure to be told 
of his mistakes. Hence his associates had to be sparing of their criticisms, 
through a fear of forfeiting his friendship. With almost all his friends he had 
occasionally, arising from a collision of opinion, some slight misunderstanding, 
which was soon passed over, leaving no disagreeable impression. But an act 
of disrespect he could ill brook, and a wilful injury he would seldom forgive. 

In his person he was of a middle stature, of a thin habit of body ; his cheek- 
bones projected, and his eyes, though hollow, displayed considerable vivacity 


and intelligence; his complexion was sallow, his mien thoughtful; his features 
were coarse, and there was a dash of vulgarity in his physiognomy, which 
struck the observer at the first view, but which failed to impress one on 
acquaintance. His walk was quick when travelling, so much so that it was 
difiBcult for a companion to keep pace with him ; but when in the forests, in 
pursuit of birds, he was deliberate and attentive — he was, as it were, all eyes, 
and all ears. 

Such was Alexander Wilson. When the writer of this humble biography 
indulges in retrospection, he again finds himself in the society of that individual, 
whose life was a series of those virtues which dignify human nature ; he 
attends him in his wild-wood rambles, and listens to those pleasing observations, 
which the magnificence of creation was wont to give birth to; he sits at his 
feet, and receives the instructions of one, in science, so competent to teach; 
he beholds him in the social circle, and notes the complacency which he inspired 
in all around. But the transition from the past to the present quickens that 
anguish with which his heart must be filled, who casts a melancholy look on 
those scenes, a few years since endeared by the presence of one, united to him 
by a conformity of taste, disposition and pursuit, and who reflects that that 
beloved friend can revisit them no more. 

It was the intention of Wilson, on the completion of his Ornithology, to 
publish an edition in four volumes octavo ; the figures to be engraved in wood, 
somewhat after the manner of BewicTc's British Birds ; and colored with all 
the care that had been bestowed on the original plates. If he had lived to 
effect this scheme, the public would have been put in possession of a work of 
considerable elegance, as respects typography and illustrations ; wherein the 
subjects would have been arranged in systematical order ; and the whole at the 
cost of not more than one-fifth part of the quarto edition. 

He likewise meditated a work on the quadrupeds of the United States;, to 
be printed in the same splendid style of the Ornithology ; the figures to be 
engraved with the highest finish, and by the best artists of our country. How 
much has science lost in the death of this ingenious and indefatigable 
naturalist ! 

His remains were deposited in the cemetery of the Swedish church, in the 
district of Southwark, Philadelphia. While in the enjoyment of health, he 
had conversed with a friend on the subject of his death, and expressed a wish 
to be buried in some rural spot, sacred to peace and' solitude, whither the 
charms of nature might invite the steps of the votary of the Muses, and the 
lover of science, and where the birds might sing over his grave. 

It has been an occasion of regret to those of his friends, to whom was con- 
fided the mournful duty of ordering his funeral, that his desire had not been 
made known to them, otherwise it should have been piously observed. 

A plain marble tomb marks the spot where lie the ashes of this celebrated 
man ; it bears the following inscription : 


" This Monument 

Covers the Remains of 


Author of the 


He was born in Renfrewshire, Scotland, 

On the 6 July, 1766 ; 

Emigrated to the United States 

In the Year 1794 ; 

And Died in Philadelphia 

Of the Dysentery, 
On the 23 August, 1813, 
/ Aged 47." 

I shall now offer some brief remarks upon those writings of Wilson, which 
have fallen under my notice ; and in the performance of this task, it will 
become my duty to speak of a work, which I had hoped would be permitted 
to lie in oblivion, but which either the indiscreet partiality of friends, or the 
avarice of a publisher, has lately dragged forth to the view of the public. 
From the volume which the author published himself, in the year 1791, and 
which is entitled " Poems, Humorous, Satirical, and Serious," a selection was 
made, and published, in 1816, at Paisley and at London, under the title of 
" Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect; by Alexander Wilson, Author of 
American Ornithology." When I commenced reading this selection, it was 
my intention to note its beauties and defects; but when I found how greatly 
the latter predominated, it occurred to me that no good could result from a 
critical examination of a work which few would read, which contains nothing 
deserving of applause; and which, if it has hitherto escaped criticism, it is 
because it has been deemed unworthy of a deliberate investigation. 

The early writings of but few authors are worthy of being read, except for 
the purpose of tracing the progress of the mind. When one surveys the work 
in question with this view, one is astonished to find no indication of that genius 
which is so conspicuous in after-life; "a barrenness of invention, a poverty of 
expression, a deficiency of taste and judgmeat, are its characteristics. 

The author of the " Biographical Sketch," appended to the Selection* above 

* It appear.? by the advertisement affixed to this selection, that it " was made and 
printed under the direction of a gentleman who has since paid the debt of nature ;" and 
that "it was his intention to give the life of Wilson." If one were allowed to form a 
conjecture of the abilities of this editor, by the judgment displayed in his choice, one 
would have no reason to regret that his task was never accomplished. How he could 
admit such productions as " The Wasp's Revenge," and the " Verses on the Death of a 
Favorite Spaniel," one may well inquire. 

That Wilson himself entertained a mean opinion of his boyish publication, I am 
authorized to assert from the circumstance, that, though possessing a copy, he would 
never allow me to read it, notwithstanding I frequently urged him to grant me this favor. 

An itinerant Scotchman once called upon Wilson's executors, with a request that he 
might be allowed the privilege of printing an edition of his poems, urging, in justifica- 
tion of the proposition, his peculiar fitness, by his knowledge of the Scottish dialect, for 

Vol. I.— H 


mentioned, says, " We liave it from Wilson's acquaintance, that many of the 
poems he had written were committed to the flames, without a moment's con- 
sideration, because the subject had lost its interest with himself" ' The writer 
thus gravely accounts for this conduct : " This instability of conduct was, no 
doubt, the result of untoward circumstances, operating upon a mind ardent in 
the pursuit of something yet undefined, or uncertain of the path it should fol- 
low, to attain that eminence and independence after which it so ardently 
aspired." Would it not be a more rational supposition, that, as he advanced 
in knowledge, he was taught to reject what he could not but be convinced was 
unworthy of the public eye ? If we may form a conjecture of what was 
destroyed, by what was sanctioned by his own act of publication, there is cer- 
tainly no cause to mourn the loss; and one can hardly forbear wishing that 
the whole had met a similar fate. 

Of all the poetical productions of Wilson, written while in Scotland, his tale 
of "Watty and Meg" is the only one that has obtained popularity. In Cromek'a 
" Select Scottish Songs" it is thus introduced : " The reader is here presented 
with an exquisite picture from low life, drawn with all the fidelity and exact- 
ness of Teniers, or Ostade, and enlivened with the humor of Hogarth. The 
story excites as much interest as if it had been written in a dramatic form, 
and really represented. The interest heightens as it proceeds, and is supported 
with wonderful spirit to the close of the poem. 

"It must, have been in no small degree gratifying to the feelings of the 
author, who published it anonymously, that, during a rapid sale of seven or 
eight editions, the public, universally, ascribed it to the pen of Burns. The 
author of ' Will and Jean ; or, Scotland's Soaith,' had the candor to acknow- 
ledge to the editor that he was indebted to this exquisite poem for the founda- 
tion of that popular performance." 

This tale is certainly told in a spirited manner; but whether it is entitled 
to all the encomiums which have been lavished upon it or not, n^ay admit of a 
question. The incidents are all common-place : a dram-drinking husband seek- 
ing refuge, in an ale-house, from a scolding wife, who pursues him thither, and 
upbraids him, in no gentle terms, for deserting his home and family, and spend- 
ing his time and substance among drunken blackguards. A pot companion 
had advised him to try the experiment of threatening to abandon her, in order 
to bring her into subjection : a scheme which had had a happy effect in taming 

extending the fame of the author of the American Ornithology ! It is needless to add 
that this poor schemer was dismissed with the reply, that the fame of W'lson did not 
stand in need of his assistance. 

It is much to the honor of tlie American press, that it has abstained from reprinting 
the work, which, with unfeigned sorrow, I have been compelled, by a sense of duty, to 
animadvert so severely upon. But I must confess, that when a orother weaver, Eobcrt 
Tannahill, was introduced to our notice, I trembled for the fate of Wilson. 

As has been stated, "Wilson's poem of the "Foresters" was first published in the Port- 
Folio. Shortly after the decease of its author, a very modest and honest gentleman, living 
in Pennsylvania, undertook its republication ; and actually took oat a copyright for the 
same. That the poem was reprinted need not excite our wonder ; but that its sale should 
have been monopolized by a patent, is a trick of trade well worthy of remark. 


his own wife, who had given evidence of a shrewish disposition. The experi- 
ment being made by Watty, Meg is brought to terms. She solemnly promises 
to keep her temper — never again to scold her husband — never to follow him to 
the beer-house — never to put drunken to his name — never to look sad when 
he shall come home late — never to kick his shins, or pull his hair; — and lastly 
she consents, with tears, that their hard earnings shall be kept solely by him- 
self. The husband, rejoiced at this evidence of her humility and contrition, 
kisses her, and so the story ends. 

In the management of this tale there is little art displayed ; there is some 
natural description, it is true ; but the laws of poetical justice are but ill 
observed, when misconduct so glaring as that of Watty's is passed over with- 
out censure; and he is' allowed to triumph over the subjection of a poor 
woman, whose temper had become soured by his idleness and debauchery. 

Such stories are not calculated to do good; on the contrary, they may pro- 
mote vice ; and surely the vice of intemperance is no trifling evil in society. 
To blend instruction with amusement, we are told, should be the aim of all 
writers of fiction, particularly poets, whose influence over the mind has always 
been predominant. It is juFtly remarked, by an elegant writer,* that "there 
seems to be something in poetry that raises the possessors of that very singular 
talent far higher in the estimation of the world in general, than those who 
excel in any other of the refined arts." Then let poets take heed lest they 
misapply those talents, which, if properly directed, may be made subservient 
to the best interests of society. 

In justice to our author, I would remark, that, though fond of describing 
scenes of Jow life, with which his education and habits had rendered him 
familiar, yet he appeared to have escaped the contaminating influence of vulgar 
associates, when arrived at manhood. _ His conduct, in this country, was truly 
exemplary. This observation, though out of place, I here make, as it seems 
to belong, incidentally, to the subject upon which I have been commenting. 

The last edition of Watty and Meg, published under the inspection of the 
author, and by him corrected, was that given in the Port Polio for October, 

The poetic effusions of Wilson, after he came to America, afford evidence 
of an improved taste. He acquired a facility of versification by practice ; as 
his mind expanded with knowledge, his judgment received an accession of 
strength ; and he displays a fancy which we look for in vain in his juvenile 
essays. But we must be understood as comparing him only with himself, at 
different periods of his life. Whether or not he ever attained to positive 
excellence in poetry, may be a subject of dispute. 

In his " Solitary Tutor," we are presented with a picture of himself, while 
occupied in teaching a country school. The description of his place of resi- 
dence, his school-house, the adjoining forest, where many of his leisure hours 
were passed, and where he first commenced studying the manners of those 
birds, which he subsequently immortalized in his splendid work, is animated 
and graphical. The fabric of these verses reminds us of the Minstrel ; and 

* Melmoth's Fitzosborne, letter 53. 


that he had this delightful poem in his eye, we are convinced by some of the 
descriptions and sentiments. The stanza beginning, 

"In these green solitudes, one favorite spot," 

is accurately descriptive of a place, in Bartram's woods, whither he used to 
retire for the purposes of reading and contemplation, and where he planned 
his Ornithology. Of the faults of this little poem I will merely remark, that 
the initial quatrain is prosaic ; and that the last line betrays an unaccountable 
deficiency of taste. 

The lovers of rural scenery will learn with regret, that this fine piece of 
forest, consecrated to the Muses of poetry and natural history, by Wilson, is 
fast disappearing beneath the axe of the husbandman. Already is the brook, 
which was " o'erhung with alders and mantling vines," exposed to the glare 
of day; the favorite haunts of the Wood Thrush are invaded; and, ere long, 
like his lamented historian, his place will be known there no more. 

His poetical description of the Blue-bird, which originally appeared in the 
first volume of the Ornithology, has been copied into many publications, and 
still maintains its popularity. It contains some ill-constructed lines, and 
some rhymes so grossly defective, that we wonder how he could have tole- 
rated them in a production of only half a dozen stanzas. The last quatrain 
of the fourth stanza contains false syntax ; the construction is not regular and 
dependent, the adverb so being out of place. In the third stanza there is a 
grammatical error. Yet in this little poem, Wilson's happy talent of describ- 
ing rural scenery, and the habits of birds, is conspicuous. The picture is 
charming, and more so to an American, who knows how beautifully accurate 
are its outlines. We see the disappearing of the snows of Winter ; the busy 
labors of the fishermen ; the Wild geese laboring their airy way to the north ; the 
lone butterfly fluttering over the meadows ; the red maple buds bursting into 
life ; and, finally, " the herald of Spring," the well-known blue-bird, hailing 
" with his warblings the charms of the season." The warm sunshine brings 
out the frogs from their retreats, and their piping is heard throughout the 
marshes; the woodland flowers unfold their charms to the eye ; and the indus- 
trious housewives repair to their gardens. The useful bird is beheld flitting 
through the orchard in search of noxious insects, he drags the devouring grub 
from the newly-planted maize, and the caterpillars from their webs. The 
ploughman is pleased to behold him gleaning in his furrows, and the gardener 
suspends his labors to listen to his simple song. " When all the gay scenes of 
the summer are o'er," we observe him lingering about his native home, like a 
solitary outcast; we hear his melancholy adieu from the leafless branch, and 
mourn his departure as that of a beloved friend. 

Of all Wilson's minor effusions this pleases me the most. Its imagery is de- 
rived from objects that are familiar to us, but yet it is not trite ; none but an at- 
tentive observer of nature could have conceived it, and expressed it so naturally. 

It appears to have been his intention to concentrate all his poetical powers 
in his " Foresters," resting his hope of fame chiefly upon this production. 
That the time spent in constructing it, might have been better employed in 
writing a simple prose narrative of a journey, which was fruitful of interesting 


events, must be obvious to many of the readers of this poem, who are ac- 
quainted with the author's talents for. description, and his appropriate diction, 
of which we are presented with examples in his letters and his Ornithology. 
On first reading this production such was my impression, and a reperusal has 
not induced me to change my opinion. 
In his exordium he is not very happy : 

" Sons of the city I ye whom crowds and noise 
Bereave of peace, and Nature's rural joys." 

The noise of a crowded city may bereave its inhabitants of peace, but it is dif- 
ficult to conceive how it can have a tendency to deprive them of the delights 
of the country. 

In the account of his companions and himself he is too circumstantial, 
details of this kind correspond not well with the dignity of poetry : 

"An oilskin covering glittered round his head." 
"A knapsack crammed by Friendship's generous care 
With cakes and cordials, drams and dainty fare ; 
Flasks filled with powder, leathern belts with shot, 
Clothes, colors, paper, pencils, — and what not." 

Also in another place : 

" Full loaded peach trees drooping hung around, 
Their mellow fruit thick scattered o'er the ground ; 
Six cents procured us a sufficient store, 
Our napkins crammed and pockets running o^er.^' 

Many of his rhymes are bad, particularly in the latter part of the poem, 
from the carelessness of the composition of which, one is led to conjecture that 
he was weary of his protracted labor. We have tale and smile; sent and 
want; blest and past; bespread &nd. clad; and many other similar imperfec- 

The conclusion of the poem is a specimen of slovenly and inaccurate com- 
position : 

" And when some short and broken slumbers came 
Still round us roaring swept th' outrageous stream; 
Whelmed in the deep we sunk engulfed, forlorn ; 
Or down the dreadful rapids helpless borne ; 
1 Groaning we start I and at the loudening war. 

Ask our bewildered senses where we are." 

In common with those who are ignorant of naval affairs, he commits a 
blunder in the use of the technical term main-sheet, mistaking it for a sail : 

" They trim their thundering sail. 

The boom and main-sheet bending to the gale." 

The main-sheet is the rope by means of which the boom is governed, either 
eased ofF, or drawn in, as suits the state of the wind. 


In a poem consisting of more than two thousand lines, it would be strange 
if some touches of excellence could not be found, some passages which prove 
that the author not only possessed poetical ideas, but also was familiar with the 
art of poetical expression. In his description of the calm, smoky, autumnal 
weather, which, in America, is usually denominated the Indian Summer, we 
are presented with a beautiful image, which I do not recollect to have seen 
elsewhere : 

" Slow sailed the thistle-down along the lawn." 

The description of the Dutch farmer, and his habitation, would not disgrace 
the author of Rip Van Winkle. 

In the enumeration of the miseries of a country schoolmaster there is much 
truth j and the picture is vividly and feelingly drawn from nature. Few had 
more experience than Wilson of the degraded condition of a teacher, when 
under, the control of the vulgar and ignorant; a state compared with which the 
lot of the hewer of wood, and drawer of water, is truly enviable. 

The account of daddy Squares, the settler, and that of Pat Dougherty, the 
shopkeeper and publican, contain some humor. The latter is a disgusting 
exhibition of one of those barbarians, whom the traveller often meets with in 
the interior of our country ; and whose ignorance, bestiality and vice, have the 
tendency to disabuse one on the subject of the virtue and happiness usually 
attributed to the inhabitants remote from our large cities, which, instead of 
being the only nurseries of corruption, as is believed and affirmed, are the 
great schools wherein science, literature, piety and manners, are most effectively 
taught, and most beneficially practised. 

The sketch of the Indian hunter is entitled to praise, as being vigorous and 
picturesque ; and the description of the Bald or Gray Eagles, sailing amid the 
mist of the Cataract of Niagara, is a picture drawn with fidelity — it is poetical 
and sublime. 

After -this superficial review of the poems of Wilson, the question will 
naturally arise, ought we to consider him as one endued with those requisites, 
which entitle his productions to rank with the works of the poets, properly so 
called ? To write smooth and agreeable verses is an art of no very difficult 
purchase ; we see it daily exemplified by persons of education, whose leisure 
permits them to beguile a lonely hour with an employment at once delightful 
and instructive. But when one considers the temporary nature of the great 
mass of these fugitive essays, that they are read and remembered just so long 
as is the ephemeral sheet, or magazine, the columns of which they adorn ; one 
can form no high expectations of the long life of that poetry which seldom rises 
beyond mediocrity, which sometimes sinks greatly below it; and which is 
indebted, in no small degree, to the adventitious aid of a name, resplendent in 
another walk of literature, for that countenance and support, which its own 
intrinsic merits, singly, could never claim. 

I am aware that these brief observations on the poetry of Wilson, are not 
calculated to give pleasure to those of his friends, who have been in the habit 
of regarding him as one possessing no small claim to the inspiration of the 
Muses. But let such remember the determination of a profound critic, that 


" no question can be more innocently discussed than a dead poet's pretensions 
to renown ; and little regard is due to that bigotry which sets candor higher 
than truth."* 

When Wilson commenced the publication of his History of the Birds of the 
United States, he was quite a novice in the study of the Science of Ornithology. 
This arose from two causes : his poverty, which prevented him from owning 
the works of those authors, who had particularly attended to the classification 
and nomenclature of birds ; and his contempt of the labors of closet naturalists, 
whose dry descriptions convey anything but pleasure to that mind, which has 
been disciplined in the school of Nature. But the diflSculties under which he 
labored soon convinced him of the necessity of those helps, which only books 
can supply; and his repugnance to systems, as repulsive as they are at the first 
view, gradually gave place to more enlarged notions, on the course to be pursued 
by him, who would not only attain to knowledge, by the readiest means, but 
who would impart that knowledge, in the most effective manner, to others. 

As far as I can learn, he had access but to two systems of Ornithology — that 
of Linnaeus, as translated by Dr. Turton, and the " General Synopsis" of Dr. 
Latham.f The arrangement of the latter he adopted in his " General Index" 
of Land Birds, appended to the sixth volume ; and he intended to pursue the 
aame system for the Water Birds, at the conclusion of his work. 

The nature of his plan prevented him from proceeding in regular order, 
according to the system adopted, it being his intention to publish as fast as the 
materials accumulated ; and he being in some measure compelled, by motives 
of economy, to apportion his figures to the space they would occupy in the 
plates, he thereby brings to our view, birds not only of different genera, but 
of different habits, associated in a manner not wholly unnatural, but abhorrent 
from the views of those systematists, who account every deviation from method 
an inexcusable fault. 

With the art of perspective, it would appear, he was imperfectly acquainted ; 
hence there are errors in his drawings, which the rigid critic cannot overlook. 
These errors occur most frequently in the feet and the tails of his birds, the 
latter of which, with the view of being characteristically displayed, are fre- 
quent distorted in a manner, which no expediency can justify. One can hardly 
forbear smiling at the want of correspondence between the figure of the Sharp- 
shinned Hawk, and the fence upon which it is mounted, the former, instead 
of appearing of the size of nature, for which the author intended it, absolutely 
assuming the bulk of an elephant. 

But notwithstanding these defects, there is a spirit in some of his drawings 
which is admirable. Having been taught drawing from natural models, he of 
course became familiar with natural attitudes : hence his superiority, in this 

* Johnson's Preface to Shakspeare. 

f The library of Wilson occupied but a small space. On casting my eyes, after his 
decease, over the ten or a dozen volumes of which it was composed, I was grieved to find 
that he had been the owner of only one work on Ornithology, and that was Bewick's 
British Birds. For the use of the first volume of Turton's Linnffius, he was indebted to 
the friendship of Mr. Thomas Say ; the Philadelphia Library supplied him with Latham. 


respect, to all authors extant. Among his figures most worthy of notice, I 
would particularize the Shore Lark, Brown Creeper, House and Winter 
Wrens, Mocking-Bird, Cardinal Grosbeak, Cow Buntings, Mottled Owl, Mea- 
dow Lark, Barn Swallows, Snipe and Partridge, Rail and Woodcock, and the 
Rufied Grrouse; 

The introduction of appropriate scenery, into a work of this kind, can have 
no good effect, unless it be made to harmonize, both as to design and execu- 
tion, with the leading subjects; hence Wilson's landscapes, in the eye of taste, 
must always be viewed as a blemish, as he was not skilful in this branch of 
the art of delineation ; and, even if he had been dexterous, he was not author- 
ized to increase the expenditures of a work, which, long before its termination, 
its publisher discovered to be inconveniently burdensome. 

The principal objections which I have heard urged against the Ornithology, 
relate to the coloring ; but as the difficulties to which its author was subjected, 
on this score, have been already detailed, I will merely observe, that he found 
them too great to be surmounted. Hence a generous critic will not impute to 
him as a fault, what, in truth, ought to be viewed in the light of a misfortune. 

In his specific definitions he is loose and unsystematic. He does not appear 
to have been convinced of the necessity of precision on this head ; his essential 
and natural characters are not discriminated ; and, in some instances, he con- 
founds generic and specific characters, which the laws of methodical science 
do not authorize. 

There is a peculiarity in his orthography, which it is proper that I should 
take notice of, for the purpose of explaining his motive for an anomaly, at once 
inelegant and injudicious. 1 have his own authority for stating, that he 
adopted this mode of spelling, at the particular instance of the late Joel Bar- 
low, who vainly hoped to give currency, in his heavy Epic, to an innovation, 
which greater names than his own had been unable to efl'ect. 

J' Some ingenious men," says Johnson, " have endeavored to deserve well 
of their country by writing honor and labor for honour and labour, red for read 
in the preter-tense, sais for says, repete for repeat, explane for explain, or 
declame for declaim. Of these it may be said, that as they have done no 
good, they have done little harm ; both because they have innovated little, 
and because few have followed them." 

The recommendation of the learned lexicographer, above cited, ought to be 
laid to heart by all those whose " vanity seeks praise by petty reformation." 
" I hope I may be allowed," says he, " to recommend to those, whose thoughts 
have been perhaps employed too anxiously on verbal singularities, not to dis- 
turb upon narrow views, or for minute propriety, the orthography of their 
fathers. There is in constancy and ability a general and lasting advantage, 
which will always overbalance the slow improvements of gradual correction." 

As it must be obvious that, without books, it would be impossible to avoid 
error in synonymes and nomenclature, so we find that our author, in these 
respects, has rendered himself obnoxious to reproach. 

That he was not ambitious of the honor of forming new genera, appears 
from the circumstance, that, although he found the system of Latham needed 
reformation, yet he ventured to propose but one genus, the Curvirostra, the 


characters of which are so obvious, that one is astonished that so learned an 
ornithologist as Latham, should have contented himself with arranging the 
species appertaining to it with others, the conformation of whose bills is so 
dissimilar. ~It may be necessary to state that the Crossbills had been erected 
into a separate genus, under the denomination of Crucirostra, by an author 
whose works Wilson had no knowledge of; and I have reason to believe that 
even the generic appellation of Gurvirostra had been anticipated, by a writer 
on the ornithology of the northern parts of Europe. Brisson limited his 
genus Loxia to the Crossbills, and this judicious restriction appears to be 
now sanctioned by all naturalists of authority. 

There is a species of learning, which is greatly affected by puny minds, and 
for which our author entertained the most hearty contempt : this is the names 
by which certain nations of Indians designated natural objects. Hence we 
nowhere find his work disfigured by those " uncouth and unmanageable 
words," which some writers have recorded with a solemnity, which should seem 
to prove a conviction of their importance; but which, in almost every instance, 
are a reproach to their vanity and their ignorance. Can anything be more 
preposterous than for one to give a catalogue of names in a language, the 
grammatical construction of which has never been ascertained, and with the 
idiom of which one is totally unacquainted ? Among literate nations it is a 
rule, which has received the sanction of prescription, that when one would 
write upon a tongue, it is indispensable that one should qualify one's self for 
the task, by a careful investigation of its principles. But when the language 
of barbarians becomes the subject of attention, the rule is reversed, and, pro- 
vided a copious list of names be given, it is not required of the collector, that 
'he should have explored the sources whence they are derived : his learning 
is estimated by the measure of his labor, and our applause is taxed in propor- 
tion to his verbosity. 

The style of Wilson appears to be well adapted to the subjects upon ^hich 
he wrote. It is seldom feeble, it is sometimes vigorous, and it is generally 
neat. He appears to have " understood himself, and his readers always under- 
stand him." That he was capable of graceful writing, he has given us, in the 
preface to his first volume, which we here insert, a remarkable instance ; which 
is one of the happiest, and most appropriate, compositions that our literature 
can boast of. 

" The whole use of a preface seems to be, either to elucidate the nature and 
origin of the work, or to invoke the clemency of the reader. Such observa- 
tions as have been thought necessary for the former, will be found in the intro- 
duction ; extremely solicitous to obtain the latter, I beg leave to relate the 
following anecdote. 

" In one of my late visits to a friend's in the country, I found their young- 
est son, a fine boy of eight or nine years of age, who usually resides in town 
for his education, just returning from a ramble through the neighboring 
woods and fields, where he had collected a large and very handsome bunch of 
wild flowers, of a great many different colors; and presenting them to his 
mother, said, with much animation in his countenance, ' Look, my dear 'ma, 
what beautiful flowers I have found growing on our place ! Why all the woods 


are full of them ! red, orange, blue, and most every color. 0, 1 can gather you 
a whole parcel of them, much handsomer than these, all growing in our own 
woods ' Shall I, 'ma ? Shall I go and bring you more V The good woman 
received the bunch of flowers with a smile of affectionate complacency; and 
after admiring for some time the beautiful simplicity of nature, gave her wil- 
ling consent ; and the little fellow went off, on the wings of ecstasy, to execute 
his delightful commission. 

" The similitude of this little boy's enthusiasm to my own, struck me ; and 
the reader will need no explanations of mine to make the application. Should 
my country receive with the same gracious indulgence the specimens which I 
here humbly present her ; should she express a desire for me to go and bring 
her more, the highest wishes of my ambition will be gratified ; for, in the language 
of my little friend, our whole woods are full of them, I and I can collect hun- 
dreds more, much handsomer than, these!' 

In a work abounding with so many excellencies, it would not be difficult to 
point out passages of merit, any one of which would give the author a just 
claim to the title of a describer of no ordinary powers. 

We select the following description, from the history of the Wood Thrush : 
"At whatever time the wood thrush may arrive, he soon announces his presence 
in the woods. With the dawn of the succeeding morning, mounting to the 
top of some tall tree, that rises from a low thick-shaded part of the woods, he 
pipes his few, but clear and musical, notes in a kind of ecstasy ; the prelude 
or symphony to which strongly resembles the double-tongueing of a German 
flute, and sometimes the tinkling of a small bell. The whole song consists of 
five or six parts, the last note of each of which is in such a tone, as to leave 
the conclusion evidently suspended; the finale is finely managed, and with 
such charming effect, as to soothe and tranquillize the mind, and to seem 
sweeter and mellower at each successive repetition. Rival songsters, of the 
same species, challenge each other from different parts of the wood, seeming to 
vie for softer tones, and more exquisite responses. During the burning heat 
of the day they are comparatively mute; but in the evening the same melody 
is renewed, and continued long after sunset. Even in dark, wet and gloomy 
weather, when scarce a single chirp is heard from any other bird, the clear 
notes of the wood thrush thrill through the dropping woods, from morning to 
night ; and it may truly be said that the sadder the day the sweeter is his 

Perhaps my admiration of this passage may be dependent, in some measure, 
upon the association of ideas, having been accustomed to frequent the favorite 
haunts of this exquisite musician, which are "low thick-shaded hollows, 
through which a small brook or rill meanders, overhung with alder bushes that 
are mantled with vines." But I can truly declare that I could never read it 
in an audible voice, the intenseness of my feelings always overpowering me. 

He thus delightfully introduces his history of the Barn Swallow : " There 
are but few persons in the United States unacquainted with this gay, innocent, 
and active little bird. Indeed the whole tribe are so distinguished from the 
rest of small birds by their sweeping rapidity of flight, their peculiar aerial 
evolution' of wing over our fields and rivers, and through our very streets, 


from morning to night, that the light of heaven itself, the sky, the trees, or 
any other common ohjects of nature, are not better known than the swallows. 
We welcome their first appearance with delight, as the faithful harbingers and 
companions of flowery spring, and ruddy summer ; and when, after a long, 
frost-bound and "boisterous winter, we hear it announced that the 'Swallows are 
come !' what a train of charming ideas are associated with the simple tidings !" 

The following remarks on the current doctrine of the hybernation of Swal- 
lows are worthy of note. My object in introducing them into this place is 
twofold : to exemplify our author's talent for copious and equable composition ; 
and to afford myself an opportunity of adding my feeble testimony to his, on a 
subject which one should suppose would have been long ago definitively ascer- 

" The wonderful activity displayed by these birds, forms a striking contrast 
to the slow habits of most other animals. It may be fairly questioned whether 
among the whole feathered tribes, which Heaven has formed to adorn this part 
of creation, there be any that, in the same space of time, pass over an equal 
extent of surface with the Swallow. Let a person take his stand on a fine 
summer evening, by a new-mown field, meadow or river shore, for a short time, 
and among the numerous individuals of this tribe that flit before him, fix his 
eye on a particular one, and follow, for a while, all its circuitous labyrinths — 
its extensive sweeps — its sudden, rapidly reiterated, zigzag excursions, and 
then attempt, by the powers of mathematics, to calculate the length of the va- 
rious lines it describes ; alas ! even his omnipotent fluxions would avail him 
little here, and he would soon abandon the task in despair. Yet, that some 
conception may be formed of this extent, let us suppose that this little bird 
flies, in his usual way, at the rate of one mile in a minute, which, from the 
many experiments that I have made, I believe to be within the truth ; and that 
he is so engaged for ten hours every day; and further, that this active life is 
extended to ten years (many of our small birds being known to live much 
longer, even in a state of domestication), the amount of all these, allowing 
three hundred and sixty-five days to a year, would give us two millions one 
hundred and ninety thousand miles : upwards of eighty-seven times the cir- 
cumference of the globe ! Yet this winged seraph, if I may so speak, who, in 
a few days, and at will, can pass from the borders of the arctic regions to the 
torrid zone, is forced, when winter approaches, to descend to the bottoms of 
lakes, rivers, and mill-ponds, to bury itself in the mud with eels and snapping 
turtles ; or to creep ingloriously into a cavern, a rat-hole, or a hollow tree, 
there to doze with snakes, toads, and other reptiles, until the return of spring ! 
Is not this true, yc wise men of Europe and America, who have published so 
many credible narratives upon this subject ? 

"The geese, the ducks, the catbird, and even the wren, which creeps about 
our outhouses in summer like a mouse, are all acknowledged to be migratory, 
and to pass into southern regions at the approach of winter; — the swallow 
alone, on whom Heaven has conferred superior powers of wing, must sink into 
torpidity at the bottom of our rivers, or doze all winter in the caverns of the 
earth. I am myself something of a traveller, and foreign countries afford 
many novel sights : should I assert, that in some of my peregrinations I had 

cxxiv I-I^E OF WILSON. 

met with a nation of Indians, all of whom, old and young, at the commen*e- 
ment of cold weather, descend to the bottom of their lakes and rivers, and 
there remain until the breaking up of frost ; nay, should I affirm, that thou- 
sands of people in the neighborhood of this city, regularly undergo the same 
semi-annual submersion — that I myself had fished up a whole family of these 
from the bottom of the Schuylkill, where they had lain torpid all winter, car- 
ried them home, and brought them all comfortably to themselves again ; — 
should I even publish this in the learned pages of the Transactions of our 
Philosophical Society,* who would believe me ? Is then the organization of a 
swallow less delicate than that of a man ? Can a bird, whose vital functions 
are destroyed by a short privation of pure air, and its usual food, sustain, for 
six months, a situation where the most robust man would perish in a few hours, 
or minutes ?f Away with such absurdities ! they are unworthy of a serious 
refutation. I should be pleased to meet with a man who has been personally 
more conversant with birds than myself, who has followed them in their wide 
and devious routes — studied their various manners — mingled with them, and 
marked their peculiarities more than I have done ; yet the miracle of a resus- 
citated swallow, in the depth of winter, from the bottom of a mill-pond, is, I 
confess, a phenomenon in ornithology that I have never met with." 

The subject of the supposed torpidity of swallows has employed many writ- 
ers, but unfortunately too few of those, whose practical knowledge enabled 
them to speak with that certainty, which should always give authority to writ- 
ings on natural history. Reasoning d priori ought to have taught mankind a 

* Here there is a palpable allusion to a paper on the hybernation of swallows, which 
was published in the sixth volume of the Transactions of the American Philosophical 
Society. This paper was written by one Frederick Antes, and was communicated to the 
Society by the late Professor Barton. It is probable that Wilson had also read, the 
"letter on the retreat of house-swallows in winter, from the Honorable Samuel Dexter, 
Esq., to the Honorable James Bowdoin, Esq. ;" and that "from the Reverend Mr. Pack- 
ard to the Honorable Samuel Dexter, Esq.," both of them published in the Memoirs of 
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, of Boston, vols. 1 and 2. 

Such communications are not calculated to do honor to any learned institution ; and 
they ought to be rejected with scorn and reprehension. 

f Carlisle, in his lecture on muscular motion, observes, that, "animals of the class 
Mammalia, which hybernate and become torpid in the winter, have at all times a power 
of subsisting under a confined respiration, which would destroy other animals not having 
this peculiar habit. In all the hybernating Mammalia there is a peculiar structure of the 
heart and its principal veins." Philosophical Transactions for 1805, p. 17. 

"If all birds, except swallows," says Reeve, " are able to survive the winter, and they 
alone are so overcome by the cold as to be rendered torpid, the difference must be found 
in their anatomical structure, and in their habits of life. 

"Now, in the first place, it is certain that they have, in common with other birds, the 
three great functions of respiration, circulation, and assimilation : the similarity of their 
organs, and every circumstance in their mode of living, prove that they are subject to the 
same laws : they have also a very high temperature ; and are peculiarly organized for 
rapid and long flight. The size of their liings, the lightness of their bones, and the 
buoyancy of their feathers, render it absolutely impossible to sink them in water without 
a considerable weight ; and they die instantly for want of air." Reeve on Torpidity, 
p. 43. 


more rational opinion, than that which the advocates of hybernation have un- 
thinkingly promulgated. And it is not surprising that as experiments are so 
easy to be instituted, they should have been so seldom resorted to, in order to 
determine a problem which many may suppose to be intricate, but which, in 
effect, is one of the simplest, or most easy to be ascertained, of any in the 
whole animal kingdom. It is a fact, that all the experiments which have been 
. made, on the subject of the hybernation of birds, have failed to give counte- 
nance, in the most remote degree, to this irrational doctrine. 

From my personal experience, and from my earliest youth, I have been con- 
versant with the habits of birds, I feel myself justified in asserting, that, in 
the whole class Aves, there has never been an authenticated instance known 
of a single individual capable of entering into that peculiar state denominated 
torpidity. Be it observed, that the narratives of credulous travellers, and 
superficial observers, and newspaper tales, on this subject, are of no authority, 
and must be utterly rejected. And yet these are the only sources whence 
naturalists have drawn their opinions on the question of torpidity. It is to be 
regretted that the authority of Linnaeus himself should have given credit and 
currency to this opinion, and the more so since his example of sanctioning 
vulgar narratives by his acquiescence, without examination, has been followed 
by the majority of writers on ornithology, particularly those of Sweden, in 
which country, if we may place reliance on the transactions of the Academy 
of Upsal, the submersion of swallows is received as an acknowledged fact. 

Linnaeus nowhere tells us that he had ever seen a torpid swallow ; but what 
shall we say of the English translator of Kalm's Travels, the learned John 
Reinhold Forster, who positively asserts that he himself had been an eye wit- 
ness to the fact of swallows being fished up out of the lake of Lybshau, in 
Prussia, in the winter, and being restored to animation ! a circumstance as 
impossible, if we are allowed to consider anatomical structure as having any 
influence on animal existence, as that a human being could be resuscitated 
after such a submersion.* 

* I am unwilling to object falsehood to this accomplished traveller, and therefore must 
conclude that, in trusting to his memory, after a considerable lapse of time, he must have 
given that which he had received of another, as the result of his own experience. Men- 
tal hallucinations of this kind are not of rare occurrence. 

That persons of the strictest veracity are frequently deceived by appearances, there can 
be no doubt ; and therefore it becomes a source of regret when such individuals, in record- 
ing their remarks upon the phenomena of nature, omit those considerations, which, if 
observed, could hardly fail to guard them from error. Had our illustrious countryman, 
I'ranklin, when he thought he had succeeded in resuscitating a fly, after it had been, for 
several months, or perhaps years, embalmed in a bottle of Madeira wine, but exercised 
that common sense, of which he possessed so large a share, and bethought him to repeat 
the experiment, he would have soon discovered, that when the vital juices of an animal 
become decomposed by an acid, and thijir place supplied by a spirituous fluid, something 
more than the influence of solar heat will be requisite to reanimate a fabric, which has, 
in effect, lost that upon which existence mainly depends. 

The writer of this sketch has made several experiments upon flies, with the view of 
ascertaining the possibility of their being resuscitated after having been drowned in Madeira 
wine ; bit in every instance his experiments had a different result from Dr. Franklin's. 


Dr. Keeve, in treating of the migration of birds, makes the following judicious 
observations : " It is singular that this subject should still admit of doubt, when 
it seems so easy to be decided ; yet every month we see queries and answers 
about the migration of swallows; and every year our curiosity is tempted to be 
amused with marvellous histories of a party of these birds diving under water 
in some remote quarter of America. No species of birds, except the swallow, 
the cuckoo, and the woodcock, have been supposed to remain torpid during 
the winter months. And what is the evidence in favor of so strange and 
monstrous a supposition ? Nothing -but the most vague testimonies, and his- 
tories repugnant to reason and experience. 

" Other birds are admitted to migrate, and why should swallows be exempt 
from the general law of their nature ? When food fails in one quarter of the 
world, their instinct prompts them to seek it in another. We know, in fact, that 
such is their natural habit: we have the most unexceptionable proofs that 
swallows do migrate ; they have been seen at sea on the rigging of ships ; and 
Adanson, the celebrated naturalist, is said to have caught four European 
swallows fifty leagues from land, between the coast of Goree and Senegal, in 
the month of October. 

" Spallanzani saw swallows in October on the island of Lipari, and he was 
told that when a warm southerly breeze blows in winter they are frequently 
seen skimming along the streets, in the city. He concludes that they do not 
pass into Africa at the approach of winter, but remain in the island, and issue 
from their retreat on warm days in quest of food."* 

The late Professor Barton of Philadelphia, in a letter to the editor of the 
Philosophical Magazine, thus comments upon the first paragraph of the above 
remarks of Dr. Reeve : " It appears somewhat surprising to me, that an author 

He submerged them in the wine for different periods, viz. six months, eighteen hours, six 
hours, one hour ; and in the last instance they showed signs of life until ten minutes before 
they were removed for the benefit of the air and sun. Of three flies used in the last expe- 
riment, only one was reanimated, but after a few convulsive struggles it expired. 

Three flies were afterwards drowned in pure water ; and after having been kept in that 
state for seventeen hours, they were exposed to the sun for several hours, but they gave no 
signs of life. 

Upon a reperusal of Franklin's " Observations upon the Prevailing Doctrines of Life 
and Death," in which the story of the flies is inserted, it appears obvious to me, that the 
flies which "fell into the first glass that was filled," were either accidentally thrown into 
it, or had been in it unperceived, and on this supposition a recovery from suspended 
animation would have nothing in it which might be thought marvellous. 

* An Essay on the Torpidity of Animals, by Henry Reeve, M. D., p. 40. 

The author of this narrative, in the middle of December, 1820, was at Nice, on the 
Mediterranean ; and had the gratification of beholding the common European Swallow 
(.Hhundo rustica) flying through the streets in considerable numbers. M. Kisso, a well- 
known naturalist} and a resident of the place, informed him that swallows remained there 
all winter. ^ 

On the 20th February, 1818, being at the mouth of the river St. John, in East Florida, 
I observed several swallows of the species viridia of Wilson ; and, on the 26th, a flight 
of them, consisting of several hundreds, coming from the sea. They are the first which 
reach us in the spring from the south. They commonly arrive in Pennsylvania in the 
early part of March. 

LIFE OF WILSON.^ cxxvii 

who had so long had the subject of the torpidity of animals under his conside- 
ration, should have hazarded the assertion contained in the preceding para- 
graph. Dr. Keeve has certainly read of other birds besides the swallow, the 
cuckoo, and the woodcock, which are said to have been found in a torpid state. 
And ought he not to have mentioned these birds ? 

'■ In my ' Fragments of the Natural History of Pennsylvania,' I have men- 
tioned the common humming-bird ( Trochilus colubris) as one of those American 
birds which do occasionally become torpid. 

" In regard to the swallows, I shall say but little at present. I have, at this 
time, in the press, a memoir on the migration and torpidity of these birds. / 
am confident that I shall he abls to convince every candid philosopher, that 
great numbers of swallows, 0/ different species, do occasionally/ pass into a state 
of torpidity, more or less profound, not merely 'in some remote quarter of 
America,' but in the vicinity of our capital cities, where there are some men 
of genuine observation and inquiry, and who are as little prepense to believe 
the marvellous in natural history, as any philosophers elsewhere. 

"I do not suppose that all the swallows of North America become torpid. 
It is my present opinion, and it was my opinion when I published the ' Frag- 
ments' in 1799, that the swallows, in general, are migratory, birds. But sub- 
sequent and very extensive inquiries have convinced me, that the instances of 
torpid swallows are much more frequent than I formerly supposed they were ; 
and that there are two species of the genus Hirundo, which are peculiarly dis- 
posed to pass the brumal season in the cavities of rocks, in the hollows of 
trees, and in other similar situations, where they have often been found in a 
soporose state. These species are the Hirundo riparia, or sand swallow; and 
the S. pelasgia, which we call chimney swallow. There is no fact in orni- 
thology letter established than tbte pact of the occasional torpidity of these two 
species of Hirundo!"* 

It is not strange that the " very extensive" inquiries of our learned professor 
should have had a result so different from those of Wilson, an ornithologist 
infinitely better qualified than himself to investigate a question of this kind, by 
his zeal, his capacity, and his experience. Who those men oi genuine observa- 
tion and inquiry were, who resided in the vicinity o'f our capital cities, he did 
not condescend to inform us; if he had done so, we should be enabled to de- 
termine, whether or not they were capacitated to give an opinion on a subject, 
which requires qualifications of a peculiar kind. 

At the time in which the professor wrote the above-cited letter, I know of 
but two naturalists in the United States whose opinions ought to have any 
weight on the question before us, and these were William Bartram and Alex- 
ander Wilson, both of whom have recorded their testimony, in the most posi- 
tive manner, against torpidity. 

* Tilloch's Philosophical Magazine, toI. 35, p. 241. 

" Naturalists," says Dr. Barton in another place, "have not always been philosophers. 
The slight and superficial manner in which they hare examined many of the subjects of 
their science ; the credulity which has accompanied them in their researches after truth ; 
and the precipitancy with which they have decided upon many questions of importance ; are 
proofs of this assertion." Memoir concerning the fascinating faculty of serpents. 

cxxviii LIFE OF WILSON. 

The " Memoir on the Migration and Torpidity of Swallows," wherein Dr. 
Barton was confident he should be able to convince every candid philosopher 
of the truth of his hypothesis concerning these birds, never issued from the 
press, although so publicly announced. And who will venture to say that he 
did not, by this suppression, manifest his discretion ? When Wilson's volume, 
wherein the swallows are given, appeared, it is probable that the author of the 
"Fragments" was made sensible that he had been writing upon subjects of 
which he had little personal knowledge ; and therefore he wisely relinquished 
the task of instructing philosophers, in these matters, to those more capable 
than himself of such discussions. 

Naturalists have not been sufficiently precise when they have had occasion 
to speak of torpidity. They have employed the term to express that torpor or 
numbness, which is induced by a sudden change from heat to cold, such as is 
annually experienced in our climate in the month of March, and which fre- 
quently affects swallows to so great a degree as to render them incapable of 
flight. From the number of instances on record of these birds having been 
found in this state, the presumption has been that they were capable of passing 
into a state of torpidity, similar to that of the Marmots, and other hybernating 
animals. ^ 

Smellie, though an advocate for migration, yet admits that swallows may 
become torpid. " That swallows," says he, " in the winter months, have 
sometimes, though very rarely, been found in a torpid state, is unquestionably 
true. Mr. Collinson gives the evidence of three gentlemen who were eye-wit- 
nesses to a number of sand-martins being drawn out of a cliff on the Rhine, 
in the month of March, 1762." * One should suppose that Smellie was too 
good a logician to infer that, because swallows had been found in the state de- 
scribed, they had remained in that state all winter. A little more knowledge 
of the subject would have taught the three gentlemen observers, that the poor 
swallows had been driven to their retreat by cold weather, which had surprised 
them in their vernal migration ; and that this state of numbness, falsely called 
torpidity, if continued for a few days, would for ever have destroyed them. 

It is now time to resume the subject of Wilson's Ornithology, as the reader 
will, probably, consider that we have transgressed the limits which our digres- 
sion required. 

Dr. Drake, in his observations upon the descriptive abilities of the poet 
Bloomfield, thus expresses himself: " Milton and Thomson have both intro- 
duced the flight of the sky-lark, the first with his accustomed spirit and 
sublimity; but probably no poet has surpassed, either in fancy or expression, 
the following prose narrative of Dr. Goldsmith. ' Nothing,' observes he, 
' can be more pleasing than to see the Lark warbling upon the wing; raising 
its note as it soars, until it seems lost in the immense heights above us ; the 
note continuing, the bird itself unseen ; to see it then descending with a swell 
as it comes from the clouds, yet sinking by degrees as it approaches its nest; 
the spot where all its affections are centred ; the spot that has prompted all 

* Philosophy of Natural History, chap. 20. 


this joy.' This description of the descent of the bird, and the pleasures of it.s 
little nest, is conceived in a strain of the most exquisite delicacy and feeling."* 

I am not disposed to dispute the beauty of the imagery of the above, or 
the delicacy of its expression ; but I should wish the reader to compare it with 
Wilson's description of the Mocking-bird, unquestionably the most accomplished 
songster of the feathered race. 

" The plumage of the Mocking-bird, though none of the homeliest, has 
nothing gaudy or brilliant in it; and, had he nothing else to recommend him, 
would scarcely entitle him to notice; but his figure is well proportioned, and 
even handsome. The ease, elegance and rapidity of his movements, the anima- 
tion of his eye,"}" and the intelligence he displays in listening, and laying up 
lessons from almost every species of the feathered creation within his hearing, 
are really surprising, and mark the peculiarity of his genius. To these qualities 
we may add that of a voice full, strong, and musical, and capable of almost 
every modulation, from the clear mellow tones of the Wood Thrush, to the 
savage scream of the Bald Eagle. In measure and accent he faithfully follows 
his originals. In force and sweetness of expression he greatly improves upon 
them. In his native groves, mounted upon the top of a tall bush or half-grown 
tree, in the dawn of dewy morning, while the woods are already vocal with a 
multitude of warblers, his admirable song rises pre-eminent over every compe- 
titor. The ear can listen to his music alone, to which that of all the others 
seems a mere accompaniment. Neither is this strain altogether imitative.' His 
own native notes, which are easily distinguishable by such as are well acquainted 
with those of our various song birds, are bold and full, and varied seemingly 
beyond all limits. They consist of short expressions of two, three, or at the 
most five or six syllables ; generally interspersed with imitations, and all of 
them uttered with great emphasis and rapidity; and continued, with undimi- 
nished ardor, for half an hour, or an hour at a time. His expanded wings and 
tail, glistening with white, and the buoyant gayety of his action, arresting the 
eye, as his song most irresistibly does the ear. He sweeps round with enthu- 
siastic ecstasy — he mounts and descends as his song swells or dies away ; and, 
as my friend Mr. Bartram has beautifully expressed it, ' He bounds aloft with 
the celerity of an arrow, as if to recover his very soul, which expired in the 
last elevated strain.' While thus exerting himself, a bystander, destitute of 
sight, would suppose that the whole feathered tribes had assembled together, on 
a trial of skill, each striving to produce his utmost effect, so perfect are his 
imitations. He many times deceives the sportsman, and sends him in search 
)f birds that perhaps are not within miles of him ; but whose notes he exactly 
imitates. Even birds themselves are frequently imposed on by this admirable 
mimic, and are decoyed by the fancied calls of their mates; or dive, with 
precipitation, into the depths of thickets, at the scream of what they suppose 
to be the Sparrow Hawk. 

" The Mocking-bird loses little of the power and energy of his song by con- 

* Drake's Literary Hours, No. 39, edition of 1820. 

f The reader is referred to our author's figure of this bird, which is one of the mott 
spirited drawings that the records of natural history can produce. 
Vol. I.— I 


finement. In his domesticated state, when he commences his career of song, 
it is impossible to stand by uninterested. He whistles for the dog : Csesai 
starts up, wags his tail, and runs to meet his master. He squeaks out like a 
hurt chicken, and the hen hurries about with hanging wings, and bristled 
feathers, clucking to protect her injured brood. He runs over the quiverings 
of the Canary, and the clear whistlings of the Virginia Nightingale or Red- 
bird, with such superior execution and effect, that the mortified songsters feel 
their own inferiority, and become altogether silent; while he seems to triumph 
in their defeat by redoubling his exertions. 

" This excessive fondness for variety, however, in the opinion of some, 
injures his song. His elevated imitations of the Brown Thrush are frequently 
interrupted by the crowing of cocks; and the warblings of the Blue-bird, 
which he exquisitely manages, are mingled with the screaming of Swallows, 
or the cackling of hens ; amidst the simple melody of the Robin we are sud- 
denly surprised by the shrill reiterations of the Whip-poor-will, while the notes 
of the Killdeer, Blue Jay, Martin, Baltimore, and twenty others, succeed, with 
such imposing reality, that we look round for the originals, and discover, with 
astonishment, that the sole performer in this singular concert is the admirable 
bird now before us. During this exhibition of his powers, he spreads his 
wings, expands his tail, and throws himself around the cage in all the ecstasy 
of enthusiasm, seeming not only to sing, but to dance, keeping time to the 
measure of his own music. Both in his native and domesticated state, during 
the solemn stillness of night, as soon as the moon rises in silent majesty, he 
begins his delightful solo ; and serenades us with a full display of his vocal 
powers, making the whole neighborhood ring with his inimitable medley." 

I will give but one example more of our author's descriptive powers, and 
that will be found in his history of the Bald Eagle. As a specimen of nervous 
writing, it is excellent ; in its imagery, it is unsurpassed ; and in the accuracy 
of its detail, it transcends all praise. 

" This distinguished bird, as he is the most beautiful of his tribe in this 
part of the world, and the adopted emblem of our country, is entitled to par- 
ticular notice. He has been long known to naturalists, being common to both 
continents, and occasionally met with from a very high northern latitude, to the 
borders of the torrid zone, but chiefly in the vicinity of the sea, and along 
the shores and cliffs of our lakes and large rivers. Formed by nature for 
braving the severest cold ; feeding equally on the produce of the sea, and of 
the land ; possessing powers of flight capable of outstripping even the tempests 
themselves; unawed by anything but man ; aod from the ethereal heights to 
which he soars, looking abroad, at one glance, on an immeasurable expanse of 
forests, fields, lakes, and ocean, deep below him; he appears indifferent to the 
little localities of change of seasons ; as in a few minutes he can pass from 
summer to winter, from the lower to the higher regions of the atmosphere, the 
abode of eternal cold; and thence descend at will to the torrid or the arctic 
regions of the earth. He is therefore found at all seasons in the countries 
which he inhabits ; but prefers such places as have been mentioned above, 
from the great partiality he has for fish. 

" In procuring these, he displays, in a very singular manner, the genius and 


energy of his character, which is fierce, contemplative, daring and tyrannical : 
attributes not exerted but on particular occasions; but, when put forth, over- 
powering all opposition. Elevated upon a high dead limb of some gigantic 
tree, that commands a wide view of the neighboring shore and ocean, he seems 
calmly to contemplate the motions of the various feathered tribes that pursue 
their busy avocations below: the snow-white Gulls slowly winnowing the air; 
the busy Tringse coursing along the sands ; trains of Ducks streaming over the 
surface; silent and watchful Cranes, intent and wading; clamorous Crows, and 
all the winged multitudes that subsist by the bounty of this vast liquid maga- 
zine of nature. High over all these hovers one, whose action instantly arrests 
all his attention. By his wide curvature of wing, and sudden suspension in 
air, he knows him to be the Fish-hawk settling over some devoted victim of 
the deep. His eye kindles at the sight, and balancing himself, with half- 
opened wings, on the branch, he watches the result. Down, rapid as an arrow 
from heaven, descends the distant object of his attention, the roar of its wings 
reaching the ear as it disappears in the deep, making the surges foam around. 
At this moment the looks of the Eagle are all ardor; and levelling his neck 
for flight, he sees the Fish-hawk emerge, struggling with his prey, and mount- 
ing into the air with screams of exultation. These are the signal for our hero, 
who, launching into the air, instantly gives chase, soon gains on the Fish- 
hawk, each exerts his utmost to mount above the other, displaying in these 
rencontres the most elegant and sublime aerial evolutions. The unencumbered 
Eagle rapidly advances, and is just on the point of reaching his opponent, when 
with a sudden scream, probably of despair and honest execration, the latter 
drops his fish ; the Eagle poising himself for a moment, as if to take a more 
certain aim, descends like a whirlwind, snatches it in his grasp ere it reaches 
the water, and bears his ill-gotten booty silently away to the woods." 

Perhaps there is no similar work extant which can so justly lay claim to the 
merit of originality as Wilson's Ornithology. In books on natural history, in 
general, we rarely meet with much that is new ; and it is not unusual to behold 
labored performances, which are undistinguished by any fact, which might 
prove that their authors are entitled to any other praise than that of diligent 
compilers. But in the work before us, we are presented with a fund of in- 
formation of so uncommon a kind, so various, and so interesting, that we are 
at no loss to perceive that the whole is the result of personal application, 
directed to the only legitimate source of knowledge — Nature, not as she ap- 
pears in the cabinet of the collector, but as she reveals herself in all the grace 
and loveliness of animated existence. 

Independent of those pleasing descriptions, which will always insure the 
work a favorable reception, it has higher claims to our regard, by the philo- 
sophical view which it takes of those birds which mankind had, with one con- 
sent, proscribed as noxious, but which now we are induced to consider as aux- 
iliaries in agriculture, whose labors could not be dispensed with without detri- 
ment. A vagrant chicken, now and then, may well be spared to the hawk or 
owl who clears our fields of swarms of destructive mice; the woodpecker, 
whose taste induces him to appropriate to himself the first ripe apple or cherry, 
has well earned the delicacy, by the myriads of pestilential worms of which he 


has rid our orchards, and whose ravages, if not counteracted, would soon de- 
prive us of all fruit; if the crow and the black-bird be not too greedy, we may 
surely spare them a part of what they have preserved to us, since it is ques- 
tionable, if their fondness for grubs or cut-worms did not induce them to 
destroy these enemies of the maize, whether or not a single stalk of this ines- 
timable corn would be allowed to greet the view of the American farmer. 

The beauties of this work are so transcendent, that its faults, which are, in 
truth, mere peccadillos, are hardly perceptible j they may be corrected by one 
of ordinary application, who needs not invoke to his aid either much learning 
or much intelligence. A book superior in its typographical execution, and 
graphical illustrations, it would be no difficult matter to produce, since the in- 
genuity of man has advanced the fine arts to a state of perfection, sufficient to 
gratify the most fastidious choice ; but who could rival it in those essentials 
which distinguish it from all other similar undertakings, and which constitute 
it one of the most valuable offerings to natural science which taste and genius 
has ever produced ? 




Of the Smithsonian Institution. 

The following " Catalogue of North American Birds" has heen reprinted from the 
octavo edition issued by the Smithsonian Institution, in October, 1858. It was originally 
published in quarto, forming a jiortion of the report on North American Birds, in vol. iv. 
of the Reports of the Pacific Railroad Survey. Its republication in 8vo. had for its object 
to facilitate the labelling of the specimens of birds and eggs in the Museum of the Institu- 
tion ; we reprint it, as it serves most admirably the purposes of a cheek list of the species 
of American Birds. 

1. Caihartes Avra. Illig. 

Turkey Buzzard. 

2. Oaiharie.i Californianus. Cuv. 

California Vulture. 

3. Caihartes Atraius. Lesson. 

Black Vulture. 

4. Caihartes Burrovianvs. Cassin. 

Mexican Vulture. 

5. Falco Analum. Bonap. 

Duck Hawk. 

6. Falco Nigriceps. Cassin. 

Black Capped Hawk. 

7. Eypotriorchis Colnmbarius. Gray. 

Pigeon Hawk. 

8. Hi/poiri orchis Aurantius. Kaup. 

Orange-breasted Hawk. 

9. Hypotriorchis Femoralis. Gray. 


10. Falco Polyagms. Cassin. 

Prairie Falcon. 

11. Falco Candicans. Gmelin. 

Jer Falcon. 

12. Falco hlandicus. Sabine. 

Jer Falcon. 
I '5. Tinnunculus Sparverius. VieiH. 
S'PARRow Hawk. 

14. Astur Atricapillus. Bonap. 


15. Accipiier Cooperii. Bonap. 

Cooper's Hawk. 

16. Accipiier Mexicanus. Swains. 

Blue-backed Hawk. 

17. Accipiier Fuscus. Bonap. 

Sharp-shinned Hawk. 



Btiteo Swainsoni. Bonap. 
Swainson's Hawk. 
Buteo Bairdii. Hoy. 

Baird's Hawk. 

20. Buteo Calurus. Cassin. 

Black Red-tail. 

21. Buteo Insignatus. Cassin. 

Brown Hawk. 

22. Buteo Harlani. Bonap. 

Harlan's Hawk. 

23. Buteo Borealis. Vieill. 

Red-tailed Hawk. 

24. Buteo Montanus. Nuttall. 

Western Red-tail. 

25. Buteo Lineatus. Jardine. 

Red-shouldered Hawk. 

26. Buteo Elegaus. Cassin. 

Red-bellied Hawk. 

27. Buteo Pennsylvanicus. Bonap, 

Broad-winged Hawk. 

28. Buteo Oxypte)-us. Cassin. 

Sharp-winged Hawk. 

29. Buteo Cooperi. Cassin. 

California Hawk. 

30. Archibuieo Lagopus. Gray. 

Rough-legged Hawk. 

31. Archibuieo Sancti-Johannis. 

Black Hawk. 

32. Archibuieo Ferrugineus. Gray. 

Squirrel Hawk. 

33. Asturina Nitida. Bonap. 

Mexican Hawk. 

34. Nauclerus Fiircaius. Vigors. 

Swallow-tailed Hawk. 




35. Etanus Leucurvs. Bonap. 

White-tailed Hawk. 

36. Ictinia Mississippiensis. Gray. 

Mississippi Kite. 

37. Rostrhamus Sociahilis. D'Orb. 

Black Kite. 

38. Circus Eudsonivs. Vieillot. 

Marsh Hawk. 

39. Aquila Canadensis. Cassin. 
Golden Eagle ; Ring-tailed Eagle. 

40. Haliaetus Pelagicus. Siebold. 

Northern Sea Eagle. 

41. Saliaetus Washingtnnii. -Jard. 

Washington Eagle. 

42. Maliaeius Albicilla. Cuvier. 

Gray Sea Eagle. 

43. Haliaetus Leucocephalus. Savigny. 

Bald Eagle. 

44. Pandion Carolinensis. Bonap. 

Fish Hawk. 

45. Polyhorus Tharus. Cassin. 

Caracara Eagle. 

46. Craxirex Vnicinctus. Cassia. 

Harris' Buzzard. 
Strix Pratineola. Bonap. 
Barn Owl. 


Bubo Virginianus. Bonap. 
Great Horned Owl. 

49. Scops Asia. Bonap. 

Mottled Owl. 

50. Scops McCallii. Cassin. 

Western Mottled Owl. 

51. Olus Wilsonianus. Lesson. 

Long-Eared Owl. 
b'2. Brachyotus Cassinii. Brewer. 
Short-Eared Owl. 

53. Syrnium Cinereum. Aud. 

Great Gray Owl. 

54. Si/rnium Nebulosum. Gray. 

Barred Owl. 

55. Nyciale Richardsonii. Bonap. 

Sparrow Owl. 
50. Nyciale Albifrons. Cassin. 
Kirtland's Owl. 

57. Nyctale Acadica. Bonap. 

Saw-whet Owl. 

58. Athene Hypugaea. Bonap, 

Prairie Owl. 

59. Athene Cunicularia. Bonap. 

Burrowing Owl. 

60. Glaiicidium Gnomn. Cassin. 

Pigmy Owl. 

61. Nyctea Nivea. Gray. 

Snowy Owl. 

62. Surnia XJlula. Bonap. 

Hawk Owl. 

63. Conurua Carolinensis. Kuhl. 


64. Rhynchopsitta Pachyrhyncha. Bonap. 

Thick-billed Parrot. 

65. Trogon Mexicanus. Swainson. 

Mexican Trogon. 

66. Crotophaya Rvgirn.<iiris. Swainson. 

Black Parrot. 

67. Croiophaga Ani. Linn. 


68. Geococq/x Calif ornianus . Baird. 

Paisano; Chaparral Cock. 

69. Cocrygus Americanus. Bonap. 

Yellow-billed Cuckoo. 

70. Coccygus Erythrophthalmus. Bonap. 

Black-billed Cuckoo. 

71. Coccygus Minor. Cab. 

Mangrove Cuckoo. 

72. Campephilus Principalis. Gray. 

Ivory-billed Woodpecker. 

73. Campephilus hnperialis. Gray. 

Imperial Woodpecker. 

74. Picus Villosiis. Linn. 

Hairy Woodpecker. 

75. Picus Harrisii. Aud. 

Harris' Woodpecker. 

76. Picus Pubescens. Linn. 

Downy Woodpecker. 

77. Picus Gairdneri. Aud. 

Gairdner's Woodpecker. 

78. Picus Nuttalli. Gambel. 

Nuttall's Woodpecker. 

79. Picus Scalaris. Wagler. 

Texas Sapsucker. 

80. Picus Borealis. Vieill. 

Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. 

81. Picus Albolarvatus. Baird. 

White-headed Woodpecker. 

82. Picnides Aj;ctinus. Gray. 

Three-toed Woodpecker. 

83. Picoides Hirsuius. Gray. 
Banded three-toed Woodpecker. 

84. Picoides Dorsalis. Baird. 
Striped three-toed Woodpecker. 

85. Sphyropicus Varius. Baird. 


86. Sphyropicus Nuchalis. Baird. 

Red-throated Woodpecker. 

87. Sphyropicus Ruber. Baird. 

Red-breasted Woodpecker. 

88. Sphyropicus Willi amsonii. Baird. 

Williamson's Woodpecker. 

89. Sphyropicus Thyroideus. Baird. 

Brown-headed Woodpecker. 

90. Hylotomus Pileatus. Baird. 

Black Woodpecker. 

91. Centurus Carolinus. Bonap. 

Red-bellied Woodpecker. 

92. Centurus Flaviventris. Swains. 

Yellow-bellied AVoodpecker. 

93. Centurus Vropygialis. Baird. 

Gila Woodpecker. 

94. Melanerpes Erythrocephalvs. Swains 

Red-headed Woodpecker. 



95. Melanerpes Formicivorus. Bonap. 

California Woodpecker. 

96. Melanerpes Turqiiatus. Bonap. 

Lewis's Woodpecker. 

97. Colaptes Auratus. Swains. 

Yellow-shafted Flicker. 

98. Colaptes Mexicanus. Swains. 

Red-shafted Flicker. 
98a. Colaptes Hyhiidus. Baird. 
Hybrid Woodpecker. 

99. Colaptes Chrysoides. Baird. 
100. Lampnrnis Mango. Swains. 

Mango Humming Bird. 
lOL Ti-ochilus Colubris. Linn. 
Humming Bird. 

102. Trochilus Alcxandri. Bourc. & Mul. 
Black-chinned Humming Bird. 

103. Selasphoms Rv/us. Swains. 

Rufous Hu.mming Bird. 

104. Selasphorus Platycenis. Gould. 
Broad-tailed Humming Bird. 

105. Atthis Anna. Reichenb. 

Anna Humming Bird. 

106. Atthis Cnstae. Reichenb. 

Ruffed Humming Bird. 

107. Pavyptila Mdannleuca. Baird. 

White-throated Sb'ift. 

108. Neplwecetes Niger. Baird. 

Black Swift. 

109. Chaetura Pelasgia. Staph. 

Chimney Swallow. 

110. Chaetura vauxii. De Kay. 

Oregon Swift. 

111. Antrostonius Carolinensis. Gould. 


112. Antrnstomus Vocifa'us. Bonap. 


113. Antrii.s.'omus NuttalU. Cassin. 


114. Chorddles Fnpeiue. Baird. 

Night Hawk. 

115. Chordeiles Henryi. Cassin. 

Western Night Hawk. 

116. Chordeiles Texensis. Lawrence. 

Texas Night Hawk. 
116a. Nyctidromus. 


117. Ceryle Alcyon. Boie. 

Belted King-fisher. 

118. Ceryle Americana. Boie. 

Texas King-fisher. 

119. Momotus Caeruliceps. Gould. 


120. Pachyrhawpkus Aglaiae. Lafresn. 


121. Saihmidurus Major. Cab. 


122. Milvulus Tyrannus. Bonap. 

Fork-tailed Flycatcher. 

123. Milvulus Forficatus. Swains. 


124. Tyrannus Carolinensis. Baird. 

King Bird ; Bee' Bird. 

125. Tyrannus Dominicensis. Rich. 

Gray King Bird. 

126. Tyrannus Verticalis. Say. 

Arkansas Flycatcher. 

127. Tyrannus Vociferans. Swaina. 

Cassin's Flycatcher. 

128. Tyrannus Courhii. Baird. 

Couch's Flycatcher. 

129. Tyrannus Melnncholicus. Vieill. 

Silent Flycatcher. 

130. Myiarchns Crinitus. Cab. 

Great Crested Flycatcher. 

131. Myiarchus Mexii-anus. Baird. 

Ash-throated Flycatcher. 

132. Myiarchus Conperi. Baird. 

Mexican Flycatcher. 

133. Myiarchus Lawrencii. Baird. 

Lawrence's Flycatcher. 

134. Sayornis Nigricans. Bonap. 

Black Flycatcher. 

135. Sayornis Fuscus. Baird. 


136. Sayornis Sayus. Baird. 

Say's Flycatcher. 

137. Contnpus Borealis. Baird. 

Olive-sided Flycatcher. 

138. Contopus Richardsonii. Baird. 

Short-legged Pewee. 

139. Contopus Virens. Cab. 

Wood Pewee. 

140. Empidonax Traillii. Baird. 

Traill's Flycatcher. 

141. Empidonax Piisillus. Cab. 

Little Flycatcher. 

142. Empidonax Minimus. Baird. 

Least Flycatcher. 

143. Empidonax Acadirus. Baird. 

Green-crested Flycatcher. 

144. Empidonax Flavicentris Baird. 
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher. 

144a. Empidonax Difficilis. Baird. 
Western Flycatcher, 

145. Empidonax Hammondii. Baird. 

Hammond's Flycatcher. 

146. Empidonax Obscurns. Baird. 

Wright's Flycatcher. 

147. Pyrocephalus Rubineus. Gray. 

Red Flycatcher. 

148. Turdus Mustelinus. Gm. 

Wood Thrush. 

149. Turdus Pallasi. Cab. 

Hermit Thrush. 
149a. Turdus Silens. Swains. 
Silent Tprush. 

150. Turdus Nanus. Aud. 

Dwarf Thrush. 



151. Tardus Fuscescens. Stephens. 

Wilson's Thrush. 

152. Tardus Ustulahis. Nuttall. 

Oregon Thrush. 

153. Tardus Swainsonii. Cab. 

Olive-backed Thrush. 

154. Tardus Alicice. Baird. 

Grat-cheeked Thrush. 

155. Tardus Migratorius. Linn. 


156. Turdus Naevius. Gmelin. 

Varied Thrush. 

157. Saxicola (Enanthe. Bechst. 

Stone Chat. 

158. Sialia Sialis. Baird. 

Blue Bird. 

159. Sialia Mexicana. Swains. 

Western Blue Bird. 

160. Sialia Arctica. Swains. 
Rooky Mountain Blue Bird. 

161. Regulus Calendula. Light. 


162. Regulus Sairapa. Light. 

Golden-crested Wren. 

