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Full text of "Familiar studies of wild birds : their haunts and habits"



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FAMILIAR STUDIES OF WILD BIRDS 



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THE FEMALE PARKMAn's WREN RETURNING TO THE NEST. CRAWLING 
UP THE JAGGED TRUNK SHE WOULD SLIP BEHIND THE BARK ONTO HER 
NEST, OFTEN WITHOUT A PAUSE 



FAMILIAR STUDIES 
OF WILD BIRDS 

THEIR HAUNTS AND HABITS 



F. N. WHITMAN 

WITH MANY PHOTOGRAPHS BY 
THE AUTHOR 




!V 



BOSTON 

RICHARD G. BADGER 

THE GORHAM PRESS 



COPTKIGHT, 1920, BY RiCHARD G. BaDGEB 



All Rights Reserved 



Made in the United States of America 



The Gorham Press, Boston, U. S. A. 



A REMINDER 

THE real haven of the natiirahst is out 
in the fields and woods of the country. 
But for those city people, who do not 
find the country within their immediate reach, 
the city park offers a great deal more than 
may be thought, in the way of material for 
nature study. 

On an early spring morning, the parks of 
many of our large cities literally swarm with 
migrating birds. A wide range of species, to 
a hundred, or even more, may be counted on 
a single morning, if one rises early and is 
sharp-sighted. The observer must also have 
a fair knowledge of the commoner species of 
birds, or identify them by means of field glasses 
and guide book. 

Every true naturalist or bird lover counts 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

it more or less of an epoch in the spring, when 
certain of the birds first appear. For instance, 
the morning when he first sees a bluebird car- 
ries a certain spring token which is cherished 
keenly. Likewise with the first swallow, 
meadowlark, etc. Each stirs its particular 
feeling in the bird lover and has its special 
meaning to him in the consummation of spring. 
Whether he be in the country or city, the 
same token will be brought to him, and spring 
will not pass without imparting its message. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

A Family of Cedar Wax-wings 13 

The Bronzed Grackle 17 

Broad-tailed Humming Birds 20 

Brewer's Blackbirds 29 

Parkman's Wren 33 

The Common Tern 41 

Yellow Warblers 45 

A Family of Tree-swallows 49 

The Mourning Dove 53 

The Great Horned Owl 57 

A Kingbird Family 65 

Notes from the Indiana Sand Dunes ... 69 

Photographing Birds 82 



40335 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

The Female Parkman's Wren Returning 

TO Nest Frontispiece 

Between Pages 

Waxwing Carrying Several Berries in 

Throat 14-15 

Waxwing about to Regurgitate a Berry . 14-15 

A Waxwing in a Graceful Pose .... 16-17 

A Waxwing Family 16-17 

Five Young Waxwings Soon After Leaving 

THE Nest 18-19 

Waxwings Against the Light .... 18-19 

Grackle Homeward Bound with a Morsel 18-19 

A Male Bronzed Grackle Picking Up Food 18-19 

A Female Grackle 20-21 

Bronzed Grackle Singing 20-21 

The Broad-Tailed Humming-Bird on Nest 22-23 

The Nest of a Broad-Tailed Humming-Bird 22-23 

Humming-Bird Shielding the Eggs . . . 26-27 

Newly Hatched Hummers 26-27 

Young Hummers Eleven Days Old . . 28-29 

The Male Brewer Inspecting the Nest . 28-29 

Female Brewer Black-Bird 30-31 

Brewer Black-Bird Removing Food From 

Bill of Young 30-31 



List of Illustrations 



Between Pages 

Female Parkman's Wren Investigating 

Noise 32-33 

Bark Removed to Show Incubating Wren 32-33 
The Nest of the Parkman's Wren with 

Six Eggs 34-35 

The Young Wrens Soon After Hatching . 34-35 
A Characteristic Pose of the Parkman's 

Wren 36-37 

Tern at Nest 36-37 

Tern Gracefully Folding Its Wings . . 38-39 
A Tern's Nest at the Edge of Salt- Water 

Grass 38-39 

The Terns' Nests are Mere Depressions 40-41 

Tern Posed to Show the Graceful Neck . 40-41 
A Young Tern at the Stage When They 

Learn to Fly 42-43 

A Tern's Nest in the Seaweed with Eggs . 42-43 
Young Terns are Good Examples of Pro- 
tective Coloring 44-45 

Young Terns Squatting Among the Rocks 44-45 

Tern Swimming in the Water .... 46-47 

Terns Resting and Flying about Rocks . 46-47 

Yellow Warbler Entering Nest . . . 48-49 
Nest of Warbler about Two Feet from the 

Ground 48-49 



List of Illustrations 



Between Pages 

Yellow Warbler on Nest 50-51 

Young Warblers Eight Days Old . . . 50-51 

Bush Willows Along A Winding Creek . 52-53 

Trees to which Camera Was Clamped . 52-53 

Swallow Returning to the Nest . 54-55 
Young Swallow within Hole Begging for 

Food 54-55 

Young Swallows 56-57 

Back View of Young Swallows . . 56-57 

Swallow Cleaning the Nest 58-59 

Three Young Swallows and an Adult 

Flying 58-59 

Mourning Dove on Nest on a Sloping Log 60-61 

Mourning Dove's Nest in the Shoots . . 60-61 

Young Mourning Dove 62-63 

The Great Horned Owl Leaving Its Nest 62-63 

Young Owls about Ten Days Old 64-65 

Young Horned Owls about Two Weeks Old 64-65 

Young Owls at Three Weeks .... 66-67 

Young Owls at Four Weeks .... 66-67 
Kingbird Thrusting Food Down Throat of 

Hungry Young 68-69 

Kingbird Feeding Young 68-69 

Parent Kingbird Thrusts Food Down 

Forcefully 70-71 



9 



List of Illustrations 



Between Pages 

After Feeding the Young, Parent Kingbird 

Wipes Its Beak 70-71 

Kingbird Ready to Leave 72-73 

Young Kingbirds 72-73 

A Good Portrait of an Adult Kingbird 74-75 

The Catbird 74-75 

A Young Wood Thrush Just After Leaving 

the Nest 78-79 

Western Chipping Sparrow Entering Nest 80-81 
Western Chipping Sparrow Settling on 

Nest 80-81 

Nest of Least Flycatcher 82-83 

Least Flycatcher Showing Feathers on 

the Head 82-83 

Least Flycatcher at Nest 82-83 

Young Marsh Hawks 82-83 

A Brown Thrasher 84-85 

The Magpie 84-85 



10 



FAMILIAR STUDIES OP WILD BIRDS 



jLU { L I IS R A R Y 




FAMILIAR STUDIES 
OF WILD BIRDS 



A FAMILY OF CEDAR WAX- WINGS 

(Ampelis cedrorum) 

ON a tramp in the country early in 
May one may come on a flock of pret- 
ty little cedar wax-wings, engaged in 
picking the buds from wayside trees and 
bushes. An incessant chorus of low plaintive 
notes coming from several hundred of these 
dainty brown birds frequently attracts one's 
attention before he has noticed the flock. Al- 
though rather shy, the birds may be ap- 
proached close enough to distinguish with 
the naked eye the delicate shading of their 
soft brown feathers, the tapering crests, the 

13 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

yellow band terminating the tail, and the small 
red globular structures on the wings (and 
very rarely on the tail) , from which this species 
derives its name. 

Several weeks later, these migrating flocks 
have separated into pairs, but it is often 
well along in the season before the birds 
build their nests, for the berries and fruit on 
which the young thrive ripen late. During 
the summer the food of the wax -wings consists 
of fruit, cherries, and all kinds of wild berries. 
After the young are old enough to be left 
alone, both adults go off together in their 
search for food, often making trips of several 
miles. Whether in the air or at rest, they have 
the habit of uttering, continually, low calls, that 
are expressive of companionability. They 
are seldom absent more than ten or fifteen 
minutes at a time, and when they are heard 
returning, the young set up a complementary 
chorus; but the latter always remain discreet- 



ly 




WAXW'INGS CARRY SEVERAL BERRIES IX THEIR THROATS IX ADDITIOX 
TO OXE OR MORE IX THEIR BEAKS. OXE BERRY BEIXG FED TO THE 
YOUXG, AXOTHER MIRACULOUSLY APPEARS 




WAXWIKG ABOUT TO REGURGITATE A BERRV 



A Family of Cedar W^ax-Wings 

ly silent while the old birds are away. Occa- 
sionally, mistaking a bird that flits by for one 
of their parents, the young start begging for 
food, but quickly appreciate their mistake and 
subside. 

The old wax-wings, returning from forag- 
ing, usually carry several berries in the crop, 
in addition to one in the beak. When a rasp- 
berry is stuffed down a gaping beak, behold, 
another one appears, and is held a moment 
tentatively before being fed to the next in 
turn of the progeny. No amount of stuffing 
satisfies the hungry youngsters, which, flap- 
ping their wings, beg in the beseeching way 
natural to young birds. 

The near presence of an unobtrusive visitor 
does not deter cedar wax-wings from proceed- 
ing with their home duties. After the first 
day which was necessarily spent gaining the 
acquaintance of the present family, many sat- 
isfactory photographs were secured without 



15 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

serious difficulty. The old birds would now 
and then fly around the camera to inspect this 
strange instrument, and several times alighted 
on it without fear. At other times they sailed 
back for a good look at me, where I lay about 
twenty feet distant, partly concealed in the 
tall grass, with thread in hand, ready to release 
the shutter. 

