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Full text of "A history of the game birds, wild-fowl and shore birds of Massachusetts and adjacent states : including those used for food which have disappeared since the settlement of the country, and those which are now hunted for food or sport, with observations on their former abundance and recent decrease in numbers; also the means for conserving those still in existence"

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state Library of Massachusetts 
State House, Boston 


Now (1911) in imminent danger of extinction. (From a drawing made by 
Louis Agassiz Fuertes for the National Association of Audubon Societies, 
and first reproduced in Bird-Lore.) 


Game Birds, Wild-Fowl 
and Shore Birds 


Massachusetts and Adjacent States 

Including those used for food which have disappeared since the 

settlement of the country, and those which are now hunted 

for food or sport, with observations on their 

former abundance and recent decrease 

in numbers; also the means for 

conserving those still 

in existence 

By Edward Howe Forbush 

State Ornltfiologlst of Massachusetts 


Illustrated withDrpwings by W. I. Beecroft and the Author 
and Photog^'apKs t)>f Herbert JC/j^b .and. others 

» > 

.V, , ,, 

'Is'Eued, t>y 'tHe' ^ : , : ^ ' 
Massachusetts I State Board of Agriculture 
By Autfiorlty of the Legislature, 1912 


MAR 14 1940 





'« e c e c * 

Act) e c 

. •• •• 

• • « 


®l)C (Jlommonroealtf) of itta50ac[)U0ett0. 

Resolves of 1910, Chapter 90. 
A Resolve to provide for the preparation and printing of a special 


Resolved, That there be allowed and paid out of the treasury of the 
commonwealth a sum not exceeding four thousand dollars for preparing and 
printing, under the direction of the state board of agriculture, in an edition 
of five thousand copies, a special report on the game birds of the common- 
wealth economically considered, to include the facts already ascertained by 
the state ornithologist, relating to their history, value and the necessity for 
their protection, to be distributed as follows: — Two copies to each free 
public library in the commonwealth; two copies to each high school, and 
two copies to such schools in towns which have no high school as the school 
committee may designate; one copy to the library of congress and one copy 
to each state or territorial library in the United States; ten copies to the 
state library; one copy to the governor; one copy to the lieutenant governor 
and each member of the council; one copy to the secretary of the common- 
wealth; one copy to the treasurer and receiver general; one copy to the 
auditor of the commonwealth; one copy to the attorney -general; one copy 
to each member of the present general court applying for the same; one 
copy to each elective officer of the present general court; one copy to each 
member of the state board of agriculture; five copies to the secretary of the 
state board of agriculture; and four hundred and fifty copies to the state 
ornithologist for distribution to those who have assisted by contributing 
material for the report; the remaining copies to be sold by the secretary 
of the state board of agriculture at a price not less than the cost thereof. 
Additional copies may be printed for sale at the discretion of the secretary 
of the state board of agriculture, the expense thereof to be paid from the 
receipts of such sales. Any amount received from sales shall be paid into 
the treasury of the commonwealth. [Approved May 5, 1910. 


This volume is intended to fill a place heretofore unfilled, 
in at least two respects, by any American work. The former 
abundance and later decrease of the migratory game birds of 
eastern North America have been studied and narrated at 
length for the first time, and the histories of the food species 
of New England which have been exterminated since the set- 
tlement of the country have been brought together. This 
has been done with a purpose. 

Whenever legislation for the protection of shore birds or 
wild-fowl has been attempted in the Maritime States of the 
Atlantic seaboard, certain interested individuals have come 
forward to oppose it, with the plea that these birds are not 
decreasing in numbers, but, instead, are increasing, and that 
they need no further protection. Some admit that certain 
species are decreasing, but argue that shooting is not respon- 
sible for this condition. Similar statements are made in sup- 
port of proposed legislation for the repeal of existing protective 

The object of the investigation on which this volume is 
based was to secure information from historical and ornitho- 
logical works, and from ornithologists, sportsmen and gun- 
ners, regarding the increase or decrease of the birds which 
are hunted for food or sport. 

The report is published with the intention, first, to show 
the former abundance of resident and migratory game birds 
in America and their subsequent decrease in numbers; second, 
to furnish gunners and others with the means of identifying 
game birds, that the people may recognize the different species 
and thus fit themselves to observe protective laws; and third, 
to demonstrate how these birds may be conserved. The nar- 
ratives of early explorers and pioneers show plainly the former 
abundance of game birds. The unbiased statements of orni- 


thologists of the nineteenth century exhibit the great decrease 
in numbers of many species, and estimates summarized in 
this volume indicate that the majority of the best informed 
gunners themselves now admit that the decrease of these 
birds has continued during the past thirty years, and that it 
is due largely to overshooting; therefore, the report will serve 
as a basis for both restrictive and constructive legislation for 
the protection and propagation of game birds. 

The descriptions in Part I, written mainly in language 
understood by the people, and the cuts which have been made 
to show the form and markings of the species, taken together, 
will answer the second purpose for which the book is written. 
Prominent markings which readily may be recognized in the 
field, and which will help in identifying the birds, are given 
under the head of " field marks." The representations of the 
notes and calls of birds are taken mainly from the writings of 
others. Attempts to suggest bird notes on paper almost 
always are inadequate. My own always have been unsatis- 
factory, but it is hoped that those given may be of some assist- 
ance to the beginner. Brief descriptions of the nests and eggs 
of the species now nesting in Massachusetts or near-by States, 
or which are believed to have nested here formerly are given 
as a possible help to identification. 

An attempt has been made to interest the reader in these 
much-persecuted birds for their own sake. For this reason 
the range, migration and habits of each bird are touched 
upon in nearly all cases. 

In the introduction an attempt is made to narrate briefly 
the history of the decrease of resident and migratory game 
birds along the Atlantic seaboard. Part I continues this his- 
tory, but particularizes and localizes by taking up separately 
each individual species that has been recorded from Massa- 
chusetts and near-by States. Part II groups together the 
histories of the species utilized as food which have disap- 
peared from New England since the settlement of the country, 
and exhibits the causes that brought about the destruction of 
these species. Part III analyzes the causes of the decrease 
of the species of game birds, wild-fowl and shore birds that 


are still extant, and indicates how they may be conserved and 
how depleted areas may be restocked with certain species. 

It was my intention before beginning the work to under- 
take an investigation of the food of wild-fowl and shore birds, 
but as Mr. W. L. McAtee of the Bureau of Biological Survey 
of the United States Department of Agriculture was then 
engaged in a similar quest, and hoped to have the results 
published, I arranged with him to make use of his publication, 
and give credit to the Survey. Unfortunately, very little of 
the results of Mr. McAtee's work have been published, and 
this volume necessarily goes to press with but a small part 
of them. For this reason the observations on the food of 
these birds have not been brought down to date. 

Many of Mr. Beecroft's drawings, from which the line 
cuts of the birds were made, have been corrected, and some 
of them have been largely redrawn by myself, with the assist- 
ance of Miss Annie E. Chase. Miss Chase also made the 
drawing of the Whooping Crane, the plate of which faces 
page 477. Mr. Beecroft was handicapped in his work by 
having no opportunity to make studies from the living birds, 
and by being obliged to draw his inspiration from skins, 
stuffed specimens, photographs and the illustrations of 
others. The drawings for the cuts of the Wood Duck, the 
Mallard and the Red Phalarope are my own; also the draw- 
ings for the cuts on pages 40, 49, 59, 70, 111, 147, 202, 224, 
228, 230, 271, 277, 326, 331 and 417 (all after C. B. Cory), and 
the figures on pages 133 and 147. All concerned in the prep- 
aration of the drawings must acknowledge their indebted- 
ness to many artists from the time of Audubon to the present 
day, and particularly to Mr. Louis Agassiz Fuertes, whose 
excellent drawings as figured in Eaton's Birds of New York, 
gave many suggestions. The faults of the illustrations are 
obvious, but every effort has been made to secure such rep- 
resentations of form, proportion and markings as to make 
the species recognizable. It was my intention to have the 
birds of each family represented in Part I figured in proper 
proportion one to the other, — to have the Sandpipers, for ex- 
ample, of such relative size as to suggest the differences in 


size between the different species. The engraver has not 
always been accurate in his reductions, but, in the main, the 
idea has been carried out. 

The bibhography which was planned for publication here- 
with was crowded out because of the vast amount of material 
available for the work, which has resulted in increasing its 
bulk beyond the limit at first contemplated, and which has 
made necessary an abridgment of even the index; but the 
names of authors, contributors and collectors are inserted in 
the index because of the omission of the bibliography. 

What an embarrassment is that of the author who desires 
to acknowledge his indebtedness to those who have gone 
before! I am under obligations to many hundreds of indi- 
viduals from the early explorers, like Champlain and Hudson, 
down through the centuries to the ornithologists and sports- 
men of the present day. A long list of the names of observ- 
ers who have furnished information in regard to the commoner 
species is presented on the last pages of this volume, and many 
correspondents in many States whose names are not mentioned 
there are gratefully remembered. The writings of Mr. Wil- 
liam Brewster, Dr. C. W. Townsend and Dr. D. G. Elliot 
have been exceedingly helpful, and those of many others have 
furnished facts and suggestions. In this connection mention 
should be made of a description of a flight of water-fowl in 
" The Water-fowl Family," by Sanford, Bishop and Van Dyke, 
which furnished the model for a similar description on page 
4 of this volume. I am indebted particularly to my friends, 
Mr. William Brewster and Dr. George W. Field, who have 
kindly read brief parts of the manuscript, and more than I 
can tell to my wife, who has patiently assisted in reading 
manuscript and proof, and to Mr. Wilson H. Fay for his work 
upon the index. It is a pleasure to acknowledge the courtesy 
of the managements of Collier's Weekly, Forest and Stream and 
Bird-Lore, who, with many others, have given permission to 
quote or to use illustrations. Acknowledgments are due to Rev. 
Herbert K. Job, Mr. Charlesworth Levy, Mr. Howard H. Cleaves 
and others, whose names are mentioned elsewhere, for photo- 
graphs. The Bureau of Biological Survey of the United 


States Department of Agriculture has placed me under great 
obligations for much information for which the Survey has 
not always been given credit in the text; Prof. W. W. Cooke's 
paper on the Distribution and Migration of American Ducks, 
Geese and Swans, also his paper on the Distribution and Migra- 
tion of North American Shore Birds, and Mr. W. L. McAtee's 
paper on Our Vanishing Shore Birds, all published by the 
Survey, have been utilized freely in the preparation of this 
volume. It would be extremely ungracious for any one at 
the present day to write anything on the economic relations 
of birds without acknowledging his indebtedness to the pains- 
taking workers of the Survey, who have given to the world 
the greatest amount of valuable material on such subjects 
ever published anywhere. Mr. Charles W. Johnson, curator 
of the Museum of the Boston Natural History Society, has 
given every opportunity to both author and artist whenever 
specimens have been needed for examination. Mr. Ralph 
Holman has placed all his field notes at my disposal. The 
ornithological nomenclature used in heading each description 
of a species is that contained in the third edition of the Check 
List of the American Ornithologists Union, published in 1910. 
The range of each species is taken from the Check List in 
nearly all cases, though somewhat abridged. The statements 
regarding the decrease of birds taken from various authors 
are not quoted in full, but are abridged, care being taken not 
to distort their assertions. Dr. M. L. Fernald has placed me 
under obligations by bringing down to date the names of plants 
in the lists on pages 582-587. Other scientific nomenclature 
of plants and animals is given unchanged as taken from various 
authors from the time of Audubon to the present day. 

Much of the manuscript necessarily was written and re- 
vised when I was fully occupied in other work of an executive 
character, often when travelling by train or boat, and at a 
distance from any library; otherwise, the task could not have 
been completed within the time limit. It is to be regretted that 
a work of this kind should have been done of necessity under 
circumstances of pressure that precluded literary excellence, 
but care has been exercised to state only facts, and I have en- 


deavored always to give credit to other authors whenever it 
has been feasible. 

It remains to express my gratitude to Mr. J. Lewis Ells- 
worth, secretary of the State Board of Agriculture, and the 
members of the Board, who have advocated the publication 
of this work and loyally supported the undertaking. This 
support has made the publication possible, and to these gen- 
tlemen is due whatever credit may be given. The responsi- 
bility for the shortcomings of the work is my own. 

Edward Howe Forbush. 

June 1, 1912. 


Introduction: — 

America, A Country of Game Birds, ....... 

Abundance of Game found by Explorers and Colonists, .... 

Former Abundance of Game Birds in the West and South, 

The Decrease of Edible Birds, ........ 


A History of the Birds now hunted for Food or Sport in Massachu- 
setts AND Adjacent States: — 
River Ducks, 
Bay and Sea Ducks, 

Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots 
Avocets and Stilts, 
Snipes, Sandpipers, etc.. 
Pigeons and Doves, 





A History of the Game Birds and Other Birds hunted for Food or 
Sport which have been driven out of Massachusetts and 
Adjacent States, or exterminated since the Settlement 
OF THE Country: — 

Extinct Species, ........... 399 

Great Auk, . 
Labrador Duck, 
Eskimo Curlew, 
Passenger Pigeon, 
Extirpated Species, 
Trumpeter Swan, 
Whooping Crane, 
Sandhill Crane, 
Wild Turkey, 








The Conservation of Game Birds, Wild-fowl and Shore Birds: — 
The Economic Value of Game Birds, Wild-fowl and Shore Birds, 
The Decrease of Game Birds in Massachusetts, 

The Recuperative Powers of Nature, 
The Causes of the Decrease of Game Birds, 

Market Hunting, .... 

Spring Shooting, 

Summer Shooting, 

Settlement and Agriculture as a Cause for 

Night Shooting, .... 

Pursuing Wild-fowl in Boats, . 

The Use of Live Decoys, 

The Elements, Storms and Cold, 

Epidemic Diseases, 

Natural Enemies, .... 

Telegraph, Telephone and Trolley Wires, 
Minor Causes of the Decrease of Birds, . 

Lead Poisoning, .... 

The Destruction of the Feeding Grounds, 
Erroneous Opinions regarding the Causes of the Decrease of Game 
Wild-fowl and Shore Birds, ..... 

The Destruction of the Eggs of Wild-fowl for Commercial Purposes, 

The Decline of Agriculture, ..... 

The Increase of Cottages and Camps, 

The Shortening of the Open Season, 
Guns Most Destructive, ...... 

The Viewpoint of the Hunter, .... 

The Introduction of Foreign Game Birds, 

Game Preserving, ....... 

The Game Preserve increases Insectivorous Birds, 
Methods of Attracting Water-fowl, .... 

Attracting Upland Game Birds, ..... 
Statutory Game Protection, ...... 

Federal Supervision of the Protection of Migratory Birds, 

Public Game and Bird Reservations, 
A Brief Summary of Needed Reforms for Game Protection, 
Enforcement of the Game Laws, ..... 
A List of the Names of those who filled out the Blank Forms for Informa- 
tion, which form the Basis of the Estimates on the Recent De- 
crease of Game Birds, Wild-fowl and Shore Birds, 
Index, ............. 






List of Illustrations. 

Upland Plover (Colored Plate), ...... 

Plate I. — River Ducks and Swans, ..... 

Plate II. — Two Baldpates on Leverett Pond, Boston, 
Plate III. — Canvas-back and Baldpate on Leverett Pond, Boston 
Plate IV. — Group of Bay Ducks, 
Plate V. — Nest of Eider, 
Plate VI. — Barnacle Goose, 
Plate VII. — Woodcock on Nest, 
Plate VIII. — Spotted Sandpiper (Young), 
Plate IX. — Spotted Sandpiper (Adult), 
Plate X. — Ruffed Grouse Drumming, 
Plate XI. — Heath Hen, . 
Plate XII. — Great Auk, . 
Plate XIII. — Labrador Duck, . 
Plate XIV. — Eskimo Curlew, . 
Plate XV. — The Last Passenger Pigeon, 
Plate XVI. — Pigeon Net, 
Plate XVII. — Young Passenger Pigeon, 
Plate XVIII. — Eggs of Passenger Pigeon and Mourning Dove, 
Plate XIX. — Band-tailed Pigeon, Passenger Pigeon and Mourn 
ing Dove, ..... 

Plate XX. — Trumpeter Swan, 

Plate XXI. — Whooping Crane, 

Plate XXII. — Sandhill Crane, 

Plate XXIII. — Wild Turkey, . 

Plate XXIV. — Propagation, 

Plate XXV. — Protection, 

Plate XXVI. — Attracting Canada Geese, 

Plate XXVII. — A Result of stopping Spring Shooting 

Plate XXVIII. — W^ild-fowl on a Game Farm, . 

Plate XXIX. — A Breeding Pen for Bob-whites, 

Plate XXX. — Group of Bob-whites in Confinement, 

Plate XXXI. — Wild Rice in Flower, 

Plate XXXII. — Winter Buds of Wild Celery, . 

Plate XXXIII. — Seed Pods of Wild Celery, 

Plate XXXIV. — Wide-ranging Species of Pondweed, 

Plate XXXV. — Wide-ranging Species of Pondweed, 

Plate XXXVI. — Winter Shelter for Quail, 

faces page 39 
faces page 69 
faces page 69 
faces page 111 
faces page 150 
faces page 193 
faces page 235 
faces page 322 
faces page 322 
faces page 377 
faces page 385 
faces page 399 
faces page 411 
faces page 416 
faces page 433 
faces page 438 
faces page 450 
faces page 460 

faces page 460 
faces page 472 
faces page 477 
faces page 483 
faces page 487 
faces page 497 
faces page 497 
faces page 508 
faces page 524 
faces page 540 
faces page 563 
faces page 563 
faces page 571 
faces page 576 
faces page 576 
between pages 578 and 579 
between pages 578 and 579 
faces page 581 




Holboell's Grebe, 
Horned Grebe, . 
Pied-billed Grebe, 

Black-throated Loon, 
Red-throated Loon, 
Red-breasted Merganser, 
Hooded Merganser, 
Mallard, . 
Black Duck, 
Gadwall, . 
Baldpate, . 
Green-winged Teal, 
Blue-winged Teal, 

Shoveller, . 

Pintail (Male), . 

Pintail (Female), 

Wood Duck, 

Redhead, . 



Lesser Scaup, 

Ring-necked Duck, 



Old-Squaw (Males), 

Old-Squaw (Female), 

Harlequin Duck, 



White-winged Scoter, 

Surf Scoter, 

Ruddy Duck, 

Snow Goose, 

Blue Goose, 

White-fronted Goose, 

Canada Goose, . 


Whistling Swan, 

Clapper Rail, 
Virginia Rail, 
Sora Rail, . 















































Yellow Rail, 

Black Rail, 

Purple Gallinule, 

Florida Gallinule, 


Red Phalarope, . 

Northern Phalarope, . 

Wilson's Phalarope, 


Black-necked Stilt, 

Wilson's Snipe, . 


Stilt Sandpiper, . 


Purple Sandpiper, 

Pectoral Sandpiper, 

White-rumped Sandpiper, 

Baird's Sandpiper, 

Least Sandpiper, 

Red-backed Sandpiper, 

Semipalmated Sandpiper, 


Marbled Godwit, 

Hudsonian Godwit, 

Greater Yellow-legs, 


Solitary Sandpiper, 


Buff-breasted Sandpiper, 

Long-billed Curlew, 

Hudsonian Curlew, 

Black-bellied Plover, 

Golden Plover, . 

Killdeer Plover, 

Semipalmated Plover, 

Piping Plover, 

Ruddy Turnstone, 

Oyster-catcher, . 










































Figures in the Text. 
Figure 1. — Foot of Grebe, .... 

Figure 2. — Foot of Loon, .... 

Figure 3. — Bill of Merganser, .... 
Figure 4. — Foot of River Duck, 




Figure 5. — Axillars of Baldpate, Axillars of European Widgeon, 

Figure 6. — Foot of Sea Duck, .... 

Figure 7. — Head of Female Ring-necked Duck, 

Figure 8. — Head of Barrow's Golden-eye (Male), 

Figure 9. — Bills of Eiders, 

Figure 10. — Head of Male King Eider, 

Figure 11. — Foot of Coot, 

Figure 12. — Foot of Red Phalarope, 

Figure 13. — Foot of Northern Phalarope, 

Figure 14. — Foot of Wilson's Phalarope, 

Figure 15. — Tail of Pectoral Sandpiper, 

Figure 16. — Tail of Baird's Sandpiper, 

Figure 17. — First Primary and Axillars of Long-billed Curlew, 

Figure 18. — First Primary and Axillars of Hudsonian Curlew, 

Figure 19. — Head of Wilson's Plover, .... 

Figure 20. — Axillars and First Primary of Eskimo Curlew, 

Figure 21. — Pigeon Basket, ...... 

Figure 22. — Wild Rice 

Figure 23. — Wild Celery, 

Figure 24. — Leaves of Wild Celery, showing Venation, 
Figure 25. — Sago Pondweed, ..... 
Figure 26. — Tubers of Sago Pondweed, 


27 L 


Game Birds, Wild-fowl and Shore Birds. 


America, a Country of Game Birds. 

North America, at the time of its discovery, probably con- 
tained more game birds in proportion to its size than any other 
land. One hundred and seventy distinct species of game birds 
are found on this continent, and the list might be considerably 
extended by adding other birds which, although not considered 
as game, have been used for food. The check list of the Amer- 
ican Ornithologists' Union (1910) gives twenty-four species and 
subspecies of Doves and Pigeons; six of Turkeys; forty-two of 
Grouse; nineteen of Bob-whites, etc. ; sixteen of Plover; seventy 
of Snipe, Sandpipers, Godwits, etc.; twenty-six of Rails and 
Cranes, etc.; and seventy-four of edible web-footed wild-fowl, 
— all of which (excluding some necessary duplications) might 
be included in the list of North American game birds. 

Game birds bred in countless numbers throughout the region 
now known as the United States and Mexico, when America 
first became known to Europeans. In autumn, winter and 
spring the migratory species swarmed in this region in num- 
bers unprecedented in the experience of man in any land. 
The shape and situation of the continent and islands of North 
America are such as to provide in the temperate and northern 
portions an immense breeding ground for migratory birds, and 
to congest them in the southern part during the fall, winter 
and early spring. The general conformation of the North 
American continent is that of a triangle, with its base lying in 
the arctic regions and its apex south of the tropic of Cancer. 
The distance across the northern part of the continent, meas- 
uring from the easternmost point of Newfoundland to the 
northwestern shores of Alaska, is more than four thousand 
miles, and from the eastern point of Greenland to the western- 


most of the Aleutian Islands is quite as far. Contrast this 
with the distance from the lower coast of Georgia to the Gulf 
of California (less than two thousand miles). Note also that 
a line drawn across Mexico on the tropic of Cancer measures 
less than six hundred miles. Such conditions are found in no 
other continent. 

The position of South America is exactly the opposite in 
relation to bird migration, for the apex of the triangle of that 
continent lies toward the south pole and its base lies near 
the ecj(uator; therefore, there could be no such congestion of 
species caused by migration from the colder or southern parts 
of that continent toward the equator as is found in North 
America, when the birds that breed in the vast expanse of 
the north migrate to the comparatively contracted southern 

The lands of the eastern hemisphere, taken as one large 
continent, are wider toward the equator than toward the poles, 
and no conditions are found there similar to those in North 
America, except perhaps in China, Indo-China, the peninsula 
of India and the Malay peninsula, in all of which a congestion 
of species similar to that once found in North America prob- 
ably occurs in the migration periods, but on a smaller scale. 

North America has an advantage over all other countries in 
its great arctic breeding grounds, that offer extensive nesting 
places and feeding grounds for water birds. A great archi- 
pelago extends from the arctic coast of North America a thou- 
sand miles toward the north pole, and the vast expanse of 
Greenland lies to the eastward. On all these islands, great 
and small, water-fowl may nest forever, unmolested by civil- 
ized man. 

In the light of our present knowledge, it is not difficult to 
imagine the great migration that annually occurred before the 
continent was peopled by the whites. When the short arctic 
summer drew to a close, — when the young birds had become 
strong on the wing, — the great exodus from the northern seas 
began. The Brant, which penetrated to the northernmost 
parts of Greenland and Ellesmere Land, even to the far shores 
of the Polar Sea, turned their faces to the south. As they 
moved southward. Auks, Murres, Gulls, Old-squaws and other 


sea-fowl joined in the flight, part of which turned to the open 
waters of the Atlantic on the east and part to the Pacific on 
the west, but the greater part kept on, crossing the continent 
to the south. As this concourse moved on, the great islands 
of the North Georgia Archipelago gave up their quota of Snow 
Geese and other water-fowl; and as the widening, deepening 
wave rolled southward, it was swelled by countless Loons, 
Cranes, Swans and Plover from the great and lonely lands 
lying in the Arctic Ocean, between the Georgia Islands and 
the coast of the continent. Banks Land, Behring Land, 
Prince of Wales Land, King William Land, North Somer- 
set Land, Cockburn Land and Baffin Land gave forth their 
thousands and tens of thousands; and when at last the aerial 
hosts reached the southern shores of the Arctic Sea, the}" were 
joined by the vast swarms of Geese and Swans that bred 
there upon the wide-spreading tundra. From the mouth of 
the Yukon to the shores of Ungava, Geese, Eider Ducks and 
many other water-fowl and myriads of shore birds joined the 
advancing tide of bird life. The wave of migration secured 
tremendous accessions from the Barren Grounds; but it was 
the timbered region, the great plains of the northwest and 
the river valleys of British America and Alaska that furnished 
the greatest flights of Swans, Cranes, Canada Geese, Ducks 
and Teal. Moving by easy stages through August and early 
September, the vanguard of the host reached the boundaries 
of what we now know as the United States. Great flights of 
Wood Ducks, Snipe, Curlews, Plover and Teal were in the 
advance. We have no adequate early records of the move- 
ments of these mighty hosts. A paragraph here and there 
from the narratives of early explorers is all that can be 
found, but even as late as the middle of the nineteenth 
century the flights were still immense. Had De Soto and 
the adventurers of his company kept and published an 
account of the flights of birds that they witnessed, they 
might have told of the impressions left by their first sight of 
this great congregation of migratory fowl. The advance of 
autumn and the sharp touch of the frost king in the north 
had sealed the waters of the upper half of the continent, — a 
seal that would remain unbroken until the return of spring. 


Dark clouds of coming storms obscured the northern sky, and 
the wind blew wild and chill. The Indian hunter, standing 
on the river shore at sunset, might then have seen the whole 
sky overcast by clouds of birds, formed in dun strata, moving 
fast and far in varying lines, but all trending toward the 
south. Dense masses of Scaup winnowed their way low over 
the land. Vast flocks of Teal swept close by, with a roar of 
rushing pinions as they swayed and turned in quest of feeding 
grounds. Lines of Mallards extended across the dome of the 
sky, flock after flock, in almost continuous array. Swift flights 
of Canvas-backs kept their unwavering course. Masses of 
Red-heads kept them company, while smaller flocks dis- 
charged their members like zigzag bolts to the wave below. 
Here and there Teal and Widgeons rode down the air with 
stiffening wing, concentering upon lake or river, where many 
a weary flock sought rest, until the water was black with float- 
ing birds, and still unwearied myriads high in air sped south- 
ward. Canada Geese, in the long " V " formation of the 
unbroken flock, in shattered ranks or in changing lines, trail- 
ing, crossing and diverging or converging in the sky, passed 
over in untold numbers with unslackening wing. Their musi- 
cal notes filled the air like the cries of a thousand packs of 
hounds. The upper air was full of nameless water-fowl, 
while far above them all great flocks of Cranes swam in the 
blue sky; and higher still, in the full light of a sun now 
passed from view, rode long lines of snowy Swans, their clang- 
ing, trumpet tones lost among the nearer sounds of voice 
and wing that fell from the mighty hosts of smaller water- 
fowl and waders rushing on their way. Scenes approach- 
ing this great concourse of moving fowl were witnessed and 
described even as late as the middle of the last century, in 
the sparsely settled country of the middle west. 

In early days the discharge of a musket near a marshy 
pool would seem to cause the whole marsh to rise in a mass 
that blotted out the sky. For days the sky was never clear 
of Pigeons, and sometimes was entirely obscured for hours. 

The shape and character of the continent and its elevations 
and depressions are such that, while the autumn movement 
was generally south throughout the country, much of the 


wave of migration which reached across the land swept from 
northwest to southeast; therefore, the greatest congestion of 
birds in winter was found along the middle and south Atlantic 
coasts, and in the southern States bordering upon the Gulf 
of Mexico. There was also in Mexico a similar congestion 
upon a smaller scale, for a considerable part of the flight com- 
ing down the Pacific coast penetrated to Mexico and beyond. 
Some species went on to South America, and a few followed 
the South American continent to Patagonia. This line of 
migration continues unchanged to-day, except for the decrease 
in numbers. 

While manv Alaskan birds come down the Pacific coast 
in their migration, a great part of them follow up the region 
watered by the Yukon and its tributaries, going southeast 
into the Mackenzie-Athabasca region, and reach the Atlantic 
coast, together with many of the birds of that area and others 
of the Hudson Bay country, by passing down south of Hudson 
Bay and through the region of the Great Lakes. Some thus 
reach southern New England and New York, while others 
appear on the Atlantic coast farther south; still others turn 
more to the southward, and, keeping east of the Rocky Moun- 
tains and the higher plains, or passing down the Mississippi 
vallev, reach Florida and the other Gulf States. Southern 
New England was once particularly fortunate in the numbers 
of species and individuals which came into its territory in 
migration. Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut lie 
within the scope of the great wave of southeastern migration 
from Alaska and the region west of Hudson Bay, and they are 
also directly in the path of the flight from Greenland, Baffin's 
Land, Labrador and the Maritime Provinces. It was in part 
this fortunate position at the junction of two streams of 
migration that gave southern New England the abundance 
of migratory game birds which the early voyagers and settlers 
found there. Most of the maritime species from the Arctic 
and the north Atlantic come as far as Massachusetts in winter, 
while nearly all the wild-fowl and shore birds of the interior 
once visited our waters and shores in fall, winter and spring. 


Abundance of Game found by Explorers and Colonists. 

When the settlement of America was begun, the number of 
individuals of these species was beyond computation, and the 
statements made by those who wrote about the game of the 
country at that time seem utterly incredible when repeated 
to-day. Nearly all the earlier explorers and travellers who 
mention birds or mammals in their narratives tell of the 
"great store " of fowl in the country. 

It is recorded that water-fowl, shore birds. Cranes and 
Herons bred along the Atlantic coast from Maine to Florida, 
and that they migrated back and forth along the Atlantic 
seaboard in incredible numbers. Ruffed Grouse, Pinnated 
Grouse, Bob-whites and Wild Turkeys were reported as 
appearing in great flocks, not only in the interior of the 
country, but along the coast, in suitable localities. We are 
not now accustomed to regard the Atlantic seaboard as a 
great breeding place and resort for water-fowl and game 
birds, but the early explorers and colonists found it alive 
with them, from the West Indies to Labrador. A few of 
their statements may be cited here. 

Beginning with the West Indian records of the early 
explorers, we find that George Percy of Captain John Smith's 
company contributes a narrative in which he asserts that on 
April 4, 1607, the company anchored at the Isle of " Virgines," 
where, he says, they killed "great store" of wild-fowl; and 
again he says: " On the nineth day of April, in the afternoone, 
we went off with our boat to the He of Moneta, [Monica] 
some three leagues from Mona [an island near Hayti]. After 
wee got to the top of the He wee found it to bee a fertill and a 
plaine ground, full of goodly grasse and abundance of Fowles 
of all kindes. They flew over our heads as thicke as drops of 
Hale: besides they made such a noise that wee were not able 
to heare one another speake. Furthermore, wee were not able 
to set our feet on the ground, but either on Fowles or Egges 
which lay so thicke in the grasse. Wee laded two Boats full 
in the space of three houres, to our great refreshing." ^ 

t Tyler, Lyon Gardiner: Narratives of Early Virginia, 1907, p. 9. 


There is no clew, however, to the species of birds found, 
except that they were " wild fowles " which in general im- 
plies that they were water-fowl. Undoubtedly many of the 
birds seen breeding in these lower latitudes were such as 
are known as sea-fowl or water birds, probably including 
Pelicans and Cormorants. Capt. John Smith mentions the 
Pelican as one of the birds on which he and his adventurers 
daily feasted in the " Virgines Isles." ^ He also states that 
on the isle called Monica they took from the bushes with 
their hands nearly two hogsheads full of birds in two or 
three hours. 

When the first explorers reached Florida they found it 
swarming with wild-fowl, Turkeys and birds of many kinds. 
In A Notice of Commodities found in Florida, Monsieur Rene 
de Laudonniere early in the seventeenth century writes that 
there is " an infinite sort of all wild fowl." - 

The English gave the name of Virginia to all the country 
between Florida and Nova Francia (Canada); this included 
New England. During the period between 1600 and 1630 
many writers speak of the abundance of game birds and wild- 
fowl in this region or parts of it. 

Capt. Philip Amidas, the first Englishman to set foot in 
North America, and Capt. Arthur Barlowe landed in 1584 
upon an island in Pamlico Sound, " Virginia," named by the 
Indians " Wokokon." Here, their account states, they found 
" Deere, Conies, Hares and Fowle, even in the middest of Sum- 
mer in incredible abundance."^ 

Lawson, in his travels in Carolina (1700), speaks of large 
savannas on the Santee River as " plentifully stored " with 
Geese and other fowl. In the adjacent woods were great flocks 
of Turkeys.^ At sunrise flocks of Turkeys, containing several 
hundreds in a flock, were seen. Again he says: "We saw 
plenty of Turkeys, but perched on such lofty oaks that our 
guns would not kill them."^ 

Sir Samuel Argal (1624) stated that in Virginia there were 

1 Smith, Capt. John, Works of: The English Scholars Library, Xo. 16, 1SS4, p. 3S6. 

2 Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc, Vol. VIII, 3d ser., p. 117. 

3 Jameson, J. Franklin: Early English and French Voyages, Am. Hist. Asso., 1906, p. 229. 

4 Lawson, John: History of Carolina, 1860, pp. 34, .50. 

5 Ibid., p. 79. 


fowl in abundance, such as Swans, Brant, Geese, Turkeys, 
Cranes and Ducks. ^ 

William Strachey (1610) says, in his True Declaration of 
Virginia: "The Turkyes of that Countrie are great, and fat, 
and exceeding in plentie. The riuers from August, or Sep- 
tember, till February, are couered with flocks of Wildfoule; 
as swannes, geese, ducke, mallard, teal, wigeons, hearons, bit- 
ters, curlewes, godwights, plouers, snights, dottrels, cormo- 
rants, in such abundance as are not in all the world to be 

Colonel Norwood (1649) states that great flights of fowl 
frequented an island on which he was cast away off the coast 
of Virginia.^ 

John Clayton (1688), in a letter to the Royal Society, giv- 
ing accounts of " several observables in Virginia," says that 
Wild Geese and Brant in winter came in mighty flocks, with 
wild Ducks innumerable.^ 

Edward Williams, writing of " Virginia," states that wild- 
fowl in their seasons were innumerable.^ 

Thomas Glover (1676) says that on the bay and rivers 
"feed so many wild fowl as in winter time they do in some 
places cover the water for two miles." ^ 

The above accounts refer mainly to the southern and middle 
portions of our Atlantic seaboard. Narratives of the Dutch, 
who first settled New Netherlands (now part of New York, 
New Jersey and the region along the Hudson), gave evidence 
of the vast numbers of wild-fowl and game birds found there 
during the early days of settlement. 

Johannes de Laet (1633) says: " Innumerable birds are also 
found here, both large and small, those that frequent the 
rivers and lakes, as well as the forests, and possess plumage of 
great elegance and variety of colors."^ 

Nicolaes van Wassenaer (1624) writes: "In their waters 

1 Purchas, Samuel: His Pilgrimes, Glasgow, 1906, Vol. XIX, p. 209. 

2 Tracts by Peter Force, 1884, Vol. Ill, Tract No. 1, p. 13. 

3 Ibid., Tract No. 10, p. 23. 
« Ihid., Tract No. 12, p. 33. 

5 Ibid., Tract No. 11, p. 48. 

6 Glover, Thomas: An Account of Virginia, Philos. Trans. Royal Soc, June 20, 1676, reprint of 
1904, p. 8. 

' Jameson, J. Franklin: Narratives of New Netherland, Am. Hist. Asac, 1909, p. 56. 


are all sorts of fowls, such as cranes, bitterns, swans, geese, 
ducks, widgeons, wild geese . . . Birds fill also the woods." ^ 

Isaack de Rasieres, in a letter to Samuel Blommaert (1628), 
states that there were many birds which were in abundance 
there in the winter.- 

Rev. Johannes Megapolensis, Jr. (1644), asserts: " We have 
here, too, a great number of all kinds of fowl . . . which sport 
upon the river in thousands in the spring of the year, and 
again in the autumn fly away in flocks, so that in the morn- 
ing and evening any one may stand ready with his gun before 
his house and shoot them as they fly past." ^ 

David Pieterszoon de Vries (1642) speaks of great quanti- 
ties of different kinds of Geese, Curlews, Snipe, Gulls and 
many shore birds. Turtle Doves (Passenger Pigeons) were so 
numerous that the light could hardly be discerned where they 
flew, and other species of birds in large numbers.^ 

Hubbard (1680) says that on Long Island there was "great 
store " of wild-fowl, such as Turkeys, Heath Hens, Quail, 
Partridges, Pigeons, Cranes, Geese of several sorts. Brant, 
Ducks, Widgeons, Teal " and divers others." ^ 

Martin Pring (1603), who visited the northern part of 
Virginia (New England and adjacent lands), states that there 
was " great store " of river and sea fowl.^ 

In Archer's account of Gosnold's voyage we find the 
statement that about May 22, 1602, the company reached 
an island, south of Cape Cod, which they called Martha's 
Vineyard, where they found wild-fowl breeding in abun- 
dance. This island evidentlv was that now known as " No 
Man's Land." It is given as in " latitude 413^."^ 

In Brereton's account of Gosnold's voyage (1602) there 
is a description of a fresh-water lake (which some later his- 
torians have located on the island now known as Martha's 
Vineyard), in which stood a small island that was "exceed- 

• Jameson, J. Franklin: Narratives of New Netherland, Am. Hist. Asso., 1909, p. 71. 

2 Ihid., p. 113. 

3 Ihii., p. 169. 
i Ibid., p. 221. 

5 Hubbard, William: General History of New England, Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc, Vol. VI, 2d aer., 
p. 672. 

8 Jameson, J. Franklin: Early English and French Voyages, Am. Hist. Asso., 1906, p. 350. 
' Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc, Vol. VIII, 3d ser., p. 76. 


ingly frequented with all sorts of fowls," some of which bred 
low on the banks, and others on low trees about the lake 
in great abundance, the young of which the explorers took 
and ate.^ 

In the various historical collections there may be found 
fragmentary accounts of the birds of Massachusetts, most of 
which will be referred to in their proper places under the 
heads of the various species. Josselyn (1672) particularly 
mentions large numbers of Wild Turkeys.^ 

Higginson (1630) says: " Fowles of the Aire are plenti- 
full here. . . . Here are likewise aboundance of Turkies often 
killed in the Woods. ... In Winter time this Countrey doth 
abound with wild Geese, wild Duckes, and other Sea Fowle, 
that a great part of the winter the Planters haue eaten noth- 
ing but roastmeat of diners Fowles which they haue killed."^ 

Morton (1632), who was a "fowler," also speaks of the 
numerous quantities of wild-fowl, shore birds. Turkeys, 
Cranes, Grouse, Partridges and Quail in New England. He 
asserts that he often had a thousand Geese before the muzzle 
of his gun, and that the feathers of the Geese that he killed in 
a short time paid for all the powder and shot that he would 
use in a year.^ 

Wood (1629-34) also writes of the large numbers of Tur- 
keys, Cranes and other large birds, as well as Pigeons, shore 
birds and wild-fowl.^ 

These writers refer mainly to the region about Boston harbor 
and Massachusetts Bay, where the first settlements were made. 

Lewis says of Lynn that at the time of the first settlement 
(1630) the ponds and streams were filled with fish, and that 
the harbor was covered with sea-fowl, which laid their eggs on 
the rocks and sands of the shores; he says that fifty Ducks 
were sometimes killed at one shot.*^ He states, also, that gulls 
in abundance bred on Egg Rock, which lies off Nahant. 

1 Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc, Vol. VIII, 3d ser., p. 89. 

2 Josselyn, John: New England's Rarities, Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc, Vol. Ill, 3d ser., p. 277. 

' Higginson, Francis L.: New England's Plantations, Tracts by Peter Force, 1836, Vol. I, Tract 
No. 12, pp. 10, 11. 

* Morton, Thomas: New English Canaan, Tracts by Peter Force, 1838, Vol. II, Tract No. 5, 
pp. 46, 47. 

5 Wood, Wm.: New England's Prospect, Pub. Prince Soc, 1865, pp. 32, 33. 

^ Lewis, Alonzo, and Newhall, James R.: History of Lynn, 186.5, pp. 46, 57, 80. 


Wood asserts that the marsh at the mouth of the Saugus 
River near Lynn was crowded with creeks, where lay "great 
stores of Geese and other Ducks." 

In Obadiah Turner's Journal, July 28, 1630, relating to the 
first settlement of Lynn, we find the following: " Of birdes wee 
saw great store . . . manie of wch wee knew not ye names. 
But wee are of a truth in a paradise of those moving things yt 
be good for foode." ^ In the same volume, under date of 1638, 
it is stated: "Upon ye beach they spied great multitudes of 
birdes of manie kindes, they being there to pick vp ye wormes 
and little fishes. They haue long bills wch they thrust into ye 
little holes in ye sand and pull up ye fat wormes with great 
relish. They lay eggs in ye sand and ye heate of ye sun being 
vpon them they speedilie hatch, and ye little birdes betake 
themselves to feeding. Ye beach birdes are verrie shy and 
quick a-wing, but our sportsmen, nevertheless, do bring down 
great plentie for their own vse and if need to supply their 
plantations." ^ 

In an account of Levett's voyage to New England (1623) 
he mentions " great plenty " of wild-fowl at a pool nine miles 
below the mouth of the Saco. He says, " In this place there 
is a world of fowl," and also speaks of " much fowl " in other 
places on the coast and islands.^ 

In Hosier's narrative of Waymouth's voyage to the coast 
of Maine, in 1605, he records visits to Monhegan Island and 
St. Georges Isles, and in both places saw " much fowl of divers 
kinds " breeding. He gives a hst of birds, and states that 
there are " many other fowls in flocks, unknown." ^ 

The enormous numbers of game birds, which formed a 
staple article of food for settlers, were looked upon as a val- 
uable asset in the new country; and the abundance of fowl 
was fully set forth in the publications destined for the eyes 
of presumptive immigrants. 

The President and Council of New England (1622), setting 
forth the advantages of New England as a place of residence, 

1 Newhall, James Robinson: Lin, or. Jewels of the Tliird Plantation, 1880, p. 59. 

2 Ibid., p. 67. 

3 Coll. Me. Hist. Soc, Vol. II, pp. 80, 82, 83, 8.5. 

4 Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc, Vol. VIII, 3d ser., pp. 132, 157. 


speak of the country as abounding with diversity of wild-fowl, 
as Turkeys, Partridges, Swans, Wild Geese, wild Ducks and 
many Doves. ^ 

Sir Ferdinando Gorges (1658) states that there were plenty 
of fish and fowl for the " sustentation " of the settlers, " so 
that they could not say (according to the manner of their liv- 
ing) they wanted anything nature did require." ^ 

The Baron de Lahontan (May 28, 1687) speaks of the 
immense numbers of Geese, Ducks and Teal, with an "infinity 
of other fowl," which he found at Lake Champlain, and states 
that his party ate nothing but water-fowl there for fifteen 

The early explorers of Newfoundland, the St. Lawrence 
River and Canada, both French and English, tell similar 
stories of an abundance of fowl. The references to birds are 
fragmentary, however, and the descriptions and nomenclature 
of the species are often indefinite and confusing. We can see 
from these accounts that game was very plentiful, and we can 
get some valuable information regarding a few of the larger 
and more conspicuous species; but to get an adequate idea of 
the former numbers of game birds in America we must turn 
to the more recent accounts of conditions in the great west, 
which has been settled within a century, or to the narratives 
of those who have hunted in the thinly settled parts of the 
south Atlantic and Gulf coasts. 

Former Abundance of Game Birds in the West and 


Game has been abundant in the west and south within the 
last half-century, and game birds are still plentiful in some 
parts of these regions. Many species of game birds have been 
decimated and their territory greatly restricted, but by the 
records of their former or present abundance and their 
decrease in the west and south we may be able to approxi- 
mate the conditions that formerlv existed on the Atlantic 
seaboard. Audubon writes in his journal, in camp at the 

1 Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc, Vol. IX, 2d ser., p. 18. 

' Ibid., Vol. VI, 3d ser., p. 89. 

' Lahontan, Baron de: Some New Voyages to North America, 1703, p. 61. 


mouth of the Omaha River, October 1, 1843: " The wild Geese 
are innumerable." Again on October 3, when he passed 
Soldier River, he writes: "The Geese and Ducks are abun- 
dant beyond description." 

Murphy (1882) said that it was doubtful if the wild-fowl 
were as abundant in any other part of the world as they were 
even then on the North American continent, " myriads " being 
the only word that could give an idea of their numbers. In 
the seasons of migration the country so swarmed with them 
that they presented the appearance of numerous clouds of 
feathers, and the number of species was greater than those of 
any other part of the globe. ^ 

In presenting the following well-considered statements of 
standard writers, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of their 
assertions; but, as most of them are known as authorities on 
ornithology or sportsmanship, they will no doubt receive the 
credence justly due them. 

Audubon writes (1838) that innumerable Ducks fed in beds 
of thousands, or filled the air at Chesapeake Bay; and that 
great flocks of Swans, looking hke banks of snow, rested near 
the shores. 

Lewis, writing of Chesapeake Bay (1850), says that all 
species of wild-fowl resorted there then, in number beyond 
credence or computation; and that it was necessary for a 
stranger to visit the region, in order to form a just idea of the 
wonderful multitudes and numberless varieties that darkened 
the waters and hovered in interminable flocks around the 
feeding grounds.^ 

Frank Forester avers that the bay and its tributary rivers 
were frequented by innumerable hordes of wild-fowl. 

Murphy states that the bay during the season was like a 
battle ground, and that over ten thousand people were accus- 
tomed to shoot there. 

Grinnell says that in early days slave owners, who hired 
out their slaves to others, stipulated in the contract that 
Canvas-back Ducks should not be fed to them more than 
twice each week; and copies of such contracts are said to be 

1 Murphy, John Mortimer: American Game Bird Shooting, 1882, pp. 265, 266. 

2 Lewis, Elisha J.: The American Sportsman, 1855, pp. 246, 247. 


still in existence in Maryland. Redheads rafted in Eastern 
and Hogg bays in bodies miles in extent, probably not less 
than fifty thousand Ducks in a mass.^ 

Robert Law of Chicago, who lived on the Chesapeake in 
his youth, is said to have hired slaves of their owners, and fed 
them on Canvas-backs until they rebelled and refused to be 
punished further with Canvas-backs, or to work longer unless 
fed on pork at least twice a day.^ 

These Ducks, so little valued then, sold at seven dollars a 
pair in 1890, and the demand is now unlimited. 

Huntington asserts that the number of wild-fowl along 
the Atlantic coast was almost beyond belief; that there were 
flocks in sight following each other in quick succession for 
days at a time, and acres of Ducks on the water. ^ 

Wild Geese were, and still are, more abundant in the 
southwest in winter than in any other part of the continent. 
The Snow Geese and other species once moved in such vast 
flocks that they might be compared to a snowstorm. They 
often destroyed large crops of winter cereals, and in Califor- 
nia left scarcely any grain in a large district that they fre- 
quented. It is estimated that they destroyed crops valued at 
two hundred thousand dollars in one county of California in 
1878, and that their depredations in other sections were as 
great. Shooting had so little effect on their numbers that the 
farmers gave up in despair and resorted to poison."* 

All sorts of devices were used for killing Geese and Ducks. 
A man has been known to kill two hundred Geese in a day by 
stalking them under cover of a horse. By using a horse or an 
ox for stalking purposes, and a huge gun heavily loaded, one 
man is said to have bagged from ten to forty at each discharge, 
and earned in one day a hundred dollars.^ 

Fifty drams of powder and a pound of shot fired from 
a huge scatter-gun by a skilful gunner were sometimes very 
effective. Dr. Hatch says that a citizen of Sacramento, Cal., 
many years ago published the offer of a Panama hat, worth 

1 Grinnell, George Bird: American Duck Shooting, 1901, p. 473. 

2 Leffingwell, W. B.: Shooting on Upland, Marsh and Stream, 1890, p. 414. 

3 Huntington, Dwight W.: Our Feathered Game, 1903, p. 141. 

^ Murphy, John Mortimer: American Game Bird Sliooting, 1882, p. 240. 
5 Ihid., p. 242. 


twenty-five dollars, to the person who would beat his record 
— nearly fifty birds — for a single shot at Geese. Fifteen 
years later another gunner killed seventy-fiye birds at a single 
shot on Suisun Bay.^ 

More recently the editor of Recreation investigated a 
story that W. E. Newbert and W. H. Young of Sacramento, 
Cal., killed one hundred and seventy-three Geese and " Brant" 
in seven hours shooting. He found it to be a fact. The 
Geese were so destructive to the newly sprouted grain that 
the farmers were compelled to hire men to drive them off. 

In Dakota it was customary to build great fires on the 
roosting grounds of the Geese on dark nights, and to shoot 
the birds as they flew in " clouds " over the fires. One man 
in Minnesota is said to have killed three thousand Geese in 
this manner in ten days.^ 

Gillmore states that he and one companion killed eighty- 
five Geese and a " large number of duck " on the prairie in 
one day; and at Grand Prairie, 111., he alone killed nineteen 
Geese and forty Ducks one day, and would have killed more, 
but his ammunition gave out."^ 

Hunter states that in one day at Cobbs Island, Va., he 
had killed fifty-six Brant when his shells gave out; and that 
Nathan Cobb killed one hundred and eighteen, which he 
considered a good day's work. He stated that one hun- 
dred and eighty-six was his best tally for one day."* 

A few of the scores made by gunners in the days of the 
old muzzle loader, supplied with the flint-lock or the per- 
cussion cap, will serve to indicate the former abundance of 
Ducks. Capt. John Smith, in his account of his journey to 
the Pamunkee, in 1608, makes the following assertion: "An 
hundred and forty-eight fowls the President Anthony Bagnall 
and Seriegent Pising did kill at three shoots."'' 

Hearne (1769-72) says that some Indians frequently kill 
as many as one hundred Snow Geese each in a day.^ 

1 Hatch, P. L.: Notes on the Birds of Minnesota, Zool. Ser., Geol. and Nat. Hist. Surv. of Minn., 
1892, Vol. I, p. 76. 

- Murphy, John Mortimer: American Game Bird Shooting, 1882, p. 246. 

2 Gillmore, Parker: Prairie and Forest, 1874, p. 249. 

4 Hunter, Alex.: The Huntsman in the South, 1908, pp. 157, 158. 

5 Smith, Capt. John: General History of Virginia and New England, 1819, p. 206. 
^ Hearne, Samuel: A Journey to the Northern Ocean, 1795, p. 439. 


Audubon states that forty or fifty Ducks were often killed 
at one shot with a small gun at Chesapeake Bay. 

Murphy says that pot-hunters sometimes killed twenty 
to forty " at a round " with a large naphtha lamp and reflector 
in a boat at night; and that he had been told that two men 
killed, in this way, with big guns, fifteen hundred birds from 
7 P.M. to 3 A.M.; also; that two men in sneak boxes, armed 
with six guns, killed five hundred and sixteen birds in a day.^ 

Grinnell says that four men on the Chesapeake enticed or 
tolled in a flock of Redheads and Blackheads, and gathered 
forty-seven birds from six shots; while poachers with big guns 
shot into flocks at night, sometimes killing seventy -five to one 
hundred birds at a shot.^ 

Many years ago there was a record of one gunner who 
from a battery killed five hundred Ducks in one day; and a 
more recent record of one who killed three hundred in a day's 


Mr. W. W. Levy killed one hundred and eighty-seven 
Ducks in one day on Chesapeake Bay, and shot seven thou- 
sand Canvas-backs in the season of 1846-47. A party of 
gunners often filled a small vessel with Ducks in two or 
three days, and dispatched it to the markets of Baltimore, 
Philadelphia or New York.^ 

Lewis states that in 1854, when the second edition of his 
work was prepared, the gunners in the vicinity of Havre de 
Grace killed three thousand Ducks on the first day of the 
shooting season.^ No wonder that the glories of Chesapeake 
Bay as a shooting ground have long since departed. 

In Ohio, before the game laws were enacted, the explosion 
of guns in the marshes resembled the skirmish fire of an 
army. A market gunner of Sandusky killed one hundred and 
eighteen Ducks at a shot.^ 

On the Kankakee marshes Huntington saw boats come 
in loaded to the guards with Ducks; some barely floated. On 

1 Murphy, John Mortimer: American Game Bird Shooting, 1882, p. 292. 

2 Grinnell, George Bird: American Duck Shooting, 1901, pp. 481, 482. 

3 Ibid., p. 440. 

* Lewis, Elisha J.: The American Sportsman, 1855, p. 269. 

6 Ibid., p. 288. 

6 Huntington, Dwight VV.: Our Feathered Game, 1903, p. 142. 


one occasion, he avers, the whole great marsh seemed to rise 
up with a roar, and the water dropping from the Ducks 
appeared like a heavy rain. The birds, he says, almost 
obscured the sky.^ 

One clubman at the Palmer Island Club at Currituck 
Sound, N. C, is said to have killed one hundred and sixty 
Canvas-backs in a day's shooting.- 

At one small lake on the Pacific coast four men shooting 
morning and evening made a record of over four hundred 
Teal, all killed on the wing.^ 

Enormous numbers of wild-fowl formerly migrated to 
Mexico in winter, and great multitudes still go there. Major 
Price (1877) stated that " clouds " of wild-fowl were seen by 
him on the River Santiago; and that even in China, one of 
the finest countries for Duck shooting in the w^orld, he never 
saw these birds so numerous.^ 

Duck shooting in Mexico is largely monopolized by the 
owners of large estates or preserves. One of the most success- 
ful methods used in market shooting in Mexico is called the 
armada. It is built in a half circle, just above the water line 
of some pond. Two hundred to three hundred gun barrels 
are set so that one half will sweep the surface of the water; 
the other half are aimed a little higher. The Ducks are 
baited to the pond with barley and corn, and they are care- 
fully guarded and fed by men on horseback, who ride around, 
but do not molest them until the birds become accustomed to 
their presence. When everything is ripe for the slaughter the 
Ducks are carefully driven within range, and the two sets 
of barrels are then fired one after the other, by an ingenious 
arrangement. The number of Ducks thus slaughtered in 
Mexico cannot be estimated. At the Hacienda Grande, at the 
north end of Lake Texcoco, four thousand six hundred and 
ninety-six Ducks were killed in this way at one discharge. 
They sold for two hundred and fifty-six dollars. Signora 
Cervantes de Rivas, owner of the hacienda, said that the net 

1 Huntington, Dwight W.: Our Feathered Game, 1903, p. 211. 

2 Hunter, Alex.: The Huntsman in the South, Vol. I, 1908, p. 289. 

3 Huntington, Dwight W.: Our Feathered Game, 1903, p. 231. 

* Price, Maj. Sir Rose Lambart, Bart.: The Two Americas, London, 1S77, p. 170. 


profit in Ducks on that ranch in one winter was over thirteen 
thousand dollars, which represents two hundred and eight 
thousand Ducks; and there are hundreds of people pursuing 
the same business.^ We accomplish the same result in the 
United States, but more people share in the sport and the 

Mr. T. Gilbert Pearson, secretary of the National Asso- 
ciation of Audubon Societies, who visited President Diaz in 
Mexico City during the winter of 1909-10, in the hope of 
securing government action for the protection of game in 
Mexico, found the armada still in operation there. Fortu- 
nately, few if any wild-fowl that breed in New England or 
pass through it migrate to Mexico. 

If we turn to the waders, we shall find plentiful evidence 
regarding their former overwhelming abundance, and the won- 
derful migrating army which once swept not only along our 
coasts but over the interior as well. 

Frank Forester, writing about the middle of the last cen- 
tury, said that from the Swan down to the Least Sandpiper 
every species of aquatic bird abounded in its appropriate 
latitude in his day. From Boston Bay to the mouth of the 
Mississippi River some portions of the coast were then swarm- 
ing at all times of the year with all the varieties of Curlews, 
Sandpipers, Plover and other shore birds. Long Island, New 
Jersey, the Chesapeake, the islands of Albemarle and Pam- 
lico sounds, and the tepid waters of Florida, all abounded 
with these aquatic myriads.- 

Gillmore says (1874) that there was no portion of the 
world with which he was acquainted where these birds were 
so largely represented both in species and numbers as in 
North America. Along the Atlantic seaboard of the United 
States they abounded in spring and fall, and their principal 
breeding places, like the coasts and interior of Labrador and 
Newfoundland, fairly swarmed with them; while the western 
prairies at the breaking up of winter were populated with 
such numbers as almost to cause the surface of the soil to 

1 Huntington, Dwight W.: Our Feathered Game, 1903, p. 143. 

2 Herbert, Henry William: Frank Forester's Field Sports of the United States, 1873, Vol. II, pp. 


appear to move as they rushed about in search of the insects 
that formed their principal food.^ 

King (1866) says that one of the peculiarities of Lakes Erie 
and Ontario consists of the great numbers of Sandpipers run- 
ning along the beach in large flocks.^ 

Great bags of shore birds were made on the Atlantic coast, 
even as late as the last quarter of the nineteenth century. 

Giraud speaks of one hundred and sixteen Yellow-legs 
killed at one shot. 

Wilson tells of eighty-five Red-breasted Snipe taken at one 
discharge of the musket, and Audubon saw one hundred and 
twenty-seven killed by three barrels. 

A gunner at Egg Harbor killed thirty-three Red-breasted 
Snipe by shooting both barrels into a passing flock; and Frank 
Forester says that in his day a sportsman might fill a bushel 
basket with the proceeds of a day's shooting on beaches and 

Lewis states that he saw twentv-three Dowitchers killed 
at one discharge. 

Bogardus mentions that he, with a friend, killed three 
hundred and forty Wilson's Snipe in a day on the Sangamon 
River in Illinois, and says that his bag in the right season was 
seldom as small as one hundred and fifty birds in a day. 

Huntington states that on one occasion, in Ohio, he killed 
twenty-eight Wilson's Snipe in a little over an hour's shoot- 

There is a story current among old gunners in Concord, 
Mass., that years ago one man won a wager that he could 
kill fifty Wilson's Snipe in an hour or two with a limited 
number of shots. 

Gillmore says that in his day, within thirty-six hours' 
travel of New York City, such Snipe shooting could be 
enjoyed as was to be had in no other portion of the globe. 
One of his acquaintances killed nine dozen in seven hours, 
and frequently killed from seven to eight dozen in the same 

1 Gillmore, Parker: Prairie and Forest, 1874, p. 250. 

2 King, W. Ross: The Sportsman and Naturalist in Canada, 1866, p. 114. 

3 Huntington, Dwight W.: Our Feathered Game, 1903, p. 273. 


Audubon says that adepts in the sport of Woodcock 
shooting have been known to kill upwards of one hundred in 
a day. 

Doughty asserts that in 1825, in the meadows bordering 
on the Cohansey River, in the lower part of New Jersey, 
three men in about two hours killed more than forty Wood- 
cock on a small spot of ground ; ^ and also that in a very small 
spot in the lowlands west of New York City a party of two or 
three men killed upwards of eighty Woodcock, while in a very 
small spot of a few acres in Salem County as many as one 
hundred and fifty were killed during that day, and very many 
more on the same spot on the day succeeding.- 

In the early days of the settlement of America, and for 
many years afterward, the Ruffed Grouse was not only very 
numerous in the eastern and middle States and in Canada, 
but was a tame and apparently stupid bird, as it still is in a 
few of the wilder regions of the country. Lahontan regarded 
the stupidity of the "Wood Hen" as the most comical thing 
he had seen, for they sat upon the trees in flocks, and were 
killed one after the other, without offering to stir. The 
Indians shot at them with arrows, for they were not worth 
a charge of powder.^ Evidently he refers to the Ruffed 
Grouse, for he describes how they drum on a log. 

Wilson, in travelling among the mountains that bounded 
the Susquehanna River, was always able to get an abundant 
supply of these birds without leaving the path. 

Abbott avers that in the swamps of central New Jersey 
these birds used to congregate by thousands, and that in 
the closing years of the eighteenth century it was a common 
sport on all farms to surround the Ruffed Grouse, and when 
a great host of birds had been gathered in a few trees, all 
the farmers would fire at a given signal, their old flint-locks 
loaded with bits of nails and cut pieces of lead, and repre- 
sentatives from the different farms would go home loaded 
with a " big mess of patridge." The Grouse congregated in 

1 Doughty, J. and T.: The Cabinet of Natural History and American Rural Sports, 1830, Vol. I, 
p. 97. 

2 Ihii., Vol. II, p. 15. 

' Lahontan, Baron de: Some New Voyages to North America, 1703, Vol. I, p. 66. 


the woods and swamps of central New Jersey by thousands, 
where they were netted by the inhabitants.^ 

Audubon states that he had bought these birds at Pitts- 
burg " some years ago " for twelve and one-half cents a pair, 
but that they now sold (1835) in the market at seventy-five 
cents to one dollar in the eastern cities. 

Abbott believes that, common as this bird still was in New 
Jersey in 1895, it was as nothing compared to half a century 
ago; and, judging from old manuscripts which refer presum- 
ably to this Grouse, they were extremely abundant at one 
time, or when the country was settled, when " their drumming 
in the woods would sound often as if every hive of bees was 

The Pinnated Grouse was found in enormous numbers 
along the Atlantic coast in suitable regions, and was still 
more numerous in the interior. Other and larger game was 
so plentiful that few people ate this bird during the first years 
of settlement. Audubon says that a friend of his killed forty 
of these Grouse with a rifle one morning without picking one 
up; and that when he first went to Kentucky no hunter of 
that State deigned to shoot them. In Massachusetts they 
were looked upon with more abhorrence than the crows, 
because of the injury they did in the orchards by picking off 
the buds in winter and picking up sowed grain in the fields in 
spring. Audubon states that his servants preferred fat bacon 
to the flesh of these birds, which often fed with the domestic 
fowls. As the deer and Turkeys became scarce, the Grouse were 
utilized; and twenty-five years later they had been nearly 
all driven out of Kentucky and had been nearly exterminated 
in the east, being then so rare in the markets of Boston, 
Philadelphia and New York that they sold at from five dollars 
to ten dollars per pair.^ 

Later, as settlement progressed westward, these Grouse 
were found so abundant in some portions of the west that it 
was nothing unusual for a person armed with a breech-loader 
to bag twenty or thirty brace a day.^ 

1 Abbott, C. C: The Birds about us, 1895, pp. 189-191. 

2 Audubon, J. J.: Ornithological Biography, 1835, Vol. II, pp. 491, 492. 

3 Murphy, John Mortimer: American Game Bird Shooting, 1882, p. 63. 


Mr. Samuel C. Clarke states that Pinnated Grouse were 
once so plentiful in Illinois that thirty to forty to a gun were 
killed in a day; and that one man drove from Fox River to 
Chicago, forty miles, with one dog, and killed about one 
hundred Grouse on the way. At that time they sold for only 
one dollar a dozen in the Chicago market.^ 

The Bob-white or "Quail" was also found in countless 
numbers in favorable localities all along the Atlantic coast. 
Lewis says that a gentleman living on Chesapeake Bay, not 
far from Havre de Grace, asserted that his next neighbor 
caught in nets in one season on his own estate no less than 
nine hundred of these birds. He kept them in coops, and 
fed them to his negroes.- Lewis also avers that a gentleman 
living near Lynchburg, Va., killed over one hundred of these 
birds in a day's shooting during the season of 1851-52.^ 

Sir Thomas Button states that when his crew wintered 
in Port Nelson River, in 1612, they killed eighteen hundred 
dozen Grouse. 

Hearne says that he has seen thousands of Ptarmigans in 
flight, and that the whole surface of the snow seemed to be in 
motion, where they fed on the tops of the short willows.^ 

Much more evidence might be given regarding the great 
numbers of game birds in America in early days; but sufficient 
proof has been cited of the abundance of edible fowl in this 
country at the time of its discovery and during its settlement. 
Further evidence regarding early conditions in Massachusetts 
will be given under the histories of the species. What have 
we done with this bounteous supply, — this great host of 
edible birds .'^ 

The Decrease of Edible Birds. 

Josselyn, writing within forty years after the first settle- 
ment in New England, stated that the Wild Pigeon had 
decreased greatly, "the English taking them with nets;" and 
he said that the English and Indians had " destroyed the 
breed " of Wild Turkeys, so that it was then very rare to meet 

1 Leffingwell, W. B.: Shooting on Upland, Marsh and Stream, 1890,. p. 262. 

2 Lewis, E. J.: The American Sportsman, 1855, p. 85. 

3 Ihli., p. 103. 

* Hearne, Samuel: A Journey from Hudson Bay to the Northern Ocean, 1795, p. 411. 


one in the woods. This is typical of the white man's destruc- 
tiveness. He puts firearms in the hands of the savages, and 
destroys the large game and the gregarious birds that can be 
taken easily in large numbers with the gun, trap, snare or net. 
The Indian had a plentiful supply of game until the white 
man came. The result of giving him firearms and a mar- 
ket for game was well shown in the last century in the val- 
ley of the Moisie River, Labrador. The Indians themselves 
admitted that it was the guns sold to them by the whites 
that proved their undoing. They shot the deer, sold the skins 
for more guns, destroyed all the large game in the country, 
and then either starved or left the country. The white men 
killed only the larger game at first, or such birds as could be 
shot in numbers from flocks. Even as late as the beginning 
of the nineteenth century, Wilson said that gunpowder was 
too precious in the mountains to be used on anything smaller 
than a Turkey; but in the valleys and along the coast a few 
years of settlement were sufficient to destroy most of the 
larger and much of the smaller game. Hunting was unre- 
stricted. Practically all the male inhabitants were accus- 
tomed to the use of firearms. Like the Indians, the settlers 
killed game at all seasons. The mother bird on her nest, the 
eggs and young, — all were taken wantonly, without restraint, 
and all utilized as food. The result of such destructiveness 
was never for a moment in doubt. The end came quickly. 
The large game and the resident game birds suffered most, 
particularly near the centers of population, where the larger 
game animals and the breeding game birds, such as the deer. 
Wild Turkey and Pinnated Grouse, were soon extirpated. 

Professor Kalm states that all the old Swedes and English- 
men born in America, whom he questioned, asserted that 
there were not nearly so many birds fit for eating "at the 
present time " (1748) as there were when they were children 
(1670-90), and that the decrease of these birds was visible. 
They said that their fathers also had complained of this ; say- 
ing that in their childhood the bays, rivers and brooks were 
quite covered with all sorts of water-fowl; but when Kalm 
was at Swedesboro, New Sweden (now New Jersey) (1748), 
there was sometimes not a single Duck to be seen. He was 


informed that sixty or seventy years earlier a person could 
kill eighty Ducks in a morning; "but at present," he says, 
"you frequently wait in vain for a single one." The Wild 
Turkeys, Grouse and Cranes, which were so numerous in 
former years, were now nearly all gone. Kalm says that the 
cause of this diminution was not diflScult to find, for after the 
arrival of great crowds of Europeans the country had become 
well peopled, the woods had been cut off, and the people had 
by hunting and shooting, partly exterminated the birds and 
partly frightened them away. There were no regulations or 
laws to prevent the destruction of birds at any season of the 
year, and, had any existed, the spirit of freedom prevailing in 
the country was such that they would not have been obeyed. 
He heard great complaints of the decrease of eatable fowl, not 
only in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, of which he speaks par- 
ticularly, but in all parts of America, wherever he travelled. ^ 

Audubon, in his Missouri River journals, frequently men- 
tions the fact that Geese with young were shot, or shot at, by 
members of his party or the boat's crew; but he says that 
in some cases "the poor things fortunately escaped." This 
destruction of birds in the nesting season was even then 
common throughout the country. Audubon well describes the 
rapid destruction of game on the Ohio River during the early 
part of the nineteenth century. He says that when he first 
visited the region (about 1810) the shores of the river were 
amply supplied with game. A Wild Turkey, Grouse or Teal 
could be procured in a few minutes, and his party fared well. 
There were then great herds of elk, deer and buffalo on the 
hills and in the valleys. Twenty years later these herds had 
ceased to exist. The country was covered with villages, towns 
and farms, and the din of hammers and machinery was con- 
stantly heard. The woods were fast disappearing under the 
axe and fire, hundreds of steamboats were gliding to and fro 
over the whole length of the river, and most of the game was 

The gunner and hunter were not entirely to blame for the 
destruction of game; the cutting down of forests drove out 

1 Kalm, Peter: Travels in North America, 1770, Vol. I, p. 289. 


many birds and mammals, and many were killed by fires in 
the woods. These fires not only killed many upland game 
birds, but they also destroyed many water-fowl as well. Wild- 
fowl, disturbed and bewildered by the light of the burning 
forest at night, have been seen to circle around the fire until 
overcome by the heat and smoke, when they fell into the 
flame. Some fell like stones from immense heights; others 
dove down, seeming to be fascinated, like moths, by the 
flame. ^ 

After all, however, the fires were local, and not nearly 
so destructive as the devices invented to capture the birds. 
Great traps were made, in which whole flocks of Turkeys or 
Quail were caught. Nets also were used for catching the 
smaller game birds, and the woods were full of snares in 
which Grouse and other small game were taken. The great 
guns used for shooting into the flocks of wild-fowl were 
destructive. They were usually mounted upon a swivel in 
the bow of a boat, like a small cannon, and the breech was 
held to the shoulder to take aim. 

The diminution of game progressed faster along the coast, 
in the river valleys and about the lake shores than elsewhere, 
for there settlement first began ; while in the unsettled interior 
of the north and west the birds were still nearly as plentiful 
as ever. Up to the early part of the nineteenth century the 
great interior of the northwest beyond the Great Lakes and 
in Canada was not only unsettled, but unexplored; there- 
fore, notwithstanding the great decrease of the resident game 
birds along the x\.tlantic coast for three centuries after the dis- 
covery of America, the wild-fowl, shore birds and game birds 
still bred in almost undiminished numbers in the unexplored 
interior of the United States, British America and the lands 
of the Arctic Sea; and they still appeared in vast numbers in 
their migrations, sweeping in clouds over the interior, and 
moving in great flocks up and down the Atlantic seaboard. 
It was the unsettled wilderness, and the wilderness alone, 
which so far had maintained the supply; but when, in the 
latter part of the nineteenth century, railroads began to 

I Hind, H. Y.: The Labrador Peninaula, 1863, Vol. I, p. 209. 


extend throughout the great west and northwest, a rapid 
extermination of game commenced, such as was never known 
before in the world's history. The railroads carried settlers 
into the wilderness, and opened to them the markets of the 

Before the advent of the railroads, game had been plenti- 
ful and cheap in the markets of the western cities. Audubon 
says in his journal that in 1843 at St. Louis the markets 
abounded with the good things of the land: Grouse could be 
had two for a York shilling; Turkeys, wild or tame, twenty- 
five cents each; Ducks, three for a shilling; Wild Geese, ten 
cents each; and Canvas-backs, a shilling a pair. When the 
railroads reached the country tributary to St. Louis, and thus 
connected it with eastern markets, building up also great 
markets in the central west, the prices of game gradually 
rose, while the game rapidly decreased. The fame of America 
as a game country was noised far and wide. Hunters and 
sportsmen came from every land; sportsmen, market hunters, 
big game hunters and skin hunters crowded into the new 
country. The improvement in firearms kept pace with the 
increased transportation facilities. The breech-loader gave 
the hunter an added advantage. Then followed the practical 
extermination of the American bison, the deer, elk, antelope, 
mountain sheep, mountain goat. Wild Turkey and Prairie 
Chicken over wide areas. Then first began the marked 
decrease in the numbers of game birds, shore birds and wild- 
fowl throughout most of the United States and British 
America, that has since become historic, and has had a 
marked effect on the migratory species that once inhabited 
or passed through Massachusetts and the other New Eng- 
land States in immense multitudes. Every chronicler, be he 
hunter, sportsman or naturalist, situated anywhere east of the 
Mississippi, records this decrease. The settler, the farmer, 
the sportsman and the market hunter eventually exterminated 
or drove out nearly all the breeding wild-fowl from the United 
States; and then the settlement of the country, the occupa- 
tion of the birds' breeding grounds for agricultural purposes, 
and incessant gunning at all seasons, began to make itself 


felt upon the vast multitudes of water-fowl that bred in the 
Canadian northwest. Farmers used every possible method 
to destroy the Ducks and Geese which consumed their crops. 
Market hunters systematically hunted the country. Flocks 
of Quail were enticed to certain points, where they were 
netted or trapped. Grouse were hunted by men in wagons, 
with trained dogs ranging near to put up the birds. Plover 
and Curlews were pursued by a small army of men, who fol- 
lowed them during their migration, and shipped the game to 
both western and eastern markets. The fact that these birds 
were among the most beneficial species on the prairie farms 
was not considered; they were exterminated without mercy. 
It was customary in the early days for a party of wild-fowl 
gunners to take along a horse and wagon to haul home their 
loads of birds. Mr. E. Hough, in writing of Duck shooting 
in North Dakota (1897), says that up to within two years of 
that time it was a daily sight at Dawson station to see the 
entire platform lined with Ducks. In warm weather it was 
not unusual to see two or three wagonloads of spoiled birds 
hauled away and dumped into a coulee.^ 

Huntington tells of a time when the Ducks were so 
abundant in the markets of Detroit that they could not 
be used, and, warm weather coming on, they were thrown 
away.- He says that it was common in the old days for pot- 
hunters to fill their gunning boats to the gunwales, making 
such a glut in the market that large quantities of the birds 

" Invisible," writing in Forest and Stream, in 1899 states 
that there was not then one Goose left on the River Platte 
to fifty in days gone by. Ten or fifteen years earlier he had 
known a man to kill fifty -two between 2 o'clock and sundown. 
Similar statements came from sportsmen and ornithologists in 
many parts of the middle west. The shooting scores of gun- 
ning clubs show the decrease of the birds during the latter part 
of the nineteenth centurv. 

1 Grinnell, George Bird: American Duck Shooting, 1901, pp. 320, .321. 

2 Huntington, Dwight W.: Our Feathered Game, 1903, pp. 182, 183. 

3 Ibid., p. 206. 



The following score, ^ from the Winous Point Club, indicates 
the decrease of Redheads in their region in twenty years : — 





























Another score- from the same club gives some information 
regarding three other species during the same time : — 
















A club record ^ from the Sandusky marshes in Ohio shows 
the decrease in Blue-winged Teal and Green-winged Teal in 
eighteen years : — 






1 Huntington, Dwight W.: Our Feathered Game, 1903, p. 183. 

2 Ibid., p. 212. 3 Ibid., p. 232. 


Long before the time of Audubon a decrease of the wild- 
fowl in Chesapeake Bay had begun, but they were still 
remarkably numerous there in his day and later. All writers 
since then who have investigated the diminution of the birds 
about the bay have found it progressive and continuous, not- 
withstanding the periodical fluctuations in numbers. Grin- 
nell (1901) says that its glories as a Duck shooting ground 
largely have departed, that the gunning is a memory rather 
than a reality, and that the birds are yearly becoming more 
scarce. Similar reports have come from most of the ducking 
grounds of the United States. This decrease of game birds has 
been general throughout the country, except in a few far west- 
ern States; but even on the Pacific coast the diminution of 
shore birds and wild-fowl has been noticeable in many places. 

Dr. D. G. Elliot, author of several standard works on game 
birds, says: "North America at one time probably contained 
more Wild Fowl than any other country of the globe, and even 
in the recollection of some living, the birds came down from 
the northland during the autumn in numbers that were 
incredible, promising a continuance of the race forever. I 
have myself seen great masses of Ducks, and also of Geese, 
rise at one time from the water in so dense a cloud as to 
obscure the sky, and every suitable water-covered spot held 
some member of the Family throughout our limits. But those 
great armies of Wild Fowl will be seen no more in our land, 
only the survivors of their broken ranks." ^ 

The following is an extract from a recent work. The Water 
Fowl Family, by Sanford, Bishop and Van Dyke: "Between 
1870 and 1875 fifteen thousand Ducks were not uncommonly 
killed in Chesapeake Bay in a single day. Here in February 
and March it was possible to see redheads and canvas-backs 
in rafts miles long, containing countless thousands of birds. 
Wild fowl up to 1860 had not been much hunted in this 
country, and during the Civil War were unmolested. From 
1865 began their destruction, which has been steadily increas- 
ing since, with a result inevitable. In twenty-five years the 
greatest natural home in the world for wild ducks has been 

» Elliot, D. G.: Wild Fowl of North America, 1898, Intro., pp. 21, 22. 


nearly devastated of its tenants. The past few years have 
shown some betterment in the shooting there, and, with care, 
it may still improve, but the vast hordes of the past will not 
return. Inland bodies of water, extending through the middle 
west to the mountains, tell the same story. What sights were 
once seen on the sloughs of Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota ! 
Now, in many places, the numbers left, an insignificant rem- 
nant, bear evidence of the past. After the large game had 
been destroyed and driven off, the small game was taken up, 
and the past twenty years have decimated the wild fowl almost 
beyond conception. Practically unprotected, shot from their 
first coming in the fall to the end of their stay in the spring, 
the result has been inevitable. Many of the most famous 
resorts are devastated, and the existing haunts exposed to 
such incessant persecution that local extinction is threatened, 
unless prompt measures of relief are afforded." 

Prof. Lawrence Bruner, in his Notes on Nebraska Birds 
(1896), says that man, the greatest enemy, has so depleted 
their ranks in many localities that they have become scarce. 

Mr. Rudolph M. Anderson, in his Birds of Iowa, tells of 
the decrease or disappearance of many species of edible birds. 

Prof. Otto Widmann, in the Preliminary Catalog of the 
Birds of Missouri, says that the gun is the main factor in the 
disappearance of all the larger birds. 

Mr. Witmer Stone, in his Birds of New Jersev, savs that 
the number of gunners is vastly increased, and the number of 
game birds vastly decreased. 

Dr. Sylvester D. Judd, in his The Grouse and Wild Turkeys 
of the United States and their Economic Value, says that a 
number of our game birds are now gone or are fast disappear- 
ing from their former haunts. The Heath Hen is practically 
extinct, and the Prairie Hen is nearly or quite gone from large 
areas in the west where it was numerous a few years ago. 

Hearne said (1769-72) that in the Hudson Bay country the 
Snow Geese came in such numbers that when they alighted in 
the marshes the ground appeared like a field covered with 
snow. At Churchill River the people sometimes killed five or 
six thousand, and at York Fort they have salted forty hogs- 


heads in a season. But he says, naively, that " Geese do not 
frequent these parts in such numbers as formerly." The 
sequel follows. In 1909 Mr. Henry Oldys of the Bureau of 
Biological Survey of the United States Department of Agri- 
culture wrote me that Mr. Preble had learned, in his explo- 
rations about the west coast of Hudson Bay, that in this 
region, formerly one of the great highways of wild-fowl, the 
birds have become so reduced in numbers that the inhabit- 
ants, who were formerly accustomed to put down many of 
these birds for winter, are much straitened in their supply of 
food. In that wild region, where the supply of game is all- 
important to furnish food for the inhabitants, a diminution of 
water-fowl is seriously felt; and where moose are absent, cari- 
bou rare and the fishing poor, it is a serious matter. Many 
of the wild-fowl that go to the Atlantic coast in winter, as 
w^ell as others that go to the gulf, breed in or pass through the 
region west of the bay. The destruction of these birds in 
the United States during migration is believed to have been 
the main cause of the present scarcity in these northern 
regions. Where one is killed there, a hundred are killed here. 
Only since protection in the spring has been given wild-fowl 
in the greater part of British America, and in most of the 
States, has there been any check to this continuous decrease 
of the wild-fowl in North America. 

Regarding the general decrease in the numbers of shore 
and marsh birds, including Snipe, Plover and Sandpipers, the 
older gunners practically agree that it has been tremendous 
and continuous for many years, and, although some of them 
believe that the birds have gone somewhere else or " changed 
their line of flight," still, they say the birds " do not come here." 

For about forty years, during which much of my time has 
been passed in the woods and fields and along the shores of 
Massachusetts, I have had opportunity to observe the dimi- 
nution in numbers of those birds that are hunted for food, for 
their feathers or for sport. I have noted the gradual disap- 
pearance of Passenger Pigeons and Eskimo Curlews, the great 
reduction in the numbers of Golden Plover, Wood Ducks and 
other species of shore birds and wild-fowl, and I have kept 


informed regarding the condition of the upland game birds; 
but during all this time I had hardly realized the gravity of 
the situation, until, in the pursuit of an inquiry regarding the 
destruction of birds by the elements, which was authorized by 
the State Board of Agriculture in 1903, people began volun- 
tarily to send in evidence regarding the general decrease of 
birds. It was asserted by many correspondents that the extir- 
pation of certain species was imminent in the region with 
which they were familiar, and that many others were rapidly 
decreasing in numbers. 

The secretary of the State Board of Agriculture, on receipt 
of this evidence, authorized further investigation regarding 
the decrease of birds. Four hundred circulars asking for 
information were prepared and sent out in July, 1904, to 
naturalists, secretaries of game protective associations, sports- 
men, game wardens, market hunters, farmers and other 
interested observers. In response to these circulars two hun- 
dred and seventeen satisfactory replies were received, and a 
large correspondence was opened, all of which formed the 
basis for a special report of one hundred and sixty-six pages. ^ 

The consensus of opinion of those correspondents who 
might be considered as competent to give expert testimony 
indicated a great decrease among game birds, shore birds, 
wild-fowl. Herons, birds of prey, and, in fact, among all the 
birds most hunted, and a somewhat less diminution among a 
certain few species of the smaller birds. It was shown that 
Ducks, Geese and Loons were disappearing from the ponds 
and rivers of the interior, and that even on the coast the 
most desirable species had greatly decreased. Grouse and 
Bob-whites were estimated to have suffered a diminution of 
from fifty to seventy-five per cent, within the memory of liv- 
ing men, and an even greater decrease was attributed to the 
shore birds. The completion of this report and its favorable 
reception led to the publication of a special report on the use- 
ful birds of the Commonwealth, and means for protecting 

1 Forbush, Edward Howe: The Decrease of Birds, and its Causes, with Suggestions for Bird Pro- 
tection, Mass. State Board Agr., 1904. 

- Forbush, Edward Howe: Useful Birds, and their Protection, Mass. State Board Agr., 1907. 


When this had been piibHshed, and while it was going 
through its several editions, my attention was again urgently 
called to the scarcity of game birds in Massachusetts, New 
England and the adjacent States. Reports indicated that 
Ruffed Grouse and Bob-whites had reached the lowest ebb in 
numbers ever known. This, with the previous decrease in 
water-fowl and shore birds, left New England, and particu- 
larly Massachusetts, with fewer game birds than at any time 
of which we have record. An insistent demand arose for 
more game. State game commissioners and individuals began 
to look about to see where it could be obtained. Attempts 
to procure Grouse and Bob-whites from other States were 
ineffectual, owing to laws which forbade the exportation of 

Partly as a result of these laws, large numbers of European 
Partridges, Grouse and Asiatic Pheasants w^ere introduced, 
and liberated in New England; while attempts were made in 
several Legislatures to prohibit the killing of all game birds 
for a series of years, or to further shorten the shooting season. 
The unrest of the sportsmen and gunners was manifested in 
attempts to change the personnel of the State fish and game 
commissions, and to secure better enforcement of the game 
laws. Advocates of the abolition of all game laws arose, and 
gained some following. The promulgators of new game laws 
readily secured a hearing. People began to awaken to the 
fact that game was disappearing, and to seek a remedy. The 
Legislature of Massachusetts enacted a statute providing 
for the appointment of a State Ornithologist, and he was 
authorized by the State Board of Agriculture to undertake 
an investigation of the former decrease in numbers, and the 
present scarcity of game birds in the Commonwealth, with a 
view to submitting a report on the causes of such decrease 
and the means of increasing the supply. After a study of the 
literature on the subject and considerable correspondence with 
those who were conversant with the conditions, a sixteen-page 
circular of information was prepared in October, 1907, con- 
taining questions regarding the most important food birds 
resident in the Commonwealth or migrating through it. 


These circulars were sent out to old and experienced gunners, 
sportsmen and naturalists within the State, and to others 
along the Atlantic seaboard from the Maritime Provinces of 
Canada to the Carolinas, in order to secure data regarding the 
species that migrate through Massachusetts and all the coast 
region in their annual flights. 

The replies on nearly five hundred blanks that were 
returned from these observers, together with facts from my 
own experience and much material gleaned from literature 
on the subject, formed the basis of this volume. Most of the 
observers who reported consulted with others when filling out 
the blanks; in some cases two or more assisted one another 
with notes and data. In other cases many of the members 
of a gun club were consulted, the different species were fully 
discussed, and the report as sent to me represented the com- 
bined knowledge and experience of many men. Probably 
these reports represent the observations of between one thou- 
sand and two thousand Massachusetts men (mainly gunners) 
regarding the present status of the game birds. They come 
from every county in the State. Many men give the esti- 
mated percentage of increase or decrease of each species; 
others do not. The average period during which these observ- 
ers have been afield is twenty-seven years and three months. 
A careful comparison of these reports one with another, to- 
gether with a consideration of the known and recorded facts 
relating to the subject, indicates that in nearly every case a 
conscientious effort has been made to state only facts. There 
are perhaps two or three cases where gunners in one county 
have overstated the increase of birds, in the attempt to show 
that the birds are increasing. When a man states that all 
species of certain families have increased two hundred per 
cent., where other observers in the same town see a decrease, 
or a very slight increase, there is something wrong with his 
mental attitude toward the facts. 

Nevertheless, in making up the average for each species I 
have included all the estimates, for the reason that there are 
probably some pessimistic reports that will balance those that 
are extremely optimistic. Any estimate giving the percent- 


age of increase or decrease of any species in a given locality 
must be regarded as merely an approximation; but, as these 
estimates are given by persons of intelligence and experi- 
ence, the average of their opinions throughout the State must 
surely approach the actual facts. The results of this investiga- 
tion are given in part under the heads of the individual species 
in the histories that follow in parts I and II, and a summary 
of the percentages of increase and decrease reported in Massa- 
chusetts is given on pages 504 and 505. 

Many of the suggestions noted in the blanks filled out by 
correspondents appeared so full of possibilities that they were 
made the subject of correspondence. Some observers, not 
content with filling out the blanks, sent in long letters detail- 
ing their observations and experiences with birds in which 
they were particularly interested. Others failed to fill out 
blanks, but sent letters instead. This correspondence con- 
tinued for three years and is not completed as the book goes 
to press. It will be seen that the author is so overwhelmed 
with material that he can publish but a small part of it in 
this volume, and can merely summarize a still larger part. 
Much of this interesting and valuable material may never 
reach the public ; but it has aided the author greatly in reach- 
ing the conclusions expressed in this volume. A list of those 
who have filled out and returned the printed circulars will be 
found on the last pages of this volume. Statements from other 
correspondents are credited to them in the text. 


FOOD OR Sport in Massachusetts 
AND Adjacent States. 





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The following histories of living birds include practically 
all the species and subspecies that are now hunted for food or 
sport in Massachusetts. The list includes many which are 
not strictly game birds ; but most of them are of some value 
as food. The aim has been to present, first, a brief description 
of each bird and the principal marks and notes by which it 
may be identified ; next, in case of those species which breed 
or formerly bred in Massachusetts or nearby States, a descrip- 
tion of the nest and eggs. The history of the common birds 
contains such facts as could be gathered regarding their 
former abundance, together with some account of their deple- 
tion up to the year 1909 ; also some observations on interesting 
habits, migration movements and food. Unfortunately, the 
results of the work on the food of wild-fowl and shore birds, 
which has been undertaken by the Bureau of Biological Sur- 
vey, have not yet been published, and there is no authoritative 
publication on this subject ; but such material as is readily 
available regarding the food of each species has been utilized 
in the following pages. 

Grebes (Family Colymbidae). 

In the modern system of classifying natural objects it is 
customary to present first the lowest and simplest forms. 
Since the extermination of the Great Auk, the Grebes have 
been the lowest in the scale of classification of the forms of 
bird life commonly hunted. They rank near to the flightless 
Penguins and the Auks, and only just above the Guillemots 
and Puffins. All these birds seem closely allied in some 
respects to the reptiles, from which birds are supposed to 
have originated. The beak of the Grebe is usually sharply 
pointed; the eyes well forward, the skin in front of them 


bare; the head in most cases ruffled or crested, in the breed- 
ing season at least; and the neck long. The plumage is com- 
pact, smooth and rather hairlike, and of such a texture that 
when well dressed by the bird it is absolutely waterproof, and 
therefore Grebes, though constantly diving, never get wet. 
The wings are short and concave; the tail is a mere downy 
tuft, entirely without quill feathers; the legs are buried be- 
neath the skin and feathers of the body, and the tarsi (com- 
monly called legs, but which are in reality those parts of the 
foot extending from the heel to the junction of the toes) are 
very far back, and flattened so as to present the least possible 

resistance in swimming. The toes are 
flattened and are further widened with 
broad lobes, and connected at the base by 
webs (Fig. 1); the nails are short and 
rounded, something like human finger 
nails. The whole foot forms a hard, scaly, 
flattened compound paddle^ which, on 
the back stroke, spreads to push against 
the water, and automatically turns or 
' " feathers," so as to present little resist- 
ance to the water on the return stroke. 

The feet and legs are so far back and so ill suited for walk- 
ing that the Grebe, when on land, merely rests on its breast, 
or stands upright and can hardly walk at all. If hurried it 
flounders along on its breast, using wings and feet in an im- 
perfect imitation of a tortoise. The feet are principally used 
in swimming, and they are among the most perfect and pow- 
erfully designed swimming feet of vertebrate animals. When 
a Grebe is held in the hand its feet will sometimes move so 
rapidly as to give them a hazy appearance, like the wings of a 
humming bird in motion. In flight, the feet are carried well 
out behind, where they appear to be utilized as rudders, serv- 
ing the same purpose, then, that the tail serves on many other 
birds. The body of the Grebe is wide, boat-shaped and quite 
as much flattened as that of most other swimming birds. 

Grebes may be distinguished from Ducks on the water by 
the sharp or pointed bill, the narrow head and neck, and the 
relative length of the neck when stretched. 



HOLBCELL'S GREBE {Colymbus holboelli) . 
Common or local name : Red-necked Grebe. 



Length. — 18 to 20.50 inches. 

Adult in Late Spring. — Upper parts dusky; top of head, small crests, 
nape and back of neck glossy greenish black; chin, throat and sides 
of head light ashy; front and sides of neck and sometimes upper breast 
rich chestnut; wings with a white patch; under parts silvery white 
dappled with darker; sides tinged with reddish brown; bill yellow 
below at base, black above and toward tip; iris carmine; feet black, 
yellow inside. 

Adult in Fall and Winter. — Crests not noticeable; above blackish brown; 
front and sides of neck pale reddish brown; throat, sides of head and 
under parts whitish; mostly unspotted below. 

Young. — Similar, but no reddish brown; neck gray; bill largely yellowish; 
tip dusky. 

Field Marks.- — Largest of the Grebes; may be distinguished from the 
smaller Loon by the white wing patch, which shows in flight or when 
the wing is flapped. 

Notes. — An explosive kup; exceedingly harsh note, not unlike the voice of an 
angry crow, but much louder; the calls given more slowly, with singular 
deliberation; car, car, three or four times, sometimes lengthened to caar, 
and again broken and quivering, like c-a-a-r or ca-a-a-r (Brewster). 

Season. — Not uncommon in winter coastwise; October to May. 

Range. — North America and eastern Asia. Breeds from northwestern 
Alaska and LTngava south to northern Washington and southwestern 
Minnesota; winters from southern British Columbia and Maine south 
to southern California and North Carolina; casual in Georgia. 



Holboell's Grebe seems to have very little history, except 
in the way of synonymy, American ornithologists have little 
to say of it. Wilson did not mention it ; Audubon notices it 
briefly, and no one seems to have made or published any 
exhaustive study of its habits or food. Nevertheless, in 
migration it is not rare along our coasts ; it winters here in 
small numbers, and sometimes visits the small fresh-water 
lakes and streams of the interior. Furthermore, it is one of 
the few species commonly hunted which does not appear to 
have decreased much in Massachusetts within a lifetime. 
This is possibly due to the fact that it is difficult to shoot 
while on or in the water. Possibly no other Grebe can escape 
a charge of shot at such close range as can this species. I 
believe that the bird was formerly much more common than 
now in the smaller fresh-water ponds, but that through the 
instinct of self-preservation it has learned to forsake them for 
the comparative safety to be found in larger bodies of water. 
Most of the individuals of this species seen here are believed 
to be young birds, but occasionally an adult may be seen in 
breeding plumage in the month of May. 

It is not uncommon on the Great Lakes and other large 
fresh-water lakes. In winter, when these are suddenly frozen, 
this Grebe is sometimes captured on the ground, ice or snow, 
where it has fallen exhausted in its attempts to reach unfrozen 
water. It is a bird of the open water, avoiding such shallow 
and weedy waters as are frequented by the Pied-billed Grebe. 

Holboell's Grebe apparently migrates over the greater part 
of the United States and Canada, and it is surprising that so 
little seems to be known of its habits and life history. 

Audubon states that it feeds on small fish fry, amphibious 
reptiles, insects and vegetables. Dr. Warren found sand, 
blades of grass, small roots and feathers in the stomachs of 
two birds of this species. Knight states that as far as can be 
ascertained its food along the coast of Maine consists of small 
fish and surface-swimming crustaceans. In inland regions 
tadpoles and fish are reported as a part of the bill of fare. 



HORNED GREBE {Colymbus auritus) . 
Local or common names : Hell-diver; Devil-diver. 



Length. — About 14 inches. 

Adult in Breeding Plumage. — Upper parts dark brown or brownish black, 
the feathers paler on the edges; a brownish yellow stripe over eye, 
broadening, and deepening in color toward end of crest; throat and 
that portion of crest on side of head below eye black; bill black, yellow 
tipped; feet dusky and yellowish; iris carmine, with fine white ring 
next pupil; fore neck and flanks reddish brown; wings varied with 
white; lower parts silvery white. 

Adult in Winter, and You7ig. — Similar, but grayer, with sides of head, 
throat and fore part of neck white, this color nearly encircling nape, 
and lightly washed with ashy gray on front of neck and lower belly; 
feathering of head not so full and fluffy as in summer; bill dusky, but 
somewhat whitish below. 

Field Marks. — In breeding plumage the crested head of black and brownish 
yellow is distinctive; pure white under parts, and white wing patch 
which shows when the wing is open, distinguish it in any plumage from 
the Pied-bill. In winter the white cheeks contrast strongly with the 
dark upper head. 

Season. — Common winter visitor coastwise; irregular inland; October 1 
to May. 

Range. — Northern part of northern hemisphere. Breeds from near the 
arctic coast south to British Columbia, central Minnesota, southern 
Ontario and northeastern Maine; winters from southern Ontario and 
Maine south to southern California and Florida. 



The Horned Grebe is known mainly as a salt-water bird, 
but is not by any means rare in fresh-water lakes and streams. 
Formerly a few summered in Massachusetts, according to Dr. 
J. A. Allen, who states that he has seen a pair in breeding plum- 
age in June at Springfield. Probably it is now rarely seen 
inland here, except when driven in from the sea by severe 
storms. I remember that no longer ago than the 70's and 
80's large numbers occasionally came into ponds of Worcester 
County on such occasions and remained for several days, or 
until killed off or driven out by constant persecution. Mr. 
Ralph Holman records in his notes that during the first week 
in November, 1886, a large flight of Grebes of all three native 
species came into North Pond, Worcester, after a severe six- 
day northeast storm, and a great many birds were killed there. 
All except the cripples left on the night of November 3. 
Probably few alight in that pond now, but along the coast 
they are still common in tidal streams and off the beaches. 
They are usually most numerous in October, but are common 
along rocky shores in winter. Brewster notes them occasion- 
ally in the ponds of the Cambridge region, and Dr. John C. 
Phillips regards them as not very common on Wenham Lake. 

The expressive common names given this and other Grebes 
were suggested by their mysterious disappearances and the 
facility with which they seem to escape the charge of the gun 
by diving at the flash. The flint-lock was a poor weapon to 
use against them, and even with modern guns and smokeless 
powder the bird sometimes escapes. If it is at long range, 
heading toward the hunter, it is very likely to be mostly 
under water when the charge arrives. It then offers a very 
small mark, and even if it is hit the shot may glance from the 
feathers and bones of its back. In diving hurriedly it usually 
leaps forward and shoots beneath the water like a flash, but 
it can settle quietly down and disappear, leaving hardly a 
ripple to mark the spot. Sometimes it apparently remains 
under water nearly a minute, and it can swim or float indefi- 
nitely, with only the bill protruding above the surface. Dr. 


Langdon is quoted by Dawson as stating that the young of 
this species, which he removed from the egg and placed in the 
water, immediately swam and attempted to dive.^ 

I have never seen this Grebe use its wings for propulsion 
beneath the surface, but Mr. C. W. Vibert of South Windsor, 
Conn., informs me that one which he kept alive for a time 
often raised its wings slightly when swimming under water. 
When driven into the ponds by storms, Grebes as well as 
Ducks show signs of weariness from their struggle with the 
sea, and are often so sleepy in the daytime that they will 
sleep on the water with the head drawn back and the bill 
usually thrust into the feathers of the right breast or shoulder. 
In this position a bird will often keep its place, head to the 
wind, or whirl about by paddling automatically with both feet 
or with one alone. 

The food of the Horned Grebes, while on salt water, ap- 
pears to be composed very largely of animal matter, shrimps, 
crustaceans, small fish and fish fry, but when on fresh water 
they appear to feed to a great extent on vegetable matter. 
They also take aquatic and terrestrial insects, leeches, small 
frogs, tadpoles and water lizards. Seeds and various portions 
of grasses and water plants are eaten ; also, all Grebes appear 
to eat feathers, either from their own breasts or from birds of 
other species. These are found in their stomachs, particularly 
in spring. 

1 Dawson, William Leon, and Jones, Lynde: Birds of Ohio, 1903, p. 631. 



PIED-BILLED GREBE (Podilymbus podiceps). 
Common or local names: Dipper; Didapper; Dabchiek; Hell-diver; Water-witch. 

Adult in Summer. 

Length. — Varying from 12 to 15 inches. 

Adult in Summer. — Above mainly dark grayish brown or brownish black; 
chin and middle of throat black; sides of head and neck gray; fore 
neck and breast brownish gray; belly silvery ash; iris brown and white; 
eyelids white; bill very pale bluish, crossed near the middle by a black 
band; feet greenish black outside, leaden gray inside. 

Adult and Young in Winter. — Upper parts sooty brownish; throat whitish, 
with no black patch; fore neck, breast and sides brown; rest of under 
parts silvery whitish; bill dusky yellowish, without band. Young 
have head streaked with whitish and throat with brownish. 

Field Marks. — This bird has a more brownish cast than our other Grebes; 
the brownish upper breast distinguishes it from the Horned Grebe, 
but the best mark is the short and thick bill. In the breeding season 
the black throat patch and band on the bill are noticeable. This bird 
lacks the shining white cheeks peculiar to the Horned Grebe in winter. 

Notes. — Somewhat like those of a cuckoo. A loud, sonorous cow-cow-cow- 
cow-cow-cow-coio-cow-cow-uh, cow-uh, cow-uh, cow-uh (Chapman). 

Nest. — A mass of stalks, etc., sometimes floating, and attached to sur- 
rounding reeds. 


Eggs. — Four to eight, dull white, often tinged with greenish, more or less 

soiled or stained, about 1.70 by 1. 
Season. — Summer resident; late March or early April to December. 
Range. — North and South America. Breeds from British Columbia and 

New Brunswick south to Chile and Argentina, but often rare or local; 

winters from Washington, Texas, Mississippi and Potomac valley 



The Pied-billed Grebe is the common Grebe of eastern 
inland waters. Undoubtedly it once bred here in considerable 
numbers, and as its habits during the breeding season are very 
secretive, it is probably more common still, locally, than the 
few records of its nesting would lead us to believe. Appar- 
ently it was very common in Massachusetts as late as the 
middle of the last century ; but it has diminished much in 
numbers of late, and has disappeared from many places where 
it bred no longer than twenty or thirty years ago. It is shot 
wantonly by boys, gunners and sportsmen at every oppor- 
tunity. Were it not for its facility in diving and concealing 
itself, it probably would have been extirpated ere now. This 
and all other Grebes should be protected by law at all times. 
Grebes are practically worthless as food, but they have a 
certain aesthetic value. Alive, they belong to all the people, 
and give pleasure to all who have the opportimity to watch 
their peculiar motions and antics. Dead, they are the prop- 
erty of the shooter, and are valueless beyond what their 
plumage will bring from the milliners' agent. There is a 
great demand for their plumage at times, and this demand 
alone may lead to their extinction, imless they are protected 
always. They are useful as decoys to lure water-fowl into our 
ponds and lakes, as they are less cautious than most other 
fowl, and whenever Grebes alight in a lake or river other wild- 
fowl will follow. Grebes are far more useful ahve to the 
gunner as decoys than they can ever be for any purpose after 

These little fowls have many natural enemies. Hawks 
stoop at them from the air above ; turtles, fish and water 
snakes attack them from the depths. I once saw a Grebe, 
while watching a Hawk, spring out of the water to escape a 


pickerel which had tried to seize it by the feet. The Grebe is 
able in some way to sink gradually backward into the water, 
like a "scared frog," sustain itself at any depth, and swim 
about with a little of the back showing, or with merely the 
head or bill out of water. When injured it will sometimes 
dive or sink, swim in among the water plants, come up quietly, 
showing only its bill above the surface, and, thus concealing 
itself, await the departure of its enemy. I have known a 
gunner to declare, at such a time, that the bird must have 
committed suicide, "as it never came up." I have never seen 
this species use its wings in flight under water, and ornitholo- 
gists generally agree that it does not, but the speed that it 
sometimes attains leads me to believe that occasionally the 
wings are thus used. Audubon declares that he has seen one 
use its wings while swimming under his boat. 

This species apparently is averse to flight. It cannot rise 
from the land, and rises from the water only after a run along 
the surface against the wind ; but when once in the air it flies 
quite fast, with rapidly beating wings, neck fully stretched and 
feet trailing behind. 

The nest, a mass of wet, muddy vegetation, anchored by 
growing grass or reeds, but often practically floating on the 
water, is an unattractive home for the little dabchicks. They 
tumble off into the water immediately after they leave the 
eggshell. Thereafter their only nest is the back of the mother 
bird, to which they scramble as she rises beneath them. 
When she dives they are left floating on the surface, but soon 
resume their place when she comes up. She can turn her 
head and feed them, and there they snuggle down amid the 
feathers between her shoulders, only their little heads showing 
above the contour of her back. 

The food of the Pied-billed Grebe, according to Audubon, 
"consists of small fry, plant seeds, aquatic insects and snails; 
along with this they swallow gravel." He also found in their 
gizzards a quantity of hair and a feather-like substance which 
he " at length found " to be the down of certain plants, such 
as thistles, with the seeds remaining undigested and attached. 


Loons (Family Gaviidas). 

The bill of the Loon is stout, straight, narrow, sharp- 
pointed, with sharp edges so constructed that they cut into 
and hold securely the sHppery fishes on which these birds 
mainly subsist. The head is feathered to the beak; the neck 
is long and sinuous. The plumage of the head and neck is 
short and of rather a furry texture, while that of the body is 
hard and compact; it forms a perfect waterproof garment. 
The wings are rather narrow, short and pointed, but are ample 
to lift the heavy body. The tail, though very short, is not 
downy and rudimentary like that of the Grebe, but is com- 
posed of eighteen or twenty stiff quill feath- 
ers. The leg, like that of the Grebe, is placed 
so far back and is so bound up in the skin of 
the body that the Loon walks or runs with 
difficulty. The tarsus is narrowed, like that 
of the Grebe, but the foot (Fig. 2) is a simple 
paddle, resembling somewhat the foot of a 
Duck. Loons, like Grebes, have a peculiar 

p 1. e • ^ • 1 II'. 1 . •.! Fig. 2. — Foot of Loon. 

faculty oi smkmg gradually ni the water with- 
out apparent effort, and thus remaining partially submerged. 
It is believed that they are able to expel the air from the air 
cells in different parts of the body. Many water birds are 
provided with a cushion of air cells between the body and the 
skin, particularly on the breast and lower parts. If Loons 
are able to inflate or deflate these and other air cells at any 
time, the mystery of floating or sinking at will is explained. 
They are noted for their powers of diving and the long dis- 
tances that they can swim under water without rising to the 
surface. The large size of the Loons, the long neck and rather 
long, narrow, sharp-pointed bill, distinguish them from the 
Ducks. Loons may be readily distinguished from Geese by 
their larger and more pointed bills, and from Grebes by their 
larger size, although the larger Grebes approach the size of 
the smaller Loons and are sometimes mistaken for them. 



LOON {Gavia immer). 



Length. — Very variable, ranging from 28 to 36 inches. 

Adult in Spring. — Mantle black, spotted with white; head and neck- 
black, with green and purple reflections; neck with three bands of 
white stripes; under parts white; bill and feet black; iris red. 

Adult and Young in Fall. — Bill yellowish or bluish white, blackening 
above and toward tip; iris brown; legs and feet brownish or yellowish, 
never black; top of head and hind neck dull brownish black; other 
upper parts dark grayish brown, mottled a little, but with no 2vhite 
spots; sides of head and neck more or less mottled with ashy and dusky; 
chin, throat, fore neck and other under parts white. 

Field Marks. — The size of a Goose. The black and white spotted adult 
is unmistakable in spring. The fall birds resemble the fall Red-throated 
Loon, but are much larger, have a bill much thicker at base, yellowish, 
with much of the tip black, while the Red-throated Loon has a slender, 
lighter colored bill, more white on cheeks and a bluish gray cast to the 
top of head and back of neck, where the Loon is brownish black. 

Notes. — ■ Loud maniacal laughing cries. 

Nest. — A slight depression in ground close to water or an old muskrat house. 

Eggs. — Two, about 3.50 by 2.25, elongated and pointed, olive drab, or 
dark olive brown, thinly spotted with dark brown and blackish. 

Season. — Abundant transient coastwise; September to June; less common 
in the interior; a few summer here. 

Range. — Northern part of northern hemisphere. Breeds in America from 
arctic coast and islands south to northern California, northern New 
York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts (rarely) and Nova Scotia; 
winters from southern British Columbia and southern New England 
to Lower California, Gulf coast and Florida. 



Probably the Loon once bred in suitable localities through- 
out Massachusetts. Wilson says that it is said to breed in 
" Missibisci Pond near Boston." Nuttall states that he found 
and captured in the Chelsea marshes (now Revere) a young 
bird partly grown. S. Davis asserts in his Notes on Plym- 
outh, Mass. (1815), that the "loon cries and leaves her eggs" 
on the lesser island in Fresh Lake, now Billington Sea.^ 
Old gunners have assured me that they have seen the Loon 
with small young near the shores of Buzzards Bay. Others 
report the bird as formerly breeding on Block Island, R. I. ; 
and they bred about the ponds of northern Worcester County 
when I first visited them, more than thirty years ago. In 
1888 Brewster reported them as breeding in all ponds of suffi- 
cient size near Winchendon, Mass.^ They have gradually dis- 
appeared from Massachusetts waters in the breeding season. 
Probably they have not been driven away, as neither human 
neighbors nor much shooting have driven Loons from a 
favorite nesting place, but their eggs have been- taken and the 
birds have been shot one by one, until all have vanished. 
There may be a few pairs still breeding in the State. If so, I 
cannot learn of them. 

The Loon is not considered desirable as a table fowl. I 
have tasted one and do not care for more. Indians and some 
fishermen eat Loons and consider the young quite palatable. 
They are pursued mainly for mere sport by the devotees of 
the rifle and shotgun, and whenever one is accidentally 
stranded on the ice or on land it is usually pursued and 
clubbed to death. Boardman said that an Indian killed 
thirty Loons with clubs in the ice after a freeze.^ The 
mania for senseless slaughter seems to possess man, savage 
or civilized. 