163. Regulus Cuvieri. Aud. 

Cuvier's Golden Crest. 

164. Hydrobaia Mexicana. Baird. 

Water Ouzel. 

165. Anthvs Ludnvicianus. Light. 


166. Neocorys Spragueii. Sclater. 

Missouri Skylark. 

167. Mnioiilla Varia. Vieill. 

Black and White Creeper. 

167a. Var. Mnioiilta Longirostris. Baird. 

Long-billed Creeper. 

168. Parula Americana. Bonap. 

Blue Yellow Back. 

169. Protonotaria Citrea. Baird. 
Prothonotary Warbler. 

170. Geothlypis Trichas. Cab. 

Maryland Yellow-throat. 

171. Geothlypis Velatus. 'Cab. 

Gray-headed Warbler. 

172. Geothlypis Philadelphia. Baird. 

Mourning Warbler. 

173. Geothlypis Macgillivraryi. Baird. 

Macgillivray's Warbler. 

174. Oporornis Agilis. Baird. 

Connecticut Warbler. 

175. Oporornis Formosus. Baird. 

Kentucky Warbler, 

176. Icieria Viridis. Bonap. 

Yellow-breasted Chat. 

177. Icteria Longicauda, Lawr. 

Long-tailed Chat. 

178. Helmitherus Vermivorus. Bonap. 

Worm-eating Warbler. 

179. Helmitherus Swainsonii. Bonap. 

Swainson's Warbler. 

180. Helminthophaga Pinus. Baird. 
Blue-winged Yellow Warbler. 

181. Helminthophaga Chrysoptera. Bon. 

G0LD.EN-WINGED Warbler. 

182. Helminthophaga Bachmani. Cab. 

Bachman's Warbler. 


Helminthophaga Rujicapilla. 
Nashville Warbler. 



183a. Helminthophaga Virginiae. 
Mountain Warbler. 

184. Helminthophaga Celata. Baird. 

Orange-crowned Warbler. 

185. Helminthophaga Peregrina. Cab. 

Tennessee Warbler. 

186. Seiurus Aurocapillus . Swains. 

Golden-crowned Thrush. 

187. Seiurus Noveboracensis. Nutt. 

Water Thrush. 

188. Seiurus Ludovicianus. Bonap. 
Large-billed Water Thrush. 

189. Dendroica Virens. Baird. 
Black-Throated Green Warbler. 

190. Dendroica Occidentalis. Baird. 

Western Warbler. 

191. Dendroica Townsendii. Baird, 

Townsend's Warbler. 

192. Dendroica Kigrescens. Baird. 
Black-throated Gray Warbler. 

193. Dendroica Canadensis. Baird. 
Black-throated Blue Warbler. 

194. Dendroica Coronata. Gray. 

Yellow-rump Warbler. 

195. Dendroica Audubonii. Baird. 

Audubon's Warbler. 

196. Dendroica Blackburniae. Baird. 

Blackburnian Warbler. 

197. Dendroica Castanea. Baird. 

Bay-breasted Warbler. 

198. Dendroica Pinu.t. Baird. 

Pine-creeping Warbler. 

199. Dendroica Montana. Baird. 

Blue Mountain Warbler. 

200. Dendroica Penn.fylvanica. Baird. 

Chestnut-sided Warbler. 

201. Dendroica Caerulea. Baird. 

Blue Warbler. 

202. Dendroica Striata. Baird. 

Black-Poll Warbler. 

203. Dendroica Aesiiva. Baird. 

Yellow Warbler. 

204. Dendroica Maculosa. Baird. 
Black and Yellow Warbler. 

205. Dendroica Kirtlandii. Baird. 

Kirtland's Warbler. 

206. Dendroica Tigrina. Baird. 

Cape May Warbler. 

207. Dendroica Carbonata. Baird. 

Carbonated Warbler. 

208. Dendroica Palmarum. Baird. 

Yellow Red-Poll. 


209. Dendroica Supereiliosa. Baird. 
Yellow-throated Warbler. 

210. Dendroica Discolor. Baird. 

Prairie Warbler. 

211. Myiodiocles Mitratus. Aud. 

Hooded Warbler. 

212. Myiodioctes Minutus. Baird. 

Small-headed Flycatcher. 

213. Myiodioctes Pusillus. Bonap. 
Green Blackcap Fltcatcher. 

214. Myiodioctes Canadensis. Aud. 

Canada Flycatcper. 

215. Myiodioctes Bonapartii. Aud. 

Bonaparte's Flycatcher. 

216. Cardellina Rubra. Bonap. 

Vermilion Flycatcher. 

217. Setophaga liuticilla. Swains. 


218. Setophaqa Picta. Swains. 

Painted Flycatcher. 

219. Setophaga Miniata. Swains. 

Red-bellied Flycatcher. 

220. Pyranga Rubra. Vieill. 

Scarlet Tanager. 

221. Pyranga Estiva. Vieill. 

Summer Red Bird. 

222. Pyranga Hepatica. Swains. 

Rocky Mountain Tanager. 

223. Pyranga Ludoviciana. Bonap. 

Louisiana Tanager. 

224. Euphonia Elegantissima. Gray. 

Blue-headed Tanager. 

225. Mirundo Horreorum. Barton. 

Barn Swallow. 

226. Hirundo Lunifrons. Say. 

Cliff Swallow. 

227. Hirundo Bicolor. Vieill. 

White-bellied Swallow. 

228. Hirundo Thalassina. Swains. 

Violet Green Swallow. 

229. Cotyle Riparia. Boie. 

Bank Swallow. 

230. Cotyle Serripennis. Bonap. 


231. Progne Purpurea. Boie. 

Purple Martin. 

231a. Progne 


232. Ampelis Garrulus. Linn. 

Wax Wing. 

233. Ampelis Cedrorum. Baird. 

Cedar Bird. 

234. Phainopepla Nitens. Solater. 

Black-crested Flycatcher. 

235. Myiadestes Townsendii. Cab. 

Townsend's Flycatcher. 

236. Colli/rio Bnrealis. Baird. 

Great Northern Shrike. 
237 CoUyrio Lndovicianus. Baird. 
Loggerhead Shrike. 

238. CoUyrio Excuhiioroides. Baird. 

White-rumped Shrike. 

239. CoUyrio Elegans. Baird. 

White-winged Shrike. 

240. Vireo Olivaccus. Vieill. 

Red-eyed Flycatcher. 

241. Vireo Flavoviridis. Casein. 

Yellow-green Vireo. 

242. Vireo Virescens. Vieill. 

Bartram's Vireo. 

243. Vireo Altiloquus. Gray. 

Whip Tom Kelly. 

244. Vireo Philadelphicus. Cassin. 

Philadelphia Vireo. 

245. Vireo Gilvus. Bonap. 

Warbling Flycatcher. 

246. Vireo Belli. Aud. 

Bell's Vireo. 

247. Vireo Atricapillus. Woodh. 

Black-headed Flycatcher. 

248. Vireo Noveboracensis. Bonap. 

White-eyed Vireo. 

249. Vireo Huttoni. Cass. 

Button's Flycatcher. 

250. Vireo Solitarins. Vieill. 

Blue-headed Flycatcher. 

251. Vireo Cassinii, Xantus. 

Cassin's Vireo. 
2.52. Vireo Flaoifrons. Vieill. 

Yellow-throated Flycatcher. 

253. Mimus Polyglottus. Boie. 

Mocking Bird. 
253a. Var. Mimus Caudatiis. Baird. 
Long-tailed Mocker. 

254. Mimus Carolinensis. Gray. 

Cat Bird. 

255. Oreoscoptes Montanus. Baird. 

Mountain Mocking Bird. 

256. Harporhynchus Redivivus. Cab. 

California Thrush. 

257. Harporhynchus Lecontii. Bonap. 

Leconte's Thrush. 

258. Harporhynchus Crissalis. Henry. 

Red-vented Thrush. 

259. Harporhynchus Curvirostris. Cab. 

Curve-billed Thrush. 
259a. Harporhynchus Vetula. Baird. 
Mexican Thrush, 

260. Harporhynchus Longirostris. Cab. 

'Texas Thrasher. 

261. Harporhynchus Rufus. Cab. 

Brown Thrush. 

261a. Harporhynchus Longicauda. Bon 

Long-tailed Thrush. 

262. Campylorhynchus Brunneicapillus . 


263. Catherpes Mexicanus. Baird. 

White-throated Wren. 

264. Salpinctes Obsoletus. Cab. 

Rock Wren. 



265. Thryothorus Ludovicianus. BoDap. 

Great Carolina Wren. 

266. Thryothorus Berlandieri. Couch. 

Berlandiek's Wren. 

267. Thryothorus Bewiclii. Bonap. 

Bewick's When. 

268. Cistothorus Falusiris. Cab. 

Long-billed Marsh Wren. 

269. Cistothorus Stdlaris. Cab. 
Short-billed Marsh Wren. 

270. Troglodytes ^don. Vieill. 

House Wren. 

271. Troglodytes Parkmanni. Aud. 

Parkman's Wren. 

272. Troglodytes Americanus. Aud. 

Wood Wren. 

273. Troglodytes Hyemalis. Vieill. 

Winter Wren. 

274. ChamcBa Fasciata. Gambel. 

Ground Tit. 

275. Certhia Americana. Bonap. 

American Creeper. 

276. Certhia Mexicana. Gloger. 

Mexican Creeper. 

277. Sitta CaroUnensis. Gmelin. 

White-eellied Nuthatch. 

278. Sitta Aculeata. Cassin. 

Slender-billed Nuthatch. 

279. Sitta Canadensis. Linn. 

Red-bellied Nuthatch. 

280. Sitta Pusilla. Latham. 

Brovtn-headed Nuthatch. 
231. Sitta Pygmosa. Vigors. 

CALiroRNiA Nuthatch. 

282. Polioptila Ccendea. Sclat. 

Blue-guay Gnatcatcher. 

283. Polioptila Phwihea. Baird. 

Western Gnatcatcher. 

284. Polioptila Melanura. Lawrence. 

Bl.ack-tailed Gnatcatcher. 

285. Lophophanes Bicolor, Bonap. 

Tufted Titmouse. 

286. Lophophanes AtricriStatus. Cass. 

Black-crested Tit. 

287. Lophophanes Inornatus. Cassin. 

Gray Titmouse. 

288. Lophophanes Wollweberi. Bonap. 

Wollweber's Titmouse. 

289. Pants Septenirionalis. Harris. 

Long-tailed Chickadee. 
289a. Var. Parus Albescens. Baird. 
Hoary Titmouse. 

290. Parus Atricapillus. Linn. 

Black-cap Titmouse. 

291. Parus Occidentalis. Baird. 

Western Titmouse. 

292. Parus Merldionalis. Sclater. 

Mexican Titmouse. 

293. Parus CaroUnensis. Aud. 

Carolina Titmouse. 

294. Parus Mrmtanus. Gambel. 

Mountain Titmouse. 

295. Parus Rufescens. Towns. 

Chestnut-backed Tit. 

296. Parus lludsonicus. Forster. 

IIuDsoNiAN 'Titmouse. 

297. Psaltriparus Mdanoius. Bonap. 

Black-cheeked Tit. 

298. Psaltriparus Minimus. Bonap. 

Least Tit. 

299. Psaltriparus Plumbeiis. Baird. 

Lead-colored Tit. 

300. Paroides Flaviceps. Baird. 


301. Certhiola Flaveola. Sund. 

Yellow-rumped Creeper. 

302. Eremophila Corniita. Boie. 

Sky Lahk. 

303. Hesperiphona Vespertina. Bonap. 

Evening Grosbeak. 

304. Pinicola Canadensis. Cab. 

Pine Grosbeak. 

305. Carpodanus Purpureus. Gray. 

Purple Finch. 

306. Carpodacus Californicus. Baird. 

Western Purple Finch. 

307. Carpodacus Cassinii. Baird. 

Cassin's Purple Finch. 

308. Carpodacvs Frontalis. Gray. 

House Finch. 

309. Carpodacus Hcemorrhous. Wagl. 

Mexican Finch. 

310. Chrysomilris Magellanica. Bonap. 

Black-headed Goldfinch. 

311. Chrisomitris Stanleyi. Bonap. 

Stanley's Goldfinch. 

312. Chrysnmitris Yarrelli. Bonap. 

Yarrell's Goldfinch. 

313. Chrysomilris Tristis. Bonap. 

Yellow Bird. 

314. Chrysomilris Psaltria. Bonap. 

Arkansas Finch. 

315. Chrysomitris Mexicana. Bonap. 

Mexican Goldfinch. 

316. Chrysomitris Lawrencii. Bonap. 

Lawrence's Goldfinch. 

317. Chrysom,itris Pinus. Bonap. 

Pine Finch. 

318. Curvirostra Americana. Wils. 
Bed Crossbill. 

318a. A''ar. Ciircirostra Mexicana. Strick. 
Mexican Crossbill. 

319. Curvirostra Leucoptera. Wils. 
White-winged Crossbill. 

320. ^giothus Linnria. Cab. 
Lesser Red Poll. 

321. ^giothus Canescens. Cab. 
Mealy Red Poll. 

322. Leiicosticte Tephrocotis. Swains. 
Gray Crowned Finch. 



32ij Leucosticie Griseinucha. Bonap. 


324. Leucosticie Arctovs. Bonap. 

Arctic Finch. 

325. Plectroplianes Nivalis. Meyer. 

Snow Bunting. 

826. Plecirophanes Lappnnicus. Selby. 

Lapland LoNospnK. 

327. Plectrnphanes PiHus. Swains. 

Smith's Bunting. 

328. Plectrnphanes Ornatus. Towns. 
Chestnut-collared Bunting. 

329. Plectrnphanes Melavomus. Baird. 
Black-shouldered Longspur. 

330. Plectrnphanes Maccownii. Lawr. 

Maccown's Longspur. 
33L Centronyx Bairdii. Baird. 
Baird's Bunting. 

332. Passeradus Savanna. Bonap. 

Savannah Sparrow. 

333. Passerculus Sandwirhensis. Bl. 

Nootka Sparrovt. 

334. Passerculus Anthinus. Bonap. 

Spotted Sparrow. 

335. Passerculus Alaudinus. Bonap. 

Lark Sparrow. 

336. Passertniliis Rnstratus. Baird. 

Beaked Sparrow. 

337. Pooecetes Gramineus. Baird. 

Grass Finch. 

338. Cnturniculus Passerinus. Bonap. 

Yellow-winged Sparrow. 

339. Cuturniculus Henslowi. Bonap. 

Henslow's Bunting. 

340. Cnturniculus Lecontii. Bonap. 

Leconte's Bunting. 

341. Ammodromns Caudacutus. Swains. 

Sharp-tailed Finch. 

342. Ammodromns Maritimus. Swains. 

■'Sea-side Finch. 

343. Ammodromns Samuelis. Baird. 

Samuel's Finch. 

344. Chondestes Grammaca. Bonap. 

Lark Finch. 

345. Zonntrichia Le^icophrys. Swains. 

White-crowned Sparrow. 

346. Zonntrichia Gamhelii. Swains. 

Gambel's Finch. 

347. Zonntrichia Coronata. Baird. 

Golden-crowned Sparrow. 

348. Zonotrichia Querula. Gamb. 

Harris's Finch. 

349. Zonotrichia Alhicollis. Bonap. 

White-throated Sparrow. 

350. Junco Cinereus. Cab. 

Mexican Junco. 

351. Junco Dorsalis. Henry. 

Red-backed Snow Bird. 

352. Junco Oregonvs. Sclat. 

Oregon Snow Bird. 

353. Junco Caniceps. Baird. 

Gray-headed Snow Bird. 

354. Junco Hyemalis. Sclafc. 

Black Snow Bird. 

355. Poospiza Bilineata. Sclat. 

Black-throated Sparrow. 

356. Poospiza Belli. Sclat. 

Bell's Finch. 

357. Spizella Monticola. Baird. 

Tree Sparrow. 

358. Spizella Pusilla. Bonap. 

Field Sparrow. 

359. Spizella Sncialis. Bonap. 

Chipping Sparrow. 

360. Spizella Pallida. Bonap. 

Clay-colored Bunting. 

361. Spizella Breweri. Cassin. 

Brewer's Sparrow. 

362. Spizella Atiiijularis. Baird. 

Black-chinned Sparrow. 

363. Melnspiza Melodia. Baird. 

Song Sparrow. 

364. Melospiza Heermanni. Baird. 

IIeermann's Song Sparrow. 

365. Melospiza Gnuldii. Baird 

Gould's Sparrow. 

366. Melosjjiza Rujina. Baird. 

Rusty Sung Sparrow. 

367. Melnspiza Fallax. Baird. 

Mountain Song Sparrow. 

368. Melnspiza Lincolnii. Baird. 

Lincoln's Finch. 

369. Melospiza Pahistris. Baird. 

Swamp Sparrow. 

370. Peucaea Aestivalis. Cab. 

Baciiman's Finch. 

371. Peucaea Cassinii. Baird. 

Cassin's Finch. 

372. Peucaea Rvficeps. Baird. 

Bruwn-headed Finch. 

373. Embernagra Rufivirgata. Lawr. 

Texas Finch. 

374. Passerella Iliaca. Swains. 

Fox-colored Sparrow. 

375. Passerella Townsendii. Nutt. 

Oregon Finch. 

376. Passerella Schistacea. Baird. 

Slate-colored Sparrow. 

376a. Passerella Mcgarnynchus. Baird. 

Thick-billed Finch. 

377. Calamnspiza Bicnlnr. Bonap. 

Lark Bunting. 

378. Enspiza Americana. Bonap. 

Black-throated Bunting. 

379. Euspiza Tnwnsendii. Bonap. 

Townsend's Bunting. 

380. Guiraca Ludnoiciana. Swaina. 

Rose-breasted Grosbeak. 

381. Guiraca Melanocephala. Swains. 

Black-headed Grosbeak. 



382. Guiraca Caerulea. Swains. 

Blue Grosbeak. 

383. Cyanospiza Parellina. Baird. 

Blue Bunting. 

384. Cyanospiza Giris. Baird. 

Painted Bunting. 

385. Cyanospiza Versicolor. Baird. 

Varied Bunting. 

386. Cyanospiza Amoena. Baird. 

Lazuli Finch. 

387. Cyanospiza Cyanea. Baird. 

Indigo Bird. 

388. Spermophila Moreletii. Puoheran. 

Little Seedeatek. 

389. Pyrrhuloxia Sinuata. Bonap. 

Texas Cardinal. 

390. Cardinalis Virginianus. Bonap. 

Red Bird. 

391. Pipilo Erythrophthalmus. Vieill. 

Ground Robin ; Tovthee 

392. Pipilo Oregonus. Bell. 

Oregon Ground Robin. 

393. Pipilo Arcticvs. Swains. 

Arctic Towhee. 

394. Pipilo Megalonyx. Baird. 

Spurred Towhee. 

395. Pipilo Abertii. Baird. 

Abert's Towhee. 

396. Pipilo Fuscus. Swains. 

Brown Towhee. 

397. Pipilo Mesoleucus. Baird. 

Canon Finch. 

398. Pipilo Chlorura. Baird. 

Green-tailed Finch. 

399. Bolichonyx Oryzivorus. Swains. 

Boblink ; Reed Bird. 

400. Molothrus Pecoris. Swains. 

Cow Bird. 
40L Agelaius Phceniceus. VieilL 
Red-winged Blackbird. 

402. Agelaius Gubernaior. Bonap. 

Red-shocldered Blackbird. 

403. Agelaius Tricolor. Bonap. 

Red and White-shouldered Blackbird. 

404. Xanthocephalus Icterocephalus. 


405. Trupialis Miliiaris. Bonap. 

Red-breasted Lark. 

406. Siurnella Magna. Swains. 

Meadow Lark. 

407. Sturnella Neglecta. Aud. 

Western Lark. 

408. Icterus Vulgaris. Daudin. 


409. Icterus Audubonii. Giraud. 

Audubon's Oriole. 

410. Icterus Melanocephalus. Gray. 

Black-headed Oriole. 

411. Icterus I'arisorum. Bonap. 

Scott's Oriole. 


Icterus Waglcri. Solater. 

Wagler's Oriole. 
Icterus CvcuUatus. Swains. 

Hooded Oriole. 
Icterus Spurius. Bonap. 

Orchard Oriole. 
Icterus Baltimore. Daudin. 

Baltimore Oriole. 
Icterus BuUockii. Bonap. 

Bullock's Oriole. 
Scolecophagus Ferrugineus. Swaing 

Rusty Blackbird. 
Scolecophagus Cyanocephalus. 

Brewer's Blackbird. 
Quiscalus Macroura. Swains. 

Long-tailed Grakle. 
Quiscalus Major. Vieill. 
Boat-tailed Grakle. 
Quiscalus Versicolor. Vieill, 

Crow Blackbird. 
Quiscalus Baritus. Vieill. 

Florida Blackbird. 
Corvus Carnivorus. Bartram. 

American Raven. 
Corvus Cacalotl. Wagl. 
Colorado Raven. 
Corvus Cryptoleucus. Couch. 

White-necked Crow. 
Corvus Americanus. Aud. 

Common Crow. 
Var. Corvus Floridanus. Baird. 

Florida Crow. 
Corvus Caurinus. Baird. 
Western Fish Crow. 
Corvus Ossifragiis. Wilson. 

Fish Crow. 
Picicorvus Columbianus. Bonap. 

Clark's Crow. 
Gymnohitta Cyanocephala. Pr. M. 

Maximilian's Jay. 
Pica Eudsonica. Bonap. 

Pica Nuttalli. Aud. 

Yellow-billed Magpie. 
Cyanura Cristata. Swains. 

Blue Jay. 
Cyanura Stelleri. Swains. 

Steller's Jay. 
Cyanura Macrolophus. Baird. 

Long-crested Jay. 
Cyanocilta Californica. Strick. 

California Jay. 
Cyanocitta Woodhou,ni. Baird. 
Woodhuuse's Jay. 

Cyanocitta Floridana. 
Florida Jay. 


Cyanocitta Sordida. Baird. 

Mountain Jay. 
Cyanocitta Ultramarina. Strick. 
Ultramarine Jay. 



442. Xanthoura Luxuosa. Bonap. 

Green Jay. 

443. Perisoreus Canadensis. Bonap 

Canada Jay. 

444. Psilorhinus Morio. Gray. 

Brown Jay. 

445. Columba Fasciata. Say. 

Band-tailed Pigeon. 

446. Columba Flavirostris. Wagl. 

Red-billed Dove. 

447. Columba Leucocephaia. Linn. 

White-headed Pigeon. 

448. Ectopistes Migratoria. Swains. 

Wild Pigeon. 

449. Zenaida Amabilis. Bonap. 

Zenaida Dove. 

450. Melopelia Leucoplera. Bonap, 

White-winged Dove. 

451. Zenaidura Carolinensis. Bonap. 

Common Dove. 

452. Scardafella Squamosa. Bonap. 

Scaly Dove. 

453. Chamaepelia Passerina. Swains. 

Ground Dove. 

454. Oreopeleia Martinica. Reioh. 

Key West Pigeon. 

455. Siarnoenas Cyanocephala. Bonap. 

Blue-headed Pigeon. 

456. Ortalida M' G Calli. Baird. 


457. Meleagris Gallopavo. Linn. 

Wild Turkey. 

458. Meleagris Mexicana. Gould. 

Mexican Turkey. 

459. Tetrao Obscurus. Say. 

Dusky Grouse. 

460. Tetrao Canadensis. Linn. 

Spruce Partridge. 

461. Tetrao Franklinii. Douglas. 

Franklin's Grouse. 

462. Centrocercus Urophasianus. Swain. 

Sage Cock. 

463. Pedioecetes Phasianellus. Baird. 

Sharp-tailed Grouse. 

464. Cupidonia Cupido. Baird. 

Prairie Hen. 
165. Bonasa Umbellus. Steph. 

Ruffed Grouse. 

465a. Var. Bonasa Umbelloides. Baird. 

Gray Mountain Grouse. 

466. Bonasa Sabinii. Baird. 

Oregon Grouse. 

467. Lagopus Albus. Aud. 

White Ptarmigan. 

468. Lagopus Rupestris. Leach. 

Rock Grouse. 

469. Lagopus Leucurus. Swains. 

White-tailed Ptarmigan. 

470. Lagopus Americanus. Aud. 

American Ptarmigan. 

471. Ortyx Yirginianus. Bonap. 

Partridge ; Quail. 

472. Ortyx Texanus. Lawr. 

Texas Quail. 

473. Oreortyx Pictus. Baird 

Mountain Quail. 

474. Lophortyx Californicus. Bonap. 

California Quail. 

475. Lophortyx Gambelii. Nutt. 

Gambel's Partridge. 

476. Callipepla Squamaia. Gray. 

Blue Partridge. 

477. Cyrtonyx Massena. Gould. 

Massena Partridge. 

478. Grus Americanus. Ord. 

Whooping Crane. 

479. Grus Canadensis. Temm. 

Sand-hill Crane. 

480. Grus Fraterculus. Cassin. 

Little Crane. 

481. Aramii.i Giganteus. Baird. 

Crying Bird. 

482. Demiegretta Pealii. Baird. 

Peale's Egret. 

483. Demiegretta Eufa. Baird. 

Reddish Egret. 

484. Demiegretta Jjudoviciana. Baird. 

Louisiana Heron. 

485. Garzetta Candidissima. Bonap. 

Snowy Heron. 

486. Herodias Egretta. Gray. 

White Heron. 

486a. Herodias Egretta, v. Californica. 

California Egret. 

487. Ardea Herodias. Linn. 

Great Blue Heron. 

488. Ardea Wurdemannii. Baird. 

Florida Heron. 

489. Audubonia Occidentalis. Bonap. 

Great White Heron. 

490. Florida Ccerulea. Baird. 

Blub Heron. 

491. Ardetta Exili.i. Gray. 

Least Bittern. 

492. Botaurus Lentiginosus. Steph. 

Bittern-; Stake Driver. 

493. Butorides Virescens. Bonap. 

Green Heron. 

494. Butorides Brunnescens. Baird. 

Brown Heron. 

495. Nyctiardea Gardeni. Baird. 

Night Heron. 

496. Nyctherodius Violaceus. Reich. 

Yellow-crowned Heron. 

497. Tantalus Loculatur. Linn. 

Wood Ibis. 

498. 76i? Rubra. Vieill. 

Red Ibis. 

499. Ibis Alba. Vieill. 

White Ibis. 


500. Ibis Ordii. Bonap. 

Glossy Ibis. 
500a. Ibis Guarauna. Shaw. 
Bronzed Ibis. 

501. Platalea Ajaja. Linn. 

Rosy Spoonbill. 

502. Phoenicopterus Euber. Linn. 


503. Charadriu.i Virginicus. Borck. 

Golden Plovek. 

504. Aegialitis Vociferus. Cassin. 


505. Aegialitis Monlanus. Cassin. 

Mountain Plover. 

506. Aegialitis Wilsonius. Cassin. 

Wilson's Plover. 

507. Aegialitis Semipalmatus. Cab. 

Semipalmated Plover. 

508. Aegialitis Melodus. Cab. 

Piping Plover. 

509. Aegialitis Kivosus. Cassin. 

Western Plover. 

510. SquataroJa Helvetica. Ciiv. 

Black-bellied Plover. 

511. Aphriza Virgata. Gray. 

Surf Bird. 

512. Haemaiopus Palliatus. Temm. 

Oyster Catcher. 

513. Haematopus Nigei\ Pallaa. 

Bachman's Oyster Catcher. 

514. Haematnpus Ater. Vieillot. 

Dusky Oyster Catcher. 

515. Strepsilai Interpres. lllig. 


516. Strepsilas Melimoce])hala. Vig. 

Black Turnstone. 

517. Recurvirosira Americana. Gmel. 

American Avoset. 

518. Himantnpus Nigricnllis. Vieillot. 

Black-necked Stilt. 

519. Phalarnpiis Wilsonii. Sab. 

Wilson's Phalarope. 

520. Phalaropus Hyperboreus. Temm. 

Northern Phalarope. 

521. Phalarnpiis Fulicarius. Bonap. 

Red Phalarope. 

522. Philohela Minor. Gray. 

American Woodcock. 

523. Gallinago Wilsonii. Bonap. 

English Snipe. 

524. Macrorhamphus Griseus. Leach. 

Red-breasted Snipe. 

525. Macrorhamphus Scolopaceus. La. 

Greater Longbeak. 

526. Tringa Canuius. Linn. 


527. Tringa Cooperi. Baird. * 

Cooper's Sandpiper. 

528. Tringa Maritim.a. Brllnnich. 

Purple Sandpiper. 

529. Tringa Snbarquata. Temm. 

Curlew Sandpiper. 

530. Tringa Alpina. Var. Americana. Cas, 

Red-backed Sandpiper. 

531. Tringa Maculata. Vieill. 

Jack Snipe. 

532. Tringa Wilsonii. Nuttall. 

Least Sandpiper. 

533. Tringa Bonapartii. Schlegel. 

Bonaparte's Sandpiper. 

534. Calidris Arenaria. Illiger. 


535. Ereunetes Petrijicaius. 111. 

Semipalmated Sandpiper. 

536. Micropolama Himantopus. Baird. 

Stilt Sandpiper. 

537. Symphemia Semipalmata. Hartl. 


538. Glottis Floridanus. Bonap. 

Florida Greenshank. 

539. Gambetla Melanoleuca. Bonap. 

Telltale ; Stone Snipe. 

540. Gambetta Flavipes. Bonap. 

Yellow Legs. 

541. Bhyacophilus Solitarius. Bonap. 

Solitary Sandpiper. 

542. Heternscelus Brevipes. Baird. 

Wandering 'I'atler. 

543. Tringoides Macularivs. Gray. 

Spotted Sandpiper. 

544. Philomachus Pvgnax. Gray. 


545. Actiturvs Bartramius. Bonap. 

Field Plover. 

546. Tringites liufiscens. Cab. 

Buff-breasted Sandpiper. 

547. Limosa Fedoa. Ord. 

Marbled Godwit. 

548. Limosa Hudsonica. Swains. 

Hudson Godwit. 

549. Numenius Longirostris. Wils. 

Long-billed Curlew. 

550. Numenius Hudsonicus. Latham 

IIudsonian Curlew. 

551. Numenius Borealis. Latham. 

Esquimaux Curlew. 

552. Rallus Elegans. And. 

Marsh Hen. 

553. Rallus Crepitans. Gra. 

Clapper Rail. . 

554. Rallus Virginianus. Linn. 

Virginia Rail. 

555. Porzana Carolina. Vieill. 

Common Rail. 

556. Porzana Jamaicensis. Cassin. 

Little Black Rail. 

557. Porzana Noveboracensis. 

Yellow Rail. 

558. Crex Pratensis. Beohst. 




559. Fulica Americana. Gmelin. 


560. Gallinula Galeata. Bonap. 

Florida Gallinule. 

561. Gallinula Mariinica. Lath. 

Purple Gallinule. 

561a. Cygnus Americanus. Sharpless. 

American Swan. 

562. Cygnus Buccinator. Rich. 

Trumpeter Swan. 

563. Anser Hyperhnreus. Pallas. 

Snow Goose. 
56.Sa. Anser Alhaius. Casain. 
White Goose. 

564. Anser Caervlescens. Linn. 

White-headed Goose. 

565. Anser GambeKi. Havtlaub. 

White-fronted Goose. 

566. Anser Frontalis. Baird. 

Brown-fronted Goose. 

567. Bernicla Canadensis. Boie. 

Canada Goose. 
567a. Bernicla Occidentalis. Baird. 
Western Goose. 

568. Bernicla Leucopareia. Cassin. 

White CHEEKED Goose. 

569. Bernicla Hutchinsii. Bonap. 

Hutchin's Goose. 

570. Bernicla Brenta. Steph. 


571. Bernicla Nigricans. Cassin. ' 

Black Brant. 

572. Bernicla Leucopsis. (Linn.) 

Barnacle Goose. 

573. Chloephaga Canagica. Bonap. 

Painted Goose 

574. Dendrosygna Aulumnalis. Eyton. 

Long-legged Duck. 

575. Dendrocygna Fulva. Burm. 

Brown Tree-Duck. 

576. Anas Boschas. Linn. 


577. Ana^ Ohscura. Gmel. 

Black Duck. 

578. Dafila Acuta. Jenyns. 

Sprig-tail ; Pin-tail. 

579. Neition Carolinensis. Baird. 

Green-winged Teal. 

580. Nettion Crecca. Kaup. 

English Teal. 

581. Querqnedula Discors. Steph. 

Blue-winged Teal. 

582. Querguedula Cyannpterus. Cassin. 

Red-breasted Teal. 

583. Spatula Clypeata. Boie. 


584. Chaulelasmns Streperus. Gray. 


585. Mareca Americana. Stephens. 


586. Mareca Penelope. Bonap. 


587. Aix Sponsa. Boie. 

Summer Duck. 

588. Fulix Marila. Baird. 

Greater Black-head. 

589. Fulix Affinis. Baird. 

Little Black-head. 

590. Fulix Collaris. Baird. 

Ring-necked Duck. 

591. Aythya Americana. Bonap. 

5S2. Aythya Vallisneria. Bonap. 

593. Bucephala Americana, Baird. 

Golden Eye. 

594. Bucephala Islandica. Baird. 

Barrow's Golden Eye. 

595. Bucephala Alheola. Baird. 

Butter Ball. 

596. Histrioiiicus Tnrquatvs. Bonap. 

Harlequin Duck. 

597. Harelda Olacialis. Leaoh. 

South Southerly. 

598. Polysticta Stelleri. Eyton. 

Steller's Duck. 

599. Lampronetia Fischeri. Brandt. 

Spectacled Eider. 

600. Camptolaemits Labradorius. Gray. 

Labrador Duck. 

601. Melanetta Velcetina. Baird. 

Velvet Duck. 

602. Pelionetta Perspicillala. Kaup. 

Surf Duck. 

603. Pelionetta Trowhridgii. Baird. 

Long-billed Scoter. 

604. Oidemia Americana, Swains. 


605. Oidemia Bimaciilata. Baird. 

Huron Scoter. 

606. Somateria Mollissima. Leach. 

Eider Duck. 

607. Somaiei-ia v. Nigra. Gray. 

Pacific Eider. 

608. Somateria Spectabilis. Leaoh. 

King Eider. 

609. Erismatura liubida. Bonap. 

Ruddy Duck. 

610. Erismatura Dominica. Eyton. 

Black Masked Duck. 

611. Mergus Americanus. Cass. 


612. Mergus Serratnr. Linn. 

Red-breasted Merganser. 

613. Lophodytes Cucullatns. Reich. 

Hooded Merganser. 

614. M^-gelhis Albellus. Selby. 


615. Pelecanus Frythrorhynchus, Gm. 

American Pelican. 



616. Pdecanus Fuscus. Linn. 

Bkown Pelican. 

617. Sula Bassana. Briss. 


618. Sula Fiber. (Linn.) 


619. Tachypetes Aquila. Vieill. 

Man-of-war Bird. 

620. Graculus Carbo. Gray. 

Common Cormorant. 

621. Graculus Perspicillatus. Lawr. 

Pallas's Cormorant. 

622. Graculus Cincinnatus. Gray. 

Tufted Cormorant. 

623. Graculus Dilophus. Gray. 

Double-crested Cormorant. 

624. Graculus Floridanus. Bonap. 

Florida Cormorant. 

625. Graculus Mexicanus. Bonap. 

Mexican Cormorant. 

626. Graculus Penicillatus. Bonap. 

Brandt's Cormorant. 

627. Graculus Violaceus. Gray. 

Violet Green Cormorant. 

628. Plofus Anhinga. Linn. 
Snake Bird ; Water Turkey. 

629. Phaeton Flavirostris. Brandt. 
Yellow-billed Tropic Bird. 

630. Diomedea Fxulans. Linn. 

Wandering Albatross. 

631. Diomedea Brachyura. Temm. 

Short-tailed Albatross. 

632. Diomedea ChlororhyncJius. Gmel. 

Yellow-nosed Albatross. 

633. Diomedea, Fuliginosa. Gmel. 

SooTV Albatross. 

634. Procellaria Gigantea. Gmel. 

Gigantic Fulmar. 

635. Procellaria Glacialis. Linn. 

Fulmar Petrel. 

636. Procellaria Pacifica. Aud. 

Pacific Fulmar. 

637. Procellaria Tenuirostris. Aud. 

Slender-billed Fulmar. 

638. Procellaria Meridionalis. Lawr. 

Tropical Fulmar. 

639. Daption Capensis. Steph. 

Cape Pigeon. 

640. Thalassidroma Ftircata. Gould. 

Fork-tailed Petrel. 

641. Thalassidroma Hornbyi. Gray. 

Hornby's Petrel. 

642. Thalassidroma Leachii. Temm. 

Leach's Petrel. 

643. Thalassidroma Melania. 

Black Stormy Petrel 

644. Thalassidroma Wilsoni. Bonap. 

Wilson's Petrel. 

645. Thalassidroma Pelagica. Bonap. 

Mother Carey's Chicken. 


646. Fregelta Lawrendi. Bonap. 

Black and White Petrel. 

647. Pujffinus Major. Faber. 

Greater Shearwater. 

648. Puffinus Fuliginosus. Strick. 

Sooty Shearwater. 

649. Puffinus Anglorum. Temm. 

Mank's Shearwater. 

650. Puffinus Obscurus. Lath. 

DusKv Shearwater. 

651. Puffinus Uinereus. Gmel. 

Cinereous Petrel. 

652. Stercoj arius Calarractes. Temm. 

Common Skua. 

653. Steriorarius Pomarinus. Temm. 

Pomarine Skua. 

654. Sten-corarius Parasiticus. Temm. 

Arctic Skua. 

655. Stercorarius Cepphus. Ross. 

Buffon's Skua. 

656. Larus Glaucus. Brlinn. 


657. Larus Glaucescens. Licht. 

Glaucous-winged Gull. 

658. Larus Leucopterus. Faber. 

White-winged Gull. 

659. Larus Chalcopterus. Lawr. 

Gray-winged Gull. 

660. Larus Mariuus. Linn. 

Great Black-backed Gull. 

661. Larus Argentatus. Briinn. 

Herring Gull. 

662. Larus Occidentalis. Aud. 

Western Gull. 

663. Larus Californicus. Lawr. 

California Gull. 

664. Larus Delawarensis. Ord. 

Ring-billed Gull. 
664a. Larus Brachyrliynchus. Rich. 
Short-billed Gull. 

665. Larus Suckleyi. Lawr. 

Suckley's Gull. 

666. Blasipus Heermanni. Bonap. 

White-headed Gull. 

667. Chroicocephalus Atricilla. Linn. 

Laughing Gull. 

668. Chroicocephalus Franklinii. Briinn. 

Franklin's Rosy Gull. 

669. Chroicocephalus CuciiUatus. Briinn. 

Hooded Gull. 

670. Chroicocephalus Philadelphia. 

Bonaparte's Gull. 

671. Croicocephalus AHnutus. Bruch 

Little Gull. 

672. Rissa Tridaciyla. Bonap. 

KiTTiwAKE Gull. 

673. Rissa Seplentrionalis. Lawr. 

North Pacific Kittiwake. 

674. Rissa Brevirostris. Brandt. 

Short-billed Kittiwake. 


675. Bissa Nivea. Bruch. 

Yellomt-bili.ed Gull. 

676. Pagophila Eburnea. Kaup. 

Ivory Gull. 

677. Pagophila Bra'chytarsi. Holb 

Short-legced Gull. 
078. Rhodosleihia Rosea. Jard. 
Wedge-tailed Gull. 

679. Creagrus Furcatus. Bonap. 

Swallow-tailed Gull. 

680. Xema Sahinii. Bonap. 

Pork-tailed Gull. 

681. Sterna Aranea. Wils. 

Marsh Tern. 

682. Sterna Caspia. Pallas. 

Caspian Tern. 

683. Sterna Eegia. Gambel. 

Royal Tern. 

684. Sterna Elegans. Gambel. 

Elegant Tekn. 

685. Sterna Acuflavida. Cabot. 

Cabot's Tern. 

686. Sterna Havelli. Aud., 

Haveli/s Tern. 

687. Sterna Trudeauii. Aud. 

Trudeau's Tern. 

688. Sterna Fuliginosa. Gm. 

Sooty Tern. 

689. Sterna Wilsoni. Bonap. 

Wilson's Tern. 

690. Sterna Macroura. Naum. 

Arctic Tern. 

691. Sterna Forsteri. Nutt. 

Porster's Tern. 

692. Sterna Paradisea. Brlinn. 

Roseate Tern. 

693. Sterna Pikel. Lawr. 

Slender-billed Tern. 

694. Sterna Frenata. Gambel. 

Least Tern. 

695. Hydrochelidon Plumbea. Wila. 

Short-tailed Tern. 

696. Anous Stolidus. Leach. 

Noddy Tern. 

697. Rhynehops Nigra. Linn. 

Black Skimmer, 

698. Colymbus Torquatus. Briinn. 


699. Colymbus Arcticus. Linn. 

Black-throated Diver. 

700. Colymbus Paciflcus. Linn. 

Pacific Diver. 

701. Colymbus Septentrionalis. Linn. 

Red-throated Diver.- 

702. Podiceps Griseigena. Gray. 

Red-necked Grebe. 

703. Podiceps Cristatus. Lath. 

Crested Grebe. 
703a. Podiceps Cooperi. Lawr. 
Cooper's Grebe. 

704. Podiceps Occidentalis. Lawr. 

Western Grebe. 

705. Podiceps Clarkii. Lawr. 

Clark's Grebe. 

706. Podiceps Cornutus. Latham. 

Horned Grebe. 

707. Podiceps Californious. Ileermann 

California Grebe. 

708. Podiceps Auritus. Lath. 

Eared Grebe. 
708a. Podicep.i Vominicus. Lath. 
White-winged Grebe. 

709. Podilymbus Podiceps. Lawr 

Carolina Grebe. 

710. Alca Impennis. Linn. 

Great Auk. 

711. Alca Torda. Linn. 

Razor-billed Auk. 

712. Mormon Cirrhaia. Bonap. 

Tufted Puffin. 

713. Mormon Corniculata. Naum. 

Horned Puffin. 

714. Mormon Olacialis. Leach. 

Sea Parrot ; Puffin. 

715. Mormon Arctica. llliger. 

Arctic Puffin. 

716. Sagmatorrhina Labradoria. Caa. 

Labrador Auk. 

717. Cerorhina Monocerata. Cassin. 

Sea Horn-bill. 

718. Cerorhina Sucldeyi. Cassin. 

719. Phaleris Cri.itatella. Bonap. 

Crested Auk. 

720. Phaleris Tetracula. Stephens. 

Dusky Auk. 

721. Phaleris Camtschaiica. Cassin. 

Kamtschatkan Auk. 

722. Phaleris Microceros. Brandt. 

723. Phaleris Pusilla. Cassin. 

Least Auk. 

724. Ptychorhamphiis Aleuticus. Brt. 

Cass'in's Guillemot. 

725. Ombria Psittacula. Esohsoh. 

Parrot Auk. 

726. Uria Grylle. Latham. 

Black Guillemot. 

727. Uria Columba. Cassin. 

Western Guillemot. 

728. Uria Carbo. Brandt. 

Crow Guillemot. 

729. Uria Lomvia. Briinnioh. 

PooLisH Guillemot. 

730. Uria Ringvia. Brunnieh. 


731. Uria Arra. (Pallas). 

Thick-billed Guillemot. 

732. Brachyrhamphus Marmoratus. 

Marbled Guillemot. 

733. Brachyrhamphus Wrangelii. Br. 

Wranqel's Guillemot. 



734. Brachyrhamphus Brachypterus. 

Short-winged Guillemot. 

735. Brachyrhamphus KitilUzii. Br. 


736. Brachyrhamphus Antiquus. Br. 

Ancient Auk. 

737. Brachyrhamphus Temminckii. Br, 

Tbmminck's Guillemot. 

738. Mergulus Alle. Vieillot. 

Sea Dove. 














A gel a j lis, 







A nun 8, 

















At this, 




Bath mid nrua, 





























Cent r onyx, 

Centroph lines, 







Chain sea, 









Chord eilee, 







Col ap tea. 

Col lyric, 



Con top na, 


693 , Corvns, 
18 ; Cotnrnicops, 



















216 Cyanura, 

















Elan us, 














31 S 














































H el m i n th ophaga, 






H ierofalco, 



















































































































































































































































































































































































































SphyropicuB, ' 





























In the commencement of a work of such magnitude, and so novel in 
this country, some account will necessarily be expected of the motives 
of the author, and of the nature and intended execution of the work. 
As to the former of these, it is respectfully submitted, that, amusement 
blended with instruction, the correction of numerous errors which have 
been introduced into this part of the natural history of our country, 
and a wish to draw the attention of my fellow-citizens, occasionally, 
from the discordant jarrings of politics, to a contemplation of the gran- 
deur, harmony, and wonderful variety of Nature, exhibited in this 
beautiful portion of the animal creation, are my principal, and almost 
only, motives, in the present undertaking. I will not deny that there 
may also be other incitements. Biassed, almost from infancy, by a 
fondness for birds, and little less than an enthusiast in my researches 
after them, I feel happy to communicate my observations to others, 
probably from the mere principle of self-gratification, that source of so 
many even of our most virtuous actions ; but I candidly declare, that 
lucrative views have nothing to do in the business. In all my wild-wood 
rambles these never were sufficient either to allure me to a single excursion, 
to discourage me from one, or to engage my pen or pencil in the present 
publication. My hopes on this head are humble enough ; I ask only 
support equal to my merits, and to the laudability of my intentions. I 
expect no more ; I am not altogether certain even of this. But leaving 
the issue of these matters to futurity, I shall, in the meantime, comfort 
myself with the good old adage : " Happy are they who expect nothing, 
for they shall not be disappointed." 

As to the nature of the work, it is intended to comprehend a descrip- 
tion and representation of every species of our native birds, from the 
shores of the St. Lawrence to the mouths of the Mississippi, and from the 
Atlantic Ocean to the interior of Louisiana : these will be engraved in a 
style superior to any thing of the kind hitherto published ; and colored 
from nature with the most scrupulous adherence to the true tints of the 

The bare account of scientific names, color of bills, claws, feathers, 
&c., would form but a dry detail ; neither, in a publication of the present 
kind, where every species is faithfully figured and colored, is a long 

Vol. I —1 


and minute description of the form, and feathers, absolutely necessary. 
This would, in the opinion of some, be like introducing a gentleman to 

company, with " ladies and gentlemen, Mr. . He has on a blue 

coat — white pantaloons — hussar boots," &c., &c., while a single glance of 
eye, over the person himself, told us all this before the orator had time 
to open his mouth ; so infinitely more rapidly do ideas reach us through 
the medium of the eye, than by that of the ear. But as time may prey 
on the best of colors, what is necessary in this respect will by no means 
be omitted, that the figures and descriptions may mutually corroborate 
each other. It is also my design to enter more largely than usual into 
the manners and disposition of each respective species ; to become, as it 
were, their faithful biographer, and to delineate their various peculiari- 
ties, in character, song, building, economy, &c., as far as my own obser- 
vations have extended, or the kindness of others may furnish me with 

The Ornithology of the United States exhibits a rich display of the 
most splendid colors, from the green, silky, gold-bespangled down of 
the minute Humming-bird, scarce three inches in extent, to the black 
coppery wings of the gloomy Condor, of sixteen feet, who sometimes 
visits our northern regions — a numerous and powerful band of songsters, 
that for sweetness, variety, and melody, are surpassed by no country on 
earth — an ever-changing scene of migration, from torrid to temperate 
and from northern to southern regions, in quest of suitable seasons, 
food, and climate ; and such an amazing diversity in habit, economy, 
form, disposition and faculties, so uniformly hereditary in each species, 
and so completely adequate to their peculiar wants and convenience, as 
to overwhelm us with astonishment at the power, wisdom and beneficence 
of the Creator ! 

In proportion as we become acquainted with these particulars, our 
visits to, and residence in the country, become more and more agreeable. 
Formerly, on such occasions, we found ourselves in solitude, or with 
respect to the feathered tribes, as if it were in a strange country, where 
the manners, language and faces of all were either totally overlooked, 
or utterly unknown to us : now, we find ourselves among interesting and 
well-known neighbors and acquaintance ; and, in the notes of every 
songster, recognise with satisfaction the voice of an old friend and com- 
panion. A study thus tending to multiply our enjoyments at so cheap 
a rate, and to lead us, by such pleasing gradations, to the contemplation 
and worship of the Great First Cause, the Father and Preserver of all, 
can neither be idle nor useless, but is worthy of rational beings, and 
doubtless agreeable to the Deity. 

In order to attain a more perfect knowledge of birds, naturalists have 
divided them into orders, genera, species, and varieties ; but in doing 
this, scarcely two have agreed on the same mode of arrangement, and 


this has indeed proved a source of great perplexity to the student. 
Some have increased the number of orders to an unnecessary extent, 
multiplied the genera, and, out of mere varieties, produced what they 
supposed to be entire new species. Others, sensible of the impropriety 
of this, and wishing to simplify the science, as much as possible, have 
reduced the orders and genera to a few, and have thus thrown birds, 
whose food, habits and other characteristical features are widely differ- 
ent, into one and the same tribe, and thereby confounded our perception 
of that beautiful gradation of affinity and resemblance, which Nature 
herself seems to have been studious of preserving throughout the whole. 
One principal cause of the great diversity of classifications, appears to 
be owing to the neglect, or want of opportunity, in these writers, of 
observing the manners of the living birds, in their unconfined state, and 
in their native countries. As well might philosophers attempt to class 
mankind into their respective religious denominations, by a mere exami- 
nation of their physiognomy, as naturalists to form a correct arrange- 
ment of animals, without a knowledge of these necessary particulars. 

It is only by personal intimacy that we can truly ascertain the char- 
acter of either, more particularly that of the feathered race; noting 
their particular haunts, modes of constructing their nests, manner of 
flight, seasons of migration, favorite food, and numberless other minu- 
tiae, which can only be obtained by frequent excursions in the woods 
and fields, along lakes, shores and rivers ; and require a degree of pa- 
tience and perseverance which nothing but an enthusiastic fondness for 
the pursuit can inspire. 

Of the numerous systems which have been adopted by difierent wri- 
ters, that published by Dr. Latham, in his "Index Ornithologicus," and 
" General Synopsis of Birds," seems the least subject to the objections 
above-mentioned ; and as, in particularizing the order, genus, &c., to 
which each bird belongs, this system, with some necessary exceptions, 
has been generally followed in the present work, it is judged proper to 
introduce it here, for the information, and occasional consultation of the 




Index Ornithologicus. Synopsis of Birds. 


DIV. I. DIV. I. 

I. Accipitres, Rapacious. 

II. Piece, Pies. 

III. Passeres, Passerine. 

IV. Oolumbce, Columbine. 


Index Orniihologicus. 

Synopsis of Birds. 

V. Gallince, 


VI. StrutMones, 


Div. ir. 


VII. aralUe. 


7III. Pinnatipedes, 

Pinnated feet. 

IX. Palmipedes, 




DIV. I. 

DIV. r. 


i^iV^D BIBDS. 





1. Vultur, 


2. Faleo, 


3. Strix, 






4. Lanius, 


5. Psittachus, 


6. Mamphastos, 


7. Momotus, 


8. Scythrops, 


9. Buceros, 


10. Buphaga, 


11. Crotophaga, 


11. *Musop}iaga, 


12. CaZteas, 


13. Corvus, 


14. Coracias, 


15. Oriolus, 


16. G-raeula, 


17. Paradiscea, 


18. Tro^on, 


19. Bucco, 


20. Cuculus, 


21. FmwA:s, 


22. PwM«, 


23. G^aZfiMZa, 


24. ^fcecZo, 


25. &'to, 


26. Toc?Ms, 


27. Merops, 


28. Upupa, 



Index Ornithologicus. 

29. Oerthia, 

30. Trochilus, 


31. Sturnus, 

32. Turdus, 

33. Ampelis, 

34. ColiuB, 

35. Loxia, 

36. Emheriza, 

37. Tanagra, 

38. Fringilla, 

39. Phyiotoma, 

40. Muscieapa, 

41. ^ZawcZa, 

42. Motacilla, 

43. Sylvia, 

44. Pipra, 

45. Parus, 

46. Hirundo, 

47. Caprimulgug, 


48. Oolumba, 


49. Pawo, 

50. Meleagris, 
61. Penelope, 

52. Numida, 

53. (7?-aa;, 

53. *Menura, 

54. Phasianus, 

55. Tinamus, 

56. Tetrao, 
bl. Perdix, 

58. Psophia, 

59. Oi«s, 


60. Didus, 

61. Struthio, 

Synopsis of Birds. 
























African Ostrich. 


Index Omithologicus. 

Synopsis of Birds. 

62. Casuarius. 


63. Ehea, 

American Ostrich. 









64. Platalea, 


65. Palamedea, 


66. Mycteria, 


67. Cancroma, 


68. Scopus, 


69. ^Irciea, 


70. Tantalus, 


71. Numenius, 


72. Scolopax, 


73. !ZVm^a, 


74. CJiaradrius, 


75. Cursorius, 


76. Hcematopus, 


77. Gflareola, 


78. iiaZ^MS, 


79. Parra, 


79. *Oereopsis, 


80. Grailinula, 


81. Vaginalis, 






82. Phalaropus, 


83. PttZzca, 


84. Podiceps, 






t Pedibus longiorihus. 

t With long legs. 

85. Hecurvirostra, 


86. Corrira, 


87. Phoenieopterus, 


ft Pedibus brevioribus, 

tt With short legs. 

88. Diomedea, 


89. ^fca, 


90. ?7na, 


91. Oolymbus, 


92. Rynchops, 



Index Omithologicus. Synopsis of Birds. 

93. SUrna, Tern. 

94. Larus, Gull. 

95. Proeellaria, Petrel. 

96. Mergus, Merganser. 

97. Anas, Duck. 

98. Aptenodytes, Penguin. 

99. Pelieanus, Pelican. 

100. Phaeton, Tropic-bird. 

101. Plotus, , Darter. 

It may probably be expected, that, in a publication of this kind, we 
should commence with the order Accipitres, and proceed, regularly, 
through the different orders and genera, according to the particular sys- 
tem adopted. This, however desirable, is in the present case altogether 
impracticable ; unless, indeed, we possessed living specimens, or draw- 
ings, of every particular species to be described ; an acquisition which 
no private individual, nor public museum in the world, can, as yet, boast 
of. This work is not intended to be a mere compilation from books, 
with figures taken from stuffed and dried birds, which would be but a 
s6rry compliment to the science ; but a transcript from living Nature, 
embracing the whole Ornithology of the United States ; and as it is 
highly probable that numerous species, at present entirely unknown, 
would come into our possession long after that part of the work appro- 
priated for the particular genera to which they belonged had been fin- 
ished, and thereby interrupt, in spite of every exertion, the regularity 
of the above arrangement, or oblige us to omit them altogether : con- 
sidering these circumstances, and that during the number of years which 
the completion of the present work will necessarily occupy, the best 
opportunities will be afforded, and every endeavor used, to procure 
drawings of the whole, a different mode has been adopted, as being more 
agreeably diversified, equally illustrative of the science, and perfectly 
practicable ; which the other is not. The birds will, therefore, appear 
without regard to generical arrangement ; but the order, genus, &c., of 
each will be particularly noted; and a complete Index added to the 
whole, in which every species will be arranged in systematic order, with 
reference to the volume, page, and plate, where each figure and descrip- 
tion may be instantly found. 

From the great expense of engravings executed by artists of estab- 
lished reputation, many of those who have published works of this kind, 
have had recourse to their own ingenuity in etching their plates ; but, 
however honorable this might have been to their industry, it has been 
injurious to the effect intended to be produced by the figures ; since the 
point, alone, is not sufficient to produce a finished engraving ; and many 


years of application are necessary to enable a person, whatever may be 
his talents or diligence, to handle the graver with the facility and effect 
of the pencil ; while the time, thus consumed, might be more advanta- 
geously employed in finishing drawings, and collecting facts for the de- 
scriptive parts, which is the proper province of the Ornithologist. Every 
person who is acquainted with the extreme accuracy of eminent engra- 
vers, must likewise be sensible of the advantage of having the imper- 
fections of the pencil corrected by the excellence of the graver. Every 
improvement of this kind the author has studiously availed himself of; 
and has frequently furnished the . artist with the living or newly-killed 
subject itself to assist his ideas. 

In coloring the impressions, the same scrupulous attention has been 
paid to imitate the true tints of the original. The greatest number of the 
descriptions, particularly those of the nests, eggs, and plumage, have been 
written in the woods, with the subjects in view, leaving as little as possi- 
ble to the lapse of recollection : as to what relates to the manners, 
habits, &c., of the birds, the particulars on these heads are the result of 
personal observation, from memoranda taken on the spot ; if they differ, 
as they will in many points, from former accounts, this at least can be 
said in their behalf, that a single fact has not been advanced which the 
writer was not himself witness to, or received from those on whose judg- 
ment and veracity he believed reliance could be placed. When his own 
stock of observations has been exhausted, and not till then, he has had 
recourse to what others have said on the same subject, and all the most 
respectable performances of a similar nature have been consulted, to 
which access could be obtained ; not neglecting the labors of his prede- 
cessors in this particular path, Messrs. Catesby and Edwards, whose 
memories he truly respects. But, as a sacred regard to truth requires 
that the errors or inadvertencies of these authors, as well as of others, 
should be noticed, and corrected, let it not be imputed to unworthy 
motives, but to its true cause, a zeal for the promotion of that science, 
in which these gentlemen so much delighted, and for which they have 
done so much. 

From the writers of our own country the author has derived but little 
advantage. The first considerable list of our birds was published in 
1787, by Mr. Jefferson, in his celebrated " Notes on Virginia," and con- 
tains the names of one hundred and nine species, with the designati'ons of 
Linnaeus and Catesby, and references to Bufifon. The next, and by far 
the most complete that has yet appeared, was puljlished in 1791, by 
Mr. William Bartram, in his " Travels through North and South Caro- 
lina," &c., in which two hundred and fifteen different species are enume- 
rated, and concise descriptions and characteristics of each added, in Latin 
and English. Dr. Barton, in his " Fragments of the Natural History of 
Pennsylvania," has favored us with a number of remarks on this sub- 


ject ; and Dr. Belknap, in his " History of New Hampshire," as well aa 
Dr. Williams, in that of Vermont, have each enumerated a few of our 
birds. But these, from the nature of the publications in which they 
have been introduced, can he considered only as catalogues of names, 
without the detail of specific particulars, or the figured and colored 
representations of the birds themselves. This task, the hardest of all, has 
been reserved for one of far inferior abilities, but not of less zeal. With 
the example of many solitary individuals, in other countries, who have 
succeeded in such an enterprise, he has cheerfully engaged in the under- 
taking, trusting for encouragement solely to the fidelity with which it 
will be conducted. 





Species I. VULTUR AURA. 


[Plate LXXV. Fig. 1.] 

Vultur aura, Linn. Syst. ed. 10, torn, i., p. 86, 4 — Ind. Orn. p. 4, No. 8 — Vieillot, 
Ois. de I'Am. Sept. i., p. 25, pi. 2, bis. — Carrion Crow, Sloane, Jam. u., p. 294, 
tab. 254. — Carrion Vulture, Lath. Gen. Syn. i., p. 9. — Le Vautour du Br4sil, 
Briss. I., p. 468. — Turkey-Buzzard, Catesbt, Car. i., p. 6. — Bartram's Travels, 
p. 289. — Cozcaquaauhtti, Olavigero, Hist. Mex. i., p. 47, English translation. — 
American Vulture, Shaw, Gen. Zool. vii., p. 36. 

This species is well known throughout the United States, but is most 
numerous in the southern section of the union. In the northern and 
middle states it is partially migratory, the greater part retiring to the 
south on the approach of cold weather. But numbers remain all the 
winter in Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey; particularly in the 
vicinity of the large rivers, and the ocean, which afford a supply of food 
at all seasons. 

In New Jersey,t the Turkey-buzzard hatches in May, the deep re- 
cesses of the solitary swamps of that state affording situations well suited 

* This genus has been divided into several genera, by modern ornithologists. 
Temminck adopts the four following : 1. Vultur. (lUiger). 2. CatTiartes. (lUiger). 
3. Gypaetus. (Storr). 4. Gypogeranus. (IlUger). The two following species 
belong to the second of these, the genus Cathartes of lUiger. No true Vulture in 
the present restricted acceptation of that genus has been found in America. 

t The author mentions New Jersey in particular, as in that state he has visited 
the breeding places of the Turkey-buzzard, and can therefore speak with certainty 
of the fact. Pennsylvania, it is more than probable, affords situations equally 
attractive, which are also tenanted by this Vulture, for hatching and rearing its 


to the purpose. The female is at no pains to form a nest with materials ; 
but having chosen a suitable place, which is either a truncated hollow 
tree, or an excavated stump or log, she lays on the rotten wood from 
two to four eggs, of a dull dirty white, splashed all over with chocolate, 
mingled with blackish touches, the blotches largest and thickest towards 
the great end ; the form somewhat like the egg of a goose, but blunter 
at the small end ; length two inches and three quarters, breadth two 
inches. The male watches often while the female is sitting ; and if not 
disturbed they will occupy the same breeding place for several years. 
The young are clothed with a whitish down, similar to that which covers 
youno- goslings. If any person approach the nest, and attempt to han- 
dle them, they will immediately vomit such offensive matter, as to compel 
the intruder to a precipitate retreat. 

The Turkey-buzzards are gregarious, peaceable, and harmless ; never 
offering any violence to a living animal, or, like the plunderers of the 
Falco tribe, depriving the husbandman of his stock. Hence, though in 
consequence of their filthy habits they are not beloved, yet they are 
respected for their usefulness ; and in the southern states, where they 
are most needed, they, as. well as the black vultures, are protected by a 
law, which imposes a fine on those who wilfully deprive them of life. In 
the middle and northern states, being unprotected by law, these useful 
birds are exposed to persecution, and, consequently, they avoid the 
residence of man. They generally roost in flocks, upon the limbs of 
large trees ; and they may be seen in a summer's morning, spreading 
out their wings to the rising sun, and remaining in that posture for a 
considerable time. Pennant conjectures that this is " to purify their 
bodies, which are most offensively fetid." But is it reasonable to sup- 
pose that that effluvia can be offensive to them, which arises from food 
perfectly adapted to their nature, and which is constantly the object of 
their desires ? Many birds, and particularly those of the granivorous 
kind, have a similar habit, which, doubtless, is attended with the same 
exhilarating effect, that an exposure to the pure air of the morning has 
on the frame of one just risen from repose. 

The Turkey-buzzards, unless when rising from the earth, seldom flap 
their wings, but sweep along in ogees, and dipping and rising lines, and 
moye with great rapidity. They are often seen in companies, soaring 
at an immense height, particularly before a thunderstorm. Their wings 
are not spread horizontally, but form an acute angle with the body, the 
tips having an upward curve. Their sense of smelling is astonishingly 
exquisite,* and they never fail to discover carrion, even when at the 

* The British public has lately been amused with the tales of a traveller, on some 
of the animals of our country. Among several particulars, which force themselves 
upon the attention of the American reader by their novelty, we are presented with 


distance from it of several miles. When once they have found a car- 
cass they will not leave the place, if unmolested, till the whole is 
devoured. At such times they eat so immoderately, that frequently 
they are incapable of rising, and may be caught without much difficulty ; 
but few that are acquainted with them will have the temerity to undertake 
the task. A man in the state of Delaware, a few years ago, observing 
some Turkey-buzzards regaling themselves upon the carcass of a horse, 
which was in a highly putrid state, conceived the design of making a cap- 
tive of one, to take home for the amusement of his children. H-e cau- 
tiously approached, and springing upon the unsuspicious group, grasped 
a fine plump fellow in his arms, and was bearing oif his prize in triumph, 
when lo ! the indignant Vulture disgorged such a torrent of filth in the 
face of our hero, that it produced all the eiFects of the most powerful 
emetic, and for ever cured him of his inclination for Turkey-buzzards. 

On the continent of America this species inhabits a vast range of ter- 
ritory, being common,* it is said, from Nova Scotia to Terra del Fuego.f 
How far, on the Pacific, to the northward of the river Columbia, they 
are found, we are not informed ; but it is ascertained that they extend 
their migrations to the latter, allured thither by the quantity of dead 
salmon, which at certain seasons line its shores. 

They are numerous in the West India islands, where they are said to 
be "far inferior in size to those of North America."J This leads us to 
the inquiry, whether or not the present species has been confounded by 
the naturalists of Europe, with the Black Vulture, or Carrion Crow, 
which is so common in the southern parts of our continent. If not, why 
has the latter been totally overlooked in the most noted Ornithologies 
with which the world has been favored, when it is so conspicuous and 
remarkable, that there is no stranger that visits South Carolina, Geor- 

the result of a series of experiments, which were instituted to prove, that the Tur- 
key-buzzard does not possess the sense of smelling ! This important enunciation 
would be calculated to disabuse us, with respect to the popular opinion on this 
subject, did we not recollect, that the sense of seeing had, also, by some ingenious 
naturalists, been denied to the Mole; and that the Bird of Paradise had been 
affirmed to be deficient of those useful organs of locomotion — legs! The lovers of 
romance may now felicitate themselves upon the ascendancy of an observer, whose 
nredihle narratives may aspire to the honor of ranking with the tales of the artless 
John Dunn Hunter, or the wonders of that pink oi veracity, the renowned Sir John 

* In the northern states of our union the Turkey-buzzard is only occasionally 
seen, it is considered a rare bird by the inhabitants. 

t Great numbers of a species of Vulture, commonly called Carrion Crow by the 
sailors, { Vultur aura,) were seen upon this island (New Year's Island, near Cape 
Horn, lat. 55 S. 67 W.) and probably feed on young seal-cubs, which either die 'in 
the birth, or which they take an opportunity to seize upon.'' Cook calls them Tur- 
key-buzzards. Forster's Voy. IL, p. 516, quarto, London, 17Y7. 

X Pennant, Arctic Zoology. 


gia, or the Spanish provinces, but is immediately struck with the novelty 
of its appearance ? We can find no cause for the Turkey-buzzards of 
the islands* being smaller than ours, and must conclude that the Car- 
rion Crow, which is of less size, has been mistaken for the former. In 
the history which follows, we shall endeavor to make it evident that the 
species described by Ulloa, as being so numerous in South America, is 
no other than the Black Vulture. 

Kolben, in his account of the Cape of Good-Hope, mentions a Vul- 
ture, which he represents as very voracious and noxious : "I have 
seen," says he, " many carcasses of cows, oxen and other tame creatures 
which the Eagles had slain. I say carcasses, but they were rather 
skeletons, the flesh and entrails being all devoured, and nothing remain- 
ing but the skin and bones. But the skin and bones being in their 
natural places, the flesh being, as it were, scooped out, and the wound, 
by which the Eagles enter the body, being ever in the belly, you would 
not, till you had come up to the skeleton, have had the least suspicion 
that any such matter had happened. The Dutch at the Cape frequently 
call those Eagles, on account of their tearing out the entrails of beasts, 
Strunt- Vogels, i. e. Dung-birds. It frequently happens, that an ox that 
is freed from the plough, and left to find his way home, lies down to rest 
himself by the way ; and if he does so, 'tis a great chance but the 
Eagles fall upon him and devour Mm. They attack an ox or cow in a 
body, consisting of an hundred and upwards. "f 

Buffon conjectures that this murderous Vulture is the Turkey-buzzard ; 
and concludes his history of the latter with the following invective against 
the whole fraternity : " In every part of the globe they are voracious, 
slothful, offensive and hateful, and, like the wolves, are as noxious during 
their life, as useless after their death." 

It turns out, however, that this ferocious Vulture is not the Turkey- 
buzzard, as may be seen in Levaillant's " Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux 
d'Afrique," vol. i, pi. 10, where the Chasse-fiente, or Strunt- Vogel, is 
figured and described. The truth of Kolben's story is doubtful ; and 
we would express our regret, that enlightened naturalists should so 
readily lend an ear to the romances of travellers, who, to excite aston- 

* The Vulture which Sir Hans Sloane figured and described, and which he says 
is ooinmon in Jamaica, is undoubtedly the VuUur aura; " The head and an inch in 
the neck are bare and without feathers, of a flesh color, covered with a thin mem- 
brane, like that of turkeys, with which the most part of the bill is covered likewise ; 
bill (below the membrane) more than an inch long, whitish at the point ; tail broad 
and nine inches long; legs and feet three inches long; it flies exactly like a kite, 
and preys on nothing living, but when dead it devours their carcasses, whence they 
are not molested." Sloane, Nat. Hist. Jam. vol. ii., p. 294, folio. 

t Medley's Kolben, vol. ii. p. 135. 


ishment, freely give currency to every ridiculous tale, which the design- 
ing or the credulous impose upon them. 

The Turkey Vulture is two feet and a half in length, and six feet two 
inches in hreadth ; the bill, from the corner of the mouth, is almost two 
inches and a half long, of a dark horn color, for somewhat more than 
an inch from the tip, the nostril a remarkably wide slit or opening 
through it ; the tongue is greatly concave, cartilaginous, and finely ser- 
rated on its edges ; ears sub-cordate, eyes dark, in some specimens red- 
dish hazel ; wrinkled skin of the head and neck reddish ; the neck not 
so much caruncled as that of the Black Vulture ; from the hind-head to 
the neck feathers, the space is covered with down, of a sooty black 
color ; the fore part of the neck is bare as far as the breast bone, the 
skin or the lower part, or pouch, very much wrinkled, this naked skin is 
not discernible without removing the plumage which arches over it ; the 
whole lower parts, lining of the wings, rump and tail-coverts, are of a 
sooty brown, the feathers of the belly and vent hairy ; the plumage of 
the neck is large and tumid, and, with that of the back and shoulders, 
black ; the scapulars and secondaries are black on their outer webs, 
skirted with tawny brown, the latter slightly tipped with white ; prima- 
ries and their coverts plain brown, the former pointed, third primary 
the longest ; coverts of the secondaries, and lesser coverts, tawny brown, 
centred with black, some of the feathers, at their extremities, slightly 
edged with white ; the tail is twelve inches long, rounded, of a brownish 
bJack, and composed of twelve feathers, which are broad at their ex- 
tremities ; inside of wings and tail light ash ; the wings reach to the 
end of the tail ; the whole body and neck, beneath the plumage, are 
thickly clothed with a white down, which feels like cotton ; the shafts of 
the primaries are yellowish white above, and those of the tail brown, 
both pure white below ; the plumage of the neck, back, shoulders, scap- 
ulars and secondaries, is glossed with green and bronze, and has purple 
reflections ; the thighs are feathered to the knees ; feet considerably 
webbed ; middle toe three inches and a half in length, and about an inch 
and a half longer than the outer one, which is the next longest ; the sole 
of the foot is hard and rough ; claws dark horn color ; the legs are of 
a pale flesh color, and three inches long. The claws are larger, but the 
feet slenderer, than those of the Carrion Crow. The bill of the male is 
pure white, in some specimens the upper mandible is tipped with black. 
There is little or no other perceptible difi"erence between the sexes. 

