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Full text of "Our birds in their haunts : a popular treatise on the birds of Eastern North America"

BIOLOGY 
R 
G 




HAVVK OWL. 



OUR BIRDS 



IN 



THEIR HAUNTS: 



A POPULAR TREATISE ON THE BIRDS OF 
EASTERN NORTH AMERICA. 



BY 



REV. J. HIBBERT LANGILLE, M. A. 



How pleasant the life of a bird must be, 
Flitting about in each leafy tree; 
In the leafy trees, so broad and tall, 
Like a green and beautiful palace hall, 
With its airy chambers, light and boon, 
That open to sun and stars and moon, 
That open into the bright blue sky, 
And the frolicsome winds as they wander by." 

MARY HOWITT. 



BOSTON: 
S. E. CASSINO & COMPANY. 

1884. 






Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1884, 

BY J. H. LANGILLE, 
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C. 



To DR. ELLIOTT COUES, 

WHOSE PRINTED WORKS, PRIVATE CORRESPONDENCE 

AND 

GREAT PERSONAL KINDNESS, 

/ 

HAVE BEEN OF INESTIMABLE VALUE TO ANY SUCCESS 
POSSIBLE FOR THIS BOOK, 

IT IS 

GRATEFULLY AND AFFECTIONATELY 
DEDICATED BY 

THE AUTHOR. 



382690 



PREFACE. 



HPHE first aim of this work is to render as popular and 
attractive as possible, as well as to bring within a 
small compass, the sum total of the bird-life of Eastern 
North America. I have therefore given brief descriptions, 
and for the most part full life histories, of all the species 
commonly east of the Mississippi, giving special attention 
to the songs and nesting, and dwelling upon the curious 
and fascinating, of which there is so much in the lives of 
these wonderful creatures. The narrative follows, in the 
main, the order of the seasons, and groups itself about 
certain interesting localities, as Niagara River and St. Clair 
Flats, for instance. I give a good deal of attention to 
migration, instinct, the analogy of nidification, the special- 
ized forms and adaptations of structure in birds, etc., 
endeavoring particularly to make all this readable. Par- 
ticularly do I note the many evidences of a Designing 
Intelligence in this department of nature. Hence the 



^ V .^ T! ^ "1 " +' 

6 PREFACE. 

author addresses himself especially to men of his own 
profession the gospel ministry; and would earnestly urge 
them to become, as far as possible, the interpreters of 
nature as well as of the written word. Thus may they come 
most fully into sympathy with the Great Teacher, who 
pointed to the " fowls of the air " and the " lilies of the 
field " as the most instructive object-lessons of a practical 
faith. Let the pastor go with the little ones of his flock 
to see the nest of the Oriole in the orchard, or of the 
Pewee under the bridge; and he will not only go to the 
orchard and to the bridge, but he will find his way into 
the little heart. If he cannot become a naturalist, he 
may acquire, at least, a general intelligence of natural 
objects, thus finding many hours of healthful and happy 
recreation, furnishing his own mind with food for thought, 
and discovering ready avenues to other minds. In this 
day of almost universal thirst for natural science, the 
minister can ill afford to be ignorant of the natural world 
around him. Happy, indeed, will it be for his ministry 
if, instead of leaving the interpretation of nature to the 
ungodly and the atheistic, he may show to the people 
the thoughts of an infinitely wise and good Creator 
embodied in the universe. What is said to the preacher 
on this topic may apply also to the Sunday School teacher, 
and, indeed, should apply to the secular teacher of every 
grade. 



PREFACE. 7 

The farmers of our country are, for the most part, a 
very intelligent class, as the writer well knows from per- 
sonal intercourse with them. Many of them might, and 
should be, amateur naturalists. This would turn many 
an hour of field -labor into a recreation, and could not 
fail to be an important aid in the education of their 
families. A. popular book, giving a pleasing account of 
the habits and characters of the birds of the garden, 
the orchard, the field and the forest, would be a work of 
frequent reference, and might afford many an hour of 
leisurely reading in connection with more or less obser- 
vation, and thus would be a constant source of pleasure 
and profit. 

In short, I have tried to meet a wide demand never 
yet met in this country to have a book on birds for every- 
body. I write almost entirely from personal observation, 
incorporating in my work a full report for Western New 
York and the adjoining regions of the Great Lakes, and 
a pretty full report for Nova Scotia; also a good deal of 
direct information from Hudson's Bay, by means of an 
excellent correspondent. This last feature of original 
investigation should specially commend the work to the 
scientist. 

I would here acknowledge the cordial aid received 
through correspondence with a large circle of naturalists 
and amateurs, whose names appear in different parts of 



8 PREFACE. 

the work ; and also the great personal kindness in the 
way of friendly entertainment, on the part of a large 
circle of friends, during many years of travel and inves- 
tigation over different parts of the field under review. 

The illustrations, which should add much to the character 
of the book, have been nearly all furnished by Dr. Coues, 
whose scientific nomenclature, as given in his former works, 
I have adopted throughout. On this subject, now so much 
in distress, I claim no authority; and those wishing the 
check-list of the Smithsonian Institution can easily procure 

it. 

J. H. LANGILLE. 

June 26th, 1884. 

BUFFALO, N. Y. 



CHAPTER I. 


HOAR-FROST. 

IT was early winter. The ground was covered with snow, 
but the atmosphere had been laden with a dense falling 
mist. The temperature falling below the freezing point, 
throughout the night a zephyr-like wind from the north- 
east continued to crystallize the moisture on every object, 
arraying the landscape in a most magnificent hoar-frost. 
The delicate plumose or spinulose ornaments increased every 
twig and spear of grass to many times its size. The spray of 
trees and shrubs seemed almost as dense as when arrayed in 
a young foliage; telegraph wires were as thick as cables; 
and the delicate array of spinulose plumes on the evergreens 
was of greater magnitude than their own dark covering. 
The exquisite delicacy and beauty of the patterns of crystal- 
lization were indescribable. The whole landscape was a 
charming fairy-land. The genius of a Greek mind might 
well have conceived that all the hosts of rural and sylvan 
deities had been at work; while, in this inimitable robe of 
snow-white purity, the Christian theist might read the 
thoughts of Him who is the Author of the beautiful, as well 
as of the true and the good. 



10 THE HORNED LARK. 

THE HORNED LARK. 

In the dead calm every object was motionless. Perfect 
stillness reigned. The slightest sound was awakening. 
What could be more pleasing to the lover of nature at such 
a time than the graceful flight and the musical notes of 
birds ? Ever and anon, small, loose flocks of Horned Larks 
(Eremophila alpestris) appeared, alighting in the fields and 
along the highway; and they seemed as social and happy as 
so many Frenchmen, as they flew, and ran, and squatted, 
and hopped, vying with each other in their soft conversa- 
tional tseep) tseepes. 

This is one of the most characteristic birds of Western 
New York. In Orleans County, and westward, throughout 
the year, unless it be in December, there is none which one 
is more liable to meet. Though in much smaller flocks, it 
may as frequently appear in the snow-storm as the Snow 
Bunting, and is much more common in the finer weather of 
midwinter than the Goldfinch or the Lesser Redpoll. From 
the frozen fields or the frost-clod fence it greets us with its 
song already in early February, several weeks before we 
hear the soft warble of the Bluebird, or the resonant notes 
of the Song Sparrow, and so gives us the first bird-song of 
the year. When the earth is soaked and the air is chilled from 
the thaws of spring, it is as merry and chipper and full of 
song as ever. It is amidst the merry throngs of May, trav- 
erses the heated dust of the highway in July and August, 
and in the mild, hazy days of Indian summer, gives forth a 
respectable echo of its more vigorous song of the breeding 
season. Until very recently the breeding habitat of this 
species has been wholly consigned to the far north; but it is 
now well understood that it breeds abundantly in the lake 
counties of Western New York, and more or less to the 
eastward as far as Troy, raising two broods, the first being 



THE HORNED LARK. 11 

very early. Rev. Wm. Elgin, of Rochester, N. Y., a com- 
petent observer, writes to me as follows: "On the 28th of 
April, 1875, I discovered in the Park, near the lake at Buffalo, 
the nest of a pair of Horned Larks, containing four young 
birds which I took to be at least eight days old. I had 
observed the parent birds in that locality early in the 
month, and had been watching their movements ever since, 
being convinced from their actions, when first noticed, that 
they were nesting. But my search was not rewarded till 
the day above named. When the parent birds were first 
seen, the ground was bare, but about the 10th there fell 
several inches of snow, which lay on the ground several 
days, during which time the temperature frequently fell 
almost to zero. Under these circumstances, it seemed to 
me a marvel that any of the eggs hatched, since the bird 
must have been sitting while the ground and in fact her- 
self was covered with snow. Yet the nest was admirably 
contrived for this weather, being placed in a small basin 
scooped out of the level ground, and carefully lined with 
fine dried grass, the top being on a level with the surface. 
Such a case of nidification certainly argues a marked 
degree of hardihood in the species. Another circumstance, 
which fell under my observation, would tend also to con- 
firm this opinion. On the 7th of April, 1878, near the 
village of Wayne, Steuben County, I observed a female 
Horned Lark feeding a pair of young in the road; the 
young being so far matured as to be able to fly from the 
road to the fence, a distance of fully three rods. In this 
case the nest must have been begun early in March." 

These instances accord with the nests reported as found 
near Racine, Wisconsin, while the snow was on the ground. 

On the 6th of April, 1880, as I was crossing a meadow a 
few days after a snow-fall of some three or four inches, a 



12 THE HORNED LARK. 

female Horned Lark flew out from under the snow near my 
feet. Thrusting my finger carefully through the cold cov- 
ering, I touched the eggs, still warm; and picking out care- 
fully the snow which had fallen into the nest as the bird 
left it, I found four eggs about half incubated. Who would 
not be impressed with the fidelity of this bird to her charge, 
thus allowing herself to be snowed over, and continuing to 
sit, as she no doubt would have done, till she thawed out 
again ? 

The second set of eggs is laid in June. The full fledged 
young are of a mottled gray color, somewhat like the first 
plumage of young Screech Owls. The nest is made of 
stubble, rootlets, and dried grasses, sometimes having a little 
wool or horse-hair in the lining. It is well sunken into the 
ground, and is generally a frail, loose and inartistic struct- 
ure. The eggs, commonly four, about .88 x .62, are gray- 
ish-white, thickly speckled all over with greenish-brown, 
having a similar under-marking of pale lilac or purplish- 
brown. They cannot be easily mistaken for any other eggs 
in this locality. 

Mr. James Booth, of Drummondville, Ontario, for over 
thirty years a distinguished taxidermist for Niagara Falls, 
Buffalo, and the region round about, says that the Horned 
Larks did not breed here formerly; that this southern ex- 
tension of their breeding habitat is a recent and noticeable 
change. With this corresponds the testimony of Mr. T. 
Mcllwraith, of Hamilton, Ont. 

Audubon found the nests of this species common on the 
moss-clad coasts of Labrador. Mr. James Fortiscue, an 
excellent correspondent of mine, who is chief factor of the 
Hudson's Bay Company at York Factory, reports it as a 
summer resident about Hudson's Bay, building its nest " in 
grass along the coast." 



THE HORNED LARK. 13 

The species has been known to breed in Canada West, in 
southern Iowa, Indiana, and in the northwest generally, while 
one variety is known to breed in New Mexico. This latter 
variety is said to be smaller and brighter colored than the 
common type, while that of the northwest is larger and 
lighter in color. As one approaches the Atlantic States, 
the Horned Lark is irregularly migratory in large flocks; 
this common type being in no respect different from its 
European representative. 

Ordinarily the Horned Lark is strictly terrestrial. When 
alighted it is most commonly seen resting on the ground 
or walking; it is a great walker, maintaining its center of 
gravity by a graceful, dove-like motion of the head. Seldom, 
if ever, is it seen in a tree, aspiring, when at rest, merely to 
the top rail of the fence. It has one trick, however, stfangely 
in contrast with its ordinary lowliness, and which once 
greatly perplexed me. It was a sunny afternoon, late in 
May. Hearing its song, now quite familiar to me, I strolled 
warily through the open field, hoping to find its nest. But 
whence came the song? It was as puzzling as the voice of 
a ventriloquist. Now it seemed on the right, and now on 
the left, and now in some other direction. Presently I 
caught the way of the sound, and lo ! its author was soaring 
high in air, moving in short curves up, up, singing for a few 
moments as it sailed with expanded wings before each 
flitting curve upward, till it became a mere speck in the 
zenith, and finally I could scarcely tell whether I saw it 
or not. But I still heard the song, one that never can be 
mistaken, so unlike is it to that of any other bird. At first 
one is at a loss whether to be pleased with it, and is 
tempted to compare it to the screaking of an ungreased 
wheelbarrow. " Quit, quit, quit, you silly rig and get away" it 
seems to say: the first three or four syllables being slowly 



14 THE HORNED LARK. 

and distinctly uttered, and the rest somewhat hurriedly run 
together. However, like the faces and voices of certain 
people, this ditty sweetens on acquaintance, and finally be- 
comes a real source of pleasure. 

But I must not be diverting. I am still looking into the 
deep blue, when the black speck unmistakably reappears, 
and gradually enlarges as the bird approaches. Down, 
down it comes, meteor-like, with wings almost closed, until 
one fears it will dash out its life on the earth. But no, 
it alights in safety, and steps along with all its wonted 
stateliness, dividing the time between its luncheon and its 
song. Many a time since, and sometimes as early as the last 
days of February, I have witnessed the same maneuver, 
and always with renewed pleasure. So Bayard Taylor is 
not mistaken after all, when, in his " Spring Pastoral," he 
speaks of 

" Larks responding aloft to the mellow flute of the Bluebird." 

And though the song of our bird can bear no comparison 
to the astounding song-flights of the European Skylark, 
their similarity of manner indicates the relationship of the 
two species. 

In the northwest, on the prairies about the Upper Missouri 
and its tributaries, is the Missouri Skylark, so admirably 
described by Dr. Coues, and which, in its lofty flight and 
great powers of song, seems scarcely if at all second to the 
famous bird of the Old World. 

The Horned Lark is 7 7.50 inches long, somewhat larger 
than our ordinary-sized sparrow, its shape being about as 
peculiar as its voice. The bill is rather long for a song- 
bird, quite pointed, and a little curved; on its head are two 
tufts of erectile black feathers, from which it receives part 
of its common name. As in the case of other larks, but 
unlike the rest of the song birds, the scales of the leg extend 



THE LESSER REDPOLL. 15 

around behind; and its hind claw is very long and straight. 
This lark is always in a squatting position, with drooping 
tail when at rest. With a long, black patch on each cheek, 
a somewhat triangular black spot on the upper part of the 
breast, reddish light-brown above and dull white beneath, 
with yellow throat, long pointed wings tipped with black, 
and a tail of 'the same color, a peculiar undulating flight 
often accompanied with a soft tseep or tseepes, whether sitting, 
walking, or flying, this bird readily appeals to the eye of the 
observer. It was formerly placed in the Fringillidce family 
among the sparrows and their relatives, but now stands with 
a Lark family, formed by later ornithologists. In the main, 
it is a seed-eating species, but also subsists largely on in- 
sects. 

THE LESSER REDPOLL. 

On this same day of indescribably beautiful hoar-frost my 
garden was visited by an immense flock of birds, common 
throughout New England and the Middle States during 
winter, but resident in the more northern climes in summer. 
They came in a cloud, the graceful curves of their undulating 
flight intersecting each other at all angles, while here and 
there one seemed to be describing unusually long, sweeping 
curves amidst the dense moving mass, as if throwing out a 
challenge to its more moderate companions. Cree-cree-cree- 
cree, skree-shree-shree-shree, coming in soft, lisping voices from 
hundreds of little throats, at once swells into a grand volume 
of sound, which indicates that nearly all are taking part in 
the animated conversation. They alight indiscriminately 
on trees, shrubs, and weeds, and also on the ground, and 
begin their search for food. Taking alarm readily, they 
resort to the leafless tree-tops in the vicinity, or, rising high, 
they leave the spot. This is decidedly our most beauti- 
ful bird of the winter. About the size of a canary, 5-5.50 



16 THE LESSER REDPOLL. 

and 8.50 in extent, the general color of the upper parts is 
a rich dark brown, every feather being delicately fringed 
with grayish white; around the base of the bill and extend- 
ing down the throat is a band of dusky black; the top of the 
head is bright glossy crimson; on the lower part of the 
back, where the feathers are so deeply fringed with white 
that the brown almost disappears, there is a slight touch of 
carmine; and in the mature male the breast and under parts, 
which are ordinarily white streaked with brown on the sides, 
are finely tinged with rose-color. How these delicate tints 
of rose and carmine set off the winter landscape, appearing 
as gay as peach-blossoms in the leafless brown of early 
spring. Redpoll is a member of the same family with the 
sparrows (the Fringillida). From its noticeable resemblance 
to them and its delicately-tinted breast, it is sometimes 
called the Rose-breasted Sparrow, but is commonly known 
as the Lesser Redpoll. Dr. Coues gives the habitat of the 
Redpoll (/Egiothus linaria), "From Atlantic to Pacific, 
ranging irregularly southward in flocks in winter, to the 
Middle States (sometimes a little beyond) and corresponding 
latitudes in the west." As to its breeding, he cites Audu- 
bon, who says that it breeds "in Maine, Nova Scotia, New- 
foundland, Labrador and the fur countries." The latter 
also describes the eggs as from four to six in number, 
measuring five-eighths of an inch in length, rather more than 
half an inch in diameter, and pale bluish-green in color, 
sparingly dotted with reddish-brown toward the larger end. 
Mr. C. O. Tracy, of Taftsville, Vt., says in the Ornithol- 
ogist and Oologist, June, 1883: "The last of March, 1878, I 
found the nest and eggs of this species. The nest, now 
before me, is composed of fine, dry twigs, dried grasses, 
fine strips of fibrous bark, bits of twine, hair, fibrous roots, 
moss, dried leaves, pieces of cocoons, feathers, thistle-down, 



THE CHICKADEE. 17 

and other material, which are neatly woven together into a 
compact structure and lined with hair. It was placed very 
loosely among the top branches of a small spruce, about six 
feet from the ground, and contained three fresh eggs of a 
very pale bluish-green color, sparingly marked with spots 
and splashes of different shades of brown at the larger end. 
Dimensions, 72 X 48, 72 X 47, 71 X 48." 

I once saw several of these birds which Mr. Bing of 
Rochester had trapped and trained. One had a soft belt 
around his body, under his wings, to which was fastened a 
small chain and a bucket about as big as a thimble, with 
which he drew water out of a deep dish, and drank. 
Another had a tiny car on a platform outside the cage; and 
as this little vehicle was fastened to the inside of the cage 
by a chain and contained his food, he would draw it in 
whenever he wished a repast. Even after witnessing all 
this, I felt that, to me, the bird was but a stranger, for I 
had never heard its song nor seen its nest. A closely allied 
species or variety is found in Europe. The so-called Mealy 
Redpoll may be regarded as a paler variety of the common 
Redpoll an Arctic race, not difficult to recognize, repre- 
senting in America the true Mealy Redpoll (A. canescens) 
of Greenland. The broad, whitish fringe of the plumage, 
the elegant rose-white rump, and the pale, rosy breast give 
a peculiar delicate beauty to this variety. 

THE CHICKADEE. 

I have finished my morning ramble, and am fairly seated in 
my study, when lo ! a familiar voice calls me to the window. 
Chickadee -dee-dee, chick, chick, chickadee, . chickadee-dee-dee-dee ; 
most cheerful and winning voice of a winter's day ! There 
they are, little Black-capped Titmice or Chickadees, finding 
a satisfactory repast in those frosted evergreens, where my 



18 THE CHICKADEE. 

eyes can detect nothing of the kind; standing upright, 
tipping forward, stretching upward, leaning to right and 
left, or hanging by the feet ; so brimful of contentment, 
so sweet-spirited and confiding, with so much of the sun- 
shine of hope in their voices, that they are a most signifi- 
cant reproof to querulous, unsatisfied human nature. 

Those above given are far from being the only notes of 
the Black-capped Chickadee (Parus atricapillus], if they 
have christened him. They seem to be especially his win- 
ter song, whether he be in the door-yard, in the deep 
forest, or in the crowded town; and the same vocal per- 
formance can hardly be said to characterize him in summer, 
though it is then occasionally heard. Throughout the year, 
but especially in the breeding season, he has many quaint 
little notes, sounding very much like subdued and familiar 
conversation. Tse-de-yay, tse-de-yay; tsip, tsip; and a soft, 
almost indescribable, peep, peep, are among his common 
utterances in secluded parts of the deep forest. How 
much of the happy, inner life of these little creatures may 
be communicated in these soft, musical phrases ! But that 
which pre-eminently constitutes the song of the Chickadee 
is a soft, elfin whistle of two notes, heard occasionally even 
in midwinter, but most commonly in the breeding season 
Whee-hee. The former syllable is in the rising and the 
latter in the falling inflection; the whole being uttered in a 
soft, plaintive, tremulous, melting tone, which almost re- 
strains one's breath while listening. It is the voice of 
pathethic tenderness, and makes one feel how much of 
conscious life may vibrate in the breast of a tiny bird. 

Long years did I wait after becoming an ornithologist 
before I could get a glimpse of the nest of the Chickadee. 
On a beautiful, sunny 24th of May, in a thicket of Tona- 
wanda Swamp, while I was studying the song of the Black- 



THE CHICKADEE. 19 

throated Green Warbler, a Chickadee dropped into the side 
of an old stump, just a few feet before me. The hole 
which it entered was near the top, about two feet and a 
half from the ground; and as the stump was mellow, it 
was not many mmutes before I had sufficiently enlarged 
the passage with my jack-knife to get a good view of the 
inside. I have often felt the subduing influence of the 
familiar, trustful ways of this little bird, but never did it 
seem so gentle and confiding as now, peering up at me with 
such a mingled look of surprise and firmness, which, to say 
the least, was very disconcerting to an oologist. The exca- 
vation was new, and evidently made by the bird itself. The 
nest consisted of a loose but well-made felt of moss, fibres 
of bark, down and hair. For safety and softness few nests 
could surpass it. The seven eggs were a little smaller than 
those of the common Wren, some .64 x .51, of a delicate, 
flesh-tinted white, minutely dotted with red, the marks 
thickening and running together at the large end. In all 
respects this nest is representative. The nesting of any 
bird, however, is subject to variation. Sometimes the 
Chickadee makes its own excavation in a green tree, and 
sometimes it appropriates the abandoned nest of the Downy 
Woodpecker. It feeds especially on the larvae and eggs of 
insects. 

About the size of a canary, some 5-5.25 long, and 7.75-8.25 
in extent, its bill is short, somewhat thick, straight and 
strong; its head is large and its neck short, body plump 
and tail longish; it is deep, glossy black on the head, down 
the back of the neck and on the throat; cheeks pure white; 
upper parts dark drab, much lighter and yellowish on the 
rump; and of the same color, or somewhat lighter, under- 
neath. These markings are strongly contrasted, and render 
the bird a conspicuous object at any time of year; but at 



20 THE PINE GROSBEAK. 

no time is one so forcibly impressed with the beauty, as 
also with the familiarity, of this gentle little creature as 
when meeting it in the depth of the forest on a bleak win- 
ter's day. Then the flock appear like bright and gracefully 
moving ornaments on the dark evergreens or leafless spray. 
Then this bird becomes the familiar companion of the soli- 
tary woodman, and will even venture to light on his arm 
and take from his hand the crumbs of his luncheon. 

The Chickadee belongs to the Titmouse or Paridcz family, 
and has many near relatives, such as the Mountain Chicka- 
dee, Chestnut-back Chickadee, Long-tailed Chickadee, etc., 
which resemble it very closely. Our species is a bird of the 
Northeastern States, extending to Alaska, replaced from 
Maryland and Illinois southward by the Carolina Titmouse, 
which Mr. Maynard regards as simply a smaller variety of 
the same species. About the size of our Black-cap, and in 
all respects similiar in habit, is the Hudson's Bay Titmouse 
(Parus hudsonius]. The jet black on the crown of the 
former is replaced by an elegant brown; the pure white on 
the cheeks by a grayish white; the back and sides are also 
tinged with brown; otherwise, their similarity in marking is 
close. Hudsonius is common to British North America, 
breeding as far south as Maine. I found it very common 
in Nova Scotia. Its strongly characterized note cheet-a-day- 
day-day, cheet-a-day, uttered in a rather low key, may always 
distinguish it. 

THE PINE GROSBEAK. 

As I go out through the front yard during the forenoon, I 
almost run my head into a flock of Pine Grosbeaks (Pinicola- 
enucleator)) feeding eagerly on the berries of a mountain ash. 
The hoar-frost falls in a cloud as a dozen or more of them 
shake the spray and the branches in taking their food. 
About 8.50 in length, this species is very robust and plump,, 



THE PINE GROSBEAK. 21 

with a short, thick, almost hawk-like bill, and the tail 
slightly notched. The general color of the old male is 
bright crimson-red, the feathers, especially on the back, 




THE PINE GROSBEAK. 



showing elegant centers of dusky ash; the lores, the sides 
of the head and body, and the under tail coverts, ashy; two 
bands on the wing coverts, white; wings and tail, dusky. 
Female and young, ashy, variously marked or tinged with 
greenish yellow or light golden brown on the crown and 
rump, or even over the back and breast. As the male is no 
doubt several years in reaching his bright colors of matu- 
rity, nearly all the individuals visiting us in winter are 
ashy. To the naturalist and artist the old males are a great 
desideratum. Scarcely can the southern climes send us a 
more brilliant migrant than this casual visitor from the 
north. Immature specimens may arrive in New England 
and the Middle States, already in the wake of Indian Sum- 
mer, but only in severe winters are they common. Then 
the flocks of 10-20 may contain quite a sprinkling of the 



22 THE DOWNY WOODPECKER. 

brilliant old males, and occasionally this species may extend 
its winter flight as far south as Maryland, Ohio, Illinois and 
Kansas. 

As I fire into the flock in the mountain ash, they scatter 
into the surrounding trees, loth to fly away, and emit a 
loud and prolonged peenk, sounding almost like the note of 
a hawk. Its song is said to be a pleasing warble. It breeds 
from northern Maine and the Maritime Provinces north- 
ward, being common about Moose Factory on James' Bay, 
and down the Rocky Mountains into Colorado. The nest, 
placed in trees, is made of sticks and grasses, and contains 
S-4 eggs, oval, about .97 X -^2, "pale bluish-green in color, 
spotted, dotted, and lined with brown and umber." 

THE DOWNY WOODPECKER. 

I was never naturally fond of a gun. But for the emer- 
gencies of natural history I should never have used much 
powder and shot; but I cannot, like Thoreau, become a nat- 
uralist without either gun or trap. He must have been on 
remarkably good terms with the inhabitants of the woods 
and the fields. 

In the afternoon of this same day of the hoar-frost, I spied 
a Downy Woodpecker pounding away at a beautiful moun- 
tain ash in the front yard. Of course he would not hurt 
the tree, but I was tempted to get the bird; so, notwithstand- 
ing my poor marksmanship, I started with an old shot-gun 
to procure the specimen. As usual, the bird was very 
unsuspecting, and allowed me to come quite near. I fired, 
but, to my surprise, the bird flew to the next tree, appar- 
ently without the least surprise. I loaded and fired again, 
but without securing my specimen, and, it would seem, 
without even alarming him. Again I fired, and again and 
again, and yet the bird seemed as safe and self-possessed 



THE DOWNY WOODPECKER. 23 

about the yard as before the first shot. I felt assured the 
bird's time of departure was not yet come, and so concluded 
to do without it. But as I afterward became more success- 
ful with a gun, and consequently got Downy in my hand 
for a careful examination (and to an ornithologist a bird in 
the hand is worth a good many in the bush), I will give at 
least a brief account of him. And first I may say that, con- 
cerning all the Woodpeckers, an account of the habits of one 
comes very near being an account of them all. 

Concerning their nests Mr. John Burroughs has well said: 
"The Woodpeckers all build in about the same manner, 
excavating the trunk or branch of a decayed tree and deposit- 
ing the eggs on the fine fragments of wood at the bottom of 
the cavity. Though the nest is not especially an artistic 
work requiring strength rather than skill yet the eggs and 
the young of few other birds are so completely housed from 
the elements or protected from their natural enemies, the 
jays, crows, hawks and owls. A tree with a natural cavity 
is never selected, but one which has been dead just long 
enough to have become soft and brittle throughout.* The 
bird goes in horizontally for a few inches, making a hole 
perfectly round and smooth and adapted to his size, then 
turns downward, gradually enlarging the hole, as he pro- 
ceeds, to the depth of ten, fifteen, twenty inches, according 
to the softness of the tree and the urgency of the mother- 
bird to deposit her eggs. While excavating, male and female 
work alternately. After one has been engaged fifteen or 
twenty minutes, drilling and carrying out chips, it ascends 
to an upper limb, utters a loud call or two, when its mate 
soon appears, and, alighting near it on the branch, the pair 
chatter and caress a moment, then the fresh one enters the 
cavity, and the other flies away." 

* Living trees of the softer kind are often eligible. 



24 THE DOWNY WOODPECKER. 

In these same cavities they continue to take lodgings by 
night, or take refuge in bad weather, thus making these, as 
well as natural cavities in trees and stubs, places of conven- 
ient shelter. 

The strongly characterized eggs of the Woodpeckers, with 
smooth, glossy, translucent shell, and of the purest white, 
are very gems in oology. Are they white in order that the 
bird may readily see them as it enters its dusky chamber? 
What a Spartan-like bed are those few chips on which the 
young are reared! Indeed, everything about the Wood- 
pecker indicates hardihood and industry. He is a moral 
object-lesson to the self-indulgent and indolent. 

As Wilson has truly suggested having no vocal power to 
charm the Woodpeckers occupy the honorable position of 
carpenters among the birds.* For this purpose their struct- 
ure is most admirably adapted. Held in position by means 
of large, strong feet, having two toes turned forward and 
two backward, and by a tail having every feather stiff and 
pointed; with a strong, chisel-shaped bill, skull-bones of 
unusual size and strength, and a neck which works like a 
lever, they can do marvelous execution. The tongue 
elastic, barbed, viscid, and the back part or hyoid bone 
being coiled up like the mainspring of a watch, and in 
every way adapted to the seizure of insects was well chosen 
by Paley as a striking evidence of design in creation. And 
the ornithologist, observing how the bird chooses the dead 
trees and those dying from the destructive effect of insects 
as the objects of its workmanship, will readily confirm, from 
the study of habit, what the anatomist infers from structure. 

Closing the wings and gliding through the air after sev- 
eral vigorous strokes, the flight of the Woodpeckers is undu- 
lating; and, just before lighting, they glide upwards a few 

* Carpentero is the ordinary name of the Woodpecker among the Mexicans. 



THE' DOWNY WOODPECKER. 25 

feet to check their direct momentum. Clinging to the bark 
of the trunk or larger limbs of the trees with their sharp, 
hooked claws, and using the peculiar feathers of the tail as 
a support, they hop upward or sidewise, or drop backward, 
but do not move with the head downward, after the manner 
of the Nuthatches. They often take insects on the wing, 
and relish the smaller fruits; but their principal fare consists 
of insects and their eggs and larvae as found in the bark or 
crevices, or as excavated and drawn out from decaying or 
damaged trees. 

Now, from the general to the particular. The Downy 
Woodpecker (Picus pubescent], 6.75 and 12.00 in extent, is the 
dwarf of his family, and, in color and marking, is almost pre- 
cisely like his nearest relative, the Hairy Woodpecker. His 
small size alone may distinguish him from all other Wood- 
peckers in this locality. The top of the head, the cheeks, 
the back of the neck, both sides of the back, the wings and 
central feathers of the tail are jet black. A stripe running 
back over each eye, and one extending back from under 
each eye and up the sides of the neck, the middle of the 
back, regular transverse rows of round spots in the wings, 
and three feathers on each side of the tail are white, the 
latter being spotted with black. The under parts are of a 
grayish white, and the male is marked with carmine on the 
sides of the hind head. Like those of all the rest of the 
family, the eggs of this little species, some 85 X-62, are pure 
white. As is common with Woodpeckers, both sexes take 
part in incubation. The Downy Woodpecker is particu- 
larly fond of orchards and such arboreal accommodations 
as may be found in the vicinity of the abode of man. Its 
note, chick, chick, is cheerful, and suggestive of contentment 
and self-satisfaction, and, like the notes of the Woodpeckers 
in general, expresses a vigorous energy. It is resident 



26 THE DOWNY WOODPECKER. 

throughout Eastern North America, and northwestward to 
Alaska, being represented west of the Rocky Mountains by 
Gairdner's Woodpecker. 



CHAPTER II. 

SNOWED IN. 

WHAT is more romantic, in this our northern clime than a 
heavy snow-storm ? What wonder that one of our most 
distinguished American poets could elaborate a charming- 
poem under the title, "Snow-bound." What can be more 
suggestive of ' purity, more symbolic of a clean sheet on 
which to begin a new chapter in life, than the mantle of 
snow which shrouds the landscape about the beginning of 
our solar year ? 

" No cloud above, no earth below 
A universe of sky and snow." 

Then the snow-flakes ! What wonders of beauty they are ! 
Unity in variety is the law of their forms of delicate beauty. 
Always star-like, with just six rays or main points, they 
seem to include every variety of detail on this plan, from 
the perfectly plain six-rayed star to the most elaborate 
plumose flower conceivable^ Every mineral having its in- 
variable angle of crystallization and snow and ice belong 
to the mineral kingdom water, in consolidating, shoots 
forth its angles at precisely 60 a fact which the merest 
fragment of a snow-flake will reveal. It is only under cer- 
tain circumstances that they can be seen to advantage. If 
they pass through a stratum of air too mild to keep them 
below the freezing point, they blend, and appear like pellets 
of white lint; if there is much wind, they are broken into 



28 THE SNOW BUNTING. 

fine particles. When they fall rightly, examine them on 
your coat-sleeve under a magnifying glass, and you will 
find them to be among the most perfect of nature's mar- 
velous workmanship. 

THE SNOW BUNTING. 

A cold, gray, midwinter day had been followed by a quiet 
snow-fall of many inches, which, perfectly undisturbed, lay 
in a huge, evenly-distributed pile over the entire landscape. 




THE SNOW BUNTING. 



From the dried mullein-stalk, standing in the fence-corner, 
to the heavy forest, the form of every object was changed, 
was rendered fantastic and ghost-like, in this universal 
shroud of pure white. Now the flakes were unusually 
large and elaborate; for, be it remembered, nearly every 
snow-storm affords a new pattern of the flake. On the 
bright morning which followed, while the whole earth gave 
back the grateful rays of the sun in countless tiny stars of 
dazzling scintillation, I was just in the act of dipping up a 
handful of the fleecy snow in absorbing admiration, when 
lo ! an immense cloud, nearly as white as the sno-vy itself, 



THE SNOW BUNTING. 29 

swept over my head, and dropped down into a field a few 
rods beyond. But this cloud of Snow-flakes for so the 
Snow Buntings are sometimes called was musical, filling 
the air with a soft warbling chipper as they flew, .and keep- 
ing up the same notes after they had alighted. How their 
predominance of white harmonizes with the snow on which 
they hop and skip and flutter ! while the patches and mot- 
tlings of yellowish ocher and black, so varied in size and 
form in different individuals, remind one of the autumnal 
earth-colors just beneath the whitened landscape. They 
seem to take delight in the snow and in the cold. Indeed, 
this hardy, happy little bird is the true herald of snow, 
seeming to keep ever on the line, or a little in advance, of 
the snow-storm, and generally in large flocks. As the winter 
is setting in, one may stand on the south of our great Lake 
Ontario and see them coming across by the thousand, their 
rear outline being skirted by the various smaller Hawks, 
moving southward at the same time, and foraging as 
they go. 

Their sprightly movement when on the ground, the zest 
with which they feed on the seeds of weeds and grasses, 
cannot but give one the impression of good cheer and 
plenty on the most inclement winter's day. Impressed with 
the utility of even the weeds, in the nice adjustment of the 
economy of nature, and with the confident air of these birds 
seeking their daily food, one cannot but recall the words of 
the Great Teacher: " Behold the fowls of the air; for they 
sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet 
your Heavenly Father feedeth them." 

The birds are not idle, indeed. They accomplish a great 
mission. A single year without their labors would be fol- 
lowed by a degree of disaster inconceivable, perhaps by a 
famine. We learn " that in the early times of the American 



30 THE LAPLAND LONG SPUR. 

colonies the farmers of New England offered threepence a 
head for the Crow Blackbirds, on account of their destruct- 
iveness in the grain fields. Consequently they were nearly 
extirpated for a time, and the insects increased to such a 
degree as to cause a total loss of herbage, and the farmers 
were compelled to obtain hay from Pennsylvania, and even 
from Great Britain." But the birds can do nothing what- 
ever to provide their own food. Yet when are they seen 
starving or wanting sustenance? 

The cloud of Snow-flakes, having taken sudden alarm, are 
risen high in air. What graceful gyrations and evolutions ! 
and how the pure white of their under parts fairly gleams 
against the clear ether. Must not that soft, musical chatter 
be an intelligible conversation among themselves ? Never 
did minds communicate in happier tones. 

The nest of this bird was once found in New Hampshire, 
on a slope of the White Mountains, " on the ground among 
low bushes, and formed like that of the Song Sparrow." It 
contained young. Another is reported, even from Spring- 
field, Massachusetts. The ordinary breeding place of the 
Snow Bunting, however, is in the Arctic regions, where it is 
said to spend the summer in great numbers. It now 
becomes a bird of accomplished song, building a sub- 
stantial nest on the ground and in the clefts of rock, lined 
with feathers and the hair of the Arctic fox. The eggs, 
.90 X-65, are whitish, mottled with brown, especially around 
the larger end, where the blotches sometimes become a 
dark wreath. The species is common to the higher latitudes 
of the whole northern hemisphere. 

THE LAPLAND LONGSPUR. 

In Western New York, the sunshine of early winter is 
very fickle. In a few hours the clearest sky may be robed 



THE LAPLAND .LONG SPUR. 31 

in the dark-leaden clouds so peculiar to that season; and 
when, perchance, the sun breaks through, they may be 
fringed with a rich amber, quite uncommon at other seasons 
of the year. On this morning after the snow-fall, the sun- 
shine left almost as suddenly as the Snow Buntings, and 
with the leaden clouds appeared another flock, equally 
large, and so similar in size, form and movement that one 
might readily think them the same were it not for the pre- 
dominance of the dark colors. They are as dark as the 
sparrows; the black and ocher, so common to the Snow 
Buntings, making up the entire dress, except the white 
underneath and on the sides of the neck; while the breast, 
cheeks and sides under the wings are ornamented with 
rich, black feathers, delicately tipped with white. Thus the 
careful observer will readily distinguish them as the Lap- 
land Longspurs (Plectrophanes lapponicus], and quite different 
from the Snow Buntings (Plectrophanes nivalis), of the 
white dress, dark-ocher patch on the head lighter patches 
of the same on the ears, as also a tendency of the same, in 
the form of a collar low on the breast, black mixed with 
the same on the back, black in the center of the tail, upper 
wing-feathers and wing-tips. 

The Lapland Longspur spends the breeding season in 
large numbers about Great Slave Lake, McKenzie's River, 
and in Alaska, arriving in the latter place the second week 
in May. At this time of year it is said to be an eminent 
songster. Dr. Coues describes the nidification as follows: 
"The eggs are rather pointed at the smaller end, and 
measure about 0.80 x 0.62. They are very dark colored, 
reminding one of the Titlark's; the color is a heavy cloud- 
ing or thick mottling of chocolate-brown, through which 
the greenish-gray ground is little apparent. The nests are 
built of mosses and fine, soft, dried grasses, and lined with 



32 THE HAIRY WOODPECKER. 

a few large feathers from some water- fowl; they were 
placed on the ground, under tussocks, in grassy hummocks. 
The female did not leave the nest until nearly trodden upon." 
Like the former, this bird occupies the Arctic regions of 
both continents, migrating southward in winter, even to 
warm-temperate latitudes, though the Longspur is not com- 
mon even then in this locality, and is not yet reported west 
of the Rocky Mountains. 

THE HAIRY WOODPECKER. 

"Pimp! pimp! pimp!" with a sharp, metallic ring. Who 
does not know the voice of the Hairy Woodpecker? sim- 
ilar, somewhat, and yet very unlike that of other members 
of the family. Its vigorous and incisive tones are asso- 
ciated with the sounds of my childhood. Well do I remem- 
ber its nest, commonly chiseled out of the American aspen, 
so soft and brittle, the nest being made in a large, living 
tree, and many feet from the ground. What gems were the 
ovate, smooth eggs, some .98 x .72, of translucent white; and 
how hard it seemed for the tender, unfledged young to lie 
on a mere bed of chips ! Certain it is, however, that what 
may be lacking in luxury is made up in safety. What Blue 
Jay, Crow, Hawk or Owl would think of putting its head 
into that small, neat, round doorway ? Even a Raccoon 
would fare no better than Reynard, when the fabled Stork 
invited him to dinner; and what snake would think of 
wriggling up that straight and limbless trunk, some thirty 
feet or upwards ? The male, moreover, is a very hero in 
defense of its nest, flying angrily from tree to tree in the 
immediate vicinity when it is disturbed, and uttering an 
almost deafening racket of rage. 

The Hairy Woodpecker (Picus villosus] is 8.50-9.00 in 
length, plumage soft and blended on the back, appearing 



THE SHORT-EARED OWL. 33 

more like hair than feathers; head, back of the neck, sides 
of the back, wings and central tail-feathers, black; stripe 
above and below the eye, the lower extending up the side 
of the neck, stripe down the middle of the back, side feathers 
of the tail, under parts and round spots in rows across 
the wings, white; the male having two bright red spots in 
the white stripes on the back of the head. Habitat, all 
eastern North America, reaching through Alaska, northwest; 
replaced by a variety called Harris' Woodpecker, beyond 
the Rocky Mountains. 

THE SHORT-EARED OWL. 

It is the dusk of twilight. How strong is the contrast 
between the snow-clad earth and the leaden, almost inky, 
sky! What bird is that flying low by the barn-yarn fence? 
It has alighted. Quickly as possible I get my shot-gun and 
creep around behind the barn. Meanwhile, a second has 
alighted by the side of the first. Probably they are male 
and female. I take aim, and over topples one of the birds, 
while the other spreads its noiseless wings and flies away. 

On picking up my specimen I find it to be the Short-eared 
Owl (Brachyotus palustris). Palustris means pertaining to 
the swamp or marsh, and is very properly applied to this 
species, as we shall presently see. From fourteen to fifteen 
inches long, light reddish brown, lighter beneath, upper 
parts thickly streaked with blackish-brown, lower parts 
more finely streaked with the same, face whitish, with black 
circles around the eyes, tail buff, legs a lighter shade of the 
same color, ear-tufts scarcely noticeable, this bird is very 
readily identified, for it is quite unlike any other Owl of this 
locality. 

The Short-eared Owl breeds commonly in the salt-marshes 
along the Atlantic and in marshy places in the interior, 
3 



34 THE SHORT-EARED OWL. 

making its nest on the ground, sometimes of very slight 
construction, laying some four or five roundish dull-white 
eggs, 1.50 x 1.30. Professor W. D. Scott, of Princeton, found 
it around the inlet of Barnagat Bay, as a sort of counterpart 
of the Marsh Hawk, scouring the marshes by night, while 
the latter took its place in day-time, also breeding in the 
same locality and on the ground. According to Dall, the 
Short-eared Owl sometimes breeds in burrows. It seems to 
be common to Europe, Asia, Greenland, America and the 
West Indies. 

Sometimes found in the woods, but generally adhering to 
swamps and marshes, this species is wont^to rest on the 
ground during the day, and if startled flies up in a hurried 
and "zigzag" manner, "as if suddenly awakened from 
sound sleep," and sailing along rather low, drops down out 
of sight again. Mr. W. Brewster found these Owls preying 
upon the Terns on Muskegat Island. " A small colony of 
these birds had established itself upon a certain elevated 
part of the island, spending the day in a tract of densely- 
matted grass. Scattered about in this retreat were the 
remains of at least a hundred Terns that they had killed 
and eaten. Many of these were fresh, while others were in 
every stage of decomposition, or dried by the sun and wind. 
In each case the breast had been picked clean, but in no 
instance was any other portion disturbed. Every day, at a 
certain time, these Owls sallied forth in search of fresh prey. 
We used regularly to see them about sunset, sailing in cir- 
cles over the island or beating along the crests of the sand- 
hills. They were invariably followed by vast mobs of 
enraged Terns, which dived angrily down over the spot 
where the Owl had alighted, or strung out in the wake of 
its flight like the tail of a comet. The Owl commonly paid 
little attention to this unbidden following, and apparently 



THE LONG-EARED OWL. 35 

never tried to seize its persecutors while on the wing, but 
on several occasions we saw a sitting bird pounced upon 
and borne off. Sometimes in the middle of the night a great 
outcry among the Terns told when a tragedy was being 
enacted." 

Like the rest of the Owls, the Short-ear is for the most 
part a bird of the night; and it feeds especially on mice and 
moles. 

THE LONG-EARED OWL 

(Otus vulgaris var. wilsonianus) is a common resident in the 
swamps and dense evergreen woods, but is nowhere abund- 
ant in Western New York. About the size of the former, it 
is readily distinguishable by its long ear-like tufts of 8-12 
feathers, situated on the top of the head like the ears of a 
cat, and by its darker color; dark brown, mixed with fulvous 
and finely specked with white, above; white, lined and 
crossed with light-brown, below; facial disks and feet, fulv- 
ous; narrow ring around the eye, black. This variety of the 
European species (vulgaris] is of rather southern habitat, 
stretching across the continent, and, perhaps, barely extend- 
ing into New England. It breeds abundantly in Eastern 
Pennsylvania, its nest, placed in trees or possibly on the 
ground, being "usually constructed of rude sticks, sometimes 
of boughs with the leaves adherent thereto, externally, and 
generally, but not always, lined with the feathers of birds." 
The same nest is used for a succession of years, and it is the 
testimony of both Wilson and Audubon, as also of Buffon, 
in respect to the European variety, that the deserted nests 
of other birds are appropriated and repaired. The eggs, 
commonly four, about 1.50 X 1.35, are roundish and white, 
after the manner of Owls. In common with its class, 
the food of this species is small birds and reptiles and 
insects. 



36 THE SCREECH OWL. 

THE SCREECH OWL. 

After a few days the weather grew intensely cold, the 
thermometer running ten degrees below zero. Making a 
professional visit on one of these bitter days, as I drove 




THE SCREECH OWL. 



into the barn-yard to unharness my horse, I noticed the 
result of quite a little tragedy in the animal kingdom. 
Some fifteen feet up the side of the barn hung a Screech 
Owl (Scops asw), caught by one foot under a large batten 
partly sprung off from the building. It was frozen stiff, its 
eyes standing out white and ghastly with the expansion of 
the frost; and just above it, seemingly caught under the 
same batten, and frozen in like manner, was a common 



THE SCREECH OWL. 37 

mouse; thus both had been turned into ice in the very act 
of the chase. 

This bird is abundant here throughout the year, but is 
more noticeable in winter, as it then approaches the barn 
and the out-buildings, probably in search of food and shelter. 
In late summer and early autumn it may be heard about 
the orchard or the edge of the wood; in the evening, uttering a 
soft whinny, not at all to be compared, however, to "screech- 
ing." Thoreau, describing the sounds within hearing of his hut 
at Walden Lake, gives special prominence to the vocal per- 
formance of this bird. He says: " It is no honest and blunt tu- 
whit, tu-whovi the poets, but, without jesting, a most solemn, 
graveyard ditty, the mutual consolations of suicide lovers 
remembering the pangs and the delights of supernal love in 
the infernal groves. Yet I love to hear their wailing, their 
doleful responses, trilled along the road-side, reminding me 
sometimes of music and singing birds; as if it were the 
dark and tearful side of music, the regrets and sighs that 
would feign be sung. ' They are the spirits, the low spirits 
and melancholy forebodings of fallen souls that once in 
human shape night-walked the earth and did the deeds of 
darkness, now expiating their sins with their wailing hymns 
or threnodies in the scenery of their transgressions. They 
give me a new sense of the variety and capacity of that 
nature which is our common dwelling. Oh-o-o-o-o that I 
never had been bor-r-r-r-r-n ! sighs one on this side of the 
pond, and circles with the restlessness of despair to some 
new perch on the gray oaks. Then that I never had been 
bor-r-r-r-n ! echoes another on the further side with tremu- 
lous sincerity, and bor-r-r-r-n! comes faintly from far in 
Lincoln woods." 

About nine inches long, with large ear-tufts, ash-gray 
above, with a lighter shade of the same beneath, all 



38 THE SCREECH OWL. 

over mottled and streaked with black, the black streaks 
beneath again crossed with black and accompanied with 
reddish tints, white markings on the shoulders sometimes 
the general ash-gray above mentioned being entirely re- 
placed by reddish; this bird can never be mistaken. H. D. 
Minot says: "The eggs are laid in the hollow of a tree, an 
apple-tree being frequently selected, in which are often 
placed a few simple materials, such as leaves or dried grass. 
The eggs, of which four are laid about the middle of April, 
average 1.35 x 1-20 of an inch, though occasionally speci- 
mens measure 1.50 x 1-30 of an inch. They are white, and 
nearly spherical." The almost round, white eggs, generally 
pure white and about equal at both ends, and with a fine 
surface, are characteristic of the Owls. 

Mr. W. Perham (at Tyngsboro, Mass.) often secures the 
nest of this species by fastening on trees in the woods 
"sections of hollow trunks, boarded up at the open ends, 
with entrance-holes cut in the sides," the bird appropriating, 
these instead of natural cavities or deserted Woodpeckers' 
nests, "both as roosting and nesting places." 

As with the Owls in general, this species, when in the 
down, is pure white. Being very small, excepting the bill 
and feet, it might be mistaken for a little white Bantam 
Chicken. A pretty sight, indeed, is this snow-white brood 
of little creatures, in a hole of some old apple-tree, in the 
thick, shadowy part of the orchard, or in some partially 
decayed tree in the edge of a dense woods. 

On one of the last days of May (1880), I was surprised, 
while passing through the woods, by something which 
seemed to me at first sight a large bunch of gray wool on 
a limb some fifteen feet from the ground, but which, on 
closer examination, proved to be four young Screech Owls, 
nearly full-grown, well fledged, and sitting so closely to- 



THE ACADIAN OWL. 39 

gether, and so perfectly still, as to require quite an effort 
to define them to the eye. They were a weird sight. 
The plumage was soft and downy, the color cold gray, thus 
refuting the theory that the red garb, in which this bird is 
often found, is the immature dress. The same species seems 
to be sometimes red, and sometimes gray, independent of 
age or sex. 

In the latter part of June, the same year, on entering the 
woods at late twilight, a bird flew at my head, uttering a 
hoarse, guttural scream, followed by a sharp snapping of 
the bill. It proved to be a Screech Owl, probably a parent 
bird, with young near by. 

Including a number of varieties, this Owl inhabits North 
America at large. 

THE ACADIAN OWL. 

The Acadian Owl (Nyctale acaclicd) or Saw- whet, as it is 
sometimes called, from its peculiar, rasping note, sounding 
like the filing of a saw, is not infrequently found here; but 
is, apparently, hot nearly so common as Scops asio. It 
must breed here, as it is resident, and I have seen the young 
taken in Orleans County. The male of this pigmy of its 
race averages some 7.25, length; some 19.50 in extent. The 
female is about an inch longer, and every way larger in pro- 
portion. With head proportionately large, round, untufted, 
and facial disks complete, the adult is fine, clear brown 
above, scapulars and wing coverts marked with white, and 
an under-surface ring of the same around the back of the 
head; outside and inside web of primaries, and inside web 
of the secondaries, white-spotted; tail tipped with white, 
and having several cross-lines of spots of same; space 
around the bill generally, and above and below the eye, 
white or yellowish-white; top of the head, auriculars and 
sides of neck streaked with white; and clear white arcs 



40 



THE WAX- WING. 



back of the ears; under parts white, broadly streaked with 
reddish-brown. Young, more generally dark brown, un- 
spotted, with clear white forehead and eye-brows, and clear, 
light reddish-brown under parts. Slyly nesting in the hole 
of a tree, the nearly round, pure white eggs of this species 
are 1.22 X .96. They are laid in April, and the newly- 
hatched young are covered with a reddish down. This 
pigmy must have a good appetite, for, not long since, an 
individual was taken in N. J., the stomach of which " con- 
tained a whole Flying-squirrel." Habitat, North America; 
most common, perhaps, in the latitudes of New England 
and Nova Scotia. 

THE WAX-WING. 

What a beautiful figure in the winter landscape is that 
mountain ash in the front yard! only it is no ash at all, 

V. / 




THE WAX-WING. 



but a member of the Rose family. Symmetrical and grace- 
ful, its dark-brown colored spray, beautifully relieved by the 



THE PINE LINNET. 41 

great scarlet clusters of persistent fruit, it is a constant source 
of pleasure to the eye. But oh! see it now! fairly bending 
under the weight of an immense flock of Wax-wings (Ampelis 
garrulus). The whole tree-top seems alive with their flutter- 
ing motion, as they keep up a soft but spirited chipper, half- 
way between a whisper and a whistle, and gobble up the 
berries with the gusto of extreme hunger. How beautiful 
they are! The form is fine, and it has an elegant crest; gen- 
eral color, a brownish drab, approaching ash-gray over the 
back, and chestnut around the base of the lofty crest, and 
around the margin of the deep black passing horizontally 
across the forehead across and above the eyes and forming 
a large patch on the throat; under tail coverts chestnut; 
wings and tail blackish, the latter shading most beautifully 
into dark ash toward the base; streak at the base of the 
lower mandible and one under the eye; tips of primary wing 
coverts and outer terminal web of the secondaries, white; 
the latter with waxen appendages on the quills; the prima- 
ries and the tail tipped with bright yellow, the former some- 
times edged across the end with white. It is 7 8 inches 
long. The size and form of this species, its elegant shading 
of rich colors, and its bright and sharply-contrasted mark- 
ings fairly entitle it to its European epithet, "The Lovely 
Wax - wing! " This is an Arctic bird, both of the Old World 
and the New, and appears here irregularly in flocks in win- 
ter, sometimes moving southward to 35. Its nest and eggs, 
a few of which have been found in the northern part of this 
continent, are very similar to those of its near relative, the 
Cedar Bird, only a little larger. 

THE PINE LINNET. 

One of these cold days, as I was riding by a pasture well 
stocked with the remains of the thistle and golden-rod of 



42 THE PINE LINNET. 

the previous summer, I shot a solitary bird on a thistle, 
which, in movement and appearance, reminded me of the 
Goldfinch. It proved, however, to be its near relative, the 
Pine Linnet (Chrysomitris pinus), the first of the kind I had 
ever identified. Like many birds, appearing plain in the 
distance, on .a close examination it is found to be a thing of 
delicate beauty. The size and form of the Goldfinch, it differs 
much from it in color. About 4.75 inches long, above it is 
narrowly streaked with black or dusky and yellowish flaxen, 
beneath with dusky and yellowish white; the rump yellow- 
ish; the bases of the black or dusky wing and tail feathers, 
bright, sulphury yeltow, the same feathers being narrowly 
edged externally with yellowish; the yellow at the bases of 
wing and tail feathers being especially noticeable in flight. 

This bird ranges generally in flocks, and more or less 
irregularly throughout the United States in winter, and, as 
far as yet known, breeds from the latitude of Maine north- 
ward. It is sometimes in Western New York already in 
flocks by the 4th of July. 

Dr. C. Hart Merriam, of Locust Grove, Lewis County, 
New York, writes concerning this species: "Few birds are 
more erratic in their habits than the Siskin or Pine Linnet. 
Occurring to-day, perhaps, in such numbers that one soon 
tires of shooting them, they are gone on the morrow, and 
years may elapse before one is seen again." Concerning 
1878, he continues: "During the past winter and spring 
they literally swarmed in Lewis County, New York, and 
thousands of them bred throughout the heavy evergreen 
forests east of Black River, while many scattered pairs 
nested in suitable hemlock and balsam swamps in the mid- 
dle districts." Again he says of this region, and of Big 
Otter Lake in Herkimer County: "Never before at any 
locality have I seen a species of bird represented by such 



THE TREE SPARROW. 43 

immense numbers of individuals as here attested the abund- 
ance of the Pine Finch. In every part of the forest, from 
early morning till after the sun had disappeared in the west, 
there was not a moment that their voices were not heard 
among the pines and spruce trees overhead." Already in 
April the young were found nearly fledged, and eggs were 
taken as early as the 18th of March. Dr. M. reports the 
nest as "a very bulky structure for so small a bird, and its 
rough exterior, loosely built of hemlock twigs, with a few 
sprigs of pigeon moss (j>olytrichuni) interspersed, is irregu- 
lar in outline, and measures about six inches in diameter. 
The interior, on the contrary, is compactly woven into a 
sort of felt, the chief ingredients of which are thistle-down 
and the fur and hair of various mammals." 

In spring it is said to sing very much like the Goldfinch, 
but in lower tones and more softly. Its conversational 
chipper is also very similar to that of its near relative. Its 
nest, said by Dr. Brewer to be "neat," made of "pine twigs" 
and "lined with hair;" contains pale-greenish eggs speckled 
with rusty, about .70 X .50. 

In flight, manner of alighting, and movements in obtain- 
ing food, this species very closely resembles the Goldfinch. 
In addition to the seeds of the thistle and those of the weeds 
in general, it appropriates as food the seeds obtained from 
the cones of the Pine family, climbing actively in the tops 
of the evergreens. 

THE TREE SPARROW. 

The same day I crept on a large flock of birds in a corn 
field. They proved to be Tree Sparrows (Spizella monticold), 
readily distinguished from others of the same family by 
their dark chestnut crown, and dark spot on a plain, ash- 
colored breast; the white cross-bars on the wing coverts 
also are generally quite conspicuous. 



44 THE GOLDFINCH. 

Reaching us in October, this is one of our most abundant 
winter birds, generally in large flocks, extending nearly to 
the Gulf States, and returning northward in April and 
early in May. It " breeds north of the United States, to 
high latitudes, but also, like the Snow-bird, in mountains 
within our limits." (Coues.) Its eggs are said to be much 
like those of the Song Sparrow, and its nest indifferently on 
the ground, in a bush, or in a tree. 

So gentle and unsuspecting is this bird, that it will even 
pick up the crumbs around the door in winter, though it 
generally affects the field, the pasture, the thicket, or the 
orchard; and it seems to sing almost throughout the year. 
In the latter part of March, or during the month of April, 
when the Song Sparrow is giving us his earliest and most 
ringing notes, from the thickets and from the ground you 
may hear the soft, sweet notes of this species, as a sort of 
undertoned accompaniment Whee-he-ho-he-whee-he-he-he-he; 
the first four notes drawn out, and the rest uttered some- 
what rapidly. In mild days of November whole flocks 
may be heard warbling almost as sweetly as in spring, and 
in the midst of the cold of winter, their notes are often 
much more like a warble than a mere twitter, a whole flock 
becoming thoroughly musical. In the soft sweetness of its 
song, its general habit and migration, it is very much like 
the Dark Snow-bird, and, like it, is not common west of the 
Rocky Mountains. 

THE GOLDFINCH. 

We have had several sunny days, and our heavy fall of 
snow has settled to a stratum of six or eight inches. I am 
leisurely strolling through a thicket, on a bright afternoon, 
on the sunny side of a large woods. I find Chickadees, in 
familiar little parties, happy as the sunshine. A small flock 
of Tree Sparrows has also flown overhead, and lighted in 



' THE GOLDFINCH. 45 

a pasture near by. But the most numerous and spirited 
company I meet is a party of Goldfinches (Chrysomitris 
tristis}. After caroling and whirling, high in air, they have 
alighted within a short gun-shot. Excepting the Wrens, this 
is decidedly the most animated bird of my acquaintance. 
Every particle of his being seems inspirited with life. A 
rare thing, indeed, it is to catch him in a state of rest. 
When taking food, he seems to go through all the motions 
possible, now reaching upward, now downward, now side- 
wise, and now hanging by the feet. In flight he takes long, 
bounding curves, showing an elasticity of stroke altogether 
uncommon; and to make that flight still more animated, 
frequently utters his strongly emphasized ditty "I've 
cheated ye, I've cheated ye" On lighting in a tree, he is in a 
perfect state of excitement, beckoning, chattering and call- 
ing, as if seeking to attract universal attention, giving one 
the impression that there is a host of other birds within 
hailing distance. Indeed, he never seems alone. When he 
sings, he seems so brimful of his song, and in such haste to 
deliver it, that he cannot articulate distinctly, but runs one 
note into another, and breaks others off so abruptly that, 
notwithstanding its pleasing vivacity, it often appears quite 
incomplete. Not infrequently a considerable flock will all 
sing at once, thus making a noisy chorus. In the case of 
birds, as in the case of men, we should not confound song 
with conversation. In respect to the latter, the Goldfinch 
has a great variety of notes, which it is about impossible 
to describe in full. Tid-tid-di-die, tse-hee-tsee, tee-hee, in addi- 
tion to his familiar ditty when in flight, are sounds quite 
common to him. Whether we contemplate him in voice or 
in action, the sentiment ever expressed by him is that of 
joy, so that he is properly spoken of as the happy Gold- 
finch. This is particularly a seed-eater, and, like the rest of 



46 THE GOLDFINCH. 

his family, the FringiUidt^ which includes the Sparrows and 
their relatives, he has a short, thick bill, with which to shell 
the seeds. In common with the rest of our winter birds, he 
does no small service in keeping down the weeds. In plac- 
ing the Goldfinch on the thistle, Audubon rendered his 
portrait true to nature. He is found there more frequently 
than on any other plant. How often we see him leading out 
his young family to dine on the seeds of this very common 
and troublesome weed ! Hence he is sometimes called the 
Thistle-bird. This natural inclination to aid the farmer in 
his struggle with noxious plants should especially commend 
our sprightly little friend, as well as his whole family con- 
nection, to the kindly consideration of the farmer. Besides, 
do not the trim form, bright colors, graceful and spirited 
movements, and cheerful, happy voice of this species, con- 
tribute constantly to the innocent pleasures of the out-door 
laborer? Is he not the true messenger of a boundless joy 
for man as well as for the birds ? 

The winter dress of our bird has nothing attractive. 
Audubon has described it well and in few words: "Brown- 
ish-olive above, without black on the head; foreneck and 
breast grayish-yellow, the rest of the lower parts grayish- 
white." But this is not the color of the female in summer. 
Lacking the bright lemon-yellow, black crown, black wings 
and tail marked with white, which constitute the vernal 
habit of the male in her plain suit of green, with dusky 
wings and tail, and shading into yellow underneath she is 
truly beautiful, as she flits by the side of her gay consort. 
Have you ever seen the two take each other by the bill and 
delicately caress each other under the brow of some hill on 
a beautiful spring day ? 

In its time of nesting this bird is quite unaccountable. 
Though the male has put on his gay attire, long before the 



THE GOLDFINCH. 47 

spring is robed in splendor, and has chosen his mate quite 
as soon as other birds, not until July is there the slightest 
indication of domestic cares. Then you no longer see them 
in large, noisy parties, but each couple has found a quiet 
nook, and become as steady as any other pair of birds. 
Quite commonly the site chosen is in the orchard, some- 
times in the top of a tall shade-tree which stretches its 
boughs over the house-roof, often in the thicket which bor- 
ders the forest, and not infrequently in a cosy clump of 
elders. In the latter kind of place, late in July, was found 
a very gem of a nest, now before me. True to the favorite 
plant, it is mostly composed of thistle-down, interlaced and 
wound into position by fine shreds of the bark of the grape- 
vine and bass-woods, all of which materials give it a some- 
what bulky, but neat, gray appearance, beautifully in har- 
mony with the branch on which it is saddled. This nest is 
finished alike within and without, and even on the under 
side. It is not merely built on the limb, but neatly finished 
around it. Evidently it was not constructed in a hurry. 
The bottom, sides, and rim are thick, and firm, and finely 
felted together. The inside is an elegant bed of white, 
silky down. In every respect it is perfect. But oh, the 
eggs! What gems they are! Some half-dozen, the size of 
a Wren's egg, .65 X .51, clear white, tinged with green, they 
render the nest perfect in beauty. Many a time has the sight 
of it thrilled me with pleasure, and never more than to-night, 
as I review all its beauties for an accurate description, and 
recall the many kindnesses of the dear friend who compli- 
mented my tastes in saving it for me. 

Like some others of the smaller birds, the Goldfinch sits 
only about a week. 

It ranges through North America generally, breeding as 
far south as Kentucky. 



48 THE RUFFED GROUSE. 

THE RUFFED GROUSE. 

One of my townsmen has just brought a pair of beautiful 
Ruffed Grouse (.Bonasa umbelld), male and female, and 
wishes them mounted. He has described the attitudes he 
prefers; the male, "as if he was just goin' to fly," and the 
female, "as if she was harkin'." I will try to comply with 
the request. These birds remind me of an incident of a few 
years ago. One of my most esteemed parishioners, on going 
out into his door-yard at break of day, early in November, 
found a beautiful male of the Ruffed Grouse promenading 
about like a domestic fowl. On attempting to fly over the 
barn it struck the ridge of the roof and fell dead on the 
other side. He brought it to me, and, on dissection, its 
breast proved to be completely bruised. In more super- 
stitious times this might have been regarded as an evil 
omen, for a few months afterwards this same man was 
instantaneously killed. 

These birds before me are specially characteristic of 
Eastern North America, and have a history, which cannot 
fail to interest the lover of nature. The man who procured 
them might well be impressed with their movements and 
attitudes, for they are every way marked and pleasing. 

"On the ground," says Audubon, "where the Ruffed 
Grouse spends a large portion of its time, its motions are 
peculiarly graceful. It walks with an elevated, firm step, 
opening its beautiful tail gently and with a well-marked 
jet, holding erect its head, the feathers of which are fre- 
quently raised, as are the velvety tufts of its neck. It poises 
its body on one foot for several seconds at a time, and utters 
a soft cluck, which in itself implies a degree of confidence in 
the bird that its tout ensemble is deserving of the notice of 
any bystander. Should the bird discover that it is observed, 
its step immediately changes to a rapid run, its head is 



THE RUFFED GROUSE. 49 

lowered, its tail is more widely spread, and, if no convenient 
hiding place is at hand, it immediately takes flight with as 
much of the whirring sound as it can produce, as if to prove 
to the observer that, when on the wing, it cares as little 
about him as the deer pretends to do when, on being started 
by the hound, he makes several lofty bounds, and erects his 
tail to the breeze." 

Who that lives in his vicinity has not heard the " drum- 
ming" of the male in the breeding season? Although it is 
quite possible'that he may not have seen the bird in the act, 
for that is the privilege of but few. Mr. John Burroughs 
says: "The male bird selects, not as you would predict, a 
dry and resinous log, but a decayed and crumbling one, 
seeming to give the preference to old oak logs that are par- 
tially blended with the soil. If a log to his taste cannot be 
found, he sets up his altar on a rock, which becomes resonant 
beneath his fervent blows. Who has seen the Partridge 
drum ? It is the next thing to catching a weasel asleep, 
though by much caution and tact it may be done. He does 
not hug the log, but stands very erect, expands his ruff, 
gives two introductory blows, pauses half a second, and then 
resumes, striking faster and faster, till the sound becomes a 
continuous unbroken whir, the whole lasting less than half 
a minute. The tips of his wings barely brush the log, so 
that the sound is produced rather by the force of the blows 
upon the air and upon his own body as in flying. One log 
will be used for many years, though not by the same drum- 
mer. It seems to be a sort of temple, and held in great 
respect. The bird always approaches on foot, and leaves it 
in the same quiet manner, unless rudely disturbed. He is 
very cunning, though his wit is not profound. It is difficult 
to approach him by stealth; you try many times before suc- 
ceeding; but seem to pass by him in a great hurry, making 
4 



50 THE RUFFED GROUSE. 

all the noise possible, and with plumage furled he stands as 
immovable as a knot, allowing you a good view and a good 
shot, if you are a sportsman." Audubon says: " The female, 
which never drums, flies directly to the place where the male 
is thus engaged, and, on approaching him, opens her wings 
before him, balances her body to the right and left, and then 
receives his caresses." 

Whether the drumming is produced by striking the wings 
against the body, by striking the wings together behind the 
back, or by simply beating the air, has been a'much debated 
question. Probably the latter is the true explanation. Nor 
is it merely the call of the male to the female in the breed- 
ing season, since it is indulged in at other times of the year, 
but is also, as Nuttall has said, "an instinctive expression 
of hilarity and vigor." 

Behold the male strutting before the female in time of 
courtship! The first time I saw him in this act I was utterly 
at a loss to identify him. The ruff about the neck is per- 
fectly erect, so that the head is almost disguised; the wings 
are partially opened, and droop gracefully; the feathers gen- 
erally are elevated; the tail, with its rich, black band, is 
spread to the utmost and thrown forward. Thus he stands 
nearly motionless, a genuine object of beauty 

The flight of the Partridge is straight forward, vigorous 
and heavy for about half the distance, after which it simply 
sails, and that most gracefully, almost ethereally, to the 
place of lighting. Thus the last part of its flight is strik- 
ingly in contrast with the first. The whirring strokes of 
the Partridge when put up is not, in all probability, its 
ordinary mode of flight, but only the result of its surprise. 
The best of observers affirm that, when rising of its own 
accord, its flight is as noiseless as that of other birds. Its 
habit of shooting for some distance through the loose snow, 



THE RUFFED GROUSE. 51 

in the course of its flight, and of sitting still and allowing 
itself to be snowed over, and then starting out, as by a sud- 
den explosion, on some surprise, have been attested by 
several writers of the best authority. 

Audubon used to attract the Ruffed Grouse "by beating 
a large inflated bullock's bladder with a stick, keeping up 
as much as possible the same time as that in which the bird 
beats." "At the sound produced by the bladder and the 
stick," he says, "the male Grouse, inflamed with jealousy, 
has flown directly towards me, when, being prepared, I have 
easily shot it." There are many birds which may be decoyed 
by a faithful imitation of their notes. 