Probably the spring shooting of Loons has had something 
to do with their decrease in numbers. From the middle of 
April to about the first of June Loons fly eastward and north- 
ward along our coast. One principal line of their flight is up 

1 Coll. Masa. Hist. Soc., Vol. II, 2d ser., p. 181. 

2 Brewster, William: Auk, 1888, p. 390. 

3 Forest and Stream, 1874, Vol. Ill, p. 291. 


Buzzards Bay to its head, where, on the way to Massachusetts 
Bay, they cross the neck of Cape Cod at the narrowest point 
near the mainland, where the Cape Cod canal is now (1910) in 
process of construction. Tobey and Mashnee Islands lie on 
either side of the channel leading from Buzzards Bay into 
Manomet Bay. When the wind blows from the southwest 
the Loons pass up the strait between these islands at morning 
and at night, fiying comparatively low. When the wind 
blows from any other quarter they fly high. Mackay says 
that years ago he has seen three tiers, of ten or a dozen boats 
each, stretched across this passage, and that sometimes on a 
"good southwest morning" fifty or sixty Loons were killed, 
and as many more wounded, which could not be recovered. 
He states that he is informed that this sport is kept up to the 
present day (1892).^ Doubtless fewer Loons are killed there 
now. The spring shooting of Loons should be prohibited by 
law. Nothing can be more destructive than shooting at that 
time, when the birds are paired and headed for their breeding 

Of all the wild creatures which still persist in the land, 
despite settlement and civilization, the Loon seems best to 
typify the untamed savagery of the wilderness. Its wolflike 
cry is the wildest sound now heard in Massachusetts, where 
nature has long been subdued by the rifle, axe and plow. 
Sometimes at sea, when I have heard the call of the Loon 
from afar, and seen its white breast flash from the crest of a 
distant wave, I have imagined it the signal and call for help 
of some strong swimmer, battling with the waves. 

It is generally believed that in migration at least the Loon 
passes the night upon the sea or the bosom of some lake or 
river. The Gulls, Auks, Puffins and Cormorants, which live 
upon the sea, usually alight upon the high shores of some 
rocky island or on some lonely sand bar at night, but the Loon 
is often seen at sea when night falls, and its cries are heard 
by the sailors during the hours of darkness. Notwithstand- 
ing the general belief that it normally sleeps on the water, I 
believe that it prefers to rest on shore at night, when it can 

> Mackay, George H.: Auk, 1892, p. 292. 


safely do so. Audubon satisfied himself that on its breeding 
grounds it was accustomed to spend the night on shore. On 
an island off the coast of British Columbia, where there was 
no one to trouble the birds, I once saw, just at nightfall, a pair 
of Loons resting flat on their breasts at the end of a long 
sandy point. Cripples instinctively seek the shore when 
sorelv wounded, but on our coast a Loon must keep well off 
shore to insure its safety, and probably few but cripples ever 
land on shores frequented by man. 

The Loon's nest is usually a mere hollow in the bog or 
shore near the water's edge on some island in a lake or pond. 
Sometimes the nest is lined with grasses and bits of turf ; more 
rarely it is a mere depression on the top of a muskrat's house, 
and more rarely still it is placed on the shore of the lake or on 
some debouching stream. Where the birds are not much dis- 
turbed, and where food is plentiful, two or three pairs some- 
times nest on the same island. No doubt there was a time 
when nearly every northern pond of more than a few acres 
contained its pair of Loons in the breeding season, and this is 
true to-day of ponds in parts of some Canadian Provinces. 
The nest is usually so near the margin that the bird can 
spring directly into the w^ater, but sometimes in summer the 
water recedes until the nest is left some distance inland. 

The Loon is a clumsy, awkward traveller upon land, where 
when hurried, it flounders forward, using both wings and feet. 
Audubon, however, says that his son, J. W. Audubon, winged 
a Loon which ran about one hundred yards and reached the 
water before it was overtaken. Its usual method of taking to 
the water from its nest is by plunging forward and sliding on 
its breast. It cannot rise from the land, hence the necessity 
of having the nest at the water's edge. 

When the young are hatched the mother carries them 
about on her back a few days (Boardman), after which they 
remain afloat much of the time until they are fully grown. If 
food becomes scarce in their native pond they sometimes leave 
it and travel overland to another. Dr. Hatch says that early 
in the morning the parents and the well-grown young run 
races on the lake, using their broad paddles for propulsion 


and their half -extended wings for partial support. Starting 
all together they race down the lake, and then, turning, rush 
back to their starting point. Such exercises no doubt 
strengthen the young birds for the long flights to come. 

The Loon finds some difiiculty in rising from the water, 
and is obliged to run along the surface, flapping its short 
wings, until it gets impetus enough to rise. It is said that it 
cannot rise at all unless there is wind to assist it. Its great 
weight (from eight to nearly twelve pounds) and its short 
wings make flight laborious, but its rapid wing beats carry it 
through the air at great speed. Mr. R. M. Barnes states that 
one warm sunny afternoon, about 5 o'clock, on the flooded 
bottom of the Illinois River he saw a Loon rising from the 
water in a great circle, flapping its wings and then sailing. It 
circled much after the fashion of a Bald Eagle, rising higher 
and higher, continuing its flapping movements, alternated 
by sailing, until it reached a great altitude. When it had 
attained a height at which it appeared but little larger than a 
blackbird, it set its wings, and, pointing its long neck toward 
the pole, sailed away with great rapidity. He watched the 
bird with the glass until it passed out of sight, and could see 
no movement of the wings, although it was travelling at a tre- 
mendous rate. He believes that the bird was coasting down 
the air.^ The ordinary migrating flight of the Loon is swift 
and steady, accompanied by rapid, powerful wing beats, and I 
have never witnessed anything like the performance described 
by Mr. Barnes. When it alights it often shoots spirally down 
from a great height, and plunges into the water like an arrow 
from a bow. It lands with a splash, and shoots along the 
surface until its impetus is arrested by the resistance of the 

The Loon is almost unexcelled as a diver. It is supposed 
to be able to disappear so suddenly at the flash of a rifle as to 
dodge the bullet, unless the shooter is at point-blank range, 
but when two or three crack shots surround a small pond in 
which a Loon is resting it can usually be secured by good 
strategy. I once saw a Loon killed on the water with a shot- 

1 Osprey. Vol. I, No. 6, February, 1897. 


gun, but the bird was taken at a disadvantage. It was on the 
Banana River, Fla., in January, 1900, and it had followed the 
fish (which were then very numerous) into the shallow water 
near the shore. Shoals extended out from the shore fully 
three hundred yards, so that the bird, in diving and swim- 
ming under water, could not use its wings to advantage. It 
was much impeded by the shoals and the vegetation on the 
bottom, and in swimming was so near the surface that its 
course could be followed readily by the ripple that it made. 
Two strong rowers were thus enabled to follow and overtake 
it. It escaped the first charge of shot, but its pursuers came 
so close the second time that the shot went home. In deep 
water, where the bird can use its wings and fly under water 
like a bolt from a crossbow, it can easily elude a boat. In old 
times the gunner used to "toll" the Loon within gunshot by 
concealing himself and waving a brightly colored handkerchief, 
while imitating the bird's call. But this will rarely succeed 
to-day in luring one within reach of a shotgun. 

Loons are rather solitary in the autumn migration. They 
leave their northern homes and some begin to move south- 
ward in September, but many remain in the northern lakes 
until the ice comes. They move south along the larger rivers 
of the interior, but most of those near the Atlantic take the 
sea as their highway. 

The Loon feeds very largely on fish. As it rests lightly on 
the surface it frequently thrusts its head into the water and 
looks about in search of its prey. When pursuing swift fish 
under water it often uses its wings, by means of which it can 
overtake the swiftest. This has been repeatedly observed. 
It can travel much faster under water in this manner than it 
can on the surface by use of the feet alone. Dr. C. H. Town- 
send records that he watched a Loon chasing some young 
Mergansers. The Ducks swam or fluttered along the surface 
while the Loon followed them under water. They made for 
the shore in alarm, clambered up on the rocks and escaped. 
This suggests that Loons may sometimes prey on young 
Ducks. Dr. Warren found the stomachs of two Loons filled 
with the roots and seeds of aquatic plants. 




Length. — -About 27 inches. 

Adult in Summer. — This bird bears a general resemblance to the common 
Loon, but is smaller; the upper part of the head and the back of the 
neck are bluish gray, gradually fading into black on the throat and 
fore neck; the white streaks on the sides of its neck form a lengthwise 
patch, and the white spots on its upper parts are more confined to 
restricted areas. 

Adult in Winter, and Young. — Closely resemble the common Loon, but 
the Black-throated Loon has a much wider edging of bluish gray on 
the feathers of its upper parts, which gives it a peculiar "reticulated 
or scaly appearance." 

Range. — Northern part of northern hemisphere. Breeds from Kotzebue 
Sound, Alaska, west along northern coast of Siberia, on islands north 
of Europe, and from Cumberland Sound south to Ungava; winters in 
the southern Canadian Provinces; casually south to Colorado, Ne- 
braska, Iowa, northern Ohio and Long Island, N. Y. 


Young of the Black-throated Loon have been variously 
recorded as occurring in Massachusetts, but none of these 
records is considered authentic. It is introduced in this 
volume merely because it has been taken on Long Island, 
N. Y. The only specimen from that region now known to 
exist was killed by Mr. Gus Merritt of City Island, Long 
Island, on April 29, 1893, between Sand's Point Light and 
Execution Light. It is recorded by Dutcher in The Auk, 
1893, p. 265. 



RED-THROATED LOON {Gavia stellata). 

Common or local New England names: Red-throated Diver; Little Loon; Cape Race; 

Cape Racer; Scape-grace. 



Length. — About 2.5 inche.s. 

Adult in Summer. — Prevailing color brownish black above, varied by paler 
and white markings; middle of crown blackish; nape, back of neck 
and sides of breast lined with black and white; head and most of neck 
light slate gray, fore neck with a triangular patch of bright chestnut; 
under parts silky white; bill and feet blackish; iris red. 

Adult and Young in Winter. — Similar to the common Loon in winter, but 
top and back of head and neck bluish gray (in the common Loon these 
are brownish black); throat without red patch; white of throat ex- 
tending farther up on cheeks, and back thickly spotted with whitish; 
bill bluish white, darker on top; iris brown. 

Field Marks. — Rarely seen in summer plumage; in fall plumage may be 
distinguished from the common Loon at close range by the small white 
spots on the back and by the slender bill, which is slightly concave 
near upper base, giving it a slightly upturned appearance. 

Notes. — A harsh gr-rga, gr-r, gr-r-ga, gr-r (Nelson). 

Season. — A common fall migrant coastwise; uncommon in late winter and 
spring, August to April. 

Range. — Northern part of northern hemisphere. In North America breeds 
from northern Greenland and northern Alaska south to western Aleutian 
Islands, New Brunswick and Newfoundland; winters from southern 
British Columbia to southern California, and from Maine and the 
Great Lakes to Florida; casual far inland. 



The Red-throated Loon is mainly a salt-water bird while 
it sojourns in Massachusetts, although occasionally it is seen 
on some lake or river. Thoreau records in his journal that 
John Goodwin brought him a Loon on November 11, 1858, 
which he had killed on the river at Concord, and the descrip- 
tion proves it to be a bird of this species. Probably, like 
many other birds, it was oftener seen on fresh water in early 
times than now. Dr. John C. Phillips records a specimen in 
his collection taken on Wenham Lake in October, 1896.^ It is 
still not uncommon on the Great Lakes, and David Bruce of 
Brockport, N. Y., stated that he had found it on Lake Ontario 
during every month of the year.^ In severe weather, when 
the lakes freeze, this bird, like the common Loon, is sometimes 
taken on the ice, from which it is unable to rise, and is easily 
captured. In autumn it may be seen in small parties or flocks 
floating and feeding near our coasts. Like Grebes and some 
other water-fowl, it often lies on its side or back while afloat, 
exposing its white under parts, while engaged in dressing or 
preening the plumage. This species migrates mainly along 
the coast in autumn, but as it is not so commonly seen there 
in spring, some portion of the flight may go north through the 

Its habits are similar to those of the common Loon. It is 
perhaps equally difficult to shoot on the water. When sur- 
prised on land it seeks to escape by a series of hops or leaps, 
using both wings and feet. 

Mergansers (Subfamily Merginae). 

The Ducks, Geese and Swans comprise the family Anatidce, 
which includes five subfamilies, the Mergansers, the River 
Ducks, the Sea Ducks, the Geese and the Swans. In the plan 
of classification adopted by the American Ornithologists Union, 
the Mergansers or Sheldrakes come first. They are much 
hunted, though not regarded highly as game. This family of 

1 Phillips, John C: Auk, 1911, p. 197. 

2 Eaton, Elon Howard: Birds of New York, 1909, Vol. I, p. 104. 



diving and fish-eating Ducks has the bill constructed especially 
for seizing and holding its slippery prey. The bill is long, slim, 
rather rounded, with a hooked nail at the end, and its upper 
part is provided with 
many tooth-like proc- 
esses projecting back- 
ward, like the teeth of 
a shark (Fig. 3). These 

Ducks otherwise some- ^'''- '- ^'" ""' ^'^^^^°^^" 

what resemble the Loons, except that their feet are not so far 
back and their heads are usually crested. The hind toe has 
a flap or lobe, and the feet are broadly webbed, as in all Sea 
Ducks (see Fig. 6 on page 111). They are noted for their 
strength, vitality and diving power. 

The Mergansers are commonly known as Sheldrakes. A 
good field glass or telescope will enable the observer to dis- 
tinguish them from all other Ducks, at a considerable distance, 
by the long slim bill and the (usually) crested head. They 
all show a greater or less white patch on the wing in flight, 
and should not be confounded with the white-winged Scoter 
or " Coot," which is darker below than the Sheldrakes. In 
the field it is difficult for the novice to distinguish the females 
and young of one species of Merganser from those of another: 
but they may be identified, if seen in a good light, by one 
who is well acquainted with the peculiarities of the different 



MERGANSER (Mergus americanus) . 

Common or local New England names: Sheldrake; Pond Sheldrake; Freshwater 
Sheldrake; Break Horn; Winter Sheldrake (Maine and New Hampshire) ; Buff- 
breasted Merganser; Goosander. 



Length. — 23 to 27 inches. 

Adult Male. — Head and upper neck glossy dark green (appearing black 
at a distance); scarcely crested; middle of back black; rump and tail 
gray; most of neck, sides of upper back and entire under parts white 
(tinged below with light buff or salmon); wings white, showing black 
quill feathers and a black bar when spread; bill red with black ridge, 
and feet red; iris carmine. 

Adult Female and Young. — Much smaller than male; chin and throat 
white; rest of head and neck, with a long single crest on hind head, 
reddish brown; most of upper parts, sides and tail gray; wings largely 
black, with a white patch; below white, sometimes with slight salmon 
tinge; bill reddish brown; feet reddish orange; iris yellowish. 

Field Marks. — Mainly in fresh water. The largest of the Sheldrakes. 
Male appears black and white at a distance; the head very slightly 
crested in male; more so in female, but without the elongated double 
crest of the Red-breasted Merganser. 


Ni'nt. — Of leaves, grasses and moss, lined with down, in a hole in a tree 
or cliff. 

Eggs. — Six to ten, creamy buff, 2. Go by 1.73 (Chapman). 

Season. — October to May; rare in summer. 

Range. — North America. Breeds from southern Alaska, southern Yukon, 
Great Slave Lake, central Keewatin, southern Ungava and Newfound- 
land south to central Oregon, southern South Dakota, southern Minne- 
sota, central Michigan, Ohio (formerly), northern New York, Vermont, 
New Hampshire and Maine; and in mountains, south to northern 
California, central Arizona, northern New Mexico and Pennsylvania 
(formerly); winters from Aleutian Islands, British Cohmibia, Idaho, 
northern Colorado, southern Wisconsin, southern Ontario, northern 
New England and New Brunswick south to northern Lower California, 
northern Mexico (Chihuahua), Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Bermuda. 

The x\merican Merganser is the largest of the sawbill 
Ducks or Mergansers. The adult male is a very handsome 
bird with its glossy dark green head and salmon-colored 
breast. It is quite distinctively a fresh-water bird, and 
though often met with on the bays and estuaries of the 
sea, it is less often seen on the sea itself at any great distance 
from land. It breeds mainly by the ponds and rivers of the 
interior, and throughout the wooded part of its range in the 
northern United States and southern Canadian territory; 
nests mainly in hollow trees. It apparently prefers fresh 
water even in winter, and I have seen it feeding in the 
unfrozen waters of the rapids of rivers in Massachusetts and 
New Hampshire during the coldest months of the year. 
Comparativeh- few are seen now in most of our waters where 
shooting is allowed, but a few sometimes gather in protected 
ponds or reservoirs. There is quite a general belief in the 
interior that this species has decreased much in recent years. 
]Mr. Robert O. Morris (1901) records it as the most numerous 
Duck in the Connecticut River from November to May. Thirty- 
nine of my correspondents in 1908, whose average experience 
in the field represents nearly thirty years, report it as decreas- 
ing, and ten note an increase. These reports cover nearly the 
entire State, as the species is noted in every county. Reports 
from the coastal States and provinces south to New Jersey 


indicate a greater decrease, except in certain localities in Maine 
and New York. Since spring shooting was prohibited this large 
Merganser has become more common in our rivers in March 
than it was before. Along the sea-shore in fall and spring it 
is much less numerous than the Red-breasted Merganser, but 
as soon as the ice goes out of some of the ponds near the sea 
in the southeastern counties considerable numbers sometimes 
frequent such ponds. 

According to Audubon this Sheldrake formerly bred in 
Massachusetts. It has been occasionally seen here in sum- 
mer within the last fifty years, but it is impossible now to 
determine with certainty whether the young birds seen in the 
breeding season were of this species or of the Red-breasted 
Merganser. Howe and Allen regard it as possible that the 
bird may still breed here, and Mr. Robert O. Morris states 
that he has seen it repeatedly in midsummer in Hampden 

The nest is usually made in a hollow tree, but probably 
sometimes on the ground, as in treeless arctic regions. 
Boardman, who found the first recorded nest in a hollow 
tree in Maine, says that the lumbermen told him that the 
mother carried the young to the water in her bill. Probably 
this species nested here not uncommonly in earlier times, but 
has been driven out by the destruction of the forests and 
unrestricted shooting. 

Mergansers are tough and hard to kill. A wounded bird 
will often elude the most determined pursuit of the sportsman. 
It is an excellent diver, and swims so rapidly and so far under 
water that it can keep well out of range of its pursuers. 

Its food is largely fish, and it sometimes swallows a fish too 
large for the stomach, and retains it in the gullet until diges- 
tion gradually disintegrates the head and later the entire fish. 
Knight states in his Birds of Maine that the adult birds feed 
exclusively on fish in the ponds of the interior, preferably, as 
far as he has been able to ascertain, on the various chubs and 
minnows. In winter on the coast, he says they eat many 
mussels and allied mollusks, swallowing the shells, which are 
ground up and disintegrated in the stomach and intestines. 


The opinion seems to be quite general among sportsmen 
and anglers that this is a noxious bird, because it eats fish. 
Probably, however, when its food is thoroughly investigated 
it will be found to feed on the enemies of the fish also. 
Minnows destroy the eggs and fry of trout. The fish-eating 
birds apparently serve mainly to keep the biologic balance 
true among the fishes and other animals on which they prey. 

This bird, when cooked in the ordinary way, is about as 
palatable as a stewed kerosene lamp wick, but some people on 
the coast are able to prepare and eat a Sheldrake now and 
then with a clear conscience. There are some hardy gunners 
and fishermen whose appetites are so good that it is imma- 
terial whether they are eating flesh, fish or finnan haddie, and 
I have been credibly informed by some of these enthusiastic 
coast gunners that they actually enjoy eating a Sheldrake or 
two in the spring after a hard winter. 

Since the above was written, my son Lewis E. Forbush 
has informed me that he saw a mother Duck with her young 
on a pond in Worcester County, Mass., early in June, 1907. 
She carried some of the young on her back. He also says 
that he and others saw three Ducks flying about in the neigh- 
borhood during the summer. From his description, all these 
birds must have been Mergansers; but he is not positive 
whether they were of this species or the next. Under the 
present law, which forbids spring shooting, it is quite prob- 
able that Sheldrakes will breed in New England in increasing 



RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (Mergus serrator). 

Common or local New England names: Sheldrake; Spring-sheldrake; Shelduck; Shell- 
bird; Sea Robin; Long Island Sheldrake. 

!®?y=^- :;:M'MB^mmm 



Length. — - 22 to about 24 inches. 

Adult Male. — Head dark green (appearing black at a distance) ; long crest 
on hind head; a broad white ring around neck; upper back black, 
lower back gray; tail grayish brown; wing mainly white, crossed by 
two black bars; a patch of white black-bordered feathers in front of 
wing; flanks barred with fine wavy lines of black; lower neck and 
upper breast buff or pale cinnamon, streaked with black; below white; 
iris, bill, legs and feet red. 

Adult Female and Young. — Smaller; throat white; rest of head and most 
of neck, with a crest on hind head, reddish brown; back and tail slate 
gray; wings darker, when spread showing a white patch; in closed 
wing this patch is divided by a black bar and bordered by another in 
front; below white; bill, legs and feet reddish. 

Field Marks. — The streaked buff breast and the long loose crest on the 
green head distinguish the male. The female has less white on throat 
and fore neck than the female of the American Merganser; also, more 
reddish brown on sides of neck, a double crest and a divided white wing 
patch. Difficult to identify at a distance. 

Notes. — When alarmed, several low, guttural croaks (Elliot). 

Nest. — Of leaves, grasses, mosses, etc., lined with down, on tlie ground, 
near water, among rocks or scrubby bushes. 

Eggs. — Six to twelve, creamy buff, 2.55 by 1.75. 

Scaso7i. — Late September to late May; rare in summer. 


Range. — Northern part of northern hemisphere. Breeds in North America 
from arctic coast of Alaska, northern Mackenzie, Cumberland Sound 
and Greenland (latitude 73 degrees) south to southern British Columbia, 
southern Alberta, southern Minnesota, central Wisconsin, northern New 
York, southern Maine and Sable Island; winters in southern Green- 
land, the Commander Islands and from southern British Columbia, 
Utah, Colorado, southern Wisconsin, southern Ontario and Maine 
south to southern Lower California, Louisiana and Florida; casual in 
Bermuda, Cuba and Hawaii. 


The Red-breasted Merganser was once numerous through- 
out New England, where it formerly bred about many of the 
lakes and ponds of the northern portions, while it frequented 
the rivers of Massachusetts in fall and spring. It still breeds 
to some extent in the wooded interior of INIaine, Vermont and 
New York, and several gunners about Falmouth on Cape Cod 
claim to have seen females there w^ith young Ducklings in 

Nuttall (1834) says that it frequented the fresh waters 
even in winter, but in Massachusetts it is now largely con- 
fined to the vicinity of the sea-coast ; it is still numerous 
there in its migrations, particularly in the waters about Cape 
Cod. Eighty-two observers reported as follows in 1908 on 
the status of this species: fifteen record it as increasing; 
seven of these are in Barnstable County; thirty-four report 
a decrease. These reports are mainly from the interior, but 
the bird is recorded from every county in the State. Reports 
from the Maritime Provinces, Maine, Rhode Island and Con- 
necticut indicate that the species has fallen off over fifty per 
cent, in numbers along the coast. 

This bird is a swift and rather silent flier, and an exceed- 
ingly expert diver. While swimming on the surface it some- 
times raises and lowers its crest. This is more of a marine 
species than the American Merganser, but is nevertheless not 
uncommon in the interior of the countrj^ particularly in the 
lake regions, during migration. In Massachusetts there 
appears to be a double migration of this species, the first flight 
coming north in February and the second in April. 


In winter, most of the birds of this species which are seen 
in Massachusetts appear to be full plumaged males, while in 
summer the few which remain with us appear to be females. 
Some of them, however, may be males in the "eclipse" 
plumage. I have noticed that practically all the birds seen 
in winter in Florida are females or young. This, together 
with the fact that most of those seen in Massachusetts in 
winter are males, seems to indicate that the hardy males do 
not go so far south in winter as do the females and young. 

The Red-breasted Mergansers feed largely on fish, diving 
and charging through the schools of small fish, which they 
seize and hold fast with their saw-toothed bills. Thoreau 
notes that he saw Sheldrakes (presumably of this species) 
chasing fish by both swimming and flying along the surface. 
A few shell-fish are eaten at times. 

Since the above was written evidence has been secured 
that corroborates the statements of gunners regarding the re- 
cent nesting of this species in Massachusetts. Mr. Jonathan 
H. Jones of Waquoit states that some years since some gun- 
ners there liberated two crippled birds in a pond near the 
village, and that a brood of young was raised there that year. 
He states that for several years he has seen broods of young 
birds along the south shore of Cape Cod, but is inclined to 
the belief that their parents were cripples which were left over 
from the spring shooting. This year (1911) I saw a female 
on the Agawam River at Wareham in June, and the same, or 
another, several times in July and August within half a mile 
of the spot where she was first seen. No young were seen, 
but a collector shot the bird on the last day of August, and 
he informed me that the condition of the ovaries showed that 
the bird had been breeding. I examined the specimen later, 
and it was undoubtedly a breeding bird. It could fly well, 
was not crippled in any way, and a careful examination re- 
vealed no old shot marks. 



HOODED MERGANSER (Lophodytes cucullatus) . 

Common or local names: Hooded Sheldrake; HairyCrown; Hairy Head; Wood Shel- 
drake; Swamp Sheldrakej Mud Sheldrake; Saw-bill Diver. 

Males and Female. 

Length. — 16.50 to 18 inches. 

Adult Male. — Head, neck and back black, a broad wliite patch extending 
from back of eye backward, with a narrow black border, forming a 
nearly semicircular crest when erected; if lowered, flattened and ex- 
tended backward; two black bands extending from upper back toward 
breast before the bend of the wing; flanks grayish brown before, grading 
into reddish brown, crossed by fine wavy black lines; rest of under 
parts white; fore wing gray; wing patch and some long feathers on 
the back white; wing with two black bars, one before the white patch, 
the other crossing it; bill black; iris yellow; feet light brown; claws 

Adult Female. — Chin and throat light; rest of head, with bushy crest, dull 
reddish brown, usually paler on cheeks; rest of upper parts sooty 
brown, inconspicuously barred; wing with a white patch divided by 
a dusky bar; flanks like upper parts; upper breast lighter; rest of 
under parts white; bill orange and blackish; feet light brownish. 

Young. — Similar; but crest smaller. 

Immature Male. — Head and neck light brown or grayish brown; neck 
blotched with black; crest brownish white, with brown edge; other- 
wise much like female. 

Field Marks. — No other Duck except the male BufHehead has the triangular 
white patch on head and crest; but he has no chestnut on sides, which 
are white. This Merganser may be distinguished from other Ducks by 
its long crest and slim bill; the female is much smaller than other 
Mergansers, head and neck darker and crest cinnamon and bushy. 


Notes. ■ — - A hoarse croak, like a small edition of tiiat of the Red-breasted 
Merganser (Elliot). 

Nest. — In hollow tree, of grass, leaves and feathers. 

Eggs. — About six, ivory white, 2.05 by 1.70. 

Season. — Rather uncommon or rare migrant; March, October and No- 
vember; rare in winter. 

Range. — North America. Breeds from central British Columbia and New- 
foundland south to southern Oregon, southern Louisiana and central 
Florida; winters from southern British Columbia and Massachusetts 
south to Lower California, the Gulf States and Cuba. Recorded from 
Mexico, St. Michael, Alaska, Europe and Bermuda. 


The Hooded Merganser was formerly very common in 
portions of New England. I believe that it is slowly vanish- 
ing from the east. It probably bred formerly throughout a 
considerable part of the Atlantic seaboard, but the cutting 
down of the primeval forest and unrestricted shooting have 
destroyed its nesting places and depleted its numbers. Like 
the Wood Duck, it frequents small ponds and woodland 
streams, where it is exposed to the gunner at all times. It 
bred and perhaps still breeds in Florida (G. B. Grinnell). 
It has been known to breed in Georgia (Wayne), and in South 
Carolina, Kentucky and Ohio (Audubon). Stone regards it 
as apparently much more plentiful formerly than now in New 
Jersey. It has been found breeding in New York, not only 
in the northern highlands, but in several counties (Eaton). 
Boardman found it breeding abundantly in Maine, but now 
Knight lists it as a rare breeder. It seems probable that it 
once bred in Massachusetts, but there is no record, although 
it has been noted here in summer. 

My correspondents in 1908 did not report this bird from 
Berkshire or Franklin County. From the other counties ten 
report an increase and thirty-one a decrease. It is not noted 
as common anywhere, except in northern Essex County, where 
Mr. E. W. Eaton of Newburyport reports it as not uncommon 
in Hampton River near the New Hampshire boundary, and 
Dr. John C. Phillips sees it not uncommonly in Wenham Lake, 
in the towns of Beverly and Wenham, where he records the 
capture of forty-four birds in ten years (only one of which was 


Two Baldpates attracted by tame Mallards on Leverett Pond, Boston. 
(Photograph by W. Charlesworth Levey.) 


Attracted by tame Mallards on Leverett Pond, Boston. The pond is 
surrounded by public streets and buildings. (Photograph by 
W. Charlesworth Levey.) (See page 57 1.) 


a male, in fine plumage) ; and he states that it is by far the com- 
monest Merganser seen about the pond. Dr. Townsend rates 
it as a not uncommon transient visitor in Essex County. Mr. 
Jonathan Jones states that it was formerly plentiful at 
Waquoit, but has become rarer in recent years, and that is 
the general belief. Two gunners at Nantucket rate it as 
common, but all the others heard from call it rare. Brewster 
says that during the past twenty years "it has been steadily 
decreasing in numbers throughout New England, and is fast 
becoming a positively rare visitor to eastern Massachusetts." 
The species should be protected at all times in the New Eng- 
land States. 

One of my pleasantest recollections is that of the sight of 
half a dozen birds of this species disporting themselves in a 
diminutive pond in the spring of 1900, while I lay hidden in 
the grass, watching the graceful evolutions of their beautiful 
forms. The two full-plumaged males raised and lowered their 
elegant fan-like crests to show off their plumage to the best 
advantage, and all raced swiftly about the little pool, uncon- 
scious of my presence. This is one of the swiftest Ducks that 
flies, and its progress beneath the water is remarkably rapid. 
Its speed even excels that of the swift-running fish, and as it 
feeds largely on fish, it is ranked among the enemies of the 
finny tribes. 

Hon. John E. Thayer assures me that on Currituck Sound, 
N. C, this species feeds on the corn that the sportsmen use 
to attract other and more palatable Ducks. It appears to be 
more at home in the small ponds and streams of the interior 
than on the sea-coast ; and even on the coast it keeps mainly 
to the fresh water. 

Like the American Merganser this species seeks a hollow 
tree in which to build its nest. Hence it breeds only in the 
wooded regions of the continent. 

River Ducks (Subfamily Anatinse). 

This group contains most of the distinctly fresh -water 
Ducks; but they are by no means confined to fresh waters, and 
some often associate with the so-called Sea Ducks. The bill 


is more or less broadened and flattened, and provided with 
processes through which, with the aid of the flattened, pecul- 
iarly constructed tongue, these Ducks are able to separate 
their food from the mud or muddy water in which it is largely 

found. These Ducks differ from both the 
Mergansers and Sea Ducks in having no 
lobe or flap on the hind toe (Fig. 4). 
The plumage, though waterproof, is less 
dense than in the Loons, Grebes and 
Sheldrakes, and in the males it is often 
very beautiful. Both sexes have usually 
a glossy, brilliant patch on the wing. 

Fig. 4. — Foot of River Duck. n i i • i i • i • 

called the mn-ror or speculum, wnicli is 
brightest in the male. The River Ducks might well be called 
" surface-feeding Ducks," for, although some of them are good 
divers, they all feed mainly in shallow water, by either dab- 
bling in the surface mud or tipping their bodies forward and 
thrusting their heads and necks under water. They feed 
largely on succulent water plants and various forms of animal 
life. The males of most species appear to undergo a double 
molt in summer, during which they take on the " eclipse " 
plumage, much resembling that of the female. These Ducks 
are in great demand, both for food and sport, and their habit 
of feeding near the shore gives the gunner his opportunity. 
They need special protection. They have been diminishing 
in numbers for years in New England, and all but one or two 
have become rather rare in most of this region. Protection 
in spring and summer will tend to bring them back to their 
former haunts, as they are quick to find places of safety; but, 
unless the laws are respected and enforced, we cannot expect 
any lasting or permanent increase in the numbers of these 
wary birds. 



MALLARD {Anas platyrhynchos) . 
Common or local names: Green-head; Gray Duck (female and young). 



Length. — 23 to '-24 inches. 

Adult Male. —Head and most of neck iridescent green; a white ring almost 
entirely around neck, broken only on the nape; lower neck and upper 
breast chestnut; center of back brown, graying over shoulders and 
blackening toward tail; wings brownish gray; wing patch or speculum 
violet, bordered in front and behind with black and white; feathers 
under tail black; rest of under parts silver gray, finely cross-lined with 
black on the flanks, which end in white; a tuft of up-curled feathers on 
tail; bill and legs yellow; feet reddish orange; iris brown. 

Adult Female. — \hove dark brownish; feathers edged with buff; throat 
buff; speculum like that of male; head and neck lighter than body and 
finely mottled; top of head dark, as also an inconspicuous line through 
eye, and often another from lower part of bill crossing cheek then curv- 
ing downward; breast brownish buff, marked with black; below white, 
spotted with dusky; bill greenish yellow; feet yellowish or orange. 

Field Marks. — Size of the Black Duck; the green head and white ring 
around neck identify the male; female similar to the black Duck, but 
body lighter in color, with wing markings like those of male; speculum 
or wing patch bordered both before and behind with a white bar. 


Notes. — The familiar quack of the barnyard Duck. 

Nest. — On ground. 

Eijgs. — Six to ten, about 'i.'io by 1.65, yellowish drab, variable. 

iSeason. — An uncommon migrant, very i-are in winter; March 27 to May 1; 
September 'i'i to December 1. 

Range. — Northern hemisphere. In North America breeds from Pribilof 
Islands, northwestern Alaska, northern Mackenzie, central Keewatin 
and Greenland south to Lower California, southern New Mexico, 
southern Kansas, central Missouri, southern Indiana and Maryland 
(rarely); winters from the Aleutian Islands, central Alaska, central 
Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, southern Wisconsin, northern Indiana, 
Ohio, Maryland and Nova Scotia (rarely), south to Mexico, the Lesser 
Antilles and Panama ; casual in Bermuda and Hawaii. 


The Mallard is a cosmopolitan species, the wild Duck of 
the world. It is well known as the Duck from which nearly 
all varieties of the domestic Duck were derived. It is the 
common wild Duck over so large a part of the earth's surface 
that it is of greater economic value than any other Duck. It 
is exceeded by few. if any, in excellence for the table. The 
Mallard was formerly the most abundant wild-fowl on this 
hemisphere. Hearne (1795) found it in vast multitudes in 
])arts of the Hudson Bay country. Now it is no longer 
abundant in those regions. Before the settlement of the 
west, the prairie sloughs swarmed with Mallards, and in win- 
ter the waters of the south were often crowded with them. 
Audubon (ISS^) found them in Florida in such multitudes as 
to " darken the air." He says that a single negro hunter, a 
slave of General Hernandez, supplied the latter 's plantation 
in east Florida, killing from fifty to one hundred and twenty 
birds a day in the season. Mallards are now comparatively 
rare there. Prof. W. W. Cooke states that as late as the 
winter of 1893-94 a gunner at Big Lake, Ark., sold eight thou- 
sand Mallards, and one hundred and twenty thousand were 
sent to market during the season from that place alone. Dur- 
ing the settlement of the west, hundreds of tons were killed 
in the south and west for their feathers, by negroes, Indians, 
half-breeds and whites, and the bodies of most of them were 
thrown away. In the southwest Mallards are still plentiful 


in winter, though decreasing. The Houston, Tex., Post of 
January 29, 1908, states that during the previous week five 
citizens came upon a small lake into which the birds were 
flocking in great numbers. They flushed the game and emptied 
their repeating guns, gathering up afterwards one hundred 
and seven killed, not counting the wounded or missing; these 
were mainlv Mallards. 

Reports from many parts of the country indicate a decrease 
in Mallards of from fifty to ninety per cent, in the last thirty 
years. Mr. Edward L. Parker states that they were plentiful in 
Texas in 1898, but they have decreased rapidly since then. All 
my 1908 reports from every part of the Atlantic and Gulf 
coasts, outside of jNIassachusetts, indicate a decrease in the 
birds, except one from Connecticut, which estimates an increase 
of ten per cent, in a few years past. As the Mallard's breeding 
grounds in America lie mainly west of the meridian of Hud- 
son Bay, and as its place in New England is largely taken up 
bv the Black Duck, it is not common here. It is a hardv 
species, for, although it breeds normally in the United States 
and Canada, it goes very far north, and remains all winter in 
Alaska and Greenland in places where it can find open water 
and good feeding grounds. Judging from my own experience, 
I have leaned to the opinion that there had been a recent in- 
crease in the numbers of this species in Massachusetts, but the 
reports from observers in different parts of the State, received 
in 1908, do not support this view. Seventeen observers report 
an increase in the number of Mallards in the State, and sixty- 
three note a decrease. These reports certainly indicate a 
considerable decrease in the State. The reports of increase 
come mainly from Plymouth, Bristol and Barnstable counties, 
but those reporting decrease in those counties number more 
than twice as many as those reporting increase. Mallards 
have been rather common for many years in some of the 
ponds near Middleborough, Mass., and they are sometimes 
seen in considerable numbers locally in various parts of the 
six New England States. In years when they breed well, or 
possibly when food is more plentiful than usual in New Eng- 
land, flights of Mallards are seen. Dr. Townsend notes one 


that occurred in the fall of 1904, when nineteen were shot 
October "^S at Hood's Pond, four at Wenham Lake, one or 
two at Chebacco Lake and seven in the creeks near Ipswich 
Beach, all in Essex County, Mass. Mr. J. H. Hardy counted 
nearly one hundred Mallards in the Boston market, sent there 
from Essex County during that week. Mr. John M. Winslow 
of Nantucket says that a number of Mallards were killed 
there about 1907. One man killed eighteen. A good many 
were taken at Tuckernuck. At one stand twenty were killed 
in a season. Mr. B. T. Mosely of Newburyport says that 
Mallards have remained about the same there for the last 
ten or fifteen years; ten or twelve birds killed every year. 

The general migratory movement of the Mallard is north 
and south, with an easterly trend. It is evident that in 
former times, when the birds were so very plentiful in Florida 
and the south Atlantic States, a great migration moved to 
the southeast, and they are still numerous in some portions 
of the Carolinas. 

The Mallard is not known to breed in Massachusetts, 
although it still breeds in New York State. It has been 
reported several times as breeding in Connecticut since spring 
shooting was prohibited there, but I am not aware that any 
nest has been found, and if Mallards are breeding there it is 
quite likely that they are birds that have escaped from con- 
finement, as a number of people are breeding wild Mallards 
in Massachusetts and Connecticut. 

The Mallard is quite omnivorous in regard to its food. 
The animal food consists of small frogs, tadpoles, toads, liz- 
ards, newts, small fish, fish fry, snails, mussels, leeches, earth- 
worms, mice and similar small game that it finds about the 
ponds and in the edges of the woods. Its vegetable food 
includes grass, many species of seeds and aquatic plants, 
grains, nuts, acorns, fruits, etc. It is particularly fond of 
wild rice. In the south the Mallard is one of the friends of 
the rice farmer, as it destroys the scattered rice or volunteer 
rice of the field, which, if left to grow, would greatly reduce 
the value of the crop. It is serviceable to the southern 
people in another way, as it feeds very largely upon crayfish. 


which burrow into and undermine the levees and dikes. 
Examinations of one hundred and twenty-six stomachs of 
Mallards made at the Biological Survey reveal seventeen 
per cent, animal food and eighty-three per cent, vegetable. 
The most important items of the animal food were dragon fly 
nymphs, fly larvae, grasshoppers, beetles and bugs. Mollusks, 
earthworms and crustaceans were found. The principal ele- 
ments of the vegetable food, as found by the experts of the 
Biological Survey, were the seeds of smartweeds {Pohjgomun), 
seeds and tubers of pondweed (Potamogeton) and of sedges. 
Other items of importance were the seeds of wild rice (Zizania) 
and other grasses, of burr reed (Sparganium), hoTUwort {Cera- 
tophyllum), water shield (Brasenia) and widgeon grass (Ruppia). 
A great many vegetable substances of less importance were 
included in the Mallard's diet, of which the following are worthy 
of note: wild celery, algae, roots of arrowhead (Sagittaria); 
fruits, such as grapes, dogwood, sour gum and bayberries; and 
the seeds of such small aquatic plants as millweed {Myrio- 
phyllum), horned pondweed (Zannichellia) and mermaid- weed 

The Mallard is proverbially fond of grain of all sizes, from 
Indian corn to wheat or barley ; hence the ease with which 
it may be domesticated, or bred in a semi-wild state for 
sporting purposes. This adaptability to man's uses makes it 
economically the most valuable of all Ducks, and a study of 
its favorite food plants and animals will materially assist 
those who wish to propagate this bird on preserves. 



BLACK DUCK (Anas ruhripes) . 

Common or local names: Dusky Duck; Summer Black Duck; Spring Black Duck; 

Black Mallard. 

Length. — - 2'2 to 25 inches. 

Adult. — Top of head blackish; sides of head, neck and throat Hght grayish 
buff, finely streaked with dusky (old males have the throat unspotted); 
a dusky line through eye; rest of plumage dusky brown (apparently 
blackish, except in strong light or close at hand) ; speculum iridescent 
purple or greenish, edged with velvety black but no white; under sides 
of wings light silvery; bill broad and fairly long, yellowish green or 
olive; iris brown; legs and feet of male orange red, with dusky webs; 
females and young have legs and feet darker; old drakes have yellower 
bills, redder legs and feet, and more distinctly spotted throats. 

Field Marks. — Large size, dusky color and silvery white lining under the 
wings, which shows in flight. May be distinguished from the female 
or young of the Mallard by the absence of white wing-bars. 

Notes. — A quack resembling that of the Mallard (Reed). This is the call 
of the female; the male has a more reedy cry. 

Nest. — On the ground in a wet meadow, on the border of lake or stream, in 
the rushes, or sometimes under a bush on a hillside. 

Eggs. — Six to about twelve, pale yellowish drab or buff, more or less 
dingy, about 2.40 by 1.75. 

Season. — Resident the entire year, mainly coastwise in winter. Many 
now breed; more winter, and still more migrate through New England 
in fall and spring. 


Range. — Eastern North America. Breeds from central Keewatin and 
northern Ungava south to northern Wisconsin, northern Indiana and 
southern Maryland; winters from Nova Scotia south to southern Loui- 
siana and Colorado; west in migration to Nebraska and central Kansas; 
casual in Bermuda; accidental in Jamaica. 

The Black Duck, owing to its ability to take care of itself, 
is the onlv fresh- water Duck which still remains common 
locally throughout the New England States, xllthough it has 
decreased greatly in numbers since early times, it has avoided 
the gunner by feeding mainly at night, and going out on the 
salt water or to some large lake during the day, where it is 
practically unapproachable. Now and then young or inex- 
perienced birds lack some of the caution of the majority, but 
these are quickly killed, and only the suspicious ones survive 
to procreate their kind. The following abridged extracts 
from authors exhibit the former abundance of the species 
and its decrease: The most numerous of all its tribes that 
frequent the salt marshes; on the most distant report of a 
musket they rise from every quarter of the marsh in prodi- 
gious numbers; there are at least ten Black Ducks to one 
Goose or Brant, and probably many more (Wilson, 1811). 
Abundant winter resident; few breed (Maynard, 1870). Most 
abundant of all our fresh- water Ducks (Samuels, 1870). 
Abundant resident (Turnbull, 1869). Abundant winter resi- 
dent; rare summer, formerly regular resident whole year (J, A. 
Allen, 1879). Formerly abundant, but now rare (H. L. Clark, 
1887, Amherst, Mass.). Very common transient visitor, not 
uncommon summer resident (Brewster, Cambridge region, 
1906). Mr. James Henry Rice, Jr., of Summerville, S. C, 
says that Black Ducks and Mallards are decreasing fast, 
although both mass around Georgetown. Market hunting 
is wiping them out. He has seen five thousand Mallards 
and Black Ducks brought into the Georgetown market in one 
day, all killed by the negroes. Forty observers in 1908 report 
an increase in Massachusetts, and one hundred and twenty- 
six report a decrease. Black Ducks breeding in the State are 


reported on as follows: twenty-seven observers note an 
increase and eighty-three a decrease. Mr. Charles E. Ingalls 
of East Templeton says that thirty to forty years ago Black 
Ducks were very abundant; there were hundreds where one 
is now seen. Bags of ten to fifteen were not uncommon 
where birds were merely run into casually. Unnaturalized 
foreigners have been hunting them from boats in the summer 
time, killing the helpless young and the molting adults, until 
they are nearly exterminated there. 

The Black Duck responds quickly to protection, and has 
increased in numbers in recent years wherever it has been 
protected in the spring. Mr. Talbot Denmead of Baltimore, 
Md., states that there has been a decided increase in Black 
Ducks around Bath, Md., in the last fifteen years. All the 
Ducks he gets are in good condition, as they are well baited 
with corn. Mr. Benjamin F. Howell of Troy Hills, N. J., says 
that sixty years ago Black Ducks were shot the year round 
in his section. Since the stoppage of spring shooting, in 
1908, ten pairs of Black Ducks breed on the meadows, where 
one pair bred before. Mr. Gardiner G. Hammond, who 
protects the Ducks along the shore of a pond on Martha's 
Vineyard, states that about two hundred and fifty Black 
Ducks are gathered there early in September, which probably 
breed there or near by. The old and young Ducks are so 
numerous in autumn that they leave evidences of their 
movements from one pond to the other in the sheep paths, 
where they travel. He never saw any Ducks breeding there 
previous to his occupancy of the place. 

No Duck is more wary than the Black Duck, or harder 
to deceive with wooden decoys. Sometimes on the sea-shore 
a few will come to wooden decoys. Gunners along the sea- 
coast sometimes attract this bird by putting out lumps of 
mud or bunches of seaweed upon some point. The theory is 
that the birds, seeing these objects from afar, believe them 
to be Ducks; but that on a nearer approach they find them 
to be neither wooden decoys nor Hving birds but harmless 
objects, and suspicion being allayed the birds sometimes will 
alight on or near the point. They are readily attracted in 


this way at night or in the dusk of evening. They are easily 
deceived by hve decoys of their own kind, and if the gunner 
has a well-trained flock of decoys, and is well concealed in a 
good location, his chances of success are greatly increased. 
I am somewhat skeptical about the alleged extreme keenness 
of scent of this bird, for on at least two occasions I have 
been able to get within gunshot of a flock by quietly creeping 
up to them, although they had the wind in their favor; but 
their sight and hearing are remarkably acute. Some Ducks 
will swim very close to a man in full sight and in daylight 
provided he does not move, but I have never seen a Black 
Duck deceived unless the man was concealed in some manner. 
This bird, when suddenly alarmed and fearful of ambush, 
will spring directly from the water and climb the air almost 
perpendicularly, until high out of the reach of the gunner, 
when it speeds away to safer quarters. 

The great natural breeding ground of this species extends 
from Labrador to Pennsylvania, but it breeds to the westward 
of Hudson Bay, and seems to be somewhat extending its 
range westward in the northern United States. It migrates 
south along the Atlantic coast to Florida and even beyond, 
and winters about as far north as it can find open fresh water, 
sometimes to Nova Scotia. Black Ducks often fly very high 
in migration, and sometimes in the interior they may be seen 
to fall from far up in the sky into some pond or river, coming 
down with a roar of wings, like the Redhead. Often in severe 
weather they appear to prefer to sit about on the ice and 
starve rather than to go south, if they can find an open spring 
where they can get fresh water to drink. Gunners have told 
me that they have shot these Ducks at such times and found 
them nearly starved, with nothing but black malodorous mud 
in their stomachs. 

In the interior the food of this species is largely vegetable, 
particularly in the fall. In the spring more animal food is 
taken. The vegetable food Includes grass roots taken from 
meadows, roots and shoots of aquatic plants, wild rice, grains, 
weed seeds, hazel nuts, acorns and berries. The animal food 
includes small frogs and toads, tadpoles, small minnows, 


newts, earthworms, leeches and small shell-fish. The Black 
Duck is a gluttonous feeder. Knight tells of one which he 
found asleep under some berry bushes, and it was so gorged 
with berries that it could not fly. As a destroyer of weed 
seed the Black Duck is pre-eminent. Eaton in his Birds 
of New York recalls that on the morning of October 26, 
1901, he " shot a Black Duck from a flock of 75 birds, which 
were returning to Canandaigua Lake from a flooded cornfield. 
From its gullet and gizzard," he says, " I took 23,704 weed 
seeds, which, together with a few pebbles, snail shells and 
chaff, were the sole contents of its stomach. Of these seeds 
13,240 were pigweeds {Chenopodium and Amarantkus), 7,264 
were knotgrass (Polygonum), 2,624 were ragweed (Ambrosia) 
and 576 were dock (Rumex)." The food of the Black Duck 
has the same practical interest for the game preserver as has 
that of the Mallard, for the Black Duck is closely related to 
the Mallard, thrives almost equally well on grain, and, when 
grain fed, becomes a very excellent bird for the table. It is 
the darker eastern representative of the Mallard, and can be 
artificially propagated, though it is somewhat quarrelsome in 
disposition, and, therefore, it is not usually profitable to con- 
fine it with Ducks of other species. 

Note. — The Red-legged Black Duck (Anas rubripes tristis) is now 
generally regarded as the fully adult male of the Black Duck. The question 
of its validity as a subspecies has caused some discussion, and it has been 
placed on the hypothetical list. 



GADWALL (Chaulelasmus streperus). 
Common or local names : Gray Duck; Speckle-belly; Creek Duck. 



Lenrjth. — About 18 to !2'-2 inches. 

Adult Male. — Upper parts and sides brown, so barred and vermiculated 
with black and white as to give a general appearance of brownish gray, 
passing to dusky on lower back and to black on upper and lower tail 
coverts; tail brown, edged with gray; head and neck brown, mottled 
with darker; wings largely brown, black, white and gray, in the order 
given; wing patch white, bordered in front and bek)w by black; rump 
black; lower neck and breast dark gray; belly white, with fine wavy 
gray lines; bill lead blue or bluish black; legs and feet dull orange or 
yellowish, with dark webs. 

Female and Young. — Much like a diminutive female Mallard, but wing 
similar to that of the male Gadwall; the white wing patch is smaller 
than in the male, but bordered similarly by black; lining of wings 
whitish, as in Mallard and Black Duck. 

Field Marks. — The only river Duck with a pure white, hlack-hordered 
speculum or icing patch. The female resembles a small female Mallard, 
but the white wing patch is distinctive. 

Notes. — Resemble those of the Mallard, rather more shrill, frequently 
repeated (Eaton). 

Season. — ^ Very rare or accidental visitant; April (?) and October to 


Range. — Nearly cosmopolitan. In North America breeds from southern 
British Columbia, central Alberta and central Keewatin south to south- 
ern California, southern Colorado, northern Nebraska and southern 
Wisconsin; winters from southern British Columbia, Arizona, Arkan- 
sas, southern Illinois and North Carolina south to southern Lower Cal- 
ifornia, central Mexico and Florida; accidental in Bermuda, Cuba and 
Jamaica; rare in migration on the Atlantic coast of the middle and 
New England States north to Newfoundland. 


In North America this ahiiost cosmopolitan species breeds 
mainly, if not entirely, in the western province. There is 
reason to believe that the Gadwall was once not uncommon 
in New England; but within the last half century not many 
specimens are known to have been taken in Massachusetts. 
Wilson believed it to be rare in the " northern parts of the 
United States," and it was probably always less common in 
the New England States than in the west and south; but I 
am convinced, by the statements of the older ornithologists 
and by descriptions given me by some of the older gunners, 
that the Gadwall was more often seen in the early part of 
the last century than it now is, and that some of the so-called 
Gray Ducks which were then killed here were of this species. 
Mr. Willard C. Whiting, who has consulted with the Plym- 
outh gunners and members of the Plymouth Natural His- 
tory Society, and has examined the scores of the gunning 
stands, believes that the Gadwall was not uncommon there 
in the early days. Now, however, the bird is unknown to 
most of the present generation of Massachusetts gunners. 

De Kay (1844) says that this species breeds in central 
New York. Eaton (1910) considers it as not common now 
in any part of New York, but states that Mr. Foster 
Parker once met a gunner with twenty, which he had 
recently killed in the " ponds." Linsley says that flocks of 
the Gray Duck arrived in Connecticut in August, 1842. ^ Dr. 
C. Hart Merriam, in his Review of the Birds of Connecticut 
(1877), regards it as not common. Even now, although it is 
very rare here, a few are still taken. Its only known breed- 

1 Linsley, James H.: A Catalogue of the Birds of Connecticut, Am. Jour, of Sci. and Arts, April, 
1843, Vol. XLIV., No. 2, p. 269. 


ing grounds in the east are on Anticosti Island, Gulf of St. 
Lawrence (Knight), where all the water-fowl have been pro- 
tected for many years. 

The Gadwall is a swift flier, resembling the Baldpate or 
Widgeon when in the air. It is quite distinctly a fresh-water 
fowl, and gets much of its living along the shores of lakes 
and rivers, concealed by the reeds, grasses and bushes that 
grow near the shore or overhang it. It is a good diver at 
need, and is seen usually in pairs or small " bunches," often 
in company with other Ducks. When approached from the 
land they usually make no attempt at concealment, but swim 
toward open water and take wing, making a whistling sound 
with their wings that is not so loud as that made by the Bald- 
pate. This is an excellent bird for the table, which accounts 
largely for its present rarity. It is fond of grain and is easily 
domesticated. It breeds naturally in the latitude of Massa- 
chusetts, and it might prove a great acquisition to the game 
preserve or to the farm-yard if it could be propagated in suf- 
ficient numbers. It seems a promising species with which to 
experiment with this end in view. 

The food of this bird consists of the tender shoots of 
grasses, blades and roots of aquatic plants, seeds, nuts, 
acorns, insects, mollusks and other small forms of aquatic 
life, including small fish. 



EUROPEAN WIDGEON {Mareca penelope). 

Length. — About 18 inches. 

Adult Male. — Crown creamy buff; throat black; rest of head and neck 

chestnut or cinnamon nrf, mostly without green spots; otherwise similar 

to Baldpate. 
Female and Young. — Head and neck strongly tinged with cinnamon; 

otherwise quite similar to female Baldpate. 
Notes. — A shrill, whistled wh'ee-you or mce-you, the first note loudest and 

prolonged. Female, a low note, like kir-r-r (Chapman). 
Range. — Northern part of eastern hemisphere. Occurs occasionally in 

winter and in migration from Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Nova 

Scotia, Newfoundland and Greenland south to Nebraska, Missouri, 

Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida; and in Alaska, British 

Columbia and California. 


The European Widgeon is rated as a wanderer from the 
Old World. A statement that the bird has been taken here, 
made by Samuels and recorded by Dr. J. A. Allen, ^ is prob- 
ably authentic, and an adult male was taken in Monponsett 
Pond, near Halifax, Mass., October 20, 1899.- There are 
seven records for New York State, and another bird, taken 
on Long Island, was apparently breeding. Mr. Foster Parker 
states that several more have been taken at Cayuga (Eaton). 
It is possible that many European Widgeons have been taken 
in this country, but have not been recognized as such, and 
we may yet have to revise our ideas regarding their breeding 

Fig. 5. — Axillars of Baldpate. Axillars of European Widgeon. Reduced. (After Phillips.) 

Mr. Outran! Bangs has called attention to the fact that 
the axillars or long feathers under the wings of the Baldpate 
are white, while in the European Widgeon these feathers 

1 Pioc. Essex Inst., 1864, p. 88. 

2 Brewster, William: Auk, 1901, p. 135. 


always are gray. This character appears to be constant in 
both sexes. Dr. John C. Phillips has published, in Forest 
and Stream, a drawing that shows at a glance the appearance 
of the axillars in each species, drawn from adult male speci- 
mens. These are reproduced herewith. If, with this distinc- 
tive mark in view, sportsmen will make careful examination 
of the Widgeons or Baldpates taken in this country, it may 
prove that the European species is less uncommon than 
hitherto has been supposed. Dr. Phillips has found, by com- 
paring the axillars, that four birds taken at Wenham Lake 
are referable to the European species. The probability is 
that this bird is a permanent resident in North America, and 
breeds on this continent. 



BALDPATE {Mareca americana). 

Common or local names: American Widgeon; Widgeon; Southern Widgeon; Cali- 
fornia Widgeon ; White-belly. 



Length. — 18 to 21 inches. 

Adult Male. — Forehead and top of head white; sides of head and neck 
less purely white or more buffy, speckled with lusterless dusky green- 
ish; a broad glossy green patch extending from around eye back to 
nape; chin dusky; upper hind neck and back mainly pale brown or 
reddish, finely pencilled with black cross lines; fore wing with a broad 
white patch, bordered behind with a black band, and a metallic green 
speculum, which darkens behind; fore neck, upper breast and sides 
light brownish, red or wine red; rest of under parts white; primary 
wing quills and tail gray; feet light slaty bluish; bill grayish blue, with 
black tip and black edges; iris brown. 

Female and Immature Male. — Top of head blackish; rest of head and neck 
whitish, spotted with dusky; back buff, barred with dusky; speculum 
mainly black; indications of white patch on fore wing, forming a white 
or whitish bar; breast and sides reddish brown, with dusky spots on 
the breast; rest of under parts white; bill and feet like male, but duller. 
There is considerable variation in all plumages of this bird. 

Field Marks. — The adult male Baldpate may be distinguished by his pale 
neck and head, the latter becoming almost white on the forehead and 
crown, by the dark green patch through and behind the eye, by his 
wine-colored breast and white abdomen. The females and young. 


when swimming, might at a distance be mistaken for female Mallards, 
although smaller and darker. When they tip up to feed, however, the 
white abdomen is seen; and this is also displayed when they stand up in 
the water to flap their wings. In fhght, the white abdomen and the 
abrupt ending of the brown of the breast are also distinct field marks. 
Another point of difference noted when watching the two birds together 
on a pond is that the under surface of the wings of the Baldpate is gray, 
that of the Mallard snowy white. A white bar is visible on the wing 
of the Baldpate, and two are seen on that of the Mallard (C. W. Town- 
send) . 

Notes. — Male, a shrill whistling ivhee-you; a soft whistled sweet (Audubon). 
Female, a low purring growl (Saunders). The female has a loud cry 
like the syllables kaow, kaow (Eaton). 

Season. — Uncommon or rare migrant; late February to April; early Sep- 
tember to December. 

Range. — North America. Breeds from northwestern Alaska south to 
Kansas and northern Indiana; winters from British Columbia, Mary- 
land and Delaware (casually in Massachusetts and Rhode Island) 
south to Lower California and West Indies; rare in migration in north- 
ern Ontario and Newfoundland. 


The Baldpate is another fresh-water Duck, a valuable food 
species once common here, now becoming rare. The early 
historians speak of " widgens " in abundance, but they possi- 
bly included more than one species under this name, as some 
of our gunners do to-day. Wilson (1814) regarded it as very 
common in winter along the whole Atlantic coast, from 
Florida to Rhode Island. It must have been common then 
in Massachusetts in spring and fall. 

Notes regarding its former and present status follow: 
Not uncommon migrant (Maynard, 1870). Uncommon tran- 
sient visitor (Townsend, Essex County, 1905). Formerly 
not uncommon in autumn; rarely seen during recent years 
(Brewster, Cambridge region). The reports of the experi- 
ence of observers for an average of twenty-seven years, up 
to 1909, read as follows: Baldpate increasing, nine; decreas- 
ing, thirty-four. As usual, the shore counties give the greatest 
number of reports on this species, Barnstable County leading 
with seventeen. Plymouth County comes next, with thirteen, 
and Essex next, with seven. Other reports indicate that the 


bird is rare or decreasing along the Atlantic coast from the 
Provinces to Maryland and Virginia, where in the winter of 
1907-08 it was plentiful. It appears to be decreasing also in 
some localities in Connecticut. In Massachusetts it appears 
to be least uncommon in Plymouth County, where it occurs 
quite regularly in some of the ponds. Dr. Albert H. Tuttle of 
Cambridge writes that nineteen were killed in one volley at 
Assawompsett in 1906, and that he has seen hundreds at this 
lake for several years. They have learned to distrust the 
decoys, and so fewer are shot than formerly. Mr. Israel R. 
Sheldon of Pawtuxet, R. I., writes me that the opening of the 
breach at Point Judith Pond has killed off most of the " feed," 
but Baldpates, which were once numerous there, are still com- 
mon in the pond. Mr. Howard Remington (1908) of Provi- 
dence states that the Baldpate has decreased nearly one 
hundred per cent, in ten years' time, because of shooting from 
power boats and spring shooting, but a few still winter in Rhode 
Island. Mr. Samuel L. BufEngton of Swansea,. Mass., near 
the Rhode Island line, states that the Baldpate is not un- 
common on the coast, but he has never seen it up the river in 
his vicinity. Mr. C. O. Zerrahn says that he has observed 
but one in Milton, Mass., but that a few are shot at Ponka- 
pog Pond, Canton, Mass., every year. Mr. Gardiner G. Ham- 
mond says that eight or ten are taken in his vicinity on 
Martha's Vineyard each year. Mr. Robert O. Morris says 
that they have decreased ninety per cent, near Springfield, 
Mass., in thirty years. 

The Baldpate is one of the wariest of all Ducks, and its 
whistled alarm notes serve well to warn other and less astute 
birds. Elliot says that when speeding high in air the flock 
flies in a line nearly abreast, with the leader a little in ad- 
vance in the middle, but when moving about ordinarily from 
place to place on the marsh they fly like a flock of pigeons. 
This bird breeds mainly in the west, and a line drawn from 
the western coast of Hudson Bay to the western shore of 
Lake Michigan marks approximately the eastern boundary 
of its breeding range. In its southeastward migration toward 
the Atlantic coast it naturally reaches Chesapeake Bay in 


large numbers, and is less common north and east of Mary- 
land and Virginia. Nevertheless, a large number of individ- 
uals must normally choose a route from the northwestern 
British provinces and Alaska to New York and New England. 
Knight states that it occurs quite generally along the Maine 
coast, but is rare inland; and Eaton finds it still a fairly 
common migrant on the shores of Long Island and in western 
New York. 

This species often attends the Canvas-back and the Red- 
head. As it is rather a poor diver it watches these diving 
Ducks, and as one comes up from the bottom with the wild 
celery or other favorite root or bud in its bill, the Baldpate 
snatches the morsel and makes off. It also feeds much upon 
pond weeds and other water plants. It is very alert and 
active, and when feeding it is said that its flocks are prone to 
keep a sentinel on the watch. It is fond of seeds, the tender 
shoots of plants, insects and small aquatic shell-fish and verte- 
brates. It feeds in daylight if undisturbed; but where it is 
much hunted it feeds mainly at night. In feeding it is not 
confined strictly to fresh water but takes plants growing in 
brackish or even salt water. It is fond of grain, and Audubon 
says that it eats peas and earthworms, and that it often 
alights in the cornfields. It walks well, is not noisy, and 
would make a desirable bird for the game preserve could it be 
artificially propagated. It has been bred successfully in con- 
finement, but, so far as I am aware, this has been accom- 
plished only on a very small scale. 

The Baldpate is perfectly at home in this latitude and 
responds quickly to protection. Since spring shooting was 
prohibited in Massachusetts its numbers have been increas- 
ing in some localities and Mr. Charles H. Brown informs me 
that from five hundred to six hundred frequented Martha's 
Vineyard in 1910-11, coming in November and remaining 
until driven out by the ice in February. 


EUROPEAN TEAL (Nettion crecca) . 

Length. — 14 inches. 

Adult Male. — Like Green-winged Teal, but no white crescent before wing; 
green band in chestnut of head behind the eye, bordered in front with 
yellowish white; barring of sides and upper parts much coarser than in 
the American species; long scapulars as well as inner secondaries creamy 
white, black-bordered externally; these form a conspicuoits white streak 
along upper part of wing. 

Female. — Like female of the Green- winged Teal; the bars and margins of 
the back feathers are of deeper hue; the sides of head, neck and throat 
deep buff, and much darker than those of the American species. 

Range. — Northern part of eastern hemisphere. Occasional in North 
America; recorded from the Aleutian Islands, California, Greenland, 
Labrador, Nova Scotia, Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Connecti- 
cut and Virginia. 


The European Teal is a wanderer from the eastern hemi- 
sphere. The following Massachusetts records seem reliable: 
About 1855, a specimen, which was killed in Massachusetts, 
was sent to E. A. Samuels. An adult male was taken, March 
17, 1890, on Muskeget Island, and is now in the Brewster 
collection. An adult male was caught in a steel trap about 
February 20, 1896, in Sagamore, by Rev. E. E. PhilHps, and 
is also in the Brewster collection.^ Several specimens have 
been recorded from New York. 

■ Howe, Reginald Heber, and Allen, Glover Morrill: Birds of Massachusetts, 1901, p. 52. 



GREEN-WINGED TEAL {Nettion carolinense) . 
Common or local names; Green- wing; Mud Teal; Winter Teal. 



Length. — About 14 inches. 

Adult Male. — Head and upper neck chiefly chestnut; chin black, a broad 
patch from just before the eye to hind head metallic green, running 
into black below, bordered by a narrow buff line, and all ending in a 
black tuft on hind neck; rest of hind neck, sides of breast, upper back, 
scapulars and flanks very light gray, finely barred with black; a white 
crescentic band before wing; lower back brown; wings grayish brown 
or gray; speculum or wing patch metallic green, edged below with 
black, a bar of light chestnut before it; upper breast reddish buff, 
with round black spots; rest of lower parts whitish, sometimes tinged 
with brown; under tail coverts black, with a triangular patch of white 
on each side; bill black; legs and feet dark brown; iris brown. 

Adult Female. — Top of head and back dusky brownish, the feathers of 
the back edged with buff; throat light buffy; wing much like that of 
male, but wing-bar lighter; breast buff, spotted rather finely with 
blackish; flanks heavily marked with dusky; rest of under parts whit- 
ish; bill brown; legs and feet brown. 

Young. — - Similar to female; largely white below. 

Field Marks. — The small size, chestnut and green head and the white 
crescent before the wing distinguish the male. The flanks of females 
and young are more coarsely and heavily marked than those of the Blue- 
winged Teal. 

Notes. — A peculiar chirping, almost a twittering, as they fly (Seton). 
Male, a short mellow whistle; female, a quack like the Black Duck, 
but small, high-pitched and oftener repeated (Eaton). 

Season. — Uncommon or rare migrant and rare winter resident; early 
September to late April. 


Range. — North America. Breeds from New Brunswick and Minnesota to 
Greenland and Alaska; winters from Virginia, Kansas and British 
Columbia to the West Indies and Central America. 


This species probably was never as abundant in New Eng- 
land as was the Blue-winged Teal, but it was once very 
common and at times abundant. Thomas Morton (1632), 
who lived at Mount Wollaston, Quincy, Mass., speaks of 
both the Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal, and says that 
he " had plenty " in the ponds about his house. Trustworthy 
old gunners have told me of remarkable flights in Massa- 
chusetts and Connecticut up to the middle of the last century. 

Possibly its breeding range once extended into New Eng- 
land. The following abbreviated extracts from the works of 
ornithologists indicate its decrease: In autumn and winter 
very common throughout the waters of the United States 
(Nuttall, 1834). Have seen individuals breeding on the banks 
of the Wabash, TlUnois (Audubon, 1835). Breeds along the 
Great Lakes and northwardly (De Kay, 1844). Common in 
migration (Majmard, eastern Massachusetts, 1870). Quite 
abundant in migration in New England; probably breeds in 
northern portions (Samuels, 1870). Common spring and 
autumn migrant (J. A. Allen, 1879). Quite common in the 
east in migrations (Chamberlain, 1891). Has become rare of 
late years, except in wilder portions of Maine (Hoffman, New 
England and New York, 1904). Uncommon transient visitor 
(Townsend, Essex County, 1905). Uncommon transient; met 
with regularly in former years; know of but two instances in 
last fifteen years (Brewster, Cambridge region, 1906). 

My correspondents report upon this species as follows: 
SIX note it as increasing; seventy-one as decreasing. The 
species is reported from every county in the State, but is 
apparently least rare in the coast counties. The opinion 
that it is decreasing is practically unanimous among gunners 
of long experience. Similar statements come from the entire 
Atlantic seaboard, except from Maryland, where Mr. Talbot 
Denmead reports " a great many." Mr. Clement A. Cahoon 


of Harwich says that Teal are seldom seen there now, but 
that fifty years ago both species were very plentiful. Mr. 
Nathan C. Perry of Pocasset has seen no Teal for about 
fifteen years, but used to see large flocks of both species forty- 
five years ago. Eaton reports it as not uncommon in western 
New York. 

To-day the Green-winged Teal is becoming a rare bird in 
New England. More are seen near the coast than elsewhere, 
but even there not very many are seen or killed. Its scarcity 
is easily explained. Mr. W. B. Long states that when a flock 
comes to decoys it is usually " cleaned out," if the blind is 
well cared for. AVhile I, with a friend, was watching three 
Green-winged Teal feeding on the shore of a pond in Nan- 
tucket, in October, 1910, a boy crept up and killed two of 
them. The other started to fly, but came back to its dying 
companions, and if the boy's shooting had been as deadly 
as his intentions he would have killed all three. These three 
were probably all that remained of a little family that had 
started south. It is inexplicable how any ever manage to 
run the gauntlet of the gunners and return to breed. Now 
and then a solitary bird of this species will find the safe 
refuge of some of the Boston ponds, where no shooting is 
allowed, and will remain about Boston all winter, going down 
the harbor when the ponds are frozen over. This species 
breeds much farther north than the Blue-winged Teal and 
winters oftener in temperate regions. It has been found in 
January near Halifax, N. S. (Cooke). 

This Teal is so unsuspicious that it formerly flocked with 
domestic Ducks, and often came with them to the barnyard 
to be fed. Like the Blue-winged Teal it needs some kind of 
special protection. If in the east it could have a safe refuge 
in certain ponds it might be able to maintain itself. Large 
numbers still may be met with in the western States. It 
normally collects in large flocks, which fly at a tremendous 
speed, ordinarily in a direct line, but at times in the most 
tortuous and desultory manner. It is a rapid swimmer, feeds 
almost entirely in fresh water, and when alarmed springs into 
the air suddenly and easily. The flocks swim often so com- 


pactly that a gunner who can choose his time can rake them 
terribly upon the water. They hke to wade and paddle about 
in the shallow water near the shore of some pond, and to 
hunt insects in the grass. This bird feeds in daylight where 
it is not much disturbed, but otherwise, like all other wild- 
fowl, it feeds much at night, particularly on moonlit nights, 
when all Ducks appear to be active and often noisy. In the 
winter of 1877-78 I camped in a great marsh in Florida, 
where Ducks of many species could be heard calling and 
feeding throughout the night. Among them the notes of the 
Teal could be heard. This species shows good diving powers 
in times of danger, and it is almost as active on land as in 
the water, for it can run well at need. 

This Teal, like the Blue-winged Teal, is of excellent flavor 
when it has been feeding on wild rice, wild celery and various 
pond weeds, but when it is driven to the seashore in winter 
its flesh soon becomes inferior. 

It breeds across the entire northern part of the continent, 
but few breed now in the United States east of the Rockies. 
Its principal breeding grounds now are in west central Canada. 

It is fond of wild oats and rice and takes seeds of various 
grasses and weeds, also chestnuts, acorns, wild grapes, berries, 
insects, crustaceans, worms and small snails. Audubon states 
that he never found water lizards, fish or even tadpoles in 
stomachs of the Green- winged Teal. He regarded it, when 
fed upon soaked rice or wild oats, as far superior to the 
Canvas-back, and considered it the most luscious food of any 
American Duck. Possibly it might be domesticated to ad- 
vantage, as it has been bred in captivity in a small way. 



BLUE-WINGED TEAL {Querquedula discors). 
Common or local names: Blue- wing; Summer Teal. 




Length. — 15 to 16 inches. 

Adult Male. — Head dusky, leaden gray; chin, forehead and crown blackish; 
a large white l)lack-edged crescent in front of eye; back dark brown, 
upper part marked with buff; fore wing when closed shows a light blue 
patch, edged with white, which separates it from a greenish patch or 
speculum; a narrow white posterior edge to speculum; lower parts buffy, 
reddish buff, cinnamon or purplish gray, spotted with black, except 
lower flanks, which are sometimes barred in curved lines; tail coverts 
black, and a white patch on either side of tail; bill bluish gray, black 
on ridge; legs and feet yellow, with dusky webs and claws; iris yellow. 

Adult Female. — Top of head blackish; throat whitish; rest of head and 
neck pale brownish or brownish white streaked with dusky; no white 
crescent; back and wings dusky, with V-shaped buff edgings on back; 
breast pinkish buff, marked with black; flanks with dusky V-shaped 
marks; belly whitish gray, with obscure markings; wing much as in 
male, but with less blue and little white; bill greenish black. 

Young. — Like female, but with white belly and gray speculum. 

Field Marks. — In spring or fall the broad white crescent in front of the 
eye distinguishes the adult male. The blue wing area is conspicuous 
in flight in both sexes, but is not so readily seen on the water. Female 
and young may be distinguished from those of the Shoveller, which 
also has a blue fore wing, by the comparatively narrow bill. 

Notes. — The Drake, a whistling peep, repeated five or six times (Eaton) ; 
the Duck, a low quack. 

Nest. — On ground in meadow or marsh, of fine soft grasses lined with down. 

Eggs. — Six to fifteen, usually buffy white, about 1.75 to 1.90 by 1.30 to 1.40, 

Season. — Late August and September mainly, rare in spring (April); 
August 16 to November 25 (C. W. Townsend). 


Range. — Western hemisphere. Breeds from central British Cohuiihia. 
Great Slave Lake, central Ungava and Newfoundland south to central 
Oregon, northern Nevada, northern New Mexico, central Missouri, 
southern Indiana, northern Ohio, western New York (occasionally 
Rhode Island) and Maine; winters from southern British Columbia, 
Arizona, southern Illinois, Maryland and Delaware south to the West 
Indies and South America as far as Brazil and Chile; accidental in 
Bermuda and Europe. 


This Teal was formerly one of the most numerous Ducks 
of New England and nested here. Mr. Louis Agassiz Fuertes 
says that it formerly bred abundantly at Cayuga, N. Y. Mr. 
Lawrence Horton of Canton, Mass., says that he believes it 
used to breed in the Neponset meadows as late as about the 
year 1888. It still breeds in the marshes of Seneca, Cayuga, 
Wayne and Oswego counties, New York, and in many other 
localities (Eaton). It is now becoming rare, and does not 
breed at all in the New England States, so far as I am aware, 
except in small numbers in Vermont and Maine. The species 
is recorded as nesting formerly in Rhode Island, and even as 
far south as North Carolina and Cuba. 

The following abridged extracts from the writings of well- 
known ornithologists indicate its former abundance and recent 
diminution: Appears with us in September, when it is abun- 
dant on the Hudson, and soon leaves for the south (De Kay, 
New York, 1844). Common spring and autumn migrant 
(Maynard, eastern Massachusetts, 1870). Rather common 
spring and autumn migrant; formerly doubtless summer resi- 
dent (J. A. Allen, Massachusetts, 1879). Uncommon in New 
England (Chamberlain, 1891). Have killed good bags of 
these birds on the fowl meadows lying between Canton and 
Dedham; it is also pretty abundant in the ponds and streams 
of Plymouth county (Samuels, 1897). Has become scarcer 
of late years; can hardly be called common except in wilder 
portions of Maine (Hoffman, New England and New York, 
1904). Formerly one of the most abundant of the water 
birds that visited the region about Cambridge in autumn; 
now comparatively seldom met with (Brewster, 1906). Mr. 
Robert O. Morris of Springfield states that formerly large 
flocks appeared at Springfield. Mr. Lewis W. Hill states 


that Teal were formerly more numerous than now at Edgar- 
town, and that the old gunners have told him that the birds 
were once very abundant there. Mr. John M. Winslow of 
Nantucket writes that Blue-winged Teal were plentiful there 
many years ago. He saw one man kill an entire flock of eight 
birds at one shot, and fifty years ago Mr. D. N. Edwards 
killed thirty -five at one shot. Mr. Henry B. Bigelow states 
that they were common at Cohasset when he was a boy, but 
are now rare. 

My correspondents, on whose reports this volume is based, 
are nearly unanimous in noting this bird as rare or decreasing 
in every county in Massachusetts. The reports on this species 
are voluminous and convincing, eight showing an increase and 
one hundred a decrease. This exhibits the growing scarcity 
of a bird that was abundant no longer ago than the middle of 
the last century. 

Occasionally there are still some considerable flights. 
There was one in September, 1907, that was reported from 
Essex County to the Cape. Flights were noted also each 
year from 1904 to 1910. These flights were mostly early in 
September, and in most cases the birds are reported to have 
passed on without stopping. Possibly they are learning wis- 
dom by experience. During my early boyhood large flocks 
were common in the ponds of Massachusetts in September, 
and they were so tame that when once they had alighted in 
a pond it was difficult to drive them out. An experienced 
gunner would get all or nearly all in such a case. Mr. William 
B. Long writes that flocks of twenty or so have been extermi- 
nated at Ipswich. 

As this Teal is one of the best of Ducks on the table the 
reason for the reduction of its numbers is but too plainly 
evident. Although many formerly came south in the fall, 
few returned in the spring; but the species is so prolific that 
if protected in spring throughout the United States it might 
hold its own for a long time to come. Mr. E. T. Carbonnell 
of Prince Edward Island says that both Blue-winged and 
Green-winged Teal were very plentiful in 1898, owing to 
protection during a close season and the stoppage of spring 
shooting. Teal respond quickly to protection. 


Blue-winged Teal are still numerous in the west, where 
most of them now breed, and the species is not, like the 
Wood Duck, in any immediate danger of extinction; but 
most of those which once bred in the northeast, or migrated 
through this region, have been exterminated, and we are now 
probably dependent mainly on the overflow from the great 
northwest for such flights of Teal as come to us in good 
breeding years. The Blue-winged Teal is such a compara- 
tively tame and unsuspicious bird that it now needs special 
protection in the east. Elliot says that it begins to leave 
its southern feeding grounds in February, and that, like all 
Ducks at this season, it is poor in flesh and should never 
be shot. This Duck flies with terrific speed. In the fall 
the flocks frequent the wild rice marshes along the borders 
of rivers. When coming in to alight they seem very sus- 
picious. They sweep up and down the river, not far above 
the water, as if reconnoitering, sometimes quacking as if in 
alarm, turning swiftly in concert, rolling from side to side, 
first showing the blue of their wings and then their backs. 
The flocks are seldom seen on the large, deep lakes, but fre- 
quent small ponds, marshes and shallow, sluggish streams. 
They like to alight in small ponds or sloughs among the wild 
rice, where they feed greedily on the seed that hangs down or 
that which has fallen off in the mud. Now they become 
very fat and are excellent eating, in great contrast to their 
condition in the spring. This Teal rests lightly upon the 
water, and the male in spring plumage is one of the hand- 
somest of the Duck tribe. 

Its food in the ponds includes much vegetable matter, 
seeds, grasses, pondweeds, etc. It also at times destroys 
snails, tadpoles and many insects. 

Note. — The Cinnamon Teal {Querquedula ajanoptera) might be included 
in a list of the birds of Massachusetts and adjacent States as a single speci- 
men was taken on the shore of Seneca Lake, Yates County, N. Y., about the 
middle of April, 1886, and is now in the collection of James Flahive, Penn 
Yan, N. Y. (Eaton); but as this is a neotropical bird, which occurs in the 
southwestern United States and west of the Rocky Mountains, is merely 
accidental in the east and is not recorded from Massachusetts, it is 
omitted from the present list. 



SHOVELLER (Spatula clypeata). 
Common or local names: Spoonbill; Spoonbill Teal. 



Length. — 17 to 21 inches. 

Adult Male. — Back dark brown, the feathers paler on the edges; wing 
coverts light sky blue; a green patch on the dark wing preceded by a 
white bar and bordered above by black; rump and upper tail coverts 
black; tail wliite; head and upper neck dark glossy green; shoulders, 
lower neck, breast, a patch on each side of tail, and vent white; belly 
and flanks rich chestnut; under tail coverts black; bill long, widened 
at the end and dark leaden blue; iris orange or yellow; legs and feet 
vermilion or orange red. 

Female. — Dark and duller; plumage varied with brownish yellow and 
dusky; bill dull greenish above, orange below; iris yellow; legs and feet 
orange; head and neck mottled with two shades of brown and speckled 
with dusky; under parts pale brown or buff; traces of chestnut on 
belly; wing markings similar to those of male, but imperfect. 

Young. — Similar, but fore wing more gray than blue. Immature males 
vary greatly. 

Field Marks. — Smaller than Black Duck, male with white breast and rich 
chestnut belly. Female and young much like Blue-winged Teal, but 
recognizable by the long clumsy bill much broadened at tip. 


Notes. — Generally a silent bird, but its note in breeding season is said to 
be took, took. A few feeble quacks (Elliot). May be compared to the 
sound of a rattle turned by short jerks (Eaton). 

Nest. — On ground. 

Eggs. — Seven to nine, sometimes more, 2.10 by 1.50; smooth, dull, pale 
greenish gray or buffy olive. 

Season. — Formerly probably a summer resident; later a spring and fall 
migrant; now almost accidental in fall, from the middle of Septeml^er 
to November. 

Range. — Northern hemisphere. In North America breeds from north- 
western Alaska, northwestern Mackenzie and southern Keewatin south 
to southern California, central New Mexico, northern Texas, northern 
Missouri and northern Indiana; winters from southern British Colum- 
bia, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Missouri, southern IlUnois, Mary- 
land and Delaware south to the West Indies, Colombia and Hawaii; 
in migration, occasional in Bermuda, and north to Nova Scotia and 


The Shoveller, though a cosmopolitan species, is rare in 
New England, but, like most of the Ducks, is more common 
in the west and south. It is fairly common in western New 
York, and was probably much more numerous in New Eng- 
land in the early days of settlement than it now is, as it is men- 
tioned by several of the old chroniclers. In Archer's account 
of Gosnold's voyage the "Shovler" is noted as among the 
water-fowl breeding on an island called Martha's Vineyard 
(No Man's Land), off the Massachusetts coast, on May 22, 
1602. It was well known to the English settlers and voyagers. 
Its long broad bill is unmistakable, and as it still breeds in 
this latitude this record seems worthy of credence. 

Dr. J. A. Allen (1879) says that it is rare in spring and 
autumn. Formerly, judging from its present breeding in 
interior, a frequent summer resident. But the only recent 
record we have of its breeding near Massachusetts is in the 
Montezuma marshes in New York (Eaton). 

It is not a large Duck nor a swift flyer, and is rather an 
easy prey to the skilful gunner. I once shot one, however, 
which went past me, before a strong north wind, at such a 
rate of speed that, though it was stricken dead in mid air 
about thirty yards from my position, it struck the ground 
ninety paces away. It comes readily to decoys and offers a 


fair mark. Audubon considered it one of the best of all 
Ducks on the table, and so it is when feeding on vegetable 
matter along fresh-water streams. Its flight is often peculiar 
and characteristic, — a kind of irresolute hovering motion, as 
if it were undecided regarding its destination. 

The Shoveller is now a rare breeder in the northeast, and 
is scarcely common as far east as Hudson Bay. Its principal 
summer home in North America now is from the northern 
United States north to the Saskatchewan. As it is a cos- 
mopolitan bird its scarcity now in the northeast may be 
accounted for in part by that overshooting which always 
follows settlement and civilization. Its abundance in the 
west, and the fact that it is still common on the Atlantic 
coast in winter from Chesapeake Bay southward, are also 
due in part to the fact that overshooting in the west began 
more than two hundred years later than on the Atlantic 
coast. Western-bred birds of this species reach the coast 
mainly south of the Chesapeake. 

This Duck breeds mainly in habitable regions, and as it 
is the equal of the famed Canvas-back on the table, it will 
become extinct in North America unless rigidly protected. 

Audubon states that repeated inspections of stomachs of 
this species disclosed leeches, small fish, earthworms and 
snails. It feeds also on aquatic plants, grasses, grass seeds 
and bulbs, which it procures along the shores of small ponds 
which it frequents. It often feeds by wading and dabbling 
in the mud, straining mud and water through its peculiarly 
constructed bill. 

Dr. Hatch states that it feeds on aquatic insects, larvae, 
tadpoles, worms, etc., which it finds in shallow, muddy waters; 
also crustaceans, small mollusks and snails. 


PINTAIL (Dafila acuta). 
Common or local names: Gray Duck; Sprigtail; Picket-tail; Pheasant Duck. 


Length. — Variable; 20 to 30 inches. 

Adult Male. — Head, throat and upper part of fore neck rich dark brown; 
hind neck black, passing into gray of back and separated from fore 
neck by a white stripe, which extends upward from the white lower 
fore neck and under parts; speculum or wing patch bronze, with green- 
ish reflections, deepening into black behind; speculum bordered by a 
bar of cinnamon before it and a white bar behind; long black feathers, 
edged with light silvery gray, extending from shoulder down the wing; 
narrow wavy dark cross lines extend over most of the gray of flanks 
and back; tail pointed; middle tail-feathers, five to nine inches long, 
and black; feathers under tail black; bill and feet slate; iris brown. 

Adult Female. — Top and sides of head, and back and sides of neck light 
brownish, speckled and streaked with dusky; back brown, the feathers 
with dark centers and light edges; wing having the two bars but only 
a trace of the bright speculum seen in the male; under parts whitish, 
spotted with dusky, darkest on neck; bill and feet slate; tail pointed 
but not elongated. 

Young Male. — Similar to female, but with speculum as in adult male. 

Field Marks. — Long middle tail-feathers, pure white front neck and under 
parts, and the dark head distinguish the male in spring, but he is rarely 
seen in Massachusetts at that season. The long slender neck, small 
head and bill, and pointed tail distinguish the species. 

Notes. — Rather a silent bird by day, but utters a low-toned hoarse quack 
at night. A loud quack, a low mellow whistle and a harsh rolling note 
(Nelson). Have heard a Pintail Drake utter a note when on the wing 
that resembled a quack, but was not as loud as that of the Mallard Drake, 
resembling the syllables qua, qua (Benjamin F. Howell). A low chatter- 
ing note as the flock moves along the water (Hatch). The whistle noted 
above is usually attributed to the Drake and the quack to the Duck. 


Season. — Very rare in spring; late February to April. Uncommon or rare 
in fall; early September to December. Very rarely winters. 

Range. — Northern hemisphere. In North America breeds on the Arctic 
coast from Alaska to Keewatin and south to southern California, 
southern Colorado, northern Nebraska, northern Iowa and northern 
Illinois; winters from southern British Columbia, Nevada, Arizona, 
southern Missouri, southern Wisconsin, southern Ohio, Pennsylvania 
(rarely) and Delaware south to Porto Rico and Panama, and in Hawaii; 
in migration occasional on the Atlantic coast to northern Ungava, 
Greenland and Newfoundland, and in Bermuda. 


The Pintail is a large Duck of slim and graceful form. 
The striking colors of the male make his identification easy, 
but the female resembles somewhat the same sex of the Bald- 
pate or the Gadwall. The females and young of the Gadwall, 
Baldpate and Pintail are all commonly called Gray Ducks. 

The Pintail is no longer common in Massachusetts, where 
it is known mainly as a fall migrant. It usually appears in 
small parties, in pairs or singly, during late September or 

The following notes indicate its former status and its 
decrease: More common in interior than along the coast 
(De Kay, 1844). Pretty common on our shores (Samuels, 
1870). Rare winter resident on coast (Maynard, 1870). 
Uncommon transient, especially in spring; have seen this 
bird only once in Essex County (Townsend, 1905). Observ- 
ers, representing all Massachusetts counties except Berkshire 
and Hampshire, report as follows: increasing, six; decreasing, 
thirty. Most of the reports come from the coast counties, 
and five of the six recording increase come from those coun- 
ties; but the great majority of reports indicate that a consid- 
erable decrease in the species in Massachusetts has occurred 
within the thirty years prior to 1909, and that it is becoming 
rare except in localities on or near the coast and on the Con- 
necticut River. 

Mr. Alfred S. Swan states that at North Eastham the 
bird is practically gone, " gunned to death," He is told that 
forty years ago it was abundant. Rev. E. E. Phillips has but 


one record in ten years, — a bird killed at Eastham in 1900. 
Mr. Vinal B. Edwards of Wood's Hole says that one was 
killed in 1875 and none have been seen since. Mr. Robert O. 
Morris of Springfield says that in the autumn of 1892 the 
Pintail was the most numerous Duck on the Connecticut 
River near Springfield. Mr. Israel R. Sheldon of Pawtuxet, 


R. I., states that it has been seen in small flocks near Narra- 
gansett Bay, and he thinks that it is increasing. Mr. Charles 
W. Hallett records flights of Pintails at Barnstable in 1907 and 
1908. Mr. Benjamin F. Howell of Troy Hills, N. J., writes 
that Pintails began breeding on the meadows in his vicinity 
in the year 1908 after spring shooting was stopped there. 

This bird feeds mainly near the surface, as it is not an 
expert diver. It flies very swiftly, and is capable of many 
tricks to upset the calculations of the hunter. In case of an 
alarm among a flock when settling to the decoys, the individ- 
uals spring high in air so suddenly that the hunter often 
misses his chance or shoots below them. Elliot tells of a 
performance given by the males in spring that resembles the 
drumming of the Snipe. 

As the lakes and rivers of the interior freeze, the Pintail 
moves on southward. Its principal breeding grounds lie 
between North Dakota, Alaska and the west coast of Hudson 
Bay, but it is found in Greenland. It winters mainly in the 
southern States, and some go to the West Indies. It appears 
to go north mainly by the inland route. 

Audubon says that the Pintail is an expert flycatcher and 
that it eats tadpoles, leeches, mice and insects. 



WOOD DUCK {Aix sponsa). 
Common or local name : Summer Duck. 



Length. — 18 to 20 inches. 

Adult Male. — Head profusely crested, metallic green and blue, ending in 
a long crest of purple and marked with two lines of narrow white 
feathers; sides of head deepening to purplish black below eye; throat 
white, the white running a spur up side of head and another across 
upper neck; upper body rich greenish brown, bronze green and purple; 
wings show velvety black, purple and white; tail long and dark; upper 
breast rich reddish chestnut, with small white markings, a white band 
edged with black before bend of wing; flanks light buffy brown, finely 
lined, and bordered above and behind by black and wdiite; rest of 
under parts white, except under tail coverts, which are dusky; bill 
pinkish white, red and black; iris and eyelids red; feet orange with black 

Adult Female. — Less crest; head grayish; chin, throat, line about base of 
bill, ring around eye and patch behind it white; rest of upper parts 
brownish, dark or grayish brown; wrings somewhat as in the male; neck, 
upper breast and flanks streaked and mottled with gray or brown and 


buff; belly white, with here and there a dusky spot; bill dusky, with a 
large white spot on each side; legs and feet yellowish brown. 

Young. — Similar to female. 

Field Marks. — No other common summer Duck in Massachusetts has 
white under parts. The male is unmistakable; the female shows a 
rather conspicuous white eye ring, the white extending in a streak 
behind eye. 

Notes. — A frightened plaintive whistle, oo-eek, oo-eek (Chapman). A note 
of the Drake is pect, feet, uttered at intervals; the Duck when startled, 
cr-r-e-ek, cr-r-e-ek, cr-r-e-ek (Eaton). 

Nest. — In a hollow tree or nesting box. 

Eggs. — Eight to fifteen; pale buff, cream or ivory white, about 2 by 1.50. 

Season. — Early April to the middle of November; seen rarely in December. 

Range. — Temperate North America. Breeding nearly throughout its range 
which extends from southern Labrador and British Columbia to Florida 
and Cuba; winters from British Columbia, southern Illinois and south- 
ern New Jersey to southern California and Cuba; accidental in Ber- 
muda, Mexico, Jamaica and Europe. 

This species is the loveliest of all wild-fowl. Even the 
Mandarin Duck of China is not so strikingly beautiful. The 
female is a fitting bride for her lord. Her plumage is not so 
bright, but the colors and patterns are neat and modest, 
and her form and carriage are remarkably attractive. Nature 
presents no more delightful sight than a flock of these beau- 
tiful birds at play on the surface of a pellucid woodland 
stream, their elegant forms floating as lightly as a drifting 
leaf and mirrored in the element that they love. The display 
of their wonderful plumage among the flashing lights and 
deep shadows of such a secluded nook forms a picture, framed 
by the umbrageous foliage of the forest, that, once seen by 
the lover of nature, is indelibly imprinted on his memory as 
one of the episodes of a lifetime. I have taken more pleasure 
in watching a flock of these exquisite birds in such surround- 
ings than I can imagine any one could take in shooting into 
the flock. But there are men who will watch a family of 
Wood Ducks through the summer, until the young are grown, 
and then hunt and exterminate them; or who will shoot them 
ruthlessly in spring, even after the nests are made and the 
eggs are laid. 


Many years ago the Wood Duck was the most abundant 
of all wild-fowl in many well-wooded regions of the United 
States. Hundreds flocked along the wooded streams and 
about the woodland ponds. Even within the past fifty years 
this splendid Duck has been very numerous in the forested 
regions of some of the States east of the Mississippi. There 
are men now living who remember when it afforded the best 
Duck shooting to be had in the interior of Maine, and when 
Wood Ducks flying to and from their nests were familiar sights, 
comparable to robins and blackbirds. Mr. Edward F. Staples 
of Taunton, who has hunted in the vicinity of Lakeville, 
Mass., for nearly fifty years, states that the Wood Duck was 
plentiful up to about 1878, and that the sport was glorious. He 
has known one man to shoot sixty in a morning, but he now 
sees only one small flock in a summer. Mr. Charles E. Ingalls 
of East Templeton, Mass., says that thirty years ago the 
Wood Duck was very common everywhere in that region. 
He has seen three hundred to five hundred come into the 
swamp at the head of the reservoir in East Templeton in an 
evening many times, night after night, during the fall, but 
they are now among the rarest of game birds. They were shot 
at any time, spring or fall, whenever they exposed themselves. 
William Dutcher, in an investigation of the status of this bird 
in the United States in 1907, obtained similar reports through- 
out the country, and Dr. A. K. Fisher has called special atten- 
tion to its threatened extinction in a bulletin of the Biological 
Survey. Within my own recollection it bred commonly over 
a considerable part of Massachusetts, but at the beginning of 
this century the species was evidently in danger of extinction. 

The following notes exhibit something of its former abund- 
ance and recent decrease: Rather abundant at Boston; have 
seen hundreds in a flock (Audubon, 1835). Sometimes taken 
in nets; a Mr. Burns, thirty miles west of Albany, sends a 
large number to the New York market annually, taken in 
this way (Giraud, 1844). Rare on the sea-coast, but abso- 
lutely swarms during the month of September among the lily- 
pads of the western swamps (B. Roosevelt, 1866). Plentiful 
(Turnbull, eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 1869). 


Abundantly distributed tlirougli New England in the breed- 
ing season (Samuels, 1870). Common summer resident (J. 
A. Allen, Massachusetts, 1879). Less abundant, and has 
held its own because of ability to hide in the smallest bits of 
cover (Abbott, New Jersey, 1895). Thirty years ago Wood 
Ducks were killed by wagon-loads every spring (Dawson, 
Ohio, 1903). Now very rare (Hoffman, 1904). Uncommon 
summer resident; common transient visitor; formerly more 
common; decreasing (Townsend, Essex County, Mass., 1905). 
Formerly very common visitor and not uncommon summer 
resident; now seen only in migration and in no great num- 
bers (Brewster, Cambridge region, 1906). Formerly common, 
breeding in every county; at present only a rare local breed- 
ing bird (Knight, Maine, 1908). Formerly common, but be- 
coming rapidly reduced in numbers (Stone, New Jersey, 1908). 

My correspondents at the close of 1908, when protection 
had begun to increase its numbers, report as follows on this 
bird in Massachusetts: Increasing, thirteen; decreasing, one 
hundred and four. This is convincing testimony of the 
decrease of this species in the past thirty years. All other 
reports from Nova Scotia to Texas agree that the species has 
diminished from twenty to one hundred per cent. 

The fate of the Wood Duck is determined by its breeding 
and migration range. This lies mostly within the United 
States, where, for centuries, spring shooting has been allowed. 
Had it been able to breed in the far north, where few white 
men ever go, it would have been better able to maintain 
itself, or had it bred mainly in southern Canada even, where 
spring shooting is prohibited and where the law is respected, 
and had it been able to pass over the United States in its 
migrations without stopping, it might have avoided destruc- 
tion; but it lives mainly within the United States. It fre- 
quents small streams and ponds only a gunshot in width or 
less, in wooded regions where it is easily ambushed by the 
hunter, and our people have ruthlessly destroyed this, one 
of the most beautiful objects of creation, and will yet eradi- 
cate it unless laws are enacted and enforced in all the States, 
protecting it at all times. This bird is better appreciated 


abroad than here. In Belgium large numbers are reared in 
captivity, and they are in great demand as ornamental water- 
fowl. It may be that the bird can be saved from extinction 
only by rearing it upon preserves and large estates, and re- 
taining enough in confinement each winter to perpetuate the 
species. It is now (1911) protected by law at all times in 
New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, 
Vermont and Maine. 

Since the law protecting it went into effect in Massa- 
chusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut, the Wood Duck, 
which had become rare, has increased in numbers consider- 
ably in the two latter States and somewhat in Massachusetts, 
particularly during the past year (1910), when spring shooting 
was prohibited. One hundred and five Massachusetts corre- 
spondents in 1908 report it as breeding in the State. These 
reports come from every county except Nantucket, although 
no Ducks breed in Suffolk County, the center of popula- 
tion. Formerly the spring duck shooters often killed breeding 
Wood Ducks, either by mistake or intention, but in 1910, as 
a result of spring protection, the species nested in many local- 
ities where it had not been seen before for years. Some States 
do not protect this bird at all; many others allow shooting 
for a part of the spring. Wood Ducks begin mating in the 
south in December, January or February, and are mostly 
mated when they arrive in the north. If all the eastern 
States would enact laws forbidding spring shooting, and pro- 
tecting the Wood Duck at all times, a few years would suffice 
to repopulate the country with this beautiful bird. 

In flight the W^ood Duck is swift and direct when in the 
open, but it can penetrate among the many branches of the 
woods as swiftly and surely as a Ruffed Grouse or a Passenger 
Pigeon, twisting and turning rapidly in avoiding the many 
obstacles in its way. It nests usually near the water; but 
if no hollow tree or stump is to be found near its chosen 
feeding grounds, it will find one farther away, in an old 
orchard, a hollow elm overhanging a farm-house or some 
old tree by the roadside. I have been informed that the 
eggs of the Wood Duck are sometimes laid on the ground 


where no better site can be found, but have never seen one 
so situated. The height of the nesting site above the ground 
or water varies from three feet, or even less, to forty or more. 
The bird is able to so compress her body that she can squeeze 
into a very small hole, but when the entrance is of a size to 
accommodate her easily, she appears to fly directly into it, 
striking the plumage of her breast against the lower edge of 
the entrance to break the force and speed of her descent. 

When the young are hatched they are soon pushed out or 
fall out, and if the nest is favorably situated they drop upon 
the water. If the nest is some distance from the water the 
process of getting the young to it varies with individual birds. 
I have questioned people who claim to have seen the opera- 
tion, and am convinced that the mother usually takes the 
young in her bill and flies with them to the water. Thirteen 
Massachusetts correspondents state that she carries them. 
In one instance a bird, presumably a Wood Duck, was seen 
to push her young out of a nest. They dropped about forty 
feet to the grass, apparently unharmed, and she then led them 
to the river. In another case a Maine guide reports that he 
saw a Wood Duck fly down and alight in the water, and that 
several young, which seemed to be clinging to her back, all 
fell off into the water as she alighted on the surface. Mr. 
Lyman Pearson of Newbury, Mass., says that he saw a Wood 
Duck once carry her young to the water. He thought that 
she carried them on her feathers. The destruction of the 
large and heavy timber does away with many a hollow limb, 
and the wood-cutter has been one factor in the decrease of 
the Wood Duck. Mr. J. J. Coburn of Worcester told me 
years ago that he once found a female of this species dead in 
a stovepipe leading from a stove in his boat-building estab- 
lishment at Lake Quinsigamond. The bird had entered the 
pipe easily when looking for a nesting site, but could not get 
out, and I have heard of other similar cases. Dr. John C. 
Phillips of Wenham, Mass., says that a female Wood Duck 
came down a chimney of his camp at Wenham and was found 
dead inside, and he has heard of another instance of the same 
sort. A few nesting boxes put up in the trees about a pond 












^ I 















may induce Wood Ducks to nest there. This device is often 
successful, and I have seen a Wood Duck family that was 
reared in a nest of this kind. Where they are unmolested 
they become tame. A family once frequented a small pond 
within a hundred yards of my house, and a pair bred in a city 
park several seasons. 

The Wood Duck is a surface feeder. Most of its food is 
obtained in shallow water or on shore. It takes both vege- 
table and animal food, insects, chestnuts, acorns, etc. 

Bay and Sea Ducks (Subfamily FuHgulinae). 

The Ducks of this subfamily may be distinguished from 
the Mergansers by the broad bill, and from the River Ducks 

by the lobe or flap on the hind toe 
(Fig. 6), and the habit of diving for 
their food. This habit will not distin- 
guish them from the Mergansers nor 
from the Grebes, Loons or other diving 
birds. To identify Ducks in the field a 
strong field glass or a small telescope is 
necessary, particularly with the Bay and 

Fig. 6. — Foot of Sea Duck. ^ .-_, , i • i p "^ ■ i 

bea Ducks, which frequent large open 
waters, and often cannot be approached under cover. Most of 
the species breed on fresh water in the interior, but a few, par- 
ticularly the Eider, nest mainly on the coasts and islands of the 
sea. After the breeding season they all make toward the sea or 
the larger bodies of fresh water, where, with few exceptions, they 
feed largely on shell-fish and crustaceans, which give them a 
rank and fishy flavor. Many of these Ducks are rather heavy 
and unwieldy in rising from the water, but all fly swiftly and 
well. There is a wide variation in appearance not only in the 
different species but often between different members of the 
same species. Descriptions of a species by different authors 
rarely agree, unless copied one from the other. This is in 
part due to individual variation among the Ducks and in 
part to individual variation among authors. In the Scoters, 
commonly called Coots, for example, the young in passing to 
maturity (a process which occupies two or more years) not 


only change the shades of the plumage more than once, but 
often change the color and shape of the bill, the color of the 
feet and that of the eye. The immature male may be any- 
where in shape and color between the young of the first year 
and the mature male. One specimen of a species may be 
grayish brown and another brownish gray; or a bird may be 
grayish brown before death and change to brownish gray after 
death. The salmon-colored breast of a Merganser may, after 
death, change to plain buff, and then fade several shades 
after the specimen is mounted. 

In some of the Ducks of this group the male puts on an 
"eclipse" plumage in summer, similar to that of the female; 
in others this change has not been noted. The bright metallic 
speculum is rare among these Ducks, but a white or gray 
wing patch sometimes takes its place. There is so much 
variation in the forms and plumages of individuals of the 
same species, and so many changes take place soon after death 
in the colors of the naked parts and in the tints of the feathers, 
that no description can be fully adequate that does not in- 
clude all the many changes in plumage and colors of parts, 
taken from life, in the various individuals of different ages and 
sexes. Careful notes taken from a large series of specimens 
freshly killed might enable one to give fairly accurate descrip- 
tions, but when dependence is placed on dried skins, as it 
often is, many errors must occur. All that is attempted here 
is to try to give in each case such an incomplete description 
of the adult male and female as will serve, when used in con- 
nection with the cuts, to identify the adults of each species, 
and also to indicate in a general way how the young of the 
first year differ from or resemble the parents. 


REDHEAD {Marila americana) . 


Length. — 19 to 23 inches. 

Adult Male. — Head and upper neck reddish chestnut or brick red, glossed 
sometimes with reddish purple or coppery reflections; rest of neck, 
breast and upper back black to bend of wing; rest of back, other upper 
parts and flanks mainly light gray, with very narrow wavy cross pen- 
cillings of black; speculum or wing patch gray; rump and tail dark or 
blackish; belly white; feathers under tail blackish; iris orange; bill pale 
blue, black-tipped; feet grayish blue, webs dusky. 

Adult Female. — Head and upper neck dull or pale reddish brown or gray- 
ish brown, darkest on top of head, paler on cheeks and behind eye, 
sometimes whitish about base of bill, meeting white on chin; back 
brownish graj^; neck, breast and sides brown; middle of belly white, 
lower belly brown; bill obscure pale blue with black tip; legs and feet 
grayish blue; iris yellow. 

Young Male. — Somewhere between adult male and female. 

Young Female. — Similar to adult female. 

Field Marks. — The male can be mistaken for no other bird, except the 
female Golden-eye or Whistler and the Canvas-back, both of which 
have reddish heads; its body is darker than that of male Canvas-back 
and it has a higher forehead; the female Whistler has a snuffy brown 
head and a patch of white on wing. The female Redhead may be dis- 
tinguished from female Canvas-back by the shape of head and bill, 
which resemble those of the male Redhead; she resembles a female 
Scaup, but has less white on her face about the bill; she still more 
closely resembles the female Ringneck, which also has a black tip on 
bill, but is considerably smaller. 

Notes. — A hoarse, guttural rolling sound (Elliot). A hollow, rapid croak- 
ing (Chapman). 


Season. — From the middle of September to about the first week in April; 
comparatively few winter. 

Ramje. — North America. Breeds from southern British Columbia and the 
Hudson Bay country to southern California and southern Wisconsin; 
winters from southern British Columbia, Maryland, Delaware and 
Massachusetts south to southern Lower California and Florida. In 
migration casual in Alaska and regular on the Atlantic coast north to 
southern Labrador. 

The Redhead somewhat resembles the Canvas-back, 
though smaller, and when it has been feeding on wild celery 
it is often sold under the name of Canvas-back. Elliot in 
his Wild Fowl of North America (1898) states that the Red- 
head was once very abundant in many parts of the continent, 
but that constant persecution and indiscriminate slaughter 
have greatly reduced its numbers throughout the land, and 
that in many places where it was formerly abundant in winter 
it no longer appears. All but three of my correspondents 
(outside of Massachusetts) on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts 
state that the Redhead is decreasing. The percentage of 
decrease given varies from fifty to one hundred. The follow- 
ing notes from authors seem to indicate a decrease of the 
species in New England: Pretty abundant on our shores; 
several individuals, both sexes, seen on Lake Umbagog in 
June; not impossible it breeds in northern New England; 
seen in various localities until first week in June (Samuels, 
1870). Uncommon or rare in New England and adjacent 
coast States (Chamberlain, 1891). Rare transient visitor 
(Townsend, Essex County, 1905). Rather rare transient 
visitor in autumn (Brewster, Cambridge region, 1906). The 
Redhead seems never to have been very abundant generally 
in Massachusetts. Audubon never saw it farther eastward, 
and it is now found in considerable numbers in this State 
mainly on the ponds of Martha's Vineyard, where the wild 
celery and the redhead grass grow, or in a few of the land- 
locked bays and the ponds of Cape Cod and Nantucket. 
Observers report to me its presence in all the counties of 
Massachusetts except Berkshire and Hampshire, but it is 
generally regarded as rare and decreasing everywhere, except 


as above. Mr. Robert O. Morris has seen it formerly on the 
Connecticut River in large flocks, but that was unusual. 
The reports of increase in this species come as follows by 
counties: Barnstable, five; Dukes, five; Bristol, one; Plym- 
outh, one; but only in Dukes County are they unanimous 
as to increase. Fifteen Massachusetts observers all told 
report an increase; thirty-four, a decrease. 