The bird from which the foregoing description was taken, was shot for 
this work, at Great Egg-harbor, the thirtieth of January. It was a 
female, in perfect plumage, excessively fat, and weighed five pounds one 
ounce, avoirdupois. On dissection, it emitted a slight musky odor. 

The Vulture is included in the catalogue of those fowls declared un- 
clean, and an abomination, by the Levitical constitution, and which the 


Israelites were interdicted eating.* We presume that this prohibition 
AYas religiously observed, so far at least as it related to the whole family 
of the Vultures, from whose flesh there arises such an unsavory odor, 
that we question if all the sweetening processes ever invented, could 
render it palatable to a Jew, Pagan, or Christian. 

Temminck, and some recent ornithologists, have separated our Vul- 
tures from the genus Vultur, and have classed them under the genus 
Oathartes of Illiger. It should seem that there is a propriety in this 
arrangement ; but as Wilson published, in his sixth volume, the cata- 
logue of his land birds, adopting the genus Vultur, as sanctioned by 
Latham, we have not thought proper, in this instance, to deviate from 
his plan.f 



[Plate IXXV. Fig. 2.] 

Vultur jota, Gmel. Syst. i., p. 247. — Molina, Hist. Chili, i., p. ]85, Am. trans. — 
Zopilot, Clatigero, Hist. Mex. i., p. 47, Eng. trans. — GalUnazo, Ulloa, Voy.i., p. 
52, Amsterdam ed. — Vultur atratus, Baktram, p. 289. — Vautour du Br4sil, PI. 
Ent. 187.— Vultur aura, B. Lath. Ind. Orn. p. v. — Le Vautour urubu, Vieill. 
Ois. de I' Am. Sept. i., p. 23, pi. 2. 

The habits of both this and the preceding Vulture are singular. In 
the towns and villages of the southern states, particularly Charleston and 
Georgetown, South Carolina, and in Savannah, Georgia, these birds may 
be seen either sauntering about the streets ; sunning themselves on the 
roofs of the houses, and the fences ; or, if the weather be cold, cowering 
around the tops of the chimneys, to enjoy the benefit of the heat, which 
to them is a peculiar gratification. They are protected by a law ; and may 
be said to be completely domesticated, being as common as the poultry, 
and equally as familiar. The inhabitants, generally, are disgusted with 
their filthy, voracious habits ; but notwithstanding, being viewed as con- 
tributive to the removal of dead animal matter, which, if permitted to 
putrefy during the hot season, would render the atmosphere impure, 
they have a respect paid them as scavengers, whose labors are sub- 
servient to the public good. It sometimes happens that, after having 
gorged themselves, they vomit down the chimneys, which must be intole- 
rably disgusting, and must provoke the ill will of those whose hospitality 
is thus requited. To «bviate this evil, the chimney tops of some houses 

* Leviticus, xi., 14. Deuteronomy, xiv. 13. 
t From Hr. Ord's supplementary volume. 


are furnished ■with rows of spikes ; others are capped, or provided with 
some apparatus, to hinder the birds from alighting upon them. 

The Black Vultures are indolent, and may be observed, in companies, 
loitering for hours together in one place. They are much darker in 
their plumage than the Turkey-buzzard. Their mode of flight also varies 
from that of the latter. The Black Vulture flaps its wings five or six 
times rapidly, then sails with them extended nearly horizontally ; the 
Turkey-buzzard seldom flaps its wings, and when sailing, they form an 
upward angle with the body. The latter is not so impatient of cold as 
the former, and is likewise less lazy. The Black Vulture, when walk- 
ing at leisure upon the ground, takes great strides — when hurried he 
runs and jumps awkwardly ; the Turkey-buzzard, though seemingly 
inactive, moves with an even gait. The former, when springing from the 
ground, will sometimes make a noise exactly resembling the grunt of a 


I had been informed, previously to my visit to Georgia, by both "Wil- 
liam Bartram, and Mr. John Abbot, that the two species did not asso- 
ciate ; but I soon discovered that this information was erroneous. I took 
notice that both of these birds mixed together upon the chimney tops, 
and the roofs of the houses, and sometimes in the streets ; they were 
equally unsuspicious and tame. It would appear, however, that there 
are certain districts which are affected by each kind. In the yard of the 
hotel where I resided, in the town of Savannah, I daily observed num- 
bers of Carrion Crows, unaccompanied by a single Turkey-buzzard. The 
latter, unless pressed by hunger, will not eat of a carcass until it be- 
comes putrid ; the former is not so fastidious, but devours animal food 
without distinction. Perhaps this may be the reason why the Carrion 
Crows alone frequent the yards, where servants are in the habit of throw- 
ing out animal offals. In the fields, wherever there is a putrid carcass, 
there will be seen swarms of Turkey-buzzards. 

It is said that the Black Vultures sometimes attack young pigs, and 
eat off their ears and tails ; and we have even heard stories of their 
assaulting feeble calves, and picking out their eyes. But these instances 
are rare ; if otherwise, they would not receive that countenance or pro- 
tection, which is so universally extended to them, in the states of South 
Carolina and Georgia, where they abound. 

In one of Wilson's journals, I find an interesting detail of the greedy 
and disgusting habits of this species ; and shall give the passage entire, 
in the same unadorned manner in which it is written. 

"February 21, 1809. Went out to Hampstead* this forenoon. A 
horse had dropped down in the street, in convulsions ; and dying, it was 
dragged out to Hampstead and skinned. The ground, for a hundred 

* Near Charleston, South Carolina. 
Vol. L— 2 


yards around it, was black with Carrion Crows ; many sat on the tops of 
sheds, fences, and houses within sight ; sixty or eighty on^ the opposite 
side of a small stream. I counted at one time two hundred and thirty- 
seven, but I believe there were more, besides several in the air over my 
head, and at a distance. I ventured, cautiously, within thirty yards of 
the carcass, where three or four dogs, and twenty or thirty Vultures, 
were busily tearing and devouring. Seeing them take no notice, I ven- 
tured nearer, till I was within ten yards, and sat down on the bank. 
Still they paid little attention to me. The dogs being sometimes acci- 
dentally flapped with the wings of the Vultures, would growl and snap 
at them, which would occasion them to spring up for a moment, but they 
immediately gathered in again. I remarked the Vultures frequently 
attack each other, fighting with their claws or heels, striking like a cock, 
with open wings, and fixing their claws in each other's head. The females, 
and I believe the males likewise, made a hissing sound, with open mouth, 
exactly resembling that produced by thrusting a red-hot poker into 
water ; and frequently a snufiling, like a dog clearing his nostrils, as I 
suppose they were theirs. On observing that they did not heed me, I 
stole so close that my feet were within one yard of the horse's legs, and 
again sat down. They all slid aloof a few feet ; but seeing me quiet, 
they soon returned as before. As they were often disturbed by the dogs, 
I ordered the latter home : my voice gave no alarm to the Vultures. As 
soon as the dogs departed, the Vultures crowded in such numbers, that 
I counted at one time thirty-seven on and around the carcass, with seve- 
ral within ; so that scarcely an inch of it was visible. Sometimes one 
would come out with a large piece of the entrails which in a mo- 
ment was surrounded by several others, who tore it in fragments, and it 
soon disappeared. They kept up the hissing occasionally. Some of 
them having their whole legs and heads covered with blood, presented a 
most savage aspect. Still as the dogs advanced I would order them 
away, which seemed to gratify the Vultures ; and one would pursue 
another to within a foot or two of the spot where I was sitting. Some- 
times I observed them stretching their necks along the ground, as if to 
press the food downwards." 

The Carrion Crow is seldom found, on the Atlantic, to the northwai 1 
of Newbern, North Carolina, but inhabits, as far as we can ascertain, 
the whole southern continent. Don Ulloa, in taking notice of the birds 
of Carthagena, gives an account of a Vulture, which we shall quote, in 
order to establish the opinion, advanced in the preceding history, that it 
is the present species. We shall afterwards subjoin other testimony in 
confirmation of this opinion. With respect to the marvellous tale of 
their attacking the cattle in the pastures, it is too improbable to merit a 
serious refutation ; and it is to be regretted that Vieillot should have 


perpetuated this slander, whicli is so absurd, that we wonder how it could 
have escaped his animadversion. 

" It would be too great an undertaking," says Ulloa, " to describe all 
the extraordinary birds that inhabit this country ; but I cannot refrain 
from taking notice of that to which they give the name of Gallinazo, 
from the resemblance it has to the Turkey-hen. This bird is of the size 
of the Pea-hen, but its head and neck are somewhat larger. From the 
crop to the base of the bill there are no feathers ; and the skin, which 
is of a brownish black color, is wrinkled and rough, and covered with 
small warts and tubercles. The plumage of the bird is also black. The 
bill is well proportioned, strong, and a little hooked. These birds are 
familiar in Carthagena, the tops of the houses are covered with them. 
They are very serviceable, in cleansing the city of all its animal impuri- 
ties. There are few animals killed whereof they do not obtain the 
offals ; and when this food is waiiting, they have recourse to other filth. 
Their sense of smelling is so acute, that it enables them to trace carrion 
at the distance of three or four leagues ; which they do not abandon until 
there remains nothing but the skeleton. 

" The great number of these birds found in such hot climates, is an 
excellent provision of nature ; as otherwise, the putrefaction caused by 
the constant and excessive heat, would render the air insupportable to 
human life. When first they take wing, they fly heav*ily-; but afterwards 
they rise so high as to be entirely invisible. On the ground they walk 
sluggishly. Their legs are well proportioned ; they have three toes for- 
ward, turning inwards, and one in the inside, inclining a little backwards, 
so that the feet interfering, they cannot walk with any agility, but are 
obliged to hop ; each toe is furnished with a long and stout claw. 

"When the Gallinazos are deprived of carrion, or food in the city, 
they are driven by hunger among the cattle of the pastures. If they 
see a beast with a sore on the back, they alight on it, and attack the 
part affected ; and it avails not that the poor animal throws itself upon 
the ground, and endeavors to intimidate them with its bellowing : they 
do not quit their hold !* and by means of their bill they so soon enlarge 
the wound, that the animal finally becomes their prey."t 

The account, from the same author, of the beneficial effects resulting 

* The faculty of prehension, which is possessed, in a remarkable degree, by the 
whole of the Falco tribe, but slightly appertains to Vultures, as is evidenced by 
their feet and claws ; hence all the stories which are related, of their seizing upon 
their prey, and bearing it off in their talons, are apocryphal. We would extend this 
remark to the far-famed Condor, whose history has been embellished with feats of 
strength, not a' little allied to the marvellous. 

t Voyage Historique de l'Am6rique M6ridionale, par Don George Juan, et Don 
Antoine De Ulloa, liv. I., chap, viii., p. 52. A Amsterdam et k Leipzig, 1752, 


from the fondness of the vultures for the eggs of the alligator, merits 

" The Gallinazos are the most inveterate enemies of the alligators, or 
rather they are extremely fond of their eggs ; and employ much strata- 
gem to obtain them. During the summer, these birds make it their 
business to watch the female alligators ; for it is in that season that they 
deposit their eggs in the sand of the shores of the rivers, which are not 
then overflowed. The Gallinazo conceals itself among the branches and 
leaves of a tree, so as to be unperceived by the alligator, and permits 
the eggs quietly to be laid, not even interrupting the precautions that 
she takes to conceal them. But she is no sooner under the water, than 
the Gallinazo darts upon the nest ; and with its bill, claws, and wings, 
uncovers the eggs, and gobbles them down, leaving nothing but the 
shells. This banquet would indeed richly reward its patience, did not a 
multitude of Gallinazos join the fortunate discoverer, and share in the 

"How admirable the wisdom of that Providence, which hath given to 
the male alligator an inclination to devour its own offspring ; and to the 
Gallinazo a taste for the eggs of the female ! Indeed neither the rivers, 
nor the neighboring fields, would otherwise be sufficient to contain the 
multitudes that are hatched ; for notwithstanding the ravages of both 
these insatiable enemies, one can hardly imagine the numbers that 
remain."* ' 

The Abb^ Clavigero, in his History of Mexico, has clearly indicated 
the present species, as distinguished from the Turkey-buzzard. 

" The business of clearing the fields of Mexico, is reserved princi- 
pally for the Zopilots, known in South America by the name of Galli- 
nazzi ; in other places, by that of Aure ; and in some places, though 
very improperly, by that of Ravens. There are two very different spe- 
cies of these birds ; the one, ,the Zopilot, properly so called, the other 
called the Cozcaquauhtli : they are both bigger than the Raven. These 
two species resemble each other in their hooked bill and'crooked claws, 
and by having upon their head, instead of feathers, a wrinkled membrane, 
with some curling hairs. They fly so high, that although they are 
pretty large, they are lost to the sight ; and especially before a hail 
storm they will be seen wheeling, in vast numbers under the loftiest 
clouds, till they entirely disappear. They feed upon carrion, which they 
discover by the acuteness of their sight and smell, from the greatest 
height, and descend upon it with a majestic flight, in a great spiral 
course. They are both almost mute. The two species are distinguished, 
however, by their size, their color, their numbers, and some other pecu- 
liarities. The Zopilots, properly so called, have black feathers, with a 

* Liy. iv., chap, ir., p. 172. 


brown head, bill, and feet ; they go often in flocks, and roost together 
upon trees. This species is very numerous, and is to be found in all the 
different climates ; while on the contrary, the Cozcaquauhtli is far from 
numerous, and is peculiar to the warmer climates alone.* The latter 
bird is larger than the Zopilot, has a red head and feet, with a beak of 
a deep red color, except towards its extremity, which is white. Its 
feathers are brown, except upon the neck and parts about the breast, 
which are of a reddish black. The wings are of an ash color upon the 
inside, and upon the outside are variegated with black and tawny. 

" The Cozcaquauhtli is called by the Mexicans, King of the Zopi- 
fo<s;t and they say, that when these two species happen to meet together 
about the same carrion, the Zopilot never begins to eat till the Cozca- 
quauhtli has tasted it. The Zopilot is a most useful bird to that coun- 
try, for they not only clear the fields, but attend the crocodiles, and 
destroy the eggs which the females of those dreadful amphibious animals 
leave in the sand, to be hatched by the heat Of the sun. The destruc- 
tion of such a bird ought to be prohibited under severe penalties."! 

"The Jota (Vultur jota)," says the abb^ Molina, "resembles much 
the Aura, a species of vulture, of which there is perhaps but one va- 
riety. It is distinguished, however, by the beak, which is gray with a 
black point. Notwithstanding the size of this bird, which is nearly that 
of the turkey, and its strong and crooked talons, it attacks no other, 
but feeds principally upon carcasses and reptiles. It is extrejnely indo- 
lent, and will frequently remain for a long time almost motionless, with 
its wings extended, sunning itself upon the rocks, or the roofs of the 
houses. When in pain, which is the only time that it is known to make 
any noise, it utters a sharp cry like that of a rat ; and usually disgorges 
what it has eaten. The flesh of this bird emits a fetid smell that is 
highly offensive. The manner in which it builds its nest is perfectly 
correspondent to its natural indolence ; it carelessly places between 
rocks, or even upon the ground, a few dry leaves or feathers, upon which 
it lays two eggs of a dirty white. "§ 

The Black Vulture is twenty-six inches in length, and four feet eleven 
inches in extent ; the bill is two inches and a half long, of a pale horn 
color as far as near an inch, the remainder, with the head, and wrinkled 
skin of the neck, a dirty scurfy black ; tongue similar to that of the 
Turkey-buzzard ; nostril an oblong slit ; irides dark reddish hazel ; ears 
sublunate ; the throat is dashed with yellow ochre in some speciipens ; 

* This is a mistake. 

t This is the Vultur aura. The bird which now goes by the name of King of 
the Zopilots, in New Spain, is the Vultur papa of Linnseus. 
t Clavigero's Mexico, translated by CuUen, vol. i., p. 47, London. 
I Hist. Chili, Am. trans, i., p. 185. 


neck feathers below the caruncled skin much inflated, and very thick ; 
the general color of the plumage is a dull black, except the primaries, 
which are whitish on the inside, and have four of their broadened edges 
below of a drab, or dark cream color, extending two inches, which is seen 
only when the wing is unfolded, 'the shafts of the feathers white on both 
sides ; the rest of the wing feathers dark on both sides ; secondaries, 
scapulars and tail, with a slight coppery gloss ; the wings when folded 
are about the length of the tail, the fifth feather being the longest ; the 
secondaries are two inches shorter than the tail, which is composed of 
twelve feathers, and slightly forked, or nearly square; the exterior 
feathers three-quarters of an inch longer than the rest ; the legs are of a 
dirty limy white, three inches, and a half in length, and, with the feet, are 
thick and strong ; the middle toe, including the claw, is four inches long, 
side toes two inches, and connected to the middle as far as the first joint ; 
inner toe rather the shortest ; , hind toe pointing inward ; claws strong, 
but not sharp like those of the Falco genus, middle claw three-quarters 
of an inch long ; the stomach is not lined with hair as reported. When 
opened, this bird smells strongly of musk, so much so as to be quite 
ofiensive. Sexes nearly alike. 

Mr. Abbot informs me that the Carrion Crow builds its nest in the 
large trees of the low wet swamps, to which places they retire every 
■evening to roost. "They frequent," says he, "that part of the town 
of Savannah where the hog-butchers reside, and walk about the streets, 
in great numbers, like domestic fowls. It is diverting to see, when the 
entrails and ofials of the hogs are thrown to them, with what greediness 
they scramble for the food, seizing upon it, and pulling one against 
another until the strongest prevails. The Turkey-buzzard is accused 
of killing young lambs and pigs, by picking out their eyes, but I believe 
that the Carrion Crow is not guilty of the like practices." When taken 
alive, this bird bites excessively hard, and its bill, which is very sharp 
on its edges, is capable of inflicting severe wounds, as I myself expe- 

It is really astonishing that the European naturalists should so long 
have overlooked the difference which there is between this species and 
the Turkey-buzzard, in their external conformation. Their heads are 
differently shaped ; their bills and nostrils are considerably unlike ; and 
the arrangement of the neck plumage is entirely dissimilar, as our figures 
will show. The Turkey-buzzard's neck, along the oesophagus, as far as 
the breast bone, is bare of- feathers, though this nakedness is concealed 
by the adjacent plumage ; the same part in the Carrion Crow is com- 
pletely clothed. The down of both species has the same cottony 

The drab color on the primaries is not visible when the wing is closed, 
consequently the marking on the wing of our figure is incorrect. 


In the month of December, 1815, a soUtary individual of this specie? 
made its appearance in Philadelphia. This visitor, as may be presumed, 
occasioned not ar little surprise. It was shot with an air rifle, while 
perched upon a chimney of a large house in Chestnut street. This bird 
was put into my hands for examination ; and from the appearance of 
its plumage, I had reason to conjecture that it had escaped from con- 

From Vieillot's figure and description of the Black Vulture, we must 
conclude that he had never seen it, either alive, or in a recent state, 
otherwise he would not have committed the egregious error of repre- 
senting the naked skin of the bill, head and neck, of a hlood red, when 
these parts are of a scurfy, black color, resembling the skin of a dirty 

Species I. F. PEREORINUS. 


[Plate LXXVI. Female.] 

Falco Peregrinus, Gmel. Sy.ii. i., p. 272, 88.— Briss. i., p. 341, 6, and Var. A. — Ind. 
Orn. p. 33, No. 72. — Falco Barharus, Linn. Syst. ed. ]0, torn i., p. 88, No. 6. — 
Gmel. Syst. i., p. 272, 8. — Ind. Orn. p. 33, No. 71. — Falco hornotinus, Beiss. i., 
p. 324, A. Falco niger. Id. p. 327, E. Falco maculatus. Id. p. 329, F. — Peregrine 
Falcon, Lath. Syn. i., p. 73, No. 52. Id. suppl. p. 18.— Penn. Brit. Zool. No. 48, 
pi. 20. Arct. Zool. No. 97. — Shaw, Gen. Zool. vol. vii., p. 128. — Montagu, Orn. 
Did. and Suppl. — Low, Fauna, Orcadensis, p. 150. — Common Falcon, Lath. Syn. 
I., p. 65, No. 49, var. A. p. 67, var. E. p. 68. var. F. — Spotted Hawk or Falcon, 
Edwards, i., pi. 3. Black Hawk or Falcon, Id. pi. 4, both from Hudson's Bay. 
— Le Lanier, PI. enl. 430, old male. Le Faucon noir et passager, Id. 469, young 
female? Le Faucon sors, Id. p. 470, yearling. — Faucon p^lerin, Temm. Man. 
d' Orn. p. 22. 

It is with great pleasure that we are now enabled to give a portrait 
of this celebrated Falcon, drawn of half the size of life, in the best 
manner of our deceased friend ; and engraved by the accurate and 
ingenious Lawson. 

This noble bird had excited our curiosity for a long time. Every 
visit which we made to the coast, was rendered doubly interesting by the 
wonderful stories which we heard of its exploits in fowling, and of its 
daring enterprise. There was not a shooter along the shore but knew 
it well ; and each could relate something of it which bordered on the 
marvellous. It was described as darting, with the rapidity of an arrow, 

* From Mr. Ord's supplementary volume. 


upon the ducks when on the wing, and striking them down with the pro- 
jecting bone of its breast. Even the wild geese were said to be in 
danger from its attacks, it having been known to sacrifice them to its 

To behold this hero, the terror of the wild fowl, and the wonder of 
the sportsmen, was the chief object of our wishes. Day after day did 
we traverse the salt marshes, and explore the ponds and estuaries, where 
the web-footed tribes assemble in immense multitudes, in the hope of ob- 
taining the imperial depredator ; even all the shooters of the district were 
summoned to our aid, with the assurance of a great reward if they pro- 
cured him, but without success. At length, in the month of DecembeF, 
1812, to the unspeakable joy of Wilson, he received from Egg Harbor 
a fine specimen of the far-famed. Duck Hawk ; which was discovered, 
contrary to his expectations, to be of a" species which he had never 
before beheld. 

If we were to repeat all the anecdotes which have been related to us 
of the achievements of the Duck Hawk, they would swell our pages at 
the expense, probably, of our reputation. Naturalists should be always 
on their guard when they find themselves compelled to resort to the 
observations of others ; and record nothing as fact, which has not been 
submitted to the temperate deliberations of reason. The neglect of this 
procedure has been a principal cause, why errors and absurdities have 
so frequently deformed the pages of works of science, which, like a plain 
mirror, ought to reflect only the true images of nature. 

From the best sources of information, we learn that this species is 
adventurous and powerful ; that it darts upon its prey with astonishing 
velocity ; and that it strikes with its formidable feet, permitting the duck 
to fall previously to securing it. The circumstance of the hawk's never 
carrying the duck off on striking it, has given rise to the belief of that 
service being performed by means of the breast, which vulgar opinion 
has armed with a projecting bone; adapted to the purpose. But this 
cannot be the fact, as the breast bone of this bird does not differ from 
that of others of the same tribe, which would not admit of so violent a 

When the water fowl perceive the approach of their enemy, a univer- 
sal alarm pervades their ranks ; even man himself, with his engine of 
destruction, is not more terrible. But the effect is different. When the 
latter is beheld, the whole atmosphere is enlivened with the whistling of 
wings ; when the former is recognised, not a duck is to be seen in the 
air : they all speed to the water, and there remain until the hawk has 
passed them, diving the moment he comes near them. It is worthy of 
remark, that he will seldom, if ever, strike over the water, unless it be 
frozen ; well knowing that it will be diflScult to secure his quarry. This 
is something more than instinct. 


When the sportsmen perceive the hawk knock down a duck, they 
frequently disappoint him of it, by being first to secure it. And as one 
evil turn, according to the maxim of the multitude, deserves another, 
our hero takes ample revenge on them, at every opportunity, by robbing 
them of their game, the hard-earned fruits of their labor. 

The Duck Hawk, it is said, often follows the steps of the shooter, 
knowing that the ducks will be aroused on the wing, which will afibrd it 
an almost certain chance of success. 

We have been informed that those ducks which are struck down, have 
their backs lacerated from the rump to the neck. If this be the fact, 
iWs a proof that the hawk employs only its talons, which are long and 
stout, in the operation. One respectable inhabitant of Cape May told 
us, that he had seen the hawk stl-ike from below. 

This species has been long known in Europe ; and, in the age of Fal- 
conry, was greatly valued for those qualifications which rendered it 
estimable to the lovers and followers of that princely amusement. But 
we have strong objections to its specific appellation. The epithet fere- 
grine is certainly not applicable to our hawk, which is not migratory, as 
far as our most diligent inquiries can ascertain ; and as additional evidence 
of the fact, we ourselves have seen it prowling near the coast of New 
Jersey, in the month of May, and heard its screams, which resemble 
somewhat those of the Bald Eagle, in the swamps wherein it is said to 
breed. We have therefore taken the liberty of changing its English 
name for one which will at once express a characteristic designation, or 
which will indicate the species without the labor of investigation.* 

" This species," says Pennant, " breeds on the rocks of Llandidno, in 
Caernarvonshire, Wales. That promontory has been long famed for 
producing a generous kind, as appears by a letter extant in Gloddaeth 
library, from the lord treasurer Burleigh to an ancestor of Sir Roger 
Mostyn, in which his lordship thanks him for a present of a fine cast of 
hawks taken on those rocks, which belong to the family. They are also 
very common in the north of Scotland ; and are sometimes trained for 
falconry by some few gentlemen who still take delight in this amusement 
in that part of Great Britain. Their flight is amazing rapid ; one that 
was reclaimed by a gentleman in the Shire of Angus, a county on the 
east side of Scotland, eloped from its master with two heavy bells at- 
tached to each foot, on the 24th of September, 1772, and was killed in 
the morning of the 26th, near Mostyn, Flintshire, "f. 

The same naturalist, in another place, observes, that " the American 

* " Specific names, to be perfect, ought to express some peculiarity, common to 
no other of the genus." Am. Orn. i., p. 65. 
t Btitish Zoology. 


species is larger than the European.* They are subject to vary. The 
Black Falcon, and the Spotted Falcon, of Edwards, are of this kind ; 
each preserves a specific mark, in the black stroke which drops from 
beneath- the eyes, down towards the neck. 

" Inhabits diflFerent parts of North America, from Hudson's Bay as 
low as Carolina. In Asia, is found on the highest parts of the Uralian 
and Siberian chain. Wanders in summer to the very Arctic circle. Is 
common in Kamtschatka."f 

Low says, that this species is found in all the head-lands, and other 
inaccessible rocks, of Orkney. " It is the falcon, or more noble species 
of hawk, which was formerly so much coveted, and brought from Ork- 
ney. In the Burgh of Birsa I observed the dark-colored kind, so beau- 
tifully engraved in the additional volume of the British Zoology. It is 
likewise found in Marwick-head, Hoy, Walls, Copinsha, and elsewhere 
in Orkney ; likewise in the Fair Isle and Foula ; as also in Lamhoga of 
Fetlor, Fitful, and Sumburgh-Heads of Shetland. 

" Never more than one pair of this species inhabit the same rock ; 
and when the young are fit, they are driven out to seek new habitations 
for themselves. The Falcon's nest, like the Eagle's, is always in the 
very same spot, and continues so past memory of man."| 

In the breeding season, the Duck Hawk Retires to the recesses of the 
gloomy cedar swamps, on the tall trees of which it Constructs its nest, 
and rears its young, secure from all molestation. In those wilds, which 
present obstacles almost insuperable to the foot of man, the screams of 
this bird, occasionally mingled with the hoarse tones of the Heron, and 
the hootings of the Great-horned Owl, echoing through the dreary soli- 
tude, arouse in the imagination all the frightful imagery of desolation. 
Wilson, and the writer of this article, explored two-of these swamps, in 
the month of May, 1813, in pursuit of the Great Heron, and the sub- 
ject of this chapter ; and although they were successful in obtaining the 
former, yet the latter eluded their research. 

The Great-footed Hawk is twenty inches in length, and three feet 
eight inches in breadth ; the bill is inflated, short and strong, of a light 
blue color, ending in black, the upper mandible with a tooth-like process, 
the lower with a corresponding notch, and truncate ; nostrils round, 
with a central point like the pistil of a flower ; the Qyes are large, irides 
of a dark brown ; cere and orbits pale bluish white ; the cartilage over 
the eyes prominent ; frontlet whitish ; the head above, cheeks and back, 

* If we were to adopt the mode of philosophizing of the Count de Buffon, we 
should infer that the European species is a variety of our more generous race, de- 
generated by the influence of food and climate I 

t Arctic Zoology. 

X Low's Natural History of the Quadrupeds, Birds, Reptiles, and Fishes, of 0-k 
ney and Shetland ; published by William Elford Leach, M. D., 4to. 1813. 


are black ; the wings and scapulars are brownish black, each feather 
edged with paler, the former long and pointed, reaching almost to thf 
end of the tail ; the primaries and secondaries are marked transversely, 
on the inner vanes, with large oblong spots of ferruginous white ; the 
exterior edge of the tip of the secondaries curiously scallopped, as if a 
piece had been cut out ; the tertials incline to ash color ; the lining of 
the wings is beautifully barred with black and white, and tinged with 
ferruginous ; on a close examination, the scapulars and tertials are found 
to be barred with faint ash ; all the shafts are black ; the rump and 
tail-coverts are light ash, marked with large dusky bars ; the tail is 
roanding, black, tipped with reddish white, and crossed with eight nar- 
row bars of very faint ash ; the chin and breast, encircling the black 
mustaches, are of a pale buff color ; breast below, and lower parts, red- 
dish buff, or pale cinnamon, handsomely marked with roundish or heart- 
shaped spots of black ; sides broadly barred with black ; the femorals 
are elegantly ornamented with herring-bones of black, on a buff ground ; 
the vent is pale buff, marked as the femorals, though with less numerous 
spots ; the feet and legs are of a dirty white, stained with yellow ochre, 
the legs short and stout, feathered a little below the knees, the bare part 
one inch in length ; span of the foot five inches^ with a large protuberant 
sole ; middle toe as long as the tarsus ; the claws are large and black, 
middle one three-quarters of an inch long, hind claw seven-eighths of an 

The most striking characters of this species are the broad patch of 
black dropping below the eye, and the uncommonly large feet. It is 
stout, heavy, and firmly put together. 

The bird from which the above description was taken, was shot in a 
cedar swamp, in Cape May county, New Jersey. It was a female, and 
contained the remains of small birds, among which were discovered the 
legs of the Sanderling. The figure in the plate is an excellent resem- 
blance of the original, which was handsomely set up in the Philadelphia 

I am indebted to Mr. Titian Peale, for the view of an immature 
specimen of the Duck Hawk, which he shot near the Rocky Mountains ; 
it was quite young, having just left the nest. Its colors were principally 
a dirty white, and a-reddish brown ; the patch below the eye not very 
conspicuous ; but the characters of the bill and feet proved the species. 

According to Temminck, the Peregrine Falcon never inhabits marshy 
countries ; but this, I presume, is a mistake, as our bird is remarkable 
for its attachment to those places which are affected by the water fowl ; 
and it is well known that the latter abound in all the marshes of the 

In the month of November, 1823, I procured a fine living specimen 
of the Duck Hawk, which I preserved, with the view of noting its 


change of plumage. It was a female, and was allowed the free range 
of a stable and garden. Notwithstanding my care, it lived but nine 
months. On dissection, I found her eggs very small, alAough she had 
every appearance of being an adult. Around the base of the heart, 
and near the ovaries, I discovered two or three round worms, of about 
nine inches in length. 

During the time that she was in my possession she did not moult ; 
and the change in the color of the plumage was but slight. In winter, 
the upper parts were dark brown, but in the siimmer there was an 
appearance of ash color on the back and wing-coverts. The fact, that 
the plumage of birds undergoes a change of color, independent of moult- 
ing, appears to be now well ascertained ; and it is with pleasure that 
I can add my testimony, on this subject, to the sensible " Kemarks on 
the Changes of the Plumage of Birds," which were published in the 
twelfth volume of the Transactions of the Linnean Society of London. 
The paper in question was written by the Rev. William Whitear. 

My Duck Hawk never became sufficiently domesticated to permit me 
to handle her ; and if an attempt were made to touch her, she would 
either hop away in anger, or, if prevented from retreating, she would 
spring upon me, and strike, furiously, with one of her powerful feet, 
which were capable of inflicting severe wounds. Unless when very 
hungry, she would not touch cooked food; she preferred fresh-killed 
meat, especially tender beef and mutton, generally rejecting the fat. 
She was fond of sniall birds, but a live duck was her supreme delight ; 
the sight of one would make her almost frantic ; at such times the 
vigor and activity of her movements, and the animation of her eye, 
were truly adm'irable. Her antipathy to cats was great, and when one 
of these animals approached her, she manifested her displ.easure by 
raising her plumes, opening her mouth, and uttering some sounds, which 
were doubtless intended as a premonition of danger. If, regardless of 
all these, the cat got within striking distance, one blow from the Hawk 
was generally sufficient to compel the intruder to a hasty retreat.* 

* From Mr. Ord's supplementary volume. 



[Plate XVI.— Fig. 1.— Female.] 

Emerillon de Si. Domingue, Buff. i. 291. Pl.enl. 465. — Arct. Zool. 212. — LiUh 
Falcon, Lath. Syn. v. i., p. 110, No. 94. lb. 95. 

In no department of ornithology has there been greater confusion, 
or more mistakes made, then among this class of birds of prey. The 
great difference of size between the male and female, the progressive 
variation of plumage to which, for several years, they are subject, and 
the difBculty of procuring a sufficient number of specimens for examina- 
tion ; all these causes conspire to lead the naturalist into almost 
unavoidable mistakes. For these reasons, and in order, if possible, to 
ascertain each species of this genus distinctly, I have determined, where 
any doubt or ambiguity prevails, to represent both male and female, as 
fair and perfect specimens of each may come into my possession. 
According to fashionable etiquette the honor of precedence, in the 
present instance, is given to the female of this species ; both because she 
is the most courageous, the largest and handsomest of the two, best 
ascertained, and less subject to change of color than the male, who will 
require some further examination and more observation, before we can 
venture to introduce him. 

This bird is a constant resident in almost every part of the United 
States, particularly in the states north of Maryland. In the southern 
states there is a small species found, which is destitute of the black 
?pots on the head ; the legs are long and very slender, and the wings 
light blue. This has been supposed, by some, to be the male of the 
present species ; but this is an error. The eye of the present species 
is dusky ; that of the smaller species a brilliant orange ; the former has 
the tail rounded at the end, the latter slightly forked. Such essential 
differences never take place between two individuals of the same species. 
It ought, however, to be remarked, that in all figures and descriptions I 
have hitherto met with of the bird now before us, the iris is represented 
of a bright golden color ; but in all the specimens I have shot I uni- 
formly found the eye very dark, almost black, resembling a globe of 
black glass. No doubt the golden color of the iris would give the figure 
of the bird a more striking appearance ; but in works of natural history 
to sacrifice truth to mere picturesque effect is detestable ; though, I fear, 
but too often put in practice. 

The nest of this species is usually built in a hollow tree ; generally 



pretty higli up, where the top or a large limb has been broken off. I 
have never seen its eggs ; but have been told that the female generally 
lays four or five, which are of a light brownish yellow color, spotted 
with a darker tint ; the young are fed on grasshoppers, mice, and small 
birds, the usual food of the parents. 

The habits and manners of this bird are well known. It flies rather 
irregularly, occasionally suspending itself in the air, hovering over a 
particular spot for a minute or two, and then shooting off in another 
direction. It perches on the top of a dead tree, or pole in the middle 
of a field ,or meadow, and as it alights shuts its long wings so suddenly 
that they seem instantly to disappear ; it sits here in an almost perpen- 
dicular position, sometimes for an hour at a time, frequently jerking its 
tail, and reconnoitering the ground below, in every direction, for mice, 
lizards, &c. It approaches the farm-house, particularly in the morning, 
skulking about the barn-yard for mice or young chickens. It frequently 
plunges into a thicket after small birds, as if by random ; but always 
with a particular, and generally a fatal, aim. One day I observed a 
bird of this species perched on the highest top of a large poplar, on the 
skirts of the wood ; and was in the act of raising the gun to my eye 
when he swept down with the rapidity of an arrow into a thicket of 
briars about thirty yards off; where I shot him dead ; and on coming up 
found the small field sparrow (fig. 2,) quivering in his grasp. Both our 
aims had been taken in the same instant, and, unfortunately for him, 
both were fatal. It is particularly fond of watching along hedge rows, 
and in orchards, where those small birds, represented in the same plate, 
usually resort. When grasshoppers are plenty they form a considerable 
part of its food. 

Though small snakes, mice, lizards, &c., be favorite morsels with this 
active bird ; yet we are not to suppose it altogether destitute of delicacy 
in feeding. It will seldom or never eat of anything that it has not itself 
killed, and even that, if not (as epicures would term it) in good eating 
order, is sometimes rejected. A very respectable friend, through the 
medium of Mr. Bartram, informs me, that one morning he observed one 
of these hawks dart down on the ground, and seize a mouse, which he 
carried to a fence post ; where, after examining it for some time, he left 
it ; and, a little while after, pounced upon another mouse, which' he 
instantly carried off to his nest, in the hollow of a tree hard by. The 
gentleman, anxious to know why the hawk had rejected the first mouse, 
went up to it, and found it to be almost covered with lice, and greatly 
emaciated ! Here was not only delicacy of taste, but sound and prudent 
reasoning. "If I carry this to my nest," thought he, "it will fill it 
with vermin, and hardly be worth eating." 

The Blue Jays have a particular antipathy to this bird, and frequently 
insult it by following and imitating its notes so exactly as to deceive 


even those well acquainted with both. In return for all this abuse the 
hawk contents himself with, now and then, feasting on the plumpest of 
his persecutors ; who are therefore in perpetual dread of him ; and yet, 
through some strange infatuation, or from fear that if they lose sight of 
him he may attack them unawares, the Sparrow. Hawk no sooner appears 
than the alarm is given, and the whole posse of Jays follow. 

The female of this species, which is here faithfully represented from 
a very beautiful living specimen, furnished by a particular friend, is 
eleven inches long, and twenty-three from tip to tip of the expanded 
wings. The cere and legs are yellow ; bill blue, tipped with black ; 
space round the eye greenish blue ; iris deep dusky ; head bluish ash ; 
crown rufous; seven spots of black, on a white ground, surround the 
head in the manner represented in the figure ; whole upper parts reddish 
bay, transversely streaked with black ; primary and secondary quills 
black, spotted on their inner vanes with brownish white ; whole lower 
parts yellowish white, marked with longitudinal streaks of brown, except 
the chin, vent and femoral feathers, which are white ; claws black. 



[Plate XXXII, Fig. 2— Male.] 

Idttle Hawk, Arct. Zool. 211, No. 110. — Emerillon de Cayenne, Burr, i., 291, pi. enl. 
No. 444.— Lath, i., 110.* 

As the male and the female of this species difi'er considerably in the 
markings of their plumage, the male is introduced, drawn to one-half its 
natural size, to conform with the rest of the figures on the plate. 

The male Sparrow Hawk measures about ten inches in length, and 
twenty-one in extent ; the whole upper parts of the head are of a fine 
slate blue, the shafts of the plumage being black, the crown excepted, 
which is marked with a spot of bright rufous ; the slate tapers to a point 
on each side of the neck ; seven black spots surround the head, as in the 
female, on a reddish white ground, which also borders each sloping side 
of the blue ; front, lores, line over and under the eye, chin and throat, 
white ; femoral and vent feathers yellowish white ; the rest of the lower 

* We add the following aynonymes : — Falco sparverius. Linn. Si/st. ed. 10, p. 90. 
— Gmel. Syst. I., p. 284. — Ind. Orn. p. 42. — F. Dominicensis, Gmel. Si/st. i., p. 285. 
— Little Hawk, Catesbt, i., p. 5. — V Emerillon de la Caroline, BRiss.Ocre. I., p. 386. 
V Emerillon de St. Domingue, Id. p. 389. — Tinnunculus uparverius, Yieil. Ou. de 
UAm. Sept. p. 12-13. 


parts of the same tint, each feather being streaked down the centre with 
a long black drop, those on the breast slender, on the sides larger ; upper 
part of the back and scapulars deep reddish bay, marked with ten or 
twelve transverse waves of black ; whole wing-coverts, and ends of the 
secondaries, bright slate, spotted with black ; primaries and upper half 
of the secondaries black, tipped with white, and spotted on their inner 
vanes with the same ; lower part of the back, the rump and tail-coverts, 
plain bright bay ; tail rounded, the two exterior feathers white, their 
inner vanes beautifully spotted with black ; the next bright bay, with a 
broad band of black near its end, and tipped for half an inch with yel- 
lowish white, part of its lower exterior edge white, spotted with black, 
and its opposite interior edge touched, with white ; the whole of the 
others are very deep red bay, with a single broad band of black near 
the end, and tipped with yellowish white ; cere and legs yellow, orbits 
the same, bill light blue ; iris of the eye dark, almost black, claws blue 

The character of this corresponds with that of the female, given at 
large in the preceding article. I have reason, however, to believe, that 
these birds vary considerably in the color and markings of their plumage 
during the first and second years ; having met with specimens every way 
corresponding with the above, except in the breast, which was a plain 
rufous white, without spots ; the markings on the tail also differing a 
little in different specimens. These I uniformly found on dissection to 
be males ; from the stomach of one of which I took a considerable part 
of the carcass of a robin [Turdus migratorius,) including the unbroken 
feet and claws ; though the robin actually measures within half an inch 
as long as the Sparrow Hawk. 

Note. — This species is very common among the cotton plantations of 
Georgia and East Florida. From the island of Cuba we received a living 
specimen, which differed in no respect from the same species in the 
United States. 



[Plate XV. Fig. 3.— Male.] 

Linn. Syst. ed. 10, p. 90, No. 19. — Lath. Syn. v. i., p. 101, No. i&.—L' Epervier 
de la Caroline, Briss. Orn. i., p. 378. — Catesb. i., p, 3. t. 3. — Barteam, p. 290. 
— Gmel. Syst. V. I., p. 281. 

This small Hawk possesses great spirit and rapidity of flight. He is 
generally migratory in the middle and northern states, arriving in Penn- 
sylvania early in spring, and extending his migrations as far north as 
Hudson's Bay. After building and rearing his young, he retires to the 
south early in November. Small birds and mice are his, principal food. 
When the Reed-birds, Grakles, and Red-winged Blackbirds, congregate 
in large flights, he is often observed hovering in their rear, or on their 
Janks, picking up the weak, the wounded or stragglers ; and frjequently 
making a sudden and fatal sweep into the very midst of their multitudes. 
The flocks of robins and pigeons are honored with the same attentions 
from this marauder ; whose daily excursions are entirely regulated by 
the movements of the great body, on whose unfortunate members he 
fattens. The individual from which the drawing in the plate was taken, 
was shot in the meadows below Philadelphia, in the month of August. 
He was carrying ofi^ a blackbird [Oriolus phcenieeus) from the flock, and 
though mortally wounded and dying, held his prey fast till his last ex- 
piring breath ; having struck his claws into its very heart. This was 
found to be a male. Sometimes when shot at, and not hurt, he will fly 
in circles over the sportsman's head, shrieking out with great violence, as 
if highly irritated. He frequently flies low, skimming a little above the 
field. I have never seen his nest. 

The Pigeon "Hawk is eleven inches long, and twenty-three broad ; the 
whole upper parts are of a deep dark brown, except the tail, which is 
crossed with bars of white ; the inner vanes of the quill feathers are 
marked with round spots of reddish brown ; the bill is short, strongly 
toothed, of a light blue color, and tipped with black ; the skin surround- 
ing the eye greenish ; cere the same ; temples, and line over the eye, 
light brown ; the lower parts brownish white, streaked laterally with 
dark brown ; legs yellow, claws black. The female is an inch and a 
half longer,, of a still deeper color, though marked nearly in the same 
manner, with the exception of some white on the hindhead. The femo- 
rals, or thigh feathers, in both, are of a remarkable length, reaching 

Vol. I.— 3 ' (33) 


nearly to the feet, and are also streaked longitudinally with dark brown. 
The irides of the eyes of this bird have been hith-erto described as being 
of a brilliant yellow ; but every specimen I have yet met with had the 
iris of a deep hazel. I must therefore follow nature, in opposition tc 
very numerous and respectable authorities. 

I cannot, in imitation of European naturalists, embellish the history 
of this species with anecdotes of its exploits in falconry. This science, 
if it may be so called, is among the few that have never yet travelled 
across the Atlantic ; neither does it appear that the idea of training 
our hawks or eagles to the chase ever suggested itself to any of the 
Indian nations of North America. The Tartars, however, from whom, 
according to. certain writers, may of these nations originated, have long 
excelled in the practice of this sport ; which is indeed better suited to 
an open country than to one covered with forest. Though once so 
honorable and so universal, it is now much disused in Europe, and in 
Britain is nearly extinct. Yet I cannot but consider it as a much more 
noble and princely amusement than horse-racing and cock-fighting, 
cultivated in certain states with so much care ; or even than pugilism, 
which is still so highly patronized in some of those enlightened countries. 



[Plate XXXVI. Female,] 

Linn. Syst. 124. — Lath, i., 29. — Le pygargue d Ute blanche, Bupf. i., 99, pi. enl. 
411.— Arct. Zool. 196, No. 89.— Bald Eagle ~C a'Cesb. i., l.t 

This distinguished bird, as he is the most beautiful of his tribe in 
this part of the world, and the adopted emblem of our country, is enti- 
tled to particular notice. He is represented, in the plate, of one-third 
his natural size, and was drawn from one of the largest and most perfect 
specimens I have yet met with. In the back ground is seen a distant 
view of the celebrated cataract of Niagara, a noted place of resort for 
these birds, as well on account of the fish procured there, as for the 

* The epithet bald, applied to this species, whose head is thickly covered with 
feathers, is equally improper and absurd with the titles Goatsucker, Kingfisher, &c., 
bestowed on others ; and seems to have been occasioned by the white appearance 
of the head, when contrasted with the dark color of the rest of the plumage. The 
appellation, however, being now almost universal, is retained in the following pages. 

t We add the following synonymes. — Falco Leucocephalus, Gmel. Sysl. i., p. 255. — 
Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 11. — Aigle d tUe blanche, Temm. Man. d' Orn. p. 52.— L'Aiglt 
pygargue, Vieillot, Ois. de. I'Am. Sept. i., p. 27, pi. 3. 


numerous carcasses of squirrels, deer, bear, and various other animals, 
that, in their attempts to cross the river, above the falls, have been 
dragged into the current, and precipitated down that tremendous gulf; 
where among the rocks that bound the rapids below, they furnish a rich 
repast for the Vulture, the Raven, and the Bald Eagle, the subject of 
the present account. 

This bird has been long known to naturalists, being common to both 
continents ; and occasionally met with from a very high northern 
latitude, to the borders of the torrid zone, but chiefly in the vicinity 
of the sea, and along the shores and cliiFs of our lakes and large rivers. 
Formed by nature for braving the severest cold ; feeding equally on 
the produce of the sea, and of the land ; possessing powers of flight, 
capable of outstripping even the tempests themselves ; unawed by any- 
thing but man, and, from the ethereal heights to which he soars, looking 
abroad at one glance, on an immeasurable expanse of forests, fields, 
lakes and ocean, deep below him ; he appears indifferent to the little 
localities of change of seasons ; as in a few minutes he can pass from 
summer to winter, from the lower to the higher regions of the atmo- 
sphere, the abode of eternal cold ; and thence descend at will to the 
torrid or the arctic regions of the earth. He is therefore found at all 
seasons in the countries he inhabits ; but prefers such places as have 
been mentioned above, from the great partiality he has for fish. 

In procuring these he displays, in a very singular manner, the genius 
and energy of his character, which is fierce, contemplative, daring and 
tyrannical ; attributes not exerted but on particular occasions ; but 
when put forth, overpowering all opposition. Elevated on a high dead 
limb of some gigantic tree, that commands a wide view of the neigh- 
boring shore and ocean, he seems calmly to contemplate the motions of 
the various feathered tribes that pursue their busy avocations below : 
the snow-white Gulls, slowly winnowing the air ; the busy Tringse, 
coursing along the sands ; trains of Ducks, streaming over the surface ; 
silent and watchful Cranes, intent and wading ; clamorous Crows, and 
all the winged multitudes that subsist by the bounty of this vast liquid 
magazine of nature. High over all these hovers one, whose action 
instantly arrests all his attention. By his wide curvature of wing, and 
sudden suspension in air, he knows hiih to be the Fish-Hawk settling over 
some devoted victim of the deep. His eye kindles at the sight, and 
balancing Tiimself, with half-opened wings, on the branch, he watches 
the result. Down, rapid as an arrow from heaven, descends the distant 
object of his attention, the roar of its wings reaching the ear as it dis- 
appears in the deep, making the surges foam around ! 'At this moment 
the eager looks of the Eagle are all ardor ; and levelling his neck for 
flight, he sees the Fish-Hawk once more emerge, struggling with his 
prey, and mounting in the air with screams of exultation. These are 


the signal for our hero, who, launching into the air, instantly gives chace, 
soon gains on the Fish-Hawk, each exerts his utmt)st to mount above the 
other, displaying in these rencounters the most elegant and sublime 
aerial evolutions. The unencumbered Eagle rapidly advances, and is 
just on the point of reaching his opponent, when, with a sudden scream, 
probably of despair and honest execration, the latter drops his fish ; 
the Eagle poising himself for a moment, as if to take a more certain 
aim, descends like a whirlwind, snatches it in his grasp ere it reaches 
the water, and bears his ill-gotten booty silently away to the woods. 

These predatory attacks, and defensive manoeuvres, of the Eagle and 
the Fish-Hawk, are matters of daily observation along the whole of our 
seacoast, from Florida to New England ; and frequently excite great in- 
terest in the spectators. Sympathy, however, on this, as on most other 
occasions, generally sides with the honest and laborious sufferer, in oppo- 
sition to the attacks of power, injustice and rapacity ; qualities for 
which our hero is so generally notorious, and which, in his superior, 
man, are certainly detestable. As for the feelings of the poor fish, they 
seem altogether out of the question. 

When driven, as he sometimes is, by the combined courage and 
perseverance of the Fish-Hawks from their neighborhood, and forced to 
hunt for himself, he retires more inland, in search of young pigs, of 
which he destroys great numbers. In the lower parts of Virginia and 
North Carolina, where the inhabitants raise vast herds of those animals, 
complaints of this kind are very general against him. He also de- 
stroys young lambs in the early part of spring ; and will sometimes 
attack old sickly sheep, aiming furiously at their eyes. 

In corroboration of the remarks I have myself made on the manners 
of the Bald Eagle, many accounts have reached me from various 
persons of respectability, living on or near our seacoast ; the sub- 
stance of all these I shall endeavor to incorporate with the present 

Mr. John L. Gardiner, who resides on an island of three thousand 
acres, about three miles from the eastern point of Long Island, from 
which it is separated by Gardiner's Bay, and who has consequently 
many opportunities of observing the habits of these birds, has favored 
me with a number of interesting particulars on this subject ; for which 
I beg leave thus publicly to return my grateful acknowledgment. 

"The Bald Eagles," says this gentleman, "remain on this island 
during the whole winter. They can be most easily discovered on even- 
ings by their loud snoring while asleep, on high oak trees ; and when 
awake, their hearing seems to be nearly as good as their sight. I think 
I mentioned to you that I had myself seen one flying witft a /amb ten 
days old, and which it dropped on the ground, from about ten or twelve 
feet high. The struggling of the lamb, more than its weight, prevented 


its carrying it away. My running, hallooing, and being very near, 
might prevent its completing its design. It had broke the back in the 
act of seizing it ; and I was under the necessity of killing it outright to 
prevent its misery. The lamb's dam seemed astonished to see its inno- 
cent offspring borne off into the air by a bir^. 

"I was lately told," continues Mr. Gardiner, "by a man of truth, 
that he saw an Eagle rob a Hawk of its fish, and the Hawk seemed so 
enraged as to fly down at the Eagle, while the Eagle very deliberately, 
in the air, threw Jiimself partly over on his back, and while he grasped 
with one foot the fish, extended the other to threaten or seize the Hawk. 
I have known several Hawks unite to attack the Eagle ; but never knew 
a single one to do it. The Eagle seems to regard the Hawks as the 
Hawks do the King-birds, only as teasing, troublesome fellows." 

From the same intelligent and obliging friend, I lately received a well 
preserved skin of the Bald Eagle, which, from its appearance, and the 
note that accompanied it, seems to have belonged to a very formidable 
ilidividual. " It was shot," says Mr. Gardiner, " last winter, on this 
island, and .weighed thirteen pounds, measured three feet in length, and 
seven from tip to tip of the expanded wings ; was extremely fierce-look- 
ing ; though wounded, would turn his back to no one ; fastened his claws 
into the head of a dog, and was with difSculty disengaged. I have rode 
on horseback within five or six rods of one, who, by his bold demeanor, 
raising his feathers, &c., seemed willing to dispute the ground with its 
owner. The crop of the present was full of mutton from my part-blood 
merinos ; and his intestines contained feathers, which he probably de- 
voured with a duck, or winter gull, as I observed an entire foot and leg 
of some water fowl. I had two killed previous to this which weighed 
ten pounds avoirdupois each." 

The intrepidity of character, mentioned above, may be farther illus- 
trated by the following fact, which occurred a few years ago, near Great 
Egg Harbor, New Jersey. A woman who happened to be weeding in 
the garden, had set her child down near, to amuse itself while she was 
at work ; when a sudden and extraordinary rushing sound, and a scream 
from her child alarmed her, and starting up, she beheld the infant 
thrown down and dragged some few feet, and a large Bald Eagle bear- 
ing off a fragment of its frock, which being the only part seized-, and 
giving way, providentially saved the life of the infant. 

The appetite of the Bald Eagle, though habituated to long fasting, is 
of the most voracious, and often the most indelicate kind. Fish, when 
he can obtain them, are preferred to aH other fare. Young lambs and 
pigs are dainty morsels, and made free with on all favorable occasions. 
Ducks, geese, gulls, and other sea-fowl, are also seized with avidity. The 
most putrid carrion, when nothing better can be had, is acceptable ; and 
the collected groups of gormandizing Vultures, on the ajjproach of this 


dignified personage, instantly disperse, and make way for their master, 
waiting his departure in sullen silence, and at a respectful distance, on 
the adjacent trees. 

In one of those partial migrations of tree squirrels, that sometimes 
take place in our western forests, many thousands of them were drowned 
in attempting to cross the Ohio ; and at a certain place, not far from 
Wheeling, a prodigious number of their dead bodies were floated to the 
shore by an eddy. Here the Vultures assembled in great force, and had 
regaled themselves for some time, when a Bald Eagle made his appear- 
ance, and took sole possession of the premises, keeping the whole Vul- 
tures at their proper distance, for several days. He has also been seen 
navigating the same river on a floating carrion, though scarcely raised 
above the surface of the water, and tugging at the carcass, regardless 
of snags, sawyers, planters or shallows. He sometimes carries his 
tyranny to great extremes against the Vultures. In hard times, when 
food happens to be scarce, should he' accidentally meet with one of these 
who has its craw crammed with carrion, he attacks it fiercely in air ; the 
cowardly Vulture instantly disgorges, and the delicious contents are 
snatched up by the Eagle before they reach the ground. 

The nest of this species is generally fixed on a very large and lofty 
tree, often in a swamp, or morass, and difilcult to be ascended. On some 
noted tree of this description, often a pine or cypress, the Bald Eagle 
builds, year after year, for a long series of years. When both male and 
female have been shot from the nest, another pair has soon after taken 
possession. The nest is large, being added to, and repaired, every sea- 
son, until it becomes a black prominent mass, observable at a consider- 
able distance. It is formed of large sticks, sods, earthy rubbish, hay^ 
moss, &c. Many have stated to me that the female lays first a single 
egg, and that after having sat on it for some time, she lays another ; 
when the first is hatched, the warmth of that, it is pretended, hatches 
the other. Whether this be correct or not I cannot determine ; but a 
verj respectable gentleman of Virginia assured me, that he saw a large 
tree cut down, containing the nest of a Bald Eagle, in which were two 
young, one of which appeared nearly three times as large as the other. 
As a proof of their attachment to their young, a person near Norfolk 
informed me, that, in clearing a piece of woods on his place, they met 
with a large dead pine tree, on which was a Bald Eagle's nest and young. 
The tree being on fire more than half way up, and the flames rapidly 
ascending, the parent Eagle darted around and among the flames, until 
ker plumage was so much injured that it was with difiiculty she could 
make her escape, and even then, she several times attempted to return 
to relieve her ofi"spring. 

No bird provides more abundantly for its young than the Bald Eagle. 
Fish are daily carried thither in numbers, so that they sometimes lie 


scattered round the tree, and the putrid smell of the nest may be distin- 
guished at the distance of several hundred yards. The young are at 
first covered with a thick, whitish, or cream-colored cottony down ; they 
gradually become of a gray color, as their plumage develops itself, con- 
tinue of the brown gray until the third year, when the white begins to 
make its appearance on the head, neck, tail-coverts and tail ; these, by 
the end of the fourth year, are completely white, or very slightly tinged 
with cream ; the eye also is at first hazel, but gradually brightens into 
a brilliant straw color, with the white plumage of the head. Such at 
least was the gradual progress of this change, witnessed by myself, on a 
very fine specimen, brought up by a gentleman, a friend of mine, who 
for a considerable time' believed it to be what is usually called the Gray 
Eagle, and was much surprised at the gra,dual metamorphosis. This 
will account for the circumstance, so frequently observed, of the Gray 
and White-headed Eagle being seen together, both being in fact the 
same species, in difierent stages of color, according to their difierence 
~ of age. 

The flight of the Bald Eagle, when taken into consideration with the 
ardor and energy of his character, is noble and interesting. Sometimes 
the human eye can just discern him, like a minute speck, moving in slow 
curvatures along the face of the heavens, as if reconnoitring the earth 
at that immense distance. Sometimes he glides along in a direct hori- 
zontal line, at a vast height, with expanded and unmoving wings, till he 
gradually disappears in the distant blue ether. Seen gliding in easy cir- 
cles over the high shores, and mountainous clifis, that tower above the 
Hudson and Susquehanna, he attracts the eye of the intelligent voya- 
ger, and adds great interest to the scenery. At the great cataract of 
Niagara, already mentioned, there rises from the gulf, into which the 
fall of the Horse-shoe descends, a stupendous column of smoke, or spray, 
reaching to the heavens, and moving off in large black clouds, accord- 
ing to the direction of the wind, forming a very striking and majestic 
appearance. The Eagles are here seen sailing about, sometimes losing 
themselves in this thick column, and again reappearing in another 
place, with' such ease and elegance of motion, as renders the whole truly 

High o'er the watery uproar, silent seen, 

Sailing sedate, in majesty serene, 

Now midst the pillared spray sublimely lost. 

And now, emerging, down the rapids tossed. 

Glides the Bald Eagle, gazing, calm and slow 

O'er all the horrors of the scene below ; » 

Intent alone to sate himself with blood, 

From the torn victims of the raging flood. 

The White-headed Eagle is three feet long, and seven feet in extent ; 
the bill is of a rich yellow ; cere the same, slightly tinged with green ; 


mouth flesh colored, tip of the tongue bluish black ; the head, chief part 
of the neck, vent, tail-coverts and tail, are white in the perfect or old 
birds of both sexes, in those under three years of age these parts are of 
a gray brown ; the rest of the plumage is deep dark brown, each feather 
tipped with pale brown, lightest on the shoulder of the wing, and darkest 
towards its extremities ; the conformation of the wing is admirably 
adapted for the support of so large a bird ; it -measures two feet in 
breadth on the greater quills, and sixteen inches on the lesser ; the 
longest primaries are twenty inches in length, and upwards of one inch 
in circumference where they enter the skin ; the broadest secondaries 
are three inches in breadth across the vane ; the scapulars are very large 
and broad, spreading from the back to the wing, to prevent the air from 
passing through ; another range of broad flat feathers, from three to ten 
inches in length, also extends from the lower part of the breast to the 
wing below, for the same purpose ; between these lies a deep triangular 
cavity ; the thighs are remarkably thick, strong, and muscular, covered 
with long feathers pointing backwards, usually called the femoral 
feathers ; the legs, which are covered half way below the knee, before, 
with dark brown downy feathers, are of a rich yellow, the color of ripe 
Indian corn ; feet the same ; claws blue black, very large and strong, 
particularly the inner one, which is considerably the largest, soles very 
rough and warty ; the eye is sunk under a bony or cartilaginous projec-, 
tion, of a pale yellow color, and is turned considerably forwards, not 
standing, parallel with the cheeks, the iris is of a bright straw color, 
pupil black. 

The male is generally two or three inches shorter than the female ; 
the white on the head, neck and tail, being more tinged with yellowish, 
and its whole appearance less formidable ; the brown plumage is also 
lighter, and the bird itself less daring than the female, a circumstance 
common to almost all birds of prey. 

The bird from which the foregoing drawing and description were 
taken, was shot near Great Egg Harbor, in the month of January last, 
was in excellent order, and weighed about eleven pounds. Dr. Samuel 
B... Smith, of this city, obliged me with a minute and careful dissection 
of it ; from whose copious and very interesting notes on the subject, I 
shall extract such remarks as are suited to the general reader. 

" The Eagle you sent me for dissection was a bea,utiful female. It 
had two expansions of the gullet. The first principally composed of 
longitudinal bundles of fibre, in which (as the bird i's ravenous and with- 
*ut teeth) large portions of unmasticated meats are suff'ered to dissolve 
before they pass to the lower or proper stomach, which is membranous. 
I did not receive the bird time enough to ascertain whether any chylifi- 
cation was eifected by the juices from the vessels of this enlargement of 
the oesophagus. I think it probable that it also has a regurgitating oi 


vomiting power, as the bird constantly swallows large quantities of in*"- 
digestible substances, such as quills, hairs, &c. In this sac of the Eagle 
I found the quill feathers of the small white gull; and in the true 
stomach, the tail and some of the breast feathers of the same bird ; and 
the dorsal vertebrae of a large fish. This excited some surprise, until 
you made me acquainted with the fact of its watching the Fish-hawks, 
and robbing them of their prey. Thus we see, throughout the whole 
empire -of animal life, power is almost always in a state of hostility to 
justice, and of the Deity only can it truly be said, that justice is com- 
mensurate with power ! 

" The Eagle has the several auxiliaries to digestion and assimilation in 
common with man. "The liver was unusually large in your specimen. 
It secretes bile, which stimulates the intestines, prepares the chyle for 
blood, and by this very secretion of bile (as it is a deeply respiring ani 
mal), separates or removes some obnoxious principles from the blood. 
(See Dr. Rush's admirable lecture on this important viscus in the human 
subject.) The intestines were also large, long, convolute, and supplied 
with numerous lacteal vessels, which differ little from those of men, ex- 
cept in color, which was transparent. The kidneys were large, and 
seated on each side the vertebrae, near the anus. They are also destined 
to secrete some offensive principles from the blood. 

" The eggs were small and numerous ; and after a careful examination, 
I concluded that no sensible increase takes place in them till the par- 
ticular season. This may account for the unusual excitement which 
prevails in these birds in the sexual intercourse. Why there are so many 
eggs is a mystery. It is perhaps consistent with natural law, that every- 
thing should be abundant ; but from this bird, it is said, no more than 
two young are hatched in a season, consequently no more eggs are 
wanted than a "sufficiency to produce that effect. Are the eggs num- 
bered originally, and is there no increase of number, but a gradual loss, 
till all are deposited ? If so, the number may correspond to the long 
life and vigorous health of this noble bird. Why there is but two young 
in a season, is easily explained. Nature has been studiously parsimoni- 
ous of her physical strength, from whence the tribes' of animals incapa- 
ble to resist, derive security and confidence." 

The Eagle is said to live to a great age, sixty, eighty, and as some 
assert, one hundred years. This circumstance is remarkable, when we 
consider the seeming intemperate habits of the bird. Sometimes fasting 
through necessity, for several days, and at other times gorging itself 
with animal food, till its craw swells out the plumage of that part, form- • 
ing a large protuberance on the breast. This, however, is its natural 
food, and for these habits its whole organization is particularly adapted. 
It has not, like men, invented rich wines, ardent spirits, and a thousand 
artificial poisons, in the form of soups, sauces, and sweetmeats. Its food 


is simple, it indulges freely, uses great exercise, breathes the purest air, 
is healthy, vigorous and long-lived. The lords of the creation themselves 
might derive some useful hints from these facts, were they not already, 
in general, too wise, or too proud, to learn from their inferiors, the fowls 
of the air and beasts of the field. 



[Plate LV. Fig. 2.] 
Sea Eagle, Arct. Zool. p. 194, No. 86, A. 

This eagle inhabits the same countries, frequents the same situations, 
and lives on the same kind of food, as the Bald Eagle, with whom it is 
often seen in company. It resembles this last so much in figure, size, 
form of the bill, legs and claws, and is so often seen associating with it, 
both along the Atlantic coast, and in the vicinity of our lakes and large 
rivers, that I have strong suspicions, notwithstanding, ancient and very 
respectable authorities to the contrary, of its being the same species, 
only in a difierent stage of color. 

That several years elapse before the young of the Bald Eagle receive 
the white head, neck and tail ; and that during the intermediate period 
their plumage strongly resembles that of the Sea Eagle, I am satisfied 
from my own observation on three several birds kept by persons of this 
city. One of these belonging to the late Mr. Enslen, collector of natu- 
ral subjects for the Emperor of Austria, was confidently believed by him 
to be the Black, or Sea Eagle, until the fourth year, when the plumage 
on the head, tail and tail-coverts, began gradually to become white ; the 
bill also exchanged its dusky hue for that of yellow ; and before its 
death, this bird, which I frequently examined, assumed the perfect dress 
of the full-plumaged Bald Eagle. Another circumstance corroborating 
these suspicions, is the variety that occurs in the colors of tha Sea Eagle. 
Scarcely two of these are found to be alike, their plumage being more 
or less diluted with white. In some, the chin, breast and tail-coverts, 
are of a deep brown ; in others nearly white ; and in all evidently un- 
fixed, and varying to a pure white. Their place and manner of build- 
ing, on high trees, in the neighborhood of lakes, large rivers, or the 
ocean, exactly similar to the Bald Eagle, also strengthens the belief. 
At the celebrated cataract of Niagara, great numbers of these birds, 

* This is not a distinct species, but the young of the preceding, the Falco leucn- 


called there-Gray Eagles, are continually seen sailing high and majesti- 
cally over the watery tumult, in company with the Bald Eagles, eagerly 
watching for the mangled carcasses of those animals that have been 
hurried over the precipice, and cast up on the rocks below, by the vio- 
lence of the rapids. These are some of the circumstances on which my 
suspicions of the identity of those two birds are founded. In some future 
part of the work, I hope to be able to speak with more certainty on this 

Were we disposed, after the manner of some, to substitute for plain 
matters of fact all the narratives, conjectures, and fanciful theories of 
travellers, voyagers, compilers, &c., relative to the history of the Eagle, 
the volumes of these writers, from Aristotle down to his admirer the 
Count de Buflfon, would furnish abundant materials for this purpose. 
But the author of the present work feels no ambition to excite' surprise 
and astonishment at the expense of truth, or to attempt to elevate and 
embellish his Subject beyond the plain realities of nature. On this ac- 
count, he cannot assent to the assertion, however eloquently made, in 
the celebrated parallel drawn by the French naturalist between the Lion 
and the Eagle, viz., that the Eagle, like the Lion, " disdains the posses- 
sion of that property which is not the fruit of his own industry, and 
rejects with contempt the prey which is not procured by his own exer- 
tions ;" since the very reverse of this is the case in the conduct of the 
Bald and the Sea Eagle, who, during the summer months, are the con- 
stant plunderers of the Osprey or Fish-Hawk, by whose industry alone 
both are usually fed. Nor that " though famished for want of prey, he 
disdains to feed on carrion," since we have ourselves seen the Bald 
Eagle, while seated on the dead carcass of a horse, keep a whole flock 
of Vultures at a respectful distance, until he had fully sated his own 
appetite. The Count has also taken great pains to expose the ridicu- 
lous opinion of Pliny, who conceived that the Ospreys formed no sepa- 
rate race, and that they proceeded from the intermixture of different 
species of Eagles, the young of which were not Ospreys, only Sea 
Eagles; '■^ which Sea Eagles," says he, ^^ breed small Vultures, which 
engender great Vultures that have not the power of propagation."* But, 
while laboring to confute these absurdities, the Count himself, in his 
belief of an occasional intercourse between the Osprey and the Sea 
Eagle, contradicts all actual observation, and one of the most common 
and fixed laws of nature ; for it may be safely asserted, that there is no 
habit more universal among the feathered race, in their natural state, 
than that chastity of attachment, which confines the amours of indi- 
viduals to those of their own species only. That perversion of nature 
produced by domestication is nothing to the purpose. In no instance 

* Hist. Nat. lib. x., c. 3. 


have I ever observed the slightest appearance of a contrary conduct. 
Even in those birds which never build a nest for themselves, nor hatch 
their young, nor even pair, but live in a state of general concubinage : 
such as the Cuckoo of the old, and the. Cow Bunting of the new conti- 
nent ; there is no instance of a deviation from this striking habit. I 
cannot therefore avoid considering the opinion above alluded to, that 
" the male Osprey by coupling with the female Sea Eagle produces Sea 
Eagles ; and that the female Osprey by pairing with the male Sea Eagle 
gives birth to Ospreys "* or Fish-Hawks, as altogether unsupported by 
facts, and contradicted by the constant and universal habits of the whole 
feathered race in their state of nature. 