It should not be concluded that because 
cedar wax-wings are relatively tame as com- 
pared with some other species that the securing 
of satisfactoiy photographs of them does not 
involve skill and perseverance. As anyone who 
has attempted to photograph wild birds 
knows, there are many factors influencing suc- 
cess, and one must always be prepared to be 
patient, and spend as much time as necessary 
in gaining the confidence of his subjects. 



16 




A WAXWING IX A GRACEFUL POSE 




THE WAXWIXG FAMILY MINUS OXE OF THE YOUXG, WHICH REFUSED 
TO REMAIN OX THE PERCH 




THE BRONZED CRACKLE 

{Quiscalus quiscula ceneus) 

THE bronzed grackles are, on close 
acquaintance, more interesting birds 
than their dull plumage and unmusi- 
cal calls might, perhaps, at first incline the 
casual observer to expect. These birds and 
their eastern cousins, the purple grackles, 
arrive north in large flocks early in spring, but 
they generally spend several weeks enjoying 
themselves in idleness before settling down to 
the serious task of raising a family. They nest 
in small colonies, frequently near water, usual- 
ly placing their nests high in trees; but the 
writer has also found them in bushes, as well 
as slung like the red-wings' nests, a foot or 
two above water. 

The accompanying photographs were taken 






17 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

at a nesting site near a small lake, many of the 
nests being scattered on small islands, where 
they were free from molestation. As the 
grackles walked along the water's edge with 
their ipeculiarly ludicrous strides, they pre- 
sented with their glassy yellow eyes a striking 
appearance. Frequently they submerge their 
entire foreparts in efforts to secure choice 
morsels, and on certain rare occasions I have 
seen them dive from the air into the water for 
shiners as do terns, rising to shake the mois- 
ture from their feathers with as little concern 
as do the real divers. But the grackles also 
obtain much of their food in the underbrush 
and on the meadows. 

The males sing repeatedly the few notes 
of their not unpleasing song, accompanying 
this with the ruffling of feathers and the 
spreading of tails, and they often follow the 
females, uttering this song, which is appar- 
ently characteristic of the mating season. 



18 




THE FIVE YOUXG WAXWINGS SOOX AFTER LEAVIXG THE NEST 




WAXWIXGS AGAINST THE LIGHT 




HOMEWARD BOUXD AVITH A MORSEL FOR BABY CRACKLES 











A MALE BRONZED GRACKLE PICKING UP FOOD AT THE WATER S EDGE. 
HIS WEDGE-SHAPED TAIL EASILY DISTINGUISHES HIM FROM THE FE- 
MALE 



The Bronzed Grackle 



While he accompanies his mate as she collects 
dry grass and other materials for her nest, the 
male, without lending active assistance, ap- 
pears to act merely the role of protector, be- 
ing coaxed by the plaintive little calls of his 
partner to remain near at hand. Yet later he 
enters strenuously into the task of feeding the 
young. Being very active the female soon 
has her nest completed and entrusted with four 
or five brownish spotted eggs. 



19 



BROAD-TAILED HUMMING BIRDS 

(Selasphorus platycercus) 

STRAWBERRY VALLEY, at an 
elevation of eight thousand feet, is situ- 
ated about one hundred miles east of 
Salt Lake City. An artificial lake five or six 
miles long, covering the greater part of the 
valley, serves as a reservoir for irrigation be- 
low in Utah Valley. The region has re- 
cently been made a bird reservation, and the 
lake is now the home of many ducks and shore 
birds, while back in the timber on the hills 
bordering the valley, song birds of all kinds 
thrive in abundance. 

In this region so interesting to the bird stu- 
dent, humming birds are conspicuous, both by 
their numbers and their loud metallic buzzing, 
which pervades all the small canons and imme- 




THE FEMALE CRACKLE IS SLIGHTLY SMALLER AND LACKS THE WEDGE- 
SHAPED TAIL OF THE MALE 




BRONZED CRACKLE SIXGING. THE FEW XOTES OF THE SONG ARE AC- 
COMPAKIED BY THE RUFFLING OF THE FEATHERS ON THE BACK, AND 
A SLIGHT SPREADING OF THE WINGS 



Broad-Tailed Humming Birds 

diately arrests attention. Along the willow- 
bordered creeks that extend up every canon 
the broad-tailed humming birds gather in full 
force. The sound of their buzzing often 
swells to a volume, that one would not believe 
any number of such wee birds capable of pro- 
ducing, unless one had heard it. As a bird 
shoots up or down the creek bed, the buzzing of 
its wings swells and sinks in a rhythmic beat, 
a beat, perhaps, to the second, which may be 
heard for some distance, getting louder as the 
bird approaches, and then gradually dying 
down as it continues up or down the canon. 
This loud buzzing is an interesting habit of the 
hummers, being very expressive of their ex- 
uberance of spirits; for they seem to be ever 
revelling in the joy of living. Lacking a 
song, their special appeal lies in their dainty 
smallness, vivaciousness, and an overflowing 
exuberance of nature. 

About the twentieth of June, the nesting 



21 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

season of the hummers starts in full earnest. 
Of the six nests I found in the valley, four 
were less than three feet from the ground on 
pine boughs, one about six feet up, and one 
twenty feet up on the dead limb of an ash tree. 
Two of these nests were found about half com- 
pleted on June 19th, which appears to be 
about the beginning of the nesting season. 
Two other nests were found soon after this, 
partly completed, so that it seems that all the 
birds start nesting at nearly the same time. 
The willow down of which the nests are con- 
structed is available about the middle of June. 
It is a cotton-like substance shed after the wil- 
lows have flowered, which readily sticks to a 
rough bark surface. The beginning of the 
nest is as ethereal as a spider web, and it is 
built up very gradually, the bird sitting on the 
bough and twisting and turning as she models 
the delicate architecture of her home. Com- 
pleted, it is the supreme example of bird skill 

22 




THE BROAD-TAILED HUM3IING-BIRU ON NEST 




THE NEST OF THE BROAD-TAILED HUMMING-BIRD IK A BALSAJI. IT IS 
SECURED OX A BRANCH, AND ALSO STRENGTHENED WITH SPIDER-WEB 



Broad-Tailed Humming Birds 

in nest making. One of the birds observed at 
work would vanish and reappear with more 
down, often within three or four seconds. On 
the outside, the nest is strengthened by the 
interweaving of small particles of bark. It 
may be mentioned that one nest was found by 
following a hummer that was observed col- 
lecting bark from a dead ash tree. 

Within three days, the female with no help 
from the male has completed her nest. Either 
on the third or fourth day after starting to 
build, she lays the first of her two translucent 
white eggs which are about the size of a com- 
mon bean; and begins sitting at once. The 
following day the second Q^g is laid, and then 
for fifteen long days, one would suppose ex- 
ceedingly long to such a restless little mite, 
she incubates her treasures. It is to be re- 
marked, however, that she does not remain on 
the nest as continuously as do many other 
birds, but leaves frequently during the day to 



23 




Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

seek food, though she is absent but a few sec- 
onds at a time. This habit may be due to 
the bird's restlessly active nature. Because of 
the small size of the eggs, also, she can leave 
them exposed for only short intervals or they 
would become chilled. Toward the end of 
the incubation period, the eggs turn from their 
original translucent whiteness to a dark shade, 
the air sac now filling one third of the space. 
After trying for fifteen days to imagine the 
appearance of the bird that would come out of 
so small an egg, I was considerably surprised, 
to say the least, when a newly hatched hummer 
was finally disclosed to view. The young 
humming bird is black with a few yellow hairs 
sticking up from the center of its back. Its 
eyes, of course, are closed, and its bill instead 
of being long and slender like the adults', is 
of the short and stubby shape of a sparrow's. 
The respiration is very rapid, perhaps three 
hundred to the minute. The development of 



24 



Broad-Tailed Humming Birds 

the young birds is very interesting. It is sev- 
eral days before pin-feathers appear, and the 
bill lengthens very slowly. At the age of 
twelve days, the eyes are opened now and then 
for a few seconds only, being as yet very weak. 
About this time, when young yellow warblers 
would already have left the nest, the hummers 
are still in the pin- feather stage, and the bill 
has become about half adult length. Not un- 
til they are nearly three weeks old, do the 
young begin to look like real humming birds. 
Although my observations did not continue 
until the young left the nest, I judge from 
their rate of growth, that their bills do not be- 
come adult length at much less than four 
weeks from the time of hatching. 

The entire work of building the nest, incu- 
bating, and raising the young falls on the in- 
dustrious little female. Never once did I see 
a male around any of the nests visited. The 
mother hummer frequently feeds her offspring 



25 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

while hovering at the edge of the nest, or 
again she may alight, and with quick dabs of 
her beak thrust food into the throats of her 
progeny. The diet of humming birds regu- 
larly consists of honey and insects gathered 
from flowers, but they are also very fond of 
sap. At a place on one of the roads where 
vehicles had scraped bark from some bush-wil- 
lows causing sap to flow, I found numerous 
hummers gathered to drink as it collected. 