Mr. John M. Winslow says that Redlieads remain about 
the same in Nantucket, — not over a thousand on the island. 
Mr. Lewis W. Hill of Jamaica Plain says that Redheads and 
Bluebills are very plentiful at Edgartown, and that Bluebills 
have increased slightly in the " last five years." He believes 
that there are from five thousand to eight thousand Ducks 
every year in Edgartown Great Pond. A party of four men 
got one hundred and ten Redheads and Bluebills in five 
hours, and many bags of twenty to fifty were made in the 
fall of 1908. In that year, he says, there were many more 
Bluebills than Redheads; in the last three or four years 
the reverse has been true. Mr. Henry V. Greenough of 
Brookline says that about twenty-five hundred Redheads and 
Bluebills come into the Edgartown and Tisbury great ponds 
in the fall from October 1 to 15 ; rarely more come and seldom 
many less. At daybreak every day they leave Edgartown 
Great Pond and fly to Tisbury Pond, where the "feed" is 
more to their liking, spend the day there and return toward 
night to Edgartown. Some stop over at Fresh Pond and 
Oyster Pond. The number has not decreased and about the 
same number of birds are killed each year. Mr. Charles H. 
Brown of Vineyard Haven stated before the legislative com- 
mittee on Fisheries and Game, in 1910, that the ponds on the 
south side of Martha's Vineyard were broken open by the sea 
in 1815 and flooded with salt water, so that they remained 
salt for years. This changed the character of the vegetable 
growth in those ponds. Some of them remained salt longer 
than others which earlier became fresh or brackish. From 
1872 to about 1878 Edgartown Great Pond was salt as a result 
of artificial opening. Redhead grass (probably Naias flexilis 
and Potamogeton perfoliatus) grows in Great Pond. Various 


pond grasses also grow in the ponds. More than twenty 
years ago Mr. Herman Strater introduced the so-called wild 
celery {Vallisneria spiralis). About six or eight years ago it 
became plentiful there. Since that time the number of Ducks 
on the island has increased slowly, and the increase of Red- 
heads has been particularly noticeable. Mr. Brown says that 
two thousand Redheads remained in Antires Pond during the 
coldest weather of January and February, 1910, and that he 
has seen more than ten thousand Ducks in Edgartown Great 
Pond at one time, and perhaps two thousand in the other 
ponds in the same period. 

Mr. A. C. Bent of Taunton believes that the Redheads 
have increased fifty per cent, in the region with which he is 
familiar. Dr. L. C. Sanford states that thirty or forty thou- 
sand spent the fall of 1908 near Watch Hill, R. I. Mr. 
Israel R. Sheldon writes that they were formerly plentiful at 
Point Judith, but are now " scattering " there. The birds 
appear every year on their feeding grounds in October and 
remain for the rest of the fall, if not all winter. In migration 
the flocks fly high in air, with whistling wings, usually in a 
wide, V-shaped formation. Each flock, as it first comes in, 
passes and repasses over a favorite resting place, until, satis- 
fied that peace and safety are assured, the birds settle on the 
water. Sometimes, when a large flock is already assembled, 
members of the incoming migrating flock will fall with roaring 
wings, zigzagging down from the sky like thunderbolts thrown 
by a giant hand, crossing one another and merging in inde- 
scribable confusion, until, having nearly reached the water, 
they set their pinions and sail down to join their kindred. 
While they are on their winter feeding grounds they keep in 
good training by flying about early in the morning and late 
in the afternoon. On such occasions they generally fly high 
and in irregular lines. 

The greater number of all the Ducks of this species appear 
to breed in western Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan. 
Comparatively few now nest in the northern United States. 
A few may nest east of Hudson Bay, as they have been re- 
ported from James Bay, Labrador and Maine. It seems 


probable that most of the thousands of Redheads which reach 
southeastern Massachusetts come here from western Canada 
by way of the Great Lakes, and return by the same route. 
We know that many mdividuals come east by this route, and 
they are so rare northeast of us on the Atlantic coast that 
this seems the only tenable theory that will account for the 
number that visit Massachusetts. A sudden freeze, closing 
up the ponds, is hkely to send the birds south. 

The Redhead seems to be quite as fond of wild celery as is 
the Canvas-back, and is quite as capable of procuring the 
submerged buds and root stocks as is its more celebrated con- 
gener, but it is believed to feed less on the buds and more on 
the leaves. Its resemblance in appearance and flavor to the 
celerv-fed Canvas-back makes it a desirable bird for the 
market, and it is highly prized by the gunner. 

The Redhead, though classed among the Bay and Sea 
Ducks, feeds mainly in large fresh-water lakes on aquatic 
plants. It is a good diver, and usually keeps well away from 
shore, where it dives to the bottom to pull up the wild celery 
and other vegetation on which it feeds. Sometimes it feeds 
in the mud and marsh along the shore, where it takes insects 
and other forms of animal hfe. Audubon says that he has 
found stomachs of this species crammed with tadpoles, young 
water lizards and blades of the grasses growing about the 
bank, also acorns, beechnuts, snails and shells of small fresh- 
water clams. It feeds by night as well as by day, is usually 
not shy and is readily decoyed. If wounded it will dive and 
hide among the marsh grass, or sometimes even cling to the 
vegetation on the bottom, Hke a Scoter, until life is extinct. 



CANVAS-BACK {Marila valisineria) . 


Length. — About 21 inches. 

Adult Male. — Mantle and sides all silvery white, daintily pencilled with 
fine, wavy lines of dusky; head and nearly all of neck brownish red, 
darkening on crown and fore face; lower neck all round, a little of upper 
back, most of breast, rump and tail coverts brownish black; wings and 
tail gray; below white; legs leaden gray; iris red; bill blackish; feet 
grayish blue. 

Adult Female. — Head, neck and breast dull amber brown or brownish tan, 
darkest on top of head, grayish on throat; above grayish brown; belly 
white or yellowish white; iris reddish brown; bill and feet as in male. 

Field Marks. — The white mantle of the male, the flattened forehead and 
the long, peculiarly shaped beak of both sexes, and the brown head, 
neck and fore body of the female, contrasting with the grayish back 
and flanks, serve to identify this bird. 

Notes. — A harsh, guttural croak (Elliot). The female, a loud quack and a 
screaming curr-roio when startled (Eaton). 

Season. — Rare in spring; in fall from the last week in October to the mid- 
dle of December; occasionally winters. 

iJan^e. — North America. Breeds from central British Columbia, Fort 
Yukon, Great Slave Lake and southwestern Keewatin south to Ore- 
gon, northern Nevada, Colorado (rarely), Nebraska and southern 
Minnesota; winters from southern British Columbia, Nevada, Colo- 
rado, Illinois, Pennsylvania and western New York south to central 
Mexico (Jalisco) and the Gulf coast; in winter formerly abundant, 
now less so, in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina; occasional 
south to Florida, and casual in the West Indies, Bermuda and Guate- 
mala; in migration north rarely to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. 



This Duck is considered to have no superior upon the 
table. It once fed in countless multitudes along the Atlantic 
coast, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay region. It has 
now been greatly reduced in numbers in the south. Even 
so long ago as 1832 Dr. J. J. Sharpies, in the Cabinet of 
Natural History, states that the number of fowl on Chesa- 
peake Bay was then decidedly less than in years past. 

In my early experience the Canvas-back was regarded as 
little more than a straggler in New England, though occasion- 
ally a few were taken. The number has been increasing, how- 
ever, within recent years, and last year (1910) many were 
seen in the ponds on INIartha's Vineyard, a lesser number in 
Barnstable, Bristol and Plymouth counties and a few strag- 
glers wintered in or near Boston. Mr. Lewis W. Hill says 
that his brother saw a " bunch " of twelve at Martha's 
Vineyard (1908), and "last year" (1907) he himself killed 
three out of a group of ten. Mr. Louis Agassiz Fuertes of 
Ithaca, N. Y., says that Canvas-backs are far more numerous 
there than formerly. About fifteen years ago they began to 
appear about November 1, and since then larger numbers 
come each year. In 1908 a " bed " of about five hundred 
wintered. They are still considered rather rare in eastern 
New York. Whether this increase is due to better spring 
protection on their Canadian breeding grounds, or whether 
more of the species than usual are now breeding to the north- 
ward of New England, it is impossible to determine. Possibly 
the introduction and increase of the wild celery {Vallisneria) 
into several ponds in Massachusetts may have attracted 
more of these birds than came here formerly. They are rare 
to the north and east. There are not many records from 
Essex County, Mass., and they are rated as very rare in 
Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. A good supply of 
favorite food is the main attraction to Ducks as well as all 
other birds, and only constant persecution will drive them 
from it. The following observations may furnish another 
clew to the recent increase of Canvas-backs in New York and 


Massachusetts: Dr. L. C. Sanford writes me that about 1890 
there was a sudden and nearly total disappearance of Canvas- 
backs in Chesapeake Bay, and that in the fall of 1891 they 
appeared in large numbers for the first time (so far as the 
memory of man goes back) at Port Rowan Bay, on the north 
side of Lake Erie. The gunners state that wild celery was 
noticed there about that time. In the latter part of Novem- 
ber of that year Dr. Sanford passed through scattered flocks 
of Canvas-backs at Port Rowan Bay that extended for about 
seven miles, and must have numbered a hundred thousand 
birds. The Chesapeake Bay Ducks probably stopped on 
Lake Erie. 

The great breeding grounds of the Canvas-back lie in the 
Canadian northwest. To reach Massachusetts they must 
travel a little south of east, and as numbers are seen in migra- 
tion on the Great Lakes, and as the lakes lie in a direct line 
between their breeding grounds and their fall and winter 
haunts in this State, it seems probable that our birds come 
from the northwest. The Canvas-back is a good diver, and 
is able to reach its food in twenty to twenty-five feet of 
water. It is said to be more successful than any other bird 
in pulhng up the roots of the wild celery. The wings are the 
chief propelling power in diving, as is the case with many 
other water birds. The Canvas-back is of high food value 
only when it has been feeding on wild celery; otherwise it is 
often thin, and usually poor and fishy in flavor when taken 
on the Atlantic coast. As it finds its favorite food in some 
of the ponds on Martha's Vineyard, this may account for 
the fact that it is more common there than elsewhere in 
Massachusetts. From its northwestern breeding grounds it 
migrates south and southeast, reaching the Atlantic and Gulf 
coasts. Only the most northerly edge of the great fan-shaped 
migrating movement reaches New England. 

The Canvas-back is not by any means confined to the 
VaUisneria in feeding, but takes the seeds of wild rice, water 
lilies, pondweeds and other vegetable matter, as well as fish, 
tadpoles, leeches, mollusks and insects. 



SCAUP {Marila marila). 

Common or local names: Bluebill, Blue-billed Widgeon; Widgeon; Troop-fowl; Broad- 
bill; Black-head. 

^ _^-<::a:5?r£Sa!^=^- 


Length. — 17.50 to 20.75 inches. 

Adult Male. — Head, neck, upper back and breast black, the head and 
upper neck showing greenish reflections; back black, saddled with 
white, which is crossed with narrow wavy black lines; wing patch 
white; a white stripe along wing when spread; belly and flanks pure 
white, with more or less faint fine black cross lines; hinder parts black; 
bill dull blue or pale blue gray, with black nail; legs and feet lead color; 
iris yellow. 

Adult Female. — Black of male replaced by dusky or snuffy brown; region 
around base of bill white; wings brown; speculum and stripe in ex- 
tended wing white; under parts not so pure white; bill and feet some- 
what duller than in male. 

Young. — Resembles female. 

Field Marks. — The conspicuous white mask of the female distinguishes it 
from all others except the female of the Lesser Scaup and the female 
Ring-neck. At close range or in a good light the head of the male is 
greenish rather than purplish, as in the case of the Lesser Scaup, and 
the fuU-plumaged male has the flanks much whiter and less lined than 
the male of the Lesser Scaup. In flight the front third of the body of 
a male Scaup appears black, and the hinder two-thirds of the body and 
the secondary wing quills appear white, only the tail showing dark. 


jSlotes. — Call a discordant scaup, scaup. Similar to the guttural sounds 
made by the Canvas-back, Redhead and other diving Ducks (Elliot). 
Also a soft purring whistle (Eaton). 

Season. — Common migrant coastwise; September rarely, common October 

to April. 
Range. — Northern parts of northern hemisphere. Breeds in America from 
Minnesota, North Dakota and British Columbia to central Keewatin, 
Great Slave Lake and the Aleutian Islands; has bred casually on Mag- 
dalen Islands in Ontario and Michigan; winters from Maine to the 
Bahama Islands and from the Aleutian Islands, Nevada, Colorado 
and Lake Ontario to southern California and the Gulf coast; rare mi- 
grant in Central Ungava, Labrador, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. 

This bird was formerly known as the American Scaup, 
but it is indistinguishable from European specimens. Com- 
monly as this Duck is seen on our coasts in fall, winter and 
spring its habits and food are not as yet very well known. 
Its numbers seem to have decreased much in the past. 
It was formerly taken in numbers in some of the interior 
ponds and lakes of Massachusetts, where it commonly asso- 
ciated with the Black Ducks, but reports from all the interior 
counties of the State indicate that it had decreased from fifty 
to ninety per cent, in the twenty-seven years prior to 1908. 
Only two observers in the coast counties put the decrease as 
low as twenty-five per cent, within that period, but many 
record a recent increase. Sixteen Massachusetts reports on 
the species note it as increasing; forty-three show a decrease. 
This was one of the first Ducks to respond to spring protec- 
tion in Canada and New England, and has been increasing 
along the New England coast now for several years. Unlike 
the Lesser Scaup it appears to be fond of salt-water bays, 
and lives and feeds much in such localities along our coast in 
winter. Long Island Sound, the great South Bay, the waters 
about Cape Cod and Massachusetts Bay all attract this 
species in fall, winter and spring, but it rarely winters in 
numbers much farther north on the coast of New England. 
A few years ago it was seen mainly in small flocks, but now 
flocks of thousands may sometimes be observed along the 
New England coast. As they have not increased so much 


farther south, it is probable that the protection that they 
now receive here in winter and spring has induced many of 
them to remain here instead of going south. 

The Scaup breeds from the northern United States north- 
ward to Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. It is rather rare 
in Greenland, where it probably breeds, but we have no 
means of knowing whether the Greenland birds come here in 
migration. It summers mainly in the northern part of the 
western province of North America, and it migrates south- 
east in fall to reach southern New England and the Middle 
States. Its center of abundance in winter is along the Atlan- 
tic coast. It returns by a similar route, though it sometimes 
pushes farther north along the coast m spring than the region 
included in its normal winter range. The regular southeast- 
ward migration of the species is usually finished in November, 
and they winter wherever December finds them; but in 
severe winters they are driven away from the open lakes and 
marshes by the ice, and at such times they fly to the coast 
in January, when they sometimes arrive in considerable num- 
bers on Long Island Sound. In January and February the 
northward movement along the Atlantic coast begins, and as 
soon as the lakes of the interior are partly freed from ice, in 
March, the Broad-bills are seen on their way to their summer 
homes. Mr. Louis Agassiz Fuertes of Ithaca, N. Y., says that 
the Greater Scaup is a common bird there in winter on open 
marshes. Mr. John M. Winslow of Nantucket says that there 
are some fifteen hundred to two thousand Scaup around the 
island. The numbers do not change much. 

On the Maine coast its food seems to consist largely of 
surface-swimming crustaceans and mussels (Knight). Fish 
fry, insects and the buds, stems and roots of aquatic plants 
are eaten by this bird in fresh water. It is fond of the buds 
and root stocks of the wild celery, and, in company with the 
lesser Scaup, the Canvas-back and the Redhead, frequents 
waters where this plant grows, and, by diving, brings up the 
buds from the bottom. 



LESSER SCAUP {Marila affinis) . 

Common or local names: Little Bluebill; River Broad-bill ; Creek Broad-bill; Raft 
Duck; and other names that are also applied to the Greater Scaup. 



Length. — 15 to 17 inches. 

Adult. — Similar to Greater Scaup but smaller, head and neck of male 
showing purplish instead of greenish reflections; full-plumaged males 
have the fine black wavy lines on the flanks much more numerous and 
more distinct than those of Greater Scaup. 

Field Marks. — The full-plumaged male may be distinguished from Greater 
Scaup at close range with a glass by the purplish gloss of the head. 
The female is indistinguishable from that of Greater Scaup except by 

Notes. — Some shrill, others low and guttural; heard mostly at night. 

Season. — Rather uncommon, or rare migrant, in New England; most 
common in fall; early October to May; rare winter resident in Massa- 

Range. — North America. Breeds from the Yukon valley, Alaska, and 
Fort Anderson, Mackenzie, south to central British Columbia, south- 
ern Montana, Colorado (casually), northern Iowa, northern Indiana 
and western Lake Erie; winters from southern British Columbia, 
Nevada, Colorado, Lake Erie and New Jersey south to the Bahamas, 
Lesser Antilles and Panama; rare in migration in Newfoundland, New 
Brunswick and Nova Scotia; accidental in Greenland and Bermuda. 



Little is known about the history of the little Scaup Black- 
head or Bluebill, for it was formerly confused with the larger 
species and is not now distinguished from it by many gunners. 
Therefore all statements regarding its distribution, migrations, 
increase or decrease in localities that are frequented by both 
species must be received with some caution. There is little 
to be learned about its former status in New England from 
ornithological writers. Brewster (1907) states that it formerly 
came into Fresh Pond, Cambridge, in small flocks, but recently 
it seems to have grown rarer there. Mr. Robert O. Morris 
of Springfield says (1901) that years ago he has seen five 
hundred of this species on the Connecticut River at one time, 
but they were driven away by gunners in boats. This species 
responds to protection readily, however, and is seen now in 
small numbers in the ponds about Boston where no shooting 
is allowed, particularly in Jamaica Pond. It frequents small 
fresh-water ponds, rivers and creeks and brackish waters, 
while the Greater Scaup appears to prefer large lakes and 
the salt water. For this reason the decrease of the Lesser 
Scaup in New England probably has been much more rapid 
than that of the Greater Scaup, which finds more safety in 
the larger ponds and salt-water bays that it frequents. Dr. 
John C. Phillips finds that in three years at Wenham Lake 
the number of Greater Scaup killed was only about twenty 
per cent, of the number of Scaup taken. Probably the re- 
verse would be true on salt water. 

Fifty-two of those who reported to me in 1908 gave infor- 
mation about this species, and thirty-two expressed an opinion 
that its numbers had changed. Only four reported an 
increase; twenty-seven a decrease. Reports all along the 
Atlantic coast indicate a great decrease in the numbers of 
this species. I have observed this diminution myself in the 
south. In January, 1878, on Lake George, Fla., Raft Ducks 
were scattered over the water as far as the eye could see, and 
on Indian River they were gathered in great rafts a mile or 
more in length, but by the year 1900 only a few hundred, or 


at most a few thousand, could be seen, and Mr. William C. 
Peterson of Canaveral, Fla., says that they are still decreas- 
ing. Within the past five years there has been an increase 
in many localities, which may be attributed, as in the case 
of the larger species, to spring protection. While this bird is 
uncommon on our coast, compared to the Greater Scaup, it 
is more numerous in central New York, and outnumbers its 
larger namesake in the more southern States. As it is not 
known to breed east of western Lake Ontario, its migration 
from the northwest in fall must have a strong easterly trend. 
Non-breeding individuals are sometimes seen in New England 
in summer. 

In winter the Scaup often passes the night upon the water. 
On moonlit nights individuals of a flock will feed and play. 
On still nights large flocks can sleep on the water, with little 
danger of being disturbed by their natural enemies, although 
in the south alligators probably pick up a few birds, and in 
the north the Great Horned Owl may occasionally get one. 
If a breeze blows it sometimes drifts the whole flock upon 
a lee shore, where the lynx or the fox lies in wait for them. 
One morning in January, 1900, I crept down at daylight 
to the shore of the Banana River in East Florida, expecting 
to find a fiock of Bluebills drifted inshore by the wind, but 
before I reached the shore I saw a creeping lynx stealing 
down the beach on a similar errand, oblivious to all but the 
Ducks, on which he also wished to breakfast. He has killed 
no Ducks since that day. 

The food of this species differs from that of the preceding 
much as its preference for smaller bodies of water and fresh 
water would indicate. It takes the larvae of insects, worms, 
crustaceans, snails, etc. Mr. Robert O. Morris (1901) says 
that it is not uncommon near Springfield in autumn, and that 
pond snails appear to be its favorite food while there. 



RING-NECKED DUCK {Marila collaris). 
Common or local names: Ring-neck; Ring-necked Scaup; Ring-billed Duck. 


Length. — About 17.50 inches. 

Adult Male. — Upper parts, breast and under tail coverts black, deepest on 
head, which shows green, violet and purple iridescences at close range; 
a more or less inconspicuous orange brown collar on neck; triangular 
white spot on chin; wings slate gray; wing patch bluish gray; below 
white; flanks and lower belly marked with fine waved lines of black; 
bill dark leaden bluish, tipped with black, and with subterminal and 
basal bands of pale blue; iris yellow; feet dusky blue. 

Adult Female. — Lacks the neck ring and the waved lines on flanks, which 
are barred; a well-marked band of grayish white around base of bill, 
shading to pure white on chin; general tints brownish; top of head, 
back of neck, back and wings dark brown; speculum or wing patch 
dark grayish blue, much like that of male; flanks coarsely barred with 
two shades of brown; below white; bill slate, black-tipped, with pale 
blue subterminal band and light basal band, as in male; eye dark, with 
white ring around it. 

Field Marks. — The black back distinguishes male from other male Scaups, 
and female may be distinguished from other female Scaups by white 
eye ring and bands about bill. (See Fig. 7.) Its white face resembles 
those of other female Scaups, but it is lighter on cheeks. The grayish 
blue wing patch of both sexes is shown when the bird flaps its wings. 
This distinguishes this species from all other Ducks, except the Red- 
head, which is much larger. 

Season. — Rather rare spring and fall migrant; very rare in spring on the 
New England coast; seen in autumn from about the middle of October 
to the first of December. 

Range. — North America. Breeds from southern British Columbia to 
northern California, and from northern Alberta and Lake Winnipeg 



south to North Dakota, northern Iowa, and southern Wisconsin; win- 
ters from southern British Columbia, New Mexico, northern Texas, 
southern Illinois, and New Jersey south to Porto Rico and Guatemala; 
occurs in migration north to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Quebec; 
recorded from Bermuda and England. 

The Ring-necked Duck apparently is not recorded as very 
common anywhere and is certainly rare now, if not very rare, 
in Massachusetts, except in the southeastern counties, where 
it occurs more commonly in some localities. To the north 
and east it grows rarer. Dr. Townsend gives but one record 

for Essex County, but Dr. 
Phillips records three taken 
at Wenham Lake. Rich says 
that probably not more than 
one specimen is killed dur- 
ing the year in Maine, and 
Knight regards it as a very 
rare migrant there, although 
he says that Boardman once 
found it breeding in Wash- 
ington County. It resembles the Lesser Scaup in appearance, 
size and habits.^ Like that species it is very swift on the wing. 
As it springs from the water it may be recognized by the dis- 
tinct whistling sounds made by its wings in its sudden effort 
to escape danger. The only specimen I ever killed was one of 
a pair which passed me on a high wind at such speed that the 
second bird was beyond gunshot before I could cover it and 
discharge the second barrel. It associates with the Lesser 
Scaup and feeds on similar food. Minnows, snails, tadpoles, 
frogs, crayfish, the roots of aquatic plants and many seeds are 

Fig. 7. — Head of female. 

1 It should be noted, however, that Boardman states in his Catalogue of the Birds found in the 
vicinity of Calais, Me., and about the islands in the Bay of Fundy, that the Ring-necked Duck 
does not breed in that region; but Mr. Knight writes me that he visited Mr. Boardman twice and 
that the statement as it appears in The Birds of Maine was taken from Boardman's last revision of 
his own field notes. 



GOLDEN-EYE (Clangula clangula americana) . 
Common or local names: Whistler; Greathead. 



Length. — 17 to 20 inches. 

Adult Male. — Head and upper neck dark green (appearing black in the 
field except at close range in good light); slightly crested; a roundish 
spot below and in front of eye white; middle of back and tail black; 
entire under parts (except throat), neck all round and sides of upper 
back white; wing quills black, much of them covered with white of 
fore wing when closed, wing showing a broad patch of white when 
spread; iris yellow; bill blackish, tipped with orange; feet orange or yel- 
low, with dusky webs. 

Adult Female. — Head and upper neck cinnamon brown, with no ivliite spot; 
back and wide band across breast dark grayish brown; ring around 
neck whitish, also rest of under parts; wing showing considerable 
white, both when closed and when open; iris yellow; bill brown, yellow 
or orange toward tip; feet yellowish, webs dusky. 

Young Male. — Less gray on breast and indications of a white spot before eye. 

Field Marks. — Male, conspicuous black and white, stocky; the dark, large, 
fluffy head, with rounded white spot before eye, distinguishes it. 
Female, a snuff colored head, unmarked; readily distinguished from 
the Redhead by the white on wing and yellow tip of bill. The sharp, 
high, whistling sound of their flight is characteristic. 

Notes. — A low croak (Chapman). The male, when startled or lost, a 
sharp cur-r-rew (Eaton). The female a single whistling peep; a low- 
pitched quack to call young (Knight). 

Nest. — In hollow tree or stump. 


Eggs. — From five to twelve, glossy greenish, measuring about 2.35 by 1.70. 

Season. — Common migrant locally, November to April; often locally abun- 
dant coastwise. 

Range. — North America. Breeds from Central Alaska, northern Mac- 
kenzie, central Keewatin, northern Ungava and Newfoundland south 
to southern British Columbia, southern Montana, northern North 
Dakota, Michigan, New York and northern New England; winters 
from the Aleutian Islands, Utah, Nebraska, Minnesota, Lake Erie, 
Maine and New Brunswick south to southern California, central Mex- 
ico and Florida; occurs in Bermuda. 


I can well remember when this bird was a common and 

familiar sight on the ponds of Worcester County and was 

abundant on the Connecticut, Concord and Sudbury rivers; 

but it has become comparatively rare in inland Massachusetts 

in recent years, and like all our Ducks has been driven from 

its former haunts in the interior by incessant persecution. 

On the Charles River in the Back Bay district in Boston, 

and on some of the reservoirs where no shooting is allowed, 

this species has increased recently in numbers, which shows 

that it is not much afraid of people, buildings or boats, but 

is driven away mainly by shooting. My correspondence 

with over three hundred gunners and other observers seems 

to show conclusively that the species has decreased greatly 

throughout the State within the thirty years prior to 1909. 

Only ten correspondents note an increase in the species, and 

sixty-two note a decrease. Even in Barnstable County, 

where five observers report an increase, eighteen report a 

decrease. Mr. Clement A. Cahoon of Harwich states that 

fifty-five to sixty years ago Whistlers came into a large pond 

there by hundreds. People came five miles or more to shoot 

them. Now (1908) he says that he would " about as much 

expect to see a bullfrog flying over the narrows to that 

pond as to see Whistlers." Mr. Samuel L. Buffington of 

Touisset says that Bluebills, Whistlers and Sheldrakes have 

decreased at least seventy-five per cent, in the river near his 

home. Where there were formerly flocks of one hundred to 

two hundred they now see flocks of two or four to a dozen. 

On the other hand, Mr. George Spencer Morris writes me 


that this species, formerly not very common near Cape 
Charles, Va., is now abundant there. I hear of no increase 
elsewhere along the Atlantic coast except at Prince Edward 
Island (where Mr. E. T. Carbonnel says that nearly all wild- 
fowl have increased under recent protection) and locally in 
Massachusetts, where Whistlers have increased since spring 
shooting was abolished. 

The Golden-eye is commonly known as the Whistler be- 
cause of the peculiar penetrating whistle made by its wings 
in flight. There are times when these cutting strokes can be 
heard even before the bird itself can be clearly made out. 
The Whistler breeds from just above the latitude of Massa- 
chusetts northward to the limit of trees, making its nest in 
a hollow tree near some fresh-water pond or river. It breeds 
in the interior of Alaska, but is very rarely seen on the coast. 
Barnum mentioned a case of its breeding in Onondaga County, 
N. Y., and Merriam, Ralph and Bagg record it as breeding in 
the Adirondack region.^ It formerly bred abundantly in the 
Maine woods, and still breeds there and probably in northern 
Vermont and New Hampshire to some extent. Boardman 
states that in Maine he has seen the female Whistler pick up 
two of her ducklings, one at a time, and carry them across a 
lake, making a trip for each young one, and he was told by his 
companion that the mother birds often took their young from 
one lake to another when they thought the little ones were 
in danger. The bird appeared to carry the young by her 
feet pressed close to the body. When his companion shouted 
and threw up his hat the bird dropped the young one, but 
came back for it at once. Boardman 's companion told him 
that the young were usually carried from the nest to the 
water in the bill of the parent, but to go any distance the 
feet were used in carrying them. The Golden-eye is found 
almost throughout the interior of North America, and is dis- 
tinctly a fresh-water bird until the frosts of winter begin to 
close the ponds and rivers, when most of the Whistlers in 
New England go to the salt water. Some, however, still 
remain in the unfrozen fresh waters of the north, south and 

1 Eaton, E. H.: Birds of New York, 1910, p. 209. 


west. Eaton says that it inhabits the open waters of every 
portion of New York State throughout the winter. Samuels 
(1870) says that it is often seen in the lakes and ponds of the 
interior of New England when they are open in winter. The 
average date of its appearance at Wood's Hole, Mass., is 
November 15, as given by Professor Cooke. It returns north- 
ward early, arriving in Canada in February, March or April, 
according to the season. Nuttall (1834) states that the 
natives of Lapland make nesting places for this bird by 
attaching hollowed pieces of wood to the stunted pine trees 
in which it ordinarily breeds. He says also that in its native 
haunts it is by no means shy; but this statement no longer 
applies to the Whistler of New England. 

The Whistler is a remarkablv active bird, dives like a 
flash and rarely comes well to decoys. It has learned to 
be extremely wary and cautious, but in stormy weather it 
often keeps close to shore, which gives the shore gunner his 
chance. It does not always dive for its food, but sometimes 
dabbles in the mud along the shore with Bluebills or other 
Ducks. Offshore it feeds largely on mussels, which it dis- 
lodges and brings up from the bottom. Audubon found it 
feeding on crayfish on the Ohio River. Wayne says that in 
South Carolina a small mussel of salt or brackish water is 
its favorite food. Knight has observed it feeding on these 
and also some vegetable substance. He states that it eats 
small fish and fry also, and along the coast it feeds on mussels 
and other mollusks; but Elliot believes that in the interior 
the Whistler feeds on vegetable matter, such as grasses and 
roots. When feeding there and when it first comes to the 
salt water in autumn the young are fairly tender and well 
flavored, being about on a par with the Bluebill as a table 
delicacy. Some of the residents of Cape Cod consider it 
superior to the Scoters. Nuttall says that it eats fresh-water 
vegetation, such as the roots of Equisetums and the seeds of 
some species of Polygonums. 


BARROW'S GOLDEN-EYE (Clangula islandica) . 

Length. — 20 to 22.50 inches. 

Adult Male. — Similar to Golden-eye; head moderately puffy, with feathers 
lengthening into a slight crest; gloss of head chiefly purple and violet; 
a large wedge-shaped, triangular or crescentic white spot between bill 
and eye, running up vertically to a point and extending along the whole 
side of base of bill; a white stripe on the black shoulder; white area on 
wing more or less divided by a dark bar. 

Adult Female and Young. — Similar to female of Golden-eye; indistinguish- 
able, except by a dark bar on white of wing, which is not always pres- 
ent, head usually darker in color, and this color extends farther down 
on neck, making the white collar narrower than in the Golden-eye; 
gray belt on breast is broader and the bill relatively shorter, deeper and 
wider in 'proportion to its length; sometimes nearly all yellow. 

Field Marks. — In male, white spot at base of bill is triangular, not round, 
as in Golden-eye. (See Fig. 8.) Female and young indistinguishable 
in the field from Golden-eye. 

Notes. — Probably a low croaking sound, similar to that produced by the 
Golden-eye (Chapman). 

Season. — Very rare winter visitor. 

Range. — Northern North America. Breeds from south central Alaska and 
northwestern Mackenzie to southern Oregon and southern Colorado, 
and from northern Ungava to central Quebec; winters from southeast- 
ern Alaska, central Montana, the Great Lakes and Gulf of St. Law- 
rence south to central California, southern Colorado, Nebraska and 
New England; accidental in Europe; breeds commonly in Iceland and a 
rare visitor to Greenland. 

The Barrow's Golden-eye is a northern bird and has prob- 
ably always been very rare in 
Massachusetts within historic 
times. Mr. Boardman asserts 
that it formerly bred in Maine, 
but although a few birds may 
have summered in that State 
there is no record of the actual 
discovery of a nest. It is some- 
times common in our markets, 
but most of the specimens pro- 
cured there probably came Fig. s.-Maie. 
from the west. The records of its occurrence here are not 
many, and Brewster doubts the authenticity of some. Never- 


theless, a few evidently are authentic, and it is highly prob- 
able that the females and young come here in larger numbers 
than the males, but are overlooked on account of their close 
resemblance to those of the Whistler, as they make a similar 
whistling noise with their wings in flight and are indistin- 
guishable from the Whistler, except by an expert. This bird 
seems to prefer the west or the interior of the continent to 
our coast. It is, or formerly was, not uncommon in north- 
eastern Maine, and on the St. Lawrence River in northern 
New York. 

In the Vermont Agricultural Report published in the year 
1901, Dr. George H. Perkins and Mr. C. D. Howe give a 
preliminary list of the birds of Vermont, in which they include 
this species and note that there is a specimen in the museum 
at St. Johnsbury which was taken in the State. Brewster 
(1909) gives but three authentic records for Massachusetts. 

Since the above was written I have come to doubt whether 
it is possible for any one to distinguish with certainty the 
females and young of americana in all cases from those of 
islandica. The differences between the males may be seen 
at a glance; but such authorities as Brewster and Ridgway 
have both been somewhat puzzled in determining females. 
The typical shapes of the bill in each species are illustrated 
in Eaton's Birds of New York, but these vary, and not even 
the measurements of the wing can be depended upon. Any 
one who is in doubt regarding the identity of a specimen 
should consult an excellent article on Barrow's Golden-eye in 
Massachusetts by Brewster in the Auk,i and, if still undecided, 
should refer the matter of identification to some expert who 
has access to a large series of skins of both species. 

1 Brewster, William: Barrow's Golden-eye in Massachusetts, Auk, 1909, pp. 153-164. 


BUFFLE-HEAD (Charitonetta albeola). 

Common or local names: Dipper Duck; Dapper; Dopper; Robin Dipper; Butter 

Ball; Bumblebee Duck. 

Female. Male. 

Length. — 12.25 to 15 inches. 

Adult Male. — A snow-white patch from back of and below eye over top 
and back of head to other eye; rest of head and a little of neck appar- 
ently black, crested, and puffed out at sides (at close range showing 
glossy purple, violet and green); nearly all of neck, flanks and under 
parts pure white, turning to dusky white on belly, vent and tail coverts; 
back black; wings largely black, but most of fore wing and shoulders 
white; tail and upper coverts dark grayish; iris brown; bill dark gray; 
feet flesh color. 

Adult Female and Young. — Head, neck and upper parts sooty brown; head 
and wings darkest; usually a patch back of and below eye whitish; 
wings brown, showing some white when spread; under parts (except 
throat and upper foreneck) white; bill bluish gray tinged with lavender. 

Field Marks. — Size of Teal or smaller. Only the Hooded Merganser has 
a somewhat similar dark head with a triangular white patch when 
crest is raised, like male of this species. Female may be known by 
small size, white patch back of and below eye and white wing patch, 
when this can be seen. 

Notes. — A single guttural note like a small edition of the Canvas-back's 
roll (Elliot). A guttural croak (Chapman). A short quack (Wilson). 
Resembles croak of Golden-eye but feebler (Brewer). 

Season. — Rather uncommon spring and autumn migrant; formerly com- 
mon, wintering occasionally on the coast; late September to early May. 

Range. — North America. Breeds from the Yukon to central Keewatin and 
south to Newfoundland, British Columbia, Montana and Ontario; 
winters from the Aleutian Islands, southern Michigan, western New 
York and New Brunswick south to northern Lower California, central 
Mexico and Florida; recorded from Hawaii, Greenland, Newfound- 
land, Nova Scotia, Bermuda and Great Britain. 



This little Duck is widely known on fresh waters, for it 
is by nature a fresh-water bird, which in autumn and winter 
frequents the sea-shore. It was named Buffle-head (or Buffalo- 
head) because of its large fluffy head, which looks particularly 
big when the feathers are erected. The Buffle-head was not 
much sought by gunners until within recent years. Its great 
weakness is a fondness for decoys. Mr. George Spencer 
Morris writes me (1908) regarding the region about Cape 
Charles, Va., where he says that twenty-five years ago great 
flocks of this species were constantly seen and their notes 
were continually heard. He states the belief that they are 
not one-fourth as numerous now, yet about the same number 
as formerly are taken in a day's bag. He believes that the 
Dipper's infatuation for wooden Ducks will lead to its extinc- 
tion. Mr. A. C. Bent of Taunton, Mass., says that it was 
formerly fairly common there but is now very rare. Mr. 
Israel R. Sheldon says that it was formerly very common but 
is now rare in upper Narragansett Bay, and that it frequents 
coves where it is easily taken. Mr. Lewis W. Hill says that it 
is usually common at Edgartown, Mass.; one man got fifteen 
in two days. The foHowing brief extracts from authors indicate 
a decrease: Abundant October and May (Turnbull, east Penn- 
sylvania and New Jersey, 1869) . Abundant on our coast spring 
and autumn (Samuels, New England, 1870). Common winter 
visitor (Merriam, Connecticut, 1877). Uncommon migrant 
on coast, wintering rarely; not uncommon inland (Howe and 
Allen, Massachusetts, 1901). Not uncommon transient; rare 
in winter (Townsend, Essex County, 1905). Of late its 
autumn visits appear to have been becoming less and less 
frequent (Brewster, Cambridge region, 1906). Uncommon 
migrant and rare winter resident in New Hampshire, Massa- 
chusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, and uncommon 
migrant in Vermont (G. M. Aflen, 1909). 

Observers from all parts of Massachusetts, except Hamp- 
shire County (where none report it), are nearly unanimous 
in the opinion that this species is decreasing. Six think that 


they have recently seen a slight increase, and one sees an 
increase of ninety per cent.; fifty-three report a decrease. 
As with all the water-fowl, the great majority of the reports 
are from the coast comities, which shows that this Duck, like 
many of the fresh-water fowl, has been driven from the in- 
terior, where it was formerly common, to the coast, where it 
is steadily decreasing in nmnbers. It is beheved that this 
species formerly bred in Washington County, Me., and it 
may do so still, but there is no recent record of its nesting 
within the United States. 

The male is a handsome bird; its bright contrasting tints 

are highly ornamental, but, as is usual among Ducks, the 

female is dull and inconspicuous in color and much smaller. 

My youthful experience with the Dipper Duck convinced me 

at the time that it could dive quickly enough to dodge a 

charge of shot; but its immunity from danger probably was 

due more to my inexperience and to the inferior quality of the 

gun and ammunition used than to the quickness of the bird. 

However, it dives like a flash, and is very likely to escape 

unless the gunner, warned by experience, uses a close shooting 

gun, judges well his distance and holds exactly right. When 

a few are together one usually keeps watch when the others 

are under water and warns them of danger by its short quack. 

In flight it hurls itself through the air with tremendous speed, 

its rapidly moving wings almost forming a haze about its 

glancing form, which buzzes straight away as if bound for 

the other end of the world. It alights on the water with a 

tumultuous splash, sliding along for a little distance over the 

surface. When it has once alighted it seems to prefer the 

water to the air, and will often dive, rather than fly, to escape 

danger. It is sometimes so fat that in the middle States it is 

known as the Butter -box or Butter-ball, but the flesh is not 

usually of a very good quality. Mr. F. A. Bates says that 

he prefers to hunger rather than to eat a Dipper. Others 

will agree with him, but I have never found any Duck that 

was not fairly good if properly handled and prepared. As 

with all Ducks the quality of its flesh depends largely on the 

character of the food it has recently eaten, and this species. 


like others, is much more palatable when killed in the interior 
than when taken on the sea-coast. In February the males 
begin their mating antics, when they have a habit of stretch- 
ing forth the neck and erecting the glossy feathers of the 
head as it is moved back and forth, so as to display their 
beauties to the best advantage in the sunlight. They are 
quite quarrelsome in the mating season and fight furiously 
for the possession of favored females. 

Nuttall says that the Buffle-head feeds principally upon 
fresh-water and submerged vegetation, and that it sometimes 
visits the salt marshes "in quest of the laver {Ulva lactuca)," 
as well as Crustacea and small shell-fish. Audubon states 
that it feeds on shrimps, small fry and bivalves in salt water, 
and on crayfish, leeches, snails and grasses in fresh water. 
Dr. Warren found small shells and coleopterous insects in 
stomachs of this species. Knight says that it eats young 
chubs, shiners and other small fish. It also takes locusts, 
grasshoppers and many other insects. 

When it is considered that the minnows on which the 
Buffle-head feeds to a considerable extent eat the eggs of 
trout and other food fishes, it seems probable that it is a 
useful bird, and certainly it is a very interesting one. Its 
diminution on the Atlantic sea-board has been deplorably 
rapid. In 1870 Samuels regarded it as a "very common 
and well known bird" in New England and abundant in 
migration. At its present rate of decrease, another century 
will see its extinction as surely as the last century saw that 
of the Great Auk and the Labrador Duck. Its rate of decrease 
should be watched, and, if necessary, a close season should be 
declared for several years in every State and province where 
it breeds or which it visits in its annual migrations. It is 
unsafe to procrastinate in matters of this kind. 



OLD-SQUAW {Harelda hyemalis) . 

Common or local names: Old Injun; Old Wife; Long-tail; South Southerly; Cockawee; 

Scoldenore; Scolder; Quandy. 




Length. — Male, variable up to 23 inches; female, about 16 inches. 

Adult Male in Winter. — Patch on side of head and neck blackish brown 
(occasionally nearly absent); side of head elsewhere light gray, some- 
times extending to forehead; rest of head, including eyelids, neck and 
upper breast, wliite; back, wings and tail dark brown or blackish; two 
light pearl gray patches extending back over shoulders and scapulars; 
lower breast and upper belly brown, rest of belly white; two middle 
tail feathers black, very long and narrow; outer tail feathers white; 
base and extreme tip of bill black, the rest pink and yellow; feet pale 

Adult Male in Late Spring. — Sides of head gray and wliite; rest of head, neck, 
back, breast, and upper belly dark brown or brownish black; feathers 
of the upper back and shoulders margined with reddish brown; most of 
belly white; tail feathers and feet as in winter. 

Adult Female in Winter. — Head, neck and lower parts mostly white; top 
and back of head, throat and a variable spot on side of head dusky; 
other upper parts and upper breast mainly dusky brown; shoulders 
lighter; middle tail feathers not elongated. 

Adult Female in Spring. — Similar to female in winter, but sides of head 
and neck largely dusky; feathers of the back margined with brown. 

Young in Winter. — Similar to adult female in winter, or with head and 
neck chiefly grayish; sides of head whitish; breast streaked with dusky; 
often lacking much of the white of the adults. 


Field Marks. — In winter plumage head mostly white; ashy or dusky patch 
on side of head and upper neck, which is conspicuous in old and young. 

Notes. — Those most commonly uttered resemble the words, south south 
southerly or old south southerly (Elliot). 0-onc-o-onc-ough-egh-ough-egh 
(Mackay). Owly owly owly (Packard). 

Season. — Common to abundant migrant and winter resident, mainly 
coastwise; October to May. 

Range. — Northern hemisphere. In North America breeds from islands of 
Bering Sea, Arctic coast of Alaska, Melville Island, Wellington Chan- 
nel, Grinnell Land and northern Greenland south to Aleutian Islands, 
east central Mackenzie, northern Hudson Bay and southeastern Ungava; 
winters from the Aleutian Islands south regularly to Washington, 
rarely to San Diego Bay, Cal., and in southern Greenland, and from 
Gulf of St. Lawrence south regularly to the Great Lakes and North 
Carolina, and rarely to Colorado, Texas, Louisiana and Florida. 

Female (Winter). 

This species is beautiful in plumage and elegant in form, 
but is pursued mainly for sport as it is no table delicacy. 
Thousands of these handsome Ducks are shot annually along 
the New England coast, and the dead and wounded allowed 
to drift away on the tide or picked up merely to be shown as 
trophies and afterward left on the wharf or thrown away. 
Rich says that he has seen twenty boats at a time, each con- 
taining from two to four shooters, all killing and wounding 
Old-squaws, and half of them never stopping to pick up even 
one bird. " It is at the hands of such butchers," he says, 
" that the myriads of sea-fowl that once lined our coasts have 
been reduced to the hundredth part of their former numbers." ^ 
No species, however numerous, could stand forever such deci- 

1 Rich, Walter E.: Feathered Game of the Northeast, 1907, pp. 360, 361. 


mation; and to make the matter worse, the greater part of 
them are killed on the way north to their breeding grounds. 
He has had every opportunity to observe the effect of this 
shooting on the Maine coast and note its results. It would 
seem from the descriptions of earlier writers that this species 
was formerly much more numerous than now. Peabody 
(Birds of Massachusetts, 1839) states that "the caravans of 
this species that pass along our coasts are large, and their 
noise can be heard at a great distance." De Kay (Birds of 
New York, 1844) says " they appear on our coast in autumn 
in immense flocks, and almost cover the surface of our bays 
in the coldest and severest weather of the winter." Merriam 
(Connecticut, 1877) tells of hundreds of thousands on the 
sound, covering the water as far as the eye can reach. Mr. 
Israel R. Sheldon of Pawtuxet, R. I., says that they are driven 
out of Narragansett Bay, where they were formerly very com- 
mon. Mr. Willard W. Robbins of Medfield, Mass., says (1910) 
that he has known the occupants of six boats to kill as many 
as two hundred in one tide eight years ago. Mr. John M. 
Winslow of Nantucket says that he used to kill one hundred 
in a morning; but now gets very few. Eaton states in his 
Birds of New York (1910) that Old-squaws are far less abun- 
dant than thirty years ago. 

It is probable that the continual harassing that this bird 
has received on the Maine coast has caused its decrease there 
by driving many south to the shoals off Cape Cod, so keeping 
up the Cape Cod supply. Notwithstanding the fact that the 
species has probably decreased somewhat even in our waters, 
the great breeding grounds of the far north still provide large 
numbers, and it is abundant on our coasts. 

It is a very hardy bird, stiff set, strongly boned and 
muscled, covered with a coat of thick down and tough feath- 
ers, and rarely leaves its arctic home until fairly driven out 
by the ice. It is commonly seen in numbers on the New Eng- 
land coast from late November to late March. It is perhaps 
as swift on wing as any North American Duck. Sometimes 
a flock flying low over the water will plunge quickly down at 
the sound of a gun and pitch into the water, only to fly off 


again. It often circles high in the air, apparently in play, 
and its flight is so erratic that I have seen individuals which 
were shot in the back when flying high over the shooter. If 
wounded it will dive deep and swim far, and often under such 
circumstances one will go to the bottom, seize some object 
with the bill and hang on until drowned rather than risk 
capture. Its swift movements, strong build, great vitality 
and thick plumage make it difficult to kill, and it is among 
the most expert of divers. It disappears so quickly at the 
flash of a gun that it seems almost impossible to kill one on 
the water. Gov. W. D. Hoard of Wisconsin assured me that 
the lake fishermen there take Ducks, presumably of this 
species, in their fishing nets, at a depth of fifty to one hun- 
dred feet, and I have heard similar tales told by Atlantic 
coast fishermen. Eaton in his Birds of New York (page 214) 
states that this bird is frequently taken in the Great Lakes 
in gill nets at a depth of fifteen fathoms, and sometimes at 
twenty-seven fathoms, or one hundred and sixty-two feet. 
He also quotes the statement that at Dunkirk, N. Y., between 
five and seven thousand of these birds were thus taken at 
one haul of a net.^ It is evident that nets are very destruc- 
tive to this species. People who have been accustomed to 
regard this as a salt-water bird may be surprised to learn that 
it resorts in numbers to the lakes in the interior, and breeds 
about little fresh-water ponds in the arctic regions. Never- 
theless, the majority of the species spend a large part of their 
lives on the sea. 

When wintry winds lash the dark water into foam and 
send it roaring upon our rocky coast, when the shore birds 
have gone and the Geese have flown, the Old-squaws still ride 
the waves just outside the breakers. They seem filled with 
abundant vigor and playfulness. Rising against the wind, 
they speed away and back again, splashing down into the sea. 
Their calls and cries are heard particularly at morning and 
late in the afternoon, when they are often very vociferous. 
It is hard to imitate these calls by printed words, but they 
are among the most musical cries uttered by wild-fowl. 

I See Bacon, Samuel E., Jr.: Ornithologist and Oologist, 1892, Vol. 17, p. 45. 


Their gabbling somewhat resembles the cry of a pack of 
hounds, and has given the name "hounds" to the bird in 
some localities. 

As spring approaches, whole flocks of Old-squaws may 
be seen to leave the water and "tower" to the regions of the 
upper air, swinging in wide circles, surmounting height after 
height, until almost lost to view, when they turn and plunge 
downward, hurtling through the air in arrowy flight, sometimes 
straight downward, sometimes zigzagging wildly, until they 
rest again on the surface of the sea. 

Latham states that the down which the female takes from 
her breast to line her nest is equally valuable for commercial 
purposes with that of the Eider. As the Old-squaw still breeds 
in Ungava, it is not improbable that this Duck was one of the 
species formerly breeding farther south on the Labrador coast, 
where feather hunters, eggers and fishermen successively have 
destroyed thousands and tens of thousands of wild-fowl and 
sea birds. But most of the Old-Squaws breed in the far 
north, where they are safe from molestation by civilized man 
during the breeding season. 

The Old-squaw feeds on small Crustacea and mussels, fish 
fry, insects, etc., fresh-water or marine, according to the 
locality where it may happen to feed. Mackay says that 
they eat a small shell-fish resembling a diminutive quahog. 
They also eat sand fleas, razor shells {Siliqua costata), fresh- 
water clams, small white perch, penny shells {Astarte castanea), 
red whale bait, shrimps, mussels, small crabs and pond grass. 
In the severe winter of 1888 he has known them to go to the 
uplands of Nantucket in flocks and feed on the dried fine-top 
grass {Anthoxanthum odor alum). 



HARLEQUIN DUCK (Histrionicus histrionicus) . 
Common or local names: Lord and Lady; Sea Mouse; Squealer. 



Length. — 15 to 17.50 inches. 

Adult Male in Winter. — General color leaden blue, changing to blackish 
at edges of white markings, blue black on lower back and bluish gray 
on belly, pecuUar crescent-shaped patch in front of eye, extending from 
chin up to crown and alongside it, round spot near ear, narrow stripe 
from back of this down upper neck, narrow collar around lower part of 
neck, broad bar across side of breast to shoulder, other markings on 
wing and shoulders and a round spot on either side at base of tail white; 
lower and front neck, tliroat and bar on side of breast, center of fore- 
head, crown and hind neck black or blackish; flanks and a stripe ex- 
tending back above eye reddish brown; bill dusky or slate; feet slate, 
with dusky webs and pale claws; iris brown or reddish. 

Immature Males. — Vary for two or three years between this plumage and 
that of the young, wliich is similar to that of adult female. 

Adult Male in Summer. — Resembles female in plumage, except that non- 
breeding males retain their winter dress. 

Adult Female. — Head, neck and back dark grayish brown; a white spot 
back of ear; sides of head marked with dull white mainly before or 
below the eye; flanks grayish brown; bill dusky; feet slate; iris brown. 

Field Marks. — The male is unmistakable. Female smaller and duller, but 
resembling male in shape of head and short, slightly upturned bill. 

Notes. — A confusion of low gabbling and chattering notes (Nelson). A 
peculiar whistle, generally by male in efforts to secure a mate (Elliot). 

Season. — Rare winter visitant. 


Hange. — Northern North America and eastern Asia. Breeds in Alaska, on 
Arctic coast, Newfoundland, northeastern Asia, Greenland and Ice- 
land, and south in the mountains to central California and Colorado; 
winters on Pacific coast from the Aleutian Islands to California, in the 
interior to Colorado and western New York, and on Atlantic coast from 
Gulf of St. Lawrence regularly to Maine, rarely to New Jersey and 
accidentally to Florida; accidental in Europe. 


The Harlequin Duck was formerly more common on the 
coast of New England than it is to-day. It formerly was 
noted as a summer resident on the coast of Maine, and this 
may have been authentic, as I found it in flocks in 1889 on 
Puget Sound in the height of the breeding season, in nearly 
the same latitude as the coast of Maine and in a milder 
climate. It is now a rare visitor to Massachusetts in early 
winter, and even in Maine it is considered uncommon. 
Knight says that the days of this little Duck are fast pass- 
ing, and that it is likely soon to be shelved with other species 
as "formerly occurring along our coast." He states that it 
was once common on the JNIaine coast from November until 
April, but now occurs only in the extreme winter months 
along the outer islands, and that it seems very likely that 
two hundred would be a liberal estimate of those which now 
visit the entire Maine coast in winter.^ Dr. Brewer states 
that specimens were occasionally seen in the Boston markets, 
but that after 1840 it became comparatively rare. 

All the adult male specimens that I have seen taken in 
New England had only a stripe of white on the scapulars and 
no large patch of white there, and as this seems to be the 
common winter plumage here, the male is thus figured. I 
always have regarded the Harlequin as second only to the 
Wood Duck in beauty. On one occasion a small flock of 
these elegant birds visited my lonely camp on a little harbor 
of a small island near the Strait of Fuca, at the entrance of 
Puget Sound, I sat motionless on the shore until they came 
almost to my feet, playing about like children at tag, or 
dressing their plumage, entirely at ease, like so many domesti- 

1 Knight, Ora W.: Birds of Maine. 1908, pp. 105, 106. 


cated birds in a duck pond. Apparently they considered me 
a part of the scenery, and gave me such an intimate view of 
their artless and graceful evolutions as falls to the lot of few 
persons in a lifetime. Evidently having fed well outside, 
they came in to the little rock-bound harbor of this uninhab- 
ited island to rest in the still waters and to dress their spot- 
less plumage, and there disported themselves, as have their 
forebears for centuries, until, at my first movement, they 
lashed the calm surface into spray in their efforts to escape. 
Strangely, they did not attempt to dive but all took wing. 

On the shores of New England the Harlequin is seen mostly 
along the outer surf -washed ledges. It is not esteemed by the 
epicure, and, aside from its beauty as a specimen of its kind, 
is of little value, but it is closely pursued. Sometimes a flock, 
when shot at in air, will plunge under water in such a way as 
to lead the eager sportsman to believe that he has killed them 
all; but soon they reappear at a distance as lively as ever. 
The Harlequin is now so shy and rare on the New England 
coast that it is almost never seen except by hardy fishermen 
and gunners who ply their calling off shore in the dead of 

This species feeds largely on mussels, which it obtains by 
diving, mainly along rocky shores. In New England it is a 
sea bird, but in the west it breeds in the interior on mountain 
streams, and nests either on the ground or in holes of trees 
or cliffs. In the streams it eats many insects. 



NORTHERN EIDER {Somateria mollissima borealis). 

Length. — 23 inches. 

Adult. — Almost similar in size and coloration to Eider; less greenish on 
sides of head along border of black cap; frontal processes narrower and 
more acute than in the Eider; general upper outline of bill more nearly 
straight; when in hand the male may be distinguished from that of 
our Eider by the solid black cap which, in the Eider, is divided behind 
in the center by a white line; the breast is sometimes tinted with pink. 
The female differs as much from the male as does that of the Eider 
which it resembles (see Eider p. 1-18), but like the female of the King 
Eider it has two white wing-bars. 

Season. — A rare straggler in winter; latter part of October to April. 

Range. — Northeastern North America. Breeds from Ellesmere Land and 
both coasts of Greenland south to northwestern Hudson Hay and 
southern Ungava; winters in southern Greenland and south rarely to 


This is a North American race of the common Eider of 
Europe {S. mollissima) and is 
ahnost identical with it. Prob- 
ably it formerly occurred not un- 
commonly off our coast, and may 
yet appear here very rarely, as it 
nests on islands off the northern 
coast of Labrador and is a rare 
visitor on the Maine coast. It is 
rated as rare at Nantucket (Howe 
and Allen), which is believed to 
be about its southern limit. It 
may be readily distinguished from 
the common Eider when in hand 
by a difference in shape of the 
processes of the bill, as shown in 
Fig. 9. 

This bird furnishes much of 
the eiderdown that is gathered by 
the Greenlanders, and it is not improbable that it was one 
of the species sought by the feather hunters on the coast of 
Labrador in the eighteenth century. 

Fig. 9. — Bills of Eiders, one-quarter 
natural size, viewed from above and in 
profile. Upper right hand and middle 
figure represent the Eider; the others the 
Northern Eider (after Sharpe) . 


EIDER {Somateria dresseri) . 

Common or local names: Sea Duck; Isles of Shoals Duck; Wamp; Squam Duck; 




Length. — About 23 to 26 inches. 

Adult Male. — Top of head black, divided behind by a white stripe on 
crown; rest of head white, tinged behind and on the sides to below eye 
with green; neck, breast and most of back white; breast tinged more or 
less with pale creamy brown; middle of lower back, wing quills, tail 
and belly mainly black; iris brown; bill varying from gray to green and 
flesh color, tip lighter; feet olive green, webs dusky. 

Adult Female and Young. — Top of head blackish; rest of plumage buffy 
and brown, lightest on throat and neck, barred everywhere with 
black, except head and upper neck, which are streaked; bill pale green; 
eyes and feet as in male. Young more buffy than female. 

Field Marks. — Almost impossible to distinguish females and young of this 
species, out of hand, from those of other Eiders. The difference in proc- 
esses of bill are readily seen when bird is in hand. 

Notes. — Male, a raucous and moaning voice, he ho, ha ho, or a-o-wah-a-o-wah 
(Knight); female, a cry like that of domestic Duck. 

Nest. — On ground, generally sheltered by rocks. 

Eggs. — Five to eight, pale bluish or greenish, tinged with olive, about 3 
by 2. 

Season. — A not uncommon winter visitor off the coast; formerly abundant; 
late November to April. 


Range. — Northeastern North America. Breeds from southern Ungava and 
Newfoundland to southeastern Maine, and on the southern half of 
Hudson Bay; winters from Newfoundland and Gulf of St. Lawrence 
south on Atlantic coast, regularly to Massachusetts, rarely to Virginia, 
and in interior rarely to Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio and western 
New York. 

The Eider Duck formerly was abundant along the coast 
of New England as far south and west as Martha's Vineyard. 
The subjoined abridged extracts from standard authors indi- 
cate its decrease; October, 1832, seen in considerable num- 
bers in Boston Bay; twenty-one killed about the Rocky Isles 
in one day by two gunners (a father and son) ; breeds in con- 
siderable numbers from Boston to the Bay of Fundy; Wilson 
saw them as far south as the capes of the Delaware; at present 
day an extremely rare occurrence, as Jersey fishermen know 
nothing of this Duck (Audubon). Formerly they bred in 
considerable numbers from Boston eastward (Peabody, 1838). 
Very abundant in the bays and inlets of our coast (Samuels, 
1870). Uncommon winter visitor (Townsend, Essex County, 
Mass. 1905). It disappeared long ago from Massachusetts 
as a breeding bird, if it ever bred here, and probably not many 
more than twenty pairs now (1910) nest on the Maine coast, 
where they are protected from extinction during the breeding 
season by the wardens of the National Association of Audu- 
bon Societies. Thirty-seven Massachusetts observers report 
the Eider as decreasing, and but two report it on the in- 
crease. The decrease reported varies from twenty-five to 
ninety per cent. Mr. John M. Winslow of Nantucket says 
that with two other men he killed at Muskeget Island over 
two hundred in a morning about 1872. He secured and saved 
one hundred and fifty, and got fifty cents a pair for them. Mr. 
H. G. Worth of Nantucket says that he has killed thirty in 
three hours. Reports from Maine and Nova Scotia place 
their decrease at fifty per cent, within the memory of the 
observers, and this Duck seems to have nearly disappeared 
from Rhode Island in recent years. On the other hand, Rich 
regards this as the only Sea Duck that is holding its own on 
the Maine coast in winter. 


The difference in the treatment received by Eider Ducks 
here and in Iceland is worthy of some notice. This bird, like 
other Ducks, lines its nest with soft down from its own breast, 
and before leaving the nest to feed covers the eggs with 
a blanket of this down, which it seems to have matted to- 
gether for the purpose. Other species have similar habits. 
The covering sometimes is attached at one side to the nest 
itself, and can be removed from the eggs and spread over 
them again as a blanket is thrown off or spread over a bed. 
This gray down protects the eggs from the cold and hides 
them from their enemies. It (with the down of other Ducks) 
forms the eider down of commerce, and the natives of Iceland 
get a considerable revenue by collecting it. They make holes 
in the sod near their houses and even prepare holes in their 
sod roofs to induce the Ducks to breed there. The birds are 
absolutely protected and are as tame as domestic fowls. 
When the first downy lining is removed from the nest the 
female plucks her breast again to renew it, and if the second 
lining is taken it is said that the male then contributes the 
down from his own breast. The people never disturb the 
nest after this, and the birds are always allowed to raise a 

The treatment they receive on the Atlantic coast of the 
United States and the Canadian provinces is in sharp contrast 
to this. They have escaped extinction only because many of 
them breed in the far north, where white men rarely go, and 
because these northern bu-ds are so hardy that they seek a 
temperate climate only in the depth of wmter, when cold and 
storms make their pursuit a hardship. While here they usually 
keep well out to sea. Their food consists largely of mussels, 
which thev can secure in ten fathoms or more of water, and 
they are so hardy, and so much at home in a storm at sea, that 
they are rarely seen in Massachusetts, except on salt water. 
They are rather rarely taken on some of the larger inland lakes 
of New York. They fully merit the name Sea Duck which is 
given them by the gunners. 

From a photograph by T. Gilbert Pearson. 


KING EIDER {Somateria spectabilis). 

Length. — 20 to 25 inches. 

Adult Male. — Top of head beautiful pearl gray, shading to deeper on the 
nape; a glossy black line bordering the base of the upper part of bill, 
which is reddish orange and formed like a shield for the forehead; 
cheeks pale sea green; small spot under eye, eyelid and V-shaped mark 
on throat black; rest of head, neck, upper back and shoulders creamy 
white; lower back, sides and under parts black; wings and tail dark 
brown; a large white patch on fore wing; two narrow white wing-bars; 
breast creamy buff; iris yellow; bill orange and yellow, with white tip; 
feet reddish orange, webs dusky. 

Adult Female. — Nearly the entire plumage of two shades of buff, streaked 
and barred with dark brown; head, chin and throat dark buff, streaked 
conspicuously on head, faintly on sides; breast and flanks light buff, 
with irregular black bars on tips of feathers; under parts deep brown, 
more or less barred; tail black; iris brown; feet dull yellow, webs dusky. 

Field Marks. — The male is distinguished by his peculiarly shaped head 
and its markings. The female in winter has two rather narrow but 
distinct white wing-bars. 

Season. — Very rare winter visitor; November to April. 

Range. — Northern part of northern hemisphere. Breeds along the whole 
coast of northern Siberia, Bering Sea (St. Lawrence Island) and Arctic 
coast of America from Icy Cape east to Melville Island, Wellington 
Channel, northern Greenland, northwestern Hudson Bay and northern 
Ungava; winters on Pacific coast from Aleutian Islands to Kadiak 
Island; in the interior rarely to the Great Lakes, and from southern 
Greenland and Gulf of St. Lawrence south regularly to Long Island, 
rarely to Georgia; accidental in California and Iowa. 

The King Eider is an arctic species and its habits resemble 
those of the common Eider. It is sometimes seen off the 
Massachusetts coast, and is usually rare on the Maine coast. 
It is a deep-water Duck, feeding mostly on mussels, according 
to Eaton, who states that it is taken sometimes in the deep- 
water gill nets of the lake fishermen in more than one hun- 
dred and fifty feet of water, where it is said to find its food. 
The female lines her nest with down, as do the other species, 
and it forms part of the eider down of commerce, which is 
gathered by the natives in Greenland. Knight found this 
species eating great quantities of mussels on the Maine coast, 



and states that Mr. A. H. Norton found it subsisting on sea 

clams, sea cucumbers {Pentacta frondosa), and very little else. 

Fig. 10 gives a very inadequate idea of the peculiar head 

of the male and no idea whatever of its beautiful and delicate 

coloring. The raised fron- 
tal processes at the base of 
the bill, which adorn the 
head, develop immensely in 
the breeding season, bulging 
high above the rest of the 
bill. These processes are 
soft, and are supported upon 
a mass of fatty substance. 
They shrink and become 
more depressed in winter, 
when the general formation 
of the beak is not much different from that of other Eiders. 
The female, however, does not resemble the male, iind is not 
easily distinguished in the field from that of the American 
Eider. When in hand, the general resemblance of the bill and 
the head feathering to that of the male may be noted. As the 
males do not migrate so far south as do the females and young, 
it is not improbable that the latter are less rare in this latitude 
than they are generally believed to be. 

Fig. 10. — Male. 



SCOTER (Oidemia americana). 

Common or local names: American Scoter; Black Coot; Butter-bill; Black Butter- 
bill; Yellowbill; Butter-nose; Copper-nose; Copper-bill; Pumpkin-blossom Coot; 
Whistling Coot; Little Gray Coot; Smutty Coot; Fizzy; Broad-billed Coot. 



Length. — 17 to 20 inches. 

Adult Male. — General plumage black; bill black, except most of the swollen 
base, which is vermilion or orange on the sides, changing to yellow 
above and in front; iris brown; feet brownish black, webs black. 

Adult Female. — Much smaller than adult male; bill without hump at base; 
top of head to eye dark brown; sides of head below eye, chin, throat and 
upper fore neck grayish; rest of plumage sooty brown, lighter or gray- 
ish below; bill black, often marked or streaked with yellow; legs and 
feet brownish gray or olive brown, webs black. Young and female 
birds not feathered down on top of bill to near nostril, as in the other 

Young. — Similar to female; usually lighter below, sometimes whitish. 

Field Marks. — The uniform black plumage of male and orange spot at 
base of bill distinguish it. This species has no white marks in either sex. 
The male is readily distinguished from the Black Duck by its habit of 
diving and by the absence of the whitish wing linings, which in the 
Black Duck are conspicuous in flight. The female and young closely 
resemble those of the Surf Scoter, but the sides of head and throat are 
distinctly gray where the Surf Scoter has indistinct white patches. 

Notes. — A long musical whistle (Elliot). 

Season. — Common migrant coastwise; late August or September to late 
May; non-breeding birds sometimes summer. 


Range. — Northern North America and eastern Asia. Breeds in north- 
eastern Asia and from Kotzebue Sound to Aleutian Islands, including 
Near Islands; also on west shore of Hudson Bay, Ungava and New- 
foundland; winters on Asiatic coast to Japan, and from islands of 
Bering Sea south rarely to Santa Catalina Island, Cal.; in the interior 
not rare on the Great Lakes, and casual or accidental in Missouri, 
Louisiana, Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming; on the Atlantic coast 
abundant during migration from Newfoundland and Maine south 
(rarely to Florida). 


We have no means of knowing the early history of any 
one of the Scoters as they all were generally grouped together 
as " Coots " or " Black Ducks " by the early historians. The 
Scoters or " Coots," as they are called by the gunners and 
fishermen, are typical diving Ducks. They are very muscular 
and powerful in build. The bony framework is strong, the 
skin tough, and the feathers strong, coarse and very firmly 
attached to the skin. The whole structure seems to be formed 
to resist the tremendous water pressure that they encounter 
while diving at great depths. Fishermen, both along the 
Massachusetts coast and in the lake region of Wisconsin, have 
told me that they have taken these diving Ducks in nets set 
from fifty to one hundred feet below the service. This may 
be an exaggeration, but Mackay says that they feed to a 
depth of forty feet. Under water they use both legs and 
wings for propulsion, and are even more at home there than 
in the air. If threatened with danger they are as likely to 
dive as to fly, and sometimes, when in full flight, they have 
been seen to dive. The Scoters are universally known as 
Coots along the New England coast, a name derived probably 
from the French fishermen who first established the fishing 
industry on the banks of Newfoundland. The true Coot, 
however, is a lobe-footed fresh-water bird (see page 221). 
The American Scoter and the two other New England species 
appear on our shores early in the fall, and usually congregate 
in greater or less numbers all winter on the shoals south of 
Cape Cod, where they remain in greater numbers than any- 
where else along our coast. In the shoal waters near Cape 
Cod, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard they find an abundant 


supply of their favorite food. There, also, the influence of the 
gulf stream is felt. The sounds are rarely frozen, and as the 
waters are comparatively shallow the birds can feed at con- 
siderable distances from the shore; therefore they find some 
degree of safety there, as they are not so accessible to boats 
or gunners as are the birds which remain about Massachusetts 
Bay. Another advantage that they have about Cape Cod 
is that whatever wind blows they always can find a sheltered 
spot under the lee of the Cape, or somewhere about Nantucket, 
Martha's Vineyard or some of the other islands. 

The " Coots " are rarely shot in the south, where more 
valuable Ducks abound, but their flocks form a principal 
object of sport on the New England coast, where most fresh- 
water Ducks have become rare. They are naturally rather 
stupid birds, easily approached or decoyed, and their own 
hardiness and thick, tough coat of feathers form their principal 
protection. They are so hard to kill that " Coot shooting " 
usually cripples a large percentage of the birds, which escape, 
either to meet a lingering death or recover, as the case may 
be. Since the law went into effect prohibiting Duck shooting 
from January 1 to September 15 unusually large " beds " of 
" Coots " have been observed in Ipswich and Massachusetts 
bays, but previous to that time these Ducks had decreased 
more or less along most of the New England coast. 

Walter Rich, in his Feathered Game of the Northeast, says, 
the Scoters have decreased fifty per cent. Capt. Herbert L. 
Spinney, an old " Coot " shooter, published an excellent ac- 
count of the sport in the Maine Sportsman for May, 1897, in 
which he says that twenty years before that time, both in 
the spring and fall migrations, these birds could be found all 
along the coast of Maine in great flocks or beds. Now he 
says " perhaps not a shoal for miles is occupied, and if at 
all, with only a few stragglers, and the flight consists of 
small flocks of which you may see a dozen or fifty in a day, 
and if the wind is favorable the birds will not stop at all." 
Very little decrease has been noticed in recent years on the 
Massachusetts coast south of Cape Cod, because the birds 
which have been driven from other parts of the coast have 


concentrated there, until their numbers sometimes appear 
larger than ever; but Thoreau, who traversed the shores of 
Cape Cod on foot in 1864, states that he found practically 
a continuous flock of Coots just outside the breakers along 
the whole shore. Mr. George H. Mackay, who has published 
in The Auk an excellent account of the Scoters, and whose 
experience extends over fifty years, states that on March 18, 
1875, while returning to Nantucket from a shooting trip to 
Muskeget Island, he saw a body of Scoters which his party 
estimated to contain twenty-five thousand birds. They were 
accompanied by about twelve thousand Eiders, forming alto- 
gether the largest body of wild-fowl that he ever saw. It is a 
well-known fact that Scoters feed largely on shell-fish of no 
great value to mankind, such as the mussel {Mytilus edulis); 
and it is stated by the fishermen that where a bed of these 
mussels near Cuttyhunk was destroyed, presumably by a storm, 
the " Coots " which were formerly very plentiful there de- 
serted that shoal. Mackay states that these birds feed on 
small sea clams {Spisula solidissimd) , scallops {Pecten irradi- 
ans), short razor-shells {Siliqua costata) and quahogs {Venus 
mercenaria) . Fishermen and gunners sometimes assert that 
these Ducks are very destructive to valuable shell-fish, but I 
have noticed that scallops and quahogs decrease most rapidly 
in our inner bays, where these birds are fewest. We have no 
knowledge that would warrant us in failing to protect the 
birds. In fact, they are of some service in destroying enemies 
of the shell -fish, and they sometimes point out to the fisher- 
men the location of beds of scallops. 

As food. Ducks of this genus are regarded as nourishing 
but not very appetizing. Some writers have gone so far as to 
stigmatize them as abominable; but the people of Cape Cod 
are able, by parboiling, etc., to make a dish of even the old 
birds, which, though it may " taste a Httle like crow " to the 
uninitiated, serves as an agreeable variant to a diet of salt 

Mr. Frank A. Bates says, in his Game Birds of North 
America (pages 33, 34), that an old bird is simply infamous in 
flavor, and that he never saw a bird so young as to equal 


a stew of old boots flavored with fish oil. " Pardon me," he 
says, " friends, devotees of the wily coot, my education has 
been sadly neglected. I can eat sculpin, but do not ask me 
to eat Coot." 

A cultured Boston lady assures me that when she attempted 
to cook a Coot it drove everybody out of the house, and that 
she had to throw away the kettle that it was cooked in. 
Nevertheless, I have found the yoimg palatable if properly 
prepared, though hardly equal to the celery-fed Canvas-back. 
Manv Scoters are shot for food and sold in the markets, but 
large numbers are killed merely for sport, and either left to 
lie where they fall or drift away on the tide. 

The American Scoter, Black Coot or Little Gray Coot, as 
it is commonly called, while a common bird, is the least nu- 
merous of the three Scoters which visit the New England coast. 
It often reaches Massachusetts in some numbers in September, 
rather earlier than the other species of the genus, and while at 
times it keeps by itself it is quite as likely to mix with flocks 
of the other Scoters. The flight of the Scoters is swift. I 
have heard it estimated at two hundred miles an hour with a 
strong wind, but this is probably exaggerated. They may pos- 
sibly fly at a rate of over one hundred miles an hour under 
favorable conditions, but this is a high rate of speed for any 
bird. A flight consisting of this species and the Surf Scoter 
passes up Buzzards Bay late in May and crosses Cape Cod at 
the head of the bay, going over into Cape Cod Bay. Earlier 
in the season there is a considerable flight eastward through 
Vineyard Sound and around or over Cape Cod. This bird 
usuallv flies in lines at some distance from the shore, and the 
flocks are often led by an old experienced male, who will lead 
his following high in air while passing over the boats where 
gunners lie in wait. 

This species, while mainly a salt-water bird in Massa- 
chusetts, formerly came into some of the fresh-water ponds 
in large numbers during northeast storms, and is still common 
in large bodies of fresh water in migration. According to 
Brewster it has been seen or taken on Spy Pond in Arlington, 
Fresh Pond in Cambridge and the Mystic ponds in Medford 


and Winchester, and the older gunners had a tradition that 
large flocks of " Coots " used to come into Fresh Pond, and 
many were killed there. ^ Eaton says that at times it is 
abundant on the Hudson and is a common fall migrant on 
lakes Erie, Ontario and Champlain. Mr. James Savage refers 
to great flights of this species and the White- winged Scoter on 
Lake Erie, where they are abundant in October. He says that 
great numbers are killed there. In the fall flight of 1899 one 
gunner is said to have killed one hundred and nine in one 
forenoon, desisting for want of ammunition. On October 9, 
1900, two brothers are said to have killed one hundred and 
five on Lake Erie, near Angola, Erie County, N. Y.^ Mr. 
Charles E. Ingalls of East Templeton, Mass., says that the 
Scoter is seldom seen there, but was formerly common in fall 
after easterly storms. Mr. Lawrence Horton of Canton, Mass., 
says that all the Scoters formerly came to the ponds there in 
heavy northeast weather. Only a few come now, and, as a 
rule, they grow less each year. Mr. Herbert F. Chase of 
Amesbury says that the Scoters have decreased fifty per cent, 
in the last ten years in his vicinity. He has stopped shooting 
them now, as they are practically of no use, and he does not 
care to kill them for sport. He says, ' I may be hungry 
enough sometime to relish Coot, but I hope not." 

Reports received regarding the increase or decrease of this 
species come mainly from the coast counties, as it is now rare 
elsewhere. Seven observers report it as increasing in their 
localities, in Bristol and Barnstable counties, and forty-three 
as decreasing. These reports extend over an average period 
of nearly thirty years. 

In migration this bird is often seen in flocks of one hun- 
dred or more, and in smaller groups at other times, but it 
associates with the other two species. Little is known about 
its early abundance, but it is probable that on the Atlantic it 
has decreased more in proportion to its former numbers than 
the other two common species. It is far more numerous now 
on the Pacific coast than on the Atlantic. So little is known 

' Brewster, William: Birds of the Cambridge Region, 1906, p. 123. 
s Eaton, E. H.: Birds of New York, 1910, p. 222. 


of its breeding grounds in northeastern North America, that 
Professor Cooke is obliged to reason, by exclusion, that as 
we have no record of its breeding west of Hudson Bay until 
we reach the Yukon valley, nor in Labrador south of about 
latitude 52 degrees, the multitudes seen in winter on the 
Atlantic coast must breed east of Hudson Bay, in northern 
Ungava. As this is one of the least explored regions of the 
world it is quite possible that vast numbers of Scoters and 
Mergansers breed there. It breeds mainly in fresh-water 
marshes and ponds in the north and also upon islands in the 
sea. It is a very expert diver, and is often able to get so 
nearly under water at the flash of a gun that the shot injures 
it very little if at all. 

Its food consists largely of mussels, and when feeding on 
fresh water it prefers the Unios or fresh-water clams to most 
other foods. Thirteen Massachusetts specimens were foimd 
to have eaten nearly ninety -five per cent, of mussels; the 
remaining five per cent, of the stomach contents was composed 
of starfish and periwinkles. It is a common belief that all 
Scoters feed entirely upon animal food, but this is not a fact. 
Along the Atlantic coast they appear to subsist mostly on 
marine animals, but, in the interior, vegetable food also is 
taken. Mr. W. L. McAtee found the Scoters in a Wisconsin 
lake living almost exclusively for a time on the wild celery, 
but he does not state definitely what species of Scoter was 
represented there. ^ 

* McAtee, W, L.: Three Important Wild Duck Foods, Bureau of Biol. Sur v.. Circular No. 81. 



WHITE-WINGED SCOTER {Oidemia deglandi) . 

Common or local names: Male: Black White-wing. Female and young: Gray White- 
wing. Both sexes: White- winged Coot; May White-wing; Eastern White-wing; 
Pied-winged Coot ; Uncle Sam Coot. 



Length. — 19.60 to 22.75 inches. 

Adult Male. — Small patch below and behind eye, and wing patch white; rest of 
plumage black or brownish black; iris white; bill pinkish purple, reddish, 
orange, black and white; feet orange red or coral red and wine purple. 

Adult Female. — Sides of head more or less flecked with whitish; wing 
patch white; rest of upper parts sooty brown or dirty gray; below 
grayish brown; iris deep brown; bill grayish black; feet brownish red. 
Trumbull ^ states that the adult female has a pink patch on the side of 
bill, but other authors disagree. 

Young. — Similar, but no pink on bill; sides of head more or less whitish, 
divided sometimes, but not always, into two large spots by an exten- 
sion of brown of neck up to eye. 

Field Marks. — Size of Black Duck, black or dark brown. Hardly two 
authors agree in describing this bird. Some state that the female has 
two white patches on the side of the head, one near base of bill and the 
other behind eye; others say that only the young have these; others 
attribute them only to the young male, which usually has them. The 
descriptions of the coloration of the bill are widely different. The 
truth of the matter is that the individuals of the species vary so 
much in shape of fore part of head and bill, and in the distribution 
of the colors of bill and plumage, that the only safe field mark is the 
white wing patch, which no other New England Scoter has. 

1 Auk, 1893, p. 170. 


Season. — iVbundant migrant coastwise; September to June; a few summer; 
rare or absent in interior where formerly more common in migrations. 

Range. — North America and eastern Asia. Breeds from the coast of north- 
eastern Siberia, northern Alaska, northern Mackenzie and northern 
Ungava south to central British Columbia, Alberta, northern North 
Dakota and southern Quebec; winters on the Asiatic coast to Bering 
Island, Japan and China, and in North America from Unalaska Island 
to San Quintin Bay, Lower California, the Great Lakes (casually to 
Colorado, Nebraska and Louisiana), and the Atlantic coast from the 
Gulf of St. Lawrence south (rarely) to Florida; non-breeding birds 
occur in summer as far south as Rhode Island and Monterey, Cal. 

The White-wing is one of the species which was once found 
in enormous numbers in most of our harbors and bays and all 
along our coasts, and as it was more of a fresh -water bird 
than the other Scoters it was more common in inland ponds 
and rivers. Mr. Israel R. Sheldon of Pawtuxet, R. I., says 
that hundreds of White-winged Scoters are shot from power 
boats and are put to no use. Ordinarily great numbers spend 
the fall, winter and spring about Cape Cod, or in the sounds 
and on the shallows to the southward, and in Connecticut, 
Rhode Island and New York waters. Many of these birds in 
fall come down the coast from the eastward, while others 
apparently reach Long Island Sound from the far northwest, 
and from there pass eastward to the vicinity of Cape Cod. 
Vineyard and Nantucket sounds are favorite feeding grounds. 
In April large flights of this species pass to the eastward along 
the coast on the way to their breeding grounds in Labrador 
and on the shores of the Arctic Sea. Later, usually about the 
middle of May, flocks may be seen toward night moving in a 
westerly direction. They appear, from the lateness of their 
migration, to be birds that breed in the far north or north- 
west, possibly in the ponds of the Barren Grounds in the 
arctic tundra or on the islands of the Arctic Sea. They are 
large, heavy, fully adult birds, and are called May White- 
wings by the gunners of Westport and Dartmouth. They are 
then mated and on the way to their breeding grounds. When 
migrating overland they start late in the day or at night, 
flying very high and due northwest, and probably do not 


stop until they reach the Hudson River or the Great Lakes. 
Mackay says that this flight rarely begins before the second 
week in May; that the birds start at 3 o'clock p.m. or later 
and pass westward along the shore or over the sounds, often 
as far as Noank, Conn., before they begin to cross the country. 

The White-winged Coot is the only Scoter that is usually 
abundant on the lakes of the interior in spring. There it 
seeks mainly fresh-water mussels. It gathers in large flocks 
over the beds of these mollusks in the Great Lakes, both in 
fall and spring, and even in winter when the lakes are open.^ 
It breeds about ponds and lakes in the interior of the country 
from the northern LTnited States northward. Though now 
rarely seen in the inland ponds and lakes of Massachusetts it 
was not very rare in certain ponds, lakes and rivers as late as 
the first part of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, 
and may still occur occasionally. Nuttall (1834) mentions 
this bird as " seen in Fresh Pond, Cambridge." Brewster 
says he can remember (1867 to 1872) when birds of this 
species used to alight there every autumn at daybreak, in 
both clear and stormy weather. ^ Mr. John H. Hardy, Jr., 
says that they still visit Spy and Mystic ponds. A flight is 
recorded in the autumn of 1895 at Cheshire Reservoir in 
Berkshire County.^ Apparently this abundant bird has de- 
creased somewhat in numbers even on our coasts within thirty 
years. Only twelve Massachusetts observers report an in- 
crease in the numbers of this species and fifty-two report a 
decrease. As their reports cover an average period of about 
twenty-seven years, they deserve some consideration. 

The stomachs of nine White-winged Scoters from Massa- 
chusetts waters, examined by Mr. W. L. McAtee, of the 
Biological Survey, contained of mussels, about forty-four per 
cent.; quahogs, twenty-two per cent.; periwinkles, nineteen 
per cent.; hermit crabs, nine per cent.; the remainder was 
caddis larvae and algae and other vegetable matter. Three 
birds from Nantucket had eaten only the common mussel 
{Mytilus edulis). 

1 Eaton, E. H.: Birds of New York, 1910, p. 223. 

2 Brewster, Birds of the Cambridge Region, 1906, p. 123. 
' Howe and Allen: Birds of Massachusetts, 1901, p. 56. 



SURF SCOTER {Oidemia perspidllata) . 

Common or local names: Gray Coot; Horsehead; Skunkbill; Skunkhead; Skunk-top; 
Surfer; Google-nose; Patchhead; PatchpoUed Coot; Pictured-bill ; Plaster-bill; 
Snuff-taker; Butterboat-billed Coot; Butterboat-bill; Hollow-billed Coot; Brown 



Length. — 18 to 21 inches. 

Adult Male. — Triangular patcli on forehead and longer one on hind neck 
white; rest of plumage glossy black, duller below; bill showing crim- 
son, orange, scarlet, yellow, black and white; feet crimson and reddish 
orange; iris pearl white or pale cream. 

Adult Female. — Top of head blackish, usually more or less grayish white 
on side of head below level of eye, sometimes divided into two patches; 
rest of plumage sooty brown, silvery gray below; feet, bill and iris dark. 

Young. — Similar to female. Young males and possibly females have two 
patches of grayish white below level of eye, one before and the other 
behind it. 

Field Marks. — ■ Male distinguished from other Scoters by patch of white on 
hind neck. Female and young distinguished from White-winged Scoter 
by lack of white on wing, and from American Scoter by grayish white 
on side of head, sometimes but not always divided into two patches. 

Season. — Abundant migrant coastwise; common to abundant in winter, 
rare in summer. 

Range. — North America. Breeds on the Pacific coast from Kotzebue 
Sound to Sitka, and from northwestern Mackenzie and Hudson Strait 
to Great Slave Lake, central Keewatin and northern Quebec; non- 
breeding birds occur in summer in northeastern Siberia and south on 
the Pacific coast to Lower California, and in Greenland and south 
on the Atlantic coast to Long Island; winters on the Pacific coast 
from the Aleutian Islands south to San Quintin Bay, Lower California, 


on the Great Lakes, and south casually to Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, 
Illinois and Louisiana, and on the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia 
to North Carolina, rarely to Florida; casual in Bermuda; frequent 
in Europe. 


The Surf Duck is possibly the most numerous of all the 
Bay and Sea Ducks which frequent the New England coast, 
although the White-wing is a close second. These birds are 
even more plentiful on the Pacific coast, where until recent 
years they were rarely hunted. Nelson records a flock near 
Stewart Island, Alaska, which formed a continuous bed, sit- 
ting closely on the water all aroimd the outer end of the island 
for about ten miles in length and from one-half to three- 
fourths of a mile in width. This was late in the breeding 
season, and the birds were apparently all males of this species. 
When they arose from the water the roar of their wings was 
like that of a mighty cataract. This was a remarkable host 
of birds, especially as they were all adult males, which, each 
fall, form a very small minority of the numbers of wild-fowl. 
Nothing like this is ever seen now on the Atlantic coast of the 
United States, and probably never will be seen again. Eleven 
observers in 1908 report an increase of this species in their 
localities in Massachusetts, while forty-six, mainly gunners of 
long experience, note a decrease. The few reports of increase 
come from all the coast counties except Dukes and Nantucket, 
but those of decrease come from all the shore counties. They 
cover an average period of nearly thirty years. 

Early in September the adult birds of this species begin 
to appear in Massachusetts Bay on their southern journey. 
About the middle of the month the flight increases, and if 
the weather is favorable a good migration occurs during the 
latter third of the month. Near the last of the month young 
birds begin to appear, and large numbers may usually be 
seen on our coast before October 15. The main flight comes 
between the 8th and 20th, and they continue to pass on down 
the coast until near the latter part of December. 

Mackay says that an easterly storm in the middle of 
August is likely to bring them along, but he has seldom seen 


many at that time in fair weather. In migration this species 
ordinarily flies high, but, hke others, it flies close to the water 
in strong, adverse winds. All Scoters often fly rather low in 
their daily flights on the feeding gromids. The great north- 
ward flight of this species begins rarely as early as the second 
week in April, but usually during the latter half of the month. 
Adverse weather sometimes delays it. The majority go east 
toward Nova Scotia, and these probably breed on the islands 
in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and on the coasts and islands of 
Labrador and Hudson Bay, as well as m the fresh-water ponds 
of the Labrador peninsula, where they are said to nest in 
larger numbers than the so-called fresh-water Ducks. Ap- 
parently there is a small flight of this species which leaves its 
winter resort south of Cape Cod in May and flies northwest 
overland. The birds composing this flight probably breed in 
the far north to the west of Hudson Bay, in the lakes and 
ponds of the interior or on the shores and islands of the 
Arctic Sea. 

The " Coots " mate early, before the spring migration com- 
mences, and after they are mated if one be shot the other will 
follow it down to the water, and if frightened away will come 
back again. Therefore the gunner who understands their 
habits seldom fails to bag both. Mackay states that between 
April 15 and April 25 he has taken " eggs " from the ovary 
of the female that varied in size from that of a cherry stone 
to that of a robin's egg. This Scoter is an expert diver, and 
can swim such a long distance under water that it is easy for 
it to escape a gunner in a sailboat by constantly changing the 
direction of its flight under water. All the Scoters are hard 
to kill, and many a man has shot several times at a wounded 
bird before he has taken it. Sometimes a cripple, if pursued, 
will dive to the bottom, and seizing some marine plant with 
its bill will hold on and commit suicide by drowning rather 
than submit to capture by its greatest and most persistent 

Nine Surf Scoters dissected by Mr. W. L. McAtee of the 
Biological Survey had eaten mussels, 79.6 per cent.; peri- 
winkles, 13.8 per cent.; algae and eelgrass, 6.6 per cent. 


RUDDY DUCK (Erismatura jamaicensis) . 

Common or local names: Toughhead; Stiff-tailed Widgeon; Dipper; Dapper; Dopper; 
Bluebill; Broad-bill; Broad-bill Dipper; Hard-headed Broad-bill; Bumblebee 
Coot; Creek Coot; Spoonbill; Sleepyhead; Dunbird; Dumb-bird. 

Female. Male. 

Length. — About 15 inches. 

Adult Male in Breeding Plumage. — (Rarely seen in Massachusetts.) Cap 
black; cheeks and chin white; upper parts, throat and fore neck bright 
reddish brown; upper part of breast tinged with reddish brown; rest of 
under parts light silvery gray; tail brownish black, the quill feathers 
stiff and pointed; no white on wing; legs and feet ash; bill light blue 
and broad. 

Adult Female and Male. — (As commonly seen in fall.) Top of head dark 
brown; a dusky stripe through whitish cheek (males have plain white 
cheeks in winter, Eaton); back grayish brown, with fine buffy bars; 
below silvery ash; bill dusky or bluish. 

Young. — Resemble female; some specimens lack the stripe on cheek. 
Authorities differ as to whether these are adult males, females or young. 

Field Marks. — Size of Teal; figure short, plump, squatty; rather low fore- 
head, thick neck; long broad bill curves upward. Prefers to dive rather 
than fly. Sometimes carries tail erect, but Scoters occasionally do so. 

Notes. — A rather silent species, possiblj^ hence the name Dumb-bird. 

Nest. — In a slough or marshy place, generally on a mass of floating vege- 

Eggs. — Six to ten, creamy or buffy white, about 2.50 by 1.80. 

Season. — Rather common locally in autumn, late September to December; 
rarer in spring; a few summer; possibly some winter. 

Range. — North America. Breeds from central British Columbia, Great 
Slave Lake, southern Keewatin and northern Ungava south to north- 
ern Lower California, central Arizona, northern New Mexico, north- 
western Nebraska, southern Minnesota, southern Michigan, southern 


Ontario and Maine, and rarely and locally in southern Lower California, 
Kansas, Massachusetts, valley of Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Porto Rico 
and Carriacou; winters from southern British Columbia, Arizona, New 
Mexico, southern Illinois, Maine, Pennsylvania and south to the 
Lesser Antilles and Costa Rica; rare in migration to Newfoundland 
and Bermuda. 


As long ago as the time of Nuttall the Ruddy Duck was 
much sought after for the markets of Boston, but no great 
decrease in its annual numbers was noted until within the 
past thirty years, when it began to be demanded by the mar- 
kets of other parts of the country. In Wilson's time and 
until recent years it was almost never shot for market in the 
middle or southern States, and Wilson considered it rare 
because he never found a specimen in the markets. It came 
in numbers and fed unmolested among the decoy Ducks at 
the shooting stands; but during the latter part of the nine- 
teenth century, when the bird came in fashion for the table, 
it became the custom for southern gunners to form a line of 
boats across a pond, river or inlet in which the Ruddy Ducks 
had gathered, and, advancing, drive out or kill most of them. 
As late as 1885 these Ducks were so numerous that Cape 
Cod gunners got from twenty to thirty a day, and twenty-five 
to thirty was the average bag to a boat near Chester, Pa. 
(Trumbull). Great quantities of these birds have been killed 
for food during the last twenty-five years along the Atlantic 
coast. Only nine Massachusetts observers (1908) report an 
increase in the numbers of this species, and fifty-five a 
decrease. Dr. John C. Phillips of Wenham says that the 
Ruddy Duck has decreased sixty per cent, in fifteen years on 
account of heavy market shooting in the south. The species 
has been decreasing steadily, and is in danger of extinction 
unless better protected. 

The Ruddy Duck is an active, comical little fellow, with a 
broad bill and huge paddles. It is often addicted to the habit 
of carrying its tail cocked up, and when it swims low in the 
water, with the head well drawn back, tail spread and point- 
ing in the general direction of its head, its appearance is any- 
thing but dignified. It is an interesting sight to see a large 


flock disporting in a little pond. They are remarkably quick, 
and are at least as difficult to shoot on the water as the 
Buffle-head. In my boyhood days, when these birds were 
abundant, I fired at the members of a flock in a little pond 
until my gun-barrels were hot and my shells exhausted, with- 
out inflicting much damage to the Ducks. They will often 
remain in a pond until killed or so harassed that they are 
forced to fly, when they patter and splash along the water for 
a few feet before they can rise, although they rise readily from 
the shore. Sometimes when frightened or wounded they dive 
and hide in the water grass or sedge. The Ruddy Duck 
breeds normally in Massachusetts. Young bii'ds, not able to 
fly, have been shot on Cape Cod,^ and the bird has been taken 
in the breeding season at Cohasset, Wakefield and on the 
Charles River near Watertown. It has been taken in New 
Hampshire, also, in breeding plumage. It has been reported 
with young in the breeding season in New York, and as breed- 
ing in Washington County, Me. 

It feeds largely on the roots and bulbs of aquatic plants. 
On the salt marsh it takes small univalve shell-fish. 

1 Miller, G. S., Jr.: Auk, 1891, p. 117. See also Deane, Ruthven Am. Nat., 1874, Vol. VIII, 
pp. 433, 434. 


MASKED DUCK {Nomonyx dominicus). 

Length. — 13 to 14.50 inches. 

Adult Male. — Chin, throat, front and sides of head to behind eye black; 
behind this mask chestnut red all round, brightest on back and light- 
ening on belly to rusty yellowish; often more or less marked with 
darker above and below; white wing patch; bill mainly blue, black- 
tipped; feet dusky; iris brown, with a bluish ring; tail feathers long 
(4.50), narrow, stiff and pointed. 

Adult Female and Young. — Sides of head buffy, turning to whitish on chin 
and fore throat; top of head, a broad streak from upper base of bill 
through eye (and sometimes another from lower base of bill through 
cheek) dark brown or blackish; back blackish, regularly barred with 
buff; plumage generally rusty dappled with dusky; a white wing patch 
as in male, but smaller; below washed with rusty. 

Range. — Central and South America and the West Indies north to the Rio 
Grande or Mexican boundary of the United States. Accidental in this 
country; recorded from Texas, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Vermont and 

This bird is a mere straggler in Massachusetts. There is 
but one record; a male in full plumage taken August 27, 1889, 
in Maiden. It was shot in a small pond of less than one acre, 
where it had been seen for more than a week, and is now in 
the C. B. Cory collection.^ 


The Geese and the so-called tree Ducks (genus Dendro- 
cygna) comprise the subfamily Anserince. The Geese are con- 
siderably larger than the Ducks; the legs and neck are longer 
and the body not so much flattened, and they are more at 
home upon land. They feed very largely upon grasses, grains 
and vegetable matter, and are valued for the table. 

The Geese have no wing patch or speculum, and the sexes 
resemble each other closely. In size and length of neck they 
come between the Ducks and the Swans. They molt but 
once a year. With some few exceptions the plumage is not 
so varied as that of the Ducks. 

1 Cory, C. B.: Auk, 1889, p. 336. 


SNOW GOOSE (Chen hyperboreus hyperboreus). 
Common or local names: White Goose; Mexican Goose. 

Length. — 23 to 28 inches. 

Adult. — Plumage white; head and fore parts sometimes rusty; primaries 
black; bill dark red or salmon pink, black-edged; iris dark brown; feet 

Young. — Head, neck and upper parts grayish; rump paler; under parts 
white; bill and feet dark. 

Field Marks. ■ — In the field this species is indistinguishable from the suc- 
ceeding species. Both are white, showing black wing tips. The young 
appear white below, with grayish heads and necks. When flying high 
in migration the movement of the wings is often barely perceptible. 

Notes. — A solitary softened honk (Elliot) . 

Season. — Usually a rare or accidental fall migrant; early October to De- 


Range. — North America. Breeds from mouth of the Mackenzie east 
probably to Coronation Gulf and Melville Island; occurs on the arctic 
coast of northeastern Asia, but not known to breed there; winters from 
southern British Columbia, southern Colorado, and southern Illinois 
south to northern Lower California, central Mexico (Jalisco), Texas 
and Louisiana, and on the Asiatic coast south to Japan; generally rare 
in eastern United States. 

White Geese once visited the coasts of New England in 
enormous numbers. Hearne (1795) found them the most 
numerous of all birds that frequented the northern parts 
of Hudson Bay, and said that some of the Indians killed 
upwards of one hundred in a day. The early chroniclers of 
Massachusetts mentioned White Geese with the Gray Geese, 
and implied that they came in equal numbers. Wood (1629- 
34) says " the second kind is a White Goose, almost as big 
as an English tame Goose, these come in great flockes about 
Michelmasse, sometimes there will be two or three thousand 
in a flocke, those continue six weekes, and so flye to the south- 
ward returning in March and staying six weekes more, re- 
turning againe to the Northward." From what is known of 
the distribution of the Snow Goose it is probable that these 
birds were mainly the Greater Snow Goose, which has a more 
eastward range than the Snow Goose. The Snow Goose must 
have mostly disappeared from Massachusetts during the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, for Audubon (1838) 
states that Snow Geese are rare both in Massachusetts and 
South Carolina, although they pass over those States in con- 
siderable numbers. De Kay (1844) speaks of them as rather 
rare in New York. Turnbull (1869) says that they are rather 
rare in spring and autumn in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. 
Samuels (1870) states that they are rare on the New England 
sea-coast, and Allen (1879) records them as rare winter visit- 
ants. To-day the Snow Goose is rarely taken in Massa- 
chusetts waters; but White Geese have been seen in recent 
years in practically every county of the State, and still migrate 
in small numbers along our shores or across the State. 

Mr. Sigmund Klaiber states that one or two flocks of forty 
or fifty are seen every year in Franklin County. Mr. Robert 


O. Morris states that he has seen a Snow Goose twice near 
Springfield. Mr. Edwin Leonard says that one was taken 
several years ago and put with a flock of domestic Geese. 
Mr. William P. Milner of Concord, Middlesex County, says 
that there are a few left, and he believes that they are increas- 
ing. Mr. Charles J. Paine, Jr., has seen a large flock within 
a year. Mr. Alfred E. Gould of Maiden has seen twenty in 
twenty years. Mr. Charles L. Perkins of Newburyport 
records one killed in December, 1908, and Mr. Herbert F. 
Chase of Amesbury states that they have been shot there 
three or four times within thirty years. Mr. Rockwell F. 
Coffin of Norfolk County saw them at Chatham in 1905. 
The species is reported in Plymouth County by Mr. B. T. 
Williamson, who says that he saw a flock six years ago, and 
by Mr. Wiley S. Damon, who has seen them but has not 
taken any. Mr. A. C. Bent and Mr. Horace Tinkham regard 
them as stragglers in Bristol County. Five observers report 
them as rare in Barnstable County. Mr. Isaac Hills of Nan- 
tucket says that he has not known of any killed there in 
twenty-five years. All these notes may refer to either this or 
the succeeding species. Dr. C. W. Townsend gives specific 
instances of the occurrence of this species in Essex County, 
and it is recorded in recent years from all the New England 
States and New York. Several flocks of White Geese have 
been seen and recorded by others in Massachusetts in recent 
years (see Bird-Lore). This species is still plentiful in some 
parts of the west and southwest, although Mr. J. D. Mitchell 
reports from Texas that he formerly saw great numbers in 
flocks on the prairie and now sees but from five to ten in the 
average flock, and Mr. A. S. Eldredge states that he " used 
to see great numbers there, but only saw one in 1908." 

The bird is so conspicuous and receives so little protection 
that its chances for extinction are good, unless it is better 
protected. Also, it is often destructive to grain and grass in 
the west, and for this reason where it is numerous it incurs 
the enmity of the farmers, who welcome any one who will 
shoot it. It feeds more or less on berries and green vegetation. 


GREATER SNOW GOOSE (Chen hyperboreus nivalis) . 

Length. — 30 to 38 inches. 

Adult and Young. — Similar in color to the Snow Goose, but larger. 

Season. — Formerly probably an abundant migrant in spring and fall; now 
only an accidental straggler, mainly in fall or winter. 

Range. — Eastern North America. Arctic America in summer; full breed- 
ing range not known; but breeds in North Greenland, Ellesmere Land 
and on Whale Sound; winters from southern Illinois, Chesapeake Bay 
and Massachusetts (rarely) south to Louisiana, Florida, and in West 
Indies to Porto Rico; in migration rarely west to Colorado and east to 
New England. 


The earlier writers record White Geese in great numbers 
on the Atlantic coast from New England to the Carolinas, 
and from what we know of the present distribution of the 
Greater Snow Goose it is fair to assume that they were 
mainly of this species, as it is normally of the region east of the 
Mississippi, and not a far western migrant, like the preceding 
species. Morton (1632), who made a practice of hunting 
Geese at Wollaston, Mass., states that the White Geese were 
bigger than the Brant, and as Wood says that they were 
almost as big as tame Geese, the Greater Snow Goose prob- 
ably made up the majority of those once so numerous in New 
England. Audubon says that he met with the Snow Goose 
in fall and winter in every part of the United States that he 
visited. What a change has occurred since his day ! This 
Goose still appears in large jQocks near Cape Hatteras and 
along Albemarle Sound (Elliot, 1898); but it is now merely 
accidental in New England, and there is no definite record of 
its capture in Massachusetts. It is less rare in New York 
than here; but Eaton gives only seventeen records of its 
occurrence there (1875-1910). It is not difficult to account 
for its decrease. When it is well fed no wild Goose can excel 
it in richness of flavor as a table fowl. 

The Lesser Snow Goose, being usually strong or rank in 
flavor and more western in distribution, has not decreased so 
much. The conspicuousness of the larger species, its eastern 
range and its superior flavor account for its scarcity here. 



BLUE GOOSE {Chen ccBrulescens) . 

Length. — About 25 to 28 inches. 

Adult. — Back grayish brown; head, upper part of neck and rump bluish 
gray; wings same, shading to black at ends; flanks grayish brown; 
feathers tipped with pale brown; tail dusky, edged with white; under 
parts white; bill and feet purplish red. 

Young. — Like adult, except head and neck dark grayish brown; chin only 

Range. — Eastern North America. Breeding range unknown, but proba- 
bly interior of northern Ungava; winters from Nebraska and southern 
Illinois south to coasts of Texas and Louisiana; rare or casual in migra- 
tion in California, and from New Hampshire to Florida, Cuba and the 

There is no reason to believe that this western species was 
ever more than casual here. A young female, shot at Gloucester, 
October 20, 1876, is now in the collection of the Boston Society 
of Natural History.^ 

1 Jeffries, Wm. A.: Auk, 18S9, p. 68. 



WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE {Anser albifrons gambeli) . 

Length. — 27 to 30 inches. 

Adult in Fall and Winter. — Above brownish gray, the feathers paler on 
edges; forehead, fore face and after parts white; wings and tail dark; 
tail tipped and edged with white; under parts, except white ventral 
parts, brownish gray, with large blotches of black; a white or whitish 
line on upper edge of flank; bill pale carmine or pink, with white nail 
(the bill turns yellow in the breeding season); feet yellow; iris dark 

Young. — Similar but browner; markings more suffused, and without black 
blotches below or white on face; bill, eyes and feet as in adult, but bill 
has no white on tip. 

Range. — Central and western North America and Pacific coast of Asia. 
Breeds on and near the Arctic coast from northeastern Siberia east to 
northeastern Mackenzie and south to lower Yukon valley; winters 
commonly from southern British Columbia to southern Lower Cali- 
fornia and Jalisco, and rarely from southern Illinois, southern Ohio and 
New Jersey south to northeastern Mexico, southern Texas and Cuba, 
and on the Asiatic coast to China and Japan; rare in migration on the 
Atlantic coast north to Ungava. 



The White-fronted Goose was formerly an uncommon 
spring and autumn migrant on our coast (Howe and Allen). 
Dr. J. A. Allen (1879) gives it as a rare migrant, spring and 
fall, and says that Dr. Brewer states that it was more common 
thirty or forty years ago, as was the case with many of our 
other Ducks and Geese. It is now regarded as a mere strag- 
gler on the entire Atlantic coast. There are but two definite 
records of its occurrence in Massachusetts. A male is recorded 
as having been shot in Quincy and presented to the Boston 
Society of Natural History (1849).^ In Plymouth an adult 
male was shot November 26, 1897, by Mr. Paul W. Gilford; 
this specimen is now in the Brewster collection. ^ Boardman 
says that it occurs in Maine, and there are three New York 
records substantiated by specimens (Eaton). 

It is known as a Brant in some of our western States, 
where it is abundant in migration. Formerly it was common 
as far east as the Ohio River, and specimens are likely to 
occur in Massachusetts. 

The flight of the White-fronted Goose is similar to that of 
the Canada Goose. There is the same V-shaped formation, 
and at a distance it might be readily mistaken for that of the 
Canada Goose. 

Audubon states that in Kentucky this Goose feeds on 
beech nuts, acorns, grain, young blades of grass and snails. 

1 Cabot, Samuel: Proc. Bost. Soc. Nat. Hist., 1851, Vol. Ill, p. 136. 

2 Brewster, William: Auk, 1901, pp. 135, 136. 



CANADA GOOSE {Branta canadensis canadensis) . 
Common or local names : Wild Goose; Big Gray Goose; Honker. 

Length. — 35 to 43 inclies. 

Adult. — Head and neck black; the white of throat extends up and back on 
sides of head; the body feathers with paler edges generally; back and 
wings brown; under parts ashy gray mainly; lower belly and under tail 
coverts white; tail black, base white. 

Field Marks. — Black head and neck, with white cheek patches; great size 

Notes. — Sonorous, varied honks. 

Nest. — Usually in marsh, rarely in trees. 

Eggs. — Five to nine, dull pale greenish or whitish, about 3.50 by 2.50. 

Season. — Common spring and fall migrant; rare in winter; a few recently 
have summered; early March to late May; late September to late 
December or early January. 

Range. — North America. Breeds from Alaska and Labrador south to 
southern Oregon, northern Colorado, Nebraska and Indiana; formerly 
south to New Mexico, Kansas, Tennessee and Massachusetts; winters 
from New Jersey (rarely Newfoundland and Ontario) and British 
Columbia to southern California, Texas and Louisiana. 



There is no sound in nature more stimulating to the mind 
of the hunter than the call of the Wild Goose in the spring. 
When the returning sun has burst the icy bonds of our lakes 
and streams, and nature shows some signs of spring awaken- 
ing; when the wood frogs begin to croak in the cheerless 
sodden pool, — then we hear far away in the twilight the free 
chorus of the Geese as they come coursing on the pathless air 
and steering toward the pole. The baseless triangle drifting 
across the sky stirs the blood of every beholder. The wild 
and solemn clamor ringing down the air turns the mind of 
the weary worker hemmed in by city walls to memories of 
open marsh, sounding shore, winding river and placid, land- 
locked bay. On they go, carrying their message to village 
and city, town and farm, all over this broad land. 