The Sea Eagle is said by Salerne to build on the loftiest oaks a very 
broad nest, into which it drops two large eggs, that are quite round, ex- 
ceedingly heavy, and of a dirty white color. Of the precise time of 
building we have no account, but something may be deduced from the 
following circumstance. In the month of May, while on a shooting ex- 
cursion along the sea-coast, not far from Great Egg Harbor, accompa- 
nied by my friend Mr. Ord, we were conducted about a mile into the 
woods, to see an Eagle's nest. On approaching within a short distance 
of the place, the bird was perceived slowly retreating from the nest, 
which we found occupied the centre of the top of a very large yellow 
pine. The woods were cut down, and cleared off for several rods around 
the spot, which, from this circumstance, and the stately erect trunk, and 
large crooked wriggling branches of the tree, surmounted by a black 
mass of sticks and brush, had a very singular and picturesque effect. 
Our conductor had brought an axe with him to cut down the tree ; but 
my companion, anxious to save the eggs, or young, insisted on ascending 
to the nest, which he fearlessly performed, while we stationed ourselves 
below, ready to defend him in case of an attack from the old Eagles. 
No opposition, however, was offered ; and on reaching the nest, it was 
found, to o.ur disappointment, empty. It was built of large sticks, some 
of them several feet in length ; within which lay sods of earth, sedge, 
grass, dry reeds, &c., &e., piled to the height of five or six feet, by more 
than four in breadth ; it was well lined with fresh pine tops, and had little 
or no concavity. Under this lining lay the recent exuviae of the young 
of the present year, such as scales of the quill feathers, down, &c. Our 
guide had passed this place late in February, at which time both male 
and female were making a great noise about the nest ; and from what 
we afterwards learnt, it is highly probable it contained young, even at 
that early time of the season. 

A few miles from this is another Eagle's nest, built also on a pine 
tree, which, from the information received from the proprietor of the 

* Buflfon, vol. I., p. 80, Trans. 


woods, had been long the residence of this family of Eagles. The tree 
on which the nest was originally built had been for time immemorial, or 
at least ever since he remembered, inhabited by these Eagles. Some of 
his sons cut down this tree to procure the young, which were two in 
number ; and the Eagles soon after commenced building another nest on 
the very next adjoining tree, thus exhibiting a very particular attach- 
ment to the spot. The' Eagles, he says, make it a kind of home and 
lodging place in all seasons. This man asserts,' that the Gray, or Sea 
Eagles, are the young of the Bald Eagle, and that they are several 
years old before they begin to breed. It does not drive its young from 
the nest like the Osprey, or Fish-Hawk ; but continues to feed them 
long after they leave it. 

The bird from which the figure in the plate was drawn, and which is 
reduced to one-third the size of life, measured three feet in length, and 
upwards of seven feet in extent. The bill was formed exactly like that 
of the Bald Eagle, but of a dusky brown color ; cere and legs bright 
yellow ; the latter as in the Bald Eagle, feathered a little below the 
knee ; irides a bright straw color ; head above, neck and back streaked 
with light brown, deep brown and white, the plumage being white, tipped 
and centred with brown ; scapulars brown ; lesser wing-coverts very 
pale, intermixed with white ; primaries black, their shafts brownish 
white ; rump pale brownish white ; tail rounded, somewhat longer than 
the wings when shut, brown on the exterior vanes, the inner ones white, 
sprinkled with dirty brown ; throat, breast and belly, white, dashed and 
streaked with different tints of brown and pale yellow ; vent brown, 
tipped with white ; femorals dark brown, tipped with lighter ; auriculars 
brown, forming a bar from below the eye backwards ; plumage of the 
neck long, narrow and pointed, as is usual with the Eagles, and of a 
brownish color tipped with white. 

The Sea Eagle is said by various authors to hunt at night as well as 
during the day ; and that besides fish it feeds on chickens, birds, hares 
and other animals. It is also said to catch fish during the night ; and 
that the noise of its plunging into the water is heard at a great distance. 
But in the descriptions of these writers this bird has been so frequently 
confounded with the Osprey, as to leave little doubt that the habits and 
manners of the one have been often attributed to both ; and others 
added that are common to neither. 

Note — In Wilson's history of the Bald Eagle, he confidently asserts 
that it is the same species as the Sea Eagle, in a different stage of color. 
In his account of the latter, he adduces additional reasons for his belief, 
which is at variance with the opinions of some of the most respectable 
naturalists of Europe. We have no hesitation, from our own experience, 
in pronouncing these birds to be the same ; and deem it unnecessary to 


add anything further on the subject, as the reasoning of Wilson is 

Our author describes an Eagle's nest, which he visited, in company 
■with the writer of this article, on the eighteenth of May, 1812. It was 
then empty ; but from every appearance a brood had been hatched and 
reared in it that season. The following year, on the first day of 
March, a friend of ours took from the same nest three eggs, the largest 
of which measured three inches and a quarter in length, two and a 
quarter in diameter, upwards of seven in circumference, and weighed 
four ounces five drams, apothecaries weight ; the color a dirty yellowish 
white — one was of a very pale bluish white ; the young were perfectly 
formed. Such was the solicitude of the female to preserve her eggs, that 
she did not abandon the nest, until several blows, with an axe, had been 
given the tree. 

In the history of Lewis and Clark's Expedition, we find the following 
account of an Eagle's nest, which must have added not a little to the 
picturesque effect of the magnificent scenery at the Falls of the Mis- 
souri : , 

" Just below the upper pitch is a little island in the middle of the 
river, well covered with timber. Here on a cottonwood tree an Eagle 
had fixed its nest, and seemed the undisputed mistress of a spot, to 
contest whose dominion neither man nor beast would venture' across the 
gulfs that surround it, and which is further secured by the mist rising 
from the falls."* 

The Bald Eagle was observed, by Lewis and Clark, during their whole 
route to the Pacific Ocean. 

It may gratify some of our readers to be informed, that the opinion 
of Temminck coincides with ours respecting the identity of our Bald 
and Sea Eagles ; but he states that the Falco ossifragus of Gmelin, 
the Sea Eagle of Latham, is the young of the Falco albicilla, which in 
its first year so much resembles the yearling of the leucoeephalus, that 
it is very difficult to distinguish them. — I^ote by Mr. Ord. 

* Hist, of the Exped. vol. i., p. 264. 

Species V. FALCO FULVU8. 


[Plate LV. Fig. 1, young bird.] 

Linn. Syst ed. ]0, p. ^9,.— Black Eagle, Arct. Zool. p. 195, No. 87.— Lath, i., 32 
No. ^.— White-tailed Eagle, Edw. i., \.— L'Aigle Commun, Buff, i., 86. PI 
Enl. 409.— Bewick, i., p. 49. 

The reader is now presented with a portrait of this celebrated Eagle, 
drawn from a fine specimen shot in the county of Montgomery, Penn- 
sylvania. The figure here given, though reduced to one-third the size 
of life, is strongly characteristic of its original. With respect to the 
habits of the species, such particulars only shall be selected as are well 
authenticated, rejecting whatever seems vague, or savors too much of 
the marvellous. 

This noble bird, in strength, spirit and activity, ranks among the 
first of its tribe. It is found, though sparingly dispersed, over the 
whole temperate and arctic regions, particularly the latter; breeding 
on high precipitous rocks ; always preferring a mountainous country. 
In its general appearance it has great resemblance to the Goldea Eagle, 
from which, however, it differs in being rather less ; as also in the 
colors and markings of the tail ; and, as it is said, in being less noisy. 
When young, the color of the body is considerably lighter, but deepens 
into a blackish brown as it advances in age. 

The tail feathers of this bird are highly valued by the various tribes 
of American Indians, for ornamenting their calumets, or Pipes of Peace. 
Several of these pipes, which were brought from the remote regions 
of Louisiana by Captain Lewis, were deposited in Peale's Museum, 
each of which had a number of the tail feathers of this bird attached 
to it. The Northern as well as Southern Indians seem to follow the 
like practice, as appears by the numerous calumets, formerly belonging 
to different tribes. 

Pennant informs us, that the independent Tartars train this Eagle 
for the chase of hares, foxes, wolves, antelopes, &c., and that they 
esteem the feathers of the tail the best for pluming their arrows. The 
Ring-tail Eagle is characterized by all as a generous-spirited and docile 
bird ; and various extraordinary incidents are related of it by different 
writers, not, however, sufficiently authenticated to deserve repetition. 
The truth is, the solitary habits of the Eagle now before us, the vast 
inaccessible cliffs to which it usually retires, united with the scarcity of 
the species in those regions inhabited by man, all combine to render a 



particular knowledge of its manners very difficult to be obtained. The 
author has, once or twice, observed this bird sailing along the alpine 
declivities of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, early in October, 
and again, over the Highlands of Hudson's river, not far from West 
Point. Its flight was easy, in high circuitous sweeps, its broad white 
tail, tipped with brown, expanded like a fan. Near the settlements on 
Hudson's Bay it is more common ; and is said to prey on hares, and 
the various species of Grouse which abound there. Buffon observes, 
that though other Eagles also prey upon hares, this species is a more 
fatal enemy to those timid animals, which are the constant object of 
their search, and the prey which they prefer. The Latins, after Pliny, 
termed the Eagle Valeria, quasi valeng viribus, because of its strength, 
which appears greater than that of the other Eagles in proportion to its 

The Ring-tail Eagle measures nearly three feet in length ; the bill is 
of a brownish horn color ; the cere, sides of the mouth and feet yellow ; 
iris of the eye reddish hazel, the eye turned considerably forwards ; 
eyebrow remarkably prominent, projecting over the eye, and giving a 
peculiar sternness to the aspect of the bird ; the crown is flat ; the 
plumage of the head, throat and neck, long and pointed ; that on the 
upper part of the head and neck very pale ferruginous ; fore part of 
the crown black ; all the pointed feathers are shafted with black ; whole 
upper parts dark blackish brown ; wings black ; tail rounded, long, of 
a white or pale cream color minutely sprinkled with specks of ash and 
dusky, and ending in a broad band of deep dark brown, of nearly one- 
third its length ; chin, cheeks and throat, black ; whole lower parts a 
deep dark brown, except the vent and inside of the thighs, which are 
white, stained with brown ; legs thickly covered to the feet with brownish 
white down or feathers ; claws black, very large, sharp and formidable, 
the hind one full two inches long. 

The Ring-tail Eagle is found in Russia, Switzerland, Germany, 
France, Scotland, and the northern parts of America. As Marco Polo, 
in his description of the customs of the Tartars, seems to allude to this 
species, it may be said to inhabit the whole circuit of the arctic regions 
of the globe. The Golden Eagle, on the contrary, is said to be found 
only in the more warm and temperate countries of the ancient con- 
tinent.* Later discoveries, however, 'have ascertained it to be also an 
inhabitant of the United States. f 

* Buffon, vol, i., p. 56, Trans. 

t Naturalists being now of opinion that the Ring-tail Eagle and the Golden Eagle 
are the same, we add the following synonymes : — ' Vellow-headed Eagle, Arct. Zool. 
No. 86. D.— Golden Eagle, Lath. Syn. 1, 31, No. 5.— PI. Enl. ilO.—Falco fulvus, 
Ind. Orn. i., No. 4; F. chrysaelos, /d. No. 8; F. melanonotus, Id. No. 26; F. 
melan(eetus, Id. No. 3. — Aigle royal, Temi. Man. d' Orn. i., p. 38. 



[Plate XXXVII. Fig. 1.] 

Carolina Osprey, Lath. Syn. i., p. 46, No. 26, A.—Falco Piscator, Briss. i., p. 361, 
No. 14; 362, No. 15. — Faucon pScheur de la Caroline, Buff, i., p. 142. — Fishing 
Hawk, Cate3B._ Car. i., p. 2. — Falco Carolinensis, Gmel. Syst. i., p. 263, No. 26.* 

This formidable, vigorous-winged, and well-known bird subsists 
altogether on the finny tribes that swarm in our bays, creeks, and rivers ; 
procuring his prey by his own active skill and industry ; and seeming 
no farther dependent on the land than as a mere resting-place, or in the 
usual season, a spot of deposit for "his nest, eggs and young. The 
figure here given is reduced to one-third the size of life, to correspond 
with that of the Bald Eagle, his common attendant, and constant plun- 

The Fish-Hawk is migratory ; arriving on the coasts of New York 
and New Jersey about the twenty-first of March, and retiring to the 
south about the twenty-second of September. Heavy equinoctial storms 
may vary these periods qf arrival and departure a few days ; but long 
observation has ascertained, that they are kept with remarkable regu- 
larity. On the arrival of these birds in the northern parts of the 
United States, in March, they sometimes find the bays and ponds frozen, 
and experience a difficulty in procuring fish for many days. Yet there 
is no instance on record of their attacking birds, or inferior land animals, 
with intent to feed upon them ; though their great strength of flight, 
as well as of feet and claws, would seem to render this no difficult matter. 
But they no sooner arrive, than they wage war on the Bald Eagles, as 
against a horde of robbers and banditti ; sometimes succeeding, by force 
of numbers and perseverance, in driving them from their haunts ; but 
seldom or never attacking them in single combat. 

The first appearance of the Fish-Hawk in spring, is welcomed by 
the fishermen, as a happy signal of the approach of those vast shoals 
of herring, shad, &c. &c., that regularly arrive on our coasts, and enter 
our rivers in such prodigious multitudes. Two of a trade, it is said, 
seldom agree ; the adage, however, will not hold good in the present 
case, for such is the respect paid the Fish-Hawk not only by this class 

* The following synonymes may be added : Le Balbuzard, Buff. PI. Enl. 414. 
Aquila piscatrix, Vieillot, Ois. de VAm. Sept. y. i., p. 29, pi. 4. 
Vol. I.— 4 (49) 


of men, but generally, by the wbole neighborhood where it resides, that 
a person who should attempt to shoot one of them, would stand a fair 
chance of being insulted. This prepossession in favor of the Fish- 
Hawk is honorable to their feelings. They associate with its first 
appearance ideas of plenty, and all the gaiety of business ; they see it 
active and industrious like themselves ; inoffensive to the productions of 
their farrQs ; building with confidence, and without the least disposition 
to concealment, in the middle of their fields, and along their fences ; 
and returning year after year regularly to its former abode. 

The nest of the Fish-Hawk is usually built on the top of a dead or 
decaying tree, sometimes not more than fifteen, often upwards of fifty 
feet, from the ground. It has been remarked by the people of the 
seacoasts, that the most thriving tree will die in a few years, after being, 
taken possBssion of by the Fish-Hawk. This is attributed to the fish- 
oil, and to the excrements of the bird ; but is more probably occasioned 
by the large heap of wet, salt materials, of which it is usually composed. 
In my late excursions to the seashore I ascended to several of these 
nests, that had been built in from year to year, and found them con- 
structed as follows ; externally large sticks, from half an inch to an 
inch and a half in diameter, and two or three feet in length, piled to 
the height of four or five feet, and from two to three feet in breadth ; 
these were intermixed with corn-stalks, sea-weed, pieces of wet turf 
in large quantities, mullein-stalks, and lined with dry sea-grass ; the 
whole forming a mass very observable at half a mile's distance, and 
large enough to fill a cart, and form no inconsiderable load for a horse. 
These materials are so well put together, as often to adhere in large 
fragments after being blown down by the wind. My learned and oblig- 
ing correspondent of New York, Dr. Samuel L. Mitchill, observes, that 
" A sort of superstition is entertained in regard to the Fish-Hawk. It 
has been considered a fortunate incident to have a nest, and a pair of 
these birds, on one's farm. They have therefore been generally res- 
pected ; and neither the axe nor the gun has been lifted against them. 
Their nest continues from year to year. The same couple, or another 
as the case may be, occupies it season after season. Repairs are duly 
made, or when demolished by storms it is industriously rebuilt. There 
was one of these nests, formerly upon the leafless summit of a vener- 
able chestnut-tree, on our farm, directly in front of the house, at the 
distance of less than a half mile. The withered trunk and boughs, 
surmounted by the coarse wrought and capacious nest, was a more 
picturesque object than an obelisk. And the flights of the Hawks as 
they went forth to hunt — returned with their game — exercised them- 
selves in wheeling round and round and circling about it, were amusing 
to the beholder almost from morning to night. The family of these 
Hawks, old and young, was killed by the Hessian Jagers. A succeeding 


pair took possession of the nest ; but in the course of time, the prongs 
of the trunk so rotted away, that the nest could no longer be sup- 
ported. The Hawks have been obliged to seTek new quarters. We have 
lost this part of our prospect ; and our trees have not afforded a con- 
venient site for one of their habitations since." 

About the first of May the female Fish-Hawk begins to lay her eggs, 
wl.jeh are commonly three in number, sometimes only two, and rarely 
four. They are somewhat larger than those of the common hen, and 
nearly of the same shape. The ground color varies, in different eggs, 
from a reddish cream, to nearly a white, splashed and daubed all over 
with dark Spanish brown, as if done by art.* During the time the 
female is sitting, the male frequently supplies her with fish ; though she 
occasionally takes a short circuit to sea herself, but quickly returns 
again. The attention of the male, on such occasions, is regulated by 
the circumstances of the case. A pair of these birds, on the south side 
of Great Egg Harbor river, and near its mouth, were noted for several 
years. The female having but one leg was regularly furnished, while 
sitting, with fish in such abundance, that she seldom left the nest, and 
never to seek for food. This kindness was continued both before and 
after incubation. Some animals who claim the name and rationality 
of man might blush at the recital of this fact. 

On the appearance of the young, which is usually about the last 
of June, the zeal and watchfulness of the parents are extreme. They 
stand guard, and go off to fish, alternately ; one parent being always 
within a short distance of the nest. On the near approach of any 
person, the Hawk utters a plaintive whistling note, which becomes 
shriller as she takes to wing, and sails around, sometimes making a 
rapid descent, as if aiming directly for you ; but checking her course 
and sweeping past at a short distance overhead, her wings making a 
loud whizzing in the air. My worthy friend Mr. Gardiner informs me, 
that they have been known to fix their claws in a negro's head, who 
was attempting to climb to their nest ; and I had lately a proof of 

* Of the palatableness of these eggs I cannot speak from personal experience; 
but the following incident will show that the experiment has actually been made. 
A country fellow, near Cape May, on hia way to a neighboring tavern, passing a 
tree on which was a Fish-Hawk's nest, immediately mounted and robbed it of the 
only egg it contained, which he carried with him to the tavern,_ and desired the 
landlord to make it into egg-nogg. The tavern-keeper, after a few wry faces, com- 
plied with his request, and the fellow swallowed the cordial ; but, whether from 
its effects on the olfactory nerves (for he said it smelt abominably) the imagination, 
or on the stomach alone, is uncertain, it operated as a most outrageous emetic, 
and cured the man, for that time at least, of his thirst for egg-nogg. What is 
rather extraordinary, the landlord (Mr. Beasley) assured me, that to all appearance 
the egg was perfectly fresh. 


their daring spirit in this way, though the kindness of a friend, resident 
for a few weeks at Great Egg Harbor. I had requested of him the 
favor to transmit me, if possible, a live Fish-Hawk, for the purpose of 
making a drawing of it, which commission he very faithfully executed ; 
and I think I cannot better illustrate this part of the bird's character 
than by quoting his letter at large. 

" Beaslet's, Great Egg Harbor, June 30th, 1811. 

" Sir, 

" Mr. Beasley and I went to reconnoitre a Fish-Hawk's nest on 
Thursday afternoon. When I was at the nest I was struck with so great 
violence, on the crown of the hat, that I thought a hole was made in it. 
I had ascended fearlessly, and never dreamt of being attacked. I came 
down quickly. There were in the nest three young ones about the size 
of pullets, which, though full feathered, were unable to fly. Oh Friday 
morning I went again to the nest to get a young one, which I thought 
I could nurse to a considerable growth, sufficient to answer your purpose, 
if I could fail to procure an old one, which was represented to me as 
almost impossible, on account of his shyness, and the danger from his 
dreadful claws. On taking a young one I intended to lay a couple of 
snares in the nest, for which purpose I had a strong cord in my pocket. 
The old birds were on the tree when Captain H. and I approached it. 
As a defence, profiting by the experience of yesterday, I took a walk- 
ing stick with me. When I was about half up the tree, the bird I send 
you struck at me repeatedly with violence ; he flew round in a small 
circle, darting at me at every circuit, and I striking at him. Observing 
that he always described a circle in the air, before he came at me, I 
kept a hawk's eye upon him, and the moment he passed me, I availed 
myself of the opportunity to ascend. When immediately under the 
nest, I hesitated at the formidable opposition I met, as his rage ap- 
peared to increase with my presumption in invading his premises. But 
I mounted to the nest. At that moment he darted directly at me with 
all his force, whizzing through the air ; his choler apparently redoubled. 
Fortunately for me, I struck him on the extreme joint of the right 
wing with my stick, which brought him to the ground. During this 
contest the female was flying round and round at a respectful distance. 
Captain H. held him till I tied my handkerchief about his legs ; the 
captain felt the efl"ect of his (jlaws. I brought away a young one to 
keep the old one in a good humor. I put them in a very large coop ; 
the young one ate some fish, when broken and put into its throat ; but 
the old one would not eat for two days. He continued sullen and obsti- 
nate, hardly changing his position. He walks about now, and is 
approached without danger ; he takes very little notice of the young 
one. A Joseph Smith, working in the field where this nest is, had the 


curiosity to go up to look at tlie eggs ; the bird clawed his face in a 
shocking manner ; his eye had a narrow escape. I am told that it has 
never been considered dangerous to approach a Hawk's nest. If this be 
80, this bird's character is peculiar ; his affection for his young, and his 
valiant opposition to an invasion of his nest, entitle him to conspicuous 
notice. He is the Prince of Fish-Hawks ; his character and his por- 
trait seem worthy of being handed to the historic muse. A Hawk more 
worthy of the honor which awaits him could not have been found. I 
hope no accident will happen to him, and that he may fully answer your 
purpose. " Yours, 

" Thomas Smith. 
" This morning the female was flying to and fro, making a mournful 

The young of the Fish-Hawk are remarkable for remaining long in 
the nest before they attempt to fly. Mr. Smith's letter is dated June 
30th, at which time, he observes, they were as large as pullets, and full 
feathered. Seventeen days after, I myself ascended to this same Hawk's 
nest, where I found the two remaining young ones seeming full grown. 
They made no attempts to fly, though they both placed themselves in a 
stern posture of defence, as I examined them at my leisure. The female 
had procured a second helpmate ; but he did not seem to inherit the 
spirit of his predecessor, for like a true step-father, he left the nest at 
my approach, and sailed about at a safe distance with his mate, who 
showed great anxiety and distress during the whole of my visit. It is 
universally asserted by the people of the neighborhood where these 
birds breed, that the young remain so long before they fly, that the pa- 
rents are obliged at last to compel them to shift for themselves, beating 
them with their wings, and driving them from the nest. But that they 
continue to assist them even after this, I know to be a fact from my 
own observation, as I have seen the young bird meet its parent in the 
air, and receive from him the fish he carried in his claws. 

The flight of the Fish-Hawk, his manoeuvres while in search of fish, 
and his manner of seizing his prey, are deserving of particular notice. 
In leaving the nest he usually flies direct till he comes to the sea, then 
sails around in easy curving lines, turning sometimes in the air as on a 
pivot, apparently without the least exertion, rarely moving the wings, 
his legs extended in a straight line behind, and his remarkable length 
and curvature or bend of wing, distinguishing him from all other Hawks. 
The height at which he thus elegantly glides is various, from one hun- 
dred to one hundred and fifty, and two hundred feet, sometimes much 
higher, all the while calmly reconnoitring the face of the deep below. 
Suddenly he is seen to check his course, as if struck by a particular 
object, which he seems to survey for a few moments with such steadiness 


that lie appears fixed in air, flapping his wings. The object however 
he abandons, or rather the fish he had in his eye has disappeared, and 
he is again seen sailing around as before. Now his attention is again 
arrested, and he descends with great rapidity ; but ere he reaches the 
surface, shoots ofi" on another course, as if ashamed that a second victim 
had escaped him. He now sails at a short height above the surface, 
and by a zig-zag descent and without seeming to dip his feet in the 
water, seizes a fish, which after carrying a short distance, he probably 
drops, or yields up to the Bald Eagle, and again ascends by easy spiral 
circles, to the higher regions of the air, where he glides about in all the 
ease and majesty of his species. At once from this sublime aerial 
height he descends like a perpendicular torrent, plunging into the sea 
with a loud rushing sound, and with the certainty of a rifle. In a few 
moments he emerges, bearing in his claws his struggling prey, which he 
always carries head foremost ; and having risen a few feet above the 
surface, shakes himself as a water spaniel would do, and directs his 
heavy and laborious course directly for the land. If the wind blow 
hard, and his nest lie in the quarter from whence it comes, it is 
amusing to observe with what judgment and exertion he beats to wind- 
ward, not in a direct line, that is, in the wind's eye, but making several 
successive tacks to gain his purpose. This will appear the more strik- 
ing, when we consider the size of the fish which he sometimes ,bears 
along. A shad was taken from a Fish-Hawk, near Great Egg Harbor, 
on which he had begun to regale himself, and had already ate a con- 
siderable portion of it, the remainder weighed six pounds. Another 
Fish-Hawk was passing Mr. Beasley's, at the same place, with a large 
flounder in his grasp, which struggled and shook him so, that he droped 
it on the shore. The flounder was picked up, and served the whole 
family for dinner. It is singular that the Hawk never descends to pick 
up a fish which he happens to drop, either on the land or on the water. 
There is a kind of abstemious dignity in this habit of the Hawk, supe- 
rior to the gluttonous voracity displayed by most other birds of prey, 
particularly by the Bald Eagle, whose piratical robberies committed on 
the present species have been already fully detailed in treating of his 
history. The Hawk, however, in his fishing pursuits, sometimes mistakes 
his mark, or overrates his strength, by striking fish too large and powerful 
for him to manage, by whom he is suddenly dragged under ; and though 
he sometimes succeeds in extricating himself, after being taken three or 
four times down, yet oftener both parties perish. The bodies of stur- 
geon, and several other large fish, with that of the Fish-Hawk fast 
grappled in them, have at difi"erent times been found dead on the shore, 
cast up by the waves. 

The Fish-Hawk is doubtless the most numerous of all its genus within 
the United States. It penetrates far into the interior of the country 


up our large rivers, and their head waters. It may be said to line the 
seacoast from Georgia to Canada. In some parts I have counted, at one 
view, more than twenty of their nests within half a mile. Mr. Gardi- 
ner informs me, that on the small island on which he resides, there are 
at least " three hundred nests of Fish-Hawks that have young, which, 
on an average, consume probably not less than six hundred fish daily.'" 
Before they depart in the autumn they regularly repair their nests, carry- 
ing up sticks, sods, &c., fortifying them against the violence of the winter 
storms, which, from this circumstance, they would seem to foresee and 
expect. But, notwithstanding all their precautions, they frequently, 
on their return in spring, find them lying in ruins around the roots of 
the tree ; and sometimes the tree itself has shared the same fate. When 
a number of Hawks, to the amount of twenty or upwards, collect to- 
gether on one tree, making a loud squealing noise, there is generally a 
nest built soon after on the same tree. Probably this congressional 
assembly were settling the right of the new pair to the premises ; or it 
■might be a kind of wedding, or joyous festive meeting on the occasion. 
They are naturally of a mild and peaceable disposition, living together 
in great peace and harmony ; for though with them, as in the best regu- 
lated communities, instances of attack and robbery occur among them- 
selves, yet these instances are extremely rare. Mr. Gardiner observes 
that they are sometimes seen high in the air, sailing and cutting strange 
gambols, with loud vociferations, darting down several hundred feet 
perpendicular, frequently with part of a fish in one claw, which they 
seem proud of, and to claim high hook, as the fishermen call him who 
takes the greatest number. On these occasions they serve as a barom- 
eter to foretell the changes of the atmostphei:e ; for when the Fish- 
Hawks are seen thus, sailing high in air, in circles, it is universally be- 
lieved to prognosticate a change of weather, often a thunder storm, in a 
few hours. On the faith of the certainty of these signs, the experienced 
coaster wisely prepares for the expected storm, and is rarely mistaken. 

There is one singular trait in the character of this bird, which will be 
mentioned'in treating of the Purple Grakle, and which I have had many 
opportunities of witnessing. The Grakles, or Crow Blackbirds, are 
permitted by the Fish-Hawk to build their nests among the interstices 
of the sticks of which his own is constructed. Several pair of Grakles 
taking up their abode there, like humble vassals around the castle of 
their chief, laying, hatching their young, and living together in mutual 
harmony. I have found no less than four of these nests clustered around 
the sides of the former, and a fifth fixed on the nearest branch of the ad- 
joining tree ; as if the proprietor of this last, unable to find an unoccu- 
pied corner on the premises, had been anxious to share as- much as 
possible the company and protection of this generous bird. 

The Fish-Hawk is twenty-two inches in length, and five feet three 


inches in extent ; the bill is deep black, the upper as well as lower cere, 
(for the base of the lower mandible has a loose movable skin) and also 
the sides of the mouth, from the nostrils backwards, are light blue; 
crown and hind-head pure white, front streaked with brown ; through 
the eye a bar of dark blackish brown passes to the neck behind, which, 
as well as the whole upper parts, is deep brown, the edges of the fea- 
thers lighter ; shafts of the wing quills brownish white ; tail slightly 
rounded, of rather a paler brown than the body, crossed with eight bars 
of very dark brown ; the wings when shut extend about an inch beyond 
the tail, and are nearly black towards the tips ; the inner vanes of both 
quill and tail feathers are whitish, barred with brown ; whole lower 
parts pure white, except the thighs, which are covered with short 
plumage, and streaked down the fore part with pale brown ; the legs 
and feet are a very pale light blue, prodigiously strong and dispropor- 
tionably large, they are covered with flat scales of remarkable strength 
and thickness, resembling when dry the teeth of a large rasp, particu- 
larly on the soles, intended no doubt to enable the bird to seize with 
more security his slippery prey; the thighs are long, the legs short, 
feathered a little below the knee, and as well as the feet and claws large ; 
the latter hooked into semicircles, black, and very sharp pointed ; the 
iris of the eye a fiery yellow orange. 

The female is full two inches longer ; the upper part of the head of a 
less pure white, and the brown streaks on the front spreading more over 
the crown ; the throat and upper part of the breast are also dashed 
with large blotches of a pale brown, and the bar passing through the eye, 
not of so dark a brown. The toes of both are exceedingly strong and 
warty, and the hind claw a full inch and a quarter in diameter. The 
feathers on the neck and hind-head are long and narrow, and generally 
erected when the bird is irritated, resembling those of the Eagle. The 
eye is destitute of the projecting bone common to most of the Falcon 
tribe, the nostril large, and of a curving triangular shape. On dissec- 
tion, the two glands on the rump, which supply the "bird with oil for lubri- 
cating its feathers, to protect them from the wet, were found to be remark- 
ably large, capable, when opened, of admitting the end of the finger, 
and contained a large quantity of white greasy matter, and some pure 
yellow oil ; the gall was in small quantity ; the numerous convolutions 
and length of the intestines surprised me ; when carefully extended they 
measured within an inch or two of nine feet, and were no thicker than 
those of a Robin ! The crop, or craw, was middle-sized, and contained 
a nearly dissolved fish ; the stomach was a large oblong pouch, capable 
of considerable distension, and was also filled with half-digested fish ; no 
appearance of a muscular gizzard. 

By the descriptions of European naturalists, it would appear that this 
bird, or one near akin to it, is a native of the Eastern continent in sum- 


mer, as far north as Siberia ; the Bald Buzzard of Turton almost exactly 
agreeing with the present species in size, color, and manners, vrith the 
exception of its breeding or making its nest among the reeds, instead of 
on trees. Mr. Bewick, who has figured and described the female of this 
bird, under the appellation of the " Osprey," says, " that it builds on 
the ground, among reeds, and lays three or four eggs of an elliptical 
form, rather less than those of a hen." This difference of habit may be 
owing to particular local circumstances, such deviations being usual 
among many of our native birds. The Italians are said to compare its 
descent upon the water to a piece of lead falling upon that element ; 
and distinguish it by the name of Aquila piumbina, or the Leaden 
Eagle. In the United States it is everywhere denominated the Fish- 
Hawk, or Fishing-Hawk, a name truly expressive of its habits. 

The regular arrival of this noted bird at the vernal equinox, when the 
busy season of fishing commences, adds peculiar interest to its first ap- 
pearance, and procures it many a benediction from the fishermen. With 
the following lines, illustrative of these circumstances, I shall conclude 
its history : 

Soon as the Sun, great ruler of the year ! 
Bends to our northern climes his bright career ; 
And from the oaves of ocean calls from sleep 
The finny shoals and myriads of the deep ; 
When freezing tempests back to Greenland ride ; 
And day and night the equal hours divide ; 
True to the season, o'er our sea-beat shore. 
The sailing Osprey high is seen to soar, 
With broad unmoving wing ; and, circling slow, 
Marks each loose straggler in the deep below : 
Sweeps down like lightning 1 plunges with a roar I 
And bears hie struggling victim to the shore. 

The long-housed fisherman beholds with joy 
The well-known signals of his rough employ ; 
And, as he ITears his nets and oars along, 
He hails the welcome season with a song. 

Note. — The Fish-Hawk passes the winter in the southern parts of the 
United States. In a winter voyage among the sea-islands of Georgia, 
and thence into East Florida, I did not observe these birds until I 
reached the river St. John, on the seventh of February. At the mouth 
of this river, which is noted for the abundance of its fish, the Ospreys 
are very numerous ; and the frequent attacks which are made upon 
them, when successful in fishing, by the piratical Bald Eagles, afford a 
spectacle of no common interest. I sometimes took notice, that when 
the Fish-Hawk was likely to escape from a single enemy, and had wea- 
ried his pursuer by the dexterity of his manoeuvres, a fresh Eagle joined 
m the chase, and then all chance of escape was hopeless. 


Wilson states, that this species, on the coast of New Jersey, com- 
mences laying about the first of May ; but I observed it sitting, in East 
Florida, on the third of March. The weather was then warm : Fahren- 
heit being at 80° in the shade. — G. Ord. 



[Plate LII. Fig. 3.] 

Of this beautiful species I can find no precise description. The Ash- 
colored Buzzard of Edwards differs so much from this, particularly in 
wanting the fine zig-zag lines below, and the black cap, that I cannot 
for a moment suppose them to be the same. The individual from which 
the drawing was made is faithfully represented in the plate, reduced to 
one-half its natural dimensions. This bird was shot within a few miles 
of Philadelphia. 

Its- general make and aspect denote great strength and spirit ; its legs 
are strong, and its claws of more than proportionate size. Should any 
other specimen or variety of this Hawk, differing from the present, occur 
during the publication of this work, it will enable me more accurately to 
designate the species. ' 

The Black-cap Hawk is twenty-one inches in length ; the bill and 
cere are blue ; eye reddish amber ; crown black, bordered on each,side 
by a line of white, finely specked with black ; these lines of white meet 
on the hind-head ; whole upper parts slate, tinged with brown, slightest 
on the quills ; legs feathered half way down, and, with the feet, of a 
yellow color ; whole lower parts and femorals white, most elegantly 
speckled with fine transverse pencilled zig-zaglines of dusky, all the 
shafts being a long black line ; vent pure white. 

If this be not the celebrated Goshawk, formerly so much esteemed in 
falconry, it is very closely allied to it. I have never myself seen a 
specimen of that bird in Europe, and the descriptions of their best 
naturalists vary considerably ; but from a careful examination of the 

* Falco-Palumharius, Linn. As was suspected by Wilson, tliis is not a new 
species, but the celebrated Ooshawk. The following synonymes are given by 
Prince Musignano: Falco Columbarius, Gum,. Syst. i., p. 281. Lath. — Temm. — 
F.geniiliSf Linn. Gmei,. Syst. i.,p. 270. Lath, (young) F. gaUinarius. Linn. Lath. 
(very young female.) V Autour, Buff. PI. Enl. 418. (adult) L'Autour sors, Buff. 
PI. Enl. 461 (young). Le Buzard, Buff. PI. Enl. 423. (very young female.) See 
Journal Acad. Nat. So. iii., p. 346. 


figure and account of the Gostawk, given by the ingenious Mr. Bewick 
(Brit. Birds, v. i., p. 65), I have very little doubt that the present will 
be found to be the same. 

The Goshawk inhabits France and Germany ; is not very common in 
South Britain, but more frequent in the northern parts of the island, 
and is found in Russia and Siberia. Buffon, who reared two young 
birds of this kind, a male and female, observes, that " the Goshawk 
before it has shed its feathers, that is, in its first year, is marked on the 
breast and belly with longitudinal brown spots ; but after it has had 
two moultings they disappear, and their place is occupied by transverse 
waving bars, which continue during the rest of its life;" he also takes 
notice, that though the male was much smaller than the female, it was 
fiercer and more vicious. 

Pennant informs us that the Goshawk is used by the emperor of China 
in his sporting excursions, when he is usually attended by his grand 
falconer, and a thousand of inferior rank. Every bird has a silver 
plate fastened to its foot, with the name of the falconer who has the 
charge of it, that in case it should be lost, it may be restored to the 
proper person ; but if he should not be found, the bird is delivered to 
another officer, called the guardian of lost birds, who, to make his 
situation known, erects his standard in a conspicuous place among the 
army of hunters. The same writer informs us, that he examined in 
the Leverian museum, a specimen of the Goshawk which came from 
America, and which was superior in size to the European. 



[Plate LII. Jig. 1.] 

Arci. Zool. p. 205, No. 100. — American Bvzzard, Lath, i., 50. — Turt. Syst. p. 151. 
— F.Aquilinus, cauda ferruginea, Great Eagle Hawk, Bartram, p. 290. 

The figure of this bird, and those of the other two Hawks in the- 
same plate, are reduced to exactly half the dimensions of the living 
subjects. These representations are ofi"ered to the public with a con- 
fidence in their fidelity ; but these, I am sorry to say, are almost all I 
have to give towards elucidating their history. Birds naturally thinly 
dispersed over a vast extent of country, retiring during summer to the 
depth of the forests to breed, approaching the habitations of man, like 
other thieves and plunderers, with shy and cautious jealousy, seldom 
permitting a near advance, subject to great changes of plumage, and, 


since the decline of falconry, seldom or never domesticated, offer to 
those who wish eagerly to investigate their history, and to delineate 
their particular character and manners, great and insurmountable diffi- 
culties. Little more can be done in such cases than to identify the 
species, and trace it through the various quarters of the world, where 
it has been certainly met with. 

The Red-tailed Hawk is most frequently seen in the lower parts of 
Pennsylvania, during the severity of winter. Among the extensive 
meadows that border the Schuylkill and Delaware, below Philadelphia, 
where flocks of Larks {Alauda magna), and where mice and moles are 
in great abundance, many individuals of this Hawk spend the greater 
part of the winter. Others prowl around the plantations, looking out 
for vagrant chickens ; their method of seizing which, is by sweeping 
swiftly over the spot, and grappling them with their talons, bearing 
them away to the woods. The bird from which the figure in the plate 
was drawn, was surprised in the act of feeding on a hen he had just 
killed, and which he was compelled to abandon. The remains of the 
chicken were immediately baited to a steel-trap, and early the next 
morning the unfortunate Red-tail was found a prisoner, securely fastened 
by the leg. The same hen which the day before he had massacred, was, 
the very next, made the means of decoying him to his destruction ; in 
the eye of the farmer a system of fair and just retribution. 

This species inhabits the whole United States ; and, I believe, is not 
migratory, as I found it in the month of May, as far south as Fort 
Adams, in the Mississippi territory. The young were at that time 
nearly as large as their parents, and were very clamorous, making an 
incessant squealing noise. One, which I shot, contained in its stomach 
mingled fragments of frogs and lizards. 

The Red-tailed Hawk is twenty inches long, and three feet nine 
inches in extent ; bill blue black ; cere and sides of the mouth yellow, 
tinged with green ; lores and spot on the under eyelid white, the former 
marked with fine radiating hairs ; eyebrow, or cartilage, a dull eel skin 
color, prominent, projecting over the eye ; a broad streak of dark 
brown extends from the sides of the mouth backwards ; crown and 
hind-head dark brown, seamed with white and ferruginous ; sides of the 
neck dull ferruginous, streaked with brown; eye large ; iris pale amber ; 
back and shoulders deep brown ; wings dusky, barred with blackish ; 
ends of the five first primaries nearly black ; scapulars barred broadly 
with white and brown ; sides of the tail-coverts white, barred with 
ferruginous, middle ones dark, edged with rust ; tail rounded, extending 
two inches beyond the wings, and of a bright red brown, with a single 
band of black near the end, and tipped, with brownish white ; on some of 
the lateral feathers are slight indications of the remains of other narrow 
bars; lower parts brownish white; the breast ferruginous, streaked 


with dark brown ; across the belly a band of interrupted spots of brown ; 
chin white ; femorals and vent pale brownish white, the former marked 
with a few minute heart-shaped spots of brown ; legs yellow, feathered 
half way below the knees. 

This was a male. Another specimen shot within a few days after, 
agreed in almost every particular of its color and markings with the 
. present ; and on dissection was found to be a female. 



[Plate LII. Fig. 2.] 

It is with some doubt and hesitation that I introduce the present as 
a distinct species from the preceding. In their size and general aspect 
they resemble each other considerably ; yet I have found both males 
and females among each ; and in the present species I have sometimes 
found the ground color of the tail strongly tinged with ferruginous, and 
the bars of dusky but slight ; while in the preceding, the tail is some- 
times wholly red brown, the spgle bar of black near the tip excepted ; 
in other specimens evident remains of numerous other bars are visible. 
In the meantime both are figured, and future observations may throw 
more light on the matter. 

This bird is more numerous than the last ; but frequents the same 
situations in winter. One, which was shot in the wing, lived with me 
several weeks ; but refused to eat. It amused itself by frequently hop- 
ping from one end of the room to the other ; and sitting for hours at the 
window, looking down on the passengers below. At first, when ap- 
proached by any person, he generally put himself in the position in 
which he is represented ; but after some time he became quite familiar, 
permitting himself to be handled, and shutting his eyes as if quite pas- 
sive. Though he lived so long without food, he was found on dissection 
to be exceedingly fat, his stomach being enveloped in a mass of solid fat 
of nearly an inch in thickness. 

The American Buzzard, or White-breasted Hawk, is twenty-two 
inches long, and four feet in extent ; cere pale green ; bill pale blue, 
black at the point ; eye bright straw color ; eyebrow projecting greatly ; 
head broad, flat and large ; upper part of the head, sides of the neck 

* Falco borealis. Wilson's suspicions of this and the preceding being the same 
bird, have been confirmed by Prince Musignano. This is the young, the preceding 
the adult bird. 


and back, brown, streaked and seamed ■with white, and some pale rust ; 
scapulars and wing-coverts spotted with white ; wing quills much resem- 
bling the preceding species ; tail-coverts white, handsomely barred with 
brown ; tail slightly rounded, of a pale brown color, varying in some to 
a sorrel, crossed by nine or ten bars of black, and tipped for half an inch 
with white; wings brown, barred with dusky; inner vanes nearly all 
white ; chin, throat and breast, pure white, with the exception of som« 
slight touches of brown that enclose the chin ; femorals yellowish white, 
thinly marked with minute touches of rust ; legs bright yellow, feathered 
half way down ; belly broadly spotted with black or very deep brown ; 
the tips of the wings reach to the middle of the tail. 

My reason for inclining to consider this a distinct species from the 
last, is that of having uniformly found the present two or three inches 
larger than the former, though this may possibly be owing to their 
greater age.* 



[Plate XLVI. Fig. 1.] 

This elegant and spirited little Hawk is a native of Pennsylvania, 
and of the Atlantic states generally ; and is now for the first time intro- 
duced to the notice of the public. It frequents the more settled parts 
of the country, chiefly in winter ; is at all times a scarce species ; flies 
wide, very irregular, and swiftly ; preys on lizards, mice and small birds, 
and is an active and daring little hunter. It is drawn of full size, from 
a very beautiful specimen shot in the neighborhood of Philadelphia. The 
bird within his grasp is the Tanagra rubra, or Black-winged Red-bird, 

♦Prince Musignano is of opinion that Wilson took his admeasurement of the 
borealis from males, and that of the leverianus from females ; as he has always 
found the males in both states of plumage twenty inches (a size which Wilson 
gives as that of the borealis), and the females of both, twenty-two inches (the size 
of the leverianus as given by Wilson). 

t By comparing this bird with the Sharp-shinned Hawk, it will be obvious that 
Wilson had good reason for his first opinion, that they are identical ; although he 
subsequently came to a contrary conclusion. It is probable that they will be found 
to be the same, and that this is the adult, and the Sharp-shinned Hawk the young 
bird. If this be the case, the name velox, which was first given to this species by 
Wilson, must be retained ; unless indeed it should prove to be identical with the'T. 
fvscvs of authors, as asserted by Prince Musignano ; in which event this latter 
name must of course, having the priority, be adopted. 


in its green or first year's dress. In the spring of the succeeding year 
the green and yellow plumage of this bird becomes of a most splendid 
scarlet, and tlie wings and tail deepen into a glossy black. 

The great difficulty of accurately discriminating between different 
species of the Hawk tribe, on account of the various appearances they 
assume at different periods of their long lives, at first excited a suspi- 
cion that this might be one of those with which I was already acquainted, 
in a different dress, namely, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, figured in Plate 
XLV. of this work.; for such are the changes of color to which many 
individuals of this genus are subject, that unless the naturalist has re- 
course to those parts that are subject to little or no alteration in the 
full-grown bird, viz. the particular conformation of the legs, nostrils, 
tail, and the relative length of the latter to that of the wings, also the 
peculiar character of the countenance, he will frequently be deceived. 
By comparing these, the same species may often be detected under a 
very different garb. Were all these changes accurately known, there is 
no doubt but the number of species of this tribe, at present enumerated, 
would be greatly diminished ; the same bird having been described, by 
certain writers, three, four, and even five different times, as so many 
distinct species. Testing, however, the present Hawk by the rules 
above-mentioned, I have no hesitation in considering it as a species dif- 
ferent from any hitherto described ; and I have classed it accordingly. 

The Slate-colored Hawk is eleven inches long ; and twenty-one inches 
in extent ; bill blue black ; cere and sides of the mouth dull green ; eye- 
lid yellow ; eye deep sunk under the projecting eyebrow, and of a fiery 
orange color ; upper parts of a fine slate ; primaries brown black, and, 
as well as the secondaries, barred with dusky ; scapulars spotted with 
white and brown, which is not seen unless the plumage be separated by 
the hand ; all the feathers above are shafted with black ; tail very 
slightly forked, of an ash color, faintly tinged with brown, crossed with 
four broad bands of black, and tipped with white ; tail three inches 
longer than the wings ; over the eye extends a streak of dull white ; 
chin white mixed with fine black hairs ; breast and belly beautifully 
variegated with ferruginous and transverse spots of white ; femorals the 
same ; vent pure white, legs long, very slender, and of a rich orange 
yellow ; claws black, large, and remarkably sharp ; lining of .the wing 
thickly marked with heart-shaped spots of black. This bird on dissec- 
tion was found to be a male. In the month of February, I shot another 
individual of this species, near Hampton in Virginia, which agreed 
almost exactly with the present. 



[Plate XLV. Jig. 1, Female.] 

This is a bold and daring species, hitherto unknown to naturalists. 
The only Hawk we have which approaches near it in color is the Pigeon 
Hawk, figured in Plate XV. But there are such striking differences 
in the present, not only in color, but in other respects, as to point out 
decisively its claims to rank as a distinct species. Its long and slender 
legs and toes ; its red fiery eye, feathered to the eyelids ; its triangular 
grooved nostril, and length of tail, are all different from the Pigeon 
Hawk, whose legs are short, its eyes dark hazel, surrounded with a 
broad bare yellow skin, and its nostrils small and circular, centred with 
a slender point, that rises in it like the pistil of a flower. There is no 
Hawk mentioned by Pennant, either as inhabiting Europe or America, 
agreeing with this. I may therefore, with confidence, pronounce it a 
nondescript ; and have chosen a very singular peculiarity which it pos- 
sesses, for its specific appellation. 

This Hawk was shot on the banks of the Schuylkill, near Mr. Bar- 
tram's. Its singularity of fiight surprised me long before I succeeded in 
procuring it. It seemed to throw itself from one quarter of the heavens 
to the other, with prodigious velocity, inclining to the earth ; swept 
suddenly down into a thicket, and instantly re-appeared with a small 
bird in its talons. This feat I saw it twice perform, so that it was not 
merely an accidental manoeuvre. The rapidity and seeming violence 
of these zig-zag excursions were really remarkable, and appeared to me 
to be for the purpose of seizing his prey by sudden surprise, and main 
force of flight. I kept this Hawk alive for several days, and was hopeful 
I might be able to cure him ; but he died of his wound. 

On the 15th of September, two young men whom I had despatched 
on a shooting expedition, met with this species on one of the ranges of 
the Alleghany. It was driving around in the same furious headlong man- 
ler, and had made a sweep at a red squirrel, which eluded its grasp, and 
itself became the victim. These are the only individuals of this bird I 
have been able to procure, and fortunately they were male and female. 

The female of this species (represented in the plate) is thirteen inches 
long, and twenty-five inches in extent ; the bill is black towards the 
point on both mandibles, but light blue at its base ; cere a fine pea 
green ; sides of the mouth the same ; lores pale whitish blue, beset with 



hairs ; crown and whole upper parts very dark brown, every feather 
narrowly skirted with a bright rust color ; over the eye a stripe of yel- 
lowish white, streaked with deep brown ; primaries spotted on their inner 
vanes with black ; secondaries crossed on both vanes with three 
bars of dusky, below the coverts ; inner veins of both primaries and 
secondaries brownish white ; all the scapulars marked with large round 
spots of white, not seen unless the plumage be parted with the hand ; 
tail long, nearly even, crossed with four bars of black, and as many 
of brown ash, and tipped with white ; throat and whole lower parts 
pale yellowish white ; the former marked with fine long pointed spots 
of dark brown, the latter with large oblong spots of reddish brown ; 
femorals thickly marked with spade-formed spots, on the pale rufous 
ground ; legs long and feathered a little below the knee, of a greenish 
yellow color, most yellow at the joints ; edges of the inside of the 
shins below the knee, projecting like the edge of a knife, hard and 
sharp, as if intended to enable the bird to hold its prey with more 
security between them; eye, sunk below a projecting cartilage, iris 
bright yellow. 

The male was nearly two inches shorter ; the upper parts dark brown ; 
the feathers skirted with pale reddish, the front also streaked with the 
same ; cere greenish yellow ; lores bluish ; bill black, as in the female ; 
streak over the eye lighter than in the former ; chin white ; breast the 
same, streaked with brown ; bars on the tail rather narrower, but in 
tint and number the same ; belly and vent white ; feet and shins exactly 
as in the female ; the toes have the same pendulous lobes, which mark 
those of the female, and of which the representation in the plate will 
give a correct idea ; the wings barred with black, very noticeable on the 
lower side. 

Since writing the above, I have shot another specimen of this Hawk, 
corresponding in almost every particular with the male last mentioned ; 
and which, on dissection, also proves to be a male. This last had 
within the grasp of his sharp talons a small lizard, just killed, on which 
he was about to feed. How he contrived to get possession of it appeared 
to me matter of surprise, as lightning itself seems scarcely more fleet 
than this little reptile. So rapid are its motions, that, in passing from 
one place to another, it vanishes, and actually eludes the eye in running 
a distance of twelve or fifteen feet. It is frequently seen on fences that 
are covered with gray moss and lichen, which in color it very much 
resembles -; it seeks shelter in hollow trees, and also in the ground about 
their decayed roots. They are most numerous in hilly parts of the 
country, particularly on the declivities of the Blue Mountain, among 
the crevices of rocks and stones. When they are disposed to run, 
it is almost impossible to shoot them, as they disappear at the first 
touch of the trigger. For the satisfaction of the curious, I have intro- 

VoL. I.— 5 


duced a full-sized figure of this lizard, which is known in n^any parts 
of the country by the name of the Swift. 



[Plato LIV. Fig. 1.]- 

This new species, as well as the rest of the figures in the same plate, 
is represented of the exact size of life. The Hawk was shot on the 
sixth of May, in Bartram's woods, near the Schuylkill, and was after- 
wards presented to Mr. Peale. It was perched upon the dead limb of 
a high tree, feeding on something, which was afterwards found to be 
the meadow mouse, figured in Plate L. On my approach, it uttered 
a whining kind of whistle, and flew ofi" to another tree, where I 
followed and shot it. Its great breadth of wing, or width of the 
secondaries, and also of its head and body, when compared with its 
length, struck me as peculiarities. It seemed a remarkably strong- 
built bird, handsomely marked, and was altogether unknown to me. 
Mr. Bartram, who examined it very attentively, declared he had never 
before seen such a Hawk. On the afternoon of the next day I observed 
another, probably its mate or companion, and certainly one of the same 
species, sailing about over the same woods. Its motions were in wide 
circles, with unmoving wings, the exterior outline of which seemed a 
complete semicircle. I was extremely anxious to procure this also if 
possible ; but it was attacked and driven away by a King-bird before 
I could eflFect my purpose, and I have never since been fortunate enough 
to meet with another. On dissecting the one which I had shot, it 
proved to be a male. 

In size this Hawk agrees, nearly, with the Buzzardet [Falco alhidus) 
of Turton, described also by Pennant ; (Arct. Zool. N. 109.) but 
cither the descriptions of these authors are very inaccurate, the change 
of color which that bird undergoes Ycry great, or the present is altoge- 
ther a diflFerent species. Until, however, some other specimens of this 
Hawk come under my observation, I can only add to- the figure here 

* The name Pennsylvanicus, was given by Wilson to this bird, through inadvertence, 
lie having already given that name to the Slate-colored Havrk, which is a distinct 
8po(;io8 from the present, as Wilson was well aware. Mr. Ord, in the reprint of 
this work, called it F. latisimus. But should the Slate-colored Hawk (F. Pennsylva- 
nicus) and the Sharp-shinned Hawk {F. velox), prove to be the same species, then the 
«ame Pennsyninicus must be retained for this species, that of velox being adopted 
fcpi^he former. 


given, and which is a good likeness of the original, the following 
particulars of its size and plumage. 

Length fourteen inches, extent thirty-three inches ; bill black, blue 
near the base, slightly toothed ; cere and corners of the mouth yellow ; 
irides bright amber ; frontlet and lores white ; from the mouth back- 
wards runs a streak of blackish brown ; upper parts dark brown, the 
plumage tipped, and the head streaked, with whitish ; almost all the 
feathers above are spotted or barred with white ; but this is not seen 
unless they be separated by the hand ; head large, broad and flat ; cere 
very broad, the nostril also large ; tail short, the exterior and interior 
feathers somewhat the shortest, the others rather longer, of a full black, 
and crossed with two bars of white, tipped also slightly with whitish ; 
tail-coverts spotted with white ; wings dusky brown, indistinctly barred 
with black ; greater part of the inner vanes snowy ; lesser coverts, and 
upper part of the back, tipped and streaked with bright ferruginous ; 
the bars of black are very distinct on the lower side of the wing ; 
lining of the wing brownish white, beautifully marked with small arrow- 
heads of brown ; chin white, surrounded by streaks of black ; breast 
and sides elegantly spotted with large arrow-heads of brown, centred 
with pale brown ; belly and vent, like the breast, white, but more thinly 
marked with pointed spots of brown ; femorals brownish white, thickly 
marked with small touches of brown and white ; vent white ; legs very 
stout ; feet coarsely scaled, both of a dirty orange yellow ; claws 
semicircular, strong and very sharp, hind one considerably the largest. 

While examining the plumage of this bird, a short time after it was 
shot, one of those winged ticks, with which many of our birds are infest- 
ed, appeared on the surface of the feathers, moving about, as they 
usually do, backwards or sidewise, like a crab, among the plumage, 
with great facility. The Fish-Hawk, in particular, is greatly pestered 
with these vermin, which occasionally leave him as suits their conve- 
nience. A gentleman, who made the experiment, assured me, that on 
plunging a live Fish-Hawk under water, several of these winged ticks 
remained hovering over the spot, and the instant the hawk rose above 
the surface, darted again among his plumage. The experiment was 
several times made, with the like result. As soon, however, as these 
parasites perceive the dead body of their patron beginning to become 
cold, they abandon it ; and if the person who holds it have his head 
uncovered, dive instantly among his hair, as I have myself frequently 
experienced; and though driven thence, repeatedly return, till they are 
caught and destroyed. There are various kinds of these ticks : the 
one found on the present Hawk is figured beside him. The head and 
thorax were light brown ; the legs, six in number, of a bright green, 
their joints moving almost horizontally, and thus enabling the creature 
to pass with the greatest ease between the laminae of feathers ; the 


wings were single, of a dark amber color, and twice as long as the body, 
which widened towards the extremity, where it was slightly indented ; 
feet two clawed. 

This insect lived for several days between the crystal and dial-plate 
of a watch, carried in the pocket ; but being placed for a few minutes 
in the sun, fell into convulsions and died. 



[Plate LI. Fig. 2.] 

Linn. Syst. 129. — Lath, i., 60. — Hirundo maxima Peruviana avis prcedatoris calca- 
ribus instructa, Feuillee, Vpy. Peru, torn, ii., 33. — Catese. i., 4. — Le Milan de 
la Caroline, Briss. i., 418.— Buff, i., 221.— Turt. Syst. 149.— Arct. Zool. p. 210, 
No. 108. 

This very elegant species inhabits the southern districts of the 
United States in summer ; is seldom seen as far north as Pennsylvania, 
but is very abundant in South Carolina and Georgia, and still more so 
in West Florida, and the extensive prairies of Ohio and the Indiana 
Territory. I met with these birds, in the early part of May, at a place 
called Duck Creek, in Tennessee, and found them sailing about in great 
numbers near Bayo Manchac on the Mississippi, twenty or thirty being 
within view at the same time. At that season a species of Cicada, 
or locust, swarmed among the woods, making a deafening noise, and I 
could perceive these Hawks frequently snatching them from the trees. 
A species of lizard, which is very numerous in that quarter of the 
country, and has the faculty of changing its color at will, also furnishes 
the Swallow-tailed Hawk with a favorite morsel. These lizards are 
sometimes of the most brilliant light green, in a few minutes change to 
a dirty clay color, and again become nearly black. The Swallow-tailed 
Hawk, and Mississippi Kite, feed eagerly on this lizard ; and, it is said, 
on a small green snake also, which is the mortal enemy of the lizard, 
and frequently pursues it to the very extremity of the branches, where 
both become the prey of the Hawk.f 

The Swallow-tailed Hawk retires to the south in October, at which 

" F. forficafus, Linn. Syst. i., p. 89, Sp. n., ed. 10.— Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 22, No. 
41. — Mih-us furcatus, Vieillot, Ois. de V Am. Sept. vol. i., p. 38, pi. 10. 

t This animal, if I mistake not, is the Laceria hullaris, or Bladder Lizard, of 
Turton, vol. i., p. 666. The facility with which it changes color is surprising, 
and not generally known to naturalists. 


season, Mr. Bartram informs me, they are seen in Florida, at a vast 
height in the air, sailing about with great steadiness ; and continued 
to be seen thus, passing to their winter quarters, for several days. They 
usually feed from their claws as they fly along. Their flight is easy 
and graceful, with sometimes occasional sweeps among the trees, the 
long feathers of their tail spread out, and each extremity of it used. 
alternately, to lower, elevate, or otherwise direct their course. I have 
never yet met with their nests. 

These birds are particularly attached to the extensive prairies of the 
western countries, where their favorite snakes, lizards, grasshoppers 
and locusts, are in abundance. They are sometimes, though rarely, 
seen in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and that only in long and very 
warm summers. We are informed, that one was taken in the South 
Sea, off the cost which lies between Ylo and Arica, in about lat. 23° 
south, on the eleventh of September, by the Reverend the Father Louis 
Feuill^e.* They are also common in Mexico, and extend their migra- 
tions as far as Peru. 

The Swallow-tailed Hawk measures full two feet in length and up- 
wards of four feet six inches in extent ; the bill is black ; cere yellow, 
covered at the base with bristles ; iris of the eye silvery cream, 
surrounded with a blood-red ring; whole head and neck pure white, 
the shafts fine black hairs ; the whole lower parts also pure white ; 
the throat and breast shafted in the same manner ; upper parts, or back, 
black, glossed with green and purple ; whole lesser coverts very dark 
purple ; wings long, reaching within two inches of the tip of the tail, 
and black ; tail also very long, and remarkably forked, consisting of 
twelve feathers, all black, glossed with green and purple ; several of 
the tertials white or edged with white, but generally covered by the 
scapulars ; inner vanes of the secondaries white on their upper half, 
black towards their points; lining of the wings white; legs yellow, 
short and thick, and feathered before, half way below the knee ; claws 
much curved, whitish ; outer claw very small. The greater part of the plu- 
mage is white at the base ; and when the scapulars are a little displaced, 
they appear spotted with white. 

This was a male in perfect plumage. The color and markings cf the 
male and female are nearly alike. 

* Jour, des Obs. torn, ii., 33. 



[Plate XXV. Fig. 1, Male.] 

This new species I first observed in the Mississippi territory, a few 
miles below Natchez, on the plantation of William Dunbar, Esquire, 
where the bird represented in the plate was obtained after being slightly 
wounded ; and the drawing made with great care from the living speci- 
men. To the hospitality of the gentleman above mentioned, and his 
amiable family, I am indebted for the opportunity afforded me of pro- 
curing this, and one or two more new species. This excellent man, 
(whose life has beeii devoted to science) though at that time confined 
to bed by a severe and dangerous indisposition, and personally unac- 
quainted with me, no sooner heard of my arrival at the town of Natchez, 
than he sent a servant and horses, with an invitation and request to 
come and make his house my home and head-quarters, while engaged in 
exploring that part of the country. The few happy days I spent there 
I shall never forget. 

In my perambulations, I frequently remarked this Hawk sailing about 
in easy circles, and at a considerable height in the air, generally in 
company with the Turkey-Buzzards, whose manner of flight it so exactly 
imitates, as to seem the same species, only in miniature, or seen at a 
more immense height. Why these two birds, whose food and manners, 
in other respects, are so different, should so frequently associate together 
in air, I am at a loss to comprehend. We cannot for a moment suppose 
them mutually deceived by the similarity of each other's flight ; the 
keenness of their vision forbids all suspicion of this kind. They may 
perhaps be engaged, at such times, in mere amusement, as they are 
observed to soar to great heights previous to a storm ; or, what is more 
probable, may both be in pursuit of their respective food. One that he 
may reconnoitre a vast extent of surface below, and trace the tainted 
atmosphere to his favorite carrion ; the other in search of those large 
beetles, or coleopterous insects, that are known often to wing the higher 
regions of the air ; and which, in the three individuals of this species 

* This species, although supposed to be new by Wilson, had been figured and 
described by Vieillot, in his " Histoire Naturelle des Oiseaux de I'Am^rique 
Septentrionale," under the name of Milvus eenchris. Vieillot refers it to the 
F. plumbevs of Gmelin, and the Spotted-tailed Hobby of Latham. Gen. Syn i., p. 



of Hawk which I examined by dissection, were the only substances 
found in their stomachs. For several miles, as I passed near Bayou 
Manchak, the trees were swarming with a kind of Cicada, or locust, 
that made a deafening noise ; and here I observed numbers of the Hawk 
now before us, sweeping about among the trees like swallows, evidently 
in pursuit of these locusts ; so that insects, it would appear, are the 
principal food of this species. Yet when we contemplate the beak and 
talons of this bird, both so sharp and powerful, it is difficult to believe 
that they.were- not intended by nature for some more formidable prey 
than beetles, locusts, or grasshoppers ; and I doubt not but qiice, lizards, 
snakes and small birds, furnish him with an occasional repast. 

This Hawk, though wounded and precipitated from a vast height, 
exhibited, in his distress, symptoms of great strength, and an almost 
unconquerable spirit. I no sooner approached to pick him up, than he 
instantly gave battle, striking rapidly with his claws, wheeling round 
and round as he lay partly on his rump ; and defending himself with 
great vigilance and dexterity; while his dark red eye sparkled with 
rage. Notwithstanding all my caution in seizing him, to carry him 
home, he struck his hind claw into my hand with such force as to pene- 
trate into the bone. Anxious to preserve his life, I endeavored gently 
to disengage it ; but this made him only contract it the more powerfully, 
causing such pain that I had no other alternative but that of cutting 
the sinew of his heel with my penknife. The whole time he lived with 
me, he seemed to watch every movement I made ; erecting the feathers 
of his hind-head, and eyeing me with savage fierceness ; considering me, 
no doubt, as the greatest savage of the two. What effect education 
might have had on this species, under the tutorship of some of the old 
European professors of Falconry, I know not ; but if extent of wing, 
and energy of character, and ease and rapidity of flight, would have 
been any recommendations to royal patronage, this species possesses all 
these in a very eminent degree. 

The long pointed wings, and forked tail, point out the aflSnity of this 
bird to that family, or subdivision of the Falco genus, distinguished by 
the name of Kites, which sail without flapping the wings, and eat from 
their talons as they glide along. 

The Mississippi Kite measures fourteen inches in length, and thirty- 
six inches, or three feet, in extent. The head, neck, and exterior webs 
of the secondaries, are of a hoary white ; the lower parts a whitish ash ; 
bill, cere, lores, and narrow line round the eye, black ; back, rump, 
scapulars, and wing-coverts, dark blackish ash ; wings very long and 
pointed, the third quill the longest ; the primaries are black, marked 
down each side of the shaft with reddish sorrel ; primary coverts also 
slightly touched with the same ; all the upper plumage at the roots is 
white ; the scapulars are also spotted with white ; but this cannot be 


perceived unless the feathers be blown aside ; tail slightly forked, and, 
as well as the rump, jet black ; legs vermilion, tinged with orange and 
becoming blackish towards the toes ; claws black ; iris of the eye dark 
red, pupil black. 

This was a male. With the female, which is expected soon from that 
country, I shall, in a future volume, communicate such further informa- 
tion relative to their manners and incubation, as I may be able to 



[Plate XXXIII. Fig. 1.] 
Arct. Zool. p. 200, No. 92. — Latham, i., 75. 

This handsome species, notwithstanding its formidable size and 
appearance, spends the chief part of the winter among our low swamps 
and meadows, watching for mice, frogs, lame ducks, and other inglorious 
game. Twenty or thirty individuals of this family have regularly taken 
up their winter quarters, for several years past, and probably long 
anterior to that date, in the meadows below this city, between the rivers 
Delaware and Schuylkill, where they spend their time watching along 
the dry banks like cats ; or sailing low and slowly over the surface of 
the ditches. Though rendered shy from the many attempts made to 
shoot them, they seldom fly far, usually from one tr^ee to another, at no 
great distance, making a loud squealing as they arise, something resem- 
bling the neighing of a young colt ; though in a more shrill and savage 

The bird represented in the plate was one of this fraternity; and 
several others of the same association have been obtained and examined 
during the present winter. On comparing these with Pennant's descrip- 
tion, referred to above, they correspond so exactly, that no doubts 
remain of their being the same species. Towards the beginning of 
April, these birds abandon this part of the country, and retire to the 
north to breed. 

They are common during winter in the lower parts of Maryland, and 
numerous in the extensive meadows below Newark, New Jersey ; are 

*We add the following synonymes: Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 19. — Gmel. Syat. i., p. 
260. — Temm. Man d' Orn. i., p. 65. 


frequent along the Connecticut river; and, according to Pennant, 
inhabit England, Norway and Lapmark. Their flight is slow and 
heavy. They are often seen coursing over the surface of the meadows, 
long after sunset, many times in pairs. They generally roost on the 
tall, detached trees, that rise from these low grounds ; and take their 
stations, at daybreak, near a ditch, bank^ or hay-stack, for hours 
together, watching, with patient vigilance, for the first unlucky frog, 
mouse or lizard, to make its appearance. The instant one of these is 
descried, the hawk, sliding into the air, and taking a circuitous course 
along the surface, sweeps over the spot, and in an instant has his prey 
grappled and sprawling in the air. 

The Rough-legged Hawk measures twenty-two inches in length, and 
four_feet two inches in extent ; cere, sides of the mouth, and feet, rich 
yellow; legs feathered to the toes with brownish yellow plumage, 
streaked with brown, femorals the same ; toes comparatively short, 
claws and bill blue black ; iris of the eye bright amber ; upper part of 
the head pale ochre, streaked with brown ; back and wings chocolate, 
each feather edged with bright ferruginous ; first four primaries nearly 
black about the tips, edged externally with silvery in some lights ; rest 
of the quills dark chocolate ; lower side, and interior vanes, white ; 
tail-coverts white ; tail rounded, white, with a broad band of dark 
brown near the end, and tipped with white ; body below, and breast, 
light yellow ochre, blotched and streaked with chocolate. What con- 
stitutes a characteristic mark of this bird, is a belt or girdle, of very 
dark brown, passing round the belly, just below the breast, and reach- 
ing under the wings to the rump ; head very broad, and bill uncom- 
monly small, suited to the humility of its prey. 

The female is much darker both above and below, particularly in the 
belt or girdle, which is nearly black ; the tail-coverts are also spotted 
with chocolate ; she is also something larger. 



[Plate LIII. Fig.l.] 

This, and the other two figures in the same plate, are reduced from 
the large drawings, which were taken of the exact size of nature, to 
one-half their dimensions. I regret the necessity which obliges me to 
contract the figures of these birds, by which much of the grandeur of 
the originals is lost ; particular attention, however, has been paid, in 
the reduction, to the accurate representation of all their parts. 

This is a remarkably shy and wary bird, found most frequently along 
the marshy shores of our large rivers ; feeds on mice, frogs and moles ; 
sails much, and sometimes at a great height ; has been seen to kill, a 
duck on wing ; sits by the side of the marshes, on a stake, for an hour 
at a time, in an almost perpendicular position, as if dozing ; flies with 
great ease, and occasionally with great swiftness, seldom flapping the 
wings ; seems particularly fond of river shores, swamps and marshes ; 
is most numerous with us in winter, and but rarely seen in summer ; is 
remarkable for the great size of its eye, length of its wings, and short- 
ness of its toes. . The breadth of its head is likewise uncommon. 

The Black Hawk is twenty-one inches long, and four feet two inches 
in extent ; bill bluish black ; cere and sides of the mouth orange yel- 
low ; feet the same ; eye very large, iris bright haJfel ; cartilage over- 
hanging the eye, prominent, of a dull greenish color; general color 
above, brown black, slightly dashed with dirty white ; nape of the neck 
pure white under the surface ; front white ; whole lower parts black, 
with slight tinges of brown, and a few circular touches of the same on 
the femorals ; legs feathered to the toes, and black, touched with 
brownish ; the wings reach rather beyond the tip of the tail ; the five 
first primaries are white on their inner vanes ; tail rounded at the end, 
deep black, crossed with five narrow bands of pure white, and broadly 
tipped with dull white; vent black, spotted with white; inside vanes 
of the primaries snowy ; claws black, strong and sharp ; toes remark- 
ably short. 