The nest of this beautiful bird is associated with my recol- 
lections of childhood. I can see it still, a slight bed of 
leaves, on the ground, under a fallen tree, in the w r ild 
meadow. How the gentle wild hen would sit, till we chil- 
dren came near enough to touch her, sometimes making our 
calls without causing the least disturbance. The eggs, 
about a dozen in number, and near the size of those of a 
pullet, some 1.55 x 1.15, are brownish-white, often neatly 
spotted and specked with brown. Well do I remember, too, 
the stories in vogue among my playmates, as to the cunning 
tricks of the younglings how they would scamper and hide 
on being found, turning over on their backs and pulling 
dried leaves over them for concealment; all of which I 
believed then, but long since have come to doubt. It is not 
the perfection of the concealment which I have come to 
doubt, for that is beyond question, but the manner of that 
concealment. The truth is their color is so much like that 
of the dry leaves, and they are either so motionless or so 
completely tucked away, that the eye cannot detect them. 
The tender, downy little creatures! who could harm them 
if he did find them! I once came upon a large brood just 



52 THE RUFFED GROUSE. 

hatched, and succeeded in catching some half-dozen; but 
how could I withstand the distress of the mother-bird as 
she tossed and tumbled over and over, moaning and cluck- 
ing, sometimes near enough to be touched by the hand I 
Like Audubon, when he emptied the young Mallards from 
his game-bag, I was completely overcome by the demon- 
stration of maternal anguish. 

But the most affecting of all was to hear the tender cluck- 
ing call of the mother, and the soft peeping reply of the 
flock of little ones, as soon as I was out of sight. To this 
moment I am hoping that she succeeded in getting all her 
young family safely together, after so rude a dispersion. 

Berries of all kinds, as well as seeds, are the food of this 
species; and when these are scarce, even leaves and buds 
will do, and especially the catkins of the alder. 

The Partridge, in its several varieties, pretty nearly covers 
North America, our variety occupying Canada and the 
Eastern United States into the mountains of the Carolinas. 
About the size of a common fowl, with a graceful crest and 
fan-shaped tail, the general color is a beautiful brown, vari- 
ously mottled and clouded with light and dark; and it is 
readily distinguished by its bunch of glossy black plumes on 
each shoulder, and its broad band of black across the end of 
the tail. 



CHAPTER III. 
OPEN WINTER. 

THE frost and snow of early winter have softened, ere the 
middle of the season, into such mild days, fields so green 
and skies so tender, that one almost imagines himself in 
some southern clime. Rain falls as easily as in April, and 
the air is laden with a genial vapor, which almost threatens 
to bring out the buds. 

What happy moments were those this morning, as I sat in 
my study, by the large window facing the east, and watched 
the coming of the morning! It was announced by a delicate, 
rosy tint, stretching like a band along the horizon a 
fringe, where the deep blue touched the darkened landscape. 
Anon, the lambent flame pervades the whole chamber of the 
east, transfiguring space itself, and strikingly in contrast 
with the clouds in the foreground still sable under the 
shadows of retreating night. Now these dark clouds them- 
selves have caught the glow, and are soon turned into 
amber and gold. The rosy flames rise higher and higher, 
till they touch the zenith; and now a broad band of rich, 
transparent green unrolls along the horizon, and the whole 
heaven is aglow with the glory of the coming day. 

THE QUAIL. , 

I must out, and away to the woods! Passing through a 
large peach-orchard, just before entering a beautiful, park- 



54 THE QUAIL. 

like forest, I put up a small flock of Quails. They are now 
a rarity in Orleans County, New York, so much so that laws 
have been passed in this and adjoining counties giving them 
special protection throughout the year. But who could 
wantonly injure a Quail? This is surely the most winning 
game-bird in our land. Who can blame certain tender- 
hearted little children, who will not accept any apology 
whatever, for taking the life of one of them ? The flight of 
the Quail on being startled is quite like that of the Partridge, 
except that it does not generally fly so far. The surprise to 
the observer, however, is greater, since the Quail is often in 
quite considerable flocks, whereas the Partridge is much 
less gregarious. Take your first chance for a shot at a flock 
of Quails, for, after the first putting up, they are scattered 
and very shy. Having flown in every direction, they en- 
sconce themselves away so perfectly that they are not to be 
seen, till one by one they fly up, almost from under foot; or, 
if the whole flock start, it will be from many different points 
in the vicinity, and so they will afford no shot, except singly. 

The following citation from Audubon is so well worded, 
and so in accord with the facts, that I shall adopt it ver- 
batim: 

"When an enemy is perceived they immediately utter a 
lisping note, frequently repeated, and run off, with their tail 
spread, their crest erected, and their wings drooping, towards 
the shelter of some thicket or the top of a fallen tree. At 
other times, when one of the flock has accidentally strayed 
to a distance from its companions, it utters two notes louder 
than any of those mentioned above, the first shorter and 
lower than the second, when an answer is immediately 
returned by one of the pack. This species has, moreover, 
a love-call, which is louder and clearer than its other notes, 
and can be heard at a distance of several hundred yards. It 



THE QUAIL. 55 

consists of three distinct notes, the two last being loudest, 
and is peculiar to the bird. A fancied similarity to the 
words Bob White renders this call familiar to the Sportsman 
and farmer; but these notes are always preceded by another, 
easily heard at a distance of thirty or forty yards. The three 
together resemble the words ah Bob White. The first note 
is a kind of aspiration, and the last is very loud and clear. 
This w r histle is seldom heard after the breeding season,* 
during which an imitation of the peculiar note of the female 
will make the male fly towards the sportsman, who may 
then easily shoot it. 

" In the Middle Districts the love-call of the male is heard 
about the middle of April, and in Louisiana much earlier. 
The male is seen perched on a fence-stake, or on the low 
branch of a tree, standing nearly in the same position for 
hours together, and calling ah Bob White at every interval 
of a few minutes. Should he hear the note of a female, he 
sails directly towards the spot whence it proceeded. Several 
males may be heard from different parts of a field challeng- 
ing each other, and should they meet on the ground, they 
fight with great courage and obstinacy, until the conqueror 
drives off his antagonist to another field. 

" The female prepares a nest composed of grasses, arranged 
in a circular form, leaving an entrance not unlike that of a 
common oven. It is placed at the foot of a tuft of rank 
grass or some close stalks of corn, and is partly sunk in the 
ground. The eggs, 10-15, rather sharp at the smaller end, 
are white. The male at times assists in hatching them. 
This species raises only one brood in the year, unless the eggs 
or the young when yet small have been destroyed. When 
trfis happens the female immediately prepares another nest; 
and should it also be ravaged, sometimes even a third. The 

* I have heard this same ditty occasionally in the pleasant days of autumn. 



56 THE QUAIL. 

young run about the moment after they make their appear- 
ance, and follow their parents until spring, when, having 
acquired their full beauty, they pair and breed. 

"The Partridge (Quail) rests at night on the ground, 
either amongst the grass or under a bent log. The indi- 
viduals which compose the flock form a ring, and moving 
backwards, approach each other until their bodies are nearly 
in contact. This arrangement enables the whole covey to 
take wing when suddenly alarmed, each flying off in a 
direct course, so as not to interfere with the rest." 

A straw-stack in the field in winter is a great attraction to 
the Quail. Here flocks may be seen gleaning the stray ker- 
nels of grain; and nowhere do their graceful movements 
and quiet ways appear more winning. If unmolested and 
treated with a little kindly consideration, they will come 
even to the barn-yard and share the fare of the domestic 
fowl. 

Being unsuspecting, and a bird of the fields, the pasture 
and the orchard, it is the victim of many modes of capture. 
Moving often in close flocks, many may be taken at a single 
shot; a figure-four trap may take a number at a time. In 
this way a lad of my acquaintance once took thirteen, feed- 
ing them under the trap, and taking them out as they 
were needed for the table. Audubon describes a method 
of driving them into a net in large numbers. 

The predominant color of the Quail is a bright reddish- 
brown, occasionally streaked with black, and again shading 
into a beautiful gray, white beneath, crossed with zigzag 
lines of black; throat of the female brownish-yellow, and 
that of the male white. Smaller than a common bantam 
hen, it cannot be mistaken in Eastern North America. 

It ranges throughout the Eastern United States to a little 
north of Massachusetts, and into Canada West and Minne- 



THE NORTHERN SHRIKE. 57 

sota. Like others of its order, it is particularly a seed and 
grain-eating bird. 

The Partridge and the Quail belong to the Gallinaceous 
or Poultry order of birds, so named because it includes our 
common domestic fowl. They are for the most part a 
strongly marked order. The vaulted upper mandible, with 
its nostrils at the base and "covered by a cartilaginous 
scale;" the short, rounded wings; the breast-bone, with two 
such deep emarginations on each side, and the keel so cut 
away in front as to reduce it to a mere open frame; the 
heavy flight; the simplicity of the lower larynx; the muscular 
gizzard and large crop are all points of differentiation 
which cannot easily be mistaken. They incubate on the 
ground, having a simple nest and a large number of eggs. 

THE NORTHERN SHRIKE. 

A little to my right is a large buttonwood tree, making a 
marked and beautiful contrast with the rest of the landscape, 
for in this tree there is no brown whatever, the trunk and 
main limbs shaling off almost to a pure white, and the spray 
being nearly black. 

To an ornithologist a tree is never complete without a 
bird. So I strain my eyes to detect something of the kind 
in the thick branches, and am not disappointed. In the 
thickest part of the top, sitting almost motionless, is a 
Northern Shrike or Butcher Bird (Lanius borealis). Not 
far from the size of a Robin, 9-10 inches long, but with a 
much larger head and thicker neck, and a longer tail, its 
color is an olivaceous drab, with black patches from the 
base of the bill back across the eyes and down the sides of 
the neck; wings and tail black with white markings; under- 
neath white, with cross-pencilings of black. But this color- 
ation varies greatly in different individuals, the white some- 



58 THE NORTHERN SHRIKE. 

times being very dull, the black quite brownish, or, if both 
these are quite clear, the drab may be clear and bright, con- 
taining nothing of the olivaceous. This bird is an inch 
longer than its cousin, the White-rumped Shrike, the latter 
being a very common summer resident here, while the 
former generally spends only the milder or early part of the 
winter with us;* and all the noise we ever hear from it in 
that time is a hoarse scream, reminding one a little of a 
Hawk. Generally it is solitary, but sometimes it is accom- 
panied by a mate. It must pass the colder part of the -win- 
ter a little farther south, but is back again on its way north 
early in spring. It is reported as spending the entire winter 
in the vicinity of Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, and as 
making its winter trips as far south as 35. 

A few days since, while spending some hours with one of 
the farmers of my parish, I had a good opportunity to note 
certain habits of this bird. My friend was drawing in corn- 
stalks from the field. Several of these Shrikes, perched in 
small trees scattered in the immediate vicinity, seemed bound 
to keep him company. Occasionally one would fly out a 
short distance from his perch, and hover in quest of prey, 
precisely in the manner of the Sparrow Hawk (Falco spar- 
verius). Not infrequently a mouse would start out on remov- 
ing a shock, when it was instantly gobbled up by the 
familiar, sharp-eyed bird. On removing one shock, a nest of 
full-grown rats was disturbed, some of which escaped the 
farmer's boot-heel and fork-tines. Presently I heard a loud 
squeaking in a corner of the fence near by. On hurrying 
to the spot, I found a Shrike, regaling itself on one of the 
young rats, and so intent on its meal that, though I was 
almost near enough to put my hand on it, it eyed 

* If it be very mild and open, the Great Northern Shrike may remain in Western New 
York throughout the winter. The Loggerhead is a southern species of which the White- 
rump is a variety. 



THE NORTHERN SHRIKE. 59 

me hesitatingly for some time before concluding to 
leave. 

In structure, as well as in habit, this bird is quite peculiar. 
Its bill is not a little like that of a Hawk, while its feet and 
claws, as well as its general figure, are very much like those 
of certain birds of song; consequently, with much of the 
bird of prey in its manner, it is still ranked, in point of 
structure, between the Vireos and the Finches. It will 
attack a Sparrow, peck out its brain, lug it around in its 
beak, and make a meal of it at its leisure, as readily as any of 
the Raptores, while in feeding it is in general as truly insectiv- 
orous as that of the most innocent song-bird. Indeed, its 
destruction of insect-life is altogether uncommon. It does 
not merely consume them as food, but has a certain bar- 
barous habit of impaling them in large numbers on thorns, 
and that for no other purpose than mere wantonness, as it is 
never known to appropriate them afterward as food. It will 
sit by the hour in the presence of its struggling victims, and 
seem utterly indifferent to their tortures. The common 
European Shrike is represented as impaling small birds on 
thorns in a similar manner. 

Wilson says: "It retires to the north, and to the higher 
inland parts of the country to breed. It frequents the deep- 
est forests; builds a targe and compact nest in the upright 
fork of a small tree, composed outwardly of dry grass, and 
whitish moss, and warmly lined within with feathers. The 
female lays six eggs, of a pale cinerous color, thickly marked 
at the greater end with spots and streaks of rufous. She 
sits fifteen days. The young are brought out early in June, 
sometimes towards the end of May, and during the greater 
part of the first season are of a brown ferruginous color on 
the back." 



60 THE CROW. 

THE CROW. 

The most noticeable bird of our winter landscape is the 
Common Crow. Neither cold nor snow can drive him 
away, while, in mild open weather, he scorns the woods and 
fields, and rises high in air against the passing breeze, as if 
he were sole lord of the entire region. He is hardly ever 
alone, and often appears in quite considerable flocks, some- 
times in large numbers. To-day he is stepping about the 
plowed fields and meadows with all his wonted stateliness. 
What a splendid coat of glossy black he wears! He appears 
quite as well on the wing, too, as on the ground, moving 
with a steady, graceful energy, even in the raggedness of 
his moulting period, when the loss of main pinions is seen 
in the formidable gaps of either wing. Even his voice, 
though very much lacking in compass and far from being 
really musical, has a vigor and a significance amidst nature's 
sounds, which is far from being unpleasing. In short, we 
could easily be reconciled to him, aye, even pleased with 
him, were it not for certain of his thievish and cruel habits 
of diet. 

Firstly. He is the arch-disturber of the corn-fields. How 
the farmer is obliged to tax his ingenuity in order to 
secure himself, in part at least, against his depredations! 
In that delightful book by Susan Fenimore Cooper, entitled 
"Rural Hours," is a little paragraph well illustrating the 
husbandman's resources in this respect. In her diary for 
the 4th of June she says: "The cornfields are now well 
garnished with Scare-crows, and it is amusing to see the 
different devices employed for the purpose. Bits of tin 
hung upon upright sticks are very general; lines of white 
twine, crossing the field at intervals near the soil, are also 
much in favor, and the Crows are said to be particularly shy 
of this sort of network; other fields are guarded by a num- 



THE CROW. 61 

her of little whirligig wind-mills. One large field that we 
passed evidently belonged to a man of great resources in 
the way of expedients; for, among a number of contri- 
vances, no two were alike; in one spot, large as life, stood the 
usual man of straw ; here was a tin pan on a pole, there a 
sheet was flapping its full breadth in the breeze, here was a 
straw hat on a stick, there an old flail ; in one corner a 
broken tin Dutch oven glittered in the sunshine, and at right 
angles with it was a tambourine! It must needs be a bold 
Crow that will venture to attack such a camp." Then she 
adds in a foot-note: "This field yielded ninety-three bushels 
of maize to the acre the following autumn." 

The second charge to be brought against the Crow is the 
destruction of other birds' nests. Never shall I forget the 
unhappy impression he made upon me many years ago in 
Nova Scotia, on my first discovery of the Snowbird's 
(Junco) nest containing young just hatched. The nest 
was under the bottom rail of a fence, and on approaching it 
the second time I discovered a Crow in the act of gulping 
down the last of the young. Never was my indignation 
over a bird greater, except when, in my childhood, a large 
Hawk carried off my black chicken. " The most remarka- 
ble feat of the Crow," says Audubon, " is the nicety with 
which it, like the Jay, pierces an egg with its bill, in order 
to carry it off, and eat it with security. In this manner I 
have seen it steal, one after another, all the eggs of a wild 
Turkey's nest." " In spring," says Wilson, "when he makes 
his appearance among the groves and low thickets, all the 
feathered songsters are instantly alarmed, well knowing the 
depredations and murders he commits on their nests, eggs, 
and young." 

But, as in the case of many other transgressors, there are 
some weighty things to be said in his favor. In the same 



62 THE CROW. 

field from which he steals the corn, he destroys many noxious 
worms and insects, especially cut- worms; not to speak of the 
snakes, moles and mice, whose career is cut short by him. 
Besides, to the unprejudiced lover of nature, his presence 
adds beauty and character to the landscape. 

Between the good services and the mischief done by the 
Crow, Wilson, Audubon, and most other ornithologists, 
have found a large balance in his favor, while some, as 
Samuels, for instance, are well convinced that his depre- 
dations on crops, and more especially his destruction of the 
nests and young of the smaller and more useful birds, can- 
not be compensated by any good and useful office which it 
is possible for him to fill. The latter view is the one more 
in harmony with the sentiment of the common people; 
hence, in various times and places, premiums have been 
offered for his head, as in the case of the more destructive 
beasts of prey. In consequence of this, the number destroyed 
in a single State in a season has been as high as 40,000; 
and Wilson tells us that, during a winter of " long-continued, 
deep snow, more than six hundred Crows were shot on the 
carcass of a dead horse, which was placed at a proper dis- 
tance from the stable, from a hole of which the discharges 
were made. The premiums awarded for these, with the 
price paid for the quills, produced nearly as much as the 
original value of the horse, besides, as the man himself 
assured me, saving feathers sufficient for filling a bed." 

But whatever the public sentiment may be, no bird is 
better able to take care of itself than the Crow. Go into the 
field or forest, and steal a shot at it if you can! Under all 
ordinary circumstances, its keen eye and vigilant caution 
are a full match for its enemies. I do not see how Wilson's 
school-boy ever secured for him a basket of Crows. If one 
of my young friends shoots one over the carcass of a dead 



THE CROW. 63 

sheep, pointing his gun through a loop-hole in the barn and 
that did happen once I consider that he does well. 

Though not a few of the Crows remain here over winter; 
many more appear to go south, where they congregate in 
immense flocks, and are very destructive. 

The unfrequented evergreen woods of Goat Island at 
Niagara Falls, in winter, and the steep, forest-clad slopes 
of the inaccessible gorge from the Falls to Queenstown 
Heights, throughout the year, are famous roosting places for 
the Crows. Here they may be seen at night-fall in almost 
countless numbers, streaming in in long processions from 
all the region round about. 

The Crow's ordinary note, khrah, khrah, khrah, with a 
strong, guttural sound before the vowel, is familiar to every 
one. In the month of April, in New York, when the males 
are winning the females, the former will perch on some limb 
of a tall tree in the forest, and bowing most obsequiously, 
will utter in a low, deep tone the syllables, Chow-ow-ow-ow, 
chow-ow-ow-ow. 

In respect to diet this species may be called omnivorous; 
stripping the sour cherry-tree of its abundant crop, stealing 
a chicken, lighting on the backs of cattle to devour the 
larvae of the gad-fly under their skin, or regaling, in vast 
numbers, on offensive carrion, as readily as it would feast on 
insects and corn. 

The Crow is a most annoying enemy of the Hawks and 
the Owls. As kingly a bird as the Red-tailed Hawk, can 
find no peace in his presence. Driven from his lordly perch 
among tall trees, I have seen him condescend to alight 
among the tall grass of the meadow, as if to hide himself 
away from persecution; but here the Crows would dive 
into his face, and, with the most persistent impudence, com- 
pel him to take shelter in some distant wood. 



64 THE CROW. 

One day last April, while lying under a bush by a stream, 
and in the edge of a forest, in watch of ducks, I was startled 
by a stentorious demonstration near by among the Crows. 
Looking up I saw an immense tree-top literally black with 
them. The object of their indignation, to which every head 
was turned, was a Great Horned Owl, which sat staring and 
blinking in the middle of the tree. Evidently their bowing 
in concert with raised wings, and cawing enough to tear 
their throats, were anything but agreeable to him. The roar 
might have been heard a mile or more away, as each poured 
forth his volume of charges against this goggling, glimmer- 
ing Night-watch. Presently, several dashed at him with 
wide-spread wings, when he rose and beat away through 
the tree-tops, followed by the long and deafening train of 
black persecutors. Alighting low down among the hem- 
locks, he was as bitterly attacked as before; and though he 
moved thus several times, until he was more than a mile 
away, I could still hear the same noisy demonstrations of 
bitter and persistent ill-will. 

The nest, which is well hidden in the forest, and made 
early in spring, is composed of sticks, interwoven and lined 
with grasses, and sometimes with considerable horse-hair 
and other soft materials, there being almost invariably some 
dark mould in the bottom, perhaps to keep it cool. It is 
generally placed pretty well up in a tree, and contains from 
four to six eggs, of a light green, spotted and blotched with 
blackish brown, and about the size of a small hen's egg, 
some 1.70 X 1.20. On Manitoulin Island and in the vicinity 
I found the Crow's nests in immense numbers. Indeed, they 
were much more common than the nest of any other bird. 

Can the Crow learn to talk? To this I have but one 
authoritative answer. A very intelligent and estimable 
lady, the daughter of a frontier missionary in the early 



THE CROW. 65 

days of Kansas, tells me that she has heard a Crow talk. 
An Indian used to visit the mission station, bringing with 
him one of these birds tamed, with the tongue split, and 
able to mimic distinctly quite a number of words, as also 
to originate little sentences of his own. During one of 
these Indian visits, a patch of land connected with the 
statioH was being plowed. The Crow, with his bright 
red ribbon tied around him and trailing on the ground, was 
busy picking up the insects, when our lady, then a little 
girl, along with her sisters, was trying to catch the ends of 
ribbon. Just as their tiny hands were about to grasp them, 
the wily Crow would spring forward, thus eluding their 
grasp, and looking back would tauntingly say, "You didn't, 
did you ?" Well done for a Crow ! 

At Pittsburgh, Audubon once saw a pair of Crows per- 
fectly white. Also a trusty parishioner of mine testifies 
that some years since he was accustomed, for some time, to 
see a pure white Crow leading the flock from one block of 
woods on his farm to another. 

The home of our Crow is throughout temperate North 
America to 55, excepting the central plains and southern 
Rocky Mountains. 



CHAPTER IV. 
BELOW ZERO. 

SUDDEN changes are common to this climate. Immedi- 
ately following our open winter weather comes a fall of 
temperature below zero, with just snow enough on a smooth- 
worn, hard-frozen road to make the sleighs slip easily. 
The snow crunches under foot, and, what is rather uncom- 
mon here, the trees and buildings resound with a strange 
snapping, almost equal to the report of a pistol, as if the 
nails in the buildings were springing out and the trunks of 
the trees were bursting asunder sounds very mysterious to 
me in my childhood, but now understood to be caused by 
an expansion, on the freezing of water contained in the 
crevices of the trees or in the little exposed cavities of 
buildings. 

THE SNOWY OWL. 

There is something peculiarly exhilarating in this kind of 
weather. Everybody moves as if in a hurry; and, notwith- 
standing the cold, one discovers a strong inclination to be 
out. I am once more on my way to the favorite woods 
beyond the peach orchard, gun in hand. As I move briskly 
along that part of the orchard bordering on the forest, I put 
up a large bird, almost as white as the snow itself. The 
spread of its wings and tail is immense, and its flight is so 
noiseless and dignified that one might almost think it some 
living spiritual impersonation of winter. I take aim, and 



THE SNOWY OWL. 67 

down it tumbles headforemost into the snow. But it is only 
winged; so, taking it by the wings stretched over the back, 
I carry it home to surprise the family. That it is a female 
is to be inferred from its great size and from its more 
numerous dark markings; the male of this species being 
sometimes so free of the dark spots as to appear pure white, 
and the greater size of the female being peculiar to birds of 
prey. 

Little children are apt naturalists, and have many 
questions to ask on an occasion like this, so I use my bird 
for an object-lesson. I call their attention to the large 
head, peculiar to the Owls among birds; and, turning the 
round, weird, half-human face fully before them, call their 
attention to the large eyes fairly in front, while the eyes of 
other birds are on the sides of the head; point to the circle 
of fringed feathers around the eyes, part of which nearly 
covers the bill, and part of which laps over the immense 
ear-hole; and note the eye-lashes, so strange among birds 
This large, round, cat-like face, having also an almost 
human aspect, is at once the weirdest and the most highly 
sensitive. It is all eye and ear, stealthily confronting every 
sound that may break the stillness of the night, and every 
object that may loom up in the gloaming or the darkness. 

" Do you see how the outer web of the outer wing-feathers 
or primaries is recurved, as if it had been firmly brushed 
backwards?" I asked my little girl. "What's that for?" 
she inquired curiously. " So that it can fly without making 
any noise," I replied; "that arrangement of the outer web, 
as also the general softness and looseness of the plumage, 
muffles the stroke of the wing, and enables the bird to steal 
upon its prey in the still hours of the night without alarm- 
ing it. All the Owls, being night-birds of prey, have this 
modification of the wing." " O-o-o-o-oh! see that hole in 



68 THE SNOWY OWL. 

his face!" exclaimed my little boy, as I raised those long, 
loose feathers, arranged in the manner of a disk on the cheek 
of this bird. "That is his ear," I said; "all Owls have their 
ears in their cheeks." " That's a wonderfully big ear, I 
think; what does he have it covered up for?" he queried. 
" That is the fashion with birds; they generally have their 
ears covered," I replied. " Should think he'd want to have 
such a hole in his face covered," he continued. " He's got 
his face well wrapped up," said my little girl, as I parted 
the thick mass of feathers covering the face and the black 
bill almost to the very tip. "Shouldn't think his feet 'ud 
get cold either with such stockings. I wish he'd let me 
have 'em for my dolly this cold weather!" 

This bird is, indeed, most wonderfully protected againt 
the cold. Not only are the feet and legs so thickly covered 
with a long, dense, hair-like plumage, that the great, black 
claws are almost concealed, but the entire plumage of the 
body beneath the surface is of the most downy and elastic 
kind, and so thickly matted together that it is almost proof 
against the smaller kind of ammunition. 

"Wish I had some of them for my doll's hat ! " continued 
the little girl, as I plucked off a few of the ostrich-like 
plumes from the lower part of the body. 

Wilson notes a peculiarity of the eye of this bird, and of 
the Owls generally. He says: "The globe of the eye is 
immovably fixed in its socket by a strong, elastic, hard,, 
cartilaginous case, in form of a truncated cone; this case, 
being closely covered with a skin, appears, at first, to be of 
one continued piece; but, on removing the exterior mem- 
brane, it is found to be formed of fifteen pieces, placed like 
the staves of a cask, overlapping a little at the base or nar- 
row end, and seems as if capable of being enlarged or con- 
tracted, perhaps by the muscular membrane with which 



THE SNOWY OWL. . 69 

they are encased. * * The eye being thus fixed, 

these birds, as they view different objects, are always 
obliged to turn the head; and nature has so excellently 
adapted their neck to this purpose that they can, with ease, 
turn it round, without moving the body, in almost a com- 
plete circle."* 

The Snowy Owl is a bird of the Arctic regions. Common 
in the extreme north of both continents, it is ever at home 
amidst ice and snow; migrating southward in winter, 
regularly into the New England and the Middle States, and 
casually even to the extreme Southern States, breeding, ac- 
cording to the best authorities, as far south as the Canadas, 
and probably even in the north of Maine. I am not sure 
but it may rarely breed here; for, as late as the 7th of May, 
1877, two were seen in the vicinity of Lockport, N. Y., one 
of which was shot and brought to me a fine old male. 
The nest is said to be on the ground, in which are laid 
''three or four white eggs, measuring about 2^6 inches in 
length by 2 in breadth." Mr. Fortiscue says that at York 
Factory, Hudson's Bay, it goes north in summer. 

According to Wilson, "the usual food of this species 
is said to be hares, grouse, rabbits, ducks, mice, and 
even carrion. Unlike most of its tribe, it hunts by day as 
well as by twilight, and is particularly fond of frequenting 
the shores and banks of shallow rivers, over the surface of 
which it slowly sails, or sits on a rock a little raised above 
the water, watching the fish. These it seizes with a sudden 
and instantaneous stroke of the foot, seldom missing its aim." 

In my parish it has been known to attack the hens in 
the barn-yard in broad daylight. 

This bird cannot be mistaken; nearly or about two feet 
long, white, with more or less scattered and lunated spots of 

* This, however, is a characteristic structure of the eye of birds generally. 



70 WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH. 

dark brown or dusky, thickest on the back, not found on the 
legs and feet; eyes, bright golden yellow; feet and claws, 
black. 

I must not close my account of this bird without giving 
a striking incident reported to me by a most venerable and 
trustworthy old gentleman in my church, who was person- 
ally acquainted with the party, and to whom the facts were 
well authenticated at the time. About fifty years ago, in 
the town of Milford, Otsego County, N. Y., a man, on pass- 
ing through a woods in the night, was twice knocked down 
by some strange power in the air; and, securing a club in 
time for the third rencounter, killed a large Snowy Owl, 
which, by this time, had knocked his hat full of holes, and 
sorely bruised his head. 

WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH. 

"All times are good times to go a-shooting." So says 
Dr. Coues; and knowing it to be so, I am again in the 
woods on this cold day. 

I am struck, on entering, with the deserted look of the 
forest, and all the more on account of having seen this 
same spot, so many times, in all the life and splendor of 
summer the trees in their marvelous robes of verdure, 
the wild flowers in all their grace and beauty, the birds in 
the full animation and song of spring. The wondrous 
power of memory reproduces in an instant all this combi- 
nation, with its delightful associations of coolness and fra- 
grance. Now the trees are bare, the flowers are perished, 
and the birds are gone; and how different is the solemn 
sough of the winter wind through leafless trees to the 
musical rustle of the summer breeze amidst the foliage! 
Did I say the birds are gone? No; not entirely. Quank, 
quank, quank. That note, so much louder in winter than in 



WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH. 71 

summer, for the same reason that sounds are louder in the 
night than in day-time that sound, half guttural, half 
nasal, and on a low key, is one of the most familiar in our 
woods throughout the year. It is the language of the 
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis], a bird so com- 
mon here as to be familiar to every woodman, though he 
may have no better name for it than Sapsucker, and may 
know no more about it than to suppose the name charac- 
teristic of its habits. But this bird is thus greatly misun- 
derstood, for while it is supposed to be living upon the sap 
of the tree, it is simply gleaning noxious insects and their 
eggs and larvae. 

Whatever may be the woodman's opinion of the bird, its 
presence affords him pleasure on a bleak winter's day, 
partly because it is often his only relief from solitude, and 
partly because the bird is a pleasing object in itself. How 
gracefully it moves along the trunk of yonder tree ! A 
slight halt every few steps, it goes in a spiral direction, 
head up or down, moving forward, backward, or sidewise 
with equal convenience, every now and then pausing with 
its downward head and bill in a horizontal position, as if 
listening intently, and then taking up its note as it passes 
on, as if to express its sense of safety and satisfaction. 
With this note it can favor one as readily on a frosty day 
in winter as in the genial days of spring. Then, however, it 
makes quite an attempt at a song, uttering a tway-tway-tivay- 
tway-tway, quite rapidly, and with much spirit, as it threads its 
way in the leafless trees on a bright April morning. Occa- 
sionally it will utter in an undertone a soft "tsink, tsink" or 
"kip, kip" Sometimes it will alight on the ground, appar- 
ently to catch something which it has spied from a distance; 
or, for a few minutes, it will search the ground after the 
manner of the Golden-winged Woodpecker. The name 



72 WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCH. 

Nuthatch, though rather far-fetched, is not altogether inap- 
plicable. Holding an acorn or chestnut in a bark-crevice, 
or in a chink of a fence-rail, it will hammer it with its sharp- 
pointed bill till it opens up the contents. This is done, 
however, on account of the larvae burrowing in the fruit 
rather than for the fruit itself, for the bird is at all times 
strictly insectivorous. Then its form and color, too, are as 
pleasing as its movements. About six inches long, bill f6 of 
an inch; head and bill together, about \% inch long; tail, 
short; wings, long; the breadth across the shoulders giving 
it a somewhat flat appearance; bluish ash over the back, 
the outer webbing of the black wings edged with the same, 
also the two middle tail feathers; the rest black, marked 
with white; head and back of neck in male, glossy black; 
in the female, black and ash mixed; whole under parts and 
sides of head, grayish-white this bird cannot be mistaken. 
Its long hind toe and claw must be of great service in its 
downward movements. 

The Eastern United States and the British Provinces are 
given as its habitat. Its nesting habits are similar to those 
of the Chickadee; commonly on higher ground, however, 
and the cavity chosen or excavated higher up in the stub or 
decaying tree, sometimes as high as thirty or forty feet; the 
eggs being a little larger and more thickly marked. 

A set of five eggs in Professor Ward's cabinet at Roches- 
ter, N. Y., from Saratoga Springs, averages about .50 x .75 
inch, are porcelain-white, with a few spots, or rather brush- 
touches, of dark-greenish or ocherous-yellow, at the large 
end elegant! By the 9th of June I have seen the parents 
feeding the young well able to fly. The latter strongly 
resembled the mature female, except that the white on the 
cheeks and sides of the neck extended further upward, leav- 
ing the dark band over the crown and hind neck very nar- 



- THE BL UE JA Y. 73 

row. Great care is shown these younglings by the parents 
in training them to creep and fly, and in feeding them most 
assiduously till quite mature. Indeed, the whole family 
seem not infrequently to remain together throughout the 
first year. 

THE RED-BELLIED NUTHATCH. 

Very similar to the above in appearance and habit is the 
Red-bellied Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis), except that it is 
quite a little smaller, scarcely five inches long, has a white 
line over the eye, and the under parts of a pale rust-red. 
The female has the black about the head replaced with dark 
slate or dusky. The notes of this species are on a little 
higher key than those of Carolinensis, and its nest and 
eggs are precisely like those of the Chickadee. It is north- 
erly, passing through New York State late in April and 
early in May, and again in September and October. Its 
breeding habitat begins in the northern parts of the State, 
extending through northern New England and into the 
British Provinces. 

The little Brown-headed Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla), some 
4.25 long and differentiated by its elegant brown head and 
white spot on the nape, is a resident of the Southern States. 
There the sunny pine forests echo its note " each, each, 
each" its nesting and habits in general being quite similar 
to those of our Nuthatches above described. 

THE BLUE JAY. 

The thermometer continues near zero. Large windows 
are now truly objects of beauty, their frosted patterns being 
inimitable. The larger figures remind one of ferns, or forest 
trees in miniature; some are like thin snow-flakes of varied 
size and pattern, some like delicate lines fringed mostly at 
right angles; others are simply granulated with exquisitely 



74 THE BLUE JA Y. 

scrolled borders, while others still are suggestive of land- 
scapes and pictures all so delicate as to impress one forci- 
bly with the spirituality of the laws which govern matter. 




THE BLUE JAY. 

What a study it would be for the physicist to determine the 
variations possible on the one plan of crystallization of water 
at an angle of 60! 

To-day I came into possession of a bird, the brilliant col- 
ors of which are strikingly in contrast with the plainness of 
winter. The Blue Jay (Cyanurus cristatus) is one of our win- 
ter residents, not so generally distributed as in most parts 
of our country, but quite common to certain low, timbered 
lands, where it is permanent, and breeds in considerable 
numbers. 

This is one of the most characteristic birds of Eastern 
North America. Who does not know the Blue Jay? About 
a foot long, five inches, or near one-half his length, is meas- 
ured by his tail; well proportioned, crested and fan-tailed, 
his form is elegant and his bearing stately; his various and 



THE BLUE JAY. 75 

delicately-shaded tints of blue, the jet-black bars and snow- 
white tips of the wing and tail feathers, the black band from 
the back of the crest down the sides of the neck and meet- 
ing on the breast, and thus being most noticeable on the 
subdued grayish- white of the cheeks and underparts are 
all in the most marked and pleasing contrast. No colored 
portrait which I have ever seen is anything more than a 
coarse caricature of the purplish-blue of the crest and back, 
the brownish-blue on the tail, and delicate shadings of rich 
indigo, ultra-marine and light azure on the wings. A single 
feather of the wing or tail, dropped in the pasture, used to 
excite my childish curiosity and love of beauty. Looking 
merely at his size and gay dress, who would suspect him to 
be a member of the Crow family ? Surely he is a favorite 
arrayed in a coat of many colors. Not only is he elegant in 
form and gay in apparel, but every motion indicates a proud, 
self-consciousness and love of display. Even his flight, 
which is straightforward and steady, is showy rather than 
rapid. When alighted, he stands upright, with elevated 
crest, and all his movements show an air of vanity and self- 
complacency. 

His notes are many and various. His common, saucy- 
squealing, chay, chay, chay, which, no doubt, gave him his 
name in part the other part being derived from his color 
must be familiar to all who know him. "PwUhilly>pwii- 
hily" and " chillack, chillack" are among his other more 
common utterances, while a sort of creaking, clucking 
sound may be regarded as his love-call. He is capable of 
imitating many birds, and there is some authority for assert- 
ing that he, true to his crow-nature, has even been taught 
to imitate words. He is especially fond of teasing. Wilson 
says: "He is not only bold and vociferous, but possesses a 
considerable talent for mimicry, and seems to enjoy great 



70 THE BLUE JAY. 

satisfaction in mocking and teasing other birds, particularly 
the Little Hawk (F. sparverius), imitating his cry whenever 
he sees him, and squealing out as if caught; this soon 
brings a number of his own tribe around him, who all join 
in the frolic, darting about the Hawk, and feigning the cries 
of a bird sorely wounded and already under the clutches 
of its devourer; while others lie concealed in the bushes, 
ready to second their associates in the attack. But this ludi- 
crous farce often terminates tragically. The Hawk, singling 
out one of the most insolent and provoking, sweeps upon 
him in an unguarded moment, and offers him up a sacrifice 
to his hunger and resentment. In an instant the tune is 
changed; all their buffoonery vanishes, and loud and inces- 
sant screams proclaim their disaster." 

Like his near relative, the Crow, he takes delight in tor- 
menting the Owls. 

But lacking as the Blue Jay is in anything like gentle or 
winning ways, he might still meet with a fair toleration 
were it not for his thievish and cruel habits. How he will 
devour the fresh eggs from the bird's nests in his neighbor- 
hood on the sly, gobble up even the tender young, some- 
times in his barbarous daintiness taking nothing but the 
eyes and brain! how he will pick out the eyes of a wounded 
grouse; how he will steal corn from the bin, fruit from the 
garden, and grain from the barn, has been noted by orni- 
thologists in general. I have seen him lugging around an old 
sparrow in the tops of the trees, in the month of May, pick- 
ing out the eyes and brain at his leisure, and seemingly 
without the least compunction; while, like all other tyrants, 
when the true test comes, he is by no means brave, often 
" turning tail " to birds much smaller than himself. In view 
of all this, who will pity him when, during the long winter 
months, he is obliged to subsist on the frozen apples of the 



THE GOLDEN-WINGED WOODPECKER. 77 

orchard, or, at other times of scarcity, to glean scraps 
of carrion! His best living, probably, is when the nuts 
are ripe and plenty. Like other members of the Crow 
family, he can eat anything, and so is called omniv- 
orous. 

In the breeding season the Blue Jay is partial to the ever- 
greens of the forest, especially to dense cedar swamps, the nest 
being most commonly built in an evergreen tree, generally 
near the trunk, and anywhere from ten to thirty feet from the 
ground. The outside of the nest is composed of small twigs, 
the inside of fine rootlets, closely interwoven for the kind of 
materials, and having a dark appearance. The eggs, four or 
five in number, and about the size of those of a Robin, about 
1.15 x -85, are greenish-drab, finely speckled all over with 
light-brown and dull-lilac. 

Habitat, Eastern North America, from the Gulf to 56, 
breeding throughout its range. 

The Florida Jay (Aphelocoma floridand), lacking the crest 
and the elegant black bars on wings and tail, is also blue 
and about the same size as the above. With no white 
markings on wings and tail, a plain gray patch on the back, 
and a whitish forehead, it is much plainer. The blue band 
about the head and neck contrasts finely, however, with the 
gray of the back and breast. It is abundant in Florida, 
and seems to be pretty much confined to that locality. 

THE GOLDEN-WINGED WOODPECKER. 

Between sunset and dark of this cold winter-day, I behold 
a most beautiful effect in the eastern sky. All along 
the horizon is a broad band of brilliant green, which 
gradually shades into a still broader band of rich purple, 
and this latter, on approaching the zenith, shades into a 
cold winter-gray. In the midst of the purple is the moon 



78 THE GOLDEN-WINGED WOODPECKER. 

just before the full, and in front of the green is a bright 
train of silvery clouds, tinted with the lingering hues of a 
rosy sunset. 

I am traversing the border of a large tract of woods, 
when, high above the rest of the trees, in the tops of the tower- 
ing elms, I discern the form and flight of the Golden-winged 
Woodpecker (Colaptes auratus], a bird but occasionally seen 
in this locality in winter. Silent and shy, he makes off as 
fast as convenient, keeping to the tops of the tallest trees. 
I strain my eyes for a last glimpse of him, but he soon 
vanishes in the gloaming. 

What a train of recollections and associations that mo- 
mentary flight recalls! Next to the Robin, Bluebird, or 
Barn Swallow, few members of the feathered tribes are bet- 
ter known than " Flicker," " High-hole," "Yellow-hammer," 
etc., for the Golden-wing is known by all these names. 
His several notes are among the most characteristic sounds 
of spring, at which time he is thoroughly noisy. Com- 
ing from the south in large numbers late in March or 
early in April, ascending some tall, dry tree-top at early 
dawn, he announces himself either by a sonorous rapping 
on the dry wood or by a loud squealing, but jovial call, 
chee-ah, chee-ah which, once noted, is not easily forgotten. But 
even this latter is not half so awakening as a certain pro- 
longed strain, of merely two syllables in regular repetition, 
something like whric'k-ah whrick-ah whric'k-ah whrick- 
ah whric'k-ah whric'k-ah. This vocal performance, meant 
for a song no doubt, is a mere rollicking racket toned 
down, indeed, amidst the many voices of spring, and 
even rendered pleasing by its good-natured hilarity. How 
significant is that little love-note, yu-cah, half guttural, 
half whisper, which he repeats at intervals as he flits 
about the solitude of the forest in spring, or plays bo- 



THE GOLDEN-WINGED WOODPECKER. 79 

peep with his lover around the broken-off top or limb of 
some dead tree ! 

His flight is swift, vigorous and dashing; is performed in 
curves by a few flaps of the wings, curving upward several 
feet when alighting on the trunk of a tree, but ending hori- 
zontally when alighting cross-wise on limbs, after the man- 
ner of perching birds. In manner, as in structure, he is not 
precisely like the rest of his family. At home anywhere 
from the tallest tree-top to the ground, and always in a 
hurry when afoot, he will capture his insect food after the 
manner of Robins and Sparrows. Ants of all sizes are spe- 
cially in favor with him. Why he should have such a 
decided preference for this dry diet it is difficult to conceive 
perhaps on account of the tickling sensation which large 
numbers of these vigorous little creatures may afford when 
taken alive into the stomach. In summer and in autumn, 
when these birds are sometimes exceedingly numerous, they 
do not disdain certain kinds of small fruit, as wild grapes 
and elderberries. 

The nidification of this species is so much like that of 
other Woodpeckers as to need no special notice, except in 
two particulars, viz., that Flicker frequently chooses a 
much decayed stub, and that the eggs are especially trans- 
lucent and beautiful, the yolk appearing through the shell 
when fresh. It may perhaps be added that the eggs are 
sometimes laid at irregular intervals and in extraordinary 
numbers. 

About the size of a Pigeon, some 12.50 length and 
19.00 extent, with bill slightly curved, its head and neck 
are of a purplish-drab, with a scarlet crescent on the back of 
the head, and, in the male, a black spot on each cheek at 
the base of the bill; upper parts greenish-brown, spotted with 
black; rump white and very conspicuous in flight; under 



80 THE GOLDEN-WINGED WOODPECKER. 

parts reddish-white, beautifully spotted with black; a black 
crescent on the breast; shafts of the larger feathers, under 
side of wings and tail a rich yellow. 

This bird ranges through Eastern North America, resid- 
ing from the Middle States southward, some wintering as 
far north as New England, and breeding throughout its 
range. 



CHAPTER V. 
A JANUARY THAW. 

IT is the last of January, 1880. We have had a complete 
thaw; the frost is about out of the ground; the sunny days 
would do credit to the last of March. Of course, ornitholo- 
gists are on the lookout such days as these, so I must to 
the fields and to the woods. 

THE SNOW-BIRD. 

As I spring over a pasture fence I startle a flock of Snow- 
birds (Junco hyemalis] from among the withered golden-rods 
of last year. Tse-tse-tse-tse-tse, and they leave en masse for the 
brush-heap yonder. Both sight and sound give me clue to 
them at once, for they are common here from October till 
May. The great body of them, however, pass south- 
ward in autumn and northward in spring, it being one of 
the most abundant birds in the migrations. 

Who does not love the Snow-bird? Not for its gay 
apparel, however, for it is not only plain, but even sombre in 
dress. The Mourning Sparrow, it might be called. A fine 
male is almost as dark as crape, the pure white of his bil 1 , 
feet and legs, lower breast and under parts and feathers on 
either side of his tail, being a most delicate set-off. The 
female, when lightest, has the dark parts, a half mourning 
gray, or dark drab. How strikingly in harmony is this little 
bird with the gloom of autumn, the bleak days of winter, 
or the chilly winds and unclad fields of early spring! 
6 



82 THE SNOW-BIRD. 

In size, structure, and habit, it is every whit a Sparrow, 
and quite frequently chooses the various members of that 
family for its company. Most intimately is the history of 




THE SNOW-BIRD. 



this bird associated with my childhood. I well remember 
the sunny spring day in Nova Scotia, when, in my boyish 
delight, I found the first two bird's nests the first, that of 
the Hermit Thrush; the second, that of a Snow-bird. Ever 
after I found the nest of the latter among the most com- 
mon. Situated like that of the Song Sparrow, generally on 
the ground and under some protection, rarely on a stump 
or in a low bush, it is neatly built and most softly lined 
with hair often the hair rubbed off by the cattle on the 
stumps. It contains some four eggs about .80 x -60, of a 
fleshy white, sometimes tinged with blue, delicately specked 
with reddish-brown. This nest is a very gem of its kind 
almost proof in itself against the boyish propensity to dis- 



THE SNOW-BIRD. 83 

turb this kind of treasure. When startled from her nest 
the female is much excited, hobbling along on the ground as 
if lame or leg-broken, her wide-spread tail showing the white 
feathers on either side the mark of relationship to the 
Bay-wing to the best advantage. Hopping about the 
nearest stump or fence-rail, in the most uneasy manner, 
she is joined immediately by her darker mate, in her sharp 
chip-chip-chip-chip-chipping, and again takes possession of the 
nest as soon as the intruder leaves. The chipping note of 
this bird is so much like that of the Chipping Sparrow 
(Spizella socialis) that Wilson found many persons in New 
England and some in New York State who believed that 
the former turned into the latter in summer, and it was most 
difficult to remove the erroneous notion. 

Resembling the Song Sparrow in size and general habit, 
the Snow-bird differs widely from it, not only in color, but 
in its song, which is a prolonged tintinnabulous twitter a 
more musical rendering of the monotonous strokes in the 
plain melody of the Chipping Sparrow. Sometimes, how- 
ever, one may surprise it in a soft, low warble, as if indulg- 
ing in a musical soliloquy. 

Though belonging to the Fringillidce, or seed-eating family, 
it is, in summer at least, particularly insectivorous, completely 
crowding its mouth with soft, writhing larvae for its young. 

Audubon gave the Alleghany Mountain range as the breed- 
ing habitat of this bird, and did not see it in Labrador. 
Minot reports it breeding in the White Mountains early in 
June, and sometimes again in July. Augustus H. Wood, 
an ornithologist residing at Painted Post, N. Y., reports it 
breeding commonly in his neighborhood, in damp situations 
in ravines of hemlock woods. I have myself seen the 
female, on the 7th of June, her mouth crammed with larvae, 
in Tonawanda Swamp, in Orleans County, N. Y. Dr. Coues 



84 THE MEADOW LARK. 

informs me that in suitable localities it breeds southward, 
even to Virginia and North Carolina. May not the damp 
coolness of the swamp retain northern birds during the 
breeding season as well as do the mountain ranges? 

The Snow-bird winters from Southern New England 
southward to the Gulf States. In the Rocky Mountains and 
to the westward it is replaced by closely-allied species or 
varieties. 

THE MEADOW LARK. 

It is ten o'clock in the forenoon. A strong south wind springs 
up, and the sky, so clear and sunny an hour ago, is covered 
with dense, gray clouds. I am strolling along the telegraph 
road by an old stone fence, when a pair of Meadow Larks 
(Sturnella magnd] light on the fence a few rods from me, 
scarcely able to stand up against the wind. They are occa- 
sionally seen here throughout the winter. 

For the most part, however, this is a migratory bird, 
entering the Middle States, New England, and correspond- 
ing latitudes about the second week in March, and going 
south in flocks with the later migrations to spend the 
winter in the Southern States. Here, according to Wilson, 
at this time of year, " they swarm among the rice planta- 
tions, running about the yards and out-houses, accompanied 
by the Killdeers, with little appearance of fear, as if quite 
domesticated." 

In the wet, chilly days of March we are forcibly reminded 
that spring is here by the clear, sweet, but plaintive warble, 
which comes in soft, whistling tones from meadow and 
pasture, wee-tsee-tsee-ree-ee, tsce-ree-tsee-ree-ce. The strange 
flight, too, consisting of a few tremulous, vibrating strokes 
of the wings, succeeded by a short sailing, clearly distin- 
guishes the Meadow Lark. What strange impulse is it 
which starts this bird thus early northward to buffet 



THE MEADOW LARK. 85 

benumbing winds and rains? Had we the wings of a bird, 
would we not then fly away to sunnier climes and be at rest? 

Always a bird of the fields, hence sometimes called " Old 
Field Lark," on its arrival it keeps to the ground, the 
stone heaps, and the fence. As the period of mating and 
nidification approaches, the male becomes quite noisy. 
Launching into the air at a considerable height, instead of 
his whistling warble, he gives vent to a loud, guttural twitter. 
Frequently alighting in solitary trees about the field, he 
steps back and forth, and jerks and spreads his tail in the 
most uneasy and excited manner. The female, meanwhile, 
seems shy and retiring, and frequently needs a good deal of 
coaxing on the part of the male; but in due time receives 
his amorous attentions with the utmost complacency. 

Though this species breeds in Florida already in the latter 
part of April, nidification does not begin here till the middle 
or latter part of May. In the case of a most typical nest, an 
excavation is made in a tussock of grass; coarse dried 
grasses are duly arranged as a frame- work, and the lining 
is of fine grasses, while the dried grasses of the previous 
year, still standing around the excavation, are matted and 
arranged overhead with other material, so as to form a roof 
open on one side. In this cozy home are placed four or five 
white eggs, a little larger than those of a Robbin, about 
1.10 x .80, speckled, and sometimes blotched, with reddish- 
brown and lilac. Sometimes, however, the nest is quite 
exposed, like that of a Bay-winged Sparrow. In New York 
State a second brood may be raised. The young are most 
tenderly cared for by the parents for weeks after being able 
to fly; indeed, up to the period of migration the whole 
family generally keep together. When caring for their 
young the parent birds have a peculiar note, which sounds 
like guaip, quaip. 



86 THE RED-HEADED WOODPECKER. 

In the beautiful days of October the male often indulges 
in his delicious warble. At this time the moult has some- 
what changed his appearance. The brown tips and mark- 
ings of the black feathers above, the more perfect fringes 
of very light brown, which adorn all the dark plumage, as 
well as the various light markings about the head, are all of 
a warmer, redder tint, while the bright-yellow underneath, 
and especially the jet-black and somewhat heart-shaped 
collar on the breast, are so deeply fringed with reddish as 
to render them somewhat obscure. In plumage, voice and 
nidification, this bird resembles the Lark, but in structure, 
it is more properly an American Starling. On the prairies 
and plains of the far west there is a lighter-colored variety, 
said to differ in song; while in South America, there is a 
beautiful Red-breasted Lark, similar to ours in form, size, 
and marking. 

The Meadow Lark's long-pointed bill and enormous legs 
and feet may be regarded as indicative of its ground-life 
and insect diet. Though seeming to be a rather awkwardly- 
shaped bird when examined in the hand, it often takes an 
attitude when alighting, especially if on a rock, which is 
exceedingly graceful. 

Breeding in Texas and Florida northward as far as the 
Columbia and the Saskatchawan rivers, Mr. Everett Smith 
reports it as " common in western Maine;" and adds, "not 
common east of the Kennebeck Valley, and almost unknown 
east of the Penobscot Valley. Much less abundant in the 
western part of the State now than twenty years ago." Mr. 
Chamberlain notes it as "a rare summer resident" in New 
Brunswick. 

THE RED-HEADED WOODPECKER. 

I pass on to the woods and meet a striking object but 
occasionally seen in our winter landscape, the Red-headed 



THE BROWN CREEPER. 87 

Woodpecker (Mclanerpes erythrocephalus). About the size of 
most of its relatives in this locality, some 9.50 long, 
with bright-scarlet head and neck, upper parts black with 
steel-blue reflections, except the rump and secondaries, 
which, like the under parts, are white, it is so well known 
as to need but little description. This bird is a common 
resident here during the summer, and, in most respects, is 
so like other Woodpeckers in habit as to need but little 
special history in a work like this. Its partiality to road- 
sides, its striking coloration of red, white and black, making 
it one of the most strikingly beautiful bird-ornaments of 
our landscape, and its excessive fondness for fruit, especially 
cherries, are its most marked peculiarities. Its ordinary 
call, ker-er-er-er-er, when rollicking in the tree-tops, is very 
characteristic. 

THE BROWN CREEPER. 

The Red-head passes out of sight, and for a while all is 
silent. Hark! there is a soft conversational twitter among 
the hemlocks. I wait patiently, and strain my eyes in this 
direction and that, but for some minutes can see nothing. 
Presently a troop of Chickadees appear; then several White- 
bellied Nuthatches, uttering a soft kip, kip, kip, and an 
occasional sonorous quank, quank, pass by in their usual 
spirited manner; and, while they are yet passing, two Brown 
Creepers (Certhia familiaris) come in sight. Lighting at the 
base of the trees, they ascend them by dainty little jerks in 
a spiral manner, gleaning food as they go, uttering an 
occasional soft chip, or a quick shree-shree-shree; often flit- 
ting away from a tree before ascending very high, in order 
to begin the ascent at the base of another, which, this time, 
perhaps, will be continued to the top. How well the color 
of this little bird, a variety of rich browns curiously marked 
the white underneath being out of sight corresponds 



88 THE BROWN CREEPER. 

with the colors of this open winter. Its long, slender bill, 
much curved, is well adapted to picking insects and their 
larvae from the crevices of the bark, while the sharp claws 
and rigid-pointed tail-feathers are a sufficient support to the 
ascending movements. It is too graceful and dignified ever 
to hang head-downward like Nuthatches and Titmice. It 
is also rather shy, frequently keeping the opposite side of the 
tree on seeing the observer, and then it is necessary to get 
behind a tree also, and, looking for it some distance higher 
than the point where it disappeared, one may get a glimpse 
of it again. Its flight is very nervous and quick. In spring 
it will be much more numerous, as the greater number of 
this species passes south in autumn and north in spring, 
when it has a soft and melodious song. 

It is now well made out that the ordinary nesting-place of 
this species is behind a loose strip of bark on a dead tree or 
a stub, from five to fifteen feet from the ground. Composed 
externally of dried twigs arranged lengthwise between the 
bare mast-like trunk and the loosened bark, and so assum- 
ing a crescent form elevated at both ends and depressed 
in the middle, the interior and bulk of the nest are of shreds 
of the inner bark of various trees, with, perhaps, some 
usnea and spider's cocoons, and lined with still finer shreds 
of bark or with feathers. If the bark is so close to the 
tree as barely to admit the nest, the external structure of 
twigs is dispensed with. The tree or stub chosen is gen- 
erally of the pine or fir, and is nearly denuded of bark. 
The eggs, generally five or six, averaging .59 X .48, are 
delicate white, rosy when fresh, finely marked with brown 
and purplish-brown. They resemble those of the Titmice 
and Nuthatches. 

This diminutive species, some 5.50 long, is at home alike 
in Europe and throughout North America. 



THE- GREAT HORNED OWL. 89 

THE GREAT HORNED OWL. 

Our four seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter, are 
not divided by exact lines. There is no perceptible differ- 
ence between the last of May and the first of June, nor between 
the last of August and the first of September; and the melt- 
ing power of spring is in the air, even in our climate, long 
before the last of February. The birds do not begin to 
make their appearance from the south, indeed, until some 
time in March; yet there is one common resident, which 
breeds already in February, becoming conscious, perhaps, 
of the genial influence of the first melting rays of the sun. 
About the middle of the last-named month a youth brought 
me a large, living female of the Great Horned Owl (Bubo 
virgintanus), which had been winged while on the nest; and 
he had also secured the eggs. The nest was a huge pile of 
sticks, placed very high in a beech tree; the eggs, two in 
number, some 2.25 x 2.00, were roundish, smooth, and of a 
dull but clear white. The nest is said to be found some- 
times in a hollow tree, or. even in the cleft of a rock, but 
generally in a tall pine or hemlock, and to be generally 
" lined with dry leaves and a few feathers," the eggs being 
sometimes as many as six. Twenty inches or two feet in 
length, tawny or whitish, variously mottled with brown 
and black; with a large, white patch on the throat, large 
ear- tufts and bright-yellow irides; his is a large, homely 
form, patched and spotted with the plainest of colors, and 
having a face like that of a lynx rather than of a bird. Nor are 
his habits any more agreeable than his personal appearance. 
Most formidable as to bill and claws, he is a sly, destructive 
bird of prey, even to the devastation of the poultry-yard. 
Wilson tells the following amusing anecdote about him: 
"A very large one, wing broken, * * * was kept 
about the house for several days, and at length disappeared, 



90 THE GREA T HORNED WL. 

no one knew how. Almost every day after this hens and 
chickens also disappeared, one by one, in an unaccountable 
manner, till, in eight or ten days, very few were left remain- 
ing. The fox, the minx, and weasel were alternately the 
reputed authors of this mischief, until one morning, the 
old lady herself, rising before day to bake, in passing 
towards the oven, surprised her late prisoner, the Owl, 
regaling himself on the body of a newly-killed hen! The 
thief instantly made for his hole under the house, from 
whence the enraged matron soon dislodged him with the 
brush-handle, and without mercy dispatched him. In this 
snug retreat were found the greater part of the feathers, 
and many large fragments of her whole family of chickens." 

In confinement the Great Horned Owl is simply horrible. 
He will squint and scowl at one in the most ominous man- 
ner; and again turning his eyes into very balls of fire, will 
snap at one like a cross dog, hiss like an angry cat, and 
strike his claws at one with the most murderous force. Did 
I not once see a large dog rush around the house in perfect 
desperation, in the attempt to disengage the claws of this 
bird from both sides of his head? 

If reared from the nest, however, he may become quite 
docile and friendly. Mr. Bruce, of Brockport, has one such, 
which, on being greeted with a bow by his master, will bow 
and blink most obsequiously in return, and will even reach 
out his foot to shake hands. One now in the large museum 
at Drummondville, Ontario, opposite Niagara Falls, will 
boo-hoo and bawl, after the most hideous manner of his wonted 
midnight carnivals in the forest, in answer to the conver- 
sation and questions of his keeper. 

Concerning the courtship of this bird, Audubon says: 
" The curious evolutions of the male in the air, or his 
motions when he has alighted near his beloved, it is impos- 



THE RED-TAILED HAWK. 91 

sible to describe. His bowings and the snappings of his bill 
are extremely ludicrous; and no sooner is the female assured 
that the attentions paid her by the beau are the result of a 
sincere affection than she joins in the motions of her future 
mate." 

How Of How Of Hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo! These, with many 
other screaming and choking sounds to one who has heard 
them, and has both a good memory and a good imagination, 
may be especially significant. But of all the sounds with 
which this bird makes night hideous, no one has heard any 
to the greatest advantage, unless, passing through some dis- 
mal forest in the full blackness of night, he has heard the 
alarm sounded suddenly in the tree-tops above him. 

No one need fail of the acquaintance of the Great Horned 
Owl, for he is abundant, and the whole continent is his 
habitat. 

THE RED-TAILED HAWK. 

It is the last of February. The ground is frozen hard; a 
light fall of snow during the previous night has but covered 
the earth, and the sun has started on his career through the 
heavens without a cloud to obscure his pathway. Gun in 
hand, I have entered the nearest woods, and am crossing the 
course of a run, smoothly frozen over, when I break through 
the shell-ice, and from the dry region beneath the Gray 
Rabbit (Lepus sylvaticus) springs out through the opening at 
my feet, and squats on a log only a few feet from me. I 
attempt to fire, but the gun will not go off. I spoil several 
caps, and go home to see what the matter is, well knowing 
that I can track my game in the new snow for some time to 
come. I am chagrined at the loss of the Rabbit, but am 
diverted by the flight of a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo borealis], 
which, high in air, seems to be enjoying this delightful 
morning. 



92 THE RED-TAILED HAWK. 

How much there is in the flight of a bird! Full well has 
the Duke of Argyll seized upon it as an unmistakable evi- 
dence of design in nature. From the fish darting through 
the pathless waters, or the serpent gliding without legs or 
feet along the ground, or the frog leaping with surprising 
elasticity, or the stately stepping of the steed, up through 
all the various styles and methods of animal locomotion, to 
the eagle which soars above the clouds, the flight of birds 
is by far the most interesting and wonderful. How that 
Hawk floats like something ethereal in the atmosphere! His 
lungs affording communication with a system of large cavi- 
ties throughout the body, the bones and muscles, even, and 
the spaces between the body and the skin being pervaded 
by the ramifications of air-cells, every respiration literally 
fills him; and this inhaled air being rarefied by the heat of 
his body, not to speak of the innumerable interspaces of 
the light plumage, all pervaded by the external air, he is 
almost as light as the clouds themselves. If the reader has 
ever climbed a mountain, and known the intoxication of 
delightful sensations produced by a rarefied atmosphere, he 
may form some conception of what must be the pleasurable 
sensations of this soaring creature. 

As to the act of flight itself, the upper side of the wing 
being convex, and the wing somewhat drawn together, the 
upward stroke in flight meets but little resistance, while the 
under side, which is concave, incloses the atmosphere in the 
downward stroke of the fully-extended wing, and so secures 
the full force of its elasticity. This, however, simply 
enables the bird to rise. What carries it forward ? The air, 
escaping behind the long, elastic pinions, drives it on, some- 
what as the wind, escaping behind the sail, propels the boat. 
The sailing of the bird, with steady, motionless wings, is 
accomplished by a nice adjustment of the wing to the 



THE RED-TAILED HAWK. 93 

breeze, precisely like the trimming of a sail. But to hover 
is the most wonderful feat of the bird to make rapid 
strokes with the wings, and yet remain at the same point in 
the air. Who has not seen the King-fisher, or the Spar- 
row Hawk hover ? or the Humming-bird, as it poises itself 
in front of the flower, to capture the insects housed in its 
beautiful chambers, or to sip its nectar? This is done by an 
oblique stroke of the wings. The bird is never in a horizontal 
position in hovering, but always poised at an angle, thus 
allowing the air to escape from the wing in such a manner 
as simply to keep it up. Here is design, indeed, but also 
something still higher; the thought of flight must have 
preceded the nice adjusting of the structure and functions 
of the wing to the aerial laws. But there is no thought 
without a thinker; hence the flight of the Hawk carries my 
mind up to the Great Creator. And is this not a great 
lesson taught in a most pleasing manner? Who could not 
derive pleasure in beholding such majestic soaring, such 
grand spiral curves of immense sweep, such sublime eleva- 
tion, till the bird becomes a mere speck against the ether? I 
cannot think of any bird short of the Eagle whose flight can 
equal this in elegance and grandeur. It is the very poetry 
of motion. What can the bird be thinking of at such a 
time ? Is it not enjoying that animated existence, the very 
consciousness of which, in its normal state, is bliss? Great 
lesson to unsatisfied human nature. 

Here let us quote a few lines from John Burroughs: " The 
calmness and dignity of this Hawk, when attacked by the 
Crows or the King-bird, are well worthy of him. He seldom 
deigns to notice his noisy and furious antagonists, but 
deliberately wheels about in that aerial spiral, and mounts 
and mounts till his pursuers grow dizzy and return to the 
earth again. It is quite original, this mode of getting rid of 



94 THE RED-TAILED HAWK. 

an unworthy opponent, rising to heights where the braggart 
is dazed and bewildered and loses his reckoning! I am not 
sure but it is worthy of imitation." 

The tube of my shot-gun cleared, I return early in the 
afternoon in search of the Gray Rabbit. I have no difficulty 
in tracing his track in the fresh snow, but what a zigzag 
course he has taken! I seem -to have traveled miles, and 
yet am only a few rods from the place of starting. Alas! 
poor Rabbit! I have reached the end of his career, and find 
simply a great spot of blood on the snow, with bunches of 
hair and a few bones. While I am trying to conjecture the 
author of this tragedy, I look up to the top of a tall tree 
quite near and spy a Red-tailed Hawk motionless as a 
statue. He is probably the one I saw soaring so majesti- 
cally a few hours ago, and is now resting in favor of diges- 
tion, after gorging himself with the missing Rabbit, Some- 
what annoyed at the extent of the meal, but more over the 
loss of my game, I take aim and bring him to the ground. 
He must lose his life in penalty of gluttony. Ordinarily, 
he would not have allowed the hunter to come near enough 
to reach him with a shot-gun. He is only wounded, how- 
ever, and rearing himself on claws and tail, assumes a most 
formidable attitude of defense. With superciliary ridges 
projecting far over his eyes, which gleam with vengeance, 
with mouth wide open and crest erect, what a savage physi- 
ognomy he presents! And in what a threatening manner 
he raises his powerful wings! ' Hands off!" is the language 
of his whole expression, as bill, wings and claws are in equal 
readiness for blows and wounds. I extend to him the 
muzzle of the gun, which he grasps so firmly with both 
talons that I carry him home before he relinquishes his 
hold. Nailing slats across a large box, I attempt to keep 
my bird in confinement, placing food before him regularly. 



THE RED-TAILED HAWK. 95 

and showing him every possible attention; but, like a genuine 
savage, he will neither eat nor show any sign of grief or 
submission. And yet I must admire him, for he finally di< 
without any yielding of spirit, without any disposition 
whatever to become a slave. 

The Hawks, as a group belonging to the birds of prey, 
are placed between the Owls and the Vultures. The Hawks 
again, according to their structure, are naturally arranged into 
Harriers, Falcons, True-hawks, Buzzards and Fish-hawks. 
The Red-tailed Hawk, often called the Hen Hawk, is a 
Buzzard, and, like the rest of the Buzzards, is so nearly 
related to the Eagle as to afford very little structural dif- 
ference. In dignity of habit this Hawk, as well as some 
others, stands above the Eagle. The latter is often a notori- 
ous thief, wresting the hard-earned prey from other birds, 
or even condescending to the most putrid carrion, while the 
Hawks in general capture their own prey. The fare of the 
Red-tailed Hawk is quite in keeping with his dignified 
bearing, consisting generally of hares, squirrels, birds, barn- 
yard fowl, frogs, or a fancy snake. In search of the latter, 
or perhaps even of mice, you may sometimes see him scour- 
ing the meadows somewhat in the manner of the Marsh 
Hawk. Generally, however, with a keen-sightedness which 
is perfectly marvelous, he descries his prey from the 
enormous height of his spiral sailing, sometimes dropping 
almost meteor-like, and then suddenly checking himself, he 
seizes his quarry unawares; or he alights on it from some 
perch near by, whence he has been reconnoitering an im- 
mense reach of territory. On the whole, if it were not for 
his depredations on the poultry-yard, we should think more 
of him than of any other bird of prey. The natural adap- 
tation of this class of birds to a life of cruelty makes them 
repulsive to the tenderer feelings, unless, indeed, we conceive 



96 THE RED-TAILED HAWK. 

that the perfection of nature's variety needs a cruel phase, 
just as the various shades of light and of color need dark- 
ness for their perfection. 

The Red- tailed Hawk is nearly two feet in length; the 
color above is a rich dark-brown, the wings and upper tail- 
coverts marked and barred with dusky and white; the tail is 
generally bright chestnut-red, sometimes margined with 
white, always sub-margined with black reddish-gray be- 
neath; the under parts generally white, with a zone of 
brown markings across the breast. The cere, legs and feet 
are bright-yellow. This may be regarded as the ordinary 
marking of the mature bird. It varies greatly, however, 
with age. The male is several inches shorter than the 
female. 

In Western New York, the Red-tailed Hawk lays its eggs 
in March or April. The eggs, three in number, of a nest 
taken the 27th of March, are now before me. One of my 
parishioners discovered it in a large beech tree, only a few 
rods from his sugar-camp, where he was busy every day 
gathering and boiling sap, the birds not seeming in the least 
disturbed by the business. The nest, equal in bulk to a 
bushel-basket, composed of sticks rudely piled, lined with 
fine strips of the inner bark of ash rails in a slashing near 
by, was in the fork of a large limb, about fifteen feet from 
the trunk, and about a hundred and twenty feet from the 
ground. A truly perilous undertaking was this ascent, and 
yet a young friend kindly volunteered his services, saying, 
with a very suggestive look: " If I fall and break my bones, 
you must pay the doctor's bill; if I kill myself, you must 
pay my funeral expenses." The eggs, about 2.25 long by 
rather less than 1.90 broad, are roundish, one end a little 
smaller than the other, greenish-white, two dimly scratched 
and spotted with a purplish-brown, while all are more or 



THE RED-TAILED HAWK. 97 

less sparingly marked with a muddy-brown, the latter color- 
ing, in the case of the otherwise clear egg, seeming very 
like slight smirchings of dirt. On the whole, they are rather 
pretty. Another nest, taken a few days later, contained two 
eggs not quite so round, and having the dark-brown markings 
heavier and more numerous. The nest was similarly placed. 
In the latter part of March, of 1874, a nest was found in the 
top of a tall elm tree in the woods near Knowlesville. Two 
young men undertook to capture the Hawk. The one fired 
at the nest, and, holding his piece rather carelessly, found it 
sticking in the mud behind him; the other succeeded in 
taking the female bird on the wing as she left her eyrie. 
The male now sat on the eggs for a time, but was too 
wary to allow an approach within gun-shot, and left after a 
few days. In all of the above cases the birds seem to have 
raised their young in the same locality for a series of years. 

The note of the Red-tailed Hawk, most commonly heard, 
as he sails high in the air, in the bright days of summer, and 
expressed, perhaps, by the syllables Kshee-o, Kshee-o, well 
drawn out, is rather harsh and squealing, but when uttered 
while the female cuts her grand circles above the nest, as it 
is being disturbed, it is even pathetic. 

This bird may be found in Western New York throughout 
the yeaV; and from the last of February or the first of 
March till late in autumn, it is our most common Hawk. 
Its habitat is all North America, and even Mexico and 
some of the West India Islands. 