Never shall I forget my first curious observation of their 
flight, when a little child at school. The great flocks came 
sweeping across the sky, and all the children welcomed them 
by pointing toward the zenith and calKng "Geese! Geese!" 
as hour by hour the birds crossed our field of view from 
horizon to horizon. In those days, and for some time after- 
ward, Geese were numerous in the migrations in most parts 
of the State, and sometimes flew very low. Now they are 
fewer in all except the eastern portions, and usually fly high 
out of gunshot; but even then they rarely alighted in our 
ponds and streams in daylight unless decoyed. The flocks 
of Geese which used to alight in the fields in early days were 
then a thing of the past, and no one could say, as Morton 
said (1637), " I have often had one thousand Geese before the 
muzzle of my gun." Wood (1634) states that the Geese came 
about " Michelmasse " in the fall, and sometimes two or three 
thousand gathered in a flock. They remained about six weeks 
and again about six weeks in spring. 

Of all the observers reporting to me in 1908, only one man 
outside of the coast counties had seen any perceptible increase 
of Wild Geese in the last thirty years. Eighteen in the coast 
counties note an increase (recent in most cases) and eighty- 


one report a fluctuating or continuous decrease in the numbers 
of this species. Other reports along the Atlantic coast, from 
Nova Scotia to South Carolina, also indicate a decrease; but 
locally, at least, reports of increase come from the latter State. 
Dr. J. C. Phillips, in a carefully prepared article on the 
autumn migration of the Canada Goose in Massachusetts,^ 
computes the width of the coast autumnal flight at thirty-six 
miles, and the number of birds passing in this belt at thii'ty- 
four thousand three hundred and forty. The direction of the 
flight here seems to parallel the coast between Boston and 
Portland. He reckons the number of Geese shot at the vari- 
ous shooting stands in Massachusetts at nineteen hundred 
birds in 1908. This is not excessive shooting as compared 
with the score of a club in Currituck Sound, N. C, where over 
one thousand Geese were killed in the season of 1909-10. 

Dr. A. S, Packard describes the decrease of Geese in 
Labrador, where Captain French saw Geese in enormous 
numbers in Old Man's Bight. Packard twelve years later 
(1890) did not see a Goose on the whole coast. The fact 
that the Geese have been holding their own so well along the 
Atlantic coast of Massachusetts for the past two decades may 
perhaps be explained partly by the betterment of conditions 
on one of their breeding grounds, the island of Anticosti m 
the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Formerly the island, which is 
about one hundred miles in length and larger than Long 
Island, N. Y., was inhabited by squatters and wreckers, who 
killed every Goose they could find during the breeding season. 
This island has many swamps, ponds and marshes, with little 
islands in them where Geese can breed nearly unmolested if 
not troubled by man. For years it was owned by Meunier, 
the French chocolate king, who evicted the squatters and 
maintained a colony of his own servants at every accessible 
landing or harbor. The island is now one vast protected 
nursery for water-fowl, and Geese have increased greatly 
there. The Geese bred on this island appear to cross the 
neck of the peninsula of Nova Scotia in their southward 
migration, whence, in company with flocks from farther 

1 Auk, 1910, pp. 267, 263. 


north, they steer for the Massachusetts coast, usually cross- 
ing Cape Cod or Plymouth County. These flights are some- 
times deflected out of their course by the wind, and thus the 
Goose shooting of Plymouth and Barnstable counties fluctuates 
from year to year. Practically all the Geese which come 
directly south across country to the Maine coast turn south- 
west and join this flight, which goes down along the coast of 
Massachusetts, and furnishes the Goose shooting of Essex, 
Norfolk, Plymouth, Barnstable, Dukes and Nantucket coun- 
ties. The increase of Geese on Anticosti for the last twenty 
years probably accounts in part for the widespread belief 
along our coast that Geese are not decreasing. The sports- 
men of Massachusetts owe much to the Meunier family for 
maintaining this great reservation for wild-fowl. It will be 
interesting to see what the effect will be when in the course 
of time this island passes into other hands. Another factor 
in maintaining the numbers of the coast flight may be the 
tendency of the birds to avoid danger in the interior by mov- 
ing toward the coast. This would tend to decrease the interior 
flight and increase the coastal migration. 

Many speculations have been offered by writers regarding 
the utility of the flock formation of this species. It is com- 
monly held that the old gander, leading, breasts the air and 
overcomes its resistance, carrying it along with him, thus 
assuming the heaviest of the labor, and breaking, as it were, 
a way, like the foremost man treading out a path in the snow 
for his companions to follow, and those behind, each spreading 
a little to the right or left of the one preceding, have an 
easier task because of the work of the leader. The form of 
the Goose flight has one obvious advantage. Every bird in 
the flock, flying in a line parallel with the leader, can see what 
lies ahead, as there is no other bird directly before him, and 
this may be one reason why these wary birds almost always 
assume their " flying wedge " formation. 

Geese evidently travel by well-known landmarks, and I 
believe they are never lost except in thick weather. I have 
known a flock to become utterly confused at night in a fog, 
and to wander about over a city square for a long time before 


deciding where to go next. When Geese go south across the 
country they seem to use some hill or mountain near the shore 
for a landmark which they round, and then turn off and follow 
the coast. I believe they rarely if ever intentionally travel 
out of sight of land. Certain sea birds and shore birds can 
cross the sea even in fog without any landmark to guide them, 
but this seems to be beyond the power of Geese. 

The autumnal migratory movements of this Goose seem to 
have less of a southeasterly trend than those of many Ducks. 
This species breeds throughout the northern parts of the 
continent to the tree limit, and even beyond in Labrador, 
where it nests on the arctic tundra. The flocks rush south 
in autumn until they reach unfrozen waters. In the spring 
they appear to follow the same route on their return. 

The Canada Goose formerly nested in Massachusetts. 
The earlier explorers state that they found Geese nesting on 
islands along the coast. Samuels states that Wild Geese have 
bred several times on Martha's Vineyard and also near Lex- 
ington, Mass. They normally breed in this latitude, but only 
after they have attained the third year. The male does not 
incubate, but stays by the female and with her defends the 
nest against all assailants. The young are strong enough to 
eat, walk and swim as soon as they have hatched, and dried 
their plumage. 

So much has been written about the habits of this bird 
that more would be superfluous. They feed largely on vege- 
table matter, the roots of rushes, 'weeds, grasses, etc., grass 
and many seeds and berries, and swallow quantities of sand 
as an aid to digestion. Geese feed either on shore, where they 
pluck up grass and other vegetation, or they bring up food 
from the bottom in shoal water by thrusting their heads and 
necks down as they float on the surface. Like the Brant, they 
feed on eelgrass {Zostera marina), which grows on the flats in 
salt or brackish water, in tidal streams and marshy ponds. 
Sometimes they are destructive to young grass and grain. 


HUTCHINS'S GOOSE {Branta canadensis hutchinsi). 

Common or local names : Little Gray Goose ; Mud Goose ; Short-necked Goose ; 

Southern Goose (?). 

Length. — Averaging about 30 inches. 

Adult and Young. — Almost exactly similar to the Canada Goose but much 
smaller; occasionally a white spot on chin at base of bill and rarely a 
■white ring on neck just below the black; tail of fourteen to sixteen 
feathers; the Canada Goose has eighteen to twenty. 

Field Marks. — Like Canada Goose, but much smaller. 

Notes. — - Similar to those of Canada Goose. 

Season. — A rare or casual migrant at the same time as Canada Goose. 

Range. — Western North America, mainly. Breeds on Arctic coasts and 
Islands from Alaska to northwestern coast of Hudson Bay and north to 
latitude 70 degrees; winters from British Columbia, Nevada, Colorado 
and Missouri south to Lower Cahfornia, Texas and Louisiana; acci- 
dental in Vera Cruz; rare migrant east of the Mississii^pi valley region, 
but recorded on the Atlantic coast from Maine to Virginia. 


This is a smaller western race of the Canada Goose. It is 
generally regarded as a mere straggler here, and there are no 
definite records. It is not improbable, however, that it was 
formerly irregularly common here in times when water-fowl 
were generally plentiful. Dr. Brewer says that it was abun- 
dant in Massachusetts in the winter of 1836-37. He states also, 
in the Water Birds of North America, that at some seasons it 
has been found not uncommon in the neighborhood of Boston, 
and that numbers have been brought to market from Cape 
Cod. As it is so similar to the Canada Goose, and associates 
with it, it is no doubt usually regarded as merely a small 
specimen of that species. Some eastern gunners distinguish 
between the " long-necked Geese " and the " short -necked 
Geese." Rich states that he examined four of these " short- 
necked Geese," of which three were undoubtedly Hutchins's 
Geese. ^ Howe and Allen do not include it in their list of 
Massachusetts birds. It is included here only to call attention 
to the fact that it probably once occurred here, and as it is 
found in nearby States our gunners may find it here. 

1 Rich, Walter E.: Feathered Game of the Northeast, 1907, p. 270. 



BRANT {Branta bernicla glaucogastra) . 

Length. — 23 to 26 inches. ,,,,,, . , c 

Unit — Head, neck and a little of fore part of body black; streaks of 

white in a small patch on the side of upper neck; back and wings brown; 

breast and flanks light ashy gray or brownish gray; belly white back 

of legs; tail black; upper tail coverts white; bill, feet and claws black; 

iris brown. i j i i 

Field Marks. — Yevy small for a Goose; sooty black on head and neck, 
with small but conspicuous white patch on neck which can be seen at 
a distance with a glass. It flies in a more compact body than the Can- 
ada Goose or in irregular formation, with seemingly no chosen leader. 
^otes. — A guttural car-r-rnp or r-r-r-ronk (EUiot). Ruk-ruk (Hapgood). 
Season. — Abundant locally off the coast in migration, elsewhere rare or 
imcommon; March to early May, sometimes later; early September 
to early December. Some remain south of Cape Cod in winter, also 
off Long Island, N. Y. 


Range. — Northern hemisphere. Breeds on arctic islands north of lati- 
tude 74 degrees and west to about longitude 100 degrees, and on the 
whole west coast of Greenland; winters on the Atlantic Coast from 
Massachusetts south to North Carolina; rarely to Florida; has been 
recorded in the interior from Manitoba, Ontario, Colorado, Nebraska, 
Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Louisiana; accidental in British 
Columbia and Barbados. 


The Brant was formerly one of the most abundant of all 
the sea-fowl. The early historians mention it among the 
Geese which swarmed on the coast of Massachusetts when 
the colony was first settled. It found rest and shelter in 
every bay, harbor and estuary along our coast, where its 
principal food, the eelgrass {Zostera marina), grows upon the 
flats. The following notes from many authors will give some 
idea of its former status: Rare in New Hampshire, but 
in the Bay of Massachusetts found in great abundance 
(Belknap, 1793). Early in October they are seen to arrive 
about Ipswich, Cape Ann and Cape Cod in great numbers, 
continuing to come until November, and in hazy weather 
"they fly and diverge into bays and inlets" (Nuttall, Massa- 
chusetts, 1834). Early in October they arrive in large num- 
bers; flocks continue to follow each other in long succession, 
and the gunners secure considerable numbers (Peabody, 
Massachusetts, 1838). Appears in great numbers on the 
coast of New York the first or second week in October; con- 
tinues passing through until December (De Kay, 1844). In 
spring and autumn very numerous on our coasts, exceeding 
in number the Canada Geese and dusky Ducks (Giraud, Long 
Island, N. Y., 1844). Abundant (Turnbull, Eastern Penn- 
sylvania and New Jersey, 1869). Found on coast abun- 
dantly (Samuels, New England, 1870). Common spring and 
autumn on coast (Maynard, Massachusetts, 1870). Not un- 
common spring and autumn (J. A. Allen, 1879). "In former 
years were quite abundant at Montauk and in Gardiner's 
Bay on the west shore of Long Island, N. Y., and now they 
are much more scarce" (Leffingwell, 1890). Formerly very 
abundant along our eastern coast; have seen many large 
flocks in the bays of Long Island, but the persistent shooting 


has diminished their numbers (Huntington, 1893). There is 
evidence that long before this time Geese and Brant had 
decreased in those waters. Prime (1845) makes the follow- 
ing statement in his history of Long Island. "Upon the re- 
turn of cold weather, these [the wild-fowl] with the numerous 
progeny which they have reared, return and bespeckle the 
harbours and bays, which constantly resound with their 
untiring cackle. There is reason, however, to believe that 
some of these species, particularly the wild-goose, are greatly 
diminished in number, from what they were formerly. 
Many persons now living, can distinctly recollect the time 
when, both spring and fall, the passage of large flocks of 
geese over the island, at almost any point, was a matter of 
daily, and sometimes hourly occurrence. But now, it is a 
sight that is rarely witnessed. The same remark is applica- 
ble to a smaller species of fowl, though larger than the duck, 
commonly distinguished by the name of Brant. All the 
larger kinds of wild fowl are evidently scarcer, than they were 
formerly. The increased population of the country, and the 
improved skill and implements of gunning, probably account 
for the fact." ^ 

Old gunners have told me that Brant were very plenti- 
ful all along our shores sixty to seventy-five years ago. INIr. 
William C. Peterson, formerly of Marshfield, Mass., says that 
about the year 1855, during a southeasterly storm in the fall, 
myriads of Brant came in from seaward and flew up across 
Plymouth beach to Duxbury Bay. He has never seen such a 
flight since, but used to see more in fall than in spring. About 
Thanksgiving time in 1872, or thereabouts, more than one 
hundred big flocks came in during a storm; as near as he 
could estimate there were about ten thousand birds. He has 
not seen so large a flight since, and says they rarely see very 
many there now. Mr. Elbridge Gerry, a respected citizen 
of Stoneham, Mass, who hunted along the coast from 1835 
to 1900, said (1904) that Brant were few of late years, even 
at Chatham, as compared with their former numbers. Dr. 
L. C. Jones of Maiden savs that Brant used to be common in 

1 Prime, Nathaniel S.: History of Long Island, 1845, Part 1, p. 21. 


fall, flying at the same time with the Scoters. Now they are 
uncommon where he shoots. He saw a flock of about fifty 
at Sandwich in the fall of 1907, and a small flock in 1908. 
Daniel Giraud Elliot, author of standard works on wild- 
fowl, shore birds and game birds, who has had perhaps as 
long and varied experience with the wild-fowl as any man 
now living, says (1898) that constant warfare against the 
Brant has greatly depleted their numbers, and in many places 
where they were once numerous they are now seen in small 
bodies or are absent altogether. 

Comparatively few observers reported to me in 1908 on 
the Brant, as it is commonly seen in but few localities. 
Fifteen noted the species as increasing in numbers and forty- 
one reported it as decreasing. Thirteen of the fifteen reports 
of increase came from Barnstable County. The reports 
point to the well-known fact that on the New England coast 
the Brant has concentrated now at a few outlying points, 
such as Chatham, Monomoy, Nantucket, Muskeget, and Point 
Judith. Many years ago they were abundant in the waters 
about Cape Ann, in Boston harbor, on the south shore, in Buz- 
zards Bay, and, in fact, all along our coast. They were for- 
merly plentiful at Brant Point on Waquoit Bay. A point of 
the same name in Nantucket harbor and Brant Rock on the 
south shore are said by old residents to have been famous for 
the Brant that frequented them in olden times. Mr. Henry V. 
Greenough of Brookline says that he judges that the Brant 
have decreased about Monomoy perhaps one-third in his time. 
He says that perhaps the reduction in the birds may be laid to 
the great increase in power boats, which frighten the birds away 
to a long distance, and they are less prone to stay several 
weeks, as they used to. Dr. Henry B. Bigelow of the Museum 
of Comparative Zoology says, "formerly Brant were very 
abundant in winter in all the salt broad-waters from Chinco- 
teague, Md., to Cape Hatteras. On the eastern shore of Vir- 
ginia, Brant have been very much reduced in numbers. We 
might suppose that this reduction was due to the increased 
oyster business and to other disturbances of their feeding 
grounds. Were this true, we should expect to find their num- 


bers increased in Pamlico Sound; but this is not the case. 
Here, again, Brant, which were formerly among the most plen- 
tiful water fowl have decreased noticeably in the last five years, 
especially in the northern part of the sound. So true is it that 
at the Pea Island Club, of which I am a member, it is now 
hardly worth while to set out for Brant, although a few years 
ago we regularly had excellent Brant shooting. We might 
explain the decrease as due to some change in natural con- 
ditions, but, within a radius of forty miles of Ocracoke Inlet, 
probably the main wintering ground for Brant to-day, no 
increase in numbers is noted. On the contrary, all my in- 
quiry among sportsmen, market gunners and club superin- 
tendents, gets but one answer, — a serious decrease." 

All the above seems to indicate that Brant, which were 
once so numerous that they were obliged to scatter along 
the coast to find sufficient suitable feeding grounds for their 
wants, have now been so reduced in numbers that a few 
isolated localities give ample accommodation for all that are 
left; and as practically all the Brant in North America visit 
these few localities in migration, they crowd them so that 
the impression is given there that they have not decreased in 
number, and have even increased. This is a condition analo- 
gous to that of the Passenger Pigeon, when in 1888 a great 
part of the species seemed to have concentrated in a few 
localities in Michigan. There they seemed at that time more 
numerous than ever, yet now the species is believed to be 


On the other hand, we have the testimony of many of 
the Chatham and Monomoy Brant shooters, who follow 
Warren Hapgood in the belief that Brant are as plentiful 
as ever. While Hapgood did not deny that the Brant had 
probably decreased since the settlement of the country, he 
insisted that his experience of thirty-five years at Monomoy 
and Chatham convinced him that the birds had not decreased 
in his time, although he had seen a great decrease in Black 
Ducks during those years. Mr. Orville D. Lovell quotes 
arctic explorers and statements made to them by the Eski- 
mos as proof that Brant are as numerous as ever in the arctic 


seas, and lie assures me that they are as plentiful as ever in 
Long Island waters. It is quite beyond the limits of proba- 
bility, however, that the Brant could have maintained their 
numbers during the centuries of settlement without any pro- 
tection whatever, — - and they never have had any along their 
route of migration until quite recently. From the time that 
they reached Hudson Bay on their journey southward until 
they returned again to the Arctic Ocean they were pursued 
by the whites wherever they stopped to rest, and Eskimos 
hunted them during their breeding season in the north. 

A glance at their line of migration will explain their ap- 
pearance in numbers at points on the Atlantic coast. The 
breeding range of the White-bellied Brant is not well known, 
but it is believed that it breeds mainly if not entirely in the 
easterly portions of the northern part of the North American 
arctic archipelago. The Brant arrive late in May or in early 
June on the northwest coast of Greenland, and breed north- 
ward probably as far as land extends. In these remote re- 
gions ice begins to make late in August or early September, 
and in September the Brant move southward, passing down 
the Boothia peninsula and the west coast of Hudson Bay, 
from whence they apparently cross the Canadian wilderness 
to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Reaching the shore of the 
gulf, they turn eastward toward Anticosti and Prince Edward 
islands. They then proceed across the neck of the penin- 
sula of Nova Scotia, down the Bay of Fundy, and steer direct 
for the outer shore of Cape Cod. Sometimes they are de- 
flected by the wind and run on to the Massachusetts coast, 
but they usually round the cape and pass Nantucket, touch- 
ing afterward only at outlying points on the coast until they 
reach Virginia and North Carolina, where most of them 
winter, although many winter at points farther north and 
some in Massachusetts waters. The spring migration begins 
here about the last week in February or the first of March, 
and continues on the average six weeks or more. In April 
large numbers have reached the Gulf of St. Lawrence, cross- 
ing Prince Edward Island. Mr. E. T. Carbonnell writes me 
that the Brant arrive at Prince Edward Island in spring. 


nearly always in the night, and that the dates when the large 
flocks leave Cape Cod coincide with the dates of their arrival 
at the island. About June 1, those in the district around 
Charlottetown (which probably comprise a great part of the 
Atlantic coast flight) begin to assemble in Hillsborough Bay, 
outside of Charlottetown harbor, on the south side of the 
island. Here they gather between St. Peters and Governor's 
islands, in preparation for their northern journey. From June 
10 to 15 they leave in large flocks. Sometimes four or five 
such flocks follow one another, about a mile apart. They 
start northward, enter Charlottetown harbor, proceeding 
about two miles toward the city, then turn to the westward 
up West River, which they follow to near its head, when they 
wheel to the northwest and cross the island heading for the 
Gulf of St. Lawrence. Mr. Carbonnell is informed that they 
sometimes turn eastward and go up East River until near Mt. 
Stewart, when they turn northward and cross a neck of land 
to Tracadie Bay, on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Possibly the 
choice of routes may depend on the direction of the wind. 

Here observers agree that they fly to the w^est or south- 
west and go up the Gulf of St. Lawrence, finally turning 
overland on its northern shore. How the Brant reach the 
Arctic Ocean from this point is stifl their own secret. They 
are never seen in spring on the west shore of Hudson Bay. 
Possibly they may go up the east shore of the bay or cross 
the peninsula to the shores of L"Fngava. The average date on 
which the flocks reach the Gulf of St. Lawrence (latitude 46 
degrees) is March 23, and they reach latitude 79 degrees 
about May 30, — an average speed of thirty -four miles per 
day (Cooke). 

The most northern record of the Brant according to the 
same authority, is latitude 82 degrees 33 minutes, on the north 
coast of Grinnell Land. In this route of migration we have 
an explanation of the great apparent numbers of the Brant. 
Practically all the individuals of the species collect from a 
great area beyond the arctic circle and concentrate upon one 
line of flight along the Atlantic coast. The individuals of the 
Black Brant collect in a similar manner for a similar flight 


down the Pacific coast. On this fine of flight each of these 
species when so concentrated will always appear very numer- 
ous until they approach extinction, and particularly so when 
they are driven away from all but a comparatively few feed- 
ing grounds. If, during the recent scarcity of the Ruffed 
Grouse, all the Grouse of the species in North America had 
been collected and concentrated off Monomoy, the natives 
there would have been convinced that Grouse had increased 
rather than diminished in numbers. There are practically no 
Brant in North America during the migrations except on these 
two coasts. A few stragglers are met with rarely on ponds 
near the sea-shore, but Brant are rare always except on salt 
water. The so-called Brant seen in the middle west are other 
species of Geese. After the flight of Brant passes Nova Scotia 
on the southward journey, they rarely fly over any extent of 
land, but keep off the coast, avoiding even the points as much 
as possible. 

While formerly tame and unsuspicious, this bird has 
learned wisdom by experience, and by keeping off shore and 
avoiding the vicinity of mankind it succeeds in holding its 
own much better than most edible water-fowl. It seeks 
isolated and extensive flats where the eelgrass grows, and 
where, although the water is shallow enough to enable it to 
feed by thrusting its head to the bottom and pulling up the 
roots of this plant, it can still flnd sufficient food at a long 
distance from the dangers of the shore. Floating batteries 
and decoys are still used in some States for its destruction, 
and in the south it is hunted by jack light at night, although 
this method is illegal in most States. 

The Brant has one weakness — its fondness for sand. 
Large quantities of sand seem to be absolutely necessary for 
the proper digestion of its food, and the gunners assert that 
before attempting a long migratory flight the Brant alights 
on beach or bar and "takes in ballast" for the trip. This is 
the gunner's opportunity, and a sunken box on a sand bar or 
point, surrounded with decoys, is the favorite shooting stand 
for Brant in Massachusetts. Hapgood gives a record of forty- 
four birds killed from one of these boxes at one shot, and states 


that one thousand or fifteen hundred were killed in a season. 
This was many years ago, before the formation of the Brant 
clubs. No such number has been killed in recent years. The 
average number killed by the members of the Monomoy 
Branting Club for thirty-four years, during the Hapgood 
regime, is a trifle over two hundred and sixty-six birds per 
year. The members of the branting clubs state that only a 
few Brant (less than five hundred) have been killed annually 
in recent years in Massachusetts under a law which denied 
the birds protection, and that therefore no protection should 
be given them; but Mr. John M. Winslow of Nantucket 
says that under the policy of no protection probably four 
hundred or five hundred Brant were killed annually on Mus- 
keget Island. The official figures of the Commissioners on 
Fisheries and Game show that two hundred and sixty-three 
Brant were killed on Nantucket in 1907, but probably the 
average number killed would be less than one hundred per 
year. Including those taken on Martha's Vineyard, Cape 
Cod and the entire Massachusetts coast, the number taken 
yearly is not excessive in the autumnal flight. Quite a 
number of Brant are now killed in the fall; but spring pro- 
tection protects. In spring more Brant usually stop on the 
Massachusetts coast than in fall. They stay longer, the 
weather for shooting is better and the birds are not so much 
disturbed by scallop fishermen, etc. On the other hand, the 
experienced birds in spring are more shy and more difficult 
to take than the inexperienced young in fall. 

Brant are well protected in summer by the inaccessi- 
bility of their breeding grounds. Few white men have ever 
seen them there. On the other hand, the very remoteness of 
their nesting places in the far north exposes their young to 
destruction. The adults have but three months at most to 
nest, deposit their eggs and hatch and rear their broods; 
the actual period in which they can rear the young after 
hatching is often not much, if any, over six weeks. Severe 
and unseasonable storms which occur in the polar summer 
or early fall sometimes must destroy the increase of the sea- 
son, or force the parents to fly south, leaving the young to 


their fate. In some seasons practically no young birds ap- 
pear. A succession of such seasons with unchecked shooting 
might reduce the Brant to the verge of extinction. 

When it is considered that the Brant has been hunted for 
centuries little seems to be recorded about its food and habits. 
Hapgood says that in confinement it eats dead wood and feeds 
readily upon corn, but it never has been known to breed. 
It does not dive for its food, but will dive well when wounded, 
and swim under water. At low water it tears up eelgrass, 
and after the tide rises continues feeding on what it has torn 
up. In the north it is said to feed on grass and berries, and 
at times it takes mollusks and other small marine animals. 
Its flesh is considered excellent, but its quality depends on 
the season and its food. 

BLACK BRANT {Bmnta nigricans). 

Length. — About 25 inches. 

Adult. — Similar to Brant but darker; black of head and neck not ending 
abruptly on breast, but extending in a wash over flanks and much of 
belly; broad white collar on neck, interrupted behind; lower parts 
white behind. 

Range. — Western North America. Breeds on arctic coast and islands 
from Point Barrow near mouth of Anderson River north to Melville 
Island; common on Siberian coast; winters on Pacific coast from Brit- 
ish Columbia to Lower California; in interior to Nevada and on Asiatic 
coast to Japan; recorded as a straggler to Massachusetts, New York 
and New Jersey. 


The Black Brant is a Pacific coast species which breeds 
on the coast of northeastern Siberia, northern Alaska and 
in the western part of the North American arctic archipel- 
ago, and migrates south in vast numbers along the Pacific 
coast. It is accidental here. There is a single record in Mas- 
sachusetts of a bird taken at Chatham in the spring of 1883.^ 
There are three New York records (Eaton). Our eastern 
Brant is sometimes called the Black Brant, but this is an 

1 Cory, C. B.: Auk, 1884, p. 96. 


From a photograph by W. E. Freeman, made from his painting of the only 
specimen recorded from Massachusetts. 


BARNACLE GOOSE (Branta leucopsis). 

Length. — About 28 inches. 

Adult Female. — Front and sides of head, eliin and throat white; dark 
line from base of bill running back to eye; rest of head and neck black, 
the black extending on upper back and fore breast; shoulders and 
wing coverts gray, feathers tipped with black and white; rump and 
tail black; upper and under tail coverts, sides of rump, belly and lower 
breast white or wliitish, the flanks shaded with gray; quills dusky. 

Adult Male. — Duller than female; iris hazel brown; bill, feet and claws 

Young. — Wliite face, speckled with black; general plumage suffused with 
rufous brown, more or less marked, according to age. 

Range. — Northern part of Old World. Breeds in northern part of eastern 
hemisphere as far north as Spitzbergen; winters in Great Britain and 
western Europe, occurring south to Spain; occurs in Iceland, and in 
migration on both coasts of Greenland; recorded from Ungava, Onta- 
rio, Quebec, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York and North Caro- 


The Barnacle Goose is a wanderer from the Old World. 
One is recorded as having been killed at North Chatham, 
November 1, 1885, and mounted by N. Vickary.^ Mr. J. A. 
Farley informs me that this specimen was shot at North 
Eastham, out of a "bunch of three or four presumably of the 
same species," by Joseph Dill. It is now in the Brewster 

Mr. Warren E. Freeman, who secured this specimen for the 
collection, made a painting of the bird, from which the plate 
facing this page is taken. 


The Swans comprise the subfamily Cygnince. They are 
among the largest of all water-fowl. They are distinguished 
by the long neck, the bare space from bill to eye and the 
exact similarity in color of the two sexes. They are less at 
home on land than the Geese, but are very graceful and 
elegant upon the water. Some Swans have resonant voices, 
while others are mute. In New England we have now but 
one species, which has nearly disappeared. 

I Ornithologist and Oologist, January, 1886, Vol. 11, p. 16. 


WHISTLING SWAN {Olor columbianus) . 

Length. — 50 to 55 inches. 

Adult. — Bill as long as head; feathers on forehead end in semicircular 
outline; nostrils extend forward beyond basal half of bill; plumage 
pure white, sometimes with rusty spots on head, neck and body; beak 
white; feet black; lores black, with orange or yellow spot before eye. 

Young. — Gray; sometimes lead color first year; bill reddish. Second 
year, plumage lighter; bill white. Third year, plumage white, gray 
mottled; bill black. Plumage all white about fifth year. 

Notes. — Principally a high "flageolet-like" note; very different from the 
trombone-like tones of the Trumpeter. Varied murmurings from high 
to low, but with less volume than those of the Trumpeter Swan; the 
leader of the flock calls who-who-who in a very high key, and in re- 
sponse comes a chorus of weird sounds (Elliot). 

Season. — Rare straggler in spring, autumn and winter; formerly abundant. 

Range. — Formerly North America, from the latitude of Georgia to the 
coasts and islands of the Arctic seas; now rare or absent on the At- 
lantic seaboard north of Chesapeake Bay; breeds in Alaska and on 
Arctic islands from about latitude 74 degrees south to northern Mac- 
kenzie and northwestern Hudson Bay; winters to Louisiana, Texas 
and South Carolina, rarely to Florida; casual in northern Mexico; 
accidental in Scotland and Bermuda. 



The Swans, which once in great numbers frequented the 
rivers and estuaries along the Atlantic coast, from New Eng- 
land to Georgia, probably were mainly of this species, for it 
lives in preference nearer the sea than does the Trumpeter, 
which breeds mainly near the fresh marshes and about the lakes 
of the interior, while the Whistling Swan nests upon the shores 
and islands of the Arctic Ocean. Perhaps this species bred 
in early times on the northern coasts of Labrador or on Baf- 
fin's land and other lands to the northward, and the "greate 
store of swans" which Morton and other writers speak of as 
frequenting New England may have been recruited partly 
from this source; but by the middle of the nineteenth cen- 
tury man's persecution had either killed them off or driven 
them away, so that they had become rare in New England. 
Up to that time, however, flocks of this species were seen 
occasionally on the coast of Massachusetts, and though they 
are now so rarely seen as to be ranked as accidental or casual 
visitors, a few still pass over the State or along our coasts. 
They are almost never taken here now, unless driven by 
severe storms to alight. 

Fleming (1906) states that this species is rare now in 
Ontario, Can., and probably only accidental. He has seen 
only two dead birds and two specimens in the collection at 
Trinity University which were probably taken in Ontario.^ 

In the early days Swans wintered much farther north 
than they do now. They were seen in winter about Lake 
Ontario, as well as on the New England coast. Mr. J. F. 
Lebaron, a well-known sportsman, stated (1879) that Swans 
were seen occasionally at Ipswich in former years. Maynard 
records them as rare in winter.- They sometimes wintered 
on the Island of Nantucket. Now they rarely are seen in 
the northern States in winter. They are decreasing in the 
Chesapeake, but are increasing in Currituck Sound, N. C. 
This increase of the Swans in southern waters has given rise 

1 Fleming, James H.: Auk, 1906, p. 446. 

2 Maynard, C. J.: The Naturalist's Guide, with a complete catalogue of the birds of eastern 
Massachusetts, 1870, p. 146. 


to the mistaken idea, now held by many intelligent gunners 
and sportsmen, that the numbers of Swans are increasing. 
The Whistling Swan has been driven farther south year by 
year, until all its flocks are crowded into a region perhaps 
not one-tenth as large as the one formerly occupied by them, 
and in consequence they seem to be increasing there. In 
reality the species is decreasing steadily in numbers. Every 
year the increase of population in the southwest tends to render 
that region more unsafe for the Swan. Mr. J. D. Mitchell 
writes from Victoria, Tex., that forty years ago the bays and 
estuaries were full of Swans, and that he has seen more than 
a thousand at a time, not only in one locality but in several 
counties. He has not seen one now in more than ten years. 
Preble (1908) says that this species formerly was abundant 
in the Athabasca-Mackenzie region, where it bred. Now, he 
says, it passes through the region in small numbers, breeding 
only in the far north. 

The records of the traffic in swan's-down tell the story. 
Sixty or seventy years ago, while the birds were still abun- 
dant in the fur countries, about five hundred skins were 
traded annually at the Hudson Bay Company's post at Isle 
a la Crosse, and about three hundred annually were taken at 
Fort Anderson during the five years of its existence. Mac- 
Farlane states that between 1853 and 1877 the company 
sold seventeen thousand six hundred and seventy-one Swan 
skins. The number sold annually went from one thousand 
three hundred and twelve in 1854 down to one hundred and 
twenty-two in 1877. From 1858 to 1884, inclusive, Atha- 
basca district sent out two thousand seven hundred and five 
Swan skins, nearly all from Fort Chipewyan. Mackenzie 
River district furnished twentv-five hundred skins from 1863 
to 1883. In 1853 Athabasca turned out two hundred and 
fifty-one; in 1889 the output had dwindled to thirty-three. 
In 1889 and 1890 Isle a la Crosse sent out but two skins for 
each outfit. The rapid decrease of those birds, says Preble, 
is well illustrated by these figures.^ 

> Preble, E. A.: North American Fauna, Bureau of Biol. Surv., Dept. of Agr., 1908, No. 27, 
pp. 309, 310. 


These skins were taken from both species, but Nuttall says 
that the Trumpeter furnished the bulk of them. When it 
is considered that from all this vast region the Hudson Bay 
Company collected in the best year given only one thousand 
three hundred and twelve Swan skins, and that in the old 
days thousands of Swans were seen in a flock, it is plain that 
this traffic cannot be held entirely responsible for the de- 
crease of Swans; it could have been but a small factor in 
producing that result. The killing of Swans by Eskimos and 
Indians in August, when the birds are unable to fly, is a drain 
on their numbers; but that has been customary from time 
immemorial, yet there were multitudes of Swans when the 
white man came. 

We cannot, if we would, evade the fact that the white 
man and his gun are the chief factors in the destruction of 
the Swan. The Trumpeter suffered first and most, because 
it bred in the United States and Canada, directly in the path 
of settlement. The Whistling Swan suffered less, because it 
nested mainly on the shores of the Arctic Sea, and in the great 
lands in that sea where white men rarely go. The only safety 
for the Swans in passing over the settled regions in their 
flight to the south is to rise high in the air, wuth favoring 
winds, and never rest until they have flown twelve hundred 
or fifteen hundred miles, passed over the teeming villages 
and cities of the north and reached the more secluded and 
safer waters of the south. Unfortunately for them, however, 
they are still prone to alight to rest in isolated lakes and 
ponds, where often they are waylaid by the hunter. If a 
storm overtakes them and they have to fly below the clouds 
to see their way the wearied birds are sometimes beaten to 
earth by sleet, or are forced to alight in some stream. In 
such cases they are hardly accorded the hospitality usually 
extended to storm-beaten travellers; instead, the people 
turn out to slaughter them. 

Sennett describes an occurrence of this kind which took 
place in northwestern Pennsylvania, March 22, 1879. The 
Swans, overweighted with sleet and snow, came down in 
many places in Crawford, Mercer, Venango and Warren 


counties. They settled in ponds, streams, fields or villages 
in an almost helpless condition. Guns, rifles and clubs were 
brought into play; a large number of the birds were killed 
and many were captured alive (twenty -five in one village), 
but all were killed later for their feathers and flesh. Most 
of the Swans which alighted within sight of human habita- 
tions were slaughtered, only a few escaping.^ 

Occasionally they find safety during a storm by alighting 
on the great lakes, under the lee of some point or island. 
Rarely, a wearied, storm-beaten flock alights in Niagara River 
and is swept over the falls, where it meets with the usual 

There was a great slaughter of Swans at Niagara Falls, 
March 15, 1908; one hundred and twenty-eight birds were 
taken out of a flock that had been swept over the falls. On 
the morning of March 14 a flock of three hundred or four 
hundred Swans alighted in the upper Niagara River. All day 
Swans were seen floating down the river with the current, 
till danger of being swept into the Canadian Rapids caused 
them to rise and fly back to their starting point. Below 
Horseshoe Falls the water was breasted by a struggling mass 
of swans. The majority of them were carried by the current 
to the ice bridge, and either cast up or ground against it by 
masses of floating ice. Some were already dead, many were 
injured and the rest stunned and unable to help themselves. 
People came in crowds and killed all that could be reached 
with clubs, and the rest were shot. At least one hundred 
birds were slaughtered or picked up dead between the falls and 
the ice bridge; none escaped alive. On the 18th, three more 
Swans were taken, and on the 22d, twelve more came over 
the falls, eleven of which were taken. Others were taken in 
1906 and 1907.2 

There is little safety for a Swan in America unless it is 
high in the air or has a mile of open water all around it. When 
the shotgun will not carry far enough the long-range rifle is 
brought into play. If the Swan alights on a game preserve 

1 Sennett, George B.: Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, 1880, pp. 125, 126. 
! Fleming, Jamea H.: Auk, 1908, pp. 306-308. 


in the north it is shot because it is rare, and is wanted for 
a "specimen;" if it alights in New England, and is seen, 

it rarely gets away. 

The great Swan shooting ground now is Currituck Sound. 
Here the birds find open water, food is plentiful and they 
are far less harried than on Chesapeake Bay. This is the 
secret of their increase there, and they will probably continue 
to maintain their numbers there for years, provided the con- 
ditions remain favorable. 

There are a good many records of the occurrence of 
Swans in New England. Mr. Robert O. Morris of Spring- 
field, Mass., saw one at Longmeadow "more than twenty 
years ago." Mr. John Daland, Jr., of Salem says that one 
was seen at Plum Island about 188.5. About 1888 Mr. George 
Linder saw a flock of over twenty Swans flying very high 
over Newton, Mass. A small flock was seen on the Charles 
River in 1891. ^ A Whistling Swan was kifled at Flatlands, 
within the limits of Greater New York, by Asher \Miite, 
December 24, 1901. ^ Six on November 28, 1902, and another 
on December 1 were seen by W. H. Vivian of Gloucester, 
Mass.^ Mr. E. W. Eaton writes that he shot at a "bunch" 
of seven Swans near the mouth of the Merrimac River in 
November, 1902, wounding one; one of these was shot after- 
wards by George F. Thurlow (November 28). The Rev. 
Albert E. Hylan states that one was seen by the captain of a 
towboat on Long Island Sound in 1906. Dr. L. C. Sanford 
writes me that he saw a Swan flying over Watch Hill, R. I., in 
September, 1908. Mr. Talbot Denmead of Baltimore writes 
(1908) that about five hundred still winter near Carroll's Island 
in Chesapeake Bay, on a club preserve where few are shot; and 
Col. L. R. Cheney of Hartford states that he has seen as many 
as five hundred in a single day off Virginia beach, about eight 
miles north of the North Carolina line. Several correspondents 
state that three fine specimens of this species were taken on 
Nantucket, Mass., November 29, 1906. ^ Two were shot on 

1 Chamberlain, Montague: Nuttall's Manual, 1891, Vol. II, p. 29S. 

2 Braislin, William C: Auk, 1903, p. 52. 

3 Townsend, C. W.: Birds of Essex County, 1905, p. 151. 

4 Bent, A. C: Auk, 1907, p. 212. 


Squibnocket Pond, Martha's Vineyard, Mass., by Mr. Gardiner 
Hammond, one on November 28, 1906, and the other on the 
next day. These are now in the Thayer collection at Lan- 
caster, Mass.^ John Burroughs has seen Swans passing in 
migration on the Hudson at a great height. It is easy for them 
to fly at such a height as to be above the notice of ordinary 
observers, and if any of the descendants of the Swans which 
once followed a flightway over New England are still living, 
they probably pursue the same line that was followed by their 
ancestors. Possibly a few still may breed in Labrador and 
migrate down the Atlantic seaboard. Mr. E. T. Carbonnell 
says that several flocks have been seen in Charlottetown, 
P. E. I., in recent years. One flew over the city in 1909. 

In moving from their arctic homes in autumn the Swans 
seemingly divide their forces; part going toward the Pacific 
coast, part southeastward toward the south Atlantic States 
and part south through the region of the Mississippi valley. 
They seem to fly undeviatingly across the country, crossing 
river valleys or mountain ranges, steering a course straight 
for their distant goal. Wlien they arrive at their destination 
they pay little attention to decoys, but busy themselves by 
plunging their heads to the bottom in shallow water and 
digging up the bottom grass with their beaks. When they 
find the favorite morsels they often dig large holes in the 
bottom. The Swan does not dive, but can readily reach bot- 
tom in about three feet of water by standing on its head on 
the bottom and paddling with its feet to keep its balance. 
When undisturbed it is a noisy bird, though silent when 
alarmed. When a flock is at ease, their weird, high -keyed 
calls and deeper tones may be heard in chorus. Dawson 
says that the bass horns "of tin rather than brass" are blown 
by the old fellows, while varied notes, like those of the clari- 
net, come from the cygnets or young birds. ^ Nevertheless, 
the old males often give utterance to very high shrill notes 
when leading the flock in flight. 

One of the supposed myths of antiquity is the song of 

1 Thayer, J. E.: Auk, 1907, p. 212. 

2 Dawson, William Leon, and Jones, Lyndea: Birds of Ohio, 1903, Vol. II, p. 572. 


the dying Swan, so often the theme of the poet. Elliot says 
that he has killed many Swans which never uttered a sound; 
but once on Currituck Sound, N. C, he and Mr. F. W. Leg- 
gett fired at some Swans passing high over head, and one of 
them, mortally wounded, set its wings and began its death 
song, "which was continued until the water was reached, 
nearly half a mile away." The song was plaintive and musi- 
cal, and at times sounded like "the soft running of the notes 
in an octave." Dr. Elliot found upon inquiry among the 
gunners that others had heard somewhat similar tones from 
dying Swans. Thus another myth of the olden time becomes 

a reality. 

With the first signs of spring the Swans marshal their 
depleted lines, and, rising high in air, set out for the shores 
of the Arctic Sea, where lies their only hope of safety and 

Note. — The Whooper Swan (Olor cygnns) of Europe is noted by 
Knight in his Birds of Maine (page VU). This is a bird of the northern 
parts of the Old World, but occasionally visits Greenland. Knight refers 
to the taking of a specimen in Washington County, Me., by Charles S. 
Hunnewell. This was recorded by C. H. Clark (Jour. Me. Orn. Soc, 1905, 
p. 23), but the record is not mentioned in the third edition of the Ameri- 
can Ornithologists' Union Check-List. 

Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots. 

This family of marsh birds, known to naturalists as the 
Rallidoe, is a large and important one, which occupies a posi- 
tion between the Herons and the shore birds. The members 
of the family are of small or medium size, with rather long 
narrow bodies and large strong legs and thighs, which prob- 
ably have been developed by the effort of wading in mud 
and pushing the body through the tall grass, reeds, canes 
and water plants among which these birds find refuge. The 
feet usually are formed for walking, and the toes are long 
enough to support the body in passing over mud or floating 
water plants. The Coots, however, have the foot peculiarly 
adapted for swimming. It is intermediate between that of a 
Grebe and that of a Phalarope. Each toe is provided with 


a membranous flap or lobe, thus making a folding paddle 
of the foot. (Fig. 11.) The wings of this family are not 
long and pointed, as in the shore birds, but short, rounded 

and concave. The flight is rather weak 
and not long sustained, except in migra- 
tion; and some of the species, living on 
islands in the sea, do not migrate and have 
lost the use of their wings, except, per- 
haps, in diving and swimming under water. 
Many species are very abundant, but they 

Fig. 11. — Foot of Coot. i , , , i • t .1 , .1 • 

are such adepts at hiding that their very 
existence is unknown to the casual observer. The plumage 
usually is subdued in tint to facilitate concealment; but some 
of the Gallinules are rather brilliant in color; nevertheless, 
their colors may be so adapted to their surroundings as to be 
protective. America furnishes many excellent examples of this 

Two species of Rail breed rather commonly in New York 
and New England along wet runs, in river meadows and in 
large swamps of grass, reeds and cat-tails. The Coot, which 
somewhat resembles a Duck in appearance, is not so common, 
and may be seen mainly on marsh-bordered ponds in autumn, 
while the Florida Gallinule is a rare summer resident of south- 
ern New York and New England. 

KING RAIL {Rallus elegans). 

Length. — 17 to 19 inches. 

Adult. — Above rich olive brown, distinctly streaked with black and olive 
gray, sometimes with a yellow tinge; crown dark brown; a brownish 
white line over eye, turning to brownish gray behind eye, and a broad 
dusky streak through and below it; wings brown of varying shades; 
under parts deep cinnamon, darkest on breast, fading to dull white 
on throat, belly and under tail coverts; sides and flanks dark brown, 
dusky or black, with white bars. 

Downy Young. — Glossy black. 

Field Marks. — Much larger than Virginia Rail; closely resembling it, 
but sides of head less gray; size of Clapper Rail, but much brighter in 
color; olive brown above rather than gray, and breast cinnamon rather 
than buflf, as in the Clapper. 


Notes. — A loud hwp, hup, bup, hup, hup, increasing in rapidity to a roll, 
then ending somewhat as it began, occupying about five seconds (Chap- 
man). A grunting umph, uraph, umph, umph; notes on same key and 
separated by rather wide intervals, deep and guttural, sometimes harsh 
and vibrant (Brewster). Eaton says that so far as he is aware no one 
has actually seen the bird uttering its notes. 

Nest. — Of grasses, on the ground in fresh-water marshes. 

Eggs. — Seven to twelve, buffy white, more heavily spotted and speckled 
with rufous brown than those of the Clapper Rail, about 1.68 by 1.20. 

Season. — Has been taken rarely in New England or New York at all 

Range. — Eastern North America. Breeds from Nebraska, southern Min- 
nesota, Ontario, New York and Connecticut south to Texas, Florida 
and Cuba; winters mainly in the southern part of its breeding range; 
casual north to South Dakota and Maine. 

This large and handsome Rail closely resembles the Vir- 
ginia Rail except in size. It is regarded as an accidental 
visitor to New England from the south. Following are all 
the Massachusetts records known to me: Mr. George O. 
Welch had, in 1877, a mounted specimen shot at Nahant, 
November 21, 1875. ^ In 1878 there was a specimen in the 
collection of Mr. George E. Browne of Dedham; killed, some 
years before, in Sudbury. ^ A male was taken at Chatham, 
September 24, 1884; it was preserved in the collection of 
Mr. Foster H. Brackett; the head and legs are now in the 
Brewster collection.^ A specimen was caught in a muskrat 
trap at North Truro, "early in February, 1892." ^ An adult 
female was taken by Mr. J. H. Bowles at Readville, Septem- 
ber 9, 1893.3 ^ niale in the Peabody Academy collection 
was caught in a garden in Salem, on July 10, 1894.^ Another, 
a young bird, was taken by Mr. Bowles at Readville, August 
27, 1894, and is now in the Brewster collection. ^ A male was 
taken at Longmeadow, near Springfield, October 19, 1895, by 

1 Purdie, H. A.: Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, 1877, p. 22. 

2 Ibid., 1878, p. 146. 

3 Brewster, William: Memoirs, Nuttall Orn. Club, No. IV, Birds of the Cambridge Region of 

Massachusetts, 1906, p. 144. 

4 Miller, G. S., Jr.: Auk, 1892, p. 396. 

5 Townsend, C. W.: Memoirs, Nuttall Orn. Club, No. Ill, Birds of Essex County, Mass., 1905. 

p. 159. 


W. C. Pease. ^ A male, taken at Cambridge, December 30, 
1896, is now in the collection of Mr. Alfred Hill of Belmont.^ 
Mr. George Patterson shot a specimen at Ipswich, in October, 
1901; it was placed in the Peabody Academy collection.^ 
At Ellisville, Plymouth County, January 20, 1903, an adult 
female was shot by Mr. Clarence Chandler.^ A male is 
recorded by Mr. F. H. Kennard as taken at Needham, October 
10, 1907.^ An adult male was taken at Chatham, October 
31, 1909, by Mr. Russell Bearse.^ 

As this Rail has been known to breed in Connecticut and 
near Buffalo, N. Y.; as it has been taken in New York in 
November, and is recorded from Maine and Massachusetts 
in winter; and as one of the birds taken by Mr. Bowles was 
very young, it possibly breeds in Massachusetts, and very 
likely is less rare than it is rated. Its retiring habits probably 
account for our lack of knowledge regarding it. Little seems 
to be known of it except that it appears to prefer fresh marshes 
to salt marshes. I have never seen it alive. 

Dr. Bachman, in South Carolina, seems to have had a 
better opportunity of observing its habits than any one else 
who has written about it. He states that he found twenty 
pairs breeding within a space having a diameter of thirty 
yards, and that the nests were placed on the ground, being 
raised up six or eight inches by means of withered weeds and 
grasses; but Wayne, who has also found numerous nests, 
finds them in rushes or buttonwood bushes, from eight to 
eighteen inches over water. He noted that the female laid 
an egg each day after 11 a.m., and on laying the twelfth 
began at once to incubate. This Rail frequents the swampy 
borders of rivers and fresh-water ponds overgrown with vege- 
tation. The stomach of one specimen was filled with seeds 
of Arundo teda; that of another contained a quantity of oats. 

1 Morris, Robert O.: Auk, 1896, p. 86. 

2 Farley, J. A.: Auk, 1905, p. 409. 

3 Townsend, C. W.: Memoirs, Nuttall Orn. Club, No. UI, Birds of Essex County, Mass., 1905, 
p. 159. 

< Reagh, A. L.: Auk, 1903, p. 304. 
6 Kennard, F. H.: Auk. 1907, p. 218. 
6 Fay, S. Proscott: Auk, 1910, p. 221. 



CLAPPER RAIL (Rallus crepitans crepitans). 

Length. — 13.50 to 16 inches. 

Adult. — Above ashy oUve gray striped with olive brown, but not as dis- 
tinctly as the King Rail; wings and tail brown; crown and nape brown 
or dusky; a white stripe from bill to above eye; sides of head, neck, 
breast and flanks ashy olive gray, turning to white on throat and chin 
and to pale brownish yellow or buffy on breast; flanks darker, barred 
with white; general tone subdued gray with subdued brown tints; bill 
long, slender and down curved. 

Field Marks. — Resembles the Virginia Rail and the King Rail in form, but 
is much larger and grayer or paler than our common Rails; salt-water 
marshes mainly. 

Notes. — • Gkak, gkak, gkak, at first loud and rapid, ending lower and slower 

Nest. — A pile of dead rushes, grasses, etc., in the salt marsh. 

Eggs. — Seven to twelve, about 1.70 by 1.20, buffy or whitish, rather spar- 
ingly spotted with reddish brown and obscure purplish. 

Range. — • Salt marshes of the Atlantic coast. Breeds from Connecticut to 
North Carolina; winters mainly south of New Jersey; casual north to 

This large Rail is regarded as an accidental visitor to 
Massachusetts from New York or farther south, where it 
lives mainly in the salt marshes. Linsley (1848) found it 


breeding abundantly near Stratford, Conn. It was formerly 
very numerous on Long Island, and still breeds along the 
southerly end of that island in considerable numbers (Eaton). 
It has been reported from Rhode Island. It may have been 
more common in Massachusetts in early times than now, 
but there is no actual evidence that it ever bred here. A few 
specimens have been taken in Maine. 

There are eleven definite records of its occurrence in Mas- 
sachusetts, and two of these are in the neighborhood of Spring- 
field, far away from its usual range in the salt marsh. The 
records follow : A specimen was presented by Theodore Lyman 
to the Boston Society of Natural History, August 7, 1850. ^ 
An adult was taken by Mr. G. E. Browne, at Dedham, in 
1863.2 One was shot by Mr. C. L. Blood, at Taunton, 
October 9, 1864.^ Mr. J. F. LeBaron informed Mavnard 
that he shot one "some years ago," at Ipswich (prior to 
1870).^ One flew aboard a vessel and was captured, May 4, 
1875, and was placed in the mounted collection of the Boston 
Society of Natural History. ^ Mr. Arthur Smith shot a 
Clapper Rail late in October, 1879, at Gurnet Point, Plym- 
outh.^ A specimen was taken at Rocky Nook, Kingston, 
on December 29, 1885.'^ Two instances of its occurrence are 
given at Northampton and Hadley Meadows by Mr. R. O. 
Morris.^ A male was taken at East Orleans, November 30, 
1895, by John G. Rodgers, and is now in the Brewster col- 
lection.^ In Ipswich, September 15, 1908, Mr. William P. 
Wharton picked up, on the beach at Plum Island, near the 
mouth of the Ipswich River, a dead Clapper Rail.^ A 
young male was shot October 20, 1910, by T. C. Wilson, 
and recorded by Dr. John C. Phillips. ^° 

1 Cabot, Dr. S., Jr.: Proc. Bost. Soe. Nat. Hist., 1851, Vol. Ill, p. 326. 

2 Wakefield, J. R.: Birds of Dedham, 1891, p. 71. 

' Howe, R. H., and Allen, Glover M.: Birds of Massachusetts, 1901, p. 17. 
" Maynard, C. J.: Nat. Guide, 1870, p. 14.5. 

5 Purdie, H. A.: Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, 1877, p. 22. 

6 Brewster, William: Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, 1880, pp. 62, 63. 

7 Browne, F. C.: Auk, 1887, p. 344. 

8 Brewster, William: Auk, 1901, p. 136. 

9 Auk, 1909, pp. 76, 77. 
10 Ihid.., 1911, p. 119. 



VIRGINIA RAIL (Rallus virginianus) . 
Common or local names: Long-billed Rail; Fresh-water Marsh-hen. 

Length. — 8.50 to 10.50 inches; bill 1.50. 

Adult. — Top of head, back of neck and back rich olive brown, streaked 
with blackish; feathers sometimes bordered with pale grayish; sides 
of head ash gray; line from bill to above eye white; below it a blackish 
stripe from bill through eye; chin and throat white; wings and tail 
dark grayish brown; wing coverts rich reddish brown; below a warm 
brown; lower belly and flanks black, barred with white; bill long, 
slightly curved. 

Young. — Above much as in adult but darker; throat and line down the 
middle of the under parts whitish; rest of under parts blackish. 

Downy Young. — • Sooty black, with yellowish bill. 

Field Marks. — Size of Bob-white; long reddish bill and rich brown breast 
distinguish this bird from the Sora. 

Notes. — Call, kep, kik or kip; song, a grunting sound, tvak-imk-wak, and 
cut, cutta-cutta-cutta (Brewster). Female, when anxious, ki-ki-ki or Idu, 
like a Flicker (Eaton). 

Nest. — Of grasses in marshy land. 

Eggs. — Six to twelve, pale grayish or buffy white, spotted and speckled 
with reddish brown and lilac, about 1.26 by .96. 

Season. — Common local summer resident; early April to middle of October; 
a few winter in southeastern Massachusetts. 


Range. — North America. Breeds from British Columbia, southern Sas- 
katchewan, southern Keewatin, Ontario, southern Quebec and New 
Brunswick south to southern Cahfornia, Utah, Kansas, Missouri, IIH- 
nois. New Jersey and eastern North Caroh"na, and in Toluca valley, 
Mexico; winters from Oregon, Utah and Colorado to Lower California 
and Guatemala; also in the lower Mississippi States, and from North 
Carolina (casually Massachusetts) to Florida; occurs casually north 
to northern Quebec and Newfoundland. 


It is difficult to obtain accurate data regarding the former 
numbers of this species, as it hides away in fresh-water marshes 
and is httle known. It is reported, however, from every 
county in the State, and may breed in all. It is found on 
Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket in winter, but 
probably the birds which summer there pass farther south. 
So little of the bird is known to the gunners among my cor- 
respondents that only thirty-four report it. Four mention 
an increase in its numbers in their localities and thirty a 

One of the wonders of my early boyhood was a Rail's 
nest, discovered by a boy companion on the edge of a swampy 
run within the present limits of Boston. We got a glimpse 
of the long curved bill of the mother Rail, which proved it 
to be a Virginia. Great was our rejoicing over the eleven 
glossy, buffy eggs, with their lovely brown and lilac spots. 
The nest was built among the driftwood and grasses under 
an alder bush at the edge of the run. 

A little water, lots of mud, a lonely bog with a wilderness 
of cat-tails and sedge make an ideal home for Rails. "Thin 
as a Rail" they have to be to pass between the stems of the 
reeds and water plants under cover of which they live. An 
inch is ample space for a Rail to pass, for it can compress 
the narrow body until it takes less room than that. Much 
of the Rails' life is spent in running and sneaking about 
under cover of the rank vegetation of the marsh and meadow, 
for Rails have many enemies. "When forced to fly they 
flutter feebly along, only a few feet from the grass tops, with 
legs dangling loosely, and soon drop back into cover. Little 


is known about their habits and food. They walk or run 
rapidly over half-submerged vegetation, swim as lightly as 
a Duck in passing across from one cover to another, and slip 
easily through their covered ways, even in the night, for they 
are abroad more or less at night as well as by day. The hesi- 
tating, heavy flight of this Rail would seem to make a long 
migration difficult, if not impossible; nevertheless, long flights 
are taken yearly to the south. Rails in migration appear 
to fly very low, and many are killed by flying against tele- 
graph wires. They cross large rivers and bays in their flights, 
which are made under cover of night. 

This Rail feeds on beetles and other insects, and its food 
also includes caterpillars, earthworms, slugs, snails and such 
small forms of animal life as it finds on fresh marshes, for 
it rarely appears on salt marshes. As autumn approaches, 
seeds of various kinds are added to the bill of fare. 


SORA (Porzana Carolina). 
Common or local names : Rail-bird; Meadow Chicken; Chicken-bill; Carolina Rail. 

Length. — 8 to 9 inches; bill .75. 

Adult. — Top of head and back of neck olive brown; a blackish stripe 
through the center of crown; back, wings and tail olive brown, streaked 
with black and a little white; sides of head and neck, line over eye, 
and breast ash gray; forehead, region about base of bill and a streak 
down middle of throat and breast black; lower belly white; flanks 
brown and grayish, barred with white and blackish; bill short, yellow. 

Young. — Similar, but no black about bill or on throat, which is whitish; 
breast washed with cinnamon; darker above than adult. 

Field Marks. — Nearly as large as Bob-white, but slimmer; short yellow 
bill distinguishes it from long-billed Virginia Rail. 

Notes. — Kuk or peep; song, ker-wee; and a high, rolling whinny (Chap- 
man). Ca-weep-eep, ca-weep-eep-eep-ip-ip-ip (Hatch). Also a variety 
of other notes. 

Nest. — Of grasses, on ground in marshes. 

Eggs. — Eight to fifteen, buffy white or buff, sparsely spotted and speckled 
with brown and purplish gray, 1.24 by .90. 

Season. — Common to abundant migrant, and less common local summer 
resident; early April to early November. 

Range. — North America. Breeds from central British Columbia, southern 
Mackenzie, central Keewatin and Gulf of St. Lawrence south to south- 
ern California, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois and New Jersey; 
winters from northern California, Illinois and South Carolina through 
the West Indies and Central America to Venezuela and Peru; acci- 
dental in Bermuda, Greenland and England. 



The Sora Rail inhabits the same locahties as the Virginia 
Rail, but it also frequents the salt or brackish marshes near 
the mouths of rivers, and the bays and estuaries of the sea. 
It resorts to these situations in such numbers in Connecticut 
and the middle and southern States that gunners are enabled 
to take advantage of its predicament when the tide rises, 
and by pursuing it in boats they slaughter multitudes. The 
high water drives the Rails to the highest points on the marsh, 
and as the gunner in his skiff approaches they take wing. 
Their flight is so slow and direct that a good shot rarely misses 
one. Audubon states that he saw a gunner kill fifty Clapper 
Rails without a miss, and he was assured that another had 
killed one hundred "straight." 

Dr. Lewis gives a record of the bags of Sora Rails killed 
by a few men on the Delaware River, below Philadelphia, 
in 1846. The thirty-four records of consecutive days show 
an average of about one hundred Rails per man per day. 
He states that over one thousand Rails were brought into 
Chester in one day. Dr. Brewer (1884) says that it is not 
uncommon for an expert marksman to kill from one hundred 
to one hundred and fifty Rails per day; and such scores were 
made on the Connecticut River in Connecticut in olden times, 
when there was no legal limit to the bag. This slaughter has 
made some inroads on the numbers of the birds in Massa- 
chusetts. Mr. Robert O. Morris writes that it is said that 
about one thousand were killed at Longmeadow, near Spring- 
field, in 1908. 

Five Massachusetts correspondents report the species as 
increasing in their localities, and forty note a decrease. Mr. 
Morris is very positive that there has been a great and con- 
tinuous decrease of Rails along the Connecticut River near 
Springfield, and I have noticed a similar diminution in fresh- 
water meadows in eastern Massachusetts. 

The Sora is inclined to nest in more watery portions of 
the marsh or morass than the Virginia Rail. It is a good 
swimmer and diver at need, and the young will take to the 


water as soon as they leave the egg-shell, if necessary to 
escape danger. The little ones are black, with a tuft of yellow 
feathers on the throat and a red protuberance at the upper 
base of the bill. Although this bird has the reputation of 
being very shy, I have come upon a single bird occasionally, 
while canoeing, in August, running along the muddy margin 
of a river or resting upon the bank. In such a situation it is 
easy to go very close to the bird without alarming it. Some- 
times its curiosity is so strong that a small flock will surround 
a recumbent duck hunter and even peck at his clothing; but 
a sudden movement is enough to send them scampering into 
the reeds. 

In September, when the wild rice is falling, these birds 
gather in our marshes to feed upon it, and at that season a 
stone thrown into the cat-tails or a paddle struck flat on the 
surface of the water will often start a chorus of their cries. 
I believe that individuals of this species have wonderful vocal 
powers. One moonlit evening on the Concord River I was 
entertained for more than an hour by a curious jumble of 
sounds from the marshy border of the river, that could be 
attributed only to this Rail. Many of the notes were recog- 
nizable as belonging to the Sora, but there were imitations of 
the Flicker, the Bob-white and several other species. It was 
a performance that would have done credit to many a bird 
regarded as a songster. The next morning a search along the 
river shore was carried on in vain, until finally, about 8 o'clock, 
the song was heard again. I was able, by careful stalking, to 
get within a few feet of the bird ; but never saw it distinctly. 
At the first appearance of my head above the greenery of the 
shore the bird plunged in among the water plants, and I 
have never seen it since or heard a similar song. This was 
one of the unique experiences of a lifetime. 

The Sora apparently possesses greater powers of flight than 
most other Rails, as Dr. Brewer states that large flights have 
landed in the Bermudas on southwest winds. 

The food of this species apparently does not differ much 
from that of the Virginia Rail, but it seems to feed more 
largely on seeds and vegetation. 



YELLOW RAIL {Coturnicops noveboracensis) . 

Length. — 6 to 7.50 inches. 

Adult. — Above streaked with blackish and brownish yellow, with fine cross 
lines and bars of white; a dusky streak from bill across cheek to ear; 
sides of head, neck and under parts pale brownish yellow, fading on 
belly, with rows of darker marks on flanks and numerous narrow white 
bars; bill yellow; legs and feet pale brownish yellow. 

Field Marks. — Small size, yellowish color; the wing in flight shows much 

Notes. — An abrupt cackling, 'krek, 'krck, 'krek, krek, kiik, Ickh (Nuttall). 
Kik-kik-kik-kik-queah, or, more rarely, kik-kik-kik-kik-kik-kik-kik-kik-ki- 
queah (J. H. Ames). 

Season. — A rare migrant, April and May, September to November; re- 
corded in December and June. 

Range. — Chiefly eastern North America. Breeds from southern Macken- 
zie and southern Ungava south to Minnesota and Maine; winters in the 
Gulf States, rarely in California, Illinois and North Carolma; casual m 
Nevada, Utah and Bermuda. 

This little Rail is seen rather rarely in Massachusetts. 
Nuttall (1834) says that according to a Mr. Ives the bird is 
frequently found in marshes near Salem, Mass. I have met 
with it alive onlv once, but have seen a considerable number 
of specimens taken in Massachusetts, several of which were 
killed by the Boston taxidermist, Mr. C. I. Goodale, in Wake- 
field, Mass. It probably is more common in migration than 
is believed generally, as it is very small and its habits are 


secretive. As it was found nesting in Maine by Boardman, it 
is not improbable that it may yet be known to breed in other 
New England States. It is even more reluctant than the 
other Rails to take wing; hence it is seen rarely, but is some- 
times caught by dogs and cats. When forced to take wing it 
flies in the same hesitating, fluttering manner as the other 
Rails, but rather swifter and sometimes to a considerable 
distance. It can swim and dive well in case of necessity. 

A Rail which was not seen, but often heard, near Cam- 
bridge, Mass., in 1889,^ was believed to be the Black Rail. 
This peculiar note was heard by Brewster and other orni- 
thologists in Concord, Sudbury, Falmouth and other localities 
at dates between 1889 and 1901, and the bird was believed to 
have bred in Cambridge in 1889. It was locally known as the 
"kicker," and, according to Brewster, it commonly cried Mk, 
kik, kik, queeah; kik-kik-kik-ki-queeah; kik-ki-ki-ki, ki-queeah; 
klc-kic, klc-kic, kw-kic-ki-queeah. This does not agree with the 
notes given by Wayne, who actually saw and took both the 
male and female Black Rail in South CaroHna, and listened 
to their cries for more than an hour. The notes given by Mr. 
J. H. Ames for the Yellow Rail rather closely resemble those 
credited to that ornithological mystery the "kicker." As Mr. 
Ames kept his Rail alive and saw it utter its notes, he cannot 
well be mistaken. 

Wayne states that in South Carolina he found it nearly 
impossible to flush these birds with a dog when their only 
cover was short dead grass. His dog caught nine and flushed 
but one. Fresh-water snails were found in their stomachs. 

> Brewster, William: Auk, 1901, pp. 321-328. 



BLACK RAIL {Credscus jamaicensis) . 
Common or local name: Little Black Rail. 

\ .. 

Length. — About 5 inches. 

Adult. — Head, chin, throat, fore and side neck, and lower parts dark slate 
or dusky; head darkest on top and nape, where it meets the brown of 
hind neck; back and hinder parts mainly rich brown; wings and tail 
brownish black, marked with white; back, wings, belly, flanks, tail 
coverts and tail barred with white. 

Field Marks. — Smallest of all Rails and very dark; must not be confounded 
with the young of other Rails, which also are small and black. 

Notes. — Probably kik-kik-kik, queeah, or kik-k-i-h-U, k~i, queeah, or vari- 
ants (Brewster). Chi-chi-cro-croo-croo several times repeated in a sharp 
high tone, audible to a considerable distance (Marsh). Female, Croo- 
croo-croo-o repeated like the commencement of the song of the Yellow- 
bellied Cuckoo; male, Kik-Hk-kik-kHk or Kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk (Wayne). 

Nest. — Of grasses, on ground in marsh. 

Eggs. — Six to ten, 1.05 by .80, white speckled with rich reddish brown dots, 
more numerous at large end. 

iJanf/e. — Eastern North America. Breeds from southern Ontario and 
Massachusetts south to Kansas, Illinois and South Carolina; winters 
through the Gulf States and south to Jamaica and Guatemala; casual 
in Bermuda. 


The Black Rail, the smallest Rail in America, is believed 

to be a very rare bird in New England, where it has been 

recorded only from Maine, Connecticut and Massachusetts, 

in which States it possibly breeds. So far as our present in- 


formation goes, Massachusetts appears to be near the northern 
hmit of its breeding range on the Atlantic coast, but it may go 
farther north. Eaton gives only five records of specimens 
actually taken in New York, and five more have been reported 
as seen at close range; but such records are received with 
caution, as the black, downy young of larger Rails are mis- 
taken for Black Rails. Wayne appears to be the first observer 
who has actually seen the female Black Rail on her nest in the 
United States, and recorded it. The nest was in an oat field, 
and the standing grain where the nest was had been cut. The 
bird is so secretive that, as related by Wayne, two men and a 
dog searched four hours for the male in the oat field before it 
could be secured, although it was calling incessantly. This 
bird may not be as rare as it is rated. 

The Black Rail runs swiftly, like a mouse, through the 
herbage, and seldom flies, although in migration it has reached 
the Bermuda Islands. Gosse quotes a Mr. Robinson who says 
that in Jamaica it is so foolish as to hide its head and cock up 
its tail, thinking itself safe, when it is easily taken alive. The 
Massachusetts records given by Howe and Allen follow: A 
specimen was picked up dead in August, 1869, on Clark's 
Island in Plymouth harbor.^ Another was found on the 
streets of Boston, by D. T. Curtis, September 20, 1874.2 This 
record may not be authentic. Mr. Curtis evidently did not 
know the Rail, and he states that the bird was black and had 
long yellow legs. It might have been the young of some other 
Rail or Gallinule, as, so far as can be determined from the 
article in Forest and Stream, no ornithologist saw it. It was 
kept for a while and afterwards liberated. A pair was found 
with young at Chatham in July, 1884, and a nest with eggs in 
May, 1885.^ Howe and Allen also quote Mr. Robert O. Morris 
to the effect that the species bred in Hazardville, according to 
J. H. Batty. ^ The latter record, however, should be credited 
to Connecticut, as Hazardville is near Enfield, Conn. A male 
was taken by Mr. Stanley Cobb at Milton, May 16, 1904. 

1 Purdie, H. A.: Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, 1877, p. 22. 

2 Curtis, D. T.: Forest and Stream, Apr. 5, 1877, Vol. VIII, p. 129. 

3 Allen, J. A.: Revised List of the Birds of Mass., 1886, p. 236. 

* Morris, Robert O.: Birds of Springfield and Vicinity, 1901, p. 13. 



PURPLE GALLINULE {lonornis martinicus). 

Length. — About 13.50 inches. 

Adult. — Back bright shining oHve green; wings deeper green, shaded with 
blue; head, neck and breast rich bluish purple; belly darker; frontal 
shield on forehead blue; under tail coverts white; bill carmine, tipped 
with yellow; feet yellow. 

Young. — Browner above; mostly white below; no red on bill. 

Notes. — Resemble the delicate whistling of the Blue-winged Teal (Audubon). 

Range. — Tropical and subtropical America. Breeds from Texas, Tennessee, 
and South Carolina south to Ecuador and Paraguay; winters from 
Texas, Louisiana and Florida southward; irregularly north in summer 
to Arizona, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and 
New Brunswick; accidental in England and Bermuda. 

This elegant Galliniile is a wanderer from the south, and 
probably straggles into all the New England States occasion- 
ally. Col. Nicolas Pike states that it was "formerly very 


plentiful" on Long Island, but is "slowly passing away," and 
that he has not seen one for many years. ^ He collected birds 
on Long Island during the 30's and 40's of the last century. 
Giraud (1848) rates it as extremely rare there in his day. 
Eaton gives but three records of the species in New York, and 
Knight gives but three definite records for Maine. Howe and 
Allen give the following for Massachusetts: One was seen at 
Stoneham, November 27, 1837. ^ A specimen was taken at 
Swampscott, by S. Jillson, April 22, 1852. ^ Another was ob- 
tained from Cape Cod by William Brewster, in April, 1870." 
One was killed at Hummock Pond, Nantucket, in October, 
1872.^ One was shot at Rockport by Robert Wendel, April 
12, 1875.^ One was sent to Faneuil Hall Market, Boston, in 
April, 1890, which had been caught in a trap.^ A female was 
taken at Plymouth, April 9, 1892 (C. C. Wood).^ One was 
caught in June, 1897, at Boxford; "another, supposed to be 
of the same species, and the mate were seen at the pond." ^ 
Dr. Townsend gives the following additional records in his 
Birds of Essex County : A male, now in the Peabody Academy 
Collection, was taken at Saugus, May 10, 1875. A specimen 
in possession of Mrs. W. S. Horner, at Georgetown, was taken 
about 1891 at Byfield; reported by Mr. J. A. Farley.^ One 
was taken in West Newbury, in October, 1893, by J. W. Pray, 
and is now in the Peabody Academy Collection.^*' 

This bird feeds on insects, worms, mollusks, snails and 
other small aquatic animals, and on fruit, seeds and other 
vegetable productions. 

1 Dutcher, William: Auk, 1893, p. 272. 

2 Peabody, W. B. 0.: Report on the Ornithology of Mass., 1839, p. 258. 

3 Putnam, F. W.: Proc. Essex Inst., 1856, Vol. 1, p. 224. 

* Baird, S. F., Brewer, T. M., and Ridgeway, R.: Water Birds, 1884, Vol. 1, p. 385. 

5 Brewer, T. M.: Proc. Bost. Soc. Nat. Hist., 1879, Vol. XX, p. 105. 

6 Whitman, G. P.: Amer. Nat., October, 1875, Vol. LX., No. 10, p. 573. 
' Farley, J. A.: Auk, 1901, p. 190. 

8 Ornithologist and Oologist, May, 1892, Vol. XVII, No. 5, p. 72. 

9 Auk, 1901, p. 398. 

1" Townsend, C. W.: Memoirs of the Nuttall Orn. Club, the Birds of Essex County, Mass., No. 3, 
p. 161. 



FLORIDA GALLINULE {Gallinula galeata). 
Common or local names: Mud-hen; Red-billed Mud-hen; Water-chicken. 

Length. — 13.50 inches. 

Adult. — Head and neck blackish slate; body slate gray, brownish on the 
back and washed on the belly with whitish; under tail coverts white; 
bill and plate on forehead bright red, the former tipped with greenish 
yellow; edge of wing and a stripe on flank white; toes not lobed. 

Young. — Similar, but duller; whitish below; throat sometimes wholly white; 
bill and forehead brownish. 

Field Marks. — The plate of bright red on front of head, the red bill and a 
white stripe on flank (sometimes covered or wanting) distinguish it 
from the Coot. Tail, when carried erect, shows a patch of white be- 
neath it. 

Notes. — Chuck, and many loud calls, suggesting a hen brooding or squawking. 

Nest. — Like that of the Coot. 

Eggs. — Eight to fourteen, 1.75 by 1.20, buflf or brown, variable, spotted 
with dark brown. 

Season. — Rare migrant and local summer resident; late April to early 

Range. — Tropical and temperate America. Breeds from central California 
Arizona, Nebraska, Minnesota, Ontario, New York and Vermont south 
to Chile and Argentina, and in Bermuda; winters from southern Cali- 
fornia, Arizona, Texas and Georgia southward; casual in Colorado, 
Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Maine. 


The name Florida Gallinule is rather a misnomer for this 
species, as it is a bird of temperate and tropical America 
generally. Josselyn in his two voyages to New England (1672) 
mentions Duckers or Moor-hens among the birds he found 
here; and Brewster opines that, as Josselyn also mentions the 
Coot, and as the Moor-hen of England closely resembles our 
Florida Gallinule, there can be little or no question that he 
referred to the latter. Peabody (1839) records a specimen 
shot^ in Fresh Pond, Cambridge. Since 1891 birds of this 
species have been seen frequently in Cambridge, one nest at 
least has been found there, and the bird has been reported from 
Nantucket, Norfolk, Essex, Worcester and Hampden coun- 
ties, Mass. It is a fairly common summer resident in the larger 
marshes of central and western New York, and in the Ontario 
and St. Lawrence valleys, but apparently it is rather rare or 
local near the coast of New England and in the Hudson and 
Connecticut valleys. It seems to be rare now in New Eng- 
land generally, except in some favored localities. In habits 
and appearance, this Gallinule somewhat resembles the Coot. 
It keeps well out of sight, usually among the reeds and cat- 
tails, but at early morning and after sundown it sometimes 
may be seen moving about in open water, where it swims and 
dives well. This bird, like the Coot, is commonly known as the 
Mud-hen or Water-hen, and many of the hen-like clucks and 
calls that are heard in fresh marshes may be attributed to it. 

Wayne says that the eggs of this species and those of the 
preceding always are in different stages of incubation in the 
nest, and that consequently the young are hatched and take 
to the water while eggs still remain unhatched in the nest. 
Some of the young from one nest, he says, are from seven to 
twelve days older than others. Brewster has given in The 
Auk an excellent account of this species and its nesting habits 
in Massachusetts.^ 

The Florida Gallinule feeds mainly on aquatic insects and 
other water animals, succulent water plants and seeds. 

1 Brewster, William: Auk, 1891, pp. 1-7. 



COOT {Fulica americana). 

Common or local names: White-billed Mud-hen; Mud-hen; Meadow-hen; Water-hen; 
Marsh-hen; Pond-hen; Crow-bill; Pond-crow; Blue Peter; Sea-crow; Pelick; 

Length. — 14 to 16 inches. 

Adult. — Head and neck blackish; body, wings and tail slaty, paler below; 
wing when spread shows a narrow white edging; bill whitish marked 
with two dark spots near tip; frontal shield brown; feet rather livid 
or bright yellowish green, each toe with a broad membranous flap; 
claws black; iris carmine. 

Young. — Similar, but much hghter below; bill dull flesh color. 

Field Marks. — The white bill; size of Teal or larger. Nearly uniform slate 
color, and blackish head. 

Notes. — A cuckoo-like call, coo-coo-coo-coo, the first note prolonged and on 
a much higher key (Hatch). Also, at intervals, a squawk somewhat 
resembling the quack of a duck, and other explosive and cackling 

Nest. — A hollowed heap of dead reeds, sometimes in the water. 


Eggs. — Eight to sixteen, 1.75 to 2 by 1.20 to 1.35, glossy, clay color, spotted 
and dotted with dark brown and neutral tints. 

Season. — Uncommon migrant; early April to mid May, mid September to 
December; a few breed. 

Range. — North America. Breeds from central British Columbia, southern 
Mackenzie, Manitoba, Quebec and New Brunswick south to northern 
Lower California, Texas, Tennessee and New Jersey, and also in south- 
ern Mexico, southern West Indies and Guatemala; winters from south- 
ern British Columbia and Virginia south to Colombia; casual m Alaska, 
Greenland, Labrador and Bermuda. 


This is not one of the birds commonly called Coots in New 
England, which are really Scoters or Surf Ducks; neverthe- 
less, it is the real Coot, — the only bird entitled to the name. 
This species was formerly one of the most abundant water- 
fowl on the fresh waters of North America. When Coots are 
feeding on the wild celery or on the rice fields of the south 
they are by no means despicable as a table delicacy; but ordi- 
narily they are not considered fit to eat. Nevertheless, they 
have been slaughtered without mercy. Audubon says that a 
hunter on Lake Barataria killed eighty at one shot. It was 
not uncommon in the old days in Florida to see a sportsman 
shoot into a mass of Coots, killing and wounding from twenty 
to forty birds, just to see the effect of the shot; not a bird was 
even picked up. As the supply of wild-fowl was depleted, the 
settlers began potting Coots for food in this manner wherever 
these birds were numerous, and "fried Coot" soon became a 
common dish on the settlers' table. The demand for them 
now has decreased their numbers until, where they were 
formerly exceedingly abundant, they are now only common, 
and where they were formerly common, as in southern New 
England, they are becoming rare. Mr. Robert O. Morris 
records the species as common at Springfield, Mass. (1901). 
Dr. Glover M. Allen, in his list of the Aves (1909), gives it as 
an uncommon migrant in Maine, New Hampshire and Ver- 
mont; a rare spring and uncommon fall migrant in Massa- 
chusetts; and a common migrant, mainly in fall, in Rhode 
Island and Connecticut. It is, as he states, occasionally 


seen in summer in Massachusetts and Vermont, and may 
breed. Reports from Massachusetts observers for an average 
of about twenty-seven years, previous to 1909, representing 
every county in the State, show apparently that ten observers 
beHeve that this species has increased in their locaHties and 
that sixty-seven beheve that it has decreased. Six of the ten 
who have seen an increase apparently are mistaken in the 
name, and refer to the Surf Ducks or Scoters, which are 
commonly known as Coots on our coast. 

The Coot quite closely resembles the common or Florida 
Gallinule, but has not the red bill of that species, and its feet 
are lobed somewhat like those of the Grebes. Nevertheless, 
it is not so distinctly formed for swimming as the Grebes; its 
legs are rather long and placed well forward, and it seems to 
be a sort of connecting link between the land birds and the 
swimmers. It walks and runs on land as easily as a Rail, and 
yet it spends much of its time on the water. The French 
name, Poule D'eau, and the American name. Water-hen, give 
the general impression regarding this species. It is a good 
swimmer, but usually when swimming it moves its head for- 
ward with each stroke, as a hen often hitches her head forward 
when walking. It is a fine diver, and sometimes almost equals 
the famous Canvas-back in diving for the roots of the wild 
celery. It is fond of flooded meadows and savannas, sloughs, 
swamps, morasses, and swamp-bordered ponds, where, when 
danger threatens, it can flee to the shelter of the reeds or cat- 
tails, where it is as much at home as a Rail or a Gallinule. It 
is naturally a most innocent and unsuspicious bird. When 
wading waist deep in the flooded lands of Florida, for want of 
a more genteel method of Duck hunting, I often have been 
amused at the unsophisticated and foolish expression of the 
Coots which swam around me, often within easy gunshot, 
hitching forward on the water as if anxious to see what kind 
of an amphibious creature kept them company. In my boy- 
hood I have seen ponds apparently entirely covered with a 
black mass of these birds. A sudden alarm would cause a 
tremendous uproar of flapping wings and splashing feet as the 
members of the vast flock hastened to cover, but in a few 


minutes all alarm was past, and they gradually covered tlie 
surface of the pond again. The body of the Coot is narrow, 
and can be compressed so that, like a Rail, the bird can pass 
between reeds and the rigid stems of water plants, where a 
Duck with its wide flat body could not go. It can wade 
readily also in much deeper water than the Rails. It rises 
heavily, with much flapping of wings and paddling of feet, 
but when once well in the air it flies rather better than the 
Rails, rarely going far, however, except when migrating. 

The Coot feeds very largely on succulent vegetable matter 
and seeds, as well as insects and other small forms of animal 


The great order Limicolce comprises what are commonly 
called the shore birds, to distinguish them from the Ibises, 
Storks, Herons, Cranes, Rails, etc., which are collectively 
known as marsh birds. Such a distinction is merely arbitrary, 
however, as some of the Limicolce rarely are seen on shore or 
marsh, and others commonly frequent the marsh. 
In our present system of classification the Phal- 
aropes (family Phalaropodidce) come first, for 
their feet are lobed (Fig. 12), somewhat like 
those of the Coot but not so broadly. The 
membrane attached to the toes is sometimes 
^Re'd Phlkrpe"^ scalloped along the edge, and the tarsus (that 
portion of the foot or so-called leg which con- 
nects the toes with the next joint above) is flattened, like that 
of the Grebes. They are small birds, with dense. Duck-like 
plumage. In this family the female is much the larger and 
handsomer, and does most of the wooing, while the male is 
more modest and retiring, and is said to incubate the eggs 
and rear the young. Two species migrate in numbers off the 
New England coast, sometimes near shore, but usually many 
miles from land, where they may be seen floating or swim- 
ming like little Ducks, and feeding among floating sea-weed. 



RED PHALAROPE {Phalaropus fulicarius). 

Common or local names: Bank-bird; Brown Bank-bird; 


Gulf-bird; Sea-goose; 



Length. — 7.50 to 8.25 inches. 

Adult Female in Summer. — Above mottled and striped with black and 
pale brown or buff; chin, region all around base of bill, forehead, top 
of head, nape and much of hind neck black; wing dark ash, with a 
white patch; cheeks and space above eye to black crown white; bill 
orange; sides and front of neck and other under parts reddish chestnut 
or wine red; tail black, gray and buff; legs and feet yellow. 

Adult Male. — Duller; white on cheek less pure and defined, and top of 
head streaked with rufous or buff. 

Fall and Winter Plumage. — Above mainly gray; head largely white; lower 
parts white; wings more or less black and white; bill blackish. 

Field Marks. — Easily distinguished in breeding plumage, but in fall is 
known by its dagger-shaped bill, deep at base and tapering to near tip. 
The other species have slim bills. 

Notes. — A musical clink, clink (Nelson). 

Range. — Northern and southern hemispheres. In North America breeds 
from northern Alaska, Melville Island and northern Ellesmere Land 
south to mouth of the Yukon, northern Mackenzie, central Keewatin, 
Hudson Strait and southern Greenland; winter home unknown, but 
probably on the oceans, at least as far south as Falkland Islands; mi- 
grates along both coasts of United States; casual in the interior south 
to Colorado, Kansas, Illinois and Maryland. 

This species is probably a regular spring and fall migrant 
off the coast of Massachusetts, but on account of its habit of 
keeping well off shore it is noted only irregularly. It is called 


the Brown Bank-bird by the fishermen, because of its color and 
the fact that it is found on the fishing banks, miles from shore. 

In 1831, while about sixty miles off Nantucket, Audubon 
saw hundreds of this species feeding on a bank of floating 
seaweed. This is its common habit off our coasts. When seen 
on our shores it is common and sometimes abundant. It is 
met with occasionally in the Connecticut valley. In May, 
1892, a remarkable flight was seen at Cape Cod and Nan- 

The flight of the Phalarope resembles that of the Red- 
backed Sandpiper or the Sanderling. In winter plumage it 
resembles the Sanderling, being quite w^hite in appearance. 
When it first appears in the spring it still retains its winter 
plumage, but begins to assume the summer or red plumage in 

Sometimes this bird is seen just outside the surf, where it 
flies to and fro alighting on any temporary smooth spot amid 
the waves, and begins to feed. In such situations it is obliged 
to rise on the wing often, to avoid the curling waves which 
threaten to overwhelm it. Like the Northern Phalarope, it 
sometimes spins around as on a pivot when in pursuit of food. 
At such times the head and neck are carried erect to the fullest 

Individuals of this species are taken sometimes about inland 
lakes in New England. More commonly the flocks migrate 
at sea at a long distance from land. If the sea is calm they 
rest upon the water, and sometimes prefer to escape from the 
intruder by swimming rather than by flying. The habit of 
rising often, flying about and alighting on the water to feed 
is characteristic of these birds and distinguishes them from the 
Sandpipers. Sometimes in the interior they get their food by 
wading about in the shallow water. 

Elliot says that in the northern seas it feeds on the "ani- 
malculse" which form the food of the right whale, and so 
it follows that the whalers give it the name of whale-bird, 
because the presence of large numbers of these birds at sea 
usually signifies that whales may be expected. 

1 Mackay, George H.: Auk, 1892, pp. 294-298. See also Gerrit Miller, same page. 


NORTHERN PHALAROPE {Lobipes lobatus). 
Common or local names : Sea-goose; Mackerel Goose; Web-footed Peep; Bank-bird; 

White Bank-bird; Sea-snipe; Whale-bird. 

Length. — 7 to about 8 inches; bill rather short (.80 to .88), very slender. 

Adult Female in Breeding Plumage. — Above dark slaty gray streaked with 

yellowish brown on back; small crescents above and below eye white; 

wing dusky, marked with white; throat white; neck rich rust red or 

chestnut nearly all round; below white, marked on sides with slaty 


Adult Male in Breeding Plumage. — Similar but duller; more brown above; 
less chestnut on neck, which is more or less streaked; forehead largely 
white; crown marked with yellowish brown. 

Adult Female and Male in Winter. — Forehead white; crown and other upper 
parts mainly gray, streaked with white; hind neck grajash; sides of 
head, throat and under parts white; a slate patch, surrounding the eye 
and its incomplete white ring, extends back over ear. 

Young. — Similar, but with more black and yellowish brown on back. 

Field Marks. — Difficult to distinguish from the Red Phalarope in winter 
plumage, but its bill is much more slender and needle-like. 

Notes. — A low, chippering, clicking note (Chapman). A sharp metallic 
tweet or twick (Elliot). 

Season. — Irregularly common migrant off shore spring and fall; April and 
May and August to November. 

Range. — Northern and southern hemispheres. In North America breeds 
from northern Alaska, Melville Island and central Greenland south to 
Aleutian Islands (including Near Islands), valley of the Upper Yukon, 
northern Mackenzie, central Keewatin, southern James Bay and north- 
ern Ungava; winter home unknown, but probably the oceans south of 
the equator; in migration occurs nearly throughout the United States 
and in Mexico, Central America, Bermuda and Hawaii. 


The Northern Phalarope is the most numerous of the Phal- 
aropes seen in autumn off our coast, but seldom comes ashore in 
any numbers, though it is not rare on occasion in some of the lakes 
and rivers of the interior when driven by storms to alight there. 
On May 21, 1894, Mr. C. J. Smith, one of the drawtenders 
at the Craigie bridge over the Charles River between Boston 
and Cambridge, brought three freshly killed North- 
ern Phalaropes to Mr. M. Abbott Frazar, the Bos- 
ton taxidermist. These birds were in full breeding 
plumage. Mr. Smith stated that on the day pre- 
vious to his visit fully one thousand of these birds 
Fig. 13. -Foot ^^^^ swiuimiug iu the Charles River between the 
of Northern Craiglc aud the West Boston bridges. The weather 
was very foggy and the birds stayed until noon, 
when they flew away seaward (Brewster). 

This bird is in full plumage probably for less than two 
months in the summer, and usually is seen off our coasts, 
sometimes in company with the Red Phalarope, feeding on 
floating seaweed. I have seen numbers of this beautiful 
species off the coast of British Columbia. When driven by 
storms at sea, or lost in the fog, it takes refuge sometimes in 
shallow ponds. It has a habit of spinning round in a circle. 
Chapman, who has observed it, says that it gives a rotary 
motion to the water that brings to the surface small forms of 
aquatic life, which the bird seizes, darting its bill into the 
water two or three times with each revolution. 

Northern Phalaropes fly rapidly and often erratically, like 
the Wilson's Snipe. On the water they rest as lightly as a 
gull, and swim about alertly, with quick motions of the head, 
but are unsuspicious and easily approached. 

Dr. Townsend gives some records made by Mr. A. F. Tarr, 
the head keeper of Cape Ann lights, the twin lighthouses on 
Thatcher's Island. Among them it is stated that on the night 
of September 2, 1899, an immense flock dashed against the 
light. One man picked up eight hundred dead, and Mr. 
Tarr estimated that one thousand were destroyed. 


\A/'ILSON'S PHALAROPE (Steganopus tricolor). 

Summer. Winter. 

Length. — 8.25 to 9.50 inches. 

Adult Female in Spring. ■ — Above dark ashy gray, paler on the crown and 
rump and whitening on back of neck; throat, cheeks, line over eye 
and small crescent below it white; a dusky stripe from bill through and 
below eye, becoming black behind and extending down side of upper 
neck, where it changes to chestnut or dark wine red, widening there 
and extending down over side of neck, shoulders and back; a similar 
chestnut stripe below it just above wing; wings grayish brown; outer 
feathers (primaries) dusky; below white, the fore neck and breast 
tinged with pale chestnut, the latter slightly clouded on sides; bill 
long, slender, acute and black; legs, feet and iris dark. 

Adult Male. — Similar, but smaller, duller, paler and not so strikingly 
marked; less black, light ash, white and chestnut; back and wings 
mainly brown, streaked with black. 

Adult and Young in Fall. — General tone of plumage like that of the fall 
Sanderling; light ashy gray above, darkening on wings and tail; occa- 
sionally a few blackish feathers; upper tail coverts white; sides of head 
and neck white, with a dusky line from eye changing to cloudiness on 
sides of neck; below white; bill and eye dark; legs dull yellow. In 
summer the young are brownish black above, which soon gives way to 
fall plumage. 

Notes. — A soft, trumpeting yna, yna (Chapman). 

Season. — A rare transient in May, August, September and October. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds from central Washington, 
Central Alberta and Lake Winnipeg south to eastern California and 
northwestern Indiana; winters from central Chile and central Argen- 
tina south to Falkland Islands; casual in migration on Pacific coast 
from southern British Columbia to Lower California, and on Atlantic 
coast from Maine to New Jersey. 



Wilson's Phalarope is mainly an inland species, and always 
was considered a very rare migrant on our coast. Audubon 
records the capture of one near Boston, in the winter, but 
does not give the date. One was taken by Mr. George O. 
Welch at Nahant, on May 2, 1874, and is now in the collec- 
tion of the Boston Society of Natural History.^ 
Another was taken by Mackay, August 31, 1889, 
on Nantucket.^ I have seen several specimens 
that were said to have been taken on the Mas- 
sachusetts coast, but could not verify this. 
This species has been taken in Maine, Connect- 
FiG. i4.-Footof wii- icut and New York. 

son's Phalarope. ,,,, • i • i i i i t • 

Ihis bird, when on land or wadmg m w^ater, 
moves about much in the manner of the Yellow-legs. It is more 
a wader and less a swimmer than the other two, and keeps mainly 
to the interior of the continent. Audubon killed several speci- 
mens near Lake Erie, and found their stomachs filled "with 
small worms and fragments of very delicate shells." 


These birds comprise the singular family RecurvirostridoB, 
so named because of the peculiar, flattened, upturned beaks 
of the Avocets. This is a small family in which the front toes 
are webbed or partly webbed and the legs, particularly in the 
Stilts, are exceedingly long and slender, but nevertheless the 
birds are handsome and graceful. The Avocets have the body 
flattened and the plumage thick and Duck-like. 

The bills of Avocets seem to vary somewhat in form, if we 
may judge from dried skins and the drawings of ornithologists. 
Some have a clean upward curve; others have a slight double 
curve, as is represented in the illustration of the Avocet on 
the next page. Some Stilts have the bill nearly straight, 
while others show a distinct upward curve. The birds of this 
family have the feet more or less webbed, and swim well. 

1 Baird, S. F., Brewer, T. M., and Ridgway, R.: Water Birds, 1884, Vol. I, p. 338. 

2 Mackay, George H.: Auk, 1891, p. 120. 



AVOCET {Recurvirostra americana). 

Length. — Very variable, 16 to 20 inches; front toes webbed. 

Adult. — Back and most of wings black; remainder of plumage white, 
excepting head and neck, which are mainly cinnamon brown in summer 
and pale gray in winter, and tail, which is pearl gray; legs blue, much 
of webs flesh color; bill black, long and upcurved; iris red or brown. 

Young. — Similar to winter plumage of adult. I 

Notes. — A musical, loud plee-eek, hurriedly repeated (Chapman). Click- 
click-click (Brewer). 

Range. — North America. Breeds from eastern Oregon, central Alberta 
and southern Manitoba (rarely north to Great Slave Lake) south to 
southern California, southern New Mexico, northwestern Texas, north- 
ern Iowa and central Wisconsin; winters from southern California and 
southern Texas to southern Guatemala; casual from Ontario and New 
Brunswick to Florida and the West Indies, but rare east of Mississippi 

In the first years of the nineteenth century the Avocet was 
not uncommon on the Atlantic coast, where Wilson found it 
breeding in small numbers as far north at least as the salt 
marshes of New Jersey. Turnbull (1868) says that George 
Ord informed him that during his excursions to the coast with 


Alexander Wilson the Avocet, Stilt and other waders, "which 
are becoming rare in our days were then quite plentiful." 
De Kay (1844) rates the Avocet as quite rare in New York 
State, and it is probable that it was never very common in 
New England, although it has been recorded north to the 
Bay of Fundy. Its large size, confiding nature and striking 
plumage made it a shining mark for the gunner, and it has 
long since disappeared as a breeder on the Atlantic coast, and 
now is regarded in New England as a rare straggler from the 
west. Two are said to have been taken years ago on the 
Lynn marshes.^ One was taken at Lake Cochituate, Natick, 
October 19, 1880.- Three were shot at Ipswich, September 
13, 1896, by Mr. A. B. Clark.^ There Is one Maine record, but 
no others for New England. There are some museum speci- 
mens credited to New York, but no definite records. 

The long legs of the Avocet enable it to wade in deeper 
water than most birds, and its webbed feet fit it for swimming 
whenever it gets out of its depth. On the Atlantic coast it 
was found usually about salt marshes, and bred there. It 
feeds by immersing head and neck and probing in the ooze 
of the bottom with its curious bill. Its food while here was 
snails, marine worms and insects, according to Wilson. Elliot 
says that its food consists of insects, small crustaceans, etc. 
Henshaw found the larvae of water insects in the crops of 
those examined. 

The passing of this curious large and showy wader from 
the Atlantic coast is a matter of regret to all lovers of nature. 

1 Osgood, Fletcher: Shooting and Fishing, 1890, p. 11. 

2 Purdie, Henry A.: Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, 1881, p. 123. 

3 Kennard, F. H.: Auk, 1897, p. 212. 



BLACK-NECKED STILT {Himantopus mexicarms). 

Length. — About 15 inches; front toes half -webbed. 

Adult Male. — Crown, back of head and neck, most of back and wings black; 
forehead, patch over eye, chin, throat, rump, tail and under parts 
white; eyes carmine; legs bright carmine, exceedingly long; bill black, 
slender and longer than head. 

Adult Female. — Similar, but browner above. 

Young. — Mantle ashy brown; feathers pale-edged. 

Field Marks. — Large size, exceedingly long red legs and black or blackish 
upper parts distinguish it from all other shore birds. 

Notes. — A sharp, rapid ip-ip-ip when flying; a hoarse k-r-r-r-r-ing note 
when on the ground (Chapman). 

Range. — Temperate North America and northern South America. Breeds 
from central Oregon, northern Utah and southern Colorado to southern 
California, southern New Mexico, southern Texas, coast of Louisiana 
and in Mexico, and from central Florida and Bahamas to northern 
Brazil and Peru; formerly north to New Jersey; winters from southern 
Lower California, southern Texas, southern Louisiana and southern 
Florida south through Central America and the West Indies to north- 
ern Brazil, Peru and the Galapagos; casual north in migration to 
Nebraska, Wisconsin and New Brunswick. 



Wilson says that the Stilt arrives on the coast of New 
Jersey about the 25th of April, in flocks of twenty or thirty, 
and that six or eight pairs breed together. No doubt this was 
true in the early part of the nineteenth century, but it long 
ago ceased to be so. Audubon (1838) did not find it abundant 
anywhere, and said that it seldom was seen to the eastward of 
Long Island. De Kay (1844) said that the bird was then not 
a very common visitor to New York, and that it still bred in 
New Jersey and "possibly in New York [Long Island]," but 
appeared everywhere to be rare. Since then it nearly has dis- 
appeared from the Atlantic coast north of southern Georgia 
and Florida. C. J. Maynard (Massachusetts, 1870) says on 
the authority of gunners that it occasionally is seen along 
sandy beaches. This evidence may be taken for what it is 
worth. There is no record that the bird ever bred in Mas- 
sachusetts, and possibly it never was much more than a wan- 
derer to these shores from the middle States. Mr. Boardman 
states that it was seen occasionally but rarely at Calais, Me., 
and Dr. Brewer (1884) asserts that several specimens have 
been taken at Grand Manan, N. B., and that "occasional 
instances of its capture near Boston are known." There is 
but one record of the capture of a specimen in Maine. Dr. 
Allen records two specimens as taken in Massachusetts, which 
were found in Boston market.^ There is a specimen in the 
Museum of Comparative Zoology at Cambridge, Mass., 
labeled Lynn.^ There are no New York records for the past 
fifty years. 

This large, handsome and striking wader has been brought 
to the verge of extermination along the Atlantic coast by 
spring and summer shooting, as have all the larger waders 
that once bred there. 

» Allen, J. A.: Amer. Nat., 1870, p. 638. 

2 Howe, R. H., and Allen, G. M.: Birds of Mass., p. 34. 







to " 























Snipes, Sandpipers, etc. 

This great family {Scolopacidos) contains birds widely- 
different in size, shape and color, but they are mainly of small 
or medium size, never reaching the average size of the Herons. 
The bill usually is long and soft skinned in life, generally 
straight, roundish and slim, but sometimes curved up or 
down, and in one genus the end is spoon-shaped. The head is 
feathered to the bill; excepting a few species, they frequent 
moist lands or the shores of bodies of water. They inhabit 
all habitable lands. 

WOODCOCK {Philohela minor). 

Length. — 10 to 12 inches; bill nearly 3 inches. 

Adult. — Upper parts brown and russet or buff, mixed with gray and marked 
with blackish; back of head black, barred with buff; dark line from eye 
to bill; under parts pale, warm brown, varying in intensity; tail black, 
tipped with white; eye large, well back and high. 

Field Marks. — Larger than a Robin. The long bill and the whistling sound 
made by the wings in starting from the ground will identify the bird. 
It is rarely found in the open meadow or marsh where Snipe congregate, 
but rather in swampy woods or upland gardens and corn-fields. 

Notes. — A nasal peent or palp, and a twittering whistle (Chapman). A 
curious p'tul (Hoffmann). Chip-per, chip-per chip (Samuels). 

Nest. — On ground in moist land. 

Eggs. — Three or four; large, averaging about 1.60 by 1.14, ash gray to light 
buff, with reddish brown or chocolate and stone gray markings. 

Season. — March to November; rare in winter. 

Range. — Eastern North America. Breeds from northeastern North Dakota, 
southern Manitoba, northern Michigan, southern Quebec and Nova 
Scotia south to southern Kansas, southern Louisiana and northern 
Florida; winters from southern Missouri, the Ohio valley and New 
Jersey (rarely Massachusetts) south to Texas and southern Florida; 
ranges casually to Saskatchewan, Keewatin, Colorado, Newfoundland 
and Bermuda. 

Dr. D. G. Elliot (1895), in his work on North American 
Shore Birds, states that the Woodcock is "gradually becoming 
scarcer within our limits." Dr. A. K. Fisher of the Biological 
Survey, in his report on Two Vanishing Game Birds, specifies 
the Woodcock and the Wood Duck as the species particularly 


in danger of extinction. Writers on ornithology and sports- 
manship generally agree in the belief that the Woodcock is 
diminishing in numbers, particularly near centers of population; 
but the danger of extirpating it is not now nearly as great as 
that which menaces several other species of migratory birds; 
as, owing to the writings of such men as Dr. Elliot and Dr. 
Fisher, the sportsmen of the United States have moved to 
secure better protective laws for Woodcock in many States, 
and this has helped to stay the destruction of the species. 

Summer shooting, which formerly was legalized in many 
States where the Woodcock bred, almost exterminated the 
breeding birds in many regions. Winter shooting in the 
south was very destructive, and still is so in some States. 
Summer shooting in the north has been given up largely, and 
the fall shooting season has been so shortened that the birds 
are holding their own in many localities, and occasionally good 
fall flights are seen in New England. 

Early in the last century Woodcock are said to have been 
so plentiful within twenty-five miles of Boston that during 
the long open season a good shot would average about fifty 
birds a day; but to one knowing present conditions this 
seems highly improbable. We have some records, however, 
which prove that sixty or seventy years ago very large bags 
were made in summer. Within my own lifetime the breeding 
Woodcock have been absolutely extirpated from alder swamps 
and runs which formerly harbored many pairs, but this has 
been done by excessive August and early September gunning, 
which is now prohibited. As one result of the shorter open 
season. Woodcock are now coming back to breed in localities 
from which they were absent for years. 

The flights of birds from the north have not diminished in 
number so much as have the native birds. Occasionally a 
large flight stops here, as in early November, 1908, when 
Woodcock were plentiful here, and when some gunners in 
Connecticut secured from twenty to forty birds each in a day. 
This flight did not denote such an increase in the number of 
these birds, however, as generally was believed. The explana- 
tion is that they all came at once. The birds in Maine and the 


provinces had a good breeding season, and they must have had 
a plentiful supply of food, for the autumn weather was mild 
and they mostly remained in their northern homes until 
nearly the first of November. Flight birds were rare in Mas- 
sachusetts up to that time and the bags were small. The fall 
had been warm and dry; but on October 29 and 30 New 
England and the provinces experienced a severe northeast 
storm along the seaboard, followed by a cold northwest wind, 
which probably froze up the northern feeding grounds, if the 
storm had not already buried them in snow. Either or both 
of these conditions drove the Woodcock into southern New 
England. My correspondence shows that this flight landed in 
every county in Massachusetts, except Dukes and Nantucket. 
As usual, comparatively few were seen in Barnstable County. 
Connecticut covers harbored many Woodcock from about 
November 12 to November 20. There were many in Rhode 
Island, and the flight was noted as far south as Delaware. 

My correspondence regarding the present status of the 
Woodcock in Massachusetts is interesting. Thirty-five Mas- 
sachusetts correspondents report Woodcock, which breed here, 
as increasing, and one hundred and fifty note a decrease. 
Those who note an increase have observed it in recent years. 
These reports of increase are scattered over every county in 
the State excepting Nantucket, Dukes and Barnstable. The 
greatest number reporting an increase in one county is five, 
from Plymouth. The reports of decrease come from every 
county in the State, except Nantucket, where Woodcock 
rarely are found. They are distributed as follows: Dukes, 
one; Barnstable, eight; Bristol, thirteen; Plymouth, twenty- 
one; Norfolk, eight; Essex, twenty; Middlesex, twenty- 
four; Worcester, sixteen; Hampden, nine; Hampshire, six; 
Franklin, fourteen; Berkshire, four. Seven, including Boston 
residents, who hunt in the eastern counties, reported a decrease 
for eastern Massachusetts generally. From these reports it 
is safe to conclude that breeding Woodcock have decreased 
largely in the State, except in some favored localities, where 
formerly they were decimated, but under improved laws are 
now increasing. 


Only twenty-seven correspondents report an increase of 
migrating Woodcock or flight birds, and one hundred and 
thirty-six note a diminution. Several of the former base their 
statements on the great flight of 1908, while the latter prac- 
tically all speak from years of experience. Those who see an 
increase are mostly in the counties where the flight of 1908 
was most marked, while those who record a decrease are 
scattered over the State, as follows: Dukes, one; Barnstable, 
seven; Bristol, nine; Plymouth, twenty; Norfolk, seven; 
Essex, seventeen; Middlesex, twenty-three; Worcester, ten; 
Hampden, nine; Hampshire, six; Franklin, twelve; Berk- 
shire, six, and eastern Massachusetts generally, nine. 

While the decrease of native Woodcock is regarded on 
the whole as larger than that of flight birds, on the other 
hand, a recent accession of breeding birds has been noted by 
more correspondents than those recording an increase of flight 
birds. Better laws and better law enforcement in the States 
south of us will help to increase our native Woodcock, 

We have now gone very near to the limit in protecting 
Woodcock in Massachusetts; our open season of one month 
comes so late that our own gunners get little chance to kill 
native birds legally, and a month in which to shoot migratory 
birds Is about as short a season as most gunners will be content 
with. There is nothing more that we can do for the Woodcock 
in Massachusetts, unless we limit by law the number of birds 
which the sportsman may take legally in a day, and still 
further reduce the shooting season. 

The sportsmen's organizations of Massachusetts might 
have some influence upon legislation in the southern States if 
a limit to the size of the daily bag were required here. If the 
stories of sportsmen who hunt Woodcock in the south in winter 
are to be believed, the slaughter of these birds in certain sec- 
tions is enormous. At times incalculable numbers of these 
birds from the north are closely crowded into a limited region, 
and may be kifled by scores and hundreds. Mr. James J. 
Pringle gives a record of fifty-five Woodcock killed from 9 a.m. 
to 2 P.M. in Louisiana to his own gun. To prevent this the 
season there should be shortened and the bag limited. 


A large part of this shooting is done by northerners, who 
never know when they have enough, and southern market 
hunters, black and white, who shoot mainly for the northern 
markets. If we of the north who prate about the great slaugh- 
ter of Woodcock in the south would close our markets effect- 
ively against these southern birds, and uphold the efforts 
of those who are trying to better the laws of the southern 
States, southern shooting might be restricted within reasonable 
limits. Ever since the civil war we have been inclined to blame 
the south unjustly for both her deficiencies and our own. 
It is true that in Audubon's time, and for many years after- 
ward, many Woodcock were killed in Louisiana by both negroes 
and whites. " Firelighting " was the usual method, but 
Louisiana now has better game laws and better enforcement 
than in the past. 

Mr. I. N. De Haven of Ardmore, Pa., writes me that 
Woodcock are killed in great numbers near Cape Charles, Va. 
If there is a heavy snowstorm in December a gunner will get 
from four to seven dozen in a few hours. "The shooting," he 
says, "sounds like a fourth of July to us out on the bay shooting 
ducks. They are shipped to New York and Boston." Are we 
enforcing our non-sale laws in the north.' 