I strongly suspect this bird to be of the very same species with the 
next, though both were found to be males. Although diff"ering greatly 

* As Wilson suspected, this is the F. Sancti Johannis of Latham. Ind. Orn. p. 
34, No. 74.— Gmel. Si/s^. I., p. 273, No. 92. F. Spadiceus? Id. No. 91. 



m plumage, yet in all their characteristic features they strikingly 
resemble each other. The Chocolate-colored Falcon of Pennant, and 
St. John's Falcon of the same author (Arct. Zool. No. 93 and 94), are 
doubtless varieties of this ; and very probably his Rough-legged Falcon 
also. His figures, however, are bad, and ill calculated to exhibit the 
true form and appearance of the bird. 

This species is a native of North America alone. We have no 
account of its ever having been seen in any part of Europe ; nor have 
we any account of its place, or manner of breeding. 


[Plate LIII. Fig. 2,] 

This is probably a younger bird of the preceding species, being, 
though a male, somewhat less than its companion. Both were killed 
in the same meadow, at the same place and time. In form, features, 
and habitudes, it exactly agreed with the former. 

This bird measures twenty inches in length, and in extent four feet ; 
the eyes, bill, cere, toes, and claws, were as in the preceding ; head 
above white, streaked with black and light brown ; along the eyebrows 
a black line ; cheeks streaked like the head ; neck streaked with black 
and reddish brown, on a pale yellowish white ground ; whole upper 
parts brown black, dashed with brownish white and pale ferruginous ; 
tail white for half its length, ending in brown, marked with one or two 
bars of dusky, and a large bar of black, and tipped with dull white ; 
wings as in the preceding, their lining variegated with black, white and 
ferruginous ; throat and breast brownish yellow, dashed with black ; 
belly beautifully variegated with spots of white, black and pale ferru- 
ginous ; femorals and feathered legs the same, but rather darker ; vent 
plain brownish white. 

The original color of these birds, in their young state, may probably 
be pale brown, as the present individual seemed to be changing to a 
darker color on the neck and sides of the head. This change, from 
pale brown to black, is not greater than some of the genus are actually 
known to undergo. One great advantage of examining living, or newly 
killed specimens, is, that whatever may be the difference of color 
between any two, the eye, countenance, and form of the head, instantly 
betray the common family to which they belong ; for this family like- 

* As Wilson supposed, this is the young of the preceding species. 


nesa is never lost in the living bird, though in stuffed skins, and pre- 
served specimens, it is frequently entirely obliterated. I have no 
hesitation, therefore, in giving it as my opinion, that the present and 
preceding birds are of the same species, differing only in age, both 
being males. Of the female I am unable at present to speak. 

Pennant, in his account of the Chocolate-colored Hawk, which is very 
probably the same with the present and preceding species, observes, 
that it preys much on ducks, sitting on a rock, and watching their rising, 
when it instantly strikes them. 

While traversing our seacoast and salt marshes, between Cape May 
and Egg Harbor, I was every wjiere told of a BucTc Hawk, noted for 
striking down ducks on wing, though flying with their usual rapidity. 
Many extravagances were mingled with these accounts, particularly, 
that it always struck the Duck with its breast-bone, which was univer- 
sally said to project several inches, and to be strong and sharp. From 
the best verbal descriptions I could obtain of this Hawk, I have strong 
suspicions that it is no other than the Black Hawk, as its wings were 
said to be long and very pointed, the color very dark, the size nearly 
alike, and several other traits given that seemed particularly to belong 
to this species. As I have been promised specimens of this celebrated 
Hawk next winter, a short time will enable me to determine the matter 
more satisfactorily. Few gunners in that quarter are unacquainted 
with the Buck Hawk, as it often robs them of their wounded birds, 
before they are able to reach them. 



[Plate XXXV. Fig. 1.] 
TuRTON, Syst. p. Ib&.—Arct. Zool. p. 209, No. 107.* 

This elegant and spirited Hawk is represented in the plate of one- 
half its natural size; the other two figures are reduced in the same 
proportion. He visits us from the north early in November, and leaves 
us late in March. 

This is a dexterous Frog-catcher ; who, that he may pursue his pro- 
fession with full effect, takes up his winter residence almost entirely 
among our meadows and marshes. He sometimes stuffs himself so 

* We add the following synonymes : Falco hyemalia. Ghel. Syst. i., p. 274.— 
Lath. Ind. Orn. p. .35. 


enormously with these reptiles, that the prominency of his craw makes 
a large bunch, and he appears to fly with difficulty. I have taken the 
broken fragments, and whole carcasses, of ten frogs, of different dimen- 
sions, from the crop of a single individual. Of his genius and other 
exploits I am unable to say much. He appears to be a fearless and 
active bird, silent, and not very shy. One which I kept for some time, 
and which was slightly wounded, disdained all attempts made to recon- 
cile him to confinement ; and would not sufiier a person to approach, 
without being highly irritated ; throwing himself backward, and strik- 
ing with expanded talons, with great fury. Though shorter winged 
than some of his tribe, yet I have ho doubt, but, with proper care, he 
might be trained to strike nobler game, in a bold style, and with great 
effect. But the education of Hawks in this country may well be post- 
poned for a time, until fewer improvements remain to be made in that 
of the human subject. 

Length of the Winter Hawk twenty inches, extent forty-one inches, 
or nearly three feet six inches ; cere and legs yellow, the latter long, 
and feathered for an inch below the knee ; bill bluish black, small, fur- 
nished with a tooth in the upper mandible ; eye bright amber, cartilage 
over the eye very prominent, and of a dull green ; head, sides of the 
neck, and throat, dark brown, streaked with white ; lesser coverts with 
a strong glow of ferruginous ; secondaries pale brown, indistinctly 
barred with darker ; primaries brownish orange, spotted with black, 
wholly black at the tips ; tail long, slightly rounded, barred alternately 
with dark and pale brown, inner vanes white, exterior feathers brownish 
orange ; wings, when closed, reach rather beyond the middle of the 
tail ; tail-coverts white, marked with heart-shaped spots of brown ; 
breast and belly white, with numerous long drops of brown, the shafts 
blackish ; femoral feathers large, pale yellow ochre, marked with 
numerous minute streaks of pale brown ; claws black. The legs of 
this bird are represented by different authors as slender ; but I saw no 
appearance of this in those I examined. 

The female is considerably darker above, and about two inches 



[Plate LIU. Fig. 3.] 
Ard. Zool. p. 206, No. 102.— Lath, i., 56, No. 36.— Twrt. Syst. p. 153 

This Hawk is more rarely met with than either of those in the same 
plate. Its haunts are in the neighborhood of the sea. It preys on 
Larks, Sandpipers, and the small Ringed Plover, and frequently on 
Ducks. It flies high and irregularly, and not in the sailing manner of 
the Long-winged Hawks. I have occasionally observed this bird near 
Egg Harbor, in New Jersey ; and once in the meadows below this city. 
This Hawk was first transmitted to Great Britain by Mr. Blackburne, 
from Long Island, in -the state of New York. Of its manner of build- 
ing, eggs, &c., we are altogether unacquainted. 

The Red-shouldered Hawk is nineteen inches in length; the head 
and back are brown, seamed and edged with rusty ; bill blue black ; 
cere and legs yellow ; greater wing-coverts and secondaries pale olive 
brown, thickly spotted on both vanes with white and pale rusty ; prima- 
ries very dark, nearly black, and barred or spotted with white; tail 
rounded, reaching about an inch and a half beyond the wings, black, 
crossed by five bands of white, and broadly tipped with the same ; whole 
breast and belly bright rusty, speckled and spotted with transverse rows 
of white, the shafts black ; chin and cheeks pale brpwnish, streaked 
also with black ; iris reddish hazel ; vent pale ochre, tipped with rusty ; 
legs feathered a little below the knees, long ; these and the feet a fine 
yellow ; claws black ; femorals pale rusty, faintly barred with a darker 

In the month of April I shot a female of this species, and the only 
one I have yet met with, in a swamp, seven or eight miles below Phila- 
delphia. The eggs were, someof them, nearly as large as peas, from 
which circumstance I think it probable they breed in such solitary parts, 
even in this state. In color, size and markings, it difi"ered very little 
from the male described above. The tail was scarcely quite so black, 
and the white bars not so pure ; it was also something larger. 

* This is stated by Prince Musignano to be the young male of the preceding 




[Plate LI. Fig. 1.] 
'Evw. IV., 291.— Lath, i., ^O.—Arci. Zool. p. 208, No. 105.— Bartram, p. 290. 

A DRAWING of this Hawk was transmitted to Edwards more than 
fifty years ago, by Mr. William Bartram, and engraved in Plate 291 
of Edwards' Natural History. At that time, and I believe till now, it 
has been considered as a species peculiar to this country. 

I have examined various individuals of this Hawk, both in summer 
and in the depth of winter, and find them to correspond so nearly with 
the Ring-tail of Europe, that I have no doubt of their being the same 

This Hawk is most numerous where there are extensive meadows 
and salt marshes, over which it sails very low, making frequent circui- 
tous sweeps over the same ground, in search of a species of mouse, 
figured in Plate L., and very abundant in such situations. It occasion- 
ally flaps the wings, but is most commonly seen sailing about 'within a 
few feet of the surface. They are usually known by the name of the 
Mouse Hawk along the coast- of New Jersey, where they are very com- 
mon. Several were also brought me last winter from the meadows 
below Philadelphia. Having never seen its nest, I am unable to describe 
it from my own observation. It is said, by European writers, to build 
on the ground, or on low limbs of trees. Pennant observes, that it 
sometimes changes to a rust-colored variety, except on the rump and 
tail. It is found, as was to be expected, at Hudson's Bay, being 
native in both this latitude and that of Britain. We are also informed 
that it is common in the open and temperate parts of Russia and 
Siberia ; and extends as far as Lake Baikal, though it is said not to be 
found in the north of Europe.J 

The Marsh Hawk is twenty-one inches long, and three feet eleven inches 
extent ; cere and legs yellow, the former tinged with green, the latter 

* Falco pygargus, Linn. 

fThis opinion of Wilson's is in accordance with that of some recent ornithologists. 

We add the following synonymes : F. cyaneus, Gmel. Syst. i., p. 226. — Lath. Ind. 

Orn. p. 39. — Ring-tail, Penn. Brit. Zool. i., p. 194, No. 59. — Hen-Earrier, Id. p. 193, 

No. 58. — P. pygargus, Linn. Sy.H. i., p. 89, No. 9, ed. 10. — Circus Hiidsonius, 

ViEiL. Ois de I' Am. Sept. i., p. 36, pi. 9, — Buzard Saint-Martin, Temm. Man. d' Orn 

1; p. 72. 

J Palls, as quoted by Pennant. 



long and slender ; nostril large, triangular, this, and the base of the 
bill, thickly covered with strong curving hairs, that rise from the 
space between the eye and bill, arching over the base of the bill and 
cere — this is a particular characteristic ; bill blue, black at the end ; 
eye dark hazel ; cartilage overhanging the eye, and also the eyelid, 
bluish green ; spot under the eye, and line from the front over it, 
brownish white ; head above, and back, dark glossy chocolate brown, 
the former slightly seamed with bright ferruginous ; scapulars spotted 
with the same under the surface ; lesser coverts, and band of the wing, 
here and there edged with the same ; greater coverts and primaries 
tipped with whitish ; quills deep brown at the extreme half, some of the 
outer ones hoary on the exterior edge ; all the primaries yellowish white 
on the inner vanes and upper half, also barred on the inner vanes 
with black ; tail long, extending three inches beyond the wings, rounded 
at the end, and of a pale sorrel color, crossed by four broad bars of 
very dark brown, the two middle feathers excepted, which are barred 
with deep and lighter shades of chocolate brown ; chin pale ferruginous ; 
round the neck a collar of bright rust color ; breast, belly and vent, 
pale rust, shafted with brown; femorals long, tapering, and of the 
same pale rust tint ; legs feathered near an inch below the knee. This 
was a female. The male differs chiefly in being rather lighter, and 
somewhat less. 

This Hawk is particularly serviceable to the rice fields of the southern 
states, by the havoc it makes among the clouds of Rice Buntings, that 
spread such devastation among that grain, in its early stage. As it 
sails low and swiftly, over the surface of the field, it keeps the flocks in 
perpetual fluctuation, and greatly interrupts their depredations. The 
planters consider one Marsh Hawk to be equal to several negroes, for 
alarming the Rice-birds. Formerly the Marsh Hawk used to be numer- 
ous along the Schuylkill and Delaware, during the time the seeds of the 
Zizania were ripening, and the Reed-birds abundant ; but they have of 
late years become less numerous here. 

Pennant considers the " strong, thick, and short legs" of this species 
as specific distinctions from the Ring-tailed Hawk ; the legs, however, 
are long and slender ; and a Marsh Hawk such as he has described, with 
strong, thick and short legs, is nowhere to be found in the United States. 

Note. — J^Iontagu, in the " Supplement to the Ornithological Diction- 
ary," an excellent work, positively asserts, that the F. eyaneus, and the 
F. pygargus, are the same species. This opinion the same writer had 
given in a paper, published in the ninth volume of the Linnean Trans- 
actions. If this be the fact, the name oi pygargus must be retained for 
the species, it being that which was given to it by Linnaeus, in the tenth 
edition of the Systema Naturae, published in the year 1758. — G. Ord. 



[Plate XXXII. Fig. 1— Male.] 

Latham i., 132, No. 17.— Bufpon i., Z%'t.— Great White Owl, Edw. &l.— Snowy 
Owl, Arct. Zool. 233, No. 121.* 

The Snow Owl represented in the plate, is reduced to half its natural 
size. To preserve the apparent magnitude, the other accompanying 
figures are drawn by the same scale. 

This great northern hunter inhabits the coldest and most dreary 
regions of the northern hemisphere, in both continents. The forlorn 
mountains of Greenland, covered with eternal ice and snows, where, for 
nearly half the year, the silence of death and desolation might almost 
be expected to reign, furnish food and shelter to this hardy adventurer ; 
whence he is only driven by the extreme severity of weather towards 
the -seashore. He is found in Lapland, Norway, and the country near 
Hudson's Bay, during the whole year ; is said to be common in Siberia, 
and numerous in Kamtschatka. He is often seen in Canada, and the 
northern districts of the United States ; and sometimes extends his visits 
to the borders of Florida. Nature, ever provident, has so effectually 
secured this bird from the attacks of cold, that not even a point is left 
exposed. The- bill is almost completely hid among a mass of feathers, 
that cover the face ; the legs arei clothed with such an exuberance of long 
thick hair-like plumage, as to appear nearly as large as those of a mid- 
dle sized dog, nothing being visible but the claws, which are large, black, 
much hooked, and extremely sharp. The whole plumage, below the sur- 
face, is of the most exquisitely soft, warm, and elastic kind; and so 
closely matted together, as to make it a difficult matter to penetrate to 
the skin. 

The usual food of this species is said to be hares, grouse, rabbits, ducks, 
mice, and even carrion. Unlike most of his tribe, he hunts by day as 
well as by twilight, and is particularly fond of frequenting the shores 
and banks of shallow rivers, over the surface of which he slowly sails, 
or sits on a rock, a little raised above the water, watching for fish. 

* We add the following synonymes : Strix nyctea, Linn. Sysi. ed. 10, i., p. 93. — 
Gmel. Syst. I., p. 291. — Lath. Ind. Orn. p. bl.— Strix Candida, Id. Sup. 2, p. 14.— 
ViEiL. Ois. de I' Am. Sept. i., pi. 18.— Temm. Man. d' Orn. i., p. 82. 

Vol. L— 6 (81) 


These he seizes with a sudden and instantaneous stroke o£ the foot, 
seldom missing his aim. In the more southern and thickly settled parts 
he is seldom seen ; and when he appears, his size, color, and singular 
aspect, attract general notice. 

In the month of October I met with this bird on Oswego river, New 
York, a little below the falls, vigilantly watching for fish. At Pittsburgh, 
in the month of February, I saw another, which had been shot in the 
wing some time before. At a place on the Ohio called Long Reach, I 
examined another, which was the first ever recollected to have been seen 
there. In the town of Cincinnati, state of Ohio, two of these birds 
alighted upon the roof of the court-house, and alarmed the whole town. 
A people more disposed to superstition, would have deduced some dire 
or fortunate prognostication, from their selecting such a place ; but the 
only solicitude was how to get possession of them, which after several 
volleys was at length efiected. One of these, a female, I afterwards ex- 
amined, when on my way "through that place to New Orleans. Near 
Bairdstown, in Kentucky, I met with a large and very beautiful one, 
which appeared to be altogether unknown to the inhabitants of that 
quarter, and excited general surprise. A person living on the eastern 
shore of Maryland, shot one of these birds a few months ago, a female, 
and, having stufied the skin, brought it to Philadelphia, to Mr. Peale, 
in expectation no doubt of a great reward. I have examined eleven of 
these birds within these fifteen months last past, in diiferent and very 
distant parts of the country, all of which were shot either during winter, 
late in the fall, or early in spring ; so that it does not appear certain 
whether any remain during summer within the territory of the United 
States ; though I think it highly probable that a few do, in some of the 
more northern inland parts, where they are most numerous during 

The color of this bird is well suited for concealment, while roaming 
over the general waste of snows ; and its flight strong and swift, very 
similar to that of some of our large Hawks. Its hearing must be ex- 
quisite, if we judge from the largeness of these organs in it ; and its 
voice is so dismal, that, as Pennant observes, it adds horror even to the 
regions of Greenland by its hideous cries, resembling those of a man in 
deep distress. 

The male of this species measures twenty-two inches and a half in 
length, and four feet six inches in breadth ; head and neck nearly white, 
with a few small dots of dull brown interspersed ; eyes deep sunk under 
projecting eyebrows, the plumage at their internal angles fluted or 
pressed in, to admit direct vision, below this it bristles up, covering 
nearly the whole bill ; the irides are of the most brilliant golden yellow, 
and the countenance, from the proportionate smallness of the head, pro- 
jection of the eyebrow, and concavity of the plumage at the angle of 


the eye, very different from that of any other of the genus ; general 
color of the body white, marked with lunated spots of pale brown above, 
and with semicircular dashes below; femoral feathers long, and legs 
covered, even over the claws, with long shaggy hair-like down, of a dirtf 
white ; the claws, when exposed, appear large, much hooked, of a black 
color, and extremely sharp pointed; back white, tail rounded at the 
end, white, slightly dotted with pale brown near the tips ; wings, when 
closed, reach near the extremity of the tail ; vent feathers large, strong 
shafted, and extending also to the point of the tail ; upper part of the 
breast and belly plain white ; body very broad and flat. 

The female, which measures two feet in length, and five feet two inches 
in extent, is covered more thickly with spots of a much darker color 
than those on the male ; the chin, throat, face, belly and vent, are 
white ; femoral feathers white, long and shaggy, marked with a few 
heart-shaped spots of brown ; legs also covered to the claws with long 
white hairy down ; rest of the plumage white, every feather spotted or 
barred with dark brown, largest on the wing quills, where they are about 
two inches apart ; fore part of the crown thickly marked with roundish 
black spots ; tail crossed with bands of broad brownish spots ; shafts of 
all the plumage white ; bill and claws, as in the male, black ; third and 
fourth wing quill the longest, span of the foot four inches. 

From the various individuals of these birds which I have examined, 
I have reason to believe that the male alone approaches nearly to white 
in his plumage, the female rarely or never. The bird from which the 
figure in the plate was drawn, was killed at Egg Harbor, New Jersey, 
in the month of December. The conformation of the eye of this bird 
forms a curious and interesting subject to the young anatomist. The 
globe of the eye is immovably fixed in its socket, by a strong, elastic, 
hard, cartilaginous case, in form of a truncated cone ; this case being 
closely covered with a skin, appears at first to be of one continued 
piece ; but on removing the exterior membrane it is found to be formed 
of fifteen pieces, placed like the staves of a cask, overlapping a little 
at the base or narrow end, and seem as if capable of being enlarged 
or contracted, perhaps by the muscular membrane with which they are 
encased. In five other different species of Owls, which I have since 
examined, I found nearly the same conformation of this organ, and 
exactly the same number of staves. The eye being thus fixed, these 
birds, as they view different objects, are always obliged to turn the head ; 
and nature has so excellently adapted their neck to this purpose, that 
they can, with ease, turn it round, without moving the body, in almost 
a complete circle. 



[Plate 1. Fig. 6.] 

Little Hawk Owl, Edw. 62.— Lath, i., 142, No. I'i.—Phil. Trans. 61. 385— Ze Chat- 
huant de Canada, Briss. i., 518. — Buff, i., 391. — Chouetie d longue queue de 
Siberie, PI. enl. 46i.—Aret. Zool. p. 234, No. 123. 

This is another inhabitant of both continents, a kind of equivocal 
species, or rather a connecting link between the Hawk and Owl tribes, 
resembling the latter in the feet, and in the radiating feathers round 
the eye and bill ; but approaching nearer to the former Jn the smallness 
of its head, narrowness of its face, and in its length of tail. In short, 
it seems just such a figure as one would expect to see generated between 
a Hawk and an Owl of the same size, were it possible for them to pro- 
duce ; and yet it is as distinct, independent, and original a species, as 
any other. The figure in the plate is reduced to one-half the size of 
life. It has also another strong trait of the Hawk tribe, in flying and 
preying by day, contrary to the general habit of Owls. It is charac- 
terized as a bold and active species, following the fowler, and carrying 
off his game as soon as it is shot. It is said to prey on Partridges and 
other birds ; and is very common at Hudson's Bay ; where it is called 
by the Indians Ooparacoch.f We are also informed that this same 
species inhabits Denmark and Sweden, is frequent in all Siberia, and 
on the west side of the Uralian chain, as far as Casan and the Volga ; 
but not in Russia.J It was also seen by the navigators near Sandwich , 
sound, in lat. 61° north. 

This species is very rare in Pennsylvania, and the more southern 
parts of the United States. Its favorite range seems to be along the 
borders of the arctic regions, making occasional excursions southwardly, 
when compelled by severity of weather, and consequent scarcity of food. 
I some time ago received a drawing of this bird from the district of 
Maine, where it was considered rare ; that, and the specimen from, 
which the drawing in the plate was taken, which was shot in the neigh- 
borhood of Philadelphia, are the only two that have come under my 
notice. These having luckily happened to be male and female, have 
enabled me to give a description of both. Of their nest, or manner 
of breeding, we have no account. 

* Strix funerea, Linn., which name must be adopted, 
t Edwards. J Pennant. 



The male of this species is fifteen inches long; the bill orange 
yellow, and almost hid among the feathers ; plumage of the chin curv- 
ing up over the under mandible ; eyes bright orange ; head small ; face 
narrow, and with very little concavity ; cheeks white ; crown and hind- 
head dusky black, thickly marked with round spots of white ; gides of the 
neck marked with a large curving streak of brown black, with another a 
little behind it of a triangular form ; back, scapulars, rump and tail- 
coverts, brown olive, thickly speckled with broad spots of white ; the 
tail extends three inches beyond the tips of the wings, is of a brown 
olive color, and crossed with six or seven narrow bars of white, rounded 
at the end, and also tipped with white ; the breast and chin are marked 
with a large spot of brown olive ; upper part of the breast light, lower, 
and all the parts below, elegantly barred with dark brown and white ; 
legs and feet covered to, and beyond the claws, with long whitish 
plumage, slightly yellow, and barred with fine lines of olive ; claws 
horn color. The weight of this bird was twelve ounces. 

The female is much darker above ; the quills are nearly black, and 
the upper part of the breast is blotched with deep blackish brown. 

It is worthy of remark, that in all Owls that iiy by night, the 
exterior edges and sides of the wing quills are slightly recurved, and 
end in fine hairs or points ; by which means the bird is enabled to pass 
through the air with the greatest silence, a provision necessary for 
enabling them the better to surprise their prey. In the Hawk Owl 
now before us, which flies by day, and to whom this contrivance would 
be of no consequence, it is accordingly omitted, or at least is scarcely 
observable. So judicious, so wise and perfectly applicable, are all the 
dispositions of the Creator. 



[Plate XXXIII. Fig. 2.] 

TuBTON, Syst. 169. — Ard. Zool. p. 234, No. 122. — Lath. 133. — Strix acclamator, 
the Whooting Owl, Bartbam, 289.* 

This is one of our most common Owls. In winter, particularly, it is 
numerous in the lower parts of Pennsylvania, among the woods that 
border the extensive meadows of Schuylkill and Delaware. It is very 
frequently observed flying during day, and certainly sees more distinctly, 
at that time, than many of its genus. In one spring, at different times, 
I met with more than forty of them, generally flying, or sitting exposed. 
I also once met with one of their nests, containing three young, in the 
crotch of a white oak, among thick foliage. The nest was rudely put 
together, composed outwardly of sticks, intermixed with some dry grass, 
and leaves, and lined with smaller twigs. At another time, in passing 
through the woods, I perceived "something white, on the high shaded 
branch of a tree, close to the trunk, that, as I thought, looked like a 
cat asleep. - Unable to satisfy myself, I was induced to fire, when, to 
my surprise and regret, four young Owls, of this same species, nearly 
full grown, came down headlong, and fluttering for a few moments, died 
at my feet. Their nest was probably not far distant. I have also seen 
the eggs of this species, which are nearly as large as those of a young 
pullet, but much more globular, and perfectly white. 

These birds sometimes seize on fowls, partridges, and young rabbits ; 
mice, and small game, are, however, their most usual food. The differ- 
ence of size between the male and female of this Owl is extraordinary, 
amounting, sometimes, to nearly eight inches in the length. Both 
scream during the day like a Hawk. ' 

The male Barred Owl measures sixteen inches and a half in length, 
and thirty-eight inches in extent ; upper parts a pale brown, marked 
with transverse spots of white ; wings barred with alternate bands of 
pale brown and darker ; head smooth, very large, mottled with trans- 
verse touches of dark brown, pale brown and white ; eyes large, deep 
blue, the pupil not perceivable ; face, or radiated circle of the eyes, 
gray, surrounded by an outline of brown and white dots ; bill yellow, 

* We add the following synonymes : Strix nebulosa, Lath. Jnd. Orn. p. 58. — 
Gmel. Syst. I., p. 291. — Temm. Man. d' Orn. i., p. 88. 



tinged with green ; breast barred transversely with rows of brown and 
white; belly streaked longitudinally with long stripes of brown, on a 
yellowish ground ; vent plain yellowish white ; thighs and feathered legs 
the same, slightly pointed with brown ; toes nearly covered with' plu- 
mage ; claws dark horn color, very sharp ; tail rounded, and remarkably 
concave below, barred with six broad bars of brown, and as many nar- 
row ones of white ; the back and shoulders have a cast of chestnut ; at 
each internal angle of the eye is a broad spot of black ; the plumage 
of the radiated circle round the eye ends in long black hairs ; and the 
bill is encompassed by others of a longer and more bristly kind. These, 
probably, serve to guard the eye when any danger approaches it, in 
sweeping hastily through the woods ; and those usually found on Fly- 
catchers, may have the same intention to fulfil ; for on the slightest 
"^ touch of the point of any of these hairs, the nictitating membrane was 
instantly thrown over the eye. 

The female is twenty-two inches long, and four feet in extent ; the 
chief difi"erence of color consists in her wings being broadly spotted with 
white ; the shoulder being a plain chocolate brown ; the tail extends 
considerably beyond the tips of the wings ; the bill is much larger, and 
of a more golden yellow ; iris of the eye the same as that of the male. 

The different character of the feathers of this, and I believe of most 
Owls, is really surprising. Those that surround the bill, differ little 
from bristles ; those that surround the region of the eyes, are exceed- 
ing open, and unwebbed ; these are bounded by another set, generally 
proceeding from the external edge of the ear, of a most peculiar, small, 
narrow, velvety kind, whose fibres are so exquisitely fine, as to be in- 
visible to the naked eye ; above, the plumage has one general character 
at the surface, calculated to repel rain and moisture; but towards the 
roots, it is of the most soft, loose, and downy substance, in nature, so 
much so, that it may be touched without being felt ; the webs of the 
wing quills are also of a delicate softness, covered with an almost im- 
perceptible hair, and edged with a loose silky down, so that the owner 
passes through the air without interrupting the most profound silence. 
Who cannot perceive the hand of God in all these things ! 



[Plate L. Kg. 2.] 

Lath, i., Vi?,.—Arct. Zool. p. 235, No. 124.— PAi7. Trans, in., XZi.—L'Efraie, ou 
la Fresaie, Buff, i., 366, pi. 26, PI. enl. 440. — Bewick's British Birds, i., p. 89. 
— Common Owl, Tukt. Syst. p. 170. 

This Owl, though so common in Europe, is rare in this part of the 
United States ; and is only found here during very severe winters. 
This may possibly be owing to the want of those favorite recesses, 
which it so much affects in the eastern continent. The multitudes of 
old ruined castles, towers, monasteries and cathedrals, that everywhere 
rise to view in those countries, are the chosen haunts of this well known 
species. Its savage cries at night give, with vulgar minds, a cast of 
supernatural horror to those venerable mouldering piles of antiquity. 
This species, being common to both continents, doubtless extends to the 
arctic regions. It also inhabits Tartary, where, according to Pennant, 
" the Mongols and natives almost pay it divine honors, because they 
attribute to this species the preservation of the founder of their empire, 
Cinghis Khan. That prince, with his small army, happened to be sur- 
prised and put to flight by his enemies, and forced to conceal himself in 
a little coppice : an Owl settled on the bush under which he was hid, and 
induced his pursuers not to search there, as they thought it impossible 
that any man could be concealed in a place ■where that bird would perch. 
From thenceforth they held it to be sacred, and every one wore a plume 
of the feathers of this species on his head. To this day the Kalmucs 
continue the custom on all great festivals ; and some tribes have an idol 
in form of an Owl, to which they fasten the real legs of one."* 

This species is rarely found in Pennsylvania in summer. Of its place 
and manner of building I am unable, from my own observation, to speak. 
The bird itself has been several times found in the hollow of a tree, and 
was once caught in a barn in my neighborhood. European writers in- 
form us, that it makes no nest ; but deposits its eggs in the holes of 
walls, and lays five or six of a whitish color ; is sa-id to feed on mice and 
small birds, which, like the most of its tribe, it swallows whole, and 
afterwards emits the bones, feathers, and other indigestible parts, at its 

* Arot. Zool. p. 235. 



mouth, in the for;n of small round cakes, which are often found in the 
empty buildings it frequents. During its repose it is said to make a 
blowing noise, resembling the snoring of a man.* 

It is distinguished in England by various names, the Barn Owl, the 
Church Owl, Gillihowlet and Screech Owl. In the lowlands of Scot- 
land it is universally called the Hoolet. 

The White or Barn Owl is fourteen inches long, and upwards of three 
feet six inches in extent ; bill a whitish horn color, longer than is usual 
among its tribe ; space surrounding each eye remarkably concave, the 
radiating feathers meeting in a high projecting ridge, arching from the 
bill upwards ; between these lies a thick tuft of bright tawny feathers, 
that are scarcely seen unless the ridges be separated ; face white, sur- 
rounded by a border of narrow, thickset, velvety feathers, of a reddish 
cream color at the tip, pure silvery white below, and finely shafted with 
black ; whole upper parts a bright tawny yellow, thickly sprinkled 
with whitish and pale purple, and beautifully interspersed with larger 
drops of white, each feather of the back and wing-coverts ending in an 
oblong spot of white, bounded by black ; head large, tumid ; sides of the 
neck pale yellow ochre, thinly sprinkled with small touches of dusky ; 
primaries and secondaries the same, thinly barred and thickly sprinkled 
with dull purplish brown ; tail two inches shorter than the tips of the 
wings, even, or very slightly forked, pale yellowish, crossed with five 
bars of brown, and thickly dotted with the same ; whole lower parts pure 
white, thinly interspersed with small round spots of blackish ; thighs the 
same, legs long, thinly covered with short white down, nearly to the feet, 
which are of a dirty white, and thickly warted ; toes thinly clad with 
white hairs ; legs and feet large and clumsy. The ridge or shoulder of 
the wing is tinged with bright orange brown. The aged bird is more 
white ; in some, the spots of black on the breast are wanting, and the 
color below a pale yellow ; in others a pure white. 

The female measures fifteen inches and a half in length, and three 
feet eight inches in extent ; is much darker above ; the lower parts 
tinged with tawny, and marked also with round spots of black. One of 
these was lately sent me, which was shot on the border of the meadows 
below Philadelphia. Its stomach contained the mangled carcasses of 
four large meadow mice, hair, bones and all. The common practice of 
most Owls is, after breaking the bones, to swallow the mouse entire ; the 
bones, hair, and other indigestible parts, are afterwards discharged from 
the mouth, in large roundish dry balls, that are frequently met with in 
such places as these birds usually haunt. 

As the Meadow-mouse is so eagerly sought after by those birds, and 
also by great numbers of Hawks, which regularly, at the commencement 

* Bewick, i., p. 90. 


of winter, resort to the meadows below Philadelphia, and to the marshes 
along the seashore, for the purpose of feeding on these little animals, 
some account of them may not be improper in this place. Pig. 3 repre- 
sents the Meadow-mouse drawn by the same scale, viz. reduced to one- 
half its natural dimensions. This species appears not to have been taken 
notice of by Turton, in his translation of Gmelin's Linnaeus. From the 
nose to the insertion of the tail it measures four inches ; the tail is be- 
tween three-quarters and an inch long, hairy, and usually curves up- 
wards ; the fore feet are short, five-toed, the inner toe very short, but 
furnished with a claw ; hind feet also five-toed ; the ears are shorter 
than the fur, through which, though large, they are scarcely noticeable ; 
the nose is blunt ; the color of the back is dark brown, that of the belly 
hoary ; the fur is long and extremely fine ; the hind feet are placed very 
far back, and are also short ; the eyes exceeding small. This mischiev- 
ous creature is a great pest to the meadows, burrowing in them in every 
direction ; but is particularly injurious to the embankments raised along 
the river, perforating them in numerous directions, and admitting the 
water, which afterwards increases to dangerous breaches, inundating large 
extents of these low grounds, and thus becoming the instruments of their 
own destruction. In their general figure they bear great resemblance 
to the common musk-rat, and, like them, swim and dive well. They 
feed on the bulbous roots of plants, and also on garlic, of which they are 
remarkably fond.* 

Another favorite prey of most of our Owls is the bat, one species of 
which is represented at fig. 4, as it hung during the day in the woods 
where I found it. This also appears to be a nondescript. The length 
of this bat, from the nose to the tip of the tail, is four inches ; the tail 
itself is as long as the body, but generally curls up inwards ; the general 

* As Wilson conjectured, this animal was a nondescript. It being a Campagnol, 
it may be classed under the name of Arvicola Pennsylvanicus ; as it is the same 
animal which was introduced into my catalogue of Mammalia, under that trivial 
denomination. As far as our information extends, the female brings forth only two 
young at a litter. Her two teats are inguinal; and the young, by holding on to 
them, are transported by the mother whithersoever she goes — that is, when they 
are inclined to accompany her; when dragged along, their position is between her 
hind legs ; and she can run with them hanging to her, as stated, with considerable 

Dr. Leach, in the Zoological Miscellany, vol. i., p. 60, figured and described a 
Campagnol, which had been received from Hudson's Bay. This animal, which was ' 
named A. zanthognatha, has been mistaken, by some naturalists, for the present 
species, which is not half its size : the Fulvous-cheeked Campagnol measures, from 
the tip of its nose to the base of its tail, at least nine inches, whilst the admeasure- 
ment of ours is not more than four inches. Dr. Leach's description is too imper- 
fect : it lacks those details which are essential in discriminating species. The size 
of his animal we infer from hi? figure, which ho says is '' rather less than half of 
the natural size." — G. Ord. 


color is a bright iron gray, the fur being of a reddish cream at bottom, 
then strongly tinged with lake, and minutely tipped with white ; the 
ears are scarcely half an inch long, with two slight valves ; the nostrils 
are somewhat tubular ; fore teeth in the upper jaw, none — in the lower, 
four, not reckoning the tusks ; the eyes are very small black points ; 
the chin, upper part of the breast and head, are of a plain reddish 
cream color ; the wings have a single hook or claw each, and are so con- 
structed, that the animal may hang either with its head or tail down- 
ward. I have several times found two hanging fast locked together 
behind a leaf, the hook of one fixed in the mouth of the other ; the hind 
feet are furnished with five toes, sharp-clawed ; the membrane of the 
wings is dusky_, shafts light brown ; extent twelve inches. In a cave, 
not far from Carlisle in Pennsylvania, I found a number of these bats 
in the depth of winter, in very severe weather ; they were lying on the 
projecting shelves of the rocks, and when the brand of fire was held 
near them, wrinkled up their mouths, showing their teeth ; when held in 
the hand for a short time, they became active, and after being carried 
into a stove room, flew about as lively as ever.* 



[Plate XXXIV. Fig. 1.] 
Arct. Zool. 236, No. 126.— Tueton, Syst. 172.t 

This is one of the least of its wliole genus, but like many other little 
folks, makes up in neatness of general form and appearance, for de- 
ficiency of size, and is perhaps the most shapely of all our Owls. Nor 
are the colors and markings of its plumage inferior in simplicity and 
effect to most others. It also possesses an eye fully equal in spirit and 
brilliancy to the best of them. 

This species is a general and constant inhabitant of the middle and 
northern states ; but is found most numerous in the neighborhood of the 
seashore, and among woods and swamps of pine trees. It rarely 

rambles much during day ; but if disturbed, flies a short way, and again 

^ ^ ^ ^ _ 

* This species Dr. Goodman calls the Vespertilio noveboracensis of Linnaeus. See 
his American Natural History, vol. i., p. 48. Wilson, it should seem, was of a 
different opinion. 

t We add the following synonymes : Sirix passerina, Linn. Syst. ed. 10, vol. I., 
p. 93. Gmel. Syst. i., p. 296. No. 12. — Strix acadiensis, Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 65. — S. 
acadica, Gmel. Syst. i., p. 296, No. 43. — Tehm. Man. d' Orn. i., p. 92. 


takes shelter from the light ; at the approach of twilight it is all life 
and activity ; being a noted and dexterous mouse-catcher. It is found 
as far north as Nova Scotia, and even Hudson's Bay ; is frequent in 
Russia ; builds its nest generally in pines, half way up the tree, and 
lays two eggs, which, like those of the rest of its genus, are white. 
The melancholy and gloomy umbrage of those solitary evergreens forms 
its favorite haunts ; where it sits dozing and slumbering all day, lulled 
by the roar of the neighboring ocean. 

The Little 0\ll is seven inches and a half long, and eighteen inches 
in extent ; the upper parts are a plain brown olive, the scapulars, and 
some of the greater and lesser coverts, being spotted with white ; the 
first five primaries are crossed obliquely with five bars of white ; tail 
rounded, rather darker than the body, crossed with two rows of white 
spots, and tipped with white ; whole interior vanes of the wings spotted 
with the same ; auriculars yellowish brown ; crown, upper part of the 
neck, and circle surrounding the ears, beautifully marked with numerous 
points of white, on an olive brown ground ; front pure white, ending in 
long blackish hairs ; at the internal angle of the eyes, a broad spot of 
black, radiating outwards ; irides pale yellow ; bill a blackish horn 
color, lower parts streaked with yellow ochre and reddish bay ; thighs 
and feathered legs pale buff ; toes covered to the claws, which are black, 
large, and sharp pointed. 

The bird from which the foregoing figure and description were taken, 
was shot on the seashore, near Great Egg Harbor, in New Jersey, in 
the month of November ; and on dissection was found to be a female. 
Turton describes a species called the White-fronted Owl {S. albifrons), 
which in every thing, except in size, agrees with this bird, and has very 
probably been taken from a young male ; which is sometimes found 
considerably less than the female. 



[Plate XXXIII. Fig. 3.] 

TuRTON, Syst p. 167.— Jrct. Zool. p. 229, No. 116.— Lath, i., I2i.—TM ChouetiS, 
ou la grand ChevSche, Buff, i., PI. enl. 438.* 

This is another species common to both continents, being found in 
Britain as far north as the Orkney isles, where it also breeds; building 
its nest upon the ground, amidst the heath ; arrives and disappears in 
the south parts of England with the Woodcock, that is in October and 
April ; consequently does not breed there. It is called at Hudson's 
Bay the Mouse Hawk ; and is described as not flying like other Owls in 
search of prey ; but sitting quiet on a stump of a tree, watching for 
mice. It is said to be found in plenty in the woods near Chatteau bay, 
on the coast of Labrador. In the United States it is also a bird of 
passage, coming to us from the north in November, and departing in 
April. The bird represented in the plate was shot in New Jersey, a 
few miles below Philadelphia, in a thicket of pines. It has the stern 
aspect of a keen, vigorous, and active bird ; and is reputed to be an 
excellent mouser. It flies frequently by day, particularly in dark cloudy 
weather, takes short flights, and, when sitting and looking sharply 
around, erects the two slight feathers that constitute its horns, which 
are at- such times very noticeable ; but otherwise not perceivable. No 
person, on slightly examining this bird after being shot, would suspect 
it to be furnished with horns ; nor are they discovered but by careful 
search, or previous observation on the liviiig bird. Bewick, in his His- 
tory of British Birds, remarks, that this species is sometimes seen in 
companies ; twenty-eight of them being once counted in a turnip field 
in November. 

Length fifteen inches, extent three feet four inches; general color 
above dark brown, the feathers broadly skirted with pale yellowish 
brown ; bill large, black ; irides rich golden yellow, placed in a bed of 
deep black, which radiates outwards all around, except towards the bill, 
where the plumal^e is whitish ; ears bordered with a semicircular line of 
black and tawny yellow dots; tail rounded, longer than usual with 
Owls, crossed with five bands of dark brown, and as many of yellow 

* We add the following synonymes : Strix hrachyotos, Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 55.— 
Strix Ulula, Linn. Syst. ed. 10, p. 93.— Temm. Man. d' Orn. i., p. 99. 



ochre, some of the latter have central spots of dark brown, the whole 
tipped with white; quills also banded with dark brown and yellow 
ochre ; breast and belly streaked with dark brown, on a ground of yel- 
lowish ; legs, thighs and vent, plain dull yellow ; tips of the three first 
quill feathers black ; legs clothed to the claws, which are black, curved 
to about the quarter of a circle, and exceedingly sharp. 

The female I have never seen ; but she is said to be somewhat larger 
and much darker ; and the spots on the breast larger and more 



[Plate L. Kg. 1.] 
Arct. Zool. p. 228, No. 114.— Bdw. 60.— Lath, i., 119.— Tcrt. Syst. p. 166.* 

The figure of this bird, as well as of those represented in the same 
plate, is reduced to one-half its natural dimensions. By the same scale, 
the greater part of the Hawks and Owls of the present volumef are 
drawn ; their real magnitude rendering this unavoidable. 

This noted and formidable Owl is found in almost every quarter of 
the United States. His favorite residence, however, is in the dark 
solitudes of deep swamps, covered with a growth of gigantic timber ; 
and here, as soon as evening draws on, and mankind retire to rest, he 
sends forth such sounds, as seem scarcely to belong to this world, start- 
ling the solitary pilgrim as he slumbers by his forest fire, 

'' Making night hideous." 

Along the mountainous shores of the Ohio, and amidst the deep forests 
of Indiana, alone, and reposing in the woods, this ghostly watchman 
frequently warned me of the approach of morning, and amused me with 
his singular exclamations ; sometimes sweeping down and around my 
fire, uttering a loud and sudden Waugh ! Waugh ! sufficient to 
have alarmed a whole garrison. He has other nocturnal solos, no less 
melodious, one of which very strikingly resembles the half-suppressed 
screams of a person sufibcating, or throttled, and cannot fail of being 

* Wc add the following syoonymes: Hibou des Terres Magellanigues, Bcpp. PI. 
Enl.Z?:b. — Bubo Virginianus, Bbiss. i.,p. 484. — Strix Virginiana, Ind. Orn. p. 52. — 
Qmel. Syst. I., p. 287. — Virginian Eared Owl, Lath. Gen. Syn. Supl.Yi., p. 40. 

f Volume VI. of the original edition. 


exceedingly entertaining to a lonely, benighted traveller, in the midst 
of an Indian ■wilderness. 

This species inhabits the country round Hudson's Bay ; and, accord- 
ing to Pennant, who considers it a mere variety of the Eagle Owl [Strix 
bubo) of Europe, is found in Kamtschatka ; extends even to the Arctic 
regions, where it is often found white ; and occurs as low as Astrakan 
It has also been seen white in the United States ; but this has doubtless 
been owing to disease or natural defect, and not to climate. It preys 
on young rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice, partridges, and small birds of 
various kinds. It has been often known to prowl about the farm-house, 
and carry oif chickens from the roost. A very large one, wing-broken 
while on a foraging excursion of this kind, was kept about a house for 
several days, and at length disappeared, no one knew how. Almost 
every day after this, hens and chickens also disappeared, one by one, in 
an unaccountable manner, till in eight or ten days very few were left 
remaining. The fox, the minx and weasel, were alternately the reputed 
authors of this mischief, until one morning, an old lady, rising before 
day to bake, in passing towards the oven, surprised her late prisoner the 
Owl, regaling himself on^the body of a newly killed hen. The thief in- 
stantly made for his hole under the house, whence the enraged matron 
soon dislodged him with the brush-handle, and without mercy despatched 
him. In this snug retreat were found the greater part of the feathers, 
and many large fragments, of her whole family of chickens. 

There is something in the character of the Owl so recluse, solitary 
and mysterious, something so discordant in the tones of its voice, heard 
■ only amid the silence and gloom of night, and in the most lonely and 
sequestered situations, as to have strongly impressed the minds of man- 
kind in general with sensations of awe, and abhorrence of the whole 
tribe. The poets have indulged freely in this general prejudice ; and in 
their descriptions and delineations of midnight storms, and gloomy scenes 
of nature, the Owl is generally introduced to heighten the horror of the 
picture. Ignorance and superstition, in all ages, and in all countries, 
listen to the voice of the Owl, and even contemplate its physiognomy 
with feelings of disgust, and a kind of fearful awe. The priests, or con- 
jurers, among some of.our Indian nations, have taken advantage of the 
•reverential horror for this bird, and have adopted the Great Horned 
Owl, the subject of the present account, as the symbol or emblem of 
their ofiBce. "Among the Creeks," says Mr. Bartram, "the junior 
priests, or students, constantly wear a white mantle, and have a Great 
Owl skin cased and stuffed very ingeniously, so well executed as almost 
to appear like the living bird, having large sparkling glass beads, 
or buttons, fixed in the head for eyes. This insignia of wisdom and 
divination they wear sometimes as a crest on the top of the head ; at 
other times the image sits on the arm, or is borne on the hand. These 


bachelors are also distinguished from the other people by their taci. 
turnity, grave and solemn countenance, dignified step, and singing to 
themselves songs or hymns in a low, sweet voice, as they stroll about 
the town."* 

Nothing is a more effectual cure for superstition than a knowledge 
of the general laws and productions of nature ; nor more forcibly leads 
our reflections to the first, great, self-existent CAUSE of all, to whom 
our reverential awe is then humbly devoted, and not to any of his 
dependent creatures. With all the gloomy habits, and ungracious tones, 
of the Owl, there is nothing in this bird supernatural or mysterious, or 
more than that of a simple bird of prey, formed for feeding by night, like 
many other animals, and of reposing by day. The harshness of its 
voice, occasioned by the width and capacity of its throat, may be intended 
by heaven as an alarm ajid warning to the birds and animals on 
which it preys, to secure themselves from danger. The voices of all 
carnivorous birds and animals are also observed to be harsh and hideous, 
probably for this very purpose. 

The Great Horned Owl is not migratory, but remains with us the 
whole year. During the day he slumbers in the thick evergreens of 
deep swamps, or seeks shelter in large hollow trees. He is very rarely 
seen abroad by day, and never but when disturbed. In the month 
of May they usually begin to build. The nest is generally placed in 
the fork of a tall tree, and is constructed of sticks, piled in considerable 
quantities, lined with dry leaves, and a few feathers. Sometimes they 
choose a hollow tree, and in that case carry in but few materials. The 
female lays four eggs, nearly as large as those of a hen, almost globular, 
and of a pure white. In one of these nests, after the young had flown, 
were found the heads and bones of two chickens, the legs and head of 
the Golden-winged Woodpecker, and part of the wings and feathers of 
several other birds. It is generally conjectured that they hatch but 
once in the season. 

The length of the male of this species is twenty inches ; the bill is 
large, black and strong, covered at the base with a cere; the eyes 
golden yellow ; the horns are three inches in length, and very broad, 
consisting of twelve or fourteen feathers, their webs black, broadly edged 
with bright tawny ; face rusty, bounded on each side by a band of black ; 
space between the eyes and bill whitish ; whole lower parts elegantly 
marked with numerous transverse bars of dusky, on a bright tawny 
ground, thinly interspersed with white ; vent pale yellow ochre, barred 
with narrow lines of brown ; legs and feet large and covered with 
feathers, or hairy down, of a pale brown color ; claws very large, blue 
black ; tail rounded, extending about an inch beyond the tips of the 

» Travels, p. 504. 


wings, crossed with six or seven narrow bars of brown, and variegated 
or marbled with brown and tawny ; whole upper parts finely pencilled 
with dusky, on a tawny and whitish ground ; chin pure white, under 
that a band of brown, succeeded by another narrow one of white ; eyes 
very large. 

The female is full two feet in length, and has not the white on the 
throat so pure. She has also less of the bright ferruginous or tawny 
tint below ; but is principally distinguished by her superior magnitude. 



[Plate LI. Fig. 3, Female.] 
Gmel. Syst. 1., p. 288. — Bewick, i., p. 84.* 

This Owl is common to both continents, and is much more numerous 
in Pennsylvania than the White, or Barn Owl : six or seven were found 
in a single tree, about fifteen miles from this city. There is little doubt 
but this species is found inhabiting America to a high latitude ; though 
we have no certain accounts of the fact. Except in size, this species 
has more resemblance to the Great Horned Owl than any other of its 
tribe. It resembles it also in breeding among the branches of tall 
trees ; lays four eggs of nearly a round form, and pure white.f The 
young are grayish white until nearly full grown, and roost during the 
day close together on a limb, among the thickest of the foliage. This 
Owl is frequently seen abroad during the day, but is not remarkable for 
its voice or habits. 

The Long-eared Owl is fourteen inches and a half long, and three 
feet two inches in extent ; ears large, composed of six feathers, gradu- 
ally lengthening from the front one backwards, black, edged with rusty 
yellow ; irides vivid yellow ; inside of the circle of the face white, 
outside or cheeks rusty ; at the internal angle of the eye a streak of 
black; bill blackish horn color; forehead and crown deep brown, 
speckled with minute points of white and pale rusty ; outside circle of 
the face black, finely marked with small curving spots of white ; back 
and wings dark brown, sprinkled and spotted with white, pale ferru- 
ginous and dusky ; primaries barred with brownish yellow and dusky, 

* We add the following synonymes : Strix otus, Linn. Si/st. i., p. 92, No. 4, ed. 
10.— Buff. PL Enl. 29.— Lath. Gm. Syn. i., p. 121, Ind. Orn. p. 55. 

t Buffon remarks, that it rarely constructs a nest of its own ; but not unfre- 
quently occupies that of others, particularly the Magpie. 

Vol I.— 7 


darkening towards the tips ; secondaries more finely barred, and 
powdered with white and dusky ; tai> rounded at the end, of the same 
length with the wings, beautifully barred and marbled with dull white 
and pale rusty, on a dark brown ground ; throat and breast clouded 
with rusty, cream, black and white; belly beautifully streaked with 
large arrow-heads of black ; legs and thighs plain pale rusty, feathered 
to the claws, which are blue black, large and sharp ; inside of the wing 
brownish yellow, with a large spot of black at the root of the primaries. 

This was a female. Of the male I cannot speak precisely ; though 
from the numbers of these birds which I have examined in the Autumn, 
when it is difficult to ascertain their sex, I conjecture that they differ 
very little in color. 

About six or seven miles below Philadelphia, and not far from the 
Delaware, is a low swamp,* thickly covered with trees, and inundated 
during great part of the year. This place is the resort of great 
numbers of the Qua-bird, or Night Raven (Ardea nyeticorax), where 
they build in large companies. On the twenty-fifth of April, while 
wading among the dark recesses of this forest, observing the habits of 
these birds, I discovered a Long-eared Owl, which had taken possession 
of one of their nests, and was sitting ; on mounting to the nest, I found 
it contained four eggs, and breaking one of these, the young appeared 
almost ready to leave the shell. There were numbers of the Qua-birds' 
nests on the adjoining trees all around, and one of them actually on 
the same tree. Thus we see how unvarying are the manners of this 
species, however remote and different the countries may be where it has 
taken up its residence. 

* Commonly known by the name of Cocker's swamp, from time immemorial a 
noted pi ice for the shooting of Woodcocks. 

Species IX. ^TRIX NJEVIA* 


[Plate XIX. Fig. 1, Female.] 
Arct. Zool. 231, No. 118.— Latham, i., 126.— Turton, i., 167. 

On contemplating the grave and antiquated figure of this night 
wanderer, so destitute of everything like gracefulness of shape, I can 
scarcely refrain from smiling at the conceit, ©f the ludicrous appear- 
ance this bird must have made, had nature bestowed on it the powers 
of song, and given it the faculty of warbling out sprightly airs, while 
robed in such a solemn exterior. But the great God of Nature hath, 
in his wisdom, assigned to this class of birds a more unsocial, and less 
noble, though, perhaps, not less useful, disposition by assimilating them, 
not only in form of countenance, but in voice, manners, and appetite, 
to some particular beasts of prey ; secluding them from the enjoyment 
of the gay sunshine of day, and giving them little more than the few 
solitary hours of morning and evening twilight, to procure their food, 
and pursue their amours ; while all the tuneful tribes, a few excepted, 
are wrapped in silence and repose. That their true character, however, 
should not be concealed from those weaker animals on whom they feed 
(for Heaven abhors deceit and hypocrisy). He has stamped their coun- 
tenance with strong traits of their murderer the Cat ; and birds in this 
respect are, perhaps, better physiognomists than men. 

The Owl now before us is chiefly a native of the northern regions, 
arriving here, with several others, about the commencement of cold 
weather ; frequenting the uplands and mountainous districts, in prefer- 
ence to the lower parts of the country ; and feeding on mice, small 
birds, beetles, and crickets. It is rather a scarce species in Pennsyl- 
vania ; flies usually in the early part of night and morning ; and is 
sometimes observed sitting on the fences during day, when it is easily 
caught ; its vision at that time being very imperfect. 

The bird represented in the plate was taken in this situation, and pre- 
sented to me by a friend. I kept it in the room beside me for some 
time ; during which its usual position was such as I have given it. Its 
eyelids were either half shut, or slowly and alternately opening and 

* Strix asio. This is the adult of the following species, and the name asio given 
to the young, must be retained for the species, as the young was first described. 
See Linn. Syst. i., p. 92, No. 3, ed. 10. 



shutting, as if suffering from the glare of day; but no sooner was the 
sun set, than its whole appearance became lively and animated ; its full 
and globular eyes shone like those of a cat ; and it often lowered its 
head, in the manner of a cock when preparing to fight, moving it from 
side to side, and also vertically, as if reconnoitring you with great 
sharpness. In flying through the room, it shifted from place to place 
with the silence of a spirit, (if I may be allowed the expression), the 
plumage of its wings being so extremely fine and soft as to occasion 
little or no friction with the air ; a wise provision of nature, bestowed 
on the whole genus, to enable them, without giving alarm, to seize their 
prey in the night. For an hour or two in the evening, and about break 
of day, it flew about with great activity. When angry, it snapped its 
bill repeatedly with violence, and so loud as to be heard in the adjoining 
room, swelling out its eyes to their full dimensions, and lowering its head 
as before described. It swallowed its food hastily, in large mouthfuls ; 
and never was observed to drink. Of the eggs and nest of this species 
I am unable to speak. 

The Mottled Owl is ten inches long, and twenty-two in extent ; the 
upper part of the head, the back, ears and lesser wing-coverts, are dark 
brown, streaked and variegated with black, pale brown, and ash ; wings 
lighter, the greater coverts and primaries spotted with white ; tail short, 
even, and mottled with black, pale brown, and whitish, on a dark brown 
ground ; its lower side gray ; horns (as they are usually called) very 
prominent, each composed of ten feathers ; increasing in length from 
the front backwards, and lightest on the inside ; face whitish, marked 
with small touches of dusky, and bounded on each side with a circlet of 
black ; breast and belly white, beautifully variegated with ragged streaks 
of black, and small transverse touches of brown ; legs feathered nearly 
to the claws, with a kind of hairy down, of a pale brown color ; vent 
and under tail-coverts white, the latter slightly marked with brown ; 
iris of the eye a brilliant golden yellow ; bill and claws bluish horn 

This was a female. The male is considerahly less in size ; the gene- 
ral colors darker ; and the white on the wing-coverts not so observable. 

Hollow trees, either in the woods or orchard, or close evergreens, in 
retired situations, are the usual roosting places of this and most of our 
other species. These retreats, however, are frequently discovered by 
the Nuthatch, Titmouse, or Blue Jay, who instantly raise the alarm ; a 
promiscuous group of feathered neighbors soon collect round the spot, 
like crowds in the streets of a large city, when a thief or murderer is 
detected ; and by their insults and vociferation oblige the recluse to 
seek for another lodging elsewhere. This may account for the circum- 
stance of sometimes finding them abroad during the day, on fences and 
other exposed situations. 



[Plate XLII. rig. 1, Female.] 

Little Owl, Catesb. i., 7. — Lath, i., 123. — Linn. Syst. 132. Aret. Zool. ii., No. 117. 

TuRT. Syst. I., p. 166. 

This is another of our nocturnal wanderers, well known by its com- 
mon name, the Little Screech Owl ; and noted for its melancholy qui- 
vering kind of wailing in the evenings, particularly towards the latter 
part of summer and autumn, near the farm-house. On clear moonlight 
nights, they answer each other from various parts of the fields or orchard ; 
roost during the day in thick evergreens, such as cedar, pine, or juniper 
trees, and are rarely seen abroad in sunshine. In May they construct 
their nest in the hollow of a tree, often in the orchard, in an old apple 
tree ; the nest is composed of some hay and a few feathers ; the eggs 
are four, pure white and nearly round. The young are at first covered 
with a whitish down. 

The bird represented in the plate, I kept for several weeks in the room 
beside me. It was caught in a barn, where it had taken up its lodging, 
probably for the greater convenience of mousing ; and being unhurt, I 
had an opportunity of remarking its manners. At first it stfuck itself 
so forcibly against the window, as frequently to deprive it, seemingly, 
of all sensation for several minutes ; this was done so repeatedly, that I 
began to fear that either the glass, or the Owl's skull, must give way. 
In a few days, however, it either began to comprehend something of the 
matter, or to take disgust at the glass, for it never repeated its attempts ; 
and soon became quite tame and familiar. Those who have seen this bird 
only in the day, can form but an imperfect idea of its activity, and even 
sprightliness, in its proper season of exercise. Throughout the day, it 
was all stillness and gravity ; its eyelids half shut, its neck contracted, 
and its head shrunk seemingly into its body ; but scarcely was the sun 
set, and twilight began to approach, when its eyes became full and 
sparkling, like two living globes of fire ; it crouched on its perch, recon- 
noitred every object around with looks of eager fierceness ; alighted and 
fed ; stood on the meat with clenched talons, while it tore it in morsels 
with its bill; flew round the room with the silence of thought, and 

* This is the young bird. 



perching, moaned out its melancholy notes, with many lively gesticula- 
tions; not at all accordant with the pitiful tone of its ditty, which 
reminded one of the shivering meanings of a half-frozen puppy. 

This species is found generally over the United States, and is not 

The Red Owl is eight inches and a half long, and twenty-one inches 
in extent ; general color of the plumage above, a bright nut brown or 
lawny red ; the shafts black ; exterior edges of the outer row of scapu- 
lars white ; bastard wing, the five first primaries and three or four of 
the first greater; coverts, also spotted with white ; whole wing quills 
spotted with dusky on their exterior webs ; tail rounded, transversely 
barred with dusky and pale brown ; chin, breast, and sides, bright red- 
dish brown, streaked laterally with black, intermixed with white ; belly 
and vent white, spotted with bright brown ; legs covered to the claws 
with pale brown hairy down ; extremities of the toes and claws pale 
bluish, ending in black ; bill a pale bluish horn color ; eyes vivid yel- 
low ; inner angles of the eyes, eyebrows, and space surrounding the 
bill, whitish ; rest of the face nut brown ; head horned or eared, each 
consisting of nine or ten feathers, of a tawny red, shafted with black. 


Genus4. LANIUS. shrike. 


[Hate V. Fig. 1.] 

La Pie-griiche grise, Burr, i., 296. PI. enl. U5.— White Whisky-John, Phil. Trans. 
Lxn., p. Z86.—Arct. Zool. ii., No. 127. 

The form and countenance of this bird bespeak him full of courage 
and energy ; and his true character does not belie his appearance, for 
he possesses these qualities in a very eminent degree. He is represented 
in the plate rather less than his true size ; but in just proportion ; and 
with a fidelity that will enable the European naturalist to determine, 
whether this be really the same with the great Cinereous Shrike {Lanius 
excubitor, Linn.), of the eastern continent or not ; though the progressive 
variableness of the plumage, passing, according to age, and sometimes to 

* Lanius septentrionalis, Gmel. 


climate, from ferruginous to pale ash, and even to a bluish white, ren- 
ders it impossible that this should be an exact representation of every 

This species is by no means numerous in the lower parts of Pennsyl- 
vania ; though most so during the months of November, December and 
March. Soon after this it retires to the north, and to the higher inland 
parts of the country to breed. It frequents the deepest forests ; builds 
a large and compact nest in the upright fork of a small tree, composed 
outwardly of dry grass, and whitish moss, and warmly lined within with 
feathers. The female lays six eggs, of a pale cinereous color, thickly 
marked at the greater end with spots and streaks of rufous. She sits 
fifteen days. The young are produced early in June, sometimes 
towards the latter end of May ; and during the greater part of the 
first season are of a brown ferruginous color on the back. 

When we compare the beak of this species, with his legs and claws, 
they appear to belong to two very different orders of birds ; the former 
approaching, in its conformation, to that of the Accipitrine ; the latter 
to those of the Pies ; and, indeed, in his food and manners, he is assimi- 
lated to both. For though man has arranged and subdivided this nu- 
merous class of animals into' separate tribes and families, yet nature has 
united these to each other by such nice gradations, and so intimately, 
that it is hardly possible to determine where one tribe ends, or the suc- 
ceeding .commences. We therefore find several eminent naturalists 
classing this genus of birds with the Accipitrine, others with the Pies. 
Like the former he preys, occasionally, on other birds ; and like the 
latter on insects, particularly grasshoppers, which I believe to be his 
principal food ; having at almost all times, even in winter, fqund them 
in his stomach. In the month of December, and while the country was 
deeply covered with snow, I shot one of these birds, near the head 
waters of the Mohawk river, in the state of New York, the stomach o'" 
which was entirely filled with large black spiders. He was of a much 
purer white, above, than any I have since met with ; though evidently 
of the same species with the present ; and I think it probable, that the 
males become lighter colored as they advance in age, till the minute 
transverse lines of brown on the lower parts almost disappear. 

In his manners he has more resemblance to the pies than to birds of 
prey, particularly in the habit of carrying ofi" his surplus food, as if to 
hoard it for future exigences ; with this difierence, that Crows, Jays, 
Magpies, &c., conceal theirs a^ random, in holes and crevices, where 
perhaps it is forgotten or never again found ; while the Butcher-bird 
sticks his on thorns and bushes, where it shrivels in the sun, and soon 
becomes equally useless to the hoarder. Both retain the same habits 
in a state of confinement, whatever the food may be that is presented 
to them. 


This habit of the Shrike of seizing and impaling grasshoppers, and 
other insects, on thorns, has given rise to an opinion, that he places 
their carcasses there, by way of baits, to allure small birds to them, 
while he himself lies in ambush to surprise and destroy them. In this, 
however, they appear to allow him a greater portion of reason and con- 
trivance than he seems entitled to, or than other circumstances will 
altogether warrant ; for we find that he not only serves grasshoppers in 
this manner, but even small birds themselves, as those have assured me 
who have kept them in cages in this country, and amused themselves 
with their manoeuvres. If so, we might as well suppose the farmer to 
be inviting Crows to his corn, when he hangs up their carcasses around 
it, as the Butcher-bird to be decoying small birds by a display of the 
dead bodies of their comrades. 

In the " Transactions of the American Philosophical Society," vol. 
IV., p. 124, the reader may find a long letter on this subject, from Mr. 
John Heckewelder, of Bethlehem, to Dr. Barton; the substance of 
which is as follows : That on the 17th of December, 1795, he (Mr. 
Heckewelder) went to visit a young orchard, which had been planted a 
few weeks before, and was surprised to observe on every one of the 
trees one, and on some, two and three grasshoppers, stuck down on the 
sharp thorny branches ; that on inquiring of his tenant the reason of 
this, he informed him, that they were stuck there by a small bird of 
prey called by the Germans Neuntoedter (Ninekiller), which caught and 
stuck nine grasshoppers a day ; and he supposed that as the bird itself 
never fed on grasshoppers, it must do it for pleasure. Mr. Heckewelder 
now recollected that one of those Ninekillers had, many years before, 
taken a favorite bird of his out of his cage, at the window ; since which 
he had paid particular attention to it ; and being perfectly satisfied that 
it lived entirely on mice and small birds, and, moreover, observing the 
grasshoppers on the trees all fixed in natural positions, as if alive, he 
began to conjecture that this was done to decoy such small birds as feed 
on these insects to the spot, that he might have an opportunity of 
devouring them. "If it were true," says he, "that this little hawk 
had stuck them up for himself, how long would he be in feeding on one 
or two hundred grasshoppers? But if it be intended to seduce the 
smaller birds to feed on these insects, in order to have an opportunity 
of catching them, that number, or even one-half, or less, may be a good 
bait all winter," &c., &c. 

This is indeed a very pretty fanciful theory, and would entitle our 
bird to the epithet Fowler, perhaps with more propriety than Laniu», or 
Butcher ; but, notwithstanding the attention which Mr. Heckewelder 
professes to have paid to this bird, he appears not only to have been 
unacquainted that grasshoppers were in fact the favorite food of this 
Ninekiller, but never once to have considered, that grasshoppers would 


be but a very insignificant and tasteless bait for our -winter birds, which 
are chiefly those of the Finch kind, that feed almost exclusively on 
hard seeds and gravel ; and among whom five hundred grasshoppers 
might be stuck up on trees and bushes, and remain there untouched by 
any of them for ever. Besides, where is his necessity of having recourse 
to such refined stratagems, when he can at any time seize upon small 
birds by mere force of flight ? I have seen him, in an open field, dart 
after one of our small sparrows, with the rapidity of an arrow, and kill 
it almost instantly. Mr. William Bartram long ago informed me, that 
one of these Shrikes had the temerity to pursue a Snow-bird {F. Hud- 
sonia), into an open cage, which stood in the garden ; and before they 
could arrive to its assistance, had already strangled and scalped it, 
though he lost his liberty by the exploit. In short I am of opinion, 
that his resolution and activity are amply sufficient to enable him to 
procure these small birds whenever he wants them, which I believe is 
never but when hard pressed by necessity, and a deficiency of his 
favorite insects ; and that the Crow or the Blue Jay may, with the same 
probability, be supposed to be laying baits for mice and flying squirrels, 
when they are hoarding their Indian corn, as he for birds while thus 
disposing of the exuberance of his favorite food. Both the former and 
the latter retain the same habits in a state of confinement ; the one 
filling every seam and chink of his cage with grain, crumbs of bread, 
&c., and the other stickingnip, not only insects, but flesh, and the bodies 
of such birds as are thrown in to him, on nails or sharpened sticks, 
fixed up for the purpose. Nor, say others, is this practice of the Shrike 
difficult to be accounted for. Nature has given to this bird a strong, 
sharp, and powerful beak, a broad head, and great strength in the mus- 
cles of his neck ; but hife legs, feet and claws, are by no means propor- 
tionably strong ; and are unequal to the task of grasping and tearing 
his prey, like those of the Owl and Falcon kind. He therefore wisely 
avails himself of the powers of the former, both in strangling his prey, 
and in tearing it to pieces while feeding. 

The character of the Butcher-bird is entitled to no common degree 
of respect. His activity is visible in all his motions ; his courage and 
intrepidity beyond every other other bird of his size (one only 
excepted, the King-bird, L. tyrannus, Linn.), and in affection for his 
young he is surpassed by no other. He associates with them in the 
latter part of summer, the whole family hunting in company. He 
attacks the largest Hawk, or Eagle, in their defence, with a resolution 
truly astonishing ; so that all of them respect him ; and on every 
occasion decline the contest. As the snows of winter approach, he 
descends from the mountainous forests, and from the regions of the 
north, to the more cultivated parts of the country, hovering about our 


hedge-ro-ws, orchards and meadows, and disappears again early in 

The Great American Shrike is ten inches in length, and thirteen in 
extent ; the upper part of the head, neck and back, is pale cinereous ; 
sides of the head nearly white, crossed with a bar of black, that passes 
from the nostril through the eye to the middle of the neck ; the whele 
under parts, in some specimens, are nearly white, and thickly marked 
with minute transverse curving lines of light brown; the wings are 
black, tipped with white, with a single spot of white on the primaries, 
just below their coverts ; the scapulars, or long downy feathers that 
fall over the upper part of the wing, are pure white ; the rump and 
tail-coverts a very fine gray or light ash ; the tail is cuneiform, con- 
sisting of twelve feathers, the two middle ones wholly black, the others 
tipped more and more with white to the exterior ones, which are nearly 
all white ; the legs, feet and claws, are black ; the beak straight, thick, 
of a light blue color ; the upper, mandible furnished with a sharp pro- 
cess bending down greatly at the point, where it is black, and beset at 
the base with a number of long black hairs or bristles ; the nostrils are 
also thickly covered with recumbent hairs ; the iris of the eye is a 
light hazel, pupil black. The figure in the plate will give a perfect 
idea of the bird. The female is easily distinguished by being ferru- 
ginous on the back and head ; and having the band of black extend- 
ing only behind the eye, and of a dirty brown or burnt color, the under 
parts are also something rufous, and the curving lines more strongly 
marked ; she is rather less than the male, which is different from birds 
of prey in general, the females of which are usually the larger of the 

In the Arctic Zoology we are told that this species is frequent in 
Eussia, but does not extend to Siberia ; yet one was taken withir 
Behring's straits, on the Asiatic side, in lat. 66° ; and the species pro- 
bably extends over the whole continent of North America, from the 
western ocean. Mr. Bell, while on his travels through Russia, had one 
of these birds given him, which he kept in a room, having fixed up a 
sharpened stick for him in the wall ; and on turning small birds loose 
in the room, the Butcher-bird instantly caught them by the throat in 
such a manner as soon to sufibcate them ; and then stuck them on the 
stick, pulling them on with bill and claws ; and so served as many as 
were turned loose, one after another, on the same stick.* 

* Edwards, v. rii., p. 231, 



[Plate XXII. rig. 5.] 