Similar in form to the above, but a little larger, and dis- 
tinguishable by the "tarsus feathered in front for more 
than half its length," and by the four outer quills " incised 
on the inner webs," is that rare southern species Harlan's 
Hawk (Bueto harlani). It is, however, a little larger, and 
appears darker. " General colors throughout, dark, sooty - 
7 



98 THE RED-TAILED HAWK. 

brown, with the wings, excepting tips of primaries, finely 
but irregularly barred with ashy-brown and whitish. The 
tail is mottled with ashy-brown, which becomes decidedly 
rufous next to the shaft of the subterminal portion of the 
feathers. Below, the feathers of the flanks and under the 
tail coverts are obscurely banded with ashy-brown. The 
basal two-thirds of the feathers on head, neck, all around, 
and breast to middle of body, are pure white." (Maynard). 

This fine bird was first found in Louisiana by Audubon. 
As none were found for many years afterward, its validity 
as a species was doubted. More recently some half-dozen 
specimens have been found, some as far north as Pennsyl- 
vania, but more of them in Texas. It is now regarded as 
a well-defined species. 

The Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus] male, some 
19.00 long; female, 22.00 is nearly as long as the former 
species to which it is very closely related, but it is not nearly 
as heavy. Reddish-brown above the feathers, dark-centered, 
lighter shade of the same below, with narrow streaks of 
darker and bars of white, the blackish tail noticeably banded 
with white, shoulder of the wing orange-brown. Young, 
plain brown above, white below, dark-streaked. This species 
is every way similar in habit to the Red-tail. Very abund- 
ant along the Atlantic Coast and in the Atlantic States 
generally, it becomes rare already in the Maritime prov- 
inces, and is not common to the westward. It is either rare 
or overlooked in Western New York. 

Swainson's Hawk (Buteo swainsoni), a northwestern species, 
breeding rarely in Illinois, and straggling to Montreal and 
Massachusetts, must be noticed here. The male, some 19.50 
long, and 48.00 in extent, is dark-brown above, lighter on 
head, darker on wings, and ashy on tail, the feathers, 
especially on neck, more or less edged with reddish. Wings 



THE RED-TAILED HAWK. 99 

and tail crossed with wary bars of dusky, the latter tipped 
with whitish. Concealed patch on back of head, white; 
sides white, barred with reddish and dark-brown; white 
beneath, tinged below the throat with reddish-yellow, the 
breast barred with reddish-brown; under wing coverts 
tipped with black. There is also a darker form. The 
female, some 20.10 long and 48.75 in extent, is similarly 
marked, but much darker. This species sometimes builds 
its nest in shrubbery. 

The Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo pennsylvanicus ) is a com- 
mon eastern species. The male, some 15.25 long and 35.00 
in extent, is brown above, the feathers edged with reddish; 
head and neck streaked with white; tail with a broad, red- 
dish-gray band a little more than an inch from the tip, a 
narrow band of the same nearer the base, and tipped with 
same; under parts white, or buffy-white, broadly cross- 
barred and variously marked with light-brown. Female, an 
inch or so longer, and similarly marked. This fine little 
Hawk is generally distributed throughout the Eastern 
States in summer, and winters to the south. Its food is 
mostly the smaller birds and quadrupeds, which it captures 
for the most part among the bushes or on the ground. Like 
the rest of the Buteos, it is quite given to sailing in flight, 
but not in such grand, sweeping curves as those of its larger 
congeners. It is, perhaps, one of the most unwary of all 
our Hawks, and, with a little caution, may be approached 
quite closely. It nests in trees, constructing quite a bulky 
nest of sticks and twigs externally, and lined with leaves 
and shreds of bark. Generally an evergreen tree is pre- 
ferred. The eggs, three or four, some 2.10 x 1.65 elliptical 
or roundish, are of a dirty white color, blurred or blotched 
with reddish-brown. Sometimes they are almost white. 



CHAPTER VI. 

VOICES OF SPRING. 

IN the Middle States the entire month of March is a tem- 
pestuous conflict between the icy cold of winter and 
the power of a vernal sun. Yet even the first week of this 
month may have its days of genial warmth, when the earth, 
reeking from the relenting frost, woos the coming spring. 
Such is this third day of March, when lo! a voice salutes me, 
which is the very soul of tenderness. .1 can scarcely tell 
whether sadness or joy the more prevails in its soft warb- 
lings, so strictly is it in harmony with these unsettled days. 
It is the voice of the Bluebird (Sialia sialis). Appearing 
here the last week in February or the first week in March, 
the "color" of the sky "on his back" and the "hue" of the 
earth "on his breast," he may well inspire hope and courage 
in every heart. Who does not welcome the Bluebird ? 
Like the sweet-scented trailing arbutus, which they called 
the May-flower, the arrival of the Bluebird cheered the 
fainting spirits of the first settlers of Massachusetts after a 
long and dreadful winter; and, associating him in some way 
with the Robin-redbreast of Europe, they called him the 
Blue Robin. Some 6.50-7.00 long, the upper parts of the 
male are a beautiful, bright, ultra-marine blue ; throat, 
breast and sides chestnut-red ; belly white. The female is 
similar, but more or less tinged with dull gray above. The 
young resemble the old, but, with a light fringed plumage 
above, are truly beautiful. 



. THE BLUEBIRD. 101 

All through March, but especially through April, the 
bright colors and soft, clear warble of the Bluebird are 
inseparably associated with our landscape. The females, 
arriving some time after the males, about the middle of 
April, there is a modest courtship, resulting in pairing and 
immediate preparation for nesting. As the female first 
appears and alights on the fence, the males may appear one 
on each side of her, each vying with the other in attractive 
demonstrations. They raise their wings with a graceful, 
trembling motion, warble most significantly, and sidle 
towards her. Perchance she disdains them both, and as she 
flies away they both pursue her. A spirited contest between 
the males may now occur, or the female accepting the over- 
tures of the one, the other will quietly retire. The mating 
over, the warbling grows more cheerful. Boxes, deserted 
Woodpeckers' holes, and natural cavities in posts, stubs, 
and especially about the trees of the orchard, or even an 
opening in the cornice of the house, are all explored, the 
female constantly leading, and the male attending with a 
great deal of gallant ceremony and music. Cheerily, cheerily, 
is his constant theme, with more or less variation, as the 
quiet and industrious housewife lugs in the various soft 
materials mostly dried grasses for bedding the nest. 
The eggs, from four to six, and about the size of those of a 
Bay-winged Sparrow, some .85 x -62, are of a clear pale- 
blue. As soon as the young are able to fly, the male takes 
them in charge, and the female starts a second brood, and 
sometimes in like manner a third. During all this time 
their destruction of insects, which constitute their chief 
diet, is immense. 

This season I had a good opportunity of watching the 
incubation of a nest made in the mortise of an old fancy 
post, the remains of a former fence in a front yard, the mor- 



102 THE ROBIN. 

tise having been enlarged by decay. The nest was neatly 
made of dried grasses, and the five eggs were real gems. 
Incubation lasted about ten days. Another nest was made 
in the tool-box of a reaper, which had been left in the 
field from Saturday till Thursday, the lid of the box having 
been kept open by the handle of a wrench. The nest had 
been built in this short time, and one egg had been laid. 

After incubation is begun the male becomes almost silent, 
and remains so during the summer. Some time in Novem- 
ber the family groups leave for the south, having then a 
single plaintive note, wholly unlike the warble of spring, 
and quite as well in keeping with the gloom of autumn. 
The plumage now, too, is more or less mixed with a cold gray, 
thus making the harmony with the bleakness of nature the 
more perfect. 

The Bluebird spends the winter in the Southern States, 
sometimes going even further south; and in its northern 
migrations goes scarcely beyond New England, in the 
northern part of which it already becomes uncommon. 

From the eastern foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains west- 
ward to the Pacific are two closely-allied species called the 
Western Bluebird and the Rocky Mountain Bluebird, the 
latter being more common in the mountainous region indi- 
cated by its name. The former has the throat-blue, and a 
chestnut spot on the back; the latter, which is of a greenish 
shade, has the under parts similar to the upper, only lighter, 
fading into white on the belly. 

THE ROBIN. 

On this same 3d of March, so full of brightness and 
warmth, I meet the first Robins of the year. I hear their 
abrupt, vigorous, clear note before I see them. This note, 
though resembling that of various Thrushes, has a ring all 



THE ROBIN. 103 

its own, and is in keeping with the bird itself, which, in 
every respect is energetic, hardy, plain and blunt. It is 
particularly his note of a beautiful spring evening, hence it 
has been designated his "evening call." If those most 
elegant songsters, the Thrushes, members of his own 
family, keeping so closely to the thick forests, and scarcely 
allowing the closest observer to get a glimpse of them while 
they sing, may remind one of people of refined and reserved 
habits, and "distant, high-bred ways," then surely the 
Robin must recall the inartistic manners of the more com- 
mon people. His is the air of a vigorous, robust pioneer. 

Though sometimes here by the latter part of February, 
and soon becoming one of the most numerous birds of the 
season, he gives hardly anything worthy to be called a song 
till near the first of April. Then his loud, clear warble, if 
somew r hat monotonous and less expressive of sentiment 
than that of the Wood-thrush or the Hermit, is a most 
grateful breaking of the stillness of winter, a mitigation of 
sharp frosts and chill showers April showers always tune 
him up a never- failing promise of all the joy and plenty of 
the year. Then truly he makes "the outgoings of the even- 
ing and the morning to rejoice." What would an American 
spring be without the song of the Robin ? 

The ragged and faded appearance of the Robin in mid- 
summer, after the excessive cares incident to the rearing of 
two or three families, is but a poor apology for his modest 
but truly beautiful colors of dark-gray, black and golden- 
brown, in these days of early spring. Even Mrs. Robin, 
though not so dark and rich in tints as her consort, is a real 
model of plain and tasteful elegance. 

The farmer or gardener, notwithstanding certain reminis- 
cences of destruction of ripe cherries and luscious strawber- 
ries, cannot but be convinced of the friendship and co-oper- 



104 THE RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER. 

*r 

ation of the Robin, as he sees him scouring meadows 
and pastures in search of insects in general. It would be 
impossible to estimate his labors in keeping in check the 
Voraciousness of insect-life. 

In this locality Robin's beautiful blue-green eggs, from 
three to five, may be laid already by the middle of April; 
the nest being a rough affair of stubble, coarse hay and mud, 
lined with finer hay, and placed anywhere between the 
ground and the top of a tree. The young resemble the 
old, except that the breast is pale and spotted with black 
and white. The parents are very noisy in defense of their 
nest or young. 

Already in September the Robins begin to gather, with a 
great deal of hurry, and bustle, and noise, and, flying to and 
fro, in preparation for their southward migration, continue 
their leave-taking in companies till late in the fall. 

On the bright October evenings of last year (1879), when 
the cloudless sky wore every tint of rose, violet, orange, yellow, 
and green, all most delicately shaded into each other from 
horizon to zenith, I used to lie down in the field and watch 
the Robins constantly passing south, with steady stroke of 
wing and high in air, sometimes singly, sometimes in pairs, 
sometimes in small companies. 

Some 9-10 inches long; upper parts generally dark- 
gray; head and tail blackish; spots around the eye, under 
the chin and on the tips of the outer tail-feathers, and the 
vent white; breast and under parts golden-brown. 

This bird is characteristic of all North America, and to the 
south extends a little beyond. In mild winters it may 
remain with us in sheltered places. 

THE RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER. 

It is the 5th of March, and I am in the woods on a most 



THE RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER. 



105 



sad errand. A dear friend, and in every way a most noble 
man, has been instantly killed by a falling tree, and, desir- 
ous to know every possible particular concerning the event, 




THE RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER. 



I am carefully studying the spot. Looking up into the tall 
tree-tops, whence came the fatal limb, my mind is, if 
possible, momentarily diverted by the sight of a bird seldom 
seen in this locality, or in any of the more northern districts, 
though it is said to be very common south of 35. It is 
the Red-bellied Woodpecker (Centurus carolinus), the most 
beautiful of all the smaller species of its tribe in this 
locality. This is a fine male. Somewhat larger than the 
Hairy Woodpecker, some 10 long and 17 in extent, he has 
a broad strip of glossy crimson, extending from the bill 



106 THE RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER: 

over the head and hind neck, the rest of the head, neck 
and under parts a beautiful light-ash color, with a tinge of 
red on the belly, whence the common name; the upper 
parts jet-black, with fine concentric lines and rows of spots 
of pure white; eyes red. The female differs mainly in the 
absence of the red on the top of the head, that mark extend- 
ing only up the back of the neck to the occiput. 

This bird has a hoarse note, resembling chaw, chaw, and 
has a nest and eggs like those of the rest of the Wood- 
peckers. It is a common resident throughout the year in 
Northeastern Ohio, where I have seen its nest about the 
middle of May. 



CHAPTER VII. 
THE BLUFF AND THE CAT-TAILS. 

BEFORE studying the matter, it would not occur to one 
how different the plants and animals are the world over. 
Each individual has its particular locality or habitat. 
Sometimes, as in the case of certain species of Humming- 
birds, that habitat is a single island or mountain; again, as 
in the case of the Duck Hawk or Osprey, it is, in its various 
allied forms, nearly or quite cosmopolitical. Generally, 
however, great mountains and seas or changes of climate 
bound these habitats. For instance, in Eastern North 
America we have a certain set of birds, extending from the 
Atlantic Coast westward to the Rocky Mountains; but from 
this great mountain system, running north and south the 
entire length of the continent, to the Pacific Coast, there 
is found another set, generally more or less allied to ours 
indeed, but for the most part specifically different. Again, 
we have certain species peculiar to the northern, and others 
peculiar to the southern, latitudes ; and between the plants 
and animals of the several continents the difference is gener- 
ally very great. What is true of space, in this respect, is still 
truer of time. In respect to the fauna of the various geological 
ages, the differentiation is indeed immense. But all these 
vast varieties of form are built on certain fixed plans of 
structure. The great classes, orders, and families have 
their representatives everywhere; and, while these types of 



108 THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. 

structure have been generally progressive in the order of 
time, in the lower forms of animal life there are some 
genera which seem to have stood almost from the first 
dawn of life to the present time. A careful bound- 
ing of the localities occupied by the various animals and 
plants constitutes the science of their geographical distri- 
bution. 

In respect to the great class of birds, the whole world 
has its Owls, Hawks, Vultures, Sparrows, Shrikes, Starlings, 
etc.; but the species differs in different parts of the world. 

THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. 

In the most typical sense the Starlings are confined to 
the Old World; but, by a little broader generalization, 
many birds of our own country may be included under that 




THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. 



head. For instance, on this 7th of March, as I stand just 
south of a bluff, by the margin of a cat-tail swamp, I see a 
large flock of the so-called Red-winged Starlings or Black- 



THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. 109 

birds (Agelceus phoeniceus). They are sometimes here a 
week earlier, and are always partial to the cat-tails. 
Indeed, this species is strictly an ornament and appurte- 
nance of the swamp. The male, somewhat smaller than a 
Robin, 8 or 9 inches long, is clad in a rich jet-black from 
tip to toe, except the shoulders of his wings, which are of a 
bright glossy-scarlet, .with a margin of light orange. He 
is a strikingly beautiful object on this gray and naked 
landscape of the early spring. How spirited, too, he seems, 
as he steps and flits about, jerking his tail, uttering his 
familiar chuck, chuck, chuck, and every now and then adding 
his distinctive " o-kal-ree-e-e-e-e-ee" or " lo-kal-o-ree-e-e-e-e-ee" 
Until the arrival of the female, which may not occur for 
several weeks, he will appear exceedingly uneasy. About 
this time he will take some conspicuous position in 
the leafless trees or bushes, and spreading his wings and 
tail by a jerking motion, and waltzing back and forth, and 
bowing most gracefully, his wonted song becomes more 
liquid and clear, interspersed with an occasional rattling 
sound, ending in a loud, clear whistle. In color, the female 
is very unlike her mate. Of a rich dark-brown, each feather 
is margined with light-brown or brownish-white, the 
margins being broadest and lightest on the breast and 
underneath, thus making those parts appear noticeably 
lighter. The young male is similar to the female, except 
that the margin of the dark-brown feathers are ruddy, and 
the shoulders of the wings of a beautiful red, mixed with 
black. The young female is somewhat lighter than the 
mother. In the autumn, when the black plumage of the 
mature males is more or less fringed with light-brown, the 
whole family make a truly beautiful group. 

Early in May the nest is built somewhere in or about a 
swamp, generally near the ground, but sometimes in a bush 



110 THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. 

or even in a tree; in my locality, for the most part, among 
the cat-tails. I found the nests very abundant on St. 
Clair Flats, built in the sedges over the water. It is a basket- 
like structure, composed outwardly of coarse, flexible mate- 
rials commonly the dried leaves of the cat- tails and sedges 
of the previous year fastened near the base of the old 
stalks still standing, and lined with fine dried grasses, or 
occasionally with horse-hair. It belongs to the style of 
bird-structures called "basket-nests." In this little swamp I 
have sometimes found a nest every few rods, or even every 
few feet. Then it is interesting to note the difference 
between the several sets of eggs. Frequently more than an 
inch long, they are often much less; now larger and quite 
pointed, and now roundish; the delicate tinge of green 
which makes the ground-color is darker or lighter; the 
markings, in the form of pen-dashes, dots and blotches, 
thick and heavy, or light and few, scattered over the entire 
surface, in a wreath near the middle, or in a bunch at the 
large end. These odd markings appear like the written 
symbols of some strange language. The Red-wings gener- 
ally breed more or less in communities. As with the rest 
of the Icteridae family, the male is not accustomed to take 
the nest, but is most assiduously attentive to the female 
during incubation. Sometimes two broods are raised in a 
season in this locality, the eggs of the first being laid in 
May and those of the second in July. 

In spring and early summer the destruction of insect-life by 
the Red-winged Blackbirds is incalculable. Of this every far- 
mer must be convinced, as he observes the flocks which search 
the pastures and plowed grounds. The breeding season over, 
they gather in immense noisy flocks, and are exceedingly de- 
structive to corn and other grains; but, probably, in nowise 
counteract the good they do in the earlier part of the year. 



THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD. \\\ 

On the winter history of this bird in the Southern States, 
Wilson has a very fine paragraph: " The Red-winged Star- 
lings, though generally migratory in the states north of 
Maryland, are found during winter in immense, flocks some- 
times associated with the Purple Grakles, and often , by 
themselves, along the whole lower parts of Virginia, both 
Carolinas, Georgia and Louisiana, particularly near the sea- 
coast, and in the vicinity of large rice and corn fields. In 
the months of January and February, while passing through 
the former of these countries, I was frequently entertained 
with the aerial evolutions of these great bodies of Starlings. 
Sometimes they appeared driving about like an enormous 
black cloud carried before the wind, varying its shape every 
moment; sometimes suddenly rising from the fields around 
me with a noise like thunder; while the glittering of innu- 
merable wings of the brightest vermilion amid the black 
cloud they formed produced on these occasions a very 
striking and splendid effect. Then, descending like a tor- 
rent, and covering the branches of some detached grove, or 
clump of trees, the whole congregated multitude commenced 
one general concert or chorus, that I have plainly distin- 
guished at the distance of more than two miles, and, when 
listened to at the intermediate space of about a quarter of a 
mile, with a slight breeze of wind to swell and soften the 
flow of its cadences, was to me grand, and even sublime. 
The whole season of winter that, with most birds, is passed 
in struggling to sustain life in silent melancholy, is, with the 
Red-wings, one continued carnival. The profuse gleanings 
of the old rice, corn, and buckwheat fields supply them with 
abundant food, at once ready and nutritious; and the inter- 
mediate time is spent either in aerial maneuvers or in 
grand vocal performances, as if solicitous to supply the 
absence of all the tuneful summer tribes, and to cheer the 



112 THE CROW BLACKBIRD. 

dejected face of nature with their whole combined powers 
of harmony." 

Habitat: "The typical form throughout temperate North 
America, and south to Central America. Breeds in suitable 
places from Texas to the Saskatchawan, and along the whole 
Atlantic Coast. Winters from about 35 southward." 
(Coues). 

The Yellow-headed Blackbird is a western species, some- 
times straggling eastward even to New England. 

THE CROW BLACKBIRD. 

The bluff above referred to is well clad with sumacs, 
dogwoods, elders, etc. Here, on this same 7th of March, 
but more particularly along the creek a few rods away, are 
small flocks of the Purple Grakle, or Crow Blackbird (Quisca- 
luspurpureus). They fly slowly from one bush to another, from 
the bluff to the bushes along the creek, and then back to the 
bluff again, their tails, folded downward in the middle, being 
very conspicuous, and their constant chuck, chuck very like 
that of the Red-wing, only in a little hoarser tone and on a 
lower key. Like the latter, the former are quite partial to 
swamps and streams, but are not quite so confined to them, 
for they are frequently common about country door-yards 
and village lots, especially such as abound in evergreens. 
They are often abundant in cemeteries which are well orna- 
mented with coniferae. If cat-tails are to be associated 
with the Red-wings, evergreens are to be quite as much 
associated with the Crow Blackbirds. Often, indeed, they 
affect the shadowy recesses of the thickly-branched Lom- 
bardy poplars. As the plowman turns his furrow this bird 
forms a part of the newly-made landscape. Stepping along 
the fresh, brown ridges with a peculiar gracefulness, his 
brilliant hues, with a bright, metallic lustre, cannot fail to 



THE CROW BLACKBIRD. 113 

delight the eye. Blue, emerald, purple, and bronze, all 
gleam and flash interchangeably in the sunshine. How 
quick are those light-golden eyes to detect grubs, beetles, 
chrysalids and worms! The male being about 12 inches or 
more in length, the female is a good deal smaller, and for 
the most part of a plain black, being wholly without the 
lustre and changeableness of the male. In early spring 
they often gather in quite large flocks, chattering and 
whistling in a manner thoroughly noisy, if not somewhat 
musical. 

Their nest made early in May, if not already in April, 
and a rather bulky structure of sticks and coarse hay, more 
particularly the latter, often cemented with mud, lined with 
fine hay and some horse-hair is placed either low or high in 
a tree, an evergreen or Lombardy poplar being preferred; 
and if the tree is large, it may contain a number of nests. 
Wilson says: "A singular attachment frequently takes place 
between this bird and the Fish Hawk. The nest of this 
latter is of very large dimensions, often from three to four 
feet in breadth, and from four to five feet high; composed, 
externally, of large sticks, or fagots, among the interstices 
of which sometimes three or four pairs of Crow Blackbirds 
will construct their nests, while the Hawk is sitting or 
hatching above. Here each pursues the duties of incubation 
and of rearing its young; living in the greatest harmony, 
and mutually watching and protecting each other's property 
from depredators." In the south Audubon says the nests of 
these Blackbirds are generally placed in holes of trees 
often in a deserted Woodpecker's nest. The same manner 
of nesting has recently been reported from some parts of 
the north. 

The eggs of the Crow Blackbird, some 1.20 X .82, and 
four or five in number, are generally greenish, sometimes 
8 



114 THE CROW BLACKBIRD. 

brownish, or of a dirty white, specked, spotted, scratched and 
blotched, sometimes thickly, sometimes sparingly, with light 
brown, or black. It seldom raises more than one brood 
here. 

As to this bird's destructiveness in the corn-field, every 
one has heard and seen enough. Hence the merciless 
slaughter which he meets, and the dangling of his dead 
body in terrorem. But if we are not to " muzzle the ox that 
treadeth out the corn," let us take heed, lest we grudge the 
Blackbird his corn unfairly. Some of the late ornithologists, 
however, affirm that this bird, a near relative to the Crow in 
habit as well as in appearance, is given to sucking other 
birds' eggs and eating their young. If this be generally 
proven against him he will smell more gunpowder than ever 
before. 

The Crow Blackbirds find their winter residence in the 
Southern States. " Here," according to Wilson, " numerous 
bodies, collecting together from all quarters of the interior 
and northern districts, and darkening the air with their 
numbers, sometimes form one congregated multitude of 
many hundred thousands. A few miles from the banks of 
the Roanoke, on the 20th of January, I met with one of 
those prodigious armies of Grakles. They rose from the 
surrounding fields with a noise like thunder, and, descend- 
ing on the length of road before me, covered it and the 
fences completely with black; and when they again rose, 
and, after a few evolutions, descended on the skirts of the 
high-timbered woods, at that time destitute of leaves, they 
produced a most singular and striking effect; the whole 
trees for a considerable extent, from the top to the lowest 
branches, seemed as if hung in mourning; their notes and 
screaming the meanwhile resembling the distant sound of a 
great cataract, but in more musical cadence, swelling and 



THE CEDAR BIRD. 115 

dying away on the ear, according to the fluctuations of the 
breeze." 

Habitat: Eastern North America, north to Labrador, 
west to the Rocky Mountains, breeding throughout its 
range. I saw none in Manitoulin Island and vicinity 

As to the so-called Bronzed Grakle (Quiscalus purpureus 
teneus), now differentiated by some, and supposed to breed 
a little further north than the last described, I have had no 
opportunity of discriminating. If, indeed, it be different 
from the Common Crow Blackbird, it must be very similar. 

The Boat-tailed Grakle of the south (Quiscalus major) is 
scarcely more than the former on a larger pattern. About 
16.00 long, it is about one-fourth larger, and its habits 
are very similar. The flight is slow, straightforward, the 
heavy boat-shaped tail seeming to tip the bird up in front. 
It is noisy, and partial to the vicinity of water, often wading 
for its molluscous diet. Its nests, which are in community 
after the manner of its congener here and also its corvine 
relations in the old world, is sometimes placed in a bush or 
tree, but commonly in the tall saw-grass of the southern 
marshes. The structure is large and coarse, is tied to the 
grass-stems about four feet from the ground, and generally 
contains three eggs, similar to those of the Crow Black- 
bird, but larger about 1.27 X -85. It winters in the 
extreme Southern States, and reaches regularly the Carolinas 
in summer. 

THE CEDAR BIRD. 

On the top of the bluff stands the first row of trees of a 
large orchard. On one of these alights a flock of birds, 
sometimes found here in small numbers even in winter, but 
always appearing in flocks very early in spring. There are 
some forty of them, and they move with the regularity of 
a perfectly disciplined army, flying as compactly as pos- 



116 THE CEDAR BIRD. 

sible, and all having precisely the same motion, and alight- 
ing so similarly that the attitude of one is the attitude of 
the whole flock. Few things in the movement of bird-life 
are more interesting than this perfect uniformity of motion 
of a group of Cedar Birds (Ampelis ccdrorum), as if one life 
directed them all. How spirited and graceful they are! Some 
six or seven inches long, slender, beautifully crested, the plum- 
age remarkably blended and glossy; in color, a rich brown, 
becoming reddish on the breast and about the head; chin, 
forehead, and band across the eyes to occiput, black, partly 
margined with a line of white; belly, yellow; under tail 
coverts, white; wings, rump and tail, bluish-drab; darker 
toward the end of the tail, which is margined with bright 
sulphur-yellow; secondaries, generally tipped with flattened 
appendages, the color of bright-red sealing-wax. The 
female is similar to the male, and the young differ but little. 
Occasionally an old male is found with red, wax-like tips 
on the tail feathers, or even on some of the feathers of the 
crest. 

As I watch the flock in the bright, warm sunshine they 
become more careless in attitude and motion, and presently 
become fly-catchers, making little circuits after their prey, 
and seeming rather drowsy, for them. This fly-catching is 
quite indicative of their habit in part; for despite their 
frugivorous propensities, they destroy no small number of 
insects at certain seasons of the year, especially the larvae 
of the Canker Worm. 

Watch these same Cedar Birds in some secluded dell 
affording a rocky stream watch them in the delicious 
quiet and ruddy glow of the evening. How gracefully 
they alight on the larger rocks rising above the surface of 
the water; and, standing almost straight, with crests erect, 
how noiselessly they describe their elegant circles in the 



THE CEDAR BIRD. 117 

midst of clouds of gnats and midges. You hear no snap- 
ping of the bill, as in the case of Fly-catchers similarly 
engaged, but each little detour signifies the destruction of 
one or more of these tiny insects. 

This imitation of the Fly-catchers the farmer will scarcely 
admit, as he recalls the more destructive habits of this bird, 
how he appears singly, or in large numbers, on the sweet 
cherry-tree of early summer, pilfers blackberries and rasp- 
berries, strips the rich, ornamental clusters from the mountain 
ash; in short, fills himself with fruit to the very throat, even 
dropping and dying, in some cases, of sheer gluttony all 
this without the least apology for a song nothing in the 
way of a note but a sly tseep, tseep, scarcely loud enough to 
be a warning to the ordinary ear nothing, in short, to 
recommend him but his graceful carriage and fine clothes, 
unless, indeed, the ornithologist can vindicate him as a 
"fly-catcher" and "worm-eater," and so secure a balance 
of sentiment in his favor. This vindication we believe to be 
possible. At any rate, as a beautiful ornament in nature, 
he is entitled to some support, especially by those who 
regard "a thing of beauty a joy forever." I never could 
justify a certain old gentleman of my acquaintance who 
shot eighty of these "orchard beauties" from a single 
sweet cherry-tree in a few hours. I would rather have set 
out more cherry-trees. 

Strange to say, though this bird is here among the first, 
and in large flocks, some few even remaining through the 
winter, it does not ordinarily begin a nest till late in June 
or in July, perhaps because the favorite fruits on which it 
feeds its young, after a course of insects in their earliest 
babyhood, are not sooner available. This nest is generally 
in a tree in the orchard, and is rather bulky and coarsely 
built for so trim a bird, being composed outwardly of small 



118 THE CEDAR BIRD. 

sticks and coarse grasses; inwardly, of sprigs of larch, fine, 
dried grasses, or horse-hair, quite a little wool, or vegetable 
down, being occasionally used, or even a large quantity of 
fine rootlets. The eggs, 4 or 5, some .82 x .62, are light- 
green, or dingy white, specked and spotted with dark 
purple and black. 

I once found a young one, full-grown, held to the nest by 
a horse-hair, which had grown into the foot. It had the 
waxen tips on its wings, showing that this peculiarity is not 
wholly a matter of age. 



CHAPTER VIII. 
ALONG THE CREEK. 

Y\O you know that the Wild Geese are here ?" inquired a 

JL' friend of mine at Oak Orchard Creek, on the even- 
ing of the 16th of March. "I fired into a large flock in the 
wheat-field to-day and killed two." 

"Indeed! I am aware that they are quite destructive to 
the wheat-fields for some four or five weeks in early spring, 
all along the south of Lake Ontario," I replied. 

The Canada, or Common Wild Goose (Branta canadensis), 
is the one referred to; and the two specimens, male and 
female, are now mounted and before me in my study. The 
male is some 38 inches, and the female some 34 inches in 
length, thus appearing considerably larger than the com- 
mon domestic Goose. The general color is a rich, dark- 
gray, the plumage edged with lighter; bill, head, neck, 
lower back, tips of wings, tail, and feet, black; patch across 
the throat and up the sides of the head, and sometimes the 
upper breast, grayish-white; vent and coverts at the root of 
the tail, pure white. 

There is not a more characteristic bird in all North 
America. Moving northward in large, noisy flocks in 
spring, and southward in a similar manner in autumn, it 
is the sure herald of the departure of the Ice King, as well 
as of his return. Who does not know of the Wild Goose ? 
that it is the most sensitive of all our animated nature to 



120 THE CANADA GOOSE, 

the great changes of temperature about to take place; that 
it is surely an evil omen, in the dubious days of spring, to 
see it retracing its course southward. The beautiful mili- 
tary order of the flight of these birds how, under the 
direction of some accepted leader, they move now in form 
of a straight line, now in the manner of an angle of varia- 
ble degrees, every now and then some of them changing 
positions, that the stronger and fresher may take its turn 
in clearing the air, while the weaker and more weary take 
the advantage of the wake must be familiar to all who 
have at all observed these grand movements. The confused 
"hanking," "clanging" notes, too, which seem almost to 
keep time with the beat of wings, must be equally familiar. 

In Western New York, at present, the Canada Goose is 
simply a migrant, except as it " occasionally nests at large 
in the United States" (Coues), where in former times its 
nidification was common. (Audubon.) These birds come in 
flocks from the south into our lake counties of Western New 
York soon after the middle of March, and remain with us 
some 4-6 weeks. During this time they may be seen almost 
constantly riding on the water near the shores of Lake Ontario. 
At day-break, and again in the afternoon, they fly inland to 
feed in wheat-fields on the tender, succulent blades, or in the 
richer meadows. On leaving the lake they are silent, but fill 
the air with their clangor on returning. By the utmost 
vigilance a few are shot; but they generally alight on some 
eminence where there is a good outlook in every direction, 
and some wary gander is constantly on the alert. 

The Canada Goose breeds more or less commonly in Lab- 
rador and to the northward. Mr. James Fortiscue says 
of their breeding about York Factory, Hudson's Bay: 
"Hatch everywhere, up in woods and swamps; nests made 
of sticks and hay, lined with feathers." 



THE CANADA GOOSE. 121 

In the extreme Northwestern States it is said to breed in 
trees. It is now known to breed abundantly in the North- 
west Territory, especially along the Assinniboin River with 
its many tributaries. It usually makes its nest on the 
ground, near some stream or sheet of water, often on 
secluded islands in larger rivers. One nest found by 
Audubon " was placed on the stump of a large tree stand- 
ing in the center of a small pond, about twenty feet high, 
and contained five eggs." The same author says: "The 
greatest number of eggs which I have found in the nest of 
this species was nine, which I think is more by three than 
these birds usually lay in a wild state." Again: "The 
eggs measure, on an average, 3.50 X 2.50, are thick- 
shelled, rather smooth, and of a very dull yellowish- 
green color. The period of incubation is twenty-eight 
.days. They never have more than one brood in a season, 
unless their eggs are removed or broken at an early period. 
The young follow their parents to the water a day or two 
after they have issued from .the egg, but generally return to 
land to repose in the sunshine in the evening, and pass 
the night there under their mother, who employs all 
imaginable care to insure their comfort and safety, as does 
her mate, who never leaves her during incubation for a 
longer time than is necessary for procuring food, and takes 
her place at intervals. Both remain with their brood until 
the following spring. It is during the breeding season that 
the gander displays his courage and strength to the greatest 
advantage. I knew one that appeared larger than usual, 
and of which all the lower parts were of a rich cream-color. 
It returned three years in succession to a large pond a few 
miles from the mouth of Green River, in Kentucky, and 
whenever I visited the nest it seemed to look upon me 
with utter contempt. It would stand in a stately atti- 



122 THE CANADA GOOSE. 

tude until I reached within a few yards of the nest, when, 
suddenly lowering its head, and shaking it as if it were 
dislocated from the neck, it would open its wings and launch 
into the air, flying directly at me. So daring was this fine 
fellow, that in two instances he struck me a blow with one 
of his wings on the right arm, which, for an instant, I 
thought was broken. I observed that immediately after 
such an effort to defend his nest and mate, he would run 
swiftly towards them, pass his head and neck several times 
over and around the female, and again assume his attitude 
of defiance." 

The same author says: " It is extremely amusing to wit- 
ness the courtship of the Canada Goose in all its stages; 
and let me assure you, reader, that although a gander does 
not strut before his beloved with the pomposity of a 
Turkey, or the grace of a Dove, his ways are quite as 
agreeable to the female of his choice. I can imagine before 
me one who has just accomplished the defeat of another 
male after a struggle of half an hour or more. He advances 
gallantly towards the object of his attention, his head 
scarcely raised an inch from the ground, his bill open to its 
full stretch, his fleshy tongue elevated, his eyes darting fiery 
glances, and as he moves he hisses loudly, while the emotion 
which he experiences causes his quills to shake, and his 
feathers to rustle. Now he is close to her who, in his eyes, 
is all loveliness, his neck bending gracefully in all directions, 
passes all around her, and occasionally touches her body; 
and as she congratulates him on his victory, and acknowl- 
edges his affection, they move their necks in a hundred 
curious ways. At this moment fierce jealousy urges the 
defeated gander to renew his efforts to obtain his love; he 
advances apace, his eye glowing with the fire of rage; he 
shakes his broad wings, ruffles up his whole plumage, and 



THE CANADA GOOSE. 123 

as he rushes on the foe, hisses with the intensity of anger. 
The whole flock seems to stand amazed, and opening up a 
space, the birds gather round to view the combat. The 
bold bird, who has been caressing his mate, scarcely deigns 
to take notice of his foe, but seems to send a scornful glance 
towards him, He of the mortified feelings, however, raises 
his body, half opens his sinewy wings, and with a powerful 
blow, sends forth his defiance. The affront cannot be borne 
in the presence of so large a company, nor indeed is there 
much disposition to bear it in any circumstances; the blow 
is returned with vigor, the aggressor reels for a moment, 
but he soon recovers, and now the combat rages. Were the 
weapons more deadly, feats of chivalry would now be per- 
formed; as it is, thrust and blow succeed each other like the 
strokes of hammers driven by sturdy forgers. But now, the 
mated gander has caught hold of his antagonist's head with 
his bill; no bull-dog could cling faster to his victim; he 
squeezes him with all the energy of rage, lashes him with 
his powerful wings, and at length drives him away, spreads 
out his pinions, runs with joy to his mate, and fills the air 
with cries of exultation." 

D. H. Bunn, a man well capable of telling what he sees, 
reports the following incident, as occurring in Madison 
County, New York, some twenty years ago: During a night 
of thick fog in early spring, a flock of geese passing over, 
twenty-five of them struck against a large factory. Lodging 
near by, he heard the blow, roused his companions, and 
they went out with lanterns. In a sort of alder-swamp, on 
that side of the building which the birds had encountered, 
they found the stunned and disconcerted creatures hanging 
entangled in the alders, or splashing about the water; and 
after being well pinched and bitten, and soundly thumped by 
their powerful wings, the party succeeded in capturing them. 



124 THE MALLARD. 

The Canada Goose spends the winter in large flocks, in 
the middle and more southern portions of our continent. 
A variety of this same species, called Hutchin's Goose, is 
sparingly found to the eastward, and is very abundant in the 
northwest. Mr. Fortiscue thinks there are not less than 
four closely-allied species of this kind of goose at Hudson's 
Bay. 

THE MALLARD. 

March 17th, on a bright sunny morning after a light fall of 
snow, I wandered along Oak Orchard Creek a purling 
stream some three or four rods in width and found the 
Mallard (Anas boschas), and the Dusky or Black Duck (Anas 
obscura)) in considerable numbers. The former a bird of 
the stream and lake rather than of the sea is found very 
sparingly in New England and immediately to the north- 
ward, but plentifully from New York southward, especially 
in Florida, in winter; and it is abundant in the far north- 
west in summer. As it moves smoothly and gracefully 
along the quiet stream, or rises in flight, or more especially 
as it almost hovers overhead in the presence of danger, it is 
a truly beautiful object. The rich glossy-green of the neck 
of the male, his yellow bill and legs, the rich vinous-brown 
of his breast, and the gray of his under parts, the pure white 
tail of gracefully-pointed feathers, ornamented by the 
recurved upper tail coverts of glossy-green or purple, are 
simply resplendent in the bright morning sun, so intensified 
by the reflection from the pure sparkling sheet of snow. 
As he is brought down, so that one can examine the deep 
black of the lower back, the delicately-penciled gray of his 
shoulders, scapulars and tertiaries, all set off by his dark 
wing with its beauty spot of green or violet margined with 
black and white, one concludes that his brilliancy is scarcely 
surpassed by anything on our waters. He seems by con- 



-THE MALLARD. 125 

trast to be more complete, too, when by the side of his 
female of plainer beauty her plumage being rich brown 
margined with lighter, chin and throat whitish, beauty spot 
nearly as in the male. " Nearly cosmopolitan, and nearly 
everywhere domesticated," breeding more or less sparingly 
throughout the United States, and more particularly to the 
north, the Mallard mates in winter and in early spring; and 
builds a nest of coarse materials in the marsh, lining it, if 
far north, with down from its breast so plentifully that the 
eggs, some eight to a dozen, and of a delicate or sometimes 
dingy greenish-white, can be covered with the same on 
leaving them. 

On St. Clair Flats, where I found the Mallard breeding 
quite commonly, the nest, which might be built in the 
sedges over the water, but more commonly on a knoll or 
against a log in the flooded marsh or among the bushes on 
the highest ridges, never contained much down. If the 
number of eggs were incomplete, or they were fresh-laid, 
and therefore the entire nest as yet imperfect, there was no 
down at all. The elegant green tint is quite peculiar to the 
egg of this Duck. 

Unlike the Geese, but like other Ducks and the Mergan- 
sers, as well as some other water-birds, the male now leaves 
the female to care for her eggs and her young family alone, 
while he, along with other heartless husbands and fathers of 
the same kind, spends the remainder of the breeding season 
in leisurely roaming, unless, indeed, the female lose her nest, 
and then she goes in search of the male. 

The female meanwhile is most signally faithful to her 
charge. She will remain on the nest till almost trodden upon, 
and then often alighting near by, will stretch out her neck, 
spread her tail, and flap her wings on the water, in a manner 
equal to the arts of the little Waders when similarly disturbed. 



126 THE MALLARD. 

" I have found the Mallard," says Audubon, " breeding on 
large, prostrate and rotten logs, three feet above the ground, 
and in the center of a canebrake, nearly a mile distant from 
any water. Once I found a female leading her young 
through the woods, and no doubt conducting them towards 
the Ohio. When I first saw her she had already observed 
me, and had squatted flat among the grass, with her brood 
around her. As I moved onwards, she ruffled her feathers, 
and hissed at me in the manner of a goose, while the little 
ones scampered off in all directions. I had an excellent 
dog, well instructed to catch young birds without injuring 
them, and I ordered him to seek for them. On this the 
mother took wing, and flew through the woods as if about 
to fall down at every yard or so. She passed and repassed 
over the dog, as if watching the success of his search; and 
as one after another the ducklings were brought to me and 
struggled in my bird-bag, the distressed parent came to the 
ground near me, rolled and tumbled about, and so affected 
me by her despair that I ordered my dog to lie down, 
while, with a pleasure that can be felt only by those who 
are parents themselves, I restored to her the innocent brood 
and walked off. As I turned round to observe her, I really 
thought I could perceive gratitude expressed in her eye; 
and a happier moment I never felt while rambling in search 
of knowledge through the woods." 

The voice of the Mallard, and its manner of feeding by 
immersing its head and neck, or by tipping perpendicularly 
half out and half under the water, are so well illustrated by 
the domestic Duck as to need no explanation here. Suffice 
it to say, this is one of those members of the animal creation 
which have ministered incalculably to the comfort and sup- 
port of man. 



THE DUSKY DUCK. 127 

THE DUSKY DUCK. 

Screened by a small hemlock on the bank of the creek, I 
have a good view of a flock of some dozen Dusky, or Black 
Ducks, as they fly up the stream. They are very large, and 
look quite dark, except the underside of the wings, which is 
white, and which gives a fine effect in flight. How great 
the rapidity and momentum of that flight is we have but 
little idea, till the bird, ceasing the rapid strokes of its 
wings, and bending them downward like the arcs of a circle, 
prepares to alight. Then that smooth body, with out- 
stretched head and neck, and wings which cut the air like 
sabers, like a huge arrow rushes through the air; and it 
must sail some distance before the force of its momentum is 
sufficiently spent to allow it to reach the earth in safety. 

A few rods above me these Ducks drop gracefully down, 
striking the water so easily, and parting it with such a 
pretty plash, as to impress me with the beauty possible to 
motion, and with the tranquil happiness of these creatures 
in their undisturbed haunts; The stream being shallow, 
they can easily reach their food by plunging their heads, in 
which act they throw up their feet and hinder parts in a 
manner quite amusing. They plunge, dart around in a 
hurry-skurry manner, straighten out their necks and flap 
their wings, thus seeming to sit almost on their tails on the 
water; and, finally getting a glimpse of me, they rush out 
of the water into the air with a splashing that brings me to 
my feet; and I fire, bringing down a fine pair, which I 
readily secure as they float down stream by wading in with 
my long rubber-boots. About two feet long, of a dark 
brown, the feathers edged with lighter, the beauty spot a 
rich violet, the male and female about alike, this species 
cannot easily be mistaken. It is by far the most common 
Duck in this locality, being really abundant in the migra- 



128 THE DUSKY DUCK. 

tions, and quite a few remaining to breed in suitable places. 
When passing north in spring, sometimes in single pairs, 
sometimes in groups of pairs, they seem to tarry for a few 
weeks, selecting certain feeding grounds shallow pools 
and ditches about the fields to which they attend regu- 
larly, unless seriously disturbed. Like the Mallards, they 
are particularly Ducks of the ponds and the puddle-holes. 
Here, by proper caution in the use of some screen, they 
may be easily shot, especially about day-break. These 
Ducks, as also the Mallards, are occasionally seen in enor- 
mous flocks in early spring on submerged grain-fields of 
the previous year, in the vicinity of Tonawanda Swamp, a 
large territory extending along the southern border of this 
county (Orleans), and many miles beyond. 

On the 7th of last April (1881), the Ducks flew in great num- 
bers in these flooded regions. I was watching them from a 
retired point of view. They flew mostly in pairs, and were 
nearly all of the species I am now describing. I noticed 
that they all made for a certain corner of a flooded field 
which was nearly surrounded by a forest. They would fly 
in grand circles around it and at a considerable height for 
some time, and having thus thoroughly surveyed the 
ground, would sail with down-curved wings till the great 
momentum of their speed was broken, and then drop down 
gradually, holding the body in an oblique position, and 
flapping the wings forward just as a bird does in hovering, 
thus alighting easily and gracefully. Being curious to 
see the place of rendezvous, I crept stealthily around to 
one side of it, but before I could get within gunshot the 
Ducks rose en masse. There must have been many hun- 
dreds, and the noise of their wings was like the roll of 
thunder. I hid behind the fence, thinking they might 
return; but these Ducks are very shy, and gave me no 



THE DUSKY DUCK. 129 

opportunity for a shot that evening. I watched for them 
the next morning before daylight, but it had frozen hard, 
and they had all disappeared. Where had they gone ? I 
went to Lake Ontario the same day, but could not find them. 

Being on the ground again a week later, and being curi- 
ous to know where the Ducks spent the night, I was advised 
to push my boat into a flooded region of a thick second 
growth of varied trees and bushes of the lowlands, about 
sundown, and watch their movements. As the rosy tints of 
sunset were fading out of the sky, the Ducks, nearly all of 
the kind now under review, began to circle over the spot; 
and every now and then a pair would drop down after the 
manner of alighting above described, and with a sharp 
flutter and rustle of the wings, reach the water with a 
heavy splash. They continued to come until dark, large 
numbers thus spending the night floating on these quiet 
waters in the security of the trees and the bushes. 

Before day the next morning I was at the favorite ren- 
dezvous where I had seen so many Ducks the week before. 
As the cold sky of the night began to assume the soft 
golden hues of the coming morning a change which takes 
place quite suddenly the Ducks began to arrive. This 
time there was none of that cautious reconnoitering of the 
place, which is common to these birds at other times of 
day. I could hear them squaking, without any reserve 
whatever, some time before they reached the spot, and as 
they arrived, they immediately dropped down in their flut- 
tering, rustling manner, the sound of which, coming so 
near my screen by a tree in the open field, had a very 
exciting effect upon me in this deep light of the morn- 
ing. To watch their sprightly and happy movements in 
this state of perfect freedom was well worth all the incon- 
venience of rising early, walking far and shivering in the 
9 



130 THE DUSKY DUCK. 

cold. As the morning light became clear, I could see a pair 
of Mallards in the crowd; the rest were all Dusky Ducks. 
None, however, were near enough for a shot; and as the 
light intensified, and my screen was noted as a new addition 
to the landscape, on a slight squaking signal by one es- 
pecially on the alert, they all left with a rush. 

On the 22d of last September I was at Lake Ontario. 
The Dusky Ducks were there in immense numbers. Through 
the glass I could see a flock of several hundreds a few miles 
out from the shore. They sat on the water, as the hunters 
say, in great windrows. The lake was smooth, but there 
was a gentle, undulating motion of the water; and the 
whole flock, with here and there a sentinel on the alert, 
were resting with their bills under their scapulars, as if 
asleep. The glass was powerful, bringing the birds imme- 
diately before me; and the sight was as serenely happy as 
one could wish to see in the varied and delightful domain 
of nature. Presently one of the crowd yawned and 
stretched itself upright, and flapped its wings joyously on 
the water, and all followed the example, making a great 
fluttering cloud of darkness on the gleaming surface. Now 
they began to shoot about among each other in a most 
hurried manner, as regularly, however, as men and women 
would cut figures in a dance, and thus making one of the 
most spirited and gleeful impressions. Then they would 
all quiet down again, and ride gracefully on the gently 
moving waters, their heads drawn closely on their breasts, 
as if in the most complete repose. 

Like the Mallard, the Dusky Duck feeds on small mol- 
lusks, roots, and grain, and will not disdain a lizard or a 
mouse; and, like the Mallard, it is particularly a fresh- water 
Duck, though it is not infrequently found about the borders 
of the ocean. 



THE DUSKY DUCK. 131 

Never shall I forget my childish glee on finding a flock 
of these Ducks just hatched, following the mother in the 
woods near a wild meadow. They were a dark olive, almost 
black on the head and back. The old Duck seemed quite 
tame, and the little ones did not try very hard to escape. 
Filling my hat with them, I hurried home, but was soon 
obliged to hurry back, as my mother did not approve of my 
enterprise. 

A few months ago (1883), while visiting the old paternal 
farm, I was again diverted by a flock of these same young 
Ducks. The female rose from a mud-hole in the wild 
meadow with a great splutter; and, standing still, I began 
to look about me for the young. For some time I could 
see nothing of them, they were so nearly the color of the 
mud and the drabbled grass. By and by my eye caught one 
which must have been fully ten days old, sitting perfectly 
motionless in the water, which filled a cow's track in the 
mud. Looking a little to one side I saw two more snuggled 
together in a like dish of water, then another and another, 
and still another all sitting so motionless that I do not 
think they even winked. Thinking that I had looked at 
them long enough I stepped forward, when, two more start- 
ing up, they all hurried away helter-skelter into the bushes. 

The Dusky Duck ranges through Eastern North America 
to Labrador, and, breeding more or less throughout, but 
more especially to the north, is strictly an American species. 
The nest, built on the ground, generally near the water, 
sometimes in a tussock of grass, sometimes sunk into the 
moss, or even placed on a moss-covered rock or on the top 
of a decayed log, is composed of dried grasses and various 
vegetable substances, the edge being well surrounded with 
down and feathers if incubation be well advanced, and so 
the nest complete, thus giving it a peculiar, dark appearance. 



132 THE SONG SPARROW. 

The eggs, some eight in number, are about 2.38 x 1.3V, very 
nearly the size and shape of a common hen's egg, the 
surface being of an opaque smoothness, and of a uniform 
brownish tint, sometimes, indeed, of an elegant greenish, or 
even reddish shade, the fresh egg seeming fairly translucent. 
Generally, however, the eggs, like those of the Ducks in 
general, are much soiled and disfigured from the bird's 
entering the nest directly from the riled water and the mud. 

THE SONG SPARROW. 

The sun is now well up, and the thin sheet of snow is 
melting rapidly. There is such a mingling of spring 
warmth and winter sunshine as makes the day particularly 
bright and suggestive. The reflection of every ray of the 
clearest sun by the clean sheet of new snow so intensifies 
the light that it seems as if a diffused lightning had become 
fixed as if the very atmosphere were transfigured. Every 
breath takes in a reeking moisture, the air vibrates on the 
hills as in summer heat, and the rippling and purling of the 
stream is hurried and full. The earth will come out of this 
snow as from a warm bath, everything freshened and 
quickened as by a summer rain. All along the flats about 
the creek, from the clumps of bushes, from the thickets, 
and from the edges of the forests, come the loud and ring- 
ing notes of the Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia). Except 
the creaking melody of the Horned Lark, heard fully a 
month earlier, or possibly the simultaneous warbling note 
of the Bluebird, this is our first noticeable bird-song of the 
year. On the most disagreeable days of late February or 
early March, when the air has that peculiar chill caused 
by the slow melting of snow and ice, or a rain is falling 
barely above the freezing point, the clear, strong vibrations 
of this melody are as cheerful as in the most genial days of 



THE SONG SPARROW. 133 

spring. They sound like a sudden outburst of joy in the 
midst of the universal bleakness of a winter's day like 
something out of its time a melodious prophecy of the 
joys of spring so near these last days of winter. 

We may sometimes find the Song Sparrow in a sheltered 
place here, even in winter, and hear him lisp a faint warble 
from near the ground, but his full song is reserved till this 
approach of spring. The clear strokes, twitters, and trills of 
this song are especially musical and inspiriting on this bright, 
still morning. They have the whole vibrating capacity of 
the atmosphere to themselves, without even the rustling of 
a leaf or the humming of an insect to counteract them. 
Commencing with several long and peculiarly resonant 
notes the bird continues in a twittering warble, and ends 
with several notes longer and more resonant than the first, 
the whole being in a tone so loud and penetrating that one 
cannot but marvel at the capacity of those tiny lungs, scarcely 
larger than a small bean. But the vocal apparatus of 
birds, and of song-birds in particular, is very remarkable. 
The larynx, highly complicated in structure, is at the lower 
end of the trachea, or windpipe, being also connected with 
the upper part or fork of the bronchial tubes; and the 
muscles connected with it, only one or two pairs in ordinary 
birds, in song-birds, are no less than five pairs. These mus- 
cles may change the relative positions of the cartilaginous 
rings or half-rings connected with the vocal organ; or they 
may lengthen or shorten the trachea, thus giving the effect 
of tubes of different lengths in a pipe-organ, or they may 
modify the tension of the trilling membrane and other 
membranes of the vocal organ itself. Also the arytenoid 
cartilages at the upper end of the trachea may open or par- 
tially close the air passage, and so modify the sound some- 
thing after the manner of the knee-swell of a common 



134 THE SONG SPARROW. 

parlor-organ. All these vocal contrivances are greatly 
aided again by the air-cavities and passages pervading the 
interior of the body, the muscles and the bones. The 
delightful qualities of tone, and the variations of melody 
which are thus made possible to the sylvan songster, must 
fall on the ear of a genuine lover of music to be fully 
appreciated. Truly nature has concentrated the energy of 
the song-bird in the vocal powers as well as that of birds in 
general in the wing. Song, that high endowment of a portion 
only of the human race, is the peculiar and fascinating gift of 
certain birds, thus placing them not only above all others 
of their kind, but above all the rest of animated nature. 

How often throughout the season have I felt the cheering 
influence of the melody of a Song Sparrow as it sang regu- 
larly in the apple-trees near my study-window! Many a 
performance by the human voice have I heard, far less sig- 
nificant and entertaining than this spirited pastoral. The 
song of this species varies greatly in different individuals, 
and I have sometimes thought that it varied greatly in 
different and distant localities. On going into the higher 
regions of our Great Lakes, for instance, I have suspected 
the melody of the Song Sparrow to be that of some other 
species, until I had thoroughly assured myself. Ordinarily, 
the song has a peculiar, vibrating tone, making one think of 
a tremulous reed or chord; but often the more prolonged 
notes are decidedly tintinnabulary, as if the bird carried a 
tiny bell in its throat, and struck off its tones in the most 
delicate and pleasing manner. The order, again, of the 
long notes and the short ones in the melody may be end- 
lessly varied. Well, indeed, has this interesting species 
been called the Song Sparrow. 

In autumn, even, especially in the balmy days of Indian 
Summer, one may hear its lay not so loud and penetrat- 



THE SONG SPARROW. 135 

ing as in spring, indeed, but in a subdued and tender modu- 
lation, peculiar to the time of year. One of our commonest 
birds, found anywhere from the door-yard to the forest, 
rather partial, however, to thickets, the Song Sparrow is 
the useful ally of man against the insect-tribes, and a 
happy minstrel to cheer him in his toils. 

Already in April this bird builds its first nest, a second 
following as soon as possible, and perhaps a third. Thus 
the breeding season continues to the end of summer. I 
have seen the eggs fresh the last days of August, and the 
young in the nest in September. The nest is usually on the 
ground, and well sheltered by some projecting object a 
bush, a tussock of grass, a root, or a hummock of earth; 
but it may be in a bush, or in a hedge, or even in a broken 
dish. In the latter part of the season the nests are much more 
frequently up from the ground in a hedge or in a bush 
than in the early spring, perhaps because the birds thus 
seek to escape the disturbances of cultivation haying, 
harvesting, and the grazing herds of the pasture. The 
nest is composed for the most part of dried grasses, and is 
often lined with horse-hair. The eggs, from .77X.55- 
.85 X -60, vary greatly in color and in marking. The ground- 
color is a greenish, or bluish, or grayish-white. The mark- 
ing* generally very thick and heavy, is of some shade of 
brown, traced with lilac. There is sometimes a single egg 
in a set, of a delicate green, and almost spotless. I know 
of no eggs which vary so greatly in color. 

I do not so frequently find the Cow Blackbird's eggs in 
this nest as in that of other small birds in general. 
The Song Sparrow is quite excitable when its nest is dis- 
turbed, and emits a peculiar chimp, chimp, unlike the alarm 
note of any other bird, yet it has sometimes the chip peculiar 
to other Sparrows. 



136 THE PURPLE FINCH. 

This species, composed of some half-dozen varieties, 
covers North America. Our eastern variety (Melospiza 
melodia), wintering from Southern New England and the 
Middle States southward, and extending north to the lati- 
tude of Nova Scotia, is some six inches or more in length, 
and has the marking and color common to all our Spar- 
rows. It is distinguishable to me, however, by its general 
reddish tinge of brown, especially by its long crown tail, 
by the heavy dark spots on its dull white breast, and more 
especially by the heavy dark streaks from the base of its 
bill down its cheeks and neck. 

Belonging to the same genus with the Song and Swamp 
Sparrows, is Lincoln's Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnO). Some 
5.50 long, it has the colors and markings of the Sparrows in 
general above ; throat and belly white, with a broad, brownish- 
yellow band across the breast, the throat, breast and sides 
being specked and spotted with brown and black. In habit, 
nidification, etc., this bird is very similar to the Song Sparrow. 
It is found in the migrations throughout North America, being 
rare to the eastward, but abundant in the west and north- 
west. Audubon found it breeding in Labrador, and its 
nests are found in great abundance about Great Slave Lake 
and Yukon River. Mr. Bruce saw it in a thicket by Lake 
Ontario, on the 17th of May (1880), in company with the 
White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows. 

THE PURPLE FINCH. 

As I return to the village about noon I am greeted by the 
Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus), which has already 
been here in full song for a week. The size and general 
shape of one of the larger Sparrows, its head is a dark 
crimson; rump, breast and under parts of the same, but 
much lighter, the latter becoming white underneath; 



THE PURPLE FINCH. 137 

feathers of the back and the wing coverts, deep dusky, edged 
with crimson; wing and tail-feathers, dusky-black, edged 
with light-brown. The female, strongly resembled by the 
male for the first two years or more, is nearly the color of 
a Song Sparrow. From early spring till late summer this 
is one of our most delightful songsters. Lifting itself up 
to full length with elevated crest, its voluble rich tones 
strongly resembling those of the Warbling Vireo, only 
more rapid and spirited fairly gurgle in its throat to the 
very end of the lengthy strain. In the sunny days of the 
mating season it has quite a variety of short, spirited notes, 
such as pick-wee, wee-ree, wee-ree-ee. Then, too, it launches 
into the air, and with crown-feathers erect, tail partially 
thrown up, and a vibrating of wings rather than real flight, 
gives its finest melody. 

With much demonstration does the male win his plain 
mate. Never shall I forget how I once saw him perform on 
a fence-rail between me and the setting sun. Straightening 
up to full length in front of his spouse, his wings vibrating 
almost like those of a Humming-bird, his crimson crest all 
aflame in the slanting rays of rosy light, he poured forth 
his sweetest warble. 

The following note from Mr. Eugene Ringueberg, of 
Lockport, is in place here: "While out in a grove of ever- 
greens near the house this morning (April 30th), I saw two 
male Purple Finches chasing a female in and out among 
the trees. She flew around for three or four minutes, only 
alighting once in a while to rest, closely pursued by the 
males, singing as hard as they could nearly all the time. 
At length, however, she lit on the branch of a beech-tree, 
and then one of her suitors perched on -a branch within a 
foot of her on one side, and the other at about the same 
distance on the other side. Immediately a contest of song 



138 THE PURPLE FINCH. 

commenced. Each male faced the female with neck out- 
stretched and crest raised to its fullest dimensions, and 
leaned forward far enough to show conspicuously its bright 
rump, and to aid in this display, spread both wings and 
tail to the widest extent; and moving, or more properly 
dancing, up and down, poured forth such a volume of song 
as I did not think them capable of producing. They kept 
up this brilliant display of both song and plumage for over 
a minute, without one second's cessation, continually mov- 
ing the head and body from side to side, and giving a 
tremulous, vibratory movement to the wings. Suddenly 
they stopped, and after a few seconds of restless chirping, 
one male flew away, and in a short time the other followed, 
and then the female flew after the latter." 

From the middle of May onward into June you may find 
the nest of the Purple Finch almost invariably in the thick 
part of a small evergreen, and near the trunk, most com- 
monly in the front yard, or in an evergreen hedge set for a 
wind-brake; for though rather shy on the whole, this species 
seeks the society of man. The nest is framed with small 
twigs, fine rootlets and some dried grass, ornamented, per- 
haps, with a few dried leaves, bunches of moss, or bits of 
vegetable down; it is lined with the finest of dried grasses 
and rootlets, or more commonly with hair and fine vege- 
table fibres. The eggs, generally four, some .75 x -55, are 
a delicate light-green, finely specked with black, or more 
coarsely spotted with brown. The Purple Finch breeds here 
quite commonly. Wintering sparingly in Massachu- 
setts and the more southern parts of New York, but abund- 
antly in the Southern States, it comes to us in March, 
reaching Labrador in the north and the Pacific in the west, 
and goes southward late in the migratory season. Stearns, 
therefore, very properly assigns it to the " Canadian and 



THE PURPLE FINCH. 139 

Alleghanian Fauna, the latter being in fact its center of 
abundance in the breeding season, at which time the bird 
is probably nowhere more numerous than in Massachusetts." 
In no place have I ever found it so abundant as in Nova 
Scotia. 

Cassin's Purple Finch and the Crimson-fronted are 
closely-allied western varieties, belonging to the Avi-fauna 
of the Rocky Mountains. 

The Purple Finch has the extreme robustness or thick- 
ness of bill belonging to its tribe. It is, however, not 
merely a seed-eating bird, but has justly awakened no 
small prejudice in the gardener, on account of its partiality 
for the tender filaments and fat anthers of fruit-blossoms. 
But even if fruit-blossoms were not more numerous than is 
necessary, this bird's bright plumage and wonderful song 
might well atone for the little mischief it may do. 



CHAPTER IX. 

EARLY APRIL AND THE PHCEBE. 

IN no field of thought does the law of the association of 
ideas work more potently than in the domain of nature. 
Each season has its voices, its temperatures, and its moods 
of earth and sky. Along with the burning days of harvest 
we associate the drowsy hum of the Cicada; with the more 
temperate days, the fading fields and the cool evenings of 
late summer the shrilling of crickets, locusts and grass- 
hoppers; with the driving snows of winter, clouds of Snow 
Buntings; with the wooing, sunny days of late March and 
early April, the homely but significant voice of the Phoebe 
(Sayornis fuscus), one of our welcome birds of early spring. 
While yet the ground is crisp from the frosts of the previ- 
ous night, and the lingering snow-drifts about, the fence- 
corners give back the unclouded rays of the morning sun in 
countless scintillations, as the spirited note of the Robin, 
the amorous warble of the Bluebird, the plaintive melody 
of the Meadow Lark, and the ringing notes of the Song Spar- 
row mingle with the sound of the axe of the woodman on 
the hill, this newly arrived bird mounts the fence, the corn- 
bin, or the ridge of the barn, and with frequent jerks of the 
tail emits, at short intervals, his rather harsh, but by no 
means unpleasing, pe-wee. This is Phoebe's very best song. 
For more ordinary purposes, however, a chip or a whit may 
suffice. After a few weeks, the cheerful note which 



THE PHCEBE. 141 

announced her arrival ceases, scarcely to be heard again 
during her stay. Mr. Burroughs says of this note: "At 
agreeable intervals in her lay, she describes a circle or an 
ellipse in the air, ostensibly prospecting for insects, but 
really, I suspect, as an artistic flourish, thrown in to make 
up in some way for the deficiency of her musical perform- 
ance." All pretty fancies aside, Phcebe is, without doubt, a 
Flycatcher in earnest. Mark her as she describes her curve 
from the fence-stake, the apple-tree, or the willow which 
overhangs the brook, or hovers amidst a cloud of gnats or 
midges, and be assured that the snapping of the bill is no 
mere pretense. With head large, and legs weak, with 
colors exceedingly plain, and a flight altogether ordinary, 
this bird appeals as little to the eye as to the ear. In short, 
Phcebe is in every point of view a homely bird; and yet, of 
all the feathered tribes, none has a larger or tenderer place 
in our sympathies. What makes her so beloved ? Just 
that which endears certain plain and unpretending people 
to our hearts; or, that supports the old proverb, " handsome 
is that handsome does;" or, in other words, an affectionate 
kindliness and confidence, accompanied by a useful life, 
greatly transcends any mere external accident of personal 
beauty or accomplishment. The Phcebe has a better repu- 
tation than either Wren or Robin, approaches us with even 
more confidence than the Bluebird, can vie with the Swal- 
lows in her destruction of noxious insects, in the self-sacri- 
fice of her domestic cares is outdone by none, and is the 
sure herald of the bright and happy days of spring. On 
the other hand, no pilfering or cruel habits or faults of any 
kind detract from her many virtues. In moral suggestive- 
ness, the history of such a life is more potent than a 
fable, and welcome as the beauty and fragrance of the 
flowers. Then cordially greet this summer resident, more 



142 THE PHCEBE. 

disposed to self-domestication than any. other bird of our 
country. 

As an architect, Phoebe is by no means uniform 
in her method. Though often constructing a mere 
mud-hut, strengthened by any fibrous or strawy mate- 
rial, placed on a projection under the piazza, on 
a beam in the sheds, or on the under structure of 
a bridge, she may build it almost wholly of shreds of bark, 
of fine rootlets, lichens, and grasses, or of mosses, using 
little or no mud. Two nests now before me are both curi- 
ous and beautiful. The one found under a bridge is 
double, every part being new. It is built of lichens, moss, 
dried grass, and very fine rootlets, and lined with white 
silken fibres and horse-hair, the bulk containing a few 
pellets of mud as a cement. The apartment of this double 
nest, which was less finished and contained no eggs, was 
evidently built first, as the pellets of mud used in cement- 
ing the outside of the other which was closely joined to it, 
extend over its edge and into the nearer side of the interior. 
The more highly finished nest contained five fresh eggs, of 
the usual size, some .75 x -50 inch, and pure white, and 
underneath these was a Cow Blackbird's egg, built out after 
the manner of some of the smaller birds. 

What could have been the occasion of this double nest? 
As the unoccupied nest was built first, and was a little 
sidling, I infer that the bird had time to build in addition a 
perfectly upright one, which was more satisfactory, and 
therefore more highly finished. (These twin nests are a 
fine brown without and a delicate gray within.) Mr. Minot 
mentions a pair, which, being late in building, "proceeded 
to construct, side by side in a shed, two nests, which were 
finished at the same time. While the male fed the young 
of the first brood in one nest, the female laid the eggs of a 



'-THE PHCEBE. 143 

second brood in the other." Possibly the double nest in my 
possession, which, by the way, was also rather late, had it 
remained undisturbed, might have disclosed the same 
purpose. In this, as in many other cases of bird archi- 
tecture, it would seem that the bird had exercised some- 
thing of reason, in addition to the ordinary impulses of 
instinct. 

The other nest in my possession was found in the cellar 
of an unoccupied house, and is composed almost entirely 
of beautiful green mosses, without any perceptible use of 
mud, and is also lined with white silken fibres and horse- 
hair a most beautiful object, especially as ornamented 
with its complement of clear white eggs! Such nests are 
sometimes built on cliffs of rock, according to the original 
habits of the bird, and thus appear as if they "grew" 
there a beautiful product of nature. This is a bird of 
the United States, rare in Northern New England and so 
belonging to the Alleghanian Fauna, wintering in the 
Southern States, and raising sometimes as many as three 
broods in a season and in the same nest, which is ready for 
the first occupation some time in April. 

It is well understood that this species returns to the same 
place for nidification for years in succession. Audubon 
believed that the young of the previous year returned, in 
some cases, with the parents, and thus started a sort of 
colony. 

Phcebe is 6.50 or upward in length, dark-olive above, 
still darker on the crown; under parts white or tinged 
with yellow; sides, and sometimes the breast, shaded with 
the dark color of the upper parts. The ring around the 
eye, the outer webbing of the wing and some of the tail- 
feathers are tinged with greenish-white. Bill entirely 
black. 



144 THE WOOD DUCK. 

THE WOOD DUCK. 

Along the line between Orleans and Genesee counties is 
Tonawanda Swamp, extending many miles east and west, 
and giving rise to a number of beautiful streams. Here 
are large tracts of wood-land, forests of cedar and larch, 
immense groves of maples, ashes, elms, etc., standing in the 
water a great part of the year, as well as extensive tracts 
of mere shrubby growth, and open marshes, moss-bogs, 
etc. Here are many ponds and sluggish streams wind- 
ing their way so quietly through the still forests that their 
glassy surface betrays no current until a boat is launched 
upon them. Being quartered with a hospitable family in 
the vicinity, I am spending the first days of April in these 
interesting haunts. Having paddled a light canoe for 
several miles along the meandering water-course, I build 
me a booth against the trunk of a large elm standing on a 
point where several channels meet. Seating myself, gun in 
hand, I have a commanding view along the channels for 
some distance. Presently a pair of Wood Ducks (Aix 
sponsa] appear. Evidently they are about to alight, but will 
first reconnoiter the place. They cross the streams several 
times, making short circuits through the woods. How 
noiselessly they glide through the tree-tops, the male lead- 
ing, and the female following closely after. Satisfied as to 
the quiet of the spot, they drop gracefully into the wide, 
glassy sheet of water where the channels meet. O, the 
elegant figure and brilliant colors of the male, as he displays 
himself in front of the female! The stretching and curv- 
ing of the neck, and the graceful elevating of the crest are 
indescribable. How he cuts and darts around his mate 
and most tenderly caresses her! This is the supreme 
moment of his rare elegance and beauty. He also utters a 
peculiar cackling sound. Some 20 inches in length, he is 



THE WOOD DUCK. 145 

about half way in size between the Teal and the Mallard; 
the short and well-shaped bill is finely shaded with yellow, 
carmine, and green; the top of the head, and space between 
the eye and bill, dark, glossy green; the long crest, dark 
green and deep bronze-purple, elegantly edged and streaked 
with white; cheeks and sides of the neck, deep purplish- 
brown, almost black; arches above the eyes, throat and 
fore-neck, with points extending across the cheeks and sides 
of the neck, pure white; breast light purplish-brown, with 
triangular white spots, and shading into bronze-green on 
the upper back; wing blue, black, and violet, edged with 
white; feathers at the shoulder of the wing white, edged 
with black; tail greenish-black, with rich purplish-brown 
on each side of the base; femoral and side-feathers, gray- 
ish-yellow, delicately penciled with black, and tipped with 
white and black bands; under parts, white. He is decidedly 
the most beautiful bird of our waters. 