The northern Woodcock are hardy birds and do not go 
very far south unless forced to do so by the freezing up of their 
feeding grounds. A sudden freeze in the south deprives them 
of food, and if this is followed by a severe snowstorm they are 
obliged to seek warmer quarters or perish. Great flights 
appear in the south at such times, and many birds are starved 
or frozen. Such a catastrophe occurred in 1892, another in 
1895 and still another in 1899. Wayne records that on 
February 13 and 14, 1899, countless thousands of Woodcock 
came to the region about Mount Pleasant, S. C. Tens of 
thousands, he says, were killed by would-be sportsmen and 
thousands died of starvation and cold. Most of them were 
much emaciated and were unable to withstand the cold. One 
man killed four hundred in a few hours. ^ Mr. James Henry 
Rice, Jr., secretary of the iVudubon Society of South Carolina, 

1 Wayne, Arthur T.: Auk, 1899, p. 197. 


tells me that at that time he saw in Georgetown a line of 
wheelbarrows, loaded with Woodcock, brought into the 
market by negroes, but the birds were so emaciated that the 
dealers refused to purchase them. The Woodcock were so 
weak and bewildered that some were chased and caught, 
others were knocked down with sticks. They probably came 
to the sea-coast from higher or more northern lands, seeking 
food. Laws prohibiting the killing and sale of these birds in 
the south after January 1 would save many which now are 
slaughtered needlessly. 

Some of my correspondents give no reason for the decrease 
of Woodcock, but the majority of the gunners attribute it to 
man, and mainly to overshooting; many of them, however, 
are inclined to blame their brothers of the north and south for 
the diminution of the birds. Mr. C. A. Clark, the Lynn natural- 
ist, says "fifteen years ago woodcock were quite common in 
my locality, but have been falling off very fast since that time, 
and I have scarcely seen one here the past three or four years. 
They need a close season for at least five years." Mr. Lawton 
W. Lane of Lynn writes: "The woodcock is getting to be a 
bird of the past. In 1907 I kept a record of the birds which I 
started. I started forty-one, of which I killed thirty-eight. 
I write this not to tell of my great shooting, but to show the 
cause of the decrease of this bird. It is gunned all over the 
country in the same way, and is not a very hard bird to shoot, 
with a good dog." Dr. L. C. Jones of Maiden writes that 
three men from Maiden, on a trip to Maine, killed one hundred 
and eight, and that a gunner in Nova Scotia had killed two 
hundred and seventy-five. The sportsmen and gunners of 
southern New England and the middle States probably kill 
as many Woodcock north and south as any one; they cer- 
tainly get their share. North Carolina now (1910) has a law 
limiting the bag of Woodcock to twelve a day. 

The draining of swamps and swales, both north and south, 
is slowly but steadily decreasing the natural breeding places 
and cover for the Woodcock. Mr. Howard M. Douglas of 
Plymouth thinks that perhaps the making into cranberry 
bogs of many bog holes in Plymouth County where Woodcock 


used to feed has a tendency to drive them away. Similar 
conditions now exist in Barnstable and Bristol counties. Mr. 
John S. Nicholson of Hyannis notes this fact; but as the 
Woodcock feeds on the worms and insects on cultivated lands 
not all its feeding grounds ever will be destroyed. Many good 
Woodcock grounds have been flowed in making reservoirs for 
water supply. Forest fires drive out or destroy breeding birds. 
In some cases they do not return for years after a fire. A 
deal of Woodcock cover has been cut off in recent years in 
eastern Massachusetts, and has not been allowed to grow up 
again; but, on the contrary, many isolated, abandoned farms 
in western Massachusetts have grown up to brush, and alders 
have been allowed to grow along the runs in the pastures, 
therefore the cutting of cover has affected the birds little 
except locally, mainly in eastern Massachusetts. The vast 
network of telephone, telegraph and trolley wires that is now 
stretched over the country is perhaps a greater menace to the 
Woodcock than to any other bird. Many years ago Audubon 
observed that the Woodcock migrated at night, and flew very 
low. Few birds, perhaps, except Rails and Cuckoos, habitually 
fly at so low a level. These birds fly at night and strike the 
wires. Probably, in time, those which barely touch these wires 
learn to avoid them, but those which strike them with the 
breast, neck or head never see daylight again; many hundreds 
of these birds have been picked up under the wires. Thousands 
of Woodcock undoubtedly perish in this w^ay annually. Many 
correspondents speak of this. I have talked with old gunners, 
who have followed the wires in the marshes and picked up a 
number of birds; some have been brought to me dead, with 
characteristic wounds on head, neck or breast. One corre- 
spondent records that a friend saw a Woodcock strike a wire 
and fall dead. Let us hope that the W^oodcock may learn in 
time to avoid these wires. 

All these causes for the depletion of Woodcock have very 
little effect, however, compared with the continual hunting 
and combing out of the covers by sportsmen and gunners with 
dogs. I have killed Woodcock without a dog, but a man 
without a first-class dog w^ill have difficulty in finding more 


than a small proportion of the birds in a cover. So long as 
there is no bag limit the sportsman is inclined to shoot every 
bird he starts if possible. If he does not or cannot, the next 
man will if he can, and so the birds are wiped out. 

So much has been written on the habits of this bird and its 
pursuit that there remains little to be added here. I have 
given some notes on its habits in Useful Birds and their Protec- 
tion, but a few remarks that may be new to the general reader 
are appended. 

The mother Woodcock's habit of flying off, when disturbed, 
with her young held in her feet, or between her thighs, has 
been noticed and recorded more than once; but Mr. William 
H. Leonard of East Foxborough informs me that Mr. George 
Hawes, when fishing in Trap Hole Brook, saw a Woodcock 
carry her three young across the brook, one at a time, by 
means of her toes and claws. 

My experience in rearing young Woodcock on bread and 
milk, with a few worms and insects, which was finally ended 
by an accident, leads me to believe that these birds might be 
reared artificially, and experiments to this end should be made. 
The Woodcock, however, lays so few eggs that only the most 
rigid protection can prevent its decimation, and the hope of 
increasing its numbers artificially is not great. 

A few notes about the migration of the Woodcock will be 
necessary to a proper understanding of the considerations 
which should govern legislation for its protection in Massa- 
chusetts. We do not know precisely when the native-breeding 
birds start on their southern migration, but gunners from 
some of the hill towns west of the Connecticut River claim that 
in the present open season (October 15 to November 15) they 
get no Woodcock shooting whatever, for the native birds all 
leave their localities in the Berkshire hills and go south or to 
the lower land by early October, and that the later flight 
birds (probably finding these hills cold and uninviting) do 
not stop there; but there are some towns favorably situated 
among the hills which are visited by the later flights, which 
come down the Connecticut valley. At the opposite end of 
the State the coast-line, always a highway of migration, offers 


a chance to gain some knowledge of the flight. As Maine 
and the provinces He well to the eastward, we might expect 
many of the southward-moving birds to follow the coast, or 
even to cross Ipswich Bay and the Bay of Fimdy on their 
way, as other land birds do. But Woodcock fly largely on 
moonlit nights, and so low that it is probable that they do not 
often purposely start out to cross large bodies of water. They 
may be blown off shore occasionally by sudden gales, and this 
may account for a bag of Woodcock brought into a hotel in 
Provincetown in 1868, and reported to me by Mr. Alfred S. 
Swan. These birds probably were blown off the land by 
some northwesterly gale, and, being unable to make land 
anywhere else, reached the end of Cape Cod. Woodcock are 
not common there and probably rarely breed on that sandy 
soil. Those flight birds which follow the coast probably mostly 
cross Cape Cod below Plymouth, and turn westward into 
Rhode Island or Connecticut, or follow down the west shore of 
Buzzards Bay. Possibly some of them keep on down the shore 
of Cape Cod Bay as long as it trends southward, and thus 
land in Sandwich and even in Barnstable, crossing the Cape, as 
many birds do, at the most southerly indentation of its north- 
ern shore, that forms the entrance to Barnstable harbor, — 
the narrowest point of the arm of Cape Cod, where the towns 
of Barnstable and Yarmouth meet. Here at Yarmouthport 
Mr. Stephen W. Fuller reports that flight Woodcock pass 
through in August. 

Counting Provincetown as the hand of Cape Cod, Truro 
forms the wrist. Mr. Willard INI. Small states that a few flight 
Woodcock come there each year. This seems to indicate that 
a few are blown off the coast annually and find rest near the 
end of the Cape. Correspondents in all the other Cape towns, 
down the forearm to the elbow at Chatham, and from there 
to the middle of the arm at Yarmouth, report the Woodcock 
as very rare. From Yarmouth until we reach the mainland 
at Plymouth similar reports prevail, but at Hyannis, nearly 
south from Yarmouth on the south side of the Cape, two 
gunners, Mr. John S. Nicholson and Mr. Frank G. Thacher, 
report flight birds. Mr. Nicholson, who has had over fifty 


years' experience, says that in some years quite a flight goes 
over in the evening. Some stop, but no large numbers. He 
says that he shot four or five in the fall of 1908, that several 
were shot in the fall of 1909 and that there was quite a flight 
in November, all of which seems to indicate that a part of 
the flight of Woodcock comes down the coast, crosses from the 
entrance of Barnstable harbor over Yarmouthport, steers 
southward to Hyannis and then follows the south coast of the 
Cape Cod peninsula westward. Those which come down from 
the outer arm of the Cape may cross here also. This seems to 
indicate that the movement of native Woodcock southward 
begins there in August, and the experience of western Mas- 
sachusetts gunners indicates that the native birds have left 
there by early October, although some may remain later in 
the milder climate of the coast region. 

Our present law protects our own birds fairly well here, 
except from lawbreakers who hunt before "the law is off." 
Probably most of the Woodcock shooting that our gunners get 
now is furnished by birds from farther north and northeast. 

The fate of the Woodcocks rests largely with the people of 
the United States, in which mainly it lives. Its range includes 
southern Canada, and recent information seems to indicate 
that it may penetrate as far west as Oregon; but it is chiefly 
a bird of the eastern United States. It is not disturbed by 
agriculture, and thrives well on rich and cultivated farms, pro- 
vided there are a few boggy runs or small swamps where 
it can nest. Gardens and cornfields are favorite hunting 
grounds of this bird. 

The food of the Woodcocks consists largely of earthworms 
and insects. The long sensitive bill is provided with nerves 
and muscles and forms a very effective tool for exploring soft 
ground or searching beneath the leaves, for in such situations 
the bird gets most of its food. 



"WILSON'S SNIPE (Gallinago delicata). 
Common or local names: Snipe; English Snipe; Jack Tnipe. 

Length. — 11.25 inches; bill (average), 2.50. 

Adult. — Crown dark brown or blackish, split along center by a light buffy 
line, and separated by a buffy stripe from a blackish line running from 
bill through eye; back and wings a mixture of dark brown or blackish 
and reddish brown, tan or buff, striped longitudinally with light buffy 
or whitish; wings brown and dusky, with light buffy markings on coverts; 
tail ending in a broad bar of reddish brown crossed near tip with black- 
ish and tipped with whitish; outer tail feathers pale buff or whitish, 
barred with black; tail coverts barred; throat gray; neck and upper 
breast pale brown, mottled and streaked with blackish; flanks gray, 
barred with black; lower breast and belly white; legs and feet very 
pale ashy green. 

Field Marks. — A bird of fresh-water marshes mainly; may be known by 
its long bill and erratic flight. 

Notes. — Call, heard when bird is startled and springs into flight, an un- 
musical squeak resembling the syllables 'scape! 'scape! Kuk-kuk-kuk 
uttered on the ground (Knight). 

Nest. — A depression in grass or bog. 

Eggs. — Usually four, pointed, olive brown, spotted and blotched with 
reddish brown mainly near larger end, about 1.55 by 1.08. 

Season. — A common spring and fall migrant in April and early May, 
September, October and even November; a few breed and probably 
fewer still winter. 

Range. — North America and northern South America. Breeds from 
northwestern Alaska, northern Mackenzie, central Keewatin and 
northern Ungava south to northern California, southern Colorado, 
northern Iowa, northern Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey; winters 


from northern California, New Mexico, Arkansas and North CaroHna 
through Central America and West Indies to Colombia and southern 
Brazil; remains in winter casually and locally north to Washington, 
Montana, Nebraska, Illinois and Nova Scotia; accidental in Hawaii, 
Bermuda and Great Britain. 


The Snipe was very abundant formerly in the fresh-water 
meadows of New York and New England. There was excellent 
Snipe shooting from five to twenty miles out of Boston in the 
early years of the last century. Some of the tales and legends 
regarding it, told years ago by the older gunners, would receive 
little credit in the light of present conditions; but a good many 
Snipe are seen now in our meadows and good bags sometimes 
are made. Undoubtedly the general decrease in these birds 
and the destruction of the local breeders are due mainly to the 
increase of population, accompanied by spring shooting and 
excessive hunting. 

Until recently the Snipe has been pursued at all seasons, 
and such pursuit was regarded as legitimate because the bird 
bred mainly in the north, beyond our limits. Each gunner or 
sportsman killed as many as he could while they were here. 
The destruction of Snipe in the south was phenomenal. Mr. 
James J. Pringle, a southern gentleman, has published the 
most painstaking record of Snipe shooting that I have ever 
seen. He was not a market hunter, but hunted for pleasure, 
and used his own birds, giving away the surplus to his friends 
and owners of the land over which he shot. His shooting was 
done in Attakapas County in the southwestern part of Louisi- 
ana, near Bayou Teche. As he did not make a business of 
Snipe shooting he did not shoot every day during the season, 
but only when it suited his convenience, and he kept a journal 
in which every bird that he shot was recorded, after all had 
been counted carefully by others as well as himself. No birds 
shot by his companions were counted, and the record is one 
that he could swear to in court. In shooting he used two 
men as beaters, one as a marker, and one or two dogs (kept 
at heel and used only to find dead birds), and a wagon and 
driver to help wherever it would be useful. He rarely was able 


to kill more than one Snipe at one shot, but the record shows 
that in twenty years he killed sixty-nine thousand and eighty- 
seven Snipe and two thousand seven hundred and seventy -two 
other birds which were shot incidentally. At the end of the 
twenty years, 1867-68 to 1886-87, the shooting began to fail. 
On March 2, 1869, he killed sixty-nine Snipe in seventy-five 
minutes. In November, 1874, he killed one thousand four 
hundred and fourteen Snipe in six shooting days. In Decem- 
ber, 1877, he killed one thousand nine hundred and forty-five 
in seven shooting days. His maximum days' score was three 
hundred and sixty -six Snipe in six hours. ^ Very likely no 
gentleman sportsman ever killed so many Snipe in twenty 
years as did Mr. Pringle, but others have exceeded many of 
his daily scores. Market hunters followed the sport as a 
business, day after day, wherever Snipe were numerous. I 
talked with one such expert, who had killed scores in one day 
in Massachusetts, who stated that he had yet to find the man 
who was willing to stop shooting while the "birds were plenty." 

Mr. Edmund Blood of East Groton, Mass., says that the 
Snipe bred commonly there fifty years ago. Undoubtedly 
they once bred in some numbers in Massachusetts. Nuttall 
states that his friend INIr. Ives of Salem told him that a few 
pairs bred in that vicinity. Samuels (1870) says the Snipe 
has been known to breed here. There are now several instances 
on record where young Snipe have been shot here or old birds 
taken in the breeding season. Mr. A. W. Sugden of Hartford 
writes me that when he was a boy Fairfield swamp and its 
vicinity and the meadows in Weathersfield and Rocky Hill, 
Conn., were alive with Snipe, and many nested there. "Since 
the prohibition of spring shooting in this State," he says, "a 
few Snipe remain here in summer and probably breed in some 
of our meadows." 

Mi\ George M. Bubier of Lynn saw a Snipe on a telegraph 
pole in Lynnfield on May 22, 1907, evidently apprehensive 
for the safety of her eggs or young, for she continued to 
utter cries of alarm. The habit of alighting, during the 
nesting season, on trees, fences and other objects above 

I Pringle, James J.: Twenty Years of Snipe Shooting, 1899, p. 301. 


ground is common to several species of this order. Mr. D. T. 
Cowing of Hadley writes that quite a flock was raised in 1906 
on the Oxbow, a tributary of the Connecticut River; that one 
man killed one hundred and thirty birds there, and that a few 
have been seen since (1908). 

About one-half my correspondents in Massachusetts have 
either not seen or recognized the Snipe in their localities. Nine 
report it as increasing in number in their neighborhoods, — one 
each in Hampden, Worcester and Plymouth counties and six 
in Barnstable County. One hundred and nine report it as 
decreasing: two in Hampshire County, two in Hampden, six 
in Worcester, twenty-one in Middlesex, twenty-one in Essex, 
six in Norfolk, eighteen in Plymouth, six in Bristol, sixteen in 
Barnstable, two in Dukes and four in Nantucket. Five report 
it rare in eastern Massachusetts generally. We must make some 
allowance for the fact that most gunners do not now watch the 
spring flights, when the larger numbers appear, for spring shoot- 
ing is prohibited. In some of the localities where I shot Snipe 
thirty to forty years ago not one is ever seen now. This may 
be owing in part to the building up of the region; but I be- 
lieve that along the Charles River meadows, where I shot as a 
boy, the birds have decreased since about one-half. 

The reports seem to show that there are very few Snipe in 
Berkshire, Hampshire and Hampden counties, except along 
the Connecticut River or its tributaries. Near Springfield 
Mr. Robert O. Morris does not see any great decrease. Much 
of the territory of the western counties is not fit for the Snipe, 
and it probably never was very common anywhere there, 
except along the river valleys. Several correspondents, how- 
ever, regard the bird as having decreased ninety per cent. 
Throughout Worcester County the same condition exists. 
The Snipe is almost unknown in the wooded hill towns where 
the Woodcock is common, but here and there it crops up, 
though mainly in decreasing numbers. 

The tales of the decimation of this bird that come from 
many parts of the State are rather pathetic. We would not 
expect to find many Snipe among the hills of northern Worces- 
ter County; but in the valley of the Blackstone, south of 


Worcester, we might reasonably look for a few. Nevertheless, 
Mr. Henry T. Whitin of Northbridge says, "practically extinct; 
have not seen one in years." One might anticipate finding 
them common east of Worcester, on the meadows near the 
sources of the Sudbury and the Assabet, but Hon. Joseph S. 
Gates of Westborough says laconically, "very few left." Mr. 
Elmer M. Macker of North Grafton says, "a few years ago 
one was shot occasionally but for the last four or five years 
not one has been seen." In the eastern counties, as we approach 
the sea-coast and the fresh-water marshes and meadows 
along the rivers, the numbers of Snipe increase a little, but even 
there many people find them rapidly disappearing. On Cape 
Cod, where Woodcock generally are rare. Snipe sometimes are 
common, though usually decreasing and never very abundant. 
The Snipe naturally supplements the Woodcock by occupying 
the country where the Woodcock is absent. The Woodcock 
is a bird of timbered runs on the hills and wooded swamps in 
the valleys, while the Snipe occupies mainly open meadows 
and marshes. 

On Nantucket, where there are practically no Woodcock, 
Snipe sometimes are found in some numbers, although the 
island is far out in the Atlantic. In one day recently one man 
killed sixty Snipe on Nantucket, all in one meadow or marsh. 
He was an old hunter, an excellent Snipe shot, knew the ground 
perfectly and killed every bird that he could. It will probably 
be some time before any one will kill sixty birds in a day again 
on that island. This shows the necessity of a daily bag limit. 
Had he been obliged to go six days, or even three, to that spot 
to kill an allowance of ten or twenty birds per day, some of 
them would have gotten safely away, — or some other gunner 
would have had a chance. 

In scanning my reports from other regions it would seem 
that while Snipe still are plentiful in many parts of the south 
their numbers are decreasing from Canada to Texas, and in 
many States the depletion appears to be about as steady as in 
New England. Wayne, in his Birds of South Carolina, just 
published (1910), says that he doubts if there is a State in the 
Union where the Snipe is found in larger numbers. This looks 


hopeful. But Mr. James Henry Rice, Jr., who is in charge of 
game preservation in that State, says that while Snipe still are 
plentiful, they have decreased 75 per cent, within his recollec- 
tion. Mr. A. S. Eldredge tells me that Snipe are holding their 
own fairly well in southeastern Texas; but Mr. J. D, Mitchell, 
whose experience over southern Texas is much wider and 
longer, says that they have decreased seventy-five per cent, in 
forty-four years. 

That great Snipe shooter, Mr. James J. Pringle, states that 
for the first twenty years of his shooting in Louisiana he gen- 
erally saw every day on the marshes not only great numbers 
of Snipe but also great flocks of Ducks, and many otters, alli- 
gators, raccoons, deer and birds and game of all kinds peculiar 
to that locality. The diminution in the number of Snipe after 
twenty years' shooting was accompanied also by a similar de- 
crease in game of all kinds, and a few years later the shooting 
broke down altogether and was given up. This falling off of 
the shooting, and its final complete failure on these grounds, 
he says was due to various causes. He believes that the dis- 
appearance of the birds was due largely to the enclosure and 
draining of the grounds, also to the improvements in and 
cheapness of firearms; to the extension of railroads, which 
brought the grounds within reach of the markets, and to the 
increase of gunners, not only in this region, but all through 
the continent, so that there were not so many Snipe nor other 
game birds in the world at the end of the twenty years as at 
the beginning. Altogether, there was a sad decrease of all 
kinds of birds and beasts, and the Attakapas country, which 
was a great game region when he first began to shoot over it, 
had lost the game which once formed its chief attraction for 
him and his friends. During the last years of his shooting, 
the Ducks, raccoons, otters and alligators disappeared, and 
he seldom saw any. 

The cause given by most correspondents for the depletion 
of the Snipe is overshooting or spring shooting. In four cases 
the draining of meadows or the drawing off of water for man- 
ufacturing purposes is spoken of, and at Scituate the breaking 
in of the ocean at North River by a storm is noted, changing 


the character of the feeding ground by flooding the meadows 
with salt water. The diminution of the Snipe may have been 
exaggerated, but such reports have been coming in for many 
years from all over its range. They cannot be ignored. What 
are we going to do about it? Birds like the Snipe and Wood- 
cock, which rear small broods, cannot recover so rapidly from 
overshooting as can Grouse, Bob-whites or Ducks, all of which 
rear large broods. The very least that should be done is to 
stop the spring shooting of Snipe in every State within its 
range, and forbid summer shooting wherever it breeds. In 
co-operation with Canada and Mexico we can readily protect 
and increase this valuable bird. 

The fact that flights of this Snipe frequently land near 
the tip of Cape Cod and all along its outer arm, and also at 
Nantucket, indicates that it strikes boldly out to sea in migra- 
tion, thus taking a short cut to the south. Snipe land on Ber- 
muda in considerable numbers, and some winter on the Antilles. 
This leads to the inference that there is a regular fall flight of 
Snipe from regions north of us, which put out to sea like some 
of the well-known shore birds, and steer directly to the West 
Indies, some stopping at Bermuda on the way. Thus we may 
account for the fact that the fall flight of Snipe, in eastern 
Massachusetts and Rhode Island at least, is much smaller ordi- 
narily than the spring flight. Most of the fall birds from the 
north possibly land here only when driven in by storms, and 
the spring birds come back by land; otherwise, considering the 
effect of shooting, etc., the spring flight would be the smaller. 
Prof. W. W. Cooke speaks of a hunter near Newport, R. I., 
who secured scarcely a third as many birds in the fall, for a 
period of eight years, as he did in the spring. 

It is noted often that during easterly storms numbers of 
Snipe are seen on our meadows, and that fewer are seen in 
fine weather. This is due no doubt in part to their being blown 
inshore by adverse winds, but it is partly due also to the 
fact that the Snipe feed largely at night, or in dull, cloudy or 
foggy weather, which often is the best for Snipe shooting, and 
like to hide in some chosen retreat to sleep away the best 
hours of a sunny day. The Snipe migrate at night. I have 


heard Snipe flying about the meadows on moonht nights, 
and have heard them apparently coming in during a storm at 
night. Wet weather which soaks the marshes makes favorable 
conditions for Snipe; hence they are not likely to appear in 
such numbers during a dry September as in a wet one. Dry 
seasons make favorable conditions in the interior for shore 
birds generally, but not for Snipe and Woodcock. Like the 
Woodcock, Snipe cannot live long where the ground is frozen, 
and, therefore, sudden drops in autumn temperature north of 
us start them along. Like the Woodcock, also, a few birds 
remain in winter in Massachusetts near unfrozen springs. I 
have found the Snipe in January near Worcester, and several 
instances are known where they have wintered near Lynn and 
on Cape Cod; but most of the birds seen here are migrants. 
The habits of this bird are too well and widely known to 
need much mention here. Snipe are attracted to burnt ground 
or to meadows where the grass has been mowed. In the south 
they sometimes frequent plowed lands, and even seem to 
follow the plow in search of worms and grubs. They fre- 
quent meadows also where hogs have rooted, and sometimes in 
the north large numbers are seen about market gardens, all 
of which indicates that they prefer land where worms and 
insects are abundant and easily accessible. Wlierever they 
find a liberal supply of food they congregate, and many may 
be found in such spots, while few will be seen on ground 
apparently equally attractive but not supplied with food. 
The birds continue feeding in light rains, and congregate 
together, but when the rains continue heavily, and the grounds 
become flooded, they fly to higher land, where they are very 
restless and wild. A meadow with deep, moist, black loam or 
mold, with very little sand, seems to be most attractive to the 
Snipe. Their food consists largely of insects, including grass- 
hoppers, locusts, cutworms and beetles, with such others as 
may be picked up from cultivated fields and marshes. Earth- 
worms, leeches, seeds of smartweed and other plants, together 
with roots and other vegetable matter, have been found in 
their stomachs. Enough is known of their food habits to 
place them among the beneficial species. 



DOWITCHER (Macrorhamphus griseus griseus). 
Common or local names: Brown-back; Driver; Robin-snipe; Red-breasted Snipe. 



Length. — 10 to 11 inches; bill 2.05 to ^.55. 

Adult Male in Spring. — Upper parts mixed black and buffy or cinnamon; 
lower back, rump and tail white; rump spotted and tail barred with 
black and light tan or pale buff; general tone of closed wing brownish 
gray, in contrast to reddish tone of body, blackening toward tip; two 
whitish wing bands; sides of head and under parts reddish buff or pale 
cinnamon, finely marked and sparsely spotted (and barred on flanks) 
with black, becoming white on belly; bill greenish black; legs and feet 
greenish brown; iris very dark. 

Adult Male in Fall. — Head and upper back feathers slate gray, with dark 
centers and lighter edges; wings dark gray, spotted and marked with 
dusky and whitish; sides of head, throat and breast whitish; a dusky 
line from bill through eye; sides of breast clouded with brownish 
gray, with which the neck and head are more or less mottled; below 
white, spotted behind with black; rump and tail white spotted with 

Adult Female. — Paler and lighter. 

Young. — ■ Hinder parts spotted above and below; similar to winter adult 
above; below washed with buff and indistinctly speckled with dusky. 

Field Marks. — Size of Wilson's Snipe, but its dark back and the whitish 
appearance of its lower back, rump and tail distinguish it. The rump 
does not appear so white in flight as that of the Yellow-legs. Frequents 
sand bars and mud flats. 

Notes. — A shrill quivering whistle, similar to that of the Yellow-legs, some- 
thing like 'te-te-te, te-te-te- (Nuttall). 

Season. — Rather uncommon fall migrant; rare in spring, late May and 
early June; early July to late September. 


Range. — • Eastern North and South America. Breeding range unknown, but 
probably northern Ungava; winters from Florida south to northern 
Brazil; in migration regularly on the Atlantic coast and occasionally 
in Illinois, Indiana and Ontario; accidental in Greenland, Bermuda, 
Great Britain and France. 


The Brown-back, as the Dowitcher is called on Cape Cod, 
is one of the most interesting of all waders. Unsuspecting and 
gentle, it may be approached easily and closely studied. It 
was one of the birds which was found on the Atlantic coast in 
enormous numbers when the country was first settled, and 
which possibly summered in small numbers all along the coast. 
Scott found it not rare in summer on the coast of Florida, 
Mcllhenny notes it the year round in Louisiana, and Wayne 
rates it as a resident in South Carolina, where he finds non- 
breeding birds in June. 

Its breeding range is not well known. Many writers 
describe its nest and eggs, but the probability is that those 
described belong to the next species. Howe in his Study of 
Macrorhamphus gives the breeding range of this bird as 
extending on all sides of Hudson Bay, except to the south, 
and reaching across Melville Peninsula, Ungava and about 
half way up Baffin Land.^ W. W. Cooke ^ says that the nest 
and eggs are unknown to science, nor has the species been 
seen in summer at any place where it was probably breeding. 
He finds by a study of the records of arctic explorers and 
naturalists that all known arctic regions are eliminated as 
breeding places for this bird, except the eastern coast of Hud- 
son Bay and the interior of Ungava, in the northern part of 
the peninsula of Labrador, — regions which hardly have been 
explored by naturalists. It does not seem probable, at first 
sight, that a species which formerly appeared on our coasts in 
such great numbers could have had so limited a breeding 
ground. Nevertheless, Professor Cooke says that there are 
no records of the occurrence of this bird north of Ungava, 
except one in Greenland, and if the species breeds in Baffin 

1 Howe, Reginald Heber: Auk, 1901, pp. 157-162. 

2 Distribution and Migration of North American Shore Birds, 1910, pp. 26, 27. 


Land or any of the islands in the northern ocean it has escaped 
his notice. He gives but one record for Prince Edward Island 
and but one for Nova Scotia. Mr. E. T. Carbonnell and Prof. 
S. N. Earle write that although this bird is not seen now on 
Prince Edward Island, it "used to be plentiful" there; and 
Mr. Harold F. Tufts writes from Wolfville, N. S., that it has 
decreased there fifty per cent, in fifteen years, indicating that 
some still remain. The early arrival of this species on our 
coast gives color to the belief that it nests in the Labrador 
Peninsula. In this it agrees closely with the Least and Semi- 
palmated Sandpipers, both of which have been found breeding 
in Labrador. Alexander Wilson, the father of American orni- 
thology, believed that this bird bred not far north of the 
United States, judging by the lateness of the season when it 
leaves in the spring, the development of the eggs in the ovaries 
of the females at that time and the early arrival of the birds 
on their return. 

Individual Dowitchers are seen returning southward in 
migration early in July all along the coast, from Massachusetts 
to South Carolina. The bird crosses the Provinces of Ontario 
and Quebec in a direct line from its summer home to New 
England. Formerly it was plentiful along the Atlantic coast, 
and is still not uncommon in New Jersey, common in Virginia 
and abundant on the coast of South Carolina. Some indi- 
viduals apparently reach South America by way of Florida 
and the Antilles, though many winter on the south Atlantic 
and Gulf coasts. It is not impossible that individuals of 
this species which winter in South America take the long 
flight from Nova Scotia to the West Indies; of this, however, 
I have seen no reliable evidence, and am inclined to believe 
that this bird habitually migrates up and down the Atlantic 
seaboard. It does not come up the Mississippi valley in the 
spring. A part of the flight seems, however, to leave the coast 
of the Carolinas in the fall and fly direct to the Lesser Antilles. 
There seem to be good reasons to believe that the majority 
of this species migrate directly south and perhaps a little east 
of south until they reach the coast, and if, as seems probable, 
they breed along the eastern coast of Hudson Bay and in the 


territory between that coast and the east coast of Ungava, 
between the 70th and 80th parallel, those in the eastern part 
of its breeding range would thus reach Nova Scotia, New Eng- 
land and New York, where we now find it in its southern 
migration. Those in the western part of its range, travelling 
directly south overland, w^ould thus reach the coast of South 
Carolina. One would naturally expect the South Carolina 
migrants to return along the Atlantic coast, but apparently 
they do not, for Wayne says that between May 1 and 15, 
when the tide is low in the afternoon, in a light southerly 
wind, flock after flock may be seen migrating to the north- 
west. He says that he never saw a flock migrating northward 
along the coast. The northwest direction may be taken to 
allow for an eastward drift of the wind (as all birds allow for the 
deflection of the wind), their course being due north for Hud- 
son Bay. These birds do not stop on the coasts of New Eng- 
land, as accounts generally agree that fewer Brown-backs are 
seen here in the spring than in the fall. The above remarks 
on the migration of this species are preliminary to what fol- 
lows regarding its decrease in New England. 

The following brief extracts from the writings of New York 
and New England ornithologists indicate the Dowitcher's 
reduction in numbers in this region: As they often settle 
near each other great numbers are shot down (Peabody, 1839). 
About the middle of July they return in great numbers to our 
coast (De Kay, 1844). Congregate in immense flocks in salt 
marshes (Lewis, 1850). Found in smafl numbers in marshes 
along our coast spring and autumn (Samuels, 1870). Not 
uncommon during migration (Maynard, 1870). Rather com- 
mon spring and autumn (J. A. Allen, 1879). The birds wifl 
come back at call and alight among the decoys, until the last 
survivor is shot (Samuels, 1897). At present, flocks along the 
Atlantic coast are few and far between (Sanford, Bishop and 
Van Dyke, 1903). Rare spring and uncommon fall migrant 
(G. M. Allen, Massachusetts, 1910). 

Only two correspondents in Massachusetts report the Dow- 
itcher as increasing, and they are both in Dukes County. 
Sixty-one say that it is decreasing. Most of the correspond- 


ents never see the bird now, and practically all the older 
gunners state that the bird is "nearing extinction," "almost 
gone" or "a bird of the past." Apparently the species has 
disappeared from the inland lakes and ponds, where it for- 
merly was seen occasionally, and is not now common on the 
Massachusetts coast, except in a few favored localities. Mr. 
E. W. Eaton of Newburyport says he believes that it has 
decreased ninety per cent, in thirty years; twenty years ago 
the first of the season he could see sometimes four to eight 
flocks a day, with from five to twenty-five in a flock; he has 
not seen a flock in 1908 or 1909; shot a single bird in 1907. 
Mr. William P. Wharton of Groton has seen very few in sev- 
eral years. His uncle tells of its abundance at Ipswich thirty 
years ago. Mr. Neil Casey of Melrose says, "I think this 
bird has decreased faster than any other shore bird." Notes of 
others in brief follow: "Decreasing eighty to ninety per cent." 
(Ralph C. Ewell, Marshfield). "Only one seen occasionally" 
(Francis B. Osborn, Hingham). "Have seen a few; they 
decrease rapidly" (H. M. Douglas, Plymouth). "Decreased 
ninety per cent, in last ten years" (H. W. Bartlett, Plymouth). 
"Twenty -five years ago one hundred or more of these birds 
was not considered remarkable on Cape Cod; I heard of one 
bag this summer (1908) of eighteen or twenty, which was 
considered exceptional" (Dr. L. C. Jones, Maiden). "A steady 
and marked decrease the past fifteen years" (George L. Haines, 
Sandwich). Mr. Carl Zerrahn of Milton says, "my records at 
Chatham show a small but steady decrease each year." 

My correspondents from Maine, New Hampshire, Ver- 
mont, Rhode Island and Connecticut find similar conditions. 
I get no reports of this bird as common except from Chatham, 
Cohasset and Yarmouthport. Mr. Alfred Swan says that he 
shot "quite a lot" at Chatham in 1908. The shooting record 
at Chatham Beach Hotel shows that there were but three 
days, while it was kept (from 1897 to 1904, inclusive), when 
the number of Dowitchers shot by all hands neared a score. 
July 15, 1897, nineteen were killed; August 8, 1901, twenty 
were killed; and on August 9 twenty-six were taken, with 
thirteen men shooting. In 1897 one hundred and seven were 


taken during the season; in 1898, fifty-seven; in 1899, fifty- 
eight; in 1900, fifty; in 1901, one hundred and thirty; in 
1902, fifty -four; in 1903, seventy-two; in 1904, forty-five. 
The number of men shooting each day varied from one to 
twenty-six. In 1909 I frequented the haunts of this bird but 
saw only three during the summer. 

The conchisions resulting from the foregoing may be 
summed up in three propositions, thus: (a) The Dowitcher, 
formerly numerous in New England, is now growing rare. (6) 
It is numerous still in the southern States, (c) The present 
main flight to the southern States does not touch New England. 

Practically all correspondents who assign a cause for the 
decrease of this bird attribute it to spring shooting or over- 
shooting. The Dowitcher is naturally so unsuspicious that it 
is about the last shore bird to fly from an approaching gunner. 
There are some "educated" birds, but the above statement is 
true in the inain. It will come readily to the call of the con- 
cealed gunner and alight to his decoys, leaving him to shoot 
whenever he can get the birds at the greatest disadvantage. 
The survivors will fly when the flock is shot into, but often 
can be called back to their killed and wounded comrades, until 
in many cases a single expert market gunner or sportsman has 
killed the whole flock. When spring shooting was allowed 
those of this species which reached the Atlantic coast in New 
England had little chance ever to return, and thus most of the 
individuals which regularly migrated down this coast were 
killed off annually. Probably we now get but a few stragglers 
from the stream of migration which normally passes west of 
us, without stopping on this coast. It is probable, also, that 
our shooting has cleaned up most of the birds in the eastern 
section of their breeding grounds, and that others spreading 
into the unoccupied ground from the westward take the old 
migration route, and so continue to straggle along our coasts, 
but this is merely conjecture. 

Something must be done to protect this species or it will 
join the Dodo and the Great Auk, and will be known only by 
specimens in museums. Its comparative abundance in the 
south will save it for a time, for sportsmen will hardly go 


south to shoot it in July and August. But winter shooting 
will follow it there. Absolute protection in the north, or the 
abolition of all summer shooting for a series of years, is the 
only possible chance for its salvation. 

The Dowitcher is a bird of the inner beach and still waters, 
the tidal flat and the salt marsh; it frequents margins of fresh- 
water ponds near the coast when the water is low, and fresh 
marshes, where the mud flats are bare. It formerly flew, 
and sometimes alighted, in immense compact flocks, thereby 
exposing itself needlessly to the deadly discharge of the scatter- 
gun. These flocks when startled often rose high in air and 
circled about rapidly, with loud whistled cries, performing 
startling aerial evolutions with the precision of drilled sol- 
diery. This species sometimes mingles with flocks of Summer 
Yellow-legs, whose notes slightly resemble its own, but it 
readily may be distinguished by the shorter legs, longer bill 
and the less amount of white on the rump and upper tail 
coverts. It is fond of sea- worms and other forms of marine 
life, for which it probes with its long bill. 

LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER (Macrorhamphus griseus scolopaceus) . 

Length. — 10.75 to 12.05 inches; bill 2.20 to 3.25. 

Adult in Spring. — Very similar to the Dowitcher, but slightly larger; bill 
longer; more rufous below, and sides more heavily barred. 

Adult in Fall, and Young. — Indistinguishable from the Dowitcher, "except 
those surpassing the maximum size of the latter." 

Notes. — A lisping, energetic, musical peet-peet; pee-ter-wee-too, wee-too, re- 
peated (Nelson). 

Range. — Western North America and South America. Breeds from Arctic 
coast to Yukon mouth and east to northwestern Mackenzie; winters 
from Louisiana, Florida and Mexico south, probably to South America; 
in migration most abundant in western Mississippi valley; casual on 
Atlantic coast from Massachusetts southward and on northern coast 
of eastern Siberia. 


The Long-billed Dowitcher is supposed to be a western 
sub-species. It occurs regularly in New York, but is rated 
as a mere straggler in Massachusetts; in fact, we know very 
little about it here, as it requires an expert to distinguish it. 



STILT SANDPIPER {Micropalama Mmantopus). 
Common or local names: Bastard Yellow-leg; Stilt; Mongrel. 

Length. — 8.25 inches; bill 1.55; fore toes webbed at base. 

Adult in Breeding Plumage. — Above tawny or bay, streaked and blotched 
with black or blackish, feathers more or less white edged; wings and 
tail grayish; side of head below eye and over ear and faint line at back 
of head chestnut; upper tail coverts white, barred with dusky; line 
over eye and lower parts white, often tinged with reddish; fore neck 
spotted and streaked with dusky, lower parts elsewhere barred with 
dusky; bill, long slender legs and feet greenish; legs and feet lighter 
and more yellowish than bill. 

Adult in Fall and Winter. — Upper parts brownish gray or ash gray; dusky 
streak from bill through eye; wide line over eye and under parts white; 
neck streaked with brownish gray; barred below as in spring but not 
so strongly; tail and upper tail coverts white, marked with dusky; bill, 
legs and feet darker than in spring. 

Young. — ■ Similar, but upper parts more blackish, the feathers bordered with 
buff; below white; legs and feet greenish yellow. 

Field Marks. — Long, slim, greenish legs; long, slim, slightly curved bill. 

Notes. — When disturbed it utters a sharp tweet tweet before flying (Nuttall). 
A double or triple whistle (C. W. Townsend). 

Season. — A rather rare or local irregular fall migrant coastwise, sometimes 
not uncommon; very rare in spring, usually in May; early July to 
early October. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds near coast of Mackenzie and 
probably south to central Keewatin; winters in South America south to 
Chile; casual in winter in southern Texas and Mexico; occurs in migra- 
tion in western Mississippi valley. West Indies and Central America; 
less common on Atlantic coast; casual in British Columbia, New- 
foundland and Bermuda. 



Little seems to be known of the history of the Stilt Sand- 
piper in New England before the last quarter of the nineteenth 
century. Since then it has been rated as a rare or uncommon 
migrant in the coastal States of New England. Coues early 
predicted that it would be found here. Brewster secured two 
specimens at Rye Beach, N. H., in 1868 and 1869. Since then 
the bird has been taken and seen with more or less regularity 
and frequency, and as the numbers of ornithologists have 
increased in New England, and the means of publishing their 
records have multiplied, our knowledge of this species has 
increased until records of its occurrence are no longer considered 
unusual. It seems not uncommon at times on Cape Cod. 
The Chatham Beach Hotel record shows two hundred and 
fifteen birds shot in seven years, but one hundred and three 
of these were taken in 1001. In Giraud's time the bird was 
common enough on Long Island to be known to the gunners 
there as the Bastard Yellow-leg. It resembles the Yellow-legs 
so much that it probably was overlooked in New England until 
Brewster "discovered" it. From what we know of the his- 
tory of this bird it is safe to assume that it always has occurred 
in New England since the settlement of the country, and that 
it was more common in the early part of the history of these 
States than it is to-day. 

The Stilt Sandpiper easily is mistaken for the small Yellow- 
legs, particularly in fall, when its gray plumage, long legs and 
the whitish look of rump and tail present a similar appear- 
ance to that of the Yellow-legs. But the legs always have a 
greenish tint, and are never as bright yellow as those of the 
Yellow-legs. It has a habit of immersing its bill in the sand 
and holding it there for some time, as if sucking up some- 
thing. Sometimes the head also is immersed when the bird 
is feeding in the mud at the bottom. Its habits otherwise 
resemble those of the Yellow-legs. Audubon found small 
worms, small shell-fish and vegetable matter in the stomachs 
of several birds of this species. 


KNOT (Tringa canutus). 

Common or local names: Red-breast; Red-breasted Plover; Buff-breast; Blue Plover; 
Silver Plover; Silverback; Grayback; Robin-snipe. 

Fall. Spring. 

Length. — About 10.50 inches; bill about 1.50. 

Adult in Spring. — Above light gray, marked with black and reddish brown; 
rump and upper tail coverts lighter; tail gray, edged with whitish; sides 
of head, fore neck and under parts brownish red, to lower belly, which 
is white; dark line through eye; iris hazel; bill dark; legs and feet dull 
yellowish green. 

Adult in Fall. — Above ashy gray, feathers margined with black and cream 
white; rump and base of tail white, marked with dusky or black; below 
white marked with dusky. 

Yoimg and Immature. — Upper parts as in fall adult; under parts white; 
throat, breast and flanks clouded with grayish and streaked with dusky. 
Several years are required to reach full plumage; all plumages have a 
dusky line through eye. (Judging from descriptions, the colors of the 
legs and feet vary from greenish yellow to black.) 

Field Marks. — Distinguished from the Dowitcher by its shorter bill. Upper 
parts usually light gray; hinder parts whitish, but not conspicuous. 

Notes. — Like the soft whit whit one uses in whistling a dog back (Hoffmann). 
A soft wah-quoit and a little honk (Mackay). Waquit (Knight). 

Season. — A rather common migrant coastwise, rare inland; mid May to 
June 10; mid July to mid October. 

Range. — Northern and southern hemispheres. Breeds from northern Elles- 
mere Land south to Melville Peninsula and Iceland, also in Siberia; 
winters south to southern Patagonia, and in Africa, India, Australia and 
New Zealand; casual in winter on Atlantic coast of United States; in mi- 
gration occurs on Atlantic coast of North America and over most of east- 
ern hemisphere; rare in interior of North America and on Pacific coast. 



This is the largest of the beach Sandpipers. Its breeding 
grounds ahnost encircle the pole, and it is known on the shores 
of every continent. No bird undertakes a more extensive 
annual pilgrimage than this species, for it has been found in 
northern Grinnell Land, at latitude 82° 44', and it goes south 
to the Straits of Magellan, not far from Cape Horn. It 
migrates principally along the Atlantic coast, both spring and 
fall, but in the spring, numbers of the species arrive in Texas, 
Louisiana and other southern States, going north through the 
Mississippi valley region, and they are found in migration on 
the Pacific coast. August is the principal month of autumnal 
migration along the Atlantic coast. The adult birds appear 
first, in July, and the young follow. This is the general rule 
with shore birds. In migration this species formerly reached 
the shores of New England in immense numbers. 

The following abridged extracts indicate its decrease: 
They seem like a diminutive army marshalled in rank and 
spreading their animated lines (Nuttall, Massachusetts, 1834). 
Seen in large flocks (Peabody, Massachusetts, 1839). Com- 
mon spring and autumn (Turnbull, eastern Pennsylvania and 
New Jersey, 1869). Seen on shore in flocks of eight or ten 
(Samuels, New England, 1870). Common spring and autumn 
(J. A. Allen, 1879). A common bird on New England shores 
spring and autumn (Chamberlain, 1891). An uncommon 
migrant along coast (Howe and Allen, Massachusetts, 1901). 
Now annually seen in fewer numbers (Knight, Maine, 1908). 

The Knot had decreased considerably near Boston before 
the middle of the last century. Mackay states that before 
1850 they were more numerous at Chatham, Nauset, Well- 
fleet and Billingsgate on Cape Cod, and on the flats around 
Tuckernuck and Muskeget islands, than in all the rest of New 
England combined. Their numbers were so large on Cape 
Cod that estimates were useless. There was then no railroad 
to the Cape. The birds were slaughtered in great numbers 
at night by "fire-lighting." Thoreau refers to this in his 
Cape Cod. One man, carrying a lantern prepared for the 


purpose, directed its light on the flocks as they rested on the 
flats, while the other, keeping him company, seized the birds 
one at a time, killed them by biting their necks, and placed 
them in the bag. Mackay was credibly informed that six 
barrels of these birds thus taken were seen at one time on the 
deck of the Cape Cod packet bound for Boston, and that in 
hot weather barrels of spoiled birds were sometimes thrown 
overboard when the vessel reached Boston. The birds brought 
but ten cents per dozen in the market. Turnstones and Black- 
bellied Plover, which keep company with the Knots, were 
often taken and mixed with them. Beside the Red-breasts 
destroyed by fire-lighting on Cape Cod, great numbers were 
shot later, when the railroad opened up the region to sports- 
men, and this was true all along the Atlantic coast. Every- 
body shot the Knot, both fall and spring, for it was in demand 
for the table, brought a good price in the market, decoyed 
easily, and flew in such flocks that many could be killed at a 
shot. Sometimes, as in the case of the Dowitchers, one or 
two skilful gunners annihilated a flock. 

Mackay says (1893) that they are much reduced in numbers 
and are in great danger of extinction. Mr. S. Hall Barrett 
informed him that in "old times" he had seen as many as 
twenty-five thousand of these birds near Billingsgate Light in 
one year, and that for the five years previous to 1893 he had 
seen only about one hundred birds a year there. Mr. C. L. 
Leonard of Marshfield was then seeing about eleven hundred 
birds during a season, and Mr. Mackay himself reports on 
good authority that for twelve years the average number on 
Tuckernuck had not exceeded fifty. ^ 

In time the old birds grew more shy, and sometimes 
avoided the danger spots along the coast, but the young 
were easy victims. The numbers of this bird have decreased 
tremendously all along the Atlantic coast within the last 
seventy-five years. Up to about 1900 they were still very 
plentiful in the Carolinas. Brewster has been informed that 
they are seen there still in considerable numbers. Wayne 
(1910) says of the Knots near Charleston, S. C, that they used to 

» Mackay, George H.: Observations on the Knot, Auk, 1893, pp. 28-30. 


be abundant, but that now very few are to be seen. Most of 
my Massachusetts correspondents never see the bird now. It 
no longer appears in the interior at any point, so far as I can 
learn, and is rare or wanting on most of our coast. Three 
observers record a slight increase at certain points on Cape 
Cod during the past few years. One notes that they have 
increased "very much" at Chatham, and one tells of an in- 
crease on Martha's Vineyard. Forty say they are decreasing. 

The causes of decrease as given by most correspondents are 
overshooting and spring shooting. One attributes a local 
decrease to a "lack of feed." Mr. William B. Long of Bos- 
ton states that these birds are so tame when they arrive on 
the feeding grounds that any one can kill almost a whole 
flock. The following brief extracts tell the story: "Used to 
be shot here; scattering; have not seen or shot one for two 
years" (E. W. Eaton, Newburyport) . "Decreased eighty per 
cent, in twenty-eight years; we took quite a few this autumn 
(1908)" (Thomas C. Wilson, Ipswich). "Rather a common 
bird on Cape Cod twenty-five years ago; now comparatively 
rare, though there is an occasional good flock; decreased 
seventy -five per cent, in twenty-five years" (Dr. L. C. Jones, 
Maiden). "A very few only" (G. W. Holbrook, Wellfleet). 
"Decreased seventy -five per cent, in eighteen years" (N. A. 
Eldridge, Chatham). "Decreased ninety-five per cent, in 
thirty-four years; comparatively a rare bird" (Alfred S. Swan, 
North Eastham). "None here" (Willard M. Small, North 
Truro). "Used to be plenty; very few now" (William H. 
Allen, Dartmouth). "Not more than a dozen killed in last 
three years" (Richard J. Sharrock, Westport). The above 
are mainly experienced gunners who live near the shooting 

Some few sportsmen seem to find occasional flocks. The 
following notes tell the other side of the story: Dr. Albert H. 
Tuttle says he shot about thirty in one day in 1903. "Increas- 
ing twenty-five per cent. ; took fourteen in one day on Martha's 
Vineyard (1908)" (Lewis W. Hifl). "Holding its own; in 
September, 1907, observed several large flocks at Chatham 
and shot eighteen in six days" (C. O. Zerrahn, Milton). 


"About as plentiful to-day as twenty -five years ago" (Charles 
R. Lamb, Cambridge). "We get more at the Cape I think" 
(Samuel E. Sparrow, East Orleans). 

The species seems to be doing as well at Chatham as any- 
where along our coast. The shooting records of the old 
Chatham Beach Hotel will give an idea of the numbers taken 
there. They are as follows: 1897, one hundred and fifty- 
three; 1898, one hundred and fifty; 1899, one hundred and 
sixty-one; 1900, one hundred and eighty-eight; 1901, one hun- 
dred and sixty-one; 1902, one hundred and twenty-three; 
1903, two hundred and sixty-seven; 1904, one hundred and 
sixty-seven. The year 1903 seems to have brought an unusual 
number, as fifty were killed in one day with sixteen men 
shooting; another day nineteen were taken with seven men 
after them. In 1900, on another record day, twenty-eight 
birds were killed by three men. 

All my correspondents outside of Massachusetts, from 
Maine to Florida, tell a sad story of the decrease of these 
birds, except Mr. Harry W. Hathaway of Providence, who 
says that there are many small flocks of young birds on Block 
Island in September. Even on the southwestern coast of 
Florida Mr. Charles L. Dean says that they have decreased 
fifty per cent, in twenty years. Dr. Leonard C. Sanford of 
New Haven says that this decrease is due largely to spring 
shooting on the coast of Virginia and North Carolina, and 
Mr. George H. Mackay tells of heavy spring shooting in 
Virginia. The decrease is probably due, however, to shoot- 
ing both spring and fall all along our coasts, and possibly to 
some extent in South America. Evidently we are doing more 
than driving the Red-breast off our coast, and while the utter 
extinction of such a cosmopolitan bird is not imminent, its 
extirpation from the Atlantic coast of North America is one 
of the possibilities of the near future. 

This bird frequents the ocean beach, the tidal flat and more 
rarely the salt marsh. On the beach it plays back and forth, 
following the receding waves and retreating before their 
advance. When the surf pounds upon the sandy shore it is 
the Red-breast's harvest time. Then the surge constantly 


washes up the sand, bringing small shell-fish to the surface 
of the beach, as a placer miner washes out gold in his pan, 
and the birds, nimbly following the recession of the wave, 
rapidly pick up the exposed shells ere the return of the surge. 
They are fond of the spawn of the horsefoot crab, which, often 
in company with the Turnstone, they dig out of the sand, 
sometimes fighting the former birds before they can claim 
their share. With the flow of the tide, which drives them 
from the flats or the tide- washed beach, the Knots seek either 
the beach ridge, some shoal above high-water mark or the 
salt marsh. They are prone to alight on outer half-tide 
ledges, where they find small crustaceans and other forms of 
marine life among the seaweed. They are so attracted to 
such places and to beaches where sea-worms are plentiful 
that they will return to them again and again in the face 
of the gunners' fire, and this habit accounts in part for their 

Mackay says that they eat the larvae of a cutworm, which 
he has found in their throats, and that their food is similar to 
that of the Black-breasted Plover, with which they often asso- 
ciate. Most authors, both in this country and Europe, state 
that their food, both on the flats and on the beach, consists 
of very small mollusks of several species. Dr. Townsend says 
that small periwinkles {Littorina) and mussels {Mytilus edulis) 
almost always are found in their stomachs. 

The Red-breasts are decoyed easily by imitating their note 
or that of the Black-breasted Plover. The ease with which 
they may be taken will prove their bane unless all spring 
shooting can be stopped on the Atlantic coast. 


PURPLE SANDPIPER (Arquatella maritima maritima). 
Common or local names: Winter Snipe; Rock-snipe; Rock-bird; Rock-plover. 

Length. — About 9 inches; bill 1.40. 

Adult in Winter. — Above very dark gray or bluish ash, with purple or 
violet reflections, each feather of back and wing with a lighter border; 
throat and breast bluish ash; belly, under side of wing and wing bar 
white; sides and upper breast streaked or spotted with dark gray; legs, 
feet and base of bill orange or yellow, rest of bill blackish. 

Adult in Spring. — Similar, but with a general rusty tinge above. 

Young. — Similar; feathers of back light tipped; under parts mottled with 
ashy and dusky. 

Season. — A not uncommon winter visitant on rocky islands coastwise; 
September to April. Dr. C. W. Townsend gives July 30 and May 11 
as unusual dates in Essex County, Mass. 

Range. — Northern parts of northern hemisphere, mainly. Breeds in high 
latitudes; in North America, chiefly in northeastern parts, from Mel- 
ville Island, Ellesmere Land and northern Greenland south to Melville 
Peninsula, Cumberland Sound and southern Greenland; winters from 
southern Greenland and New Brunswick to Long Island, N. Y.; casual 
to the Great Lakes, Georgia, Florida and Bermuda, and in the eastern 
hemisphere south to Great Britain and the Mediterranean. 


This bird is unique among the Sandpipers. It is not a 
bird of the August sun and the light airs of summer. The 
"rock- weed bird" comes late in autumn, or when the winter 
wind blows cold. It is a bird of the Arctic, and only takes 
refuge in this more moderate clime when the frosts have 
sealed up the waters of its northern home. It migrates regu- 
larly only about as far south as Martha's Vineyard and Long 


Island. The following notes exhibit the former abundance of 
the Purple Sandpiper and its decrease: Very abundant, 
nowhere more so than in Boston harbor; sold in Boston 
market in autumn and winter; some in New York market; 
rarely seen farther south (Audubon, 1827). Abounds in 
autumn, and is sold in the market in Boston (Peabody, 1839). 
Not uncommon in spring and autumn flights (Samuels, 1870). 
In Massachusetts this bird is rather uncommon, seen only in 
small groups of three or four (Chamberlain, 1891). Only 
four Massachusetts correspondents note an increase of this 
species, and twenty-one record a decrease. 

It is no longer "very abundant" in Boston harbor, as it 
was in Audubon's day, but small numbers still frequent the 
outer ledges in winter. And it may be seen at that season 
on the rocky wave-washed shores of Nahant, where its little 
companies enliven the winter scene along this stern and rugged 

Its form is peculiar for a Sandpiper. It is short, thick, 
wide, squat and sturdy. It stands firmly on its short strong 
legs and is not at all timid. Often it will allow one to approach 
within a few yards. It never has needed to practice dodging 
the summer gunners, for it never sees them nor they it. It is 
very rarely seen on beach or marsh when with us, but fre- 
quents outlying rocky islands and ledges, where the sea 
washes the mantle of rockweed back and forth. It may be 
found sunning itself contentedly when the thermometer 
registers near the zero mark. Small flocks may be seen even 
in a storm, resting at high tide, face to the wind, or chasing 
one another in play. It is met with sometimes in numbers on 
the rocky islands of Essex County, Mass., but is rarer farther 
south. Usually most of the Purple Sandpipers have left the 
New England coast for their arctic homes in March, but 
some are seen in April. 

This species is said to feed on mollusks, insects and seeds 
gleaned largely from the salt rockweed. Dr. Townsend states 
that its food consists chiefly of mollusks, especially the edible 
mussel {Mytilus edulis). 


PECTORAL SANDPIPER {Pisobia maculata). 

Common or local names: Grass-bird; Brownie; Brown-back; Marsh-plover; 

Krieker; Squatter. 

Length. — About 9 to 9.50 inches; bill about 1.10. 

Adult in Fall. — Above brown in general effect, the centers of feathers 
brownish black, the edges ashy, buffy, white and dark chestnut red; 
top of head chestnut, streaked heavily with black; a light streak over 
eye and a more or less distinct dark line through it; middle tail feathers 
dark, longest, pointed, outer ones light ash with white edges; throat 
white; sides of head, neck and breast dull buff, streaked with dusky; 
rest of under parts white; bill yellowish at base, rest black; feet and 
legs dull yellowish olive. 

Adult in Spring, and Young. — Similar. (The diflferences between spring 
or summer and fall or winter plumages appear to be inconstant.) 

Field Marks. — Usually found in pairs or small flocks on salt marshes or 
meadows and rarely on mud flats or beaches. This and its general 
brown appearance and absence of conspicuous streaks on the back, as 
well as absence of a white rump, should distinguish it from other Sand- 
pipers of this size. It looks as if it might be a great, overgrown Least 

Notes. — A grating whistle, creak, creak: song, a hollow, resonant, musical 
too-u, repeated eight times, made after filling aesophagus with air until 
it is puffed out to size of body (Nelson). Heard only on its northern 
breeding grounds. 

Season. — April and May, July to October. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds on the Arctic coast from the 
Yukon mouth to northeastern Mackenzie; winters in South America 
from Peru and Bolivia to northern Chile, Argentina and central Pata- 
gonia; in migration very rare on Pacific coast south of British Columbia, 
except in Lower California; common in fall migration on Atlantic coast 
and in Mississippi valley, rare in spring; casual in northeastern Siberia, 
Unalaska and Greenland; accidental in Hawaii and England. 



Formerly this bird arrived on our coasts in great flocks, 
and was extremely abundant in our meadows. In olden 
times it was not much noticed or hunted, for there was an 
abundant supply of larger and better game, but for the past 
fifty years, during the growing game scarcity, most gunners 
found the little Grass-bird one of the most numerous species 
commonly met with in the meadows and marshes, and it was 
much sought for the market. It is still one of the common 
birds found in the salt marsh at times, particularly during 
storms in August and September, but its numbers have de- 
creased greatly, and since the decline of the Curlews, Godwits, 
Willets and larger Plover this little fellow has come to be 
reckoned with as one of the "big birds" which helps to make 
out a bag. Now not even a "Peep" is too small to shoot. 

The following abridged extracts from the writings of orni- 
thologists throw light on the history of the species: In the 
neighborhood of Boston more abun- 
dant than elsewhere (Audubon) . Have 
been killed in abundance on shores of 
Cohasset and other parts of Massachu- 
setts Bay, and brought to markets in 
Boston (Nuttall, 1834). More abun- 
dant on the shores of Massachusetts fig. is.— Tail of Pectoral 
Bay than in any other part of the sandpiper. (. 
country (Peabody, 1839). Quite plentiful on Long Island 
(Giraud, 1844). A few remain in spring, but the greater 
number come from August to November; occasionally occurs 
in great numbers along the coast of the State; some years 
very scarce (De Kay, New York, 1844). Common migrant 
on marshes (Maynard, eastern Massachusetts, 1870). Com- 
mon in migration (J. A. Allen, 1879). Generally not uncom- 
mon, occasionally abundant (Hoffmann, New England and 
New York, 1904). Transient autumn; formerly not un- 
common (Brewster, Cambridge region, Mass., 1906). Rare 
spring and common fall migrant (G. M. Allen, Massachu- 
setts, 1909). Seven Massachusetts correspondents report an 


increase of this species and forty-four report a decrease. Mr. 
Frank A. Brown of Beverly thinks that its decrease has been 
more marked than that of any other marsh bird. On the 
other hand, Mr. Lewis W. Hill says that it was abundant at 
Martha's Vineyard from 1905 to 1908. Mr. Robert O. Morris 
states that it formerly was seen sometimes in large flocks in 
the Connecticut valley. From Nova Scotia to New Jersey all 
correspondents outside of Massachusetts who mention this 
species report a serious decrease in its numbers. 

The Grass-bird usually comes in the night, in flocks of 
twenty-five to fifty birds, and scatters in small parties in the 
salt marshes, particularly those on which the grass has been 
cut and where little pools of water stand. It seems to prefer 
the higher portions of the salt marsh, where the "black grass" 
grows, and it is sometimes common in the fresh-water mead- 
ows near ponds in the interior. In such places it collects 
worms, grubs, insects and snails, such as are commonly found 
in the marsh. The grass pattern and shading of its back 
furnish such complete protection from the eye of man that it 
can conceal itself absolutely by merely squatting in the short 
grass. Wliere it has not been shot at or disturbed it becomes 
exceedingly tame and confiding, but old experienced birds are 
wild, and fly so swiftly and erratically that some of the gunners 
call them "Jack Snipe" because of a fancied resemblance in 
their flight to that of Wilson's Snipe. Sometimes they are 
found in fresh meadows near the salt marsh, and more rarely 
on the ocean beach, where they follow the retreating wave 
like the Sanderling or any other beach bird. 

While here in autumn the Pectoral Sandpiper is an ex- 
tremely fat, gluttonous bird, apparently intent only on filling 
its stomach, but in early summer in its far northern breeding 
grounds in Alaska or on the shores of the Arctic Sea it is quite 
a different being. During the mating season the male develops 
a great pouch, formed of the skin of the throat and breast, 
which he is able to inflate until it is nearly as large as the 
body. He now becomes a song bird, and flutters upwards 
twenty or thirty yards in the air, as if emulating the famous 
Skylark, and, inflating his great pouch, glides down again to 


the ground; or he flies slowly along close to the ground, his 
head raised high and his tail hanging straight down, uttering 
a succession of booming notes. As he struts about the female 
his low notes swell and die away in musical cadences, which, as 
Nelson describes them, form a striking part of the great bird 
chorus of the northern wilds. 

As this bird apparently breeds along most of the Arctic 
coast from Alaska to Ungava, and as it follows the general 
southeastern direction, which so many northern birds take in 
the fall, it must always reach the coast of the Maritime 
Provinces and New England in large numbers, unless it de- 
creases largely on its breeding grounds. It is believed that 
birds of this species from northern Siberia which migrate east 
cross to Alaska and continue southeasterly to the Atlantic 
coast, ^ for it is found in the Aleutian Islands, but is uncommon 
farther south on the Pacific coast, and is almost unknown in 
California. It reappears in Lower California (Brewster), but 
no one knows how it gets there. The old birds start south in 
July, and by the end of August a few have reached Argentina. 
The young birds begin to leave their arctic homes late in 
August and early in September. Most of the birds of this 
species killed in Massachusetts are taken between August and 
November 1. In winter the species dwells in South America. 
In Argentina and Chile it visits both mountain and plain, and 
is by no means confined to the sea-coast. 

Insects, shell-fish and vegetable matter have been found 
in stomachs of this species. Crickets, grasshoppers, ground 
larvse and earthworms are commonly taken by those which 
feed inland. 

I Cooke, W. W.: Distribution and Migration of North American Shore Birds, Bull. No. 35, Biol. 
Surv., 1910, p. 35. 



WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (Pisobia fuscicollis). 
Common or local names: Bull-peep; Sand-bird. 

- - — '■?i-"^&.=5^5^^^g^^^;^>;^3 

Length. — 6.75 to 8 inches; bill about 1. 

Adult in Spring. — Above black and brownish buflf; the back feathers have 
black centers and buff margins arranged in stripes; top of head dark- 
ened with fine black streaks on buff ground, much like Pectoral Sand- 
piper, but upper coverts at base of tail pure white; middle tail feathers 
dark, outer ones light ashy; throat and most of under parts white; 
sides of head, neck and breast buffy and streaked with lines of distinct 
dusky spots. 

Adult in Fall. — Above plain ashy or brownish gray, often showing patches 
of the black and brown of spring plumage; a white line over eye and a 
dark line through it; breast faintly and indistinctly streaked. 

Young. — Similar to spring adults, but less distinctly marked; feathers of 
back tipped with white and edged with reddish brown; breast grayish. 

Field Marks. — The large ptire lohite patch just above the tail, conspicuous 
in flight, distinguishes this bird. 

Notes. — A rather sharp piping, ^veet, rveet (Goss) ; and a lisping note. 

Season. — Rather uncommon spring and fall migrant coastwise; very rare 
inland; May and mid July to October. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds along the Arctic coast from 
northwestern Mackenzie to Cumberland Island; has occurred in sum- 
mer west to Point Barrow and east to Greenland; winters from Para- 
guay to southern Patagonia and the Falkland Islands; in migration 
most abundant in the Mississippi valley, less so on the Atlantic coast; 
casual in Bermuda, Great Britain, the West Indies and Central America. 



The White-rumped Sandpiper was known formerly as Bona- 
parte's or Schintz's Sandpiper. 

Dr. Coues (1874) calls it a very abundant bird along the 
whole Atlantic coast, from Labrador to Florida. It is not so 
to-day. Warren rates it as rare in Pennsylvania. Stone (1908) 
calls it apparently rather scarce on the New Jersey coast, and 
Wayne (1910) rates it as a rare transient on the coast of South 
Carolina, and he has seen it but once in autumn. It is signif- 
icant that Dr. Coues spent considerable time in earlier days on 
the coast of South Carolina as well as on other parts of the 
Atlantic coast. The bird is still common in migration in fall 
on parts of the Massachusetts coast, and occasionally so inland, 
particularly along the Connecticut River. Eaton (1910) calls 
it common on Long Island and less so in New York. 

Stearns says that it is the common Sandpiper of Labrador, 
where it is called the Sand-bird. As it does not now visit our 
shores in large numbers, the majority probably fly by us at 
sea on their way to South America. This bird seems to be 
more numerous in Maine than here, but many are found here 
at times about the little ponds and sloughs in our salt marshes, 
where they are confounded sometimes with the Grass-birds by 
the gunner. When found on the shore they are seen most 
often along rocky beaches. They are quite gentle little birds 
and very tame where they are undisturbed. On the beaches 
they are found in company with the Semipalmated Sandpiper, 
which is the common Peep of the beach. When disturbed 
by the gunner they fly rapidly, circling about and turning 
first the upper parts and then the under parts to view. At 
such times the white under bodies flash and gleam in the sun- 
light, and then the darker backs are turned, showing the white 
upper tail coverts to the observer. On the mud flats they 
wade often breast deep into the flowing tide, and are driven 
from the flats only when the water becomes too deep for 
them. At high tide they collect with other species on ledges 
above water, on the higher parts of the beach, or on the drift 
grass and seaweed in some corner of the marsh, where they 


often snuggle down to rest and bask in the sunshine. While 
this is largely a bird of the sea-coast with us, it is found also 
not rarely in the interior. 

Notwithstanding various statements regarding the breeding 
grounds of these birds, I know of no definite authentic record 
of eggs found except that recorded by MacFarlane near the 
coast of Franklin Bay and on the barren grounds in that 
region. Prof. W. W. Cooke believes that during the breed- 
ing season the species is crowded into the belt of tundra 
extending from near the mouth of the Mackenzie east to the 
southern extremity of Baffin Land. From this region the 
southeasterly summer and fall migration brings it down 
through the Hudson Bay country, Ungava and Labrador 
directly to the Atlantic coast of New England. In July and 
August it traverses almost the entire length of the Atlantic 
coast of both continents, as it has been taken at Cape Horn on 
September 9, but it is sometimes taken in Massachusetts 
after September 15. As this species appears to be very rare 
in the Carolinas in fall, it must pass out to sea, and very likely 
follows a route somewhat similar to that followed by the 
Eskimo Curlew. Li the spring it is a late migrant; remaining 
in Brazil until May, when it is seen also in South Carolina and 
Florida. Apparently the larger numbers pass north through 
the Mississippi valley region and south by the Atlantic coast. 
The wonderful flight of this species over almost the entire 
length of the western continents has not yet been fully traced 
and mapped. 



BAIRD'S SANDPIPER (Pisobia hairdi). 

Length. — About 7.50 inches; bill .90 to 1 inch. 

Adult. — Above grayish buff, varied with dusky; stripe over eye white; 
middle tail feathers dusky, others gray; breast tinged with buff, streaked 
with dusky; below white; bill and feet black; resembles Pectoral Sand- 
piper, but smaller, and fore neck and breast less heavily streaked. 

Young of the First Winter. — Closely resemble young of Wliite-rumped Sand- 
piper, but upper parts paler; back feathers conspicuously margined 
with white, and rump not white. 

Field Marks. — Only a little larger than Semipalmated Sandpiper or Sand- 
peep, but has a darker breast. 

Notes. — Peet-peet; a shrill trilling whistle, like that of Semipalmated Sand- 
piper (C. W. Townsend). 

Season. — Rather rare fall migrant; late July to early October. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds along Arctic coast from Point 
Barrow to northern Keewatin; winters in Chile, Argentina and Pata- 
gonia; occurs regularly in migration from Rocky Mountains to Missis- 
sippi River, and in Central America and northern South America, and 
irregularly in autumn on Pacific coast from Alaska to Lower California, 
and on Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to New Jersey; casual in sum- 
mer in Guerrero, Mex.; accidental in England and South Africa. 


This bird is considered rather rare in New England but 
may be more common than it is gen- 
erally believed to be. On our coasts 
it is mistaken often for the Pectoral 
Sandpiper, which it resembles, or is 
lumped with it under the name of 

Grass-bird. Jillson found this species FiaTT-TaiiofBaird-sSandpiper. 
very abundant in Essex County, Mass., '^^'^' ^°'-^-^ 

in 1852. It is not very rare in some parts of New York. 


LEAST SANDPIPER {Pisobia minutilla). 
Common or local names: Peep; Mud-peep. 

Length. — 5.50 to 6 inches; bill about .75. 

Adult in Spring. — Feathers of upper parts black centered, edged with gray, 
rusty or chestnut; sides of head, neck and breast streaked with brown; 
belly white; legs and feet dusky greenish or yellowish green. 

Adult in Fall. — General tone of upper parts ashy. 

Young. — • Upper parts much as in fall adult; breast dusky, very indistinctly 
streaked with darker; rest of under parts white; legs greenish yellow. 

Field Marks. — The smallest Sandpiper; like Semipalmated Sandpiper, but 
feet not webbed at all and breast more streaked ; legs greenish or yellowish. 

Notes. — Peep-peep. A simple and trilling whistle (Townsend). 

Season. — Common to abundant spring and fall migrant coastwise, less 
common inland; late April to early June; early July to early October; 
formerly summered on our coast. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds from northwestern Alaska, 
southern arctic islands and northern Ungava to Yakutat Bay, Alaska, 
valley of Upper Yukon, northern Mackenzie, central Keewatin, southern 
Ungava, Nova Scotia and Sable Island; winters from California, Texas 
and North Carolina through West Indies and Central America to Brazil, 
Chile and Galapagos; in migration occurs throughout United States 
and west to northeastern Siberia and Commander Islands, north to 
Greenland, and in Bermuda; accidental in Europe. 


The little Peep, the "baby" among the shore birds, is 
probably the most abundant of them all throughout the land; 
but in recent years its numbers have diminished sadly along 
the coast of New England. Formerly it rarely was hunted 
except by small boys. A gunner now and then shot into a 
large flock when larger birds failed to occupy his attention; 
but these "pot shots" usually were made merely to see how 


many he could kill, and no real sportsman ever thought of 
pursuing the little birds. Now all is changed. In the present 
scarcity of shore birds "Peeps" form a principal object of 
pursuit in some localities, and it is not uncommon to see three 
or four summer gunners chasing about the same number of 
"Peeps," and sometimes even a single bird is the object of 
their pursuit. 

The following extracts explain themselves: The most 
common and abundant species in America; when they arrive 
[about Boston] in company with the Semipalmated Sandpiper 
the air is sometimes clouded with their flocks (Nuttall, 1834). 
Abundant in migration (Maynard, eastern Massachusetts, 
1870). Abundant during migration (J. A. Allen, 1879). The 
Peeps still throng our shores (Chamberlain, 1891). "Peeps" 
are with us in but a small percentage of their former multi- 
tudes (Sanford, Bishop and Van Dyke, 1903). Common mi- 
grant on our coast (Hoffmann, 1904). Abundant transient 
(C. W. Townsend, Essex County, 1905). Formerly abun- 
dant, still very common (Brewster, Cambridge region, Mass., 
1906). Seven Massachusetts observers in 1908 reported that 
this species had increased in their localities within their recol- 
lection, and seventy-three reported a marked decrease. 

Wondrous tales are told of the quantities of these birds 
killed out of the great flocks in past centuries. Old gunners 
tell of killing "a peck" of the poor little things with two shots, 
or of taking a bushel in a few minutes. Two charges fired into 
them as they passed the gunner opened two holes in the 
middle of the flock. The numerous survivors soon closed 
ranks and came sweeping back over their dead and wounded 
comrades, when the gunner, having reloaded, tore two more 
clean holes in their formation, and so the slaughter went on. 
Sometimes the flocks were "raked" when massed together on 
the ground, and thus most of the larger scores were made. 
Samuels says that in old times he once brought down ninety- 
seven at one discharge of a double-barreled gun. This must 
have been near the middle of the nineteenth century. Bourne 
states that a century ago in Maine the "Sandbirds or Peeps" 
were as numerous as the Wild Pigeons. They were killed 


easily, he says, not manifesting the shyness that they show- 
to-day. It was not uncommon for the boys of that date to 
take fifty or more at a shot. John Bourne one morning filled 
his bag with them, then took off his pants, tied up the legs, 
filled them full and trudged home, well satisfied with his 
morning's work. Think of this, ye Peep shooters of the 
twentieth century, and forsake the unmanly occupation of 
chasing little Peeps on beach and marsh. Let the beautiful, 
harmless birdlings enjoy their lives in peace. If the present 
rate of destruction is kept up the Peeps eventually will go 
the way of some of their larger relatives, despite their great 
numbers and wide dispersion over the continent. 

This is one of the shore birds which formerly remained all 
summer on the Massachusetts coast, but there is no evidence 
that it ever bred here. Maynard saw some at Ipswich on June 
18, 1868. Dr. Townsend says that a few birds may be found 
between early June and early July. 

This species breeds across most of the upper part of the 
continent and migrates southward through it. Apparently, 
however, some birds from the northeastern part of their breed- 
ing range cross the sea to the Antilles and South America. 
Formerly when the species was very abundant along the 
Atlantic coast, it was a common visitor at the Bermudas in 
the fall migration. To reach Bermuda these little birds must 
have flown over seven hundred miles across the sea if they 
went straight east from the coast of South Carolina, but as 
the flocks visited the island annually in the fall migration and 
never in spring, it is reasonable to believe that they followed 
the route taken by several other species, and flew directly 
over the ocean from Labrador or Nova Scotia to Bermuda 
and the Antilles. The fact that the advance guard arrives at 
the Lesser Antilles about the middle of July lends color to 
this theory, for that is only a few days or a week later than 
their usual arrival in New England. The species winters in 
Chile, Peru, northern South America, Central America and 
Mexico, the West Indies and the more southern States. It 
goes north mainly through the interior of North America, but 
some migrate up the coast. 


The Peep is naturally tame and confiding. Where it is 
undisturbed, it pays little attention to man. Along the shores 
and in the marshes it runs about among the larger shore birds 
and Ducks, and they seem to tolerate the little ones and 
seldom disturb them. This species seems to prefer the salt 
marsh, the mud flat and the shallow muddy shores of ponds 
and rivers to the sea beach; hence the name Mud-peep. It 
is by no means confined to the mud, however, but is also not 
uncommon on the sands. It is fond of poking about among 
masses of eelgrass and seaweed cast upon the strand by the 
waves. Here it finds sand fleas, flies and many other small 
forms of life on which it feeds. It is a great insect eater, par- 
ticularly in the interior, where its flocks sometimes devour 
great quantities of grasshoppers and locusts. 

DUNLIN {Pelidna alpina alpina). 

Adult. — A little smaller than the Red-backed Sandpiper; resembling it 
almost exactly in coloration but a little duller; bill shorter. For de- 
scription of the Red-backed Sandpiper see next page. 

Range. — Eastern hemisphere. Winters south to North Africa, India, etc.; 
accidental in eastern North America, District of Columbia, Long Island, 
New York, and Massachusetts. 

The Dunlin is an accidental wanderer here from the Old 
World. Mr. Charles J. Paine, Jr., reported the capture of a 
female taken at Chatham, Mass., August 11, 1900, by Mr. 
J. S. Cochrane. It is now in the Brewster collection at Cam- 
bridge. This is the only record for Massachusetts. ^ Mr. 
Curtis C. Young of Brooklyn secured a specimen, September 
15, 1892, at Shinnecock Bay, Long Island, N. Y. This speci- 
men was identified by Mr. F. M. Chapman, of the American 
Museum of Natural History. 


1 Howe, Reginald Heber, and Allen, Glover M.: Birds of Massachusetts, 1902, p. 41. 

2 Auk, 1893, p. 78. 


RED-BACKED SANDPIPER (Pelidna alpina sakhalina). 

Common or local names: American Dunlin; Brant Bird; Redback; Simpleton; Stib; 
Crooked- billed Snipe; Crooked- bill; California Peep; Little Blackbreast; Lead- 

Fall. Spring. 

Length. — About 8 inches; bill 1.50 to 1.75. 

Adult in Spring. — Back largely rusty or chestnut red, marked slightly with 
black and whitish; head (except crown, which is rusty and black), neck, 
breast and tail light gray, shading into white below and to ashy on tail; 
head, neck, breast and flanks slightly spotted and streaked; wings gray 
or ashy, with a white bar; upper belly black; bill long and down-curved. 

Adult in Fall. — Above ashy gray or brownish gray; top of head and streak 
through eye darker; a light streak over eye; below white; neck and 
upper breast tinged with gray and streaked with dusky; streaks con- 
tinued on flanks. 

Young. — Back similar, the feathers bordered with rusty; head and neck 
buffy, streaked with dusky; breast shading to buffy white streaked with 
black; belly white, spotted urith black. 

Field Marks. — Birds showing the red back and black belly not often seen in 
Massachusetts either in spring or fall. The long curved bill and the mouse- 
colored back distinguish fall birds. In flight a white line shows on the wing. 

Notes. — Peurr (Hoffmann). When frightened or flying, a hoarse grating 
note; a contented peeping chatter (Eaton). When disturbed a kUk. 

Season. — Rare spring and common autumn migrant coastwise; April to 
early June, and September to November; formerly a few summered here. 

Range. — North America and eastern Asia. Breeds on northern coast of 
Siberia west to mouth of Yenisei, from Point Barrow to mouth of Yukon, 
in Boothia and MelviUe peninsulas and northern Ungava; winters on 
Pacific coast from Washington to southern Lower California and from 
New Jersey (rarely Massachusetts) south to Louisiana and southern 
Texas, and in Asia from China and Japan to Malay Archipelago; rare 
in migration in interior of United States, except about southern end of 
Lake Michigan. 



Although this bird is found often in the interior of North 
America, in New England it is confined mainly to the neighbor- 
hood of the sea and largely to the salt marshes, but also fre- 
quents sand bars and mud flats. It is an active little bird 
usually keeping in companies, which run about nimbly and 
fly very rapidly, performing varied evolutions in concert, as if 
drilled to act together. In the breeding season it has a rather 
musical flight song, which never is heard except in its northern 
home so far as I know. 

The following notes throw some light on its history: 
Abundant in autumn and winter along the whole length of 
coast on sandy or muddy shores from Maine to mouth of 
Mississippi (Audubon, 1835). These birds, with several others, 
sometimes collect in such flocks as to seem at a distance a large 
cloud of thick smoke (Wilson). Collect in such flocks as to 
seem at a distance like a moving cloud (Nuttall, 1834). 
Quite abundant in September; fifty-two killed with two barrels 
(Giraud, Long Island, 1844). Abundant in spring and autumn 
migration; on June 18, 1868, saw and shot several on Ipswich 
Beach (Maynard, 1870). Abundant on our shores (Samuels, 
New England, 1870). Rare spring and not uncommon 
autumn migrant (Hoffmann, New England and New York, 
1904). Rather local in October, very rare in spring (Knight, 
Maine, 1908). Only four Massachusetts correspondents note 
an increase of the Red-backed Sandpiper and forty-nine have 
observed a decrease. Mr. E. W. Eaton of Newburyport says 
that he shot about one hundred out of one flock about 1893, 
but in 1908 saw "only three or four bunches." Reports all 
along the Atlantic coast, from Nova Scotia to Virginia, corrob- 
orate the above. 

There seem to be two well-defined migration routes of the 
Red-backed Sandpiper, one from Alaska and Siberia down the 
Pacific coast of North America, and one from Hudson Bay, 
Ungava and the lands to the north down the Atlantic coast. 
A large part of the flight which concerns the gunners of Mas- 
sachusetts comes down the west coast of Hudson Bay in the 


fall and crosses from there to the Atlantic coast, where it 
joins the birds from Ungava and the eastern shore of Hudson 
Bay. The Atlantic birds winter mainly in the United States, 
and the Pacific birds are common in winter only as far south 
as southern California. The future of this species, therefore, 
is in our hands. It can be protected or exterminated by the 
people of the United States and Canada. In spring the migra- 
tion passes more to the westward, and the species appears in 
numbers on the Great Lakes, becoming rare to the northeast of 
Massachusetts. It is usually common on our coast in autumn, 
between September 1 and November 1, and much less com- 
mon in May. 

No one yet knows where the great majority of these birds 
reach the Atlantic coast, but from the fact that numbers are 
seen on the shores of the Great Lakes and in New York and 
Pennsylvania, and from the other fact that the numbers of 
the species seen on the coast of South Carolina are much 
greater than those now seen on the coast of New England, 
we may surmise that the great body of birds from the Hud- 
son Bay region crosses the country via the Great Lakes and 
reaches the coast in the south. It seems probable that the 
majority of these birds which pass down the New England 
coast are reared east of Hudson Bay, and that, as in the case 
of the Knot, overshooting along the Atlantic coast must have 
reduced greatly the birds that breed in that region. 

The Red-backed Sandpiper feeds largely on worms, crus- 
taceans and insects. 

CURLEW SANDPIPER (Erolia ferruginea). 

Length. — About 8.50 inches; bill, average, 1.50, slender, and a little curved 

beyond the middle. 
Adult in Summer. — Above mottled black, gray and rusty; wings and tail 

ashy gray; tail coverts pale buff barred with black; below chestnut. 
Adult in Winter. — Above plain grayish brown; upper tail coverts white; 

below white; breast with a few indistinct streaks of gray. 
Young. — Like adult in winter, but feathers above margined with buff or 

whitish; rump dusky; neck streaked with brown. 
Field Marks. — Resembles the Knot or Red-breast, but smaller and bill 

proportionately longer and more curved. 


Range. — Chiefly eastern hemisphere; occasional in North and South 
America. Breeds in Yenisei delta and on Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia; 
winters in Africa, India, Malay Archipelago and Australia; in migration 
occurs from Great Britain to China and the Philippines; occasional in 
North America; Alaska (Point Barrow), Ontario, Nova Scotia, Maine, 
Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, and in the West Indies and 


The Curlew Sandpiper is a straggler from the Old World. 
It has been recorded six times at least in Massachusetts, as 
follows: A specimen was taken in the autumn of 1865 on Cape 
Ann.^ A specimen in the collection made by Mr. Baldwin 
Coolidge (now in possession of the city of Lawrence) was killed 
at Nahant about 1869.^ A female in the collection of the 
Peabody Academy at Salem was killed at Ipswich, October 2, 
1872, by R. L. Newcomb.^ Another was taken at East Boston 
in May, 1876.'' Another specimen in the collection of Mr. 
John Fottler, Jr., was taken at Cape Cod about May 10, 1878.^ 
A male was taken at Chatham, August 26, 1889, and came 
into the possession of Mr. Gordon Plummer.^ One specimen 
is on record for Maine and another one at Grand Manan, 
N. B.,^ which has been erroneously credited to Maine. The 
earlier records from New York are rather indefinite, but the 
probability is that at least a dozen specimens have been taken 
in that State. ^ 

Elliot says that the Curlew Sandpiper resembles the Red- 
backed Sandpiper in its habits, and that it is an active little 
bird, fond of associating with other species of waders. It 
runs rapidly upon the shore, carrying the head down, and flies 
rather high and fast, showing the back and breast alternately 
as it wheels in its course. 

Its food, he says, consists of small mollusks, crustaceans, 
insects, etc., and it is said to swallow the roots of marsh 
plants, to eat small ground fruits and to feed much at night. 

1 Samuels, E. A.: Ornithology and Oology of New England, 1867, p. 444. 

2 Deane, Ruthven: Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, 1879, p. 124. 

s Townsend, C. W.: Memoirs of the Nuttall Orn. Club, No. 3, Birda of Essex County, 1905, p. 177. 
4 Brewster, William: Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, 1876, pp. 51, 52. 
6 Ornithologist and Oologist, July, 1890, Vol. 15, No. 7, p. 110. 
6 Knight, Ora W.: The Birds of Maine, 1908, p. 167. 
» Eaton, E. H.: Birds of New York, 1910, p. 316. 


SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER {Ereuneies pusillus). 
Common or local names: Peep; Sand-peep; Black-legged Peep ; Sand Oxeye. 

iT.rTi;^ I'^fr'S**;^^'"'^^ ■' '■^"- .. 

Length. — 6.30 inches; bill of male, .66 to .75; female, .80 to .92. Foot with 

two evident webs. 
Adult in Spring. — Above variegated with black, pale bay and ashy or 

white; a dark line through eye and a white line above it; below white; 

breast usually rufescent and speckled with black; rest of lower parts 

white; legs and feet black. 
Adult in Fall. — Upper parts grayer; breast with specks faint or obsolete. 
Young. — Upper parts mostly ashy gray; under parts white; a slight 

dusky wash across the unspotted breast; legs and feet greenish black. 
Field Marks. — Distinguished from the Least Sandpiper in autumn by its 

black legs and unspotted breast. 
J^otes. — A quailing call, like 'to-weet, 'to-weet; a shrill clattering whistle 

Season. — Common migrant early May to mid June; early July to October. 

Non-breeding birds occur in summer. 
Range. — North and South America. Breeds from Arctic coast of North 

America south to Yukon mouth and to southern Ungava; winters 

from Texas and South Carolina through the West Indies and Central 

America to Patagonia; migrates mainly east of Rocky Mountains; 

casual in British Columbia, Pribilof Islands and northeastern Siberia; 

accidental in Europe. 

The Semipalmated Sandpiper was one of the smaller species, 
the great abundance of which is described by the earlier writers 
in the days when twelve score were taken "at one shoot." 
Authors give some of its history as follows: Sometimes seen 
near Boston in large flocks (Nuttall, 1834). Exceedingly 
abundant in winter, spring and autumn from Florida to Maine 
(Audubon, 1838). Appears here in May, and many remain 
with us during the whole summer and late in autumn (De Kay, 


New York, 1844). Abundant (Maynard, eastern Massachu- 
setts, 1870). Abundant in migration; few sometimes seen in 
summer (J. A. Allen, 1879). Still abundant in New England, 
but flocks not so numerous as formerly (Chamberlain, 1891). 
Common migrant on coast (Hoffmann, 1904). Formerly 
abundant (Brewster, Cambridge region, Mass., 1906). Seven 
Massachusetts observers who reported in 1908 recorded an 
increase in the numbers of this species, and seventy-three 
noted a decrease. The species, though greatly reduced in 
numbers, is still common and often locally abundant in New 
York and New England. 

Much that has been said of the Least Sandpiper will apply 
c^uite as well to the Semipalmated. Its former abundance and 
its present diminution parallel that of the latter. Its habits 
are much the same, and usually it is confounded with the 
Semipalmated Sandpiper. 

This bird, however, is more of a sand bird and less of 
a mud bird than its smaller companion. It often is very 
tame and confiding, but sometimes is rendered shy by sad 
experience. It is called easily and thus enticed to the slaughter. 
Its breeding grounds lie mainly farther north than those of the 
Least Sandpiper, and it migrates farther south, even to Pat- 
agonia. It winters in a large part of eastern South America, 
Central America, Mexico and the West Indies and on the Gulf 
coast of the United States. It is noted in numbers all along 
the Atlantic coast of the United States in fall, but is rather 
rare there in spring. Formerly it summered in some numbers 
in Massachusetts and some other northern States, and a few 
have remained here in recent years, but they were non-breeding 

These smaller Sandpipers are chased and taken sometimes 
by Hawks, but although I have seen some long and persistent 
pursuits I never saw one caught. Once as I drifted with the 
wind in a canoe, watching a flock feeding on the shore of a 
quiet bay, a crippled bird standing on one leg amidst its com- 
panions tucked its head into the feathers of its back, as if 
napping. Soon a Sharp-shinned Hawk swooped at the little 
birds, but the cripple was wide awake and away in an instant, 


and the Hawk quickly gave up pursuit. In Florida I have 
seen the swift Pigeon Hawk chase large flocks of Sandpipers 
back and forth for a long time, but they were too swift for him. 
His persistent efforts stirred up about all the "Peeps" over a 
large expanse of flats, and as they swirled and sped away in 
writhing, twisting evolutions, back and forth in panic, it was 
evident that they realized the danger that they were exerting 
all their powers to avoid. The apparent ease with which they 
evaded their swift enemy indicates great speed and dexterity 
of flight. One who has seen the Duck Hawk overtake and 
strike down Ducks going at full speed cannot help admiring 
the speed and skill displayed by these little birds in avoiding 
the attacks of an enemy which seems to possess as much 
speed and prowess, in proportion to its size, as the Duck Hawk. 
The following interesting account of the notes of this bird 
is taken from Dr. Townsend's Birds of Essex County: "Their 
call note is very much like that of the Least Sandpiper but is 
shriller and less musical. A harsh rasping note and a peeping 
note are sometimes heard. A low, rolling, gossipy note is 
often emitted when they approach other birds. This latter 
note often is imitated with success by gunners. In the spring, 
however, the bird is delightfully musical on occasions, and 
his flight song may be heard on the beach and among the 
bogs of the dunes. Rising on quivering wings to about thirty 
feet from the ground, the bird advances with rapid wing beats, 
curving the pinions strongly downward, pouring forth a suc- 
cession of musical notes, — a continuous quavering trill, — 
and ending with a few very sweet notes that recall those of 
the Goldfinch. He then descends to the ground where one 
may be lucky enough, if near at hand, to hear a low musical 
cluck from the excited bird. This is, I suppose, the full love 
flight-song, and is not often heard in its entirety, but the first 
quavering trill is not uncommon, a single bird, or a member of 
a flock singing thus as he flies over. I have seen birds chasing 
one another on the beach with raised wings, emitting a few 
quavering notes, and have been reminded of a Long-billed 
Marsh Wren. I have also heard them emit at this time a 
sharp grasshopper-like sound." 


WESTERN SANDPIPER {Ereunetes mauri). 

Length. — Same as that of Semipalmated Sandpiper, except bill, which is 
longer, .80 to .95 in the male and 1.00 to l.'-ZO in the female. 

Adult in Summer. — Similar to Semipalmated Sandpiper, but bill longer; 
plumage richer in color and more rusty above, with stronger markings. 

Adult in Winter. — Distinguished in the winter from the Semipalmated 
Sandpiper only by the greater length of bill and tarsus; some specimens 
may have more rusty on the upper parts. 

Notes. — A soft iveet-weet; song uttered on the wing on its northern breeding 
grounds "a rapid, uniform series of rather musical trills" (Nelson). 

Season. — Rare fall migrant; mid July to late September. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds along the Alaska coast; winters 
from North Carolina to Florida and from southern Lower California to 
Venezuela; in migration occurs mainly west of Rocky Mountains, but 
also on Atlantic coast as far north as Massachusetts, and in the West 


The Western Sandpiper is considered a rare bird in New 
England and New York, but it has appeared abundantly on 
Long Island and may be more common at times than the 
records show, as in fall, when it comes here, it resembles the 
Semipalmated Sandpiper so closely that it can be identified 
only by measurement. 

This little Sandpiper performs a remarkable feat of migra- 
tion. Its breeding range appears to be a narrow strip along 
the coast of Alaska, and from this region it seems to move 
southeasterly across the country to the coast of the south 
Atlantic States. A little of the northern edge of its migra- 
tion apparently laps over into Massachusetts, and it becomes 
more common from New Jersey southward, particularly on 
the coast from North Carolina to Florida. The peculiar part 
of the history of its migration is that apparently it is rare in 
the Mississippi valley region and in a great part of the in- 
terior of the continent. Just how the main flight reaches 
the southern coast is yet to be learned. Probably it reaches 
Venezuela by sea from the south Atlantic coast of the United 
States. The close resemblance of this bird to the Semipal- 
mated Sandpiper causes it to be mistaken for that species, 
and possibly that accounts for the scarcity of inland records. 


SANDERLING (Calidris lexicophcea) . 
Common or local names: Beach-bird; Whitey; Beach Plover; Bull-peep. 

^^^t^'.-^-.vC- ■ 

Length. — 7.50 to 8 inches; bill averages about .77; no liind toe. 

Adult in Spring. — Head, back, sides of neck and upper breast varied with 
rufous, brown and black, the feathers largely centered with black, edged 
with pale rufous and tipped or frosted with grayish white; rump dark 
brown; tail grayish brown; under parts white; wings grayish, marked 
with whitish, showing a band of white on secondaries when spread. 

Adult in Fall. — Above pale gray, the shaft lines of each feather black; below 
pure white. 

Young. — Gray above, spotted with black and white; hind neck dusky 
white; throat and breast washed with buff or dusky, rest of under parts 
white; wings as in adult; iris hazel; bill, legs and feet always dark. 

Field Marks. — In fall the general whitish appearance and the black bill. 
Sand beaches. 

Notes. — A short chit (Hoffmann). A rasping note and a peeping note, some- 
times also a sharp grasshopper-like sound. The flight song in spring a 
cjuavering trill. 

Season. — Common spring and fall migrant coastwise, and rare winter resi- 
dent; rarer in interior; most common in late May, early June, July, 
August and September; non-breeding birds formerly summered here. 

Range. — Northern and southern hemispheres. Breeds from Melville 
Island, Ellesmere Land and northern Greenland to Point Barrow, 
Alaska, northern Mackenzie, Iceland and in northern Siberia; winters 
from central California, Texas, Virginia and Bermuda to Patagonia, 
and casually to Massachusetts and Washington; also from the Mediter- 
ranean, Burma and Japan to South Africa and various Pacific islands, 
including Hawaii. 

It is half tide on Cape Cod. Great waves heave high their 
tossing heads, which, curling, break and thunder down in 
sheets of snowy foam that overwhelm the beach, charging for- 
ward and upward across the sloping sands almost to the very 


foot of the dunes. The sea bellows and roars. It pounds 
the shifting sands until the very earth trembles with the 
impact, and the salt spray, blown from the wave crests, drifts 
in clouds across the beach. The flotsam and jetsam of the 
sea are tossed and washed upon the beach amid the froth and 
spume; bits of rockweed, seaweed, sponge, cork, bamboo and 
driftwood, floating wreckage which was once a part of the hull 
or cargo of some ship overwhelmed at sea or wrecked on the 
treacherous sands, — all are cast high on the sands or washed 
back by the returning wave. Many small forms of marine 
life are torn from their ocean bed and thrown upon the beach. 

Here the little Sanderlings are in their element. With 
nimble, ready step they follow the back-wash down and re- 
treat before the rush of the incoming wave. Sometimes in 
their eager pursuit of some unusually tempting morsel they 
run so far down the beach that they are met by the returning 
surge coming too fast for their little flying feet to escape its 
overwhelming rush. Then with ready wings they mount and 
flutter beyond its reach. If disturbed they rise and gather 
into a rather compact flock, then, wheeling out over the surf, 
they fly up or down the beach, now fluttering low in a great 
sea hollow, now skimming the crest of a foaming breaker, soon 
to alight again on the sands. 

The Sanderling is well-named "Beach -bird," for in all 
countries the beach is its habitat and the sea its refuge. It 
seeks not only the outer shore, where the surf continually 
roars, but also the strand of the quiet bay, where the swell 
gently washes on sunny sands. In August, when the water 
is low in the ponds and lakes of the interior, it may be found 
there sometimes along the exposed bars or beaches. 

Since the days when Morton shot between four and five 
dozen "sanderlins" "at one shoot," near his home at Merry- 
mount, the numbers of this bird have not fallen off quite so 
much, perhaps, as those of most of the other shore birds. The 
following abridged extracts give some idea of its decrease in 
numbers: Extremely abundant on coast in autumn and spring 
from Maine to Florida (Audubon, 1835). Occurs on coast in 
small numbers in May, again in large flocks about middle of 


August (De Kay, New York, 184 i). Abundant on sea-coast 
spring and autumn (Turnbull, eastern Pennsylvania and New 
Jersey, 1869). Abundant in migrations (Maynard, eastern 
Massachusetts, 1870). Abundant on shores in autumn (Sam- 
uels, New England, 1870). Stragglers sometimes seen in 
summer (J. A. Allen, Massachusetts, 1879). Common migrant 
(G. M. Allen, Massachusetts, 1909). Only four of my Mas- 
sachusetts correspondents had seen an increase of the species 
in their localities up to the year 1908, and fifty-five report a 
decrease. Mr. Alfred E. Gould says that large numbers fre- 
quented Nahant many years ago, but he saw one only in 1908. 
Mr. William P. Wharton reports great numbers at Plum Island 
in 1901, and "not seen in abundance since;" but he says that 
large numbers were seen in Provincetown in 1908; and Mr. 
Benjamin F. Curtis writes that Sanderlings were more nu- 
merous that fall on Plymouth and Duxbury beaches than he 
ever has seen them there in his long experience. Mr. Fred B. 
Lund also states that they have been numerous at Duxbury 
(1908) " for the past few years." Mr. Lewis W. Hill states that 
they are numerous at Edgartown. Outside of Massachusetts 
I get no reports of their abundance along the Atlantic coast 
(except one from Florida) other than in places where they are 
protected from gunning, on the beaches of public parks and 
private preserves. 

The Sanderling breeds so far to the north that it has nothing 
to fear from man in the breeding season. This is its best pro- 
tection. Possibly no bird is a greater wanderer or is distributed 
more widely over the surface of the globe. Its breeding grounds 
surround the pole, and it is known to occur in the southern 
portions of all the continents, except perhaps Australia, and 
in many isolated islands in the Pacific. Many linger in the 
south until late in spring. They have been taken in Chile in 
May and in southern Florida on May 25, and they remain 
commonly along the New England coast and on the Great 
Lakes until about the first week in June. They breed in the 
arctic lands in June and July. They leave their summer 
homes in July and August, and travel by land and sea to their 
winter quarters in South America. The Sanderling appears to 


migrate through the interior as well as on the coast, and it 
traverses almost the length of both American continents. In 
the spring migration it begins to come northward in March, 
and sometimes arrives in New England by the latter part of 
the month, but after that its movement toward the pole is 
slow and it does not reach its breeding grounds in the north 
until the first week in June. 

Sanderlings associate sometimes with flocks of other shore 
birds, particularly the Semipalmated Sandpipers, but, ordi- 
narily, they are found in small flocks, unaccompanied by any 
other species. Early comers from the north in July sometimes 
are ruddy on the back, throat and breast. This is the remains 
of the spring plumage, which gradually disappears as winter 
comes on. The young birds begin to appear during the latter 
part of August; they may be distinguished from the old birds 
by the black spots on the back and the strong contrast be- 
tween the white line on the wing and the black primaries. 
Dr. Townsend records that Mr. F. H. Allen found in a gunner's 
bag at Ipswich Beach a Sanderling with a rudimentary hind 
toe. This is the only instance of this kind on record for Mas- 
sachusetts, so far as I am aware. The Sanderling, like the 
Plovers, ordinarily has no hind toe. 

The Sanderling is naturally a very unsuspicious bird, paying 
little attention to man unless it has learned to do so by painful 
experience. The flocks move well together, but fly rather 
steadily and usually low, directing their course along the beach. 
They are not much given to those graceful uniform evolutions 
which are performed by flocks of other species, during which 
the upper and under parts are alternately exposed to view. 
At high tide they resort to the higher parts of the beach or to 
some exposed sand bar, where they rest and often sleep, with 
the head thrust into the feathers of the back. 

The Sanderling often feeds on beaches or flats by plunging 
its bill into the sand in search of worms. At such times Audu- 
bon found sea-worms, minute shell-fish and gravel in the stom- 
achs of birds which he dissected; when they were seen following 
the receding waves and wading in the returning waters he 
found that they had eaten "shrimps and other Crustacea." 



MARBLED GODWIT {Limosa fedoa). 
Common or local names : Marlin; Brown Marlin; Red Curlew; Badger Bird. 

Length. — 16 to 22 inches; bill 3.50 to 5.50. 

Adult. — Head and neck pale buff or pale cinnamon, streaked with blackish; 

prevailing color above dull reddish buff, varied with black; a broad 

whitish stripe from bill over eye; a narrow dark stripe below it; 

throat whitish; below pale rufous or buffy, varying in individuals; 

breast, flanks, rump and tail barred with brownish black; bill pinkish, 

black toward tip; legs and feet slaty. 
Field Marks. — Largest shore bird except the Long-billed Curlew, which it 

resembles in color. Conspicuous by its light reddish tone; bill curved 

slightly upward. No white patch at base of tail. 
Season. — Now a very rare migrant, formerly more common; May, mid 

July and August. 
Range. — North America. Breeds from valley of Saskatchewan south to 

North Dakota; winters from southern Lower California, Louisiana, 

Florida and Georgia to Guatemala and Belize; casual in California in 

winter; in migration occurs on Pacific coast north to British Columbia, 

and on Atlantic coast to Maritime Provinces (formerly) and south to 

Lesser Antilles; accidental in Alaska. 


This is one of the largest shore birds. Only the Long- 
billed Curlew and the Oyster-catcher equal or exceed the great 
Godwit in size and weight. Probably it never was very abun- 
dant on the coast of New England. As it breeds in the interior 
of the country (formerly as far south as Nebraska, Iowa and 
Wisconsin at least, and still from northern North Dakota to 
the valley of the Saskatchewan) its southeasterly fall migration 
would not be likely to bring it here in large numbers; but a 
good many individuals formerly migrated almost directly east, 
and appeared in the Maritime Provinces and in New England, 
and from there moved down the coast, increasing in number by 
accessions from the interior until Florida w^as reached. Ap- 
parently it also goes almost directly west from its breeding 
grounds to the Pacific coast. This is a remarkable departure 
from the usual route of the shore birds, and seems to be unique. 
Probably this bird's breeding range extends much farther 
north than its principal summer home, as it has been found 
both on Hudson Bay and in Alaska. While W'ayne states that 
this species winters as far south as Argentina, the weight of 
evidence seems to show that it winters mainly farther north. 
Some individuals winter, or formerly did so, in southern Cal- 
ifornia, Georgia and Florida. Audubon observed it in great 
flocks in Florida, but now it rarely is seen except in small 
companies, or a pair or single individual here and there on the 
Atlantic coast, and is rare north of Florida. Cape Cod, it is 
said, was formerly a favorite stopping place, but the bird is 
very rare there now. 

The following notes indicate its decrease: Passes in spring 
from Florida along the coast to Massachusetts, in immense 
flocks (Audubon). In August they appear in large numbers, 
and many are shot for table (Peabody, Massachusetts, 1839). 
Around May greater part go north to breed; return in large 
flocks in August ; remain until November (De Kay, New York, 
184-4). Not uncommon spring and autumn (Turnbull, eastern 
Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 1869). Flocks of from ten or a 
dozen to one hundred birds in marshes of Massachusetts sea- 


coast, hunted with great activity (Samuels, 1870). Very rare 
migrant (Maynard, 1870). Rare in migration (J. A. Allen, 
1879). A rare bird in New England (Stearns and Coues, 1883). 
Hovers around the wounded, and the pursuer sometimes bags 
the entire flock; the great and increasing army of sportsmen 
will probably exterminate the bird before many years have 
passed (Samuels, 1897). This and the Long-billed Curlew 
probably show evidence of relentless persecution more than 
any others of our shore birds; in places where flocks of thou- 
sands were not an uncommon sight, now rare (Sanford, Bishop 
and Van Dyke, 1903). Mr. Alfred E. Gould writes (1908) that 
he saw great flocks of this species in the Lynn marshes more 
than forty years ago, and three correspondents claim to have 
killed one or two within thirty years in Massachusetts. All 
but two of my Massachusetts correspondents who mention 
this bird say that it has decreased in numbers in New England 
and New York. 

Its large size and its excellent quality for the table fully 
explain its present scarcity. Also, it has a very tender feeling 
for its companions, and if one be wounded its fellows hover 
about it in distress, until the gun has decimated their ranks. 
Ordinarily, however, it is very wary and difficult of approach. 
Like most of the large shore birds it is in great danger of ex- 
tinction. Elliot says that, like all the waders, they are met 
with yearly on our eastern coast in diminished numbers. 
While with us it is a bird of the salt marsh and the borders 
of ponds. 

Since the above was written reports have been received 
regarding a flock of fifty or more large birds, apparently God- 
wits, that was seen at Chatham, Mass., in 1910. Undoubtedly 
these birds were not of this species but were Hudsonian God- 
wits, as Mr. S. Prescott Fay records a flight of that species in 
August and September, 1910. Reliable records were secured 
of twenty-five birds shot on seventeen different dates. Single 
birds were seen or taken; two were seen in one case, and in 
other cases ten and thirty or thirty-five were seen. These 
birds were all Hudsonian Godwits, an unusual flight.^ 

1 Fay, S. Prescott: Auk, 1911, pp. 257, 258. 



HUDSONIAN GODWIT (Limosa hcemastica) . 

Common and local names: Goose-bird; Black-tail; Spotrump; Whiterump; Ring- 
tailed Marlin. 

Length. — 14 to 16 inches; bill 3.20, slightly up-curved. 

Adult in Spring. — Blackish above, mottled with buflf; head and neck 

rufous, streaked with dusky; rump blackish; upper tail coverts mostly 

white; tail black, white at base, tipped slightly with white; under parts 

chestnut, barred with dusky and white; bill reddish or flesh color, black 

toward tip; legs and feet slaty. 
Adult in Winter. — Upper parts unmarked brownish gray, white spot still 

conspicuous; buffy whitish or dingy white below; breast grayer. 
Young. — Lower parts similar to winter adult; upper parts brownish gray. 
Field Marks. — Much smaller than the Marbled Godwit. The white spot 

just below the black rump and at the base of the black tail is conspicuous 

in flight. 
Season. — A very rare spring and irregular but less rare autumn migrant 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds from lower Anderson River 

southeast to central Keewatin; winters in Argentina, Patagonia and 
Falkland Islands; in migration occurs principally east of the Great 
Plains, most commonly on Atlantic coast in autumn and in Mississippi 
valley in spring; casual in Alaska. 