This species has a considerable resemblance to the Great American 
Shrike. It differs, however, from that bird in size, being a full inch 
shorter, and in color, being much darker on the upper parts ; and in 
having the frontlet black. It also inhabits the warmer parts of the 
United States ; while the Great American Shrike is chiefly confined to 
the northern regions, and seldom extends to the south of Virginia. 

This species inhabits the rice plantations^ of Carolina and Georgia, 
where it is protected for its usefulness in destroying mice. It sits, for 
hours together, on the fence, beside the stacks of rice, watching like a 
cat ; and as soon as it perceives a mouse, darts on it like a Hawk. It 
also feeds on crickets and grasshoppers. Its note, in March, resembled 
the clear creaking of a sign board, in windy weather. It builds its 
nest, as I was informed, generally in a detached bush, much like that of 
the Mocking-bird ; but as the spring was not then sufiiciently advanced, 
I had no opportunity of seeing its eggs. It is generally known by the 
name of the Loggerhead. 

This species is nine inches long and thirteen in extent ; the color 
above is cinereous or dark ash; scapulars, and line over the eye, 
whitish; wings black, with a small spot of white at the base of the 
primaries, and tipped with white; a stripe of black passes along the 
front through each eye, half way down the side of the neck ; eye dark 
hazel, sunk below the eyebrow ; tail cuneiform, the four middle feathers 
wholly black, the four exterior ones on each side tipped more and more 
with white to the outer one which is nearly all white ; whole lower parts 
white, and in some specimens, both of males and females, marked with 
transverse lines of very pale brown ; bill and legs black. 

The female is considerably darker both above and below, but the 
black does not reach so high on the front ; it is also rather less in size. 

* Laniur lAtdovicianus, Linn., which name must be adopted. In Buffon, pi. enl. 
528, there is a figure of a young bird. — Synonymes : La Pie-griesche de la Louisiane, 
Bbiss. 2, p. 162.— Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 69. 




[Plate XXVI. Fig. 1.] 

Linn. Syst. i., p. 97, ed. 10. — Catesbt, i., 11. — Latham, i., 227. — Arct. Zool. 242, 

No. 132. Ibid. 133.* 

Of one hundred and sixty-eight kinds of Parrots, enumerated by 
European writers as inhabiting the various regions of the globe, this is 
the only species found native within the territory of the United States. 
The vast and luxuriant tracts lying within the torrid zone, seem to be the 
favorite residence of those noisy, numerous, and richly-plumaged tribes. 
The Count de BufiFon has, indeed, circumscribed the whole genus of Par- 
rots to a space not extending more than twenty-three degrees on each 
side of the equator ; but later discoveries have shown this statement to 
be incorrect ; as these birds have been found on our continent as far 
south as the Straits of Magellan, and even on the remote shores of Van 
Diemen's Land, in Terra Australasia. The species now under consider- 
ation is also known to inhabit the interior of Louisiana, and the shores 
of the Mississippi and Ohio, and their tributary waters, even beyond the 
Illinois river, to the neighborhood of Lake Michigan, in lat. 42° North ; 
and, contrary to the generally received opinion, is chiefly resident in all 
these places. Eastward, however, of the great range of the Alleghany, 
it is seldom seen farther north than the State of Maryland ; though 
straggling parties have been occasionally observed among the valleys of 
the Juniata ; and according to some, even twenty-five miles to the north- 
west of Albany, in the State of New York.f But such accidental 
visits furnish no certain criteria by which to judge of their usual extent 
of range ; those aerial voyagers, as well as others who navigate the deep, 
being subject to be cast away, by the violence of the elements, on dis- 
tant shores and unknown countries. 

From these circumstances of the northern residence of this species, 
we might be justified in concluding it to be a very hardy bird, more 
capable of sustaining cold than nine-tenths of its tribe ; and so I believe 

* We add the following synonymes : La Perruche de la Caroline, Beiss. 4, p. 
350. — Orange-headed Parrot, Lath. Gen. Syn. i., p. 304. Ind. Orn. p. 93. 
t Barton's Fragments, &c., p. 6, Introd. 



it is ; having myself seen them, in the month of February, along the 
banks of the Ohio, in a snow storm, flying about like pigeons, and ir 
full cry. 

The preference, however, which this bird gives to the western coun- 
tries, lying in the same parallel of latitude with those eastward of the 
Alleghany mountains, which it rarely or never visits, is worthy of re- 
mark ; and has been adduced, by different writers, as a proof of the 
superior mildness of climate in the former to that of the latter. But 
there are other reasons for this partiality equally powerful, though 
hitherto overlooked; namely, certain peculiar features of country, to 
which these birds are particularly and strongly attached ; these are, low, 
rich, alluvial bottoms, along the borders of creeks, covered with a gigan- 
tic growth of sycamore trees or button-wood — deep and almost impene- 
trable swamps, where the vast and towering cypress lift their still more 
majestic heads ; and those singular salines, or, as they are usually 
called, licks, so generally interspersed over that country, and which are 
regularly and eagerly visited by the Paroquets. A still greater induce- 
ment is the superior abundance of their favorite fruits. That food which 
the Paroquet prefers to all others, is the seeds of the cockle-burr, a plant 
rarely found in the lower parts of Pennsylvania, or New York ; but 
which unfortunately grows in too great abundance along the shores of 
the Ohio and Mississippi, so much so as to render the wool of those 
sheep, that pasture where it most abounds, scarcely worth the cleaning, 
covering them with one solid mass of burrs, wrought up and imbedded 
into the fleece, to the great annoyance of this valuable animal. The 
seeds of the cypress-tree and hackberry, as well as beech-nuts, are also 
great favorites with these birds ; the two former of which are not com- 
monly found in Pennsylvania, and the latter by no means so general cr 
so productive. Here then are several powerful reasons, more dependent 
on soil than climate, for the preference given by these birds to the luxu- 
riant regions of the west. Pennsylvania, indeed, and also Maryland, 
abound with excellent apple orchards, on the ripe fruit of which the 
Paroquets occasionally feed. But I have my doubts whether their depre- 
dations in the orchard be not as much the result of wanton play and 
mischief, as regard for the seeds of the fruit, which they are supposed 
to be in pursuit of. I have known a flock of these birds alight on an 
apple tree, and have myself seen them twist off the fruit, one by one, 
strewing it in every direction around the tree, without observing that ?>ny 
of the depredators descended to pick them up. To a Paroquet which I 
wounded, and kept for some considerable time, I very often offered ap- 
ples, which it uniformly rejected ; but burrs, or beech-nuts never. To 
another very beautiful one, which I brought from New Orleans, and 
which is now sitting in the room beside me, I have frequently offered 
this fruit, and also the seeds separately, which I never knew it to taste. 


Their local attachments also prove that food more than climate deter 
mines their choice of country. For even in the states of Ohio, Ken- 
tucky, and the Mississippi territory, unless in the neighborhood of such 
places as have been described, it is rare to see them. The inhabitants 
of Lexington, as many of them assured me, scarcely ever observe them 
in that quarter. In passing from that place to Nashville, a distance of 
two hundred miles, I neither heard nor saw any, but at a place called 
Madison's Lick. In passing on, I next met with them on the banks and 
rich flats of the Tennessee river ; after thie I saw no more till I reached 
Bayo St. Pierre, a distance of several hundred miles ; from all which 
circumstances, I think we cannot, from the residences of these birds, 
establish with propriety, any correct standard by which to judge of the 
comparative temperatures of different climates. 

In descending the river Ohio, by myself, in the month of February, I 
met with the first flock of Paroquets at the mouth of the Little Scioto. 
I had been informed, by an old and respectable inhabitant of Marietta, 
that they were sometimes, though rarely, seen there. I observed flocks 
of them, afterwards, at the mouth of the Great and Little Miami, and 
in the neighborhood of numerous creeks, that discharge themselves into 
the Ohio. At Big-Bone Lick, thirty miles above the mouth of Ken- 
tucky river, I saw them in great numbers. They came screaming 
through the woods in the morning, about an hour after sunrise, to drink 
the salt water, of which they, as well as the pigeons, are remarkably 
fond. When they alighted on the ground, it appeared, at a distance, as 
if covered with a carpet of the richest green, orange and yellow. They 
afterwards settled, in one body, on a neighboring tree, which stood de- 
tached from any other, covering almost every twig of it, and the sun 
shining strongly on their gay and glossy plumage, produced a very beau- 
tiful and splendid appearance. Here I had an opportunity of observing 
some very particular traits of their character. Having shot down a 
number, some of which were only wounded, the whole flock swept re- 
peatedly around their prostrate companions, and again settled on a low 
tree, within twenty yards of the spot where I stood. At each successive 
discharge, though showers of them fell, yet the afiection of the survi- 
vors seemed rather to increase ; for after a few circuits around the place, 
they again alighted near me, looking down on their slaughtered compa- 
nions, with such manifest symptoms of sympathy and concern, as entirely 
disarmed me. I could not but take notice of the remarkable contrast 
between their elegant manner of flight, and their lame and crawling gait 
among the branches. They fly very much like the Wild Pigeon, in close, 
compact bodies, and with great rapidity, making a loud and outrageous 
screaming, not unlike that of the Red-headed Woodpecker. Their flight 
is sometimes in a direct line ; but most usually circuitous, making a great 
variety of elegant and easy serpentine meanders, as if for pleasure. 


They are particularly attached to the large sycamores, in the hollow of 
the trunks, and branches of which, they generally roost, thirty or forty, 
and sometimes more, entering at the same hole. Here they cling close 
to the sides of the tree, holding fast by the claws, and also by the bills. 
They appear to be fond of sleep, and often retire to their holes during 
the day, probably to take their regular siesta. They are extremely so- 
ciable with and fond of each other, often scratching each other's heads 
and necks, and always at night nestling as close as possible to each 
other, preferring, at that time, a perpendicular position, supported by 
their bill and claws. In the fall, when their favorite cockle-burrs are 
ripe, they swarm along the coast, or high grounds of the Mississippi, 
above New Orleans, for a great extent. At such times they are killcv* 
and eaten by many of the inhabitants ; though I confess I think their 
flesh very indifferent. I have several times dined on it from necessity 
in the woods ; but found it merely passable, with all the sauce of a keen 
appetite to recommend it.* 

A very general opinion prevails, that the brains and intestines of the 
Carolina Paroquet are a sure and fatal poison to cats. I had deter- 
mined, when at Big-Bone, to put this to the test of experiment ; and for 
that purpose collected the brains and bowels of more than a dozen of 
them. But after close search Mrs. Puss was not to be found, being en- 
gaged perhaps on more agreeable business. I left the medicine with 
Mr. Colquhoun's agent, to administer it by the first opportunity, and 
write me the result ; but I have never yet heard from him. A respect- 
able lady near the town of Natchez, and on whose word I can rely, 
assured me, that she herself had made the experiment, and that, what- 
ever might be the cause, the cat had actually died either on that or the 
succeeding day. A French planter near Bayo Fourche pretended to 
account to me for this effect, by positively asserting that the seeds of the 
cockle-burrs, on which the Paroquets so eagerly feed, were deleterious 
to cats ; and thus their death was produced by eating the intestines of 
the bird. These matters might easily have been ascertained on the 
spot, which, however, a combination of trifling circumstances prevented 
me from doing. I several times carried a dose of the first description 
in my pocket, till it became insufierable, without meeting with a suitable 
patient, on whom, like other professional gentlemen, I might conve- 
niently make a fair experiment. 

I was equally unsuccessful in my endeavors to discover the time of 

* Had our author been provided with proper apparatus to cook these birds, and 
suitable condiments, he would, doubtless, have been of a different opinion. Mr. T. 
Peale and myself, when in East Florida, where this species is found in great num- 
bers, thought them excellent eating. In Florida the Paroquets are migratory. We 
saw the first flock of them, at the Cowford, on the river St. John, on the first of 
March : the greater part of them were males. — G. Ord. 


incubation or manner of building among these birds. All agreed that 
they breed in hollow trees ; and several afiSrmed to me that they had 
seen their nests. Some said they carried in no materials ; others that 
they did. Some made the eggs white; others speckled. One man 
assured me that he had cut down a large beech-tree, which was hollow, 
and in which he found the broken fragments of upwards of twenty 
Paroquets' eggs, which were of a greenish yellow color. The nests, 
though destroyed in their texture by the falling of the tree, appeared, 
he said, to be formed of small twigs glued to each other, and to the side 
of the tree, in the manner of the Chimney Swallow. He added, that 
if it were the proper season, he could point out to me the weed from 
which they procured the gluey matter. From all these contradictory 
accounts, nothing certain can be deduced, except that they build in 
companies, in hollow trees. That they commence incubation late in 
summer, or very early in the spring, I think highly probable, from the 
numerous dissections I made in the months of March, . April, May and 
June ; and the great variety which I found in the color of the plumage 
of the head and neck, of both sexes, during the two former of these 
months, convinces me, that the young birds do not receive their full 
colors until the early part of the succeeding summer. 

While Parrots and Paroquets, from foreign countries, abound in 
almost every street of our large cities, and become such great favorites, 
Ko attention seems to have been paid to our own, which in elegance of 
figure, and beauty of plumage, is certainly superior to many of them. 
It wants, indeed, that disposition for perpetual screaming and chatter- 
ing, that renders some of the former, pests, not only to their keepers, 
but to the whole neighborhood in which they reside. It is alike docile 
and sociable ; soon becomes perfectly familiar ; and until equal pains 
be taken in its instruction, it is unfair to conclude it incapable of equal 
improvement in the language of man. 

As so little has hitherto been known of the disposition and manners 
of this species, the reader will not, I hope, be displeased at my detail- 
ing some of these, in the history of a particular favorite, my sole com- 
panion in many a lonesome day's march, and of which the figure in the 
plate is a faithful resemblance. 

Anxious to try the effects of education on one of those which I pro- 
cured at Big-Bone Lick, and which was but slightly wounded in the 
wing, I fixed up a place for it in the stern of my boat, and presented it 
with some cockle-burrs, which it freely fed on in less than an hour after 
being on board. The intermediate time, between eating and sleeping, 
was occupied in gnawing the sticks that formed its place of confinement, 
in order to make a practicable breach, which it repeatedly effected. 
When I abandoned the river, and travelled by land, I wrapped it up 
closely in a silk handkerchief, tying it tightly around, and carried it in 


my pocket. When I stopped for refreshment, I unbound my prisoner, 
and gave it its allowance, which it generally despatched with great 
dexterity, unhusking the seeds from the burr in a twinkling ; in doing 
which it always employed its left foot to hold the burr, as did several 
others that I kept for some time. I began to think that this might be 
peculiar to the whole tribe, and that the whole were, if I may use the 
expression, left-footed; but by shooting a number afterwards, while 
engaged in eating mulberries, I found sometimes the left, sometimes the 
right foot, stained with the fruit ; the other always clean ; from which, 
and the constant practice of those I kept, it appears, that like the 
human species in the use of their hands, they do not prefer one or the 
other indiscriminately, but are either left or rightfooted. But to return 
to my prisoner. In recommitting it to " durance vile," we generally 
had a quarrel ; during which it frequently paid me in kind for the 
wound I had inflicted, and for depriving it of liberty, by cutting and 
almost disabling several of my fingers with its sharp and powerful bill. 
The path through the wilderness, between Nashville and Natchez, is in 
some places bad beyond description. There are dangerous creeks to 
swim, miles of morass to struggle through, rendered almost as gloomy 
as night by a prodigious growth of timber, and an underwood of canes 
and other evergreens ; while the descent into these sluggish streams is 
often ten or fifteen feet perpendicular into a bed of deep clay. In some 
of the worst of these places, where I had, as it were, to fight my way 
through, the Paroquet frequently escaped from my pocket, obliging me 
to dismount and pursue it through the worst of the morass, before I 
could regain it. On these occasions I was several times tempted to 
abandon it; but I persisted in bringing it along. When at night I 
encamped in the woods, I placed it on the baggage beside me, where it 
usually sat, with great composure, dozing and gazing at the fire till 
morning. In this manner I carried it upwards of a thousand miles in 
my pocket, where it was exposed all day to the jolting of the horse, but 
regularly liberated at meal times, and in the evening, at which it always 
expressed great satisfaction. In passing through the Chickasaw and 
Choctaw nations, the Indians, wherever I stopped to feed, collected 
around me, men, women and children, laughing and seeming wonder- 
fully amused with the novelty of my companion. The Chickasaws 
called it in their language ^^ Kelinhy ;" but when they heard me call it 
Poll, they soon repeated the name ; and wherever I chanced to stop 
among these people, we soon became familiar with each other through 
the medium of Poll. On arriving at Mr. Dunbar's, below Natchez, I 
procured a cage, and placed it under the piazza, where by its call it 
soon attracted the passing flocks, such is the attachment they have for 
each other. Numerous parties frequently alighted on the trees imme- 
diately above, keeping up a constant conversation with the prisoner 
Vol. I.— 8 


One of these I wounded slightly in the wing, and the pleasure Poll 
expressed on meeting with this new companion was really amusing. 
She crept close up to it, as it hung on the side of the cage, chattered 
to it in a low tone of voice, as if sympathizing in its misfortune, 
scratched about its head and neck with her bill ; and both at night 
nestled as close as possible to each other, sometimes Poll's head being 
thrust among the plumage of the other. On the death of this com- 
panion, she appeared restless and inconsolable for several days. On 
reaching New Orleans, I placed a looking-glass beside the place where 
she usually sat, and the instant she perceived her image, all her former 
fondness seemed to return, so that she could scarcely absent herself 
from it a moment. It was evident that she was completely deceived. 
Always when evening drew on, and often during the day, she laid her 
head close to that of the image in the glass, and began to doze with 
great composure and satisfaction. In this short space she had learnt 
to know her name ; to answer and come when called on ; to climb up 
my clothes, sit on my shoulder, and eat from my mouth. I took her 
with me to sea, determined to persevere in her education ; but, destined 
to another fate, poor Poll, having one morning about day-break wrought 
her way through the cage, while I was asleep, instantly flew overboard, 
and perished in the gulf of Mexico. 

The Carolina, or Illinois Parrot (for it has been described under both 
these appellations), is thirteen inches long, and twenty-one in extent ; 
forehead and cheeks orange red ; beyond this, for an inch and a half, 
down and round the neck, a rich and pure yellow ; shoulder and bend 
of the wing also edged with rich orange red ; the general color of the 
rest of the plumage is a bright yellowish silky green, with light blue 
reflections, lightest and most diluted with yellow below ; greater wing- 
coverts, and roots of the primaries, yellow, slightly tinged with green ; 
interior webs of the primaries deep dusky purple, almost black, exterior 
ones bluish green ; tail long, cuneiform, consisting of twelve feathers, 
the exterior one only half the length, the others increasing to the 
middle ones, which are streaked along the middle with light blue ; shafts 
of all the larger feathers, and of most part of the green plumage, black ; 
knees and vent orange yellow ; feet a pale whitish flesh color ; claws 
black ; bill white, or slightly tinged with pale cream ; iris of the eye 
hazel ; round the eye is a small space, without feathers, covered with 
a whitish skin ; nostrils placed in an elevated membrane at the base 
of the bill, and covered with feathers ; chin wholly bare of feathers, 
but concealed by those descending on each side ; from each side of the 
palate hangs a lobe or skin of a blackish color ; tongue thick and fleshy ; 
inside of the upper mandible, near the point, grooved exactly like a 
file, that it may hold with more security. 

The female differs very little in her colors and markings from the 


male. After examining numerous specimens, the following appear to 
be the principal differences. The yellow on the neck of the female 
does not descend quite so far ; the interior vanes of the primaries are 
brownish instead of black ; and the orange red on the bend and edges 
of the wing is considerably narrower ; in other respects the colors and 
markings are nearly the same. 

The young birds of the preceding year, of both sexes, are generally 
destitute of the yellow on the head and neck, until about the beginning 
or middle of March, having those parts wholly green, except the front 
and cheeks, which are orange red in them, as in the full grown birds. 
Towards the middle of March, the yellow begins to appear in detached 
feathers, interspersed among the green, varying in different individuals. 
In some which I killed about the last of that month, only a few green 
feathers remained among the yellow ; and these were fast assuming the 
yellow tint; for the color changes without change of plumage. 

What is called by Europeans the Illinois Parrot [Psittacus pertinax), 
is evidently the young bird in its imperfect colors. Whether the present 
species be found as far south as Brazil, as these writers pretend, I am 
unable to say; but from the great extent of country in which I have 
myself killed and examined these birds, I am satisfied that the present 
species, now described, is the only one inhabiting the United States. 

Since the foregoing was written, I have had an opportunity, by the 
death of a tame Carolina Paroquet, to ascertain the fact of the 
poisonous effects of their head and intestines on cats. Having shut up 
a cat and her two kittens (the latter only a few days old), in a room 
with the head, neck, and whole intestines of the Paroquet, I found on 
the next morning the whole eaten, except a small part of the bill. The 
cat exhibited no symptom of sickness ; and at this moment, three days 
after the experiment has been made, she and her kittens are in their 
usual health. Still, however, the effect might have been different, had 
the daily food of the bird been cockle burrs, instead of Indian corn. 

N^ote. — From Mr. T. Peale, who was attached to the expedition com- 
manded by Major Long, I learn, that during the time the party wintered 
at Engineer Cantonment, nearly eight hundred miles up the Missouri, 
they observed this species, at various periods, from the beginning of 
December, until the middle of February, although the thermometer 
(Fahrenheit) once sunk as low as 22° below zero. Mr. Peale is of 
opinion that the Paroquet migrates rather in quest of food, than in 
consequence of the cold. Being, like the Wild Pigeon, a bird of vigorous 
wing, and of a roving disposition, a journey of a few hundred miles can 
occasion it but a very little trouble. — Cr. Ord. 

Species I. C. CORAX. 


[Plate LXXV. Kg. 3.] 

Qmel. Syst. I., p. 364. — Ind. Orn. p. 150. — Le Corbeau, Bwss. 2, p. 8, et var. — 
Buff. Ois. 3, p. 13. PI. enl. 495. — Temm. Man. d' Om. p. 107. — Raven, Lath. 
Gen. Syn. i., p. 367- Id. sup. p. 74. — Penn. Brit. Zool. No. 74. Ard. Zool. No. 
134. — Shaw, Oen. Zool. 7, p. 341. — Bevtick, i., p. 100. — Low, Fauna Orcadensis, 
p. 45. 

A KNOWLEDGE of this Celebrated bird has been handed down to us 
from the earliest ages ; and its history is almost coeval with that of man. 
In the best and most ancient of all books, we learn, that at the end of 
forty days, after the great flood had covered the earth, Noah, wishing 
to ascertain whether or not the waters had abated, sent forth a Raven, 
which did not return into the ark.* This is the first notice that is 
taken of this species. Though the Raven was declared unclean by the 
law of Moses, yet we are informed, that when the prophet Elijah pro- 
voked the enmity of Ahab, by prophesying against him, and hid himself 
by the brook Cherith, the Ravens were appointed by Heaven to bring 
him his daily food.f The color of the Raven gave rise to a similitude 
in one of the most beautiful of eclogues, which has been perpetuated 
in all subsequent ages, and which is not less pleasing for being trite or 
proverbial. The favorite of the royal lover of Jerusalem, in the en- 
thusiasm of affection, thus describes the object of her adoration, in reply 
to the following question : 

" What is thy beloved more than another beloved, thou fairest 
among women ?" " My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among 
ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks cure, hushy, 
and hlack as a Haven ?"X 

The above mentioned circumstances taken into consideration, one 
should suppose that the lot of the subject of this chapter would have 
been of a different complexion from what history and tradition inform 
us is the fact. But in every country, we are told, the Raven is con- 

* Genesis, viii. 7. f 1 Kings, xvii. 6, 6. 

J Song of Solomon, v. 9, 10, 11. 



sidered an ominous bird, whose croakings foretell approaching evil ; and 
many a crooked beldam has given interpretation to these oracles, of a 
nature to infuse terror into a whole community. Hence this ill-fated 
bird, immemorially, has been the innocent subject of vulgar obloquy 
and detestation. 

Augury, or the art of foretelling future events by the flight, cries, or 
motions of birds, descended from the Chaldeans to the Greeks, thence 
to the Etrurians, and from them it was transmitted to the Romans.* 
The crafty legislators of these celebrated nations, from a deep know- 
ledge of human nature, made superstition a principal feature of their 
religious ceremonies ; well knowing that it required a more than ordi- 
nary policy to govern a multitude, ever liable to the fatal influences of 
passion ; and who, without some timely restraints, would burst forth like 
a torrent, whose course is marked by wide-spreading desolation. Hence, 
to the purposes of polity the Raven was made subservient ; and the 
Romans having consecrated it to Apollo, as to the god of divination, its 
flight was observed with the greatest solemnity ; and its tones and inflec- 
tions of voice were noted with a precision, which intimated a belief in its 
infallible prescience. 

But the ancients have not been the only people infected with this 
species of superstition ; the moderns, even though favored with the light 
of Christianity, have exhibited as much folly, through the impious 
curiosity of prying into futurity, as the Romans themselves. It is true 
that modern nations have not instituted their sacred colleges or sacer- 
dotal orders, for the purposes of divination ; but in all countries there 
have been self-constituted augurs, whose interpretations of omens have 
been received with religious respect by the credulous multitude. Even 
at this moment, in some parts of the world, if a Raven alight on a vil- 
lage church, the whole fraternity is in an uproar ; and Heaven is im- 
portuned, in all the ardor of devotion, to avert the impending calamity. 

The poets have taken advantage of this weakness of human nature, 
and in their hands the Raven is a fit instrument of terror. Shakspeare 
puts the following malediction into the mouth of his Caliban : 

* That the science of augury is very ancient, we learn from the Hebrew lawgiver, 
who prohibits it, as well as every other kind of divination. Deut. chap, xviii. 
The Romans derived their knowledge of augury chiefly from the Tuscans or Etru- 
rians, who practised it in the earliest times. This art was known in Italy before 
the time of Romulus, since that prince did not commence the building of Rome till 
he had taken the auguries. The successors of Romulus, from a conviction of the 
usefulness of the science, and at the same time not to render it contemptible by 
becoming too familiar, employed the most skilful augurs from Etruria, to intro- 
duce the practice of it into their religious ceremonies. And by a decree of the 
senate, some of the youth of the best families in Rome were annually sent into 
Tuscany, to be instructed in this art. Vide Ciceron. de Divin. Also Calmet, and 
the Abb6 Banier. 

118 RAVEN. 

" As wicked dew, as e'er my mother brushed, 
With Eaven's feather, from unwholesome fen, 
Drop on you both 1"* 

The ferocious wife of Macbeth, on being advised of the approach of 
Duncan, -whose death she had conspired, thus exclaims : 

" The Haven himself is hoarse. 
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan, 
Under my battlements l-'f 

The Moor of Venice says : 

"It comes o'er my memory. 
As doth the Haven o'er the infected house, 
Boding to all."t 

The last quotation alludes to the supposed habit of this bird's flying 
over those houses which contain the sick, whose dissolution is at hand, 
and thereby announced. Thus Marlowe, in the Jew of Malta, as" cited 
by Malone : 

" The sad presaging Haven tolls 
The sick man's passport in her hollow beak. 
And in the shadow of the silent night 
Doth shake contagion from her sable wing." 

But it is the province of philosophy to dispel those illusions which 
bewilder the mind, by pointing out the simple truths which Nature has 
been at no pains to conceal, but which the folly of mankind has shrouded 
in all the obscurity of mystery. 

The Raven is a general inhabitant of the United States, but is more 
common in the interior. On the lakes, and particularly in the neigh- 
borhood of the Falls of the river Niagara, they are numerous ; and it is 
a remarkable fact, that where they so abound, the Common Crow, 0. 
corone, seldom makes its appearance'; being intimidated, it is conjec- 
tured, by the superior size and strength of the former, or by an antipa- 
thy which the two species manifest towards each other. This I had an 
opportunity of observing myself, in a journey during the months of 
August and September, along the lakes Erie and Ontario. The Ravens 
were seen every day, prowling about in search of the dead fish, which 
the waves are continually casting ashore, and which afiford them an 
abundance of a favorite food ; but I did not see or hear a single Crow 
within several miles of the lakes ; and but very few through the whole 
of the Genesee country. 

* Tempest, act i., scene 2. \ Act i., scene 5. 

X Othello, act iv., scene 1. 

RAVEN. 119 

The food of this species is dead animal matter of all kinds, not ex- 
cepting the most putrid carrion, which it devours in common with the 
Vultures ; worms, grubs, reptiles and shell-fish, the last of which, in the 
manner of the Crow, it drops from a considerable height in the air, on 
the rocks, in order to break the shells ; it is fond of birds' eggs, and is 
often observed sneaking around the farm-house, in search of the eggs of 
the domestic poultry, which it sucks with eagerness ; it is likewise 
charged with destroying young ducks and chickens, and lambs which 
have been yeaned in a sickly state. The Raven, it is said, follows the 
hunters of deer, for the purpose of falling heir to the oifal ;* and the 
huntsmen are obliged to cover their game, when it is left in the woods, 
with their hunting frocks, to protect it from this thievish connoisseur, 
who, if he have an opportunity, will attack the region of the kidneys, 
and mangle the saddle without ceremony. 

Bufifon says that " the Raven plucks out the eyes of Buffaloes, and 
then, fixing on the back, it tears off the flesh deliberately ; and what 
renders the ferocity more detestable, it is not incited by the cravings of 
hunger, but by the appetite for carnage ; for it can subsist on fruits, 
seed of all kinds, and indeed may be considered as an omnivorous ani- 
mal." This is mere fable, and of a piece with many other absurdities of 
the same agreeable, but fanciful author. 

This species is found almost all over the habitable globe. We trace it 
in the north from Norway to Greenland, and hear of it in Kamtschatka. 
It is common everywhere in Russia and Siberia, except within: the Arctic 
circle ;f and all through Europe. Kolben enumerates the Raven 
among the birds of the Cape of Good Hope ;% -^^ Grandprd represents 
it as numerous in Bengal, where they are said to be protected for their 
usefulness ;§ and the unfortunate La P^rouse saw them at Bale de 
Chastries, on the east coast of Tartary ; likewise at Port des Francois ; 
58° 37' north latitude, and 139° 50' west longitude ; and at Monterey 
Bay, North California. || The English circumnavigators met with them 
at Nootka Sound ;Tf and at the Sandwich Islands, two being seen in the 
village of Kakooa ; also at Owhyhee, and supposed to be adored there, 
as they were called Eatoos.** Our intrepid American travellers, under 
the command of Lewis and Clark, shortly after they embarked on the 
river Columbia, saw abundance of Havens, which were attracted thither 

* This is the case in those parts of the United States where the deer are hunted 
without dogs : where these are employed, they are generally rewarded with the 

t Latham. J Medley's Kolben, vol. ii., p. 136. 

2 Voy. in the Indian Ocean, p. 148. 

II Voy. par I. F. G. De la P^rouse, ii., p. 129, 203, 443. 

ii Cook's last Voy. ii., p. 236. Am. ed. ** Idem, iii., p. 329. 

120 RAVEN. 

by the immense quantity of dead salmon which lined the shores.* They 
are found at all seasons at Hudson's Bay ; f are frequent in Mexico ; J 
and it is more than probable that they inhabit the whole continent of 

The Raven measures, from the tip of the bill to the end of the tail, 
twenty-six inches, and is four feet in extent; the bill is large and 
strong, of a shining black, notched near the tip, and three inches long, 
the setaceous feathers which cover the nostrils extend half its length ; 
the eyes are black ; the general color is a deep glossy black, with steel- 
blue reflections ; the lower parts are less glossy ; the tail is rounded, 
and extends .about two inches beyond the wings ; the legs are two inches 
and a half in length, and, with the feet, are strong and black ; the claws 
are long. 

This bird is said to attain to a gr^at age ; and its plumage to be sub- 
ject to change, from the influence of years and of climate. It is found 
in Iceland and Greenland entirely white. 

The Raven was the constant attendant of Lewis and Clark's party, 
in their long and toilsome journey. During thie winter, at Fort Man- 
dan, they were observed in immense numbers, notwithstanding the cold 
was so excessive, that, on the seventeenth of December, 1804, the ther- 
mometer of Fahrenheit stood at 45° below 0. 

Like the Crow, this species may be easily domesticated, and in that 
state would afford amusement, by its familiarity, frolics and sagacity. 
But such noisy and mischievous pets, in common with Parrots and Mon- 
keys, are not held in high estimation in this quarter of the globe ; and 
are generally overlooked for those universal favorites, which either grat- 
ify the eye by the neatness or brilliancy of their plumage, or delight 
the ear by the simplicity or variety of their song. 

* Gasa's Journal, p. 153. f Charlevoix. Ealm. Hearne's Journey. 

} Fernandez. 



[Plate XXXV. Fig. 3.] 

This is perhaps the most generally known, and least beloved, of all 
our land birds ; having neither melody of song, nor beauty of plumage, 
nor excellence of flesh, nor civility of manners, to recommend him : on 
the contrary, he is branded as a thief and a plunderer ; a kind of black- 
coated vagabond, who hovers over the fields of the industrious, fattening 
on their labors ; and by his voracity often blasting their expectations. 
Hated as he is by the farmer, watched and persecuted by almost every 
bearer of a gun, who all triumph in his destruction, had not Heaven be- 
stowed on him intelligence and sagacity far beyond common, there is 
reason to believe that the whole tribe (in these parts at least) would long 
ago have ceased to exist. 

The Crow is a constant attendant on agriculture, and a general in- 
habitant of the cultivated parts of North America. In the interior of 
the forest he is more rare, unless during the season of breeding. He is 
particularly attached to low flat corn countries, lying in the neighbor- 
hood of the sea or of large rivers ; and more numerous in the northern 
than southern states, where Vultures abound, and with whom the Crows 
are unable to contend. A strong antipathy, it is also said, prevails be- 
tween the Crow and the Raven, insomuch that, where the latter are 
numerous, the formerly rarely resides. Many of the first settlers of the 
Genesee country informed me, that, for a long time. Ravens were nu- 
merous with them, but no Crows ; and even now the latter are seldom 
observed in that country. In travelling from Nashville to Natchez, a 
distance of four hundred and seventy miles, I saw few or no Crows, but 
Ravens frequently, and Vultures in great numbers. 

The usual breeding time of the Crow, in Pennsylvania, is in March, 
April, and May, during which season they are dispersed over the woods 
in pairs, and roost in the neighborhood of the tree they have selected 
for their nest. About the middle of March they begin to build, gene- 
rally choosing a high tree ; though I have also known them prefer a 
middle sized cedar. One of their nests, now before me, is formed ex- 

* We give the following synonymes : Cormis corone, Linn. Syst. ed. 10, i., p. 
105. — Gmel. Syst. 1, p. 365. — Lath. Ind. Om. p. 151. — Temm. Man. cP Orn. i., 
p. 108. 


122 CKOW. 

ternally of sticks, wet moss, thin bark mixed with mossy earth, and 
lined with large quantities of horse hair, to the amount of more than 
half a pound, some cow hair, and some wool, forming a very soft and 
elastic bed. The eggs are four, of a pale green color, marked with 
numerous specks and blotches of olive. 

During this interesting .season, the male is extremely watchful, making 
frequent excursions of half a mile or so in circuit, to reconnoitre ; and 
the instant he observes a person approaching, he gives the alarm, when 
both male and female retire to a distance, till the intruder has gone 
past. He also regularly carries food to his mate while she is sitting ; 
occasionally relieves her ; and when she returns, again resigns up his 
post, i^t this time also, as well as until the young are able to fly, they 
preserve uncommon silence, that their retreat may not be suspected. 

It is in the month of May, and until the middle of June, that the 
Crow is most destructive to the corn-fields, digging up the newly planted 
grains of maize, pulling up by the roots those that have begun to vegetate, 
and thus frequently obliging the farmer to replant, or lose the benefit 
of the soil ; and this sometimes twice, and even three times, occasioning 
a considerable additional expense and inequality of harvest. No mercy 
is now shown him. The myriads of worms-, moles, mice, caterpillars, 
grubs and beetles, which he has destroyed, are altogether overlooked on 
these occasions. Detected in robbing the hens' nests, pulling up the 
corn, and killing theyoung chickens, he is considered as an outlaw, and 
sentenced to destruction. But the great difiiculty is, how to put this 
sentence in execution. In vain the gunner skulks along the hedges and 
fences ; his faithful sentinels, planted on some commanding point, raise 
the alarm, and disappoint vengeance of its object. The coast again 
clear, he returns once more in silence to finish the repast he had begun. 
Sometimes he approaches the farm-house by stealth, in search of young 
chickens, which he is in the habit of snatching off, when he can elude 
the vigilance of the mother hen, who often proves too formidable for 
him. A few days ago a Crow was observed eagerly attempting to seize 
some young chickens in an orchard, near the room where I write ; but 
these clustering close round the hen, she resolutely defended them, 
drove the Crow into an apple-tree, whither she instantly pursued him 
with such spirit and intrepidity, that he was glad to make a speedy 
retreat, and abandon his design. 

The Crow himself sometimes falls a prey to the superior strength and 
rapacity of the Great Owl, whose weapons of oflence are by far the 
more formidable of the two.* 

* "A few years ago," says an obliging correspondent; "I resided on the banks 
of the Hudson, about seven miles from the city of New York. Not far from the 
place of my residence was a pretty thick wood or swamp, in which great numbers 
of Crows, who used to cross the river from the opposite shore, were accustomed to 

CROW 123 

Towards the close of summer, the parent Crows, with their new 
families, forsaking their solitary lodgings, collect together, as if hy 
previous agreement, when evening approaches. Ahout an hour before 
sunset, they are first observed, flying somewhat in Indian file, in one 
direction, at a short height above the tops of the trees, silent and steady, 
keeping the general curvature of the ground, continuing to pass some- 
times till after sunset, so that the whole line of march would extend for 
many miles. This circumstance, so familiar and picturesque, has not 
been overlooked by the poets, in their descriptions of a rural evening. 
Burns, in a single line, has finely sketched it 

" The black'ning train of Crows to their repose." 

The most noted Crow-roost with which I am acquainted is near 
Newcastle, on an island in the- Delaware. It is there known by the 
name of the Pea-Patch, and is a low flat alluvial spot, of a few acres, 

roost. Returning homeward one afternoon from a shooting excursion, I had occa- 
sion to pass through this swamp. It was near sunset, and troops of Crows were 
flying in all directions over my head. While engaged in observing their flight, and 
endeavoring to select from among them an object to shoot at, my ears were sud- 
denly assailed by the distressful cries of a Crow, who was evidently struggling 
under the talons of a merciless and rapacious enemy. I hastened to the spot whence 
the sound proceeded, and to my great surprise, found a Crow lying on the ground, 
just expiring, and, seated upon the body of the yet warm and bleeding quarry, a 
large brown Owl, who was beginning to make a meal of the unfortunate robber of 
corn-fields. Perceiving my approach, he forsook his prey with evident reluctance, 
and flew into a tree at a little distance, where he- sat watching all my movements, 
alternately regarding, with longing eyes, the victim he had been forced to leave, 
and darting at me no very friendly looks, that seemed to reproach me for having 
deprived him of his expected regale. I confess that the scene before me was alto- 
gether novel and surprising. I am but little conversant with natural history ; but 
I had always understood, that the depredations of the Owl were confined to the 
smaller birds, and animals of the lesser kind ; such as mice, young rabbits, &c ; 
and that he obtained his prey rather by fraud and stratagem, than by open rapacity 
and violence. I was the more confirmed in this belief, from the recollection of a 
passage in Macbeth, which now forcibly recurred to my memory. The courtiers 
of King Duncan are recounting to each other the various prodigies that preceded 
his death, and one of them relates to his wondering auditors, that 

' An Eagle, tow'riqg in his pride of place. 
Was, by a mousing Owl, hawked at and killed.' 

But to resume my relation. That the Owl was the murderer of the unfortunate 
Crow, there could be no doubt. No other bird of prey was in sight ; I had not 
fired my gun since I entered the wood ; nor heard any one else shoot : besides, the 
unequivocal situation in which I found the parties, would have been sufficient before 
any 'twelve good men and true,' or jury of Crows, to have convicted him of his 
guilt. It is proper to add, that I avenged the death of the hapless Crow, by a well- 
aimed shot at the felonious robber, that extended him breathless on the ground." 

124 CROW. 

elevated but a little above higb-water mark, and covered vritb a thick 
growtb of reeds. This appears to be the grand rendezvous, or head- 
quarters of the greater part of the Crows within forty or fifty miles of 
the spot. It is entirely destitute of trees, the Crows alighting and 
nestling among the reeds, which by these means are broken down and 
matted together. The noise created by those multitudes, both in their 
evening assembly, and re-ascension in the morning ; and the depreda- 
tions they commit in the immediate neighborhood of this great resort, 
are almost incredible. Whole fields of corn are sometimes laid waste, 
by thousands alighting on it at once, with appetites whetted by the fast 
of the preceding night ; and the utmost vigilance is unavailing to pre- 
vent, at least, a partial destruction of this their favorite grain. Like 
the stragglers of an immense, undisciplined, and rapacious army, they 
spread themselves over the fields, to plunder and destroy wherever they 
alight. It is here that the character of the Crow is universally exe- 
crated ; and to say to the man who has lost his crop of corn by these 
birds, that Crows are exceedingly useful for destroying vermin, would 
be as consolatory as to tell him who had just lost his house and furni- 
ture by the flames, that fires are excellent for destroying bugs. 

The strong attachment of the Crows to this spot may be illustrated 
by the following circumstance. Some years ago, a sudden and violent 
north-east storm came on during the night, and the tide rising to an 
uncommon height inundated the whole island. The darkness of the 
night, the suddenness and violence of the storm, and the incessant 
torrents of rain that fell, it is supposed, so intimidated the Crows, that 
they did not attempt to escape, and almost all perished. Thousands 
of them were next day seen floating in the river ; and the wind shifting 
to the north-west, drove their dead bodies to the Jersey side, where for 
miles they blackened the whole shore. 

This disaster, however, seems long ago to have been repaired ; for 
they now congregate on the Pea-Patch in as immense multitudes as 

So universal is the hatred to Crows, that few states, either here or 

* Tho following is extracted from a late number of a newspaper printed in that 
neighborhood: "The farmers of Red Lion Hundred held a meeting at the village 
of St. Georges, in the state of Delaware, on Monday, the 6th inst., to receive pro- 
posals of John Deputy, on a plan for banishing or destroying the Crows. Mr. 
Deputy's plan, being heard and considered, was approved, and a committee 
appointed to contract with him, and to procure tho necessary funds to carry the 
same into effect. Mr. Deputy proposes that for five hundred dollars he will engage 
to kill or banish the Crows from their roost on the PearPatch, and give security to 
return the money on failure. 

" The sum of five hundred dollars being thus required, the committee beg leave 
to address the farmers and others of Newcastle county, and elsewhere, on the 

CROW. 125 

in Europe, have neglected to offer rewards for their destruction. In 
the United States they have been repeatedly ranked in our laws with the 
wolves, the panthers, foxes and squirrels, and a proportionable premium 
offered for their heads, to be paid by any justice of the peace to whom 
they are delivered. On all these accounts various modes have been 
invented for capturing them. They have been taken in clap-nets com- 
monly used for taking pigeons ; two or three live Crows being previously 
procured as decoys, or as they are called Stool-crows. Corn has been 
steeped in a strong decoction of hellebore, which when eaten by them 
produces giddiness, and finally, it is said, death. Pieces of paper, 
formed into the shape of a hollow cone, besmeared within with birdlime, 
and a grain or two of corn dropped on the bottom, have also been 
adopted. Numbers of these being placed on the ground, where corn 
has been planted, the Crows attempting to reach the grains are instantly 
hoodwinked, fly directly upwards to a great height ; but generally 
descend near the spot whence they rose, and are easily taken. The 
reeds of their roosting places are sometimes set on fire during a dark 
night, and the gunners having previously posted themselves around, the 
Crows rise in great uproar, and amidst the general consternation, by 
the light of the burnings, hundreds of them are shot down. 

Crows have been employed to catch Crows, by the following stratagem. 
A live crow is pinned by the wings down to the ground on his back, 
by means of two sharp, forked sticks. Thus situated, his cries are 
loud and incessant, particularly if any other Crows are within view. 
These sweeping down about him, are instantly grappled by the prostrate 
prisoner, by the same instinctive impulse that urges a drowning person 
to grasp at everything within his reach. Having disengaged the game 
from his clutches, the trap is again ready for another experiment ; and 
by pinning down each captive, successively, as soon as taken, in a short 
time you will probably have a large flock screaming above you, in con- 
cert with the outrageous prisoners below. Many farmers, however, are 
content with hanging up the skins, or dead carcasses, of Crows, in their 
corn-fields by way of terrorem ; others depend altogether on the gun, 
keeping one of their people supplied with ammunition, and constantly 
on the lookout. In hard winters, the Crows suffer severely, so that 
they have been observed to fall down in the fields, and on the roads, 
exhausted with cold and hunger. In one of these winters, and during 
a long-continued deep snow, more than six hundred Crows were shot on 
the carcass of a dead horse, which was placed at a proper distance from 
the stable, from a hole of which the discharges were made. The pre- 
miums awarded for these, with the price paid for the quills, produced 
nearly as much as the original value of the horse, besides, as the man 
himself assured me, saving feathers sufficient for filling a bed. 

The Crow is easily raised and domesticated ; and it is only when thu8 

126 CROW. 

rendered unsuspicious of, and placed on terms of familiarity with, man, 
that the true traits of his genius, and native disposition, fully develop 
themselves. In this State he soon learns to distinguish all the members 
of the family; flies towards the gate, screaming at the approach of a 
stranger ; learns to open the door by alighting on the latch ; attends 
regularly at the stated hours of dinner and breakfast ; which he appears 
punctually to recollect ; is extremely noisy and loquacious ; imitates the 
sound of various words, pretty distinctly ; is a great thief and hoarder 
of curiosities, hiding in holes, corners and crevices, every loose article 
he can carry off, particularly small pieces of metal, corn, bread, and 
food of all kinds ; is fond of the society of his master, and will know 
him even after a long absence; of which the following is a remark- 
able instance, and may be relied on as a fact. A very worthy gen- 
tleman, now living in the Genesee country, but who, at the time 
alluded to, resided on the Delaware, a few miles below Easton, had 
raised a Crow, with whose tricks and society he used frequently to amuse 
himself. This Crow lived long in the family ; but at length disappeared, 
having, as was then supposed, been shot by some vagrant gunner, or de- 
stroyed by accident. About eleven months after this, as the gentleman, 
one morning, in company with several others, was standing on the river 
shore, a number of Crows happening to pass by, one of them left the 
flock, and flying directly towards the company, alighted on the gentle- 
man's shoulder, and began to gabble away with great volubility, as one 
long-absent friend naturally enough does on meeting with another. On 
recovering from his surprise, the gentleman instantly recognised his old 
acquaintance ; and endeavored by several civil but sly manoeuvres to lay 
hold of him ; but the Crow, not altogether relishing quite so much 
familiarity, having now had a taste of the sweets of liberty, cautiously 
eluded all his attempts ; and suddenly glancing his eye on his distant 
companions, mounted in the air after them, soon overtook and mingled 
with them, and was never afterward seen to return. 

The habits of the Crow, in his native state, are so generally known, 
as to require little further illustration. His watchfulness, and jealous 
sagacity in distinguishing a person with a gun, are notorious to every 
one. In spring, when he makes his appearance among the groves and 
low thickets, the whole feathered songsters are instantly alarmed, well 
knowing the depredations and murders he commits on their nests, eggs 
and young. Few of them, however, have the courage to attack him, 
except the King-bird, who on these occasions teases and pursues him 
from place to place, diving on his back while high in the air, and harass- 
ing him for a great distance. A single pair of these noble-apirited birds, 
whose nest was built near, have been known to protect a whole field of 
corn from the depredations of the Crows, not permitting one to ap- 
proach it. 

CROW. 127 

The Crow is eighteen inches and a half long, and three feet two inches 
in extent ; the general color is a shijiing glossy blue black, with purplish 
reflections ; the throat and lower parts are less glossy ; the bill and legs 
a shining black, the former two inches and a quarter long, very strong, 
and covered at the base with thick tufts of recumbent feathers ; the 
wings, when shut, reach within an inch and a quarter of the tip of the 
tail, which is rounded ; fourth primary the longest ; secondaries scal- 
lopped at the ends, and minutely pointed, by the prolongation of the 
shaft ; iris dark hazel. 

The above description agrees so nearly with the European species as 
to satisfy me that they are the same ; though the voice of ours is said to 
be less harsh, not unlike the barking of a small spaniel ; the pointedness 
of the ends of the tail feathers, mentioned by European naturalists, and 
occasioned by the extension of the shafts, is rarely observed in the pre- 
sent species, though always very observable in the secondaries. 

The female differs from the male in being more dull colored, and rather 
deficient in the glossy and purplish tints and reflections. The difierence, 
however, is not great. 

Besides grain, insects, and carrion, they feed on frogs, tadpoles, small 
fish, lizards, and shell-fish ; with the latter they frequently mount to a 
great height, dropping them on the rocks below, and descending after 
them to pick up the contents. The same habit is observable in the Gull, 
the Raven, and Sea-side Crow. Many other aquatic insects, as well as 
marine plants, furnish them with food ; which accounts for their being 
so generally found, and so numerous, on the sea-shore, and along the 
banks of our large rivers. 



[Plate XX. Fig. 2.] 

This species resembles, a little, the Jackdaw of Europe [Corvus 
monedula) ; but is remarkable for its formidable claws, which approach 
to those of the Falco genus ; and would seem to intimate, that its food 
consists of Hving animals, for whose destruction these weapons must be 
necessary. In conversation with different individuals of Lewis and 
Clark's party, I understood that this bird inhabits the shores of the 
Columbia, and the adjacent country, in great numbers, frequenting the 
rivers and seashore, probably feeding on fish ; and that it has all the 
gregarious and noisy habits of the European species, several of the 
party supposing it to be the same. 

The figure in the plate was drawn with particular care, after a minute 
examination and measurement of the only preserved skin that was saved. 

This bird measures thirteen inches in length ; the wings, the two mid- 
dle tail feathers, and the interior vanes of the next (except at the tip) 
are black, glossed with steel blue ; all the secondaries, except the three 
next the body, are white for an inch at their extremities, forming a 
large spot of white on that part, when the wing is shut ; the tail is 
rounded ; yet the two middle feathers are somewhat shorter than those 
adjoining ; all the rest are pure white, except as already described' ; the 
general color of the head, neck, and body, above and below, is a light 
silky drab, darkening almost to a dove color on the breast and belly ; 
vent white ; claws black, large, and hooked, particularly the middle and 
hind-claws ; legs also black ; bill a dark horn color ; iris of the eye 
unknown. ■ 

In the state of Georgia, and several parts of the Mississippi Terri- 
tory, I discovered a Crow,* not hitherto taken notice of by naturalists, 
rather larger than the present species ; but much resembling it in the 
form and length of its wings, in its tail, and particularly its claws. 
This bird is a constant attendant along the borders of streams and stag- 
nating ponds, feeding on small fish and lizards, which I have many 
times seen him seize as he swept along the surface. A well preserved 
specimen of this bird was presented to Mr. Peale. It is highly proba- 
ble that, with these external resemblances, the habits of both may be 
nearly alike. 

* The Crow above alluded to is the Fish-Crow. See the next article. 




[Plate XXXVII. Fig. 2.] 

This is another roving inhabitant of our coasts, ponds, and river 
shores ; though a much less distinguished one than the preceding,* this 
being the first time,- as far as I can learn, that he has ever been intro- 
duced to the notice of the world. 

I first met with this species- on the coast of Georgia, and observed 
that they regularly retired to the interior as evening approached, and 
came down to the shores of the river Savannah, by the first appearance 
of day. Their voice first attracted my notice, being very different from 
that of the common Crow, more hoarse and guttural, uttered as if some- 
thing stuck in their throat, and varied into several modulations as they 
flew along. Their manner of flying was also unlike the others, as they 
frequently sailed about, without flapping the wings, something in the 
manner of the Raven ; and I soon perceived that their food, and their 
mode of procuring it, were also both difierent ; their favorite haunts 
being about the banks of the river, along which they usually sailed, dex- 
terously snatching up, with their claws, dead fish, or other garbage, 
that floated on the surface. At the country seat of Stephen Elliot, 
Esq., near the Ogeechee river, I took notice of these Crows frequently 
perching on the backs of the cattle, like the Magpie and Jackdaw of 
Britain ; but never mingling with the common Crows ; and differing 
from them in this particular, that the latter generally retire to the 
shore, the reeds and marshes, to roost ; while the Fish-Crow, always a 
little before sunset, seeks the interior high woods to repose in. 

In my journey through the Mississippi Territory, last year, I resided 
for some time at the seat of my hospitable friend, Dr. Samuel Brown, a 
few miles from Fort Adams, on the Mississippi. In my various excur- 
sions there among the lofty fragrance-breathing magnolia woods, and 
magnificent scenery, that adorn the luxuriant face of nature in those 
southern regions, this species of Crow frequently made its appearance, 
distinguished by the same voice and habits it had in Georgia. There is 
in many of the ponds there, a singular kind of lizard, that swims about 
with its head above the surface, making a loud sound, not unlike the 

* The Fish-Hawk, figured in the same plate, and which immediately precedes the 
Fish-Crow, in the text of the original edition. 
Vol. I.— 9 (129) 


harsh jarring of a door. These the Crow now before us would fre- 
quently seize with his claws, as he flew along the surface, and retire to 
the summit of a dead tree to enjoy his repast. Here I also observed 
him a pretty constant attendant at the pens, where the cows were 
usually milked, and much less shy, less suspicious, and more solitary, 
than the common Crow. In the county of Cape May, New Jersey, I 
again met with these Crows, particularly along Egg Harbor river ; and 
latterly on the Schuylkill and Delaware, near Philadelphia, during the 
season of shad and herring fishing, viz., from the middle of March till the 
beginning of June. A small party of these Crows, during this period, 
regularly passed Bartram's gardens, to the high woods, to roost, every 
evening a little before sunset, and as regularly returned at or before 
sunrise every morning, directing their course towards the river. The 
fishermen along these rivers also inform me, that they have particularly 
remarked this Crow, by his croaking voice, and his fondness for fish ; 
almost always hovering about their fishing places, to glean up the" re- 
fuse. Of their manner of breeding I can only say, that they separate 
into pairs, and build in tall trees, near the sea or river shore ; one of 
their nests having been built this season in a piece of tall woods, near 
Mr. Beasley's, at Great Egg Harbor. The male of this nest furnished me 
with the figure in the plate, which was drawn of full size, and afterwards 
reduced to one-third the size of life, to correspond with the rest of the 
figures in the same plate. From the circumstance of six or seven being 
usually seen here together, in the month of July, it is probable that 
they have at least four or five young at a time. 

I can find no description of this species by any former writer. Mr. 
Bartram mentions a bird of this tribe, which he calls the Great Sea- 
side Crow ; but the present species is considerably inferior in size to 
the common Crow ; and having myself seen and examined it in so many, 
and remotely situated, parts of the country, and found it in all these 
places alike, I have no hesitation in pronouncing it to be a new and 
hitherto undescribed species. 

The Eish-Crow is sixteen inches long, and thirty-three in extent; 
black all over, with reflections of steel-blue and purple ; the chin is bare 
of feathers around the base of the lower mandible;* upper mandible 
notched near the tip, the edges of both turned inwards about the middle ; 
eye very small, placed near the corner of the mouth, and of a dark hazel 
color ; recumbent hairs or bristles large and long ; ear feathers promi- 
nent ; first primary little more than half the length of the second, fourth 

* This must have been an accidental circumstance, as I have seen specimens, the 
chin of which was entirely covered. In the month of April, I shot a fine male, on 
the Delaware, seventeen inches long, thirty-three broad. The chin covered. This 
species is greatly infested with lice, insomuch that when one handles them, one gets 
covered with these disagreeable vermin. — 0. Ord. 

MAGPIE. 131 

the longest ; wings, when shut, reach within two inches of the tip of the 
tail ; tail rounded, and seven inches long from its insertion ; thighs very 
long ; legs stout ; claws sharp, long and hooked, hind one the largest, 
all jet black. Male and female much alike. 

I would beg leave to recommend to the watchful farmers of the 
United States, that in their honest indignation against the common 
Crow, they would spare the present species, and not shower destruc- 
tion, indiscriminately, on their black friends and enemies ; at least on 
those who sometimes 'plunder them, and those who never molest or injure 
their property. 

Species V. COBVUS PICA. 


[Plate XXXV. Fig. 2.] 
Arct. Zool. No. 136.— Lath. Syn. i., 392.— Bitfp. hi., 85. PI. Unl. 488.* 

This bird is much better known in Europe than in this country, where 
it has not been long discovered ; although it is now found to inhabit a 
wide extent of territory, and in great numbers. The drawing was taken 
from a very beautiful specimen, sent from the Mandan nation, on the 
Missouri, to Mr. Jefferson, and by that gentleman to Mr. Peale of this 
city, in whose Museum it lived for several months, and where I had--an 
opportunity of examining it. On carefully comparing it with the 
European Magpie in the same collection, no material difference could 
be perceived. The figure in the plate is reduced to exactly half the size 
of life. 

This bird unites in its character courage and cunning, turbulency, and 
rapacity. Not inelegantly formed, and distinguished by gay as well as 
splendid plumage, he has long been noted in those countries where he 
commonly resides, and his habits and manners are there familiarly 
known. He is particularly pernicious to plantations of young oaks, 
tearing up the acorns ; and also to birds, destroying great numbers of 
their eggs and young, even young chickens, partridges, grouse, and 
pheasants. It is perhaps on this last account that the whole vengeance 
of the game laws has lately been let loose upon him, in some parts of 

* We add the following synonymes : — Corvus pica, Linn. Syst. ed. 10, i., p. 106. — 
Gmel. Syst. I., p. 373,— Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 162.— ia Pie, Briss. Orn. vol. ii., p. 
35. — Temm. Man. d' Oi-n. i., p. 113. 

132 MAGPIE. 

Britain ; as appears by accounts from that quarter, where premiums, it 
is said, are offered for his head, as an arch poacher ; and penalties in- 
flicted on all those who permit him to breed on their premises. Under 
the lash of such rigorous persecution, a few years will probably exter- 
minate the whole tribe from the island. He is also destructive to 
gardens and orchards ; is noisy and restless, almost constantly flying 
from place to place ; alights on the backs of the cattle, to rid them of 
the larvae that fester in the skin ; is content with carrion when nothing 
better oifers ; eats various kinds of vegetables, and devours greedily 
grain, worms, and insects of almost every description. When domes- 
ticated, he is easily taught to imitate the human voice, and to articulate 
words pretty distinctly ; has all the pilfering habits of his tribe, filling 
every chink, nook, and crevice with whatever he can carry ofi"; is subject 
to the epilepsy, or some similar disorder ; and is, on the whole, a crafty, 
restless, and noisy bird. 

He generally selects a tall tree adjoining the farm-house, for his nest, 
which is placed among the highest branches ; this is large, composed 
outwardly of sticks, roots, turf, and dry weeds, and well lined with wool, 
cow hair, and feathers ; the whole is surrounded, roofed, and barrica- 
doed with thorns, leaving only a narrow entrance. The eggs are usually 
five, of a greenish color, marked with numerous black or dusky spots. 
In the northern parts of Europe, he migrates at the commencement of 

In this country the Magpie was first taken notice of at the factories 
or trading houses on Hudson's Bay, where the Indians used sometimes 
to bring it in, and gave it the name of Heart-hird, for what reason is 
uncertain. It appears, however, to be rather rare in that quarter. 
These circumstances are taken notice of by Mr. Pennant and other 
British naturalists. 

In 1804, the exploring party under the command of Lewis and Clark, 
on their route to the Pacific Ocean across the continent, first met with 
the Magpie somewhere near the great bend of the Missouri, and found 
that the number of these birds increased as they advanced. Here also 
the Blue Jay disappeared ; as if the territorial boundaries and jurisdic- 
tion of these two noisy and voracious families of the same tribe had 
been mutually agreed on, and distinctly settled. But the Magpie was 
found to be far more daring than the Jay, dashing into their very tents, 
and carrying off the meat from the dishes. One of the hunters, who 
accompanied the expedition, informed me that they frequently attended 
him while he was engaged in skinning and cleaning the carcass of the 
deer, bear, or buffalo he had killed, often seizing the meat that hung 
within a foot or two of his head. On the shores of the Kooskoos-ke 
river, on the west side of the great range of the Rocky Mountains, they 
were found to be equally numerous. 

MAGPIE. 133 

It is higUy probable tbat those vast plains Or prairies, abounding 
with game and cattle, frequently killed for the mere hides, tallow, or 
even marrow-bones, may be one great inducement for the residency of 
these birds, so fond of flesh and carrion. Even the rigorous severity of 
winter in the high regions along the head waters of Rio du Nord, the 
Arkansas and Red river, seems insufficient to force them from those 
favorite haunts ; though it appears to increase their natural voracity to 
a very uncommon degree. Pike relates, that, in the month of Decem- 
ber, in the neighborhood of the North Mountain, N. lat. 41°, W. long. 
34°, Reaumur's thermometer standing at 17° below 0, these birds were 
seen in great numbers. " Our horses," says he, " were obliged to scrape 
the snow away to obtain their miserable pittance ; and to increase their 
misfortunes, the poor animals were attacked by the Magpies, who, at- 
tracted by the scent of their sore backs, alighted on them, and in defi- 
ance of their wincing and kicking, picked many places quite raw. The 
difficulty of procuring food rendering those birds so bold as to light on 
our men's arms, and eat meat out of their hands."* 

The Magpie is eighteen inches in length ; the head, neck, upper part 
of the breast and back, are a deep velvety black ; primaries brownish 
black, streaked along their inner vanes with -white ; secondaries rich 
purplish blue ; greater coverts green blue ; scapulars, lower part of the 
breast and belly, white ; thighs and vent black ; tail long, the two exte- 
rior feathers scarcely half the length of the longest, the others increas- 
ing to the two middle ones, which taper towards their extremities. The 
color of this part of the plumage is very splendid, being glossy green, 
dashed with blue and bright purple ; this last color bounds the green ; 
nostrils covered with a thick tuft of recumbent hairs, as are also the 
sides of the mouth ; bill, legs and feet, glossy black. The female dif- 
fers only in the less brilliancy of her plumage. 

* Pike's Journal, p. 170. 



[Plate I. Fig. 1.] 
Linn, Syst. i., p. 106, No. 8, ed. 10. — Garrulus canadensis coeruleus, Bkiss. ii., p. 
55. — Pica glandariacristata, Klein, p. 61, Z. — Le Geai bleu de VAmerique Sep- 
tentrionale, Buff, hi., p. 120. PL Enl. 529.r — Blue Jay, Catesb. Car. i., 15. — 
Edw. 239.— Jrd. Zool. ii., No. 138.— Lath. Syn. i., p. 386, 20.— Baktram, p. 

This elegant bird, which, as far as I can learn, is peculiar to North 
America, is distinguished as a kind of beau among the feathered tenants 
of our woods, by the brilliancy of his dress ; and like most other cox- 
combs, makes himself still more conspicuous by his loquacity,- and the 
oddness of his tones and gestures. The Jay measures eleven inches in 
length ; the head is ornamented with a crest of light blue or purple 
feathers, which he can elevate or depress at pleasure ; a narrow line of 
black runs along the frontlet, rising on each side higher than the eye, 
but not passing over it, as Catesby has represented, and as Pennant and 
many others have described it ; back and upper part of the neck a fine 
light purple, in which the blue predominates ; a collar of black proceed- 
ing from the hind-head, passes with a graceful curve down each side of 
the neck, to the upper part of the breast, where it forms a crescent ; 
chin, cheeks, throat and belly, white, the three former slightly tinged 
with blue ; greater wing coverts a rich blue ; exterior sides of the pri- 
maries light blue, those of the secondaries a deep purple, except the 
three feathers next the body, which are of a splendid light blue ; all 
these, except the primaries, are beautifully barred with crescents of 
black, and tipped with white ; the interior sides of the wing feathers are 
dusky black ; tail long and cuneiform, composed of twelve feathers of a 
glossy light blue, marted at half inches with transverse curves of black, 
each feather being tipped with white, except the two middle ones, which 
deepen into a dark purple at the extremities. Breast and sides under 
the wings a dirty white, faintly stained with purple ; insid« of the mouth, 
the tongue, bill, legs, and claws, black ; iris of the eye hazel. 

The Blue Jay is an almost universal inhabitant of the woods, fre- 
quenting the thickest settlements, as well as the deepest recesses of the 
forest, where his squalling voice often alarms the deer, to the disap- 
pointment and mortification of the hunter ; one of whom informed me, 
that he made it a point, in summer, to kill every Jay he could meet 


BLUE JAY. 13* 

with. In the charming season of spring, when every thicket pours 
forth harmony, the part performed by the Jay always catches the ear. 
He appears to be, among his fellow-musicians what the trumpeter is in 
a band, some of his notes having no distant resemblance to the tones of 
that instrument. These he has the faculty of changing through a great 
variety of modulations, according to the particular humor he happens 
to be in. When disposed for ridicule, there is scarce a bird whose pecu- 
liarities of song he cannot tune his notes to. When engaged in the 
blandishments of love, they resemble the soft chatterings of a duck ; 
and while he nestles among the thick branches of the cedar, are scarce 
heard at a few paces distant ; but no sooner does he discover your ap.- 
proach, than he sets up a- sudden and vehement outcry, flying off, and 
screaming with all his might, as if he called the whole feathered tribes 
of the neighborhood to witness some outrageous usage he had received. 
When he hops undisturbed among the high branches of the oak and 
hickory, they become soft and musical ; and his calls of the female, a 
stranger would readily mistake for the repeated creakings of an un- 
greased wheelbarrow. All these he accompanies with various nods, 
jerks, and other gesticulations, for which the whole tribe of Jays are so 
remarkable-, that, with some other peculiarities, they might have very 
well justified the great Swedish naturalist in forming them into a sepa- 
rate genus by themselves. 

The Blue Jay builds a large nest, frequently in the cedar, sometimes 
in an apple-tree, lines it with dry fibrous roots, and lays five eggs, of 
a dull olive, spotted with brown. The male is particularly careful of 
not being heard near the place, making his visits as silently and secretly 
as possible. His favorite food is chestnuts, acorns, and Indian corn. 
He occasionally feeds on bugs and caterpillars, and sometimes pays a 
plundering visit to the orchard, cherry-rows, and potato-patch ; and 
has been known, in times of scarcity, to venture into the barn, through 
openings between the weather-boards. In these cases he is extremely 
active and silent, and if surprised in the fact makes his escape with 
precipitation, but without noise, as if conscious of his criminality. 

Of all birds he is the most bitter enemy to the Owl. No sooner has 
he discovered the retreat of one of these, than he summons the whole 
feathered fraternity to his assistance, who surround the glimmering 
solitaire, and attack him from all sides, raising such a shout, as may 
be heard, in a still day, more than half a mile off. When in my hunting 
excursions I have passed near this scene of tumult, I have imagined to 
myself that I heard the insulting party venting their respective charges 
with all the virulency of a Billingsgate mob ; the owl, meanwhile, 
returning every compliment with a broad goggling stare. The war 
becomes louder and louder, and the Owl, at length forced to betake 

136 BLUE JAY. 

himself to flight, is followed by the whole train of his persecutors, until 
driven beyond the boundaries of their jurisdiction. 

But the Blue Jay himself is not guiltless of similar depredations 
with the Owl, and becomes, in his turn, the very tyrant he detested, 
when he sneaks through the woods, as he frequently does, and among 
the thickets and hedge-rows, plundering every nest he can find of its 
eggs, tearing up the callow young by piecemeal, and spreading alarm 
and sorrow around him. The cries of the distressed parents soon bring 
together a number of interested spectators (for birds, in such circum- 
stances, seem truly to. sympathize with each other), and he is sometimes 
attacked with such spirit, as to be under the necessity of making a 
speedy retreat. 

He will sometimes assault small birds, with the intention of killing 
and devouring them ; an instance of which I myself once witnessed, 
over a piece of woods, near the borders of Schuylkill ; where I saw him 
engaged for more than five minutes pursuing what I took to be a species 
of Motacilla, wheeling, darting, and doubling in the air, and at last, 
to my great satisfaction, got disappointed, by the escape of his 
intended prey. In times of great extremity, when his hoard or maga- 
zine is frozen up, buried in snow, or perhaps exhausted, he becomes very 
voracious, and will make a meal of whatever carrion or other animal 
substance comes in the way ; and has been found regaling himself on 
the bowels of a Robin, in less than five minutes after it was shot. 