The female is a little smaller than the male, has the crest 
much smaller, and is altogether plainer in color; the upper 
parts being generally grayish or brownish, tinged and glossed 
with green and purple; space around the eyes, throat, and 
under parts, white; breast similar to that of the male in 
marking, but much plainer in color. 

Having performed their amorous caresses, the happy pair 
spring out of the water on wing and alight in the top of a 
tall tree, perching as readily as any land-bird, and thus 
differing widely from most others of their kind. Here 
they are still beautiful, but not so charming as on the 
water. 

The Wood Duck breeds here, as it does in similar retreats 

throughout the Union; not on the ground, however, 

after the usual manner of Ducks, but in the ends of large 

hollow limbs which have been broken off, the nest being 

10 



146 THE WOOD DUCK. 

placed sometimes six or ten feet in, and in cavities in the 
bodies of trees. The nest is made of various dried vege- 
table matter, and is lined with feathers and down. The eggs, 
anywhere from a half-dozen to fifteen, are smooth, about 
1.95 X 1.50, nearly elliptical, of a light yellowish-white, some- 
times tinged with green. 

When the female begins to sit the male leaves her, after 
the usual manner of the Ducks, and joins other males. 

When the young are about twenty-four hours old, if the 
limb containing the nest be over the water, they may find 
their way severally to the edge, and dropping into their 
favorite element, begin life's perilous career. If the nest be 
a little distant from the water, as is generally the case, the 
mother may seize them by the wing or neck, and con- 
vey them to it, or, landing them thus on the ground, may 
lead them thither in a flock. More commonly, however, 
the mother having thoroughly reconnoitered the place for 
some time, and now uttering her soft cooing call at the 
door-way, the little ones scramble up from the nest with the 
aid of their sharp toe-nails, and huddle around the mother 
a few minutes. The mother, now descending to the ground, 
calls again to the young, and they drop one by one on to 
the soft moss or dried leaves, their tiny bodies so enveloped 
in long down, falling scarcely harder than a leaf or a 
feather. Again they huddle around the mother-bird; and, 
the distance of the nest from the water being sometimes as 
much as sixty or seventy rods, and generally more or less 
on an elevation, they need the maternal guidance to their 
favorite element. 

Here, on such shallow ponds and edges of creeks and 
lakes as abound in tender vegetable growths, amidst many 
perils, she watches over them most assiduously, aiding them 
in procuring their food of aquatic insects, tender shoots of 



THE PEREGRINE FALCON. 147 

water plants, small mollusks, and tadpoles. When fully 
grown they delight in beech-nuts, acorns, and such berries 
as may be found in their locality. 

These elegant birds, so delicious for the table, and 
so easily domesticated, spend their winters on the 
fresh waters of the more southern portion of the 
Union. Indeed, they are always strictly fresh-water ducks, 
and may sometimes be found in large flocks during fall and 
winter. Though extending somewhat farther north, this 
Duck is particularly a bird of the United States, breeding 
very commonly in all suitable places, and hence is often 
called the Summer Duck. 

THE PEREGRINE FALCON. 

Scarcely have the elegant pair of Wood Ducks disap- 
peared, when there passed overhead one of the most dis- 
tinguished birds in the world the Peregrine Falcon, or 
Duck Hawk (Falco communis). For a moment he seemed 
to be "stooping" upon some object of prey, then, as if 
disappointed, rose for a short distance in a short spiral curve 
and made off. As he swept with the speed of an arrow past 
me, I could hear the vibrating hum of his pinions; and 
when he rose, he pursued his abruptly-curved pathway with 
a swift, nervous sailing, wholly unlike the slow and majestic 
sweep of the Buzzards. Though not numerous anywhere, 
this bird has very nearly or quite the wide world as its 
range. It is well known all along the Atlantic Coast, and is 
more or less common along the great rivers of the interior, 
in the mountainous regions of which it breeds, the nest, 
like that of the Golden Eagle, being placed on ledges of 
projecting rock on some lofty precipice. Professor S. S. 
Haldeman was the first to note its breeding in the United 
States, discovering the site of its nest in the mountain- 



148 THE PEREGRINE FALCON. 

cliffs along the Susquehanna, near Columbia, Pennsylvania. 
Afterwards Mr. Allen gave a most satisfactory account of 
its nesting in Mt. Tom, on the Connecticut, in Massachu- 
setts. Very recently I obtained from the observations of 
Professor Charles Linden, of Buffalo, some very interesting 
notes as to its breeding on the Mississippi, about sixty miles 
north of Cairo, Illinois. A vertical out-crop of Devonian 
strata, some 200 feet high and about a mile from the river, 
contained two nests of this species, about a quarter of a 
mile apart and near its crest. The nests were on a shelv- 
ing of the rocks, and the limy droppings of the birds could 
be plainly seen for many feet adown cliff. The birds were 
almost constantly in sight, and the place afforded an excel- 
lent study of their habits. It being a little after the middle 
of April (1869), the wild Ducks were still abundant in the 
shallow pools of the tall forests between the cliff and the 
river. The Wood Ducks were there in almost countless 
numbers. Blue-winged Teal and Widgeon were common, 
while a few Mallards and Shovellers still lingered. Here 
the Duck Hawk, perched on a tall, leafless tree well up the 
mountain side, kept watch for his quarry, many a time 
swooping with the swiftness of an arrow and with the 
most unerring aim at some choice individual of the crowd. 
Thus he deserves to be compared to "a feathered arrow 
traversing the air with a rapidity of thought, a living and 
winged instrument of death !" 

Sometimes a passing Pigeon lured him, or a Wilson's 
Snipe, of which there were plenty here at this time. 

Generally the Duck Hawk contrives little or nothing for 
a nest, laying its eggs almost on the bare rock or clay; and 
thus the female sits closely, scrambling to the edge of the 
precipice, and launching into the dizzy ravine beneath only 
when closely crowded by the hunter. It has been related 



THE PEREGRINE FALCON. 149 

on the best authority, however, that it sometimes constructs 
a bulky nest of sticks and other coarse materials. 

In the timber lands along the Neosho River, Kansas, Mr. 
N. S. Goss found these birds breeding in trees. In the first 
instance, February, 1875, "the nest," he says, "was in a 
large sycamore, about fifty feet from the ground, in a 
trough-like cavity formed by the breaking off of a hollow 
limb near the body of the tree." He continues: " I watched 
the pair closely, with the view of securing both the birds 
and their eggs. March 27th I became satisfied that the birds 
were sitting, and I shot the female, but was unable to get 
near enough to shoot the male. The next morning I hired a 
young man to climb the tree, who found three fresh eggs, 
laid on the fine, soft, rotten wood in a hollow worked out of 
the same to fit the body. There was no other material or 
lining, except a few feathers and down mixed with the 
decayed wood. 

" March 17, 1876," he adds, " I found a pair nesting on the 
opposite side of the river from the above-described nest, in 
a cotton-wood, at least sixty feet from the ground, the birds 
entering a knot-hole in the tree, apparently not over five 
or six inches in diameter." 

Thus we see that along the rivers in prairie lands, where 
mountains are wanting, the Duck Hawk, wholly apart from 
its usual habit, nests in tall trees, appropriating something 
like a cavity The eggs three or four, 2.20-2.32 x 1.65- 
1.71, are grayish ocher or chocolate-brown, dotted, spotted, 
and blotched with reddish-brown, sometimes continuously 
colored with the same either about the large or small end. 

"The flight of this bird," says Audubon, " is astonishingly 
rapid. It is scarcely ever seen sailing, unless after being 
disappointed in its attempts to secure the prey which it has 
been pursuing, and even at such times it merely rises with 



150 THE PEREGRINE FALCON. 

a broad, spiral circuit, to attain a sufficient elevation to 
enable it to reconnoiter a certain space below. It then 
emits a cry much resembling that of the Sparrow Hawk, 
but greatly louder, like that of the European Kestrel, and 
flies off quickly in quest of plunder. The search is often 
performed with a flight resembling that of the tame Pigeon, 
until perceiving an object, it redoubles its flappings, and 
pursues the fugitive with a rapidity scarcely to be conceived. 
Its turnings, windings and cuttings through the air are now 
surprising. It follows and nears the timorous quarry at 
every turn and back-cutting which the latter attempts. 
Arrived within a few feet of the prey, the Falcon is seen 
protruding his powerful legs and talons to their full stretch. 
His wings are for a moment almost closed; the next instant 
he grapples the prize, which, if too weighty to be carried off 
directly, he forces obliquely toward the ground, sometimes 
a hundred yards from where it was seized, to kill it and 
devour it on the spot. Should this happen over a large 
extent of water, the Falcon drops his prey and sets off in 
quest of another. On the contrary, should it not prove too 
heavy, the exulting bird carries it off to a sequestered and 
secure place. He pursues the smaller Ducks, Water-hens, 
and other swimming birds, and if they are not quick in 
diving, seizes them, and rises with them from the water. I 
have seen this Hawk come at the report of a gun and carry 
off a Teal, not thirty steps distant from the sportsman who 
had killed it, with a daring assurance as surprising as unex- 
pected. This conduct has been observed by many individ- 
uals, and is a characteristic trait of the species. The largest 
Duck that I have seen this bird attack and grapple with on 
the wing is the Mallard. 

" The Great-footed Hawk does not, however, content 
himself with water-fowl. He is generally seen following 



THE PEREGRINE FALCON. 151 

the flocks of Pigeons and even Blackbirds, causing great 
terror in their ranks, and forcing them to perform various 
aerial evolutions to escape the grasp of his dreaded talons. 
For several days I watched one of them that had taken a 
particular fancy to some tame Pigeons, to secure which it 
went so far as to enter their house at one of the holes, seize 
a bird, and issue by another hole in an instant, causing such 
terror among the rest as to render me fearful that they 
would abandon the place. However, I fortunately shot the 
depredator. 

" They occasionally feed on dead fish that have floated to 
the shores or sand-bars. I saw several of them thus occupied 
while descending the Mississippi on a journey undertaken 
expressly for the purpose of observing and procuring 
different specimens of birds, and which lasted four months, 
as I followed the windings of that great river, floating down 
it only a few miles daily. During that period, I and my com- 
panion counted upwards of fifty of these Hawks. * * * 

" It is a clean bird in respect to feeding. No sooner is 
the prey dead than the Falcon turns its belly upwards and 
begins to pluck it with his bill, which he does very expertly, 
holding it meantime quite fast in his talons; and as soon as 
a portion is cleared of feathers, tears the flesh in large 
pieces, and swallows it with great avidity. If it is a large 
bird, he leaves the refuse parts, but, if small, swallows the 
whole in pieces. Should he be approached by an enemy, 
he rises with it and flies off into the interior of the woods, 
or, if he happens to be in a meadow, to some considerable 
distance, he being more wary at such times than when he 
has alighted on a tree. 

" These birds sometimes roost in the hollows of trees. I 
saw one resorting for weeks every night to a hole' in a dead 
sycamore, near Louisville, in Kentucky. It generally came 



152 THE PEREGRINE FALCON. 

to the place a little before sunset, alighted on the dead 
branches, and in a short time after flew into the hollow, 
where it spent the night, and from whence I saw it issuing 
at dawn. I have known them also to retire for the same 
purpose to the crevices of high cliffs, on the banks of Green 
River, in the same State. 

" Many persons believe that this Hawk, and some others, 
never drink any other fluid than the blood of their victims; 
but this is an error. I have seen them alight on sand-bars, 
walk to the edge of them, immerse their bills nearly up to 
the eyes in water, and drink in a continued manner, as 
Pigeons are known to do." 

Undoubtedly no American ornithologist ever observed 
the habits of the Duck Hawk as did Audubon; hence I have 
preferred to quote verbatim from him, rather than to simu- 
late knowledge by swallowing his statements and disgorging 
the pellets. 

A fine female of this species, taken in Orleans County, of 
this State, in autumn, is now before me. It is about twenty 
inches long and three feet in extent. Bill blackish, blue at 
tip, light-green at base; cere greenish-yellow; legs yellow; 
the general color of the upper parts is a rich dark-brown, 
the terminal part of each feather being much the darker, 
the upper part, which is mostly covered, having a grayish 
or ashy tinge, especially about the neck, and nearly all the 
feathers being tipped with light brown or brownish-white; 
the inner web of the wing feathers is crossed with round, 
oval or long spots of buff or light reddish; the tail has eight 
broken cross-bars of the same color, and is tipped with 
buffy white; the throat and sides of the neck are buff, the 
brown check-marking from the base of the bill being very 
conspicuous; the under parts and femoral feathers being 
buff or buffy white, heavily marked with brown. The male, 



THE CHIPPING SPARROW. 153 

which is about three inches shorter, has more of the grayish 
or bluish tinge in the upper parts; and the under parts are 
lighter often nearly white. 

This is a typical Falcon, having the short, abruptly-curved 
and pointed bill, with a sharp tooth just back of the point, 
and a corresponding notch in the lower truncate mandible; 
the wings are long and pointed, the second primary being 
longest. This species may be recognized by its large feet, 
its round nostril, with a point in the center, and the dark 
cheek-marking starting from the base of the bill. 

The Old World representative of this species has been 
most renowned in falconry. In this princely sport, practiced 
very extensively from the most ancient times till after the 
use of fire-arms, and still continuing more or less in vogue, 
the Peregrine Falcon has ever proved most susceptible of 
training; "waiting on" the master to perfection, "ringing" 
the Heron as he "takes the air," and "binding" him in the 
most gallant and sportive manner. A weird sight these 
Hawks must have been, as they were carried forth on the 
wrist or on frames to the hunt, all hooded and trapped out 
in the most fantastic manner; and most animating must 
have been the sport, as the grand Falcon described his 
aerial evolutions in capturing his swift-winged prey. 

THE CHIPPING SPARROW. 

About the 5th of April the first Chipping Sparrows (Spi- 
zella socialis) appear. They do not become very common, 
however, until about a week later. Of all our native Spar- 
rows, this one shows the greatest confidence in man, pre- 
ferring to rear its young in his immediate vicinity, picking 
up the crumbs about the door of his habitation, and there- 
fore very properly called the Social Sparrow. About 5.50 
long, and having the common markings of the Spar- 



154 THE CHIPPING SPARROW. 

rows above, it is to be distinguished from most of its family 
by its smaller size, and from them all by its chestnut crown, 
shading into black in front, and by its clear grayish-white 
breast and under parts. The sharp, chipping note, from 
which it has derived its most common name, is certainly 
characteristic, as is also its song, which is simply a prolonged 
twitter chip-ip-ip-ip-ip-ip-ip, itself suggestive of the name 
of the singer frequently uttered throughout the day in 
the breeding season, and not infrequently indulged in in the 
night. 

The anxious mother, keeping watch at the cradle of her 
sick child, may hear it in the lilac outside the window; or, 
for the wakeful sufferer, it may every now and then break 
the monotony of the slow, dark hours, while at the first 
streak of the dawn it generally strikes the key-note of the 
universal matin. 

In the location and structure of its nest, and, indeed, in 
respect to the color of its eggs, Socialis is unlike the rest of 
our Sparrows. For a nest, Mr. Burroughs says: "It 
usually contents itself with a half-dozen stalks of dry grass 
and a few long hairs from a cow's tail, loosely arranged on 
the branch of an apple-tree." While this is graphically 
descriptive of many a nest, it is by no means exhaustive. 
I have before me several quite bulky nests. One is com- 
posed outwardly of a dense arrangement of fine rootlets, 
and has a thick lining of "long hairs from a cow's tail" 
the same as much that passes for horse-hair in other nests 
or hairs from the tail or mane of some horse. The outside 
of another is a pretty good bunch of coarse rootlets and 
dried grasses loosely thrown together, containing a lining 
of pigs' bristles sufficient to make a nest in itself. Another 
consists entirely of horse-hair. In every case there is such 
a quantity of hair used for lining as to justify the name of 



THE BAY-WINGED SPARROW. 155 

Hairbird, sometimes given to this species. The nest, placed 
in any shrub, bush, vine, on the piazza, or apple-tree, is 
never very near the ground, and may be pretty well up. 
The eggs, 4 or 5, .68 x -48, are a bright bluish-green, specked 
at the large end with reddish-brown and black. There are 
generally two broods in a season, the first appearing early 
in June. I have in my possession almost a perfect Albino 
of this species. 

Habitat, "Eastern United States; breeding from Virginia 
northward; wintering from the same point southward." 
(Coues.) It is quite common in New Brunswick and Nova 
Scotia, and also on Manitoulin Island, and on the main land 
to the north. 

THE BAY-WINGED SPARROW. 

Not many hours either earlier or later than the morning 
of the 7th of April, we hear, in this locality, the first song of 
the Bay- winged Sparrow, or Grass Finch (Po&cetes gramineus). 
Almost at the same hour it is here in great numbers; and 
throughout our latitude the fields and pastures are every- 
where enlivened by its appearance and by its pleasing 
song. By the white feathers on the sides of the tail, becom- 
ing conspicuous as the bird alights, by the general lightness 
of color, and by its habit of skulking along so as barely to 
keep out of the way, this bird is readily distinguished from 
all the rest of our Sparrows. On taking it into the hand, 
one notes the patch of reddish, or bay, on the shoulder of 
the wing, from which it receives its more common name. 
The length is about six inches, and male and female are 
alike. Associating the above distinguishing characters with 
the general appearance of our Sparrows, the bird will be 
readily made out as our commonest summer resident of the 
pastures, the open fields, and the road-sides. On its first 
appearance among us in spring, and by the time it leaves. 



156 THE BAY-WINGED SPARROW. 

us in late autumn, the warm tints of its plain dress are 
decidedly pleasing; but in the burning heat of midsummer, 
from constant contact with grass, stubble, dust and gravel, 
it appears rather shabby. 

The melody of the Bay- wing, if not so sprightly and varied, 
still bears quite a resemblance to that of the Song Sparrow, 
and is expressive of a tender pathos, which may even give it 
the preference. It is one of the few bird-songs which might 
be written upon a musical staff. Beginning with a few soft 
syllables on the fifth note of the musical scale, it strikes 
several loud and prolonged notes on the eighth above, and 
ends in a soft warble, which seems to die out for want of 
breath, and may run a little down the scale. Though the song 
is not brilliant, and rather suggestive of humble scenes and 
thoughts, " the grass, the stones, the stubble, the furrow, the 
quiet herds, and the warm twilight among the hills," it is 
nevertheless a fine pastoral, full of the sweet content which 
dwells in the bosom of nature. It is heard to the best advantage 
when the rosy hues of sundown are tinting the road, the 
rocks, and all the higher lights of the evening landscape. 
Then an innumerable company of these poets "of the 
plain, unadorned pastures" some perched on the fences, 
some on weeds and thistles, but many more hid in the 
grass and stubble swell into their finest chorus, while most 
other birds are gradually subsiding into silence. It has 
been well said that the farmer following his team from the 
field at dusk catches the Bay-wing's sweetest strain, and 
that a very proper name for it would be the Vesper Spar- 
row. Its nest, which is on the ground, and often without 
any protection, is built outwardly of the coarse material of 
the fields, and lined with fine grass, rootlets, or horse-hair. 
The eggs, 4 or 5, some .80 x .60 of an inch, are mostly dull 
white and quite variable in their markings, generally thickly 



WHJTE-BELLIED SWALLOW. 157 

specked with reddish-brown and lilac; they are often spot- 
ted and blotched with darker brown and blackish, and often 
scratched and scrawled with black as with a pen, after the 
manner of the eggs of the Icteridce. 

As the first brood may be hatched here by the middle of 
May, the abundance of nests in all the fields brings them 
in contact with the plow in great numbers; and as the eggs 
of the second or last brood may be fresh about the 4th of 
July, many nests are destroyed in the hay-field. The losses 
sustained therefore by this bird in nidification are probably 
greater by far than those of any other species in the locality. 

Habitat, the United States from ocean to ocean, and 
reported by Dr. Richardson from the Saskatchawan. 
Winters abundantly in the Southern States, and breeds from 
the southern Middle States northward, becoming very rare 
in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. 

WHITE-BELLIED SWALLOW. 

About the first or second week in April the White-bellied 
Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) makes its appearance. This 
earliest arrival of its very interesting family is most likely 
to be seen along streams or ponds; and while it exceeds 
but a little the average size of the different kinds of Swal- 
lows for excepting the Purple or Black Martin (Progne 
purpured), the Swallows differ but slightly in dimensions 
it is readily distinguished by its simple markings of glossy 
greenish-black above, and pure white beneath, whence its 
specific name Bicolor, or two-colored. In purity and ele- 
gance of color it surpasses all the rest of its family in this 
locality, and is itself surpassed on this continent only by 
the exquisite beauty of the Rocky Mountains and the 
Pacific Coast, known as the Violet-green Swallow {Tachy- 
cineta thalassind). Its notes are particularly soft and musical 



158 WHITE-BELLIED SWALLOW. 

for a bird of its kind, so that it is called by some the Sing- 
ing Swallow. 

The flight of the Swallow is one of the wonders of 
nature. Achieving in its ordinary flight at least a mile in a 
minute, the Barn Swallow "has been known to leave Hali- 
fax, Nova Scotia, at sunset, for the South, and to reach the 
Islands of Bermuda, 800 miles due south, by sunrise the 
next morning." (Tristram.) Thus, in comparatively a few 
hours, it can pass from the Arctic snows to the tropics. 
Wilson estimating the flight of the Swallow at a mile in a 
minute, its time spent on wing per day to be ten hours, and 
its length of life at ten years, shows that it would thus pass 
round the globe eighty-seven times. 

The White-bellied Swallow is especially swift and grace- 
ful in flight. Behold it "skating on the air." How it 
dashes along, seemingly almost without-exertion, capturing 
its food or dipping its bill into the glistening stream to 
drink, or washing itself "by a sudden plunge," all of which 
scarcely retards its onward movement. In a moment it is 
out of sight, or else rising nearly perpendicularly, it will 
suddenly shoot across the tree-tops with almost lightning 
speed, performing the most wondrous aerial evolutions as 
easily as if it were tossed by the winds themselves. The 
whole domain of air is the Swallow's home. No path of 
insect is beyond its reach, and what bird of prey can over- 
take it? Here is freedom, indeed, and a life that is one 
continual recreation. 

The White-bellied Swallow is associated with the days of 
my childhood in Nova Scotia. Many a nest did I find in 
the hollow stumps of the low pastures. A few dried grasses 
compose the outside, the inside being a considerable mass 
of large, downy, white feathers of the tame Goose, so laid 
that the tips curl inward, and almost cover the eggs when 



WHITE-BELLIED SWALLOW. 159 

the bird is off the nest. The pure white eggs, some four or 
five, are real gems of beauty. How bravely the parent 
birds would defend their nest, describing their noisy circles 
in near proximity, and, with a guttural shriek, diving so 
closely at the head of the intruder, as to induce' a speedy 
retreat. The same stump would be occupied for a series of 
years, the annual additions of lining giving considerable 
depth to the nest in time. In New England this bird is now 
said to build in "a Martin-box," or "rarely in the hole of a 
tree." In New York it nests in holes about the walls of 
brick or stone buildings as an instance, in large numbers 
in holes about the stone buildings of the Johnston Harvester 
Works at Brockport. Here, too, it sometimes builds in the 
holes of trees, and more or less in community. 

On the Mud Islands, .Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, I 
saw the nests of this species on the ground under flat stones, 
and in holes in the ground. They were elegantly lined 
with the feathers of the Herring Gull and of the Eider 
Duck, the feathers being so laid that the tips curled upward 
and nearly concealed the eggs. 

Though these Swallows do not generally nest in commu- 
nities, they often associate in large numbers in spring and 
fall. What a spirited scene I witnessed about the middle of 
last April, on one of the secluded ponds of Tonawanda 
Swamp. The number gyrating above the glassy surface so 
filled the air that their movements without contact with 
each other seemed impossible. The air became darkened, 
and was made resonant by the volume of their musical 
twitterings. 

These Swallows leave us from the earlier half of Septem- 
ber to middle of October, when they may be seen in great 
numbers. Mr. Maynard, of Newtonville, Mass., says: " They 
congregate upon the salt marshes during the latter part of 



160 THE COW BLACKBIRD. 

August and the first of September literally by millions; the 
air is so completely filled with them that it is almost impos- 
sible to discharge a gun without killing some." 

I have seen them in like numbers along the Niagara 
River in the latter part of September. They would darken 
the air in flight, and, when alighting, would blacken the 
shore for a long distance. 

Its habitat is temperate North America, reaching even to 
Alaska, throughout which it breeds quite generally, while it 
winters in the extreme Southern States, in Central America, 
and in the West Indies. 

Our several species of the Swallow are among the birds 
which are especially regular in the times of their migrations. 
Now, as in the days of the prophet Jeremiah, it knows the 
time of its coming, and as truly marks the ushering in of 
the joyous days of spring as when the boys of Athens sang 
their familiar ditty in its honor. 

The Swallows, Swifts, and Goat-suckers were formerly all 
classed together as Fissirostrals, or those having a deeply- 
cleft bill. The resemblance which the Swallows bear to the 
two other groups is, however, merely external, an analogy 
rather than an affinity. 

A strict anatomy proves the Swallows alone to have the 
complicated muscular system of the lower larynx belonging 
to the birds of song, while the remaining Fissirostrals, having 
the simpler larnx of the non-singing birds, are placed among 
the Flycatchers and Humming-birds. 

THE COW BLACKBIRD. 

One of the most beautiful and forcible lessons in nature 
is the conjugal and parental affection of the birds. The 
inimitable songs of the males are generally most ardently 
and sweetly delivered, while the females are enduring the 



THE COW BLACKBIRD. 161 

tedious confinement and exhaustion of incubation; thus 
charming the ear with an entertainment which might delight 
the very highest intelligences, and so beguiling the weary 
hours. Behold that male Bluebird feeding the female in the 
most kindly manner, or the Rose-breasted Grosbeak taking 
apparently the greater part of the burden of incubation 
upon himself ! How disconsolate is that House Wren 
whose mate the cat has killed ! Listen to the sad meanings 
of that Mourning Dove bereft of his mate ! I hav& some- 
times pointed the newly-married couple to the birds as being 
the best guide to domestic felicity. 

And has the reader ever noticed the melancholy arts of a 
female bird, when startled from her eggs, as she hobbles 
and flutters along the ground feigning broken legs and 
wings ? Has he ever seen the distress of the mother Part- 
ridge at the alarm of her young brood ? Giving them the 
well-understood signal to hide themselves, she tumbles 
about and moans, as if in the last agonies of death, and will 
even allow herself to be touched by the hand in order to 
decoy the intruder; and when danger seems over, listen to 
her pathetic maternal call, which again brings the tender 
younglings under her wings ! Neither father nor mother of 
the human species could feed and protect a helpless family 
with more self-sacrificing industry than is universally com- 
mon to the parent birds. Audubon tells us how the heart 
of a pirate was once softened while listening to the tender 
cooings of the Zenaida Doves in the breeding season on 
one of the Florida Keys. Dropping on his knees upon 
the burning sand, he penitently besought heaven for mercy, 
and, at the peril of his life, forsook his murderous crew, 
and joined his formerly abandoned family. 

In the case, however, of the Cow Blackbird (Molothrus 
pecoris] of America, and the Cuckoo of Europe, two birds 
11 



162 THE COW BLACKBIRD. 

belonging to altogether different families, we note a most 
remarkable exception, these being wholly polygamous and 
parasitic. The Cow Blackbird makes its first appearance 
in Western New York about the end of the first week in 
April. Some 7.00 or 7.50 long, the male is a glossy greenish- 
black, with a brown head. The female, somewhat smaller, 
is plain slaty-brown. In sombre groups of some half- 
dozen or more the males being at first the more numerous, 
but the sexes soon becoming about equally represented 
they perch leisurely on the fence, on a solitary tree in the 
field or in the edge of the woods, often penetrating the 
thickest forests. The intercourse of the sexes is entirely 
promiscuous, no male ever showing any continuous attach- 
ment to any one female. Since the body-guard of insects 
accompanying the cattle affords the Cow Bird a constant 
repast, or more especially from the attractiveness of certain 
intestinal worms passed in the excrements of cattle by means 
of the aperient effects of green grass in spring and early sum- 
mer, this species is noted for its preference of the vicinity of 
these quadrupeds; even lighting on their backs; hence its 
common name, Cow Blackbird, formerly Cow Bunting. 

Dr. Coues says: "Cow Birds appear to be particularly 
abundant in the west; more so, perhaps, than they really 
are, for the numbers that in the East spread equally over 
large areas are here drawn within small compass, owing to 
lack of attractions abroad. Every wagon-train passing over 
the prairies in summer is attended by flocks of the birds; 
every camp and stock-corral, permanent or temporary, is 
besieged by the busy birds eager to glean subsistence from 
the wasted forage. Their familiarity under these circum- 
stances is surprising. Perpetually wandering about the 
feet of the draught-animals, or perching upon their backs, 
they become so accustomed to man's presence that they 



THE COW BLACKBIRD. 163 

will hardly get out of the way. I have even known a young 
bird to suffer itself to be taken in hand, and it is no uncom- 
mon thing to have the birds fluttering within a few feet of 
one's head. The animals appear to rather like the birds, and 
suffer them to perch in a row upon their back-bones, doubt- 
less finding the scratching of their feet a comfortable sensa- 
tion, to say nothing of the riddance from insect parasites." 

In respect to its vocal performances, this bird is curious 
rather than entertaining. Ruffing up its feathers, opening 
wide its mouth, and appearing to strain every muscle, it 
" seems literally to vomit up its notes," which bear a formal 
resemblance, indeed, to those of the closely-related Red- 
winged Blackbird, but are almost entirely destitute of their 
claims to musical quality. The vocal utterances of Pecoris 
do certainly " gurgle and blubber up out of him, falling on 
the ear with a peculiar subtle ring, as of turning water from 
a glass bottle," but, perhaps, on account of my prejudice, I 
fail utterly to discover their "pleasing cadence." 

While other birds are busy building their nests, 
this reckless free-lover betrays no impulse whatever in 
this direction, but gayly flitting about from place to place, 
spends his time in mere wanton pleasure. As soon as the 
nests of other birds are completed, you may notice the 
females of this dusky flock of Cow Birds becoming very 
uneasy. One by one they steal away in quest of some 
strange nest in which to deposit their eggs. They have 
been known to search the ground, the bushes, and the trees 
for miles in order to accomplish their purpose. Never 
driving away the rightful owner, nor taking possession by 
force, they will creep stealthily into the nest in the absence 
of the owner, and hastily depositing an egg, hurry back to 
join their company with the most obvipus sense of relief, 
and without the slightest further concern for their offspring. 



IQ4 THE COW BLACKBIRD. 

This species has never been known to build a nest, nor to take 
any interest in raising its young, which are left entirely to 
the care of foster parents. Almost invariably the nest of a 
bird much smaller than itself is chosen. The Sparrows, the 
Warblers, the Vireos, the smaller Flycatchers in fact, any 
of the small land-birds may become the victim of this im- 
position. Occasionally birds near its own size, as the 
Scarlet Tanager or the Bluebird, may be obliged to bear 
the burden. The Cow Bird's egg is so unusually small for 
the size of the bird, only some .90 X -65 of an inch, that it 
is readily accommodated in the nests of very small birds, 
whereas, if dropped into that of larger ones, it may be 
thrown out. I have found it with a hole in the side and 
lying on the ground, beneath the nest of the Yellow-breasted 
Chat, thus evidently pierced by the bill of the bird, and 
ousted in indignation. These eggs, of a dirty white and 
specked all over with brown, are readily distinguished from 
those of any nest in which they may be placed, and are 
always unwelcome to the owners, which will become very 
uneasy and querulous; and the female, hunting up its mate, 
will make a noisy ado over the intrusion. If the owner 
has not yet laid her own eggs she may forsake the nest, or 
add a story to it, thus burying the foreign egg so deeply as 
to suffer no inconvenience from it. Many cases of the latter 
expediency have been found. Wilson found a Yellow War- 
bler's nest containing two eggs thus separately built out, mak- 
ing a nest of three stories. I have seen a like nest of the Red- 
start. The owner of such a nest does, indeed, deserve "a 
better fate than that her house should at last be despoiled by 
a naturalist;" but "passing thus into history," and making 
such a contribution to science, is worth a great sacrifice. I 
once found a Wood Thrush sitting stupidly on a solitary egg 
of the Cow Blackbird. This would seem to be exceptional. 



THE COW BLACKBIRD. 165 

Wilson and Audubon, as well as the earlier ornithologists 
in general, were mistaken in saying that no nest contained 
more than one of the Cow Blackbird's eggs. I have fre- 
quently found more than one in the same nest; once not 
less than four in the nest of a Scarlet Tanager, which had 
only room enough left for two of her own. Mr. Trippe 
once found a Black-and-white Creeper's nest with five of 
the eggs of the interloper and three deposited by the owner. 
Dr. Coues has well said: "We may consider this pair of 
Creepers relieved, on the whole, by Mr. Trippe's visit the 
mother-bird rescued from drowning in the inundation of so 
many 'well-springs,' and the father saved the necessity of 
hanging himself from the nearest convenient crotch." 

Perhaps requiring a shorter period of incubation, perhaps 
on account of the size of the egg being greater, and thus 
receiving more warmth than those of the owner of the nest, 
the Cow Bird's egg invariably hatches first. Then the 
foster parent, prompted by the generosity of parental in- 
stinct, will leave her own eggs to chill, while she secures food 
for the foundling. Thus the Cow Bird alone is hatched, 
and the addled eggs of the owner of the nest are soon 
removed. Considering the number of nests thus intruded 
upon, sometimes apparently more than half of the small 
birds' nests in this locality, the check thus put upon 
the propagation of these various species must be very 
great. 

The young Cow Blackbird grows rapidly, and soon more 
than fills the nest. Meanwhile the foster parents feed it 
most assiduously, and continue to do so long after it has 
left the nest, and when it is many times larger than the 
little Sparrow or Warbler thus imposed upon. It is by no 
means suggestive of pleasing reflections to see this great 
over-grown foundling flapping its wings and calling loudly 



166 THE MOURNING DOVE. 

for these attentions when it seems sufficiently mature to take 
care of itself. 

The remarkable sagacity of these young birds in discov- 
ering each other has been well noted by ornithologists. I 
have seen them in very considerable flocks already by the 
20th of June, and later in the season they gather into flocks, 
which are simply immense. 

Considering how many of our summer residents are 
hard to find during the moulting period, it may not after all 
appear so strange that the Cow Bird seems absent during a 
certain part of summer. In late summer and early 
autumn they are wont to assemble in large flocks, some- 
times quite destructive, and, migrating late in autumn, 
spend the winter in great numbers in the Southern States. 
They are said to deposit their eggs from 35 to 68 north. 
General habitat, North America. 

Plain in form and color, without musical attractions, of a 
disgusting diet, an arrant free-lover, wholly without 
parental affection, a destroyer at the very threshold of the 
life of many of our most interesting birds, in short, in all 
respects of most distasteful and infamous habits, this grand 
ornithological nuisance would seem to claim no considera- 
tion whatever, except as an anomaly, being a most flat con- 
tradiction of the laws of its kind, and hence an addition to 
nature's great variety. 

THE MOURNING DOVE. 

On the 10th of April one of my parishioners called my 
attention to what he called a flock of Plover in a field 
where he had raised corn the year before. The flock, con- 
sisting of some twenty, turned out to be Mourning Doves 
(Zenadura carolinensis). Rarely do we see so many together 
at any time of year in this locality. Occasionally, how- 



THE MOURNING DOVE. 167 

ever, they will appear in the newly-reaped wheat-fields in 
the month of August in very large flocks. They remained 
in this field for days, gleaning the stray kernels of corn, and 
perhaps the seeds of the coarser weeds. These birds arrive 
quite as early as the present date, generally in pairs, and 
sometimes stray individuals remain all winter. In Northern 
Ohio they spend the winter in small flocks about the barn- 
yards and orchards, gleaning and feeding along with the 
domestic fowl, thus becoming almost domesticated. Hav- 
ing the small head, peculiar bill, slender neck, short legs, 
and pointed tail of the Doves, it is a genuine member of 
the ColumbidcE family, and a near relative of our Pigeon. 
About a foot long, with fourteen tail feathers, and a naked 
space around the eyes, its color is a slaty-brown above, 
bluish on the top of the head and on the back of the neck, a 
velvety-black spot on the auriculars; front of the neck, 
breast, and under parts, a delicate, warm light-red; throat, 
crissum, and ends of the outer tail feathers, white. Here 
and there about the wings and back is a dark slaty or black 
feather. The sides of the neck have a beautiful, metallic 
purple gloss, or iridescence. Female and young, plainer 
and duller, and slaty on the breast. 

As in Bible lands, the cooing of the Dove is one of the 
characteristic voices of our advanced spring. In thickets, 
and especially in orchards, sometimes even in the orna- 
mented evergreens of the front-yard, some four successive 
notes, a most mournful cooing among " the saddest sounds 
in nature," may be heard throughout the day, but especially 
in the early morning. These notes, however, so strangely 
in contrast with the universal gladness of spring, are by no 
means the utterance of grief or woe, but rather of the ten- 
derest emotions of love and joy. They are the conjugal 
notes of the male; and such are his attentions and appar- 



168 THE MOURNING DOVE. 

ently life-long attachment to the female, that, like the Doves 
in general through all historic times, he is a fit emblem of 
the domestic affections. Moreover, his solemn, mournful air 
renders him a fit symbol of the most pensive side of nature. 

The nest of this species, found here late in May, placed in 
a bush or tree, on the roots of a windfall, on a stump, or on 
the ground, is generally a slight and loose construction of 
dry twigs, and perhaps a few rootlets, built in what is called 
the platform style, so slight that one can scarcely imagine 
how the eggs can be hatched and the young ones raised on 
it; and contains two beautiful white eggs, measuring about 
1.12 X -85. A nest now before me, some two inches or more 
in thickness, and lound in an orchard, is made of neat, 
crooked twigs, more or less covered with lichens, and very 
artistically laid. It is finished on the top with fine rootlets, 
skeleton-leaves, and bits of wool; and is a very gem of its 
kind, reminding one of some fancy log-cabin. 

The young Doves are well matured before they leave the 
nest, and sit side by side upon the ordinarily rude affair. 
At night the old one sits crosswise on them, even when they 
are quite large, the nest and birds together thus making 
quite a grotesque pile. 

The diet of these birds is well stated by Wilson, who says 
they "are exceedingly fond of buckwheat, hemp-seed and 
Indian corn; feed on the berries of the holly, the dogwood, 
and poke, huckleberries, partridge-berries, and the small 
acorns of the live oak and shrub oak. They devour large 
quantities of gravel, and sometimes pay a visit to the kitchen- 
garden for peas, for which they have a particular regard." 

The Mourning Doves, or Carolina Turtle Doves, as they 
are sometimes called, may often be seen dusting themselves 
in the road; and, at all times, their flight is very noticeable 
from the sharp whistling noise produced by each stroke of 



THE WHITE-RUMPED SHRIKE. 169 

the wings. They are abundant summer residents, many 
also spending the winter throughout the Middle States; 
becoming rare already in New England, they barely extend 
into the British Provinces. Many migrate to the Southern 
States, where they spend the winter in large flocks; and 
many remain there during the summer. The Mourning 
Doves are also common to the Pacific Coast. 

The elegant White-headed Dove of the West India Islands 
is a summer resident of the Florida Keys. About 13.12 
long, the "general color throughout is dark slaty-blue, 
becoming very dark on the tail above and black beneath." 
Crown pure white; back of neck rich purplish-brown; sides 
of the neck elegant iridescent green, with golden reflections 
and a fine black margin to each feather. The Zenaida Dove, 
with a most plaintive and pathetic note, has been found by 
Audubon only, on the Florida Keys. The plain but elegant 
little Ground Dove, only seven inches long, "a constant 
resident throughout the Carolinas and southward, may be 
so easily known by its diminutive size that it needs no 
description. Its rather elaborate nest of twigs and weeds 
lined with iisnea, and containing one or two creamy 
white eggs, some .85 X .64, may be on the ground, or in a 
bush or tree. The Key West Dove appears in summer on 
Key West, as implied by its name. Excepting the Ground 
Dove, the above group of Doves belongs to the West Indies, 
and barely reaches the localities named in summer. 

THE WHITE-RUMPED SHRIKE. 

About this 12th of April I observe a quite common bird of 
this locality, the White-rumped Shrike (Collurio ludovidanus 
var. excubitoroides), already mated. Single individuals of this 
species are here in March, and their first brood may be 
hatched by the latter part of April, a second appearing in 



170 THE WHITE-RUMPED SHRIKE. 

July. Some 8.50-9.00 long, it is about an inch shorter 
than the Northern Shrike (Collurio borealis), and precisely 
the size of the Loggerhead (Collurio ludovicianus) of the 
Gulf States, of which latter it is now regarded as a mere 
variety, occupying the more western and northwestern 
regions. Coues gives its habitat: " Middle Province of 
North America, to the Saskatchewan; east through Kansas, 
Iowa, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin, to New York and Canada 
West, probably into New England. In the Southern States, 
replaced by typical ludovicianus. On the Pacific Coast, not 
observed north of California. South through Mexico." 
Frank R. Rathbun, in his list of birds of Central New York, 
states that it is "a not uncommon summer resident." 

Bluish-ash above, white beneath (sometimes rather gray- 
ish-white), patches from the base of the bill across the eyes 
and auriculars, the rounded wings and tail, black; spot in 
the base of the primaries, tips of some of the secondaries, 
edging of the scapulars, sides of the tail and rump, white; 
bill and feet black this bird is really beautiful, especially 
in its flight, which is low and straightforward, with 
rapid strokes, showing the clear white and black of the 
wings and tail to fine advantage. The rapid wing motion 
seems almost to describe contiguous semicircles of white 
and black at the sides of the moving bird, and contrast finely 
with its clear, light colors. It perches on some solitary tree in 
the open field, on a fence-stake, or on the hedge; sitting 
motionless as a Hawk, while it watches its vicinity for its 
favorite items of prey, consisting of various small insects, 
beetles, grasshoppers, mice, and small birds, which last it 
may not infrequently be seen lugging by the head as it flies 
from point to point, or munching at its leisure when perched. 

The orchard is decidedly a favorite resort of this bird. 
Here, saddled on the limb of an apple-tree, it builds its 



THE, WHITE-RUMPED SHRIKE. m 

strongly characterized nest of sticks, coarse weeds, rootlets, 
shreds of bark, woody fibers, dried grasses, thread, wool, 
and feathers, the lining consisting particularly of the last- 
mentioned items. The whole structure is bulky and ragged, 
the rim being so thick, loose and irregular as almost to 
hide the eggs, which may be partially buried in the care- 
lessly-arranged lining. The eggs, 5 or 6, about 1.00 x ^5 
are dull white, spotted with greenish-gray or brown, and a 
more neutral tint of lilac-gray. The nest may be placed in 
a solitary tree of the open field, or in the thick part of the 
hedge. Having taken a nest with 6. fresh eggs on the 28th 
of April, by the end of the first week in May another had 
been built and contained 3 eggs. 

During the breeding season the male may be frequently 
seen perched on the fence by the road-side. This is almost 
a silent bird, the male occasionally uttering a loud peemp, 
peemp, in the mating period, and the female uttering a pro- 
longed guttural squeak when startled from her nest. The 
latter resembles a weaker note of the Vireos, uttered under 
like circumstances. 

The young Shrikes resemble their parents, except that the 
colors are not so pure and bright, and they have a light- 
brownish wash across the breast, in which, as also in the ashen- 
gray of the upper parts, there is a fine, dark cross-penciling. 

The White-rumped Shrike leaves us late in the fall. 

The Shrikes are a strange family of birds. With the bill 
and head of a Falcon, the mouth-bristles of a Flycatcher, 
the feet and laryngeal muscles of a song-bird, the dietetic 
habits of a Hawk, and, in the case of our American species, 
the color of the Mockingbird, ornithologists have been 
much puzzled as to their place in classification. In the 
latest American works, they rank between the Vireonidce. 
and the Fringillida. 



CHAPTER X. 

LATER IN APRIL. 
THE DABCHICK. 

ON the 15th of April, I go to Lake Ontario at the mouth 
of Johnson's Creek to spend a few days in observing and 
collecting. As I stealthily approach the creek near its outlet, 
I see a Dabchick (Pqdilymbus podiceps) swimming 1 among the 
rushes. Occasionally he emits a clear whistle not unlike 
the peep of the Hylas. How spry he is, darting hither and 
thither, diving to reappear many rods away, and shaking his 
head violently as he emerges. I cannot tell one moment 
where to look for him the next. No wonder he has received 
the common name Water- witch. Now he starts up and 
flies a few rods, patting the surface of the water with his 
lobate feet, as if he were half flying and half running. His 
head turns so quickly in every direction that I cannot decide 
whether he sees me or not only as I imply it from his sink- 
ing so deeply as he swims whenever he rises after diving, 
and finally from his disappearing among the sedges. This 
is no doubt a breeding place of this species, as are also the 
marshes about Grand Island, in Niagara River. In August 
or September, when the family is well grown, it is interest- 
ing to watch them at their sports in their quiet haunts. 
They seem most active between daylight and sunrise. Then, 
if one is well hid away by the still water, their active swim- 
ming and graceful diving can be seen to good advantage. 



THE DAB CHICK. 1^3 

Spreading considerably apart, they allow themselves plenty 
of room. How the ripples, started by their breasts, enlarge 
like arcs of circles on the glassy surface, and intersecting 
each other, move on increasingly to the shore. In quick suc- 
cession they glide softly under the water, and remain for 
some time, no doubt taking their food of small fishes and 
aquatic grasses. Nothing can exceed the ease and graceful- 
ness with which they dive, so tipping under the water as 
barely to ruffle the mirror-like surface. Presently they 
reappear, one after another, shaking their heads, and look- 
ing this way and that as if to make sure of their safety, 
but still swimming well out of the water. Gliding along 
much more rapidly than Ducks, they describe their elegant 
curves for a few seconds, and then all disappear again. 
What a happy family they are! Should they take alarm, 
using their wings to aid in swimming, they will literally 
fly under water, coming up a long distance away, and so 
contracting their bodies in respiration, and thus lessening 
their specific gravity, as barely to protrude the head or bill 
on coming up to breathe, and probably in a few minutes 
will all entirely disappear among the sedges and cat-tails. 
Though easily shot when not on the lookout, if once sus- 
picious of danger it is almost impossible to capture them, 
since they will dive between the flash of the gun and the 
arrival of the charge. 

How does any bird dare to set out on the immense flights 
of migration with such tiny wings! They might serve the 
same purpose as the fins of a fish, but who would imagine 
them at all sufficient for flight! Indeed, the wing of the 
Grebe is a compromise between a wing and a fin, it being 
the smallest wing possible for flight to a bird of its size 
and what a mere apology for a tail is that little tuft 
of hair a common mark of all the Grebes. The 



174 THE DABCHICK. 

posterior position of his legs, making him appear in stand- 
ing like an ancient skin-bottle, as well as his long lobate 
toes, clearly shows that he was not made for walking, but for 
swimming. He seems to understand alike his weakness 
and his strength, for when disturbed, he prefers to take to 
the water rather than to the air hence that common but 
rather profane name of the family "Hell-divers." 

If there are birds which seem to be designed to live 
almost entirely in the air, here is a kind evidently designed 
to live almost entirely on the water. Its migrations would 
seem to be by means of the great water-courses, rather 
than through the aerial highways. Its food is taken from 
the water, and its nest is a floating fabric. 

The Grebes belong to the order Pygopodes, or Diving Birds, 
and constitute the strongly marked family Podicipidce. 
They stand next to the Loons which they resemble quite 
strongly, notwithstanding many minor points of differ- 
ence, and they are the last family in the present systems of 
classification of birds. The breast-bone is very firm, and 
the keel is large. The lower region of the bones of the 
back has the same keel-like ridge which, to receive the 
immense muscles of the thigh, is so noticeable in the skeleton 
of the Loon. The legs extend backward, and are joined 
by strong muscles to the back, to secure facility in diving, 
the bird kicking upward against the water in this act. The 
tarsi are almost as flat as a knife-blade, which form greatly 
aids in swimming, as it affords the least possible resistance; 
the feet are continuously lobed, and more or less joined by 
a web at the bases of the toes, the claws on the latter being 
flattened like human toe-nails. The bill is generally rather 
long and pointed. The eyes are far forward, with a bare 
space in front. The exquisite coat of down in which the 
young appear is black, elegantly striped with white, and 



THE DABCHICK. 175 

marked with red about the head. In most species the color 
of the plumage changes greatly with the season, and there 
is a conspicuous ruff or ornament about the head of the 
male in the breeding period. The plumage of the under 
parts has a peculiar open structure and a satiny, lustrous 
surface, inducing its use as fur. The nesting habits of the 
family .are similar throughout. 

The Dabchick is some 13.00 long. The bill, which is 
shorter and thicker than that of most Grebes, is pale blue, 
with a black ring around the part perforated by the nostril. 
The upper parts are dark brown, the fore-neck reddish, belly 
white, sides grayish; under the chin there is a black spot in 
spring, the only distinguishing mark of the breeding season. 
In the fall this last mark is wanting, and the young have 
the throat white, streaked with dark. Late in the fall even 
the young are much smaller than the parents. 

Having had my attention called to the breeding of this 
species at St. Clair Flats by the communications in the 
Oologist now Ornithologist and Oologist by Mr. W. 
H. Collins, a distinguished taxidermist of Detroit, I gave 
the matter a careful investigation when visiting that place 
in the spring of 1882. The nest, built up from the bottom 
in water from a foot to eighteen inches deep, to several 
inches above the water, is a sort of pier, sheltered by sedges, 
cat-tails and rushes; and though stationary as thus pro- 
tected, is so nearly afloat that any considerable agitation of 
the water will rock it to and fro. It is a carefully-laid pile 
of soaked and decaying rushes of former years, and other 
decaying matter from the bottom, with a good deal of the 
larger fresh water algae mixed in. Cylindrical, some 
18 inches in diameter, and symmetrically rounded at the 
top, and having a slight depression for the eggs, it is the 
wettest, dirtiest, nastiest thing to be conceived of in the way 



176 THE DABCHICK. 

of a bird's nest. On this filthy arrangement are placed 
some six or eight eggs, about 1.25 x -87, white, tinged 
or waved with light green, the surface being rather rough 
or granulated. They are soon soiled from contact with the 
nest. The birds are exceedingly on the alert, leaving the nest, 
and partially covering the eggs with the wet material, and 
getting entirely out of sight before the nest is discovered. 
On examining the nest, however, there can be no doubt as 
to the method of incubation. The eggs are quite warm, 
and there is nothing in the condition or temperature of the 
nest that will at all account for the warmth. The newly 
hatched young, jet-black, with six narrow, white stripes over 
the back extending up on the neck, and red or reddish 
markings about the head, underneath white, bill red, and 
feet black, are truly beautiful; and so keen is their instinct 
of fear as soon as they are out of the shell, that they will 
scramble off the nest and hide among the rushes before one 
can detect the nest; and but for their chicken-like peeping, 
their presence would not be suspected. Meanwhile the 
plaintive whistle of the parent bird may be heard in the 
vicinity, now here, now there, but seldom, indeed, does she 
allow herself to be seen. Now ensconce yourself away and 
remain quiet for a few minutes, and this mother diver will 
make her appearance, looking sharply in every direction, 
and softly whistling together her scattered brood. Well 
understanding these coaxing notes, the little ones gather 
around her from among the rushes and sedges, and, as she 
swims deeply, mount on her back for a ride. This is truly 
a pretty sight, as well calculated to soften the heart as is 
the cooing of the Dove. Occasionally you will see this bird 
take her young under her wings, when alarmed, and dive 
with them, the little ones remaining under for some time, 
but generally coming up before the parent. 



TJfE HORNED GREBE. 177 

The Dabchick breeds -abundantly about St. Clair Flats, 
still more abundantly to the northwest, as in Northern Min- 
nesota and Dakota, and more or less, indeed, from the 
northern limits of the Southern States to the Gulf of St. 
Lawrence; and though its winter habitat is in the South- 
ern States, it has been found in midwinter as far north as 
Southern New England. 

THE HORNED GREBE. 

The Horned Grebe (Podiceps cornutus) is the most numer- 
ous member of its family in this locality during the migra- 
tions. In the last week of April or the first week of May, it 
is very common on our streams and ponds. On the broad 
and beautiful current of Niagara River, below the gorge, these 
birds may then appear in flocks of hundreds; and their sport- 
ing and diving is a sight worth seeing. Now they are all 
gliding hither and thither along the surface; now they go 
down in rapid succession till every bird is under water, and 
again they come up as quickly, till the vast number is once 
more in full sight. Now the male expands his ruff to full 
effect, giving his thus greatly enlarged head, set off with 
pointed bill and red eyes, altogether a peculiar appearance. 
Probably all the Grebes migrate for the most part by means 
of the great water-courses, and so depend but little on their 
rather imperfect powers of flight in this great emergency. 

In the early days of spring, as the Horned Grebes pass 
along our inland water-courses, it is so common to see them 
in pairs that I infer they must mate before leaving their 
winter habitat. 

About 14.00 long, wing some 6.00, bill .75 and quite 

slender and pointed, the male has the crest and ruffs 

well developed. Very dark brown above, many of the 

feathers generally fringed with light gray; below satiny 

12 



178 THE HORNED GREBE. 

white, the curved secondaries white; the black head and 
ruffs with a yellowish-brown tuft or horn extending from 
the eye to the back of the head, the continuation of the 
same in front of the eye chestnut; the neck, except a black 
strip down the back, chestnut or brownish-red; sides and 
flanks brown and white mixed. The female is similar, with 
the ruff much reduced, and the colors less pure and bright. 

Concerning the breeding of this species, Dr. Coues says: 
" I found it breeding at various points in Northern Dakota, 
as along the Red River, in the prairie sloughs, with Coots, 
Phalaropes and various Ducks, and in pools about the base 
of Turtle Mountain, in company with P. calif ornicus and the 
Dabchick. I took fresh eggs on the 20th of June at Pem- 
bina, finding them scattered on a soaking bed of decayed 
reeds, as they had doubtless been disturbed by the hasty 
movements of the parents in quitting the nest; there were 
only four; probably more would have been laid. They are 
elliptical in shape, with little or no difference in contour at 
either end; dull whitish, with a very faint shade, quite 
smooth, and measure about 1.70 x 1-20. On Turtle Moun- 
tain, late in July, I procured newly-hatched young, swim- 
ming with their parents in the various pools. At this early 
stage the neck is striped, as in the common Dabchick." 

The autumnal dress of this Grebe is so different from that 
above described of the spring, that one not aware of the 
identity of the bird in its changed habit would suppose it to 
be another species. The ruff is barely indicated by a slight 
lengthening of the feathers about the head, while the back 
and under parts are nearly as in spring; the crown, back 
part of the neck, and the sides are a sooty gray; the chin, 
throat and sides of the head, white; forepart of the neck, 
light ashy-gray. Thus clad, they appear in Western New 
York in October, sometimes singly or in small numbers, on 



THE RED-NECKED GREBE. 179 

streams and ponds, sometimes in flocks of hundreds along 
the margin of Lake Ontario, or on other large bodies of 
water. In their autumnal appearance there is something 
particularly chaste and elegant, and finely in harmony with 
the cold, gray surf in which they are so sprightly and 
active. 

THE CRESTED GREBE. 

The Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) is common in North 
America, especially in the more northern parts of the conti- 
nent, and is also abundant in Western Europe. It is much 
larger than either of those above described, being some 
24.00 long and about 33.00 in extent. The ruff on the 
male of this species is very large, and the crest, looking very 
much like two horns, is very conspicuous. The crown, 
crest and terminal part of the ruff is glossy black; base of 
the ruff bright reddish-brown; fulvous over the eye; cheeks 
and throat silky white; back of the neck and upper parts, 
generally, dark brown, the feathers edged with light-brown 
or gray; sides of the body reddish, streaked with dusky; 
fore-neck, and under parts, pure silky white. In this bright 
spring plumage, the male, with his long, slender, graceful 
neck, is a truly beautiful object on the water. In the 
autumn the crest and the ruffs are absent, and the head and 
neck are of the same continuous plain color. This species 
breeds to the north, and is said to construct the same bulky, 
floating nest, tied to the reeds and rushes, as the rest of the 
family; and to have eggs similar, only correspondingly 
larger. 

THE RED-NECKED GREBE. 

The Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps griseigena var. holbolli') 
is also found in North America. It is quite a little less in 
length than the former, being only 19 inches, but it is more 
bulky, and its bill and tarsi are much shorter. The adult 



180 PINTAILS AND WIDGEONS. 

breeding plumage is described by Dr. Coues as follows: 
" Crests short and ruffs scarcely apparent. Bill black, the 
tornia of the upper mandible at base and most of the lower 
mandible yellowish. Crown and occiput glossy greenish- 
black; back of the neck the same, less intense, and the upper 
parts generally the same, with grayish edgings of the 
feathers. Wing-coverts and primaries uniform chocolate- 
brown, the shafts of the latter black. Secondaries white, 
mostly with black shafts and brownish tips. Lining of 
wings and axillars white. A broad patch of silvery-ash on 
the throat, extending around on sides of the head, whitening 
along line of juncture with the black of the crown. Neck, 
except the dorsal line, deep brownish-red, which extends 
diluted some distance on the breast. Under parts silky 
white, with a shade of silvery-ash, each feather having a 
dark shaft-line and terminal spot, producing a peculiar 
dappled appearance." To the far northwest there are also 
the Eared Grebe and the Western Grebe. 

PINTAILS AND WIDGEONS. 

Before entering Lake Ontario, Johnson's Creek bends 
northward, and again runs but a little north of westward, 
thus entering obliquely, and forming a narrow point of land 
between its right bank and the lake. This point is for the 
most part well wooded, as is also a considerable part of 
the opposite bank, thus making a fair retreat for water- 
fowl in their migrations. Here the creek is pretty wide, and 
its surface is smooth. As I sit on the bank, concealed in 
the bushes, a flock of some dozen Ducks drops into the 
stream a distance up, but near enough to be well studied 
with the aid of a glass. They are Widgeons (Mareca amert- 
cana) and Pintails (Dafila acuta). Both are beautiful species 
of our fresh waters, and are frequently seen together, when 



PINTAILS AND WIDGEONS. 181 

they come from the north from September onward, and 
again when they return to their breeding grounds in spring, 
which is generally during April, but is sometimes as late as 
the first week in May. Not only do they journey together, 
but they continue together, and also in company with the 
Teals and Mallards, being often in large flocks in the South- 
ern States in winter, and breeding abundantly together in 
the north, especially about the cedar swamps of Hud- 
son's Bay, and the lowlands of Milk River and its tribu- 
taries, as also through Northern Dakota and Montana 
generally. In the first-named locality the Pintail is said to 
breed the most abundantly of all the Ducks. 

This species, inclusive of the long, ornamental feathers in 
the center of his tail, is 29.00 long, and his extent of wings 
is 36.00; bill long and narrow; neck very long and slender; 
head a glossy dusky-brown to half-way down the neck in 
front, the centers of the feathers being darker, and the 
whole somewhat tinged with violet or green toward the 
back of the head; front of the lower neck, and strips up the 
side of it to the back of the head, white; strip down the 
back of the head black, becoming gray on the neck; upper 
parts of a general grayish or dusky effect, the dusky feathers 
being for the most part delicately penciled with white; the 
long-pointed scapulars, tertiaries and tail feathers, except the 
two long black ones in the center, black or dusky, edged or 
streaked with white or gray; beauty spot green, the bar in 
front rich olive, that behind white; under parts white, 
often tinged with olive. 

The female, having the feathers in the center of the tail 
only about a half-inch longer than the rest, and being 
otherwise slightly smaller than the male, is but 22.00 long, 
with some 34.00 extent of wing; her head is dark brown, her 
neck dingy white, thickly specked with brown; the dusky, or 



182 PINTAILS AND WIDGEONS. 

blackish of the upper parts is marked crosswise with brown- 
ish-white; breast and under parts, brownish-white, marked 
with white. 

On the still waters of this creek, sheltered on both sides 
by the woods, this Duck is well at home, since it is emphat- 
ically an inland species frequenting prairie sloughs, ponds 
and rivers, seldom reaching the sea coast and never breed- 
ing with the Ducks of the ocean to the north. What a 
striking object of beauty is that male, swimming with his 
breast well immersed and his back parts thrown up, his 
elegant tail elevated almost to the perpendicular, his long, 
slender, swan-like neck sinuating most gracefully about him, 
and every part of his lengthy and finely-formed body 
marked and colored in brilliant contrasts! The Pintails, 
four males and four females, separate from the Widgeons, 
the one flock going to one side of the creek and the other 
to the opposite side. The Pintails swim close together, and 
seek their food in the shallow margins. They do not dive 
so as to disappear, but, immersing their head and breast, 
throw up their feet into the air. They are no doubt in 
search of tadpoles, for which they labor with much avidity 
in spring. As they raise their heads above water, the 
males occasionally utter a rather soft and musical jabber, 
wholly unlike the hoarse squak of the Mallard or the 
Dusky Duck. Discerning no object of danger, and feeling 
perfectly at home in this retired nook, they go ashore in the 
edge of the woods and turn over the leaves in search of 
snails, insects, and the beech-nuts of last year, scarcely 
sprouted as yet. One even snaps his bill at a passing fly, 
while another captures a drowsy, fluttering moth, just abroad 
from his winter quarters. How finely they walk with tails 
erect. Ah! they have taken alarm, and rise en masse on 
wing. Were I within range of shot I might take them all 



PINTAILS AND WIDGEONS. 183 

with the contents of one barrel, so closely do they fly. 
Once aloft in the air they are a most graceful figure in the 
landscape; their full length of neck, body and tail, with 
short and quiet flap of the wings, giving them the appear- 
ance of a volley of huge arrows against the clear ether. 
What could awaken more pleasing emotions than scenes 
like these? 

Concerning the breeding habitat of the Pintail, Dr. Coues 
says: "Although I have not recognized it in the Missouri 
region proper during the breeding season, yet I found it to 
be one of the commonest of the various Ducks that nest in 
the country drained by the Milk River and its tributaries 
throughout most of the northern parts of Montana. In 
traveling through that country in July, I found it on all the 
prairie pools and alkaline lakes. At this date the young 
were just beginning to fly, in most instances, while the old 
birds were for the most part deprived of flight by moulting 
of the quills. Many of the former were killed with sticks, 
or captured by the hand, and afforded welcome variation of 
our hard fare. On invasion of the grassy or reedy pools 
where the Ducks were, they generally crawled shyly out 
upon the prairie around, and there squatted to hide, so 
that we procured more from the dry grass surrounding than 
in the pools themselves. I have sometimes stumbled <-hus 
upon several together, crouching as close as possible, and 
caught them all in my hands." 

He then adds from Dr. Dall concerning this same species: 
" Extremely common in all parts of the Yukon, and on the 
marshes near the sea coast. In the early spring, arriving about 
May 1st, at Nulato, it is gregarious; but as soon as it com- 
mences to breed, about May 20th, or later, they are gen- 
erally found solitary or in pairs. Their nest is usually in 
the sedge, lined with dry grass, and, in the absence of both 



184 PINTAILS AND WIDGEONS. 

parents, is covered with dry leaves and feathers. * 

They lay from six to ten, or even twelve eggs, 
and as soon as the young are hatched they withdraw from 
the river to the small creeks and rivulets, where they remain 
until the ducklings are fully able to fly, when all repair to 
the great marshes, where, on the roots of the horse-tail 
(Equisetum), they grow so fat that frequently they cannot 
raise themselves above the water." 

It is further added, that "a nest-complement of seven 
eggs, from the Yukon, now in the Smithsonian, furnishes 
the following characters: Size 2.10 x 1.50-2.30 x 1.55; 
shape, rather elongate ellipsoidal; color, uniform dull gray- 
ish-olive, without any buff or creamy shade." 

This species is common also to the Old World. 

Our American Widgeon, or Baldpate, though very simi- 
lar in size, form, and marking to that of Europe, is still 
specifically different. Some 22 inches long and 30 in extent, 
the bill is slate-color, the nail black; the crown creamy, 
sometimes almost white; cheeks and neck the same, specked 
and spotted with black; patch from around the eye to the 
nape, including the pendent crest, glossy green; line down 
the back of the neck, the breast and sides, vinous or purp- 
lish-brown the tips of the feathers somewhat hoary and 
the sides cross-penciled with wavy lines of black; belly, 
white; crest, black; back and scapulars, vinous bay, ele- 
gantly crossed with wavy lines of black; lower back, pri- 
maries, and tail, the central feathers of which are elongated, 
dusky; speculum velvety black, with a cross-line of glossy 
green next to the coverts which are white, the greater ones 
tipped with black and bounded with gray above; the outer 
web of the elongated tertiaries velvety black edged with 
white; under tail-coverts black, contrasting strongly with 
the white vent. 



PINTAILS AND WIDGEONS. 185 

The female has the head and neck brownish- white, thickly 
specked and streaked with black; back and scapulars, dusky- 
brown, the feathers edged with drab or light reddish- 
brown, those on the back elegantly waved with narrow 
lines of chestnut-red; wing dusky, speculum and coverts 
edged with white; the purplish-brown of the breast some- 
what as in the male, but lighter, and mixed with dusky; 
under parts like the male, except the tail--coverts, which are 
white and brown-spotted. 

This bird has the habits of our fresh-water Ducks in gen- 
eral, spending the winter on the rivers, streams, bays, lakes, 
ponds, and flooded fields of the Southern States; it feeds on 
rice, grains, the seeds of grasses, roots, aquatic insects, 
mast, and small fry. Whether on the land or on the water 
it is a beautiful and graceful object. On the wing it is 
direct and swift, having the whistling stroke more or less 
common to its near allies. Swimming or flying, the flocks 
move compactly, and so afford a good sight to the marks- 
man. 

The Widgeon may tarry with us till well on in April, and 
returns again from the north early in Septernber, and 
may be seen through October. Pairing before starting for 
its breeding grounds, it has a soft, whistling or flute note 
szwee, szwee. 

Concerning its nidification, Dr. Coues says: "The 
Widgeon breeds in abundance in Northern Dakota and 
Montana, along the banks of the streams and pools. Some 
such places which I visited, the resort of many pairs of 
various Ducks during the breeding season, and of innumer- 
able flocks during the migrations, resemble the duck-yard 
of a farm, in the quantities of moulted feathers and amount 
of ordure scattered everywhere. I was surprised to find young 
Widgeons still unable to fly, even as late as the middle of 



186 THE SCAUP DUCK. 

September, at a time when all the other Ducks observed 
were well on the wing. Although this bird passes far north, 
many nest in various parts of the United States. Audubon 
notices its breeding in Texas, and others in the Middle 
States, about the Great Lakes, and in Oregon. Mr. Dall 
found it nesting along the Yukon with the Pintail." The 
Widgeon's eggs are 8-12, 2.00 x 1.50, pale buff. 

THE SCAUP DUCK. 

On the 16th I go about two miles westward along the 
lake shore in company with a friend to a place where a 
small stream enters the lake through a low tract of land, 
and, as the mouth is frequently closed with the stones and 
gravel thrown up by the waves, the waters thus obstructed 
form a large irregular pond, and afford a resort for Ducks, 
spring and fall. As we approach this pond we discover a 
flock of some half-dozen Scaup Ducks (Fuligula marila), 
swimming in a line, near the farther bank. In the act of 
swimming the white feathers of the sides are thrown up 
over the wings, so that the males appear white with black 
heads. How rapidly and gracefully they move! 

Scrambling along almost on hands and knees we pass to 
the other side on a ridge of small stones and gravel now 
thrown across the narrow mouth of the pond, and follow 
a depression behind the opposite bank, thus coming within 
short range of the Ducks without being seen. We rise and 
fire, and only kill one Duck, which neither of us can claim 
with certainty. The rest of the flock fly out over the lake, 
which is lashed into fury by the wind, and instantly return 
to see what is become of the missing one. 

The Scaup Duck, Black-head, or Blue-bill for it is 
known by all these common names is 16 or 17 inches in 
length, rather short and flat-bodied, with an unusually 



THE SCAUP DUCK. 187 

broad bill of a clear light-blue; the male has the head, 
neck, shoulders, and breast black, with soft reflections of 
green and violet on the head and upper part of the neck, with 
a tendency to a broad, brown ring around the lower part of 
the neck; back white, crossed by broad zigzag lines of black; 
rump, tail, and wings black, the latter with reflections of green, 
and having the secondaries white, tipped, and slightly edged 
with black; tertiaries, and shoulders finely sprayed with 
white; under parts and sides white, the latter delicately 
touched with gray. The female, having a broad, white 
mark at the base of the upper mandible, has the entire 
upper parts grayish-brown, lighter about the head, neck, 
and breast; the ends of the feathers on the back sometimes 
delicately sprayed with white, or silvery gray; under parts 
white. The young males, resembling the females, may be 
found in all stages between, as they approximate maturity. 
The Scaup dives well for its food, a flock thus engaged 
affording a lively sight. They are by no means so shy as 
some of their kind; and, on being put up, do not generally 
fly far before alighting. 

This Duck, common to the whole northern hemisphere, is 
found alike on fresh and salt waters, and is very common in 
this locality during migration. They appear on Niagara 
River in great flocks in the migrations, especially in April. 
Then they keep for the most part to certain feeding grounds, 
and have a peculiar way of huddling together, with a 
swarming motion which marks them from other Ducks 
even in the distance, and in some places has given them the 
name Flocking Fowl. As they rise from the water, their 
thick heads, short necks, and short, plump bodies, as also 
the plover-like markings in their wings, clearly distinguish 
them. Like the following, they remain on Niagara during 
severe winters. Mr. Maynard reports them as particularly 



188 THE BUFFLE-HEADED DUCK. 

abundant in Florida during winter, " fairly swarming on the 
St. Johns and Indian rivers, gathering in such large and 
compact flocks, especially at night, that they are called 
Raft Ducks. In rising from the water, at such times, they 
make a noise like thunder. The earlier American ornitholo- 
gists were aware of a great difference in the size of different 
Scaups in this country, and the later writers have separated 
them into two species, on account of this disparity in size. 
The specific name of the smaller kind is Affinis. Both kinds 
seem to have about the same distribution on this continent. 
They breed in British America and in Alaska, the nest being 
"very rude, a mere excavation with a few sticks about it." 
The nest has been found, however, on St Clair Flats, and 
there is a rumor that this species breeds regularly in the 
marshes along the south side of Lake Superior. Dr. Coues 
found them breeding in large numbers along the Upper 
Missouri and Milk River. The eggs, from 1.60 x 2.25 to 
1.65 x 2.30, are said to be ashy-green in color, of a dark 
tint peculiar to the species. 