This bird undoubtedly was common here formerly in mi- 
gration, particularly on Cape Cod, where it once appeared in 
large flocks. It seems more common in eastern than in western 
North America, although it occurs in practically all of North 
and South America at different seasons of the year. 

The following abridged extracts will give some idea of the 
history of this bird: Less abundant than Marbled Godwit, 
seldom see more than half a dozen on our coast in one season; 
uncommon in eastern States (Nuttall, 1834). Not common 
here (Peabody, Massachusetts, 1839). Not as common as 
Marbled Godwit; often found associated with it (De Kay, 
New York, 1844). Rather scarce (Turnbull, eastern Penn- 
sylvania and New Jersey, 1869). Very rare migrant (May- 
nard, Massachusetts, 1870). Rare in migration (J. A. Allen, 
Massachusetts, 1879), In some seasons fairly common in 
New England (Stearns and Coues, 1883). I know of no 
other part of the United States where this bird can more surely 
be found during migrations than upon some portions of the 
Massachusetts coast, though in no part of the country is it a 
common species, so far as I can ascertain (Gurdon Trumbull, 
1888). Less common every year, one time abundant (Cory, 
1896). Rare spring and irregularly common autumn migrant 
on coast (Howe and Allen, Massachusetts, 1901). Rare spring 
and fall migrant (G. M. Allen, Massachusetts, 1909). Twenty- 
five Massachusetts observers report a decrease of this species 
and only one an increase. Messrs. George M. Bubier and 
Lawton W. Lane report a flock of about fifty birds at Ipswich 
on August 26, 1908, of which several were killed. This is the 
largest flock seen there in recent years. 

During my boyhood I frequently heard old gunners about 
Boston tell their tales of the Goose-bird which was well and 
favorably known all along our coast. But it is impossible now 
to tell with certainty whether these tales referred to one or 
both of the God wits. The Hudsonian Godwit is now less rare 
than the larger species, but few are seen or taken regularly 
on the Massachusetts coast. It is shy, like its larger relative. 


but a good bird caller finds no difficulty in luring it to his 

The breeding range and migration of this species are more 
or less shrouded in mystery. The eggs have been found once 
by MacFarlane in the Anderson River region, which proves 
that the birds breed near the coast of the Arctic Sea, and that 
is about all we know of its breeding range, except that it sum- 
mers in Keewatin. Audubon was informed that this species 
bred in the Magdalen and Prince Edward islands, and Mr. 
Fletcher Osgood believes that once it bred on the Lynn Marshes 
in Massachusetts, but there is no conclusive evidence that it 
ever bred in New England or the Maritime Provinces. It 
formerly appeared rarely on the coast of Maine and more 
commonly in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York 
(Long Island). Farther south it appears always to have been 
rather rare in the United States. We must assume that the 
species goes to South America by sea, like the Eskimo Curlew, 
and lands on Cape Cod and Long Island in numbers only 
when driven there by storms. It was considered rare by 
Wilson and Audubon, as it probably never was seen on the 
coast of the middle and southern States in any numbers unless 
driven in by a severe storm. On August 13, 1903, a large 
flight occurred on the Long Island coast, and many were killed, 
but little was heard of them to the southward. The only flight 
of Godwits that is shown on the record of Chatham Beach 
Hotel for seven years is in August, 1903. No birds were taken 
on the 13th, when the great flight appeared on Long Island, 
for at Chatham the weather apparently was fair, with a west 
wind. One bird, perhaps a straggler from the Long Island 
flight, was picked up on the 20th, after a southeast wind had 
blown for two days. On the 26th a northeast wind set in, and 
it blew from the east or northeast for six days. On the 29th 
seven Godwits were killed. During the seven years for which 
the record was kept Godwits were taken only singly or in 
pairs, with the above exception, and the record shows forty- 
two killed all told. Twenty -four were taken during east, north 
or northeast winds ; eight in northwest winds ; six in southwest 
winds; two in west winds, and only one in a south wind. 



GREATER YELLOW-LEGS (Totanus melanoleucus) . 

Common or local names: Winter Yellow-leg; Winter; Cucu; Large Cucu; Big 
Yellow-leg; Greater Tell-tale; Tell-tale God wit; Tattler. 


Length. — 12.50 to 15 inches; bill 2 to 2.20. 

Adult in Spring. — Blackish and light gray above, speckled with white; 
tail white, barred with blackish; basal half of the tail and upper tail 
coverts mainly white; under parts white, streaked on throat and neck 
with dusky, and on breast and sides spotted and barred with same; iris 
brown; bill black or greenish black; legs long and slender, chrome yellow. 

Adult in Winter, and Young. — Similar, but without the blackish above; 
below streaked only on the neck and upper breast; legs yellow. 

Field Marks. — Long, slender yellow legs; white or whitish tail and upper 
tail coverts. Easily recognized by its manner of flight, alternately 
scaling and flapping, curving its dark wings downward. 

Notes. — A soft, flutelike whistle, when, when, ivheu, when, loheu, when, ivheu, 
loheu (Chapman). A prolonged rolling call or a succession of quick 
calls (C. W. Townsend). 

Season. — Common migrant, mostly coastwise; early April tp mid June 
and early July to November; a few non-breeding birds occur, or 
formerly occurred, in summer. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds from Alaska and southern 
Mackenzie to southern British Columbia, Ungava, Labrador and Anti- 
costi Island ; winters from southern California and Georgia, casually in 
North Carolina, south to Patagonia; occurs in Bermuda in migration. 



Few if any shore birds have a wider and more general dis- 
tribution in America than the Winter Yellow-legs. It does not 
go as far north as some species, but it ranges southward over 
the greater part of both the American continents. Although 
this species is hunted much, and has diminished greatly in 
numbers in most parts of the Union, it is still a rather common 
bird in the migrations along the coast of New York and New 
England, and sometimes appears in considerable numbers, 
particularly in spring. Only nine of my Massachusetts cor- 
respondents saw an increase in this species up to 1908, and 
ninety-one a decrease. A recent increase is recorded in por- 
tions of Plymouth and Barnstable counties, where large flights 
are noted from 1906 to 1908, also in some parts of Essex and 
Norfolk counties; but this species, which is generally common 
in the interior of the continent, seems to appear here mainly 
on the coast or not far from it. 

Spring protection in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and 
Connecticut has shown good results. Many of the flocks keep 
well off shore during the fall migration, and so escape the 
gunner, except where they come ashore to feed. Thus the 
diminution of this species has been lessened. The bird is sus- 
picious and noisy, and often alarms other birds by its cries 
and warns them of the presence of the hunter, but it is easily 
deceived by a good bird caller, and sometimes can be called 
back to the decoys after it has been shot at, and so it falls an 
easy prey to the hidden and skilful sportsman. 

The Greater Yellow-legs migrates north and south over 
the greater part of the United States to the Antilles, and up 
and down both coasts of South America. It winters mainly 
in the southern part of South America and north to Georgia 
and the Carolinas. This is one of the species that no doubt 
was once common along our coast all summer, although it 
probably never bred there. Non-breeding individuals still 
summer in South America and along the south Atlantic coast 
of the United States. Those which once summered here were 
mostly destroyed long ago by the gunner. The migration of 


this species along our coast presents some extreme variations 
in numbers from year to year. Evidently the large migration 
in fall which goes south by sea does not come on to the coast 
of Massachusetts unless driven there by strong adverse winds 
or storms. Great numbers of these birds are seen in flight, 
miles at sea, and they have been reported as resting on the 
water at times. This is one of the species that now comes to 
Cape Cod in large numbers on some of the spring flights. The 
inaccessibility of the breeding grounds of this bird and the 
protection that it receives on Anticosti Island have done 
much to keep up the numbers of those which migrate through 
New England. 

The Winter Yellow-legs is a bird of the meadow, marsh and 
the muddy shores of fresh-water streams and ponds. When 
alighting it often raises its wings and folds them slowly, then 
nods its head, teetering its whole body up and down and utter- 
ing its sweet whistling cries. The flocks fly compactly, and, 
like many other shore birds, they turn, and rise or fall, as if 
at the word of command. 

In spring at low tide this bird frequents the pools and 
streams in the salt marshes of Cape Cod, where it picks up 
little minnows and other aquatic forms of life. It seems to be 
very fond of both land and water insects, and must do con- 
siderable good as an insect eater. 



YELLOW-LEGS {Totanus flavipes). 

Common or local names: Summer Yellow-leg; Summer; Little Yellow-leg; 

Small Cucu. 

Length. — 10 to 11 inches; bill 1.40. 

Adult. — Closely resembles the Greater Yellow-legs, but is about one-third 

Notes. — A call like that of the Greater Yellow-legs, but usually composed 
of fewer syllables, sometimes only one, often only two. 

Season. — A rare spring but common fall migrant locally and irregularly 
for brief periods; early May to June and early July to October. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds from Kotzebue Sound, Alaska, 
northern Mackenzie, central Keewatin and southern Ungava to valley 
of Upper Yukon, southern Saskatchewan and northern Quebec; winters 
in Argentina, Chile, Patagonia, and casually in Mexico, Florida and 
Bahamas; in migration occurs mainly east of Rocky Mountains (rare 
in spring on Atlantic coast) and in Pribilof Islands, Greenland and 
Bermuda; accidental in Great Britain. 


The Lesser Yellow-legs formerly was one of the most 
numerous of all the shore birds of North America, and still 
holds its numbers better than many other species. Mr. Wil- 
liam P. Wharton states that his uncle killed a bushel basket 
full of this species one day at Ipswich more than thirty years 
ago. Its decrease is exhibited in the following abridged notes: 


A plentiful species, and great numbers are brought to market 
in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, particularly in autumn 
(Wilson, 1813). Florida to Maine, autumn and spring; very 
abundant in the interior at other seasons (Audubon, 1835). 
In certain sections may be considered the most abundant bird 
of the family in North America (Nuttall, 1834). In August 
and September they appear in large flocks in their southern 
migration (De Kay, New York, 1844). One hundred and six 
killed by one discharge of a double gun (Giraud, 1844). Abun- 
dant spring and autumn and many remain during summer 
(Turnbull, eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 1869). 
Summer resident; common migrant; perhaps breeds; have 
seen it at Ipswich all summer (Maynard, eastern Massachu- 
setts, 1870). Common; rare in summer (J. A. Allen, 1879). 
More abundant in west than the Greater Yellow-legs, but on 
Atlantic shores seldom seen in spring and not very common in 
fall (Chamberlain, 1891). Being driven from many of the old- 
time resorts, and may easily become rare (Sanford, Bishop and 
Van Dyke, 1903). Rather common fall migrant; very rare in 
spring (Hoffmann, 1904). Formerly common in late summer 
and early autumn; now rare at all seasons (Brewster, Cam- 
bridge region, 1906). Rare spring and common fall migrant 
(G. M. Allen, Massachusetts, 1909). 

Only nine Massachusetts observers in 1908 reported an 
increase in Yellow-legs and in most cases the increase was 
recent and perhaps temporary. Eighty-seven have noted a 
serious decrease within an average of thirty years. Mr. Gard- 
iner G. Hammond saw a bunch of fifty or sixty in 1908 on 
Martha's Vineyard, and Mr. Gilbert R. Payson saw a flock 
of about fifty, and they are reported as numerous in the marshes 
about Newburyport, Cohasset, Duxbury and in Barnstable 
County; elsewhere reports of decrease are almost unanimous. 

No longer ago than 1870 the flocks were quite numerous 
about some of the inland ponds and lakes in Massachusetts in 
August, particularly in dry seasons, when the ponds were low. 
I remember that they were always watchful, but they were 
readily attracted by a whistled imitation of their call, and if 
even one was shot out of the flock the others hovered about 


until many had paid the penalty of their sympathetic concern. 
Of late years at those same ponds a single bird or a pair is 
seen occasionally, but the flocks are gone, perhaps never to 
return. Unlike its larger relative this species is seen very 
rarely within our limits in the spring. Sometimes in fall the 
flight along Cape Cod is very large, but in spring most of the 
birds of this species go north through the interior. The fall 
flight seems to trend mainly southeastward, in the direction of 
South America. Large flights pass out to sea, no doubt follow- 
ing the route of the Golden Plover, some possibly going directly 
from Nova Scotia to the Lesser Antilles. Others, perhaps, 
pass down the coast to the southern States, and from there, 
undertake a shorter flight to the southern continent. But 
the numbers of those taking this route have been so decimated 
that they are now comparatively few. Greater flights pass the 
Bermudas, where they formerly sometimes landed if beset 
by adverse winds. These flights probably do not land on our 
coasts except when driven here by easterly winds. Strong 
westerly or northwesterly winds sometimes seem to bring to 
our shores a flight from farther west. The Summer Yellow- 
legs once remained here all summer, but was not known to 
breed. Its habits are similar to those of the Greater Yellow- 
legs, and it feeds largely on insects, including ants. 



SOLITARY SANDPIPER {Helodromas soUtarius solitarius). 

Length. — 8 to 9 inches; bill slender, nearly straight, 1.15, 

Adult in Spring. — Upper parts dark, lustrous olive brown, sparsely speckled 
with white; head, neck and flanks streaked or otherwise marked with 
dusky and white; two central tail feathers, mainly dark; all upper tail 
coverts, outer tail feathers, under wing coverts and axillars white, barred 
tvith black or dusky; belly white; legs dark greenish. 

Adult in Fall. — Similar, but upper parts dark grayish or ashy brown, less 
speckled with white; head and front of neck less streaked. 

Young. — Upper parts brownish gray; head more uniform grayish; every- 
where speckled with buff or yellowish white; sides of head and neck 
dusky; rest of under parts white; tail as in adult. 

Field Marks. — Larger and darker than the Spotted Sandpiper. The strik- 
ing barred black and white outer tail feathers show in flight, which is 
less erratic than that of the Spotted Sandpiper; more regular wing beats 
and less sailing. Frequents mainly inland lakes and woodland streams. 

Notes. — Low whistling and sharp alarm notes somewhat similar to those of 
the Spotted Sandpiper. 

Season. — A rather common migrant inland; less common on coast; a few 
formerly summered in Massachusetts; late April and May, and second 
week in July to late October. 

Range. — North and South America. Summers from central Keewatin, 
northern Ungava and Newfoundland south to Nebraska, Illinois, Indi- 
ana, Ohio and Pennsylvania; probably breeds regularly in northern part 
of its range, locally and casually in southern part; winters from the 
West Indies to Argentina; recorded from Greenland, Bermuda and 
Great Britain. 



This is the only Sandpiper in New England which appar- 
ently is more common in the interior than on the coast. 
Although it sometimes frequents salt marshes and the shores 
of tidal streams, it is not commonly met with on the sea beach. 
It is a bird of inland ponds and streams, and frequents the 
shores of small wooded creeks. While it is not as solitary 
during migration as its name implies, it rarely flocks, and, 
usually, only a pair or a few individuals are seen in the same 
neighborhood. During the breeding season this bird is met 
with rarely in Massachusetts, and though it sometimes summers 
as far south as Pennsylvania, very little is known of its breeding 
habits. It is said that it nests on the ground, and also in the 
abandoned nests of other birds in trees. Mr. Gerald H. Thayer 
tells me that formerly it summered on Mount Monadnock, in 
southern New Hampshire. At that season it appears, indeed, 
to be most solitary, as it is rare to find more than one bird in a 
locality, even in those northern States where undoubtedly it 

The decrease of this bird has not been as noticeable as that 
of many other Sandpipers because of its rather solitary habits 
and its preference for sylvan retreats. The shore gunner rarely 
sees many, and the pot-hunter ordinarily has little chance to 
get more than one bird at a shot. Nevertheless only five 
Massachusetts observers report an increase of the species, 
while one hundred and thirty-eight note a decrease. 

When the ponds are low in August we may look for the 
Solitary Sandpiper on the exposed shores and sand bars. It 
goes south mainly through the interior, and although it is the 
eastern form of the species, it has been taken in Mexico. 
Still, it may cross the Mexican Gulf and the Caribbean Sea, 
as it has been noted in Porto Rico and Vera Cruz. It prob- 
ably visits a large part of northern and eastern South America; 
it may even reach the Pacific coast of that continent, as it is 
noted from Lower California. 

This bird has a curious habit of balancing its body and 
nodding its head, like the Spotted Sandpiper, but the action 


is not so rapid and pronounced as that of the latter; it is 
confined more to nodding, and there is less movement of the 
hinder parts. The bird is graceful and elegant in shape, inoves 
lightly and flies swiftly and easily. Often, when alighting, it 
holds its long wings straight up and closes them slowly, as is 
shown in the cut, exhibiting the beautiful markings of the 
under wing coverts and axillars. When the ponds and lakes 
of the interior are low, after a long drought in August or Septem- 
ber, this bird may be seen about the sand bars searching for 
its favorite food. Often it wades into the water up to its 
belly, but I never have seen it swim. 

In the fall, on its return from the north, it has a habit of 
wading into the water in stagnant ditches or ponds, where it 
advances one foot at a time, and by rapidly moving the forward 
foot stirs up the vegetation at the bottom ever so slightly. 
This motion is so swift and delicate that the leg seems to be 
merely trembling, as if the bird were chilled by contact with 
the water, but it is done with intent to disturb insects among 
the algse at the bottom without roiling the water, and the eager 
bird, leaning forward, plunges in its bill and head, sometimes 
to the eyes, and catches the alarmed water insects as they 
dart away. I have watched this carefully with a glass while 
lying in the grass only ten or twelve feet from the bird. It is 
easy by stirring the bottom slightly with a stick to cause a 
similar movement of the water insects, but I never could 
agitate it so delicately as to avoid clouding the water with 
sediment from the bottom. 

Audubon states that he has found stomachs of this species 
filled with aquatic insects, caterpillars of various kinds and 
black spiders. Professor Aughey examined the stomachs of 
two birds; one contained nine locusts and thirty-four other 
insects, the other a grasshopper and forty-three other insects. 
Dr. Warren examined eleven stomachs and found in ten of 
them "worms," beetles or other insects and one contained 
"small shells." 



WILLET {Catoptrophorus semipalmatus semipalmatiis) . 
Common or local names: Humility; Pied- wing Curlew. 

Length. — 15 to 16 inches; bill 2 to 2.50 ; feet partly webbed. 

Adult in Summer. — Above brownish gray or ashy, speckled and barred 
more or less with blackish; below white, sometimes with a brownish 
tinge; fore neck and upper breast streaked with dusky, flanks barred; 
wing blackish below, browner above, showing, when spread, large 
conspicuous white markings; basal part of the tail and its upper 
coverts white, rest light ashy to whitish, sometimes barred with 

Adult in Fall and Winter. — Above ash gray; below white; wmg as in sum- 
mer; axillars black at all seasons. 

Young. — Brownish gray above, tinged with buff; white patch above tail, 
as in adult; sides tinged with buff, finely mottled with gray; wings as 
in adult; bill, feet and eyes dark at all ages. 

Field Marks. — Large size, extensive white on wing and white rump. Re- 
sembles the Hudsonian Godwit in fall plumage (in which we usually see 
it), but the Godwit lacks the great white wing markings of the Willet. 
The Willet's notes also are distinctive. 

Notes. — Pill-imll-willet, repeated, loud and clamorous; also a single note, 
loud, rasping, suggestive of a giant Catbird (C. W. Townsend). 

Nest. — A hollow scooped out in a tuft of grass and lined with grass. 

Eggs. — Four to five, about 2.05 by 1.50, brownish or greenish olive, spotted 
and blotched with dark brown or various shades of brown. 


Season. — Very rare transient visitor coastwise; formerly a common mi- 
grant and summer resident; May, June, August and September. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds from Virginia (formerly Nova 
Scotia) south to Florida and Bahamas; winters from Bahamas to Brazil 
and Peru; accidental in Bermuda and Europe. 


This large, handsome, showy bird is one of the few greater 
shore birds which formerly bred all along the Atlantic coast, 
from Nova Scotia and New England to the Gulf of Mexico. 
Dr. Coues (1874) states that it breeds anywhere in the United 
States in suitable resorts, and that he has found it wherever 
he has been in this country, but this statement includes the 
Western Willet, which had not been separated and described 
at that time. Like all game birds which nest in the eastern 
United States, the Willet has lately deserted many of its former 
haunts. It has vanished as a breeding bird, not only from 
Nova Scotia and New England, but also from the Atlantic 
coast north of Virginia. This is one of the inevitable results 
of the spring and summer shooting so long permitted in all 
the Atlantic coast States, and still practiced in many of them. 

Another factor in the extirpation of the Willet was the 
destruction of its eggs. The eggs were large and well flavored 
and were considered a great delicacy by the baymen. The 
nests were robbed continually and the birds were shot during 
the breeding season. 

It seems probable that the eastern Willet practically has 
disappeared from New England, and that most of the birds 
now taken are referable to the succeeding form, the young of 
which are hardly distinguishable from those of the present 
species. Little is known of the breeding of the Willet here in 
early times. In the last century it bred in large numbers in 
Nova Scotia; also on Muskeget Island and near Nev/ Bedford, 
Mass., and in Connecticut. 

The following notes show its former abundance and its 
recent decrease: Breeds in great numbers on shores of New 
York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland (Wilson, 1813). 
Known to breed not far from New Bedford (Audubon, 1835). 
Breeds here (Linsley, Connecticut, 1843). Breeds from 


Louisiana to Massachusetts; many remain along the shore of 
this State (New York) to breed, and loiter with us until 
November (De Kay, 1844). Common migrant April to 
October (Turnbull, eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 
1869). Not very abundant on shores of New England 
as a summer visitor and resident; taken in considerable 
numbers in autumn (Samuels, 1870). Sometimes breed 
(J. A. Allen, Massachusetts, 1879). Known to nest in suitable 
plains of interior and coast from Florida to Halifax, N. S. 
(Brewer, 1884). One of the few species of the family which 
regularly and plentifully summer in some portion of New Eng- 
land (Stearns and Coues, 1888). Rare spring and autumn 
migrant along the coast (Howe and Allen, Massachusetts, 
1901). A few years ago bred commonly on coast of Virginia 
and New Jersey (Sanford, Bishop and Van Dyke, 1903). A 
mere straggler on Maine coast (Knight, 1908). Rare migrant, 
mainly coastwise (G. M. Allen, New England, 1909). Flights 
comparatively rare in recent years (Eaton, New York, 1910). 
Only two of my Massachusetts correspondents report an in- 
crease, while thirty-one note a decrease. 

There is a great migration of Willets in fall from northwest 
to southeast, and formerly many of these birds reached the 
coast of New England. Many wintered and some still winter 
in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. Eaton gives the Willet 
as a former winter visitant in the interior of New York. It 
winters, however, as far south as southern Peru at least, and 
reaches the Amazon on the Atlantic coast. It follows the 
interior route in spring, but the following extract from a letter 
received from Hon. George Bird Grinnell suggests that some 
may take an outside route: "We often hear of the journey 
of two thousand miles which some of the shore birds make 
from the coast of Labrador or Nova Scotia south to the Lesser 
Antilles, or even to South America, and two years ago (1907), 
while coming back from France the end of May, I saw some- 
thing that had a bearing on this matter, and which greatly 
interested me. We were passing the Newfoundland Banks 
one fine morning, when the sea was absolutely calm. We ran 
into a great body of birds scattered over the water, apparently 


in flocks of from a dozen to fifty. Farther away were what 
looked like great rafts of these birds, I should suppose several 
thousands easily within sight. The birds appeared to be rest- 
ing on the water, and acted as if they were occasionally picking 
something from its surface. The ship passed near a number of 
small groups, and as they rose on the wing — for they were 
not very tame, and none of them were within gunshot — I 
watched them with a glass, and recognized that all of them 
seemed to be Willets. This confirms what, of course, has been 
said many times, that these migrating shore birds, on their 
long journey toward the south, often stop and rest, and, of 
course, must find food on the journey." This is not the first 
record from the vicinity of Newfoundland, for Reeks records 
it there, and it is said to have bred there about ponds at some 
distance from the sea-shore. The Willet's half-webbed feet 
equip it for swimming well at sea. 

The Willet is a shy bird, easily alarmed, and it takes wing 
with loud cries at the least indication of danger; but during 
the breeding season its nature undergoes a change, and in its 
solicitude for its nest and young it seems to forget its own 
danger. Screaming in alarm if disturbed, it circles around its 
nesting place, and so exposes itself to the miserable lawbreaker, 
who recks not of time or season so long as he secures a victim 
for the pot. Wayne watched a nest in which the young were 
hatching. The parents became much alarmed, and he saw one 
of the old birds take a young one and fly with it across three 
creeks and some marsh land to an island a quarter of a mile 
away; all the young were taken in the same manner to the 
same place. He believes that they were held between the 
thighs of the parent bird, as the Woodcock is known to carry 
its young. 

The Willet eats grasses and roots when on inland lakes 
and rivers, also small fish and fish fry. Along the coast it 
takes many small mollusks, crabs, etc. In South Carolina it 
visits the rice fields, and is said to feed on the grain. 


WESTERN WILLET (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus inomatus). 

Length. — Averaging larger than the Willet; bill longer and more slender 2.25 
to 2.75 inches. 

Adult in Summer. — Like Willet, but markings above "fewer, fainter and 
finer," on a lighter ground; less heavily marked below. 

Adult and Young in Winter. — Similar to Willet; can be distinguished only 
by measurement. 

Field Marks. — Sometimes much grayer than the Willet, but cannot be dis- 
tinguished with certainty in the field. 

Season. — Fall migrant mainly coastwise. 

Range. — Western North America. Breeds from central Oregon, southern 
Alberta and southern Manitoba south to northern California, central 
Colorado, southern South Dakota and northern Iowa, and on coasts of 
Texas and Louisiana; winters from central California, Texas, Louisiana 
and Gulf coast of Florida to Mexico (Lower California, Tepic and 
Guerrero) ; in fall migration occurs in British Columbia and on Atlantic 
coast from New England south. 

The Western Willet, a subspecies of the Willet, comes here 
occasionally, if not regularly, in the fall flight. The following 
note from Mr. A. C. Bent, of Taunton, Mass., who has been 
investigating the status of this species, is pertinent here. 
"This bird is increasing. There was a very heavy flight this 
year (1908). I believe all, or practically all, of the Willets 
shot in Massachusetts during the past few years have been 
Western Willets; all that I have examined are referable to 
the western form. I believe that many of the western-bred 
shore birds and Ducks have been forced to migrate farther 
eastward, owing to the settling of the middle west and the 
draining and destruction of their feeding grounds in the Mis- 
sissippi valley, and that they seek the Atlantic coast by the 
shortest route rather than make the long overland flight to 
the Gulf of Mexico." Mr. Bent's belief may be warranted by 
his observations, but to my mind it seems more probable that 
such flights of western birds to the east always have occurred, 
but have not been so much noted until the eastern birds began 
to decrease. Since then the increase in the number of such 
competent ornithologists as Mr. Bent has resulted in a more 
accurate knowledge of these flights. 


RUFF (Machetes pugnax). 

Length. — 10 to 12 inches. 

Adult Male. — Face bare in front of eye, with reddish warts; colors varying 
much, probably no two specimens exactly alike; a large shield-Hke 
erectile ruff about the neck, conspicuously barred, and the colors vary 
from chestnut and glossy black streaked with reddish to mottled reddish 
and buff streaked with buffy white and barred witli pure white; sides 
of rump usually white; bill brown; legs yellow. 

Adult Female. — No ruff; head fully feathered; plumage banded with 
black and buff, white or reddish; the lower abdomen or ventral region 
usually pure white. 

Young. — Back and shoulders brownish black; feathers usually bordered 
with buff; crown yellowish, streaked with black; lower parts unspotted, 
white before and buff behind. 

Range. — Eastern hemisphere. Breeds from Arctic coast south to Great 
Britain, Holland, Eussia and Siberia; winters throughout Africa, India 
and Burma; strays occasionally to western hemisphere, from Ontario 
and Greenland south to Indiana, North Carolina, Barbados and northern 
South America. 


The difference in the appearance of the sexes of the RufI 
is so great that in Europe the male is known as the Ruff on 
account of the ruff about his neck, while the female is named 
the Reeve. 

The bird is an accidental visitor to Massachusetts, perhaps 
blown here on the wings of some storm or wandering from its 
habitat in the Old World. The Massachusetts records follow: 
Mr. Gordon Plummer of Brookline secured a fine young male 
taken in Chatham, September 11, 1880, which is recorded as 
the ninth specimen for North America, the third for New 
England and the second for Massachusetts. The other two 
New England specimens were females, one taken at Newbury- 
port, Mass., in 1871,^ and the other taken at Upton, Me., in 
1874; both now in the Brewster collection. ^ Later, another 
was taken by Mr. Alfred Dabney, on Nantucket, Mass., late 
in July, 1901, and is now in the collection of Hon. J. E. Thayer, 
at Lancaster, Mass.^ 

1 Brewster, William: American Naturalist, May, 1872, p. 306. 

2 Forest and Stream, October 7, 1880, Vol. XV, No. 10, p. 186. 

3 Auk, 1906, p. 98. 


Twenty-four or more specimens of this species have been 
recorded from North America; three of these are from Maine 
and two from New York (Long Island). Baird's statement 
that the Ruff has been "frequently killed on Long Island" 
is not substantiated by available records. Nevertheless, the 
bird is likely to occur in New York or New England at any 
time and should be looked for. 

UPLAND PLOVER (Bartramia longicauda). 

Common or local names: Bartramian Sandpiper; Uplander; Field-plover; Grass- 
plover; Pasture-plover. 

Length. — 11.50 to 12.75 inches; bill 1.15. 

Adult. — Above a mixture of black, buffy brown, brownish gray and whitish, 
blackish prevailing on crown and back, lighter colors on neck, sides of 
head and wings; primaries blackish, outer one barred with white; outer 
tail feathers barred with white, black and reddish brown; tail reaching 
considerably beyond the tips of wings; neck, breast and flanks buffy, 
marked with dusky streaks and arrow heads or irregular bars, the former 
mainly on neck, the latter on breast and sides; throat, belly and under 
tail coverts whitish; legs yellowish; bill yellowish at base and below, 
dusky toward tip. (See Frontispiece). 

Field Marks. — Large size, long neck and bill and general buffy brown color 
and absence of marked white. Found mainly in pastures and old fields 
away from water, even at the sea-shore. 

Notes. — Alarm, quip-ip-ip-ip quip-ip-ip-ip (Langille). Quitty -quit-it-it 
(Knight). A soft bubbling whistle; song, a prolonged, weird, mournful, 
mellow whistle, chr-r-r-r-r-ee-e-e-e-e-e-oo-o-o-o-o-oo (Langille). Wh-o-e-e- 
et-et-e-e-e-e-e-e-o-o-o-ooo (Richard) . 

Nest. — Built of grasses and weeds on ground. 

Eggs. — Usually four, averaging 1.75 by 1.28; pale clay color with spots of 
umber, yellowish brown, reddish brown and black, most nimierous and 
blotchy toward the large end. 

Season. — Rare or uncommon migrant and very rare local summer resident; 
formerly common; early April to September. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds from northwestern Alaska, 
southern Mackenzie, central Keewatin, central Wisconsin, southern 
Michigan, southern Ontario and southern Maine to southern Oregon, 
northern Utah, central Oklahoma, southern Missouri, southern Indiana 
and northern Virginia; winters on pampas to Argentina; in migration 
occurs north to Newfoundland and in Europe; accidental in Australia. 



Among all the impressions of my boyhood, which will re- 
main with me while life shall last and reason maintain her sway, 
none is more vivid, none brings back a greater flood of recollec- 
tions, than the memory of the hours of darkness spent in listen- 
ing to the notes of the birds passing overhead when the warm 
south winds of May brought the great tide of bird migration 
which flooded the fields and woods of New England and 
passed on toward the north. Chief among the notes heard on 
such occasions, falling from the far spaces of the darkened 
night, came the soft but penetrating flight call of the 
Upland Plover. Mingling with the faint notes of Warblers, 
Thrushes, Cuckoos, and Yellow-legs, it always fell clear and 
distinct to the ear. There is no richer music among all the 
songsters of the grove than the long, mellow, rippling whistle 
of this lovely bird. In those days it nested in the fields back 
of our house, within the limits of the city of Worcester, and 
was well known to the farmers of Worcester and the western 
counties. It was plentiful, particularly in the migrations 
along our coast and in the Connecticut valley. 

What a change has occurred in forty years ! The fields and 
hills that once knew this dove-like bird know it no more, and 
its note, then commonly heard in most parts of the State, is 
now rare. We listen for it in vain. The Grass-plover once 
came in multitudes to the prairies of the west in spring, but 
is growing rare as far west as Minnesota, South Dakota and 
Texas, and is really common now only in some of the States 
west of the Mississippi valley. It never was as plentiful here 
as in the prairie States, for New England was originally a 
wooded country. No doubt this bird increased in numbers at 
first when the woods were cut off and many of our uplands 
were made over into fields, pastures and gardens, but its 
decrease began when the larger game had been killed off and 
the shotgun took the place of the rifle. The following notes 
from authors indicate its decrease: One of the most common 
birds along the sea-coast of Massachusetts; found throughout 
the continent according to season; common in Worcester 


County, Mass., in summer (Nuttall, 1834). Common on 
sea-coasts but not confined to them; extends into the country 
(Peabody, Massachusetts, 1839). About middle of August 
very plentiful on Shinnecock Hills (Long Island) and Mon- 
tauk; common in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New 
Jersey, (Giraud, 1844). Breeds from Maryland north; in 
July and August appears in large flocks on its way south; much 
esteemed game bird (De Kay, New York, 1844). Quite com- 
mon in western part of State (Zadock Thompson, Vermont, 
1853). Not uncommon summer resident; common in migra- 
tion (Maynard, eastern Massachusetts, 1870). Not abundant 
as summer resident, breeds sparingly in all New England 
States (Samuels, 1870). Common summer resident (J. A. 
Allen, Massachusetts, 1879). Moves in large flocks, and as it 
breeds through the country may be met with from Canada to 
the southern States; considered one of the best game birds; 
eagerly sought by all lovers of the gun (Murphy, 1882). Abun- 
dant spring and fall (Stearns and Coues, New England, 1888). 
Still abundant in New England; some breed here (Chamber- 
lain, 1891). Not as abundant in eastern Pennsylvania and 
New Jersey as in Wilson's day (Abbott, 1895). Now occurring 
chiefly as uncommon migrant (Howe and Allen, Massachusetts, 
1901). Was formerly abundant in New England, on Long 
Island and through the country west to the Rocky Mountains 
(Huntington, 1903). Within my recollection nested plenti- 
fully in Worcester County, Mass., and southern Maine and 
New Hampshire; few localities in New England where one 
can be sure of finding the birds now (Brewster, 1906). Tran- 
sient, not common; breeding very rarely; formerly common 
migrant and summer resident (Stone, New Jersey, 1908). 
Rare spring and uncommon fall migrant; rare local summer 
resident (G. M. Allen, Massachusetts, 1909). Six of my Mas- 
sachusetts correspondents report an increase of this bird in 
their localities, while seventy-six report a decrease. 

About 1880, when the supply of Passenger Pigeons began to 
fail, and the marketmen, looking about for some other game 
for the table of the epicure in spring and summer, called for 
Plover, the destruction of the Upland Plover began in earnest. 


The price increased. In the spring migration the birds were 
met by a horde of market gunners, shot, packed in barrels and 
shipped to the cities. There are tales of special refrigerator 
cars sent out to the prairie regions, and parties of gunners 
regularly employed to follow the birds and ship Plover and 
Curlews by the carload to the Chicago market. These may 
not be based on facts, but we know that the birds came to 
market in great quantities. In the eastern breeding grounds of 
the Uplander, in New England and the middle States, gunners 
pursued them in July, as soon as the young were large and well- 
feathered enough to be fit for market. Less than ten years of 
such market hunting sufficed to reduce the numbers of the 
species tremendously, and but for the wary nature of the bird 
it would have been extirpated from the east before the close of 
the nineteenth century. All sorts of stratagems were resorted 
to to approach it or to lure it within call of the gunner. A 
horse and wagon were used commonly in the west to drive 
over the fields and prairies. The birds, having become accus- 
tomed to farmers driving their teams afield, were not much 
alarmed at the approach of the gunners in this fashion. In the 
east, where the fenced lands prohibited the use of the vehicle, 
other means were resorted to. Some gunners have been very 
successful in circumventing this wary bird, which holds forth 
every inducement for its capture, as it is considered a delicious 
morsel on the table, and brings a high price. Probably the 
Uplander would have become practically extinct already had 
not many western States passed laws prohibiting the spring 
shooting of Plover and the export of game, while several New 
England States later began protecting it by law at all times. 
The position of the bird is still precarious, however, and unless 
perpetual protection is given it in every State it will disappear. 
In the west it has not yet become so wary as in the east, 
where it tests the skill of the hunter to the utmost. In the 
breeding season it loses its habitual caution and seems con- 
cerned mainly for the safety of its young. It will use every 
artifice known to a bird to draw the invader away from their 
vicinity, and cases have been known in the west where it has 
flown directly at the intruder. In the east it circles round 


him, complaining loudly. Like many others of its tribe it 
has a habit of extending its long wings high above the back 
when alighting, and then folding them slowly down. This 
bird, although a Sandpiper, resembles the Plovers in habits. 

The southward migration of this species begins before the 
middle of July and is in full swing in August. It moves south 
both through the interior and along the coast, and there is 
some reason to believe that individuals put out to sea from the 
south Atlantic and Gulf coasts, for it is one of the species which 
commonly visits Barbados, the most easterly of the Lesser 
Antilles. It passes through both the Greater and Lesser 
Antilles, but in the Bahamas, Porto Rico and Jamaica it is so 
rare that many must reach the more easterly islands by a sea 
route. Probably it also crosses the Gulf of Mexico, flying 
south from Louisiana and Texas to southern Mexico, for it 
is found in its fall migration in Nicaragua and Costa Rica, 
and some birds which probably go by land, taking the western 
route, are seen in western Mexico. It winters on the pampas 
of South America. 

In spring it arrives in Louisiana on the average about 
March 14, before it reaches Florida or the plains of Texas. 
As Professor Cooke reasons, this seems to indicate that it 
makes a direct flight across the Gulf. Formerly it came in 
immense flights to Louisiana and Texas, and from northern 
Texas to North Dakota multitudes remained to breed. Ap- 
parently there are no records of this species in spring east of 
Cuba, which suggests the probability that about all the in- 
dividuals come north through Central America, some going 
east through Yucatan, Cuba and Florida, while the majority 
cross the Gulf and go up the Mississippi valley. 

This bird is a valuable ally of the farmer. It feeds on 
locusts, grasshoppers, cutworms and other enemies of grass 
and other crops. During the Locust invasions in Nebraska 
Professor Aughey found this species among the most useful in 
destroying the insects and saving the crops, for at that time it 
was abundant and correspondingly useful. It came in large 
flocks in spring and did great service on locust-infested farms. 



BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (Tryngites subruficollis). 
Local name: Hill Grass-bird. 


Length. — 7.50 to 8 inches. 

Adult. — Colored similarly to the Upland Plover, but smaller, rather paler 
and less marked on breast and sides; dark brown or blackish above; 
feathers edged with brownish yellow, giving the bird a general tawny 
appearance; primary and secondary wing feathers dusky brown, darken- 
ing toward tips and light tipped; tail shading like that of the Upland 
Plover from the dark brown middle feathers to the light brownish 
yellow outer ones, all with a subterminal bar of blackish and tipped 
with whitish; below light buff; slightly spotted on sides of breast; 
iris dark brown; bill blackish; legs greenish or yellowish. 

Field Marks. — The general tawny color of the bird and its buff under parts. 
When in hand the primaries (inner webs) and the secondaries are seen 
to be curiously marbled with black and white. Like the Upland Plover 
it is seen usually on dry upland fields and rarely on the shore. 

Season. — Rare migrant July to September. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds along Arctic coast from 
northern Alaska to northern Keewatin; winters in Argentina and 
Uruguay; most abundant in migration in Mississippi valley; occasional 
on Atlantic coast in fall; casual on Pacific coast north to St. Michael, 
Alaska, and to northeastern Siberia; straggles to Bermuda and western 


The Buff-breasted Sandpiper is rather a rare bird upon \he 
Atlantic coast, and possibly always has been, as it breeds in 
northern Alaska and its main migration route does not touch 
the Atlantic coast. It seems probable that the birds of this 
species which appear in Massachusetts are members of strag- 


gling parties that follow the flight of other shore birds which 
normally come down the Atlantic coast. It appears that the 
regular fall migration route of the Buff-breasted Sandpiper 
trends southeast from Alaska to the western shores of Hudson 
Bay, and from there south through the Mississippi valley 
region. It moves south rapidly, and appears in Colombia, 
South America, in September. Apparently it crosses the Gulf 
of Mexico from Texas, and, reaching Central America, crosses 
the South American continent southeasterly to Argentina. 
There are no very recent records of its occurrence on the 
Atlantic coast south of Long Island, and the older records may 
be open to doubt. This and the fact that a few records have 
been made of the species in the Antilles give color to the belief 
that the individuals of the species which reach the north 
Atlantic coast put out to sea, following the fall route of some 
other shore birds to South America. I know of no spring 
record of this species on the Atlantic coast. It follows the 
interior route northward. 

The following notes seem to show that the Buff-breasted 
Sandpiper was once not uncommon here: Not uncommon in 
markets of Boston in August and September (Nuttall, 1834). 
With us not a very common bird (Giraud, Long Island, N. Y., 
1844). Rare spring and autumn (Maynard, eastern Massa- 
chusetts, 1870). Not abundant on shores of New England, 
but by no means rare in August and September; seldom seen 
in spring (Samuels, 1870). Rather uncommon migrant 
(J. A. Allen, Massachusetts, 1879). 

Formerly it was very abundant in Texas, and still is com- 
mon there, but decreasing. The reports of its decrease in the 
west are very impressive. Apparently it is on the way to 

It is usually a very gentle and confiding bird and pays little 
attention to the hunter. It is valuable as an insect eater, par- 
ticularly in the west, but in its pursuit this fact is overlooked 
and its food value only is considered. Dr. Hatch found it living 
upon crickets, grasshoppers, ants and their "eggs," and other 
insects, and on minute mollusks taken from the shores of 
shallow ponds in the warmest part of the day. 


SPOTTED SANDPIPER {Aditis macularia). 
Common or local names: Teeter; Teeter-peep; Tip-up; Sand-lark. 

Length. — About 7.50 inches; bill .95. 

Adult. — Above light brown, with a faint greenish luster, and lightly marked 
with blackish; a whitish line above eye from bill to hind head; below 
white, marked with rounded spots of blackish, larger in female; a row 
of white spots on wings show in flight as a white line; outer tail feathers 
barred with white; iris dark brown; bill yellowish and black; legs and 
feet grayish olive. 

Young. — White below, unspotted; washed on breast with grayish. 

Field Marks. — The only Sandpiper which has large and distinct spots on 
the under parts. Sails about borders of streams and ponds with wing 
tips bent down, wings showing a ichite line; almost always teeters when 

Notes. — A loud peet, loeet, or weet, iveet, beginning high and gradually 
declining into a somewhat plaintive tone. 

Nest. — Of dried grasses, etc., on ground. 

Eggs. — Three to five, large for the bird, about 1.30 by 1, creamy, buffy or 
clay colored, pointed, blotched with blackish and neutral tints. 

Season. — Common summer resident and migrant; mid April to mid Novem- 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds from tree limit in northwestern 
Alaska and Newfoundland south to southern California and northern 
South Carolina; winters from California and South Carolina to southern 
Brazil and central Peru; straggles to Great Britain and Helgoland. 


This is the most common of all Sandpipers in the interior, 
and the only one which still breeds commonly in Massachusetts 
and the greater part of New England. It is well known every- 
where and readily is distinguished from all other summer 
residents by its habit of teetering, or bobbing the head and 
elevating the hinder parts, often turning about to all quarters 
of the compass. This habit of extravagant balancing attracted 
the attention of an Irish immigrant many years ago, who 
christened it the "steelyard bird" from its habit of "weighin' 
th' wurrums." 

Unlike the Solitary Sandpiper it frequents the sea-shore 
quite as much as the interior, and nests along the sea beach 
and on islands off shore. It sometimes makes its nest near a 

From Bird-Lore. 

From Collier's Weekly. (Photographs by Howard H. Cleaves.) 


cornfield or a potato field. Often as a boy while hoeing in the 
field I found its antics much more interesting than my work. 

The Spotted Sandpiper has not diminished in numbers 
so much within my experience as have those species which 
frequent mainly the sea-shore. Nevertheless, there are many 
places in eastern Massachusetts where it formerly was common 
and where now it rarely is seen. Only fifteen of my Massa- 
chusetts correspondents report an increase of this species in 
the State, while fifty-nine write of a decrease. 

This bird frequents the uplands away from the water more 
than most of the Sandpipers, and it does not wade much when 
feeding along the shore. Still, at need, it does not hesitate to 
wade, swim and dive. Dr. Warren notes that a young bird 
when wounded took to the water in a shallow stream, went to 
the bottom like a stone, ran across on the bottom, and coming 
up on the other side endeavored to conceal itself by sub- 
merging its body and pushing its head among long grass grow- 
ing at the water's edge. In September, 1876, I saw a wounded 
bird of this species when pursued, dive into deep water from 
the shore of the Charles River and fly off under water, using 
its wings somewhat as a bird would use them in the air. All its 
plumage was covered with bubbles of air, which caught the 
light until the bird appeared as if studded with sparkling gems 
as it sped away into the depths of the dark river. 

In the mating season the male struts before the female, puff- 
ing out the breast as if to display his importance and beauty. 

This Sandpiper shows its characteristic motions to the best 
advantage when it fears that its young are in danger. It bal- 
ances along the top of a wall or fence, displaying the utmost 
activity and alarm, rapidly uttering its cries of jpeetweet, peet- 
weet, and bobbing about from one side to the other. It is more 
or less a land bird during the breeding season, but is fond of 
the shores of lakes and the banks of streams during the migra- 
tions. It flies along the rivers usually in half circuits, going 
out over the water and returning to the shore with short 
nervous strokes. Sailing sometimes with down-bent wing 
tips, it veers from side to side, and then alighting bobs about 
near the brink. Sometimes in early spring it is very quiet, 


and unless alarmed exhibits few of the motions for which it is 

The following, regarding its habits on the sea beach, is 
taken from Dr. Townsend's Birds of Essex County: "It is 
particularly fond of nesting on islands. I used to find the eggs 
at Kettle Island off Magnolia, in the late seventies, and Mr. 
W. A. Jeffries notes the finding of eleven nests with eggs and 
one with young at Tinker's Island, off Marblehead, on June 
8th, 1878. Four nests were in the short grass on high land, 
'while others were all found more or less far under the rocks, 
scattered over the grass or along the shore.' Nuttall speaks 
of their nesting at Egg Rock, off Nahant, 'in the immediate 
vicinity of the noisy nurseries of the quailing Terns.' The 
young birds, while still covered with the natal down, run very 
fast and when hard pressed, take to the water and swim rapidly 
and easily. On the beach, the Spotted Sandpiper rarely strays 
beyond the dry sand, often in the beach grass, where he hunts 
for insects and occasionally perches on an old root or piece of 
wreck. They are particularly fond of pebbly beaches." 

There seems to be good reason to believe that it migrates 
by sea as well as by land in the fall, as formerly it was common 
in Bermuda at that season. In winter it ranges south to 
southern Brazil, passing through Mexico and Central America 
as well as the Antilles. In spring it arrives usually in northern 
Florida earlier than it appears in southern Louisiana. This 
seems to indicate that the species comes north by way of the 
Antilles and Florida, but as it is taken in Mexico and Lower 
California in migration, it may reach Louisiana from the west- 
ward, or cross the Gulf of Mexico from Yucatan or Central 
America. Eaton states the belief that this species comes to 
central and western New York by the Mississippi route, as it 
arrives there seven to ten days earlier than on the coast. 

The food of the Tip-up consists largely of insects and earth- 
worms. The bird apparently is harmless and very beneficial, 
and, except along the sea-shore, where it is shot with other 
Sandpipers for the table, it is killed mainly for sport. 



LONG-BILLED CURLEW (Numenius americanus). 
Common or local names: Sicklebill Curlew; Sicklebill; Old-hen Curlew; Hen Curlew. 

-■-.ri; 'ti*'""' 

Length. — 20 to 25 inches; bill from 3 (in some young birds) to 8, but com- 
monly 5 to 6; toes webbed at base. 

Adult. — Plumage similar to that of Marbled Godwit; generally reddish in 
tone, varying in intensity in individuals; top of head dark, and variegated 
with blackish, whitish and reddish, with no distinct central light /n?c, as in 
the Hudsonian or Jack Curlew; upper parts a mixture of brownish 
black, tawny or buffy and cinnamon brown; lower parts reddish, cin- 
namon or buffy, varying in intensity, usually deepening under wings; 
fore neck and breast with dusky streaks which tend to arrowheads on 
the sides, iris brown; bill black turning to fleshy brown toward base; 
legs and feet grayish blue. 

Young. — Similar to adult, but bill shorter. 

Field Marks. — The great size and the extremely long curved bill serve to 
identify the adults. The young, which have shorter bills, can be dis- 
tinguished with certainty from the Jack Curlew when in the hand by 
the smaller size of the latter, its striped head and the comparatively 
rufous and unmarked wing linings and axillars of the Sicklebill. (See 
Fig. 17.) 

Note. — - A "loud scream" (Maynard). 

Season. — Now a very rare or accidental migrant, formerly more common; 
usually August and September. 


Range. — North America. Breeds from central British Cohimbia, southern 
Saskatchewan and Manitoba to northeastern CaUfornia, northern New 
Mexico and northwestern Texas; winters from central California and 
southern Arizona south to Guatemala, and on Atlantic coast from South 
Carolina to Florida, Louisiana and Texas; formerly migrated north to 
Massachusetts and rarely to Newfoundland; now a straggler east of the 
Mississippi, north of Florida; casual in West Indies. 

Probably the Long-billed Curlew was common in migration, 
irregularly if not annually, on the coast of New England as 
late as the earlier part of the last century. Old gunners who 
have now "passed over the divide" have told me that the 
bird was plentiful in the days of their youth, and a few are 
still living who say that they have seen it common here. Mr. 
John R. Floyd of Rowley assures me that the bird was common 
in 1840 on Plum Island River in Essex County, and Mr. Charles 
L. Perkins of Newburyport says it was common there in his 

Fig. 17. — First primary and axillara of Long-billed Curlew (after Cory). 

youth. Mr. Thomas C. Wilson of Ipswich has not seen one 
in his thirty years' experience, but the older gunners there 
tell him that it frequently was seen at times during the 60's 
and early 70's. Old gunners say that it was common on the 
marshes of South Sandwich about 1850. Mr. James P. Hatch 
of Springfield says that about forty years ago (1868) it was 
common on the plains from Eastham to South Wellfleet, 
Cape Cod, but he has seen none for thirty-five years. There 
is always much liability to error in these statements, as some 
adult specimens of the Hudsonian Curlew have a longer bill 


than the young of the Sieklebill, but some of the older gunners, 
who had handled, watched and shot both species, were quick 
to learn the difference in their notes, flight and markings, and 
are not likely to have been often mistaken. Mr. Lewis Stone 
of Ipswich told me (1908) that he killed many Sicklebills 
"about forty years ago;" when he first went gunning he 
killed them often. Mr. John M. Winslow of Nantucket never 
has seen the species very numerous there; he states that years 
ago he saw about one hundred in a flock, but usually saw only 
a few at a time. Linsley (1843) found it at Stratford, Conn., 
and Colonel Pike told Mr. Dutcher that "sixty years ago" 
(perhaps about 1840) it was plentiful on Long Island, N. Y. 
The only record that I have from the interior of the State is 
that of one seen by Prof. F. E. L. Beal of the Biological Survey, 
in Leominster in 1898. I have received many reports of birds 
seen or killed on the coast of Massachusetts within the past 
forty years, but as no specimen was preserved in any case, 
and as the Hudsonian Curlew often is mistaken for the Sickle- 
bill, I hesitate to record any of them. 

The following notes abridged from standard authors show 
the former abundance of this bird and its decrease, on the 
Atlantic coast: One or two pairs remain in salt marshes 
of Cape May all summer (Wilson, 1813). Dr. Brewer tells 
me that he has seen large flocks at Nahant, and that they are 
offered for sale in the markets of Boston at close of summer 
(Peabody, 1839). Regular visitor at Egg Harbor and Long 
Island in spring and summer; in latter place seen as late as 
middle of November (Giraud, 1844). Not uncommon during 
migrations but very shy (Maynard, eastern Massachusetts, 
1870). Not very abundant on coast in spring and fall on 
northern side of Cape Cod; most abundant in autumnal 
flight, when it appears in flocks of fifteen or twenty; much 
sought after for markets (Samuels, 1870). In New England 
appears to be rather uncommon (Coues, 1874). Not very 
common (J. A. Allen, Massachusetts, 1879). Not now a com- 
mon species in New England or north of New Jersey, and 
noticeably less common in New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland 
and Virginia than in former years (Gurdon Trumbull, 1888). 


At one time very abundant on Atlantic coast during migra- 
tions; becoming less common every year (Cory, 1896). Be- 
coming more scarce every year, and ornithologists believe its 
extinction is only a question of time (Samuels, Massachusetts, 
1897). Now a very rare or even accidental migrant (Howe and 
Allen, Massachusetts, 1901). A bird of the past, threatened 
with extinction; flocks along the Atlantic coast utterly de- 
stroyed; twenty years ago abundant in late fall on coast of 
Virginia and North Carolina, now practically unknown; in 
Florida, where great numbers wintered, now rare (Sanford, 
Bishop and Van Dyke, 1903). Very rare, accidental transient 
visitor (C. W. Townsend, Essex County, Massachusetts, 1905). 
A casual visitor (Knight, Maine, 1908). Now an accidental 
migrant (G. M. Allen, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode 
Island and Connecticut, 1909). A rare or accidental visitor 
(Eaton, eastern New York, 1910). 

Not one of my Massachusetts correspondents reports an 
increase of this species, while thirty-eight report a decrease. 
Within my own recollection, less than forty years ago, the 
Long-billed Curlew was abundant in the Carolinas and Florida 
where now it has almost disappeared, and I see no reason to 
doubt that a somewhat similar condition once existed on our 
own shores. Massachusetts was a little out of the line of its 
great migration from its breeding grounds in the northwest 
to the Atlantic coast, and while probably it was never so 
plentiful here as in the south, its decrease there merely followed 
and paralleled its disappearance here. 

This Curlew is the largest of all our shore birds, and had 
the quality of its flesh been equal to its size it would have been 
extinct ere now. On the western plains, where it feeds largely 
on insects and berries, its flesh is quite palatable. When it 
reaches the Atlantic coast, and begins to feed on marine food, 
it soon becomes fishy and more or less unpalatable. Therefore 
it was not sought by epicures, and did not bring so high a 
price pound for pound as did the Eskimo Curlew. Neverthe- 
less, its great size rendered it a good target. It readily was 
attracted by decoys. It sailed steadily in toward them, pre- 
senting an imposing mark, easy to hit, and it was so solicitous 


of the safety of its companions that when one or two were shot 
down, the rest, though greatly alarmed, returned and flapped 
about above their stricken comrades, diving toward them and 
urging them to flight, until so decimated by the gunner that 
only a remnant of the flock remained alive. This explains the 
destruction of this bird, along the Atlantic coast. There are 
very few gunners who, in the excitement of a scene like this, 
would fail to shoot so long as a bird remained within range, and 
it is to this lack of self-restraint on the part of the gunner, 
and to the settlement of its prairie breeding grounds, that we 
owe the destruction and approaching extinction of this great 
and curiously formed wader. It is decreasing fast in the in- 
terior, where it breeds, and on the Gulf coast of Texas, where 
it still winters. As it is not known to visit South America, 
the American people alone are to blame for its destruction. 
Its future is in our hands. Soon it will disappear from the 
Atlantic seaboard. 

Unless we take immediate action to save this Curlew, it will 
be unknown to our children's children. It will be shameful if 
this generation permits the extermination of this great, unique, 
harmless and useful bird! It should be protected throughout 
the United States and Canada. Nothing less than this will 
restore it to the shores of the Atlantic, or prevent its rapidly 
approaching extinction. Nothing more than this can be done 
by legal enactment; and it is probable that this never will be 
done unless the protection of all migratory birds is put in the 
hands of the federal government, where it should have been 
placed long ago. Anything that can be done with voice and 
pen to bring about that consummation will tend to secure 
sufiicient protection for this and many other waders which are 
doomed to extinction under the haphazard methods of legis- 
lation and law enforcement which now prevail in many States. 
Wilson says that the long bill of this bird is used in probing 
into the holes of the small crabs, on which it feeds, and that it 
takes worms and sea snails, such as are found in marshes; 
also berries and insects, and that it is very fond of bramble- 
berries, for which it searches the fields and uplands. 



HUDSONIAN CURLEW (Numenius hudsonicus). 
Common or local names: Jack Curlew; Jack. 

Length. — About 17 inches, variable; bill about 4, twice length of head. 

Adult. — Top of head blackish, with a sharply defined central whitish stripe; 
line over eye whitish; line through eye blackish brown; rest of upper 
parts and tail brown, varied with blackish and grayish white; 'i7i7^er 
webs of flight feathers or primaries barred mth bnffy; throat and belly 
white; neck and breast thickly streaked with dusky; iris dark brown; 
bill flesh colored toward base and black toward tip; legs grayish blue. 

Field Marks. — General tone of plumage more grayish and less reddish than 
that of the Sicklebilled Curlew; long curved bill sometimes longer than 
that of the young Sicklebill; a light central crown stripe, bordered by 
blackish stripes, distinguishes it from the other American species, but 
this can be seen only at close range. 

Notes. — Call note pip-jyip-pip-jnp; in spring a sweet Kur-lew (Hoffmann). 

Season. — Usually a rare migrant, but irregularly and locally common 
coastwise; early July to late September. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds on coast of Alaska from 
mouth of Yukon to Kotzebue Sound, and on coast of northern Macken- 
zie; winters from Lower California to southern Honduras, from Ecuador 
to southern Chile, and from British Guiana to mouth of Amazon ; migrates 
mainly along Pacific and Atlantic coasts; rare in the interior; casual on 
Pribilof Islands and in Greenland and Bermuda; accidental in Spain, 



— ^s5^ 


In this species, which is practically the only Curlew now 
left to us, we have a peculiar instance of the survival of the 
fittest. While probably decreasing in numbers, apparently it is 
holding its own in many localities, and even increasing in 
recent years. This increase may be more apparent than real, 
for as time goes on, and birds become fewer, our standards 
change, and the Hud- 
sonian Curlew, which 

once was regarded as ^^^ ^^ ^^^S^^^l^r'^^r^-^^,--'^. 
uncommon for a Cur- 
lew when compared at 
that time with the 
abundance of the other 

1 -1 ^ I * ] -, ' F^G- 18. — First primary and axillars of Hudsonian Curlew 

large SnOie DirClS, is (after Cory). Note barring of the inner web of primary. 

considered now as 

common locally, when contrasted with the present scarcity 
of the other species. It is probable that the extinction of the 
Eskimo Curlew has provided more nesting places and more 
food for the Hudsonian Curlew and that recently it has begun 
to increase locally, and is now occupying some of the northern 
breeding and feeding grounds formerly in possession of the 
smaller species. 

The following quotations, abridged from standard authors, 
seem more or less contradictory, and show that there is some 
question regarding the status of the species: Arrives in large 
flocks on the coast of New Jersey early in May; few seen in 
June; some in July (Wilson, 1813). On island in Piscataqua, 
near Plymouth, N. H., dense flock, covering several acres 
(Nuttall, 1834). Plentiful spring and autumn (Turnbull, 
eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 1869). Rare in New 
England (Samuels, 1870). Rare in the migrations (Maynard, 
eastern Massachusetts, 1870). Appears much less abundant 
in United States than either of the others; according to all 
observers, rare in New England (Coues, 1874). Rare migrant 
spring and fall (J. A. Allen, Massachusetts, 1879). Abundant 
everv year in Massachusetts in fall; barren birds found on 


Atlantic coast from May to August (Brewer, 1884). While on 
my way through these marshes (between Cobbs Island and 
the mainland in the spring of 1885), frightening into the air 
clouds of these big birds, more in a minute than I had seen 
before in my whole life, it impressed me oddly to hear my 
boatman complaining over yearly decrease (Trumbull, 1888). 
Cannot be considered a common bird; more frequent than 
the Long-bill (Stearns, New England, 1887). Becoming fewer 
in number every year (Samuels, 1897). Uncommon migrant 
on coast (Hoffmann, New York and New England, 1904). 
Rare spring and uncommon fall migrant (G. M. Allen, Massa- 
chusetts, 1909). 

Mackay (1892), who has published the best account ever 
WTitten of the habits of this species, states in The Auk that 
reliable accounts show that in the summer of 1 833 some fifteen 
hundred of these birds passed the season on the islands of 
Nantucket and Tuckernuck, while for the seventeen years 
previous to 1892 he never saw more than one hundred on 
the average annually, and in the later years even this number 
had decreased. 

Twenty-two of my correspondents in Massachusetts have 
seen a decrease of this species within their experience, and 
seven find it increasing in their localities. Its increase 
seems to be greatest on Cape Cod. The main reason for its 
preservation is plain. Though formerly a tame and unsus- 
picious bird, it has developed a remarkable faculty of taking 
care of itself, and there is no shore bird to-day more difficult 
to take and of which fewer are killed according to its numbers. 
Young birds of the first year sometimes may be approached 
readily, but the adult birds are so shy that few gunners find 
that it pays to hunt them. They are indifferent food at best, 
and for this reason there is little market demand. 

This species migrates the entire length of both continents, 
from the Arctic Ocean to the Straits of Magellan; it is com- 
mon in Patagonia. It frequents mainly the wilder places, 
little inhabited by man, breeds in the far north and so per- 
petuates its race. 

This species breeds, as did the Eskimo Curlew, on the 


Barren Grounds and the treeless lands about the Arctic Sea. 
In migration the birds often fly in flock formations, similar 
to those of Geese and Ducks. Apparently they cross the 
country west of Hudson Bay, flying from the shores of the 
Arctic Sea direct to New England. Some are said to pass 
through southern Labrador, but they are almost unknown on 
the barren east coast. Probably the birds from the most 
easterly breeding grounds are those which reach New England 
and from here pass on down the Atlantic coast, where they 
join and follow the main flight, which does not come here 
but reaches the coast farther south. The adult birds come 
to Massachusetts from the north in July and the young first 
appear toward the last of August. There is a large migration 
south through the Mississippi valley region and another on 
the Pacific coast. The "Jack" is seen now on the coast in in- 
creasing numbers in spring. The cessation of spring shooting 
in many States and provinces probably accounts in a measure 

for this. 

In Massachusetts, according to Mackay, these birds feed 
largely on fiddler crabs, grasshoppers, large gray sand spiders 
{Lycosa), June beetles {Lachnosterna) , other beetles (Scara- 
hceidoe) and huckleberries, which they pick from the bushes. 
When flying to or from their feeding grounds they usually pass 
about thirty yards high, except on windy days, when they fly 
close to the ground or water. They feed mainly either in the 
fields or pastures, where they find insects and berries, or among 
the beach grass, where they find the fiddler crabs and spiders. 
They also frequent marshes and mud flats and feed to some 
extent on worms.^ When feeding they usually scatter about 
over the ground, moving slowly and sedately, except when in 
pursuit of some particularly lively prey. Berries they pick 
from the bushes with their bills, and presumably they probe 
the holes or hiding places of the fiddlers with their long man- 

I Mackay, George H.: Auk, 1892, pp. 347, 348. 



The Plovers, family Charcidriidoe, form a large family of 
shore birds, many of the members of which, however, are not 
by any means confined to the shore. The bill usually is short, 
never longer than the head, and resembles that of a Pigeon. 
The body is plump and well rounded, neither depressed as in 
the Phalaropes nor compressed as in the Rails. The legs are 
medium in length and the feet partially webbed. The hind 
toe is wanting usually, but not always. Some species are 
crested but those of North America are not. The members of 
this family run and fly very rapidly, and the voice is usually a 
mellow whistle. The sexes generally are similar in form and 
color, but there are great changes with age and season in many 
species. Often the young are so dissimilar in color to the adult 
birds that they commonly are regarded as different species. 

Five species of plover once were abundant here, — two 
breedmg commonly, one on the coast and the other mainly in the 
interior. It is a sad commentary on the destructive tendencies 
of the American people that only two are common here now, 
and those only in migration, and that already we have come 
very near exterminating the breeding species, which, however, 
are now protected by law at all times in Massachusetts. These 
beautiful dove-like birds are so attractive and interesting that 
they should be protected throughout the summer months and 
allowed to roam unmolested on beach, marsh, meadow and 
upland. Such protection would save those which normally 
breed here and would give the people a chance to become 
accjuainted with the migrating species which would swarm here 
in the summer months if the State could be made a safe place 
for them to rest in. Birds like the Plovers, which commonly 
lay no more than four eggs in a season and rear but one brood, 
cannot stand excessive shooting during a long open season. 
They have had practically no protection until recent years. 
If the Plover season were reduced to one month (September) 
all over the United States, these birds might have some chance 
to recover their former numbers. If they could be protected 
and increased they would be valuable to agriculture. 


BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER {Squatarola squatarola). 

Common or local names: Blackbreasted Plover; Blackbreast; Beetle-head; Bull-head 

Chuckle-head; Bottle-head; Gump. 

Adult (Spring). Young (Fall.) 

Length. — About 11 inches; bill 1.10; usually has a small hind toe. 

Adult in Spring. — Above varied with blackish and ashy white; hind head 
and back black, spotted and marked with wdiite; tail white, barred with 
brownish black; wings showing a band of white in flight; sides of head, 
fore neck, throat, breast and upper belly black, bordered broadly by 
white on each side, from forehead to lower breast; axillary feathers 
(showing under the raised wings) black; legs and feet dusky lead color; 
adult spring female smaller, duller and with less pure black. 

Adult in Late Summer and Fall. — Upper parts dark brown, profusely 
speckled with white; under parts white, with an occasional black feather; 
tail and wings as in spring; black breast sometimes retained until fall. 

Young. — Upper parts lighter and with a golden shade on each feather; 
under parts whitish; breast streaked with gray. 

Field Marks. — Whitish tail and upper tail coverts, and white band in the uing 
plainly seen when bird is in flight; black axillaries seen on sides of body 
under raised wing, which is white beneath, in strong contrast to axillaries. 

Distinguishing Marks. — When in hand the small hind toe (other Plovers 
have none) and basal web between outer and middle toes. 

Notes. — Not unlike the toor-a-uiee of the Bluebird, but lower in pitch, more 
prolonged and mournful (Hoffmann). 

Range. — Nearly cosmopolitan. Breeds on Arctic coast of North America, 
from Point Barrow to Boothia and Melville peninsulas, and also on 
Arctic coast of Russia and Siberia; winters from the Mediterranean to 
South Africa, in India and Australia, and from California, Louisiana and 
North Carolina to Brazil and Peru ; in migration occurs throughout the 
United States, in Greenland and Bermuda; accidental in Hawaii. 



This cosmopolitan species is a large bird, of fine, imposing 
and almost distinguished appearance in its black and white 
nuptial dress. The shape of its head and beak seems to indi- 
cate force of character, and its large, dark, beautiful eyes are 
full of intelligence. Its wild, plaintive call is one of the sweetest 
notes heard on our storm-beaten coast. 

The plumage of the adult is so different from that of the 
young that it is not to be wondered at that gunners often 
regard the Beetle-head as another species than the Black- 
breast; but the former is the young of the latter. 

Nelson (1877) believed that the birds which remained 
in Illinois during the summer bred there ^ but of this there 
is no direct evidence. This is one of the species which, 
according to Audubon, once passed the summer here, and 
bred in New England and as far south as Pennsylvania, 
but it is believed that he was mistaken in this, as the eggs 
he describes resemble those of the Upland Plover. Nuttall 
(1834) says that the Black-breast rears but one brood in 
Massachusetts, where it rarely breeds; but the bird does 
not breed here now, and probably never did, although 
formerly it was seen here all summer, and a few have been 
reported within recent years. Howe and Allen give dates of 
June 18 and July 8. Dr. C. W. Townsend found a pair on 
Ipswich Beach on June 25, 1903. This bird still possibly sum- 
mers as far south as Florida, where Scott and Worthington 
reported it on June 14, July 4 and July 26, and it summers 
in South Carolina, where it is a permanent resident.^ A few 
remain there all summer, but do not breed (Wayne). The 
June birds seen there are in winter or immature plumage. 

The American breeding grounds of this species are little 
known, but it is believed to breed mainly on the coast and 
islands of the Arctic Ocean, from Hudson Bay to Alaska and on 
the Barren Grounds. It migrates apparently over practically 
the same route in both spring and fall, and is found in migration 

1 Nelson, E. W.: Bull. E.ssex Inst., 1876, Vol. 8, p. 122. 

2 Wayne, Arthur T.: Birds of South Carolina, 1910, p. 58. 


not only on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but in the interior 
from Ohio at least to the Dakotas and Texas. The southward 
movement begins early in July. Dr. Townsend records an 
arrival in Essex County, Mass., on July 15. The adult birds 
come first and sometimes reach Massachusetts the latter half 
of the month; but their greatest wave of migration reaches 
here and passes Cape Cod in August. The young begin to 
arrive about September 1, accompanied by some adults. Sep- 
tember is the month of greatest plenty, and the birds often con- 
tinue to come in numbers well into October. The records 
of the Chatham Beach Hotel show this plainly. Three were 
killed on Monomoy in December, 1872, supposedly wintering. 
The latest migration dates recorded are Essex County, Novem- 
ber 10; Cape Cod, November 14. 

This Plover was once very abundant here in migration. 
Nuttall (1834) says that flocks of more than one thousand 
gathered by the middle of September on the Chelsea (now 
Revere) marshes, near Boston. The following condensed notes 
record their decrease: Appears the last of September; collects 
in great flocks (Peabody, 1839). Early in autumn very abun- 
dant at Montauk (Giraud, Long Island, N. Y., 1844). Gener- 
ally abundant during migrations; sometimes not even common 
(Maynard, eastern Massachusetts, 1870). More or less com- 
mon in spring and fall (J. A. Allen, 1879). The constant 
gunning of the past few years has decreased their numbers in 
this location (Monomoy) and on Long Island (Sanford, Bishop 
and Van Dyke, 1903). Still common, but few remain in com- 
parison with the hosts of former days (C. W. Townsend, Essex 
County, Mass., 1905). Sixty-eight of my Massachusetts cor- 
respondents find this bird decreasing ; twelve find it increasing. 

As the birds of this species which go down the Atlantic 
coast in the fall apparently retrace the same route in the 
spring, the abolition of spring shooting in a few of the Atlantic 
coast States has stayed the depletion of their numbers some- 
what, and thev have held their own in Massachusetts better 
than has the Golden Plover, which on its return north through 
the Mississippi valley region in spring has been subject to tre- 
mendous slaughter. If spring shooting were prohibited in all 


the Atlantic States the species undoubtedly would increase. 
Indeed, it is believed that even now the birds are coming to 
parts of Cape Cod in the spring in much larger numbers than 
before the spring shooting of shore birds was prohibited. 

In May, 1909, I learned from Mr. J. A. Farley that a great 
flight of Blackbreasts was passing Sandy Neck, Barnstable, and 
through the kindness of Mr. Vaughan D. Bacon I am able to 
present some notes on this flight: "May 14, lots of Plover, 
even way up in cranberry bogs. May 20, M. G. reported three 
thousand Yellow-legs and Plover. May 22, marshes full of 
birds. May 23, northeast storm; plenty of birds. May 24, 
M. H. reported flats covered with Plover and Yellow-legs at 
low tide. May 27, harbor and marshes full of birds; saw 
three thousand Blackbreasts rise in one flock from Phyllis 
Island. May 29, at Sandy Neck, bunches of Plover flying all 
day; fifteen to twenty in a bunch. May 30, Plover still flying 
in bunches, like Coot. May 31, plenty Blackbreasts all along 
shore; flats covered at low tide. June 1, Blackbreasts fewer 
but still plenty. June 2, wind southwest; only a few Black- 
breasts. June 3, Blackbreasts fewer. Last birds seen on the 

Such flights as these seem like the days of old, and go to 
prove that more and more birds are finding refuge in Mas- 
sachusetts in spring. I am told that this Plover comes to 
Connecticut in larger numbers and stays longer since spring 
shooting has been prohibited. 

The experienced adult birds are very wary, and where 
they are not molested in spring they are likely to return year 
after year. During the fall these old and "educated" birds 
will not stop often or stay long where they are much hunted. 
The fall flights seen here consist very largely of the young or 
immature birds, called Beetle-heads, Chuckle-heads, etc., by 

In New England this bird is found mainly along the coast, 
and is seen usually in greatest numbers on Cape Cod, where it 
feeds along beaches, sand bars, salt marshes and flats left bare 
by the tide. It often seeks its food in the foam. Sometimes 
it goes to the uplands, particularly when the tide is in, feeding 


on berries and grasshoppers, like the Golden Plover. Formerly 
it fed more on the hill pastures along these shores and the 
islands near them, but continual shooting in spring and fall 
drove it from some of these feeding grounds, to which it never 
has returned. 

Favorite resorts of these birds on Cape Cod during the days 
of their greatest plenty were the flats and marshes of the harbor 
of Barnstable, along Sandy Neck, the Dennis marshes, the 
flats near Chatham, and marshes near Hyannis and Well- 
fleet. Nantucket, Tuckernuck and Martha's Vineyard also 
were favorite feeding grounds. The earliest date I find given 
for this Plover in spring in Massachusetts is April 18 (Mackay), 
but they do not usually come in numbers much before the 
15th of May. Their numbers commonly decrease about 
June 1, and by June 5 to June 8 they practically have dis- 
appeared, as few ever remain for the summer. 

A careful review of all the available records of the flight 
of this species in the different States of the Union leads to the 
following conclusions: (1) The records show conclusively that 
the species has decreased very much over the continent during 
the last seventy-five years, except, perhaps, on the Pacific 
coast, where there are few early records. (2) It never collected 
in such large flights as did the Golden Plover. (3) It now 
appears to be more numerous on the Atlantic coast, particularly 
on Cape Cod, than in the interior. 

In the west the Blackbreast is partial to ploughed fields, 
where it feeds on earthworms, grubs, cutworms and beetles. 
Prof. Samuel Aughey had two of these birds sent him from 
Sarpy County, Neb., and found their stomachs crammed with 
the destructive Rocky mountain locust and very few other 
insects. Mackay in his excellent paper on this bird says that 
in the Massachusetts marshes it feeds on the larvae of a cutworm, 
and that it eats the large, whitish, maritime grasshopper 
{(Edipoda maritima), also marine insects and very small shell- 
fish, which constitute a very large part of their food during 
their flight along the coast of Massachusetts.^ 

1 Mackay, George H.: Auk, 1892, p. 146. 



GOLDEN PLOVER (Charadrius dominicus dominicus). 

Common or local names: Green Plover; Green-head; Green-back; Toad-head; Field 
Bird; Pasture Bird; Brass-back; Pale-breast; Pale-belly; Muddy-breast; Frost 
Bird; Three Toes. 

Adult (Spring) , 

Young (Fall). 

Length. — About 10.50 inches. 

Adult in Breeding Plumage. — (Almost never seen in Massachusetts.) Gen- 
erally black above, spangled with bright yellow and white; tail dark 
grayish brown, barred with white, tinged with yellow; linings of wings 
ashy; a wide white stripe from forehead passes over eyes down side of 
head and neck, broadening on the side of breast; black below from chin 
to tail. 

Adult in Late Summer and Fall. — As seen here, upper parts as in spring, but 
duller, little white, and the yellow is golden or greenish; below white, 
mottled with grayish brown; linings of the wings grayish ash, as in spring. 

Young. — Dusky above, mottled with dull whitish spots, becoming yellow 
on the rump; below ashy, especially on lower neck and breast; generally 
greener in tone than the adult. 

Field Marks. — Young birds may be distinguished from the young of the 
Black-bellied Plover (Beetle-head) by the absence of the whitish tail, 
rump or upper tail coverts and the absence of the white in the outspread 
wings. This species bobs its head frequently, the Black-bellied Plover 

Notes. — A plaintive too-lee-e; song, a marvellously harmonious succession 
of notes (heard only on their breeding grounds) (Nelson). A bright 
whistle, queep-quee-lee-leep; a note like the syllable queedle; a chuckle 
(Townsend). A coodle (Mackay). 


Season. — A rather rare or local fall migrant coastwise, formerly abundant; 
August to mid October. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds from Kotzebue Sound along 
Arctic coast to mouth of the Mackenzie, and from Melville Island, 
Wellington Channel and Melville Peninsula south to northwestern Hud- 
son Bay; winters on pampas of Brazil and Argentina; migrates south 
across Atlantic from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick; a few pass south 
through Mississippi valley, and all migrate north by this route; in mi- 
gration to California, Greenland and Bermuda. 


Of all the species of wading birds which formerly, in migra- 
tion, swept in flocks from the arctic seas down the two Ameri- 
can continents, the Golden Plover seems to have been the 
most numerous. The Eskimo Curlew made a great show in 
Labrador, where a large part of its numbers concentrated 
in August, but the fall flight of the Golden Plover swept 
over a great part of the continent as well. From their breeding 
grounds on the arctic coasts and islands, extending from 
Bering Sea to Hudson Bay and far toward the pole, they 
moved southeasterly, probably crossing the continent diag- 
onally, and reached the Atlantic not only in Labrador but at 
many points. Thence by sea or along shore they followed 
down the coasts of North and South America to the plains of 
Argentina. Some also went down the Mississippi valley to 
the Gulf. 

Professor Cooke says that they are apparently unrecorded 
at all seasons from Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua 
and Honduras, although a few have been noted in Costa Rica, 
Guatemala and eastern Mexico. He advances what is prob- 
ably a true explanation of this line of flight. Birds follow the 
shortest route that furnishes an abundant food supply. The 
Plover, a bird of treeless regions, summers on the northern tun- 
dras and winters on the pampas. It cannot return in spring 
by the sea route as the food supply in Labrador is not ready; 
therefore it goes north through the interior, migrating through 
the treeless regions of the Mississippi valley and the Sas- 
katchewan, where insects and seeds are plentiful. It might be 
added that as the Atlantic seaboard was mainly forested 


before its settlement, it possibly did not originally furnish 
sufficient food in the fall migration for the great body of the 
Plover, and so, therefore, many of them took the shortest 
route to South America, which was by sea. 

In the spring they probably leave the pampas, and passing 
in one flight over the forested regions of interior South America, 
cross the Gulf of Mexico and land on the plains of Louisiana 
and Texas. When they land they are no longer fat. They 
then move slowly northward over the prairies of the Missis- 
sippi valley region. Very few stragglers are recorded authen- 
tically at that season anywhere on the Atlantic coast. Before 
the settlement of the west the Plover practically were un- 
molested there by man, and they landed in such enormous 
flocks on the prairies of Louisiana and Texas in the spring 
that in those days of muzzle-loading guns the gunners killed 
great numbers. Audubon states that on the 16th of March, 
18'21, he was invited by some French gunners to accom- 
pany them to the neighborhood of Lake St. John, near 
New Orleans, to observe the flight of thousands of these 
birds. These gunners, who were familiar with the route that 
the Plover would take, gathered in parties of from twenty to 
fifty, and, sitting on the ground equi-distant from each other, 
imitated the whistle of the birds so accurately that the Plover 
came within a few yards, and were slaughtered unmercifully. 
Several times he saw a flock of a hundred or more reduced to 
a few individuals. This was continued all day, and at night 
the gunners were as intent to kill as in the morning, when 
they arrived. Dogs were used to bring the birds to their 
masters after a considerable number had been killed. One 
man killed sixty-three dozen, and Audubon having reckoned 
the number of gunners in the field at two hundred, estimating 
each to have shot twenty dozen birds, concluded that forty- 
eight thousand Golden Plover fell there that day.^ 

Somewhat similar scenes were enacted in the fall on the 
prairies of Illinois, when apparently the birds were moving 
southeasterly toward the coast. The following notes exhibit 
a part of this bird's history: Green Plover are here very com- 

1 Audubon J. J.: Ornithological Biography, Vol. Ill, p. 624. 


mon (Lawson, Carolina, 1709). Caught in great numbers in 
nets at daybreak (Xuttall, Massachusetts, 1834). Quite 
abundant (Giraud, 1841-). Appears in large flocks on the open 
plains of Long Island in fall, searching for grasshoppers and 
other insect food (De Kay, New York, 1844). Common on 
our coast both spring and autumn; great numbers taken in 
nets (Peabody, Massachusetts, 1839). Pass throughout New 
England; in 1865 immense flocks seen a few miles at sea fly- 
ing south in fall; few alighted ashore (Samuels, 1870). Com- 
mon spring and autumn migrant (J. A. Allen, 1879). Shot 
numbers of these birds in marshes of Back Bay, Boston, where 
the Public Library now stands (Samuels, 1897). Not unusual 
in northern Illinois in 1890 for one gun to kill from one hundred 
to one hundred and fifty Golden Plover a day by walking up 
to birds; decov often two or three times to the decovs and 
whistle, until sometimes the greater part lie dead upon the 
grass; wing-tipped birds are tied out among the flock by 
market hunters; dead birds also put out on sticks; in northern 
Illinois two hundred a day, one thousand a week, may be 
killed over decoys; Isaac McLellan, veteran sportsman, says 
that in years past they were found in countless numbers over 
the grassy slopes of Montauk Point (Long Island, N. Y.), and 
the hillsides of Gardiner's Island, but in later years, for some 
unknown cause, they have forsaken their old haunts, and 
flown to fresh fields and pastures new (Leffingwell, 1890). 
Excellent sport with these birds when Snipe shooting on west- 
ern prairies in spring; once so abundant as to seem to need 
no legislation; seen no more in some places where very abun- 
dant a few years ago; in Illinois and Indiana their number 
was remarkable (Huntington, 1903). In late September, 
young used to frequent Back Bay marshes, Boston, which I 
considered splendid Plover ground; now a thing of the past 
(Herbert K. Job, 1905). In 1886 could go within eight miles 
of Chicago (April) and see thousands; now seen chiefly in 
small flocks (Parker, 1890). At one time abundant in New 
England in early fall; decreased greatly in past few years 
(Cory, 1896). Becoming steadily rarer (Hoffmann, 1904). 
Before the settlement of the west, and up to and beyond 


the middle of the nineteenth century, great flights of Golden 
Plover sometimes passed over New England in the fall migra- 
tion. Severe easterly storms checked their flights or drove 
them inland from the sea, and they occasionally settled and 
fed in our fields. They were exceedingly abundant at times 
along the Connecticut River valley and on the hills of Worces- 
ter County, Mass. 

Such flights as these may have come direct from the north- 
west, but the greatest flights which landed here were those of 
the main body of birds which came down the coast from the 
arctic regions, or crossed Labrador and took flight thence, by 
the sea route direct for South America. A great part of the 
species came down the Atlantic from Labrador, Newfoundland 
or Nova Scotia, and sometimes, leaving the land in fair weather, 
they met a circular cyclonic storm at sea coming up the coast, 
and were buffeted, driven back and carried over toward the 
coast by that westerly motion of its border known as a north- 
easter or a southeaster, according to its direction, which, 
blowing with irresistible force, landed them on the shores of 
New England. A tempest with thunder, lightning and a 
heavy downpour of rain often had the same effect. Under 
such conditions they were driven to our coasts in immense 
numbers, and tales are told still, among the natives of Cape 
Cod, of the enormous flights of Plover which their fathers and 
grandfathers saw. Some of these flocks are remembered still 
by living witnesses. Mr. John M. Winslow of Nantucket tells 
me that Mr. Peter Folger, one of his former shooting com- 
panions, awaking one morning in the 40's found a great storm 
raging, and it seemed to him as he looked out from his window 
that it was "raining Plover." He and Deacon David N. 
Edwards loaded up with ammunition, dividing a bag of shot 
between them. Three times during that forenoon they were 
obliged to go down to the pond and wash out their guns. They 
shot until 3 p.m., and killed Plover enough to fill a tip cart 
two-thirds full. The captain of a cod-fishing vessel then in 
the harbor, bound for New York, agreed to take the birds to 
New York for them, and to give them half of what he received. 
He returned them twenty-five dollars. Mr. Edwards said 


that he never knew before that the people of New York would 
eat Plover. Mr. M. M. Boutwell records a great flight of the 
Golden Plover which came to Clark's Hill, Lunenburg, Mass., 
near Fitchburg, in 1851. This is a large, high hill, and the 
birds came there in the fall after a hard easterly storm. They 
stayed about the hill feeding for a few days, and Mr. Boutwell 
and a hunting companion, George Smith, shot many of them 
at two different trips. Firing into the flocks did not seem to 
disturb them much, for they would simply rise in the air, 
make a wide circle and alight again only a few rods from their 
starting place. Mr. Boutwell says that there were so many 
that he could not even attempt to estimate their numbers. 
Mr. Lewis Stone of Ipswich says that about the last of August 
1852, a tremendous flight of Golden Plover landed on the coast. 
They came over the hills in such numbers and so fast and 
low that any one who went there seemed in danger of being 
struck by birds in full flight. A three days' rainstorm was 
blowing. On the first day the wind was northeast, the second 
day east and the third day southeast. The next day was 
Sunday, and on Monday the Boston market was so over- 
stocked with birds that the marketmen would give only five 
cents apiece for them, and a Mr. Newell of Ipswich, a market 
hunter, gave up gunning for a time, because there was no sale 
for birds. Mr. Henry Shaw tells me that "soon after 1860," 
a great flight of these birds swarmed over the fields and hills 
south of Worcester. On the first day he and one other hunter 
alone found them, but on the second day nearly every man 
and boy who heard of it and could secure a gun was out shoot- 
ing. This probably was a part of the great flight of 1863. 
Mr. Winslow of Nantucket well remembers this flight (August 
29, 1863), when Golden Plover and Eskimo Curlews landed on 
the island in such numbers as to " almost darken the sun." Be- 
tween seven and eight thousand of these birds were killed on 
the island and on Tuckernuck. All the powder and shot on 
Nantucket were expended, and the gunners had to send to 
the mainland for more. After that the wind changed to the 
southwest, and there was good shooting for two weeks. Sep- 
tember 5, 1863, an immense flight landed on Cape Cod and 


along the shores of Massachusetts. No such great flight has 
occurred on that coast since that time. Considerable flights 
have landed, notably in 1867, 1870, 1873, 1881, 1882, 1883 and 
1886, but their numbers diminished until by 1901< they had 
almost disappeared. A potent reason for this condition, as 
given by Mackay, was the continual persecution the poor birds 
suffered whenever and wherever they landed on our coasts. 
Having undergone such experience they afterwards passed over 
or by, keeping out to sea, landing only when absolutely forced 
to do so, and leaving again the moment clearing weather ap- 
peared. The persecution which they suffered at all times all 
along the Atlantic coast, from Labrador to the Carolinas, must 
have had some effect by this time in reducing their numbers, 
but the most destructive force was spring shooting in the 
Mississippi valley region, which developed and increased 
with the settlement of the country. As the west became 
settled and the railroads made the great markets accessible, 
they were flooded during the spring, from New Orleans to 
Chicago and St. Louis, with thousands of Golden Plover. 
From 1860 to 1880 the species gradually diminished all over 
the United States. The decrease of the Passenger Pigeon 
in the markets about 1880 caused an excessive demand in 
spring for game to take its place, and as the demand was par- 
tially met w4th the Eskimo Curlew, so it was also in part met 
by the Golden Plover, which continued to decrease through- 
out its range. It was marketed in large numbers in the east 
whenever the western market was glutted, until about 1890 or 
1891. In 1890 alone two Boston firms received from Nebraska, 
Missouri and Texas forty barrels closely packed with Eskimo 
Curlew, Golden Plover and Upland Plover (see page 427). 

The Golden Plover almost disappeared from New England, 
falling off about ninety per cent, in fifteen years. It also grew 
rapidly less in the west, but was saved from the fate of the 
Eskimo Curlew by the passage of laws in many western States 
prohibiting spring Plover shooting, and forbidding the sale 
of game or its shipment out of the State. 

Since these laws have gone into effect we have seen a slight 
increase in the numbers of this bird on the Atlantic coast, and 


for at least four years, greater numbers have been seen or 
killed than for some previous years. Nevertheless, the Golden 
Plover is still in danger of extinction. Only four of my Mas- 
sachusetts correspondents (1908) report an increase of this 
species in the State, while fifty-four report a marked decrease. 
The food of the Golden Plover consists largely of insects, 
Orthoptera being well represented. They are fond of grass- 
hoppers and locusts, but Mackay says that on Nantucket he 
has never seen them eat any, and that the stomachs that he 
has examined have been filled with crickets, (which seem their 
principal food), grass seeds, and a little vegetable matter like 
seaweed. In Labrador they feed on the crowberry {Empetrum 
nigrum). Formerly their vast flocks, visiting the ploughed 
lands of Ontario in the fall, gleaned great numbers of insects 
from the fields. All over their migration range in the west 
they did great service in ridding the fields and prairies of wire- 
worms, cutworms and other destructive insects exposed by 
the plough. On the prairies of Manitoba they followed the 
prairie fires, picking up the half-burned insects and those that 
had escaped the flames among the grass roots. ^ This being 
the character of their food, they are found principally where 
it is plentiful, on ploughed lands, marshes, old fields, prairies 
and pastures, particularly where the grass is short, as they 
seem rather to dislike tall grass. The marshes and the com- 
mon pasture about Newburyport, the hill pastures and shores 
of Ipswich, the sandy hills and fields of Cape Cod, and the 
pastures of Tuckernuck, Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard 
were favorite feeding grounds of this bird. 

Every farmer knows, or should know, that the grasshoppers, 
locusts, crickets, white grubs, cutworms and wire worms which 
the Plover eat are reckoned among the most destructive of all 
pests in the hayfield, grain field or garden, and it must be evi- 
dent to all thoughtful people that the immense flocks of Golden 
Plover which formerly swept north and south over the fertile 
plains of this country would have done great service to agri- 
culture had they been protected during their flights up and 
down the continent. 

> Nash, Charles W.: Birds of Ontario, 1909, p. 24 (Bull. 173, Ontario Dept. of Agr.). 



KILLDEER (Oxyechus vociferus). 
Common or local names : Killdeer Plover ; Killdee. 


Length. — 9 to 10.50 inches; bill .80. 

Adult. — Top of head and entire back brown; chin, throat and ring entirely 
around neck white; forehead and sides of head black and white before 
eye, passing to brown and buffy behind it; lower parts white; a black 
collar, widening in front, and a narrow black band across breast a little 
below it; wings show contrast of dark and white when spread: rump 
and base of tail vary from orange brown to light chestnut or cinnamon ; 
tail variegated with cinnamon or chestnut brown, black and white and 
their gradations; bill, iris, legs and feet blackish. 

Yoxing. — Similar, but the black bands replaced by gray; feathers of upper 
parts marked with rusty brown. 

Field Marks. — One of the larger Plovers, with a white ring on neck and 
two black bands on breast. "When facing the observer it shows Jour 
black hands, two on head and two on breast. Wings long and narrow; 
cinnamon rump and white of wings show plainly in flight. 

Notes. — A high-pitched, noisy MMee, kildee, kildee and similar notes, in 
a complaining tone. 

Nest. — In grass or among pebbles, usually near water, sometimes in fields. 

Eggs. — Usually four, about 1.50 by 1.10, varying from drab to cream, and 
marked with blackish or dark brown in endless variations. 

Season. — A rare migrant and very rare local summer resident; formerly 
more common; about March 1 to mid November. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds from central British Columbia, 
southern Mackenzie, central Keewatin and central Quebec south to 
Gulf coast and central Mexico; winters from California, Arizona, 
Texas, Indiana, New Jersey and Bermuda south to Venezuela and 
Peru; casual in Newfoundland, Paraguay and Chile; accidental in 
Great Britain. 



Undoubtedly the Killdeer once bred commonly in suitable 
localities throughout southern New England. Old people in 
Berkshire, Hampden, Worcester, Middlesex and Barnstable 
counties spoke of this bird years ago as nesting commonly 
there in their youth, and it has bred not uncommonly in 
Barnstable, Hampden and Dukes counties within the memory 
of men now living. Dr. Townsend says that undoubtedly it 
once bred in Essex County, and Brewster speaks of a nest 
found long ago in what is now Back Bay Fens in Boston. 

The following abridged notes, showing the former abun- 
dance and later decrease of this bird, are interesting: Known 
to almost every resident of the United States, being a common 
and pretty constant resident (Wilson, 1813). Breeds in middle 
and western States and farther north (x\udubon, 1835). A 
common bird; there is hardly any time when it is worth the 
trouble of shooting (Peabody, Massachusetts, 1839). To 
most persons residing in the country this species of Plover is 
familiarly known as the Killdeer (Giraud, Long Island, N. Y., 
184-1). A rare summer resident; said to have been locally 
common (Maynard, eastern Massachusetts, 1870). Pretty 
generally distributed through New England as a summer resi- 
dent (Samuels, 1870). A not common summer resident (J. A. 
Allen, 1879). Throughout New England general distribution, 
nowhere common (Brewer, 1884). At one time not uncommon 
in New England, but of late years quite rare (Chamberlain, 
1891). A rare summer resident in southeastern Massachusetts 
(Hoffmann, 1904). I have received no report of any increase 
in this species in Massachusetts, while fifty-one of my Mas- 
sachusetts correspondents report a decrease. 

In November, 1888, after a southern hurricane, great 
numbers of these birds appeared on the New England coast. 
Probably they were carried to sea on the edge of the cyclone, 
and brought ashore here by an easterly wind, having been 
swept around the circumference of the storm. They were 
seen in numbers all over Nantucket, as well as on the main- 
land near the coast. Many of them remained until they were 


shot by gunners, and the next season the species was as rare 
as before. 

Notwithstanding the facts that the flesh of the Killdeer is 
of Httle value as food, and that it is one of the most useful 
insectivorous birds of the garden and field, it has been almost 
exterminated in Massachusetts by shooting in spring, while 
it was preparing to nest, and in summer before the young 
were able to fly. Quite a colony of Killdeers was in existence 
near Springfield until after the beginning of this century; but 
it was exterminated by shooting in July and August. Mas- 
sachusetts has presented to the world the singular spectacle 
of legalizing the extermination of a beautiful and useful species 
of practically no food value. It was lawful to shoot this bird 
in spring until recent years and in summer until 1909, when it 
had become nearly extinct in the State. Then the passage of a 
law protecting it at all times was secured. This, together with 
a statute for the protection of wild-fowl in spring, which was 
passed the same year, may save the bird from extirpation in the 
Commonwealth. Within the past two years a few instances of 
its breeding in Hampden, Middlesex and Bristol counties have 
been reported. This year (1910) a pair of Killdeers built a 
nest almost under the walls of a gunning stand and reared 
a brood unmolested. This species still breeds in some num- 
bers in New York and New Jersey, and even in Connecticut 
and Rhode Island, where it has been better protected by 
the farmers than in Massachusetts. This Commonwealth is 
well within its range, for it breeds north to Quebec, and there 
is hope that if it is protected at all times by law in Massa- 
chusetts for a long term of years it may become common 
again on our farms and gardens. 

The Killdeer is one of the most beautiful and attractive of 
the Plovers, and, contrary to the general rule among shore 
birds, it is more numerous in the interior than along shore. 
As soon as the ice breaks up in the rivers and lakes the Kill- 
deer's cry is heard — the harbinger of spring. It makes its 
home on low-lying farms. It frequents meadows and cul- 
tivated lands, where it feeds on destructive insects and worms. 
In some localities it is recognized among the farmers, as one of 


their best and most constant friends in garden and field, and 
if fully protected and left unmolested in its occupancy of the 
fields it becomes as common a feature of the country home 
as is the Lapwing in England. So far as its food habits are 
now known it seems to be utterly harmless and very bene- 
ficial — a beautiful and desirable bird to protect and cultivate. 

In the middle States and in the south it often builds its 
nest in tilled fields, and follows the instruments of cultivation, 
gleaning worms and insects from the furrow, like the Robin or 
the Blackbird. When disturbed or alarmed its wild cry, killdee 
dee dee deer, rings on the air as it flies rapidly away or circles 
about, exhibiting in turn the bright contrasting markings of its 
breast and the lovely and striking hues of its back, wings and tail. 
Its large, intelligent, carmine eyes seem to fit it for nocturnal 
activity. In the fields of the south I frequently have started 
it from its feeding grounds at night, and listened to its weird 
and plaintive cry as it swept and circled about in the moon- 
light. Like other species of Plover it often stands quite still 
in the field, with head drawn in, uttering a plaintive cry when 
approached. The hunter is not fond of it, for its cries alarm 
other game. 

Prof. Samuel Aughey examined the stomach contents of 
nine of these birds taken from May to September in Nebraska, 
and found 258 locusts and 190 other insects. Only one had 
taken grain, and of that only a few waste kernels. Nash states 
that its food consists of earthworms and insects, of which 
small beetles form the greater part, and that a brood of these 
birds and their parents will relieve a farm of an enormous 
number of insects daily. He has known stomachs of this 
species to be completely filled with weevils taken from or- 
chards.^ Eaton found it feeding on grasshoppers, beetles, 
caterpillars and a few water insects. Throughout the country, 
wherever the KiUdeer is found, it is very destructive to weevils, 
some species of which cost the farmers of the United States 
millions of dollars annually. The Killdeer takes weevils from 
ploughed fields as well as from orchards, and it is one of the 
enemies of the Mexican cotton boll weevil. 

I Nash, C. W.: The Birds of Ontario, 1909 p. 25 (Bull. 173, Ontario Dept. of Agr.). 


SEMIPALMATED PLOVER {^gialilis semipalmata) . 
Common or local names : Ring-neck; Little Ring-neck. 

Length. — 6.76 inches; bill .50; feet 'partly ivebbed. 

Adult. — Forehead white, bordered all around by a black band that also 
surrounds the eye and extends below and behind it; spot behind eye, 
chin, throat and ring around neck white; a black collar around base of 
neck; rest of upper parts grayish brown; under parts white; legs and 
feet pale flesh color; base of bill orange or yellow, tip black. 

Young. — No black markings; white of forehead reaches bill and eyes, and 
is prolonged over latter, neck ring and stripe behind eye gray; upper 
parts with slight whitish or rusty edgings of the feathers; bill mostly 

Field Marks. — One black ring around neck. This bird is the color of wet 
sand, while the Piping Plover, which is about the same size, is the color 
of dry sand. 

Notes. — A simple, sweet, plaintive call. Chee-wee (Hoffmann). 

Season. — Common spring and autumn migrant coastwise, rare inland; late 
April to mid October. 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds from Melville Island, AVelling- 
ton Channel and Cumberland Sound to valley of Upper Yukon, southern 
Mackenzie, southern Keewatin and Gulf of St. Lawrence; winters from 
southern Lower California, Louisiana and South Carolina to Patagonia, 
Chile and the Galapagos; casual in Siberia, Greenland and Bermuda. 

This common and handsome little Plover is known almost 
universally as the Ring-neck. It is one of the small birds 
which rarely was shot by the earlier settlers or by sportsmen 
up to the latter half of the nineteenth century; but since the 
great depletion of the larger shore birds this little one has 
become a common target. It is regarded now as legitimate 
game, and its numbers have decreased rapidly of late. Only six 


of my Massachusetts correspondents report an increase of this 
species in their locaHties, while seventy-one report a decrease. 

It formerly was very abundant and familiar all along the 
coast of New England. Usually a pair or a few pairs are now 
seen together or associated with the smaller Sandpipers. 
Sometimes as many as forty or fifty are seen in a flock, flying 
in loose order, though occasionally they move more com- 
pactly. At such times the fortunate gunner makes a "killing." 
When they alight they usually scatter and run about with 
their heads up, occasionally bobbing their heads or snatching 
up some food. Sometimes at high tide they may be found 
huddled together above high-water mark fast asleep, with 
heads drawn in, although some are usually on the watch. 
They frequent sandy or pebbly shores, bared by the flowing 
tide, and may be seen singly, in pairs or in small flocks on salt 
marshes and mud flats. 

Ordinarily this Plover is a rather silent bird, unless alarmed, 
and stands quietly when approached, but runs so swiftly 
when apprehensive of danger that it seems almost to glide 
over the ground. It is quite an adept at concealment, and 
when hidden behind a few stalks of grass it is almost invisible. 
When standing or squatting on the wet sand or among wet 
rocks its color so perfectly matches its surroundings that the 
eye hardly can find it. 

Dr. Brewer says that a few Semipalmated Plovers have 
been known to summer and probably to breed on Grand 
Manan ; but I know of no recent instance of the summering of 
this species in New England. 

Its food on the coast consists largely of small Crustacea, 
mollusks, eggs of marine animals, and insects, which it some- 
times gleans from ploughed fields. In the interior it feeds on 
locusts, other Orthoptera and many other terrestrial insects. 
Professor Aughey examined the stomach contents of eleven 
Ring-necks taken in four counties of Nebraska between April, 
1865, and July, 1875, and found all of them filled with insects. 
Eight stomachs contained from forty to sixty Rocky Moun- 
tain locusts each, and in all but one of the eleven there were 
other insects. 


PIPING PLOVER {^gialitis meloda). 
Common or local names : Clam-bird; Mourning-bird; Beach-plover; Ring-neck, 

Length. — 6.50 to 7 inches; bill .45 to .48. 

Adult Male. — Forehead, chin, throat and ring around neck white; band 
across forward part of crown, between eyes, black; a partial black 
collar on lower neck, almost always broken both front and back, in 
rare cases complete; upper parts mainly pale ash; tip of tail black; 
below white; base of bill orange, tip black; legs and feet orange yellow. 

Adult Female. — Similar, but the black tending to brownish, and less distinct. 

Young. — Resembles female, but no trace of dark color on head and little, 
if any, on sides of neck; feathers of upper parts with pale or rusty 
edgings; bill mainly black. 

Field Marks. — This is the only pale Ring-neck on the beach. In flight 
the wings show much marked dark brown and white. 

Notes. — A plaintive piping whistle, repeated. Queep, queep, queep-o 

Nest. — A hollow in the sand or shingle of the beach. 

Eggs. — 1.20 to 1.30 by .95 to 1, clay color or creamy white, sparsely marked 
with chocolate specks. 

Season. — Uncommon migrant; uncommon and very local summer resident 
along coast; formerly common. Early April to mid September. 

Range. — Eastern North America. Breeds locally from southern Saskatch- 
ewan, southern Ontario, Magdalen Islands and Nova Scotia south to 
central Nebraska, northwestern Indiana, Lake Erie, New Jersey (for- 
merly) and Virginia; winters on coast of United States from Texas 
to Georgia, and in northern Mexico; casual in migration to Newfound- 
land, Bahamas, Greater Antilles and Bermuda. 


This lovely little bird is a resident of the sandy shores of 
the sea. It formerly was abundant, and bred in colonies on 
all the sandy outer beaches from Nova Scotia to Virginia. 


Now it almost has disappeared as a breeder from great stretches 
of sea-coast, from Maine to New Jersey at least, although still 
seen locally, but rarely in numbers exceeding two or three 
pairs. In the migrations, however, it is more or less common 
locally. The following notes give convincing evidence of its 
former abundance and recent decrease: Very abundant on 
the low sandy shores of our whole sea-coast during the sum- 
mer (Wilson, 1813). Common inhabitant of our sea-coast 
from New Jersey to Nova Scotia (Nuttall, 1834). Breeds 
on all the eastern coast of the United States that is adapted to 
its habits (Audubon, 1835). Found along our whole coast in 
summer (Peabody, 1839). Common summer resident; breeds 
abundantly on sandy shores (Maynard, eastern Massachusetts, 
1870). Pretty abundantly distributed along coast of New 
England as summer resident (Samuels, 1870). Common 
summer bird of New England coast (Coues, 1874). Common 
summer resident along coast (J. A. Allen, Massachusetts, 
1879). From many of our beaches in New England and New 
Jersey this Plover has been driven (Brewer, 1884). Formerly 
common in August and September (Brewster, Cambridge 
region, 1906). Formerly breeding on west coast of Maine, 
now rare migrant (Knight, 1908). Uncommon migrant and 
summer resident coastwise (G. M. Allen, Massachusetts, 
Rhode Island and Connecticut, 1909). Common on Long 
Island in Giraud's time; now limited as a breeder to a few 
localities (Eaton, New York, 1910). 

Only four of my correspondents find the species increasing 
anywhere, and the increase given is slight, except by one man 
in Barnstable County, who finds an increase of fifty per cent, 
since the law was passed in Massachusetts protecting this 
bird at all times. Forty find it decreasing. Most of the 
others never have seen it. Legalized shooting of shore birds 
after July 15 in several of the Atlantic coast States is respon- 
sible largely for the great diminution and the threatened 
extinction of this species on this coast. In August I have seen 
the downy young, only a few days from the egg, running 
along the beach, while men and boys who ought to have 
"known better" were engaged in the pleasant (and then 


lawful) recreation of shooting the solicitous parents, whose 
anxiety for the little ones brought them within gunshot. Even 
the half grown young were legitimate targets (and still are 
in some States). They are the game of boys and some foreign 

This bird is said to raise two broods in a season, but I 
never have seen any evidence of this except July and August 
broods, which may have been the result of an attempt to raise 
young after the first brood had been destroyed. The eggs are 
laid in a mere hollow in the sand or pebbles of the lonely barren 
beach, or among the scattering beach grass near the foot of 
some sand dune. Sometimes they are washed away by an 
unusually high tide and sea. The young are able to run about 
as soon as they are hatched. Like their parents they match 
the color of dry sand. On the approach of danger they squat, 
close the eyes and remain motionless. I once saw one hide 
in this way, and, keeping my eye upon it, walked to i± and 
took it in hand. I then let it go, thinking to see if it could 
conceal itself effectually on the open beach. It ran a few steps, 
then disappeared behind a little rise, and although I followed 
it immediately I never saw it again. The parents, ordinarily 
rather suspicious and shy, become emboldened by their solici- 
tude for their young, and with cries of alarm follow the intruder 
on their breeding grounds. The call of this Plover is wild and 
pensive, but melodious withal. Dr. Townsend names it 
"the call of a dying race." When alarmed on its breeding 
grounds at night-fall, it follows the disturber of its peace until 
daylight has faded, and, pillowed on the sand, I have been 
lulled to sleep by its wild and mournful cries as they mingled 
with the ceaseless roar of the pounding surf. 

This species feeds, according to Dr. Warren, on insects, 
Crustacea, mollusks and the eggs of marine animals. Professor 
Aughey found the stomachs of four birds from Nebraska 
filled with insects, and two of them had eaten locusts. 


* WILSON'S PLOVER (Ochthodromus vdlsonius). 

Length. — 7 to 8 inches; bill long and large for a Plover, .80 to .90; outer 
toes half webbed. 

Adult Male. — Above ashy gray or brownish gray; forehead white, white 
extending over eye; top and sides of head, and nape brownish gray, 
blackening at upper edge of forehead; a blackish stripe from bill to 
below eye, not meeting its fellow above base of bill, as white of forehead 
comes down to bill; below white, with a broad black half collar on fore 
neck and upper breast, not extending to back of neck; but white of 
neck so extends; wing quills dark; white wing bar; tail darkening in the 
middle toward tip, but end and edges whitish; iris dark brown; bill 
black; legs flesh colored. 

Adult Female. — Like male, but the black marks replaced by dark or brownish 
gray, often tinged with reddish; the breast band tinged with buff. 

Young. — Similar to adult female, but without black marks on head; a 
broad band of the color of back across front of neck. 

Field Marks. — The large, long, thick bill and the larger size of the head 
distinguish it from the smaller Ring-necks. 

Season. — Accidental summer visitor. 

Range. — Southern North America. Breeds from Texas eastward along 
Gulf coast, and from southeastern Virginia (formerly New Jersey) 
south to northern Bahamas; winters from southern Lower California, 
Texas and Florida south to southern Guatemala and probably to West 
Indies; casual in Nova Scotia and New England, and at San Diego, Cal. 