Among the many interesting characteristics 
of the broad-tailed humming birds, a habit that 
I witnessed frequently was that of darting 
perpendicularly upward to a height of fifty 
or one hundred feet, and then shooting down 
at great speed, producing a loud buzzing 
which reached a climax as the bird swerved 
when five or six feet from the ground. As 
far as could be observed, this performance was 
indulged in for the benefit of another hummer. 
Its purpose I was unable to discover, if it had 



26 




HUMMING-BIRD SHIELDING THE EGGS FR03I THE SUN 




THE XEWLY HATCHED HUMMERS ARE BLACKISH, WITH A FEW 
YELLOW HAIRS ON THE BACK, AND HAVE SHORT STUBBY BEAKS 



/ 



Broad-Tailed Humming Birds 

one other than that of venting a burst of ex- 
uberant spirits. Exuberance is one of the 
most applicable adjectives in describing these 
winged bullets, as in their every action appears 
an overflowing of energy and vitality. Each 
movement is so lightning-like in quickness, and 
the bird has such remarkable control of itself, 
that the longer one watches, the more one 
marvels. What other bird can fly forward or 
backward with equal ease, or rise in a vertical 
line as if shot upward from a gun? It starts 
and stops so quickly that it swings forward or 
backward as if it were a pendulum. One won- 
ders whether any bird can fly so fast, and cer- 
tainly none can attain momentum so quickly. 
Hummers are very sensitive, and when 
watched they grow agitated and fretful, leav- 
ing the nest repeatedly. Their low peeping 
expresses much annoyance as they dart nerv- 
ously here and there. They will spend con- 
siderable time inspecting a camera that is 



27 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

placed near the nest, hovering around to ob- 
serve it from every angle. Apparently the 
hummer has a bump of curiosity, for when you 
meet one, it usually spends some time osten- 
sibly seeking honey from the flowers nearest 
you, while actually it is regarding you very 
attentively. They have no song, but their 
peeping notes are very expressive, being now 
low and contented as when searching the 
flowers, or again louder and complaining, 
when they are intruded on. Occasionally a 
hummer takes a perch on the tiptop of a tree, 
sitting there with the majesty of a king. Ap- 
parently they are not molested by other birds, 
doubtless for the good reason that they are 
courageous little fighters. I have seen a hum- 
mer chase a bird as large as a woodthrush 
in a way to leave no doubt of the former's 
supremacy. 



28 




YOUNG HUMMERS ELEVEN DAYS OLD; PIN-FEATHER STAGE 




THE MALE BREWER INSPECTING THE NEST 



BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS 

(Scolecophagu^ cyanocephalus) 

BREWER'S BLACKBIRDS nest in 
good numbers in Strawberry Valley in 
the Wasatch Mountains. The male 
Brewer is a shiny black, with a purplish sheen 
on the head ; the female brownish, more or less 
streaked. The calls and song of this species 
resemble those of the bronzed grackles, though 
lower and less forceful. While the male 
Brewer does not have the wedge-shaped tail 
and the female grackle is darker, in other re- 
spects, including their habits, the two species 
are much alike. 

As I was walking around the south end of 
Strawberry Valley one afternoon early in 
June, I noticed a number of Brewer's black- 
birds near the shore. As I approached, they 

29 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

let me know with unmistakable vehemence 
that I was trespassing. From a good view- 
point on a knoll, I had soon located a nest in 
the sagebrush. Later I found several of their 
nests tucked low down among the thickly 
growing willows along a near-by creek. The 
nest in the sagebrush proved to have five 
young about four days old, and, setting up 
the camera, I prepared to spend the afternoon 
there. My presence ten yards from their nest 
was too close to suit the much disturbed birds. 
For an hour or so, they circled round me, 
scolding vociferously. But finally the male 
got up courage to approach and feed the 
young, and during the afternoon he fed them 
several times, while his shyer mate remained 
around complaining, without making a single 
trip away or visiting the nest. She did, how- 
ever, dart up constantly after flies until she 
had gathered such a billful, that it was a puz- 
zle, indeed, to see how she could hold those in 



30 




THE FEMALE BREWER BLACKBIRD, WITH A BILL FULL OF FLIES, 
OBSERVING THE YOUNG ATTENTI\T:LY BEFORE FEEDING THEM 




IF THE FOOD THRUST INTO THE BEAK OF A YOUNG BIRD IS NOT 
SWALLOWED IMMEDIATELY, IT IS REMOVED AND OFFERED TO AN- 
OTHER 



Brewer's Blackbirds 



her bill while catching others, and at the same 
time continue to scold. At last, late in the 
afternoon, she made one hasty visit to the nest 
and disposed of her accumulated supplies. In 
removing the excreta, the male was once or 
twice observed to light on a distant perch, 
there drop his burden, and carefully wipe his 
beak. 

I made these birds another call the following 
morning, and by noon both were sufficiently 
accustomed to the camera to come and go with 
little hesitation. They seemed to find an 
abundance of food down by the creek, but 
often searched for grubs and insects in the 
sagebrush near by, and also made an occa- 
sional long trip over the hills. The food se- 
cured in different places no doubt met the need 
of a varied diet. The male was the really 
industrious one of the two, probably because 
my presence disturbed him less. Sailing down 
to the creek on gracefully curved pinions, he 



31 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

L 

was always back within two or three minutes 
with a white grub or worm, which he sometimes 
thrust into all five gaping mouths, until he 
found a recipient hungry enough to swallow it 
immediately. 

I always attempted to change films while 
the birds were away, but being still distrustful 
of me they would often hurry back prema- 
turely. If they found me quietly seated, after 
circling around, they would leave; but if they 
caught me in the act a disturbance ensued. 
Neighboring birds joined in and all voiced 
loudly their fears of an impending calamity. 

After young Brewers leave the nest, they 
follow the adults around for weeks. It is a 
curious sight to watch these overgrown young- 
sters begging as they trail at an awkward gait 
after their parents, which striding proudly on, 
reward the young occasionally with a worm 
or an insect. 



32 




WHEN THE TREE WAS SCRAPED WITH A LONG STICK THE WREN WOULD 
HOP OUT TO SEE WHAT WAS UP 




^ 



J 







■.■^«#' 



:i»: 







THE BARK REMOVED TO SHOW THE INCUBATIXG WREN 



PARKMANS WREN 

{Salpinctes obsoletus) 



LISP « f? Y i S 



Up in the Wasatch Mountains of 
Northern Utah, an interesting Httle 
bird, the rock wren, makes its summer 
home. During one season spent in studying 
the birds of this region, I was fortunate 
enough to become well acquainted with this 
sociable little member of the wren tribe, for 
which I developed a friendship that gave me 
much pleasure. I discovered seven or eight 
of their nests, and my observations of their 
home life included many instructive glimpses 
of social relations among the birds that af- 
forded a rare insight, indeed, into bird nature. 
The rock wren starts nesting early in June. 
The nests are frequently located behind the 
shaggy bark of ash trees, but in some cases 



33 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

the old holes of sap suckers are selected as nest- 
ing sites. Their nests are usually to be de- 
tected by a bunch of twigs sticking out from 
behind the bark, where they are situated. 
Also, if one passes within four or five feet of 
the tree the female generally slips out, thus 
disclosing her secret, if it has not already been 
revealed by the protruding twigs. The twigs 
forming the foundation of the nest are as large 
as one would expect so small a bird to be able 
to lift. The nest lining is composed largely of 
hair, feathers, fine grasses, particles of bark, 
with sometimes a little wool and willow down 
included. In one instance, I found a piece of 
cast-ofF snake skin. The crested fly-catcher 
has the habit of regularly placing an old 
snake skin in its nest, but with the rock 
wren this cannot be a universal trait, as only in 
a single instance was this material found. 

These small wrens courageously undertake 
a load that, without knowing of their active. 




THE NEST or THE PARK>IAN S WREX WITH ITS COMPLIMENT OF SIX 
EGGS. THE NESTS ARE EASILY DISCOVERED BY THE TWIGS STICKING OUT 
THE NEST OF THE PARKMAn's WREN WITH ITS COMPLEMENT OF SIX 




THE YOUNG WREXS SOON AFTER HATCHING 



Parkmans Wren 



business-like nature, one would believe would 
weigh heavily on them. Their eggs, at least 
six in number, are white, spotted with brown. 
The male is in every way an exemplary hus- 
band. From a perch nearby he cheers his sit- 
ting mate with frequent melodious songs, and 
occasionally brings food to her. At one wren 
home where I was a frequent visitor, the male, 
though according to wren custom he did not 
take part in incubating, yet felt great respon- 
sibihty in regard to seeing that the eggs were 
well cared for. The female quickly grew ac- 
customed to me and the camera, so that with 
the latter placed two feet from the entrance to 
her home she would return to her duties with- 
out hesitation. Her movements were so ac- 
tive, however, that securing the desired poses 
of her proved difficult. For this purpose I 
employed the stratagem of scraping the tree 
with a long stick, which would cause her to hop 
out to see what was up, without alarming or 