THE BUFFLE-HEADED DUCK. 

Stealthily approaching the stream a little above the pond 
a few hours later, we discover a pair of Buffle-heads (Buce- 
phala albeola), male and female, riding most gracefully down 
the current. Previous to seeing the male of this species on 
the water, I could not conceive the propriety of one of its 
common names, "Spirit Duck"; but so graceful is the 
puffed plumage of the head and neck, and so striking is the 
contrast of jet-black and snow-white, that on beholding the 
male float lightly, like a beautiful apparition, on the glassy 
surface of some pond or stream, one feels that the name is 
really descriptive. 

Buffle-head, or Butter-ball, is some 14 inches long. The 



THE BUFFLE-HEADED DUCK. 189 

head, excepting the broad, white band extending from behind 
eyes around the back of the head and upper part of the neck, 
including the long thick feathers of the latter, is black, with 
green and purple reflections; the back, tail, and greater part 
of the wings are black; remaining parts white. The female, 
which is still smaller, and destitute of the puffed plumage 
peculiar to the head and neck of the male, has the entire 
upper parts black, becoming ash on the breast and white 
underneath, and has a white mark on the sides of the head 
and in the wings. 

A little while afterward I saw on Johnson's Creek a beau- 
tiful male in company with some half-dozen females. This 
is one of the commonest of our fresh-water Ducks. They 
are most common in April and October. During the former 
month they are quite common, in small flocks, on Niagara 
River. As a few remain in the State (New York) during 
winter, they are sometimes found on this rapid, open 
current during the coldest weather, probably being 
excluded at such times from the more quiet water-courses 
by the ice. It is a most expert and graceful diver, the 
male holding his crest closely before plunging. It is, 
indeed, a pleasing entertainment to watch a half-dozen of 
these Ducks they never go in large flocks diving in some 
open space among the great drives of ice-cakes along the 
shore. The young have been taken on the lakes of the 
Adirondack Mountains; but as " it usually retires to high lati- 
tudes to breed, as along the Yukon and elsewhere in boreal 
America, its nidification is not generally known. A set of 14 
eggs taken, the accompanying label states, from a feathery 
nest in a dead poplar, some distance from the ground, fur- 
nishes the following description: Shape, perfectly ellipsoidal; 
size, slightly over 2 inches in length by 1^ in breadth; 
color, a peculiar tint, just between rich creamy-white and 



190 THE RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. 

grayish-olive, unvaried by markings. Other eggs are 
described as being \ 2 /z long by 1^ broad, and buff-colored." 
(Coues). 

Not being as shy as some Ducks, and flying rather low, 
this elegant little species may be taken with tolerable ease. 

As it lives largely on mollusks and small crustaceans, 
its flesh is not the most savory. 

THE RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. 

As I point my glass out over the great lake, lashed into 
fury by a strong northeast wind, I see a large flock of Red- 
breasted Mergansers or Shell-drakes (Mergus serrator] beat- 
ing their way against the wind, and flying low over the 
cold, gray waters. As they skim the water in the 
distance, their long, slender head and neck, as well as the 
narrowness of their form in general, clearly mark their 
identity. Common both to Europe and North America, 
this species is with us in large numbers in late autumn and 
early spring, remaining during winter if the waters are 
sufficiently open. This is one of the most abundant species 
on the Niagara during April and the early part of May. 
Their long, slender, graceful figure, and the bright marking 
of the males, render them very conspicuous both on the 
water and in flight. On the water they are particularly 
proud and graceful, swimming lightly and swiftly, holding 
their heads high, and their long, loose crests playing in the 
wind. They seem to be paired on their arrival, the mates 
generally keeping with each other even in the largest flocks. 
The males, however, are quite inclined to turn aside 
occasionally, and give attention to other females than their 
own. At such times, as also when addressing their mates, 
they have a peculiar motion of the head and body. The 
male will approach the female, and stretch up his neck, 



THE RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. 191 

raising the fore part of his body out of the water, and, 
plunging forward, will make a low bow with a peculiar jerk 
of the head, expanding his red gape wide open, and lifting 
his tongue in a very noticeable manner. Feeding mostly 
on small fishes, these Mergansers dive readily and deeply, 
seeming to prefer rapid currents, against which they " hold 
their own " for hours while fishing. 

Always partial to fresh waters, it bred in many parts of 
our Middle and Eastern States, in Audubon's time, he 
having found on two occasions the female in charge of her 
brood in the lower parts of Kentucky. It still breeds com- 
monly from Northern New England and the upper regions 
of the Great Lakes, through New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, 
the Magdalen Islands, Labrador, Newfoundland, etc. It 
breeds sparingly throughout the great Northwest Territory, 
but Mr. Fortiscue does not record it from Hudson's Bay. 
The nests are placed on small islands in large bodies of 
fresh water, or near fresh water ponds, and along the 
margins of streams, in the tall grass or sedges, or under low 
bushes. Thus unlike the other Mergansers, which build for 
the most part in holes in trees, this species nests on the ground. 
The nest is made like that of a Duck and Ducks' nests in 
general are very much alike and, like it, accumulates 
quite a quantity of down as incubation proceeds. The eggs, 
6-12, but sometimes as many as 18, are about 2.55 X 1.72, 
oval, with strong and smoothly-polished shells, and of a 
greenish-brown tint. They are generally deposited from 
the middle of May to the middle of June or later, according 
to latitude. The young, elegant, little brown creatures, with 
white or grayish-white under parts, make for the water at 
once, and dive and swim with the utmost readiness. 

"At the approach of autumn they resemble the old 
females; but the sexes can easily be distinguished by exam- 



192 THE RED-BREASTED MERGANSER. 

ining the unguis or extremity of the upper mandible, which 
will be found to be white or whitish in the males, and red 
or reddish in the females. The young males begin to 
assume the spring dress in the beginning of February, but 
they do not acquire their full size and beauty until the 
second year." (Audubon.) 

The male of this species is 24 inches long, with bill car- 
mine; head, crest and upper part of the neck black, with a 
green gloss; the rest of the neck white, with a black line 
adown from the crest; upper part of the back velvety black, 
lower part of the back and upper tail coverts an elegant gray, 
delicately penciled with black and white; wings and scapular 
black, finely marked with white; breast above a light chest- 
nut-red, mixed with black; under parts white. He is truly 
beautiful. The female, having a less perfect crest than the 
male, is brown or brownish-ash above, the feathers edged 
with lighter; the sides of the head and neck reddish; the 
secondaries and greater wing coverts white, thin dark bases, 
forming dark bands on the wing; the under parts are white, 
the breast being tinged with gray; the iris is red, and the 
feet and bill are nearly so. 

As is the case with other Mergansers, the male of this 
species has a curious enlargement and modification of the 
wind-pipe, the final cause of which seems difficult to explain. 

In the more easterly migrations, and also in the breeding 
habitat above designated, the Red-breast is much more 
common than the rest of the Mergansers. 

The long, slender, cylindrical, retrorse-toothed bill of the 
Mergansers, commonly called Fish Ducks, distinguishes the 
group clearly from the Ducks proper. Their diet also is 
more exclusively fishy, thus rendering their flesh unsavory. 
Their long, slender bodies, and the hindward position of 
their feet, specially adapt them to the pursuit of their prey 



THE RING-NECKED DUCK. 193 

under water. The group contains only eight species the 
world over. They are mostly in the northern hemisphere, 
some two species having been found in South America. 
The beautiful Smew or White Nun of Europe is only acci- 
dental in America. 

THE RING : NECKED DUCK. 

On my return from Lake Ontario, I find that a friend has 
shot a pair of Ring-necked Ducks (Fuligula collaris) on the 
New York and Erie Canal. This species, which is peculiar 
to North America, is a rather rare migrant in Western 
New York, as also in the central parts of the State, and to 
the eastward generally. In size and shape, including even 
the shape of the bill, it is very nearly related to the Scaups. 
In color, also, the females of the Scaups and Ring-neck are 
very similar, both being of a light brown, and white under- 
neath. The former can readily be distinguished, however, 
by her white band at the base of the upper mandible, while 
the latter has the white band only at the base of the lower 
mandible. The male of the Ring-neck is distinguishable 
from that of the Scaup by the dark brown of the entire 
upper parts; by his gray speculum, his chestnut ring around 
the middle of the neck, but more particularly by the two 
almost white rings around the dark bill, the one at the base 
and the other near the tip. The Ring-neck bears a close 
resemblance to the Tufted Duck of Europe, and for some 
time was supposed to be the same. Rising readily out of 
the water, it flies rapidly and high, producing a whistling 
sound with its wings. Not appearing in large flocks, only 
some fifteen or twenty being seen together at a time, they 
fly rather scattered, and so afford but a poor mark to the 
slaughterer. Diving for their food after the manner of the 
Scaups, they subsist on crays, small fishes, snails, frogs, 
13 



194 THE BARN SWALLOW. 

aquatic insects, and roots and seeds of grasses. When 
feeding along ponds and streams, they become fat, tender 
and luscious. Very little seems to be known of this Duck's 
breeding habits, the single brood found in Maine, and the 
single nest of eggs reported from New Brunswick, being 
regarded as stray cases. Mr. Fortiscue does not report it 
from Hudson's Bay; reports from the great northwest ter- 
ritory do not mention it, and Dr. Coues is silent as to its 
breeding in the northwestern States and Territories. 

In 1876, May 27th, the nest was found by Thos. S. Roberts, 
of Minneapolis, Minn., in Hennepin County, about eight, 
miles from the city. It was pretty substantially built and 
well finished, on the top of a pile of rotten debris perhaps 
the remains of an old muskrat-house and was lined with 
fine grasses, with a little moss intermixed, and a neat trim- 
ming of down. The nine eggs, some 2.23X1.60, were 
smooth, and "of a light greenish-white color." 

THE BARN SWALLOW. 

On the 19th of April I observe the first Barn Swallows 
(Hirundo horreorwri). About 4.50 long, this swallow is 
readily distinguishable from any other by its extensively 
forked tail, and by building its nest inside of the barn on 
the sides of beams and rafters; and is so well known to every 
one, as scarcely to need description or historical record. 
Who is not familiar with its swift, sailing flight, the widely 
spread tail, its manner of gliding in through open doors or 
windows, or the small, diamond-shaped opening in the 
gable of the old-fashioned barn ? Lustrous steel-blue above, 
which color extends down the sides of the breast in the 
form of an imperfect collar; belly, reddish white; breast and 
forehead, chestnut, he is differentiated from the Cliff or 
Eave Swallow, not only by the furcate tail, but also by the 



THE BARN SWALLOW. 195 

white spots in the inner web of the tail feathers, thus form- 
ing a sort of sub-marginal band, and by the absence of the 
white spot on the forehead, from which is no doubt de- 
rived the specific name of Lunifrons, given in identification 
of the other. 

Sometime in the latter half of May the Barn Swallow's 
nest of mud, lined with straw, feathers, etc., is built un- 
less, as is frequently the case, the same birds return to the 
uninjured nest of the previous year and four or five eggs, 
some .75 x -55 of an inch, white, specked with brown, are 
laid. In due time, the full-fledged young are seen perched 
in a row on the edge of the half-bowl nest, the free brim of 
which is strikingly different from the jug-nose entrance to 
the nest of the Have Swallow. This row of younglings, 
often occupying the entire edge of the nest as they sit with 
tails inward, are exceedingly noisy on the appearance of the 
industrious parents, and swallow eagerly the food deposited 
in their wide-open mouths by the parent bird as she hovers 
in front of the nest. I wonder if the capacious mouth and 
gullet of the Swallow, so convenient for taking its insect 
prey on the wing, did not procure for it its common name ! 
It would seem altogether probable, though I cannot find 
anything on the point in either dictionaries or works on 
ornithology. Every part of the world has its Swallow or 
Swallows of some kind, and every species of this family is 
noted for that peculiar twitter, so strikingly conversational, 
that the Greeks applied the name of the Swallow as an 
epithet to designate the jargon of barbarian tongues. Listen 
to those prolonged twitterings of the Barn Swallow's family 
in the nest, and afterward about the beams and rafters of 
the barn, and agarn as several families perch in long rows 
on the telegraph wires, previous to migration ! Do they 
not sound like veritable sentences of some unknown Ian- 



196 THE ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK. 

guage, uttered with great spirit, and intermixed with strains 
of merry laughter? Already in the olden times Virgil 
noted the "Swallow's twitter on the chimney-tops." Bry- 
ant, of our own times, sings of " the gossip of Swallows 
through all the sky;" and Tennyson tells how the Swallows 
"chirp and twitter twenty million loves." 

The Barn Swallow sometimes raises a second brood in 
late June or early July. Mr. Burroughs says: "A friend 
tells me of a pair of Barn Swallows which, taking a fanciful 
turn, saddled their nest in the loop of a rope that was pen- 
dent from a peg in the peak, and liked it so well that they 
repeated the experiment next year." 

This American Swallow occupies North and Middle Amer- 
ica to the arctics, and spends the winter in the West Indies. 
There is a closely-allied variety, probably of the same spe- 
cies, Erythrogaster< in South America. 

THE ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK. 

About the middle or twentieth of April, sailing low and 
slow over some wet field or marsh, or along some streamlet, 
much resembling both in size and movement the Red-tailed 
Hawk, but readily distinguished by the large amount of 
white in his expanded wings and tail, and plumage gener- 
ally, we occasionally see the Rough-legged Buzzard or 
Hawk (Archibuteo lagopus). It is simply a passenger to the 
north, breeding, as is supposed, entirely beyond the Union; 
returning to us again about the last of October or the first 
of November, and wintering farther south, in the seaward 
portions of the Middle and Southern States, but not beyond. 
As a passenger, it is by no means rare here. 

The male about 20.00 and the female about 22.00 
long, this species, common to both Europe and Amer- 
ica, is always to be determined by its thickly-feathered 



THE ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK, 197 

tarsus. Above, the feathers are a deep, rich brown, edged 
for the most part with light-red and whitish; feathers of 
the head and neck, yellowish-white, with a streak of brown 
in the center; breast, femoral and tarsul feathers, yellowish 
or buff, sometimes white; tail, toward the base, including 
under coverts, white, dark-brown toward the tip. It is 
characterized by a broad abdominal band of rich dark- 
brown, forming a beautiful apron. In the more easterly 
part of its habitat, our American Rough-leg shades into a 
beautiful dark variety, Sancti-johannis, often called the 
Black Hawk. 

This bird is particularly drowsy in its habits, resting mo- 
tionless for a long time on its perch, preferring to take its 
low flight in dark days, or in the evening twilight. Accord- 
ing to Sir John Richardson, it " is often seen sailing over 
swampy pieces of ground, and hunting for its prey by the 
subdued daylight, which lightens even the midnight hours 
in the high parallels of latitude." This habit, as also Its 
thickly feathered tarsus, reminds one of the Owls. Its bill 
of fare is given as consisting of field-mice and other very 
small quadrupeds, lizards, frogs, even insects, and rarely 
birds. On the second day of last November, one of these 
Hawks killed a domestic fowl straying in the field in this 
vicinity. Immediately a trap was set, baited with the re- 
mains of the hen, and in a few minutes the Hawk was 
caught by the foot. 

The nest of this species, built of sticks, is placed in tall 
trees, sometimes on cliffs. Its three or four eggs, 2.33 X 1.75, 
are dull-white or creamy, smirched or blotched with brown. 

Wilson, who found these Hawks numerous in winter, below 
Philadelphia, between the Schuylkill and the Delaware, re- 
ports them as making a "loud squealing " as they arose on 
being disturbed, "something resembling the neighing of a 



198 THE SAVANNA SPARROW. 

young colt, though in a more shrill and savage tone." Cooper 
also speaks of their calling to each other with a "loud 
scream." 

THE SAVANNA SPARROW. 

From the 15th to the 20th of April, the Savanna Sparrow 
(Passerculus savanna] arrives in these parts, and is an 
abundant resident until late in October or early in No- 
vember. About 5.50 long, with the common marking 
of the Sparrows above, white beneath, breast thickly spotted 
in streaks, this is one of the lighter colored Sparrows, and is 
always distinguishable by means of its yellow streak over 
the eye and yellowish wash on the cheeks, combined with 
the spotted breast, none other of our Sparrows having both 
of these characters. It has also a little yellow on the edge of 
the shoulder of the wing. In its colors and markings gen- 
erally it resembles the Bay-winged Sparrow in the distance, 
but is readily differentiated by its smaller size, and the absence 
ofc the white in the outside feathers of the tail. It has the sharp 
chipping note of its family, but its song is strongly marked, 
and may be represented by the notes, zip-zip-zip-zwree-e-e-e- 
e-e, zwree, the first three being short, subdued, and uttered 
in quick succession, while the fourth is louder and drawn 
out into a sort of trill or twitter on the upward slide, and 
the latter is much shorter, and with the falling inflection. 
The song is not loud, and has but little variation, but is one 
of those gentle, drowsy sounds in nature which are decid- 
edly soothing. While this species is not generally 
dispersed, it seems almost to monopolize certain upland 
fields and meadows, in which places its melodies are almost 
the only bird-song to be heard. Being strictly terrestrial, 
almost never rising above the fence, and keeping so closely 
to the fields as scarcely ever to be seen in the highway, thus 
being very unlike the Bay-wing, its nest is sunk into the 



THE SWAMP SPARROW. 199 

ground like that of the latter, but is much more thoroughly 
concealed in the weeds or tall grass. It is slight, and com- 
posed almost entirely of dried grasses. The eggs, 4 or 5, 
often not more than 3, about .76 x .54, are greenish or 
grayish white, spotted and blotched with light brown and 
lilac, especially about the large end where the markings 
may become coronal. Sometimes the markings are dark 
brown, and become so thick as almost to conceal the ground- 
color. There are evidently two broods, the first in May and 
the second late in June. The bird leaves the nest quietly, 
and runs along in the grass apparently without alarm, 
even gleaning her food as she goes. 

The Savanna Sparrow has always been regarded as par- 
ticularly numerous near the sea-coast, breeds from Mary- 
land and corresponding latitudes northward, and winters in 
great abundance in the Southern States. 

The Ipswich Sparrow (Passer culus princeps), first reported 
by Mr. Maynard, and since found to be a rather common 
migrant from the north late in the fall, some remaining in 
New England during the winter, may be simply a more 
northern variety of the Savanna Sparrow, than which it is a 
little larger, and paler in color and markings. 

THE SWAMP SPARROW. 

As early as the 22d of April, in the marshes of Tona- 
wanda Swamp, I have heard the song of the Swamp Spar- 
row (Melospizapalustris). The exact notation is difficult to 
render in syllables. Nuttall speaks of it as "a few trilling, 
rather monotonous, minor notes, resembling, in some 
measure, the song of the Field Sparrow, and appearing 
like tu>e y tw' tw' tw 1 tw' tw' twe, and twV twil y tw tw' twe y 
uttered in a pleasing and somewhat varied warble." I 
would add that the trill is in a clear, whistling tone, sound- 



200 THE SWAMP SPARROW. 

ing like tswee-tswee-tswee-tswee-tswee-tswee-tswee-tswee, quite sib- 
ilant, the notes being essentially the same as those of the 
Chipping Sparrow, only in much more prolonged and musi- 
cal tones a sort of enlarged and improved edition of it. 
Its common chipping note, too, has something of a whistling 
tone, rather than any hoarseness, such as is sometimes 
ascribed to it. 

Some 5.50 or upwards in length, the upper parts 
are a rich reddish-brown, streaked with lighter and with 
black; wings deeply edged with clear brown; chin and 
belly white, tinged with ash; breast and sides washed with 
brownish, resembling the Song Sparrow somewhat, but 
smaller and less streaked, and without the spotted breast. 
It is of a warmer and more uniform brown than any of the 
rest of our Sparrows. 

The ordinary situation of the nest, according to the best 
ornithologists, is on the ground, after the usual manner of 
the Sparrows; but sometimes, especially if the ground is 
wet, in a bush, or tussock of sedges. I think the latter is 
the much more common situation of the nest. One 
which I found in an open, wet marsh of Tonawanda 
Swamp, on the 25th of May, was built into a thick tussock of 
sedges and cat-tails, about a foot from the ground. It was 
in the form of an inverted cone, some seven inches long, 
made of coarse grasses and stubble, laid in rough angular 
style, seeming to consist of several sections, the rim being 
very uneven, with points sticking up in every direction, 
reminding one of some rustic picket fence. It was lined 
with dried grasses, which were a little finer than those used 
in the outside. The eggs, four and sometimes five, about 
.77 X-51 inch, are greenish- white, finely and thickly specked, 
sometimes brushed with brown. 

I almost failed to identify the nest above referred to. 



THE YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER. 201 

As I approached it the female slid over the side of it into 
the sedges and cat-tails, skulking along on the ground like 
a mouse; but, as she crossed an open ditch, she paused to 
look at me a few moments, and thus gave me the opportu- 
nity of recognition. 

A nest from Nova Scotia, now before me, was taken from 
a tuft of tall marsh-grass, and is altogether of fine dried 
grasses. Neatly cup-shaped, its walls are thick and com- 
pactly laid, and through the bottom it is deep and dense. 
From the points and angles of dried grasses leaning in 
almost every direction around its edge, it is of the same 
picket-fence style as the one above described, and the eggs 
are similar. 

This bird seems confined to Eastern North America, 
breeding from the Middle States to Labrador, and winter- 
ing in the Southern States. It is quite shy and retiring, its 
residence being strictly confined to the swamps and their 
marshy vicinity, where it raises two broods in a season. I 
found it very abundant among the sedges and tall grasses of 
the flooded mashes of St. .Clair Flats. 

THE YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER. 

On the 22d of April, as I paddle a light boat along the 
meandering course of a stream of glassy smoothness in Tona- 
wanda Swamp, in the shrubs and bushes, which are densely 
thick along its margin and form a belt between either side 
of the stream and the tall forests in the immediate vicinity, 
I spy a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Dendrceca coronata). It is a 
fine male flitting leisurely about ; the movement of this species 
being always rather slow and dignified for one of its kind. 

About 5.50 long, he is of a fine ash or slate color, 
streaked with black; line over the eye, lower eye-lid, throat, 
wing-bars, spots in the outer tail-feathers and belly, white; 



202 THE YELLOW-RUMP ED WARBLER. 

cheeks, and spots across the upper part of the breast and 
adown the front, black; crown, rump and sides of the 
breast by the wing-shoulders, bright yellow. Does that 
golden crown on his head mark him as a king ? or do those 
bright epaulets designate him as a general-in-chief ? How- 
ever that may be, his dress of drab and black, ornamented 
with gold, affords a striking and most elegant contrast of 
colors; and his size, song, general dignity, and priority of 
arrival entitle him to be the leader of his large and beauti- 
ful family, altogether peculiar to America, and of his numer- 
ous genus, also peculiar to North America; none of his genus, 
or family, arrive earlier than he, unless, indeed, it may be 
the Yellow Red-poll or Palm Warbler, which is exceedingly 
rare here; the warblers of the Old World, among which 
Robin-red-breast and the far-famed Nightingale are con- 
spicuous, being much more closely allied to our Kinglets 
than to the great family of their American namesakes. 
The female is similar, but not so bright, and the young are 
brownish instead of slaty, the yellow markings being quite 
dim. This is one of our most beautiful, as also one of our 
most common, warblers. Appearing in the Middle States, 
and in Southern New England, about the 20th of April, it 
passes to the north in considerable numbers for a month or 
more, returning southward again late in October or in 
November. 

The Yellow-rumped Warbler, or Myrtle Bird, breeds from 
Northern New England to the arctic regions, and northwest- 
ward to Alaska and Washington Territory. The nest, in a 
bush or tree, often an evergreen, and but a few feet from 
the ground, is about four inches in external and two in in- 
ternal diameter, and composed of weed-stalks, vegetable 
fibers, rootlets or grasses, often lined with feathers or hair. 
One before me, from Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, 



THE YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER. 203 

taken June 16th, and pretty well incubated, was found in a 
spruce bush, about three feet from the ground, and con- 
tained two eggs. Of about the usual external and internal 
diameters, and quite deep some 2.50 inches externally 
it is composed entirely of fine bleached grasses, and lined 
with a continuous and thick felt of dark-red cow's hair, 
such as is seen in large quantities about the stumps in 
spring, being rubbed off by the cattle in the first sloughing 
of their thick coats. Thus the nest has a very unique 
appearance almost straw-color outside, and uniform dark- 
red or bright-brown inside. Whether of weed-stalks, vege- 
table fibers, rootlets or grasses, it would seem that the nest 
of this species is generally quite homogeneous, that is, 
made externally, at least, of the one kind of material. 
The eggs of the above nest are of the usual measurement 
.72X .54, grayish-white, pretty heavily marked about the 
large end, and specked all over with dark-brown and neutral. 
Though often getting well up among the tall trees, and tak- 
ing somewhat extended excursions into the air after insect 
prey, the Myrtle Bird is not so active on the wing as are some 
of the Warblers. In spring it has a somewhat loud and pleas- 
ing warble, tswee-tswee-tswee-tswee-tswee-tswee-tswee, and so 
resembling a musical twitter. Indeed, I have often found it 
difficult, when visiting the breeding grounds, to distinguish 
it from the song of the Snow Bird. In its migrations in 
the beautiful days of autumn, this Warbler is sometimes 
wont to lisp its song softly. Though this bird breeds so far 
north, its nest has been found in the Southern States and in 
the West Indies; and while it winters in the Southern States, 
and even in the tropics, it is found regularly in the same 
season in the Middle States, and even in Southern New 
England. There is a closely-allied western variety or spe- 
cies, called Audubon's Warbler. 



CHAPTER XI. 

LATE IN APRIL. 

ON the morning of the 21st of April (1880), as I am riding 
along the highway by the upland meadows, I spy a 
Sparrow Hawk (Falco sparverius), perched on a tall dried 
mullein-stalk, close to the road. He keeps his perch till I 
am not more than four rods from him, partly because he is 
the tamest of all the Hawks, but more especially because I 
am riding. Flying off in an irregular zigzag manner, and 
not very high, he alights in a small, solitary tree in the open 
field. I stop to study him. Presently he starts out from 
the tree, flying in his somewhat tipsy manner for a few 
rods, giving the impression that he is not after anything 
in particular, when he suddenly hovers gracefully for a few 
seconds, and retires to the tree again. Evidently he had it 
in mind to capture some little creature within the range of 
his keen eye, but the chase did not turn out to suit him, so 
he has concluded to await the next opportunity. In less than 
a minute he sallies forth again, barely hovers, and drops to 
the ground, returning to the tree with some small prey, 
which, as I turn the glass upon him, I discover to be a field 
mouse. Holding it under his claw, he tears it in pieces and 
swallows it with a keen appetite, and in a few minutes more 
is off again in a similar manner, this time returning with an ele- 
gant little snake; which, after munching it pretty thoroughly 
with his toothed bill, and stretching it out several times 



THE SPARRO W HA WK. 205 

with bill and claw, he swallows, with vigorous jerks of the 
head, nearly whole. Again he is off, and after hovering 
several times, spends some time on the ground, devouring 
something as I can plainly see by his actions, made clear by 
the glass; probably he is now varying his diet with some 
kind of insects, of which he consumes great numbers, 
especially such orthoptera as are most noxious to the hus- 
bandman. Remaining now longer than usual on his perch, 
he jerks his tail every few seconds, as if decidedly impatient 
of this long quiet. Now he flies almost towards me, and 
dashing into a thicket by the road-side, emerges with a 
small Sparrow in his clutches, thus proving himself true to 
his name. The flight is within close range of a shot-gun, 
and, much as this elegant and useful little Falcon merits 
human protection, I reflect that all things even birds are 
made for man, and so drawing the lock on him bring him 
down, the Field Sparrow still in his clutches. It is a male, 
some 10 inches long and 21 inches in extent (the smallest 
of our Hawks); the bill is particularly pointed and toothed; 
the top of his crown is reddish-chestnut, bordered with 
slaty, mixed with black; a streak from below the eye down 
the side of the throat, one across the tips of the ear- 
feathers, a spot on the side of the neck, and a bordering of 
the slaty behind the neck, black making seven black 
marks about the head; back and scapulars reddish-brown, 
crossed with broken lines of black; wings slaty with black 
spots; the primaries dusky, with white spots on the inner 
vanes; tail reddish-brown, with a broad, sub- terminal band 
of black and a slight tip of white, the outer feathers being 
marked with black and white; under parts reddish-white, 
with a few roundish spots of black mostly towards the 
sides; bill, blue; cere and legs, yellow. The female of this 
species is about an inch longer; the chestnut-red on the 



'206 THE SPARROW HAWK. 

crown being streaked with slaty; the upper parts, includ- 
ing the tail, wholly reddish-brown, heavily cross-streaked 
with black; the under parts yellowish-white, streaked with 
light-brown; the chin, femoral feathers, and vent, clear; 
otherwise, like the male. The young are said to be covered 
with a whitish-down at first, but soon approximate the 
colors of the mature birds. 

The dashing attack of our little Falcon, through thickets 
and along hedges, is not only upon Sparrows, but upon the 
smaller birds in general. Not only the elegant Bluebird, 
the stately Cedar Bird, and the noisy self-conceited Cat- 
bird, may become its prey, but even the Robin, the Brown 
Thrush, and the Blue Jay birds almost as large as itself. 
Unlike the true Hawks, and some other species of its family, 
it does not give a long chase in the open field after its prey, 
but, in strict pursuit, stealthily seeks the covert of bushes or 
hedge-rows, or it pounces upon the innocent passer-by una- 
wares. Seldom, indeed, does it affect the barn-yard, and 
then only to pick up a stray chick too remote for parental 
interference; and since by far the greater part of its fare 
consists of noxious vermin, it merits as indeed it often 
obtains the sympathy and protection of man. 

The Sparrow Hawk generally reaches New York from 
the south about the middle of April or before, sometimes 
even as early as March, but becomes most common early in 
May, when the flood-tide of the migration of the little birds 
is fairly set in. Then it may frequently be seen about the 
fields and pastures, or even passing leisurely over the 
crowded town, with a peculiar butterfly locomotion; and 
may always be distinguished from the Sharp-shinned Hawk, 
so near it in size, by its long-pointed wings, the Sharp-shin 
having rather short and broad wings. Courtship, which 
in the case of young males is said to be much varied 



THE SPARROW HAWK. 207 

and protracted in its antics, begins very soon; and about the 
latter part of May or early in June the eggs are laid. As 
this bird breeds, however, from Mexico to Hudson's Bay, 
and from Maine to California, its time of nidification varies 
considerably according to locality. It is well understood 
that it generally breeds in some cavity or deserted 
Woodpecker's hole, pretty well up in a tree or stub often 
a solitary one in the open field; and that its eggs are laid 
on the pulverized debris, with, perhaps, the merest litter of 
some strawy material; but it may adopt the old nest 
of a Hawk or Crow, may seek out a hole in the wall of some 
unfinished stone building, accept the old nest of the 
Gray Squirrel; or, as in " the canons of the eastern range of 
the Humboldt Mountains," may find a convenience for its 
nest "in hollows of limestone cliffs"; or may even find its 
way into an apartment by the dove-cote. 

The eggs, generally five, some 1.32 X 1.13, are brownish- 
white, specked all over, but often more about the large end, 
with reddish-brown; but not infrequently the ground is 
white or pinkish-white, with large blotches and intermedi- 
ate specks of light red all over the eggs having a peculiar 
reddish appearance. Rarely, they are said to be whitish, with- 
out any marking. 

Unless very seriously disturbed, these Hawks occupy the 
same nesting place from year to year, the male sharing in 
incubation. They defend even their eggs with dashing 
nights, snapping of the bill, and indignant screams at the 
intruder. The young, brought out from the shell in about 
15 or 16 days, are fed on grasshoppers, crickets and cater- 
pillars at first; but afterwards are nourished by small rep- 
tiles, birds and quadrupeds. At about six weeks of age 
they quit the nest, and when two months old they shift for 
themselves. This Hawk accepts no food but that of its 



208 THE BLUE-WINGED TEAL. 

own capture, and will even reject such as is infected with 
parasites. It may go far beyond our southern limits in 
winter, but it is not found in the highest latitudes of North 
America in summer. 

THE BLUE-WINGED TEAL. 

On reaching a beautiful large pond, an enlargement of 
Oak Orchard Creek, in the edge of the wilderness of Tona- 
wanda Swamp, I seat myself behind a small screen of rails 
and bits of board in the corner of the fence, for observation. 
It is a beautiful sunny day, with a remarkably clear sky for 
the month of April. About ten o'clock in the forenoon a 
small flock of Blue-winged Teals (Querquedula discors) fly 
down the narrow, glassy stream, and alight on the farther 
side of the pond. How straightforward and swiftly they 
fly, their narrow-pointed wings beating the air with a grace- 
fulness and rapidity truly wonderful. Generally the Teals 
reconnoiter the place in cautious, circling flights, before 
alighting; but this is a very retired spot, where this flock 
has no doubt fed undisturbed for some time; hence, with- 
out this ordinary precaution, they drop gently down with 
rigidly expanded wings, and, having glanced about them, 
soon immerse their heads in search of the naia s flexilis and 
other species of the pond-weed family luxuriating in these 
quiet waters. Occasionally they throw up their feet and 
hinder parts in feeding, but generally float quietly on the 
water, simply plunging the head and neck. Every now and 
then they change their spot for feeding, swimming so grace- 
fully and rapidly that they seem almost like an apparition 
on the smooth surface. The tranquility of the place on this 
beautiful sunny morning is perfect. There is apparently 
not the slightest cause for the suspicion of danger, and the 
little flock of Blue-wings seem completely off their guard. 



THE BLUE-WINGED TEAL. 209 

I cannot detect any vigilance whatever on their part. They 
are too far off for a shot, and this I do not particularly 
regret, for I am not a pot-hunter, nor a mere anatomic nat- 
uralist. I simply like to know what transpires in such remote 
and quiet nooks, and how these elegant little Ducks behave 
in their undisturbed haunts. I note the elegant form and deli- 
cately-penciled coloring of the males in this little flock of Blue- 
winged Teals. One of the smallest of our Ducks, it is only 16 
inches long and 31 in extent of wings, with small head and 
bill and a slender neck; his crown, with a narrow line down 
the hind neck is black; there is a white crescent in front of the 
eye; the head is a purplish glossy drab; the back and scapulars 
deep dusky, with concentric wavy lines and tips of reddish; 
back deep dusky, edged with drab; longer scapulars and the 
tertiaries, greenish-black with medium line of red; wing- 
coverts ultra-marine, with a line of white between them and 
the glossy green secondaries forming the speculum; the 
dusky tail has a white spot on each side, with the under- 
coverts black; breast and under parts reddish, elegantly 
spotted with black. The female, about an inch shorter 
than the male, has the plumage generally dark brown, mar- 
gined with brownish- white; the cheeks and throat whitish; 
wing-coverts not quite so brightly ultra-marine 'as in the 
male; the dusky-brown feathers of the under parts have a 
brownish-white streak or spot in the center. The female 
does not have the white crescent in front of the eye. The 
young are like the female, and the old males return in the 
fall migrations without the sexual markings. 

Lingering with us even into May, and returning early in 
September, this Teal is one of the last of all the migratory 
Ducks to leave us, and about the first to come back from its 
more northerly breeding grounds. Though extending far 
north, even to Alaska, in the breeding season, they have 
14 



210 THE BLUE-WINGED TEAL. 

been known to rear their young within our limits, as well as 
in all suitable places intervening. Being a vegetable feeder, 
and a fresh-water bird, it avoids not only the salt water, but 
also the cold, clear, rock-bounded waters of the northern 
interior, resorting to the mud-flats of great rivers, the quiet, 
marshy borders of our lakes, sluggish streams, and ponds 
abounding in vegetable growths. In late fall and early 
spring it is said to be abundant in the flooded rice-field of 
the south. Except in the coldest weather, Audubon testi- 
fied to its great abundance about the mouths of the Missis- 
sippi in winter; while Wilson speaks of large, dense flocks 
in their migrations, on the muddy shoals bordering the Dela- 
ware. Swimming or flying, the birds keep so close to- 
gether in the flock that great numbers may be taken at a 
single shot. I have seen them scouring the shores of Lake 
Ontario in great flocks in September, so densely massed in 
flight as to appear almost like a cloud, and passing with the 
swiftness of the Wild Pigeon. At such times their flight is 
truly elegant, the lustrous light-blue of their wings glisten- 
ing like polished steel in the sunshine. In spring, one may 
occasionally catch their soft, lisping notes. Being sensitive 
to the cold for birds of their kind, like our delicate birds of 
song, they often pass portions of the winter even in the 
tropical regions. After the manner of the Ducks in gen- 
eral, the Teals are wedded in the latter part of winter while 
yet in the south. 

The nest of this species is on the ground on some prairie, 
or in some marsh, generally near the water, is made of dried 
grasses, sedges and weeds, and lined with down. The eggs, 
some eight or more, about 1.75 X 1.31, are very smooth, and 
of a dull, creamy white. 

Being a vegetable feeder, the flesh of the Blue-winged 
Teal is tender and luscious, and is therefore a great desid- 



THE. GREEN-WINGED TEAL. 211 

eratum for the table. West of the Rocky Mountains it is 
replaced by its near relative, the Cinnamon Teal. 

THE GREEN-WINGED TEAL. 

Tagging after the little flock of Blue-wings at a distance 
of a few yards, like some stray and unwelcome relative, was 
a solitary male of the Green-winged Teal, his flight being 
very similar, and his place of alighting only a few rods dis- 
tant and much nearer the shore. Excepting certain aquatic 
insects and minute mollusks, the food of this species seems 
to be nearly terrestrial consisting of the seeds of weeds 
and grasses, berries and small nuts. Hence it feeds in the 
very edge of the water, floating deeply, and plunging the 
head and neck, and not infrequently stepping out on the 
land, where it walks quite gracefully. In the air and on the 
water its movements are very similar to those of the Blue- 
wing; and, except that it is rather hardier and more north- 
erly, reaching us somewhat later in autumn and leaving us 
earlier in spring, its habitat and migrations are almost the 
same. It, too, for the most part, avoids the sea and the 
clear, rocky lake regions, preferring such flooded fields, 
sedgy streams, ponds and lakes as bring it in contact with 
its favorite vegetable growths, especially such bodies of 
water as abound in the wild rice. 

Second only to the Wood Duck in beauty is the male of 
this elegant species. Some fifteen inches long, and twenty- 
four in extent, the head and upper part of the neck are 
bright chestnut-brown, the throat dusky, and a patch from 
before the eye to the nape, glossy green; the pendent crest 
being brown above and black below; back, tail and greater 
part of the wings, dusky; the speculum, elegant glossy 
green, bounded with jet-black above and below; several of 
the scapulars edged with black; epaulets white; the rest 



212 WILSON'S SNIPE. 

of the upper parts most elegantly white and black penciled; 
breast vinous ruddy, finely spotted with black; under parts 
buffy white, with patches of clear white and coal black 
about the tail. The female has the entire head and neck 
dingy white, speckled with black, the breast grayish-brown, 
spotted with darker; the back deep brown, crossed with 
broad, wavy lines of brownish-white. 

Having thoroughly observed this solitary Green-winged 
Teal, I rise to my feet, when he takes alarm, rising from 
the water at a single bound, and coursing through the air 
amidst the tall tree-tops with most surprising rapidity, is 
almost instantly followed by the Blue-wings. 

The nidification of this species is precisely like that of 
the latter, except that the eggs are a trifle larger, about 
1.90 x 1.32. The nest may be found from the northern 
borders of the United States northward. 

WILSON'S SNIPE. 

It was the evening of the 22d of April (1880). All the 
afternoon I had heard firing of guns in the wild meadows 
of Tonawanda Swamp. As twilight approached and the 
firing ceased, the air became resonant with the vernal chant 
of Wilson's Snipe (Gallinago wilsoni). In every direction 
the birds might be seen, describing their ascending and 
somewhat spiral curves with that nervous beat of the wings, 
so peculiar to themselves, while others, too high to be dis- 
cerned in the dusky air, added not a little to the general 
vocal effect. This song of the Snipe, characteristic of the 
breeding season, or even of the entire spring, and heard 
for the most part in the early morning, or in the evening 
from twilight till after dark, is at once striking and strongly 
differentiated Beginning in subdued tones, somewhat 
like the sounds produced by the oblique strokes of a Pigeon's 



WILSON'S SNIPE. 213 

wings in alighting, the simple notes are uttered rapidly, 
and through an ascending scale of nearly an octave in the 
shortest chromatic steps, the mellow tones being rather 
loudest in the middle of the strain and gradually softening 
to the closing and highest note, the whole performance 
being after the manner of a swell in music. The notes 
might be readily represented by the repetition of the sylla- 
ble, koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo-koo- 
koo; and though not decidedly musical, they have in them 
the tenderness and inspiration of spring, readily associating 
themselves with April showers, balmy atmospheres, spring- 
ing grass, and that northern harbinger of spring-flora 
the blooming amelanchier m 

Here and there, on the evening referred to, one might see 
the Snipes alighting dropping slowly and gracefully down 
on a falling curve, their wings extending upward at an 
angle of some ninety degrees. Generally they disappeared 
among the bleached grass and sedges of the previous year 
standing in several inches of water; but occasionally they 
perched on old stubs, making an odd figure among the 
gay Red-wings just greeting the newly-arrived females with 
the merriest and sweetest of Blackbird songs. 

How vividly I recall the odd antics of the Snipes in the wild 
meadow on the old paternal farm in Nova Scotia. How grati- 
fying to childhood curiosity was it to hide away in the alder 
bushes and watch him as he took his morning or evening 
repast. See him walk almost run with nimble, easy steps; 
his long bill schnepfe which, in the old Saxon language, 
gave the bird its name, pointing obliquely forward and 
downward, and his short tail somewhat thrown up. Now 
he probes the soft mud, pushing his limber bill down half 
its length or more, and testing almost every square inch 
for quite a distance around, the delicate external membrane 



214 WILSON'S SNIPE. 

of that strongly specialized instrument, well supplied with 
the most sensitive nerves, readily detecting the presence of 
earth-worms, or such tender roots of plants as are agreeable 
to the bird's taste. How queer he looks now, standing in that 
half-crouched position, as if intently listening; or, how 
pleasing as he stands at ease, one foot raised, and his back- 
ward eyes peering weirdly. Or note him as he approaches 
the coy female half-hidden in the faded grass so near her 
own color. Bending forward with neck shortened and 
curved till his breast and the tip of his bill nearly 
touch the ground, the tips of his loosened and droop- 
ing wings dragging at his sides, and his elevated tail 
spread out like a quaint little fan, he struts before her as gay 
as a Turkey-cock in miniature. Should anything alarm him, 
he will scamper away quite a distance into the thick grasses 
and sedges; or, if he be hard pressed, he may take wing, 
and, rising a few feet into the air and emitting his charac- 
teristic ."How-Ike" fly in a nervous zigzag manner for 
a few rods, and quickly drop out of sight. This short and 
rapid flight is the supreme moment for a shot. And if 
anything will send one's blood tingling to the tips of 
fingers and toes, it is to drop this noted creature of the 
bog and fen just as he gets fairly under way. 

Many a time in boyhood, as I searched for the cows in the 
wild meadow close by the stream meandering through the 
alders, did the Snipe leave her nest just under my feet. 
Merely glancing at the warm, grayish-brown eggs heavily 
blotched with umber the four pear-shaped objects lying 
with the small ends together in a mere depression of the 
ground on a few leaves or dried grasses I would start after 
the artful bird in her moods of distress. Surely thinking 
her sick or wounded and ready to die, as she tumbled and 
fluttered about on the ground only a few feet from me, 



WILSON'S SNIPE. 215 

wheezing and moaning in the most distressed manner, I 
would scramble and strive to my utmost to capture her; 
but after decoying me a few rods from the nest she would 
soon recover and skulk away into the bushes, leaving me to 
my own cogitations, as I stood some half-way between her 
missing self and the nest now wholly lost sight of. 

It would seem that only the female attends to the duties of 
incubation, the male being cognizable in the vicinity at all 
times of day, and sometimes giving his aerial serenade as 
late as eleven o'clock at night. The eggs are about 1.60 X 
1.12, the yellowish or grayish-olive color varying consider- 
ably in different clutches; the dark umber and obscure 
spots and blotches extending more or less all over the shell, 
but thickening and enlarging at the large end. The young, 
of a grayish-yellow, heavily streaked with several shades of 
brown, according to the precocious habits of the infant 
Waders, leave the nest as soon as they are out of the shell, 
feeding on the insects found in mud, moss and meadow- 
grass, until their tender bills are firm enough to probe the 
soft ooze. 

As is the case with the . European Snipe, which ours so 
closely resembles, Wilson's Snipe is one of the most fasci- 
nating of game-birds to the sportsman. Mark this happy 
Specimen of the human race, as with hip-boots, trusty gun, 
full accoutrements, and faithful pointer, he creeps stealthily 
through the tall sedges! The dog alone has that high 
sensibility of the olfactory nerves which can take the subtle 
scent of this noted game-bird, but his master is all eye and 
ear to see in what direction the bird will lie to the dog; and 
so when the bird is put up he is ready to take it in its quick, 
short, and rather irregular flight, with that ready skill 
which consummates the pleasure of a genuine sportsman. 
And if he bring home his game-bag well filled with 



216 THE LARGE YELLOWSHANKS. 

Snipe, he considers the hardest day's tramp well re- 
warded. 

The Snipe is 11 inches long, bill 2^ or more, grooved on 
the sides, enlarged at the end, and though smooth in life, 
becomes marked like a thimble when dried. The crown is 
deep brown, with median line of brownish-white; sides of 
the head light reddish-brown, with a dark brown streak 
from the nostril to the eye, and a whitish spot above, and 
one in front of the eye; upper parts deep brown, specked, 
spotted and streaked with reddish-brown and white; wings 
dusky brown; fore-neck and breast brown and buffy- white, 
spotted and waved; tail chestnut-red, marked with black 
and white; under parts white; sides barred with black. 
The female is a little lighter colored than the male. 

THE LARGE YELLOWSHANKS. 

Firing into a flock of Rusty Grakles, gleaning food from 
the ground bordering a flooded field in the vicinity of Ton- 
awanda Swamp, on the 30th of April (1880), I roused a flock 
of some fifty of the large Yellowshanks (Totanus melanoleu- 
cus). They rose in the most excited manner only a few 
rods from me, emitting their loud whistling notes, cree-oo, 
cree-oo, cree-oo, the volume of which, coming from the whole 
flock, might well alarm all the feathered tribes in the 
neighborhood, thus making good their reputation among 
gunners as Telltales, or Tattlers. With the long bill and 
neck stretched forward, the long legs extended backward, 
and the long-pointed wings forming gull-like arcs in their 
rapid, steady beating, this flock, circling swiftly over the 
field several times and then fading out in the distance, 
makes one think of the sea and its multitudes of water-fowl. 

Knowing that these birds will soon be back, I hide behind 
the fence, ready to give them a salutation. In about half 



THE LARGE YELLOWSHANKS. 217 

an hour they reappear like black specks against the gray 
clouds. In a few seconds I can define them clearly above 
the tall forest, and can hear the clangor of their peculiar 
voices; after circling several times over the inundated 
field they alight about three gun-shots off, each pair of 
wings pointing straight upward for a few moments, as if to 
be sure that every feather is in place before folding. For a 
few moments they glance around to assure themselves that 
all is safe. Then wading about in a hurried manner, half- 
way to their bodies in water, with much balancing and 
vibrating of the body and graceful darting of the head in 
various directions, they seek their food of aquatic insects, 
worms, minute mollusks and tiny fishes. Creeping along 
stealthily behind the fence till I arrive within shot-range, I 
wing several with one charge. The flock, rising and scatter- 
ing for a few moments, as if disconcerted, come together 
and hover over their wounded comrades as thickly as wings 
can vibrate among each other, calling to them most pit- 
eously. Strange to say, I pointed my gun at the hovering 
cloud, and who can tell what might have been the conse- 
quences had it not failed to go off. This hovering over 
wounded companions, common to various kinds of water- 
birds which go in flocks, is a most affecting manifestation 
of fellow-sympathy; but it is very fatal to them, giving the 
rarest opportunity to the second barrel of the sportsman. 
The wounded Yellowshanks push their slender shins 
through the water with surprising rapidity, make a fair 
attempt at swimming, and put their heads under the water 
when closely pursued, but do not understand the art of 
diving. I learned from the people in the neighborhood that 
these birds had occupied this feeding ground continuously 
for several weeks, and that they did not remain long after 
this. Winteiing in the Southern States and in the West 



218 THE LARGE YELLOW SHANKS. 

Indies, and breeding from Nova Scotia northward, it is 
merely a passenger through these middle districts, scarcely 
seen after the first of May, but returning already in August 
or even in July. Stray birds sometimes linger so late in 
Massachusetts as to receive the name, Winter Yellow-legs; 
and I have known them to be shot on the south shore of Lake 
Ontario as late as November 19th, when the Old Squaw Ducks 
had already arrived ; they are not uncommon on the sea-coast, 
but being rather fresh-water birds, are more abundant in 
the interior. When in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, a few weeks 
since, I saw in the collection of Mr. Doan, a taxidermist of 
that place, the young of this species in the down, along with 
the parent, both having been shot and mounted by that gen- 
tleman. He procured them at Chebogue Point, near the 
city. They probably breed more or less in the marshes 
about Chebogue and Tusket River, in the southwest end of 
the Province. Strange to say, the nest of this species has 
recently been reported from New Jersey. 

Audubon says: "When in Labrador I found these birds 
breeding, two or three pairs together, in the delightful 
quiet valleys bounded by rugged hills of considerable 
height, and watered by limpid brooks. These valleys 
exhibit, in June and July, the richest verdure; luxuriant 
grasses of various species growing here and there in sep- 
arate beds, many yards in extent, while the intervening 
spaces, which are comparatively bare, are of that boggy 
nature so congenial to the habits of these species. In one 
of these pleasing retreats my son found a pair of Telltales 
in the month of June, both of which were procured. The 
female was found to contain a full-formed egg, and some 
more of the size of peas. The eggs are four, pyriform, 2.25 
long and 1.60 in their greatest breadth, pale greenish-yellow, 
marked with blotches of umber and pale purplish-gray." 



THE SMALL YELLOW SHANKS. 

The Large Yellowshanks are said to breed very 
commonly on Anticosti. 

About 14 inches long and 25 in extent of wings, bill 2.25 
and of dark horn-color; color above, ashy-brown or dusky, 
each feather being edged with white and sub-margined 
with waves or spots of black; secondaries and tertiaries 
edged with alternate spots of white and black; head and 
neck streaked with dusky and white; spot in front of the eye, 
throat and under parts, white; upper and lower tail- 
coverts white, crossed with wavy lines of dusky; the bright 
yellow legs and feet, together with its size, well character- 
izing the species. 

THE SMALL YELLOWSHANKS. 

Scarcely more than a miniature of the above is the Small 
Yellow-shanks (Totanus flavipes). Being less than 11 inches 
long and about 20 in extent, it is very perceptibly smaller; 
but, except that it is a little darker, it is about the same in 
form, color and marking, so that the description of the 
former species answers sufficiently for this, and it has about 
the same diet, habitat, and habits in general. Audubon 
reported it as breeding commonly about Pictou, Nova 
Scotia; his friend, Professor MacCulloch, describes the nest 
" as placed among the grass on the edges of the rivers and 
large ponds of the interior." According to Dr. Coues, 
" the eggs are deposited on the ground^ in a little depres- 
sion, lined with a few dried leaves or grasses. They are 
three or four in number, narrowly and pointedly pyriform, 
measuring from 1.58x1.18-1.78x1.15. * * * 

The ground is a clear clay-color, sometimes tending more 
to buffy or creamy, sometimes rather to light brown. v The 
marking is bold and heavy, but presents the customary 
great diversity, some eggs being very heavily splashed with 



220 THE SMALL YELLOWSHANKS. 

blotches, confluent about the larger end, while others have 
smaller clean-edged spots all over the surface. The mark- 
ings are rich umber-brown, often tending to chocolate, 
sometimes almost blackish. The paler shell-markings are 
usually numerous and noticeable." 

On the following morning, I saw a flock of these Lesser 
Yellowshanks scouring the same flooded fields above re- 
ferred to. After describing several of their elegant circles, 
each keeping his place in the finely-ordered ranks, they 
lighted in the shallow water near a thicket. I crept around 
into the thicket, and crawling almost on hands and knees 
behind a brush-fence, when I supposed myself near enough 
for a good shot, and was peering cautiously around in order 
to take aim from behind my screen, before I could get my 
eye on one of the number I heard the ominous whistle 
the signal of danger and away the little creatures were 
careering beyond shot-range. I rose and watched the flock 
till they were out of sight, studying that whistle which had 
been given by the sentinel so well on the alert, and which 
they all seemed so to comprehend in an instant. To this 
moment I can feel in my eye-balls the quick and simultane- 
ous beat of their wings. 

Once, at Barnegat Inlet (N. J.), late in August, as I stood 
on the piazza of the club-house with some half-dozen others, 
a flock of these birds appeared. Some one whistled in 
imitation of their note, and at once they turned and flew 
directly towards us. By the time they came within shot- 
range, some one had brought out a gun, and giving them 
two charges, dropped quite a number of them. They are 
gentle, winsome little creatures, and well deserve to be held 
in favor by all lovers of nature. Thev are not so common 
here as the larger species. 



THE RUSTY GRAKLE. 221 

THE RUSTY GRAKLE. 

On the first day of May, 1880, as I stood on an iron 
bridge crossing a sluggish stream of Tonawanda Swamp, I 
saw the Rusty Grakles (Scolecophagus ferrugineus) constantly 
trooping by in immense numbers. They were moving in a 
very leisurely manner, immense detachments constantly 
alighting. The large tract of low land, covered with the 
alder, the willow and the osier, seemed alive with them. 
The sombre wave, thus constantly rolling on, must have 
carried hundreds of thousands over this highway in a day. 
Occasionally they would alight to feed in the low, wet fields 
in the vicinity, making the earth black with their numbers. 
Their notes, or what might be called their songs, were 
almost deafening resembling, indeed, the vocal perform- 
ances of the Red-wings, but far less musical, being more of 
a sharp, metallic clatter, interspersed with loud squealing,, 
and almost destitute of the liquid, warbling notes so pecul- 
iar to that species. On being alarmed, either in the fields 
or in the bushes, these Grakles would rise in a dense, black 
cloud, and with a rumbling sound like that of distant 
thunder. Their flight, which ordinarily is not very high, is 
straightforward, with a steady beat of the wings, after the 
manner of our Blackbirds in general. To one who has 
merely met these birds in their rusty coats, as they visit the 
fields in moderate flocks on their way south in October or 
perhaps as early as the last of September, or as late as the 
first of November, they would scarcely be recognizable on 
these gala-days of their northward migration, so almost 
completely have they doffed the rust-color; the male being 
of an elegant glossy black, with the merest touch here and 
there of the rusty fringe; and even the female being of a fine 
brown or slaty-black, and having but a moderate garniture 
of this distinguishable edging on her nuptial plumage. The 



222 THE RUSTY GRAKLE. 

Rusty Grakle generally goes northward through this region 
early in April, or even in March. Perhaps these have been 
detained, or have loitered by the way, and are now advanc- 
ing with a somewhat forced march along their swampy 
thoroughfare. 

Spending the winter in the Southern and even in the 
Middle States in a few cases as far north as the lower 
Connecticut Valley the Rusty Grakle breeds from north- 
ern New England, northward through Labrador, westward 
to Alaska, and even as far north as 69; Kansas, Nebraska 
and Dakota being its western limit. Like the Red-wing, it 
is an inhabitant of the swamp, and of low, wet regions, 
its food being insects, berries and small mollusks. The 
nests, which are very common in Nova Scotia, where this 
bird is called the Black Robin, are generally found in spruce 
bushes or larch groves, about wild meadows or in wet 
places; so that the memory of my childhood days associates 
the vigorous chuck and the metallic vibrations of the song 
of this species with these elegant Conifercz. Mr. E. A. 
Samuels found the nests "on the Magalloway River, in 
Maine," placed in "the low alders overhanging the water." 
Audubon sometimes found them " among the tall reeds of 
the Cat-tails, or Typha, to which they were attached by 
interweaving the leaves of the plant with the grasses and 
strips of bark of which they were externally composed." 

The nest is bulky, firm and deep, composed outwardly of 
small sticks, mosses and dried grasses, strongly cemented 
together with mud, and well lined with fine, dried grasses. 
The eggs, deposited early in May, in Nova Scotia, where I 
used to regard five as the usual number, though four are 
occasionally found, are about 1.03 x .^, of a pale, grayish- 
green, somewhat heavily marked with several shades of 
brown and a dull lilac, and scratched with black. As in the 



THE YELLOW WARBLER. 223 

case of the Red-wings, the marking varies very considerably 
in different sets. I have seen the young abroad in Nova 
Scotia by the 7th of June. 

The Rusty Grakle is a little more than 9.00 long, 
and some 14.50 in extent. Male, in spring, glossy black, 
some of the feathers, especially underneath, edged with a 
rusty-brown; female, slaty or rusty-brown above, rusty and 
grayish mixed below, with a pale stripe above the eye. 

The young birds are quite brown in their first dress, and 
in all stages the species is characterized by the milk-white 
iris, noticeable at quite a distance. In the Rocky Moun- 
tain and California regions this species is replaced by 
Brewer's Blackbird, or the Blue-headed Grakle (Scolecophagus 
cyanocephalus), a bird of very similar habits. The two species 
generally mingle in their southern migration along the in- 
terior. 

THE YELLOW WARBLER. 

In the last week of April or the first week of May, as the 
warm currents of a spring atmosphere are wooing into 
activity every germ of field and forest, the Yellow Warbler 
(Dendrceca (estiva) reaches us in immense numbers. You 
may find it in the forest, in thickets and slashings, quite 
as numerous in the orchard, and in the shrubbery about 
the garden and the front-yard, but most especially does 
it love the willows by the brook, with the yellow spray of 
which its golden tints are particularly in harmony. 

In dress and in song it is equally conspicuous. About 
the size of the Chipping Sparrow, some 5 inches long, 
greenish-yellow above, and golden-yellow streaked with 
red beneath, it is unmistakable to the eye as it moves 
among the opening leaves and blossoms. In this locality, 
we have no other really yellow bird except the male Gold- 
finch, and he is readily distinguished by his black crown, 



224 THE YELLOW WARBLER. 

wings and tail, and by his unique voice and manners in 
general. The song of the Yellow, Blue-eyed Yellow, 
Golden, or Summer Warbler for it is known by all these 
common names may be represented by the syllables, wee- 
chee-wee-chee-wee-chee; or, sweet, sweet, sweet, sweetie, uttered in 
sprightly, whistling tones. 

It is awakening and cheerful, and therefore in delightful 
harmony with its time. No mere promise of spring, like 
the Phcebe, the Robin, or the Bluebird, the appearance of 
the Golden Warbler is synchronous with spring itself, and 
inseparably associated with the most genial sunshine and the 
fragrance of flowers. The very thought of his melody brings 
back the fruit blossoms and the merry play of garden-mak- 
ing. Unlike all the rest of the Warblers, that seem to go and 
come wholly at the bidding of the sylvan deities, this Blue- 
eyed Beauty seeks the society of man as well, and may 
confide his nest to the shrubbery about the walls of human 
dwellings; aye, he will even be pleased to accept the help of 
human hands in building that nest constructing it with the 
materials placed on the clothes-line or on the grass for him. 
A nest before me, the building of which was thus aided by 
young friends, is wholly of batting, except a little lining of 
vegetable down, dried grass and horse-hair, and so looks like 
a snow-ball or a bunch of wool. This Warbler's nest may be 
found in the woods, the swamp, the orchard, the garden or 
the front-yard, and is generally placed in the upright fork of 
a bush, often stuck into the spray anywhere, rarely on a hori- 
zontal limb. Firmly built of various gray fibrous and downy 
materials, it is interlaced and bound together with dried 
grasses or fine rootlets, sometimes ornamented like bead- 
work with the fallen catkins of the butternut or black 
walnut, and is lined with the down of the thistle, the willow, 
or the reddish wool-like covering of the unrolling fronds of 



THE CATBIRD. 225 

various ferns. Thus the nest is grayish outside and silken- 
white, or delicate reddish, inside. The walls are thick and 
firm, and the lining is as soft and delicate a couch as any 
birdling ever pillowed its head upon. The eggs, some four 
in number, about .67 X. 50, are generally grayish or greenish- 
white, pretty heavily spotted, sometimes blotched with 
brown and lilac, and are very variable. Though the nest is 
generally built by the last of May, there is but one brood 
raised in this locality, and the birds leave us for the south 
in September. 

As an exception to the whole genus, D. astiva has no white 
markings in the tail, except that the quills of the outer tail- 
feathers are white. The young being for some time with- 
out the red markings beneath, Audubon at first made them a 
separate species, which he called "the Children's Warbler." 

This bird shows special ingenuity in building out the 
Cow-bird's egg, sometimes making even a three-story nest 
for that purpose; although it is not, as was supposed by the 
earlier ornithologists, the only bird resorting to this expe- 
dient, the Redstart, Phcebe, etc., discovering the same 
contrivance. Covering all North America to the arctics, 
and even reaching South America in winter, this abundant 
species is especially characteristic of our continent. 

THE CATBIRD. 

On the last day of April, as I paddle my canoe along the 
still waters of Tonawanda, I spy a Catbird (Mimus caroli- 
nensis) in the bushes near the stream. Only 9 inches long^ 
of a plain dark drab or ash, excepting the black crown and 
the bright chestnut of the under tail-coverts, and keeping low 
among the thick shrubbery, this bird is now by no means con- 
spicuous.* As it approaches nidification, about the last of May, 

* I once saw in the possession of Professor W. E. D. Scott, of Princeton, a Catbird which 
was as white as a white rabbit. 

15 



226 THE CATBIRD. 

however, it becomes very sprightly and noisy. With tail well 
spread and crown-feathers erect, it hops and flits about the 
thickets, the edges of the woods, the swamps and the thick 
shrubbery of the garden, the most wide-awake bird in all 
these haunts. Upon the slightest alarm, it will mew like 
a scared kitten, imitating this feline mammal so perfectly 
that no one would attribute the sound to the throat of a 
bird. Again, it startles one with its song, which is very 
spirited indeed, and in the sweetest tones, but so hurriedly 
uttered that it would seem impossible to catch its full 
meaning. Unquestionably this song may contain pretty 
distinct imitations of the voices of other birds, but I fail to 
detect that general and well-pronounced capacity of a 
Mockingbird so often attributed to it. Why need he repeat 
the melodies of his neighbors, his own song, like that of the 
Brown Thrush, which it greatly resembles, is sweet enough 
of itself. It differs most materially, however, from the song 
of the Thrushes proper birds to which our singer, the 
Brown Thrush, and the distinguished Mockingbird, are 
so closely related as to be regarded by ornithologists as a 
branch of the same family. When the Wood Thrush sings 
he seems to breathe out his very soul in a thoughtful 
melody. There is a musical idea in every note. He is the 
Mozart or Beethoven- of his class. He sings because he 
cannot help it. He sings to the forest, to the stream, and 
to the evening star. The Catbird sings on purpose. There 
is no sentiment whatever in his performance. It is wholly 
a play upon tones, a trick of the vocal organs; and, as has 
been justly said, always implies a listener, always betrays 
self-consciousness. The notes of the Wood Thrush inspires 
solemnity, and may bring one into a mood for religious 
devotion; those of the Catbird awaken risibility, and put 
the spirit of fun and mischief into one. 



THE CATBIRD. 227 

" Some persons do not admire the Catbird on account of 
his sombre plumage," sayS Susan Fenimore Cooper, in her 
delicious " Rural Hours," " but the rich shaded grays of 
his coat strike us as particularly pleasing, and his form is 
elegant. His cry, to be sure, is odd enough for a bird; and 
sometimes when he repeats it twenty times in succession in 
the course of half an hour, one feels inclined to box his ears. 
It is the more provoking in him to insult us in this way, 
because some of his notes, when he chooses, are very 
musical soft and liquid as different as possible from his 
harsh, grating cry. Like his cousin, the Mockingbird, he 
often deserves a good shaking for his caprices, both belong- 
ing to the naughty class of 'birds who can sing, and won't 
sing,' except when it suits their fancy." 

The nest, placed in a bush or brush-pile, is constructed of 
coarse shreds of bark, stalks of weeds, and dried leaves, 
occasionally ornamented with one or two rags or feathers, 
and lined with rootlets, giving the inside a uniform dark 
color, which is quite characteristic. The eggs, commonly 4, 
some .95 X. 70, are of a fine, dark bluish-green. A second 
brood is sometimes raised. 

How bravely the Catbird will attack the black snake, that 
arch-enemy of birds' nests on and near the ground, wrig- 
gling about vines and bushes after the manner of a more 
ancient individual of his kind, almost as much at home in a 
tree as on the ground how our bird will attack him with 
bill and claw, and not infrequently compel him to retreat, 
has been noted by almost every ornithologist. 

In spring and early summer the food of the Catbird is 
insectivorous. Larvae in general, and cutworms, as well as 
winged insects, constitute the bulk of its fare. Later in the 
season it is partial to small fruits, feeding mostly on wild 
berries of swamps and thickets. It is therefore the friend 



228 THE WATER THRUSH, 

and ally of the husbandman, and should never be the sub- 
ject of persecution; and especially because of the partiality 
it shows for the vicinage of man, being almost entirely con- 
fined to the improved and cultivated regions of the country, 
and more or less common about our dwellings. 

The Middle States are the favorite breeding region of 
this bird. Reported as rare in Northern New England, it 
breeds commonly in Nova Scotia and on the Red River of the 
north, on the Saskatchawan, in the cultivated parts of the 
Central Plains, and on the Columbia River. It is resident 
in the Southern States, but many pass the winter far 
beyond. It leaves the Middle States for the south in Sep- 
tember or October. 

THE WATER THRUSH. 

On this last day of April, I every now and then hear the 
spirited notes of the Water Thrush (Seiurus noveboracensis). 
I sometimes hear them even a week earlier. I hardly know 
whether to call these notes a song or not. They are not at 
all like those sylvan melodies, which seem the overflow of 
quiet joy from happy natures; but are rather a strong utter- 
ance of surprise, as if the bird had made some exciting 
discovery perhaps your own unwelcome presence and 
wished to express some feeling of alarm or disapproval. 
Chee-chee-chee-chee-choo-choo-choo-choo-choo-thoo, beginning with 
a somewhat high and loud note, and gradually dropping 
down softer and lower, the whole with an increasing rapid- 
ity, might represent this vocal performance. As Wilson 
and Audubon evidently gave us only the history of that 
delightful songster, the Louisiana, or Large-billed Water 
Thrush, and subsequent writers have been more or less con- 
fused as to the voices of this and our more northern or 
common Water Thrush, ornithological readings do not pre- 



THE WATER THRUSH. 229 

pare us for this so-called song, as above described; and yet 
I fail to detect in it any other melody, or any other note, 
except that sharp chip, chip, common to its genus. 

Having the dress of a Thrush, and the dainty, dove-like 
gait as well as the jerking of the tail, so characteristic of 
the Titlarks, while the structure is more allied to that of the 
Warblers, this species and its congeners the Louisiana 
Water Thrush, and the Golden-crowned Thrush have 
greatly puzzled our ornithologists. After calling them 
Thrushes for some time, and then Titlarks or Wagtails, the 
greater importance of structural affinity over and above mere 
appearance or analogy has finally placed, th^m among the 
Warblers "Terrestrial Warblers," Coues calls them. 

The Water Thrush is commonly quite shy, and manages 
to keep well out of sight while one is moving around; but 
if you will sit down and remain quiet, it will perambulate 
about quite freely, and allow you a good view of its trim 
form, some 5.50-6.00 inches long, and of a rich olivaceous- 
brown coat and cap, and yellowish-white eye-brows and 
under parts, the latter thickly spotted in streaks with brown. 

Being almost constantly on or near the ground, this so- 
called Thrush is a ground-builder; and, true to its name, 
keeps in the immediate vicinity of water, generally in the 
partially submerged shrubbery of a swamp. Here the nest 
may be found at the root of a tree or stump, or stuck into 
the side of a partially decayed and moss-covered log. It is 
composed of sticks, dried grasses, moss and fine fibrous 
material; and contains four eggs, about .85 x -67, delicate 
white, specked with light-red. It may be found in this 
locality late in May or early in June. I have found the 
young out of the nest by the 19th of June. Habitat, East- 
ern North America, up to high latitudes. I found it breeding 
in Nova Scotia. Its northwestward trend is to Montana, 



230 THE WATER THRUSH. 

and even to Alaska; south in winter, into the West Indies, 
Central America, and even South America. 

The Large-billed Water Thrush (Seiurus ludovicianus) , 
though very similar to the above, both in appearance and 
in habit, is nevertheless clearly differentiated by its greater 
size, larger bill, buffy-white under parts, instead of yellow- 
ish-white, its more southern habitat, and its marvelous 
powers of song. 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE THIRD OF MAY. 

JT is the 3d of May and we are just in the thickest of the 
spring migration of our birds. Considered in all its rela- 
tions, this regular movement of the birds is one of the 
most wonderful facts in nature. Coming such an immense 
distance, many of them from the tropics to the far north, 
often one or two thousand miles, how can they time them- 
selves so well? No matter what the weather is, or the 
character of the season, I know within a few days at most, 
in many cases almost within a few hours, when to expect 
each species.* Not many hours from the morning of 
the 7th of April I may be sure of the pleasing melody 
of the Bay-winged Bunting, or Grass Finch; and as soon as 
one appears, they become almost numberless. About the 
1st of May I may expect the Catbird, the Indigo-bird, the 
Redstart, the Black-throated Blue Warbler, and the Yellow 
Warbler; and about a week later arrive the Golden-crowned 
Warbler, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and the Wood Thrush. 
This exact time of arrival adds a delightful interest to 
the study of ornithology. I wait for the coming of the 
birds, especially for my favorite ones, as for the coming of 
my friends. As our rugged winter wears away, I count the 
weeks and the days. 