There are, however, individual exceptions to this general character 
for plunder and outrage, a proneness for which is probably often occa- 
sioned by the wants and irritations of necessity. A Blue Jay, which I 
have kept for some time, and with whom I am on terms of familiarity, 
is in reality a very notable example of mildness of disposition, and 
sociability of maniiers. An accident in the woods first put me in pos- 
session of this bird, while in full plumage, and in high health and 
spirits ; I carried him home with me, and put him into a cage already 
occupied by a Gold-winged Woodpecker, where he was saluted with such 
rudeness, and received such a drubbing from the lord of the manor, for 
entering his premises, that, to save his life, I was obliged to take him 
out again. I then put him into another cage, where the only tenant 
was a female Orchard Oriole. She also put on airs of alarm, as if she 
considered herself endangered and insulted by the intrusion ; the Jay, 
meanwhile, sat mute and motionless on the bottom of the cage, either 
dubious of his own situation, or willing to allow time for the fears of his 
neighbor to subside. Accordingly, in a few minutes, after displaying 
various threatening gestures (like some of those Indians we read of, in 
their first interviews with the whites), she began to make her approaches, 
but with great circumspection, and readiness for retreat. Seeing, how- 
ever, the Jay begin to pick up some crumbs of broken chestnuts, in a 

BLUB JAY. 137 

humble and peaceable way, she also descended, and began to do the 
same ; but at the slightest motion of her new guest, wheeled round and 
put herself on the defensive. All this ceremonious jealousy vanished 
before eveping, and they now roost together, feed, and play together, in 
perfect harmony and good humor. When the Jay goes to drink, his 
messmate very impudently jumps into the water to wash herself, throw- 
ing the water in showers over her companion, who bears it all patiently ; 
venturing now and then to take a sip between every splash, without 
betraying- the smallest token of irritation. On the contrary, he seems 
to take pleasure in his little fellow-prisoner, allowing her to pick 
(which she does very gently) about his whiskers, and to clean his claws 
from the minute fragments of chestnuts which happen to adhere to them. 
This attachment on the one part, and mild condescension on the other, 
may, perhaps, be partly the effect of mutual misfortunes, which are found 
not only to knit mankind, but many species of inferior animals, more 
closely together ; and shows that the disposition of the Blue Jay may 
be humanized, and rendered susceptible of affectionate impressions, even 
for those birds, which, in a state of nature,"he would have no hesitation 
in making a meal of. 

He is not only bold and vociferous, but possesses a considerable talent 
for mimicry, and seems to enjoy great satisfaction in mocking and 
teasing other birds, particularly the little hawk (F. sparverius), imitating 
his cry wherever he sees him, and squealing out as if caught ; this soon 
brings a number of his own tribe around him, who all join in the frolic, 
darting about the hawk, and feigning the cries of a bird sorely wounded, 
and already under the clutches of its devourer ; while others lie con- 
cealed in bushes, ready to second their associates in the attack. But 
this ludicrous farce often terminates tragically. The hawk singling out 
one of the most insolent and provoking, sweeps upon him in an un- 
guarded moment, and offers him up a sacrifice to his hunger and resent- 
ment. In an instant the tune is changed ; all their buffoonery vanishes, 
and loud and incessant screams proclaim their disaster. 

Wherever the Jay has had the advantage of education from man, he 
has not only shown himself an apt scholar, but his suavity of manners 
seems equalled only by his art and contrivances ; though it must be 
confessed that his itch for thieving keeps pace with all his other acquire- 
ments. Dr. Mease, on the authority ^ of Colonel Postell, of South 
Carolina, informs me, that a Blue Jay, which was brought up in the 
family of the latter gentleman, had all the tricks and loquacity of a 
parrot ; pilfered ^everything he could conveniently carry off, and hid 
them in holes and crevices ; answered to his name with great sociability, 
when called on ; could articulate a number of words pretty distinctly ; 
and when he heard any uncommon noise or loud talking, seemed 
impatient to contribute his share to the general festivity (as he probably 

138 BLUE JAY. 

thought, it), by a display of all the oratorial powers he was pos- 
sessed of. 

Mr. Bartram relates an instance of the Jay's sagacity, worthy of 
remark. " Having caught a Jay in the winter season," says he, "I 
turned him loose in the green-house, and fed him with corn (zea, maize), 
the heart of which they are very fond of. This grain being ripe and 
hard, the bird at first found a diificulty in breaking it, as it would start 
from his bill when he struck it. After looking about, and as if con- 
sidering for a moment, he picked up his grain, carried and placed it 
close up in a corner on the shelf, between the wall and a plant-box, 
where being confined on three sides he soon eflPected his purpose, and 
continued afterwards to make use of this same practical expedient. 
The Jay," continues this judicious observer, "is one of the most useful 
agents in the economy of nature, for disseminating forest trees, and 
other ruciferous and hard-seeded vegetables on which they feed. Their 
chief employment during* the autumnal season is foraging to supply 
their winter stores. In performing this necessary duty, they drop 
abundance of seed in their flight over fields, hedges, and by-fences, 
where they alight to deposit them in the post holes, &c. It is remark- 
able what numbers of young trees rise up in fields and pastures after a 
wet winter and spring. These birds alone are capable, in a few years' 
time, to replant- all the cleared lands."* 

The Blue Jays seldom associate in any considerable numbers, except 
in the months of September and October, when they hover about in 
scattered parties of from forty to fifty, visiting the oaks, in search of 
their favorite acorns. At this season they are less shy than usual ; and 
keep chattering to each other in a variety of strange and querulous 
notes. I have counted fifty-three, but never more, at one time ; and 
these generally following each other in straggling irregularity from one 
range of woods to another. Yet we are told by the learned Dr. Latham, 
and his statement has been copied into many respectable European pub- 
lications, that the Blue Jays of North America " often unite into flocks 
of twenty thousand at least ! which alighting on a field of ten or twelve 
acres, soon lay waste the whole."t If this were really so, these birds 
would justly deserve the character he gives them, of being the most 
destructive species in America. But I will venture the assertion, that 
the tribe Oriolus phoeniceus, or red-winged Blackbirds, in the environs 
of the river Delaware alone, devour and destroy more Indian corn than 
the whole Blue Jays of North America. As to their assembling in 
such immense multitudes, it may be sufficient to observe, that a flock of 

* Letter of Mr. W illiam Bartram to the Author. 

t Synopsis of Birds, vol. i., p. 387. See also Bnoyolopedia Britannica, art. 

BLUE JAY. 139 

Blue Jays of twenty thousand, would be as extraordinary an appearance 
in America, as the same number of Magpies or Cuckoos would be in 

It has been frequently said, that numbers of birds are common to 
the United States and Europe ; at present, however, I am not certain 
of many. Comparing the best descriptions and delineations of the 
European ones with those of our native birds, said to be of the same 
species, either the former are very erroneous, or the difference of plu- 
mage and habits in the latter justify us in considering a great proportion 
of them to be really distinct species. Be this however as it may, the 
Blue Jay appears to belong exclusively to North America. I cannot 
find it mentioned by any writer or traveller among the birds of Guiana, 
Brazil, or any other part of South America. It is equally unknown in 
Africa. In Europe, and even in the eastern parts of Asia, it is never 
seen in its wild state. To ascertain the exact limits of its native regions 
would be difficult. These, it is highly probable, will be found to be 
bounded by the extremities of the temperate zone. Dr. Latham has 
indeed asserted, that the Blue Jay of America is not found farther 
north than the town of Albany.* This, however, is a mistake. They 
are common in the Eastern States, and are mentioned by Dr. Belknap 
in his eilumeration of the birds of New Hampshire."}" They are also 
natives of Newfoundland. I myself have seen them in Upper Canada. 
Blue Jays and Yellow-birds were found by Mr. McKenzie, when on his 
journey across the continent, at the head waters of the Unjigah, or 
Peace river, in N. lat. 54°, W. long. 121°, on the west side of the great 
range of Stony Mountains.! Steller, who in 1741 accompanied Captain 
Behring in his expedition for the discovery of the north-west coast of 
America, and who wrote the journal of the voyage, relates, that he 
himself went on shore near Cape St. Elias, in N. lat. 58° 28' W., long. 
141° 46', according to his estimation, where he observed several species 
of birds not known in Siberia ; and one, in particular, described by 
Catesby under the name of the Blue Jay.§ Mr. William Bartram 
informs me, that they are numerous in the peninsula of Florida, and 
that he also found them at Natchez, on the Mississippi. Captains Lewis 
and Clark, and their intrepid companions, in their memorable expedi- 
tion across the continent of North America to the Pacific Ocean, con- 
tinued to see Blue Jays for six hundred miles up the Missouri. || From 
these accounts it follows, that this species occupies, generally or par- 

* Synopsis, vol. i., p. 387. 

t Hist. N. Hamp. vol. iii., p. 163. 

X Voyage from Montreal, &c., p. 216, quarto, Lond. 1801. 

I See Steller' s Journal apud Pallas. 

II This fact I had from Captain Lewis. 


tially, an extent of country stretching upwards of seventy degrees from 
east to west, and more than thirty degrees from north to south ; though, 
from local circumstances, there may be intermediate tracts in this 
immense range, which they seldom visit. 



[Plate XXI. Fig. 1.] 

LiKN. Syst 158. — Cinereous Crow, Arct. Zool. p. 248, No. 137. — Latham, i., 389. — 
Le Geay Brun de Canada, Brisson, ii., 54. — Bdffon, m. 117. 

Were I to adopt the theoretical reasoning of a celebrated French 
naturalist, I might pronounce this bird to be a debased descendant from 
the common Blue Jay of the United States, degenerated by the influ- 
ence of the bleak and chilling regions of Canada ; or perhaps a spurious 
production, between the Blue Jay and the Cat-bird ; or what would be 
more congenial to the Count's ideas, trace its degradation to the circum- 
stance of migrating, some thousand years ago, from the genial shores 
of Europe, where nothing like degeneracy or degradation ever takes 
place among any of Grod's creatures. I shall, however, on the present 
occasion, content myself with stating a few particulars better supported 
by facts, and more consonant to the plain homespun of common sense. 

This species inhabits the country extending from Hudson's Bay, and 
probably farther north, to the river St. Lawrence ; also in winter the 
inland parts of the district of Maine, and northern tracts of the states 
of Vermont and New York. When the season is very severe, with deep 
snow, they sometimes advance farther south ; but generally return 
northward as the weather becomes more mild. 

The character given of this bird by the people of those parts of the 
country where it inhabits, is, that it feeds on black moss, worms, and 
even flesh ; — when near habitations or tents, pilfers everything it can 
come at — is bold, and comes even into the tent to eat meat out of the 
dishes ; watches the hunters while baiting their traps for martens, and 
devours the bait as soon as their backs are turned ; that they breed 
early in spring, building their nests on pine trees, forming them of sticks 
and grass, and lay blue eggs ; that they have two, rarely three young 
at a time, which are at first quite black, and continue so for some time ; 
that they fly in pairs; lay up hoards of berries in hollow trees; are 
seldom seen in January, unless near houses ; are a kind of Mock -bird ; 
and when caught pine away, though their appetite never fails them ; 


notwithstanding all which ingenuity and good qualities, they are, as we 
are informed, detested by the natives."* 

The only individuals of this species that I ever met with in the United 
States were on the shores of the Mohawk, a short way above the Little 
Falls. It was about the last of November, and the ground deeply 
covered with snow. There were three or four in company, or within a 
small distance of each other, flitting leisurely along the road side, keep- 
ing up a kind of low chattering with one another, and seemed nowise 
apprehensive at my approach. I soon secured the whole ; from the 
best of which the drawing in the plate was carefully made. On dissec- 
tion I found their stomachs occupied by a few spiders and the aurelise 
of some insects. I could perceive no difference between the plumage of 
the male and female. 

The Canada Jay is eleven inches long, and fifteen in extent ; back, 
wings, and tail, a dull leaden gray, the latter long, cuneiform, and tipped 
with dirty white ; interior vanes of the wings brown, and also partly 
tipped with white ; plumage of the head loose and prominent ; the fore- 
head and feathers covering the nostril, as well as the whole lower parts, 
a dirty brownish white, which also passes round the bottom of the neck 
like a collar ; part of the crown and hind-head black ; bill and legs also 
black ; eye dark hazel. The whole plumage on the back is long, loose, 
unwebbed, and in great abundance, as if to protect it from the rigors 
of the regions it inhabits. 

A gentleman of observation, who resided for many years near the 
North river, not far from Hudson, in the state of New York, informs 
me, that he has particularly observed this bird to arrive there at the 
commencement of cold weather — he has often remarked its solitary 
habits ; it seemed to seek the most unfrequented shaded retreats, keep- 
ing almost constantly on the ground, yet would sometimes, towards 
evening, mount to the top of a small tree, and repeat its notes (which 
a little resemble those of the Baltimore) for a quarter of an hour to- 
gether ; and this it generally did immediately before snow, or falling 

* Heakne's Journey, p. 405. 

Genus XV. ORIOLUS.* 


[Plate I. Fig. 3— Male.] 

Linn. Syst. 1, p. 162, 10. — Icterus minor, Bkiss. ii., p. 109, pi. 12, fig. 1. — Le Bal- 
timore, Buff, hi., p. 231. PL Enl. 506, flg. 1. — Baltimore Bird, Catesb. Car. 
1, ii.—Arct. Zool. ir., p. 142.— Lath. Sijn. ii., p. 432, 19.— Bartram, p. 290. 

This is a bird of passage, arriving in Pennsylvania, from the south, 
about the beginning of May, and departing towards the latter end of - 
August, or beginning of September. From the singularity of its colors, 
the construction of its nest, and its preferring the apple-trees, weeping- 
willows, walnut, and tulip-trees, adjoining the farm-house, to build on, 
it is generally known, and, as usual, honored with a variety of names, 
such as Hang-nest, Hanging-bird, Golden Robin, Fire-bird (from the 
bright orange seen through the green leaves, resembling a flash of 
fire), &c., but more generally the Baltimore-bird, so named, as Catesby 
informs us, from its colors, which are black and orange, being those of 
the arms or livery of Lord Baltimore, formerly proprietary of Maryland. 

The Baltimore Oriole is seven inches in length ; bill almost straight, 
strong, tapering to a sharp point, black, and sometimes lead colored 
above, the lower mandible light blue towards the base. Head, throat, 
upper part of the back and wings, black ; lower part of the back, rump, 
and whole under parts, a bright orange, deepening into vermilion on 
the breast ; the black on the shoulders is also divided by a band of 
orange ; exterior edges of the greater wing-coverts, as well as the edges 
of the secondaries, and part of those of the primaries, white ; the tail 
feathers, under the coverts, orange ; the two middle ones thence to the 
tips are black, the next five, on each, side, black near the coverts, and 
orange toward the extremities, so disposed, that when the tail is ex- 
panded, and the coverts removed, the black appears in the form of a 
pyramid, supported on an arch of orange, tail slightly forked, the ex- 

* This genus has been variously divided by modern ornithologists. Temminck 
has separated it into four sections, viz. : Cassicus, Quiseala, Icterus, and JEmberi- 
zoides. The two species described by Wilson, belong to the third section, Icterus. 

t Coracias Galhula, Linn. Syst. ed. 10, torn, i., \0i.— Oriolus Baltimore, Lath. 
Ind. Orn. 180. 



terior feather on eact side a quarter of an inch shorter than the others ; 
legs and feet light blue or lead color ; iris of the eye hazel. 

The female has the head, throat, upper part of the neck and back, of 
a dull black, each feather being skirted with olive yellow, lower part of 
the back, rump, upper tail-coverts, and whole lower parts, orange yellow, 
but much duller than that of the male ; the whole wing feathers are of 
a deep dirty brown, except the quills, which are exteriorly edged, and 
the greater wing-coverts, and next superior row, which are broadly 
tipped, with a dull yellowish white ; tail olive yellow ; in some specimens 
the two middle feathers have been found partly black, in others wholly 
so ;' the black on the throat does not descend so far as in the male, is 
of a lighter tinge, and more irregular ; bill, legs, and claws light blue. 

Buffon, and Latham, have both described the male of the bastard Bal- 
timore {Oriolus spurius), as the female Baltimore. Pennant has com- 
mitted the same mistake; and all the ornithologists of Europe, with 
whose works I am acquainted, who have undertaken to figure and 
describe these birds, have mistaken the proper males and females, and 
confounded the two species together in a very confused and extraor- 
dinary manner, for which indeed we ought to pardon them, on account 
of their distance from the native residence of these birds, and the strange 
alterations of color which the latter are subject to. 

This obscurity I have endeavored to clear up in the present volume of 
this work, PI. IV., by exhibiting the male and female of the Oriolus spu- 
rius in their different changes of dress, as well as in their perfect plu- 
mage ; and by introducing representations of the eggs of both, have, I 
hope, put the identity of these two species beyond all further dispute or 

Almost the whole genus of Orioles belong to America, and with a few 
exceptions build pensile nests. Few of them, however, equal the Balti- 
more in the construction of these receptacles for their young, and in 
giving them, in such a superior degree, convenience, warmth, and secu- 
rity. For these purposes he generally fixes on the high bending extremi- 
ties of the branches, fastening strong strings of hemp or flax round two 
forked twigs, corresponding to the intended width of the nest ; with the 
same materials, mixed with quantities of loose tow, he interweaves or 
fabricates a strong firm kind of cloth, not unlike the substance of a hat 
in its raw state, forming it into a pouch of six or seven inches in depth, 
lining it substantially with various soft substances, well interwoven with 
the outward netting, and lastly, finishes with a layer of horse hair ; the 
whole being shaded from the sun and rain by a natural pent-house, or 
canopy of leaves. As to a hole being left in the side for the young to 
be fed, and void their excrements through, as Pennant and others relate, 
it is certainly an error : I have never met with anything of the kind in 
the nest of the Baltimore. 


Though birds of the same species have, generally speaking, a common 
form of building, yet, contrary to the usually received opinion, they do 
not build exactly in the same manner. As much difference will be found 
in the style, neatness, and finishing of the nests of the Baltimores, as in 
their voices. Some appear far superior workmen to others ; and proba- 
bly age may improve them in this as it does in their colors. I have a 
number of their nests now before me, all completed, and with eggs. 
One of these, the neatest, is in the form of a cylinder, of five inches 
diameter, and seven inches in depth, rounded at bottom. The opening 
at top is narrowed, by a horizontal covering, to two inches and a half 
in diameter. The materials are flax, hemp, tow, hair, and wool, woven 
into a complete cloth ; the whole tightly sewed through and through 
with long horse-hairs, several of which measure two feet in length. The 
bottom is composed of thick tufts of cow-hair, sewed also with strong 
horse-hair. This nest was hung on the extremity of the horizontal 
branch of an apple-tree, fronting the south-east ; was visible one hun- 
dred yards off, though shaded by the sun ; and was the work of a very 
beautiful and perfect bird. The eggs are five, white, slightly tinged 
with flesh color, marked on the greater end with purple dots, and on the 
other parts with long hair -like lines, intersecting each other in a variety 
of directions. I am thus minute in these particulars, from a wish to 
point out the specific difference between the true and bastard Baltimore, 
which Dr. Latham and some others suspect to be only the same bird in 
different stages of color. 

So solicitous is the Baltimore to procure proper materials for his nest, 
that, in the season of building, the women in the country are under the 
necessity of narrowly watching their thread that may chance to be out 
bleaching, and the farmer to secure his young grafts ; as the Baltimore 
finding the former, and the strings which tie the latter, so well adapted 
for his purpose, frequently carries off both ; or should the one be too heavy, 
and the other too firmly tied, he will tug at them a considerable time 
before he gives up the attempt. Skeins of silk, and hanks of thread, 
have been often found, after the leaves were fallen, hanging round the 
Baltimore's nest ; but so woven up, and entangled, as to be entirely 
irreclaimable. Before the introduction of Europeans, no such material 
could have been obtained here ; but with the sagacity of a good archi- 
tect, he has improved this circumstance to his advantage ; and the 
strongest and best materials are uniformly found in those parts by which 
the whole is supported. 

Their principal food consists of caterpillars, beetles and bugs, particu- 
larly one of a brilliant glossy green, fragments of which I have almost 
always found in their stomach, and sometimes these only. 

The song of the Baltimore is a clear mellow whistle, repeated at short 
intervals as he gleans among the branches. There is in it a certain 


wild plaintiveness and nawetS, extremely interesting. It is not uttered 
with the rapidity of the ferruginous thrush [Turdus rufus), and some 
other eminent songsters ; but with the pleasing tranquillity of a care- 
less ploughboy, whistling merely for his own amusement. When 
alarmed by an approach to his nest, or any such circumstances, he 
makes a kind of rapid chirruping, very different from his usual note. 
This, however, is always succeeded by those mellow tones, which seem 
so congenial to his nature. 

High on yon poplar, clad in glossiest green, 
The orange, black-capped Baltimore is seen, 
The broad extended boughs still please him best; 
Beneath their bending skirts he hangs his nest ; 
There his sweet mate, secure from every harm. 
Broods o'er her spotted store, and wraps them warm ; 
Lists to the noontide hum of busy bees. 
Her partner's mellow song, the brook, the breeze ; 
These, day by day, the lonely hours deceive, 
Trom dewy morn to slow descending eve. 
Two weeks elapsed, behold a helpless crew I 
Claim all her care and her affection too ; 
On wings of love the assiduous nurses fly, 
Flowers, leaves and boughs, abundant food supply ; 
Glad chants their guardian as abroad he goes, 
And waving breezes rock them to repose. 

The Baltimore inhabits North America, from Canada to Mexico, and 
is even, found as far south as Brazil. Since the streets of our cities 
have been planted with that beautiful and stately tree, the Lombardy 
poplar, these birds are our constant visitors during the early part of 
summer ; and amid the noise and tumult of coaches, drays, wheelbar- 
rows, and the din of the multitude, they are heard chanting " their 
native wood-notes wild ;" sometimes too within a few yards of an oyster- 
man, who stands bellowing with the lungs of a Stentor, under the shade 
of the same tree ; so much will habit reconcile even birds to the roar of 
the city, and to sounds and noises, that in other circumstances, would 
put a whole grove of them to flight. 

These birds are several years in receiving their complete plumage. 
Sometimes the whole tail of a male individual, in spring, is yellow, 
sometimes only the two middle feathers are black, and frequently the 
black on the back is skirted with orange, and the tail tipped with the same 
color. Three years, I have reason • to believe, are necessary to fix the 
full tint of the plumage, and then the male bird appears as already 

Vol. I.— 10 



[Plate IIII. Fig. 4— Female.] 

The Ustory of this beautiful species has been already particularly 
detailed ; to this representation of the female, drawn of half the size 
of nature, a few particulars may be added. The males generally arrive 
several days before the females, saunter about their wonted places of 
residence, and seem lonely and less sprightly than after the arrival of 
their mates. In the spring and summer of 1811, a Baltimore took up 
its abode in Mr. Bartram's garden, whose notes were so singular as 
particularly to attract my attention ; they were as well known to fiie as 
the voice of my most intimate friend. On the thirtieth of April, 1812, 
I was again surprised and pleased at hearing this same Baltimore in the 
garden, whistling his identical old chant ; and I observed that he par- 
ticularly frequented that quarter of the garden where the tree stood, 
on the pendent branches of which he had formed his nest the preceding 
year. This nest had been taken possession of by the House Wren, a 
few days after the Baltimore's brood had abandoned it ; and, curious to 
know how the little intruder had furnished it within, I had taken it 
down early in the fall, after the Wren herself had also raised a brood 
of six young in it, and which was her second that season. I found it 
Btripped of its original lining, floored with sticks, or small twigs, above 
which were laid feathers ; so that the usual complete nest of the Wren 
occupied the interior of that of the Baltimore. 

The chief diflFerence between the male and female Baltimore Oriole, 
is the superior brightness of the orange color of the former to that of 
the latter. The black on the head, upper part of the back and throat, 
of the female, is intermixed with dull orange; whereas in the male 
those parts are of a deep shining black ; the tail of the female also 
wants the greater part of the black, and the whole lower parts are of a 
much duskier orange. 

I have observed that these birds are rarely seen in pine woods, or 
where these trees generally prevail. On the ridges of our high moun- 
tains, they are also seldom to be met with. In orchards, and on well 
cultivated farms, they are most numerous, generally preferring such 
places to build in, rather than the woods or forest. 




[Plate IV.] 

Bastard Baltimore, Catesbt, i., 49. — Le Baltimore hatard, Btjffon, hi., 233, PI. 
Enl. 506. — Oriolas spurius, Gmel. Syst. i., p. 389. — Lath. Syn. ii., p. 433, 20, p. 
437, 24.— Bartram, p. 290. 

There are no circumstances, relating to birds, which tend so much 
to render their history obscure and perplexing, as the various changes 
of color -which many of them undergo. These changes are in some 
cases periodical, in others progressive ; and are frequently so extraor- 
dinary, that, unless the naturalist has resided for years in the country 
where the birds inhabit, and has examined them at almost every season, 
he is extremely liable to be mistaken and imposed on by their novel ap- 
pearance. Numerous instances of this kind might be cited, from the 
pages of European writers, in which the same bird has been described 
two, three, and even four different times, by the same person ; and each 
time~as a different kind. The species we are now about to examine is a 
remarkable example of this ; and as it has never to my knowledge been 
either accurately figured or described, I have devoted one plate to the 
elucidation of its history. 

The Count de Buffon, in introducing what he supposed to be the male 
of this bird, but which appears evidently to have been the female of the 
Baltimore Oriole, makes the following observati6ns, which I give in the 
words of his translator : " This bird is so called (Spurious Baltimore,) 
because the colors of its plumage are not so lively as in the preceding 
(Baltimore 0.) In fact, when we compare these birds, and find an 
exact correspondence in everything except the colors, and not even in 
the distribution of these, but only in the different tints they assume, we 
cannot hesitate to infer, that the Spurious Baltimore is a variety of a 
more generous race, degenerated by the influence of climate, or some 
other accidental cause." 

* 0. Spurius, Linn., which name must be adopted. Icterus minor spurius, Briss. 
II., Ill, pi. 10, fig. 3. — Carouge de Cayenne, Buff. PI. Enl. 607, fig. 1, (adult male.) 
Carouge du Cap de bonne Espirance, Buff. PI. Enl. 607, fig. 2, (female.) MerU & 
gorge noire de St. Domingue, Burr. PI. Enl. 559, (young male.) 



How the influence of climate could affect one portion of a species and 
not the other, when hoth reside in the same climate, and feed nearly on 
the same food ; or what accidental cause could produce a difference so 
striking, and also so regular, as exists between the two, are, I confess, 
matters beyond my comprehension. But, if it be recollected, that the 
bird which the Count was thus philosophizing upon, was nothing more than 
the female Baltimore Oriole, which exactly corresponds to the descrip- 
tion of his male Bastard Baltimore, the difficulties at once vanish, and 
with them the whole superstructure of theory founded on this mistake. 
Dr. Latham also, while he confesses the great confusion and uncertainty 
that prevail between the true and bastard Baltimore and their females, 
considers it highly probable that the whole will be found to belong to 
one and the same species, in their different changes of color. In this 
conjecture, however, the worthy naturalist has likewise been mistaken ; 
and I shall endeavor to point out the fact as well as the source of this 

And here I cannot but take notice of the name which naturalists 
have bestowed on this bird, and which is certainly remarkable. Specific 
names, to be perfect, ought to express some peculiarity, common to no 
other of the genus ; and should, at least, be consistent with truth ; but 
in the case now before us, the name has no one merit of the former, nor 
even that of the latter to recommend it, and ought henceforth to be re- 
jected as highly improper, and calculated, like that of Goatsucker, and 
many others equally ridiculous, to perpetuate that error from which it 
originated. The word bastard among men has its determinate meaning ; 
but when applied to a whole species of birds, perfectly distinct from any 
other, originally deriving their peculiarities of form, manners, color, &c., 
from the common source of all created beings, and perpetuating them, 
by the usual laws of generation, as unmixed and independent as any 
other, is, to call it by no worse a name, a gross absurdity. Should the 
reader be displeased at this, I beg leave to remind him, that as the faith- 
ful historian of our feathered tribes, I must be allowed the liberty of 
vindicating them from every misrepresentation whatever, whether origi- 
nating in ignorance or prejudice ; and of allotting to each respective 
species, as far as I can distinguish, that rank and place in the great 
order of nature, to which it is entitled. 

To convince the foreigner (for Americans have no doubt on the sub- 
ject) that the present is a distinct species from the Baltimore, it might 
be sufficient to refer to the figure of the latter, in Plate I., and to fig. 4, 
Plate IV., of this work. I will however add, that I conclude this bird 
to be specifically different from the Baltimore, from the following cir- 
cumstances : its size — it is less, and more slender ; its colors, which are 
different, and very differently disposed ; the form of its bill, which is 
sharper pointed, and more bent ; the form of its tail, which is not even 


but wedged ; its notes, which are neither so full nor so mellow, and 
uttered with much more rapidity ; its mode of building, and the mate- 
rials it uses, both of which are different ; and lastly, the shape and color 
of the eggs of each (see figs, a and 6), which are evidently unlike. If 
all these circumstances, and I could enumerate a great many more, be 
not sufficient to designate this as a distinct species, by what criterion, I 
would ask, are we to discriminate between a variety and an original 
species, or to assure ourselves, that the Great Horned Owl is not in fact 
a bastard Goose, or the Carrion Crow a mere variety of the Humming 

These mistakes have been occasioned by several causes. Principally 
by the changes of color, to which the birds are subject, and the distance 
of Europeans from the country they inhabit. Catesby, it is true, while 
in Carolina, described and figured the Baltimore, and perhaps was the 
first who published figures of either species ; but he entirely omitted 
saying anything of the female ; and instead of the male and female of 
the present species, as he thought, he has only figured the male in two of 
his different dresses ; and succeeding compilers have followed and re- 
peated the same error. Another cause may be assigned, viz., the ex- 
treme shyness of the female Orchard Oriole, represented at fig. 1. 
This bird has hitherto escaped the notice of European naturalists, or 
has been mistaken for another species, or perhaps for a young bird of 
the first season, which it almost exactly resembles. In none of the nu- 
merous works on ornithology has it ever before appeared in its proper 
character ; though the male has been known to Europeans for more than 
a century, and has usually been figured in one of his dresses as male, 
and in another as female ; these varying according to the fluctuating 
opinions of different writers. It is amusing to see how gentlemen have 
groped in the dark in pairing these two species of Orioles, of which the 
following examples may be given : 

Buffon's and Latham's \ Male — Male JJaltimore. 

Baltimore Oriole. j Female — Male Orchard Oriole, fig. 4. ' 

Spurious Baltimore of ) Male — Female Baltimore. 

Ditto. j Female — Male Orchard Oriole, fig. 2. 

T) i' T) li- r\ } Male — Male Baltimore, 

rennant s Baltimore 0. > 777 7 v at 1 -n i^- 

( Jbemale — loung Male Baltimore. 

Q • n c -n-ix ) Male — Male Orchard 0., fig. 4. 

Spurious O.-of Ditto. } Female-Ditto, dittq, fig. 2^ 

n i* 1, ' T) li- r\ ) Male — Male Baltimore. 

Uatesby s Baltimore 0., ^ i, , t.j . ,. ■■ 

'' ' j ±emale — JNot mentioned. 

«,^ ■ -a e -nvx ) JIfafe— Male Orchard 0., fig. 2. 

Spurious B. of Ditto. [ pemale-Ditto, ditto, fig. i 

Among all these authors, Catesby is doubtless the most inexcusable, 
having lived for several years in America, where he had an opportunity 


of being more correct ; yet when it is considered, that the female of thia 
bird is so much shyer than the male, that it is seldom seen ; and that 
while the males are flying around and bewailing an approach to their 
nest, the females keep aloof, watching every movement of the enemy in 
restless but silent anxiety ; it is less to be wondered at, I say, that two 
birds of the same kind, but different in plumage, making their appear- 
ance together at such times, should be taken for male and female of the 
same nest, without doubt or examination, as from that strong sympathy 
for each other's distress, which .prevails so universally among them at 
this season, it is difficult sometimes to distinguish between the sufferer 
and the sympathizing neighbor. 

The female of the Orchard Oriole, fig. 1, is six inches and a half in 
length, and eleven inches in extent, the color above is a yellow olive, 
inclining to a brownish tint on the back ; the wings are dusky brown, 
lesser wing-coverts tipped with yellowish white, greater coverts and 
secondaries exteriorly edged with the same, primaries slightly so ; tail 
rounded at the extremity, the two exterior feathers three-quarters of an 
inch shorter than the middle ones ; whole lower parts yellow ; bill and 
legs light blue, the former bent a little, very sharp pointed, and black 
towards the extremity ; iris of the eye hazel, pupil black. The young 
male of the first season corresponds nearly with the above description. 
But in the succeeding spring, he makes his appearance with a large 
patch of black marking the front, lores and throat, as represented in 
fig. 2. In this stage, too, the black sometimes makes its appearance on 
the two middle feathers of the tail ; and slight stains of reddish are seen 
commencing on the sides and belly. The rest of the plumage as in the 
female. This continuing nearly the same on the same bird during the 
remainder of the season. At the same time other individuals are found 
as represented by fig. 3, which are at least birds of the third summer. 
These are mottled with black and olive on the upper parts of the back, 
and with reddish bay and yellow on the belly, sides and vent, scattered 
in the most irregular manner, not alike in any two individuals ; and 
generally the two middle feathers of the tail are black, and the others 
centred with the same color. This bird is now evidently approaching to 
its perfect plumage, as represented in fig. 4, where the black spreads 
over the whole head, neck, upper part of the back, breast, wings and 
tail, the reddish bay or bright chestnut occupying the lower part of the 
breast, the belly, vent, wimp, tail-coverts, and three lower rows of the 
lesser wing-coverts. The black on the head is deep and velvety ; 'that 
of the wings inclining to brown ; the greater wing-coverts are tipped 
with white. In the same orchard, and at the same time, males in each 
of these states of plumage may be found, united to their respective 
plain-colored mates. 

In all these the manners, mode of building, food and notes are, gen- 


erally speaking, the same, differing no more than those of any other in- 
dividuals belonging to one common species. The female appears always 
nearly the same. 

I have said that these birds construct their nests very differently from 
the Baltimore's. They are so particularly fond of frequenting orchards, 
that scarcely one orchard in summer is without them. They usually 
suspend their nest from the twigs of the apple tree ; and often from the 
extremities of the outward branches. It is formed exteriorly of a par- 
ticular species of long, tough and flexible grass, knit or sewed through 
and through in a thousand directions, as if actually done with a needle. 
An old lady of my acquaintance, to whom I was one day showing this 
curious fabrication, after admiring its texture for some time, asked me 
in a tone between joke and earnest, whether I did not think it possible 
to learn these birds to darn stockings. This nest is hemispherical, three 
inches deep by four in breadth ; the concavity scarcely two inches deep 
by two in diameter. I had the curiosity to detach one of the fibres, or 
stalks, of dried grass from the nest, and found it to measure thirteen 
inches in length, and in that distance was thirty-four times hooked 
through and returned, winding round and round the nest ! The inside 
is usually composed of wool, or the light downy appendages attached ~to 
the seeds of the Platanus occidentalis, or button-wood, which form a 
very soft and commodious bed. Here and there the outward work is 
extended to an adjoining twig, round which it is strongly twisted, to 
give more stability to the whole, and prevent it from being overset by 
the wind. 

When they choose the long pendent branches of the weeping-willow 
to build in, as they frequently do, the nest, though formed of the same 
materials, is made much deeper, and of slighter texture. The circum- 
ference is marked out by a number of these pensile twigs, that descend 
on each side like ribs, supporting the whole ; their thick foliage, at the 
same time, completely concealing the nest from view. The depth in 
this case is increased to four or five inches, and the whole is made much 
slighter. These long pendent -branches, being sometimes twelve and 
even fifteen feet in length, have a large sweep in the wind, and render 
the first of these precautions necessary, to prevent the eggs or young 
from being thrown out ; and the close shelter afforded by the remarkable 
thickness of the foliage, is, no doubt, the cause of the latter. Two of 
these nests, such as I have here described, are now lying before me, and 
exhibit not only art in the construction, but judgment in adapting their 
fabrication so judiciously to their particular situations. If the actions 
of birds proceeded, as some would have us believe, from the mere im- 
pulses of that thing called instinct, individuals of the same species would 
uniformly build their nest in the same manner, wherever they might 
happen to fix it; but it is evident from these just mentioned, and a 


thousand such circumstances, that they reason d priori from cause to 
consequence ; providently managing with a constant eye to future 
necessity and convenience. 

The eggs, one of which is represented in the same plate (fig. a), are 
usually four, of a very pale bluish tint, with a few small specks of brown 
and spots of dark purple. An egg of the Baltimore Oriole is exhibited 
beside it (fig. h) ; both of these were minutely copied from nature, and 
are sufiicient of themselves to determine, beyond all possibility of doubt, 
the diversity of the two species. I may add, that Charles W. Peale, 
proprietor of the Museum in Philadelphia, who, as a practical naturalist, 
stands deservedly first in the first rank of American connoisseurs, has 
expressed to me his perfect conviction of the changes which these birds 
pass through ; having himself examined them both in spring, and towards 
the latter part of summer, and having, at the present time, in his pos- 
session thirty or forty individuals of this species, in almost every grada- 
tion of change. 

The Orchard Oriole, though partly a dependent on the industry of 
the farmer, is no sneaking pilferer, but an open and truly beneficent 
friend. To all those countless multitudes of destructive bugs and cater- 
pillars, that infest the fruit trees in spring and summer, preying on the 
leaves, blossoms, and embryo of the fruit, he is a deadly enemy ; devour- 
ing them wherever he can find them ; and destroying, on an average, 
some hundreds of them every day; without offering the slightest injury 
to the fruit, however much it may stand in his way. I have witnessed 
instances where the entrance to his nest was more than half closed up 
by a cluster of apples, which he could have easily demolished in half a 
minute ; but, as if holding the property of his patron sacred, or con- 
sidering it as a natural bulwark to his own, he slid out and in with the 
greatest gentleness and caution. I am not sufficiently conversant in 
entomology to particularize the difierent species of insects on which he 
feeds; but I have good reason for believing that they are almost 
altogether such as commit the greatest depredations on the fruits of the 
orchard ; and, as he visits us at a time when his services are of the 
greatest value, and, like a faithful guardian, takes up his station where 
the enemy is most to be expected, he ought to be held in respectful esteem, 
and protected by every considerate husbandman. Nor is the gaiety of 
his song one of his least recommendations. Being an exceedingly 
active, sprightly, and restless bird, he is on the ground — on the trees — 
flying and carolling in his hurried manner, in almost one and the same 
instant. His notes are shrill and lively, but uttered with such rapidity 
and seeming confusion, that the ear is unable to follow them distinctly. 
Between these he has a single note, which is agreeable and interesting. 
Wherever he is protected, he shows his confidence and gratitude, by his 
numbers and familiarity. In the Botanic Garden of my worthy and 


scientific friends, the Messrs. Bartrams, of Kingsess, — whicli present an 
epitome of almost everything that is rare, useful, and beautiful in the 
vegetable kingdom of this western continent, and where the murderous 
gun scarce ever intrudes, — the Orchard Oriole revels without restraint, 
through thickets of aromatic flowers and blossoms ; and heedless of the 
busy gardener that labors below,' hangs his nest, in perfect security, on 
the branches over his head. 

The female sits fourteen days ; the young remain in the nest ten days 
afterwards,* before they venture abroad, which is generally about the 
middle of June. Nests of this species, with eggs, are sometimes found 
so late as the twentieth of July, which must belong to birds that have 
lost their first nest ; or it is probable that many of them raise two broods 
in the same season, though I am not positive of the fact. 

The Orchard Orioles arrive in Pennsylvania rather later than the 
Baltimores, commonly about the first week in May ; and extend as far 
as the province of Maine. They are also more numerous towards the 
mountains than the latter species. In traversing the country near the 
Blue Ridge, in the month of August, I have seen at least five of this 
species for one of the Baltimore. Early in September, they take their 
departure for the south ; their term of residence here being little more 
than four months. Previous to their departure, the young birds become 
gregarious, and frequent the rich extensive meadows of the Schuylkill, 
below Philadelphia, in flocks of from thirty to forty or upwards. They 
are easily raised from the nest, and soon become agreeable domestics. 
One which I reared and kept through the winter, whistled with great 
clearness and vivacity at two months old. It had an odd manner of 
moving its head and neck slowly and regularly, and in various direc- 
tions, when intent on observing anything, without stirring its body. 
This motion was as slow and regular as that of a snake. When at night a 
candle was brought into the room, it became restless and evidently dis- 
satisfied, fluttering about the cage as if seeking to get out ; but when 
the cage was placed on the same table with the candle, it seemed 
extremely well pleased, fed and drank, dressed, shook, and arranged its 
plumage, sat as close to the light as possible, and sometimes chanted a 
few broken irregular notes in that situation, as I sat writing or reading 
beside it. I also kept a young female of the same nest, during the 
greatest part of winter, but could not observe, in that time, any change 
in its plumage. 

* There is evidently some mistake here, as the young could hardly be fledged 
in ten days. 



[Plate XXI. Fig. 3.] 

Black Oriole, Arct. Zool. p. 259, No. \^.— Rusty Oriole, Ibid. p. 260, No. 146.— 
New York Thrush, Ibid. p. 339, No. 205.— Hudsonian Thrush, Ibid. No. 234, 
female. — Labrador Thrush, Ibid. p. 340, No. 206. 

Herb is a single species described by one of the most judicious 
naturalists of Great Britain no less than five different times ! The greater 
part of these descriptions is copied by succeeding naturalists, whose 
synonymes it is unnecessary to repeat. So great is the uncertainty in 
judging, from a mere examination of their dried or stuffed skins, of the 
particular tribes of birds, many of which, for several years, are con- 
stantly varying in the colors of their plumage ; and at different seasons, 
or different ages, assuming new and very different appearances. Even 
the size is by no means a safe criterion, the difference in this respect 
between the male and female of the same species (as in the one now 
before us) being sometimes very considerable. 

This bird arrives in Pennsylvania, from the north, early in October ; 
associates with the Ked-wings, and Cow-pen Buntings, frequents corn- 
fields, and places where grasshoppers are plenty ; but Indian corn, at 
that season, seems to be its principal food. It is a very silent bird, 
having only now and then a single note, or chuck. We see them occa- 
sionally until about the middle of November, when they move off to the 
south. On the twelfth of January I overtook great numbers of these 
birds in the woods near Petersburgh, Virginia, and continued to see 
occasionaf parties of them almost every day as I advanced southerly, 
particularly in South Carolina, around the rice plantations, where they 
were numerous ; feeding about the hog-pens, and wherever Indian corn 
was to be procured. They also extend to a considerable distance west- 
ward. On the fifth of March, being on the banks of the Ohio, a few 
miles below the mouth of the Kentucky river, in the midst of a heavy 
snow-storm, a flock of these 'birds alighted near the door of the cabin 

* The Genus Gracula, as at present restricted, consists of only a single species ; 
the others formerly included in it have been distributed in other genera. The two 
species desciibed by Wilson belong to the genus Icterus as adopted by Temminck. 



where I had taken shelter, several of which I shot, and found their 
stomachs, as usual, crammed with Indian corn. Early in April they 
pass hastily through Pennsylvania, on their return to the north to 

From the accounts of persons who have resided near Hudson's Bay, 
it appears, that these birds arrive there in the beginning of June, as 
soon as the ground is thawed sufficiently for them to procure their food, 
which is said to be worms and maggots; sing with a fine note till the 
time of incubation, when they have only a chucking noise, till the young 
take their flight : at which time they resume their song. They build 
their nests in trees ; about eight feet from the ground, forming them 
with moss and grass, and lay five eggs of a dark color, spotted with, 
black. It is added, they gather in great flocks, and retire southerly in 

The male of this species, when in perfect plumage, is nine inches in 
length, and fourteen in extent ; at a small distance appears wholly 
black ; but on a near examination is of a glossy dark green ; the 
irides of the eye are silvery, as in those of the Purple Grakle ; the bill 
is black, nearly of the same form with that of the last-mentioned species ; 
the lower mandible a little rounded, with the edges turned inward, and 
the upper one furnished with a sharp bony process on the inside, exactly 
like that of the purple species. The tongue is slender, and lacerated at 
the tip ; legs and feet black and strong, the hind claw the largest ; the 
tail is slightly rounded. This is the color of the male when of full age ; 
but three-fourths of these birds which we meet with, have the whole 
plumage of the breast, head, neck, and back, tinctured with brown, 
every feather being skirted with ferruginous ; over the eye is a light 
line of pale brown, below that one of black passing through the eye. 
This brownness gradually goes off towards spring, for almost all those I 
shot in the southern states were but slightly marked with ferruginous. 
The female is nearly an inch shorter ; head, neck, and breast, almost 
wholly brown ; a light line over the eye, lores black ; belly and rump 
ash ; upper and under tail-coverts skirted with brown ; wings black, 
edged with rust color ; tail black, glossed with green ; legs, feet and 
bill, as in the male. 

These birds might easily be domesticated. Several that I had winged, 
and kept for some time, became in a few days quite familiar, seeming to 
be very easily reconciled to confinement. 

* Arct. Zool. p. 259. 



[Plate XXI. Fig. 4.] 

La Pie de la Jamaique, Brisson, u., 41.— Buffon, hi., 97, PI. Enl. bZ%.—Arct. Zool. 
p. 309, No. \bA:.— Gracula purpurea, the lesser Purple Jackdaw, or Crow Black- 
bird, Bartram, p. 291.* 

This noted depredator is well known to every farmer of the northern 
and middle states. About the twentieth of March the Purple Grakles 
visit Pennsylvania from the south, fly in loose flocks, frequent swamps 
and meadows, and follow in the furrows after the plough ; their food at 
this season consisting of worms, grubs, and caterpillars, of which they 
destroy prodigious numbers, as if to recompense the husbandman before- 
hand for the havock they intend to make among his crops of India^j 
corn. Towards evening they retire to the nearest cedars and pine trees 
to roost ; making a continual chattering as they fly along. On the 
tallest of these trees they generally build their nests in company, about 
the beginning or middle of April ; sometimes ten or fifteen nests being 
on the same tree. One of these nests, taken from a high pine tree, is 
now before me. It measures full five inches in diameter within, and 
four in depth ; is composed outwardly of mud, mixed with long stalks 
and roots of a knotty kind of grass, and lined with fine bent and horse 
hair. The eggs are five, of a bluish olive color, marked with large spots 
and straggling streaks of black and dark brown, also with others of a 
fainter tinge. They rarely produce more than one brood in a season. 

The trees where these birds build are often at no great distance from 
the farm-house, and pverlook the plantations. From thence they issue, 
in all directions, and with as much confidence, to make their daily 
depredations among the surrounding fields^, as if the whole were intended 
for their use alone. Their chief attention, however, is directed to the 
Indian corn in all its progressive stages. As soon as the infant blade 
of this grain begins to make its appearance above ground, the Grakles 
hail the welcome signal with screams of peculiar satisfaction ; and with- 
out waiting for a formal invitation from the proprietor, descend on the 

* We add the following synonymes : Boat-tailed GraJcle, Lath. Gen. Syn. 1, p. 
460, No. 5. — Maize-thief, Kalm's Travels. — Siurnus quiscala, Daudin, 2, p. 316. — 
Gracula harita. Journal Acad. Nat. Sciences ofPhilad. vol. 1, p. 254. — Quiscala 
versicolor, Bonaparte's Ornithology, vol. i., p. 42, pi. V., female. 



fields, and begin to pull up and regale themselves on the seed, scatterr 
ing the green blades around. While thus eagerly employed, the ven- 
geance of the gun sometimes overtakes them ; but these disasters are 
soon forgotten, and those 

■ who live to get away, 

Return to steal, another day." 

About the beginning of August, when the young ears are in their milky 
state, they are attacked with redoubled eagerness by the Grakles and 
Red-wings, in formidable and combined bodies. They descend like a 
blackening, sweeping tempest, on the corn, dig off the external covering 
of twelve or fifteen coats of leaves, as dexterously as if done by the 
hand of man, and having laid bare the ear, leave little behind to the 
farmer but the cobs, and shrivelled skins that contained their favorite 
fare. I have seen fields of corn of many acres, where more than one- 
half was thus ruined. Indeed the farmers in the immediate vicinity of 
the rivers Delaware and Schuylkill, generally allow one-fourth of this 
crop to the Blackbirds, among whom our Grrakle comes in for his full 
share. During these depredations, the gun is making great havoc 
among their numbers, which has no other effect on the survivors' than to 
send them to another field, or to another part of the same field. This 
system of plunder and of retaliation continues until November, when 
towards the middle of that month they begin to sheer off towards the 
south. The lower parts of Virginia, North and South Carolina, and 
Georgia, are the winter residences of these flocks. Here numerous 
bodies, collecting together from all quarters of the interior and northern 
districts, and darkening the air with their numbers, sometimes form one 
congregated multitude of many hundred thousands. A few miles from 
the banks of the Roanoke, on the twentieth of January, I met with one 
of those prodigious armies of Grakles. They rose from the surround- 
ing fields with a noise like thunder, and descending on the length of 
road before me, covered it and the fences completely with black ; and 
when they again rose, and after a few evolutions descended on the 
skirts of the high timbered woods, at that time destitute of leaves, they 
produced a most singular and striking effect ; the whole trees for a con- 
siderable extent, from the top to the lowest branches, seeming as if 
hung in mourning ; their notes and screaming the meanwhile resembling 
the distant sound of a great cataract, but in more musical cadence, 
swelling and dying away on the ear according to the fluctuation of the 
breeze. In Kentucky, and all along the Mississippi, from its junction 
with the Ohio to the Balize, I found numbers of these birds, so that 
the Purple Grakle may be considered as a very general inhabitant of 
the territory of the United States. 

Every industrious farmer complains of the mischief committed on his 


corn by the Crow Blaehhirds, as they are usually called ; though were 
the same means used, as with pigeons, to take them in clap-nets, multi- 
tudes of them might thus be destroyed ; and the products of them in 
market, in some measure, indemnify him for their depredations. But 
they are most numerous and most destructive at a time when the various 
harvests of the husbandman demand all his attention, and all his hands 
to cut, cure, and take in ; and so they escape with a few sweeps made 
among them by some of the younger boys, with the gun ; and by the 
gunners from the neighboring towns and villages ; and return from 
. their winter quarters, sometimes early in March, to renew the like 
scenes over again. As some consolation, however, to the industrious 
cultivator, I can assure him, that were I placed in his situation, I should 
hesitate whether to consider these birds most as friends or enemies, as 
they are particularly destructive to almost all the noxious worms, grubs, 
and caterpillars, that infest his fields, which, were they allowed to mul- 
tiply unmolested, would soon consume nine-tenths of all the production 
of his labor, and desolate the country with the miseries of famine ! Is 
not this another striking proof that the Deity has created nothing in 
vain ; and that it is the duty of man, the lord of the creation, to avail 
himself of their usefulness, and guard against their bad effects as 
securely as possible, without indulging in the barbarous, and even 
impious, wish for their utter extermination ? 

ThciPurple Grakle is twelve inches long, and eighteen in extent; on 
a slight view seems wholly black, but placed near, in a good light, the 
whole head, neck, and breast appear of a rich glossy steel blue, dark 
violet,* and silky green ; the violet prevails most on the head and breast, 
and the green on the hind part of the neck ; the back, rump, and whole 
lower parts, the breast excepted, reflect a strong coppery gloss ; wing- 
coverts, secondaries, and coverts of the tail, rich light violet, in which 
the red prevails ; the rest of the wings, and cuneiform tail, are black, 
glossed with steel blue. All the above colors are extremely shining, 
varying as differently exposed to the light ; iris of the eye silvery ; bill 
more than an inch long, strong, and furnished on the inside of the upper 
mandible with a sharp process, like the stump of the broken blade of a 
penknife, intended to assist the bird in masticating its food ; tongue thin, 
bifid at the end, and lacerated along the sides. 

The female is rather less ; has the upper part of the head, neck, and 
the back, of a dark sooty brown ; chin, breast, and belly dull pale 
brown, lightest on the former ; wings, tail, lower parts of the back and 
vent black, with a few reflections of dark green ; legs, feet, bill, and 
eyes as in the male. 

The Purple Grakle is easily tamed, and sings in confinement. They 
have also, in several instances, been taught to articulate some few words 
pretty distinctly. 


A singular attachment frequently takes place between this bird and 
the Fish-Hawk. The nest of this latter is of very large dimensions, 
often from three to four feet in breadth, and from four to five feet high ; 
composed, externally, of large sticks or faggots, among the interstices 
of which sometimes three or four pairs of Crow Blackbirds will con- 
struct their nests, while the Hawk is sitting or hatching above. Here 
each pursues the duties of incubation, and of rearing their young ; 
living in the greatest harmony, and mutually watching and protecting 
each other's property from depredators. 

Note. — The Gracula quiscala of the tenth edition of the Systema 
Naturce was established upon Catesby's Purple Jackdaw. This bird is 
common in Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, where it is still known by 
the name of Jackdaw ; whereas the Purple Grakle of Wilson is called 
Blackbird, or Crow Blackbird. The latter is also common in the states 
south of Virginia ; but the Jackdaw, after rearing its young, retires 
further south on the approach of winter ; whereas the Purple Grakle 
hyemates in the southern section of our Union, and migrates, in the 
spring, to the Middle and Northern States to breed. The female of the 
Crow Blackbird is dark sooty-brown and black ; the female of the Jack- 
daw is " all over brown," agreeably to Catesby's description. This 
author states the weight of the Jackdaw to be six ounces ; the weight 
of the Crow Blackbird seldom exceeds four ounces and a half. That 
the two species have been confounded there is no doubt ; and it is not 
easy to disembroil the confusion into which they have been thrown by 
naturalists, who have never had an opportunity of visiting the native 
regions of both. It is evident that Catesby thought there was but one 
species of these birds in Carolina, otherwise he would have discovered 
that those which he observed during the winter in great flocks, were dif- 
ferent from his Jackdaws, which is the proper summer resident of that 
State, although it is probable that some of the Crow Blackbirds are also 
indigenous. The true Gracula harita of Linnaeus is not yet satisfac- 
torily ascertained ; the Boat-tailed Grakle of Latham's General Synop- 
sis is unquestionably the Purple Grakle of Wilson. The best figures 
of the Purple Jackdaw which we have seen, are those given in Bona- 
parte's Ornithology, vol. 1, pi. 4. They were drawn by Mr. Alexander 
Rider of Philadelphia, (not by Mr. Audubon, as is stated,) from speci- 
mens brought from East Florida by Mr. Titian Peale and myself. — 
a. Ord. 



[Plate XXVIII. Fig. 1.] 

Cuculus Amaricanus, Linn. Syst. ed. 10, p. 111. — Catesb. i., 9. — Lath, i., 537. — 
Le Coucou de la Caroline, Briss. ir., Wi.—Ard. Zool. 265, No. 155. 

A STRAN&ER who visits the United States for the purpose of examin- 
ing their natural productions, and passes through our woods in the month 
of May or June, will sometimes hear as he traverses the borders of deep, 
retired, high timbered hollows, an uncouth guttural sound or note, re- 
sembling the syllables Icowe, Icowe, kowe kowe kowe ! beginning slowly, 
but ending so rapidly, that the notes seem to run into each other, and 
vice versa ; he will hear this frequently without being able to discover 
the bird or animal from which it proceeds, as it is both shy and solitary, 
seeking always the thickest foliage for concealment. This is the Yel- 
low-billed Cuckoo, the subject of the present account. From the imita- 
tive sound of its note, it is known in many parts by the name of the 
Cow-Urd ; it is also called in Virginia the Rain-Crow, being observed to 
be most clamorous immediately before rain. 

This species arrives in Pennsylvania, from the south, about the twenty- 
second of April, and spreads over the country as far at least as Lake 
Ontario ; is numerous in the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations ; and also 
breeds in the upper parts of Georgia ; preferring in all these places the 
borders of solitary swamps and apple-orchards. It leaves us, on its 
return southward, about the middle of September. 

The singular, I will not say unnatural, conduct of the European Cuckoo, 
( Cuculus canorus), which never constructs a nest for itself, but drops its 
eggs in those of other birds, and abandons them to their mercy and 
management, is so universally known, and so proverbial, that the whole 
tribe of Cuckoos have, by some inconsiderate people, been stigmatized 
as destitute of all parental care and affection. Without attempting to 
account for this remarkable habit of the European species, far less to 
consider as an error what the wisdom of Heaven has imposed as a duty 

* This genus has been considerably restricted by recent ornithologists. The two 
species referred by Wilson to their genus belong to the genus Coccycus of Vieillot, 
adopted by Temminck. 



on the species, I will only remark, that the bird now before us builds its 
own nest, hatches its own eggs, and rears its own young ; and in conju- 
gal and parental affection seems nowise behind any of its neighbors of 
the grove. 

Early in May they begin to pair, when obstinate battles take place 
among the males. About the tenth of that month they commence 
building. The nest is usually fixed among the horizontal branches of an 
apple-tree ; sometimes in a solitary thorn, crab or cedar, in some retired 
part of the woods. It is constructed with little art, and scarcely any 
concavity, of small sticks and twigs, intermixed with green weeds, and 
blossoms of the common maple. On this almost flat bed, the eggs, 
usually three or four in number, are placed ; these are of a uniform 
greenish blue color, and of a size proportionable to that of the bird. 
While the female is sitting, the male is generally not far distant, and 
gives the alarm by his notes, when any person is approaching. The 
female sits so close, that you may almost reach her with your hand, and 
then precipitates herself to the ground, feigning lameness, to draw you 
away from the spot, fluttering, trailing her wings, and tumbling over, in 
the manner of the Partridge, Woodcock, and many other species. Both 
parents unite in providing food for the young. This consists for the 
most part of caterpillars, particularly such as infest apple-trees. The 
same insects constitute the chief part of their own sustenance. They 
are accused, and with some justice, of sucking the eggs of other birds, 
like the Crow, the Blue Jay, and other pillagers. They also occasion- 
ally eat various kinds of berries. But from the circumstance of destroy- 
ing such numbers of very noxious larvae, they prove themselves the 
friends of the farmer, and are highly deserving of his protection. 

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo is thirteen inches long, and sixteen inches 
in extent ; the whole upper parts are of a dark glossy drab, or what is 
usually called a Quaker color, with greenish silky reflections ; from this 
must however be excepted, the inner vanes of the wings, which are bright 
reddish cinnamon ; the tail is long, composed of ten feathers, the two 
middle ones being of the same color as the back, the others which gra- 
dually shorten to the exterior ones, are black, largely tipped with white ; 
the two outer ones are scarcely half the length of the middle one ; the 
whole lower parts are pure white ; the feathers covering the thighs being 
large like those of the Hawk tribe ; the legs and feet are light blue, the 
toes placed two before, and two behind, as in the rest of the genus ; the 
bill is long, a little bent, very broad at the base, dusky black above, and 
yellow below ; the eye hazel, feathered close to the eyelid, which is yel- 
low. The female differs little from the male; the four middle tail- 
feathers in her are of the same uniform drab ; and the white, with which 
the others are tipped, not so pure as in the male. 

In examining this bird by dissection, the inner membrane of the giz- 
VOL. I.— 11 


zard, -wliicli in many other species is so hard and muscular, in this ia 
extremely lax and soft, capable of great distension ; and, what is re- 
markable, is covered with a growth of fine down or hair, of a light fawn 
color. It is difiicult to ascertain the particular purpose which nature 
intends by this excrescence ; perhaps it may serve to shield the tender 
parts from the irritating effects produced by the hairs of certain cater- 
pillars, some of which are said to be almost equal to the sting of a 



[Plate XXVIII. Fig. 2.] 

This Cuckoo is nearly as numerous as the former ; but has hitherto 
escaped the notice of European naturalists ; or from its general resem- 
blance has been confounded with the preceding. Its particular mark- 
ings, however, and some of its habits, sufficiently characterize it as a 
distinct species. Its general color above is nearly that of the former, 
inclining more to a pale ash on the cheeks and front ; it is about an inch 
less in length ; the tail is of a uniform dark silky drab, except at the tip, 
where each feather is marked with a spot of white, bordered above with 
a slight touch of dull black ; the bill is wholly black, and much smaller 
than that of the preceding ; and it wants the bright cinnamon on the 
wings. But what constitutes its most distinguishing trait is a bare 
wrinkled skin, of a deep red color, that surrounds the eye. The female 
differs little in external appearance from the male. 

The Black-billed Cuckoo is particularly fond of the sides of creeks, 
feeding on small shell-fish, snails, &c. I have also often found broken 
pieces of oyster-shells in its gizzard, which, like that of the other, is 
covered with fine downy hair. 

The nest of this bird is most commonly built in a cedar, much in the 
same manner, and of nearly the same materials, as that of the other ; 
but the eggs are smaller, usually four or five in number, and of a rather 
deeper greenish blue. 

This bird is likewise found in the state of Georgia, and has not escaped 
the notice of Mr. Abbot, who is satisfied of its being a distinct species 
from the preceding. 



[Plate XXIX. Fig. 1.] 

Picus principalis, Linn. Syst. i., p. 173, 2. — Gmel. Syst. i., p. 425. — Picus niger 
CaroUnensis cristatus, Beiss. iv., p. 26, 9. — Pic noir d bee blanc, Buff, vir., 
p. 46. — PI. Enl. 690, — King of the Woodpeckers. Kai.m, vol. ii., p. 85. — White- 
billed Woodpecker, Catesb. Car. i., 16. — Arct. Zool. ii., No. 156. — Lath. Syn. ii., 
p. 553. — Bartram, p. 289. 

This majestic and formidable species, in strength and magnitude, 
stands at the head of the "whole class of Woodpeckers hitherto dis- 
covered. He may be called the king or chief of his tribe ; and Nature 
seems to have designed him a distinguished characteristic, in the superb 
carmine crest, and bill of polished ivory, with which she has ornamented 
him. His eye is brilliant and daring ; and his whole frame so admira- 
bly adapted for his mode of life, and method of procuring subsistence, 
as to impress on the mind of the examiner the most reverential ideas of 
the Creator. His manners have also a dignity in them superior to the 
common herd of Woodpeckers. Trees, shrubbery, orchards, rails, fence- 
posts, and old prostrate logs, are alike interesting to those, in their 
humble and indefatigable search for prey ; but the royal hunter now 
before us, scorns the humility of such situations, and seekg the most 
towering trees of the forest ; seeming particularly attached to those pro- 
digious cypress swamps, whose crowxled giant sons stretch their bare 
and blasted, or moss-hung, arms midway to the skies. In these almost 
inaccessible recesses, amid ruinous piles of impending timber, his trum- 
pet-like note, and loud strokes, resound through the solitary, savage 
wilds, of which he seems the sole lord and inhabitant. Wherever he 
frequents, he leaves numerous monuments of his industry behind him. 
We there see enormous pine-trees, with cart-loads of bark lying around 
their roots, and chips of the trunk itself in such quantities, as to suggest 
flie idea that half a dozen of axemen had been at work for the whole 
morning. The body of the tree is also disfigured with such numerous 
and so large excavations, that one can hardly conceive it possible for the 
whole to be the work of a Woodpecker. With such strength, and an 
apparatus so powerful, what havoc might he not commit, if numerous, 
on the most useful of our forest trees ; and yet with all these appear- 



ances, and mucli of vulgar prejudice against him, it may fairly be ques- 
tioned wlietlier he is at all injurious ; or, at least, whether his exertions 
do not contribute most powerfully to the protection of our timber. 
Examine closely the tree where he has been at work, and you will soon 
perceive, that it is neither from motives of mischief nor amusement that 
he slices off the bark, or digs his way into the trunk. For the sound 
and healthy tree is not in the least the object of his attention. The 
diseased, infested with insects, and hastening to putrefaction, are Ms 
favorites ; there the deadly crawling enemy have formed a lodgment, 
between the bark and tender wood, to drink up the very vital part of 
the tree. It is the ravages of these vermin which the intelligent pro- 
prietor of the forest deplores, as the sole perpetrators of the destruction 
of his timber. Would it be believed that the larvae of an insect, or fly, 
no larger than a grain of rice, should silently, and in one season, destroy 
some thousand acres of pine trees, many of them from two to three feet 
in diameter, and a hundred and fifty feet high ! Yet whoever passes 
along the high road from Georgetown to Charleston, in South Carolina, 
about twenty miles from the former place, can have striking and melan- 
choly proofs of this fact. In some places the whole woods, as far as 
you can see around you, are dead, stripped of the bark, their wintry- 
looking arms and bare trunks bleaching in the sun, and tumbling in 
ruins before every blast, presenting a frightful picture of desolation. 
And yet ignorance and prejudice stubbornly persist in directing their 
indignation against the bird now before us, the constant and mortal 
enemy of these very vermin, as if the hand that probed the wound, to 
extract its cause, should be equally detested with that which inflicted it ; 
or as if the thief-catcher should be confounded with the thief. Until 
some effectual preventive, or more complete mode of destruction, can be 
devised against these insects, and their larvae, I would humbly suggest 
the propriety of protecting, and receiving with proper feelings of grati- 
tude, the services of this and the whole tribe of Woodpeckers, letting the 
odium of guilt fall to its proper owners. 

In looking over the accounts given of ,the Ivory-billed Woodpecker 
by the naturalists of Europe, I find it asserted, that it inhabits from 
New Jersey to Mexico. I believe, however, that few of them are ever 
seen to the north of Virginia, and very few of them even in that state. 
The first place I observed this bird at, when on my way to the south, 
was about twelve miles north of Wilmington, in North Carolina. There 
I found the bird from which the drawing of the figure in the plate wa's 
taken. This bird was only wounded slightly in the wing, and on being 
caught, uttered a loudly-reiterated, and most piteous note, exactly re- 
sembling the violent crying of a young child ; which terrified my horse 
so, as nearly to have cost me my life. It was distressing to hear it. I 
carried it with me in the chair, under cover, to Wilmington. In passing 


through the streets, its affecting cries surprised every one within hearing, 
particularly the females, who hurried to the doors and windows, with 
looks of alarm and anxiety. I drove on, and on arriving at the piazza 
of the hotel, where I intended to put up, the landlord came forward, 
and a number of other persons who happened to be there, all equally 
alarmed at what they heard ; this was greatly increased by my asking 
whether he could furnish me with accommodations for myself and my 
baby. The man looked blank, and foolish, while the others stared with 
still greater astonishment. After diverting myself for a minute or two 
at their expense, I drew my Woodpecker from under the cover, and a 
general laugh took place. I took him up stairs, and locked him up in 
my room, while I went to see my horse taken care of. In less than an 
hour I returned, and on opening the door he set up the same distressing 
shout, which now appeared to proceed from the grief that he had been 
discovered in his attempts at escape. He had mounted along the side 
of the window, nearly as high as the ceiling, a little below which he had 
begun to break through. The bed was covered with large pieces of 
plaster ; the lath was exposed for at least fifteen inches square, and a 
hole, large enough to admit the fist, opened to the weather-boards ; so 
that in less than another hour he would certainly have succeeded in 
making his way through. I now tied a string round his leg, and fasten- 
ing it to the table, again left him. I wished to preserve his life, and 
had gone off in search of suitable food for him. As I reascended the 
stairs, I heard him again hard at work, and on entering had the morti- 
fication to perceive that he had almost entirely ruined the mahogany 
table to which he was fastened, and on which he had wreaked his whole 
vengeance. While engaged in taking the drawing, he cut me severely 
in several places, and on the whole, displayed such a noble and uncon- 
querable spirit, that I was frequently tempted to restore him to his 
native woods. He lived with me nearly three days, but refused all 
sustenance, and I witnessed his death with regret. 

The head and bill of this bird is in great esteem among the southern 
Indians, who wear them by way of amulet or charm, as well as orna- 
ment ; and, it is said, dispose of them to the northern tribes at consider- 
able prices. An Indian believes that the head, skin, or even feathers 
of certain birds, confer on the wearer all the virtues or excellencies of 
those birds. Thus I have seen a coat made of the skins, heads and 
claws of the Raven ; caps stuck round with heads of Butcher-birds, 
Hawks and Eagles ; and as the disposition and courage of the Ivory- 
billed Woodpecker are well known to the savages, no wonder they should 
attach great value to it, having both beauty, and, in their estimation, 
distinguished merit to recommend it. 

This bird is not migratory, but resident in the countries where it in- 
habits. In the low counties of the Carolinas, it usually prefers the large- 


timbered cypress swamps for breeding in. In the trunk of one of thesb 
trees, at a considerable height, the male and female alternately, and in 
conjunction, dig out a large and capacious cavity for their eggs and 
young. Trees thus dug out have frequently been cut down, with some- 
times the eggs and young in them. This hole according to information, 
for I have never seen one myself, is generally a little winding, the better 
to keep out the weather, and from two to five feet deep. The eggs are 
said to be generally four, sometimes five, as large as a pullet's, pure 
white, and equally thick at both ends ; a description that, except in size, 
very nearly agrees with all the rest of our Woodpeckers. The young 
begin to be seen abroad about the middle of June. Whether they breed 
more than once in the same season is uncertain. 

So little attention do the people of the countries where these birds 
inhabit, pay to the minutiae of natural history, that, generally speaking, 
they make no distinction between the Ivory-billed and Pileated Wood- 
pecker, represented in the same plate ; and it was not till I showed 
them the two birds together, that they knew of any difference. The 
more intelligent and observing part of the natives, however, distinguish 
them by the name of the large and lesser Logcocks. They seldom ex- 
amine them but at a distance, gunpowder being considered too precious 
to be thrown away on Woodpeckers ; nothing less than a Turkey being 
thought worth the value of a load. 

The food of this bird consists, I believe, entirely of insects and their 
larvae. The Pileated Woodpecker is suspected of sometimes tasting the 
Indian corn ; the Ivory-billed never. His common note, repeated every 
three or four seconds, very much resembles the tone of a trumpet, or the 
high note of a clarionet, and can plainly be distinguished at the distance 
of more than half a mile ; seeming to be immediately at hand, though 
perhaps more than one hundred yards off. This it utters while mount- 
ing along the trunk, or digging into it. At these times it has a stately 
and novel appearance ; and the note instantly attracts the notice of a 
stranger. Along the borders of the Savannah river, between Savannah 
and Augusta, I found them very frequently ; but my horse no sooner 
heard their trumpet-like note, than remembering his former alarm, he 
became almost ungovernable. 

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is twenty inches long,- and thirty inches 
in extent ; the general color is black, with a considerable gloss of green 
when exposed to a good light ; iris of the eye vivid yellow ; nostrils 
covered with recumbent white hairs ; fore part of the head black, rest 
of the crest of a most splendid red, spotted at the bottom with white, 
which is only seen when the crest is erected, as represented in the plate ; 
this long red plumage being ash-colored at its base, above that white, 
and ending in brilliant red ; a stripe of white proceeds from a point, 
about half an inch below each eye, passes down each side of the neck, 


and along tlie back, -where they are about an ineh apart, nearly to the 
rump ; the first five primaries are wholly black, on the next five the 
white spreads from the tip higher and higher to the secondaries, which 
are wholly white from their coverts downwards : these markings, when 
the wings are shut, make the bird appear as if his back were white, 
hence he has been called, by some of our naturalists, the large White- 
backed Woodpecker ; the neck is long ; the beak an inch broad at the 
base, of the color and consistence of ivory, prodigiously strong, and ele- 
gantly fluted ; the tail is black, tapering from the two exterior feathers, 
which are three inches shorter than the middle ones, and each feather 
has the singularity of being greatly concave below ; the wing is lined 
with yellowish white ; the legs are about an inch and a quarter long, the 
exterior toe about the same length, the claws exactly semicircular and 
remarkably powerful, the whole of a light blue or lead color. The 
female is about half an inch shorter, the bill rather less, and the whole 
plumage of the head black, glossed with green ; in the other parts of 
the plumage she exactly resembles the male. In' the stomachs of three 
which I opened, I found large quantities of a species of worm called 
borers, two or three inches long, of a dirty cream-color, with a black 
head ; the stomach was an oblong pouch, not muscular like the gizzards 
of some others. The tongue was worm-shaped, and for half an inch at 
the tip as hard as horn, flat, pointed, of the same white color as the bill, 
and thickly barbed on each side. 