35 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

driving her away. After having been dis- 
turbed a good many times, however, she would 
grow tired of this game and leave. Almost 
immediately the male would appear, pouring 
forth one of his harmonious strains. Before 
he had repeated it many times, his conscience- 
stricken mate would usually come hopping 
submissively back, take a few sly peeps at me, 
and resume her duties of incubation. Once 
or twice when her patience was tried to the 
extreme, causing her to remain absent unusu- 
ally long, the male became particularly agi- 
tated, and attempted to drive his reluctant 
mate back by darting at her, while continuing 
at the same time to sing in a beseeching strain. 
She was not long in obeying, and then with a 
few final notes of music as if to impress on 
her the urgency of staying at home, he de- 
parted. Any description of a bird's song is 
unsatisfactory, but it may be mentioned that 
the song of the rock wren begins somewhat 

36 




A CHARACTERISTIC POSE OF A PARKMAN S WREN 




TERX AT XEST. OX ALIGHTIXG, THEIR WIXGS ARE HELD EX- 
TEXDED FOR A MOMEXT 



Parkmans Wren 



like that of the song sparrow, runs along in a 
peculiarly sweet strain, with a line or two of 
chatter occasionally inserted, ending with a 
drop in the scale, expressive of "I told you so." 
When I removed the bark in order to photo- 
graph the eggs as well as the sitting bird, she 
hopped nervously around inspecting the 
changed aspect of her home, crawling repeat- 
edly behind the slab of bark (which was merely 
swung to one side), as if expecting to find her 
nest behind it as before. She plainly could 
not understand what had happened, and when 
she finally hopped into her now exposed nest, 
not finding the situation to her liking, she 
twisted around so vigorously that she shoved 
four of the six eggs out onto the ground, two 
of them breaking. None of the set hatched, 
probably because I had unfortunately exposed 
them too long to the sun. The female, urged 
without doubt by her persistent mate, contin- 
ued to sit, to my knowledge, for more than 



37 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

three weeks, and was still on the nest the last 
time I saw her. 

While the male above referred to was so 
conscientious, inspiring such confidence and 
obedience in his mate, he was more wary than 
she of the camera. On one occasion, bringing 
a choice morsel for her, he sat at a distance 
and sang enticingly, too shy to approach, until 
she, unable longer to restrain herself, started to 
go to him ; but, changing her mind, she hopped 
back. Another pair of wrens more cautious 
than these, would crawl up the opposite side of 
the tree, peeping out at me from behind it, 
then inspect several other holes before even- 
tually entering their own. 

When the young hatch, the male turns his 
attention from singing to the more important 
task of feeding the family. Unless familiar 
with their visitor, the wrens are very wary of 
approaching the nest. I found it necessary 
to conceal myself in the bushes when I wished 



38 




TERN GRACEFULLY FOLDING ITS WINGS 




A TERN S NEST AT THE EDGE OF SALT-WATER GRASS 



Parkmans Wren 



to observe, without disturbing a certain pair of 
birds. The female brooded the young ahnost 
continually the first two days, the male being 
busily engaged bringing food. Sticking his 
head into the nest hole, he handed the supplies 
over to his mate, and quickly departed, being 
at great pains to be inconspicuous. Later, 
both wrens were continually on the go in the 
effort to satisfy their hungry family of six. 
In meeting as they passed to and fro, they 
shook their wings in a comradely way, pecu- 
liarly expressive of a mutual understanding 
of the important and serious task they had 
before them. When the young were six or 
seven days old, they began giving voice to their 
hunger by peeping vigorously, though not so 
persistently as young sapsuckers, for they sub- 
sided after being fed until another meal was 
forthcoming. 

One nest I knew of was used by the parents 
for sleeping quarters after the young had 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

flown, for one morning as I passed just before 
sunrise I saw the pair sitting together in the 
early dawn in the entrance of their hole, evi- 
dently waiting for more light before venturing 
out. In the fall when the young are well de- 
veloped, the wrens wander around in small 
groups. It is truly a treat to have such bright- 
eyed, lively little visitors come around one's 
camp, chipping companionably as they flit 
actively from branch to branch, even though 
they stop but a few moments in passing. It 
is during the nesting season, however, that the 
males indulge in their real powers of song, 
and once having heard one peal forth his melo- 
dies, answered occasionally by appreciative 
chirps from his mate on the nest, one cannot 
soon forget this friendly rock wren. 



40 







^ 



/• 



if-^ 



V 



.. A' 






J ■ • 



THE terns' nests ARE MERE DEPRESSIONS IN THE SAND, SOME- 
TIMES LINED WITH A FEW GRASSES? OR THEY MAY BE PLACED ON 
SEAWEED, OE OCCASIONALLY BACK IN THE COARSE ISLAND GRASS 



I 




NOTE THE GRACEFUL NECK OF THE TERX 



THE COMMON TERN 

(Sterna hirundo) 

THE common tern is one of the most 
graceful birds that adorn our coasts. 
At one time it was fast going in the 
path of the passenger pigeon and trumpeter 
swan, but thanks to timely laws for its protec- 
tion, it is now steadily increasing in numbers. 
The terns congregate at their favorite nesting 
sites, certain small islands along the coast, and 
a few isolated interior points, about the middle 
of June, the nesting season extending thence 
to the middle of August. 

Numerous visits I made to one of these sites, 
known as the Wee Pecket Islands, in Buz- 
zards Bay, furnished many captivating hours 
spent in observing the active colony life of the 
terns. As one approached the island, the 

41 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

terns, rising in swarms from the beach and 
outlying rocks, hovered overhead, their pro- 
testing voices swelling to a volume that could 
be heard far off. Their nests, simply depres- 
sions in the sand, sometimes lined with grass or 
seaweed, are placed along the beach above high- 
water mark, a few also being scattered inland; 
and so thickly are they strewn at points, that 
it is necessary to walk with care to avoid tread- 
ing on the eggs or young. Two, three, or 
rarely four, profusely spotted eggs are 
laid. For a few days the adults brood the 
newly hatched young, shielding them during 
the day from the hot rays of the sun. There- 
after the young terns wander about, seeking 
the shade of rocks during midday. As one 
walks along the shore, they squat down flat, 
quite aware of the fact that their protective 
coloring blends almost indistinguishably with 
the rocks, or they take to the water, for they 
are perfect swimmers from the start. From 



42 




A YOUNG TERJf AT THE STAGE AVHEJf THEY LEARN TO FLY 




1^"^^.. 

^m^ 






■>^%wr?>-"'^'- 1^< 



A TERX'S XEST IX THE SEAWEED. EGGS HATCHING 



The Common Tern 



the downy little balls a few days old to those 
able to fly, these precocious youngsters wander 
around everywhere, and the first question of 
the visitor is, "How can the old terns find their 
own progeny amid such swarms of young 
birds?" 

After one has remained quietly seated for 
a time, the colony life continues in its usual 
way. The birds soon alight, covering the 
beaches and rocks. Occasionally small flocks 
rest on the surface a short distance from shore. 
It is an interesting fact that only near their 
nesting sites do terns rest on the water. Sud- 
denly, all the birds will take wing in mass, fly 
out over the ocean, circle around and presently 
return to land. This performance is repeated 
often and without apparent cause. Terns 
travel many miles in search of fish. Some are 
constantly starting off empty-billed, others 
returning, each wjth a shiner, sand ell, or other 
small fry in its beak. Against the wind tliey 



43 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

fly low; with it, high. The food is either fed 
to the young, or laid down for them to pick up. 
An adult will sometimes coax a young tern 
that is near you to what it considers a safer 
location by walking backward with a fish in 
its bill, keeping just out of reach of its hungry 
pursuer. 

When one has watched their graceful turns 
and darts as they plunge into the ocean, it is 
realized what an important element the terns 
are in any seaside landscape. 



44 







THE YOUNG TERXS FURNISH A FINE EXAMPLE OF PROTECTIVE COLORING 




WHEN ALARMED THE TERX SQUATS AMONG THE ROCKS, WHERE IT IS 
EASILY OVERLOOKED 



YELLOW WARBLERS 

{Dendroica cestiva) 

THE summer range of the yellow 
warbler, or wild canary as this pretty 
songster is popularly known, extends 
from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts, ascend- 
ing in the Wasatch Mountains, where the ac- 
companying photographs were taken, to an 
elevation probably considerably over eight 
thousand feet. Having travelled two thousand 
miles or more from our Eastern home, here we 
have the delight of meeting this bright yellow 
friend of ours, with his duller mate, slightly 
streaked on the breast with orange. At these 
high altitudes, the warblers usually start nest- 
ing about the middle of June. I found them 
building in general in the willows along the 

45 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

streams at an average height of six feet, but 
also found one nest in a hillside bush. Their 
nests are well constructed of bark shreds, lined 
with fine grasses, willow down, wool, hair, and 
feathers. The heavy storms that occur every 
few days in this region are doubtless responsi- 
ble for a good deal of damage, and several of 
the nests I found were probably thus destroyed. 
The eggs are white, spotted with brown more 
profusely around the larger ends, always four 
to the set. 

I located the first nest on June 18th, and 
had no trouble in photographing the female, 
as she returned within a few minutes after I 
had set up the camera. She was so tame that 
when I touched her nest she came within a 
foot of my hand. She would tilt forward with 
drooping wings, feigning to fall, then catch 
herself as she dropped to another perch lower 
down. Thus did she do her best to lead me 
away from her treasures. At no other nest 

46 




GOOD SWI3IMERS, THE TERNS OFTEN TAKE TO THE WATER WHEN 
APPROACHED 




TERNS RESTING OX AND FLYING ABOUT ROCKS OFF THEIR NESTING SITE 



Yellow Warblers 



did I find a warbler as free from fear as this 
one. 