* This is particularly true of the land-birds. Many of the water-birds (but by no means 
all of them), especially such as migrate along the water-courses of the interior, may be 
governed considerably by the nature of the season. 



232 MIGRA TION. 

The time of arrival, as also of departure, though so 
exact in each case, varies greatly with different species. 
The Robin, the Bluebird, the various Blackbirds, the 
Phoebe, the Killdeer, the Meadow Lark and the Song 
Sparrow arrive before winter is over, and are thus the har- 
bingers of spring; but Thrushes, Warblers, Cuckoos, and 
the Flycatchers generally, come with the spring flowers and 
the tender foliage. "The Indian of the fur countries, in 
forming his rude calendar, names the recurring moons 
after the Birds-of -passage, whose arrival is coincident with 
their changes." 

Those birds which arrive first stay latest, and the latest 
visitants are the first to depart. For the most part, the 
males are the first on the ground in the spring, while the 
females or- the young lead the van in the fall; and it is 
pretty certain that those individuals spending the summer 
farthest north also winter farther north than those of the 
same species which do not reach such high latitudes. It 
may also be set down as a general law that those species 
which spend the summer farthest north also winter farthest 
south. 

Many kinds of birds, especially such as fly high and 
encounter but slight danger, perform their passage in part 
or wholly by day; but those passing near the ground, or 
experiencing special dangers by the way, almost invariably 
move under cover of the night. It is probable that the 
divers such as Loons and Grebes make their passages 
mostly in the water, following the great water-courses; 
while certain running birds, as the Rails, achieve a great 
part of their journey a-foot. 

Our North American birds seem to migrate year after 
year in certain lines, toward the north in the spring, and 
again toward the south in autumn. For instance, of the 



MIGRA 770 AT. 233 

immense number of birds wintering in Florida, some regu- 
larly follow the more easterly parts, while others, pursuing 
a more interior route, trend away to the northwest; so that 
a number of observers, forming a line from east to west 
across these lines of migration, would each find, year after 
year, certain passengers peculiar to his station. The Atlan- 
tic Coast and the Mississippi Father of Waters would 
seem to be the main thoroughfares.* Again, the regular 
route in the autumn for some species is not the same as 
that of the spring. Some species, and perhaps it may be 
said the birds in general, return to the same spot for nidifi- 
cation from year to year. The Barn Swallows return to the 
old home on the rafter with great demonstrations of joy at 
each arrival; the Bluebird and the Martin return regularly to 
their tenement; the Bird of Prey seeks out its old eyrie, and 
even the song-bird of the forest, which achieves the longest 
migration, is known to rebuild near its former site. It is 
said that from year to year " the immortal Naumann knew 
all his little feathered friends, near his house, by their 
songs." 

How does each species, or individual, trace its pathway 
with such marked regularity and certainty? Whoever 
would account for this, by the bird's-eye view of the main 
points of landscape which the migrant is supposed to com- 
mand from its lofty aerial pathway, must attribute to the 
bird a higher reasoning faculty in combining the general 
effect of the extended scenery through which it passes than 
it could seem to possess; and at the same time fails to find 
the route for the vast numbers moving low, or under cover 
of the night. Nor do the young always avail themselves of 
the more experienced; and unless the bird be endowed with 
an intelligence immeasurably above that of man, would it 

* A careful study of the facts in the Old World has rendered it certain that great water- 
courses, and their adjoining valleys, are the main thoroughfares of migration. 



234 MIGRA TION. 

not require a great deal of experience to secure so wonder- 
ful a result with so much certainty? Here is a mystery 
which the most careful study can only enhance. In that 
mystery who does not exclaim: 

There is a power whose care 

Teaches thy way along that pathless coast, 

The desert and the illimitable air." 

The manner of the birds in their passage is in every way 
interesting. There is often much ceremony by way of 
preparation for the journey. Some go singly or in pairs, 
others in families or flocks, these moving communities some- 
times being enormous. The Swallows will gather in im- 
mense flocks, perching in dense lines on the ridge of the old 
barn or along the telegraph wires, and laugh and chatter as 
if their formidable journey were to be the merriest ching 
possible; the vast assemblages of the several kinds of Black- 
birds, generally each kind by itself, will fairly darken the 
corn-fields and the meadows; and the Robins will assemble 
with a subdued but peculiar hilarity. Generally there is 
the greatest possible difference between the spring and the 
fall migrations, the former being hurried, jubilant, and full 
of song; the latter leisurely, quiet, and comparatively voice- 
less. 

It is the opinion of some of the best European observers 
that the more hurried and joyous the vernal migration, the 
earlier and more genial will be the spring, and that loitering 
or hesitation betokens the opposite; while the more leisurely 
the southward movement, the greater the probability of an 
easy winter, and vice versa. 

Gregarious species, especially the water-fowl, often move 
in the most exact and beautiful order. Who has not 
noticed the flight of Wild Geese, Ducks and Plover, in 
the form of a V, a straight line, or a graceful curve ? As 



MIGRA TlOtf. 235 

the leader cleaves the air with a special outlay of strength, 
he every now and then drops into the rear in the easier line 
of the wake, some other one taking up the task in front. 
The European Storks are said to perform, every now and 
then, the most beautiful evolutions on their way, after 
which they move straight forward as usual. In heavy fogs 
or dark nights birds fly low, and that often at their peril. 
Not infrequently they lie over during weather especially 
unfavorable. All such as take long and high flights prefer 
the moonlight and the wind ahead. Wind in the rear is 
very unfavorable. Not infrequently birds prefer to travel 
under the leadership of the more experienced of their class. 

Very noticeable, indeed, is the effect of this regular 
migration in any locality. Compute the probable number 
of any one species, as the Bay-winged Sparrow, or the Balti- 
more Oriole, for instance, contained in every square mile of 
their summer habitat, and imagine the immense tidal wave 
which, at the exact time for each species, moves along the en- 
tire breadth of the line of march. The more brilliant varieties 
everywhere appeal to the eye; and, as they reach their sum- 
mer residence, each kind of the birds of song makes the air 
more resonant with its peculiar melody. How the arrival 
of any numerous species modifies the entire phase of a 
rural district ! The field and orchard teem with a new and 
happy life, and from the forest comes the finest of nature's 
melodies. 

In Eastern North America, the birds migrate in greater 
numbers and over a greater reach of country th#n in any 
other part of the world; therefore, I am especially led to 
inquire how this wonderful thing is accomplished. What 
strange and mighty impulse is this which, inspiring the 
breasts of such countless multitudes at the same moment, 
carries them on through bitter storms and numberless perils 



236 MIGRA TION. 

to such immense distances ? Even those species of migratory 
birds which have been confined for many months, and seem 
perfectly tame, dash violently against the sides of their cage, 
and the tamed Canada Goose becomes wild again at the 
call of his species in their northward flight, and abandon- 
ing all his new relationships, rises to join t"hem. 

Mr. A. R. Wallace, in his great work on the Geographical 
Distribution of Animals, states what he conceives to be the 
natural causes for this wonderful phenomenon. 

He suggests " that the instinct of migration has arisen 
from the habit of wandering in search of food common to 
all animals, but is greatly exaggerated in the case of birds 
by their power of flight and by the necessity for procur- 
ing a large amount of soft insect-food for their unfledged 
young." This might explain certain more or less irregular 
movements of birds, which are termed partial migrations, 
but is by no means sufficient to account for all the wonder- 
ful facts of regular migration. As a matter of fact, insect- 
life becomes much more abundant as we approach the 
warmer regions of the globe, the larvae of most kinds of 
insects appearing at different times throughout the season; 
hence we are not surprised to find large numbers of birds, 
of about every order, breeding and residing permanently in 
the more southern parts of our continent. Moreover, not a 
few species breed almost indifferently in any part of East- 
ern North America, to quite high latitudes, nesting at an 
earlier or later period of the entire breeding season, in 
accordance with their more northern or more southern 
location. Since nature yields so readily to ordinary causes, 
might not the birds generally find it more convenient to 
adjust the time of their nidification to that period of the 
year when insect larvae abound in the more southern lati- 
tudes, than to travel such immense distances, encountering 



MIGRATION. 237 

wind and storm, and perils innumerable? The perils which 
birds encounter in their migrations are inconceivable to those 
unacquainted with the facts. Overcome by adverse winds 
and storms of great severity, immense numbers become 
exhausted and perish, as is shown by the numbers of the 
small land-birds drifting on to the shores of the Great 
Lakes after very severe storms. Attracted and dazed by 
the light-houses stationed here and there, so many dash 
their lives out against them as to render these points of 
incalculable interest to the observer. The continuous net- 
work of telegraph wires spread over the country maims 
and destroys countless numbers. After heavy storms, 
during their migrations, hundreds of Ducks have been 
picked up dead on a single morning on Niagara River, 
below the Falls, they having flown into the great cataract 
and perished. 

Again, the same author says: "If we go back only as 
far as the height of the glacial epoch, there is reason to 
believe that all North America, as far south as about 40 
north latitude, was covered with an almost continuous and 
perennial ice-sheet. At this time the migratory birds would 
extend up to this barrier (which would probably terminate 
in the midst of luxuriant vegetation, just as the glaciers of 
Switzerland now often terminate amM forests and corn- 
fields), and as the cold decreased and the ice retired almost 
imperceptibly year by year, would follow it up farther and 
farther, according as the peculiarities of vegetation and 
insect-food were more or less suited to their several consti- 
tutions." The only possible interpretation of this passage 
would seem to be that the birds, being held in the south by 
the glacial epoch, followed up the recession of the cold at 
the closing of that period, and ever since have kept up the 
same movement in annual accommodation to cold and ice,. 



238 MIGRA TION. 

simply to find suitable food. The question naturally arises, 
since all varieties of bird-food abound in the south, why 
should a berry, a grain, a seed, or a caterpillar, be so much 
more palatable in the north ? Nor are our regular migrants 
generally driven back from the north by hunger and cold. 
Nearly all our migratory birds leave for the south either 
during the fine and fruitful days of late summer, or in the 
most brilliant and balmy days of autumn, when they are 
well covered with an extra coat of fat, and give forth a 
pleasing repetition of the gladsome lays of spring; and in 
most cases they evidently go much further than is neces- 
sary to find food and mild weather. In the gala-days of 
spring when most birds make their passage, the weather 
and resources of food are such that the whole journey is 
one continuous festivity. 

Mr. Wallace admits that " the most striking fact in favor 
of the 'instinct' of migration is the 'agitation,' or excite- 
ment, of confined birds at the time when their wild com- 
panions are migrating," but thinks this "a social excitement 
due to the anxious cries of the migrating birds." No doubt 
the tame bird may be affected by the cry of its fellow, but 
those not within the reach of such cry, nor even within 
sight of their passing relatives, seem equally excited in the 
time of regular migration, spending the whole night in use- 
less efforts to free themselves. Moreover, how came these 
birds in confinement, these life-long prisoners shut out from 
the society of their kind, to recognize each the call of its 
fellows, and to comprehend its meaning? Again, the same 
writer says: "We must remember, too, that migration, at 
the proper time, is in many cases absolutely essential to the 
existence of the species; and it is therefore not improbable 
that some strong, social emotion should have been gradu- 
ally developed in the race, by the circumstance that all 



MIGRA TION. 239 

who for want of such emotion did not join their fellows 
inevitably perished." As to the first clause of this state- 
ment, we know that birds occasionally nest very far from 
their ordinary breeding habitat, and for aught we can see 
they might always do so; and as to the second clause, the 
query naturally arises, how came the sad fate of the few 
delinquents that " inevitably perished " on failing to migrate 
to become so generally known and so deeply affecting ? It 
is, marvelous what an amount of loose speculation may 
pass for science ! No; neither the wisdom of the birds, nor 
the force of circumstances, however stern, can account for 
the wonderful phenomena connected with the regular mi- 
gration of birds. It would seem that this, like so many 
other persistent habits in animated nature, must be caused 
by the laws of instinct, superintended by an Infinite Intelli- 
gence. Nor should we be stumbled because we, in the close 
limitations of our finiteness, cannot conceive how the Infinite 
and Omnipresent can touch these innumerable springs of 
activity in animated nature. With proper evidence, there 
should be room for faith. 

One very naturally sympathizes with Audubon in his 
reflections on the bleak coasts of Labrador. "That the 
Creator should have ordered that millions of diminutive, 
tender creatures should cross spaces of country, in all 
appearance a thousand times more congenial for all their 
purposes, to reach this poor, desolate and deserted land, to 
people it, as it were, for a time, and to cause it to be enli- 
vened with the songs of the sweetest of the feathered musi- 
cians, for only two months, at most, and then, by the same 
extraordinary instinct, should cause them all to suddenly 
abandon the country, is as wonderful as it is beautiful and 
grand." 



240 THE BALTIMORE ORIOLE. 

THE BALTIMORE ORIOLE. 

O, these days of life and song ! they are but too short 
and fleeting ! I go into my study, in the early morning, 
and sit by the open window which overlooks the village 




THE BALTIMORE ORIOLE. 

nestling among the trees. What a delicious fragrance floats 
on the breeze ! What can be more suggestive of Paradise 
than this delightful chorus of birds, and this budding and 
blooming of spring? 

Ah! my old favorite, the Baltimore Oriole (Icterus balti- 
more), has arrived during the night. I hear his loud, sweet 
whistle in the large elm just across the way. Now he has 
passed directly before the window, and lit in full view in 
the orchard. He is well worthy of the epithet " Golden " in 
his old familiar name, Golden Robin, only he is no Robin at 
all; and if Lord Baltimore, for whom he is named, could have 
equaled his brilliancy in the colors of his coat-of-arms, he was 
a gay fellow to lead a persecuted people into the wilderness. 
Most appropriate of all, I think, is this bird's Indian name, 
" Fire-bird." Appearing to the best advantage as he flies 
from you, does not that rump of bright orange, surrounded 
by the jet-black of his head, shoulders, wings and tail, glow 
like a burning coal? And, as he spreads his tail in lighting, 



THE BALTIMORE ORTOLE. 241 

are not those light-orange outer feathers of the same about 
to burst into a flame? The brightest orange, however, is on 
the breast, becoming lighter on the sides and under parts; 
and in the brightest specimens, even the white of the wing- 
coverts is tinged with the same. His female, who may 
arrive in a day or two, or may linger behind more than a 
week, has but a general resemblance, being much duller in 
color and marking. 

Hero, hero, hero: Cheery, cheery, cheery: Cheer -up, cheer -up, 
cheer-up: are among his common notes, generally coming 
from among the swaying branches of the taller trees; but 
sometimes also from the bushes, and even from the fence. 
Occasionally, only, is he seen on the ground, and then he 
appears as much out of place as a gentleman in broadcloth 
and kid-gloves digging a ditch, or guiding a plow. On 
some minds the effect of the song of birds is very great. 
The most sprightly cheerfulness is particularly emphasized 
in the song of the Baltimore. How I have been cheered by 
it, in certain days dark with, sorrow, I cannot easily forget. 
Hence his first note awakens a throng of tender reminis- 
cences, and his return is always an event of the season. 
And yet that song has but little compass or variety. Its 
effect is wholly in the tones. The notes are almost monoto- 
nous, unless, indeed, he has learned to imitate the note or 
song of some bird by the way, one which never reaches us, 
and so leaves the acquired song a mystery to us; a peculiar 
attainment of the Baltimore, in which his voice may become 
quite flexible. Unquestionably he has quite a faculty for 
imitation. Besides his song he has a spirited twitter, or 
rattle, when in combat, and when winning the female. 
He has also a single note, corresponding to the com- 
mon chipping of birds when alarmed about their nest or 
young. But all his noise will soon be over. Incubation 
16 



242 THE BALTIMORE ORIOLE. 

once begun, he is one of the quietest of birds and remains 
so till after the moult, during which event he is rarely to 
be seen; then returning to the vicinity of the late nesting 
place in the orchard or grove, he will be almost as gay, and 
sprightly, and musical, in the midst of his full-grown family, 
now making ready to depart for some more genial clime, as 
he was in the hilarious days of the nuptial season. 

A very "castle in the air" is the Baltimore's pensile nest, 
as it sways and rocks on an elastic branch of some tree, in 
the front-yard, the orchard, the grove or the forest. In this 
locality a partiality is shown for the graceful drooping 
branches of the elm. Wherever placed, it seldom fails to be 
under a canopy of leaves. Generally in the form of a bag 
some six or seven inches deep, round at the bottom, and 
hung to slender fork-shaped limbs by the edges, the limbs 
thus serving to hold it open, it is the most noticeable bird's 
nest in field or forest. The material is almost anything in 
the form of long strips or threads that can be easily woven 
thin, gray, -vegetable fibers, yarn, twine, interlaced in every 
possible manner, and well sewed together with horse-hair. 
The walls are so thin and open as to let the air through 
readily. The bottom is a thick cushion of vegetable down 
and hair. A gentleman in Pennsylvania once hung out 
bright and various colored zephyrs, which the bird wove into 
a most brilliant and fantastic fabric. Says Wilson: "So 
solicitous is the Baltimore to procure proper materials for 
his nest that, in the season of building, the women in the 
country are under necessity of narrowly watching their 
thread that may chance to be out bleaching, and the farmer 
to secure his young grafts; as the Baltimore, finding the 
.former, and the strings which tie the latter, so well adapted 
for his purpose, frequently carries off both; or should the 
one be too heavy, and the other too firmly tied, he will tug 



THE BALTIMORE ORIOLE. 243 

at them a considerable time before he gives up the attempt. 
Skeins of silk and hanks of thread have been often found, 
after the leaves were fallen, hanging around the Baltimore's 
nest; but so woven up and entangled as to be entirely 
irreclaimable. Before the introduction of Europeans, no 
such material could have been obtained here; but, with the 
sagacity of a good architect, he has improved this circum- 
stance to his advantage; and the strongest and best mate- 
rials are uniformly found in those parts by which the whole 
is supported." 

Great sagacity and skill are shown in adapting the form 
of the nest to circumstances. Audubon observes that the 
walls of the nest are thinner, or thicker, and that it is placed 
on the warmer, or cooler, side of the tree, according as the 
location is northern or southern. Two nests, lately found 
by Mr. Eugene Ringueberg, of Lockport, N. Y., are very 
suggestive as to the intelligence of the bird. One was 
hung on the string of a kite caught in an apple-tree. Closed 
at the top in the form of a cone, its opening, high on one 
side, was a sort of projecting porch of closely woven horse- 
hair, which, as the nest could turn in any direction, served 
as the tail of a weather-cock, and turning constantly to the 
leeward side, kept the entrance from the storm. The other, 
being built on two slender twigs, was too poorly supported 
for the weight of the bird. In this emergency, a strong 
piece of twine was woven into one side, carried up over 
two firm branches, and well fastened into the other side, 
thus making the nest fully secure. Here was no mean 
exercise of the reasoning faculty. Those who study the 
animal kingdom most will have the highest opinion of its 
intelligence. 

The eggs, generally four or five in a set, some ".90 X .60" 
of an inch, are white, slightly tinged with brown, and 



244 THE BALTIMORE ORIOLE. 

sparsely but irregularly scratched in every direction, as if 
with a pen, in both light and heavystrokes with black or dark 
brown; some of these marks being obscure, as if partially 
washed off. As generally with birds of its size, incubation 
occupies some two weeks. The young resemble the female, 
but Audubon thinks that the young males acquire their 
bright colors the first year. 

The Baltimore Oriole is a great devourer of insects; but 
like other birds of that kind of diet, he will occasionally 
affect a change. Once, after a spring shower, when the 
peach-trees were in bloom, a beautiful male lit in one just 
against a window. All unconscious of my presence, though 
I was scarcely more than two feet from him, he began mov- 
ing up and down the limbs in that gliding, athletic manner 
peculiar to himself, ever and anon inserting his bill into the 
cup-like calyx of the blossoms. Could he be drinking the 
new-fallen rain-drops? Scarcely; for he did not raise his 
head to swallow. Looking a little more closely, I saw that 
he was eating the stamens. Let not the fruit-grower 
be alarmed, however, for nature has provided many 
more blossoms than is necessary for a good crop. It may 
be that the Baltimore is simply thinning them to advan- 
tage. 

With us, as in many other parts of our country, this is one 
of the most numerous and well-known of all the birds; 
while his brilliancy, his loud and happy notes, and his 
abundant appearance in shade trees, orchards, fields, forests, 
and even in the heart of our great cities at the same time, 
fully make known the morning of his arrival. Wintering 
in Mexico, Central America, Cuba, etc., he breeds nearly 
throughout the Eastern United States, and, becoming rare 
in Northern New England, barely extends into the British 
Provinces. He belongs, therefore, to the Alleghanian Fauna. 



THE ORCHARD ORIOLE. 245 

THE ORCHARD ORIOLE. 

Very similar in form and marking, but of a different 
color and smaller, is the Orchard Oriole (Icterus spurius). 
Some seven inches long, and having nearly the same parts 
black as the Baltimore, except that the tail is entirely black, 
the male has those parts corresponding to the orange in the 
latter chestnut, or chestnut-red. The female is olivaceous 
above, with dusky wings, and greenish-yellow beneath. 
The young male is like her the first year, the second year he 
acquires a black throat, the third year is variously spotted, 
and afterwards acquires the dark colors of maturity. Resid- 
ing in Orleans County, N. Y., I am a little too far north for 
this bird, but in Northern Ohio, where I formerly studied 
him, he is very common, being found in every orchard. 
Arriving there about the middle of May, his song is a loud 
and delightful warble, bearing a striking resemblance to 
that of the Robin or Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The female 
is so shy as seldom to be seen. The nest, hung by the 
upper edge to a limb in the orchard, is nearly hemispherical, 
built of tough grasses thoroughly interwoven. Wilson says: 
" I had the curiosity to detach one of the fibers, or stalks of 
dried grass, from the nest, and found it to measure thirteen 
inches in length, and in that distance was thirty-four times 
hooked through and returned, winding round and round 
the nest." He says, also: "An old lady of my acquaint- 
ance, to whom I was one day showing this curious fabrica- 
tion, after admiring its texture for some time asked me, in a 
tone between joke and earnest, whether I did not think it 
possible to teach these birds to darn stockings." This nest, 
being built of grasses so recently dried as still to retain 
their green color, about like that of new-mown hay, has a 
peculiarly fresh and clean appearance. 

The Orioles proper are altogether birds of the Old 



246 THE WARBLING VIREO, 

World, and are allied to the Thrushes. " More than twenty 
species are described in Africa, Asia, and the Indian archi- 
pelago." One species, the Golden Oriole, migrates into 
Southern Europe, and occasionally reaches Great Britain 
and Sweden. They all build very ingenious nests. Our 
Orioles, of a wholly different type, and peculiar to the 
New World, especially to Central and South America, are 
closely related to the numerous Blackbirds of our country 
all of which are ranked among the Starlings. 

THE WARBLING VIREO. 

From a group of tall maples in a neighboring yard, there 
comes one of the most delightful warbles ever heard in this 
locality that of the Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus). In a 
series of liquid notes, very fluent and greatly prolonged 
for the size of the bird, in a smoothly undulating melody, 
delivered while the bird flits and gleans among the foliage, 
and in tones so sweet that it would seem as if the air 
melted in them, the very soul of tenderness and affection is 
breathed out upon the ear. In one of our rural burying- 
grounds, not long since, while a casket with the remains of 
a little child was being lowered into the grave, there mingled 
with the sobs of heart-broken mourners the inimitably ten- 
der warble of this bird from a tree-top just above. Never 
did the melody of bird or man seem more appropriate. It 
was at once the voice of sympathy and hope in the very 
presence of death. 

This inimitable melody, like that of some celestial flute 
or flageolet, never out of time, and never failing to charm, 
may be heard in our middle districts from the first days of 
May till the last of September. 

Though common to orchards and shaded front-yards, 
even in villages and cities, the Warbling Vireo is much 



THE WARBLING VIREO. 247 

oftener heard than seen. Nearly the size of a canary, 5.50 
long and 9.00 in extent, olivaceous-green above and yel- 
lowish-white beneath, it so nearly resembles the leaves 
as it glides softly and gracefully through the tree-tops 
that one must look sharply to detect it. But it is so 
utterly absent-minded as it flits and peers among the 
branches, meanwhile abandoning itself to its song, that one 
may come almost as near to it as one pleases. Though, 
like the rest of the Vireos, it takes its food and moves about 
like a Warbler, the bill, hooked and notched, broad at base 
and well bristled, reminded the older ornithologists of the 
Flycatchers, while its general structure now brings this 
family near the Shrikes a group of birds of altogether 
different habits of voice, food and nidification. The family 
Vireonidce. is entirely of the New World, and the genus Vireo, 
to which this warbling species belongs, is almost exclusively 
of North America, while the species itself pertains to the 
eastern parts. As in the case of the Vireos in general, male 
and female are alike. Like all the rest of its genus, it hangs 
by its edge a delicate pensile nest on the elastic twigs of 
some bush or tree; in the case of gilvus, almost always 
high up in the tree; the eggs, some .80X-55, being of a 
most delicate or flesh-tinted white, barely specked with dark- 
brown or black, are among the most beautiful of birds' eggs. 

The nests and eggs of the Vireos can never be mistaken, 
so wholly different are they from the nests and eggs of all 
other birds. Never shall I forget the tender sense of the 
beautiful which stole over me in the days of childhood, as 
I first beheld a nest of this bird. A very fairy-like basket 
of jewels it seemed. 

A warbling Vireo's nest, now before me, is hung on very 
small twigs at their junction with a larger upright twig, 
and is slightly fastened around the latter. It is woven of 



248 THE WARBLING VIREO. 

woody fibers, some dried grass and shreds of bark, inter- 
mixed with bits of wasp-nest, vegetable down, and the 
white, fine-spun substance of certain cocoons. It is lined 
with fine shreds of the grape-vine. Another nest, suspended 
in the ordinary way, is similarly made up, but very shallow, 
not more than 1^ inch in depth outside. 

Though the summer habitat of Vireo gilvus is given as far 
west as the High Central Plains, I do not think it extends 
very far north of Lake Ontario. I did not meet with it on 
Georgian Bay nor in Nova Scotia. Mr. Chamberlain does 
not report it from New Brunswick, and Mr. Everett Smith 
regards it as rare in Eastern Maine. It is probably a bird 
of the Alleghanian Fauna. 

The Brotherly-love, or Philadelphia Vireo, probably a 
closely-allied species to the Warbling, is also found occa- 
sionally in this locality. It is quite a little shorter than the 
latter, perhaps half an inch, and the colors are brighter 
the olivaceous having more of green, and the white having 
more of yellow the breast, for instance, being in some 
cases quite yellow. When first studying birds, the eye 
being not yet trained to the exact observance of form and 
color, I noticed the difference at once on procuring the 
Philadelphia. Like other Vireos, its nest and eggs are 
probably in close conformity to the general type. It is not 
uncommon in New England, nor in New Brunswick, while 
it is said to be abundant every spring, and quite common 
on the Red River of the north. 

Mr. Wm. Brewster found this species common about 
Umbagog Lake in the breeding season. He says: " Con- 
trary to what might be expected from the apparently close 
relationship of the two birds, the song of this species does 
not in the least resemble that of Vireo gilvus. It is, on the 
other hand, so nearly identical with that of V. olivaceus that 



THE WARBLING VIREO. 249 

the most critical ear will, in many cases, find great difficulty 
in distinguishing between the two. The notes of philadelphicus 
are generally pitched a little higher in the scale, while many 
of the utterances are feebler, and the whole strain is a trifle 
more disconnected. But these differences are of a very 
subtle character, and, like most comparative ones, they are 
not to be depended upon unless the two species can be heard 
together. The Philadelphia Vireo has, however, one note 
which seems to be peculiarly its own, a very abrupt, double- 
syllabled utterance, with a rising inflection, which comes in 
with the general song at irregular but not infrequent inter- 
vals." 

Similarity of appearance to the Vireos generally, and 
close resemblance in vocal habit to the Red-eyed Vireo, 
have no doubt caused the species under review hitherto to 
elude notice. Now that the points of discrimination have 
been so well brought out by Mr. Brewster, it may, perhaps, 
be found generally and commonly distributed in Eastern 
North America. 

In the deep forests, or .possibly in some thickly-shaded 
yard, already in the latter part of April, I may meet the 
Yellow-throated Vireo (Vireo flavifrons}. Well nigh six 
inches long, yellowish-green above, wings and tail deep 
dusky, the feathers edged with white or yellowish, wing- 
bars white; throat, breast and eye-lids bright yellow, the 
remaining under parts white, it is the brightest of its genus. 
It keeps well up in the tops of the trees, diligently glean- 
ing as it sings, vireo, vire-ee, wee-ree, etc., in tones rather 
shrill for a Vireo, and not nearly so finely modulated and 
fluent as those of its relative, the Red-eye, but greatly 
resembling them. Breeding "from Maryland and Virginia 
northward" (Coues), its nest, some 5 to 15 feet from the 
ground, is not uncommon in this locality. 



250 THE RED-EYED VIREO. 

One now before me is similar to that of the Red-eye. The 
walls, however, are thicker, the nest deeper, and hence more 
bulky; also more fully ornamented on the entire outside 
with a white material capsules of spiders' nests or cover- 
ings of some kind of chrysalid and around the bottom with 
bits of rotten wood, very porous and almost wHite, prob- 
ably bass-wood; the whole having a whitish or yellowish- 
gray and highly artistic appearance. Another, found June 
20th, is not any larger than the Red-eye's, but the outside 
is ornamented with skeleton leaves, fine vegetable fibers, 
down, capsules of spiders' nests, etc. The eggs, some .75 
or .80X-55 or .60, therefore rather longish and pointed, are 
pure white, with a few spots or mere specks of dark brown 
or black on the large end. 

THE RED-EYED VIREO. 

Certainly in a few days I shall meet in great abundance 
throughout the forest the Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus). 
Fully six inches long, it appears larger than most of its 
genus, and while it has the general colors of the Vireos or 
Greenlets, olive-green above and white or whitish beneath, 
its ashy crown flanked with a narrow line of black, and its 
white line over the eye, differentiate it alike from the 
Warbling and from the Philadelphia Vireo. Keeping, for 
the most part, in the upper regions of the thick foliage, it 
almost constantly enlivens the woods with its soft flowing 
warble; its tones, though "cheerful and happy as the merry 
whistle of a school-boy," being yet so much softer and 
sweeter than the Yellow-throats, as to be readily distin- 
guishable. Its melody, rendered in a spontaneous, absent- 
minded manner, seems simply a cheerful accompani- 
ment to business, something thrown in by the way. I 
know of no bird in our forest which sings so constantly 



THE RED-EYED VIREO. 251 

from early morning through the burning heat of noon, 
and on into the sombre shadows of the coming night, 
aye throughout the season from May to September, 
as this unpretending little summer resident. To quote 
Mr. Burroughs, "Rain or shine, before noon or after, 
in the deep forest or in the village grove when it is too 
hot for the Thrushes or too cold and windy for the War- 
blers it is never out of time or place for this little minstrel 
to indulge his cheerful strain." This song is in mellow, 
whistling tones, varied with rising and falling inflections, 
and may be represented by the syllables, virio-virio-viriee- 
viria-viree, etc., suggesting the origin of the bird's name. 
Some one has made it especially articulate in the following 
lines: 

" Pretty green worm, where are you ? 

Dusky-winged moth, how fare you, 

When wind and rain are in the trees ? 
Cheeryo, cheerebly, chee, 

Shadow and sunshine are one to me. 

" Mosquito and" gnat, beware you, 
Saucy chipmunk, how dare you 
Climb to my nest in the maple-tree ? 

And dig up the corn 

At noon and at morn ? 

Cheereyo, cheerebly, chee." 

Its small cup-shaped, pensile nest, hung to the twigs of a 
bush or tree, late in May or early in June, anywhere from 
several to twenty feet from the ground, located in any part 
of the forest, but seldom elsewhere, is, perhaps, not equal 
as a work of art to that of some other Vireos. It is com- 
posed, outside, of shreds of thin fibrous bark, of a light 
color, and ornamented with vegetable down, the silk of 
cocoons, bits of wasps' nests, etc. ; inside, of a few fine rootlets,, 



252 THE RED-EYED VIREO. 

but mostly of something like fine shreds of bark from the 
wild grape-vine. The eggs, three or four, measuring some 
.82X-62, of a pure glossy- white, are generally barely 
specked on the larger end with dark brown, sometimes also 
sparingly blotched with dull red. All the Vireo's eggs are 
more or less pointed. 

Never shall I forget a beautiful evening on the 18th of 
May, when I was most highly entertained by a female Red- 
eye building her nest. It was after one of those genial 
spring days, when all the latent forces of nature are wooed 
into activity. Strolling through the woods near sunset, I 
sat upon a large stump, where a lately fallen tree had left 
quite an opening, letting in the sunlight with a most grateful 
effect. Here I listened to a host of birds all around me. 
About fifteen feet up in a smallish beech, I noticed a silent 
Red-eye, looking very anxious and busy. Presently I saw 
a few feet from her the merest outline of a nest a little 
gossamer bag hung to the twigs. In a moment she lit upon 
it and began to work. I could see the motion of the 
weaver, but not a thread of the material, it was so very 
fine. Reaching around the fabric, even underneath it, she 
would seem to catch some loose thread, and drawing it over 
the side and edge, fasten it inside. Working thus a few 
moments, all around inside and outside of the nest, she 
would fly away, soon returning to repeat the same opera- 
tion. Though so near, I could scarcely discern a particle of 
the material she brought, and yet the nest grew rapidly. 
Wonderful little workman! Where did she learn her art? 

Wintering partly in Florida, but mostly in tropical America, 
and extending their summer range throughout the Eastern 
United States, the British Provinces, and the Northwest, 
the Red-eyed Vireos are among the most abundant and 
characteristic birds of Eastern North America. 



THE SOLITARY VIREO. 253 

THE SOLITARY VIREO. 

I also find the Solitary Vireo ( Vireo solitarius) here as a 
rare migrant in May. Some 5.00 inches long; head ashy; 
back, greenish-olive; ring around the eye, stripe thence to 
the nostrils; wing-bars, outer edges of the dusky wing and 
tail-feathers and under parts, white; sides tinged with yel- 
low this Vireo is readily distinguished from the rest, espe- 
cially by its larger head of plumbeous-blue and the white 
markings about the eye. As this bird has been found 
breeding near Boston, it would seem that it might breed 
here; but I know of no one who has found its nest. Its 
nidification seems to be principally in Northern New Eng- 
land and northward. Nuttall, that masterly interpreter of 
bird-music, says: "Its song seems to be intermediate be- 
tween that of the Red-eyed and the Yellow-breasted species, 
having the preai, preai, etc., of the latter, and the fine 
variety of the former in its tones." Minot says "the music 
of the Solitary Vireo is delicious." Burroughs speaks of a 
note of the female as suggesting " the bleating of a tiny 
lambkin." Mr. J. E. Wagner, an amateur ornithologist of 
good abilities for observation, in Nova Scotia, says that the 
song of the male is sometimes very much like certain of the 
finer strains of the Catbird, and that he is a most constant 
and spirited singer. 

The nest, in material, structure and position, is very 
similar to that of other Vireos. The eggs average ".77 X 
.58 " of an inch, and are pure white, with a very few minute 
and generally reddish-brown spots, principally at the larger 
end." A most elegant nest, just sent me by Mr. Wagner 
from Nova Scotia, the head and wing of the female accom- 
panying it, is very similar to that of the Red-eye. It was 
hung about eight feet from the ground, in the forked limb 
of a fir bush, is made of usnea, and fine shreds of the thinnest 



254: THE WHITE-EYED VIREO. 

bark of the white birch, being lined with fine dried grasses. 
The four eggs, fresh the 7th of June, about .78 x -56 as 
long and pointed as any Vireo's egg are pure white, 
sparsely specked with reddish-brown, mostly at the large 
end the specks looking as if they had been put on when 
the shell was soft, and so had run a little. 

Keeping to the forest, and exceedingly solitary and retiring 
in its habits, this bird ranges nearly throughout North 
America, and winters in the more tropical regions. Mr. 
Wagner reports the species as breeding very common in 
New Canada, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia, the female 
adhering most persistently to her nest, and defending it 
very bravely on leaving it. 

THE WHITE-EYED VIREO. 

The White-eyed Vireo (Vireo noveboracensis), "noted for 
its sprightly manners and emphatic voice," is but seldom 
found here. Mr. Ringueberg, of Lockport, has found it 
breeding near that city. The nest, now before me, is almost 
precisely like that of the Red-eye; built externally with 
fibers of bark, interlaced with webby material, lined with 
something brown, which appears to me to be the finest shreds 
of the bark of the wild grape-vine. The nest has one pecul- 
iar mark, however. It is well ornamented with bits of 
newspaper, in addition to the dried leaves, bits of wasps' 
nests, and "paper-like capsules of the spiders' nests," so 
common to the nests of the Vireo; and thus the bird main- 
tains its right to the name of Politician, given it by Wilson. 
This nest was in a bush in a small thicket. The single egg 
it contained was very similar to the egg of the Red-eye, but 
smaller, and the fine specks on the pure white ground, black 
or nearly so. 

The bird is 5 inches long; olive-green above, the wings 



THE WHITE-EYED VIREO. 255 

and tail being dusky, with feathers edged with greenish; 
throat light-ash; sides of the head, breast, and flanks bright 
yellow; thus having more yellow than any other Vireo except 
the Yellow-throat; wing-bars yellowish- white; vent white; iris 
white. On the whole, this is rather a southern bird, and 
barely reaches Western New York and Southern New 
England. Partial to thickets, especially about swamps, it is 
local in its distribution, and may be associated with the 
smilax or green-briar. The vocal habits of this bird are 
wholly different from those of the rest of the Vireos. Mr. 
Burroughs says: "The song of this bird is not particularly 
sweet and soft; on the contrary, it is a little hard and shrill, 
like that of the Indigo-bird or Oriole; but for brightness, 
volubility, execution, and power of imitation, he is unsur- 
passed by any of our northern birds. His ordinary note is 
forcible and emphatic, but, as stated, not especially musical; 
chick-a-re r-chick, he seems to say, hiding himself in the low, 
dense undergrowth, and eluding your most vigilant search, 
as if playing some part in a game. But in July or August, 
if you are on good terms with the sylvan deities, you may 
listen to a far more rare and artistic performance. Your 
first impression will be that that cluster of azaleas, or that 
clump of swamp-huckleberry, conceals three or four differ- 
ent songsters, each vying with the others to lead the chorus. 
Such a medley of notes, snatched from half the songsters of 
the field and forest, and uttered with the utmost clearness 
and rapidity, I am sure you cannot hear short of the 
haunts of the genuine Mockingbird. If not fully and accu- 
rately repeated, there are at least suggested the notes of the 
Robin, Wren, Catbird, High-hole, Goldfinch and Song- 
sparrow. The pip, pip of the last is produced so accurately 
that I verily believe it would deceive the bird herself; and 
the whole uttered in such rapid succession that it seems as 



256 THE WHITE-EYED VIREO. 

if the movement that gives the concluding notes of one 
strain must form the first note of the next. The effect is 
very rich, and, to my ear, entirely unique. The performer 
is very careful not to reveal himself in the meantime; yet 
there is a conscious air about the strain that impresses me 
with the idea that my presence is understood and my 
attention courted. A tone of pride and glee, and, occasion- 
ally, of bantering jocoseness, is discernible. I believe it is 
only rarely, and when he is sure of his audience, that he dis- 
plays his parts in this manner." 

" Next after the Warblers, the Greenlets (Vireos) are the 
most delightful of our forest birds, though their charms 
address the ear, and not the eye. Clad in simple tints that 
harmonize with the verdure, these gentle songsters warble 
their lays unseen, while the foliage itself seems stirred to 
music. In the quaint and curious ditty of the White-eye 
in the earnest voluble strains of the Red-eye in the tender 
secret that the Warbling Vireo confides in whispers to 
the passing breeze he is insensible who does not 
hear the echo of thoughts he never clothes in words." 
(Coues). 

The strictness with which this group of birds is defined 
as a family, alike in size, structure, color, and habits, is cer- 
tainly matter for reflection. For instance, how comes each 
Vireo to build that neat, cup-shaped, pensile nest, so peculiar 
to the family, and so unlike that of any other bird? Why is 
a Vireo's egg so unique? or, why should it be fashioned 
almost as from the same mould, and colored as if by the 
same brush? Comes all this by chance? Is it simply a 
self-evolved fact? Is it not rather a bit of that great 
and exact system of nature, which implies the working 
out of a perfect plan, after the design of an Infinite Intelli- 
gence? 



THE BROWN THRUSH. 257 

THE BROWN THRUSH. 

As I stroll along the edge of the woods during the fore- 
noon, I am greeted by a clear, voluble song, quite varied, 
and very musical, having an overflowing spontaneity, al- 
together peculiar. The singer is the Brown Thrush (Harp- 
orhynchus rufus]. Bearing a decided resemblance in song to 
its near relative, the Catbird, it has nothing whatever of the 
marvelous mimicry of its other near relative, the Mocking- 
bird, all of them being related to the Thrushes proper. 
The spirited and very rapid warble of this so-called Thrush 
is exceedingly animating, and is susceptible of a great 
variety of interpretations. To Thoreau, while planting his 
beans, it seemed to say: "Drop it, drop it cover it up, 
cover it up pull it up, pull it up, pull it up;" Audubon 
compared it to "the careful lullaby of some blessed mother 
chanting her babe to repose;" while Wilson was led to say, 
"we listen to its notes with a kind of devotional ecstasy, 
as a morning hymn to the great and most adorable Creator 
of all." It has a novel and. most pleasing sweetness to me, 
as this bird is but a rare resident in this part of the coun- 
try. A nest before me, found near Lockport, corresponds 
well with the description given by Wilson and other au- 
thors quite flat, made outside of sticks and coarse stalks of 
herbs, then dry leaves, and inside, of rootlets, contains four 
or five bluish-tinted eggs, 1.05 X .78, well specked all over 
with reddish-brown and pale lilac. It is placed in a bush, 
sometimes in d tree or hedge, occasionally on the ground, 
never far from it, in a thicket or bushy pasture along or near 
the woods, such being the chosen places of its residence. 
In some parts of the west, where it keeps to the narrow 
strips of wood which skirt the streams of the prairies, and 
which are frequently quite deeply overflowed in summer, 
17 



258 THE BROWN THRUSH. 

the nests are placed quite a distance from the ground, and 
always above the highest mark of the flood. 

When the nest of this species is approached, especially if 
the young are hatched, the parents become greatly excited, 
uttering a strong, metallic chip, which is alike noticeable 
and characteristic. 

Some 11.25 long and 13.30 in extent, the entire upper 
parts reddish-brown, the lower parts, except the throat, 
creamy-white, spotted and streaked with brown or black, 
thus showing a relation to the Thrushes it is especially 
noticeable by means of its long tail, which it drops and 
partly spreads as, with head and somewhat long bill thrown 
forward, it perches and sings in full view. 

Audubon's fine picture of a scene he witnessed a group of 
Brown Thrushes driving the black snake from a nest as he 
twines around its support, jostling out the eggs and squeezing 
the life out of the mother-bird represents the neighborly 
spirit and noble courage of this species. It is easily domesti- 
cated and capable of remarkable friendship for man. One 
kept by Dr. Bachman used to follow him about the yard and 
garden. "The instant it saw me take a spade or a hoe," he 
says," it would follow at my heels, and as I turned up the earth 
would pick up every insect or worm thus exposed to view. I 
kept it for three years, and its affection for me cost it its life. 
It usually slept on the back of my chair, in my study, and one 
night the door being accidentally left open, it was killed by 
a cat. I once knew a few of these birds to remain the 
whole of a mild winter in the State of New York in a wild 
state." 

Mr. Bartram, the distinguished naturalist of Philadel- 
phia, and the friend of Wilson, furnished the latter with 
the following note, concerning the sagacity of a Brown 
Thrush which he had domesticated. " Being very fond of 



THE SCARLET TAN ACER. 259 

wasps, after catching them, and knocking them about to 
break their wings, he would lay them down, then examine 
if they had a sting, and, with his bill, squeeze the abdomen 
to clear it of the reservoir of poison before he would swal- 
low his prey. When in his cage, being very fond of dry 
crusts of bread, if, upon trial, the corners of the crumbs 
were too hard and sharp for his throat, he would throw 
them up, carry and put them in his water-dish to soften, 
and then take them out and swallow them." 

The Brown Thrush is a bird of the Eastern United 
States, wintering south, extending northward in summer 
into the British Provinces, being very common about Great 
Manitoulin Island, and breeding throughout its range. 

THE SCARLET TANAGER. 

I continue my early morning ramble along the edge of a 
beautiful forest. The whole atmosphere seems to vibrate 
to the song of birds. Some of them I hear for the first 
time in the season. The song in yonder elm, for instance, 
bearing quite a resemblance to that of the Robin, only 
softer and less copious and fluent, is fresh and new this 
morning; it is the song of the Scarlet Tanager (Pyranga 
rubrd), and compares well with any song in the woods, short 
of that of the Thrushes. And yet neither Wilson nor 
Audubon mentions anything more of song for this bird 
than the chip, chur-r-r-r, which is its common note. There, 
I get a full view of him now, amidst the dark green of that 
hemlock. Always slow and dignified in his motions, what 
a brilliant beauty he is! Nearly the size of a Baltimore 
or a Bobolink, 6.75 long and 11.73 in extent, he is 
a pure, bright scarlet, with jet-black wings and tail. 
Moving with a steady flight, he has lit on the side 
of a moss-covered log, by a small pool, smooth as a 



260 THE SCARLET TAN ACER. 

mirror. The scene is double, for the bird in the water is as 
brilliant as that among the moss; and the water mirrors 
not only the bird and the moss-covered log,, but the sky. 
I sympathize with this little creature's peaceful pleasures as 
he dips his bill and drinks, then straightens himself up, 
fills his throat and warbles, and drinks and warbles again. 
Did Eden itself afford anything prettier than this of its 
kind? Even the Creator must experience delight in such 
quiet joys of His creatures. 

For the first week after his arrival the Tanager seems 
anxiously waiting for his rather plain colored mate of 
dull green above, yellowish beneath, and dusky wings and 
tail. I once found her, however, delicately tinged with red, 
a genuine beauty. During this time of waiting, he will 
keep up his chip, chur-r-r, sometimes in a most animated 
manner. Only occasionally will he indulge in his fine war- 
ble. Meanwhile he keeps almost entirely to the woods. 
Rarely he may be seen on the fence, or he may stray to the 
orchard, or, if you are plowing near the woods, a half-dozen 
of these scarlet beauties may visit your furrow, and glean 
insects, according to their common habit of diet. 

When the female arrives, shy and retiring, according to 
the manner of female birds at such times, she at once 
receives the most winning attentions. Now the song is 
more frequent, the utterance of the common note may be 
quite excited, and there is a display of graceful motions 
and brilliant colors. See him stand before her with droop- 
ing wings and spreading tail! How finely he hovers in her 
presence, looking like burning scarlet amidst the black 
cloud of his vibrating wings. Now she is joined to her 
consort, and for the rest of the season the two are inseparable. 

Soon they retire, for the most part, pretty well into the 
forest, generally choosing as the site for their nest the 



THE SCARLET TAN ACER. 261 

horizontal bough of some pretty good sized tree, anywhere 
from ten to thirty feet from the ground; oftener near the 
latter height, though I have pulled down the limb and 
looked into the nest. A frail fabric, indeed, is this nest. 
Begun with small twigs, stalks of weeds, strips of bark, 
with a very little wool or down, perhaps, and lined with fine 
rootlets or very fine dried spray of some evergreen (in this 
locality generally the hemlock), the whole being somewhat 
shallow, and very raggedly woven; one may almost count 
the eggs from beneath. These, three or four, laid here late 
in May, are .90 X .65 of an inch, delicate light-green, specked 
or heavily spotted with reddish-brown. This nest is often 
imposed upon by the Cow Blackbird. I once found one 
containing four of these eggs, and but two of the Tanager's; 
the former being in various stages of incubation, while the 
latter were nearly fresh. 

Wilson relates a beautiful incident concerning the parental 
affection of the Tanager. He says: "Passing through an 
orchard one morning I caught one of these young birds that 
had but lately left the nest. I carried it with me about half 
a mile to show it to my friend, Mr. William Bartram; and, 
having procured a cage, hung it up in one of the large pine 
trees in the botanic garden, within a few feet of the nest of 
an Orchard Oriole, which also contained young, hopeful 
that the charity or tenderness of the Orioles would induce 
them to supply the cravings of the stranger. But charity 
with them, as with too many of the human race, began and 
ended at home. The poor orphan was altogether neglected, 
notwithstanding its plaintive cries; and, as it refused to be 
fed by me, I was about to return it back to the place where 
I found it, when, towards the afternoon, a Scarlet Tanager, 
no doubt its own parent, was seen fluttering round the cage, 
endeavoring to get in. Finding this impracticable, he flew 



262 THE SCARLET TAN ACER. 

off, and soon returned with food in his bill, and continued 
to feed it till after sunset, taking up his lodgings on the 
higher branches of the same tree. In the morning, almost 
as soon as day broke, he was again seen most actively 
engaged in the same affectionate manner; and, notwith- 
standing the insolence of the Orioles, continued his benev- 
olent offices the whole day, roosting at night as before. On 
the third or fourth day he appeared extremely solicitous 
for the liberation of his charge, using every expression of 
distressful anxiety, and every call and invitation that nature 
had put in his power for him to come out. This was too 
much for the feelings of my venerable friend; he procured 
a ladder, and, mounting to the spot where the bird was 
suspended, opened the cage, took out the prisoner, and 
restored him to liberty and to his parent, who, with notes of 
great exultation, accompanied his flight to the woods. The 
happiness of my good friend was scarcely less complete, 
and showed itself in his benevolent countenance; and I 
could not refrain saying to myself: If such sweet sensations 
can be derived from a single circumstance of this kind, how 
exquisite how unspeakably rapturous must the delight 
of those individuals have been, who have rescued their 
fellow-beings from death, chains, and imprisonment, and 
restored them to the arms of friends and relations! Surely 
in such God-like actions virtue is its own most abundant 
reward." 

In time of cherries, when the family is absent, and every- 
thing is quiet, the Tanager may come even into the door- 
yard to vary his insect diet with this fruit, so highly in favor 
with the birds. 

Late in summer, or early in autumn, the families move 
south, the old male having changed his coat of scarlet for 
one of green, sometimes quite a little spotted with yellow, 



THE SCARLET TAN ACER. 263 

the young male a beautiful dark green, with black wings 
and tail, the young female resembling her mother. Winter- 
ing in the tropics, they range northward in spring, through 
the Eastern United States, somewhat into the British 
Provinces, though becoming rare already in Northern New 
England. They breed throughout their range. 

The observer of birds will soon notice that in about every 
case of a brilliant male, the female is exceedingly plain, as 
are also the young. Here is one of those suggestive facts, 
which lead the reflecting mind to ask the reason why. 
This does not look like mere chance; moreover, it serves a 
purpose. Excepting a brief period in the breeding season, 
the life of the female is of immensely greater importance 
to the perpetuation of the species than that of the male ; 
and the young, all unsuspecting of danger, need special pro- 
tection. Their plain colors render them alike unattractive 
to the eye of man, and inconspicuous to the bird or beast of 
prey. Even the male sometimes has his gay livery only in 
the breeding season, thus being protected in his southern 
migration and early winter residence. Can any ingenious 
conjecture of "Natural Selection " explain this significant 
fact in coloration ? Is not this an evidence of mind in the 
creation ? Or will the objector attribute a faculty of con- 
scious design to matter itself ? Might he not then as well 
believe in a personal Creative Intelligence ? How else shall 
we explain this mysterious something revealed in matter, 
which seems to know just what is fit under all circum- 
stances ? 

Similar to the above is the Summer Redbird (Pyranga 
CRstivd]. The length is 7.20, the stretch 11.87; the male is 
vermilion, brightest on the head, darker on the back, bright 
beneath; wings and tail brownish. The female is olivaceous- 
green above, yellowish below, wings darker or brownish. 



264 



ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK. 



Young, similar to the female. The bill is thicker in this spe- 
cies than in the Tanager. This is a bird of the Southern 
States, extending into Southern Illinois in the west. Its nest 
and eggs are similar to those of the Tanager, and its song 
is loud and melodious. 

ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK. 

That song coming from the edge of the woods, and 
strongly resembling the finest performance of the Robin 
only the warble is much more copious, continuously pro- 




ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK. 



longed, and finely modulated with a peculiar richness, 
purity, and sweet pathos in the tones is the music of the 
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Goniaphealudoviciand}. Jet black 
with snow-white markings, the tint of rose on his breast 
and under his wings, he is the most strikingly beautiful of 
all our summer visitants ; and in the charm of song, as a 
poet and artist of the woodlands, he may rank even with 



ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK. 265 

the Thrushes. About 8 inches long ; the head, neck and 
upper parts are black ; bill, rump, under parts and mark- 
ings on wings arid tail, white ; breast, rose-carmine ; lining 
under the wings, delicate rose. The female has the upper 
parts light brown, streaked with darker ; a line over the eye, 
a slight one below it, and one over the middle of the crown; 
tips of wing coverts, and under parts, white ; breast and 
sides streaked and spotted with brown ; bright yellow under 
the wings, and sometimes a tinge of the same on the upper 
part of the breast. I have also seen a rose-tint mixed with 
the yellow under her wings, and a most delicate tinge of the 
purest rose on the white rump of the male. The large bill 
of this bird, so strongly characterizing it and the group to 
which it belongs, is in such harmony with the general shape 
of the head as in nowise to mar its beauty. Indeed, the 
fleshy-tinged whiteness of this prominent organ rather adds 
to the elegance of the species. 

The stranger to our sylvan retreats will scarcely meet 
this charming bird; for its most agreeable summer 
resort is in swampy woods, where the shadows are 
deepened by tangled vines and a rank undergrowth, 
where flowers are large and deeply tinted from rich vege- 
table molds, and where the fragrant atmosphere is cool and 
moist. Often it is found in the thickets forming a sort of 
border-line between field and forest, and often in the lofty 
arcades of the densest and darkest woodlands. In such 
places, and rather local in his distribution, the male makes 
his appearance in Western New York from the first to the 
tenth of May; and stretching himself on tiptoe, delivers, in 
a hurried and spirited manner, his rare and delightful 
melody, giving one the impression of an exalted and unut- 
terable joy in a language which means much, but leaves 
much behind. Sometimes several appear together, vying 



266 ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK. 

with each other in song, and gamboling in the most sportive 
manner. A few days later, when the leaves unfolding in 
their soft down have fully expanded, the coy female appears. 
Her plain light colors are strongly in contrast with the 
ebony, chalk- white and deep rose of her consort; and as 
she is almost voiceless, a glimpse of her amidst the thick 
foliage is rather rare. 

The nest of this species, built late in May, is a frail and 
loosely-woven affair, placed in the top of a bush or on the 
lower horizontal limb of a tree. It is composed outside of 
small sticks, fine twigs, or coarse strawy material, orna- 
mented with a few skeleton-leaves, and is lined with very 
fine twigs of some evergreen (here, of the hemlock), or 
with fine rootlets, sometimes being finished with horse-hair, 
and the whole structure so loosely put together that one 
can see through it from beneath. The eggs, four or five, 
l.OOx-75, are light green, specked and spotted with brown 
and lilac, the markings often thickened or wreathed around 
the large, sometimes around the small, end. In every way 
the nest and eggs bear a strong resemblance to those of 
the Scarlet Tanager, the nests of both these brilliant species 
being a sort of rude log-cabin affair, compared with the 
elegant nest-homes of many of our feathered tribes. 

I have more frequently found the male than the female 
on the nest. When disturbed they both keep very near, 
moving about the branches with much excitement, as they 
emit a sharp, creaking kimp, kimp, quite unlike the note of 
any other bird of my acquaintance. Though abundant 
here in their migrations, and breeding very commonly, it 
often requires a great deal of careful watching to get a 
glimpse of even the male. So shy and retiring is he at nearly 
all times as to be much more frequently heard than seen. 
He has been in favor as a cage-bird, and is said by some 



ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK. 26 T 

to sing freely in the night. Though he belongs to the 
Sparrows and Finches, and is therefore a seed and grain- 
eating bird in structure, he devours multitudes of insects. 
In early autumn, as the young males go south, resembling 
the female in color and marking, only much darker and 
richer, and delicately tinged with rose on the throat and 
breast, on the crown, and under the wings, they are truly 
beautiful. 

Wintering in the tropics, migrating through Eastern 
North America, rather rare in New England, but not un- 
common in Nova Scotia, the Rose-breast breeds from the 
Middle States to the latitudes of Labrador. It will thus 
be seen to belong to the Canadian as well as to the Alle- 
ghanian Fauna. 

The Blue Grosbeak (Goniaphea ccerulea), some 7.25 long, the 
male blue, the female brown, is a southern species, reaching 
the District of Columbia, or even Pennsylvania in the east, 
and breeding commonly about Manhattan, Kansas, in the 
west. Excepting its greater size, it bears a great resem- 
blance to the Indigo Bird in color, song, and nidification. 
The nest is in a tree not many feet from the ground. It is 
rather bulky, composed externally of paper, weeds, strings, 
bits of cotton or wool and cast-off snake-skins, and is lined 
with rootlets, fine grasses or horse-hairs. The three or four 
oval eggs, .95X-62, are pale-blue. 

The Evening Grosbeak (Hesperiphona vespertind) is a 
straggler from the northwest. Some 7.50 -8.50 long, "dusky 
olivaceous; brighter behind; forehead, line over eye and 
under tail-coverts, yellow; crown, wings, tail, and tibiae 
black, the secondary quills, mostly white; bill greenish- 
yellow, of immense size." (Coues.) It is noted for its 
melodious evening song. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE SWAMP, THE FIELD, AND THE LAKE. 

IN all the domain of nature there is nothing which closely 
resembles the nidification of birds. Certain reptiles lay 
eggs, but, properly speaking, make no nest; nor are their eggs, 
which differ very materially from those of birds, incubated 
by the warmth of their bodies. Every animal comes from 
an egg, but in the case of mammalia, the young are brought 
forth alive, and nourished by the milk of the female parent. 
In the case of a bird, whether moving in the air or on the 
water, lightness is a prime necessity. Hence, in bringing 
forth their numerous progeny, they do not perform the 
office of gestation; but the nest, and the external warmth of 
the body, so well secured by the plumage, serve the purpose 
of the uterine organs in the mammalia. Wonderful indeed is 
that internal impulse of instinct, by which the bird is in- 
duced to make a nest, and by which it is guided in the loca- 
tion and manner of constructing the same. How came that 
mother-bird to know she needed a nest ? Who instructed 
her to adapt it to its peculiar purpose ? What strange power 
keeps her on the nest till the young are brought forth ? 

For the most part, the different species of birds have cer- 
tain well-defined plans for building their nests, as well as 
certain places for locating them. The nest is placed on the 
limbs of a tree or bush, in a natural or prepared cavity, in 
an excavation of the earth, in some cemented structure, or, 



NIDIFICA TIOiV. 269 

more frequently than anywhere else, on the ground. Again 
these nests are variously formed and joined together. They 
are flat and loosely built of coarse materials, in the case 
of most birds of prey and Herons, and these birds are called 
platform-builders; or, they are more or less cup-shaped, 
rimmed up, as in the case of the majority of nests built 
about trees and bushes, and on the ground; or, they are 
more or less basket-shaped, as, for example, the nests of the 
Red-winged Blackbird and the Vireos; or, they are sewed 
together, as those of the Orioles, or that of the famous 
Tailor-bird; or, they have the structure of a loose felt; or, 
they are dome-shaped. Hence, some very intelligent writers 
have attempted to classify birds according to their styles of 
nidification, calling them carpenters, masons, miners, plat- 
form-builders, basket-makers, felt-makers, weavers, cement- 
ers, tailors, etc. But this method of classification fails to 
conform to any other system, and bears no relation what- 
ever to the most important data for determining orders. 
Birds so similar in structure and habit, as to represent the 
same order, may vary essentially in their nidification. Most 
kinds of Hawks, for instance, build platform-nests in trees, 
while other kinds construct quite different nests on the 
ground, and others still lay their eggs in cavities of trees, 
almost without any nest whatever. The different kinds of 
Swallows also adopt widely different modes of nesting, some 
occupying cavities in trees or stumps, while others are 
miners, tunneling a cavity into the ground, and others still 
are cementers. Besides, the above method is imperfect in 
itself, failing to make provision for some very important 
groups, as those which commonly occupy cavities already 
prepared, or those which lay their eggs on the ground with- 
out any nest, or those which build their nests, raft-like, on 
the water. Nor does the same species always construct or 



270 NIDIFICA TION. 

place its nest in the same way. The Song Sparrow is gen- 
erally a ground-builder, but in the latter part of the season 
it frequently places its nest in a hedge or in a low bush. 
The Crow Blackbirds, in these parts, invariably build in a 
tree, but in the south, Audubon found them appropriating 
the cavities of trees, while Wilson not infrequently found 
them a sort of parasite on the nest of the Fish Hawk. 

For the most part, birds' eggs are objects of great beauty. 
Their form is unique and fine, their surface highly finished, 
and their colors and markings often elegant. How strongly 
differentiated too, generally, are the eggs of the birds of 
each family! The blue-green eggs of the Thrushes; the 
translucent white eggs of the Woodpeckers; the delicate, 
white gems, specked with red, deposited by Titmice, Nut- 
hatches and Creepers; the roundish, pure- white eggs of the 
Owls; the light bluish-green eggs of the Herons; and the 
smooth-shelled, creamy or green-tinted eggs of the Ducks, 
are all data for classification to the naturalist. 

Richard Owen, the great comparative anatomist of Eng- 
land, after giving the complicated and wonderful history of 
an egg in its various stages till it reaches perfection; and 
after showing the nice contrivances in the yolk and albu- 
men, by which the cicatricle or germ is always held upper- 
most, no matter how many times the egg is turned over, in 
order to keep it in contact with the sitting dam, and so 
secure incubation and protect it from jars or injuries in 
harsh movements; and after showing how " the domed form 
of the hard shell enables it to bear the superincumbent 
weight of the brooding mother," well says: "How these 
modifications of the oviparous egg in anticipatory relation to 
the needs and conditions of incubation can be brought 
about by 'selective' or other operations of an unintelligent 
nature is not conceivable by me." 



BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER. 271 

These different birds' eggs, placed in varied and artistic 
styles of nests, make bird-nesting peculiarly fascinating, 
especially when it gratifies a thirst for knowledge. Then 
the careful manner in which many nests are hidden away 
among grass and foliage, or placed in remote regions, almost 
beyond the reach of civilization, makes them objects of an 
exciting curiosity, and contributes greatly to their value. 

One of my most interesting places for the study of birds 
in their breeding haunts is Tonawanda Swamp, bordering 
Orleans County on the south, extending into Genesee County 
southward, and far to the eastward and westward. Very 
different indeed is the character of its various localities. 
Here, in the midst of an almost undisturbed wilderness are 
glassy ponds and coves, where various water-birds revel in 
their migrations, and in the vicinity of which some rear their 
young. Here are miry marshes, tracts of fallen trees par- 
tially submerged, forests and low lands of dense shrubbery 
standing in the water a great part of the year; dense groves 
of cedar, extensive moss-bogs, cranberry marshes, and wild 
meadows dry in summer and in early autumn. It is a very 
paradise of wild flowers, shrubs, climbing and running vines, 
and plants both delicate and curious. 

BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER. 

On a beautiful morning, the 7th of May, I enter one of the 
cedar groves of the above region. In these deep shadowy 
recesses I hear in various directions the song of the Black- 
throated Green Warbler (Dendrceca virens]. The notes are 
most peculiar, and once identified can never be forgotten. 
Many writers have described this song, for it seems to sug- 
gest' to almost every one some fancied phrase. One has 
given it as " Hear me Saint Ther-e-sa" while one of my 
private correspondents represents the song by the ditty, 



272 BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER. 

"A little bit of bread and no cheese j" and one distinguished 

writer has indicated it simply by straight lines, thus, 

^~ . In all these attempts I can detect a fair de- 
scription of the song, though none of them would have been 
suggested to my ear. I never hear the song, however, with- 
out thinking of the following resemblance : " Wee-wee-su- 
see," each syllable uttered slowly and well drawn out; that 
before the last in a lower tone than the two former, and the 
last syllable noticeably on the upward slide; the whole being 
a sort of insect tone, altogether peculiar, and by no means 
unpleasing. It seems somehow to harmonize finely with 
pines, larches and hemlocks. 

The ordinary four syllables of this ditty are sometimes 
increased in number in the first part, sounding like wee-wee- 
wee-wee-su-see, and it is then uttered more hurriedly, making 
you feel that a breeze may soon spring up among the pines; 
and generally the different strains are intermixed with sharp 
chipping notes, making the bird appear more spirited as it 
nears you sufficiently to bring these metallic notes within 
hearing. 

Many a time have I strained my eyes after this little song- 
ster, looking up into the thick cedars till my neck seemed 
almost dislocated, and getting only an occasional glimpse 
of him, so shy is he as he moves leisurely about in these 
shadowy abodes. A sight of him, however, well rewards the 
effort, for he is a rare beauty. About 5.00 long, moulded 
after the Dendroeca, the olivaceous-green above often contains 
fine triangular spots of black; the dusky wing and tail 
feathers have a narrow, outward edge of white, while the 
cheeks of lemon-yellow with a wavy line of blackish through 
the eye, the white bars across the wing, and the jet-black 
throat, breast and sides bounding the greenish white under 
parts, differentiate him strongly. The colors and markings 



BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER. 273 

of the female are similar, but generally more obscure, al- 
though I have seen her almost as fine as the male. 

This Warbler is always to be associated with evergreen 
groves and forests. In New England it is found among 
the pines, here among the cedars and hemlocks. As its 
nest is placed well up in the almost impenetrable thickets 
of these branches, it is exceedingly difficult to find. In 
this (Tonawanda) swamp, where the bird resides in abund- 
ance throughout the summer, I have searched for its nest 
days at a time, lying on the ground and watching the birds 
in all their movements, and then climbing into the trees 
and continuing to observe them while they kept up their 
flitting motions and their song, almost constantly through- 
out the day, and even into the dusk of the evening; but 
never did I succeed in finding the nest in this locality. On 
the 17th of last June (1881), at the foot of the Lecloche 
Mountains, just north of Great Manitoulin Island, on the 
Georgian Bay, I finally found the nest. About half a mile 
from the bay, where the rushing waters of Lacloche Creek 
left a lake in the mountains for this grand outlet, I had dis- 
covered the Warblers to be very numerous the Black- 
throated Blue, the Yellow-rump or Myrtle Bird, the Yellow- 
backed Blue, the Black -and -yellow or Spotted, the 
Chestnut-sided, and I think I also heard the Black-poll 
Warbler. But so tormentingly numerous were the black 
flies, mosquitoes, and gnats, or " no-see-ums," as the Indi- 
ans call them, that to remain there for observation was 
unendurable. Again and again did I apply the olive oil 
and tar, so highly recommended as a preventive of this 
nuisance, but it relieved me only a little longer than while 
I was rubbing it on. Noticing that the Indians in my 
vicinity made their half-open wigwams apparently free 
from these vermin by a smudge in front, or to the wind- 
18 



274 BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER. 

ward, I concluded to profit by their example, and setting a 
match to a few dry leaves and shreds of birch-bark, upon 
which I piled green hemlock boughs, I soon had a relief, 
which was both complete and agreeable; the hemlock giv- 
ing off a most delightful fragrance, as well as an abundance 
of smoke, in combustion. For a radius of several rods 
around me my minute tormentors were obliged to flee; and 
on a bed of moss surrounded by the delicate and odorous 
little twin-flower (that beauty of the northern parts of both 
the Old World and the New, so greatly admired by, as well 
as named after, the great Linnaeus), I continued my obser- 
vations in peace. For a while I watch a pair of little Yel- 
low-backed Blue Warblers, tugging at a bunch of so-called 
long-green moss alias usnea hanging from the dead limb 
of a tall hemlock; but I am soon diverted by the near 
approach of a Black-throated Green Warbler, hopping 
about very nervously, her mouth full of small, green larva. 
Understanding the sign full well, I am all attention, and the 
bird seems equally attentive to me. For some time she 
dallies and delays, but the knowledge of hungry little 
mouths overcomes the parent's hesitation, and in a more or 
less zigzag line, now behind the thick branches and now in 
plain sight, she soon reaches the nest; which, behold ! is on 
the limb of a young hemlock, just above my head. " So near 
and yet so far!" full well applies to bird-nesting. Not a 
few birds deserve but little sympathy in the loss of their 
nests they are such witches at hiding them away! No 
time to lose. I hug the tree and scramble to the nest, some 
twenty feet from the ground, a few feet from the trunk, and 
where the limb sends out several small boughs. The founda- 
tion of the structure is of fine shreds of bark of the white 
birch, fine dry twigs of the hemlock, bits of fine grass, 
weeds, and dried rootlets, intermixed with usnea, and lined 



BLACK-AND-WHITE CREEPING WARBLER. 275 

with rootlets, fine grass, some feathers, and horse-hair. It 
was rather loose, open, and bulky, and contained four 
young, partly fledged. Failing to find the eggs for myself, 
I resort for description to a set from Reading, Massachu- 
setts, in Professor Ward's collection at Rochester, N. Y. 
They are four in number, about .70 x -49, creamy-white, 
having a well-defined and beautiful wreath of spots and 
small blotches of red, brown and lilac, intermixed with a 
few specks of black. 

Wintering in Cuba, Mexico and Central America, Den- 
drceca virens ranges through Eastern North America, breed- 
ing from New York and Southern New England northward 
to Newfoundland. It enters its breeding habitat by the 
first week of May, and leaves in October. It has been found 
in Greenland and in Europe as a straggler. 

THE BLACK-AND-WHITE CREEPING WARBLER. 

In this thick grove of cedars I am almost constantly within 
sight or sound of the Black-and-white Creeping Warbler 
{Mniotilta varid). About five inches long, spotted and 
streaked all over, except a white space underneath, with 
jet-black and chalk-white, this bird is very conspicuous as 
it moves in a hopping, jerking manner and in a spiral 
direction, very much in the style of the Brown Creeper, 
along the trunks and larger limbs of trees. Like the latter, 
too, it has the habit of descending to the lower part of the 
trunk of a neighboring tree, when getting pretty well up; 
but its sharply defined markings, especially the broad white 
line over the head and back of the neck, cause it to be seen 
much more readily than its little brown neighbor, which is 
so similar in color and markings to the bark which it climbs 
with such ease and gracefulness. But while his movements 
are those of a Creeper, the structure of Mniotilta is that of a 



276 BLACK-AND-WHITE CREEPING WARBLER. 

Warbler, except that his front toes are a little more joined 
together at the base, and his hind toe a little longer and his bill 
somewhat curved toward the tip. Very remarkable indeed is 
this joint relationship of certain birds with two or more 
different groups, so that it is only by a careful noting of 
their stronger affinities that we can find their rank in classi- 
fication. They serve as a sort of softening or blending of 
the otherwise harsher boundaries of orders. 