This bird is an accidental visitor from the south. There 
are two tenable Massachusetts records, namely, a specimen 
taken at the Gurnet, Plymouth, August 
22, 1877, by Arthur S. Fiske,^ and one 
taken from a gunner's bag at Ipswich 
by Dr. C. W. Townsend, May 8, 1904.2 
Linsley records it at Stratford, Conn., 
and Eaton gives eight records for New 

York. Peabody states in his report on ^^^ i9._wiison-s Piover. 
the Birds of Massachusetts (1839) that 

the species was abundant at Nahant in 1838. "This record," 
says Dr. C. W. Townsend, "was believed to be on the authority 
of Dr. Brewer, who later refuted the statement." 

1 Coues, Elliott: Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, 1882, p. 59. 

2 Townsend, C. W.: Memoirs, Nuttall Orn. Club, No. III., Tlie Birds of Essex County, Mass., 
1905, p. 199. 


Dr. Brewer himself says, in reviewing Dr. J. A. Allen's 
list of Massachusetts birds, that in his opinion this species 
is not to be anticipated in Massachusetts. Nevertheless, as 
two records have been made since his opinion was promul- 
gated, the Wilson's Plover may be confidently looked for as a 
straggler at least in Massachusetts. It formerly bred north 
to New Jersey and probably visited New England during the 
late summer, as at that time birds are given to wandering, 
and some species from the southern States occasionally reach 
New England. Like all the shore birds which formerly bred 
along the Atlantic coast, it has been reduced much in numbers 
and extirpated from the more northern part of its breeding 
ground, where spring and summer gunners are numerous, and, 
like the other species, it will disappear from the Atlantic 
coast unless such gunning is prohibited on all coasts within 
its breeding range. This bird may be distinguished at once 
from the Ring-neck by its larger size, its large head and its 
large black hill. It feeds on insects, crustaceans, etc. 


The Turnstones (Subfamily Areiiariinai) somewhat resem- 
ble the Plovers, but they have four toes, and the bill, which is 
shorter than the head and quite straight, is very hard, and 
tapers from about the middle to a sharp point. The legs are 
rather short and stout, and the toes are not webbed but 
narrowly margined. Turnstones are distributed generally over 
the globe. The few species are known everywhere by their 
peculiar habits. Only one inhabits the eastern coast of North 
America. This species, so long sought by gunners and sports- 
men, has been saved from extinction because it breeds in the far 
north, on the coasts and islands of the Arctic Ocean, where it is 
comparatively safe from mankind during the breeding season; 
but it will continue to decrease in numbers unless better pro- 
tected. The very least that should be done for its conser- 
vation is to prohibit spring shooting all along the Atlantic 
coast of the United States. 


RUDDY TURNSTONE {Arenaria interpres morinella). 

Common or local names: Turnstone; Chicken-plover; Chicken-bird; Chicken; Brant- 
bird; Redlegs; Sparked-back; Streaked-back; Creddock; Sea-quail. 

Length. — 8 to 9.50 inches; bill .80 to .90. 

Adult. — Pied above with black, white, brown and chestnut red or rufous; 
the white top of head streaked with black; upper breast, fore neck and 
region about eye black; white showing on back and wings in flight; 
below mainly white, except breast; legs and feet orange red or coral 
red; bill blackish. 

Young. — Upper parts brown, streaked with gray or mottled with black 
and paler brown; in flight, lower back, wings and tail appear similar 
to those of adult; sides of throat and breast dark brown, mottled; rest 
of under parts white. 

Field Marks. — In flight three longitudinal stripes of white show on back, 
the middle one interrupted by a patch of black at base of tail. In adult 
plumage the black upper breast, reddish-brown back and red feet may 
be distinguished by the use of a glass. 

Notes. — When flying, a loud twittering note (Nuttall). Call note a chuck- 
ling whistle (Hoffmann). A clear whistle of two or three notes, deep, 

Range. — North and South America. Breeds on Arctic shores from Mac- 
kenzie River east, probably to Melville Peninsula, and north to Melville 
Island; winters from central California, Texas, Louisiana and South 
Carolina to southern Brazil and central Chile. 


This bird, which is known quite generally among the older 
shore gunners of Massachusetts as the Chicken-plover or 
chicken, is known on Nantucket as the Creddock. It formerly 
was very abundant, and was one of the first shore birds named 
in the game laws of Massachusetts, when, in 1835, a law was 


passed to protect the Plover, Curlew, Dough-bird and Chicken- 
bird at night. 

It was considered of much economic importance then 
because of its numbers and food value. Although its flocks 
were never very large, they were numerous all along the coast, 
and it was found on the shores of inland rivers in the fall 
migration, though never very common away from the salt 
water, except, perhaps, on the large lakes of the interior. 
Notwithstanding its numbers on our coasts have decreased 
greatly, it is still rather common, except in certain localities, 
where it seems to have become rare. This probably was one 
of the shore birds which formerly remained here through the 
summer, for Mr. N. B. Moore found several non-breeding 
birds in Florida throughout the months of June and July, and 
according to Wayne it still summers on the coast of South 
Carolina, but does not breed. ^ Emmons (Massachusetts, 
1833) regards it as breeding "in this climate," but while a few 
may have summered here at that time there is no specific 
evidence that it ever bred here. 

The Turnstone received its name from its habit of turning 
over pebbles, oyster shells and other objects that it found on the 
beach. I often have observed it at work on the pebbly beach 
of Buzzards Bay and on the shores of Cape Cod. It loves the 
foot of a rocky cliff or a beach with great stones partly sub- 
merged by the tide, but is common also on sandy beaches near 
the pounding surf, and on bars bared by the tide. Sometimes 
it is seen in marshes or along the banks of tidal creeks. It 
prods the sand with its beak, follows the retreating wave, 
raises pebbles from their beds, oftentimes squatting, heaving 
and working hard to dislodge them. Sometimes it pushes 
with its breast against a stone or shell in the effort to overturn 
it, or even digs beneath to undermine it when it is too firmly 
imbedded to be moved otherwise. It turns over bundles of 
seaweed, and "roots" out weeds and sea mosses, as Dr. Town- 
send says "like a little pig." These labors are undertaken in 
the hope of finding something eatable beneath such objects, 
and the little laborer often is rewarded. Dawson states that 

I Wayne, A. T.: Birds of South Carolina, 1910, pp. 61, 62. 


near the shores of Lake Erie he has seen it on the ploughed 
lands turning over clods bigger than itself with such force as 
to roll them a foot or more. This habit of turning objects is 
not constant, however, with this bird, and is sometimes the 
exception, as I have watched it when it seemed to be occupied 
entirely in probing the sand, or searching for food, like a sand- 
piper, along the strand. 

The bright variegated plumage of the Turnstone, with its 
strong contrasts of black, white and chestnut, places it among 
the most attractive birds of the sea-shore. The flight is rather 
low and swift at times and then the white of the plumage is 
very striking. In flight it often alternates scaling and flapping, 
and sometimes gives a curious chattering or rattling note 
as it passes. I have heard, too, the rapidly repeated kuk, kuk, 
kuk, which a pair uttered as they flew by overhead, but as a 
rule I have found them rather silent, and never have heard the 
variety of calls which they undoubtedly give. 

The Turnstone can swim well at need, and like some other 
species loves to bathe in the wash of the waves that roll up 
on the sands, where it shakes off the water like a little dog. 
It feeds on the spawn of the great crab, known locally as the 
horsefoot or horseshoe; also on insects, worms and small crusta- 
ceans. Audubon noticed that in northern Florida the Turnstone 
fed on the oyster beds at low tide, picking at oysters that had 
been killed by the heat of the sun; also breaking the shells of 
small, thin-shelled bivalves. 


The Oyster-catchers (family Hcematoyodida;) may be known 
at once by their large size, striking appearance and the pe- 
culiarly shaped bill, which is about twice as long as the head, 
much compressed or flattened on the sides, cut off at the end 
like the blade of a screwdriver, sharp edged and contracted at 
the nostrils. It is a very efficient weapon for opening the shells 
of bivalve mollusks or prying barnacles off the rocks. Each 
toe has a narrow membrane on each side, and the middle and 
outer ones are connected by a web toward the base. 



OYSTER-CATCHER {Hcsmatopus palliatus). 

Length. — 17 to 21 inches; bill 3 to 4; no hind toe, outer and middle toes 
slightly webbed. 

Adult. — Head and neck black; back, wings and end of tail dark brown; 
rump, broad wing bands, base of tail and under parts white; bill ver- 
milion, long, stout, compressed toward tip; feet, legs and eyelids pale red. 

Young. — Head and neck more brown than black; feathers of upper parts 
more or less edged with buff, bill dull rather than bright. 

Notes. — A loud shrill whistling, loheep — loheep — roheo (Wilson). 

Nest. — A mere depression in marsh or beach. 

Eggs. — ■ Two or three, about 2.20 by 1.55, bluish white or buff, marked with 
blackish and various shades of brown and neutral tints. 

Season. — Formerly summer resident; late April to August. 

Range. — Sea-coasts of temperate and tropical America from Virginia, Texas, 
Louisiana, south on both coasts of Mexico and South America to south- 
ern Brazil and central Chile; formerly to Labrador; breeds probably 
throughout its range; its place is taken from Lower California to Alaska 
by the Black Oyster-catcher. 

The American Ovster-catcher is a candidate for the hst of 
extirpated species as it no longer breeds in the northeast, and 
there are only two records of its capture or occurrence in Mas- 
sachusetts since Audubon's time; but it maj^ yet occur here 


as a straggler from the south. This bird was known early in 
our history, but was confounded with the Old World species 
until it was separated and described by Temminck. Oyster- 
opener would have been a better name for it, for as Dr. Coues 
remarks, "Oysters do not run fast." No doubt the Oyster- 
catcher once inhabited the entire eastern coast-line from the 
Gulf of Mexico to Labrador, and bred upon the coast of 
Massachusetts, as a large part of this coast is eminently suited 
to its habits, and provides quantities of its chosen food (sea- 
worms, mollusks, crustaceans, etc.) Nevertheless, there is no 
definite record to substantiate this statement. The Oyster- 
catcher was one of those beach-loving species that practically 
was extirpated as a breeding bird along the Massachusetts 
coast before ornithological records were made in America. 
The colonists, and later the market hunters and eggers of 
our coast, probably destroyed or drove off this bird, as they 
did the Cormorants, Eider Ducks and other Ducks, the Wil- 
lets and other large shore birds and the larger Gulls, which 
once spent the summer in numbers along our coasts and un- 
doubtedly bred here. Champlain found the Black Skimmer in 
flocks "like the pigeons" about Nauset harbor on Cape Cod 
between July 19 and 25, 1605.^ As this was in the breeding 
season, the Skimmer may have bred there; but, like the 
Oyster-catcher, it has been long regarded as a mere straggler 
in Massachusetts. 

This bird and the Oyster-catcher probably were extirpated 
from the shores of New England by the same causes that since 
then have driven both from Long Island and the middle 
States. Audubon establishes the fact that the Oyster-catcher 
once bred on the Bay of Fundy and as far north as Labrador; 
but since his definite statement has been questioned by Dr. 
Brewer,^ who seems to think that he must have been misled 
in some way, I quote Audubon's exact words: "Our Oyster- 
catcher has a very extensive range. It spends the winter 

1 Champlain, Samuel de: Pub. Prince Soc, 1878, Vol. 2, p. 87. 

2 Since Dr. Brewer wrote, Audubon's Journals have been published, and in his Labrador Journal, 
under date of July 6, 1833, when he was in the vicinity of Cape Whittle, he says, " Coolidge and party 
shot two Oyster-catchers; these are becoming plentiful." Probably had Dr. Brewer read this def- 
inite statement he would not have doubted that Audubon found Oyster-catchers in Labrador. 


along the coast from Maryland to the Gulf of Mexico, and 
being then abundant on the shores of the Floridas, may be 
considered a constant resident in the United States. At the 
approach of spring, it removes toward the middle States, 
where, as well as in North Carolina, it breeds. It seems scarcer 
between Long Island and Portland, Maine, where you again 
see it, and whence it occurs all the way to Labrador, in which 
country I found that several were breeding in the month of 
July. ... In Labrador, I met with it farther from the open 
sea than in any other part, yet always near salt-water. . . . 
On the coast of Labrador, and in the Bay of Fundy, it lays its 
eggs on the bare rock. When the eggs are on sand, it seldom 
sits on them during the heat of the sun; but in Labrador, it 
was found sitting as closely as any other bird. Here, then, is 
another instance of the extraordinary difference of habit in 
the same bird under different circumstances. It struck me so 
much that had I not procured a specimen in Labrador, and 
another in our Middle Districts, during the breeding season, 
and found them on the closest examination to be the same, 
I should perhaps have thought the birds different. Every- 
where, however, I observed that this bird is fond of places 
covered with broken shells and drifted sea-weeds or grasses, 
as a place of security for its eggs, and where, in fact, it is no 
very easy matter to discover them." 

This is not hearsay evidence. Audubon saw these things 
with his own eyes, for he says again: "I have seen it probe 
the sand to the full length of its bill, knock off limpets from 
the rocks on the coast of Labrador, using its weapon sideways 
and insinuating it between the rock and the shell like a chisel." 
The mere fact that the Oyster-catcher has disappeared since 
then from Labrador, Nova Scotia and all New England should 
not in any way discredit Audubon's statement. We do not 
allow its disappearance from Long Island and the middle 
States to discredit the evidence that it once was found there. 
Even without Audubon's testimony there is presumptive 
evidence that the bird once bred here. Wilson asserts that 
"though nowhere numerous, it inhabits every sea-shore." 
Giraud (1844) says that on Long Island it is rather scarce, 


although "during summer a few are found on ahnost every 
beach along the whole extent of the sea-coast." De Kay 
(1844) says (probably following Audubon) that it breeds from 
Texas to Labrador. The Oyster-catcher breeds throughout 
its range in temperate America. Durnford found it breeding 
at Tombo Point, Patagonia, and its Pacific prototype, the Black 
Oyster-catcher, still ranges up the coast from Lower California 
to Alaska, and breeds there. In Puget Sound I have seen its 
eggs laid on the rocks, and the bird sitting upon them, as 
Audubon saw our Oyster-catcher incubating her eggs in Lab- 
rador. Oyster-catchers are not confined normally to warm 
climates. Wilson tells of a specimen that was sent him 
prior to 1813, killed from a flock near Boston harbor. Linsley 
(1843) says "the Oyster-catcher is now rare here [Stratford, 
Conn.], but fifteen years ago they were not very uncommon 
in autumn." Dr. Brewer himself says that a pair of these 
birds was procured by Daniel Webster at Marshfield in the 
summer of 1837 and presented to the Boston Society of Natural 
History, that it was not uncommon to see specimens in the 
Boston market, and that Boardman informed him that the 
Oyster-catcher was seen occasionally at Calais, Me. Probably 
it was common in early times about the sandy beaches and 
rocky headlands guarding Boston harbor.^ 

The Oyster-catcher, being a shy bird except when it has 
young, was probably killed off in the breeding season in the 
country within reach of summer gunners near Boston before 
it was extirpated from the rest of the northeast coast and that 
of the middle States, and for that reason it was rare here in 
Audubon's time. It has disappeared now from Labrador, the 
Maritime Provinces, New England and the middle States, 
and in the United States it is found only as a straggler, except 
on the southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is growing rare 
even on some of the shores of Florida and Texas, where once 
it was numerous. It is destined to extermination wherever the 
coast is settled, for it lays its eggs on the bare sand or rocks 
or among beach grass, where they are exposed to the eggers, 

» Prof. W. W. Cooke states that Mr. W. H. Osgood saw a flock of about twenty July 20, 1897, at 
Digby, N. S., but these must have beea wanderers from the South. (See Bull. No. 35, Biol. Surv., 
p. 99.) 


who consider them a great dehcacy and its large size and con- 
spicuous phunage assure its destruction by gunners who shoot 
in summer when the young are unable to fly. 

The Oyster-catcher is a bird of lonely open beaches and 
rocky shores by the sea. It may be found about inlets and 
lagoons in the south, but never far from the salt water. Its 
large size, striking plumage and loud cries make it a very 
conspicuous bird, and it is easily alarmed and difficult to 
approach, except in the breeding season, when its solicitude 
for its eggs or young lead it to discard its customary caution. 
Il formerly wintered from Maryland to the Gulf, and was 
seen at that season in flocks. The flocks moved in lines, 
wheeling and turning with the precision of trained soldiers 
on parade. At such times they presented a striking picture, 
their black and white plumage flashing in the sun. 

There has been some discussion as to whether this bird 
really eats oysters. Wilson and some other ornithologists 
doubt that it ever eats them; Audubon avers that it eats 
the small "racoon" oysters that grow on bars in shallow 
water in the south, where the ebb tide uncovers them. Oysters 
in such situations cannot exist long in the north, because the 
frost kills them at low tide in winter. Therefore in the north 
our bird was never seen to eat oysters, although it may have 
taken a few occasionally in shallow water. I frequently have 
seen the Oyster-catcher acting the part assigned him. Once 
near Mosquito Inlet on the Halifax River on the Florida coast 
one of my companions shot one of these birds which, when 
held up by the legs, emitted from its mouth quite a quantity 
of "coon oysters." Maynard records a similar occurrence. 
The bright peculiar beak is shaped somewhat like an oyster 
knife, and the bird plunges this sharp weapon into an incautious 
and partly opened bivalve, and, swiftly cutting the closing 
muscle, opens the oyster like a professional oyster-opener. 
Wayne says "I have seen these birds open raccoon oysters by 
inserting the bill into the gaping shell, like a wedge, when the 
shell at once opens." These little oysters, however, are of no 
commercial value, and the bird was never known to trouble 
oysters which are grown for commercial purposes on beds in 


deeper water. The Oyster-catcher does not dive except when 
hard pressed, but gets its food on or near the surface, although 
it can dive and swim well at need. The bill often is much 
worn by hard usage and sometimes bent to one side. The 
bird is not by any means confined to an oyster diet, and in- 
habits coasts where oysters are never found. Its knife-shaped 
beak is used in opening mussels, in knocking or chiselling 
limpets off the rocks, in opening sea urchins and even in catch- 
ing a few small fish. Audubon says that it eats crabs, sea- 
worms, shrimps and "razor-handles" or solens. He watched 
it with an excellent telescope and saw it pat the sand with its 
feet to "force out insects." 

The Oyster-catcher gets its food from the ocean and its 
shores, and harms no man. It is a handsome creature, whose 
alert presence and harmonious cries once lent to our beaches 
a charm now gone forever. Its extirpation in New England 
has served no good purpose, but merely adds another item 
to the accounting that shall put "our race and time to shame 
in the age to come." 


The American Partridges (family Odontophoridce) are small 
in size, with the head usually well feathered and sometimes 
crested. They are distinguished from the Grouse by the small 
size, lack of feathers on the tarsi or toes, and by the naked 
scale which covers the nostrils. There is much variation in 
plumage among the different species, which are well represented 
in the southwestern United States and in subtropical America. 
The Bob-whites occupy the temperate and tropical regions 
of America and are not found elsewhere. There is but one 
species in eastern North America, with a subspecies in Florida 
which is much smaller than the northern bird and somewhat 
darker. The species ranges over the greater part of the 
eastern United States, mainly in open country, and is one of the 
most prized of all American game birds. The elegant, plumed 
and crested Quails or Partridges belong mainly to the mountain 
regions of the west and the Pacific slope. Some species have 
been introduced in the east but have not become acclimated. 



BOB-WHITE (Colinus virginianus virginianus). 
Common or local name: Quail. 

Length. — About 10 inches. 

Adult Male. — Upper parts mainly reddish brown, with dark streaks and 
light edgings; forehead and broad line over eye white, bordered with 
black; throat patch white, bordered with black; tail short, gray; crown, 
upper breast and neck all round brownish red; breast and belly whitish, 
narrowly barred and marked with crescent-shaped, irregular black 
marks; flanks reddish brown. 

Adult Female. — Similar, but duller, with very little black on head, and the 
white mainly replaced by buff. 

Young. — Resemble female. 

Notes. — A ringing, whistled Bob-white or buck-wheat-ripe; a conversational 
quit-quit and a whistled call and reply, repeatedly uttered when the 
individuals of a flock are separated; also many low conversational 
clucks and twitterings. 

Nest. — On ground, among bushes, grass or grain. 

Eggs. — Eight to eighteen or more, averaging 1.20 by .95, white, often 
stained with brown. 

Season. — Resident throughout the year, but now rare in the northern part 
of Massachusetts and in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, where 
it is found only in the lower latitudes and altitudes. 


Range. — Upper Sonoran and southern half of Transition zones of eastern 
North America from South Dakota, southern Minnesota, southern 
Ontario and southwestern Maine south to eastern and northern Texas, 
Gulf coast and northern Florida, west to eastern Colorado; introduced 
in central Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, California, Oregon and 


The cheery, interrogative call of Bob-white was one of the 
first distinctive sounds of the open field that, as a child, I 
knew and loved among the hills of New England. It was as 
well known among the country folk as the morning carol of 
the Robin in the orchard, the drumming of the Ruffed Grouse 
in the woods or the reiterated plaint of the Whip-poor-will on 
the moonlit doorstone. Bob-white was ever an optimist, for 
even if, as the farmers stoutly maintained, his call sometimes 
presaged a storm, the prophecy "more wet" was delivered 
with such vim, in such a cheerful frame of mind, and in such a 
joyous, happy tone as to make rain seem the most desirable 
thing in life. It appears that this cheerful, brisk and busy 
little fellow is fain to express in the brief ringing notes bob, 
white, or bob, bob, white, his love, his longings, his impetuous 
desires, his joy in life, his appreciation of the warm sunshine 
and the fragrant sensuous breeze, his abundant content with 
his lot and his defiance to all his rivals. What other sound in 
nature is so heartening.? And now, as ever, in the grassy 
fields of New England, in the wide rolling lands of the west, or 
under a burning southern sky, wherever that call is heard it 
gladdens the hearts of men. Psychologists may tell us that 
the bird is merely wound up like a clock and set to run for a 
certain time, or until the sexual impulse runs down, but there 
is in his call the gladness of spring days, a quality unmistakable 
and unquenchable, and "all the world" loves it. 

Perhaps there is no bird to which the American people are 
more deeply indebted for both aesthetic and material benefits. 
He is the most democratic and ubiquitous of all our game 
birds. He is not a bird of desert, wilderness or mountain 
peak, which one must go far to find. He seeks the home, 
farm, garden and field; he is the friend and companion of 
mankind; a much needed helper on the farm; a destroyer of 


insect pests and weeds; a swift flying game bird, lying well to 
a dog; and, last as well as least, good food, a savory morsel, 
nutritious and digestible.^ 

There can be no doubt that Bob-white has decreased in 
numbers in New England since the days when Morton wrote 
that he saw "sixty Quails" in one tree; but doubtless the 
species increased much in this region during the time of settle- 
ment. It could not have been so numerous in the primeval 
forests that covered most of New England as it became later, 
when much of the forest had been cleared away. When 
civilization and settlement extended, and grain raising became 
almost universal among the farmers, the Bob-white must 
have multiplied throughout southern New England. The 
cultivation of the soil increased the size and productiveness of 
many weeds, the seeds of which form a large part of the food 
of this bird; the grain scattered among the stubble provided 
a new and abundant food supply, and the area over which 
this supply extended constantly increased as the forests were 
cleared away and farming began. There was no lack of excel- 
lent cover among the rank growths that sprang from a virgin 
soil, and the smaller game birds were little hunted by the 
settlers so long as deer, turkeys, pigeons, wild-fowl and grouse 
were plentiful. 

Under these favorable conditions the Bob-white became 
common, if not abundant, over most of Massachusetts, Rhode 
Island, Connecticut, much of New York, southern New 
Hampshire, Vermont and southwestern Maine. It was most 
plentiful along the coast and up the river valleys, and rare or 
absent on the higher elevations. In New Hampshire, Vermont 
and Maine it is now (1911) practically gone, except where it 
has been imported. In New York it is now a rare bird, except 
on Long Island, in the lower Hudson valley and in the Delaware 
valley. In Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut it 
is found now only in the most favorable localities, or where it 
has been introduced from other States. It was never common 
in Berkshire County, Mass., except locally, and is now nearly 

> Part of this history of the Bob-white was written originally for a leaflet published in Bird-Lore 
by the National Association of Audubon societies. 


extinct there as well as in northern Worcester County. Mr. 
Clinton G. Gilmore says that Mr. William C. Whitney stocked 
his preserve on October Mountain, but the Bob-whites all 
left it for the valley, and later disappeared. In Nantucket the 
native Bob-white is extinct, but there are a few introduced 
birds left. Bob-whites were very plentiful during the latter 
part of the eighteenth century and the early part of the nine- 
teenth. Mr. George Linder of Boston says that he once knew 
of the killing of ninety-six by two men in two days. Some 
large bags have been made within fifty years; but the species 
always had its "ups and downs," owing largely to occasional 
severe winters. I have no record, however, of the fluctuations 
in numbers in early times, and all the available information 
to be had on that subject has been gathered within the past 

Mr. Henry H. Fay writes me that there was a very severe 
snowstorm on Cape Cod sometime in the 50's, possibly in 
1857. The snow was heavy and damp, and falling on the 
"evergreens" bent their branches to the ground. The Quail 
sought the cover of the down-bent branches as a refuge from 
the storm. The snow covered them, and then the weather 
turned cold, freezing the snow hard and imprisoning the birds 
beneath it, where they all starved. Their remains were found 
in numbers under the trees the succeeding spring, and the 
species appeared to be absolutely extinct on the Cape. Mr. 
Fay states that his father, who had been in business in the 
south, imported a number of birds from some southern State 
and turned them out. A resident, who watched the result, 
said that the reproduction of the Bob-white in that district 
was due to that importation, and that the introduced Quail 
were smaller than the native birds. Mr. Lyman Pearson writes 
from Newbury that there were no Quail left there in 1865, 
but that they increased up to the 70's, when a severe winter 
killed them off again. Since then several such storms have 
occurred, wiping out most of the individuals of the species 
in New England. Many instances have been reported to me 
where, locally, after such a season, gunners with bird dogs 
have exterminated every bird. 


Until recent years we have filled the places of the birds thus 
extirpated by introducing others from the south. People who 
have watched the result say that these southern birds cannot 
survive severe northern winters, but that if they are intro- 
duced in spring and breed successfully, their young are more 
hardy than the parents, and do well if the succeeding winter 
is not too severe. It is believed that the many southern birds 
introduced have so interbred with the few native birds left 
as to produce a smaller and less hardy race than the northern 
Bob-white, — one which cannot withstand so well a severe 
winter. Most of them die during a hard winter when the snow 
is deep, even if they are not frozen under. 

In 1898 the destruction of most of the Quail from New 
Hampshire to Cape Cod was reported. Afterward they in- 
creased somewhat, but the very severe winter of 1904-05 
destroyed fully ninety per cent, of the birds throughout the 
State; two hard winters followed, and the gunning which 
was allowed in those years exterminated the birds in many 
localities. Many sportsmen stopped shooting them during 
the succeeding years; but others continued to kill every bird 
that could be found. This and the impossibility of pro- 
curing birds from other States, which has put an end to the 
practice of restocking with southern birds, accounts for the 
extermination of the species in large areas where it was once 
common. There must have been a section on Cape Cod where 
the winter of 1904-05 was not so destructive as elsewhere, for 
Mr. George H. Tripp writes that about West Harwich the 
season of 1906 was the best that he ever saw for Quail, and 
several correspondents from the lower end of the Cape note a 
large increase. Mr. Fred F. Dill of North Eastham attributes 
this to mild winters and the fact that the foxes were killed oflF. 
Two hundred and thirty-two of my correspondents reported 
in 1908 that the Bob-white had decreased in numbers in the 
years of their experience, but twenty-six, mainly from south- 
eastern Massachusetts, recorded an increase. 

Snow and cold are important factors in the destruction of 
the Bob-white in the north. Given mild winters, a very short 
open season and the prohibition of sale and shipment, with 


strict enforcement of the law, and this bird holds its own fairly 
well. The past three winters have not been severe, and now 
(1911) the Quail is increasing locally in southeastern Mas- 
sachusetts, and parts of Rhode Island and Connecticut in 
territory where very few birds have been available for re- 
stocking. A few have been turned out here and there, which 
no doubt have swelled the total somewhat. 

Much may be done to preserve the Bob-whites during 
winter by feeding (see page 581), but if they are at large dur- 
ing a heavy storm, when the snow above them freezes hard 
in the night, nothing can save them, as they will starve and 
freeze in a few days, or, if they break out before death en- 
sues, they are so weak that they cannot escape cats, dogs and 

The belief is held quite generally in southeastern Mas- 
sachusetts that this bird rears two broods. Mr. E. J. Boyle 
of Boston says that he has shot the old birds in October and 
afterward found their young so small that they could be 
caught under a hat. Many witnesses tell similar tales. Such 
stories are the best possible argument for a later open season. 

Bob-white comes in close contact with the crops on the 
farm year after year, yet seldom appreciably injures grain or 
fruit. Through the investigations of the Bureau of Biological 
Survey of the United States Department of Agriculture, it is 
now well known that Bob-white ranks very high as a destroyer 
of many of the most destructive insect pests. Large numbers 
of these pests are eaten. I have devoted several pages in 
Useful Birds and their Protection to the food and habits of 
Bob-white, but some recent experiments with captive birds 
by Dr. C. F. Hodge and Mrs. Margaret Morse Nice have given 
us further interesting facts. Mrs. Nice gives the following as 
eaten by captive birds. Each number of insects given rep- 
resents the largest number eaten during a single meal by one 
bird. Chinch bugs, one hundred; squash bugs, twelve; plant 
lice, two thousand three hundred and twenty-six; grass- 
hoppers, thirty-nine; cutworms, twelve; army worms, twelve; 
mosquitoes, five hundred and sixty-eight; potato beetles, 
one hundred and one; white grubs, eight. The followmg 


records are taken from a list which she gives to show the 
number of insects eaten by Bob-white in a day, each number 
given representing the insects eaten by one individual in a 
day: Chrysanthemum black flies, five thousand; flies, one 
thousand three hundred and fifty; rose slugs, one thousand 
two hundred and eighty-six; miscellaneous insects, seven 
hundred (of which three hundred were grasshoppers); and 
insects, one thousand, five hundred and thirty-two (of which 
one thousand were grasshoppers). Mrs. Nice gives a list of 
one hundred and forty-one species of insects eaten by the 
Quail, nearly all of which are injurious, and Dr. C. F. Hodge 
remarks that a bird which eats so many injurious insects is 
welcome to the beneficial ones as well. We cannot assume that 
birds at liberty, having their choice of food, would accept the 
same diet offered these birds in captivity; but the above 
experiments may indicate their taste in the matter. 

As a destroyer of weeds Bob- white shines pre-eminent. 
Mrs. Nice gives a list of one hundred and twenty-nine weeds 
the seeds of which are eaten by this little gleaner. These 
seeds are digested, and the germs thus destroyed. The num- 
ber of seeds taken by one bird at a single meal varies from 
one hundred and five of stinkweed or four hundred of pigweed 
to five thousand of pigeon grass or ten thousand of lamb's- 
quarters, while the number taken by one bird in a day varies 
from six hundred of burdock to thirty thousand of rabbit- 
foot clover. By a careful computation Dr. Sylvester Judd of 
the Biological Survey reached the conclusion that the Bob- 
whites of Virginia consume annually, from September 1 to 
April 30, five hundred and seventy-three tons of weed seeds. 
If we take as our measure the quantity of weed seeds and 
insects eaten by captive Quail, as given by Mrs. Nice, we find 
that a family consisting of two adult birds and ten young 
would consume seven hundred and eighty thousand nine 
hundred and fifteen insects and fifty-nine million seven 
hundred and seven thousand eight hundred and eighty-eight 
weed seeds in a year, in addition to their other food. The 
annual loss due to insects in the United States is believed to 
reach nearly one billion dollars, and the annual injury to farm 


crops by weeds in this country is estimated at many millions. 
How much of this loss might be saved by the conservation 
of Bob-white! 


The Grouse (family TetraonidcE) is a large and interesting 
one. The true Grouse are confined to the northern hemisphere, 
and the family reaches its highest development in North 
America, which is particularly well supplied with species. 
Grouse are chiefly birds of northern or temperate regions. The 
various species have become so well adapted to varying con- 
ditions that treeless arctic wastes, barren mountains, deep 
forests, brushy plains, prairies, fertile cultivated lands and 
sandy deserts all have their Grouse. They are found in most 
of North America, except in the more southern parts and in 
regions where they have been extirpated by man. 

Birds of this family have the head feathered, excepting 
usually a bare patch, strip or "comb," over the eye, and often 
crested; the legs, and often the feet, more or less feathered; 
the sides of the neck often with modified, ruffed or crestlike 
feathers, or bare spaces of skin, or both. The plumage is 
commonly subdued in tint, for the most part, and the sexes 
are usually, but not always, similar in color. All things con- 
sidered. Grouse are the choicest of our game birds, and they 
now furnish the greater part of our upland shooting. The 
two species which are native to the Atlantic seaboard are 
regarded as the most valuable of the family in America. 

CANADA SPRUCE PARTRIDGE (Canachites canadensis canace). 
Common or local names : Spruce Partridge ; Swamp Partridge ; Black Grouse. 

Length. — 15 to 17 inches. 

Adult Male. — Barred with black and gray above in transverse wavy cres- 
cents; throat and breast black; rest of under parts black; many of 
the feathers bordered or tipped with much white; tail black, tipped 
with reddish brown or deep orange yellow; a line of bare skin above the 
eye, bright red. 

Adult Female. — Smaller; barred with black, gray and pale rusty above; 
general tone rufous brown; whitish below, barred with black. 


Field Marks. — Very dark, smaller than the Ruffed Grouse; tail shorter, 
much rounded. No other Grouse has the large, conspicuous white spots 
on breast, flank and lower tail coverts. 

Nest. — On ground. 

Eggs. — Six to sixteen, 1.71 by 1.22, huffy or pale brownish, more or less 
speckled or spotted with deep brown (Ridgway). Col. John E. Thayer, 
who has taken the nest of this bird in Maine, found but six eggs, and 
says that the guides tell him that they rarely see more than six or seven 
young in a brood. 

Range. — Manitoba, southern Ontario and New Brunswick south to north- 
ern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York and New 

The Canada Spruce Partridge is a small wood Grouse of 
the northern evergreen forests. In early days it may have 
been not uncommon among the spruce and hemlock forests 
and in the tamarack swamps, which were then found in the 
Berkshire Hills and in northern Worcester County, Massa- 
chusetts. I cannot find any definite reference to it, however, 
in the chronicles of the early Massachusetts writers. There 
are but two records of its occurrence in the State, one at 
Roxbury, in the 60's,^ and another recorded by Prof. F. W. 
Putnam, who states that it was found in the hemlock woods of 
Gloucester September, 1851. ^ It was once common, however, 
in the spruce and tamarack woods of northern New England 
and New York, from most of which it has disappeared, and 
it is now found in large numbers only in the fastnesses of the 
coniferous forests of Canada. I can remember when it was 
common in some of the Maine woods, and when it was seen 
not uncommonly in Massachusetts markets. Knight (1908) 
states that it still occurs as a rare resident in the more wooded 
and less inhabited parts of Maine. Eaton (1910) says that 
it was formerly common in the Adirondack woods, but is now 
threatened with extermination in New York. Much more 
evidence of its destruction and decrease might be given. In 
destroying this bird we have not even the excuse that it is a 
table delicacy, for its flesh is strongly impregnated with the 
taste of spruce buds; nor the other stock excuse that it was 

1 Allen, J. A.: Ainer. Nat., February, 1870, Vol. III., No. 12, p. 636. 

2 Putnam, F. W.: Proc. Essex. Inst., 1856, Vol. I, p. 224. 
















injuring our crops, for it never touched them. It was extir- 
pated because it was tame and confiding and an "easy mark," 
giving the gunner or the backwoods loafer a chance to unload 
his gun and kill something. Formerly this bird sometimes 
assembled in great flocks. Mr. Manly Hardy of Brewer, Me., 
is quoted by Dr. Bendire as saying that a pack of many thou- 
sands was utilized by a tribe of Indians in Nova Scotia to "feed 
the whole village." 

The male has a curious habit of "drumming" in flight or 
while climbing the leaning trunk of a tree. The female sits 
so closely on her eggs that she will almost allow herself to be 
taken from the nest by hand. Mr. Watson L. Bishop of Kent- 
ville, N. S., has succeeded in domesticating this bird. 

In summer the Spruce Partridge feeds much on the foliage 
of spruce and fir, and on berries and insects; the winter food 
consists largely of the buds of the evergreen trees among which 
it lives. This Grouse, therefore, is much more palatable in 
summer and early fall than in winter, which may account in 
part for its decrease. 

RUFFED GROUSE (Bonasa umbellus umbellus). 

CANADA RUFFED GROUSE {Bonasa umbellus togata). 

Common or local names : Partridge; "Patridge;" Birch Partridge. 

Length. — 16 to 18 inches. 

Adult. — Above variegated reddish brown, yellowish brown or grayish 

brown; large ruffs of glossy black or brown feathers on sides of neck; 

tail long and broad, brown, reddish brown or gray, lightly barred and 

mottled with lighter and darker shades; a broad dark band near tip; 

throat buffy; rest of lower parts white, tinged with buffy, barred and 

otherwise marked with darker shades. 
Young. — Similar to adult. (The Canada Ruffed Grouse is grayer than the 

Ruffed Grouse, has a grayer tail and is more distinctly marked below). 
Field Marks. — A broad black band near tip of long tail. Large size and 

crested head. 
Notes. — Besides the drumming of the male, which is not vocal, he has a 

series of vocal clucks and calls. The female when disturbed with her 

young often squeals much like a rabbit. 
Nest. — Of leaves, etc., on ground. 
Eggs. — Eight to fourteen, rarely more, creamy buff to creamy white, 

sometimes dotted or speckled with minute brown spots. 


Season. — Resident entire year. 

Range. — The Ruffed Grouse occupies the eastern United States from 
Minnesota, Michigan, southern New York and southern Vermont 
south to eastern Kansas, Virginia and the mountain ranges of northern 
Georgia. The Canada Ruffed Grouse occupies the spruce region from 
central Keewatin, southern Ungava and Nova Scotia, south to Mani- 
toba, New Brunswick, Maine and northern New Hampshire, Vermont 
and New York, running into western Massachusetts and northern Con- 
necticut on the mountain ranges, and west to and into the mountains 
of Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Idaho; but not to the 
Pacific coast, where its place is taken by the Oregon Ruffed Grouse 
(B. u. Sahini). 


How well the memory retains the first impressions of child- 
hood when later and more important happenings have faded 
and grown dim. I can still recall, as if it had chanced but 
yesterday, my affright and sudden alarm when, as a boy of 
eight, I stood for the first time in the woods of West Roxbury, 
with my eye on the spot where my first Ruffed Grouse had 
just vanished. A hair-raising roar of wings, a whirl of dead 
leaves, a plunge through foliage and branches, and the bird 
was gone! There were deep woods then where houses stand 
to-day. Then the Grouse drummed, the Cottontail fled 
away from my approach, and the Wild Pigeon called where 
the House Sparrow chatters now. 

New England is the home of the Ruffed Grouse, and here 
it is known everywhere by the name of Partridge or "Pat- 
ridge." In the middle and southern States it is called the 
Pheasant, but it does not even belong to the same genus as 
either species of which it is the namesake. It is a true Grouse 
and is regarded by American sportsmen as the king of game 
birds. It is introduced in this volume under two subspecific 
names, because the two varieties both occupy New England, 
and individuals more or less intermediate between the two 
are found in Massachusetts; but the Ruffed Grouse {B. u. 
umhellus) is the bird usually taken in southern New England. 
We may judge how numerous it was in Massachusetts in the 
days of old when Morton says that he saw forty in one tree. 
Nuttall (1834) believed that it was more plentiful in Mas- 
sachusetts and New England during the early part of the 


nineteenth century than in any other section of the United 
States, and that it was then greatly thinned in the most 
populous parts of the Union. Maynard says that it was so 
numerous here formerly, and was so injurious to orchards, 
that the town authorities in some towns paid a bounty on its 
head. He states (1870) that it is still common in the wilder 
sections of eastern Massachusetts, but that in localities where 
it was abundant ten or fifteen years ago there is not one to- 
day. I can remember when a market hunter going out from 
the city of Worcester by train each day, walking to the covers 
and returning at night, killed from ten to fifteen birds daily. 
Dr. F. H. Saunders of Westfield tells me that years ago, when 
snaring was allowed, he is informed that two men in that 
vicinity took one hundred and twenty of these birds from 
snares in one day; but he does not know whether they were 
all caught in twenty-four hours. Mr. Edward F. Staples of 
Taunton states (1908) that he has hunted for forty-seven 
years, and that the last "real good" year was about twenty- 
five years ago. In the old days, he says, about a thousand 
birds were killed in a season on about twenty thousand acres 
over which he ranged. Mr. William H. Leonard of East Fox- 
borough states that five men in Foxborough snared Grouse 
prior to 1888, and Mr. Eugene E. Morse says that these men 
averaged about one hundred birds a week, and that the game 
dealers, George Austin & Sons, did not at that time care for 
birds which had been shot. Others bought shot birds. Mr. 
George Hawes, who shot for market about that time, marketed 
three hundred and ninety-eight birds in one shooting season. 
Mr. C. Harry Morse of Belmont tells of an old-time hunter 
friend who killed from three hundred to four hundred and 
twenty Grouse in a season. These instances may serve to give 
some idea of the former abundance of this species in Mas- 

Practically all the older hunters and sportsmen among my 
correspondents admit that, while no bird has any better pro- 
tection than this Grouse, it has decreased greatly in numbers 
since the years of their early experience, and that the decrease 
has been progressive for many years, although the numbers 


fluctuate much from year to year. Mr. James P. Hatch of 
Springfield says that there is an unusual scarcity of the birds 
about once in eight years, and that this has occurred three 
times in his experience of thirty years. Mr. George H. Haines 
of Sandwich says that for about twenty-five years the decrease 
has fluctuated, but that it has been most marked in the past 
ten years. Mr. William P. Wharton, who interviewed gunners 
of long experience in Groton, found that their estimates of the 
decrease of this bird varied from eighty per cent, in fifty years 
and seventy per cent, in fifteen years to fifty per cent, or 
sixty per cent, within six or seven years. Dr. Hugh Cabot of 
Boston states that most of the country that he once shot over 
contains no birds now. Mr. Henry W. Harwood of Barre 
asserts that up to 1880 the decrease was not very marked each 
year; but that since then it has been greater year by year. 
He has hunted and been much in the woods since 1857. Mr. 
William N. Prentiss of Milford says that the decrease has been 
greatest in the past ten years. Twenty years ago he could 
find fifty where now he sees five; but he finds the decrease less 
where gunners are fewer. The above notes were received at 
the close of the year 1908. Two hundred and thirty-five 
observers reported that the Ruffed Grouse had decreased in 
numbers within their experience, and nineteen reported a re- 
cent increase. The diminution of this noble game bird is well 
known and generally attested. It practically has disappeared 
from several States and from large regions in others, but it is 
more or less common still in New England in most of the 
region where formerly it was abundant. According to Eaton, 
it probably is now extirpated from Richmond, New York and 
Kings counties, N. Y. There is not one left on Nantucket, 
Mass., and several other neighboring islands, and it has dis- 
appeared from some of the territory near the end of Cape Cod 
and from a few towns and cities near Boston; elsewhere in 
Massachusetts it still exists, although in reduced numbers. 

The most marked decrease of this bird in recent years was 
in 1907. A sudden drop in numbers occurred then over nearly 
all its range, from Ontario to Pennsylvania and from Maine 
to Michigan. It was all the more marked coming, as it did, 


after a year of plenty. Grouse were reported as more abundant 
than usual at the close of the shooting season of 1906 through- 
out most of their range in the east. Soon after the shooting 
season of 1907 opened, complaints of a scarcity of birds began 
to come in and soon it became evident that some unusual 
calamity had overtaken them. I had been much in the field 
during the spring and summer of 1907, and had noted that 
very few young birds were reared in the region with which I 
was familiar. An investigation showed that a similar con- 
dition was widespread. Sportsmen's journals began to pub- 
lish communications showing that few Grouse were reared in 
New England, New York, Long Island, New Jersey and Penn- 
sylvania, in New Brunswick and other provinces, and as far 
west even as Minnesota. 

While investigating the cause of this dearth of Grouse I 
went to Albany, where I met Mr. E. Seymour Woodruff of the 
Forest, Fish and Game Commission of New York, and found 
that he was engaged in a similar investigation. He kindly gave 
me a copy of his conclusions, which he since has published. 
In brief, his conclusions, supplemented by my own, are as 
follows: During the winter of 1906-07 a great flight of Gos- 
hawks appeared in the northern and eastern States. They 
usually winter farther north, and may have been driven south 
by an unusual scarcity of hares or Ptarmigan, on which they 
feed in the fur countries. Finding Grouse plentiful here, they 
lived largely upon them. Twenty-eight out of forty-eight of 
these Hawks, dissected by Angell & Cash, the Providence, R. I., 
taxidermists, were found to have the flesh of Ruffed Grouse 
in their stomachs. Mr. C. A. Clark of Lynn, Mass., states 
that he saw a pair of Goshawks near his place one of which 
had a Grouse in its claws, and from the feathers and signs on 
the snow he read the story of the destruction of thirteen Grouse 
by Goshawks in his neighborhood. Many observers in other 
States saw these Hawks and found them killing Grouse during 
that season, from late October to March. These Hawks must 
have destroyed a very large number of Grouse, all of which 
were full-grown birds, most of which probably would have 
bred the succeeding spring had they lived and found mates. 


Such a flight of Goshawks is very unusual in this region; 
and, so far as I can learn, this is the greatest flight of these 
birds on record. 

Following this disaster to the Grouse, came a very cold, 
backward spring, with cold rains and late frosts. The weather 
conditions in New England in April were more like those that 
usually prevail in March. May was very cold and backward, 
with snow in the country about Boston on the 11th. New 
York had the coldest April since the climatological service was 
established; in New England and in Pennsylvania the average 
April temperature was the lowest for eighteen years; in New 
Jersey it was the lowest for thirty-one years, and in Michigan 
it was the lowest since 1874. Exceptionally cool weather in 
May was followed by unseasonable weather during the first 
half of June, with killing frosts in many localities. 

All poultrymen know that a hard winter with much snow, 
so that fowls cannot get the usual amount of exercise, followed 
by a cold backward spring, with its lack of insect life and green 
food, will render the stock less vigorous. There will be fewer 
fertile eggs and more weak chickens than after a mild winter; 
and many chickens will be too weak to withstand such ad- 
verse conditions. 

In the spring of 1907 Grouse were in a similar condition. 
Exhausted by the hard winter, they found the season late and 
cold, and much of their usual insect and vegetable food want- 
ing. If the females left their nests long enough to get a liberal 
supply of food the eggs probably were chilled. If they remained 
constantly on the nests they died from exhaustion, starvation 
and cold or disease, as sitting hens often do. Very many 
deserted nests were found with the eggs unhatched, — some 
addled, others frozen, — and some female birds were found 
dead on their nests. In many cases some of the eggs hatched; 
but the young disappeared later. ^ Probably many of these 
birds were weak when hatched, and like feeble chickens they 
soon succumbed to wet, cold, disease or the attacks of insects. 
Wood ticks were noted as prevalent in many localities. These 

1 In Rhode Island many broods were late in hatching, and the young had fine weather during 
the latter part of June; but most of them never reached maturity. 


ticks bury themselves in the heads of the young birds and 
weaken or kill them. Foxes were reported as unusually 
numerous, and many hunters believed that they caught the 
young birds; a few claim to have seen the fox in the act. 

When the shooting season opened, it was discovered that 
nearly all the birds killed by hunters were adults, and that 
most of them were males. This was the case throughout most 
of the region affected. Dr. F. H. Saunders of Westfield writes 
me that in 1906, when the birds were plentiful, ninety per cent, 
of those killed in his region were old cocks, and that in 1907 
about seventy-five per cent, were cocks, but that in 1908 the 
sexes were about equal. 

I have not heard of such a disparity of the sexes elsewhere 
in 1906, but it was commonly noted in 1907. This may be 
accounted for by the fact that in this species the male does not 
assist the female in nest building, incubation or the care of the 
young, hence he is care-free and can take food at any time, 
seek shelter during storms and keep in better condition than 
the female, who is exposed to storms and is deprived of suf- 
ficient food. If, by reason of unseasonable weather, she was 
obliged to stay constantly on the nest until weakened by 
starvation and exposure, she fell an easy prey to disease or to 
her enemies. We know that the female of this species is very 
devoted to her eggs and young, and is loath to leave them un- 
til fairly forced to do so. It is said to be a fact well known to 
all gamekeepers, that an excess of male gallinaceous birds pre- 
vents successful breeding, as the unmated cocks constantly 
persecute the sitting hens, and prevent them from nesting 
and rearing young. 

We have no means of knowing what part disease played 
in the destruction of the females and young; but judging from 
their weakened condition and from the number of apparently 
diseased birds, both old and young, reported as found dead in 
the woods, it seems probable that disease was responsible to 
some extent for the decrease, at least locally. Many young 
birds died when two-thirds grown, and many that were found 
dead seemed to have died from an enteric disease similar to 
the "blackhead" of Turkeys (see page 540). In one place one 


old bird and thirteen young were found. In another, seven 
young birds were found. 

In the early part of the last century the Grouse of England 
and Scotland were swept away by an attack of the "grouse 
disease." The Bob-whites on a large preserve in North Carolina 
were nearly exterminated in 1907 by a disease that was in- 
troduced among them by the importation of Bob-whites from 
Alabama. If some such disease appeared among our Grouse 
in 1907 it probably was a secondary and more or less local 
cause of their destruction, the prime cause being the unfavor- 
able breeding season following a hard winter. This unfavorable 
season and the flight of Goshawks are the only adverse con- 
ditions known to have been prevalent over most of the great 
area in which the destruction of the birds was apparent. 

Grouse did not breed well in many localities in 1908, and 
although they have increased quite generally in number since 
then, they are uncommon or rare still in many localities. 
Such a combination of adverse conditions as obtained in 
1906-07 probably happens rarely, but it is likely to occur 
again at any time. 

We must seek some other cause for the general and con- 
tinued diminution of the species during the past thirty years. 
One hundred and six of my correspondents attribute it largely 
to the increase of gunners, and since most of them are gunners 
themselves, and know whereof they speak, we must concede 
that they are right, but many of them believe that illegal 
hunting and snaring are responsible for the decrease. 

I have written much on the habits of this Grouse in Useful 
Birds and their Protection; its conservation is considered in 
Part III of this volume. 

Note. — The Willow Ptarmigan or Willow Grouse, a bird of the arctic 
and subarctic wilderness, is accidental in New England and New York. One 
was taken in Manchester, Essex County, Mass., May 10, 1859;^ another 
was collected in Watson, Lewis County, N. Y., on May 22, 1876, by Romeyn 
B. Hough; 2 and still another at Kenduskeag, Penobscot County, Me., 
April 23, 1892. ^ 

1 Coues, Elliott: Proc. Essex Inst., 1868, Vol. V, p. 289. 

2 Coues, Elliott: Bull. Nuttall Orn. Club, 1878, p. 41. 
s Merrill, Harry: Auk, 1892, p. 300. 

.-i-'i'... ■(.;•■'■''')*." 'y-<.> "Vt;'/,.;/'.' .;,■ ,J 

•» ' 1 Ah 'i i< '■'■ ■■' ''"■"■ &', 

t'Ti'. 'f^ 


i.W'./ \ 










Once abundant in southern New England, New York and the Middle States ; 

now extinct, except on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Upper 

figure, female. Middle figure, male, tooting. Lower figure, male, 

(Drawn by W. I. Beecroft. From photographs of the living birds taken by 

Dr. George W. Field.) 


HEATH HEN {Tympanuchus cupido). 

Length. — About 18 inches; legs feathered to toes. 

Adult Male. — Above light reddish brown, barred with black and buff; 
under parts rusty white, barred with brown; chin, throat, cheeks and 
line over eye buffy; sides of neck with tufts of less than ten stiff, rather 
long black feathers, obtusely pointed; tail grayish brown, without 
bars, except a whitish tip; large orange air sacs on each side of neck 
and a small orange comb over each eye. 

Adult Female. — Similar, neck tufts shorter; tail barred with buff or light 

Field Marks. — Size of Ruffed Grouse, with shorter tail, and plumage gen- 
■ erally barred. 

Notes. — • Male, a peculiar toot, repeated, resembling the whistle of a distant 
tugboat in a fog; a laughing cackle given in the mating season; a peculiar 
short crow and a startled clucking when alarmed (Field). Female, a 
hen-like cluck and a low call, resembling that of a hen calhng her young. 

Nest. — - On ground. 

Eggs. — Drab, unmarked, about 1.65 by 1.35. 

Season. — Resident the entire year. 

Range. — Island of Martha's Vineyard, Mass.; formerly, suitable portions 
of southern New England, New York and the middle States. 

The eastern Pinnated Grouse or Heath Hen formerly was 
distributed along the Atlantic seaboard from Cape Ann, Mass., 
to Virginia, and especially was abimdant in suitable regions 
in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Long Island, New York and 
New Jersey. Belknap (179'2) said that it was rare in New 
Hampshire, and Audubon (1835) asserted that it was met with 
in his day on Mt. Desert Island and near Mar's Hill in Maine, 
where it was confused with the Willow Grouse. I find no 
other references to the species northward or eastward of Mas- 
sachusetts. Many early American writers speak of this bird, 
and it is designated by some of them as the "grous," "phei- 
sant," " Heathcocke " or " Heath Hen." Thomas Morton in his 
New English Canaan (1632) says of the "pheisants" that they 
are formed like the Pheasant Hen of England, and that they 
are delicate meat, "yet we seldome bestowe a shoote at them." 
Wood in his New Englands Prospect (1629-34) says, "Heath- 
cockes and Partridges bee common; hee that is a husband, 


and will be stirring betime, may kill halfe a dozen in a morn- 
ing." Nuttall (1834) states that according to Governor Win- 
throp this Grouse formerly was so abundant on the bushy 
plains in the neighborhood of Boston that laborers and servants 
stipulated in agreements with their masters that they should 
not have it "brought to table oftener than a few times in the 

As the Heath Hen is not primarily a forest bird, the settle- 
ment of the land and the clearing away of the forests favored 
its increase, and had it been properly protected it might have 
been plentiful now in southern New England; but this was 
not to be. In early times it probably was confined mainly to 
the more open lands along the coast and to the river valleys; 
but the settlers cleared land and sowed grain and grass, thereby 
adding largely to its feeding grounds and increasing the supply 
of seeds and insects. This naturally would have increased 
the numbers of the species; but it was pursued, trapped and 
shot at all seasons; the young were destroyed by dogs and 
cats, and thus the Heath Hens soon were reduced in numbers 
and driven to dense thickets which hunters and dogs found it 
difficult to penetrate. In such regions this Grouse persisted in 
considerable numbers until the nineteenth century. It never 
has been adequately protected by law until recent years, for, 
although some States passed laws for its protection, such 
laws rarely were enforced. Nuttall (1834) asserts that it is 
still met with in New Jersey, Long Island, Martha's Vineyard 
and at Westford, Conn. Peabody (1839) states that it is 
found in Massachusetts only on Martha's Vineyard and one 
small island near it, and the same year Lewis rated it as "very 
rare and almost extinct in the northern and middle states; 
but within a few years quite abundant in portions of Long 
Island. . . .A few," he says, "are still found on the Jersey 
Plains," and "every year we hear of the extermination of a 
small pack." Giraud states (1844) that on Long Island it is 
very nearly if not quite extinct, and that occasionally it is 
seen near Schooly's Mountains, New Jersey, and in Pennsyl- 
vania and Kentucky. According to William Dutcher the last 
specimen recorded from New York was killed in the Comae 


Hills in 1836. Turnbull (1869) says, "It is now very rare; a 
few are still met with in Munroe and Northampton Counties, 
Pa.; within the last year or two it has been found on the 
Jersey plains." 

The Heath Hen seems to have been exterminated earlier in 
the neighborhood of Boston than elsewhere; but Brewster quot- 
ing notes of a conversation with Mrs. Eliza Cabot, states that 
the assertion is made that Mrs. Cabot saw a "prairie grouse" 
in Newton in her youth (probably about the beginning of the 
nineteenth century), and another (on Cape Cod), after her 
marriage (probably about 1812) . Judd, in his history of Hadley, 
quotes the statement of Levi Moody of Granby to the effect 
that the Heath Hen had not been seen on the plains of Spring- 
field for about fifty years. This would fix the date of its dis- 
appearance from that part of the Connecticut valley at about 
181'2 or 1813. Dr. Timothy Dwight published the statement in 
1821 that the Grouse was no longer common in New England. 
Between that date and 1840 it disappeared from the mainland 
of Massachusetts. Audubon (1835) quotes Mr. David Eckley, 
who says that "fifteen or twenty years ago" it was common 
to see as many Heath Hens in a day on Martha's Vineyard 
"as we now see in a week." The Heath Hen was introduced 
by the Forbes family on the island of Naushon, where it was 
not native, and it soon disappeared. About 1888 Mr. E. H. 
Thompson told me that he had seen the species in his early 
days at Falmouth, on the mainland, and that his father killed 
two, which were preserved and presented to Col. E. B. Stod- 
dard of Worcester, Mass. Mr. William Brewster, however, be- 
lieves that these birds were introduced Prairie Chickens. In 
1876 Minot asserted that the Heath Hen was found no more 
on Naushon and probably was extinct on Martha's Vineyard. 
Subsequent inquiry proved that it was still extant. In 1877 
foxes and raccoons were introduced on the island and prob- 
ably helped to reduce the numbers of the Heath Hen. Brewster 
estimated in 1890 that there were from one hundred and 
twenty to two hundred birds on Martha's Vineyard left over 
from the previous winter. Mr. C. E. Hoyle asserts that in 
1892-93 men who had watched the birds closely stated that 


they had decreased seventy-five per cent, during the previous 
few years. Since then the species narrowly has escaped ex- 
tinction. In 1894 a fire swept over practically all the breeding 
grounds, and Mr. Hoyle states that in the fall of that year he 
spent two weeks going over the ground, and found the skele- 
tons of many birds destroyed in the fire; that where he had 
started a hundred birds the previous fall, he failed to start 
five. He says that in 1897 he again went over the ground with 
a good bird dog and did not start a bird. Since then the foxes 
and raccoons are believed to have been exterminated. In 
1902 three specimens of the Prairie Chicken {Tympanuchus 
americanus americanus) were liberated on Martha's Vineyard, 
but whether or not they survived is not known. A fire swept 
over the breeding grounds in 1906 and very few birds were 
reared that year; but, under protection, the birds have in- 
creased slowly. On May 2, 1907, the Commissioners on Fish- 
eries and Game could find only twenty-one birds on the island. 
On January 11, 1908, the number was between forty-five and 

The exceptional conditions on the island, which have been 
partly responsible for the preservation of the Heath Hen, are: 
(1) its isolation, the island having no railroads and no trolley 
line into the interior; (2) the ground inhabited mainly by the 
Heath Hen is very sparsely settled; (3) wolves, foxes, raccoons, 
lynxes and other natural enemies, except cats, are extirpated 
or rare on the island, and a bounty is paid on bird Hawks 
by the county commissioners; (4) the soil, vegetation and 
cover are exactly suited to the bird; (5) the snowfall on the 
island is light; (6) there is some local pride in preserving the 
Heath Hen. It would thrive wherever such conditions existed 
if it were undisturbed by poachers, but unfortunately as it 
grew rarer its skins and eggs were sought by museums and 
collectors, and this furnished an added incentive to the hunters, 
a few of whom I am assured still shoot the birds wherever 
they can find them regardless of law or any other consideration. 

The history of legislation to protect the Heath Hen is 
interesting. I have found no record of any laws or regulations 
regarding it in any town or city, or in the Commonwealth 


generally, until 1831, when it had become very rare if not 
extinct on the mainland. Then the Legislature passed a special 
act to protect it during the breeding season only, from March 1 
to September 1, with a penalty of only two dollars. Under this 
act the Heath Hen had been nearly, or ciuite, exterminated 
from the mainland, when in 1837 a close season of four years 
was declared, with a penalty of two dollars and a forfeit of the 
same sum to the landowner. This close season was extended 
five years more in 1841, but these acts permitted any town 
to suspend the law within its own limits by vote of any regularly 
called town meeting. Some towns took advantage of this, 
thus nullifying the law in the only towns ivhere the birds still 
existed. On May 6, 184^2, for example, the Tisbury town 
meeting voted to allow the townspeople (hunting without 
dogs) to take, kill or sell Grouse or Heath Hens from December 
1 to December 10. In 1844 the close season was extended for 
five years more; but the birds evidently had decreased in their 
last stronghold on Martha's Vineyard, for on April 1, 1850, 
the town of Tisbury voted to suspend the law so as to allow 
hunting only on the "12th and 13th of November next." In 
1855 all protection was removed, but for five years the Heath 
Hen existed without it. In 1860 it was protected again by law 
at all times; but in 1870 the period of protection was limited to 
five years. Thus, under periodical juggling of the statutes, 
the species managed to exist, protected most of the time until 
the year 1907, when Mr. John E. Howland of Vineyard Haven, 
finding it in imminent danger of extinction, agitated the ques- 
tion of establishing a Heath Hen reservation. Owing to the 
cordial and energetic co-operation of Dr. George W. Field, 
chairman of the Massachusetts Commission on Fisheries and 
Game, a protector was located in the breeding grounds of the 
birds. Dr. Field secured contributions from public-spirited 
citizens for the purchase of land for a reservation. The towns 
of Tisbury and West Tisbury contributed to the good work 
and the sum of $2,420 was collected. A bill was introduced 
into the Legislature by Representative Mayhew of Martha's 
Vineyard, placing under the control of the Commissioners on 
Fisheries and Game such lands as might be leased, given or 


otherwise acquired for the purpose, and authorizing the com- 
missioners to take not more than one thousand acres in the 
name of the Commonwealth. The bill was advocated by the 
Audubon Societies and sportsmen's organizations, and was 
passed with an appropriation of two thousand dollars for 
carrying out its provisions. The commissioners soon secured 
sixteen hundred acres, by donation and purchase, which has 
now (1911) been increased to over two thousand. Fire stops 
were made, the birds were guarded carefully and fed, and by 
the year 1909 they had increased in number to about two 
hundred. They then began to wander over the island, en- 
croaching on the farms of the different towns, and from that 
time to the present their numbers have not increased much. 
This check to their increase, I believe, is in part owing to a 
large number of Marsh Hawks, which apparently were feeding 
on the young in 1909; in part to poaching by law-breaking 
gunners, and in part to both wild and domesticated house 
cats, which are known to be very destructive to the young 
Heath Hens. 

The history of the Heath Hen in Massachusetts shows 
clearly the ineffectiveness of partial and belated legislation, 
and the effectiveness of the reservation plan, backed by law 
enforcement, to save a species in imminent danger of extinc- 
tion. If we expect to preserve the Heath Hen and increase its 
numbers, however, we must do very much more than we have 
yet done to that end. More wardens or gamekeepers must 
be employed; other State reservations must be secured, and 
the birds introduced and protected upon them until it becomes 
possible to exchange birds between different localities and 
thus add new vigor to the breeding stock. All the money 
expended by the State authorities in rearing Pheasants and 
other foreign game birds might far better have been used in 
re-establishing this hardy native game bird in its original 
haunts from Cape Cod to the Connecticut valley. 

The Heath Hen belongs to this country. It has been fitted 
by the natural selection of centuries to maintain itself abun- 
dantly in southern New England. It is superior in every way 
to any foreign game bird that we are likely to introduce. 


As the forests are cut off and the land thus unfitted for the 
Ruffed Grouse it becomes better fitted for the Heath Hen. 
Why have we so long neglected the opportunity to propagate 
and multiply this indigenous species? The survival of the 
Heath Hen upon the island of Martha's Vineyard, after it 
has been extirpated elsewhere, leaves its fate in the hands of 
the people of Massachusetts. Let us hope that they will accept 
this trust and spare no pains to preserve this noble game bird 
and restore it to its former range. 

This eastern Grouse was not distinguished from the western 
Pinnated Grouse or Prairie Chicken until 1885, when Brewster 
described and named the eastern form from specimens taken 
on Martha's Vineyard. Some authors appear to regard the 
Heath Hen as a woodland bird, but I have found it pre- 
eminently a bird of almost treeless or bushy plains, although 
it is seen occasionally in the woods. The experience of most 
observers agree with my own. To-day on Martha's Vineyard 
it is mainly an inhabitant of open lands and shrubby growths. 
It is not partial to heavy timber or pine coverts, such as the 
Ruffed Grouse prefers, but frequents dry, sandy or gravelly 
lands, covered by low-growing vegetation. It sometimes goes 
to the more sheltered portions of the oak groves during late 
autumn and in winter, after heavy snowfalls, for the sake of 
the acorns that it finds there. The region which it now mainly 
inhabits on Martha's Vineyard (some forty square miles) has 
been stripped of most of its timber by fire and the axe. This 
tract is more or less surrounded by, and occasionally inter- 
spersed with, farms or cleared lands. The soil is chiefly sandy 
and dry, and generally rather level, with some low rolling hills 
and low ridges. Oaks of several species, bayberry, dwarf 
sumac and other shrubby vegetation (all more or less dwarfed) 
are characteristic of its chosen haunts; and small pitch pines are 
scattered over the plains. The Heath Hen formerly inhabited 
somewhat similar "barrens" on Long Island and in New Jer- 
sey. It also frequents grass fields and open cultivated lands. 
It is an adept at concealment in such situations, and in case 
of danger the members of a flock will squat so closely, with 
heads and necks drawn in or stretched along the ground, that 


it is almost impossible to distinguish them. In fall and winter 
they gather into bands containing twenty-five or more birds. 
In the fall of 1910 I saw a flock of more than fifty individuals. 
When flushed they do not rise high, but often fly half a mile or 
more, sometimes wheeling and quartering, until they have 
chosen a place to alight. In flight the wings are beaten rapidly 
and then set while the bird sails. This alternate fluttering 
and sailing is continued somewhat after the fashion of the 
flight of a Meadowlark. I am told by natives of the island 
that individuals or flocks fly several miles, at times going from 
one township to another, and that in winter they sometimes 
alight and plume themselves on the roofs of isolated farm- 
houses, as the Prairie Chicken was wont to do of old. In 
early spring the males indulge in their peculiar antics. At 
daybreak many males meet at certain places that they seem 
to choose for their dancing grounds, where they run, jump 
and flop about, cackle, blow and toot until the sun gets, high, 
when they fly away. Sometimes two males engaged in this 
performance run toward each other, dancing and blowing as 
they go, but on approaching quite close they squat, and remain 
motionless from two to five minutes. Sometimes they fight 
a little, but usually expend most of their energy in puffing and 
blowing, or "tooting." The sound produced is described by 
Dr. Field as like that made by the distant whistles of tugboats 
in a fog, but all on the same pitch. Each call extends over a 
period of two seconds. The bird first runs forward about 
three feet, with short, mincing steps, and then sounds its call. 
It raises its tail erect, spreads it, lowers its wings a trifle, leans 
forward, erects the peculiar pinnates or "neck wings" above 
its head in the form of a V, and inflates the peculiar orange- 
colored air sacs on the neck to the size of a small orange (as 
shown in the plate facing page 385). The tooting seems to be 
produced by the inflation of the air sacs, after which the air 
is expelled suddenly. Audubon, however, believed that the 
sound was made by expelling the air, and he found that the 
bird was unable to toot after these sacs had been punctured 
by a pin. Another call, according to Dr. Field, resembles a 
single syllable of the hoot of a Barred Owl. 


The Hens build their nests on the plain among the scrub 
oaks. The young leave the nest soon after they are hatched 
and the mother broods them beneath her wings wherever 
night overtakes them. During the heat of the day in warm 
weather these birds appear to delight in "dusting" in the 
sandy roads, in ploughed land or wherever they find dry earth. 
All gallinaceous birds have this habit, but the Heath Hen 
seems to be particularly addicted to it as a means of ridding 
itself of vermin. So far as is known, however, the dust bath 
seems to be the only bath that it takes, for it avoids water and 
does not appear to drink or bathe in the brooks. Apparently 
it gets water only from rain or dewdrops which it drinks from 
the vegetation. 

The food of the Heath Hen in summer consists largely of 
insects, such as grasshoppers, crickets and beetles, also spiders 
and worms; the leaves of low-growing plants, such as sorrel 
and clover, and berries, including wild strawberries, blue- 
berries and the partridge berry, of which it is very fond; 
cranberries and their leaves, and the leaves of various other 
plants; the seeds of weeds, grasses and other low-growing 
plants, and acorns. In winter and early spring, acorns, buds, 
green leaves, bayberries and sumac berries form a part of the 
food. During severe winter weather it eats even the buds of 
cone-bearing trees. Occasionally it does some injury to crops 
of peas, and it sometimes attacks corn in the shock, and also 
newly sown grain, but it is useful as an insect destroyer, seek- 
ing freshly ploughed lands at morning and evening for the in- 
sects and worms to be found there. 

Pigeons and Doves. 

The Pigeons and Doves (family Columhidoe) are represented 
now in New England by but one species, and this, the Mourn- 
ing Dove, is placed by Sharpe and other British authorities 
in a separate family {PeristeridcB), which includes the Ground 
Doves and their allies. The general characteristics of the 
Doves and Pigeons are well known, as exemplified in the 
domesticated birds. The differences in plumage between our 


only remaining wild species and the Passenger Pigeon (now 
probably extinct), will be seen by comparing their descriptions, 
and the figures on Plate XIX, facing page 460. 

MOURNING DOVE (Zenaidura macroura carolinensis) . 
Common or local names : Turtle Dove; Wild Dove; "Wild Pigeon." 

Length.- — 11 to nearly 13 inches. 

Adult Male. ■ — • Above mainly light grayish brown, shaded with olive and 
turning to bluish on wings and tail, which show blue when spread; 
forehead, sides of head and neck pale pinkish brown; sides of neck also 
iridescent with reddish, golden and greenish reflections; hind head and 
neck bluish; a black spot below ear and a few black spots on shoulder 
and wing; tail, particularly middle feathers, elongated and rather 
pointed, all except middle tail feathers bluish with a black subterminal 
bar and a white tip; chin pale yellowish or whitish; breast pale reddish 
brown, sometimes purplish, lightening to yellowish or whitish on belly 
and under tail coverts; legs and feet coral red seamed with white. 

Adult Female. — Similar, but smaller, duller and tail shorter. 

Young. — Similar to female, but tail shorter; feathers light-edged. 

Field Marks. — Much smaller than the Passenger Pigeon, but generally 
mistaken for it; may be distinguished by the lighter and more brownish 
tone of its plumage. The Passenger Pigeon is darker and more blue, 
and the male has a redder breast; the black spot on the side of neck is 
distinctive of the Mourning Dove and lacking in the Passenger Pigeon. 
The Mourning Dove makes a whistling noise as it rises, which the 
Pigeon never made. 

Nest. — A frail platform of twigs or straws, usually at a moderate height, 
in a tree, rarely on rocks, stumps or the ground. 

Eggs. — Two, rarely three or four, white, usually about 1.08 by .80. 

Season. — March to December; may winter sometimes in New York. 

Range. — North America. Breeds chiefly in Sonoran and Lower Transition 
zones from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and 
southern Nova Scotia south throughout the United States and Mexico, 
and locally in Lower California and Guatemala; winters from southern 
Oregon, southern Colorado, the Ohio valley and North Carolina to 
Panama; casual in winter in middle States. 


The familiar pensive moan of the Mourning Dove has in 
it a quality of sadness that is almost "akin to pain," and yet 
it is a soothing and attractive call, for it is the love note of 
the male cooing to his mate. Happily it may be heard still in 


the groves of New England, where the voice of the Passenger 
Pigeon has so long been silent. 

There is some evidence in old chronicles that the "Turtle 
Dove" was once abundant in New England, but it is so fre- 
quently confused with the Passenger Pigeon that nothing of 
any value can be deduced from these old accounts. Even to- 
day the same confusion regarding the two species exists in the 
minds of the people, and the Mourning Dove is now known as 
the "Wild Pigeon" in sections of southern New England. 
Within my recollection this Dove has decreased in numbers in 
many parts of Massachusetts. Fifty-nine of my correspond- 
ents reported in 1908 that it had been decreasing for years, 
but since the law protecting it at all times was passed in 1908, 
it evidently has increased in a portion of the Connecticut valley 
and on some parts of Cape Cod. Thirty-three observers noted 
such an increase. 

The Mourning Dove is somewhat widely, though rather 
locally, distributed through southern New England and New 
York, but is rare or wanting at elevations above one thousand 
feet, and in the northern portions of the region. It is a social 
species, assembling sometimes in large flocks, but I have 
never seen more than twelve together in Massachusetts, 
although others have been more fortunate. The Dove is quite 
prolific though ordinarily it lays but two eggs in a set. It has 
two or more broods, and eggs may be found in the nest from 
May to September. The nest is so frail and so carelessly built 
that it seems as though the slightest blow would scatter it. The 
twittering or whistling sound that this bird makes as it rises 
from the ground appears to come from the wings; but once I 
distinctly heard a Dove make this sound while sitting on a 
branch with its wings motionless. 

The Mourning Dove is fond of small grains, particularly of 
buckwheat. It sometimes does some injury to newly sown 
grain fields, but is very destructive to weed seeds. Eaton says 
that he took several thousand seeds of foxtail or pigeon grass 
from the crop of a Dove which he shot from a flock of thirty 
which were flying from an oat field. He computes that the 
members of this flock had just picked up about two quarts of 


weed seeds from that field of oats, or elsewhere, for their after- 
noon meal. It is evident that Doves feeding on the newly 
sown fields may do more good by destroying weed seed than 
harm by eating grain. Prof. F. E. L. Beal of the Biological 
Survey reports that nine thousand two hundred seeds of 
common weeds were found in the stomach and crop of a Mourn- 
ing Dove; he found seven thousand five hundred seeds of the 
yellow wood sorrel {Oxalis strictor) in another stomach and six 
thousand four hundred seeds of barn grass in another. The 
examination of the contents of two hundred and thirty-seven 
stomachs showed over ninety-nine per cent, of vegetable food. 
Small grains were found in one hundred and fifty of the stom- 
achs, and constituted thirty-two per cent, of the food con- 
tents; but three-fourths of this was waste grain picked up 
from the ground after harvest, or from the roads or stock- 
yards. The principal and almost constant diet is weed seed, 
which constitutes sixty-four per cent, of the annual food 
supply. These seeds vary in size from the largest to the most 
minute; some are so small as to seem beneath the notice of so 
large a bird as the Dove. This useful bird should be protected 
at all times in New England. 

Note. — A specimen of the little Ground Dove (Columbigallina passerina 
terrestris) was taken by Dr. George Bird Grinnell in October, 1862, near 
New York City, and was identified by J. W. Audubon. Dr. Grinnell states 
that he saw another in New York possibly twelve years later. ^ So far as I 
am aware this southern species has never been noted in New England. 

1 Eaton, E. H.: Birds of New York, Memoir 12, New York State Museum, 1910, pp. 389, 390. 










Once probably an abundant summer resident on the New England coast; now extinct. 

Part ii. 


Those species of Massachusetts birds which formerly were 
important as a source of food supply, and which have become 
extinct since the settlement of the State, or which have been 
extirpated within its borders since the Pilgrim fathers landed 
at Plymouth, are of primary importance in a work of this 
kind, because the history of their extirpation will throw light 
on the dangers that menace all birds which are killed for food 
or sport. 

Naturalists regard a species as extinct only when it has dis- 
appeared from the earth; but a bird may be extirpated or 
rooted out from one State or country, while it still exists in 
others. The history of the extinct species is here given first, 
and that of the extirpated species follow. 

Extinct Species. 

THE GREAT AUK (Plautus impennis). 
Common or local names: Penguin, Wobble or Garefowl. 

Length. — About 30 inches; wing, 6; tail, 3. 

Adult. — Blackish above; large white patch before the eye; white wing-bar 

along the tips of secondaries; sides of throat and neck dark brown; 

rest of under parts white. 
Eggs. — Laid on ground or rock. Pyriform-ovate; pale olive or buff, 

marked with brown or black, in patterns like those of the Razor-billed 

Auk; measuring about 3 by 5. 
Season. — Formerly in Massachusetts waters throughout the year. 
Range. — In Europe, from the British Isles north to Iceland; in America, 

from the southern part of the east coast of Greenland to northern 


Very little is known about the migrations of this bird in 
America. I have seen no record of the occurrence of the 
species at sea beyond soundings; but if it passed in migration 


from Greenland to Iceland, or from Greenland to the North 
American continent, it must have crossed the open sea. It 
may seem improbable that a flightless bird could swim in one 
season from Labrador to Florida and back; but fish make 
similar migrations, and the Auk was a faster swimmer than 
the fish on which it fed. When we read that a boat propelled 
by six oars was unable to overtake an Auk, and that the bird 
finally escaped its would-be captors, the performance of this 
long migration appears not improbable. It seems possible 
also that the species may have had one or more breeding 
places in Massachusetts. Birds bred here would not have 
had to journey more than twelve hundred miles to reach north- 
ern Florida. 

The Great Auk was not a bird of the arctic regions. 
There is no record of its occurrence within the arctic circle. 
It is believed to have lived in Greenland at a time when the 
climate there was much milder than it is to-day, but not 
within the last three hundred years. It inhabited the tem- 
perate zone. It probably never bred in any numbers on the 
mainland of Europe. Being flightless, it was obliged to seek 
outlying reef-environed islands, where it would not often be 
endangered by man or predatory animals. It may have lived 
in prehistoric times off the coast of Denmark, as its bones 
have been found in Danish as well as in Scotch shell-mounds, 
and one instance of the supposed occurrence of the living bird 
in Denmark has been recorded.^ 

It is believed to have occurred in considerable numbers 
about seaward portions of the British Isles, also; but it was 
extirpated from Great Britain and the continent so long ago 
that few records of its presence remain. Within a century 
it frequented St. Kilda, possibly Shetland, Faroe, the three 
Garefowl rocks off the southern coast of Iceland, and a few 
other isolated isles. It suffered continual persecution on its 
nesting grounds. The last specimen recorded at St. Kilda was 
killed in 1821; and the last at Eldey, off Iceland, in 1844. 
This may have been the last living Great Auk. 

The history of the bird along the Atlantic coast of the 

• Grieve, Symington: The Great Auk or Garefowl, London, ]885, p. 27. 


North American continent, so far as its relations to civilized 
man were concerned, began in 1497 or 1498, when the adven- 
turous French fishermen commenced fishing on the banks of 
Newfoundland. Until that time the Auks, breeding as they 
were on outlying reef -guarded islands, were comparatively 
safe from man's interference, for the Indians found a plentiful 
supply of other birds along the coast, and did not often dare 
the dangers of these remote and rocky islands in their frail 
canoes; but the hardy fishermen, coming in from the sea, 
immediately sought the bird islands for a supply of fresh eggs 
and meat. At that time these birds were so plentiful that it 
was unnecessary to provision the vessels, for the fleet could 
secure all the fresh meat and eggs wanted, without visibly 
affecting the supply. 

The first available record of a breeding place of the 
Great Auk in America is that given by Jaccjues C artier (first 
voyage to Newfoundland, 1534). He writes: "Upon the 21 
of May the winde being in the West, we hoised saile and 
sailed toward North and by East from the cape of Buona 
Vista until we came to the Island of Birds, which was 
environed about with a banke of ice, but broken and crackt: 
notwithstanding the sayd banke, our two boats went thither 
to take in some birds, whereof there is such plenty, that 
unlesse a man did see them, he would thinke it an incredible 
thing: for albeit the Island (which containeth about a league 
in circuit) be so full of them, that they seeme to have been 
brought thither, and sowed for the nonce, yet are there an 
hundred folde as many hovering about it as within; some of 
the which are as big as jayes, blacke and white, with beaks 
like unto crowes: they lie alwayes upon the sea; they cannot 
flie very high, because their wings are so little, and no bigger 
than halfe ones hand, yet they do flie as swiftly as any birds 
of the aire levell to the water; they are also exceeding fat; 
we named them iVponath. In lesse than halfe an houre we 
filled two boats full of them, as if they had bene with stones: 
so that besides them which we did eat fresh, every ship did 
powder and salt five or sixe barrels full of them." ^ This evi- 

1 Burrage, Henry S., ed.: Early English and French Voyages, Am. Hist. Asso., 1906, p. 5. 


dently refers to the Great Auk, although there are some 
discrepancies in the account, which may have been due in 
part to lapse of memory and in part to the translator; a later 
passage evidently refers to Murres, Razor-billed Auks and 
Gannets. Funk Island, apparently the location referred to, 
was probably the principal breeding place of the Great Auk 
in America, situated some thirty miles off the northeast coast 
of Newfoundland. Cartier also gives evidence of having met 
with the Great Auk in large numbers, at the Bird Rocks in 
the Gulf of St. Lawrence on May 25, 1534;^ but there seems 
to be no other record of the occurrence of this bird at those 
islands. In 1535 he again called at Funk Island. In his 
account he gives its latitude and longitude, and says: "This 
Island is so full of birds, that all might easily have bene 
fraighted with them, and yet for the great number that there 
is, it would not seeme that any were taken away. We, to 
victuall ourselves, filled two boats of them." ^ 

In 1536 Capt. Robert Hore records another " Penguin 
Island " to the southward of Newfoundland. From the course 
steered from Cape Breton, the island must have been Penguin 
Island, off Cape La Hume.^ 

Evidently the bird became known very early among the 
fishermen and fowlers as the Penguin (French Pingouin). Pro- 
fessor Newton says that he considers it probable that this 
name might have been derived from Pinwing, a name until 
recent years used in Newfoundland, and denoting a pinioned 
or flightless bird. The name "Penguin" appears to have been 
applied originally to the Great Auk, and later to the group 
of birds in the southern hemisphere now known as Penguins. 
There are several islands known as Penguin islands near 
Newfoundland, one in particular off Cape Freels, on the 
eastern coast. ^ 

Anthonie Parkhurst, writing in 1578, speaks of " one island 

1 Burrage, Henry S., ed.: Early English and French Voyages, Am. Hist. Asso., 1906, p. 13. 

2 Ihid., p. 38. 

3 Ihid., p. 107. 

1 In Hakluyt's Voyages, third volume, there is a statement made by Sir George Peckham, in 
his account of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's voyage to Newfoundland, which gives credit to Madock 
ap Owen Gwyneth for the discovery, and naming of " Pengwin Island "in " the yeere of our Lord 
God 1170." If this is founded on fact, the Welshman long antedated Columbus, and the name 
Penguin may be of Welsh origin. 


named Penguin where wee may drive them [Great Auks] on a 
planke into our ship as many as shall lade her." ^ 

Capt. Edward Haies, in his narrative of the " Voyage of Sir 
Humphrey Gilbert," in 1583, states that the French fishermen 
about Newfoundland carried little provisions, but depended 
on the flesh of the "Penguin," which they salted.^ 

In 1593 Richard Fisher speaks of " Pengwyns " seen at Cape 
Breton during the " Voyage of the ship called Marigold." ^ 

In Archer's account of Gosnold's voyage to Cape Cod, in 
the spring and summer of 1602, " Penguins " are mentioned 
as among the birds seen and taken. Penguins were seen south 
of Cape Cod on the shoals between Monomoy and Nantucket. 
Champlain, in 1604, found another island well stocked 
with Great Auks, situated near the shore of the southwest end 
of the peninsula of Nova Scotia, which seems to have been 
overlooked by the historians of this bird.'' This was in May, 
and possibly the birds may have bred there. These are evi- 
dently the Tusket or Tousquet Islands, off Pubnico Head, 
ten or twelve miles from where the wharves of Yarmouth are 
now situated, and nearly in the latitude of Portland, Me. 
This leads us to the statement of John Josselyn, who was 
located at Black Point (Scarborough, near Portland, Me.). 
He mentions the occurrence of the Great Auk, or "Wobble," 
as he calls it, in the spring. His New England's Rarities Dis- 
covered was published in 1672. 

During all this time the slaughter of the Auks went on at 
all the islands frequented by them. At first they were killed 
by the fishermen, — mainly for their flesh. Later, this great 
and apparently inexhaustible source of food supply was used 
as a bait to lure colonists to Newfoundland; and for years 
the islands were visited by settlers, and the birds killed and 
salted for winter use. It was in 1622 that Sir Richard Whit- 
bourne published his oft-quoted dictum regarding the bird, — 
that "God made the innocency of so poor a creature to 
become an admirable instrument for the sustenation of man." 

1 Hakluyt's Voyages, 1600, Vol. Ill, p. 133. 

2 Ibid., pp. 143-161. 

3 Ibid., pp. 191, 193. 

4 Champlain, Samuel de: Voyages, Pub. Prince Sec, 1878, p. 13. 


Undoubtedly during this period the Great Auk was plenti- 
ful about Newfoundland and off the shores of New England. 
Professor Lucas, who reported at some length the history of this 
bird, and procured quantities of its remains in 1887, says that 
millions must have died on Funk Island. ^ When they were 
plentiful there, some of these millions must have passed along 
our coast. 

Steenstrup believes that this Auk probably occurred at 
Cape Cod.^ 

It is perhaps a little more than seventy miles from Port- 
land, where Josselyn probably saw the Great Auk, to Ipswich 
Bay; and there Prof. F. W. Putnam states that great numbers 
of the bones of the Great Auk have been found in the shell- 
heaps of Ipswich and Plum Island, Mass. They were found 
also at Marblehead.^ 

Miss Hardy points out that these shell-heaps were made 
by the aborigines in spring and summer.^ 

Josselyn speaks of the "Wobble" among the birds of New 
England as an ill-shaped fowl, having no feathers in its 
pinions, and unable to fly. He says that in spring they are 
very fat or oily, and tells of his experience in roasting them 
at that time. Audubon states that an old gunner residing at 
Chelsea Beach (Revere) told him that he well remembered 
the time when the Penguins were plentiful about Nahant and 
some islands in the bay. This must have been some time after 

J. Freeman, in a topographical description of the town of 
Truro on Cape Cod (1794), gives the "Penguin" as one of 
the sea-fowl that were then "plenty on the shores and in the 

Grieve marks Cape Cod on his map as one of its breeding 

In a rather careful search through Massachusetts historical 
papers, I have found thus far but one other reference which 
points toward the breeding of this bird in Massachusetts in 

1 Lucas, F. A.: Report National Museum, Washington, 188S, pp. 493-529. 

2 Videnskabelige Middelelser, 1855, Nos. 3-7, p. 96. 

3 Putnam, F. W.: Amer. Nat., 1869, Vol. HI, p. 540. 
* Hardy, Fanny P.: Auk, 1888, pp. 380-384. 

' Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc., Vol. HI, 1st ser., p. 199. 


the early days, and that seems to have been overlooked 
by ornithologists. Davis (1815) says in his History of Ware- 
ham, Mass.: "Hog Island, so termed, and which is very 
small, is appendant to this town. It may, perhaps be perti- 
nent here to notice, that in early colonial annals, there appears 
to have been several little islands in Manomet Bay, on the 
Sandwich side, some of them, marsh islands, probably, within 
its necks, thus denominated; Panoket (little land) Chnp- 
pateest, (coney island or neck) Squannequeest and Mashne; 
while Unset and Quanset were little bays or coves on the 
Wareham side. ... It is but a mile across, from a part of the 
Wareham shore, to Manomet River, on the back shore of Sand- 
wich. That rivulet was visited by Gov. Bradford as early as 
1622, to procure corn, and was the Pmiesepoese of the natives. 
This compound phrase signifies 'provision rivulet.' What a 
remarkable coincidence between the aboriginal name and the 
colonial voyage! We do not assume this explanation without 
substantial and tenable grounds. The first part of the phrase, 
pime, is, in its uses, 'food', 'provision;' the latter, 'little 
river.' . . . The shores of this secluded and pleasant little bay, 
indented by many necks and inlets, and embosoming islands, 
must have been the chosen haunt of aquatic birds. The waders 
yet seek it, tracing up its marshy creeks. On the Sandwich 
side was Penguin River, where that singular bird resorted, in 
the breeding season, in great numbers. The manner in which 
the natives took them was, to erect stakes, or a weir, across an 
inlet, drive them into it, and when the tide receded, strike 
them down with clubs. This bird, it is well known, dives at 
a flash: hence its significant name, Wuttoowaganash, 'ears', 
that is, they 'hear quick.' The English settlers, it seems, 
without knowing the meaning of this name, have used and 
transmitted the plural termination only, Wagans , which has 
no meaning, but a plural merely. We shall seek this bird now, 
at this spot, in vain; but it appears and is taken, now and 
then, in the salt ponds, near Ellis' tavern, Plymouth. The 
name given this bird, with trifling addition, is a watch word, 
or an alarm; as much as to say, hark! listen!"^ 

1 Davis, S.: History of Wareham, 1815, Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc, Vol. IV., 2d ser., pp. 28»-292. 


The method used here by the Indians to capture the Auks 
seems to favor the hypothesis that the birds thus taken were 
not breeders; otherwise, the Indians would have been able 
to kill them with less trouble on their breeding grounds, unless, 
indeed, the birds had learned by experience to nest close to 
the water, so that they could reach it quickly at the least 
alarm. It is possible that the weirs were built for fishing and 
used incidentally to catch the Auks. 

In the summer of 1868 Prof. Louis Agassiz, Prof. Jeffries 
Wyman and Colonel Theodore Lyman examined the shell- 
heaps in East Wareham, on the shore of which are the bays 
referred to by Davis, and they found there the bones of the 
Great Auk.^ 

Thus we have the best of evidence that the Great Auk was 
found in summer at the head of Buzzards Bay, at the junction 
of the Cape Cod peninsula with the mainland. 

As some readers of this volume may not know the origin 
of the shell-mounds along our coast, it may be well to explain 
that they were made by the aborigines, some of whom camped, 
during the warmer months of the year, at suitable places for 
taking clams, oysters and other shell-fish, and thus in time 
formed these mounds, which consisted mainly of the shells 
of shell-fish, with bones and other remains of the native feasts, 
mixed with ashes and charcoal from the fires, and various in- 
destructible parts of utensils, etc., which had been thrown 
broken upon the heap. The finding of the bones of the Great 
Auk in these shell-heaps indicates that the birds were taken 
during the warmer months, which constitute their breeding 
season. The Auk evidently lived at sea or in the water most 
of the time, except during the nesting time, and, no doubt, 
slept on the waves. A bird which could dive at the flash of 
a gun and escape the charge ought to find little difficulty in 
avoiding the spears or arrows of an Indian hunter, but the 
question as to how the Indians were able to take them has been 
answered already. 

Manomet Bay is at the head of Buzzards Bay, and its 
western portion is now known as Onset Bay. Manomet 

1 Wyman, Jeffries: Report Peabody Mus. Arch, and Eth., 1869, p. 17. 


River is now named Monument River, near which the former 
home of Grover Cleveland is situated. There is no doubt 
that the bird referred to by Davis as the Penguin was the 
Great Auk. It was remarkably quick of hearing, and was 
readily frightened by the least sound. Buzzards Bay and 
its tributaries were once famous spawning grounds for many 
species of fish, and the Auks on their northward migration, 
entering Buzzards Bay and following the shore to the north- 
east, would have found themselves embayed there, and 
might have bred on an island at the mouth of Manomet Bay. 
There is a regular spring migration of Loons, Geese and other 
water-fowl here, which come up the bay and across the pen- 
insula of Cape Cod at this point. Loons and Mergansers 
formerly bred here. If the Great Auk bred here, the whites 
must have extirpated it, even if the Indians, when furnished 
with guns, did not. It is possible that the Auks which fre- 
quented this bay in summer might have been infertile birds 
which summered south of their usual breeding place. 

In August, 1910, in company with Mr. C. Allan Lyford, I 
explored the region at the head of Buzzards Bay in a search for 
remains of the Auk. By elimination we concluded that 
Penguin River must have been what is now known as Back 
River. Back River lies south of the Buzzards Bay station, 
in what is now known as the town of Bourne, and the railroad 
to Woods Hole crosses it. There are shoals here where the 
waters are very low at low tide, and where the Indians might 
have trapped the birds in a weir. On the bank of an inlet 
of what is now known as the Mill Pond, which connects with 
this river, there is a small shell-mound. Excavations here 
show no signs of bones. We learned from old residents that 
formerly there were other mounds about the bay, but one of 
them apparently has been buried under a railroad embank- 
ment, and others probably have been covered by the filling in 
which has been done along the shores where cottages of sum- 
mer residents now stand. If the Auk bred in this locality, 
it must have nested on Mashne Island, which on the north 
side has several acres of low, flat land. There seems to be no 
other island fitted for its breeding place. 


Catesby (1754) gives the " Penguin " among the Euro- 
pean water-fowl which he had observed to be " also inhabit- 
ants of America, wintering in Carolina, though most of them 
return north to breed." 

The finding of two of the left humeri of the Great Auk in 
a shell-mound near Ormond, Fla., one by Prof. W. S. Blatch- 
ley and the other by Prof. C. H. Hitchcock, in 1902, indicates 
that the bird went much farther south than has been generally 
believed.^ As this shell-mound was on the bank of the Hali- 
fax River, and several miles from the inlet, the Auks may 
have entered this shallow inlet for the fish which were once 
plentiful there. 

Miss Hardy says that " it will yet be conclusively proved 
that the Great Auk was a resident the year round on the 
coasts of New England;" and Mr. Hay regards it as probable 
that we shall yet learn that it was a permanent resident along 
our coast considerably farther south than Cape Cod; but it 
will be difficult now to secure such absolute proof. The only 
possibility lies in unearthing some long-forgotten record from 
the mass of historical papers now extant. 

The above citations cover practically all the available evi- 
dence of the breeding of the Great Auk on the coast of the 
United States; and there seems to be no conclusive evidence 
of a breeding place except at Funk Island, where many skele- 
tons and portions of egg shells have been found. It seems 
improbable, however, that the myriads of these birds that 
have been seen on so many islands and in so many waters in 
America could all have bred on this one small island, and we 
may yet find proof that they bred on several others. 

All through the latter part of the seventeenth century the 
banks fishermen salted down Auks by the ton. Later, the 
merchants at Bonavista sold them to the poor by the hun- 
dredweight, instead of pork.^ 

The taking of the birds and their eggs for food was fol- 
lowed by a demand for their feathers, and this is what finally 
led to their extermination. Probably the bird was nearing 

» Hay, O. P.: Auk, 1902, pp. 255-258. 

2 Tocque, Philip: Newfoundland as it Was and Is, 1877, p. 486. 


extinction in North America during the latter part of the 
eighteenth century, for Cartwright (July 5, 1785) says that 
several crews of men lived all summer on Funk Island, for 
the sole purpose of killing the birds for their feathers. He 
says that the destruction was incredible; and that, unless the 
practice could be stopped, the whole breed would be dimin- 
ished to almost nothing, as Funk Island was then " the only 
island they had left to breed upon." 

When Prof. F. A. Lucas, to whom we owe much of our 
knowledge of Plautus imjpennis, visited this island in 1887, 
there were still standing the remains of several buildings or 
camps, and the stone enclosures or "pounds" into which the 
birds had been driven for slaughter, and killed with clubs. 
Thus at their last place of refuge uncounted millions of these 
birds went to their death. They were thrown into kettles 
of hot water to scald them sufficiently to start the feathers 
easily, and the fat bodies of those that had been plucked were 
added as fuel to the fires. 

Tocque, in Newfoundland as it Was and Is, says that the 
Great Auk was very plentiful "about seventy years ago." 
As his book was published in 1877 the Auk must have been 
abundant in the earlier years of the nineteenth century. 

Mr. George A. Boardman questioned a Methodist mis- 
sionary, who was stationed on the coast of Newfoundland not 
far from Funk Island from 1818 until 1823, who said that he 
saw the Penguins during his whole stay on the island.^ 

When Audubon visited Labrador, in 1832, he was told by 
many persons that fishermen still called at an island off the 
Newfoundland coast, and took great numbers of the young of 
these birds for bait. It is probable that even then the birds 
were nearly extinct; but Audubon states that a brother of his 
engraver, Mr. Henry Havell caught one with a hook off New- 

Dr. J. A. Allen (1876) quotes Mr. Michael Carroll of 
Bonavista, Newfoundland, who in early life was often a visitor 

1 Brewer, Thos. M. (Baird, Brewer and Ridgway): The Water Birds of North America, Vol. H, 
p. 471, Mem. Mus. Comp. Zool., Vol. XIII. 

8 Audubon, J. J.: Ornithological Biography, 1838, Vol. IV, p. 316. 


to Funk Island and a witness of the destruction of the Great 
Auks there. Mr. Carroll stated that the birds were very 
numerous on Funk Island and were hunted for their feathers 
about forty-five to fifty years before 1876, but that soon after 
that time they were wholly exterminated. This would place 
the extermination of the birds there in the decade between 
1830 and 1840. ^ 

Singular as it may seem, the destruction of these birds went 
on so much faster in America than in Europe that the species 
probably was extirpated first on this side of the Atlantic. 

Mr. Ruthven Deane published in the American Naturalist 
(Vol. VI, 1872, p. 368) the statement that a specimen of the 
Great Auk was found in the vicinity of St. Augustine, Labra- 
dor, in November, 1870; but Dr. Coues, in his Key to North 
American Birds, says that there appears to be some question 
respecting the character, date and disposition of this alleged 
individual; and it seems very improbable that the species 
hved down to 1870. 

To-day there are about eighty mounted specimens of the 
bird, and about seventy eggs, in the museums of the world.^ 
Little is known about the habits of the Great Auk. Toward 
the last it was difficult to shoot, as it had learned to dive at 
the flash of a gun. It seems to have been easily frightened 
by noise, but not so much by what it saw; for Grieve tells us 
that in 1812, near Orkney, one was enticed to a boat by hold- 
ing out fish, and was killed with an oar. The Auk swam with 
head lifted, but neck drawn in, ready to dive instantly at the 
first alarm. Its notes were gurgles and harsh croaks. On its 
island home it stood or rather sat erect, as its legs were far 
back. It laid but one egg. It never defended its egg, but 
bit fiercely when caught. 

Its food is believed to have been mainly fish; but Fabri- 
cius found, in the stomach of a young bird, rose root {Sedum 
rhodoriola) and other littoral vegetation, but no fish. Rose 
root grows in the crevices of sea cliffs. Grieve, however, 
doubts whether the bird taken by Fabricius was of this species. 

> Allen, J. A.: Amer. Nat., 1876, Vol. X, p. 48. 

2 Grieve, Symington: The Great Auk, supplementary note, 1897, p. 264. 

I Nr ;• MM M / 





LABRADOR DUCK (Cainptorhynchus labradorius) . 
Common or local names: Pied Duck; Sand Shoal Duck; Skunk Duck. 

Length. — 18 to nearly 20 inches. 

Adult Male. — Head, neck, breast, scapulars and wings, except primaries, 
white; long scapulars pearl gray; tertials black-edged; other parts of 
body, stripe over crown, ring around neck, and primaries, black; bill 
mainly black, with orange at base and along edges; iris reddish brown; 
feet and legs grayish blue. 

Adult Female. — Lower plumage ash gray, brown-spotted; upper parts 
bluish gray; several secondaries and sides of forehead white. 

Young Male. — Similar to female, but chin and throat and sometimes breast 

Season. — Formerly late fall, winter and early spring. 

Range. — The Labrador Duck is believed to have been an inhabitant of 
the Labrador coast. I have seen no records of its occurrence in the 
Hudson Bay country or within the Arctic Circle; but according to 
Audubon it migrated southward in winter to Chesapeake Bay. 


The Labrador Duck has a brief history, for very Httle is 
known about it. It was first described by GmeHn (Syst. 
Nat., 1788, Vol. I, Part 2, p. 537.) 

It is supposed to have bred only along the Labrador coast, 
and, although the evidence of its breeding there seems to 
have been gathered mainly from settlers and Indians, some 
color is given to their statements by the fact that it has not 
been reported in summer from any other part of North 
America. Nevertheless, there are no definite records. 

John W. Audubon was shown deserted nests at Blanc 
Sablon, Labrador, that were said to be those of this species, 
but he saw no birds. ^ 

Professor Newton asserts that this bird, like the Eider 
Duck, bred on rocky islets, and that it was commonly found 
in summer about the mouth of the St. Lawrence and the 
coast of Labrador until about 1842; but he does not state 
where he obtained this information. ^ 

Major King writes: "The Pied Duck or Labrador Duck 

1 Audubon, J. J.: The Birds of America, 1843, Vol. VI, p. 329. 

2 Newton, Alfred: Dictionary of Birda, 1893-96, p. 221, 


is common in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and breeds on its 
northern shore, a short distance inland." He says that the 
bird derives its name from its Magpie-like plumage; that its 
flesh is dry and fishy, and that as an addition to the bag it is 
not worth shooting. All these statements would apply to the 
Labrador Duck.^ As King had spent three years shooting 
and fishing about the Gulf of St. Lawrence and in Canada 
previous to 1866, when his book was published, and as he 
evidently was familiar with the water-fowl, his statement 
perhaps is entitled to as much credence as was that of the set- 
tlers who showed Audubon the supposed nests of this Duck. 

Dr. Coues, in his notes on the Ornithology of Labrador, 
made in 1860, says: "I was informed that, though it was 
rarely seen in summer, it is not an uncommon bird in Labra- 
dor during the fall." - This is the only intimation that I have 
been able to find that this bird ever bred to the northward 
of Labrador; but it is too indefinite to have much weight. 

Audubon regarded the Labrador Duck as a very hardy 
species, for it remained off the coasts of Maine and Massa- 
chusetts during the winter and was unknown south of Chesa- 
peake Bay. It must have migrated in some numbers to the 
coast of Long Island and New York as late as the first half 
of the nineteenth century, for DeKay (1844) says that it was 
well known to the gunners on that coast, but that on the 
coast of New Jersey it was "not very abundant."^ But 
Giraud, writing about the same time of Long Island, says: 
"With us it is rather rare."^ 

Probably the Labrador Duck in its migrations was once 
common along the New England coast. Morton, writing of 
the birds noted by him in New England between 1622 and 
1630, speaks of "pide Ducks, gray Ducks and black Ducks in 
greate abundance." ^ It seems probable that some of the 
"pide Ducks " were of this species, for this is the one Duck 
that best merits the name of pied Duck, because of its being 

' King, W. Ross: The Sportsman and Naturalist in Canada, 1866, p. 235. 

2 Coues, Elliott: Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci., Phila., 1861, p. 239. 

5 DeKay, James E.: Nat. Hist, of New York, Part I, Zoology, Ornithology, 1844, p. 326. 

4 Giraud, J. P., Jr.: Birds of Long Island, 1844, p. 327. 

5 Morton, Thomas: New English Canaan, Pub. Prince Soc, 1883, p. 190. 


marked "like a Magpie," and it was so named by the earlier 
writers and ornithologists. Morton lived at Merrymount, 
now Wollaston, in Quincy, Mass., and shot wild-fowl about 
Boston Bay. He probably found this bird common there in 
his time, for, although considered a "sea-fowl," it entered the 
bays and tidal rivers along the coast. Audubon never saw 
the bird alive. The specimens from which his drawings of 
the species were made were shot by Daniel Webster at 
Martha's Vineyard, Mass., and are now in the collection of 
the National Museum at Washington, D. C. 

Freeman (1807) includes the Shoal Duck as one of the 
species found on Martha's Vineyard.^ 

Dr. D. G. Elliot says that between 1860 and 1870 he saw 
a considerable number of these birds, mostly females and 
young males, in the New York markets, and that a full- 
plumaged male was then exceedingly rare; but no one then 
imagined that the species was approaching extinction.^ 

Maynard (1870) records the Labrador Duck as rare during 
the winter on the Massachusetts coast. ^ 

The extermination of this bird never has been satisfac- 
torily accounted for; but Newton considered that the whole- 
sale destruction of eggs and nesting birds on the Labrador 
coast, as witnessed by Audubon, could have had no other 

If this bird's breeding range was limited to the southern 
and eastern coast of that peninsula, and if it bred, as is 
stated by Newton, only on the small, rocky islands off the 
coast, or, as King says, on the mainland near it, the whole- 
sale slaughter that went on for many years by eggers, feather 
hunters and Eskimos may have been a chief factor in its 
extinction. Audubon's story of the Labrador eggers, as pub- 
lished in his Ornithological Biography, graphically exhibits 
a terrible destruction among the sea birds of the Labrador 
coast; but long before his time a forgotten yet still greater 
slaughter of wild-fowl occurred on those coasts to supply the 

1 Freeman, J.: A Description of Dukes County, Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc, Vol. Ill, 2d ser., p. 54. 

2 Elliot, D. G.: Wild Fowl of North America, 1898, pp. 172, 173. 

' Maynard, C. J.: Birds of Eastern Massachusetts, Appendix to Naturalists' Guide, 1870, p. 143. 
* Newton, Alfred: Dictionary of Birds, 1893-96, p. 222. 


demand for feathers and eider-down for beds. Amos Otis, 
in his Notes of Barnstable (Mass.) Families, says that Josiah 
and Edward Child in early life went on "feather voyages." 
This must have been about 1750 to 1760, when vessels were 
fitted out for the coast of Labrador for the express purpose 
of collecting feathers and eider-down. Otis states a well- 
known fact that at a certain season of the year (presumably 
July or August) some species of wild-fowl shed a part of their 
wing feathers and can fly little if at all. He asserts that 
thousands of these birds congregated on barren islands on the 
Labrador coast; the crews of vessels surrounded them, drove 
them together and killed them with short clubs, or with 
brooms made of stiff branches. "Millions of wild-fowl," he 
says, were thus destroyed, and a few years later their haunts 
were so broken up by this wholesale slaughter and their 
numbers were diminished so much that feather voyages became 
unprofitable and were given up.^ Feather hunting in the 
breeding season is doubly destructive, because the helpless 
young are hunted down as well as the old birds. The killing 
of birds for their eggs, flesh and feathers has been continued 
by fishermen and the natives of the Labrador coast ever since. 
It seems probable that the only Ducks breeding in large 
numbers on islands along the Labrador coast were Eiders, 
Labrador Ducks and possibly Scoters. The Labrador Duck 
is believed to have been a maritime species, and its breeding 
range appears to have been as restricted as that of the Great 
Auk. If the Labrador Ducks were unable to fly in July they 
probably were reduced greatly in numbers by the feather 
hunters long before their existence was known to naturalists. 
A somewhat similar case is that of the Great Cormorant 
(Phalacrocorax perspicillatus) , which became extinct in the 
North Pacific somewhere about 1850, and which was formerly 
abundant about Bering Island. It is said to have been 
killed for food. Dr. C. W. Townsend informs us that the fisher- 
men and Eskimos still wantonly destroy the nesting birds 
on the Labrador coast in spring and summer; and the 
same wholesale killing which has so reduced many other 

« Otis, Amos: Genealogical Notes of Barnstable County, 1885, Vol. I, p. 187. 


breeding species in that region, may have hastened the 
extinction of the Labrador Duck. 

When the Magdalen Islands were discovered, great herds 
of walrus resorted there; but to-day the fact that the walrus 
was once numerous in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is almost 
forgotten. We do not know the cause of the extermination 
of the species there, but practically, it is certain that it was 
extirpated by man. The fact that the Labrador Duck was 
well known to gunners, and was found in some numbers 
in the markets, indicates that many were once shot along our 
coasts. Col. Nicolas Pike relates that in November, 1844, 
while paddling in his sneak boat covered with salt hay at the 
south end of Plum Island, Ipswich Bay, he saw three of 
these birds, two males and a female, feeding on a shoal spot 
near a sand spit. He shot them all.^ This indicates that the 
birds were taken easily by an expert gunner. 