Another nest, which I found on June 20th, 
contained one egg; the second egg was laid 
the following day, then a day was skipped, the 
two last eggs being laid on the two days fol- 
lowing. The bird did not begin sitting until 
the set was complete. (I felt fairly certain 
with regard to the time of laying the eggs, 
though I did not visit the nest on the fifth 
day.) 

When one is in the vicinity of a nest he is 
soon made aware of the fact by the distressed 
peeping of the warblers. The male always 
seems to be on hand, and one will frequently 
hear him singing in the bushes near by. As 
far as observed, he does not assist in incubat- 
ing; but as soon as the young hatch, he be- 
comes as active as his mate in procuring food. 
During the first few days, in fact, she is en- 
gaged in brooding, while he does all the for- 



47 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

aging. So rapidly do the young warblers 
mature that in seven days they are fairly well 
feathered. When the young in the hillside 
bush were eight days old, I decided to photo- 
graph them; but no sooner had I touched the 
nest than all four youngsters hopped out, and 
fluttered in as many directions. Two days 
later they could fly well. 



48 




TELLOAV WARBLER ENTERING NEST 




XEST OF WARBLER ABOUT TWO FEET FR03I THE GROUND IN A BUSH 



A FAMILY OF TREE SWALLOWS 

{Iridoprocne hicolor) 

THE tree swallow is one of the many 
birds that nest at high altitude in the 
Wasatch Mountains. The favorite 
nesting places of these square-tailed gleaners 
of the air are old sapsuckers' holes, and in 
suitable clusters of mountain ash trees, they 
often nest in colonies of several dozen pairs. 

The situation of their nests puts a difficulty 
in the way of photographing them. I found, 
however, a nest in an ash that was close to an- 
other ash; the accompanying picture explains 
the method by which photographs were se- 
cured. Cross pieces nailed one above the 
other furnished a ladder up the unoccupied 
tree, and a slab nailed at the proper height 
pointing directly at the nest hole served as a 

49 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

support for the camera, which was clamped 
on with a universal clamp. Although this did 
not bring the lens so close to its object as 
could have been desired, the arrangement was 
otherwise very convenient. 

This pair of swallows showed practically no 
fear of the camera, and while I snapped most 
of the pictures from below (using a thread), 
they would come and go when I was up chang- 
ing films. The old birds were carrying in 
food when this nest was discovered about June 
24th. After it had fed the young, each bird 
remained impatiently waiting in the entrance 
during the three or four -minutes that usually 
elapsed before the arrival of its mate. The 
bird waiting always greeted its returning mate 
with a twittering welcome, and then soared 
forth immediately into the sky. The above 
precaution may have been for the purpose of 
guarding the newly-hatched young against the 
inroads of thieving sapsuckers. 



50 





i 








£ 



YELLOW WARliLKK ON XEST, PANTING FBOJI THE HEAT OF THE SUN 




YOUNG WARBLFRS EIGHT DAYS OLD 



A Family of Tree Swallows 



About ten days after the discovery of the 
nest the first signs of life were heard from 
within the hole, and a few days later the young 
swallows appeared at the entrance looking in- 
terestedly out at the world. As their doorway 
was only large enough to hold one at a time, 
there was a continual struggle for this point of 
vantage. The young must now have been be- 
tween two and three weeks old, judging from 
the time the nest was found, and the old birds 
no longer guarded the entrance. They usually 
pushed the eager young back before feeding 
them. They had grown very irritable for 
some reason, perhaps from having to hurry so 
strenuously for a livelihood, for they fought 
each other off when meeting at the nest, and 
once inside one frequently sat there malig- 
nantly preventing its mate from entering. 

Three weeks after discovering the nest, I en- 
larged the entrance in order to remove and 
photograph the young swallows. I was not 



51 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

surprised when the first of the three young in 
this brood, slipping through my fingers, soared 
away as if it had flown for many a month. 
But my patience was severely tried before I 
succeeded in inducing the remaining two to 
sit still long enough to be photographed. Just 
as they were well placed the irate parents, 
darting down with sonorous whirring of wings, 
would set them off into another paroxysm of 
activity. Once having seen the outside world, 
they refused thereafter to remain in their 
former home; but their chirps in the tree-tops 
during following days were evidence that they 
did not immediately leave the vicinity. 




IX THE FOREGROUND THE BUSH WILLOWS ARE SEEN FOLLOWING A 
WINDING CREEK. BEYOND ARE THE ASPEN TREES IN WHICH THE TREE 
SWALLOWS, PARKMAN's WRENS, AND MANY OTHER BIRDS NEST. WITHIN 
A HUNDRED YARDS OR SO INCLUDED IN THIS PICTURE WERE THE NESTS 
OF A YELLOW WARBLER, A HUMailNG-BIRD, AND NUMEROUS SAP- 
SUCKERS AND TREE SWALLOWS 




A SERIES OF CROSS PIECES FORMED A LADDER UP TO THE SLAB OX 
WHICH THE CAMERA WAS CI.A3rPED. THIS BROUGHT THE INSTRU- 
MENT WITHIX ABOUT SIX FEET OF THE HOLE IX THE OPPOSITE TREE 



THE MOURNING DOVE 

{Zenaidura macroura) 

OF the thirteen species of the family 
Columbidse found in North America 
the mourning dove is much the most 
common and widely distributed. In its deli- 
cate brown coloring, graceful body, and taper- 
ing tail it resembles its larger relative, the now 
extinct passenger pigeon. Because of its 
habit of nesting in isolated pairs, as well as its 
natural wariness, it is able to survive and flour- 
ish in populated regions where well protected, 
often nesting within town limits. In winter 
it is more gregarious, gathering in small flocks 
and frequently feeding around farm houses. 
Its low mournful cooing lends enchantment 
to the woods at evening. 

In its selection of nesting sites, the doves 

53 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

pick out odd and various places, sometimes 
choosing the hollow top of a broken tree, some- 
times a limb (rarely higher than twenty feet), 
or again a low bush; still again it may build 
in a brush heap, or on a leaning log, where 
there is sufficient support. On the log shown 
in the photograph, a loose piece of bark pro- 
vided a hold for the scanty framework of the 
nest. At best, the nest is a slight affair which 
does not hold together much longer than is 
necessary. The two white eggs, producing 
male and female, are laid one on the second 
day following the first, and hatch in fourteen 
days. Both birds take turns at incubating, 
the female sitting at night, the male in the 
daytime. The young thrust their bills, often 
both at a time, into that of the parent, which 
feeds them by regurgitating the food con- 
tained in its crop. 

Because of its shyness, the mourning dove 
is very difficult to photograph. It generally 

54 




THE SWALLOWS RETURNhO AT INTERVALS OF FIVE OR TEK 
MINUTES. FROM THE BILL FULL OF INSECTS SHOWN HERE 
ONE MAY JUDGE WHAT A QUANTITY OF INSECTS THE YOUNG 
CONSUME 




THE OPEX BEAK OF A YOUXG SWALLOW BEGGIXG FOR 
FOOD MAY BE SEEX WITHIX THE HOLE 



'^1^ ^^^ V\<g 



UJ i- 1 B R A R Y U 

The Mourning Dove \t^\ ■^(c>^'^- -'^ 



deserts its eggs if one disturbs the surround- 
ings in the least, remains long, or returns 
often. After the young are hatched, however, 
it is much less apt to desert, although in the 
writer's experience a dove will never return to 
its nest while a camera is near by. 

Many previous attempts to photograph 
these birds failed before the pictures here 
shown were obtained. In this case, I moved 
toward the nest very gradually, with camera 
ready, placing it down at frequent intervals, 
and acting all the while as unostentatiously 
and unconcerned as possible. Despairing of 
getting closer I made the first exposure at 
about fifteen feet, then another at eight, and 
finally one at four feet. Before the last ex- 
posure I was forced to stand motionless behind 
the camera for half an hour, waiting for the sun 
to shine full on the bird, and the process of 
working up took, altogether, perhaps two 
hours. So slowly had I approached that the 

55 






Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

dove seemed hardly conscious of my presence. 
A similar attempt at the same nest the previ- 
ous morning proved a failure, and it was only 
by going at the task in a most leisurely way 
that I was finally successful. 



56 




THE NEST HOLE WAS EKLARGED AND THE VOUNG REMOVED IN ORDER 
TO PHOTOGRAPH THEM, A DAY OR TWO BEFORE THEY WOULD OTHERWISE 
HAVE LEFT. ONE OF THE YOUNG ESCAPED AND THE REMAINING TW^O 
CAUSED THE PHOTOGRAPHER CONSIDERABLE DIFFICULTY BY REFUSING 
TO REMAIN ON THE PERCH 




A BACK VIEW 



THE GREAT HORNED OWL 

{Buho virginianus) 

A FEW pieces of down and some 
feathers first drew my attention, and 
when a short search presently revealed 
more feathers caught in the ragged edges of 
a broken-off old oak tree, my expectations 
quickly mounted. I forthwith aimed a few 
handy sticks at the broken tree top, and at 
the second throw with startling suddenness, 
the huge form and spreading wings of a great 
horned owl emerged. Poising a moment, 
threateningly, it then swerved up and away, 
disappearing in the woods. 