Not only does our little bird readily attract the eye; his 
fine, soft and yet distinct song, ki-tsee, ki-tsee, ki-tsee, ki-tsee y 
as slender to the ear as " hair-wire " to the eye, and rather 
monotonous indeed, but so peculiar, so tender, so musical, 
as even to soften and sweeten surrounding nature is 
equally attractive and pleasing to the ear. Warbler or 
Creeper, he is one of the most welcome and beloved com- 
panions of the dark woods and deep, swampy ravines which 
he is wont to inhabit. Always keeping more or less to the 
lower story of his shadowy abodes, his nest is generally on 
the ground, near the root of a decaying stump or tree, 
and so placed that "an overhanging rock, a log, the branch- 
ing roots of a tree, or herbage of the preceding year affords 
protection." It is a rather loose and scanty structure of 
dried leaves and grasses, strips of bark, or pine needles, 
containing perhaps some vegetable down and horse-hair as 
lining. 

The eggs, averaging about four, .YOX-50 or a little 
more, and somewhat pointed, are creamy white, finely 
specked, more thickly around the large end, with light brown 
and a little pale lilac. The situation of this Warbler's nest 
seems to vary considerably, however, in some cases. In 
Louisiana Audubon found it "usually placed in some small 
hole in a tree." Nuttall found one "niched in the shelving 
of a rock." Dr. Brewer reports one found in the drain of a 



BLACK-AND-WHITE CREEPING WARBLER. 277 

house, while H. D. Minot found one u in the cavity of a tree 
rent by lightning, and about five feet from the ground," 
and another "on the top of a low birch stump, which stood 
in a grove of white oaks." 

A nest, received from Nova Scotia, found with callow 
young on the 19th of June, was placed on the top of an old 
stump, about two feet from the ground, so set in the moss 
and dried leaves as to be pretty much concealed, the top of 
the stump somehow supporting several young maples. The 
nest is quite deep and substantial, composed of leaves and 
coarse bark-fibers throughout. It bears a decided resem- 
blance to the nest of the Golden-winged Warbler. 

The chipping, or ordinary alarm and conversational notes, 
of the Black-and-white Creeper is somewhat varied, and 
the female is not so clearly marked, having the black and 
white of the throat of the male replaced by a dull white or 
grayish. Migratory throughout Eastern North America, 
even to the fur countries, a few only remaining in the extreme 
Southern States in winter, this bird breeds throughout its 
range, in this habit resembling the Brown Creeper rather 
than the Warblers. 

As I observe this Creeping Warbler, so industriously 
gleaning the smaller insects with their eggs and larvae from 
the bark of our forest trees, I am reminded of the economic 
utility of our birds in the destruction of insects. The 
Woodcock and Wilson's Snipe bore into the soft ground in 
search of worms; the Sparrows, the Blackbirds, the 
Thrushes, and many others, glean the caterpillars, grubs, 
beetles and bugs upon its surf ace; the Barn and Eave Swal- 
lows, the Purple Martin, the Bluebird and the Common 
Wren, greatly reduce the spiders and other noxious insects 
about our residences; King Birds, Shrikes, Orioles, Robins, 
Goldfinches, the Yellow Warbler and the Warbling Vireo 



278 BLACK-AND-WHITE CREEPING WARBLER. 

protect the gardens and orchards against their numberless 
pests; the Warblers, Vireos, Creepers and Nuthatches guard 
our noble forests from the topmost foliage to the lower 
bark-crevices; while even the Hawks and Owls contribute 
not a little to the same great work of keeping in check the 
swarming hosts of insects. The feathered tribes are there- 
fore our most useful allies against that part of animated 
nature which more than any other endangers our welfare, 
namely, those insects which threaten our very subsistence. 
It may be doubted whether the indiscriminate slaughter of 
any of our birds is wise. 

Changing my position somewhat in this great swamp, I 
come into a wet slashing, having a dense second growth of 
evergreens and various kinds of hard wood. O, the native 
vines and wild flowers which everywhere abound! How 
completely that Virginia creeper has enveloped the trunk 
and larger limbs of yonder tall elm, its digitate or hand- 
shaped leaves of five pointed and serrate leaflets of dark and 
glossy green, covering the bark like a thick luxuriant mantle, 
and making the tree appear at once most graceful and 
superb. That virgin's bower entwining its petioles so ele- 
gantly around a clump of bushes, either in its bloom so like 
a fall of light snow-flakes, or in the heavy plumes of its 
fruitage, may vie with any member of its family, even the 
gay hybrids of the Old World. The remains of that large 
tree a very monarch of the forest, fallen generations ago 
perhaps is enrobed in a thick plumose covering of hyp- 
num mosses, variegated with star-flowers and mitreworts, in 
a manner which defies description. And what shall we say 
of the lady slippers, azalias, and honeysuckles, just about 
to unfold their charms? Art can do much in the way of 
placing and adjusting nature's beauties, but what can equal 
the grace of wild vines, plants and flowers in their native 



THE CANADA WARBLER. 2 79 

arrangements? The wild grape-vine will festoon the forest 
into domes, arches, and colonades, till it would seem the 
very haunt of faries and sylvan deities. Liverworts, lichens 
and ferns will drape the scars, rents and chasms of the 
earth's surface with an inimitable beauty. I have seen an 
old decayed stump in the forest, so dressed up from base 
to top in fine mosses, and the whole broad top such a mass 
of enchanter's nightshade with its delicate spray of leaves 
and ethereal white blossoms, as to make it an object to be 
coveted for the most royal domain. Had I enough of 
Mother Earth that I could call my own, I would have a 
flower garden according to nature; one which might show 
no trace of human interference. If Adam and Eve had the 
judgment and good taste generally attributed to them, in 
some such manner, I think, must they have kept the Garden 
of Eden. 

THE CANADA WARBLER. 

From a point in the thick bushes, somewhere near by, 
there comes a song so peculiar both in enunciation and in 
tone, that my genial companion in these sylvan studies 
challenges my imitation of it. I finally resolve it, however, 
into the following syllables: chi-reach-a-dee, reach-a-dee y 
reach-a-dee-chi uttered in a hurried and spirited manner, 
with a striking mixture of sibilant notes, and so much of 
ventriloquism that it seems almost impossible to locate the 
singer, though he be but a few yards distant. The bird, 
moreover, is so shy and such an adept at concealment in 
the thick foliage that I spend many minutes in the most 
attentive observation before I can get even a glimpse of 
him. Finally, while on hands and knees I am peering out 
from under a thick bed of cinnamon ferns, the songster, all 
unconscious of my presence, stands out in full view. About 
5.50 long, the bluish-ash on the entire upper parts blends 



280 THE CANADA WARBLER. 

with the shadows in the thicket, and the bright lemon-yel- 
low of the entire under parts seems almost the effect of the 
sunlight through the openings among the leaves; but there 
is a broad collar of jet-black spots across the breast, over 
the forehead and down the cheeks and sides of the neck, 
where the bluish-ash of the upper parts joins the yellow of 
the throat, the former color shading into clear black as it 
meets the line these markings, along with the yellow eye- 
lids, help me to define him as the Canada Warbler (Myio- 
dioctes canadensis). I find the bird abundant here in almost 
any swampy region throughout the breeding season; and 
there is, I think, no appreciable difference between the sexes. 
Having identified my specimen, and risen from my place of 
concealment, the bird becomes greatly excited, hopping 
about among the leaves, bowing and " courtesying " prettily 
indeed, but not obsequiously, and uttering a sharp chipping 
note. I am reminded by the white or flesh-colored legs 
and feet that this is what is commonly called a Ground 
Warbler, and that its nest, therefore, is on the ground. I 
make diligent search, as I have often done since, but all in 
vain. A Ground Warbler's nest is one of the very hardest to 
find. Others, however, have been fortunate enough to find the 
nest, and from them I make out the following description: 
Mr. Burroughs found one in the bank of a stream; Mr. 
Boshart, of Lowville, N. Y., found one sunk into the moss 
on the side of an old log, while others generally report the 
nest as found on the ground; Audubon alone describing it 
as built otherwise " in the fork of a small branch of laurel, 
not above four feet from the ground." It is coarsely and 
rather loosely built of leaves, dried grasses, etc., lined with 
horse-hair. The eggs, .68X.50, are white, marked with 
brown and lilac, somewhat clouded at the large end, and 
slightly specked all over. 



THE WINTER WREN. 281 

Wintering beyond the United States, the Canada Warbler 
extends through Eastern North America to Labrador, breed- 
ing from New York northward. 

I do not think this bird is as numerous far to the north or 
northeast as it is in suitable places in this locality. Mr. 
Chamberlain reports it as only an occasional summer resi- 
dent in New Brunswick, and I did not find it in Nova 
Scotia, nor does Mr. Downs, of Halifax, report it in his pri- 
vate list of the Warblers sent to me. 

Its bill bears a strong resemblance to that of a Flycatcher, 
and it has therefore been called a Flycatching Warbler. 

THE WINTER WREN. 

Working my way back among the cedars to a spot where 
the timber has been somewhat thinned by the axe of the 
woodman, and where brush is piled up here and there, I am 
startled by a most remarkable bird-song, which I have sev- 
eral times heard in these parts before, but have never been 
able to identify. Copious, rapid, prolonged and penetrating, 
having a great variety of the sweetest tones, and uttered in 
a rising and falling or finely undulating melody, from every 
region of these " dim isles " this song calls forth the sweet- 
est woodland echo. It seems as if the very atmosphere be- 
came resonant. I stand entranced and amazed, my very 
soul vibrating to this gushing melody, which seems at once 
expressive of the wildest joy and the tenderest sadness. Is 
it the voice of some woodland elf, breaking forth into an 
ecstasy of delight, but ending its lyric in melting notes of 
sorrow ? I strain my eyes this way and that way to get a 
glimpse of the songster in the gloom of these damp, shadowy 
regions, but cannot determine even the precise direction of 
the sounds, so much of ventriloquism is there in this won- 
derful performance. Having turned to every point of the 



282 THE WINTER WREN. 

compass, I finally discover the singer. He is perched on a 
small dry limb of a cedar a few feet from the ground. The 
volume and tone of the song lead me to expect a bird at 
least as large as a Thrush, but lo, he is one of the most di- 
minutive of the feathered tribes the Winter Wren ! I can- 
not be mistaken, for quite near and in full view, his short 
tail thrown forward and his head partially raised, I can see 
his breast swell and tremble while he several times repeats 
his song. About 4.00 long, and thus about a half inch 
shorter than the Common or House Wren, and of the same 
reddish-brown waved with darker, the Winter Wren (Anor- 
thura troglodytes van hyemalis) is to be distinguished by his 
much shorter tail, and his white or whitish markings on the 
sides of the head and on the primaries. But one does well 
to make out this much while the bird is "in the bush ;" so 
diminutive, so nearly the color of dried bark and leaves, 
and dodging in and out of rock-crevices, brush heaps and 
bushes with the ease and rapidity of a mouse, it will be 
necessary, in most cases, to obtain the bird " in the hand " 
in order to identify it. 

Though this species may be heard occasionally in the 
cool cedar groves of Tonawanda Swamp throughout the 
breeding season, I have not been one of the very few fortu- 
nate enough to find its nest. Audubon found two nests. 
One was in the pine woods of Pennsylvania, near Mauch 
Chunk, on the lower part of the trunk of a tree, "a pro- 
tuberance covered with moss and lichens, resembling those 
excrescences which are often seen on our forest trees, with 
this difference, that the aperture was perfectly rounded, 
clean, and quite smooth. * * * Externally, it measured 
seven inches in length, four and a half in breadth; the 
thickness of its walls, composed of moss and lichens, was 
nearly two inches; and thus it presented internally the 



THE WINTER WREN. 283 

appearance of a narrow bag, the wall, however, being re- 
duced to a few lines where it was in contact with the bark 
of the tree. The lower half of the cavity was compactly 
lined with the fur of the American Hare, and in the bottom 
or bed of the nest there lay over this about half a dozen of 
the large, downy abdominal feathers of our Common Grouse, 
(Tetraoumbellus). The eggs were of a delicate blush color, 
somewhat resembling the paler leaves of a partially decayed 
rose, and marked with dots of reddish-brown, more numer- 
ous towards the larger end." The second nest he found 
"was attached to the lower part of a rock," on the bank 
of the Mohawk River. It was similar to the other, only 
smaller, and contained six eggs, the same number as found 
in the former. 

The nest, with eggs of this species upon which our later 
ornithologists have been pretty much dependent for their 
descriptions, was found by W. F. Hall in Eastern Maine; 
the " nest built in an unoccupied log-hut, among the fir- 
leaves and mosses in a crevice between the logs. It was 
large and bulky, composed externally of mosses, and lined 
with feathers and the fur of hedge-hogs. The shape was 
that of a pouch, the entrance being neatly framed with 
sticks, and the walls very strong, thick, and firmly com- 
pacted. Its hemlock framework had been made of green 
materials, and their agreeable odor pervaded the whole 
structure." 

Mr. H. D. Minot says: "Five eggs, not quite fresh, 
which I took from a nest in the White Mountains on the 
23d of July (probably those of a second set), were pure 
crystal-white, thinly and minutely specked with bright 
reddish-brown, and averaging about .70X.50 of an inch. 
The nest, thickly lined with feathers of the Ruffed Grouse, 
was in a low, moss-covered stump, about a foot high, in a 



284 THE SHORT-BILLED MARSH WREN. 

dark, swampy forest, filled with tangled piles of fallen trees 
and branches. The entrance to the nest on one side was 
very narrow, its diameter being less than an inch, and was 
covered with an overhanging bit of moss, which the bird 
was obliged to push up on going in." 

In 1878 Mr. James Bradbury, of Maine, found three nests, 
one "sunk into the thick moss which enveloped the trunk 
of a fallen tree," and two placed under the roots of fallen 
trees. All the above nests seemed to resemble each other in 
being more or less globular, with an entrance at the side, 
the external structure being of moss, or of moss and twigs, 
and thickly lined with fur and feathers; each nest being in- 
geniously concealed or ensconced away. The eggs, five or 
six, some .65X-50, are crystal-white, specked and spotted 
with reddish-brown, the markings being generally distribu- 
ted or gathered about the large end. 

This species, closely allied to the Common Wren of Eu- 
rope, occupies all North America, wintering from the Mid- 
dle States, or even New England, southward; and breeding 
from about the same point northward, especially in Maine 
and even in Labrador. 

Considering the smallness of its wings, and its ordinarily 
short flights, the immense distances of its migrations have 
always been a great mystery to ornithologists. Alaska has 
a larger variety of this species, named Anorthura alascensis. 

THE SHORT-BILLED MARSH WREN. 

As I traverse an open marsh in another part of this same 
swamp, a part which is wet in the late fall and the early 
spring, but dry in summer, I find the Short-billed Marsh 
Wrens (Cistothorus stellaris) in considerable numbers. If 
dependent on the eye merely it would be exceedingly diffi- 
cult to find these diminutive creatures, as they are nearly all 



THE SHORT-BILLED MARSH WREN. 285 

the time down out of sight in the clumps of bushes, the tall 
grasses or the still taller sedges; but one is constantly aided 
in the search for them by their noisy notes and odd songs. 
Chip-chip-chi-chi-chi-chi, or tsip-tsip-tse-tse-tse-tse the first 
two or three notes being uttered more slowly, the rest 
very rapidly, and all in a sharp, metallic and spirited tone 
may represent the song, which is not very musical, 
indeed, but rather pleasing, and decidedly enlivening to 
these otherwise quiet marshes. Like any other Wren, this 
species is exceedingly sprightly in all its motions, and is a 
very adept at clinging to and sliding up and down the 
culms of grasses and sedges tipping, tilting and tossing 
its tail in every conceivable manner. In voice and in action 
it is certainly an intensely animated bit of nature. Scarcely 
4.50 long, and very slender, it is streaked with light and 
dark brown over the head, nearly black, mixed with some 
reddish brown and streaked with white on the back, wings 
and tail dusky, barred with light brown, under parts gray- 
ish-white, shading into light brown on the sides. 

The nest, about the size and shape of a common cocoa- 
nut, composed of dried and thoroughly bleached grasses 
and sedges, is closely compacted, with a clear round open- 
ing on the side near the top, and is more or less lined with 
vegetable down. This structure rests on the ground at the 
roots of the sedges, or is tied to their culms a very few inches 
from the ground. In this and corresponding localities it is 
made early in June. The eggs, some 7 or 8, about .54X.48, 
so rather roundish (Dr. Cones reports them "rather elon- 
gate") are of a fine porcelain-white, having the highly 
finished surface of the Woodpecker's eggs. These white 
eggs are an anomaly among Wrens. 

The Short-billed Marsh Wrens are said by Nuttall 
who was the first to point them out as different from the 



286 MARYLAND YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. 

Common Marsh Wren to "spend much of their time in 
quest of insects, chiefly crustaceous, which, with moths, 
constitute their principal food." 

This species differs from the Common Marsh Wren in its 
notes; in its shorter bill; in its darker colored breast; in its 
inhabiting dryer places its nest never, I think, being placed 
over water; in the position of its nest, always on or near the 
ground being composed of bleached material and very com- 
pactly made (wrongly figured by Audubon) and, particu- 
larly, in its pure white eggs. 

Wintering in the Southern States, the Short-billed Marsh 
Wren breeds throughout the Eastern United States to New 
England and Manitoba; but it is not nearly as generally 
distributed as its cousin of the longer bill. It reaches these 
middle districts early in May, and leaves early in September. 

MARYLAND YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. 

Reaching a bog, where, in trying to cross, I sink at 
every step into an almost bottomless bed of soft moss, I 
hope to find something new. In respect to plants, I see at 
once that I shall not be disappointed. Here is the curious 
pitcher-plant in abundance. Its leaves, having the bowl, 
handle and spout of a pitcher, are full of water; and its 
flower, which will appear in a few weeks, will be almost as 
curious as its leaves. Here too, I find the marvelous little 
sundew, Drosera rotundi folia, about which the evolutionist, 
Darwin, has written so much. The little round leaves are 
thickly beset with transparent bristles, each of which bears 
on its extremity a viscid globule as clear as a dew-drop. 
These glandular hairs are said to be sensitive, and to entrap 
insects, but I cannot make the experiment succeed. 

Around the edge of this bog, among the varied shrubbery 
belonging almost entirely to the Heath and Rose families, 



MARYLAND YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. 287 

I hear the song of the Maryland Yellow-throat (Geothlypis 
trichas], a warbler quite common to the shrubbery of our 
swamps and low lands. The song of this bird is very dis- 
tinctive and easy to recognize. Weech-a-tee, weech-a-tee, 
weech-a-tee, weech-a-tee, in loud whistling tones, slowly and 
distinctly uttered, and strongly accented on the first syllable 
of each repetition, represent it to my imagination. Some- 
times, however, a syllable of each group of notes is left out, 
making the melody sound like weech-ee, weech-ee, weech-ee, 
weech-ee. The song is very constant, but the singer is rather 
shy, keeping out of sight in the thick foliage the greater 
part of the time. Nearly 5.00 long, and having a very short, 
round wing for a warbler, the male is olive-green above, 
becoming grayish on the back of the head and neck, throat 
and under parts yellow, becoming lighter on the belly; over 
the forehead and eyes and down the cheeks is a broad band 
of jet-black, bordered behind with ash which shades into 
the grayish-green beyond ; legs, flesh-color. The female 
lacks the black and ash on the head, and has the crown 
brownish. In sprightliness of song and distinctive color of 
plumage, this Warbler ranks high, being one of those bright, 
melodious birds of the swamp which, like certain very brill- 
iant and fragrant flowers of the same locality, are a de- 
lightful offsetting to stagnant pools, quagmires, pestiferous 
vapors, and tormenting insects. Like the rest of the War- 
blers, it is a great destroyer of insects, without at any time 
injuring the products of industry. 

The nest of this species is on the ground near some stream, 
or in a low, wet place at the roots of bushes; is generally 
well sunken into the ground, made of dried leaves and 
grasses, often lined with hair, and is sometimes arched over 
after the manner of the Golden-crowned Accentor. Mr. W. 
Brewster found a nest of this species on June 3d, 1875, in 



288 THE BOBOLINK. 

the top of a ground juniper, some two feet from the ground. 
The 4 or 5 eggs, some .70X-55, are white, specked and 
spotted, sometimes wreathed with light brown and lilac. 
Clear white eggs rarely, occur. 

Wintering sparingly in our southern border, but mostly 
beyond, the Maryland Yellow-throat breeds throughout the 
Union, abundantly in the Middle States, and commonly in 
New England and Nova Scotia. Audubon saw none in 
Newfoundland nor in Labrador. 

THE BOBOLINK. 

Leaving the swamp and coming out into the broad mead- 
ows in the vicinity, I am greeted by the newly-arrived 
Bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus). It is difficult to speak of 




THE BOBOLINK. 



the Bobolink without going into ecstasies. To say the 
least, he is the finest bird of our fields and meadows. See 
him mount that stake by the road-side! Every feather of 
his jet-black front is partially raised, the elegant creamy- 
white patch on the back of the head and neck is elevated into 
a crest; his wings and scapulars, so finely marked with white, 



THE BOBOLINK. 289 

are partially extended; and as he pours forth his marvelous 
song, he waltzes gracefully to his own music, turning slowly 
around, so that the beholder may have a fair view of all 
sides. Now he launches into the air, and half hovering 
half flying his song becomes even more resonant and pene- 
trating; the loud, rich, liquid notes of his prolonged and 
varied warble causing the air to vibrate over many acres of 
the open field. The first tinkling tones are like those of a 
fine musical box rapidly struck, then come the longer drawn 
notes as of a rich viol or violin, and finally the sweet liquid, 
limpid, gurgling sounds as of an exquisite bell-toned piano 
lightly and skillfully touched. These several different 
strains, variously modulated, are uttered with a rapid, gush- 
ing volubility, which to an untrained ear might sound like 
the performance of a whole chorus of songsters. As the 
strain ceases, he drops down most gracefully with elevated 
wings into the clover, or, grasping the elastic culms of the 
taller grasses, swings proudly on his tiny perch. Each in- 
dividual adopts his own territory and adheres to it, compell- 
ing his intruding neighbor to retire to his own side of the 
road or fence, and then returning to his own domain with 
the air of independence and authority. Here he keeps up 
his proud antics and charming melody some week or ten 
days before the female arrives. Only 7.50 long, and very 
nearly the colors and marking of a Sparrow the lighter 
parts being simply a little more yellowish you would 
never suspect her relation to such a gay consort. He recog- 
nizes her at once, however, and begins his ardent demon- 
strations. He sings and waltzes to her, hovers in front of 
her, fairly rending his throat in the ardor of his musical per- 
formance; and when she in her coyness, real or feigned, flees 
from him, he pursues her closely, and they dash in and out 
of bushes, trees, and fences with the most perilous speed. 
19 



290 THE BOBOLINK. 

More than once he slackens the chase for a few minutes, 
alighting and throwing in a few of his finest musical flour- 
ishes, and again renews it as ardently as ever, till at length 
he completely wins the object of his passion. Now they are 
seen together for a short time, and then the modest female 
retires among the clover and the taller grasses of the lux- 
uriant meadow; and, scooping out a rather deep cavity in 
the ground, arranges a frail, loose nest of dried grasses, and 
lays her 5 eggs averaging about .90X-67, white tinged 
with brown, spotted, blotched, and clouded with several 
shades of brown, and also a neutral shade of brownish-lilac. 
She adheres most closely to her nest. In walking across 
the field you may almost step on her before she will leave 
her treasures. Then flying only a few feet, she is instantly 
out of sight again; and unless you are a ready observer, or 
have some knowledge of birds and nests, you will be puzzled 
to know what you have found. As the Bobolink raises but 
one brood, and in the thick grass, some time before the hay 
is cut, its nest is but seldom seen by the farmer. 

During the whole period of incubation the male is one 
of the happiest of birds. Without any perceptible sense of 
care, or of any misgiving whatever, he keeps up his gay per- 
formances of waltzing, flight, and song, with but little 
intermission, his beautiful figure adding greatly to the charms 
of the summer landscape, and his far-reaching melody 
harmonizing grandly with the joyousness of the season, 
and ever cheering the husbandman in his long hours of toil. 

If the Bay- winged Sparrow is "the poet of the plain, 
unadorned pastures," the Bobolink is the poet of the luxu- 
riant blooming meadows, announcing the beauty and the 
promise of the fruit-blossoms, and hymning the bright hues 
and the fragrance of the clover. It is the utterance of all 
the youth and joy of spring of an unbounded hilarity. 



THE BOBOLINK. 291 

In due time the young appear, a thrifty family, all clad 
in the plain but beautiful habit of the female, having a great 
deal of yellow, almost of bright yellow, on the under 
parts. When they leave the nest the parents show the great- 
est solicitude for them, flitting about in the most excited 
manner, and chipping loudly when their domain is intruded 
upon. 

The nest of the Bobolink being so well hid away, and in 
parts little infested by enemies, it would seem that the 
species must sustain but a small loss during the breed- 
ing season. 

These birds have their casualties, however. Walking 
once over a meadow along a little stream, I saw a young 
Bobolink fluttering over the edge of the water; and going 
up to it, saw something like a good sized stone just under 
it, which I imagined had in some way fastened down the 
bird so that it could not get away. Taking hold of the 
supposed stone and lifting it out of the water to free the 
bird, my friend accompanying me called out, "a turtle!" 
Sure enough! a large turtle had been holding the bird by 
the foot, but relinquished it on my interference. I do not 
know which was the quickest, I to let go the turtle, or the 
bird to fly away to the woods beyond. 

Perhaps the bird, thinking this reptile a stone, had lit on 
it to drink, and had thus been entraped by the treacherous 
object. 

About the 20th of August these birds are gathered in 
flocks preparatory to migration. By this time the old males 
have laid aside the gay livery of the breeding season, and 
appear as plain and sparrow-like as the rest of the family. 
Imagine the chagrin and disappointment of European bird 
fanciers, in the early history of our country, who, having 
captured Bobolink in all the glory of the breeeding season, 



292 THE BOBOLINK. 

beheld him turn brown and spotted as a Sparrow and be- 
come voiceless ere they reached the end of their long- 
voyage homeward! Nor does this bird ever resume his 
bright colors while caged. Exceedingly perplexing, too, 
was this change of plumage to the first students of Ameri- 
can ornithology, who saw the males migrate in immense 
numbers to the north in spring, but saw none return to the 
south in autumn. 

As soon as the Bobolinks begin to flock for their very 
leisurely fall migration, their whole manner is entirely 
changed. Who, would imagine those immense flocks of 
plain birds, flying high, and in the swift undulating manner 
of the Goldfinch, over the marshes about Niagara River in 
August, to be the same species which he saw enlivening the 
meadows the spring before. That plain and subdued note 
which it repeats quite leisurely quait, quait, quait- could give 
no clue to the voice of the same bird a few weeks earlier. 
But fire into the flock as they alight among the weeds and 
grasses after the manner of Snowbirds in winter, and like 
them, feed on seeds instead of insects, and you will find 
them to be veritable Bobolinks in excellent condition, and 
not at all of mean appearance, clad in their finely-marked 
suits of greenish-yellow and brown. These autumnal mi- 
grations continue through the day and the night, and pretty 
much throughout the month of August along Niagara River 
and along the shores of our Great Lakes in its vicinity. In 
the day-time even, one often hears the familiar migratory 
note above given, without being able to see the birds. On 
looking carefully, however, one can see them flying very 
high, seeming scarcely more than dark specks against the 
sky. 

As these birds move southward, they receive different 
names according to their habits of diet. In Eastern 



THE YELLOW-WINGED SPARROW. 293 

Pennsylvania, where they feed on the seeds of the reeds 
along the rivers, they are called Reed-birds, and in the 
south, where they feed on the rice, they are called Rice- 
birds. 

Wintering beyond our boundaries, this bird enters the 
Eastern United States in large numbers, and reaching the 
Middle States about the first of May, breeds from thence 
northward to the Saskatchawan, and west to the Rocky 
Mountains. To the eastward, Mr. Smith reports it as breed- 
ing abundantly in Maine ; Mr. Chamberlain gives it as a 
common summer resident in New Brunswick, particularly 
in the valley of the St. John River, and I found it plentiful 
last June in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, but did not 
see it elsewhere in the Province. Mr. Maynard gives its 
summer habitat between 38 and 48. Arriving in Western 
New York during the first week in May, it reaches Maine 
about the middle of that month, and New Brunswick about 
the last. 

On account of its short, thick bill, this bird was once called 
a Bunting, but its general structure places it among the 
Marsh Blackbirds or American Starlings; and as its white 
markings are similar to those of a Skunk, it has also been 
called the Skunk Blackbird. 

THE YELLOW-WINGED SPARROW. 

Perched on the fence by the roadside, in a neighborhood 
called Pine Hill, is the Yellow-winged Sparrow (Coturniculus 
passerinus). It is not at all common here, and seems confined 
to certain dry or sandy fields. Some 5.00 long, with wings 
much rounded and tail-feathers narrow and pointed, the 
plumage above is dark brown, almost black, edged with 
buff; head of the former color, with clear median line of the 
latter; this bird is distinguishable from all other Sparrows 



294 THE YELLOW-WINGED SPARROW. 

of its size in this locality, by its clear buff breast and the 
bright yellow on the edge or shoulder of the wings. It has 
also a small line of the last mentioned color from the base 
of the bill over the eye. On the whole, it is a very light 
colored Sparrow. 

The fence is a rather high perch for this bird. It is gen- 
erally seen on the ground or swinging on a spear of grass. 
From some such lowly position it utters its humble song, 
which is a faint but prolonged squeak, so much resembling 
the shrilling of certain grasshoppers that an ordinary ear 
would scarcely detect the difference. On listening closely, 
however, and having identified the song, one will discover 
that it is generally preluded and ended with a faint war- 
ble. Unpretending as this song is, the singer is neverthe- 
less ambitious; for on hearing another of its species perform- 
ing near by, it will fly toward it, and, diving into the grass, 
soon put it to silence. 

The nest, which is on the ground, is built of dried grasses 
and lined with hair, and resembles those of the Ground- 
building Sparrows in general. The five eggs, some .76X-60 
large for the size of the bird are pure white, specked 
and spotted with reddish-brown, mostly about the large 
end. They are laid early in June, the bird arriving in May. 
It probably leaves in September for the south. As a 
resident of Eastern North America, it is a southerly species, 
going scarcely beyond the United States; indeed, becoming 
rare already in the Northern States, while it is abundant to 
the south. Its food is that of its kind in general insects 
and seeds. 

Henslow's Sparrow (Coturniculus henslowt) is a closely 
allied species. " Resembling the last; smaller; more yellow- 
ish above, and with sharp maxillary, pectoral and lateral 
black streaks below; tail longer, reaching beyond the feet; 



THE AMERICAN SWAN. 295 

bill stout." (Coues). Habitat: Eastern United States; 
local, not common. 

On a bright morning, on the 8th of May, I am on the 
shore of Lake Ontario, at the mouth of Johnson's Creek. 
The warm spring sun causes a soft white mist to rise from 
the whole surface of the lake, giving this grand sheet of 
water a most magnificent appearance like that of bur- 
nished silver. From some distance out I can hear the 
clangor of the voices of immense numbers of Loons, or 
Great Northern Divers. The air is very salubrious, and 
being in good health, I am conscious of an unutterable joy 
in the contemplation of nature. Every breath is a soul- 
stimulus, and physical existence is blissful. But in such 
moments it is difficult to distinguish between that conscious- 
ness which is of the soul, and that which is of the body, so 
intimately do these two sources of the individual sense mix 
and blend together; and even the material forms around us 
have a spiritual ideal with which the mind may hold com- 
munion. 

THE AMERICAN SWAN. 

In the midst of my reverie my attention is arrested by 
the remains of a Swan (Cygnus americanus] , which have floated 
upon the shore. Tufts of the fine plumage are still adher- 
ing, while many parts of the skeleton are entirely denuded 
by the effects of time and water. I pluck a handful of the 
snowy feathers from the disfigured form of this wonderful 
bird, which, by some means unknown, has perished in the 
course of its long migration. As I examine them I am re- 
minded how all warm-blooded animals require some cover- 
ing for the retention of animal heat. The ordinary mam- 
mal has a coat of hair, suited to climate, season, and the 
peculiar conditions of its habitat. The human race may 



296 THE AMERICAN SWAN. 

choose its own clothing according to location and circum- 
stances. Birds are clad with feathers, an integument 
altogether peculiar to them as a class. Concerning these 
feathers, constituting what we call plumage, Paley, in his 
great work on Natural Theology, has well said: "The 
covering of birds cannot escape the most vulgar observa- 
tion. Its lightness, its smoothness, its warmth the dis- 
position of the feathers, all inclined backward, the 
down about their stem, the overlapping of their tips, 
their different configuration in different parts, not to 
mention the variety of their colors, constitute a vest- 
ment for the body, so beautiful, and so appropriate to 
the life which the animal is to lead, that, I think, we 
should have had no conception of anything equally perfect, 
if we had never seen it, or can now imagine anything more 
so." Feathers are varied in adaptation to the different 
parts of the bird. There are the ordinary feathers for cov- 
ering called " clothing feathers," then others particularly 
modified for special uses those over the opening of the 
ear are very light and open, and are called "auriculars;" 
those covering the junction of the wing with the body are 
called "scapulars;" those lying in several rows at the base 
of the quills on the outside of the wing, "coverts;" the 
large quill-feathers of the wing are called " remiges" or 
"rowing feathers;" of these again, the larger ones, arising 
from the hand bones, are called "primaries;" those on the 
lower or distal end of the ulna, or arm-bone, "secondaries;" 
those from the upper or proximal part of the same bone, 
" tertiaries," while the large steering-feathers of the tail are 
called "rectrices." Indeed, on every part of the body 
the feathers are peculiarly modified according to their 
location, and yet every feather is constructed essentially 
on the same plan. There is, first, the quill, entering 



THE AMERICAN SWAN. 297 

the skin, and supporting the main part. It is of a 
tough, horny material, and cylindrical in form, thus 
combining strength and lightness; for in no form is a given 
amount of matter so strong to support a weight or a strain 
as in that of a tube or cylinder; and, of course, that is 
also the form most favorable to levity. Next comes the 
shaft supporting the vanes. This is somewhat four-sided, to 
accommodate the vanes, and gradually diminishes toward 
the extremity. It is usually bent, thus rendering the feather 
much stronger and more convenient for its ordinary uses; 
and it is also made more firm by a light pith. The flat 
barbs, constituting the vane, join each other at their broad 
sides, thus striking the air edgewise, and so opposing the 
utmost resistance, just as a plank will sustain a greater 
weight when set on edge than when lying flat. These barbs 
are also broadest where they join the shaft, and taper to a 
point at the outer edge of the vane. The broad sides of 
these barbs are supplied with barbules, little hooks, so 
arranged as to hook or latch into each other, and so form 
the barbs of the vane into a continuous and firm sheet. At 
the base of the vane is generally more or less down, accord- 
ing to the nature of the bird, certain swimming birds, 
such as Ducks and Geese, being noted for their down. 
Some of the feathers of such species are down throughout, 
and are called down-feathers; while all birds have more or 
less feathers simply in the form of hairs. These last are 
particularly troublesome in dressing the common fowl, and 
are most conveniently cleaned by singeing. Again, the feath- 
ers of certain birds have a peculiar style of structure. Those 
of the Grebe are very open and loose, and of a glossy finish, 
giving them somewhat the appearance of an elegant kind 
of fur. "In the Owls the plumage is loose and soft; fila- 
ments from the barbules extend upon the outer surface of 



298 THE AMERICAN SWAN. 

the vane, and one edge of the primaries is serrated; so that, 
while they are debarred from so swift a flight as the Hawk, 
they are enabled, by the same mechanism, to wing their 
way without noise, and steal unheard upon their prey." 
(Owen.) In the long pinions of the Hawk the vanes are 
joined together with a remarkable firmness. Who can ex- 
plain the peculiarity of that structure, which causes the in- 
imitable lustre on certain parts of several kinds of birds ? 
Thus, as the above named author says, " every feather is a 
mechanical wonder." No less remarkable is its history from 
its first appearance in the matrix till it reaches maturity. 
So perplexing is each stage of its development, that to read 
an account of it by the most lucid anatomist requires as 
close attention as the solution of an intricate problem in 
mathematics. And can anything exceed the varied beauty 
and brilliancy of the plumage of certain members of the 
feathered tribes? What is there in all the bright hues of 
nature which can equal the metallic tints on certain parts 
of the Humming Birds of the New World, or of the Sun 
Birds of both the Old World and the New? 

The partly denuded skeleton of this Swan also reminds 
me of the peculiar and varied osteology of the birds. A 
bird's skeleton is a true indication of the leading peculiari- 
ties of its structure and functions in this class of vertebrates. 
As the bird's position, whether on the ground, on the water, 
or in the air, is nearly horizontal, the trunk of the body is 
made firm by a consolidation of a great portion of the back- 
bone and ribs into a continued bony plane, and by the 
anchylosis, or joining together, of nearly all the dorsal ver- 
tebrae; and then it is well supported by the thigh bones 
being in a horizontal position, and thus balancing it; and by 
the long toes radiating in various directions. As the bird's 
neck must serve the purpose of an arm, and the bill that of 



THE AMERICAN SWAN. 299 

a hand, the former is very long, and flexible in various direc- 
tions, reaching its greatest length in the Cygnus, or Swan 
genus, and the latter is variously and most skillfully mod- 
eled according to the habit of the bird, but always having 
cutting edges of a horny substance. Flight, as the principal 
characteristic of the class, is well anticipated by the great 
extent and peculiar form of the breast-bone or sternum, to 
which so many of the muscles of flight are attached, which 
has its surface augmented by a broad keel, and of which the 
ossification is more or less complete, according to the pow- 
ers of flight possessed by the bird. Notwithstanding the 
great pressure of the wings of the flying bird upon the 
shoulders, these last are kept a proper distance apart by a 
system of bones formed into a sort of double arch, well 
braced forward and backward. The ribs again are remark- 
ably strengthened by a line of flat, bony processes, extend- 
ing from one to the other, like purlines joined into the raft- 
ers of a building. All the bones are especially laminated 
and firm, and at the same time contain, for the most part, 
air cavities, to secure their greater levity. 

Nor is the muscular system any less remarkable in its 
adaptation to the peculiar functions of the bird; some of the 
muscles, extending from the trunk of the body to the tips 
of the toes, being so arranged that the bird clings to its 
perch without any voluntary effort during its unconscious 
hours of sleep, and may thus support itself even on one 
foot. " In birds of flight the mechanical disposition of the 
muscular system is admirably adapted to the aerial locomo- 
tion of this class; the principal masses being collected below 
the center of gravity, beneath the sternum, beneath the pelvis, 
and upon the thighs, they act like the ballast of a vessel, and 
assist in maintaining the steadiness of the body during 
flight; while at the same time the extremities require only 



300 THE AMERICAN SWAN. 

long, thin tendons for the communication of the mus- 
cular influence to them, and are thereby rendered light and 
slender." (Owen.) Is there anything in all this arrange- 
ment of bone and muscle which indicates intelligent design ? 
Is there any thought back of it all ? Or is it simply the 
result of blind forces residing in matter ? 

Over the wide world the Swan is the most graceful and 
majestic bird of the waters. Strongly resembling the Goose, 
it is differentiated by its greater elegance, which comes in 
part from its long, slender and graceful neck, and in part 
from its large and elaborate wings, as well as from its more 
dignified proportions and bearing in general. Its bill is 
noticeably larger than that of the Goose, in proportion to its 
head, and the base of it extends to the eye. The fabled 
song of the Swan as death approaches, though decidedly 
beautiful, has no foundation in fact. While it has some 
very boisterous notes, and a peculiar folding of the wind- 
pipe and connection of it with the breast-bone and merry 
thought, for the purpose of securing these stentorious 
effects, its ordinary reticence, so strongly contrasting with 
the "noisy gabbling of Geese and Duck," adds greatly to 
its wonted dignity. Indeed, the structure of its vocal organs 
is in no wise favorable to any musical capacity. 

To see this pure, snow-white creature in all the ease, 
elegance and dignity of his wild and retired haunts is the 
privilege of but few; but he may be seen domesticated, and 
thus seeming perfectly at home on the glassy ponds of our 
public or even private parks. His great wings, so gracefully 
ruffled and partly elevated, make him look almost ethereal 
as he floats along with the slow and easy strokes of his 
large, black feet, and they also serve as a sort of sail to catch 
the passing breeze. Frequently one foot is held up out of 
the water and spread apart, as if it, too, were used to catch 



THE AMERICAN SWAN. 30 I 

the wind. What can equal the gracefulness of that long 
slender, curving neck, as the head moves slowly in every 
conceivable direction! Every movement of a Swan is par- 
ticularly slow and stately. It is a living miniature of a ship. 
But that peculiar motion with which, having dipped his 
head in the water, he throws a shower of large drops, like 
so many pearls, over his ruffled and snow-white plumage, 
affords the supreme moment when his beauty culminates. 
Such scenes give one a conception of the sweet content God 
has designed for all His creatures in the mere conscious- 
ness of existence. Those poets sing best of human life 
who, passing by its feverish excitements and undue ambi- 
tions, find a chief good in the quiet, virtuous and sweet 
sense of simple being. That was a true philosopher who 
prized the comfort of sunshine above the highest gifts of 
kings. 

We have two species of Swan on this continent the 
Whistling or American Swan, and the Trumpeter. The 
former (Cygnus americanus), some 53 inches long and about 84 
in extent of wings, is occasionally seen in flocks passing 
over our Great Lakes, or along the Niagara River, in their 
times of migration. On St. Clair Flats they are sometimes 
seen in great numbers. They fly high and in lines and an- 
gles, after the manner of Wild Geese, except that they are 
generally silent, and have a shorter and more graceful stroke 
of the wings. Very inspiring to the love of the beautiful 
are their large snow-white forms, with outstretched neck and 
black bill, as they glide along the clear ether of a bright 
morning in early spring or late autumn, their lines, curves, 
and angles being formed with mathematical precision. 
Many of them spend the winter on the Chesapeake and Del- 
aware rivers, where they are captured in large numbers for the 
market. It is also said to be abundant along the Pacific 



302 THE LOON. 

Coast in winter. In New England it is rare, and it is not 
abundant in the region of the Mississippi. The arctic regions 
are its breeding ground. It breeds commonly in the marshes 
along the Yukon River, especially in the great marshes at 
its mouth. The eggs, from 2-5, "nearly ellipsoidal," some 
4.00 X 2.00, with a rather rough shell, are white or dirty- 
white, and are laid in May, " usually in a tussock quite sur- 
rounded with water." 

The Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator} differs from the 
former in its greater size, being some 68 inches in length, 
by its longer and wholly black bill, and more basilar nostrils, 
by its 24 tail feathers (C. americanus has a yellow spot on the 
bill and only 20 tail feathers), and by its harsher voice. 
Reaching the gulf coast in winter, the Trumpeter seems to 
range along the great Mississippi Valley, breeding from 
Iowa and Dakota to the arctics, its breeding habits being 
similar to those of its American congener. It is but a 
straggler on the Atlantic Coast, and is not numerous south- 
ward on the Pacific. 

The young of Swans are at first gray, and passing through 
various shades of reddish do not become pure white until 
about 5 or 6 years old; and it takes about as many years for 
them to reach their full size, the young scarcely exceeding 
one-third of that of the mature bird at the end of the first 
year. 

Australia has a Black Swan, and South America one with 
a black head and neck. 

THE LOON. 

About the middle of the day, when the mist on the lake 
has somewhat cleared away, I discern some half-dozen 
dark spots, several miles out; and turning the glass upon 
them, I discover them to be Loons, or Great Northern 



THE LOON. 303 

Divers (Colymbus torquatus). How finely they swim, stretch- 
ing their large, black feet out behind them, even above the 
water, sometimes, the wavelets stirring at their sides and in 
their wake, being a miniature of those formed by a sailing 
craft. Now they are moving in line, one after the other; 
and again the line is broken by the sudden diving of one 
or more; or for a time they all disappear in the same man- 
ner. Then rising again, one after another, they shake their 
heads and look about them in every direction, as if keep- 
ing up the utmost vigilance; or one flaps his wings, and 
thus rising out of the water, and patting it with his feet as 
if running on its surface for some distance, drops into it 
again, cutting the glassy surface into a foam with his snowy 
breast. If one would study birds without disturbing them, 
and know how they behave when they are perfectly at home, 
one must view them thus in the distance, with the aid of a 
good glass. The first impulse on a sight like this is to board 
one's boat and row toward the flock for a shot; but that 
would be about useless in the case of the Loon, for he dives 
at the flash of the gun ere shot or bullet can reach him. 
To shoot a Loon is possible, but it is one of the rarest feats 
in marksmanship. The name Great Northern Diver is 
most appropriate to him. 

The summer haunts of this bird are in the north, 
where, on lakes and streams, his large, flat body, his 
long, slender-pointed black bill, his large head and long, 
thick neck of jet-black, with hues of violet and green 
and patches streaked with white, his jet-black upper 
parts elegantly spotted with white, and his snow-white 
breast are among the most familiar objects. Of his great 
expertness in diving and swimming, for which his peculiar 
structure especially the posterior position of his great 
webbed feet and his sharply compressed legs so well 



304 THE LOON. 

adapts him, he seems well aware; for he is in no hurry to 
fly as one approaches him on the water. Excepting the 
Grebe, no bird of our waters will allow one to come so near 
to him. Plunging out of sight in an instant, if one presses 
him too closely, and literally flying under the water, he will 
presently come up and shake the water out of his eyes 
many rods distant, swimming so deeply that his back is 
nearly under water; and, before one can get within gun- 
shot, he plunges out of sight again. If he undertakes to 
rise out of the water, it seems to be with some difficulty. 
Striking the air vigorously with his powerful wings, and 
patting the water with his feet, he appears half-running 
and half-flying, for several rods, before mounting fully into 
the air, and if the wind be blowing he rises against it, thus 
" eking out the resisting power of his small wings;" but 
once elevated, he moves with immense momentum and 
velocity, with outstretched neck, and feet extended back- 
ward, after the manner of a huge Duck. To make up for 
the small area of his wing-surface, he beats the air with a 
rapidity that cannot be counted; and like other swimming 
birds with very small wings for their size, and like all diving 
birds whose wings are always reduced to a minimum, he 
can make no sudden turns, nor perform any aerial evolu- 
tions, nor alight suddenly and gracefully, but pitches into 
the water with a splash and foam. Nor does he generally 
need any of these facilities on wing. He may choose broad 
rivers, immense lakes, or even the ocean for his highway, 
and so have no obstructions in his course. Moreover, like 
other mortals, he cannot expect to have every advantage. 
If in structure and function he is the very ideal of dex- 
terity in the water, he cannot expect to vie with the Swift in 
the regions of the air. 

The name Loon, or Loom, is said to be of Lapland ori- 



THE LOON. 305 

gin, and to have come from a word signifying lame, because 
the bird is unable to walk regularly. One caught in a seine, 
and brought to me in excellent condition, without any 
injury whatever, was wholly unable to rise from the ground, 
and could barely shuffle along a few feet, aiding itself with 
the shoulders of its wings. Its position in standing is 
nearly upright, after the manner of the Grebes; otherwise 
it cannot maintain the center of gravity on account of the 
posterior location of its legs. If perchance the Loon 
alights on land, away from the water, it cannot rise again. 
Every now and then during their migrations, one is found in 
this situation, and may then be picked up and carried off 
without any difficulty whatever. 

As one might expect under these circumstances, the Loon's 
nest, which is a rude structure of rushes, is hard by the 
water, on an island, or on the shore of the main land, gen- 
erally on the edge of a little island in a lake. The eggs, 2 or 
3, some 3.25 x 2.15, long and pointed, are brown or greenish- 
brown, sparsely spotted all over with dark brown. 

The Loon breeds on St. Clair Flats in considerable num- 
bers, the nest being built up from the bottom, of rushes and 
sedges, extending some eight or ten inches above the sur- 
face, and containing a dry depression to receive the eggs. 
Very possibly these nests are all deserted muskrat-houses. 
I could not fully determine. 

The notes of this bird, being most frequent before a storm, 
are remarkable. Beginning on the fifth note of the scale, 
the voice slides through the eighth to the third of the scale 
above, in loud, clear, sonorous tones, which, on a dismal 
evening before a thunder storm, the lightning already playing 
along the inky sky, are anything but musical. He has also 
another rather soft and pleasing utterance, sounding like 
who-who-who-who, the syllables being so rapidly pronounced 
20 



306 THE LOON. 

as to sound almost like a shake of the voice a sort of weird 
laughter. 

Though generally dispersed over the United States in 
winter, the Great Northern Diver breeds, for the most part, 
beyond our limits, except in mountainous regions, rearing 
their precocious young, even up to 70. 

The length of this species is 2^-3 feet. Its food is mostly 
small fishes. 

The Red-throated Diver (Colymbus septentrionalis), with 
habits and habitat similar to the former, is much smaller, 
26 inches long and 43 in extent of wing; and it differs no- 
ticeably in color. It is "blackish; below, white, dark 
along the sides and on the vent and crissum; most of the 
head and fore-neck, bluish-gray, the throat with a large 
chestnut patch, hind neck sharply streaked with white on a 
blackish ground; bill black. The young have not these 
marks on the head and neck, but a profusion of small, sharp, 
circular or oval white spots on the back." 

This species is said to be abundant on the Bay of Fundy. 
Another species called the Black-throated Diver is found to 
the northwest of our continent. 

These Loons are also the Loons of the Old World, the 
birds having a circumpolar distribution. They are closely 
allied to the Grebes, differing from them, as to structure, 
principally in their completely webbed feet. 

The peculiarities of the skeleton of a Loon, including the 
greatly prolonged breast-bone, the long, narrow pelvic bone 
with its elevated ridge, to receive the great muscles of the 
leg used in swimming, and the greatly prolonged process at 
the knee-joint, to strengthen the leg as the bird kicks up to- 
ward the surface of the water in the act of diving, deserve 
the special attention of the ornithologist and anatomist. 



CHAPTER XIV. 
THE TENTH AND ELEVENTH OF MAY. 

I AM in the forest on a beautiful morning, the 10th of 
May; and never in the round year are the charms of 
our woodland scenery greater than at this very hour. The 
leaves are already well unfolded, for the spring is early; and 
the many wild flowers, peculiar to the time of year in this 
locality, are in full bloom. Liverworts, spring-beauties and 
marsh-marigolds are past their prime, indeed; but the 
cresses, the toothworts, the fumitories, the addertongues, 
the violets, and above all the trillium, are now in the very 
height of their glory; while the mitreworts and the many 
varieties of Solomon's-seal are just beginning to display 
their delicate beauties. The whole woods is one immense 
flower-garden. Oh, the fragrance of this delightful morn- 
ing air! Involuntarily one takes long, deep breaths, as if 
the very act of respiration were a luxury. 

THE WOOD THRUSH. 

But most delightful of all, as the sun leaps above the 
horizon, is the mingled chorus of the birds. The Wood 
Thrush (Turdus mustelinus) arrived some time during the 
night, and is giving us his first song. To me it is an event 
of the season. Nothing in all our bird melody equals it! 
Such is its sweetness and copious variety that I shall not 
attempt to render it in syllables. It must suffice to say that 



308 THE WOOD THRUSH. 

the tones are flute-like, if indeed they can be compared to 
any instrument; a variety of brief tinkles, trills, triplets and 
warbles, on main chords, intermediates and chromatics, fol- 
lowing each other in close but rather slow succession, in 
every possible key, cadence and inflection, with a peculiar 
shake on a low key every now and then thrown in; the whole 
suggesting the idea of a solemn but happy and tender train of 
meditation; the bird sings as if in a delightful reverie. 
From the time of his arrival till late in June, or even in 
July, his peculiar melody may be heard at almost any time 
of day, but especially early in the morning and late in the 
evening. Never shall I forget how, once at the dawn of 
day, as I lay in my hammock high up under the thick shade 
of two great forest trees, the notes of the Wood Thrush 
were the first to break the stillness of the receding night. 
Faintly, but oh! how sweetly, they broke upon the air in the 
tree-top just above me. Louder and louder were the liquid 
strains, until the silent isles of the thick forest echoed to 
their delightful cadences, and all the songsters in the vicinity 
woke up and gave forth their united response. Nothing 
is more characteristic of our beautiful forests, at the close of 
day, than the melody of this great woodland artist this 
Beethoven among birds. 

Not peculiar to the streams and wet places merely, as 
implied by both Wilson and Audubon, but exceedingly 
common as a summer resident throughout the woods, the 
Wood Thrush builds his nest in this locality late in May or 
early in June, in the crotch of a sappling, or on the horizon- 
tal limb of a large tree, anywhere from 7 to 15 feet from the 
ground. The structure, strongly resembling that of the 
Robin, consists outwardly of dried leaves, coarse weed- 
stalks, grasses, rootlets, etc., plastered together with mud, 
and lined with rootlets for the most part, the lining often 



WILSON'S THRUSH. 309 

being quite scanty. The eggs, 3 or 4, some 1.00 X -V5, in 
form and color are like those of the Robin. 

When the nest of this species is disturbed or even 
approached, it has an animated twitter, almost as character- 
istic as its song, also a soft chuck. I do not find this bird 
particularly shy, as compared with other birds of the woods. 

Like other Thrushes, it is often on the ground, not infre- 
quently utters its song from a log or stump, and seldom 
alights above the lower story of the woods. Berries and 
insects constitute its fare. Its flight is regular, and not very 
rapid. 

About 8 inches long, the upper parts are bright brown, 
reddish on the head, dusky on the rump and tail, eye-lids 
white, ear-patches dark brown and white striped, under- 
parts white, breast creamy, the dark-brown arrow-shaped 
spots being quite large and running in chains. The males 
and females are alike, after the manner of the Thrushes. 

Migrating to New England early in May, very rare in 
southwestern Maine, it extends further north into Canada 
West. I found it common about Manitoulin Island, and 
heard its song in the Lacloche Mountains. Early in autumn 
it leaves us for its winter home in Central America. Audu- 
bon reported a few on the gulf coast in winter, but Mr. 
Maynard did not find it in Florida. 

WILSON'S THRUSH. 

From a thicket of undergrowth near by there comes a 
loud querulous note, which may be spelled as chree-u. I rec- 
ognize it at once as the alarm note of Wilson's Thrush 
(Turdus fuscescen$) y a very common summer resident of this 
locality, arriving early in May and leaving early in September. 
There, he has alighted on a large stump within two rods of 
me, and in full view. Some 7.00 long, or more, he is rather 



310 WILSON'S THRUSH. 

slender, reddish-brown above, pure white underneath, the 
throat and upper breast dark cream, streaked with small, 
obscure, arrow-shaped brown spots. His general lightness 
of color, especially his obscure spots on the breast, always 
differentiates him from all other Thrushes. About the last of 
May or early in June, when nidification begins, he becomes 
a most delightful songster. Then, if you would hear him 
to the best advantage, go to some low ground or swamp 
localities in which these birds are most numerous between 
sunset and dark, when sky and clouds put on their most gor- 
geous hues, and all nature is sinking into silence. The mere 
notes of the song are very simple, and, to my ear, sound some- 
thing like the syllables, whree-u, whree-u, whree-u, whree-u, 
uttered in a somewhat slow and strictly formal manner, and 
often so softly that you imagine the bird, which is close by, 
to be quite a distance off; but the tones may have a marvelous 
vibration, sweet, pathetic, and grand beyond comparison, as 
" the sounding isles of the dim woods " return the softened 
echoes. The tones, taken singly, I think are the sweetest I 
ever heard, and can be compared to nothing else which ever 
falls upon the ear. Each tone is one of many keys, all in 
sweet attune, a chord of many different musical threads, 
vibrating sweetly, and causing the atmosphere to respond 
as if it were itself entranced. 

As is the case with other birds, several in the same 
vicinity, will answer each other, one delivering his strain in 
a little higher tone than another, and again falling a little 
below him, the effect of which is very fine to a musical ear. 

Tranquility is the very essence and expression of this de- 
lightful song. No sound in the whole domain of nature 
could more perfectly compose the mind. Pitch your tent 
where this bird is, and let him put you to sleep at night and 
wake you up in the morning. 



WILSON'S THRUSH. 311 

This species is often called the " Veery," probably from 
some fancied resemblance of the word to the notes of his 
song. That resemblance to my ear, however, is the slight- 
est possible. The name is simply a degrading epithet. 

In accordance with its terrestrial habits in general, Tur- 
dus fuscescens builds its nest on or near the ground, often on 
a little bunch of dried brush and leaves, or on the side of a 
knoll, generally where a small opening in the tall trees lets 
in the genial rays of the sun. It is rather a rude structure, 
sometimes frail, sometimes bulky, the foundation being of 
dried and skeleton leaves mixed with straw, weed-stalks, 
sticks, or coarse shreds of bark from the wild grape-vine; 
the lining being of skeleton leaves and very fine rootlets, 
perhaps a few pine-needles or dried grasses. The structure 
is quite unique, and from its location can scarcely be mis- 
taken. The eggs, generally 4, some .80 x .60, are light 
bluish-green, and decidedly pretty. 

Though generally a shy and sly bird, it will sometimes 
become quite confidential. Strolling through the woods 
some time ago I happened on a nest of callow young. The 
mother sat closely. Almost within arm's reach of the 
nest, I watched her for several minutes, she looking at me 
also with an indescribable expression in her large brown 
eyes. As she left the nest, finally, I noticed that, being six 
inches or so from the ground, and rather poorly supported, 
it was very much tilted on one side, thus endangering the 
safety of the young. I righted it up, shoved a handful of 
dried leaves under it to make it firm, and passed on. A few 
hours later I returned, happening to pass the very same 
spot, when lo! the bird had become so tame, and looked at 
me seemingly with such an expression of gratitude and 
confidence, that the nearest proximity to the nest did not 
appear to disturb her. 



312 THE GOLDEN-CROWNED ACCENTOR. 

Wintering in Florida and the gulf states, Wilson's 
Thrush breeds from Southern New England and the 
Middle States to Hudson's Bay, and westward to the Rocky 
Mountains. It is abundant in Western New York in sum- 
mer. I did not find it common in Nova Scotia. 

THE GOLDEN-CROWNED ACCENTOR. 

Ke-chee, ke-chee, ke-chee, ke-chee, ke-chee, comes the familiar 
ditty of the Golden-crowned Accentor (Seiurus aurocapillus) 
for the first time in the year. The notes begin so softly 
that you might imagine the bird to be some distance away, 
but as Jthey continue louder and louder, the last one, which 
is quite loud and shrill, discovers the ventriloquist to be 
near by. Perched on a lower limb, near the trunk of the 
tree, he sits motionless as a statue, except when he throws 
his head up to utter his notes. Then he shakes himself 
from bill to tail, and by the time he reaches the last note, 
seems to be exercising every muscle. 

Occasionally between his chants he steps back and forth 
on the limb and jerks his tail after the manner of his 
near relative, the Water Thrush. The general effect of his 
performance is greatly enhanced by the echo so peculiar to 
the forest when in full foliage; and throughout the sum- 
mer it is one of the characteristic sounds of our charming 
woodlands, always to be associated with their coolness and 
fragrance. 

Excepting the sharp metallic chip, which he gives as he 
walks in his pretty lark-like manner on the ground in time 
of nidification, the above describes what was formerly 
supposed to be the full extent of his musical capacity; but 
Mr. Burroughs discovered, some years since, that he has a 
fine warble. He says: "Mounting by easy flights to the 
top of the tallest tree, he launches into the air with a sort 



THE GOLDEN-CROWNED ACCENTOR. 313 

of suspended, hovering flight, like certain of the Finches, 
and bursts into a perfect ecstasy of song clear, ringing, 
copious, rivaling the Goldfinches in vivacity, and the Lin- 
nets in melody. This strain is one of the rarest bits of 
bird melody to be heard, and is oftenest indulged in late in 
the afternoon or after sundown." Since Mr. B.'s discovery 
others have identified this extra song. I hear it to fine 
advantage in the night when the bird begins with its ordi- 
nary and well-known chant, and ends in a prolonged and 
beautiful warble, the effect of which, on the stillness of 
night in the forest, is peculiarly pleasing. 

Some 6.00-6.50 long, greenish-olive above, with a yellow 
crown margined with black, white underneath, the breast 
and sides streaked with large arrow-shaped spots of black, 
Golden-crown has the marking of the Thrushes, among 
which he was formerly classed; but in structure he is a 
Warbler; in size he is about half-way between these two 
great families; in manner, especially when on the ground, 
he resembles the Wagtails. He is a bird of the ground, 
often busy among the rustling leaves scratching for food, 
and he is a dainty walker, seldom leaving the ground, ex- 
cept for some musical performance. 

In accordance with this general habit, his nest, found in 
almost any part of the woods or swamp, is on the ground 
a peculiar structure, roofed over, and having an entrance on 
the side, bearing such a striking resemblance in miniature 
to the old-fashioned out-door oven, that the builder has 
been christened the "Oven-bird." Frequently the nest is 
truly "a thing of beauty." Composed of dried leaves and 
grasses, sometimes intermixed with shreds of bark and fine 
twigs, or ornamented with mosses, thickly arched with 
skeleton-leaves, or feathery tops of the finer grasses it looks 
almost ethereal. Not infrequently, however, the nest is 



314 YELLOW-BACKED BLUE WARBLER. 

plainer, containing a moderate amount of material, and that 
of the coarser sort, slightly arched with the plain culms of 
dried grasses, or with pine needles. The eggs, 4 or 5, about 
.78 X -60, and therefore unusually roundish, are white as 
porcelain, finely specked and spotted with red, brown and 
lilac, mostly around the larger end, often in a wreath, and 
are real objects of beauty in the nest so smoothly lined with 
skeleton-leaves and horse-hairs. They resemble those of 
the Warblers, too, and not the strongly-marked, bluish- 
green eggs of the Thrushes. 

Wintering in the extreme Southern States, Mexico, Cen- 
tral America, and the West India Islands, its breeding hab- 
itat extends even to the arctic regions, whence it returns 
in the early autumn. 

YELLOW-BACKED BLUE WARBLER. 

Next thing to shooting bumble-bees is the bringing down 
our smaller Warblers from the tallest tree-tops. So I feel, 
as from the highest branches of a great elm, I pick out 
a Yellow-backed Blue Warbler (Parula americand), the 
smallest of the family. Only 4.50 long, the upper parts are 
a delicate blue, slightly tinged with ash, with a bronze- 
yellow patch on the back; throat and breast yellow, with a 
collar of black and bronze, often more or less mixed, across 
the upper breast; under parts, wing-coverts, and spots in 
outer tail-feathers, white. Though it is by no means brill- 
iant, I admire it for its plain and modest beauty. There is 
something retired and elevated, too, in its manner. Its 
path is, for the most part, in the very tops of the beeches 
and maples on uplands and hills. Seldom, indeed, is its 
nest less than 20 feet from the ground. Often it is much 
higher. Hopping or flitting from point to point, hanging 
by the feet, or peering quaintly among the leaves, all its 



THE KINGBIRD. 315 

movements are most sprightly and graceful. Its nest is 
built wholly of what appears to be a light-green hanging 
moss, but it is in reality a lichen (usnea), common to many 
trees of the north. The form is sometimes globular, with 
an entrance on the side, sometimes open at the top, and 
appearing like a common bunch of the material, in its native 
position on the tree. It is unlike the nest of any other bird, 
and exceedingly difficult to find. The eggs, often not more 
than 3, and laid early in June, are some .65 x .50, white, 
specked and spotted with reddish-brown and lilac, particu- 
larly around the large end. Parula's song is by no means 
as interesting as its nest. Though chiming in well with the 
many voices of spring, considered apart, it is scarcely more 
than a prolonged and pleasing squeak. 

Breeding in the Southern and Middle States, Parula 
americana becomes more common in New England, and 
extends to Nova Scotia, and west to the Missouri. Southern 
Florida is its northernmost abode in winter. 

THE KINGBIRD. 

As I return home across the fields I observe a pair of 
Kingbirds (Tyrannus carolinensis] perched on a fence and 
uttering a series of notes, tsip-tsip-tsip-tseep-tseep, tsi-tsi-tsee, tsi- 
tsi-tsee, tsi-tsi, tsee-tsee, the whole being so modulated as to sound 
more like a song than anything I ever heard from this bird 
before. Eight inches long, blackish-gray above, wings and 
tail nearly black, under parts and edge of the tail white, a 
flame-colored spot under the tips of the feathers on the 
crown, the male a little darker than the female -this bird 
is almost as well known as the Robin or Bluebird. Most 
noticeable of all are his pugnacious habits. Occupying 
some low perch in the garden or orchard, or alighted on the 
fence by the meadow, pasture or roadside, his big head 



316 THE KINGBIRD. 

looking bigger than it really is, because of its erected feath- 
ers, his whole mood sullen and querulous, his sharp screeping 
note coughed out and accompanied by a jerk of the tail, he 
does not possess one single trait of amiability; but, like some 
ill-natured braggart, seems always on the watch for a chance 
to fight. Whether the passer-by be a Buzzard a Crow, or 
the tiniest Sparrow, at once he intercepts his track and in- 
sults him in the most wanton manner. Slow and tremulous 
as his flight seems to be, he keeps tolerably close chase with 
almost anything. Whether those saucy thrusts, as he lets 
himself down on the back of that soaring Red-tailed Hawk, 
are painful or not, they are certainly very annoying, as the 
vexed evolutions of the dignified bird clearly show. Again 
and again the little sauce-box dashes himself against him, 
while the Buzzard tips and veers, threatening his insignifi- 
cant tormentor with beak and claw, and making off with as 
little show of disconcertion as possible. He scarcely rids 
himself of the nuisance, however, even at a great height in 
the air. All the smaller birds in the neighborhood bear 
with his attacks as a matter of course, and get out of his way 
-with all speed. Arriving the first week in May, the orchard 
is his favorite resort. Here his note, sometimes uttered 
singly, often twice in succession, is one of the most familiar 
and constant sounds. Perched on some branch or part of 
the fence, after the manner of the Flycatchers in general, 
he waits for his insect prey, which he snaps up on the wing 
with a sharp click of the bill as he cuts short circles in the 
air, sometimes hovering beautifully to reconnoiter, or take 
his pick from a flock of gnats. Occasionally he may snap 
up a bee from the hive, but for this small trespass his exten- 
sive destruction of noxious insects abundantly compensates. 
The Kingbird's nest is on some horizontal limb of a tree 
in the orchard or open field, not very far from the ground. 



THE WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. 317 

It is composed early in June of dried weeds, small sticks 
and roots, bits of moss, leaves, down, and especially wool, 
lined with fine rootlets and some horse-hair. The eggs, 4 or 
5, averaging some 1.00 X .75, are creamy- white, spotted and 
blotched with brown and lilac in such a manner as to make 
them always distinguishable. 

Late in August these birds may be seen in families, and 
by September they leave for the south, wintering in the 
most Southern States, and southward even to Peru, whence 
they return throughout North America, breeding in their 
entire range as far as 57. 

The Gray Kingbird ( Tyrannus dominicensis) of Florida and 
the extreme Southern States is 9.00-9.50 long, with the tail 
slightly forked; brownish-slate or ash above, darker on the 
head, and auriculars dusky; white below, shading into ash 
on the breast and sides; under coverts and edgings of the 
dusky wings and tail, yellowish. Its habits are similar to 
those of the former, but it is more noisy. It is merely acci- 
dental in the north. 

The elegant Swallow- tailed Flycatcher (Milvulus forficatus) 
of the southwest barely reaches the lower Mississippi. 

THE WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. 

In the latter part of the afternoon of this same tenth of 
May, as I ride by a large orchard belonging to one of my 
parishioners, I am delighted with a whole chorus of White- 
crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys), making melody 
in the blooming branches. The song is quite peculiar, 
whee-who-who-zee-zee-zee, the first three notes in a clear whis- 
tle, and the last three in a sort of jew's-harp tone, the whole 
being decidedly pleasing, and not at all like that of the 
White-throat. Appearing already in the latter part of 
April, they are very common along the fences, hedges and 



018 



THE WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. 



orchards in migration at this time of year; but they do not 
always sing. Sometimes a few will linger on the same spot, 
singing more or less for a number of days, but one does not 
often meet such a full chorus of them. 




THE WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW. 



This is one of the largest and certainly the most beautiful 
of all our Sparrows. Seven inches long; crown clear white, 
with jet-black on each side and white line over the eye; 
upper parts a beautiful ash and brown; wing-bars white; 
neck and under parts light ash, becoming white on the vent 
and light-brown on the flanks; bill and feet dark cinnamon. 
The male and female are alike. The White-crown has a 
habit of standing pretty well erect, with the feathers of the 
entire crown raised, thus looking exceedingly jaunty; while 
all his colors, of chaste, rich tints, finely harmonized, set him 
out to the best advantage. 

Wintering in the Southern States, the White-crowned 
Sparrows go far north to breed, Newfoundland and Labra- 



THE WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. 319 

dor being the principal resorts to the eastward, while in the 
mountainous regions westward they breed as far south as 
Colorado. Fred. Boshart, however, the young ornithologist 
of Lowville, N. Y., found a nest July 7th, 1877, in Denmark, 
Lewis County, N. Y. In a very rough place of logs and 
windfalls, it was placed about five inches above ground, 
thus differing from its ordinary location. It contained one 

egg- 

Audubon describes a nest found in Labrador, and in all 
respects representative, as follows: " The nest was placed in 
the moss, near the foot of a low fir, and was formed exter- 
nally of beautiful dry green moss, matted in bunches like 
the coarse hair of some quadruped, internally of very fine 
dry grass, arranged with great neatness to the thickness of 
nearly half an inch, with a full lining of delicate fibrous 
roots of a rich transparent yellow. * * * The eggs, five in 
number, average ^ of an inch in length, are proportion- 
ately broad, of a light sea-green color, mottled toward the 
larger end with brownish spots and blotches, a few spots of 
a lighter tint being dispersed over the whole." He found 
the nests numerous in that locality, as also did Dr. Coues. 
The former gives June as their breeding time. He also 
says: "The food of this species, while in Labrador, consists 
of small coleopterous insects, grass-seeds, and a variety of 
berries, as well as some minute shell-fish, for which they 
frequently search the margins of ponds or the sea-shore." 
By the first of October the White-crown begins to pass this 
point on its way south, and is quite common for several 
weeks. 

THE WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. 