Dr. Elliot says that no satisfactory explanation of the 
extinction of the Labrador Duck can be given, and yet he 
says, on the same page: "While we marvel at the disappear- 
ance of this bird from our fauna, similar or equally forcible 
methods are at work, which in the process of time, and short 
time too, will cause many another species of our water fowl 
to vanish from our lakes and rivers, and along the coasts of 
our continent. Robbing the nests for all manner of purposes, 
from that of making the eggs an article of commerce to pos- 
ing as specimens in cabinets, slaying the ducklings before 
they are able to fly, and have no means of escape from the 
butchers, together with the never-ceasing slaughter from the 
moment the young are able to take wing and start on their 
migration, at all times, in all seasons and in every place, until 
the few remaining have returned to their summer home, all 
combined, are yearly reducing their ranks with a fearful 
rapidity, and speedily hastening the time when, so far as our 
water fowl are concerned, the places that now know them, 
and echo with their pleasant voices, shall know them no more 
forever." ^ 

1 Dutcher, William: Auk, 1891, p. 206. 

2 Elliot, Daniel Giraud: The Wild Fowl of North America, 1898, p. 174. 


This extract seems to indicate that Dr. Elliot looks upon 
it as probable that man had much to do with the extinction 
of this species. Positive proof of this, however, always will be 
wanting, for the early history of the bird is unknown; but it 
seems very probable that the extinction of the species was 
due to the advent of the white man in North America. 

The last Labrador Duck of which we have record died by 
the hand of man near Long Island, New York, in 1875; and, 
according to Dutcher's excellent summary, there are but 
forty-two preserved specimens recorded as still existing in 
the museums and collections of the world. ^ 

Very little is known about the habits of this bird. Giraud 
says that it feeds on shell-fish, and Audubon says that a bird- 
stuffer at Camden had many fine specimens which he said 
were taken by baiting hooks with the common mussel. The 
name Sand Shoal Duck indicates that the bird was partial to 
such shoals, and was found feeding in the shallow water near 

ESKIMO CURLEW (Numenius borealis). 
Common name : Doe- bird; Dough- bird. 

Length. — 12 to 14.50 inches; bill, about 2.10. 

Adult. — General ground color, warm buff; upper parts streaked and mot- 
tled with very dark brown or dusky, so much so that the back often 
appears blackish; head and neck streaked, rather than mottled. The 
effect of the distribution of the markings gives the sides of the head 
and neck, and particularly the under parts, a much lighter appearance 
than the back; the top of the head, however, is darker, and there is 
a rather light line over the eye; no whitish stripe in center of crown. 
Primaries or flight feathers plain, not spotted or barred; tail barred 
with dusky brownish black; bill black; base of lower mandible pale 
or yellowish; legs grayish blue. 

Notes. — A soft, melodious whistle, bee, bee; a squeak like that of Wilson's 
Tern, but finer (Mackay); and a low, conversational chatter (Coues). 

Season.. — August to November. 

Range. — Eastern North America and South America, breeding on the 
Barren Grounds of northwestern Canada; wintering in Argentina and 

1 Dutcher, William: Auk, 1894, p. 176. 

I — 
















^ r 

























The Eskimo Curlew is placed in the list of extinct species 
to call attention to the fact that this bird, the flocks of which 
resembled in appearance and numbers the multitudes of the 
Passenger Pigeon, is now practically extinct. As in the case 
of the Passenger Pigeon, it is not improbable that a few more 
small flocks or single specimens may yet be seen or taken; 
but it is too late to save the species. Its doom is sealed. 

Most of the so-called "Dough -birds" taken in recent 
years have proved to be Hudsonian Curlews, which have a 
light stripe along the top of the crown. The Eskimo Curlew 
may be distinguished at once by its unstriped dark crown, its 
small size, unbarred primaries, and small, slender bill. 

The history of this bird, so far 
as it is known to us, began in the 
eighteenth century. It was de- 
scribed by Forster in 1772 (Philos. 
Trans. Royal Soc, London, 1772, 
Vol. LXII, pp. 411, 431) ; but sixty- 

,1 !• T /-frvz-irvN FiG. 20. — AxiUars and first primary of 

three years earlier Lawson (1709) Eskimo Curiew (after Cory). 

mentions three '* sorts " of Curlews 

that were found in " vast numbers " in Carolina, of which 
this, possibly, was one; and Hearne (1795) spoke of two 
species that were abundant about Hudson Bay (1769-72), the 
smaller of which undoubtedly was this bird, although, follow- 
ing Pennant, he gives the name "Eskimaux Curlew" to the 

The Eskimo Curlew was unknown to Wilson. The bird 
which he described as the "Esquimaux Curlew" was the Hud- 
sonian. The Eskimo Curlew was found breeding by Richard- 
son at Point Lake in 1822,^ and it bred abundantly in the 
Barren Grounds. Its breeding range extended from Alaska to 
Labrador. In the fall migration its swarming myriads massed 
in Labrador, from there crossed the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 
landed at Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and then put 
out to sea, heading for South America. If southerly storms 

• Fauna Boreali-Americana, 1831, Vol. II, p. 378. 


occurred during their migrations, great numbers landed on 
the Bermuda Islands. Easterly storms brought similar flights 
to the coast of New England, and less frequently, perhaps, to 
the shores of the middle and southern States, where, ornithol- 
ogists believe, they were rarely if ever as abundant as in 

We know nothing definite of their migrations in the early 
days of the colony, but since the beginning of the nineteenth 
century comparatively few have been seen on our shores 
in fair weather. Whether they kept at sea, resting on the 
ocean when weary, or continued their flight until they reached 
that great mass of floating weed called the Sargasso Sea, 
where seafaring birds find food, we can only conjecture; but 
in some way they reached the West Indies and later South 
America, where they spread over the continent, sweeping on 
even to Patagonia, thus coursing nearly the length of two 
continents. Returning in spring, they were seen rarely if 
ever on the Atlantic or its coasts; but they reappeared in 
Texas and other gulf coast States in March and April, and 
swarmed over the prairies and through the Mississippi valley 
region, reaching the fur countries by the interior route. 
They were accompanied in their migrations by the Golden 
Plover. The name "Dough-bird" applied to this Curlew is 
an old one, antedating American ornithologists, and was used 
to denote an extremely fat and delicious fowl. It was given 
occasionally to species of similar habits, as the God wits; but 
the Eskimo Curlew is the true Dough-bird of New England. 

Cape Cod and Nantucket often were overrun by Dough- 
birds, and they landed in enormous numbers all along the 
Massachusetts coast. The shores and islands of Boston har- 
bor were favorite resorts. During the first years of the nine- 
teenth century Noddle Island (now East Boston) was owned 
by Mr. H. H. Williams, who often invited his friends there to 
shoot; and Mr. William H. Sumner (1858) says that he has 
seen " that kind of Plover called Dough-birds," from their 
superlative fatness, alight upon the island " fifty years ago " 
in a northeast storm, in such large flocks and so weary that 
it was " as difiicult for them to fly as it is for seals to run." 


Mr. Williams told him, he asserts, that when the birds 
arrived in this condition they were chased by men and boys, 
who knocked them down with clubs as they attempted to 
rise. If the August storm passed, and these birds did not 
land on the island, very few would be seen in the markets 
that year.^ Mr. Sumner says that these birds were so fat 
that if shot when flying they burst open when they struck 
the ground. It is well known that this was their condition 
when they left Labrador. 

We have some records of the immense flights of these 
birds that appeared periodically on our coasts during the 
early days of the last century, but we can only surmise what 
was their abundance when the country was first settled. The 
flights may have decreased in Massachusetts even before the 
settlement of the west, and the beginning of the destructive 
spring shooting there. 

Audubon says that on July 29, 1833, while he was near 
the harbor of Bras d'Or, Labrador, these Curlews came from 
the north in such dense flocks as to remind him of the Pas- 
senger Pigeon. Mr. E. W. Tucker (1838) writes that Curlews 
in vast flocks were exceedingly abundant on the Labrador 
coast.2 Dr. A. S. Packard was there in 1860, and notes a 
flock which was perhaps a mile long and nearly as broad. He 
describes the sum total of their distant notes as resembling 
the wind whistling through the rigging of a ship. At times 
it sounded like the jingling of many sleigh bells. 

The Dough-birds continued so plentiful until long after 
the middle of the nineteenth century that the fishermen of 
Labrador and Newfoundland made a practice of salting them 
down in barrels. A Newfoundland correspondent, quoted by 
Hapgood in Forest and Stream, says that they reached that 
island in millions that darkened the sky. "Millions" of 
these birds and Golden Plover arrived in the Magdalen 
Islands in August and September. There they went to the 
high beach to roost in such masses that on a dark night a 
man armed with a lantern to dazzle their eyes and a stick to 

1 Sumner, Wm. H.: History of East Boston, 1858, p. 53. 

2 Tucker, E. W.: Five Mentha in Labrador and Newfoundland in 1838, 1839, p. 110. 


strike them down could kill enormous numbers.^ It is a well- 
known fact that thousands of shore birds were killed on Cape 
Cod by similar methods in early days. 

Mr. W. J. Carrol quotes Mr. C. P. Berteau, who says that 
he does not remember getting less than thirty or forty brace 
of these birds in a two hours' shoot when he was in Labrador; 
and that the Hudson Bay Company's store at Cartwright 
sometimes had as many as two thousand birds, as a result of 
a day's shooting by twenty -five or thirty men.^ 

Up to the middle of the nineteenth century, and even 
later, great flights of Eskimo Curlews continued to come to 
Massachusetts. Old gunners say (1908) that, " sixty or 
seventy years ago," so many Dough-birds and Golden Plover 
alighted on Nantucket that the inhabitants used all the shot 
on the island, and had to stop shooting until more could be 
obtained from the mainland. 

The greatest flight within the memory of men now living 
occurred on Nantucket, August 29, 1863, but it was composed 
of much greater numbers of Golden Plover than of Curlews. 

Hapgood describes a flight that occurred a few days later, 
September 3, 1863, on Cape Cod, when a party of several 
gunners killed two hundred and eighty-one Eskimo Curlews 
and Golden Plover in a little over one day.^ 

Mr. Elbridge Gerry tells me that " about 1872 " Dough- 
birds came in a great flight to Cape Cod and Nantucket. 
They " were everywhere," and were killed in such numbers on 
the Cape that the boys offered them for sale at six cents each. 
Two market hunters killed three hundred dollars' worth at 
that time. 

Mr. John M. Winslow of Nantucket states that in 1882 he 
and Peter Folger of that town killed eighty-seven Dough- 
birds there one morning, and there were probably five hun- 
dred birds in the pasture where these were killed. Mr. Lewis 
W. Hill writes that his grandfather, Mr. W. W. Webb, killed 
about seventy at Cape Pogue, Martha's Vineyard, about the 
same time. 

' Hapgood, Warren: Forest and Stream Seriea, No. 1, Shore Birds, 1885, p. 17. 

2 Carrol, W. J.: Forest and Stream, Vol. 74, March 5, 1910, p. 372. 

3 Hapgood, Warren: Forest and Stream Seriea, No. 1, Shore Birds, 1885, pp. 22, 23. 


The Rev. Herbert K. Job records a flight of Eskimo Cur- 
lews and Golden Plover on Cape Cod, August 30, 1883, and 
remarks (1905) that such a flight " may never be seen again." ^ 
His words were prophetic. That was the last great flight that 
landed on the Cape. 

A " cloud " of them was seen on the Magdalen Islands in 
1890.2 -j^jjjs ^ag perhaps the last large flock of the Eskimo 
Curlew that has been recorded in the east, although the fish- 
ermen of Labrador reported smaller flights for a few years 

The decrease of the Dough-birds in Massachusetts during 
the last century may be explained in part by the continual 
persecution that they suffered here. The arrival of these 
birds was the signal for every gunner and market hunter on 
the coast to get to work. The birds were rarely given any 
rest. Nearly all that remained on our shores were shot, and 
only those that kept moving had any chance for their lives. 
As a consequence of this continual persecution, the birds 
probably learned to avoid the New England coast; and most 
of those that were driven to land by storms left the moment 
the weather was favorable for a continuance of their flight. 
Often they came in at night and went in the morning. 

Peabody (1839) regarded the bird as " sufficiently common 
in Massachusetts," and says that it is "valued as game;" 
and Giraud (1844) says that it is seen every season in New 
York, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The 
great flights about Boston disappeared early in the nineteenth 
century. Sumner writes (1858) : " None are now to be seen 
where once they were so abundant, and even the market 
offers but few at fifty cents apiece." Turnbull (1869) gives it 
as a rather rare transient (eastern Pennsylvania and New 
Jersey). C. J. Maynard (1870) says that it is not uncommon 
in Massachusetts during migration. E. A. Samuels (1870) 
states that it visits New England, but only in small numbers. 
Dr. Elliott Coues (1874) states that it migrates through the 
Missouri region in immense numbers in May; and that in 

» Job, Herbert K.: Wild Wings, 1905, pp. 207, 208. 

2 Sanford, L. C, Bishop, L. B., and Van Dyke, T. S.: The Water-fowl Family, 1903, pp. 445, 


Labrador it is seen in flocks of from three birds to three 

Dr. J. A. Allen (1879) considers it a common migrant 
in Massachusetts. Gurdon Trumbull (1888) says that this 
species appears on the more eastern uplands of Cape Cod 
in August or September, " and if severe storms prevail, it 
arrives in very large numbers." This should have been writ- 
ten in the past tense. 

At first sight it may seem difficult to reconcile all these 
statements with that of Sumner, made in 1858; but his asser- 
tion referred mainly to Boston harbor, with the conditions of 
which he was familiar, and Curlews were still fairly common 
on less frequented parts of the coast long after the great 
flocks had disappeared from the neighborhood of Boston. In 

1888, however, Stearns and Coues considered it " singular " 
that this species was not common in New England. 

A diminution of the species was noticed next in the west. 
The birds no longer came in their usual numbers. A warn- 
ing note was sounded by Charles B. Cory (1896), who said: 
"It is becoming less common every year." This diminution 
had been gradual and progressive for years, but attracted 
little attention until it became rapid and marked. Mr. J. D. 
Mitchell, who is familiar with southern Texas, writes: "They 
used to visit the prairies in immense flocks, but it has been 
many years since I have seen a flock." Pressed for details, 
he writes that his earliest recollections of these birds date 
back to 1856. From that time to 1875 they came every 
spring in immense flocks on the prairies; after that they dis- 
appeared. In 1886 he saw several small flocks in Calhoun 
County, and in 1905 he saw three birds feeding with four 
Black-breasted Plover in Victoria County. These are his last 
records. Mr. A. S. Eldredge says that this Curlew came 
through the region about Lampasas, Tex., in 1890, in flocks 
of fifteen or twenty. In 1902 he killed one bird, —the only 
one that he saw. Prof. Geo. H. Beyer writes that the Eskimo 
Curlew disappeared very gradually in Louisiana. The last 
records he has for the species are March 17 and March 23, 

1889. Prof. W. W. Cooke knows of no record of the species 


in Oklahoma since the spring of 1884. Prof. Thomas J. Head- 
lee sends me a copy of a letter from Mr. Richard H. Sullivan, 
president of the Kansas Audubon Society, who has gathered 
information from well-known and trustworthy informants, 
who report as follows: Mr. James Howard of Wichita says 
that the last time that these Curlews were killed there in any 
numbers was in the springs of 1878 and 1879. A good many 
were taken in 1878, but they were much reduced in 1879. They 
decreased rapidly afterward, and were not seen in numbers in 
the markets after 1878. Mr. Fred G. Smyth of Wichita says 
that the Curlews disappeared rather rapidly, and that the last 
bird was shot in the spring of 1902; this is corroborated by his 
brother, Charles H. Smyth. Mr. Charles Payne, a naturalist, 
says that there were still a few Eskimo Curlews in the markets 
of Kansas in the early 90's. All these gentlemen believe that 
there are living Curlews still in western Kansas and Oklahoma, 
but as no one has been able to secure a specimen of the Eskimo 
Curlew for the museums, it is probable that the birds now seen 
are Hudsonian Curlews. Prof. Myron H. Swenk states that 
during the 60's and 70's this bird passed through Nebraska in 
spring in immense flocks, and was known commonly as the 
Prairie Pigeon, because of the resemblance of its flocks to 
those of the Passenger Pigeon. This name also was applied to 
the Golden Plover (see page 340). They were the victims of 
tremendous slaughter. In eastern Nebraska they began 
diminishing rapidly in the early 80's, or even earlier, and 
disappeared during that decade. There is not a specimen 
recorded there for the past fifteen years. There are occasional 
reports of the birds from western Nebraska, but no specimens 
are forthcoming to substantiate them. The indications are 
that its decrease was gradual. Mr. Charles E. Holmes of 
Providence, R. I., found the bird common locally in the hills of 
central Nebraska, about forty miles south of Ainsworth, in 
1889. It was noticeable that if one was wounded and cried 
out, others came from all directions, until thirty or forty were 
fluttering over their wounded companion. They were then 
decreasing and many were killed by cowboys. In 1892 he 
saw about six in the Bad Lands of South Dakota, and in 1893 


he saw two there, — the last that he ever saw, although he 
resided in South Dakota until recently. The reports of all my 
correspondents in Kansas indicate that the bird has been rare 
there for about thirty years, and has disappeared. In Missouri, 
where the Curlew formerly flew in countless thousands, we 
find it rated in 1907 as a rare transient. A flock of one hundred 
was reported in 1894; a flock of ten, in 1902; and none after- 
wards. ^ Mr. Otto Widmann writes me that it was irregularly 
common in the markets of St. Louis during the last two dec- 
ades of the century. In Iowa the species disappeared grad- 
ually, but rather suddenly at the last. The last record that 
I have is that of a specimen taken at Burlington, April 5, 1893, 
by Paul Bartsch. Cory (1902) says, in his Birds of Illinois 
and Wisconsin, that the Eskimo Curlew may still occur during 
the migrations, but is becoming very rare and apparently is 
disappearing fast; also that it formerly was abundant, and as 
late as 1895 was not uncommon in some localities. Dr. Walter 
B. Barrows writes that there is no Michigan specimen extant 
so far as he knows, and that the latest authentic record of the 
taking of a specimen was at St. Clair flats in the spring of 
1883. Prof. Lynds Jones says that the latest record of the 
capture of the Eskimo Curlew in Ohio is September, 1878. 
Prof. H. L. Ward says that this Curlew appears to have been 
rare in Wisconsin for at least half of a century, and that he has 
no recent record. Not one of my correspondents from Alberta, 
Manitoba or western Canada ever has seen the bird alive, 
as their experience in the country does not date back much 
over ten years. All believe that it has disappeared. Mr. H. 
P. Attwater saw flocks of small Curlews, which he believes 
were of this species, near San Antonio, Tex., as late as the 
year 1900. All these reports taken together seem to indicate 
a gradual decrease of the species in the west, accelerated at the 

The fishermen of Labrador noted the change about 1886 
or 1887. There the decrease was more rapid. Dr. Henry B. 
Bigelow, who visited Labrador in 1900, was satisfied that the 
bird was nearing extinction. He saw only five birds while 

1 Widmann, Otto: A Preliminary Catalogue of the Birds of Missouri, 1907, p. 75. 


in Labrador during the month of September. He was told 
by the settlers that the Curlews appeared in numbers until 
about 1892, after which no large flocks were seen. Townsend 
and Allen (1906) quote Captain Parsons to the effect that the 
birds were abundant in Labrador until thirty years ago (1876). 
He often shot a hundred before breakfast and the fishermen 
killed them by thousands. There was, he said, a great and 
sudden falling off in numbers about 1886. Mr. William P. 
Nye at Cape Charles, Labrador, told a similar story, but 
placed the sudden decrease at about 1891. Dr. W. T. Grenfell 
says that they became scarce in Labrador in the 80's, and that 
in 189'-2 he saw only two flocks of any size. In 1906 he heard 
of a few dozens being killed, but did not see one.^ 

At last ornithologists awoke to the fact that one of the 
most useful, valuable and highly esteemed game birds of 
America was disappearing. For the last five years all my 
correspondents who mention this species have reported it 
as either extinct or nearly so. Preble says (1908): "It has 
become practically exterminated, although formerly enor- 
mously abundant and fairly common up to 1890."^ 

Stone (1908) says: "Now apparently almost extinct." ^ 

Mr. Harry Piers, curator of the Provincial Museum of 
Halifax, Nova Scotia, writes me that during a period of close 
observation of birds from 1888 to the present time he has 
made but one record, a specimen in the Halifax market, 
September 11, 1897, which apparently has been lost. He 
has been unable to secure a specimen for the Provincial 

Ornithologists have found the bird rare or wanting every- 
where in North America since 1900. 

The diminution of this species on the Massachusetts coast 
during the latter part of the nineteenth century may be seen 
by the records furnished by Mr. George H. Mackay. These 
refer in part to Cape Cod and in part to Nantucket, includ- 
ing, in some years, the birds taken or seen on Martha's Vine- 

1 Townsend, C. W., and Allen, G. M.: Birds of Labrador, Proc. Best. See. Nat. Hist., Vol. 
XXXIII, 1906-07, pp. 356. 357. 

2 Preble, E. A.: North American Fauna, No. 27, Biol. Surv., U. S. Dept. Agr., 1908, p. 332, 

3 Stone, Witmer: Birds of New Jersey, An. Rept., N. J. State Mus., 1908, p. 142. 



yard and Tuckernuck Islands. These notes, condensed from 
various numbers of the Auk, follow : — 

1858 to 1861. — Some birds each 

1862. — No birds. 

1863. — An immense flight. 

1864. — No birds. 

1865. — No birds. 

1866. — A few; no flight. 

1867. — No flight. 

1868. — A few; no flight. 

1869. — A few; no flight. 

1870. — A few scattering birds. 

1871. — No birds. 

1872. — Two flights; fifty birds seen 

in one flock on Nantucket. 

1873. — Some birds. 

1874. — No birds. 

1875. — No birds on Nantucket, a 

few on Cape Cod. 

1876. — Some birds. 

1877. — A flight; 300 birds seen. 

1878. — Over 100 birds seen. 

1879. — No birds. 

1880. — A few shot on Nantucket. 

1881. — Some landed; fifty seen. 

1882. — About twenty-five birds. 








A large flight, August 26. 

A few landed. 

Eight shot on Nantucket. 

A few landed. 

A few shot on Nantucket. 

A number landed; one shot. 

A number landed September 
11, a few shot later. 

Fifteen birds reported. 

Small flocks seen on Nan- 
tucket and Tuckernuck. 

Ten birds killed on Nan- 
tucket and Tuckernuck, 
eight in Prince Edward 
■ One shot on Nantucket. 
• No birds. One in Boston 

No birds. 

None in markets, and none 
on Massachusetts coast. 

None killed; eight seen on 

Two seen. 

There has been much speculation regarding the cause of 
its disappearance, and all sorts of reasons except the real one 
are advanced by gunners. The usual explanations, that the 
birds had "changed their line of flight," or that they "do 
not come any more," for various trivial local reasons, have 
been put forward. 

Dr. C. W. Townsend writes: "About fifteen years ago the 
Curlews in Labrador rapidly diminished in numbers, and now 
[1906] a dozen or two or none at all are seen in a season. 
The fishermen there thought that the shooters were not to 
blame for this, but that the birds had been poisoned by the 
farmers in the west, because they ' troubled their cornfields.' " 
This tale, no doubt, arose because of the fact that the western 
farmers, years ago, poisoned blackbirds in their cornfields by 


wholesale; but when were the Curlews ever known to eat 
corn? Poisoned corn probably would not affect them. 

There is no need to look for a probable cause for the 
extermination of the Eskimo Curlew, — the cause is painfully 
apparent. The bird was a great favorite with epicures; it 
was exterminated by the market demand. 

Trumbull (1888) says that as a table dainty he considers 
it superior to all other birds, and that the gunners got from 
seventy -five cents to a dollar apiece for them.^ The price 
had doubled within thirty years. 

The extermination of this bird was foreshadowed by Mr. 
George H. Mackay (Auk, 1897, p. 214), when, for some years, 
it had been coming into the eastern markets by the ton in 
barrels from the Mississippi valley in spring. Mr. Mackay 
tersely asked, "Are we not approaching the beginning of the 
end.^" In 1891 he wrote that spring shipments of Golden 
Plover, Eskimo Curlews and Upland Plover to Boston markets 
began " about four years ago " (1887), and had increased to 
date. Two firms received at one shipment eight barrels of 
Curlews and twelve barrels of Curlews and Golden Plover, 
with twenty -five dozen Curlews and sixty dozen Plover to the 
barrel. With such shipments going out of the west to many 
firms in the great markets, the remark made by Mr. Mackay, 
that, " while we may not be able now to answer the question 
are they fewer than formerly, we shall be ably fitted to do so 
in a few years " (Auk, 1891, p. 24), was prophetic. The end is 
here. The destruction of this bird was mainly due to unre- 
stricted shooting, market hunting and shipment, particularly 
during the spring migration in the United States. When the 
Passenger Pigeon began to decrease rapidly in numbers, about 
1880, the marketmen looked about for something to take its 
place in the market in spring. They found a new supply in the 
great quantities of Plover and Curlews in the Mississippi 
valley at that season. Less than thirty years of this wholesale 
slaughter in the west practically exterminated the Curlews. 
They were shot largely for western markets at first; they 
began to come into the eastern markets in numbers about 

1 Trumbull, Gurdon: Names and Portraits of Birds, 1888, p. 203. 


1886, according to Dr. C. W. Townsend. They decreased 
rapidly in Labrador from about 1886 to 1892. By 1894 they 
were practically gone, although straggling parties were seen 
for ten years afterward. The Golden Plover lasted longer, 
and has been saved for the time being by the passage and 
enforcement of better laws; but its turn will come, unless 
conditions are still more improved. 

There was, of course, some shooting of these birds in South 
America; but the South Americans had not the population or 
the market demand that we have here. The opening of the 
great west to settlement, and the unrestricted slaughter that 
followed, which destroyed first the bison and other large ani- 
mals, then the Wild Turkey and the smaller game birds, 
exterminated the Curlew as it did the Passenger Pigeon and 
the Carolina Paroquet. The Curlew was one of the first to 
go, because it was easy to kill and brought a high price, and 
because it had practically no protection. The season was 
open while the bird was here, and closed when it was out of 
the country. 

Prof. W. W. Cooke brings forward as a "simple explana- 
tion" of the probable cause of the extinction of the Eskimo 
Curlew the fact that its former winter home in Argentina and 
its spring feeding grounds in Nebraska and South Dakota 
have been settled and cultivated; but he does not explain why 
this has not exterminated the Golden Plover, which had to 
meet the same conditions in the same regions. The mere 
settlement and cultivation of the feeding grounds would not 
have exterminated the birds. It provided more food for them, 
as both species were fond of insects and earthworms, which 
are increased by cultivation, and both are known to have 
gleaned worms and insects on ploughed land and cultivated 
fields. Settlement and cultivation then would have tended to 
increase their numbers, as it provided them with a greater food 
supply. We must assume that Professor Cooke means to 
assign the destruction of the species to the shooting, market 
hunting and other adverse influences that always follow settle- 
ment. Thousands of people can testify that these were the 
destructive causes in the western States. 


It has been suggested that possibly toward the last some 
great storm at sea may have hastened the end. No storm 
ever blew that was far-reaching, severe or continuous enough 
to have threatened the extinction of these birds when they 
were numerous, and bred from Hudson Bay to Alaska, when 
their flights passed down the Atlantic coast in August and 
September, with stragglers continuing until after the middle 
of November. Their numbers were too great, and they were 
extended over too large a part of the earth's surface, to be 
swept out of existence at one fell stroke. There is no evi- 
dence that this species ever was overwhelmed by any storm. 
It seems to have been well fitted to cope with the elements at 
sea. The species that are most exposed to storms on the 
ocean are the two Phalaropes, which migrate almost entirely 
at sea. By breeding mainly in high latitudes and keeping 
mostly off shore in their migrations they have escaped the 
gunner, and have held their own better than other birds of 
this order. If storms at sea exterminated the Curlews, why 
have they not destroyed the Phalaropes, which are far more 
exposed to them, and the Golden Plover, which travelled 
with the Curlews.? There could have been no possibility of 
the destruction of the Dough-bird by a storm until it was 
reduced to a remnant of its former numbers, and driven by 
inhospitable man to seek a refuge at sea. But if such a 
catastrophe had happened, it would have made no difference 
in the end. The bird was doomed. It was merely another 
victim to man's rapacity and greed, as all large shore birds 
eventually must be, unless protected by law and public sen- 
timent from their otherwise inevitable fate. 

In addition to the notes given by Mr. Mackay, there are 
a few more eastern records made within the last twenty 
years : — 

1890. — A flock of about twenty, at Eagle Hill, Ipswich, autumn; nearly 
all killed by T. C. Wilson (C. W. Townsend, Birds of Essex County). 

1890. — One shot by Alfred Swan at North Eastham, September 28; speci- 
men preserved. Species seen or taken in New York State every year 
from 1885 to 1891 except 1888 (E. H. Eaton, Birds of New York). 

1893. — One seen at Ipswich by Walter Faxon (C. W. Townsend, Birds 
of Essex County). 


1895. — Two killed by William H. Spaulding at Chatham (N. A. Eldredgc). 
1896 (about). — Last record for New York State (E. H. Eaton, Birds of 
New York). 

1897. — August, one shot and eaten, Chatham Beach (Herbert K. Job). 

1898. — Last seen at Dennis, Mass. (William N. Stone). 

1899. — Three killed at Chatham Beach, Mass. (Chatham Beach Hotel 
Shooting Record). 

1899. — One female killed at Chatham, Mass., September 5 (in J. E. 
Thayer collection). 

1900. — One killed at Eastham (Rev. E. E. Phillips). 

1900. — One killed at Chatham Beach, September 13 (Chatham Beach 
Hotel Shooting Record). 

1900. — One killed on an island in the Gulf of St, Lawrence (Dr. L. C. 

1901. — Last one killed on Prince Edward Island (E. T. Carbonnell). 
1901. — One shot at Ipswich (C. W. Townsend, Birds of Essex County). 

1901. — One female shot by Louis A. Shaw, Pine Point, Me., September 23 
(in J. E. Thayer collection). 

1902. — Two obtained by Dr. L. C. Jones of Maiden in Boston market in 
October. One killed in Massachusetts; the other came in witli some 
western birds (in J. E. Thayer collection). 

1902. — Dr. Jonathan D wight, Jr., has the head of a specimen from Sable 
Island believed to have been taken in 1902 (J. H. Fleming). 

1906. — Male taken, Magdalen Islands (Stanley Cobb), September 6; 
specimen preserved. (See also Auk, 1906, p. 459.) 

1908. — Two said to have been killed by A. B. Thomas at Newburyport. 
One of these now in J. E. Thayer collection (Auk, 1909, p. 77). 

1909. — One taken at Hog Island, Hancock County, Me., September 2 
(O. W. Knight). (Auk, 1910, p. 79.) Now in collection of the 
University of Maine. 

1909. — Another at Hog Island, September 14, by Ira M. Stanley 
(Curator, C. S. Winch). Specimen preserved. 

As this goes to press, Dr. Wilfred T. Grenfell writes that 
the species has not been noted in Labrador for three or four 

The habits of the Eskimo Curlews were much like those 
of the Golden Plover. They frequented the same localities, 
often fed on the same food, and whenever large numbers of 
the Curlews were seen in migration, flocks of Golden Plover 
usually followed them. The Curlews were very strong and high 
flyers, and it has been estimated that they ordinarily flew at 
the rate of one hundred miles an hour, and at nearly twice 


that speed with a high wind. These estimates were possibly 
excessive. Nevertheless, this bird's power of flight was so 
great that it would not take long, under favorable conditions, 
for it to cross the vast expanse of ocean lying between Labra- 
dor and the lesser Antilles, which it visited in its southern 
flight. This Curlew was able to rest on the sea, like the Golden 
Plover or the Willet,^ and it may have done so, as all shore birds 
can swim. If it could travel with a fair wind even one hundred 
miles an hour, it could go from Labrador to the lesser Antilles 
or about two thousand miles, in twenty hours. It is improb- 
able that it could make so quick a passage; but it seems 
possible that it often arrived at the Antilles without landing 
on the way. 

Apparently a large part of the individuals of this species 
concentrated in Labrador in August, although many went 
south through the Mississippi valley region. Some of those 
that bred in Alaska must have made a journey of more than 
two thousand miles to reach the Labrador coast. As it is 
about seven thousand miles from the shores of the Arctic 
Ocean, where they bred, to Patagonia, where some of them 
spent the winter, their wonderful annual flight over land 
and sea must have covered at least fourteen thousand miles, 
and if some individuals bred in Alaska they may have trav- 
elled over sixteen thousand miles. 

About the last week in August or sometimes a little earlier 
the migration from Labrador began. As they rarely alighted 
on the Massachusetts coast in great numbers except when 
blown off their course by a storm, and as they were then 
tired, wet and storm-beaten, they readily were approached 
by the gunner. When driven to take wing by the death- 
dealing charge, they started off swiftly; but, being of an 
affectionate disposition, they often returned to their strug- 
gling, wounded companions, and hovered solicitously over them 
until another storm of shot again tore through their thinned 
and broken ranks. They were decoyed easily by the gunner, 
who could give a close imitation of their call. They were 
much too innocent and confiding for their own good. As 

» Mackay, George H. : Auk, 1896, p. 90. 


one old Prince Edward Island gunner remarked, "They 
would not go out of a field until they were all killed." He 
might have added, — and not even then, unless carried out. 
In later years, on the Massachusetts coast, this species was 
not always so tame; but most of those which remained for 
any time upon these shores were gathered in by the gun- 
ner sooner or later. In flight the smaller flocks sometimes 
assumed a V-shaped formation, but the great flocks were 
simply masses or extended lines. These flocks often per- 
formed beautiful evolutions, swinging about as if at command, 
sometimes in "open order," again compactly massed. They 
always appeared to follow some temporary leader; and Nel- 
son says that the small flocks frequently were led by a single 
Hudsonian Curlew, as small shore birds sometimes are pre- 
ceded by one of a larger species, the little fellows seemingly 
depending on its superior sagacity and watchfulness to keep 
them from danger. When driven in by a storm, the Eskimo 
Curlews usually alighted facing the wind on the sheltered side 
of a grassy hill or in the open field, sometimes on the beach 
or in the marsh; but they were attracted particularly by hill 
pastures near the coast. 

In Massachusetts their food consisted very largely of 
terrestrial insects, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and ants; 
also earthworms. They were among the most useful of birds 
in their migrations in the west, as they were very destructive 
to the young of the Rocky Mountain locust, formerly the 
scourge of the plains. Dr. Coues says that while feeding the 
great flocks kept up a conversational chattering, like a flock 
of Blackbirds. In Prince Edward Island they have been seen 
following the furrow and searching for worms, as they did in 
the west.^ 

In Labrador they gathered to feed on the wild berries, 
chief of which was the Empetrum nigrum, called curlewberry 
or " gallowberry " by the natives, but generally known as the 
crowberry. There they also fed on snails; and Mr. Berteau 
states that they ate " sea lice and infusoria found on sandy 

« Mackay, George H.: Auk, 1896, p. 182. 


The only living specimen now known to exist. The long, elegant 
tail feathers have been broken off in the cage. This is a 
female in the Cincinnati Zoological Garden. (From a photo- 
graph made and copyrighted by Enno Meyer, Cincinnati, 
0., 1911.) The immense hosts of the Passenger Pigeon, 
formerly one of the greatest zoological wonders of the world, 
are now extinct. 


PASSENGER PIGEON {Edopistes migratorius) . 
Common name: Wild Pigeon. 

Length. — 15.50 to IG inches. 

Male. — Eye orange, bare space surrounding it purplish flesh color; head, 
upper part of neck and chin bright slate blue; throat, breast and sides 
reddish and hazel; part of neck and its sides resplendent changeable 
gold and green metallic lusters; upper parts mainly dull blue; lower 
parts reddish or chestnut fading toward tail; back and parts of wings 
tinged with olive; shoulders and upper wings black-spotted; long wing 
feathers and long middle tail feathers blackish; outer tail feathers white 
or bluish, their inner webs black and chestnut near the base. 

Female. — Much duller above and bluish or gray beneath. 

Young. — JynWGT still, the feathers of upper parts with whitish edgings 
and the wing feathers with rufous edgings. 

Nest. — A frail platform of twigs in a tree. 

Eggs. ^ One, rarely two, about 1.50 by 1.1^; pure white. 

Notes. — Coo-coo-coo-coo, much shorter than that of the domestic pigeon; 
and kee-kee-kee-lcee, the first loudest, the others diminishing (Audu- 
bon). See also Craig, Auk, 1911, pp. 408-4''27. 

Season. — In Massachusetts, formerly March to December. 

Range. — North America, from the high plains of the Rocky Mountain 
region to the Atlantic, ranging from the fur countries to the Gulf States; 
one specimen recorded from Cuba. Casual in Mexico and Nevada. 


More interest is evinced in the history of the Passenger 
Pigeon and its fate than in that of any other North American 
bird. Its story reads Hke a romance. Once the most abun- 
dant species, in its flights and on its nesting grounds, ever 
known in any country, ranging over. the greater part of the 
continent of North America in innumerable hordes, the race 
seems to have disappeared within the past thirty years, leav- 
ing no trace. Men now living can remember its appearance 
in countless multitudes in the western States, but the fact 
that similar immense armies once ranged over the Atlantic 
seaboard is almost forgotten. Nevertheless, this was a most 
important part of its range, and its vast legions roamed over 
the country from the Carolinas to the Maritime Provinces of 
Canada, and even to the Barren Grounds and Hudson Bay. 

The Passenger Pigeon was described by Linne in the latter 


part of the eighteenth century (Syst. Nat., 1766, ed. 12, Vol. I, 
p. 285) ; but it was well known in America many years before. 
In July, 1605, on the coast of Maine, in latitude 43° 25', 
Champlain saw on some islands an "infinite number of 
pigeons," of which he took a great quantity. ^ 

Many early historians, who write of the birds of the 
Atlantic coast region, mention the Pigeons. The Jesuit 
Fathers, in their first narratives of Acadia (1610-13), state 
that the birds were fully as abundant as the fish, and that in 
their seasons the Pigeons overloaded the trees. ^ 

Passing now from Nova Scotia to Florida, we find that 
Stork (1766) asserts that they were in such plenty there for 
three months of the year that an account of them would seem 

John Lawson (1709), in his History of Carolina, speaks of 
prodigious flocks of Pigeons in 1701-02, which broke down trees 
in the woods where they roosted, and cleared away all the 
food in the country before them, scarcely leaving one acorn 
on the ground.^ 

The early settlers in Virginia found the Pigeons in winter 
" beyond number or imagination." 

Strachey (1612) says: "A kind of wood-pidgeon we see in 
winter time, and of them such nombers, as I should drawe 
(from our homelings here, such who have scene, peradventure 
scarse one more than in the markett) the creditt of my rela- 
tion concerning all the other in question yf I should expresse 
what extended flocks, and how manie thousands in one flock, I 
have scene in one dale . . . but there be manie hundred wit- 

nesses." ^ 

Hamor (1615) says: "My selfe haue scene three or foure 
houres together flockes in the aire, so thicke that euen they 
haue shaddowed the skie from vs." ^ 

Professor Kalm found the Pigeons in numbers "beyond 

> Champlain, Samuel de: Pub. Prince Soc, 1878, Vol. II, pp. 68, 69. 

2 Thwaites, R. G., and others: Je.suit Relations and Allied Documents, 1896, Vol. I, p. 253. 

3 Stork, William: An Account of East Florida, 1766, p. 51. 
* Lawson, John: History of Carolina, 1860, pp. 232, 233. 

' Strachey, William: The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Brittannia, printed for the Hakluyt 
Soc, 1849, p. 126. 
« Hamor, Raphe: A True Discourse of the Present Estate of Virginia, 1615, p. 21. 


conception" in the middle States and in Canada/ He states, 
in his monograph of the Passenger Pigeon, that there are certain 
years " when they come to Pennsylvania and the southern 
English provinces in such indescribable multitudes as to appal 
the people." - The year 1740 was one of the years when they 
came to Pennsylvania and New Jersey in incredible multitudes. 
He also states that Dr. Golden told him that he had twice 
seen similar great flights between New York and Albany. 

G. H. Hollister, in the History of Connecticut (1855), says 
that pigeons were innumerable in spring and autumn and were 
startled from the thickets in summer.^ 

Massachusetts authors make brief but numerous references 

to the species. 

Wood (1629-34) records the migration through eastern 
Massachusetts in the following words: "These Birds come 
into the Countrey, to goe to the North parts in the beginning 
of our Spring, at which time (if I may be counted worthy, to 
be beleeved in a thing that is not so strange as true) I have 
scene them fly as if the Ayerie regiment had beene Pigeons; 
seeing neyther beginning nor ending, length, or breadth of 
these Millions of Millions. The shouting of people, the rat- 
ling of Gunnes, and pelting of small shotte could not drive 
them out of their course, but so they continued for foure or 
five houres together: yet it must not be concluded, that it is 
thus often; for it is but at the beginning of the Spring, and at 
Michaelmas, when they returne backe to the Southward; yet 
are there some all the yeare long, which are easily attayned 
by such as looke after them. Many of them build amongst 
the Pine-trees, thirty miles to the North-east of our planta- 
tions: joyning nest to nest, and tree to tree by their nests, so 
that the Sunne never sees the ground in that place, from 
whence the Indians fetch whole loades of them." ^ This nest- 
ing must have been somewhere near the coast of Essex, or, as 

1 Kalm, Peter: Travels into North America, 1770 (first English ed.), Vol. U, pp. 82. 311. 

2 Kalm, Peter: A Description of the Wild Pigeons which visit the Southern English Colonies in 
North America during Certain Years in Incredible Multitudes, translated by S. M. Gronberger from 
Kongl. Vetenskaps-Akademiena Handlingar for ar 1759, Vol. XX, Stockholm, 1759; now published 
in the Auk, 1911, pp. 53-66. 

3 Hollister, G. H.: History of Connecticut, 1855, Vol. I, pp. 33, 34. 

* Wood, William: New England's Prospect, Pub. Prince Soc, 1865, pp. 31, 32. 


Dr. Townsend puts it in his Birds of Essex County, in the 
Essex woods. 

The following is an extract from a letter written by 
Governor Dudley to the Countess of Lincoln, March 12, 1630: 
"Upon the eighth of March from after it was fair daylight, un- 
til about eight of the clock in the forenoon, there flew over all 
the towns in our plantations, so many flocks of doves, each 
flock containing many thousands and some so many that they 
obscured the light, that it passeth credit, if but the truth 
should be written." ^ 

Higginson, writing of Salem about this date, apparently 
makes the same statement in nearly the same words. In 
Charles Brooks's History of Medford, Mass. (p. 37), we find 
the following occurrence recorded on March 8, 1631: "Flocks 
of wild pigeons this day, so thick they obscure the light." 
Apparently these were the first large flights of pigeons of 
which we have definite record in New England. 

The Plymouth colony was threatened with famine in 
1643, when great flocks of Pigeons swept down upon the 
ripened corn and beat down and ate "a very great quantity 
of all sorts of English grain." But Winthrop says that in 
1648 they came again after the harvest was gathered, and 
proved a great blessing, "it being incredible what multitudes 
of them were killed dail3^" ^ 

Roger Williams (1643) says that the Pigeons bred abun- 
dantly in Rhode Island in the "Pigeon Countrie." Josselyn 
(1672), who had a general acquaintance with the New Eng- 
land colonies, and who lived in Massachusetts and Maine for 
some years, states that of Pigeons there were "millions of 
millions; I have seen," he asserts, "a flight of Pidgeons in 
the spring, and at Michaelmas when they return back to the 
Southward for four or five miles, that to my thinking had neither 
beginning nor ending, length nor breadth, and so thick that 
I could see no Sun,^ . . . But of late they are much dimin- 
ished, the English taking them with Nets." 

The latter statement shows that the extirpation of these 

» Coll. Mass. Hist. Soc, Vol. VHI, 1st ser., p. 45. 

! Winthrop, John: The History of New England from 1630 to 1649. James Savage, editor, 1825- 
26, Vol. ir, pp. 94, 331, 332. 

3 Josselyn, John: Two Voyages to New England, 1865, p. 79. 


birds began in New England within fifty years after the first 
settlement at Plymouth. It went on for more than two hun- 
dred years. Nevertheless, they were still quite numerous 
about the beginning of the nineteenth century. 

Lewis and Newhall, writing of those early days in the 
History of Lynn (1866, p. 45), state that a single family "has 
been known to have killed one hundred dozens of these birds 
with poles and other weapons." 

Belknap (1792), in his History of New Hampshire, says 
they "come in the spring, from the southward, in large flocks, 
and breed in our woods, during the summer months." Richard 
Hazzen, who surveyed the Province line in 1741, remarks: 
" ' For three miles together, the pigeons nests were so thick, 
that five hundred might have been told on the beech trees at 
one time; and could they have been counted on the hemlocks, 
as well, I doubt not but five thousand, at one turn round.' 
This was on the western side of the Connecticut River and 
eastward of the Deerfield River [and probably extended into 
Massachusetts]. Since the clearing of the woods the num- 
ber of pigeons is diminished." ^ 

One of the earliest settlers at Clarendon, Vt., stated that 
immense numbers of Pigeons nested there. The trees were 
loaded with nests, and the noise made by the birds at night 
was so troublesome that the traveller could get no sleep. 
Settlers often cut down trees, and gathered a horse-load of 
squabs in a few minutes. ^ 

In the History of Wells and Kennebunk, Me., it is stated 
that from the first settlement to 1820 Pigeons in innumerable 
numbers haunted the woods near the sea. In their season 
they furnished food for many families.^ 

Isaac Weld, Jr. (1799), relates that a resident of Niagara, 
while sailing from that town to Toronto (forty miles), saw a 
great flight of Pigeons coming from the north which continued 
throughout the voyage, and the birds were still coming from 
the north in large bodies after he reached Toronto.^ 

1 Belknap, Jeremy: History of New Hampshire, 1792, Vol. Ill, pp. 171, 172. 

2 Williams, Samuel: The Natural and Civil History of Vermont, 1809, Vol. I, p. 137. 

3 Bourne, Edward E.: History of Wells and Kennebunk, 1875, pp. 563,564. 

1 Weld, Isaac, Jr.: Travels through the States of North America, etc., during the years 1795, 1796, 
1797, London, ISOO, Vol. II, p. 43. 


The Baron de Lahontan, in a letter dated May 28, 1687, 
from Boucherville, describing a flight of these birds in the 
vicinity of Lake Champlain, says: "One would have thought, 
that all the Turtle-Doves on Earth had chose to pass thro' 
this place. For the eighteen or twenty days that we stayed 
there, I firmly believe that a thousand Men might have fed 
upon 'em heartily, without putting themselves to any trouble. 
. . . The trees were covered with that sort of fowl more than 
with leaves." ^ 

These great flights of Pigeons in migration extended over 
vast tracts of country, and usually passed in their greatest 
numbers for about three days. This is the testimony of 
observers in many parts of the land. Afterward, flocks often 
came along for a week or two longer. Even as late as the 
decade succeeding 1860 such flights continued, and were still 
observed throughout the eastern States and Canada, except 
perhaps along the Atlantic coast. 

W. Ross King (1866) speaks of a flight at Fort Mississi- 
saugua, Canada, which filled the air and obscured the sun for 
fourteen hours. He believes that the flight must have 
averaged three hundred miles in length by a mile wide. An 
immense flight continued for several days thereafter.^ 

Wild Pigeons are not mentioned in Hampshire County, 
Mass., records until after 1700, but undoubtedly they were 
there when settlement began. They had a breeding place 
near the line between Hampshire County and Vermont, and 
their nests on the beech and hemlock trees extended for miles. 
They were noted in Hampshire County before 1740, and many 
were shot. Levi Moody is given by Judd as authority for the 
statement that they were caught in such numbers in Granby 
that not all could be sold or eaten, and after the feathers 
had been plucked from them, many were fed to the hogs. 
Pigeon feathers were much used for beds. In August, 1736, 
Pigeons were sold in the Boston market at twopence per 
dozen, and many could not be sold at that price. In 
Northampton, from 1725 to 1785, when they could be sold. 

> Lahontan, Baron de: Some New Voyages to North America, 1703, Vol. I, pp. 61, 62. 
2 King, W. Rosa: The Sportsman and Naturalist in Canada, 1866, p. 121. 


Taken from an old etching. (Reproduced from The Passenger 
Pigeon, by W. B. Mershon.) 


they brought usually from threepence to sixpence per dozen. 
In 1790 they brought ninepence per dozen, and a few years 
after 1800, one shilling, sixpence. After 1850 they were sold 
at from seventy -five cents to a dollar and a half a dozen. ^ 

In the History of the Sesqui-centennial Celebration of the 
Town of Hadley, Mass., it is stated that before 1719 Wild 
Pigeons in their migrations roosted in countless numbers in 
the oak and chestnut groves on the plains. 

Thompson states that when the country was new there 
were many of their breeding places in Vermont; also, that 
they were much less abundant (1842) than formerly; "but," 
he says, "they now, in some years, appear in large numbers." ^ 

Great nestings became few and far between in the east, as 
the Pigeons decreased; but there were many small breeding 
places regularly occupied during the first half of the nine- 
teenth century, and scattered pairs bred commonly. Mr. 
Clayton E. Stone sends an account of the nesting site of a 
flock of Passenger Pigeons, furnished by his father, Mr. Still- 
man Stone, who was well acquainted with the birds. It was 
situated on the side of Mt. Sterling, in the towns of Stowe 
and Hyde Park (formerly Sterling), in the northern part of 
Vermont. Mr. Stone was acquainted with it from 1848 to 
about 1853. It occupied a tract of twenty acres or more of 
old-growth maple and yellow birch. There were often as 
many as twenty-five nests in a tree, and sometimes more. 
The usual number of eggs in one nest was one or two, usually 
one. Most of the time during the nesting season large flocks 
of these birds could be seen coming and going in all directions 
to and from the nests. The people from this and neighboring 
towns went to the place with their teams to take up the 
squabs that had fallen to the ground; they took them away by 
cartloads. The squabs were distributed free, to be used as 
food by all their friends and neighbors. 

In 1848 Mr. Stone and Madison Newcomb sprung a net 
over forty-four dozen, or five hundred and twenty-eight birds, 
at one cast, and they thought that only about one bird in four 

1 Judd, Sylvester: History of Hadley, 1905, pp. 351, 352. 

2 Thompson, Zadock: History of Vermont, 1842, p. 100. 



of the flock was taken. Many escaped while they were tak- 
ing out the forty-four dozen. Pigeons were abundant in that 
locaHty until the fall of 1865, when a man could shoot in half 
a day all that he could use. Mr. Stone says that hawks 
ravaged the birds continually. He left Vermont in 1866, and 
does not know how long afterward the Pigeons continued 
plentiful. At that time there were still many Pigeons in 
Massachusetts. There were bough houses and roosts erected 
for shooting Pigeons, "Pigeon beds," nets and stool Pigeons 
in almost every town. Old men remember this even now. 
Thoreau speaks of the arrangements for Pigeon shooting in 
Concord in the 50's. 

Mr. Warren H. Manning writes me of a method of taking 
Pigeons which I have not seen described. He sends a sketch of 

a Pigeon basket (see Fig. 21) 
which was used by Lucinda 
Manning and her sisters at the 
Manning Manse in Billerica, 
Mass. This basket was used 
as a receptacle for the Pigeons 
after they had been taken. 
Mr. Manning states that these 
sisters had a Pigeon "bower" 
and snares in the valley in 
sight of the house, in the edge 
of what was then pine woods. 
"The snaring of Pigeons," 
he says, "must have represented quite an income to these 
sisters and their family before them." The old house was 
used as a tavern for more than one hundred years, and the 
tavern book, kept there from 1753 to 1796, is now in exist- 
ence. Frequent references to the sale of Pigeons are made 

There are not many exact records of the flights of Pigeons 
in Massachusetts during the early part of the nineteenth cen- 
tury. They were of such regular occurrence that no one 
thought of recording them. Dr. Samuel Cabot told Mr. 
Brewster that from 1832 to 1836, while he was in college at 

Fig. 21. — Pigeon basket. 


Cambridge, Pigeons visited the town regularly, both in spring 
and autumn, sometimes in immense numbers.^ 

Mr. Clayton E. Stone writes that Mr. M. M. Boutwell, 
brother of the late Governor, George S. Boutwell, knew of a 
nesting place of the Passenger Pigeon in the northern part of 
Lunenburg, Mass., from his earliest recollection until 1851 or 
1852. He states that an old gunner, Samuel Johnson, used to 
visit this place every year to get sc^uabs. It was situated in 
the northern part of the town, on a tract of land which up to 
1840 or 1845 was almost an unbroken forest for miles. It is 
said to have comprised something like five acres. Mr. Bout- 
well says that anywhere in any fall, until the year 1860, a 
man could get in an hour all the Pigeons he could use. 

Mr. James W. Moore of Agawam, Mass., states that after 
1850 great flocks of Pigeons still visited that region; and that 
as a boy he was sent to drive them from the rye, when it had 
been sown but not harrowed in. "We boys," he says, "had 
Pigeon beds, and caught them in nets." 

About this time indications of the disappearance of the 
Pigeons in the east began to attract some notice. They 
became rare in Newfoundland in the 60's, though formerly 
abundant there. They grew fewer in Ontario at that time; 
but, according to Fleming, some of the old roosts there were 
occupied until 1870. 

Mr. C. S. Brimley states that they were seen in some 
numbers near Raleigh, N. C, up to about 1850. For thirty 
years he has not seen one, which would fix the date of their 
disappearance there about 1880. Mr. Witmer Stone believes 
that they became rare in New Jersey about that time. 

During the ensuing decade they became very rare in 
Massachusetts; but Mr. August B. Ross states that the 
Pigeons were "quite plenty" in rye fields on the plains at 
Montague, Mass., about 1879; and Mr. Robert O. Morris 
says that a small flock was seen in Longmeadow in the spring 
of 1880; but there is no authentic record of a Pigeon seen or 
taken in that vicinity since 1884. This seems to mark approxi- 

1 Brewster, William: Memoirs, Nuttall Orn. Club, No. IV, Birds of the Cambridge Region of 
Massachusetts, 1906, p. 176. 


mately the time that the bird disappeared from the Connecti- 
cut valley. 

Brewster records a flock of about fifty Pigeons on Septem- 
ber 2, 1868, in Cambridge; and he states that a heavy flight 
passed through eastern Massachusetts between September 2 
and September 10, 1871, and that he was assured that thou- 
sands were killed, and that the netters in Concord and Read- 
ing used their nets as of old.^ 

My first experience with the Pigeons was in 1872. Many 
flocks went through Worcester County during the fall of that 
year, and I saw small flocks passing rapidly over the northern 
end of Lake Quinsigamond. Friends saw them in Spencer, 
Mass., and in other towns near Worcester. At that time the 
Pigeons were still breeding in Pembroke, N. H., about five 
miles south of Concord, where I passed the summer. 

In 1872 a flock came into a cherry tree at Lanesville, Mass., 
under the shade of which Gen. Benjamin F. Butler stood 
delivering an address to a gathering of some two thousand 
people. Birds alighted "on every part of the tree."^ 

I have found no records of any considerable flights of Pas- 
senger Pigeons in Massachusetts since 1876. Hundreds of 
thousands of Pigeons then appeared in the Connecticut 

Maynard (1870) considered the Pigeon as a common bird 
in localities, but growing less so every year.^ 

In 1870 Samuels stated that the Passenger Pigeon had 
become " of late years rather scarce in New England." ^ 

In 1876 Minot wrote that in many places the Pigeons were 
then comparatively rare. He stated also that in a low pine 
wood within the present limits of Boston, flocks of several 
hundred have roosted every year.^ 

During the decade from 1880 to 1890 the Pigeon seems to 
have disappeared from Massachusetts. A good many birds 

1 Brewster, William: Birds of the Cambridge Region, 1906, p. 177. 

2 Leonard, H. C: Pigeon Cove, Mass., 1873, p. 165. 

3 Morris, Robert O.: Birds of Springfield and Vicinity, 1901, p. 17. 

* Maynard, C. J.: List of the Birds of Massachusetts, Naturalist's Guide, 1870, Part 2, p. 137. 
s Samuels, Edward A.: Birds of New England, 1870, p. 374. 

« Minot, Henry D.: The Land Birds and Game Birds of New England, 2d ed., ed. by William 
Brewster, 1895, p. 396. 


were seen and shot as late as the year 1878; after that they 
were scarce. The bird was seen by Mr. C. E. Ingalls at Win- 
chendon, Mass., in 1889; and several were reported by Mr. 
Ralph Holman at Worcester in August, September and 
October, He also reports one killed by a Mr. Newton, jani- 
tor of the Worcester high school, on September 23, 1889. 
The last published authentic record of a Passenger Pigeon 
taken in Massachusetts is given by Howe and Allen as 1889;^ 
but Mr. Neil Casey of Melrose has an adult female bird 
mounted, which he shot there on April 12, 1894; and he says 
that two days later a friend saw another, apparently its mate, 
in the same woods. ^ 

Many observers report that they have seen the Passenger 
Pigeon in Massachusetts since that time, but no later authentic 
record of a specimen actually taken here is available. My 
correspondence with many hundreds of people throughout the 
State has resulted in no evidence of the occurrence of the 
species here, that would be accepted by ornithologists, since 
the beginning of the present century. 

Unfortunately, there is no detailed published account of 
the migrations or the nesting of the Passenger Pigeon in Mas- 
sachusetts or New England in the times when they were 
numerous; and to get any adequate idea of their numbers, 
their habits and the causes of their disappearance, we must 
turn to the writings of Wilson, Audubon and others, who 
observed the bird in the south and west. 

Kalm (1759) says that on the 11th, 12th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 
18th and 22d of March, 1740, such a multitude of these birds 
came to Pennsylvania that a flock alighting to roost in the 
woods filled both great and little trees for seven miles, and 
hardly a twig or branch could be seen which they did not 
cover. On the larger limbs they piled up in heaps. Limbs 
the size of a man's thigh were broken off by their weight, and 
the less firmly rooted trees broke down completely under their 

1 See also Thayer, H. J.: Forest and Stream, Vol. XXXIII, Oct. 31, 1889, p. 288. 

2 According to Perkins and Howe a few were to be seen near Essex Junction, Vt., and about Fort 
Ethan Allen each season up to the date of their publication (1901), and Dr. Perkins wrote me in 
1910 that he believed that there were a few still about Stratton Mountain in that State where for- 
merly they nested in great numbers, but no one has been able to obtain a specimen. See Perkins, 
Geo. H.,and Howe, CD.: A Preliminary List of the Birds found in Vermont, 1901, p. 17. 


load.^ This reads like the tale of a romancer; but similar 
occurrences all over the land are recorded by many credible 

Alexander Wilson, the father of American ornithology, tells 
of a breeding place of the Wild Pigeons in Shelbyville, Ky. 
(probably about 1806), which was several miles in breadth, 
and was said to be more than forty miles in extent. More 
than one hundred nests were found on a tree. The ground 
was strewn with broken limbs of trees; also eggs and dead 
squabs which had been precipitated from above, on which 
herds of hogs were fattening. He speaks of a flight of these 
birds from another nesting place some sixty miles away from 
the first, toward Green River, where they were said to be 
equally numerous. They were travelling with great steadi- 
ness and rapidity, at a height beyond gunshot, several strata 
deep, very close together, and " from right to left as far as 
the eye could reach, the breadth of this vast procession 
extended; seeming everywhere equally crowded." From half- 
past 1 to 4 o'clock in the afternoon, while he was travelling to 
Frankfort, the same living torrent rolled overhead, seemingly 
as extensive as ever. He estimated the flock that passed him 
to be two hundred and forty miles long and a mile wide, — 
probably much wider, — and to contain two billion, two hun- 
dred and thirty million, two hundred and seventy-two thou- 
sand pigeons. On the supposition that each bird consumed 
only half a pint of nuts and acorns daily, he reckoned that this 
column of birds would eat seventeen million, four hundred and 
twenty-four thousand bushels each day. 

Audubon states that in the autumn of 1813 he left his 
house at Henderson, on the banks of the Ohio, a few miles 
from Hardensburgh, to go to Louisville, Ky. He saw that 
day what he thought to be the largest flight of Wild Pigeons 
he had ever seen. The air was literally filled with them ; and 
"the light of noonday was obscured as by an eclipse." 
Before sunset he reached Louisville, fifty-five miles from 
Hardensburgh, and during all that time Pigeons were passing 
in undiminished numbers. This continued for three days in 

1 Auk, 1911, pp. 5Q,57. 


succession. The people were all armed, and the banks of the 
river were crowded with men and boys, incessantly shooting 
at the Pigeons, which flew lower as they passed the river. 
For a week or more the people fed on no other flesh than 
Pigeons. The atmosphere during that time was strongly 
impregnated with the odor of the birds. Audubon estimated 
the number of Pigeons passing overhead (in a flock one mile 
wide) for three hours, travelling at the rate of a mile a minute, 
allowing two Pigeons to the square yard, as one billion, one 
hundred and fifteen million, one hundred and thirty-six thou- 
sand. He estimated, also, that a flock of this size would re- 
quire eight million, seven hundred and twelve thousand bushels 
of food a day, and this was only a small part of the three 
days' flight. 

Great flights of Pigeons ranged from the Alleghenies to 
the Mississippi and from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, 
until after the middle of the nineteenth century. Even two 
decades later, enormous numbers of Pigeons nested in several 

Their winter roosting places almost defy description. 
Audubon rode through one on the banks of the Green River 
in Kentucky for more than forty miles, crossing it in different 
directions, and found its average width to be rather more than 
three miles. He observed that the ejecta covered the whole 
extent of the roosting place, like snow; that many trees two 
feet in diameter were broken off not far from the ground, and 
that the branches of many of the largest and tallest had given 

The birds came in soon after sundown with a noise that 
sounded " like a gale passing through the rigging of a close- 
reefed vessel," causing a great current of air as they passed; 
and here and there, as the flocks alighted, the limbs gave way 
with a crash, destroying hundreds of the birds beneath. It 
was a scene of uproar and confusion. No one dared venture 

1 Audubon's statement that trees were broken off by the birds has been questioned, but it is 
corroborated by others. James Mease (1807) quotes a Rev. llr. Hall who saw a hickory tree more 
than a foot in diameter bent over by the birds until its top touched the ground and its roots were 
started, and he states that brittle trees often were broken off by them. (Mease, James: A Geological 
Account of the United States, 1807, pp. 348, 349. Kalm and Lawson also observed this long 
before the time of Audubon.) 


into the woods during the night, because of the falling 

The nesting places sometimes were equal in size to the 
roosting places, for the Pigeons congregated in enormous num- 
bers, to breed in the northern and eastern States. When food 
was plentiful in the forests, the birds concentrated in large 
numbers; when it was not, they scattered in smaller groups. 
Mr. Henry T. Phillips, a game dealer of Detroit, who bought 
and sold Pigeons for many years, states that one season in 
Wisconsin he saw a nesting place that extended through the 
woods for a hundred miles. ^ 

The last great nesting place of which we have adequate 
records was in Michigan, in 1878. Prof. H. B. Roney states, 
in the American Field (Vol. 10, 1879, pp. 345-347), that the 
nesting near Petoskey, that year, covered something like one 
hundred thousand acres, and included not less than one hun- 
dred and fifty thousand acres within its limits. It was esti- 
mated to be about forty miles in length and from three to ten 
miles in width. It is difficult to approximate the number of 
millions of Pigeons that occupied that great nesting place. 

Audubon, who described the dreadful havoc made among 
these birds on their roosting grounds by man, says that people 
unacquainted with them might naturally conclude that such 
destruction would soon put an end to the species; but he 
had satisfied himself, by long observation, that nothing but 
the gradual diminution of the forests could accomplish the 
decrease of the birds, for he believed that they not infre- 
quently quadrupled their numbers during the year, and always 
doubled them. The enormous multitudes of the Pigeons made 
such an impression upon the mind that the extinction of the 
species at that time, and for many years afterwards, seemed 
an absolute impossibility. Nevertheless, it has occurred. 

How can this apparent impossibility be explained.^* It 
cannot be accounted for by the destructiveness of their 
natural enemies, for during the years when the Pigeons were 
the most abundant their natural enemies were most numerous. 
The extinction of the Pigeons has been coincident with the 

' Merahon, W. B.: The Passenger Pigeon, 1907, p. 107. 


disappearance of bears, panthers, wolves, lynxes and some of 
the larger birds of prey from a large portion of their range. 

The aborigines never could have reduced appreciably the 
numbers of the species. Wherever the great roosts were estab- 
lished, Indians always gathered in large numbers. This, 
according to their traditions, had been the custom among 
them from time immemorial. They always had slaughtered 
these birds, young and old, in great quantities; but there was 
no market among the Indians, and the only way in which 
they could preserve the meat for future use was by drying or 
smoking the breasts. They cured large numbers in this way. 
Also, they were accustomed to kill great quantities of the 
squabs in order to try out the fat, which was used as butter is 
used by the whites. Lawson writes (1709) : " You may find 
several Indian towns of not above seventeen houses that have 
more than one hundred gallons of pigeon's oil or fat." ^ 

But it was not until a market demand for the birds was 
created by the whites that the Indians ever seriously affected 
the increase of the Pigeons. Kalm states, in his monograph 
of the Pigeon, that the Indians of Canada would not molest 
the Pigeons in their breeding places until the young were able 
to fly. They did everything in their power to prevent the 
whites from disturbing them, even using threats, where plead- 
ing did not avail. 

When the white man appeared on this continent, condi- 
tions rapidly changed. Practically all the early settlers were 
accustomed to the use of firearms; and wherever Pigeons 
appeared in great numbers, the inhabitants armed themselves 
with guns, clubs, stones, poles and whatever could be used to 
destroy the birds. The most destructive implement was the 
net, to which the birds were attracted by bait, and under 
which vast numbers of them were trapped. Gunners baited 
the birds with grain. Dozens of birds sometimes were killed 
thus at a single shot. In one case seventy-one birds were 
killed by two shots.^ A single shot from the old flint-lock 
single-barreled gun, fired into a tree, sometimes would procure 

1 Lawson, John: History of Carolina, 1860, p. 78. 

2 Leffingwell, W. B.: Shooting on Upland, Marsh and Stream, 1890, p. 228. 


a backload of Pigeons. The Jesuit Relations of 1662-64 tell 
of a man who killed one hundred and thirty-two birds at a 
shot.^ Kalm states that frequently as many as one hundred 
and thirty were killed at one shot. Shooting in the large 
roosts was very destructive. Osborn records a kill of one 
hundred and forty-four birds with two barrels. An engine of 
destruction often used in earlv times was an immense swivel 
gun, loaded with " handfuls of bird shot." Such guns were 
taken to the roosts and fired into the thickest masses of 
Pigeons, killing at one discharge "enough to feed a whole 

As cities were established in the east, the Indians, now 
armed with guns and finding a market for their birds, became 
doubly destructive; but as the white man moved toward the 
west he destroyed the Indian as well as the game, until few 
Indians were left in most of the country occupied by the 

The Pigeons were reduced greatly in numbers on the whole 
Atlantic seaboard during the first two centuries after the 
settlement of the country, but in the west their numbers 
remained apparently the same until the nineteenth century. 
There was no appreciable decrease there during the first half 
of that century; but during the latter half, railroads were 
pushed across the plains to the Pacific, settlers increased 
rapidly to the Mississippi and beyond, and the diminution of 
the Pigeons in the west began. Already it had become notice- 
able in western Pennsylvania, western New York, along the 
Appalachian Mountain chain and in Ohio. This was due in 
part to the destruction of the forests, particularly the beech 
woods, which once covered vast tracts, and which furnished 
the birds with a chief supply of food. Later, the primeval 
pine and hemlock forests of the northern States largely were 
cut away. This deprived the birds of another source of 
food, — the seed of these trees. The destruction of the forests, 
however, was not complete; for, although great tracts of land 
were cleared, there remained and still remain vast regions 
more or less covered by coppice growth suflScient to furnish 

1 Thwaites, R. G., and others: Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 1896, Vol. 48, p. 177. 


great armies of Pigeons with food, and the cultivation of the 
land and the raising of grain provided new sources of food 
supply. Therefore, while the reduction of the forest area in 
the east was a large factor in the diminution of the Pigeons, 
we cannot attribute their extermination to the destruction of 
the forest. Forest fires undoubtedly had something to do 
with reducing the numbers of these birds, for many were 
destroyed by these fires, and in some cases large areas of forest 
were ruined absolutely by fire, thus for many years depriving 
the birds of a portion of their food supply. Nevertheless, the 
fires were local and restricted, and had comparatively little 
effect on the vast numbers of the species. 

The main factors in the extermination of the Pigeons are 
set forth in a work entitled The Passenger Pigeon, by W. B. 
Mershon (1907), which will well repay perusal, and in which 
a compilation is made of many of the original accounts of the 
destruction of the Pigeon during the nineteenth century. 
From this volume many of the following facts are taken. 

In early days the Allegheny Mountains and the vast region 
lying between them and the Mississippi River were covered 
largely by unbroken forest, as was also much of the country 
from the Maritime Provinces of Canada to Lake Winnipeg. 
The only inhabitants were scattered bands of Indians. The 
Pigeons found a food supply through all this vast region, and 
also nesting places which were comparatively unmolested by 
man; but as settlement advanced, as railroads were built, 
spanning the continent, as telegraph lines followed them, as 
markets developed for the birds, an army of people, hunters, 
settlers, netters and Indians found in the Pigeons a con- 
siderable part of their means of subsistence, and the birds 
were constantly pursued, wherever they appeared, at all 
seasons of the year. They wandered through this vast region, 
resorting to well-known roosting places and nesting places, 
containing from a million or two of birds to a billion or more; 
and there were many smaller colonies. Wherever they 
appeared, they were attacked immediately by practically all 
the people in that region. At night their roosts were visited 
by men who brought pots of burning sulphur, to suffocate the 


birds and bring them to the ground. An assortment of 
weapons was brought into service. When the birds nested in 
the primeval birch woods of the north, the people set fire to 
the loose hanging bark, which flamed up like a great torch, 
until the whole tree was ablaze, scorching the young birds, 
and causing them to leap from their nests to the ground in 
their dying agonies. 

At the great nesting places both Indians and white men 
felled the trees in such a way that the larger trees, in falling, 
broke down the smaller ones and threw the helpless squabs to 
the ground. The squabs were gathered, their heads pulled 
off, their bodies thrown into sacks, and large droves of hogs 
were turned in, to fatten on those which could not be used. 

Sometimes, when the Pigeons flew low, they easily were 
knocked down with poles and oars swung in the direction of 
their flight or across it, and in early days thousands were killed 
with poles at the roosts. Pike, on a trip from Leech River to 
St. Louis, on April 28, 1806, stopped at a Pigeon roost, and in 
about fifteen minutes his men knocked on the head and brought 
aboard two hundred and ninety-eight Pigeons.^ 

As soon as it was learned in a town that the Pigeons were 
roosting or nesting in the neighborhood, great nets were set in 
the fields, baited with grain or something attractive to the 
birds. Decoy birds were used, and enormous numbers of 
Pigeons were taken by springing the nets over them; while 
practically every able-bodied citizen, men, women, children 
and servants, turned out to " lend a hand " either in killing 
the Pigeons or in hauling away the loads of dead birds. 

Wherever the Pigeons nested near the settlements, they 
were pursued throughout the summer by hunters and boys. 
Kalm, in his account of the species (1759), states that several 
extremely aged men told him that during their childhood there 
were many more Pigeons in New Sweden during sunmier than 
there were when he was there. He believed that the Pigeons 
had been " either killed off or scared away." In either case 
their decrease was evident at that early date. 

» Pike, Zebulon Montgomery: The Expeditions of, during the years 1805-07, by Elliott Coues, 1895, 
Vol. I, p. 212. 


Photograph by Prof. C. 0. Whitman. This illustration was first 
published in W. B. Mershon's work, The Passenger Pigeon. 


The net, though used by fowlers almost everywhere in the 
east, from the earliest settlement of the country, was not a 
great factor in the extermination of the Pigeons in the Mis- 
sissippi valley States until the latter half of the nineteenth 
century. With the extension of railroads and telegraph lines 
through the States, the occupation of the netter became more 
stable than before, for he could follow the birds wherever they 
went. The number of men who made netting an occupation 
after the year 1860 is variously estimated at from four hun- 
dred to one thousand. Whenever a flight of Pigeons left one 
nesting place and made toward another, the netters learned 
their whereabouts by telegraph, packed up their belongings 
and moved to the new location, sometimes following the birds 
a thousand miles at one move. Some of them not only made 
a living, but earned a competency, by netting Pigeons during 
part of the year and shooting wild-fowl and game birds during 
the remainder of the season. In addition to these there were 
the local netters, who plied the trade only when the Pigeons 
came their way. 

From the time of Audubon and Wilson, even before the 
railroads had penetrated to the west, there was an enormous 
destruction of Pigeons for the markets. Wagonloads were 
sent to market, where the birds were sold at from twelve cents 
to fifty cents per dozen, according to the exigencies of supply 
and demand. Audubon tells of seeing schooners loaded in bulk 
with Pigeons in 1805 that were killed up the Hudson River 
and taken to the New York market. He says that from ten 
to thirty dozen were caught at one sweep of the net. In the 
early days the farmers destroyed large quantities of Pigeons 
for salting, and people were employed about the roosts pluck- 
ing the birds for their feathers (which were used for beds), 
and salting down the heaps of bodies which were piled on the 
ground. Birds and beasts of prey got their share. Audubon 
in describing a great roost in Kentucky, says that the birds 
took flight before sunrise, after which foxes, lynxes, cougars, 
bears, opossums and polecats were seen sneaking off, and the 
bowlings of wolves were heard; while Eagles, Hawks and Vul- 
tures came in numbers to feast on the dead or disabled 


Pigeons which had been slaughtered during the night. He 
states that in March, 1830, the Pigeons were so abundant in 
New York City that piles of them could be seen on every 

Great nesting places of Pigeons occasionally were estab- 
lished in the eastern States after the middle of the nineteenth 
century, when vast numbers were killed for market. In 1848 
eighty tons of these birds were shipped from Cattaraugus 
County, New York. 

Mr. E. H. Eaton, in his Birds of New York (Vol. I, p. 382), 
says that the last great nesting in New York was in Allegany 
County, in 1868, extending about fourteen miles, and crossing 
the Pennsylvania line. He states also that there was an 
immense roost in Steuben County in 1875. 

Possibly the last great slaughter of Pigeons in New York, 
of which we have record, was some time in the 70's. A flock 
had nested in Missouri in April, where most of the squabs 
were killed by the pigeoners. This flock then went to Michi- 
gan, where they were followed by the same pigeoners, who 
again destroyed the squabs. The Pigeons then flew to New 
York State, and nested near the upper Beaverkill in the Cats- 
kills, in the lower part of Ulster County. It is said that tons 
of the birds were sent to the New York market from this 
nesting place, and that not less than fifteen tons of ice were 
used in packing the squabs.^ 

The wholesale slaughter in the west continued to increase 
until 1878. There were very large nestings in Michigan in 
1868, 1870, 1872, 1874, 1876 and 1878. In 1876 there were at 
least three of these great breeding places in the State, one 
each in Newaygo, Oceana and Grand Traverse counties.- The 
great killing of 1878 in Michigan is said to have yielded no 
less than three hundred tons of birds to the market. Various 
figures are given regarding the number of birds killed in a few 
weeks at this great nesting place near Petoskey, Mich. Pro- 
fessor Roney estimates that a billion birds were destroyed 
there. This is evidently a very excessive approximation. 

1 Van Cleef, J. S.: Forest and Stream, 1899, Vol. 52, p. 385. 

2 Mershon, W. B.: The Passenger Pigeon, 1907, p. 77. 


Mr, E. T. Martin, one of the netters, gives what he calls the 
" official figures " of the number marketed as one million, one 
hundred and seven thousand, eight hundred and sixty-six. 
His " figures " are largely estimates, but he states that one 
and a half millions would cover all the birds killed at the 
Petoskey nesting that year. This is apparently a very low 
estimate. Mr. W. B. Mershon shows that some of Mr. 
Martin's figures are very far below the actual shipments. 

Professor Roney watched one netter at the Petoskey nest- 
ing place, who killed eighty-two dozen Pigeons in one day; 
and who stated that he had killed as many as eighty-seven 
dozen, or ten hundred and forty-four birds, in a day. The 
law regarding shooting and netting the birds at their nesting 
places was ignored. Professor Roney states that the sheriff 
drove out four hundred Indians from the Petoskey nesting in 
one day, and turned back five hundred incoming Indians the 
next; and that people estimated that there were from two 
thousand to twenty-five hundred people at this nesting place, 
engaged in the business of trapping, killing and shipping 
Pigeons. Mr. H. T. Phillips, a grocer and provision dealer at 
Cheboygan, Mich., says that from 1864 until "the Pigeons 
left the country " he handled live Pigeons in numbers up to 
one hundred and seventy-five thousand a year. He asserts 
that In 1874 there was a nesting at Shelby, Mich., from which 
one hundred barrels of birds were shipped daily for thirty 
days. At forty dozen birds to the barrel, this would total 
one million, four hundred and forty thousand birds. 

During the 70's most of the Pigeons concentrated in the 
west. They often passed the winter in Texas, Arkansas, 
Missouri, the Indian Territory and contiguous regions, and 
the summer in Michigan and adjacent States and in the 
Canadian northwest. At this time some very large nets were 
used, grain beds were made, and the birds were allowed to 
come and feed there until from two hundred to two hundred 
and fifty dozen were taken sometimes at one haul. Mr. 
Mershon gives many records of large catches, and the largest 
number caught at one spring of the net (thirty-five hundred 
birds) is attributed to E. Osborn; but Mr. Osborn himself 


says that it was two hundred and fifty dozen, or three thou- 
sand birds. It was made by fastening three large nets 
together, and springing all of them at once; sometimes one 
hundred dozen were taken in a single net. Mr. Osborn states 
that his firm alone shipped in 1861, from a roost in the 
Hocking Hills, Ohio, two hundred and twenty-five barrels of 
birds. Sullivan Cook asserts, in Forest and Stream (March 14, 
1903), that in 1869 for about forty days there were shipped 
from Hartford, Mich., and vicinity, three carloads a day, each 
car containing one hundred and fifty barrels, with thirty-five 
dozen in a barrel, making the daily shipment twenty-four 
thousand, seven hundred and fifty dozen. Evidently there is 
a typographical error here, as it would require fifty-five dozen 
in a barrel to make the daily shipment twenty-four thousand, 
seven hundred and fifty dozen, or eleven million, eight hundred 
and eighty thousand birds for the season. Thirty-five dozen 
domestic Pigeons would fill an ordinary sugar barrel; and 
possibly it required fifty-five dozen Passenger Pigeons to fill a 
sugar barrel, as they were not as large as the domestic 
Pigeons. Mr. Cook's figures seem to be based on fifty-five 
dozen to a barrel. In three years' time, he says (which may 
mean three years later), there were shipped nine hundred and 
ninety thousand dozen. In the two succeeding years it is 
estimated that one-third more than this number, or fifteen 
million, eight hundred and forty thousand birds, were shipped 
from Shelby, Mich. These estimates were made by men who 
killed and marketed the Pigeons. The figures may be exces- 
sive, but, if reduced one-half, they still would be enormous. 

It is claimed by Mr. C. H. Engle, a resident of Petoskey, 
Mich., that "two years later" there were shipped from that 
point five carloads a day for thirty days, with an average of 
eight thousand, two hundred and fifty dozen to the carload, or 
fourteen million, eight hundred and fifty thousand birds. Mr. 
S. S. Stevens told Mr. William Brewster that at least five hun- 
dred men were netting Pigeons at Petoskey in 1881, and 
thought they might have taken twenty thousand birds each, or 
ten million Pigeons. Still, people read of the " mysterious " 
disappearance of the Passenger Pigeon, wonder what caused 


it, and say that it never has been satisfactorily explained. 
The New York market alone would take one hundred barrels 
a day for weeks, without a break in price. Chicago, St. 
Louis, Boston and all the great and little cities of the north 
and east joined in the demand. Need we wonder why the 
Pigeons have vanished.'^ 

Most of the above calculations are founded on statements 
derived from Mr. Mershon's work. A little volume entitled 
Etna and Kirkersville, by Gen. Morris Schaff, gives some of 
the history of the destruction of the Pigeons in Ohio; and 
there are many short articles on this subject in the sports- 
man's papers, particularly in Forest and Stream and the 
American Field. The birds that survived the slaughter at 
Petoskey in 1878 finally left the nesting place in large bodies 
and disappeared to the north, and from that time onward the 
diminution of the Pigeons was continuous. Some of the net- 
ters asserted that this great flight was swallowed up in Lake 
Michigan, and that the Pigeons then became practically 
extinct. This statement had no foundation in fact, as will 
presently appear. It is probable that when they left Petoskey 
in 1878 they retired into inaccessible regions of Canada, 
bevond reach of the rail and telegraph, to breed again. In 
April, 1880, they again passed through Michigan. Prof. 
Walter B. Barrows quotes John Sims, county game warden, 
to the effect that on that date " millions " of Pigeons passed 
over Iosco, going westward, but were never seen there after- 

It has been stated that the Wild Pigeon " went off like 
dynamite." Even the naturalists failed to secure sufficient 
specimens and notes, as no one had an idea that extinction 
was imminent. Practically the same thing has been said 
about the extermination of the Labrador Duck, the Great 
Auk and the Eskimo Curlew, which, if not extinct, is now 
apparently on the verge of extinction. 

People never realize the danger of extirpating a species 
until it is too late; but the apparent sudden diminution and 
extermination of the Passenger Pigeon was, like that of the 
other species, more seeming than real. Prof. Walter B. Bar- 


rows of the Michigan Agricultural College, who has collected 
many data regarding this bird, says that it was abundant in 
Michigan until 1880, fairly common from 1880 to 1890, but 
steadily decreasing in numbers, and was by no means rare in 
1891, 1892 and 1893. Then it rapidly became scarce, and 
disappeared. There were many smaller nestings for years 
after the Petoskey nesting of 1878, but the records are 
meager, for apparently no naturalist visited them. The 
Petoskey nesting of 1878 was unusually large for that time, 
for the reason that the birds at three large breeding places in 
other States or regions were driven out by persecution, and 
joined the Petoskey group. After this the birds exhibited a 
tendency to scatter to regions where they were least molested. 
There seem to have been two great nestings in Michigan in 
1881. Brewster quotes Mr. S. S. Stevens of Cadillac, Mich., 
as saying that the last nesting of any importance in Michigan 
was in 1881, a few miles west of Grand Traverse. It was 
perhaps eight miles long. Pigeons were common in Iowa in 
1884 (Anderson: Birds of Iowa). Mr. A. S. Eldredge writes 
that he saw a flight of Pigeons near Lampasas, Tex., in the 
winter of 1882-83, that was three and one-half hours in pass- 
ing; and that he saw a roost among the post oaks where 
every tree was loaded with the birds. 

Our Canadian records of the species at this time are 
meager. Mr. Ernest Thompson Seton says that it bred in 
Manitoba in considerable numbers as late as 1887; but he 
also says (Auk, 1908, p. 452) that the last year in which the 
Pigeons came to Manitoba "in force" was in 1878; next 
year they were comparatively scarce, and each year since 
they have become more so. In 1881 McCoun saw large 
flocks there, and shot large numbers for food; and the eggs of 
this species were taken by Miles Spence at James Bay as late 
as 1888. The species was recorded in Montreal and other 
localities in east Canada in 1883, 1885, 1886, 1888 and 1891.^ 

In 1882 Widmann saw several large flocks, February 5 and 
6, going northward at St. Louis. (Birds of Missouri, p. 84.) 

Up to 1886 live Pigeons came into the Chicago market in 

» McCoun, John: Catalogue of Canadian Birds, 1900, Part 1, pp. 215,216. 


large numbers, and were shipped all over the country for 
Pigeon "shoots." In 1881 twenty thousand live Passenger 
Pigeons were killed at one trap-shooting tournament on 
Coney Island, held under the auspices of the New York 
Association for the Protection of Fish and Game. Many of 
these birds were too young or too exhausted to fly. Thus, 
sportsmen who could not participate in the slaughter of the 
birds on their nesting grounds had them brought alive to the 
doors of their club houses, and unwittingly shared in extermi- 
nating the species. Mr. Ben O. Bush of Kalamazoo, Mich., 
states that the last Pigeons which he saw used for this purpose 
were obtained by John Watson of Chicago. They came from 
the Indian Territory in 1886; but this did not end the traffic. 
It seems probable that a good many birds still gathered in 
inaccessible regions of that territory during the winter. 

In the spring of 1888, Messrs. William Brewster and 
Jonathan D wight, Jr., visited Michigan in search of the 
Passenger Pigeon, and found that large flocks had passed 
through Cadillac late in April, and that similar flocks had 
been observed in nearly all the southern counties. This flight 
was so large that some of the netters expressed the belief that 
the Pigeons were as numerous as ever; and Brewster himself 
expressed the opinion that the extermination of the species 
was not then imminent, and that it might be saved, but con- 
sidered it unlikely that effectual laws could be passed before 
its extinction. The birds moved somewhere to the north to 
breed, and were not seen nesting in any numbers in Michigan. 
One of the netters brought intelligence of a flock at least 
" eight acres " in extent, and many other smaller flocks were 
reported. Many birds were found scattered about in the 
woods, but no large nesting place was seen anywhere. After 
that date comparatively few birds are recorded at any one 


Many birds were sent to the eastern markets from the 
southwest during the decade from 1878 to 1888, and even 
later. Prof. George H. Beyer writes me that he saw several 
large flocks of Passenger Pigeons at Rayne Station, La., in 
1888, from which he killed three birds. 


Mr. H. T. Phillips of Detroit states that he used to see 
and kill Pigeons every spring, "up to ten years ago," from the 
middle of March to the middle of April, on the Mississippi 
bayous. This must have been in the latter years of the nine- 
teenth century, at the time when the Pigeons were on the 
verge of extinction. 

A flock was seen in Illinois in 1895, from which two speci- 
mens were taken. At that time the netting of the birds had 
been practically given up, and most of the dealers had seen no 
Pigeons for two seasons. It finally ceased, on account of the 
virtual extinction of the birds. How many barrels of Pigeons 
were shipped to the markets during these final years .'^ At 
least one shipment of several barrels was condemned in New 
York City as late as November, 1892 (J. H. Fleming: Ottawa 
Naturalist, 1907, Vol. XX, p. 236), and several hundred dozens 
came into the Boston market in December, 1892, and in 
January, 1893. I saw some Pigeons in barrels there in 1892 
or 1893, which probably were some of the lot recorded by 
Brewster and noted by Fleming, who records the New York 
shipment. All of these were from the Indian Territory. 

Messrs. W. W. Judy & Co., marketmen of St. Louis, wrote 
Mr. Ruthven Deane, in 1895, that the last Pigeons which 
they received came from Siloam Springs, Ark., in 1893; they 
had lost all track of the Pigeons since that time, and their 
netters were lying idle. 

The above paragraph epitomizes the history of Pigeon 
destruction. Judy & Co. were perhaps the largest dealers in 
Pigeons in the United States. The story of where their net- 
ters worked after 1878, how many birds they took and what 
markets they supplied, would explain only too well the so- 
called " mystery " of the disappearance of the Passenger 
Pigeon. It is evident from the foregoing that, although the 
business of Pigeon netting was reduced much after 1878, 
there were still some who followed it for at least fifteen years 
thereafter. They pursued the birds as long as they could 
find a flock so large that they could make a " killing." 

I have tried to get some information regarding the netting 
of Pigeons by Judy & Co. Mr. Otto Widmann of St. Louis, 


who kindly undertook to learn what he could about the 
Pigeon shipments, sends an interesting letter, from which the 
following extracts are taken: "In reply to your letter of 
September 9, I am sorry I could not get what you wanted. 
The firm was W. W. Judy & Co. Judy died twenty-five years 
ago, and the firm was dissolved. One of the partners, Mr. 
Farrell, died eight years afterwards, and there is at present 
only one of the partners living, Mr. Dave Unger. The only 
information that could be gotten from him was the interesting 
statement that the Wild Pigeons have flown to Australia. 
While trying to get the desired information, a game dealer, 
F. H. Miller, stated that eight years ago [1902] he received 
twelve dozen Wild Pigeons from Rogers, Ark., for which he 
paid two and one-half dollars a dozen, and sold all to an 
eastern firm for five dollars a dozen. His last Wild Pigeon, a 
single individual, among some Ducks, was received four years 
ago [1906], from Black River, Mo. As he is an old game 
dealer, who has handled many Pigeons, there is no doubt 
about the species; but exact dates were not obtainable." 
This closes the history of the Passenger Pigeon in our markets. 
For the rest we must look to the millions of shotguns in the 
United States, the natural enemies of the Pigeons, and the 
accidents of migration. For every Pigeon that was shot and 
recorded during the last part of the nineteenth century, 
probably a hundred (perhaps a thousand) were shot and 
eaten. Who was there to record them.^* Ornithologists may 
be rather numerous in some of our cities, but they are very 
rare in our western forests. We read in the press that only 
a few years ago the mountaineers of the south killed hundreds 
of Pigeons, and made pot pies of them. This may or may 
not be true; but for all practical purposes the close of the 
nineteenth century saw the end of the Passenger Pigeon. We 
are now trying to save it, and rewards aggregating thousands 
of dollars are offered for the undisturbed nest and eggs; but 
without result. They come twenty years too late. 

A campaign of publicity has been conducted for two years, 
under the energetic management of Prof. C. F. Hodge of 
Clark University at Worcester, Mass.; the large rewards 


offered have been published widely in the press of the United 
States and Canada, and a great public interest in the search 
has been aroused. Passenger Pigeons have been reported in 
numbers from many parts of North America, but investiga- 
tion of these communications has not resulted in producing 
so much as a feather of the bird. This merely shows the unre- 
liability of such statements, and how easily people may be 
mistaken. There are three reports in 1911 that seem prom- 
ising. In each case a single bird was seen and watched for 
some time at very close range; but all assertions regarding 
large flocks at this late date probably are based on observations 
of Mourning Doves or Band-tailed Pigeons. The only Pas- 
senger Pigeon now (1911) known to exist is the lone captive 
whose likeness faces page 433. 

A large correspondence and a careful search through some 
of the literature of the latter part of the century leads to the 
belief that the Pigeons were common and in some cases abun- 
dant in portions of the west from 1880 to 1890, though 
gradually decreasing. After 1893 the reports became more 
vague and less trustworthy, except in a few cases. Small 
flocks were seen and specimens taken in the last decade of the 
nineteenth century in Canada, and in Wisconsin, Nebraska, 
Illinois, Indiana and other western States, and even in some 
of the eastern States. Chief Pokagon reported a nesting of 
Pigeons near the headwaters of the Au Sable River in Michigan 
in 1896. In 1898 a flock of about two hundred birds was said 
to have been seen in Michigan; one was taken; and in 1900 
about fifty birds were reported. 

While the big nestings of 1878 and 1881 in Michigan were 
the last immense breeding places of Passenger Pigeons on 
record, the species did not become extinct in a day or a year; 
they were not wiped from the face of the earth by any great 
catastrophe; they gradually became fewer and fewer for 
twenty to twenty-five years after the date set by the pigeoners 
as that of the last great migration. 

Such records as I find of the last specimens actually taken 
(not merely seen) in the States to which they refer indicate 
how the species finally dropped out of sight: — 


Upper figure, egg of Passenger Pigeon. Lower figure, eggs of 
Mourning Dove, commonly mistaken for those of Passenger Pigeon. 
(Photograph by Prof. C. F. Hodge.) 


Mounted specimen of Band-tailed Pigeon, left; Passenger Pigeon, center; 
and Mourning Dove, right. (Photograph by Prof. C. F. Hodge.) 


1882-83. — Texas, a flight seen in winter of 1882-83 near Lampasas that 
was three and one-half hours in passing. Many killed. No recent 
record (A. S. Eldredge). 

1885. — New Hampshire, Concord (G. M. Allen, Birds of New Hampshire). 

1885. — South Carolina, immature female, November 21 (Arthur T. Wayne, 
Auk, 190G, p. 61). 

1886. — Rhode Island, specimen taken by Walter A. Angell in 1886 or 1887. 
T. M. Flanagan took about a dozen at Warwick in 1885 or 1886 (John 
H. Flanagan). 

1889. — District of Columbia, October 19 (W. W. Cooke, Proc, Biological 

Society of Washington, 1908, p. 116); specimens not taken. 
1889. — Connecticut, Portland, young male, October 1 (John H. Sage) ; 

specimen preserved. 
1889. — Province of Quebec, Tadousac, specimen taken July 20, 1889; now in 

collection of Dr. Jonathan Dwight, Jr., New York (J. H. Fleming, Ottawa 

Naturalist, Vol. XXII, 1907, p. 236). 
1893. — Indiana, pair and nest taken by C. B. Brown of Chicago in spring 

of 1893 at English Lake; nest and eggs preserved in his collection 

(Ruthven Deane, Auk, 1895, p. 299). 
1893. — Arkansas, Siloam Springs, last shipment live Pigeons to W. W. 

Judy & Co., St. Louis (Ruthven Deane, Auk, 1895, p. 298). 

1893. — Manitoba, Winnipeg, adult male taken; specimen mounted by Geo. 

E. Atkinson, Lake Winnepegosis, April li (J. H. Fleming, Auk, 1903, 
p. 66). 

1894. — North Carolina, Buncombe County, female taken by J. S. Cairns, 
October 20 (C. S. Brimley). 

1894.. — Massachusetts, an adult female killed by Neil Casey at Melrose, 
Mass., April 12, 1894; specimen preserved and mounted; now first recorded. 

1895. — Louisiana, Mandeville, near New Orleans, January 26, 1895, two 
taken out of a flock of five by Dr. J. H. Lamb; one an immature male 
(Prof. Geo. E. Beyer). 

1895. — Illinois, Lake Forest, August 7, young female in collection of John 

F. Ferry (Ruthven Deane, Auk, 1896, p. 81). 

1895. — Nebraska, Sarpy County, one killed out of fifteen or twenty, No- 
vember 9, by Hon. Edgar Howard of Papillon, five miles southeast of 
that place (Lawrence Bruner, Nebraska Birds, p. 84). 

1895. — Pennsylvania, Canadensis, Munroe County, specimen shot, Octo- 
ber 23, by Mr. Geo. Stewart of Philadelphia, and now in his possession 
(Witmer Stone). 

1896. — New Jersey, Englewood, June 23, immature female taken by 
C. Irving Wood and mounted by J. Ullrich (F. M. Chapman, Auk, 

1896, p. 341). 
1896. — Wisconsin, Delavan Lake, N. Hollister killed an immature male 
September 8, 1896 (Auk, 1896, p. 341); last Wisconsin record backed 
by a specimen. 


1896. — Missouri, Attic, pair killed from flock of fifty by Chas. H. Holden, 
Jr., December 17; in collection of Ruthven Deane (Auk, 1897, p. 

1897. — Iowa, Lee County, September 7, William G. Praeger shot a lone 
immature male (R. M. Anderson, Birds of Iowa, 1907, p. 239). 

1898. ^ Michigan, Chestnut Ridge, Wayne County, immature bird, mounted 
by C. Campion, Detroit, September 14 (J. H. Fleming, Auk, 1903, p. 
66). Probably the same reported by Mr. Ernest Thompson Seton as 
taken by J. G. Rosser, September 13 (Auk, 1908, p. 452). 

1898. — Kentucky, Owensboro, immature male, now in the Smithsonian 
Institution, July 27 (J. H. Fleming, Auk, 1908, p. 237). 

1900. ^ Ohio, Sargents, March 24 (Dawson and Jones, Birds of Ohio, Vol. 
II., p. 427); specimen shot by a boy and mounted by a Mrs. Barnes. 

1900. — Wisconsin, Babcock, September, specimen not preserved, killed by 
Neal Brown while hunting with Emerson Hough (W. B. Mershon, 
The Passenger Pigeon, p. 154). The accuracy of this record has been 

1902. — Arkansas, F. H. Miller of St. Louis received twelve dozen from 
Rogers, Ark. (Otto Widmann). 

1904. — Maine, one killed at Bar Harbor, mounted by J. Bert Baxter of 
Bangor (Harry Merrill). Recorded by Glover M. Allen in his List of 
the Aves, 1909, Fauna of N. E., II., Bost. Soc. Nat. Hist. 

1906. — Missouri, Black River, F. H. Miller of St. Louis received one bird 
at his market in St. Louis, shipped from Black River. (It will be noted 
that the last previous record for Missouri was in 1896.) 

1907. — Province of Quebec, one bird taken by Mr. Pacificque Couture of 
St. Vincent, P. Q., September 23, 1907. The bird was mounted by Mr. 
A. Learo, taxidermist of Montreal, and identified by him. (I have 
been unable to find Mr. Couture and get further particulars, as he is 
no longer at St. Vincent. This record may not be authentic.) 

The records from 1898 to 1907 appear to be authentic, but 
in the few cases where the specimens were preserved I have 
been unable to locate them. We have no record since 1898 
that can be substantiated by a specimen preserved in any 

It is only just to state that many Passenger Pigeons 
probably were seen at later dates than some of those given. 
Where flocks or single birds were watched by competent 
observers for hours through a glass, as they were in more than 
one instance, there can be no question of their identity; but 
the taking of the specimen is the only tangible proof that 
satisfies the ornithologist in such a case as this, and for that 


reason the above records are confined mainly to those cases 
where at least one bird was taken. I cannot leave this sub- 
ject without referring to various canards, some of which have 
been taken seriously by too many intelligent people. 

Efforts have been made to account for the supposed sudden 
disappearance of the Pigeons by tales of cyclonic sea disturb- 
ances or lake storms, which are supposed to have drowned 
practically all of them. Undoubtedly thousands of Pigeons 
were destroyed occasionally, during their flights, by storms or 
fogs at sea or on the Great Lakes. There are many rather 
unsatisfactory and hazy reports of such occurrences. The 
earliest of these is recorded by Kalm, who says, in his account 
of the Passenger Pigeon, referred to on page 435, that in 
March, 1740, about a week after the disappearance of a great 
multitude of Pigeons in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, a sea 
captain named Amies, who arrived at Philadelphia, stated 
that he had seen the sea covered with dead Pigeons, in some 
cases for three French miles. Other ship captains, arriving 
later, corroborated this tale. It was said that from that date 
no such great multitudes of Pigeons were seen in Pennsylvania. 
Kalm published this in 1759, but after that date the Pigeons 
again came to Pennsylvania in great numbers; which shows 
that the drowning of this multitude had no permanent effect 
on the numbers of the birds. This story in some form has 
cropped up at intervals ever since. 

Giraud, in his Birds of Long Island (1844), states that he 
has " heard " of great numbers of Pigeons floating on the water 
which were seen by shipmasters. The old legend regarding 
the dead Pigeons drifting ashore near Cape Ann, from which 
occurrence Pigeon Cove is supposed to have received its name, 
is possibly authentic; for the birds probably crossed Ipswich 
Bay in their flight to the coast of Maine, and may have been 
overtaken by a fog, become confused and fallen into the water, 
or they may have been blown to sea and drowned. Neverthe- 
less, this catastrophe did not wipe out the entire species, for it 
had too wide a range. Schoolcraft (1821), while walking along 
some parts of the shore of Lake Michigan, saw a great num- 
ber of the skeletons and half-consumed bodies of Pigeons, 


which he says are overtaken often by tempests in crossing the 
lake, and " drowned in entire flocks." Vast numbers of Eagles 
and Buzzards were seen feeding upon them.^ 

Brewster was informed by Mr. S. S. Stevens of Cadillac, 
Mich., that on one occasion an immense flock of Pigeons 
became bewildered in a fog while crossing Crooked Lake, and, 
descending, struck the water and perished by thousands. 
This might easily happen to young birds. They might 
become bewildered in a fog on a large body of water, and fly 
about until, weary and exhausted, they fell into the water; 
but Mr. Stevens says that the old, experienced birds rose 
above the fog, and not one was drowned. 

Mr. E. Osborn states that he has seen "big bodies of 
Pigeons " which were drowned off Sleeping Bear Point while 
trying to cross Lake Michigan. 

Capt. Alexander McDougall of Duluth writes, February 8, 
1905, that, while he was captain of the steamer "Japan" on 
Lake Superior, in 187'2, the exhausted Pigeons in foggy weather 
and at night used to alight on his boat in great numbers. He 
remembers having caught several by hand. 

Mr. Ben O. Bush states that at the last Petoskey nesting, 
in 1881, when the nests were built and the eggs were laid, a 
big wind storm with sleet came up just at dusk; the birds left, 
and he believes that they were swallowed up by a fog and 
storm on Lake Michigan. At any rate, they did not return. 
He says that he has " heard tell of the beach being strewn for 
miles with dead Pigeons." He supposes that the storm w^iped 
them out, and that the netters afterwards cleaned up what 
were left. 

Mr. C. H. Ames of Boston advances the theory that the 
Pigeons went south, and were overwhelmed by a storm on the 
Gulf of Mexico; and states that years ago he read an account, 
either in or quoted from a New Orleans newspaper, giving 
the story of several ship captains and sailors who had sailed 
over " leagues of water covered with dead Pigeons." 

The following story was very likely derived from the same 
source. Mr. G. C. Tremaine Ward says (1901) that Mr. S. D. 

1 Schoolcraft, Henry R. L.: Narrative Journal of Travels from Detroit Northwest, 1821, p. 381. 


Woodruff of St. Catherines, Ont., Can., asserts that several 
shipmasters say that immense numbers of Wild Pigeons 
perished in the Gulf of Mexico, " being exhausted by contrary 
winds and dense fogs." This gentleman also avers that Mr. 
Woodruff states that several shipmasters saw myriads of 
Pigeons alight on their vessels, and had to cast them off into 
the sea. (Auk, 1901, p. 192, — no names or dates given.) 
This is too indefinite to be of any value as evidence. Also, 
there is no authentic record that the Passenger Pigeon ever 
crossed the Gulf of Mexico. This species did not go so far 
south, and, although there is a single record of its occurrence 
in Cuba, it has not been seen in great numbers near the Gulf 
coast for forty years. The Pigeons which once commonly 
crossed these waters from Florida to Cuba in large numbers, 
belonged to another species, the White-crowned Pigeon 
(Columba leucocephala). Such tales about the drowning of 
birds in the Gulf of Mexico may have referred to some of the 
Plovers, or " Prairie Pigeons," as they were called in the west, 
which crossed the gulf annually in large numbers. 

The Passenger Pigeon was not exterminated, or nearly 
exterminated, by drowning, soon after the nesting at Petoskey 
in 1881; for, as hereinbefore stated, there was an immense 
flight in Texas the ensuing winter, a large flight crossed Michi- 
gan to the north in 1888, and they were seen and taken in 
numbers in many places in the United States and Canada for 
years subsequent to the date of the Petoskey nesting of 1881. 
The statement recently published in a magazine article, that 
the Pigeons have gone to South America, is absolutely without 
any foundation in fact. This bird is unknown on the South 
American continent. The statement that they have gone to 
Australia is hardly worth refuting. 

The stories of the wholesale destruction of the Pigeons by 
snowstorms in the north possibly have some foundation. 
Northward migrations of Pigeons often occurred very early in 
the year, and the first nesting of a season was sometimes com- 
pleted while snow still remained. On March 25, 1830, a flight 
of Pigeons was overtaken by a high wind and snowstorm near 
Albany, N. Y. Twenty-eight inches of snow fell, and the 


birds were overwhelmed, and taken " in great abundance " by 
the people.^ 

Some of the Pigeons may have been driven by persecution 
to the far north to breed, in the latter part of the nineteenth 
century, and they may have been destroyed by unseasonable 
storms, for many species are subject to periodical reduction by 
the elements; but the whole history of the last thirty years of 
the existence of the Passenger Pigeon goes to prove that the 
birds were so persistently molested that they finally lost their 
coherence, were scattered far and wide, and became extinct 
mainly through constant persecution by man. While they 
existed in large colonies, the orphaned young were taken care 
of by their neighbors. Mr. E. T. Martin, in a pamphlet 
entitled Among the Pigeons, which was published in full in the 
American Field, January 25, 1879, states that one of his men 
shot six female Pigeons that came to feed a single squab in 
one nest. (Comment on this shooting is unnecessary.) This 
communal habit of feeding preserved the species so long as the 
birds nested in large colonies; but when they became scattered 
the orphaned young starved when their parents were killed. 

The Passenger Pigeon was not a suspicious bird, as birds 
go; it was easily taken. It reproduced slowly, laid but few 
eggs, and when its innumerable multitudes were reduced and 
its flocks were dispersed, the end came rapidly. 

It often is asked how it was possible for man to kill them 
all. It was not possible, nor was it requisite that he should do 
so, in order to exterminate them. All that was required to 
bring about this result was to destroy a large part of the 
young birds hatched each year. Nature cut off the rest. She 
always eliminates a large share of the young of all creatures. 
The greater part of the Pigeons taken in summer and fall were 
young birds. The squabs were sought because they brought a 
high price in the market. The flock mentioned by Mr. Van 
Cleef (see page 452), which nested in Missouri, Michigan and 
New York the same year, was followed by the pigeoners, who 
destroyed about all the squabs at each nesting. The young 
when out of the nest were less experienced than the adults, 

1 Munsell, Joel: Annals of Albany, 1858, Vol. IX, p. 206. 


and therefore more easily taken. Sometimes the Pigeons were 
so harassed that all their nestings were broken up, and few 
young were raised that season; thus the natural increase was 
practically cut off, and constant diminution was assured. Ex- 
termination must have resulted under such conditions, even if 
no man ever killed an adult Passenger Pigeon. The Pigeons 
were not immortal. Even if undisturbed by man, they " gave 
up the ghost" in'a few years; but they were not undisturbed. 
No adequate attempt to protect them was made until they 
practically had disappeared. Whenever a law looking toward 
the conservation of these birds was proposed in any State, 
its opponents argued before the legislative committees that 
the Pigeons "needed no protection;" that their numbers 
were so vast, and that they ranged over such a great extent of 
country, that they were amply able to take care of them- 
selves. This argument defeated all measures that might have 
given adequate protection to this species, as it has since 
defeated proposed laws for the conservation of wild-fowl and 
other migratory birds. That is why extinction finally came 
quickly. We did our best to exterminate both old and young, 
and we succeeded. The explanation is so simple that all talk 
of " mystery " seems sadly out of place here. (Since the above 
history was written, Mr. Albert Hazen Wright has published 
a compilation of Passenger Pigeon notes from early writers, 
many of which are not included here.^) 

Ornithologists believe that the migrations of this Pigeon 
were made mainly in pursuit of food, and with little reference 
to the seasons of the year. Undoubtedly, however, the ten- 
dency was to migrate north in the spring and south in the fall, 
like other birds of passage. 

Some of the pigeoners say that the Pigeons nested in the 
southern States in winter; but of this there is no authentic 

Lawson (1709), in his History of Carolina, says that the 
Pigeons came in great numbers in the winter: and he was told 
by the Indians that they nested in the Allegheny Moun tains. ^ 

» Auk, 1910, pp. 428-443; 1911, pp. 346-366, 427-449. 
2 Lawson, John: History of Carolina, 1860, p. 231, 


They nested as far south at least as Pennsylvania, Tennessee 
and Kentucky, but usually most of them bred in the north. 

The accounts of the early settlers in Massachusetts show 
that there was a northward migration of Pigeons through New 
England in March, and they sometimes lingered about Hudson 
Bay until December, feeding on the berries of the juniper. 
The roosts of the Pigeons were so extensive and the birds fre- 
quenting them were so numerous that it was necessary for 
them to fly long distances daily in order to secure food enough 
for their wants. In migration their flight was very high and 
swift. Audubon estimates that they flew a mile a minute, 
and others have asserted that they sometimes travelled one 
hundred miles an hour. This was probably an exaggeration. 

I remember standing, as a boy, on the shore of an arm of 
Lake Quinsigamond, when a small flock of Pigeons, crossing 
the water, made directly for me. I never had killed a Pigeon, 
and intended to secure a specimen; but the flock, in its arrow- 
like flight, descending directly toward me, passed over my 
head with inconceivable velocity, and reached the woods 
behind me before the gun could be brought to bear. 

In searching for food in a country where it was plentiful, 
the birds flew low, and, upon reaching good feeding ground, 
swung in large circles while examining the place. Some flocks 
were composed of young birds, others were mostly males, and 
still others almost entirely females. 

Their roosting places were preferably in large and heavy 
timber, sometimes in swamps. In most of the larger roosts, 
the trees, undergrowth and all vegetation on the ground were 
soon killed by a heavy deposit of guano. About sunset the 
Pigeons in all the country for many miles around began to 
move toward the roost, and soon after sundown they com- 
menced to arrive in immense numbers, some from a distance 
of one hundred miles or more. Birds poured in from all 
directions until after midnight, and left the roost again at 

Audubon says that a messenger whom he sent out from a 
Pigeon roost re