Thrilling with the discovery of the old owl's 
nest, I accomplished the twenty-five foot climb 
in feverish haste, a final swing landing me in 
a crotch looking down into the hollow top of 

57 



Fainiliar Studies of Wild Birds 

the tree. From the twenty-inch cavity below, 
two young owls, fluffy white balls about 
twelve days old, gazed back in startled amaze- 
ment. They had plainly been well fed, for in 
a circle around them were strewn the remains 
of five birds, a ground squirrel and part of a 
rabbit, the birds including a robin, two yellow- 
bellied sapsuckers, and two flickers. Surely, 
here was food suflicient at one time, even for 
hungry young owls. On my numerous visits 
to the nest during the three following weeks, 
there was always a surprise in the variety of 
new prey these ravenous birds had brought 
home. Song birds, rails, herons, rodents, etc., 
in variety were found, usually with the heads 
eaten off. One long-eared owl was also found, 
a testimony of cannibalistic habits. 

Covered with white down, and their eyes 
closed, with head, beak and talons much out 
of proportion to the body, newly hatched owls 
are grotesque objects. They are fed at short 



S8 




SWALLOW CLEANIXG THE NEST 




THREE YOUKO TREE SWALLOWS, AXD AN ADULT FLYING. AFTER LEAV- 
ING THE NEST THEY ARE FED FOR SEVERAL WEEKS. THE PARENTS DO 
NOT ALIGHT, BARELY PAUSING IN THEIR FLIGHT AS THEY DELIVER THE 
FOOD 



The Great Horned Owl 



intervals, small bits, from the carcasses at 
hand, including the feathers, entrails and all. 
On this diet the young birds grow rapidly, at- 
taining at an age of four weeks almost adult 
size, although not yet fully feathered. They 
are soon encouraged to help themselves from 
the food available, and their legs, at first very 
weak, gain strength enough to support them. 

While one of the parents is attending to 
household duties, the other is foraging for 
more game. In the dead of night, noiselessly, 
like a ghost it sweeps along through the trees, 
mercilessly picking its sleeping victims from 
their sheltered roosts. 

That these owls are savage birds may be 
learned by experience. With a wing spread 
of between four and five feet, large and power- 
ful, dauntless in courage, they prove danger- 
ous antagonists for the intruder who meddles 
in their home affairs. 

During some time that I spent up in the tree 

59 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

photographing the young, the old owls hooted 
their chagrin and anger from near by. Grow- 
ing quickly bolder, they presently flew into 
trees closer at hand to observe what was going 
on at their nest, sometimes perching low down, 
sometimes in the very tiptop of the neighbor- 
ing pines. Their long doleful hooting, inter- 
spersed with subdued cries or an occasional 
grunt, was accompanied by the ruffling of 
their feathers and the snapping of beaks, for 
this is their way of showing anger. When 
hooting they looked straight ahead, apparently 
giving their entire attention to the operation, 
and their white chin patches seemed to expand, 
presenting a very peculiar appearance. 

I was placing my subjects for a last picture, 
when suddenly prompted to look up, I beheld 
one of the old birds only a few yards off sail- 
ing directly toward me. But instead of at- 
tacking me as it probably first intended, it 
alighted on a limb within a distance of six feet. 

60 




MOURNING DOVE ON NEST ON A SLOPING LOG. THE JAGGED PIECE OF 
BARK AFFORDS SUFFICIENT HOLD FOR THE NEST 




MOUBNIXG DOVE S NEST IX THE SHOOTS AT THE BASE OF A LEAXING 
TREE 



The Great Horned Owl 



There it perched, almost within arm's reach, 
long ears erect, the powerful talons of its stout, 
feathered legs gripping and contracting with 
readiness for action, the large, relentless eyes 
fixing me with deadly intentness. The camera 
was unfortunately tied in place for photo- 
graphing the nest, and as it was thus out of 
commission for the occasion I had to sit astride 
a limb, content to observe and wait. A hostile 
move toward the young would have invited 
vengeance, but no further provocation being 
oiFered, the bird presently glided away. 

This close introduction apparently lessening 
the awe in which it had held its visitor, it now 
perched still nearer and was presently joined 
by its mate, both sitting statue-like side by 
side only a few yards away. Having obtained 
satisfactory photographs, I was now ready to 
descend. I was about half way down when 
something struck me a blow just behind the 
right ear, nearly breaking my grip. I was so 

61 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

dazed by the stunning force of the blow that 
it was a moment before I could realize what 
had hit me. Hardly had I recovered my hold, 
when another similar blow caught me on the 
left cheek, leaving a good-sized gash beneath 
the eye, and when I finally reached terra firma 
I was in a very cut-up and bleeding condition. 
A visit to the nest the following day found 
the owls on hand anticipating trouble, and per- 
ceptibly more ready for a duel after the previ- 
ous encounter. On the other hand, I also was 
on the alert, prepared to protect myself 
against emergency. Climbing to and from 
the nest proved most hazardous, as the owls 
seemed to fully realize my awkward position, 
and therefore took this act to be the signal for 
attack. During my short observation of the 
nest, the birds hooted and snapped loudly, and 
as I started down one of them launched out 
for me. In a long swift swoop on horizontal 
pinions, it came on down, the great yellow eyes 

62 




THE YOUNG MOURXIXG DOVE SHOWS LESS DISTINCT SPOTS OX THE WING 




THE GREAT HORNED OWL LEAVIKG ITS NEST IN THE HOLLOW TOP OF AN 
OAK 



The Great Homed Owl 



holding me with a sinister intensity, ominous 
of impending impact. The next instant, hug- 
ging close to the tree, I swung up an arm as 
if to strike, simultaneously ducking. Checked 
by this feint the owl passed, missing its 
aim by a few inches, and before its mate could 
follow up the opportunity, I slipped to the 
ground. Quick action was necessary, for as 
one bird came from one direction, the other 
would follow up the attack closely from the 
opposite side. 

The blow, in every case aimed at the head, 
caused a curious, numbing sensation; the bird 
seemed to strike in full collision, yet at the 
same time to pass. While the main force of 
the stroke came, apparently, from the beak, 
the claws left their deep, unmistakable fur- 
rows in the flesh. It was indeed necessary 
to keep an unremitting watch when in proxim- 
ity to the nest, as the least laxity of vigilance 
was sure to result unpleasantly. The owls' 

63 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

eyesight, contrary to popular opinion, is suffi- 
ciently keen even in bright sunlight, and the 
sagacity with which the birds would time and 
consummate their attacks merits admiration. 

One other incident of the day was of par- 
ticular interest. One of the owls was perched 
in the tiptop of a pine watching me jealously 
as I handled the young. Suddenly a body 
shot downward out of the sky, swerving past 
the owl's head at such terrific velocity as to 
produce a sound like a small clap of thunder. 
It was an uneasy glance the wise old bird cast 
upward, as it apprehended the swoop of the 
cooper hawk just in time to prevent being 
struck. The hawk evidently had perceived 
the owl's unwonted preoccupation, and had 
been tempted to startle it, probably an unusual 
occurrence in the life of these birds. 



64 




THE VOUNG OWLS ABOUT TEN DAYS OLD, SHOWING THE NEST STREWN 
WITH A VARIETY OF GAME 




YOUNG HORNED OWI.S ABOUT TWO WEEKS OLD, STILL IN THE DOWNY 
STAGE 



A KINGBIRD FAMILY 

{Tyr annus tyr annus) 

KINGBIRDS, members of the fly- 
catcher family, are truly kings among 
birds, for they will fearlessly attack 
anything on the wing that happens along, and 
may be counted on to come out the better. It 
must be said that they will also occasionally 
pounce upon smaller birds, striking them to the 
ground, though only rarely and when espe- 
cially provoked. Kingbirds lay their eggs 
late in the season, the young often not leaving 
the nest before the middle of August when 
the insects that form their diet are most plenti- 
ful. At this period large grasshoppers, 
dragon flies, etc., often still alive, are pushed 
whole into the gaping beaks of the hungry 
youngsters. In securing their food, these 

65 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 



birds simply have to wait, for the most part on 
their observation perches, from which they 
dart out at short intervals for the insects that 
float by in the air. They seldom stray far 
from the nest, therefore, and are always on 
hand to question any intruder. 

While the writer was photographing a fam- 
ily of these birds, they would repeatedly dart 
down past his head, giving resounding snaps 
with their beaks. Their graceful and dexter- 
ous sallies after insects furnished a sight worth 
seeing. They would suddenly dart out in a 
long curve, and a loud snap of the beak, sig- 
nifying the capture of an insect, would be fol- 
lowed by a continuous glide on and up to an- 
other perch; or perhaps turning a complete 
somersault they would return to their original 
station. Long dashes of fifty yards or more 
were frequent, and rarely did the luckless insect 
escape. Sometimes in pursuing a fugitive fly 
they performed several rapid revolutions with- 

66 




AT THE AGE OF THREE WEEKS THE YOUNG OWLS ARE MORE LIVELY AKD 
RESEXT INTRUSION BY HISSING AND PUFFING OUT THEIR FEATHERS 




AFTER THEY ARE FOUR WEEKS OLD THE YOUXG OWLS FEATHER OUT 
RAPIDLY 



A Kingbird Family 



in the radius of a foot. Hours quickly passed, 
indeed, while one was engrossed in watching 
the aerial manoeuvres of these expert flyers. 