[Plate XXIX. Fig. 2.j 

Picus pileatus, Latb. Tnd. Orn. i., p. 225, 4. — Linn. Syst. i., p. 173, 3. — Gmel. 
Syst. I., p. 425. — Picus niger Virginianus cristatus, Briss. it., p. 29, 10. — Picnoir 
A huppe rouge, Bufp. til, p. 48. — Pic noir huppe de la Louisiane, PL Enl. 718. 
— Larger crested Woodpecker, Catesb. Car. i., 17. — Pileated Woodpecker, Arct. 
Zool. II., No. 157.— Lath. Syn. ii., p. 554, 3.— Id. Sup. p. 105.— Baktkam, p. 289. 

This American species is the second in size among his tribe, and may 
be styled the Great Northern Chief of the Woodpeckers, though, in 
fact, his range extends over the whole of the United States, from the 
interior of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. He is very numerous in the 
Genesfee country, and in all the tracts of high-timbered forests, particu- 
larly in the neighborhood of our large rivers, where he is noted for 
making a loud and almost incessant cackling before wet weather ; flying 


at such times in a restless ijneasy manner from tree to tree, making the 
woods echo to his outcry. In Pennsylvania, and the Northern States, 
he is called the Black Woodcock ; in the Southern States, the Logcock. 
Almost every old trunk in the forest, where he resides, bears the marks 
of his chisel. Wherever he perceives a tree beginning to decay, he ex- 
amines it round and round with great skill and dexterity, strips oiF the 
bark in sheets of five or six feet in length to get at the hidden cause of 
the disease, and labors with a gayety and activity really surprising. I 
have seen him- separate the greatest part of the bark from a large dead 
pine-tree, for twenty or thirty feet, in less than a quarter of an hour. 
Whether engaged in flying from tree to tree, in digging, climbing or 
barking, he seems perpetually in a hurry. He is extremely hard to kill, 
clinging close to the tree even after he has received his mortal wound ; 
nor yielding up his hold but' with his expiring breath. If slightly 
wounded in the wing, and dropped while flying, he instantly makes for 
the nearest tree, and strikes, with great bitterness, at the hand stretched 
out to seize him ; and can rarely be reconciled to confinement He is 
sometimes observed among the hills of Indian corn, and it is said by 
some that he frequently feeds on it. Complaints of this kind are, how- 
ever, not general ; many farmers doubting the fact, and conceiving that 
at these times he is in search of insects which lie concealed in the husk. 
I will not be positive that they never occasionally taste maize ; yet I 
have opened and examined great numbers of these birds, killed in va- 
rious parts of the United States, from Lake Ontario to the Altamaha 
river, but never found a grain of Indian corn in their stomachs.' 

The Pileated Woodpecker is not migratory, but braves the extremes of 
both the arctic and torrid regions. Neither is he gregarious, for it is rare 
to see more than one or two, or at the most three, in company. For- 
merly they were numerous in the neighborhood of Philadelphia ; but 
gradually as the old timber fell, and the country became better cleared, 
they retreated to the forest. At present few of these birds are to be 
found within ten or fifteen miles of the city. 

Their nest is built, or rather the eggs are deposited, in the hole of a 
tree, dug out by themselves, no other materials being used but the soft 
chips of rotten wood. The female lays six large eggs of a snowy white- 
ness ; and, it is said, they generally raise two broods in the same season. 

This species is eighteen inches long, and twenty-eight in extent ; the 
general color is a dusky brownish black ; the head is ornamented with 
a conical cap of bright scarlet ; two scarlet mustaches proceed from the 
lower mandible ; the chin is white ; the nostrils are covered with brown- 
ish white hair-like feathers, and this stripe of white passes thence down 
the side of the neck to the sides, spreading under the wings ; the upper 
half of the wings, is white, but concealed by the black coverts ; the 
lower extremities of the wings are black ; so that the white on the wing 


is not seen when the bird is flying, at which time it is very prominent ; 
the tail is tapering, the feathers being very convex above and strong ; 
the legs are of a leaden gray color, very short, scarcely half an inch, 
the toes very long, the claws strong and semicircular, and of a pale 
blue ; the bill is fluted, sharply ridged, very broad at the base, bluish 
black above, below and at the point bluish white ; the eye is of a bright 
golden color ; the pupil black ; the tongue, like those of its tribe, is 
worm-shaped, except near the tip, where for one-eighth of an inch it is 
horny, pointed, and beset with barbs. 

The female has the forehead, and nearly to the crown, of a light 
brown color, and the mustaches are dusky instead of red. In both, a 
fine line of white separates the red crest from the dusky line that passes 
over the eye. 



[Plate III. Fig. 1.] 

Le Pic aux ailes dories, Bupfon, vii., 39. PI. Enl. 693. — Picus amratus, Linn. Syst. 
174. — Cuculus alls de auratis, Klein, p. 30. — Catesbt, i., 18. — Latham, ii., 597. 
Baktram, p. 289.* 

This elegant bird is well known to our farmers and junior sports- 
men, who take every opportunity of destroying him ; the former for the 
supposed trespasses he commits on their Indian corn, or the trifle he will 
bring in market, and the latter for the mere pleasure of destruction, and 
perhaps for the flavor of his flesh, which is in general esteem. In the 
state of Pennsylvania he can scarcely be called a bird of passage, as 
even in severfe winters they may be found within a few miles of the city 
of Philadelphia ; and I have known them exposed for sale in market 
every week during the months of November, December and January, 
and that too in more than commonly rigorous weather. They, no doubt, 
partially migrate, even here ; being much more numerous in spring and 
fall than in winter. Early in the month of April they begin to prepare 
their nest, which is built in the hollow body or branch of a tree, some- 
times, though not always, at a considerable height from the ground ; for 
I have frequently known them fix on the trunk of an old apple-tree, 

* We add the following synonymes: — Cuculus auratus, Linn. Syst. ed. 10, 1, 
112. — Gmel. Syst. I., 430. — Lath. Ind. Orn. p. 242. — Picus Canadensis striatus, 
Bkiss, 4, 72.— Penn, Arct. Zool. No. 158. 


at not more than six feet from the root. The sagacity of this bird in dis- 
covering, under a sound bark, a hollow limb or trunk of a tree, and its 
perseverjince in perforating it for the purpose of incubation, are truly 
surprising ; the male and female alternately relieving and encouraging 
each other by mutual caresses, renewing their labors for several days, 
till the object is attained, and the place rendered sufficiently capacious, 
convenient and secure. At this employment they are so extremely intent, 
that they may be heard till a very late hour in the evening, thumping 
like carpenters. I have seen an instance where they had dug first five 
inches straight forwards, and^'then downwards more than twice that dis-' 
tance, through a solid black oak. They carry in no materials for their 
nest, the soft chips, and dust of the wood, serving for this purpose. 
The female lays six white eggs, almost transparent. The young early 
leave the nest, and, climbing to the higher branches, are there fed by 
their parents. 

The food of this bird varies with the season. As the common cher- 
ries, bird-cherries, and berries of the sour gum, successively ripen, he 
regales plentifully on them, particularly on the latter ; but the chief 
food of this species, or that which is most usually found in his stomach, 
is wood-lice, and the young and larvae of ants, of which he is so immo- 
derately fond, that I have frequently found his stomach distended with 
a mass of these, and these only, as large nearly as a plum. For the 
procuring of these insects, nature has remarkably fitted him. The bills 
of Woodpeckers, in general, are straight, grooved or channelled, wedge- 
shaped, and compressed to a thin edge at the end, that they may the 
easier penetrate the hardest wood ; that of the Golden-winged Wood- 
pecker is long, slightly bent, ridged only on the top, and tapering almost 
to a point, yet still retaining a little of the wedge form there. Both, 
however, are admirably adapted to the peculiar manner each has of pro- 
curing its food. The former, like a powerful wedge, to penetrate the 
dead and decaying branches, after worms and insects ; the latter, like a 
long and sharp pick-axe, to dig up the hillocks of pismires, tRat inhabit 
old stumps in prodigious multitudes. These beneficial services would 
entitle him to some regard from the husbandman, were he not accused, 
and perhaps not without just cause, of being too partial to the Indian 
corn, when in that state which is usually called roasting-ears. His 
visits are indeed rather frequent about this time ; and the farmer, sus- 
pecting what is going on, steals through among the rows with his gun, 
bent on vengeance, and forgetful of the benevolent sentiment of the 
poet; that 

■ Just as wide of Justice he must fall 

Who thinks all made for One, not one for all." 
But farmers, in general, are not much versed in poetry, and pretty well 


acquainted with the value of corn, from the hard labor requisite in 
raising it. 

In rambling through the woods one day, I happened to shoot at one 
of these birds, and wounded him slightly in the wing. Finding him in 
full feather, and seemingly but little hurt, I took him home, and put 
him into a large cage, made of willows, intending to keep him in my 
own room, that we might become better acquainted. As soon as he 
found himself enclosed on all sides, he lost no time in idle fluttering, but 
throwing himself against the bars of the cage, began instantly to de- 
molish the willows, battering them with great vehemence, and uttering 
a loud piteous kind of cackling, similar to that of a hen when she is 
alarmed, and takes to wing. Poor Baron Trenck never labored with 
more eager diligence at the walls of his prison, than this son of the 
forest in his exertions for liberty ; and he exercised his powerful bill 
with such force, digging into the sticks, seizing and shaking them so 
from side to side, that he soon opened for himself a passage ; and 
though I repeatedly repaired the breach, and barricadoed every opening 
in the best manner I could, yet on my return into the room, I always 
found him at large, climbing up the chairs, or running about the floor, 
where, from the dexterity of his motions, moving backwards, forwards, 
and sidewise, with the same facility, it became difiicult to get hold of 
him again. Having placed him in a strong wire cage, he seemed to 
give up all hopes of making his escape, and soon became very tame ; 
fed on young ears of Indian corn ; refused apples, but ate the berries 
of the sour gum greedily, small winter grapes, and several other kinds 
of berries ; exercised himself frequently in climbing, or rather hopping 
perpendicularly along the sides of the cage ; and as evening drew on, 
fixed himself in a high hanging or perpendicular position, and slept with 
his head in his wing. As soon as dawn appeared, even before it was 
light enough to perceive him distinctly across the room, he descended 
to the bottom of the cage, and began his attack on the ears of Indian 
corn, rapping so loud as to be heard from every room in the house. 
After this he would sometimes resume his former position, and take 
another nap. He was beginning to become very amusing, and even 
sociable, when, after a lapse of several weeks, he became drooping, 
and died, as I conceived, from the effects of his wound. 

Some European naturalists (and among the rest Linnaeus himself, in 
his tenth edition of the Systema Naturae), have classed this bird with 
the genus Cuculus, or Cuckoo, informing their readers that it possesses 
many of the habits of the Cuckoo ; that it is almost always on the 
ground ; is never seen to climb trees like the other Woodpeckers, and that 
its bill is altogether unlike theirs ; every one of which assertions I must 
say is incorrect, and could have only proceeded from an entire unac- 
quaintance with the manners of the bird. Except in the article of the 


bill, and that, as been before observed, is still a little wedge-formed at 
the point, it differs in no one characteristic from the rest of its genus. 
Its nostrils are covered with tufts of recumbent hairs or small feathers ; 
its tongue is round, worm-shaped, flattened towards the tip, pointed, and 
furnished with minute barbs ; it is also long, missile, and can be 
instantaneously protruded to an uncommon distance. The os hyoides, or 
internal parts of the tongue, like those of its tribe, is a substance for 
strength and elasticity resembling whalebone, divided into two branches, 
each the thickness of a knitting-needle, that pass, one on each side of the 
neck, to the hind-head, where they unite, and run up along the skull in 
a groove, covered with a thin membrane or sheath ; descend into the 
upper mandible by the right side of the right nostril, and reach to 
within half an inch of the point of the bill, to which they are attached 
by another extremely elastic membrane, that yields when the tongue is 
thrown out, and contracts as it is retracted. In the other Woodpeckers 
we behold the same apparatus, differing a little in different species. In 
some these cartilaginous substances reach only to the top of the cranium ; 
in others they reach to the nostril ; and in one species they are wound 
round the bone of the right eye, which projects considerably more than 
the left for its accommodation. 

The tongue of the Golden-winged Woodpecker, like the others, is also 
supplied with a viscid fluid, secreted by two glands, that lie under the ear 
on each side, and are at least five times larger in this species than in any 
other of its size ; with this the tongue is continually moistened, so that 
every small insect it touches instantly adheres to it. The tail, in its 
strength and pointedness, as well as the feet and claws, prove that the 
bird was designed for climbing ; and in fact I have scarcely ever seen it 
on a tree five minutes at a time without climbing ; hopping not only up- 
wards and downwards, but spirally ; pui:suing and playing with its fellow, 
in this manner, round the body of the tree. I have also seen them a 
hundred times alight on the trunk of the tree ; though they more fre- 
quently alight on the branches ; but that they climb, construct like nests, 
lay the same number, and the like colored eggs, and have the manners 
and habits of the Woodpeckers, is notorious to every American natural- 
ist ; while neither in the form of their body, nor any other part, except 
in the bill being somewhat bent, and the toes placed two before, and two 
behind, have they the smallest resemblance whatever to the Cuckoo. 

It may not be improper, however, to observe, that there is another 
species of Woodpecker, called also Golden- Winged,* which inhabits the. 
country near the Cape of Good Hope, and resembles the, present, it is 
said, almost exactly in the color and form of its bill, and in the tint and 
markings of its plumage ; with this difference, that the moustaches are 

* Picus cafer, Turton's Linn. 


red instead of black, and the lower side of the wings, as well as theii 
shafts, are also red, where the other is golden yellow. It is also con- 
siderably less. With respect to the habits of this new species, we have 
no particular account ; but there is little doubt that they will be founa 
to correspond with the one we are now describing. 

The abject and degraded character which the Count de Buffon, with 
equal eloquence and absurdity, has drawn of the whole tribe of Wood- 
peckers, belongs not to the elegant and sprightly bird now before us. 
How far it is applicable to any of them will be examined hereafter. He 
is not " constrained to drag out an insipid existence in boring the bark 
and hard fibres of trees to extract his prey," for he frequently finds in 
the loose mouldering ruins of an old stump (the capital of a nation of 
pismires), more than is sufiicient for the wants of a whole week. He 
cannot be said to " lead a mean and gloomy life, without an intermission 
of labor," who usually feasts by the first peep of dawn, and spends the 
early, and sweetest hours of morning, on the highest peaks of the tallest 
trees, calling on his mate or companions ; or pursuing and gamboling 
with them round the larger limbs and body of the tree for hours toge- 
ther ; for such are really his habits. Can it be said that " necessity 
never grants an interval of sound repose" to that bird, who, while other 
tribes are exposed to all the peltings of the midnight storm, lodges dry 
and secure in a snug chamber of his own constructing ? or that " the 
narrow circumference of a tree circumscribes Ms dull round of life," 
who, as seasons and inclination inspire, roams from the frigid to the 
torrid zone, feasting on the abundance of various regions ? Or is it a 
proof that " his appetite is never softened by delicacy of taste," because 
he-so often varies his bill of fare, occasionally preferring to animal food 
the rich milkiness of young Indian corn, and the wholesome and nourish- 
ing berries of the Wild Cherry, Sour Gum, and Red Cedar ? Let the 
reader turn to the faithful representation of him given in the plate, and 
say whether his looks be " sad and melancholy !" It is truly ridiculous 
and astonishing that such absurdities should escape the lips or pen of 
one so able to do justice to the respective merits of every speqies ; but 
Buffon had too often a favorite theory to prop up, that led him insen- 
sibly astray ; and so, forsooth, the whole family of Woodpeckers must 
look sad, sour, and be miserable, to satisfy the caprice of a whimsical 
philosopher, who takes it into his head that they are, and ought to 
be, so. « 

But the count is not the only European who has misrepresented and 
traduced this beautiful bird. One has given him brown legs,* another 
a yellow neck ;t a third has declared him a Cuckoo,J and in an English 
translation of- Linnaeus' s System of Nature, lately published, he is char- 

* See Encyl. Brit. Art. Picus. t Latham. % Klein. 


acterized as follows : " transversely striate with black and gray ; chin 
and breast black ; does not climb trees;"* which is just as correct as if, 
in describing the human species, we should say — skin striped with black 
and green ; cheeks blue ; chin orange ; never walks on foot, &c. The 
pages of natural history should resemble a faithful mirror, in which 
mankind may recognise the true images of the living originals ; instead 
of which we find this department of them, too often, like the hazy and 
rough medium of wretched window-glass, through whose crooked pro- 
tuberances everything appears so strangely distorted, that one scarcely 
knows his most intimate neighbors and acquaintance. 

The Golden-winged Woodpecker has the back and wings above of a 
dark umber, transversely marked with equidistant streaks of black ; 
upper part of the head an iron gray ; cheeks and parts surrounding the 
eyes, a fine cinnamon color ; from the lower mandible a strip of black, 
an inch in length, passes down each side of the throat, and a lunated 
spot, of a vivid blood red, covers the hindhead, its two points reaching 
within half an inch of each eye ; the sides of the neck, below this, in- 
cline to a bluish gray ; throat and chin a very light cinnamon or fawn 
color ; the breast is ornamented with a broad crescent of deep black ; 
the belly and vent white, tinged with yellow, and scattered with innu- 
merable round spots of black, every feather having a distinct central 
spot, those on the thighs and vent being heart-shaped and largest ; the 
lower or inner side of the wing and tail, shafts of all the larger feathers, 
and indeed of almost every feather, are of a beautiful golden yellow — 
that on the shafts of the primaries being very distinguishable, even when 
the wings are shut ; the rump is white, and remarkably prominent ; the 
tail-coverts white, and curiously serrated with black ; upper side of the 
tail, and the tip below, black, edged with light loose filaments of a cream 
color, the two exterior feathers serrated with whitish ; shafts black 
towards the tips, the two middle ones nearly wholly so ; bill an inch and 
a half long, of a dusky horn color, somewhat bent, ridged only on the 
top, tapering, but not to a point, that being a little wedge-formed ; legs 
and feet light blue ; iris of the eye hazel ; length twelve inches, extent 
twenty. The female difi"ers from the male chiefly in the greater obscurity 
of the fine colors, and in wanting the black moustaches on each side 
of the throat. This description, as well as the drawing, was taken from 
a very beautiful and perfect specimen. 

Though this species, generally speaking, is migratory, yet they often 
remain with us in Pennsylvania during the whole winter. They also in- 
habit the continent of North America, from Hudson's Bay to Georgia ; 
and have been found by voyagers on the northwest coast of America. 
They arrive at Hudson's Bay in April, and leave it in September. Mr. 

* Turton's Linnseus, vol. i., p. 264. 


Hearne, however, informs us that the " Grolden-winged Woodpecker is 
almost the only species of Woodpecker that winters near Hudson's 
Bay." The natives there call it Ou-ihee-quan-nor-ow, from the golden 
color of the shafts and lower side of the wings. It has numerous pro- 
vincial appellations in the different States of the Union, such as " High- 
hole," from the situation of its nest, and " Hittock," " Tucker," " Pint," 
"Flicker," by which last it is usually known in Pennsylvania. These 
names have probably originated from a fancied resemblance of its notes 
to the sound of the words ; for one of its most common cries consists 
of two notes or syllables, frequently repeated, which, by the help of the 
hearer's imagination, may easily be made to resemble any or all of them. 



[Plate IX. Fig. 1.] 

Picus erythrocephalus, Linn. Syst. i., 174, 7. — Gmel. Syst. i., 429. — Pic noir d 
domino rouge, Bufpon, vii., 55. PI. Enl. 117. — Catesbt, I., 20. — Arct. Zool. ii., 
No. 160.— Lath. Syn. ii., 561.* 

There is perhaps no bird in North America more universally known 
r.han this. His tri-colored plumage, red, white, and black glossed with 
steel blue, is so striking, and characteristic ; and his predatory habits 
in the orchards and corn-fields, added to his numbers, and fondness for 
hovering along the fences, so very notorious, that almost every child is 
iicquainted with the Red-headed Woodpecker. In the immediate neigh- 
borhood of our large cities, where the old timber is chiefly cut down, he 
is not so frequently found; and yet at this present time, June, 1808, I 
know of several of their nests, within the boundaries of the city of 
Philadelphia. Two of these are in button-wood trees {Platanus occi- 
denialis), and another in the decayed limb of an elm. The old ones, I 
(ibserve, make their excursions regularly to the woods beyond the 
Kchuylkill, about a mile distant ; preserving great silence and circum- 
spection in visiting their nests ; precautions not much attended to by 
them in the depths of the woods, because there the prying eye of man 
is less to be dreaded. Towards the mountains, particularly in the vicin- 
ity of creeks and rivers, these birds are extremely abundant, especially 
in the latter end of summer. Wherever you travel in the interior, at 

* We add the following synonymes :— Picus ohscurus, Gmel. Syst. I., 429, young 
—Lath. Tnd. Orn. 228. — Picus Virginianus erythrocephalus, Bbiss. 4, p. 52. 


that season, you tear them screaming from the adjoining woods, rattling 
on the dead limbs of trees or on the fences, where they are perpetually 
seen flitting from stake to stake, on th-e roadside before you. Wherever 
there is a tree, or trees, of the wild-cherry, covered with ride fruit, there 
you see them busy among the branches ; ' and in passing orchards, you 
may easily know where to find the earliest, sweetest apples, by observ- 
ing those trees, on or near which the Red-headed Woodpecker is skulk- 
ing ; for he is so excellent a connoisseur in fruit, that wherever an apple 
or pear is found broached by him, it is sure to be amongst the ripest and 
best flavored. When alarmed, he seizes a capital one by striking his open 
bill deep into it, and bears it ofi" to the woods. When the Indian corn 
is in its rich, succulent, milky state, he attacks it with great eagerness, 
opening a passage through the numerous folds of the husk, and feeding 
on it with voracity. The girdled, or deadened timber, so common 
among corn-fields, in the back settlements, are his favorite retreats, 
whence he sallies out to make his depredaiions. He is fond of the ripe 
berries of the sour gum ; and pays pretty regular visits to the cherry- 
trees, when loaded with fruit. Towards fall, he often approaches the 
barn, or farm-house, and raps on the shingles and weather-boards. He 
is of a gay and frolicksome disposition ; and half a dozen of the frater- 
nity are frequently seen diving and vociferating around the high dead 
limbs of some large tree, pursuing and playing with each other, and 
amusing the passenger with their gambols. Their note or cry is shrill 
and lively, and so much resembles that of a species of tree frog, which 
frequents the same tree, that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the 
one from the other. 

Such are the vicious traits, if I may so speak, in the character of the 
Red-headed Woodpecker ; and I doubt not but from what has been said 
on this subject, that some readers would consider it meritorious to exter- 
minate the whole tribe, as a nuisance ; and in fact the legislatures of 
some of our provinces, in former times, off"ered premiums, to the amount 
of twopence per head, for their destruction.* But let us not condemn 
the species unheard. They exist; they must therefore be necessary. 
If their merits and usefulness be found, on examination, to preponderate 
against their vices, let us avail ourselves of the former, while we guard, 
as well as we can, against the latter. 

Though this bird occasionally regales himself on fruit, yet his natu- 
ral, and most useful, food is insects, particularly those numerous and 
destructive species that penetrate the bark and body of the tree, to de- 
posit their eggs and larvae, the latter of which are well known to make 
immense havoc. That insects are his natural food, is evident from the 
construction of his wedge-formed bill, the length, elasticity, and figure 

* Kalm. 


of His tongue, and the strength and position of his claws ; as well as 
from his usual habits. In fact, insects form at least two-thirds of his 
subsistence ; and his stomach is scarcely ever found without them. He 
searches for them with a dexterity and intelligence, I may safely say, 
more than human ; he perceives by the exterior appearance of the bark 
where they lurk below ; when he is dubious, he rattles vehemently on the 
outside with his bill, and his acute ear distinguishes the terrified vermin 
shrinking within to their inmost retreats, where his pointed and barbed 
tongue soon reaches them. The masses of bugs, caterpillars, and other 
larvae, which I have taken from the stomachs of these birds, have often 
surprised me. These larvae, it should be remembered, feed not only on 
the buds, leaves and blossoms, but on the very vegetable life of the tree, 
the alburnum, or newly forming bark and wood ; the consequence is, that 
whole branches, and whole trees, decay, under the silent ravages of these 
destructive vermin ; witness the late destruction of many hundred acres 
of pine-trees in the north-eastern parts of South Carolina;* and the 
thousands of peach-trees that yearly decay from the same cause. Will 
any one say, that taking half a dozen, or half a hundred, apples from a 
tree, is equally ruinous with cutting it down ? or, that the services of a 
useful animal should not be rewarded with a small portion of that which 
it has contributed to preserve ? We are told, in the benevolent language 
of the Scriptures, not to muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out 
the corn; and why should. not the same generous liberality be extended 
to this useful family of birds, which forms so powerful a phalanx against 
the inroads of many millions of destructive vermin. 

The Red-headed Woodpecker is, properly speaking, a bird of passage ; 
though even in the Eastern States, individuals are found during moderate 
winters, as well as in the states of New York and Pennsylvania; in 
Carolina they are somewhat more numerous during that season ; but 
not one-tenth of what are found in summer. They make their appear- 
ance in Pennsylvania about the first of May ; and leave us about the mid- 
dle of October. They inhabit from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and 
are also found on the western coast of North America. About the mid- 
dle of May they begin to construct their nests, which, like the rest of 
the genus, they form in the body, or large limbs, of trees, taking in no 
materials, but smoothing it within to the proper shape and size. The 
female lays six eggs, of a pure white ; and the young make their first 
appearance about the twentieth of June. During the first season, the 
head and neck of the young birds are blackish gray, which has occa- 

* In one place, on a tract of two thousand acres of pine land, on the Sampit 
river, near Georgetown, at least ninety trees in every hundred were destroyed by 
this pernicious insect, a small, black, winged bug, resembling the weevil, but some- 
what longer. 

Vol. I.— 12 


sioned some European writers to mistake them for females ; the white 
on the wing is also spotted with black ; but in the succeeding spring 
they receive their perfect plumage, and the male and female then differ 
only in the latter being rather smaller, and her colors not quite so vivid ; 
both have the head and neck deep scarlet ; the bill light blue, black 
towards the extremity, and strong ; back, primaries, wing-coverts and 
tail, black, glossed with steel blue; rump, lower part of the back, 
secondaries, and whole under parts, from the breast downwards, white ; 
legs and feet bluish green ; claws light blue ; round the eye a dusky nar- 
row skin, bare of feathers ; iris dark hazel ; total length nine inches 
and a half, extent seventeen inches. The figure in the plate was drawn 
and colored from a very elegant living specimen. 

Notwithstanding the care which this bird, in common with the rest of 
its genus, takes to place its young beyond the reach of enemies, within 
the hollows of trees ; yet there is one deadly foe, against whose depre- 
dation's neither the height of the tree, nor the depth of the cavity, is 
the least security. This is the Black Snake [Coluber constrictor), who 
frequently glides up the trunk of the tree, and, like a skulking savage, 
enters the Woodpecker's peaceful apartment, devours the eggs or help- 
less young, in spite of the cries and flutterings of the parents ; and, if 
the place be large enough, coils himself up in the spot they occupied, 
where he will sometimes remain for several days. The eager school-boy, 
after hazarding his neck to reach the Woodpecker's hole, at the triumph- 
ant moment when he thinks the nestlings his own, and strips his arm, 
lanching it down into the cavity, and grasping what he conceives to be 
the callow young, starts with horror at the sight of a hideous snake, 
and almost drops from his giddy pinnacle, retreating down the tree with 
terror and precipitation. Several adventures of this kind have come 
to my knowledge ; and one of them that was attended with serious con- 
sequences ; where both snake and boy fell to the ground ; and a broken 
thigh, and long confinement, cured the adventurer completely of his 
ambition for robbing Woodpeckers' nests. 



[Plate IX. Fig. 2.] 

Picus varius, Linn. Syst. i., 176, 20. — Gmel. Syst. i., 438. — Lepic varie de la Caro- 
line, Buff, vii., 77. PI. Enl. 785. — Yellow-bellied Woodpecker, Catesb. i., 21: — 
Arci. Zool. II., No. 166.— Lath. Syn. ii., 574, 20. Id. Sup. p. 109. 

This beautiful species is one of ^ our resident birds. It visits our 
orchards in tbe month of October, in great numbers ; is occasionally 
seen during the whole winter and spring ; but seems to seek the depths 
of the forest, to rear its young in ; for during summer, it is rarely seen 
among our settlements ; and even in the intermediate woods, I have 
seldom met with it in that season. According to Brisson, it inhabits 
the continent from Cayenne to Virginia ; and I may add, as far as to 
Hudson's Bay ; where according to Hutchins, they are called Mekisewe 
Pawpastaow ;* they are also common in the states of Kentucky and 
Ohio, and have been seen in the neighborhood of St. Louis. They are 
reckoned by Georgi, among the birds that frequent the Lake Baikal, in 
Asia,f but their existence there has not been satisfactorily ascertained. 

The habits of this species are similar to those of the Hairy and 
Downy Woodpeckers, with which it generally associates ; and which are 
both represented in the same plate. The only nest of this bird which 
I have met with, was in the body of an old pear-tree, about ten or 
eleven feet from the ground. The hole was almost exactly circular, 
small for the size of the bird, so that it crept in and out with difficulty, 
but suddenly widened, descending by a small angle, and then running 
downwards about fifteen inches. On the smooth solid wood lay four 
white eggs. This was about the twenty-fifth of May. Having no 
opportunity of visiting it afterwards, I cannot say whether it added any 
more eggs to the number ; I rather think it did not, as it appeared, at 
that time, to be sitting. 

The Yellow-bellied Woodpecker is eight inches and a half long, and 
in extent fifteen inches ; whole crown a rich and deep scarlet, bordered 
with black on each side, and behind forming a slight crest, which it 
frequently erects ; % from the nostrils, which are thickly covered with 

* Latham. t Ibid. 

% This circumstance seems to have been overlooked by naturalists. 



recumbent hairs, a narrow strip of white runs downward, curving round 
the breast, mixing with the yellowish white on the lower part of the 
breast ; throat the same deep scarlet as the crown, bordered with black, 
proceeding from the lower mandible on each side, and spreading into a 
broad rounding patch on the breast ; this black, in birds of the first 
and second year, is dusky gray, the feathers being only crossed with 
circular touches of black ; a line of white, and below it another of 
black, proceed, the first from the upper part of the eye, the other from 
the posterior half of the eye, and both lose themselves on the neck and 
back ; back dusky yellow, sprinkled and elegantly waved with black ; 
wings black, with a large oblong spot of white ; the primaries tipped 
and spotted with white ; the three secondaries, next the body, are also 
variegated with white ; rump white, bordered with black ; belly yellow ; 
sides under the wings more dusky yellow, marked with long arrow-heads 
of black ; legs and feet greenish blue ; tail black, consisting of ten 
feathers, the two outward feathers, on each side tipped with white, the 
next totally black, the fourth edged on its inner vane, half way down, 
with white, the middle one white on its interior vane, and spotted with 
black ; tongue flat, horny for half an inch at the tip, pointed, and armed 
along its sides with reflected barbs ; the other extremities of the tongue 
pass up behind the skull in a groove, and end near the right nostril ; in 
birds of the first and second year, they reach only to the crown ; bill 
an inch long, channelled, wedge-formed at the tip, and of a dusky horn 
color. The female is marked nearly as the male, but wants the scarlet 
on the throat, which is whitish ; she is also darker under the wings, and 
on the sides of the breast. The young of the first season, of both 
sexes, in October, have the crown sprinkled with black and deep scar- 
let ; the scarlet on the throat may be also observed in the young males. 
The principal food of these birds is insects ; and they seem particularly 
fond of frequenting orchards, boring the trunks of the apple-trees, in 
their eager search after them. On opening them, the liver appears 
very large, and of a dirty gamboge color ; the stomach strongly mus- 
cular, and generally filled with fragments of beetles and gravel. In 
the morning they are extremely active in the orchards, and rather shyer 
than the rest of their associates. Their cry is also diff'erent, but though 
it is easily distinguishable in the woods, cannot be described by words. 



[Plate IX. Fig. 3.] 

Picus villosus, Linn. Syat. i., 175, 16. — Pic cTievelu de Virginie, Bupfon, tii. 74. — 
Pic varie mdle de Virginie, PI. enl. 754. — Hairy Woodpecker, Catesbt, i., 13, 
fig. %~Arct. Zool. II., No. 164.— Lath. Syn. ii., 572, 18. Id. Sup. 108. 

This is another of our resident birds, and, like the former, a haunter 
of orchards, and borer of apple-trees, an eager hunter of insects, their 
eggs and larvae, in old stumps, and old rails, in rotten branches, and 
crevices of the bark ; having all the characters of the Woodpecker 
strongly marked. In the month of May, he retires with his mate to the 
woods, and either seeks out a branch already hollow, or cuts out an 
opening for himself. In the former case, I have known his nest more than 
five feet distant from the mouth of the hole ; and in the latter, he digs 
first horizontally, if in the body of the tree, six or eight inches, and 
then downwards, obtusely, for twice that distance ; carrying up the 
chips with his bill, and scraping them out with his feet. They also not 
unfrequently choose the orchard for breeding in ; and even an old stake 
of the fence, which they excavate for this purpose. The female lays 
five white eggs, and hatches in June. This species is more numerous 
than the last in Pennsylvania, and more domestic ; frequently approach- 
ing the farm-house, and skirts of the town. In Philadelphia, I have 
many times observed them examining old ragged trunks of the willow 
and poplar, while people were passing immediately below. Their cry is 
strong, shrill and tremulous ; they have also a single note or chuck, 
which they often repeat, in an eager manner, as they hop about, and 
dig into the crevices of the trees. They inhabit the continent, from 
Hudson's Bay to Carolina and Georgia. 

The Hairy Woodpecker is nine inches long, and fifteen in extent ; 
crown black ; line over and under the eye white ; the eye is placed in a 
black line, that widens as it descends to the back ; hind-head scarlet, 
sometimes intermixed with black ; nostrils hid under remarkably thick, 
bushy, recumbent hairs or bristles ; under the bill are certain long hairs 
thrown forward, and upwards, as represented in the figure ; bill a bluish 
horn color, grooved, wedged at the end, straight, and about an inch 
and a quarter long ; touches of black, proceeding from the lower man- 
dible, end in a broad black stripe, that joins the black on the shoulder ; 



back black, divided by a broad lateral strip of white, the feathers com- 
posing which are loose and unwebbed, resembling hairs, whence its 
name ; rump and shoulders of the wing, black ; wings black, tipped and 
spotted with white, three rows of spots being visible on the secondaries, 
and five on the primaries ; greater wing-coverts also spotted with white ; 
tail as in the others, cuneiform, consisting of ten strong-shafted and 
pointed feathers, the four middle ones black, the next partially white, 
the two exterior ones white, tinged at the tip with a brownish burnt 
color ; tail-coverts black ; whole lower side pure white ; legs, feet and 
claws, light blue, the latter remarkably large and strong ; inside of the 
mouth flesh-colored ; tongue pointed, beset with barbs, and capable of 
being protruded more than an inch and a half; the 08 hyoides, in this 
species, pass on each side of the neck, ascend the skull, pass down 
toward the nostril, and are wound round the bone of the right eye, 
which projects considerably more than the left for its accommodation. 
The great mass of hairs, that cover the nostril, appears to be designed 
as a protection to the front of the head, when the bird is cQgaged in 
digging holes into the wood. The membrane, which encloses the brain, 
in this, as in all the other species of Woodpeckers, is also of extraordinary 
strength, no doubt to prevent any bad effects from violent concussion, 
while the bird is employed in digging for food. • The female wants the 
red on the hind-head ; and the white below is tinged with brownish. 
The manner of flight of these birds has been already described, under a 
former species, as consisting of alternate risings and sinkings. The 
Hairy Woodpeckers generally utter a loud tremulous scream, as they 
set off, and when they alight. They are hard to kill, and, like the Eed- 
headed Woodpecker, hang by the claws, even of a single foot, as long as 
a spark of life remains, before they drop. 

This species is common at Hudson's Bay ; and has lately been found 
in England. Dr. Latham examined a pair, which were shot near Halifax, 
in Yorkshire ; and on comparing the male with one brought from North 
America, could perceive no difference, but in a slight interruption of 
the red that marked the hind-head of the former ; a circumstance which 
I have frequently observed in our own. The two females corresponded 



[Plate IX. Fig. 4.] 

Picus pubescens, Linn. Sysi. i., 175, 15. — Gmel. Sysi. i., 435. — Petit Pic varie de 
Virginie, Bufpon, til, 76. — Smallest Woodpecker, Catesb. i., 21. — Arct. Zool. 
II., No. 165. — Little Woodpecker, Lath. Syn. ii., 573, 19. Id. Sup. 109. 

This is the smallest of our Woodpeckers, and so exactly resembles 
the former in its tints and markings, and in almost everything, except 
its diminutive size, that I -wonder how it passed through the Count de 
Buffon's hands, without being branded a,s " a spurious race, degenerated 
by the influence of food, climate, or some unknown cause." But though 
it has escaped this infamy, charges of a much more heinous nature have 
been brought against it, not only by the writer above-mentioned, but by 
the whole venerable body of zoologists in Europe, who have treated 
of its history, viz. that it is almost constantly boring and digging into 
apple-trees ; and that it is the most destructive of its whole genus to 
the orchards. The first part of this charge I shall not pretend to deny ; 
how far the other is founded in truth will appear in the sequel. Like 
the two former species, it remains with us the whole year. About the 
middle of May, the male and female look out for a suitable place for 
the reception of their eggs and young. An apple, pear or cherry tree, 
often in the near neighborhood of the farm-house, is generally pitched 
upon for this purpose. The tree is minutely reconnoitred for several 
days, previous to the operation, and the work is first begun by the male, 
who cuts out a hole in the solid wood, as circular as if described with a 
pair of compasses. He is occasionally relieved by the female, both 
parties working with the most indefatigable diligence. The direction 
of the hole, if made in the body of the tree, is generally downwards, 
by an angle of thirty or forty degrees, for the distance of six or eight 
inches, and then straight down for ten or twelve more ; within roomy, 
capacious, and as smooth as if polished by the cabinet-maker ; but the 
entrance is judiciously left just so large as to admit the body of the 
owner. During this labor, they regularly carry out the chips, often 
strewing them at a distance to prevent suspicion. This operation some- 
times occupies the chief part of a week. Before she begins to lay, the 
female often visits the place, passes out and in, examines every part, 
both of the exterior and interior, with great attention, as every pru- 



dent tenant of a new house ought to do, and at length takes complete 
possession. The eggs are generally six, pure white, and laid on the 
smooth bottom of the cavity. The male occasionally supplies the 
female with food, while she is sitting ; and about the last week in June, 
the young are perceived making their way up the tree, climbing with 
considerable dexterity. All this goes on with great regularity, where 
no interruption is met with ; but the House Wren, who also builds in 
the hollow of a tree, but who is neither furnished with the necessary 
tools, nor strength for excavating such an apartment for himself, allows 
the Woodpeckers to go on, till he thinks it will answer his purpose, then 
attacks him with violence and generally succeeds in driving them off. 
I saw, some weeks ago, a striking example of this, where the Wood- 
peckers we are now describing, after commencing in a cherry-tree, 
within a few yards of the house, and having made considerable progress, 
were turned out by the Wren : the former began again on a pear-tree 
in the garden, fifteen or twenty yards off, whence, after digging out a 
most complete apartment, and one egg being laid, they were once more 
assaulted by the same impertinent intruder, and finally forced to abandon 
the place. 

The principal characteristics of this little bird are diligence, famil- 
iarity, perseverance, and a strength and energy in the head, and muscles 
of the neck, which are truly astonishing. Mounted on the infected 
branch of an old apple-tree, where insects have lodged their corroding 
and destructive brood, in the crevices between the bark and wood, he 
labors, sometimes for half an hour, incessantly at the same spot, before ■ 
he has succeeded in dislodging and destroying them. At these times 
you may walk up pretty close to the tree, and even stand immediately 
below it, within five or six feet of the bird, without in the least embar- 
rassing him ; the strokes of his bill are distinctly heard several hundred 
yards off ; and I have known him to be at work for two hours together 
on the same tree. Buffon calls this, "incessant toil and slavery," — 
their attitude, " a painful posture," — and their life, " a dull and 
insipid existence;" expressions improper, because untrue; and absurd, 
because contradictory. The posture is that for which the whole 
organization of his frame is particularly adapted ; and though to a 
Wren, or a Humming-bird, the labor would be both toil and slavery, 
yet to him it is, I am convinced, as pleasant, and as amusing, as the 
sports of the chase to the hunter, or the sucking of flowers to the 
Humming-bird. The eagerness with which he traverses the upper and 
lower sides of the branches ; the cheerfulness of his cry, and the 
liveliness of his motions while digging into the tree, and dislodging 
the vermin, justify this belief. He has a single note, or chink, which, 
like the former species, he frequently repeats. And when he flies 
off, or alights on another tree, he utters a rather shriller cry, composed 


of nearly the same kind of note, quickly reiterated. In fall and 
■winter, he associates ■with the Titmouse, Creeper, &c., both in their 
■wood and orchard excursions ; and usually leads the van. Of all our 
Woodpeckers, none rid the apple-trees of so many vermin as this, 
digging off the moss, ■which the negligence of the proprietor had 
suffered to accumulate, and probing every crevice. In fact, the orchard 
is his favorite resort in all seasons; and his industry is unequalled, 
and almost incessant, ■which is more than can be said of any other 
species we have. In fall, he is particularly fond of boring the apple- 
trees for insects, digging a circular hole through the bark, just sufficient 
to admit his bill, after that a second, third, &c., in pretty regular 
horizontal circles round the body of the tree ; these parallel circles of 
holes are often not more than an inch, or an inch and a half, apart, and 
sometimes so close together, that I have covered eight or ten of them 
at once ■with a dollar. From nearly the surface of the ground, up to 
the first fork, and sometimes far beyond it, the whole bark of many apple- 
trees is perforated in this manner, so as to appear as if made by 
successive discharges of buck-shot; and our little Woodpecker, the 
subject of the present account, is the principal perpetrator of this 
supposed mischief. I say supposed, for so far from these perforations 
of the bark being ruinous, they are not only harmless, but, I have good 
reason to believe, really beneficial to the health and fertility of the tree. 
I leave it to the philosophical botanist to account for this ; but the fact 
I am confident of. In more than fifty orchards, which I have myself 
carefully examined, those trees which were marked by the Woodpecker 
(for some trees they never touch, perhaps because not "penetrated by 
insects), ■were uniformly the most thriving, and seemingly the most pro- 
ductive ; many of these were upwards of sixty years old, their trunks 
completely covered with holes, ■while the branches were broad, luxuri- 
ant, and loaded with fruit. Of decayed trees, more than three-fourths 
were untouched by the Woodpecker. Several intelligent farmers, with 
whom I have conversed, candidly acknowledge the truth of these 
observations, and with justice look upon these birds as beneficial ; but 
the most common opinion is, that they bore the tree to suck the sap, 
and so destroy its vegetation ; though pine and other resinous trees, on 
the juices of which it is not pretended they feed, are often found equally 
perforated. Were the sap of the tree their object, the saccharine juice 
of the birch, the sugar-maple, and several others, would be much more 
inviting, because more sweet_ and nourishing, than that of either the 
pear or apple-tree ; but I have not observed one mark on the former, 
for ten thousand that ma,j be seen on the latter ; besides, the early 
part of spring is the season when the sap flows most abundantly ; where- 
as it is only during the months of September, October, and November, 
that Woodpeckers are seen so indefatigably engaged in orchards, probing 


every crack and crevice, boring through the bark, and, what is worth 
remarking, chiefly on the south and south-west sides of the tree, for 
the eggs and larvae deposited there, by the countless swarms of summer 
insects. These, if sufi"ered to remain, would prey upon the very vitals, 
if I may so express it, of the tree, and in the succeeding summer, give 
birth to myriads more of their race, equally destructive. 

Here then is a whole species, I may say genus, of birds, which Pro- 
vidence seems to have formed for the protection of our fruit and forest 
trees, from the ravages of vermin ; which every day destroy millions 
of those noxious insects, that would otherwise blast the hopes of the 
husbandman ; and which even promote the fertility of the tree ; and, 
in return, are proscribed by those who ought to have been their pro- 
tectors ; and incitements and rewards held out for their destruction ! 
Let us examine better into the operations of nature, and many of our 
mistaken opinions, and groundless prejudices, will be abandoned for 
more just, enlarged, and humane modes of thinking. 

The length of the Downy Woodpecker is six inches ' and three- 
quarters, and its extent twelve inches ; crown black ; hind-head deep 
scarlet ; stripe over the eye white ; nostrils thickly covered with re- 
cumbent hairs, or small feathers, of a cream color : these, as in the 
preceding species, are thick and bushy, as if designed to preserve the 
forehead from injury during the violent action of digging ; the back is 
black, and divided by a lateral strip of white, loose, downy, unwebbed 
feathers ; wings black, spotted with white ; tail-coverts, rump, and four 
middle feathers of the tail, black ; the other three on each side white, 
crossed with touches of black ; whole under parts, as well as the sides 
of the neck, white ; the latter marked with a streak of black, proceed- 
ing from the lower mandible, exactly as in the Hairy Woodpecker ; legs 
and feet bluish green ; claws light blue, tipped with black ; tongue 
formed like that of the preceding species, horny towards the tip, where 
for one-eighth of an inch it is barbed; bill of a bluish horn color, 
grooved, and wedge-formed, like most of the genus ; eye dark hazel. 
The female wants the red on the hind-head, having that part white ; and 
the breast and belly are of a dirty white. 

This, and the two former species, are generally denominated Sap- 
suckers ; they have also several other provincial appellations, equally 
absurd, which it may, perhaps, be more proper to suppress, than to 
sanction by repeating. 



[Plate XV. Fig. 1.] 

This new species I first discovered in the pine woods of North Caro- 
lina. The singularity of its voice, which greatly resembles the chirping 
of young nestlings, and the red streak on the side of its head, suggested 
the specific name I have given it. It also extends through South Caro- 
lina and Georgia, at least as far as the Altamaha river. Observing the 
first specimen I found to be so slightly marked with red, I suspected it 
to be a young bird, or imperfect in its plumage, but the great numbers 
I afterwards shot, satisfied me that this is a peculiarity of the species. 
It appeared exceedingly restless, active, and clamorous; and every- 
where I found its manners the same. 

This bird seems to be an intermediate link between the Red-bellied 
and the Hairy Woodpecker, represented in Plates VII. and IX. of this 
work. It has the back of the former, and the white belly and spotted 
neck of the latter ; but wants the breadth of red in both, and is less 
than either. A preserved specimen has been deposited in the Museum 
of this city. 

This Woodpecker is seven inches and a half long, and thirteen broad ; 
the upper part of the head is black ; the back barred with twelve white, 
transversely, 'semicircular lines, and as many of black, alternately ; the 
cheeks and sides of the neck are white ; whole lower parts the same ; 
from the lower mandible, a list of black passes towards the shoulder of 
the wing, where it is lost in small black spots on each side of the breast ; 
the wings are black, spotted with white ; the four middle tail feathers 
black, the rest white spotted with black ; rump black, variegated with 
white ; the vent white, spotted with black ; the hairs that cover the nos- 
trils are of a pale cream color ; the bill deep slate ; but what forms the 
most distinguishing peculiarity of this bird, is a fine line of vermilion, 
on each side of the head, seldom occupying more than the edge of a 
single feather. The female is destitute of this ornament ; but in the rest 
of her plumage difi"ers in nothing from the male. The iris of the eye, 
in both, was hazel. 

The stomachs of all those I opened were filled with small black in- 
sects, and fragments of large beetles. The posterior extremities of the 
tongue reached nearly to the base of the upper mandible. 




[Plate XX. Fig. 3.] 

Of this very beautiful, and singularly marked, species, I am unable 
to give any farther account than as relates to its external appearance. 
Several skins of this species were preserved ; all of which I examined 
with care ; and found little or no difference among them, either in the 
tints or disposition of the colors. 

The length of this was eleven inches and a half; the back, wings, and 
tail, were black, with a strong gloss of green ; upper part of the head 
the same ; front, chin, and cheeks, beyond the eyes, a dark rich red : 
round the neck passes a broad collar of white, which spreads over the 
breast, and looks as if the fibres of the feathers had been silvered ; these 
feathers are also of a particular structure, the fibres being separate, and 
of a hair-like texture ; belly deep vermilion, and of the same strong 
hair-like feathers, intermixed with silvery ones ; vent black ; legs and 
feet dusky, inclining to greenish blue ; bill dark horn color. 

For a more particular, and, doubtless, a more correct account of this, 
and the two preceding species,* the reader is referred to General Clark's 
History of the Expedition, now preparing for the press. The three 
birds I have here introduced, are but a, small part of the valuable col- 
lection of new subjects in natural history, discovered, and preserved, 
amidst a thousand dangers and diflSculties, by th#se two enterprising 
travellers, whose intrepidity was only equalled by their discretion, and 
by their active and laborious pursuit of whatever might tend to render 
their journey useful to science and to their country. It was the request, 
and particular wish, of Captain Lewis, made to me in person, that I 
should make drawings of such of the feathered tribes as had been pre- 
served, and were new. That brave soldier, that amiable and excellent 
man, over whose solitary grave in the wilderness I have since shed tears 
of afiliction, having been cut off in the prime of his life, I hope I shall 
be pardoned for consecrating this humble note to his memory, until a 
more able pen shall do better justice to the subject. 

* Wilson here alludes to Clark's Crow, and the Louisiana Tanager, both of which 
are figured in the same plate with Lewis's Woodpecker. 




[Plate VII. Fig. 2.] 

Picus Carolinus, Linn. Syst. i., 174, 10. — Pic varie de la Jamaique, Bupfon, til, 
72, PI. Enl. 597. — Picus varius medius Jamaicensis, Sloan. Jam. 299, 15. — Ja- 
maica Woodpecker, Bdw. 244. — Catesb. i., 19, fig. 2. — Arct. Zool. ii., No. 161. — 
Lath. Syn. ii., 570, 17. Id. 571, 17. A. Id. B. — Pic raye de la Louisiane, Buff. 
VII., 73, PI. Enl. 692. 

This species possesses all the restless and noisy habits so characteris- 
tic of its tribe. It is more shy, and less domestic, than the Red-headed 
Woodpecker, (P. erythroee.phalus), or any of the other spotted Wood- 
peckers. It is also more solitary. It prefers the largest, high-timbered 
woods, and tallest decayed trees of the forest ; seldom appearing near 
the ground, on the fences, or in orchards, or open fields ; yet where the 
trees have been deadened, and stand pretty thick, in fields of Indian 
corn, as is common in new settlements, I have observed it to be very 
numerous ; and have found its stomach sometimes completely filled with 
that grain. Its voice is hoarser than any of the others ; and its usual 
note, ehow, has often reminded me of the barking of a little lap-dog. 
It is a most expert climber, possessing -extraordinary strength in the 
muscles of its feet and claws, and moves about the body, and horizontal 
limbs, of the trees, with equal facility in all directions. It rattles, like 
the rest of the tribe, on the dead limbs, and with such violence as to be 
heard, in still weather, more than half a mile ofi"; and listens to hear 
the insects it has alarmed. In the lower side of some lofty branch, that 
makes a considerable angle with the horizon, the male and female, in 
conjunction, dig out a circular cavity for their nest, sometimes out of 
the solid wood, but more generally into a hollow limb, twelve or fifteen 
inches above where it becomes solid. This is usually performed early in 
April. The female lays five eggs, of a pure white, or almost semi- 
transparent ; and the young generally make their appearance towards 
the latter end of May, or beginning of June, climbing up to the higher 
parts of the tree, being as yet unable to fly. In this situation they are 
fed for several days, and often become the prey of the Hawks. From 
seeing the old ones continuing their caresses after this period, I believe 
that they often, and perhaps always, produce two broods in a season. 
During the greater part of the summer, the young have the ridge of the 



neck and head of a dull brownisli ash ; and a male of the third year 
has received his complete colors. 

The Eed-bellied Woodpecker is ten inches in length, and seventeen in 
extent ; the bill is nearly an inch and a half in length, wedged at the 
point, but not quite so much grooved as some others, strong, and of a 
bluish-black color ; the nostrils are placed in one of these grooves, and 
covered with curving tufts of light brown hairs, ending in black points ; 
the feathers on the front stand more erect than usual, and are of a dull 
yellowish red ; from thence along the whole upper part of the head and 
neck, down the back, and spreading round to the shoulders, is of the 
most brilliant golden glossy red ; the whole cheeks, line over the eye, 
and under side of the neck, is a pale buff color, which on th'j breast and 
belly deepens into a yellowish ash, stained on the belly with a blood 
red ; the vent and thigh feathers are dull white, marked down their cen- 
tres with heart-formed, and long arrow-pointed, spots of black. The 
back is black, crossed with transverse curving lines of white ; the wings 
are also black, the lesser wing-coverts circularly tipped, and the whole 
primaries and secondaries beautifully crossed with bars of white, and 
also tipped with the same ; the rump is white, interspersed with touches 
of black ; the tail-coverts white near their extremities ; the tail consists 
of ten feathers, the two middle ones black, their interior webs or vanes 
white, crossed with diagonal spots of black ; these, when the edges of 
the two feathers just touch, coincide, and form heart-shaped spots ; 
a narrow sword-shaped line of white runs up the exterior side of the 
shafts of the same feathers ; the next four feathers, on each side, are 
black, the outer edges of the exterior oneg barred with black and 
white, which, on the lower side, seems to cross the whole vane as in the 
figure ; the extremities of the whole tail, except the outer feather, are 
black, sometimes touched with yellowish or cream color ; the legs and 
feet are of a bluish green, and the iris of the eye red. The tongue, or 
OS liyoides, passes up over the hind-head, and is attached by a very 
elastic retractile membrane, to the base of the right nostril ; the ex- 
tremity of the tongue is long, horny, very pointed, and thickly edged 
with barbs, the other part of the tongue is worm-shaped. In several 
specimens, I found the stomach nearly filled with pieces of a species of 
fungus, that grows on decayed wood, and in all with great numbers 
of insects, seeds, gravel, &c. &c. The female differs from the male, in 
having the crown, for an inch, of a fine ash, and the black not so intense ; 
the front is reddish as in the male, and the whole hind-head, down to 
the back, likewise of the same rich red as his. In the bird, from which 
this latter description was taken, I found a large cluster of minute eggs, 
to the number of fifty or upwards, in the beginning of the month of 

This species inhabits a large extent of country, in all of which it 


seems to be resident, or nearly so. I found them abundant in Upper 
Canada, and in the northern parts of the state of New York, in the 
month of November ; they also inhabit the whole i^tlantic states as far 
as Georgia, and the southern extremity of Florida; as well as the 
interior parts of the United States, as far west as Chilicothe, in the 
state of Ohio, and, according to Buffon, Louisiana. They are said to 
be the only Woodpeckers found in Jamaica ; though I question whether 
this be correct ; and to be extremely fond of the capsicum, or Indian 
pepper.* They are certainly much hardier birds, and capable of sub- 
sisting on coarser, and more various fare, and of sustaining a greater 
degree of cold, than several others of our Woodpeckers. They are 
active and vigorous ; and being almost continually in search of insects, 
that injure our forest trees, do not seem to deserve the injurious epithets 
that almost all writers have given them. It is true, they frequently 
perforate the timber in pursuit of these vermin, but this is almost always 
in dead and decaying parts of the tree, which are the nests and nurseries 
of millions of destructive insects. Considering matters in this light I 
do not think their services overpaid by all the ears of Indian corn they 
consume ; and would protect them within my own premises as being 
more useful than injurious. 



[Plate II. Fig. 3.] 

Sitta CaroUnensis, Briss. iir., p. 596. — Catesb. i., 22, fig. 2. — Lath, i., 650, B. — 
Sitta Europea, Gray hlack-capped Nuthatch, Bartram, p. 289. 

The bill of this bird is black, the upper mandible straight, the lower 
one rounded upwards, towards the point, and white near the base ; the 
nostrils are covered with long curving black hairs ; the tongue is of a 
horny substance, and ending in several sharp points ; the general color 
above is of a light blue or lead ; the tail consists of twelve feathers, 
the two middle ones lead color, the next three are black, tipped with 
white for one-tenth, one-fourth, and half of an inch ; the two next are 
also black, tipped half an inch or more with white, which runs nearly 
an inch up their exterior edges, and both have the white at the tips 
touched with black ; the legs are of a purple or dirty flesh color ; tlie 

* Sloane. 


hind claw is mucli the largest ; the inside of the wing at the bend is 
black ; below this is a white spot spreading over the roots of the first 
five primaries ; the whole length is five inches and a half, extent eleven. 

Mr. Pennant considers this bird as a mere variety of the European 
Nuthatch; but if difference in size, color and habits, be sufficient 
characteristics of a distinct species, this bird is certainly entitled to be 
considered as such. The head and back of the European species is of 
a uniform bluish gray ; the upper parts of the head, neck, and shoulders 
of ours are a deep black, glossed with green ; the breast and belly of 
the former is a dull orange, with streaks of chestnut, those parts in the 
latter are pure white. The European has a line of black passing 
through the eye, half way down the neck ; the present species has 
nothing of the kind; but appears with the inner webs of the three 
shortest secondaries, and the primaries, of a jet black ; the latter tipped 
with white, and the vent and lower parts of the thighs of a rust color ; 
the European therefore, and the present, are evidently two distinct and 
different species. 

This bird builds its nest early in April, in the hole of a tree ; in a 
hollow rail in the fence ; and sometimes in the wooden cornice under 
the eaves ; and lays five eggs, of a dull white, spotted with brown at the 
greater end. The male is extremely attentive to the female while sit- 
ting, supplying her regularly with sustenance, stopping frequently at 
the mouth of the hole, calling and offering her what he has brought, in 
the most endearing manner. Sometimes he seems to stop merely to in- 
quire how she is, and to lighten the tedious moments with his soothing 
chatter. He seldom rambles far from the spot, and when danger appears, 
regardless of his own safety, he flies instantly to alarm her. When 
both are feeding on the trunk of the same tree, or of adjoining ones, he 
is perpetually calling on her ; and, from the momentary pause he makes, 
it is plain that he feels pleased to hear her reply. 

The White-breasted Nuthatch is common almost everywhere in the 
woods of North America ; and may be known at a distance by the notes 
quanJc, quanh, frequently repeated, as he moves upward and down, in 
spiral circles, around the body, and larger branches, of the tree, prob- 
ing behind the thin scaly bark of the white-oak, and shelling off con- 
• siderable pieces of it, in search after spiders, ants, insects and their 
larvse. He rests and roosts with his head downwards ; and appears to 
possess a degree of curiosity not common to many birds ; frequently 
descending, very silently, within a few feet of the root of the tree 
where you happen to stand, stopping, head downward, stretching out his 
neck in a horizontal position, as if to reconnoitre your appearance ; and 
after several minutes of silent observation, wheeling round, he again 
mounts, with fresh activity, piping his unisons as before. Strongly 
attached to his native forests, he seldom forsakes them ; and amidst the 


rigors of the severest winter weather, his note is still heard in the bleak 
and leafless woods, and among the howling branches. Sometimes the 
rain, freezing as it falls, encloses every twig, and even the trunk of the 
tree, in a hard transparent coat or shell of ice. On these occasions, I 
have observed his anxiety and dissatisfaction, at being with difficulty 
able to make his way along the smooth surface ; at these times generally 
abandoning the trees, gleaning about the stables around the house, mix- 
ing among the fowls, entering the barn, and examining the beams and 
rafters, and every place where he may pick up a subsistence. 

The name Nuthatch has been bestowed on this family of birds from 
their supposed practice of breaking nuts by repeated hatchings, or ham- 
merings with their bills. Soft-shelled nuts, such as chestnuts, chinko- 
pins, and hazel-nuts, they may probably be able to demolish, though I 
have never yet seen them so engaged ; but it must be rather in sealrch 
of maggots that sometimes breed there, than for the kernel. It is how- 
ever said that they lay up a large store of nuts for winter ; but as I 
have never either found any of their magazines, or seen them collecting 
them, I am inclined to doubt the fact. From the great numbers I have 
opened at all seasons of the year, I have every reason to believe that 
ants, small seeds, insects and their larvae, form their chief subsistence, 
such matters alone being uniformly found in their stomachs. Neither 
can I see what necessity they could have to circumambulate the trunks 
of trees, with such indefatigable and restless diligence, while bushels of 
nuts lay scattered round their roots. As to the circumstance mentioned 
by Dr. Plott, of the European Nuthatch " putting its bill into a crack 
in the bough of a tree, and making such a violent sound, as if it was 
rending asunder," this, if true, would be sufficient to distinguish it from 
the species we have- been just describing, which possesses no such 
faculty. The female differs little from the male in color, chiefly in the 
black being less deep on the head and wings. 

Vol. I.— 13 



[Plate II. Fig. 4.] 

SiUa Canadensis, Briss. hi., p. 592. — Small Nuthatch, Lath, i., 651. — Sitta Varia, 

Bart. p. 289. 

This bird is mucli smaller than the last, measuring only four inches 
and a half in length, and eight inches in extent. In the form of its 
bill, tongue, nostrils, and in the color of the back and tail-feathers, it 
exactly agrees with the former ; the secondaries are not relieved with 
the deep black of the other species, and the legs, feet, and claws, are of 
a dusky greenish yellow ; the upper part of the head is black, bounded by 
a stripe of white passing round the frontlet ; a line of black passes 
through the eye to the shoulder ; below this is another line of white ; 
the chin is white ; the other under parts a light rust color ; the primaries 
and whole wings a dusky lead color. The breast and belly of the female 
is not of so deep a brown, and the top of the head less intensely black. 

This species is migratory, passing from the north, where they breed, 
to the southern states in October, and returning in April. Its voice is 
sharper, and its motions much quicker than those of the other, being so 
rapid, restless and small, as to make it a difficult .point to shoot one of 
them. When the two species are in the woods together, they are easily 
distinguished by their voices, the note of the least being nearly an oc- 
tave sharper than that of its companion, and repeated more hurriedly. 
In other respects their notes are alike unmusical and monotonous. Ap- 
proaching so near to each other in their colors and general habits, it is 
probable that their mode of building, &c., may be also similar. 

Buifon's Torchepot du Canada, Canada Nuthatch of other European 
writers, is either a young bird of the present species, in its imperfect 
plumage, or a different sort that rarely visits the United States. If the 
figure (PI. Enl. 623) be correctly colored, it must be the latter, as the 
tail and head appear of the same bluish gray or lead color as the back. 
The young birds of this species, it may be observed, have also the crown 
of a lead color during the first season ; but the tail-feathers are marked 
nearly as those of the old ones. Want of precision in the figures and 
descriptions of these authors, makes it difficult to determine ; but I 
think it very probable, that Sitta Jamaicensis minor, Briss. ; the Least 



Loggerhead of Brown, Sitta Jamaicensia, Linn. ; and Sitta Uanadensis 
of Linn., Gmel., and Briss., are names that have been originally applied 
to different individuals of the species- we are now describing. 

This bird is particularly fond of" the seeds of pine-trees. You may 
traverse many thousand acres of oak, hickory and chestnut woods, dur- 
ing winter, without meeting with a single individual ; but no sooner do 
you enter among the pines than, if the air be still, you have only to 
listen for a few moments, and their note will direct • you where to find 
them. They usually feed in pairs, climbing about in all directions, 
generally accompanied by the former spefcies, as well as by the Black- 
Capped Titmouse, Parus atricapillus, and the Crested Titmouse, Parus 
bicolor, and not unfrequently by the small Spotted Woodpecker, Picus 
pubescens ; the whole company proceeding regularly from tree to tree 
through the woods, like a corps of pioneers ; while in a calm day the 
rattling of their bills, and the rapid motions of their bodies, thrown 
like so many tumblers and rope-dancers into numberless positions, toge- 
ther with the peculiar chatter of each, are altogether very amusing ; 
conveying the idea of hungry diligence, bustle and activity. Both these 
little birds, from the great quantity of destructive insects and larvae 
they destroy, both under the bark, and among the tender buds of our 
fruit and forest trees, are entitled to, and truly deserving of, our esteem 
and protection. 



[Plate XV. Fig. 2.] 

Sitta pusilla, Lath. Ind. Orn. 263. — Small Nuthatch, Catesbt, Car. i., 22, upper 
figure. — La Petite Siiielle d tete brune, Burr, v., 474, — Bkiss. hi., 598. — Lath. 
I., 661, C. 

This bird 'is chiefly an inhabitant of Virginia, and the southern 
states, and seems particularly fond of pine-trees. I have never yet 
discovered it either in Pennsylvania, or any of the regions north of this. 
Its manners are very similar to those of the Eed-bellied Nuthatch, 
represented in Plate II. of this work ; but its notes are more shrill and 
chirping. In the countries it inhabits it is a constant resident ; and in 
winter associates with parties, of eight or ten, of its own species, who 
hunt busily from tree to tree, keeping up a perpetual screeping. It is 
a frequent companion of the Woodpecker figured beside it ; and you 
rarely find the one in the woods without observing or hearing the other 


not far off. It climbs equally in every direction, on the smaller 
branches, as well as on the body of the tree, in search of its favorite 
food, small insects and their larvse. It also feeds on the seeds of the 
pine-tree. I have never met with its nest. 

This species is four inches and a quarter long, and eight broad ; the 
whole upper part of the head and neck, from the bill to the back, and 
as far down as the eyes, is light brown, or pale ferruginous, shaded with 
darker touches, with the exception of a spot of white near the back ; 
from the nostril through the eyes the brown is deepest, making a very 
observable line there ; the chin, and sides of the neck, under the eyes, 
are white ; the wings dusky ; the coverts and three secondaries next 
the body a slate or lead color ; which is also the color of the rest of the 
upper parts ;, the tail is nearly even at the end, the two middle feathers 
slate color, the others black, tipped with slate, and crossed diagonally 
with a streak of white ; legs and feet dull bltie ; upper mandible black, 
lower blue at the base ; iris hazel. The female differs in having the 
brown on the head rather darker, and the line through the eye less 

This diminutive bird is little noticed in history, and what little has 
been said of it, by Europeans, is not much to its credit. It is charac- 
terized as " a very stupid bird," which may easily be knocked down, 
from the sides of the tree, with one's cane. I confess I found it a very 
dexterous climber ; and so rapid and restless in its motions, as to be shot 
with difficulty. Almost all very small birds seem less suspicious of man 
than large ones ; but that activity and restless diligence should consti- 
tute stupidity, is rather a new doctrine. Upon the whole, I am of 
opinion, that a person who should undertake the destruction of these 
birds, at even a dollar a head for all he knocked down with his cane, 
would run a fair chance of starving by his profession. 


Species. A. ALCTON. 


[Plate XXIII. Kg. 1— Female.] 
Bartram, p. 289.— TuBTON, p. 278.* 

This is a general inhabitant of the banks and shores of all our fresh- 
water rivers from Hudson's Bay to Mexico ; and is the only species of 
its tribe found within the United States. This last circumstance, and its 
characteristic appearance, make it as universally known here, as its 
elegant little brother, the common Kingfisher of Europe, is in Britain. 
Like the love-lorn swains of whom poets tell us, he delights in murmur- 
ing streams and falling waters ; not however merely that they may soothe 
his ear, but for a gratification somewhat more substantial. Amidst the 
roar of the cataract, or over the foam of a torrent, he sits perched upon 
an overhanging bough, glancing his piercing eye in every direction be- 
low for his scaly prey, which with a sudden circular plunge he sweeps 
from their native element, "and swallows in an instant. His voice, which 
is not unlike the twirling of a watchman's rattle, is naturally loud, 
harsh, and sudden ; but is softened by the sound of the brawling streams 
and cascades among which he generally rambles. He courses along the 
windings of the brook or river, at a small height above the surface, 
sometimes suspending himself by the rapid action of his wings, like cer- 
tain species of Hawks, ready to pounce on the fry below ; now and then 
settling on an old dead overhanging limb to reconnoitre. Mill-dams are 
particularly visited by this feathered fisher ; and the sound of his pipe 
is as well known to the miller as the rattling of his own hopper. Rapid 
streams, with high perpendicular banks, particularly if they be of a hard 
clayey or sandy nature, are also favorite places of resort for this bird ; 
Dot only because in such places the small fish are more exposed to view ; 
but because those steep and dry banks are the chosen situations for his 
nest. Into these he digs with bill and claws, horizontally, sometimes to 
the extent of four or five feet, at the distance of a foot or two from the 
surface. The few materials he takes in are not always placed at the 

* We add the following synonymes : — Alcedo alcyon, Linn. Syst. ed. 10, vol. i., 

115._Gmel. Syst. i., 451.— Lath. Ind. Orn. 257.— Catesby, i., 69.— Buff. PI. 

Enl. 593-715. 



extremity of the hole ; that he and his mate may have room to turn 
with convenience. The eggs are five, pure white, and the first brood 
usually comes out about the beginning of June, and sometimes sooner, 
according to that part of the country where they reside. On the shores 
of Kentucky river, near the town of Frankfort, I found the female sit- 
ting early in April. They are very tenacious of their haunts, breeding 
for several successive years in the same hole, and do not readily forsake 
it, even though it be visited. An intelligent young gentleman informed 
me, that having found where a Kingfisher built, he took away its eggs, 
from time to time, leaving always one behind, until he had taken no less 
than eighteen from the same nest. At some of these visits, the female 
being within, retired to the extremity of the hole while he withdrew the 
egg, and next day, when he returned, he found she had laid again as 

The fabulous stories related by the ancients