The old birds repeatedly tried to entice their 
offspring away from the perch on which they 
were placed for photographing. With a 
choice morsel in its beak, the parent would 
hover just behind the young, approaching and 
retreating in its efforts to coax its progeny to 
a safer location; and without dropping the 
morsel from its beak it argued and called per- 
sistently. In this endeavor, it was frequently 
successful to the annoyance of the photo- 
grapher, whose patience and perseverance 
were otherwise sufficiently tried. 

To secui'e bird pictures, the naturalist often 
must spend many tedious hours in gaining the 
confidence of his subjects, but once they begin 
to overcome their original shyness it becomes 
a question of dexterity in snapping the re- 
quired poses. These preliminary hours of pa- 

67 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

tience should be profitably employed in study- 
ing the characteristics of the species, for with- 
out knowing the birds, one can not hope to 
have his pictures tell accurately a part of their 
life history. Lying concealed in the tall grass 
about thirty feet distant, the writer was able to 
make many interesting observations, the cam- 
era eventually verifying many of them in an 
invaluable way. 

It was several days before really satisfac- 
tory pictures of this kingbird family were ob- 
tained, but gradually the birds became accus- 
tomed to the camera, until the writer was able 
(by means of a thread) to snap as many pic- 
tures as he desired. Yet the birds continued 
to regard the camera with distrust, and never 
failed to greet the appearance of the visitor 
with clamorous demonstrations suggestive of 
anything but welcome. 



68 




DRAGOX FLIES, LARGE GRASSHOPPERS, ETC., OFTEN STILL ALIVE, ARE 
THRUST WHOLE WELL DOWN THE THROATS OF THE HUNGRY YOUNG 
KINGBIRDS 




KINGBIRD FEEDING YOUNG. NOTE THE HORIZONTAL POSITION OF THE 
BIRDS. THE HEAD OF THE ADULT IS TURNED AT AN ANGLE AT WHICH 
IT CAN MOST EASILY THRUST THE FOOD DOWN THE THROAT OF THE 
YOUNG 



NOTES FROM THE INDIANA SAND 
DUNES 

IT was the latter part of February, and 
the sun was near setting, when a deluge 
of snow flakes sent me crawling into my 
"pup" tent. Tucked under blankets a-plenty, 
I was soon dozing off into the Happy Hunt- 
ing Grounds of the ornithologist, for I was 
now encamped on the southern shore of Lake 
Michigan, for the purpose of studying the bird 
life of this region. 

The extended tract of sandy hills bordering 
the lake, with their plentiful growth of decidu- 
ous and coniferous trees, is a stopping-ofF 
place for many migrating birds. Always the 
forerunners of spring, the geese arrived late 
in February, and remained for several weeks, 
flying inland at night and out into the lake in 



69 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

the day. Flocks might be seen at almost any 
time floating a few yards off shore. On 
March 2nd, crows appeared in large numbers 
flying eastward along the lake front, and in a 
somewhat fluctuating stream they continued 
to fly by day after day, chiefly in the morning, 
for the rest of the month. The migratory 
movement seemed to be about over by April 
1st. Some winter resident crows had a favor- 
ite perch in the rear of my camp, which they 
occupied at frequent intervals with an eye to 
seconding a pair of friendly red squirrels in a 
camp raid. This afforded me an unusual op- 
portunity of meditating on the profundity of 
the crow language, particularly in the very 
early morning. The caw note alone is ency- 
clopedic in expressiveness, but there are count- 
less other distinct sounds, endless subtle under- 
tones and accentuations included in the crow's 
dialect. 

One morning I walked around to a broken- 

70 




THE PARENT KINGBIRD THRUSTS THE FOOD DOWK FORCEFULLY TO IN- 
SURE AGAINST ITS BEING DROPPED 




AFTER FEEDINCl THE YOUNG, THE PARENT KINGBIRD CAREFULLY WIPES 
ITS BEAK 



Notes from the Indiana Sand Dimes 

off oak, which had been occupied two seasons 
before by a pair of great horned owls, and to 
my delight found its hollow top again in use, 
possibly by the same pair of birds. For these 
owls (which may remain paired for life) often 
frequent a chosen locality for many years. 
The nest, containing on the present occasion 
two soiled white eggs, was lined with snow. 
Just about the time the first bluebirds' notes 
herald the approach of spring, young horned 
owls are hatching. The other night a horned 
owl began hooting no farther away than ten 
yards. Very soft it was, yet laden with the 
tragedy of countless lives that had called forth 
from the veiling darkness of night, as they 
awoke to find themselves in the monster's 
clutch. I listened to the hooting repeated 
every few seconds, and between each hoot the 
sobbing gasp of some small creature nearing 
its end, those talons sinking deeper into the 
victim's flesh in every interval, pressing forth 

71 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

another gasp, at last, a choking cry. The 
amazing range of noises which these owls are 
capable of emitting is not generally known. 
On rare occasions, when my presence near 
their nest has aroused their ire, I have been 
treated to a recital of variations in hooting, 
grunting, and muffled mutterings, punctuated 
by a frequent snapping of beaks, which com- 
bined to produce an effect altogether startling 
and gruesome, — far beyond description. 

March 2nd, I also heard the first bluebirds' 
notes conveying their authoritative message on 
the south winds. In small groups or pairs 
they passed during the following days, flutter- 
ing high in the air, when they struck the lake, 
as if getting their bearings, and then generally 
turning westward as they proceeded on their 
journey. They were still passing during the 
early days of May, but at this late date were 
probably simply wandering over the general 
section in which they intended to settle. With- 



72 




KINGBIRD READY TO LEAVE 




EVIDENCE OF THEIR DOWNY STAGE REMAINS S03IE TIME AFTER THE 
YOUNG KINGBIRDS ARE WELt FEATHERED 



Notes from the Indiana Sand Dunes 

in a few days meadow larks were heard, then 
killdeer, and finally one morning I was awak- 
ened by the familiar chirps of robins. Once, 
when I was returning to camp with firewood, 
I surprised a gray fox trotting directly toward 
me. He disappeared fleetly over the knoll he 
had just passed, but a party of crows, which 
took the matter up, told me very plainly that 
he was making a detour along the side of the 
next large dune, and probably observing me 
the while. 

It was maple sugar time, for the sapsuckers 
had been at work on every hand. Small holes 
a quarter of an inch in diameter and of about 
equal depth were drilled in rings encircling the 
trees or scattered irregularly from the roots 
upward. Presently I discovered the "sap- 
bird" going the rounds of his grove, gathering 
the sap and also the insects which had collected. 
Within a few weeks a bright vermillion mold 
formed where the sap had streamed down the 



73 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

trunks, and the trees looked as if they had been 
daubed with red paint. As I was about to 
move on a low clucking behind announced the 
approach of a ruffed grouse, and I turned my 
head slowly to observe him out of the corner 
of my eye. He was not alarmed at my mo- 
tionless figure, but somewhat disturbed and 
curious. He took a few steps forward, while 
his mate some paces behind clucked warningly ; 
then a few more steps forward, a hasty retreat, 
another advance; but finally deciding on the 
safe course, he returned over the hill. During 
this, the drumming season, grouse are to be 
found along streams "budding" in the willow 
trees. Slate-colored birds flashed their white 
outer tail feathers and followed me through the 
woods with their sucking intonations. Some 
of them would nest in the dunes, others in the 
far northern lands of Labrador and Alaska. 
The crows were wasting a lot of time badger- 
ing their ancient enemy, for they never do 



74 




A GOOD PORTRAIT OF AN ADULT KINGBIRD 




THE CATBIRD IS ONE OF THE FIXEST SONGSTERS, RIVALING EVEN THE 
MOCKING-BIRD IN THE EXTENT OF ITS REPERTOIRE 



Notes from the Indiana Sand Dunes 

overlook an opportunity to rain down retribu- 
tion on the heads that doubtless cause them 
much anxiety at night. A red-tailed hawk 
departed before me from the remains of a cot- 
ton-tail, but a pellet convicted Bubo Virgin- 
ianus. 

The morning of April 19th, I set out with 
the intention of finding at least a crow's nest. 
A dense growth of pine bordering some 
swampy meadows oiFered promise. Red- 
headed woodpeckers, their heads bobbing out 
comically from behind sheltering limbs, ut- 
tered their rattling disapproval of my intrud- 
ing presence. A junco that lighted on a 
chosen tree drew forth the same call. At the 
appearance of a marsh hawk, the red-heads re- 
peated their challenge, while the junco 
dropped into a bush like a stone, and remained 
as still until I began to doubt that I was re- 
garding an animate object. Presently, a song 
from a neighboring thicket brought it back to 



75 




Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

life, and the hush of suspense was dispelled by 
a general outburst of carefree song. Surely, 
"in Nature danger passes like the shadow of 
a fleeting cloud; no sooner is it past than it is 
forgotten." Blue jays have an interesting 
habit of imitating hawks, which one might sur- 
mise arises from a mischievous desire to startle 
other birds. As I was picking my way 
through the marsh from one dry clump to an- 
other, a crow suddenly bursting out vindic- 
tively aroused my suspicion. For a moment 
before I had seen the wily bird departing 
through the timber some distance ahead. Its 
present outburst was clearly intended to con- 
vey the false impression that it had just dis- 
covered me. As wily as the crow, I passed 
its nest without an upward glance, but the 
crafty bird followed me stealthily for some 
distance. A few hundred yards farther on, a 
cushion of pine needles under a fine pine of- 
fered an invitation to rest. I was slipping 



76 



Notes from the Indiana Sand Dunes 

off my pack, when something a few yards 
overhead drew my attention, and looking up 
I discovered a long-eared owl staring down at 
me intently. Silently he ghded away into the 
swamp underbrush. A glance at the ground 
strewn with pellets told me this was one of his, 
regular perches. My eye fell on a seedy-look- 
ing crow's nest, situated in the top of a half 
fallen tree, which on the face of things was 
long since abandoned by its original owners. 
It did not deserve a second glance, but the 
ends of a pair of diverging sticks projecting 
above the rim, somehow riveted my attention. 
Irresistibly my eye returned again and again 
to the leaning tree. Surely such a ramshackle 
aiFair without a leaf to shelter it would not be 
selected as an abode by any bird. Still by 
tossing up a stick the matter could be easily 
settled. 

A long-eared owl slipped off and glided 
after its mate into the swamp underbrush. 

77 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

Exposed to heaven and earth, safe in its very 
conspicuousness, the long-eared owl sits aloft 
on its eggs, while its mate secluded amid dense 
pine bows a few yards off keeps guard. For 
there are many sharp eyes in the woods, among 
them the ever prying ones of those unendur- 
able crows. At any time it may be necessary 
to divert and lead elsewhere some inquisitive 
visitor ; so during the day the mate in the pine 
is ever ready in an emergency. I have known 
a horned owl to kill and feed to its young a 
long-eared owl, so that the anxiety of a con- 
stant watchfulness has to be continued even 
at night. Long-eared owls are very beneficial 
birds, feeding as they do largely on rodents. 
They are rather active during the day, often 
being found on the ground hunting mice. 

It was one of those supremely calm morn- 
ings. Through the mist rising slowly over the 
lake came the wild laugh of a loon. Pres- 
ently, his form emerged into view; then he 

78 



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A YOUNG WOOD THRUSH JUST AFTER LEAVIXG THE NEST. THE YOUNG 
THRUSH RESEMBLES THE YOUNG ROBIN, TO WHICH IT IS CLOSELY BELATED 



Notes from the Indiana Sand Dunes 

sank, without a ripple, without an effort. 
Watching carefully, I soon saw his head reap- 
pear, then gradually his back, and now again 
that wild laugh. Far in the distance, like a faint 
echo, an answering call floated back. A 
gull near by burst out hilariously. In the calm 
of the morning every bird seemed to laugh 
forth its call, and I responded inwardly in 
perfect accord. 

Turning inland I followed a pine-scented 
trail to a reedy marsh ; red-wings were swing- 
ing and singing on the cat-o'-nine-tails ; a bit- 
tern pumped; in the distance a marsh-hawk 
sailed low over the meadows, circling, criss- 
crossing, its white rump flashing in the sun. 
It repeated frequently its low cry (not so 
forceful as that of the red-shouldered hawk), 
and occasionally a low chucking call. Sud- 
denly, it dropped into the tall grass after a 
lizard, frog, snake, or mouse, which constitute 
its staple food. It also occasionally captures 

79 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

birds, even rabbits, but altogether does much 
more good than harm. As it was now June, 
somewhere in or about the marsh in a dry tuft 
of grass, which was merely matted down to 
form a nest, the mate of the hawk observed 
was sitting on her usual complement of four 
to six bluish eggs. 

Red-headed woodpeckers are plentiful in 
the dunes the year round, their numbers being 
augmented in the fall, when they congregate 
here to feed on the abundant crop of acorns. 
Their low-pitched resonant "querl" rings out 
to an accompaniment of rapping, and their 
frolicking manoeuvres give a lively tone to the 
landscape. Dropping into an oak top, one 
will hang upside down onto a sagging bough, 
while securing an acorn, which it takes to a 
neighboring stump, wedges into the bark, and 
then pecks at leisure. While thus engaged, 
it squeals persistently, as if challenging others 
to pursue it, and this they eagerly do, the pur- 

80 




WF.STEUN CHIPPING SPARKOW SETTLING OX NEST 







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WESTERX CHIPPI.VG SPARROW EXTERIXG XEST 



Notes from the Indiana Sand Dunes 

sued circling back through the midst of its 
pursuers, if they show any signs of lagging. I 
have seen them clash and fall to the ground in 
a rather serious encounter. The adults with 
their bright red heads seem just as youthful 
in spirits as the brown-headed young, and alto- 
gether they are the most jolly lot of play- 
fellows imaginable. A marsh-hawk sailing in 
among them evidently causes little apprehen- 
sion; they dodge at a pinch, but the hawk is 
not out of sight before they are as noisy as 
ever. 



81 



PHOTOGRAPHING BIRDS 

TO be successful in photographing 
birds, the first requirement is a love 
for birds. In addition some photo- 
graphic ability and considerable patience are 
needed. A plate camera, the Premo No. 9, 
was used in securing most of the accompany- 
ing photographs. For some phases of the 
work a reflex camera is of great advantage. 

The photographer proceeds in the taking of 
his bird pictures largely according to the par- 
ticular circumstances which confront him. He 
may set out to get the game on the nest, at 
the feeding ground, resting on a bough, or 
flying. Generally, the easiest photograph is 
obtained at the nest. Begin with the nests 
near the ground, where the tripod can be used. 
Set the camera up within three or four feet 
of the nest, preferably just before the time for 

82 




NEST OF LEAST FLYCATCHER. A LARGE AMOUNT OF PAPER IS 
WOVEN INTO IT 




LEAST FLYCATCHER SHOWING THE FEATHERS ON THE HEAD ELE- 
VATED IN THE FORM OF A CREST 




LEAST FLYCATCHER AT NEST. IN THIS PHOTOGRAPH THE BIRD 
APPEARS WITHOUT A TRACE OF A CREST 







j.^-i^^'^tMi^ 









YOUNG MARSH HAWKS 



Photographing Birds 



the eggs to hatch. If, as most often happens, 
the old bird is frightened away from the nest 
during the process, a thread is attached so that 
the picture may be snapped from a distance 
of twenty or thirty feet or more. A few 
leaves placed so as to conceal the camera as 
much as possible may be necessary, when the 
birds are timid. The camera all set, the next 
thing is to find concealment in tall grass or 
behind a bush, from where the nest may be 
viewed and the thread pulled. The old bird 
is very reluctant to leave the eggs exposed 
during the period of a few days preceding the 
hatching, and at this crucial time will seldom 
cause one to wait long before she overcomes 
her fear and returns. The various poses of 
the bird as it alights at the nest, inspects the 
eggs, and, finally, tucking them skillfully 
under her, settles down to brood, offer oppor- 
tunities for a series of photographs, valuable 
both from artistic and scientific standpoints. 



83 



Familiar Studies of Wild Birds 

The different degrees of timidness in species, 
as well as among individual birds draw on all 
the ingenuity one may have. There are cer- 
tain localities that offer abundant possibilities 
in the bird field of photography. A lake with 
a reedy marsh adjoining furnishes the most 
excellent grounds for water birds, which are 
found nesting in such places in surprising 
numbers. Many of these species construct a 
floating nest of sticks and other debris, or 
place their nest on small clumps of earth. 
Others build in the rushes. Various species of 
blackbirds, rail, coot, bittern, the black tern, 
and others of the water fowl, may be found in 
early spring in domestic occupations within a 
short radius. The reflex camera can be used 
h&TS- yvi^th jiito^^ &»cc&33, and in catching the 
birds on the wing they are indispensable. 

Bird pictures may also be taken successfully 
with a telephoto lens. Where it is possible, 
however, to get within close range, the results 



84 




A BROWX THRASHER WHOSE ANXIETY FOR HER YOUNG FAMILY HAS OVER- 
COME HER NATURAL SHYNESS 




THE MAOPIE IS A SCAVEXGER AXD OATHERS IX LARGE NUJIBERS TO FEED 
AROUND SMALL SLAUGHTER-HOUSES IX CERTAIN PARTS OF THE WEST. 
IT IS ABUXDAXT IX THE LARGER VALLEYS OF UTAH, BEIXG SCATTERED 
MORE SPARIXGLY IX THE FOOTHILLS 



Photographing Birds 



are generally more satisfactory, as there are 
numerous difficulties attending the hunting of 
birds with a telephoto outfit. 

When the young are hatched, making pic- 
tures of various phases of their bringing up, 
the feeding, etc., is the most interesting of 
pastimes. An amount of patience and skill 
may be required to secure pictures with the 
birds in natural attitudes and free from alarm. 
By working with one nest day after day, and 
following up developments, gradually getting 
the birds accustomed to the camera, friendly 
relations, with profitable results to the photog- 
rapher, may be established. 



85 



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