As I continue my ride, passing a thicket near a large 
block of woods, I meet a company of some half-dozen 
White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) leisurely 



320 THE WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. 

gathering food among the brush and bushes. They may be 
found here as a common migrant from the last week in 
April till after the middle of May, following thickets, brier 
patches, and swampy places; and again in September and 




THE WHITE-THROATED SPARROW 

October, or even later. Somewhat shy, slow, and dignified 
in their movements, uttering a soft and somewhat prolonged 
tseep, they are not very noticeable except to the ornitholo- 
gist In the autumn I have heard them utter a sharp pimp, 
sounding a little like the spirited alarm of the Robin. Sel- 
dom indeed do they favor us with their song as birds of 
passage. I have heard it, however, from some solitary male 
perched on a stub in a thicket on a beautiful May morning. 
In their breeding haunts, which are from Northern New 
England far to the northward, their very pleasing melody 
is quite common. 

In Great Manitoulin Island and vicinity, where I found 
these birds abundant in the breeding season, it is one of the 
earliest, the commonest, and certainly the most impressive 
of bird-songs to be heard. Thoreau in the North Woods 



THE WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. 321 

of Maine, and Burroughs in the great forests north of 
Quebec, found this Sparrow in great numbers; and it is 
found equally common in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. 
The notation of its song could be easily written on the 
musical staff. Beginning generally on the fifth note of the 
scale, after the first syllable, it ascends to the eighth or 
last note, and ends in four syllables more. After the first 
syllable of the song the bird will sometimes utter the 
second on the second or third note of the scale above, and 
then dropping back will render the remaining three sylla- 
bles on the usual pitch for the ending. I have heard it 
begin on the last note of the scale, and after sounding two 
syllables, drop to the sixth interval for the remaining three 
syllables, thus giving a beautiful minor effect. If several 
are singing after the first-named or ordinary manner, they 
may each perform on a different key, one responding to the 
other from different dead trees or tall stubs in the neighbor- 
hood. The charm of the song is principally in the pathos 
of the tones, which resemble those of the song proper of the 
Chickadee, being an inimitably tender and vibrating or 
tremulous whistle. There are few bird-songs which are so 
affecting to an aesthetic nature as is this simple pastoral. 
The tenderest and most sympathetic ideas, with a tinge of 
melancholy, find their expression in these strongly charac- 
terized notes, which, as Thoreau says, "are as distinct to 
the ear as the passage of a spark of fire shot into the dark- 
est of the forest would be to the eye." All such representa- 
tions of this song, as "pea-body, pe-a-body, pe-a-body" or, "all 
day whittling, whittling, whitling" or, " ah! te-te-te-te-te-te-te-te- 
te," are mere caricatures, furnishing at best but a rude 
suggestion of its plaintive, tender melodiousness. 

To introduce this bird more fully, his length is 6.00; 
crown black, with line of white through the center; lines 
21 



322 THE BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. 

over the eyes; bright yellow from the base of the bill to the 
eye, then white to the neck; upper parts, reddish-brown 
and blackish-brown, intermixed with streaks of whitish; 
wing-bars, white; cheeks, dark-ash; throat, white; under 
parts, whitish-ash; female and immature male, with the 
bright head-markings quite obscure. The male, in perfect 
plumage, is decidedly beautiful; by some he is regarded as 
the most beautiful of all the Sparrows. 

The nest, on the ground, in bushy fields, is of dried 
grass, weeds and mosses, lined with rootlets or fine grasses. 
The eggs, 4 or 5, some .85X-62, are grayish- white, spotted 
and splashed with brown and paler markings. The White- 
throat winters throughout the Southern States. 

THE BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. 

The most prominent physical feature just south of Lake 
Ontario is the Ridge, a graceful elevation of sandy soil sup- 
posed to have been once either the shore of the lake, or an 
immense sand-bar. The highway, which follows its great- 
est elevation, and is broad enough to admit several teams 
abreast, was once the grand thoroughfare from Buffalo to 
Albany. Now the northern branch of the New York Cen- 
tral Railroad and the Erie Canal just south of it have broken 
up the great line of stage-coaches, and greatly decreased 
the immense processions of farm wagons loaded with prod- 
uce, and the crowds of light-hearted travelers on pleasure 
and visiting excursions. Thus the great Broadway of the 
region round about has been almost cleared of its enter- 
prise. The distilleries and hotels are deserted, and the 
towns either have ceased to grow or are in a state of decline. 
But the beautiful highway, almost equally good at any time 
of year, is still the same. Spring comes here days almost 
weeks in advance, and the mildness of autumn lingers with 



THE BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. 323 

retarded pace. Hence people prefer to live here, and in our 
county (Orleans) the Ridge is almost a continuous village. 

In the woods and thickets on the low ground just north 
of the Ridge, where once the waters of the lake rolled, is our 
best locality for the summer birds, especially the Warblers. 
The llth of May, 1879, was one of the loveliest spring days we 
have ever seen. The leaves were out, the sky was clear, the 
sun warm, and the very air seemed palpitating with life. 

My friend F and I were skirting the woods north of the 

Ridge. O, what a day it was for Warblers! They were pass- 
ing to the north in one continuous troop. Most abundant 
of all on that day were the Blackburnians (Dendrceca black- 
burnice), the most brilliant of the family. We can find 
some of them every spring in this locality, but they are not 
always numerous. 

The male is black above, with a white streak on each 
shoulder, also several similar streaks along the lower part 
of the back and rump, the large wing-spots, and base and 
greater part of the outer tail-feathers, white ; spot along 
the crown, streak from the base of the bill above the eye to 
the back of the head, thence bending forward in a broad 
band along the sides of the neck, and the lower eye-lid 
orange yellow, throat and upper part of breast fiery orange, 
fading into white; underneath the small spot on the side 
of the neck and the streaks along the sides, black. The 
markings of the female are similar to those of the male, 
except that all the colors are lighter, the orange on the 
throat fading into a delicate yellow. 

In its very graceful movements this little bird keeps en- 
tirely to the trees, and not generally very high up, flitting 
from point to point in search of its hidden insect food, and 
emitting a loud, pleasing warble. It is mostly a bird of the 
upland, and quite fond of evergreens a lovely sylvan orna- 



324 THE BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. 

merit, strikingly in harmony with this gala-day of spring. 
As is the case with most of our brilliant birds, the male re- 
quires several years to acquire his richest tints, hence Wil- 
son and Audubon described the male of the second year as 
a separate species, called the Hemlock Warbler, and Bona- 
parte even distinguished it as of a different genus. 

Wintering in Mexico and Central America, this Warbler 
migrates through Eastern North America generally, being 
seen by Audubon in the Magdalen Islands, Newfoundland 
and Labrador. Beginning to breed sparingly in the Middle 
States and Southern New England, its principal breeding 
range would seem to be to the northward. It is not uncom- 
mon in the breeding season in Maine. President MacCul- 
loch, of Halifax, N. S., favored Audubon with the nest of 
this species, but regarded the bird as rare in that province. 
This must be true, as my correspondent, Mr. Andrew 
Downes of Halifax, an experienced ornithologist, does not 
report it. 

Audubon describes the above nest as follows: "It was 
composed externally of different textures, and lined with 
silky fibers and then delicate strips of fine bark, over which 
lay a thick bed of feathers and horse-hair. The eggs were 
small, very conical towards the smaller end, pure white, 
with a few spots of light-red towards the larger end. It was 
found in a small fork of a tree five or six feet from the 
ground, near a brook." Mr. H. D. Minot says: " A nest of 
this species, containing young, which I found in Northern 
New Hampshire, was placed about twenty feet from the 
ground in a pine. Another, which I was so fortunate as to 
find in a thick hemlock-wood near Boston, was also about 
twenty feet from the ground. It contained three young 
and an unhatched egg, which measures .65 X .50, and resem- 
bles the egg of the Chestnut-sided Warbler, being white, 



THE CCERULEAN WARBLER. 325 

with lilac, and principally reddish-brown markings grouped 
at the larger end." 

THE CCERULEAN WARBLER. 

I discharge both loads from my double-barrel, and bring 
down a pair of Warblers, male and female, from the top of 
a tall maple. They are fine specimens of the Ccerulean 
Warbler (Dendrcecacceruled). Have they just dropped down 
from the skies, and brought the pure azure with them? 
Except the dusky wings and tail, dark wing-coverts and 
centers of many of the feathers and white under parts, the 
epithet, ccerulean, or sky-blue, is certainly applicable to the 
male, particularly to his head, back and collar just above the 
breast. Excepting her lighter markings, less dusky wings 
and tail, missing collar and greenish tint over the head and 
back, the female is the same as the male. This species has 
the streaks along the sides, and the white marks in the 
outer tail-feathers, in common with the rest of the Den- 
drceca. 

The Ccerulean Warbler, apparently belonging to the Mis- 
sissippi Valley, and scarcely a casual visitor on the Atlantic 
Coast, like certain other species of its locality, finds its 
way around the Alleghany Mountains for a short distance, 
and is very common throughout the summer in Western 
New York. Indeed, it is not uncommon as a summer resi- 
dent in the central part of the State. I have had every 
opportunity of observing its habits; and, as no writer has 
given it a full record, I bear it a special accountability. 

It is a bird of the woods, everywhere associated with the 
beautiful tall forests of the more northern counties of 
Western New York, sometimes found in the open woods of 
pasture-lands, and quite partial to hard-wood trees. In its 
flitting motion in search of insect prey, and in the jerking 



326 THE BA Y-BREA S TED WA RBLER. 

curves of its more prolonged flight, as also in structure, it 
is a genuine Wood Warbler, and keeps for the most part to 
what Thoreau calls "the upper story" of its sylvan domain. 
Its song, which is frequent, and can be heard for some dis- 
tance, may be imitated by the syllables, rheet y rheet, rheet, 
rheet, ridi, idi-e-e-e-ee, beginning with several soft warbling 
notes, and ending in a rather prolonged but quite musical 
squeak. The latter and more rapid part of the strain, 
which is given in the upward slide, approaches an insect 
quality of tone, which is more or less common to all Blue 
Warblers. 

This song is so common here as to be a universal character- 
istic of our tall forests. The bird is shy when startled from its 
nest, and has the sharp, chipping alarm note of the family. 
The nest is saddled on a horizontal limb of considerable 
size, some distance from the tree, and some forty or fifty 
feet from the ground. Small and very neatly and com- 
pactly built, somewhat after the style of the Redstart, it 
consists outwardly of fine dried grasses, bits of wasp's-nest, 
gray lichen, and more especially of old and weathered 
wood-fibers, making it look quite gray and waspy. The 
lining is of fine dried grasses, or of fine shreds of the wild 
grape-vine, thus giving the inside a rich brown appearance 
in contrast with the gray exterior. The eggs, 4 or 5, some 
.60X-47, are grayish or greenish-white, pretty well spotted 
or specked, or even blotched, especially about the large 
end, with brown and deep lilac. They do not possess that 
delicate appearance common to the eggs of most of the 
Warblers. 

THE BAY-BREASTED WARBLER. 

In a small ash tree, a little out from the woods and alone 
in the field, I spy a Warbler somewhat larger than most of 
the family, and rather slow in its movements. Shooting it, 



THE BAY-BREASTED WARBLER. 327 

I recognize it as the Bay-breasted Warbler (Dendrceca cas- 
taned). As I hold it in my hand, I cannot but admire the 
plain richness of its costume. The back is greenish-gray 
streaked with black; wings and tail dusky, the former barred, 
the latter spotted on the inner web of the cuter-feathers 
with white; forehead and sides of the head black; head, 
throat, breast and sides a rich chestnut; under parts reddish- 
white, with a patch of clear light buff on each side of the 
neck, making a fine contrast with his dark colors. The fe- 
male is similarly marked, but a good deal lighter. 

Though not rare, as in New England and Nova Scotia, 
this species can hardly be called common in the migrations 
of this locality, except in certain seasons. The spring of 1880 
brought it in large numbers during the second week in May. 
Mr. Allen says "in the Connecticut Valley it is generally 
more or less common, and sometimes very abundant." Dr. 
Coues found it rather common around Washington, D. C., 
in the migrations, and while none of the earlier ornitholo- 
gists knew much about it, nor anything of its nidification, 
Mr. Maynard has found it resident and breeding, early in 
June, in considerable numbers at Umbagog Lake. The nest, 
which is rather bulky, and usually placed in a hemlock tree 
some fifteen or twenty feet from the ground, is of " fine, dead 
larch-twigs, mixed, in one instance, with long tree-moss," 
and is "smoothly lined with black fibrous rootlets, some 
moss and rabbit's hair," giving it a striking resemblance to 
the nest of the "Purple Finch." The eggs are said to be 
" bluish-green, more or less thickly speckled with brown all 
over, the markings becoming confluent, or nearly so, at or 
around the larger end, where the brown is mixed with lilac 
or umber markings." As to the migrations of this species, 
the same author says : " Avoiding the Eastern and Middle 
States, the majority pass along the borders of the Great 



328 THE BLACK-AND-YELLOW WARBLER. 

Lakes, through Ohio, Southern Illinois, down the Missis- 
sippi Valley, across into Texas, and so on into Mexico and 
Central America, where they winter. Returning in spring, 
they pursue a more southern route, keeping along the coast 
as far as the New England States, where they ascend the 
Connecticut Valley, generally avoiding Eastern Massachu- 
setts." Its song, said to begin like that of the Black-poll 
and end like that of the Redstart, bears to my ear no re- 
semblance whatever to either, but is a very soft warble, 
somewhat resembling the syllables tse-chee, tse-chee, tse-chee, 
tse-chee, tse-chee, but far too liquid to admit of exact spelling. 

THE BLACK-AND-YELLOW WARBLER. 

The wild grape, that common and exquisitely graceful 
ornament of our woods, has completely enshrouded a clump 
of bushes yonder; and as the leaves are just putting forth, 
of a reddish tinted texture, and hoary with down, they 
seem particularly attractive to the passing crowd of War- 
blers. There comes from its bowery depths a whist- 
ling warble, very liquid and sweet, and so soft that it can be 
heard only a few feet distant, whee-cho^ whee-cho, whee-cho, 
whee-cho y whee-cho. After peering cautiously for several 
minutes, I recognize the quick, flitting movement of the 
Black-and-yellow Warbler (Dendra>ca maculosa). 

In its northern breeding places its song is a loud, clear 
whistle, which may be imitated by the syllables chee-to, chee- 
to, chee-tee-ee, uttered rapidly and ending in the falling 
inflection. It is interesting to note how faint and imper- 
fect an attempt at the final and full song on their breeding- 
grounds is the occasional soft, lisping warble of the 
Warblers as they pass us in the migrations. Any one thus 
studying these soft utterances has the merest prelude to the 
final burst of joy when the bird reaches its summer home. 



THE BLACK-AND-YELLOW WARBLER. 329 

I cannot always see maculosa as early as this, but may find 
it quite common about the 18th or 20th of this genial month 
of May. Emitting a soft note, e-a, e-a, probably a faint echo 
of its alarm note in breeding times cree-e-e-e-e-ep, long 
drawn and like that of the Vireos it keeps to the lower 
story of the woods, and is not at all shy, thus giving me a 
good opportunity to note its manners as it is gleaning dili- 
gently. As it peers gracefully among the tender foliage 
who can fail to admire its gentleness and beauty? Among 
the smallest (4.25 long and 8.10 in extent) and the most deli- 
cately formed of its genus, its color is really brilliant. 
Crown ashy-blue, margined on the sides with white; fore- 
head, cheeks, back, wings and tail, black or blackish; throat, 
rump and under parts, bright lemon-yellow, the latter 
heavily blotched and streaked with jet-black; lower eye- 
lids, wing-coverts and large central patch on the inner web 
of most of the tail-feathers, pure white; thus giving a striking 
effect as the tail spreads in its various flitting motions 
this little beauty would do justice to the tropics. The 
female is less brilliant, and not so distinctly marked. But, 
excepting its sojourn in winter, which extends entirely south 
of the United States, this is especially a northern bird, 
breeding from Northern New England to Hudson's Bay. 

Mr. C. J. Maynard describes a nest, taken at Umbagog 
the second week in June, 1870, as follows: "It was placed 
on the forked branch of a low spruce, about three feet from 
the ground, on a rising piece of land, leading from a wood- 
path. The nest, which contained four eggs, was con- 
structed of dry grass, spruce twigs, roots, etc., and was 
lined with fine black roots, the whole being a coarse struct- 
ure for so dainty looking a Warbler. The eggs were more 
spherical than any Warbler's I have ever seen. The ground 
color is a creamy-white, blotched sparingly over with large 



330 THE BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER. 

spots of lilac and umber." Another, which was taken June 
8th, 1871, was "composed outwardly of a few scattered dead 
twigs of larch, interwoven with stalks of weeds and dry 
grass. It is lined with black horse-hair; this dark lining 
forms a strange contrast with the faded appearance of the 
outer part. The whole structure is very light and airy in 
appearance, strongly reminding one of the nest of the D. 
pcnnsylvanica." This is in harmony with a note from Mr. 
Andrew Downes, of Halifax, N. S., who says: "I once 
found the nest of this bird on a hard-wood bough, breast 
high. It was composed of very light material. I could 
see through it." From a nest in H. A. Ward's cabinet, at 
Rochester, N. Y., and which was taken in Maine in June, I 
have the following note: "Placed in a fir bush two feet 
from the ground, shallow, and so frail that one can see 
through it, made of dried grasses and rootlets, and lined 
with fine rootlets and a little horse-hair. The 4 eggs are 
creamy- white, spotted and specked with red, brown and lilac, 
forming a delicate wreath. Size, .62X.50." 

Like other Warblers, tfiaculosa has a strictly insect diet, 
and contributes greatly to the preservation of our forests. 

THE BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER. 

As I recline on a bed of dry leaves, and listen to this 
chorus of traveling songsters, I notice one song, the tones 
of which strongly resemble the hum or shrilling of an in- 
sect. I recall the fact that insects almost invariably render 
their music by some external organ, the wings, or the wings 
and legs together, for instance, and so are instrumental 
musicians; therefore, this striking resemblance of a vocal 
performer is all the more remarkable. Again and again I 
hear it, zwee-zwee-zwee, per-wee-wee-wee* in languid notes, 

* I once heard this peculiar song preluded by a half-dozen beautiful, staccato, whistling 
notes. 



THE BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER. 331 

slowly drawn out and not very loud. I become excited, and 
am conscious of each heart-throb as I listen. Now I have 
a full view of the musician the Black-throated Blue War- 
bler (Dendrceca ccerulescens}. Rather more than an average 
in size as a Dendrceca (5.10 long and 7.75 in extent), he is of 
a rich slaty-blue above, often having graceful little black 
spots on the back; the inner webs of the tail and wings, 
black or dusky; throat, cheeks, and sides of the breast, jet- 
black; under parts, spots on the inner webs of the outer 
tail feathers, and nearly triangular spot at the base of the 
primaries, pure white. He is a genuine beauty; but his 
mate, of a bluish-olive above and yellowish-white beneath, 
the white wing-spot rather obscure, is one of the very plain- 
est of the Warblers. Generally found in the upland forests, 
this is one of the commonest of the genus in Western New 
York during the migrations. Keeping rather to the lower 
parts of the trees, though often found in the tree-tops, ex- 
ceedingly spry in all its movements, it is not only a thorough 
gleaner among spray and foliage, but also a fair flycatcher. 
Seldom seen here after the month* of May, I conclude that 
I am not within the range of its breeding habitat. The 
most interesting and thorough account of its nidification 
is given in the Nuttall Ornithological Bulletin for April, 
1876, by Rev. C. M. Jones, who reports a nest with four eggs, 
from the northeast corner of Connecticut, taken June 8th, 
1874, and another, with the same number of eggs nearly 
hatched, on the 13th of the same month. Both nests were 
placed but a few inches from the ground, in small bushes of 
laurel in the woods, near a swamp. In regard to the first: 
"About five inches from the ground the bush separated into 
three branches, and in this triple fork the nest was situ- 
ated." The second was " in two laurels. One of these lay 
horizontally in the fork of the other, and on the horizontal 



332 THE CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER. 

one the nest was set, held in place by being attached on one 
side to the upright branches of the other." The nests, 
quite similarly built, are " firm and compact, composed 
outwardly of what appears to be the dry bark of the grape 
vine, with a few twigs and roots. This is covered in many 
places with a reddish-woolly substance, apparently the 
outer covering of some species of cocoon. The inside is 
composed of small black roots and hair." The eggs were 
" ashy- white," or "with a slight tinge of green, spotted and 
botched with brown and lilac around the larger end, and 
somewhat speckled with the same over the entire surface, 
averaging in size from .61 by .47 to .66 by .50." As in the 
case of many of the rest of the Warblers, the female was 
quite tame, and allowed the discoverer to approach quite 
near the nest before she left it. 

Spending the winter south of the United States, or in 
Florida, it has "been found as far north, in summer, as 
Labrador. Its chief habitat, however, must be a little to 
the westward, as the New England writers do not speak of 
it as plentiful; Mr. Downes reports it rare about Halifax, 
N. S., while Audubon saw none in Newfoundland, and " in 
Labrador only a dead one, dry and shrivelled, deposited 
like a mummy in the fissure of a rock." 

THE CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER. 

In a small maple in the edge of an open part of the woods 
I spy one of my special favorites, the Chestnut-sided War- 
bler (Dendrceca pennsylvanicd). Arriving during the second 
week in May, keeping to the borders of open woods, 
especially where thickets are adjoined, and not generally 
aspiring very high, he is one of our common residents. 
Some 5.50 inches long, with yellow crown, sometimes deli- 
cately penciled with black; a ring of black slightly mixed 



THE CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER. 333 

with white, extending from over the eyes around the back 
of the head; feathers of the back black, deeply edged with 
greenish-yellow, or with white across the shoulders ; 
wings and tail blackish, slightly edged with green- 
ish-yellow or white, the latter having the white mark- 
ings on the inner web of the outer feathers; wing-coverts 
edged with yellowish- white; cheeks and whole under parts, 
satiny- white; throat bordered on the sides with black, 
the neck and breast bordered with bright chestnut. 
The female is quite similar, with the markings less distinct 
and the coloring less pure. Of a texture reminding one of 
fine muslin above, and of silk or satin beneath, there is 
something particularly delicate and chaste about the appear- 
ance of this bird; and his song, a warble in a somewhat 
whistling tone, the notes resembling the syllables, wee-chee, 
wee-chee, wee-chee y wee-chee, accent on the first syllable of each 
repetition, increasing to the last, is one of the most spirited 
of all the songs of the Warblers, and decidedly musical. 
Emitted as the bird is actively peering, flitting and glean- 
ing among the branches, it gives the impression of peculiar 
sprightliness and joy. Even when in a momentary repose, 
the raising of the feathers about the head, the drooping 
wings and slightly elevated tail, show a happy self-con- 
sciousness. 

The nest, built in the latter part of May or early in June, 
in a shrub or small tree, here commonly in the tops of the 
raspberry or blackberry bushes, never far from the ground, 
is rather frail, loose and very slightly fastened, composed 
outwardly of fibrous material intermixed with a webby text- 
ure, sometimes with the covering of beech-buds, and is lined 
with very fine dried grass, or shreds of bark of the wild grape- 
vine, and more or less horse-hair. The eggs, commonly four, 
are specked or blotched with light-red and umber, mostly 



334 CAPE MAY WARBLER. 

around the great end, on a ground of pure white, or slightly 
tinged with greenish or grayish, and in shape are rather 
longish and pointed. 

When disturbed or alarmed, the Chestnut-side has the 
tsip or chip common to the Warblers. It is said to breed 
abundantly in Massachusetts and throughout New England. 
Dr. Coues thinks it extends "little, if any, beyond," but 
Mr. Downes reports it as common around Halifax, N. S. 

Mr. Wagner, who sends me a beautiful nest with eggs, 
says it breeds commonly in New Canada, Lunenburg Co.; 
and I found it in the Province, as I did also quite commonly 
in Great Manitoulin Island. 

CAPE MAY WARBLER. 

The day continues delightful,and as the Warblers are almost 
constantly in sight, we keep up a brisk firing. Among others, 
I bring down a beautiful male of the Cape May Warbler 
(.Dendrceca tigrind), somewhat larger than most Warblers, some 
4.25 long and 8.10 in extent, the crown is black; back wings 
and tail of the same edged with greenish-yellow, the latter 
with the white on the inner web of outer feathers; lesser wing- 
coverts white, the greater, partly edged with grayish-white; 
cheeks light-brown, sometimes chestnut; sides of the neck, 
rump and under parts, bright lemon-yellow, the latter 
streaked with black. One may always know this beautiful 
bird by its brown cheeks. The female is duller in marking 
and color. Though not abundant, this species is not infre- 
quently found here during the migration. I saw quite 
a flock of them in a larch in a front-yard in the village as 
I was returning from church one bright Sunday, early in 
May. O, the inconvenience of seeing birds on Sunday ! but 
who can keep his eyes shut when they are once opened ! 

Nowhere found to be numerous as yet, this bird is decid- 



CAPE MAY WARBLER. 335 

edly a stranger to ornithologists. I can learn nothing of 
its song or its note, and almost nothing that is explicit about 
its nest. Mr. Minot says " a nest found in the neighborhood 
of Boston closely resembled that of the Yellow-bird in 
every respect." He also reports the five eggs, laid the first 
week in June, as similar to those of the last mentioned 
species. Dr. Brewer's account of the eggs is simply that 
they are like those of other Warblers. Eastern North 
America generally is given as its habitat, and it is said to 
breed in the West Indies. Mr. Smith, in his annotated list 
of the birds of Maine, reports this species as " not very com- 
mon. Mr. Boardman reports that it breeds in Eastern Maine, 
and it breeds in the western part of the State also, but in 
very limited numbers." Mr. Maynard, however, found 
these birds abundant in summer in the evergreen forests of 
Northern Maine. They kept to the tall tree-tops, and the 
songs of the males were particularly " lively and varied." 
He found the same species common at Key West in No- 
vember, and some remained there all winter. 

This species has a peculiar tongue, deeply cloven at the 
tip, and ciliate along the sides near the tip. The Tennessee, 
or Wandering Warbler, has the tongue quite similar, but not 
so deeply cleft. 



CHAPTER XV. 

PEWEES AND THE HOODED WARBLER. 

IT is a sunny evening on the 15th of May, one of those bright 
and tender evenings of the opening spring, when the 
birth of soft foliage and early flowers reminds one of in- 
fancy ; when neither the chill of the April atmosphere nor 
the damp dews of the dog-days chase the rays of the set- 
ting sun; but balmy airs, free, as yet, from annoying insects, 
and redolent of forest mould and fragrant flowers, bring 
healing with every breath. 

Vegetation always affords a great variety of the tints and 
shades of green, so that a strongly contrasted fabric might 
be woven without introducing any other color; but these 
shades are never so varied as in early spring; besides, many 
other colors are then intermixed. The beeches have a tinge 
of yellow, the willows and poplars are hoary, the maples and 
beech saplings are reddish, the ashes have a dash of deep 
purple or brown, the green of the wheat fields differs from 
that of the meadows in short, next to the brilliant effects 
of autumn are the softer tints of early spring. 

THE WOOD PEWEE. 

As I enter one of our luxuriant tracts of woodland, I hear 
the plaintive note of the Wood Pewee (Contopus virens), 
a beautiful representative of the Flycatcher. Strongly re- 
sembling the rough, guttural and somewhat hurried sylla- 



THE WOOD PEWEE. 337 

bles of the Common Pewee (Sayornis fuscus), this note is still 
very noticeably different in its slow, tender and somewhat 
melancholy whistle, pe-wee, the tone of which is in fine har- 




THE WOOD PEWEE. 



mony with the deep shadows of the thick forest where he 
so constantly takes up his abode. Generally the last syl- 
lable is given in a gentle upward slide, but not infrequently 
in a fine falling inflection, and the two syllables combined 
are always very pleasing. Wood Pewees have the sweet and 
child-like tones of the family; and, like the sentences of 
little children, they are delivered in the most significant 
slides and inflections. 

About the size of Traill's Flycatcher and the small Green 
Crested some six inches in length and of the same gen- 
eral olive-green above and yellowish-white beneath (only 
the olive is quite a good deal darker than that of the latter), 
it is always to be differentiated by its nest, which is a very 
gem in bird-building. Saddled on a forked limb, often in 
the orchard, often in the forest, it is quite shallow, composed 
outwardly of dried grasses or stalks of small weeds, closely 
22 



338 THE WOOD PEWEE. 

fastened together with spider's web or silk of cocoons, and 
most elegantly covered with lichens, the whole appearing 
from below like a fine gray gnarl the natural growth of the 
limb. It is lined with fine rootlets, sometimes mixed with 
vegetable down, or with fine grasses, including the fringy 
tops still green in color. This nest bears a great resem- 
blance to that of the Humming-bird. 

In its inclination to be sociable with man for it loves to 
be in the orchard in his immediate neighborhood in gentle, 
retiring ways, in sweetness of voice, and in architectural 
skill, the Wood Pewee is at once the- elite and the favorite of 
its family. 

The eggs, commonly three, late in June or in July, some 
.70 x -55, are creamy white, with a wreath of rather heavy 
dark spots intermixed with many which are pale, as if partly 
effaced. 

Wintering in the tropics, this bird summers in the Eastern 
United States generally, and in the British Provinces, breed- 
ing throughout. On the whole, it is rather a late migrant, 
reaching us about the middle of May, and leaving in Sep- 
tember. 

Most wonderful is that grouping of characters in natural 
objects by which they can be classified. How came there 
to be family resemblances where we do not find that com- 
munity of descent ever existed ? Why are we constantly 
detecting plans in the almost endlessly varied structures 
of natural history ? How is it that a science or the under- 
standing of nature by means of related forms and functions 
is possible ? How can we fail to see here the evidences of 
an intelligent Creator, whose thoughts are thus wrought 
out into systems and designs ? These things prove that the 
world neither made itself nor came by chance.. 

In its broadest relationship, the family of birds called 



THE OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER, 339 

Flycatchers are formed throughout the tropical world, but 
the Flycatchers of America are a peculiar and well differ- 
entiated branch, some of which extend into north temperate 
latitudes. They are so distinctively marked as to be readily 
distinguishable from all other birds. Especially is this true of 
that division of the family peculiar to North America, the 
Tyrannidcz. The great body of the nearly four hundred 
species constituting the entire American group belongs to 
Central and South America, and are exceedingly varied in 
the details of form and color, some of them being very brill- 
iant. Ours are merely the outlying and plainer varieties. 

Our North American Flycatchers, the Tyrannidce, may be 
distinguished by their rather large head, the crown feathers 
of which are more or less erectile; by the bill, which, broad 
at the base, rapidly narrowing to a sharp point, and 
depressed or flattened across the top and underneath, 
appears triangular when viewed from above, the upper 
mandible being hooked and notched near the tip, while the 
mouth is provided with stiff bristling hairs on either side; by 
the wing, the ten primaries of which are of full length and 
narrowed, or emarginate near the end; by the feet and legs, 
noticeably small and weak for the size of the bird; and by the 
voice, which, for the most part, is harsh. Solitary in their 
habits, they are generally brave, and, on account of their 
strictly insectivorous habits, are very useful. 

THE OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER. 

Belonging to this same genus, Contopus, is the Olive-sided 
Flycatcher (Contopus borealis). About 7.50 long, hav- 
ing the form of the Wood Pewee and the color of 
the Common Pewee, or Phoebe, it is always to be 
distinguished from the latter by its light-colored under 
mandible, its dark olivaceous sides, a'nd its " tuft of white, 



340 SMALL GREEN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER. 

fluffy feathers on the flank." It is readily distinguishable 
from all the smaller Flycatchers by its greater size. Both 
in structure and position, its nest resembles that of the King- 
bird, but its eggs, some . 85 X. 65, are merely an enlarged 
pattern of those of the Wood Pewee. As its name indicates, 
this bird is of northern habitat, breeding from New England 
to high latitudes. Its notes and habits of diet are those of 
the Flycatchers in general. The former are given by Nut- 
tall as "ehphebee" or "Kphebw" in a whistling tone some- 
what guttural at the commencement. To my ear, as I 
listened to it recently in Nova Scotia, it sounded like,/#/, 
pe-wee, the first syllable short and aspirated, the two follow- 
ing drawn out in loud, clear, whistling tones. 

SMALL GREEN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER. 

In a shadowy part of the woods, where young hemlocks 
are thickly interspersed, I hear sharp, quick notes, pee-whee, 
quee-ree-ee, which I at once recognize as those of the Small 
Green-crested Fly-catcher (Empidonax acadicus] , a very com- 
mon summer resident of our upland woods. I look sharply 
into the shadows for some time before I get sight of it. It 
is perched on a dead limb, near the base of a small hemlock; 
and always accompanies its note with a quick jerk of the 
tail. Like the rest of the Flycatchers, it sits still on its 
perch and waits for its prey; and when that prey appears, 
be it beetle, fly, or moth, it darts quickly after it, cutting a 
smooth curve, which is sure to intercept it, and seizing it 
with a sharp click of the mandibles. With its quick, well- 
directed movement, the broad gape of its deeply cleft 
mouth and tangle of bristles on each side of it, there is but 
a slim chance of escape for its victim. 

Some six inches in length, the crown feathers somewhat 
long and erected; the whole upper parts fine olive-green; 



SMALL GREEN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER. 341 

the under parts yellowish-white, with an ashy tinge on the 
sides and across the breast; tail and wings dusky; the bars 
across the latter, as also the margins of the secondaries and 
tertiaries, the eye-lids and feathers about the flank, light 
greenish-yellow; feet and upper mandible, deep brown or 
dusky; under mandible, pale this bird is of pleasing ap- 
pearance a sprightly and cheerful ornament of the forest. 
There is nothing about it which wins our sympathy, how- 
ever, as do the sweet plaintive notes and the elegant nest 
of the Wood Pewee. 

Its nest, rather loose and rustic, is quite unique. Placed 
rather low, perhaps from five to nine feet from the ground, 
generally on the limb of a small evergreen, sometimes in a 
small hard-wood tree, it is loosely hung by the sides to a 
more or less fork-shaped part of the limb. Some three 
inches or more in external diameter, and some two inches 
or more through, it is loosely, even raggedly, woven of the 
fine spray of the hemlock, interspersed with grasses and 
some fibrous bark, or principally of fine grasses interspersed 
with the hemlock spray and bits of bark-fiber, more or less 
fastened together throughout with a fine webby or downy 
material, which also binds it to the forked limb; and it is 
ornamented with the bud-scales of the beech, and some- 
times with its dried stamenate blossoms. The inside, some 
two inches across and rather more than one inch in depth, 
is lined with fine hemlock spray, or fine grasses, or both; if 
principally of the latter, it has a light feathery appear- 
ance. It is always so loosely made that one can see through 
it. 

The eggs, about .75 X .50, are cream color, and sparsely 
specked or spotted with brown about the larger end or half. 
The female sits very closely; sometimes she can be caught 
in the hand, if one creeps stealthily under the nest; some- 



342 THE HOODED WARBLER. 

times she will defend her nest most persistently, flying at 
the intruder with sharp notes and a snapping of the bill. 

Rare in Southern New England, and scarcely extending 
beyond the Mississippi, the principal breeding range of 
acadicus (geographically a false name) is the middle dis- 
trict of the United States. 

THE HOODED WARBLER. 

From different points in the thick woods comes 
the common and familiar song of the Hooded War- 
bler (Mywdioctes mitratus) cheree-cheree-cheree-chi-di-ee, the 
first three notes with a loud bell-like ring, and the 
rest in very much accelerated time, and with the 
falling inflection. Arriving early in May, this is one of 
our common summer residents throughout the dense 
upland forests, occupying the lower story of the woodland 
home, while the Ccerulean Warbler occupies the upper. 
Here let me say that, in addition to its alarm note, a sharp 
whistling or metallic chip, which is very clearly character- 
ized, the Hooded Warbler has two distinct songs, as differ- 
ent as if coming from different species. Never shall I for- 
get how I was once puzzled by this. I was strolling in a 
thick forest near the corner of a slashing at evening twi- 
light, in June, when I was surprised by a strange whistling 
melody whee-ree-whee-ree-eeh, with a marked emphasis on 
the second syllable, and a still more marked one on the 
last. Part of the time this utterance was somewhat varied, 
a few notes being sometimes added, and again a few drop- 
ped. My curiosity was greatly excited, for I had supposed 
myself familiar with the sylvan voices in the neigh- 
borhood, but it soon became too dark to identify the bird. 
For nearly a week I went to that spot every day, always 
hearing the song, but never being able to get a clear sight 



THE HOODED WARBLER. 343 

of the singer. It seemed exceedingly shy. In vain did I 
crawl on hands and knees among the undergrowth to get 
near to it, for just as I would seem about to gain a good 
view of it, the song would cease at the point under obser- 
vation, and come from one more distant. Just as I was 
about to give the matter up, one evening, down came the 
singer, stage by stage, through the thick foliage, and, alight- 
ing within a few feet of me and in clear sight, gave the 
full effect of his whistling song. I have since heard the 
same song a number of times and in different places from 
the Hooded Warbler. So I conclude that in the case of 
this species there are, occasionally at least, two distinct and 
altogether different songs. 

Five inches or a little more in length, all the upper parts are 
of a fine olivaceous-green, all the under parts bright yellow; 
the two outer feathers on each side of the tail are white nearly 
to the base; a jet-black hood, covering the crown and back 
of the head, extending along the sides of the neck around 
the cheeks and completely covering the foreneck and 
throat distinguishes the male. The sunlight on his breast, 
the hues of the forest on his back, and the emblems of 
mourning about his head as he peers out modestly from 
among the foliage, he is one of the most strikingly beautiful 
of all our large and elegant family of Warblers. The female 
is similar, but much less brilliant, and has the mere outline 
of the black hood. 

The Hooded Warbler belongs to the Flycatching War- 
blers, the bills of which resemble those of the Flycatchers, 
but in regard to all other points, especially the feet, they 
are true Warblers. The flesh-colored feet and legs of this 
bird denote that it is a Ground Warbler; that is, it belongs 
to those Warblers which make their home on or near the 
ground. Here it keeps itself, for the most part, well con- 



344 WILSON'S BLACK-CAP. 

cealed among the foliage of the thick undergrowth, having a 
rather slow and dignified movement for a bird of its kind. 

It builds its nest from a foot to 18 inches from the ground, 
generally in the upright or somewhat leaning fork of a 
little bush. I once found it in a beech limb, lying on the 
ground, but still retaining the dry leaves. It is somewhat 
bulky, but quite neat, the lower part being of dry or skele- 
ton leaves, the upper part, especially the high and well- 
defined rim, of long fibrous bark, as that of the grape-vine, 
ash, bass-wood or elm, laid almost as nicely as coiled cords, 
the whole structure being bound together by a webby 
material, and lined with fine grasses, bark-fibers and horse- 
hair. In location, material and structure, it is quite unique, 
and, like most other birds' nests, is a much more certain 
means of identification than the eggs themselves. These, 
2-4, varying from .63X.52 to .Y5X.50, are clear white, deli- 
cately specked and spotted, sometimes even blotched, with 
reddish brown and lilac. In form and coloration the eggs 
are'very variable. They may be found fresh from the last 
week in May till the middle of June. A second set may 
sometimes be found in July. The male aids in incubation. 

Confined to the eastern part of the United States, 
and barely entering the southern part of New England, 
Western and Central New York, where it is quite common, 
must be about the northern limit of this species. 

WILSON'S BLACK-CAP. 

Wilson's Black-cap (Myiodioctes pusillus], regarded as 
closely related to the above species, appears here occasion- 
ally as a migrant. Mr. Bruce, of Brockport, New York, 
once saw a large flock actively gleaning insects in a row of 
willow trees, about the middle of May. I have known one, 
also, to be taken in Western New York; but I have never 



THE LEAST PEWEE. 345 

seen it myself. Mr. Smith gives it as a migrant through 
Maine, but not common; and Mr. Chamberlain reports it as 
an uncommon summer resident in New Brunswick. Audu- 
bon found it breeding commonly in Labrador, the nest 
being "placed on the extremity of a small horizontal 
branch, amongst the thick foliage of dwarf firs, not more 
than from 3-5 feet from the ground, and in the center of the 
thickets of these trees, so common in Labrador. The mate- 
rials of which it is composed are bits of dry moss and 
delicate pine twigs, agglutinated together and to the 
branches or leaves around it, beneath which it is sus- 
pended; the lining is of extremely fine and transparent 
fibers. The greatest diameter does not exceed 3% inches, 
and the depth is not more than 1^. The eggs are 4, dull 
white, sprinkled with reddish and brown dots toward the 
larger end, where the markings form a circle, leaving the 
extremity plain." Mr. Allen found the Black-cap " a com- 
mon inhabitant of the sub-alpine and alpine districts in the 
Colorado Mountains, breeding from about 8,000 feet up to 
about the timber line." Dr. Coues found it a common 
summer resident in the mountainous districts of Arizona 
from May to September. Neither of them, however, found 
the nest. Small; length, 4.60; stretch, 7.00; bill much 
feathered, after the manner of the Flycatchers; the color, 
yellowish-green above, becoming brownish on wing and 
tail; forehead, sides of the head and under parts, bright 
yellow; the black patch on the crown being less extended in 
the female, and wanting in the young. The food is taken 
on the wing with a click of the bill, also after the manner of 
the Flycatchers. 

THE LEAST PEWEE. 

As I approach the edge of the woods on a rather low spot 
of ground, I hear the unmistakable notes of the Least 



346 THE YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER. 

Pewee (Empidonax minimus] sewick, sewick, written by some 
"chebec" quickly and sharply uttered. It has been here 
for two weeks or more. About the color of the common 
Phcebe (Sayornis fusctts), only a little grayer about the 
head, and scarcely more than five inches long, it is much 
smaller than the rest of our Flycatchers; and, not to speak 
of its peculiar notes, has a nest wholly unlike that of any 
of them, and eggs which never can be mistaken for those 
of any other bird in our locality; and yet, numerous as it is 
throughout the Eastern United States, neither Audubon 
nor Wilson distinguished it. It is very common here, par- 
ticularly in thickets, the borders of the low-land forests, 
and the more open swamps. The nest, generally placed 
out of reach, sometimes fifteen feet or upward from the 
ground, commonly in the top fork of a small tree or sap- 
ling, sometimes on a horizontal limb, is neat and very closely 
compacted, composed outwardly of wood or bark-fibers, 
sometimes well intermixed and ornamented with vegetable 
down, and lined with fine fibers of bark, fine grasses and 
vegetable down in general, sometimes with fine feathers. 
The entire nest bears a strong resemblance to that of the 
Redstart. The eggs, three or four, from .60 or .65X.50, are 
pure white. "Breeds abundantly from Southern New 
England northward." (Coues.) Eggs are found here late in 
May or early in June. 

THE YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER. 

I have also taken the Yellow-bellied Pewee (Empidonax 
flaviventris), here in Orleans County late in May. As it 
ranges throughout North America and breeds from the 
Middle States northward, it probably breeds here. About 
5.50 long, and olive-green above, it is readily distin- 
guishable by its bright yellow under parts. The ring 



TR A ILL'S FLYCATCHER. 347 

around the eye, the lower mandible, and the bars across the 
wing-coverts are also yellow. Its note is said to be a " low 
pe-a" and its so-called song is said to sound like the sylla- 
bles killick, repeated at rather long intervals. As to the 
nest and eggs of this species, authors have been quite con- 
fused; some reporting them pure white and others spotted; 
but a nest examined by Messrs. Deane and Pardie, on the 
18th of June, 1878, was quite conclusive. It was placed in 
the upturned roots of a tree; and "a large dwelling it was 
for so small and trim a bird. Built in and on to the black 
mud clinging to the roots, but two feet from the ground, 
the bulk of the nest was composed of dry moss, while the 
outside was faced with beautiful fresh-green mosses, thickest 
around the rim or parapet. The home of the Bridge Pe- 
wee (Sayorms fuscus) was at once suggested. But no mud 
entered into the actual composition of the nest, though at 
first we thought so, so much was clinging to it when re- 
moved. The lining was mainly of fine black rootlets, with 
a few pine-needles and grass-stems. * * * The eggs, 
four in number, were perfectly fresh, rounded-oval in shape, 
and of a beautiful rosy-white tint, well spotted with a light 
reddish shade of brown." An elegant nest, sent me from 
Nova Scotia by Mr. Wagner, is made of fine dried grasses, 
arranged in a bunch of moss. The four white eggs, some 
.71 X.50, are beautifully specked, spotted, and even blotched 
about the large end with light red. The nest was taken 
from the ground with fresh eggs the 15th of June. 

TRAILL'S FLYCATCHER. 

Another Flycatcher about our low lands and swamps, and 
especially along streams in such places, is Traill's Flycatcher 
(Empidonax trailing. About six inches long, or sometimes a 
little less, it is to be distinguished from the small Green- 



348 COOPER'S HA WK. 

crested Flycatcher by the darker olive of the upper parts, and 
from the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher by its entire lack of the 
bright yellow beneath, as well as by the absence of the 
clear greenish tinge so distinctive in the upper parts of the 
latter. Its voice, habit of location, and also the structure 
of its nest, differentiate it very clearly. Its ordinary note 
is a. pip or chip, and what is sometimes called its song has 
been written che-bee-u. Indeed, a careful study of the more 
prominent notes of the smaller Flycatchers will distinguish 
them all. 

The nest, which, according to the local habit of the bird, 
is in some swampy region, is placed in the upright fork of 
a bush or sapling, is quite compact, and externally bears 
indeed no small resemblance to that of the Yellow Warbler, 
except that it is a little larger. The outside is of gray fi- 
brous material, intermixed with the bleached blades of dried 
grasses; the inside is of fine dried grasses, closely laid, and 
the whole structure is more or less mixed with vegetable 
down. As is the case with most Flycatchers, the interior 
of the nest is large for the size of the bird. The eggs, 
commonly three, some . 68 x -50, are creamy white, the larger 
half being more or less spotted and specked with reddish- 
brown. 

Wintering in the tropics, Traill's Flycatcher finds its 
breeding habitat in the Eastern United States and the 
British Provinces, reaching the latter during the latter half 

of May. 

COOPER'S HAWK. 

In the top of a tall beech tree, I discover a hawk's nest, 
and while I am querying whether it be new or old, the 
female of Cooper's Hawk (Acctpiter cooperi} alights on a 
limb near the nest, and presently drops into it. At the same 
time I see a friend passing along the winter road near 



COOPER'S HA WK. 349 

by, carrying a fine rifle. He is a good marksman, so I 
beckon him to my assistance. As I strike on the trunk of 
the tree the bird leaves the nest, and my friend takes her 
on the wing. Down she comes, so gradually that she almost 
appears as if alighting, and skimming along near the ground 
for some distance, finally drops, squealing loudly enough 
to alarm the whole feathered tribe in the neighborhood. 
As I approach her, she defends herself with the heroism of 
a true Hawk. The bullet has passed through her thigh, 
shattering the bone thoroughly, and the two outer pinions 
of one wing are cut away. But why should this simple 
shattering of the thigh bring down so strong a bird so 
readily ? The explanation is to be found in the peculiar 
anatomy of the bird. In 1761, Peter Camper, a distinguished 
Dutch anatomist, discovered that the cavities in the bones 
of birds, which Gabbe had already observed to contain no 
marrow, were in direct communication with the lungs, and 
so participated in respiration. In 1774, John Hunter, the 
great English comparative anatomist, verified the same in his 
marvelous researches into the anatomy of birds. Extending 
their investigations in the most able manner throughout the 
entire class of birds, they discovered that " the air-cells and 
lungs can be inflated from the bones, and Hunter injected 
the medullary cavities of the bones from the trachea. If 
the femur" the thigh bone " into which the air is admitted be 
broken, the bird is unable to raise itself in flight. If the trachea 
be tied and an opening be made into the humerus" the up- 
per wing-bone " the bird will respire by that opening for 
a short period, and may be killed by inhaling noxious gases 
through it. If an air-bone of a living 1 bird, similarly per- 
forated, be held in water, bubbles will rise from it, and a 
motion of the contained air will be exhibited, synchronous 
with the motions of inspiration and expiration. 



350 COOPER'S HAWK. 

11 The proportion in which the skeleton is permeated by 
air varies in different birds. In the Alca impennis, the Pen- 
guins (Aptenodytes) and the Apteryx, air is not admitted into 
any of the bones. The condition of the osseous system, 
therefore, which all birds present at the early periods of ex- 
istence, is here retained through life. 

"In the large Struthious Birds, which are remarkable for 
the rapidity of their course, the thigh-bones and bones of 
the pelvis, the vertebral column, ribs, sternum and scapular 
arch, the cranium and lower jaw, have all air admitted into 
their cavities or cancellous structure. In the Ostrich the 
Jmmeri and other bones of the wings, the tibia and distal 
bones of the legs, retain their marrow. Most birds of flight 
have air admitted into the humerus ; the Woodcock and 
Snipe are exceptions. The Pigeon tribe, with the exception 
of the Crown Pigeon, have no air in the femur, which re- 
tains its marrow. In the Owls also the femur is filled with 
marrow; but in the Diurnal Birds of prey, as in almost 
all other birds of flight, the femur is filled with air. In the 
Pelican and Gannet the air enters all the bones with the 
exception of the phalanges of the toes. In the Hornbill 
even these are permeated by air."* 

My specimen of Cooper's Hawk is one of the largest, 
some 20 inches long. She is sometimes scarcely more than 18 
inches long, while the male is never more than 18, and may not 
exceed 16 inches in length. This species, which in structure 
and color is almost precisely like that of the Sharp-shinned 
Hawk, being, however, unmistakably larger, makes with it, 
and it only in this country, a strongly marked genus, the 
Accipiter the distinctive generic points being: 1st, that the 
feathers extend but slightly down the tarsus; 2d, that the 
toes are long and very slender, much webbed at the base, 

* Comparative Anatomy and Physiology of Vertebrates, by Richard Owen, Vol. 1, pp. 
213, 214. 



CO OPER' S HA WK. 351 

and thickly padded; 3d, that the fourth primary is longest, 
the "second shorter than the sixth," and the first noticeably 
short; 4th, the soft and finely blended character of the 
colors above, in maturity being a fine ashy-brown, black- 
ish on the head. The under parts of both birds are white, 
with fine cross-streaks of light-reddish. They bear about 
the same relation to each other as that of the Hairy to the 
Downy Woodpecker. Cooper's Hawk is especially a bird 
of the United States, most common in the Northern States, 
and extending but slightly into the British Provinces. The 
Sharp-shinned Hawk is sometimes found here in winter, 
but Cooper's Hawk goes farther south. Early in May is 
the time for the nidification of the latter in this locality. 
The nest, in the crotch of a tall tree, or where several limbs 
join the trunk, always very high, is built of sticks and lined 
with dry grass, or strips of bark, sometimes containing 
feathers, the depression being but slight. The eggs, 3 or 4, 
sometimes 5, about 1.90 x 1.50, are white, greenish or 
grayish tinged, often clear, sometimes slightly blotched 
with dark drab or brown. Mr. Samuels mentions a pair 
robbed of their eggs four times in the same season. " They 
built different nests in the same grove, and laid in the four 
litters, four, five, and three eggs, respectively. The eggs 
of the last litter were very small, but little larger than 
those of the Sharp-shinned Hawk." 

The ordinary flight of this bird is rapid and straight- 
forward, the regular strokes of the wings being frequently 
relieved by sailing. In the mating season, when it is very 
noisy, having a note which sounds like chee-e-e-ah, I have 
seen it, high in air, above the tops of the tallest trees, shoot- 
ing toward one of its kind whose voice it heard in the dis- 
tance, with half-closed and perfectly motionless wings, and 
with a rocket-like speed and a gracefulness which no 



352 THE SHARP- SHINNED HAWK. 

language could describe. In pursuit of its prey, which may 
consist of small quadrupeds, the smaller ducks and waders, 
grouse, and the larger kinds of the common land-birds, it 
moves with great spirit and adroitness, and seldom misses 
its quarry. So well known is it in the poultry yard that it 
is called the "Chicken Hawk." When reared from the nest 
it becomes so thoroughly domesticated as to need no con- 
finement. 

THE SHARP-SHINNED HAWK. 

The Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter fuscus], in every way 
so similar to Cooper's Hawk, is some 12 inches long; brown 
or slate-colored above, with a few white spots on the back 
of the head and on the scapulars; tail also brown or 
ashy, but considerably lighter, with fine dark bands across 
it, sometimes tipped with whitish; the white under parts 
closely and narrowly barred with reddish; throat, narrowly 
streaked lengthwise with brown. Its nest is similarly placed 
to that of the former species, only not so high up in the 
tree, but is occasionally placed on a rock. The eggs, some 
4, are about 1.40 x 1.20, roundish, clear white, or perhaps 
slightly tinged with blue or green, heavily and distinctly 
marked patched with brown. 

This Hawk reaches Western New York the latter part of 
April, and its eggs are laid early in May. It is readily dis- 
tinguished by its short, broad wings, and rather nervous 
and irregular flight; but it moves rapidly, and sometimes 
with great impetuosity, so that it has been known to pass 
through several glass partitions of a green-house. Seizing 
its prey on the wing, in the manner of a true Hawk, it dashes 
after it with the utmost directness, moving high or low, to 
the right or left, as if by some continuous attraction. With 
an unerring stroke, it wounds fatally in the very act of 
capture, and then bears its prey to a tree, to be devoured at 



THE SHARP-SHINNED HAWK. 353 

leisure. In addition to the small birds thus taken on the 
wing, it may pounce on one larger and heavier than itself, 
or it may swoop down upon the small quadrupeds, or, after 
the manner of the smaller Hawks in general, make its repast 
even on insects. As with birds of prey in general, the surest 
way of escaping its clutches is by soaring; the thickets, into 
which the smaller birds generally dive when pursued, 
affording but little obstruction to its penetrating flight. Its 
note, which is but seldom heard, is sharp and shrill. 
Ranging over all North America, it may be found in New 
York and Massachusetts during mild winters. 



23 



CHAPTER XVI. 

BIRDS AROUND THE HOUSE. 

ON a beautiful sunny morning, the 16th of May, I am 
watching the birds and listening to them from my study 
window. From the apple trees and the currant bushes in 
the garden comes the voluble and sprightly song of the 
Common Wren {Troglodytes aedon). Of all the songs of 
birds within the range of our acquaintance, there is no mel- 
ody more gushing, more sparkling, more full of the very 
soul of vital energy, than the warbling, twittering perform- 
ance of this most active and industrious little creature. If 
the syllables have not that measured cadence, nor the tones 
that heart-searching vibration, which move one to melan- 
choly or to joy, to prayer or to praise, it touches the nerves 
with a startling impulse, like the gust of the summer wind 
shaking the leaves, the patter of rain on the roof, or the 
streaming of sunshine through a rift of the clouds. How 
much quicker my thoughts move after that trill from the 
garden wall, and how suggestive is each note of its repeti- 
tion ! Now he mounts a hitching-post, in full view, in the 
adjoining church-yard, and the sight of him is almost as 
animating as his voice. The tail, which drooped during 
his song, is immediately thrown up and forward as it ceases; 
he twists and turns upon his nimble feet as if on a swivel 
or pivot, that can let him up and down and around in every 
direction ; his sharp bill signals every point of the com- 



THE COMMON WREN. 355 

pass, and his tiny, sparkling eye seems to take in every 
object. 

Now he drops from the post, and flying low, with a steady 
flutter of his short, round wings, he dives into a thicket of 
rose bushes. Here he slides up and down the stems like an 
automaton, peers under the leaves with every conceivable 
twist of the neck, and runs on the ground, darting in and 
out of rubbish with the quickness and penetration of a 
mouse. 

The great variety and abundance of his insect food, 
whether gleaned amidst the thick foliage, drawn from 
chinks and crevices, or captured on the wing, is taken so 
adroitly that only the close observer can comprehend the 
important services of this restless and diminutive species 
in subduing these pests of the house and garden. Alas, 
that man, that lord of creation, should eat his currants, his 
cabbage' and his lettuce, all unconscious of how much the 
birds have saved for him ! 

Presently I hear the Wren again, and in altogether another 
part of the garden. This time he is not a singer but a 
scold. How angry is his chirp, as he berates that white cat, 
which, standing fair in front of his retreat in the blackberry 
bushes, ogles him with her green fire-balls, and moves the 
end of her tail in signal of the murder-prepense in her heart. 
But this wee Wren is one of the bravest of birds, and is 
always so well on the alert that Grimalkin soon gives up in 
despair, and concludes to suffer alike the mortification of 
the scolding and the disappointment of the stomach. 

Having been quite curious as to the nesting of this Wren, 
which has come so regularly to these premises for years, I 
go out into the yard and watch his movements. There, he 
has taken a spider from that web in the apple-tree and has dis- 
appeared under the horse-sheds back of the church. Conclud- 



356 THE COMMON WREN. 

ing that his nest is somewhere in that structure, I hide away 
and watch. In a few moments he flits down and drops into a 
rather loose mortise-joint, where a brace enters a post. The 
entrance is very small, but there is quite a space inside. 
Having examined any considerable number of nests, one 
can conceive the contents and arrangement of such a cavity 
without access to it. However large the space, it will be 
well filled up with rough, crooked twigs, leaving a bristling 
and irregular passage barely large enough to admit the tiny 
occupant, which passage leads to the nest, ensconced away 
in the remotest corner. The nest proper is composed of 
dried grasses well laid, and is well lined with hair and 
feathers. The variety of cavities appropriated for a nest 
by this pertinacious little bird is beyond account the bird- 
box, the holes about the house-cornice, a hole in a post or 
in an old apple-tree, the mucl dwelling of the Have Swallow, 
the inside of a log-pump, the pocket or sleeve of an old 
coat hanging in an out-building, an old hat with rent crown 
stuck up against the wall, the brain-cavity of a horse's skull 
mounted on a stake in short, any cavity into which suffi- 
cient material of the proper kind can be stowed and arranged 
for a breeding tenement. A nest once found in the clothes- 
line box of Professor Ware, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 
and which has attained classic fame, filled a space " consid- 
erably more than a foot square," and consisted of "the exuvia 
of a snake several feet in length, large twigs, pieces of India- 
rubber suspenders, oak leaves, feathers, pieces of shavings, 
hair, hay, etc., etc." 

With what boldness and pugnacity this Wren will drive 
the gentle Bluebird, or the large Black Martin from his box; 
how he will dislodge the Eave Swallow from his jug-nosed 
tenement; thus taking possession of the rightful home of 
another, on which he has no claim whatever; and how he 



.THE EAVE SWALLOW. 357 

will contend for his premises with those of his own kind, 
is familiar to all who know him. 

The eggs of this species, some half-dozen or upward, 
about .60X-48, are a delicate flesh color, very finely specked 
and sprayed all over with reddish-brown, thickening into a 
wreath or large spot at the large end. 

About five inches long, this Wren is deep brown, crossed 
with bars of black above, the head and neck being plain; 
the throat and breast are buff, or a light clay color; belly 
and vent white, spotted with brown and black; the tail, 
which is much longer than that of the Winter Wren about 
two inches is brown, crossed with lines of black; the feet 
are flesh color. 

Wintering in the Southern States, this species' ranges 
throughout the Eastern States, west to Nebraska and Da- 
kota, and north somewhat into the British Provinces, 
becoming rare already in Northern New England. 

THE EAVE SWALLOW. 

As I look up into the cloudless sky I am impressed with 
its great depth and transparency. If I believed in the old 
Ptolemaic theory of separate crystalline spheres, or hollow 
globes, in which the various planets, including the sun and the 
fixed stars as a system, were severally set, each sphere revolv- 
ing with its own velocity, I should think that some mystic 
power in the air had been very thoroughly at work, and had 
newly cleansed and polished these transparent spheres 
throughout. Against this clear deep, multitudes of Eave 
or Cliff Swallows (Petrochelidon lunifrons] are describing 
their elegant flight. This species, and the family it repre- 
sents, are in the strictest sense ''birds of the air," since 
they spend nearly all their time in that region. Their small 
weak feet, long pointed wings and great nervous 



358 THE EAVE SWALLOW. 

energy are all in constitutional harmony with this fact. 
There is a language of motion as well as of sound; hence, 
like a strain in music, the flight of each bird conveys its 
peculiar idea. There is majesty in the soaring of the 
Eagle, alarm in the whir-r-r-r of the Partridge, haste in the 
whistling strokes of the Duck, joy in the exulting curves of 
the Goldfinch, and a happy contentment in the easy gyra- 
tions of the Swallow. My mind goes into repose, and 
drinks in the sweet spirit of contentment, defying galling 
burdens and corrosive cares, as my eye follows the spirit- 
like sweep of those sabre-shaped wings, each curve describ- 
ing a happy thought on the sunny sky. 

And what a study might there be of marvelous adjust- 
ment and conformity to mechanical laws, by which this 
little creature makes its way through the trackless air with 
such nice accuracy, that it can "pick up a flying gnat " 
whilst moving " at the rate of more than a hundred miles 
an hour." Or who can conceive how many tickling and 
prickling annoyances of insect-life are prevented for us, 
during the long summer days, by the semi-domestic services 
of these Swallows, each one of which probably destroys at 
least a thousand insects every day. 

For some time it has been a question with ornithologists 
whether the Eave Swallow gradually extended its habitat 
from Mexico through North America, as it was formerly 
believed. The very best authorities now conclude that it 
has always been " amenable to the ordinary laws of migra- 
tion and spread over nearly all of North America, the South 
Atlantic States, perhaps, excepted; " and that " the numerous 
recorded dates of its appearance and breeding in particular 
localities merely mark the times when the birds forsook 
their natural breeding places and built under eaves, which 
enabled them to pass the summer where fortnerly they were 



THE EAVE SWALLOW. 359 

unable to breed "for want of suitable accommodations." 
(Coues.) In the great canons of the west, along the vertical 
walls beneath shelving rocks, sometimes where great rivers 
rush between frowning battlements, the strange, bottle- 
shaped nests of this species, according to its primitive style, 
are hung by thousands in the most fantastic arrangements. 
Among all our birds none has discovered so great an incli- 
nation to accommodate itself to man, and to avail itself 
of the advantages of civilization, as the various species of 
the Swallow. The Purple Martin abandons the holes in 
trees and takes up his abode in almost any convenience 
about human habitations; the Fork-tailed Swallow has 
abandoned the trees of the forest and the caves, for the 
rafters and peaks of the barn, and so has received the 
name, Barn-swallow; the White-bellied Swallow is inclined 
to leave his hollow stump for a hole in the wall; the so-called 
Chimney Swallow, or Swift, has left the hollow trees 
formerly appropriated, and will rather endure the daily 
smoke of the chimney than leave the neighborhood of man; 
even the Sand Martin has shown some inclination to take 
to cavities under the bridge, and so join the thoroughfare 
of man, rather than remain in the banks of lonely streams; 
and how the Eave Swallows will swell their colonies from 
year to year under those eaves which afford a convenience, 
every one has had opportunity to note. This tenement of 
mud is a very artistic thing of its kind. The swell of the 
main part, the narrowing jug-nosed entrance, so exactly 
rounded, and the well cemented pellets of mud, giving the 
external surface such a neat, pebbly appearance, are all 
entirely beyond human imitation, as I fully satisfied myself 
by many experiments in the days of my childhood. How 
cozy it looks up there under the broad eaves. Soft bits of 
hay and an abundance of down are there, to accommo- 



360 THE EAVE SWALLOW. 

date the frail eggs and the tender young. What sweet 
peace reigns in that little household! What a world of 
domestic comfort discovers itself in that soft musical chat- 
ter, so much like animated conversation! What are those 
little hearts saying to each other, up there away from all the 
rest of the world? Surely no burdened spirit is carried into 
the air from that household. But woe to the intruder who 
may be found within the sacred precincts when the parent 
returns; and this sometimes occurs in fresh-made nests by 
pilferers who are too lazy to travel for material for their 
own domiciles. After a few notes of astonishment and 
warning, uttered in harsh syllables, the offender is uncere- 
moniously thrust out, and, held by the scruff of the neck, 
dangles awkwardly in the air for several seconds, being 
finally allowed to escape with a volume of execrations.* 

What happy playful creatures are the members of this 
extremely peaceful colony. Many a sport do they enjoy, 
unnoticed by the busy and inobservant owner of the premi- 
ses. See them play with that feather floating like a thistle- 
down in the air! One seizes it in one of his exact curves, 
and carries it up many feet, simply to drop it for his com- 
rade, who again snatches it as it nears the ground, and ele- 
vates it for the pleasure of the next neighbor who catches it in 
like manner. Thus the feather is a plaything for the whole 
company in turn, just as boys would use a ball or a shuttle- 
cock; and their merriment of chat and laughter is equal to 
that of the happiest and most animated human voices. 

Those rosy eggs with specks of brown, scarcely to be 
distinguished from the litters hung to the rafters inside, are 
incubated by both sexes; and when the young are out of 
the shell, the parents skim the air most assiduously to 

* The European House Martin has been known to close up the entrance, and so imprison 
the Common Sparrow of the Old World, which might be entering its nest in search of 
accommodation for itself; our Martin keeping guard while the mate did the mason work. 



THE BLACK MARTIN. 361 

secure the abundance of insect-food necessary to their 
voracity. For just as nervous people eat much without grow- 
ing fat, the nourishment of their food being consumed by 
their nervous energy, so these active birds are almost un- 
limited eaters. 

Two broods may be raised in a season, and in the latter 
part of August, the ridge of the barn, or the telegraph 
wire, attests to the numerous progenies which migrate 
southward for the winter, to return again to the middle 
districts, from their distant sojourn, late in April or early 
in May. 

About five inches long, the tail not being forked, this 
species has the upper parts a glossy steel-blue, there being 
a white triangular or crescent-shaped spot on the forehead 
(hence the specific name lunifrons) ; throat and sides of the 
head, chestuut; rump, reddish; breast, sides, and collar 
about the neck, rust-color, becoming white or whitish on the 
belly. As with the rest of the Swallows, the sexes are 
nearly alike, and the young are similar. The white or 
whitish mark on the forehead is always distinctive. 

Wintering in Central America, this species breeds nearly 
throughout North America. 

THE BLACK MARTIN. 

On this same beautiful morning the Black Martins 
(Progne purpured] are abroad. The fine curves in flight 
and the easy but rapid sailing, .as well as the form, mark 
this bird as a Swallow, huge though he be for one of his 
kind. His notes, however, are peculiar to himself. Chee-u, 
chee-u, chee-u, chee-u, uttered in rapid succession, may 
represent his common vocal performance. Often he adds a 
peculiar guttural croak or chuckle, especially when alighted 
about the breeding tenement, the above-described being 



362 THE BLACK MARTIN. 

especially his language while on the wing Some seven 
inches long, wing six inches, tail slightly forked, this species 
appears large for one of his kind. 

The mature male is "lustrous blue-black" all over. The 
female and young have a rather dull modification of the 
color above, being more or less white below, streaked and 
spotted with gray. 

Undoubtedly this species originally bred in holes in trees, 
and it is occasionally known to do so still. Now, however, 
it appropriates a hole in the house-cornice, a bird-box, or 
an apartment of the dove-house. The " solitary Indian " 
of the olden times trimmed the boughs from a sapling 
near his wigwam or rude cabin, "leaving the prongs a foot 
or two in length, on each of which he hung a gourd, or 
calabash, properly hollowed out," for the bird's convenience. 
Later still, on the banks of the Mississippi, the negroes 
stuck up "long canes, with the same species of apartment 
fixed to their tops, in which the Martins regularly bred." 
If rude and savage breasts discover such cordiality toward 
this bird, what wonder if civilization and refinement attract 
it by miniature houses, especially since the species follows 
man to the populous village and the crowded town, and is 
not disturbed even by the thoroughfares of business. 

The breeding tenement adopted by the Martin is fitted 
up with a nest of bits of straw, hay, and dry leaves, lined 
with feathers. The eggs,' some . 95x^0, rather small for 
the size of the bird, are pure white. Thus the nest and 
eggs of the Martin bear a close resemblance to those of the 
White-bellied Swallow. 

Its bill is "very stout" for a Swallow, and is " curved at 
the end." Its bill of fare is by no means confined to the 
tiny insects so abundantly captured by the smaller Swal- 
lows, but includes "wasps, bees, large beetles," etc. 



THE HUMMINGBIRD. 363 

All careful observers bear testimony to the remarkable 
pugnacity of the Martin, which attacks successfully the 
Hawks and Owls generally, and even the Eagle, and so 
pesters them as to drive them from the neighborhood, thus 
securing more or less protection for the Domestic Fowl. It 
will join common cause with the Kingbird, or it will attack 
the Kingbird in turn and compel* him to flee. 

Wintering in the tropics, the Black Martin ranges 
throughout the United States and far north into Canada, 
breeding nearly throughout its range. It reaches New 
York late in April, and leaves late in August or early in 
September. Late in August they sometimes assemble in 
large flocks, after the manner of the Swallows generally, 
preparatory to their southward flight. 

THE HUMMINGBIRD. 

As I am gazing on that Tartarian honeysuckle a thing 
of splendid beauty, with its abundant sprays of blossoms of 
snowy white and bright purple set off by an exuberance of 
dark-green leaves a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Tro- 
chilus colubris] shoots around the house and hums in front 
of the clusters of blossoms. There are many birds, the 
flight of which is so rapid that the strokes of their wings 
cannot be counted, but here is a species with such nerve 
of wing that its wing-strokes cannot be seen. "A hazy 
semicircle of indistinctness on each side of the bird is all 
that is perceptible." Poised m the air, his body nearly 
at the perpendicular, he seems to hang in front of the flow- 
ers, which he probes so hurriedly, one after the other, with 
his long slender bill. That long, tubular, fork-shaped tongue 
may be sucking up the nectar from those rather small cylin- 
drical blossoms, or it may be capturing tiny insects housed 
away there. Much more like a large sphinx moth, hover- 



364 THE HUMMINGBIRD. 

ing and humming over the flowers in the dusky twilight, 
than like a bird, appears this delicate fairy-like beauty. 
How the bright green of the body gleams and glistens in 




THE HUMMINGBIRD. 

the sunlight; while the ruby-colored throat, changing with 
the angle of light as the bird moves, is like a bit of black 
velvet above the white under parts, or it glows and shimmers 
like a flame. Each imperceptible stroke of those tiny wings 
conforms to the mechanical laws of flight, in all their 
subtle complications, with an ease and gracefulness that seems 
spiritual. Who can fail to note that fine adjustment of the 
organs of flight to aerial elasticity and gravitation, by which 
that astonishing bit of nervous energy can rise and fall 
almost on the perpendicular, dart from side to side, as if by 
magic, or, assuming the horizontal position, pass out of 
sight like a shooting star ? Is it not impossible to con- 
ceive of all this being done by that rational calculation 



THE HUMMINGBIRD. 365 

which enables the rower to row, or the sailor to sail his 
boat? 

The Hummingbird has alighted on a twig of the cherry- 
tree near by. I can barely see his feet, like bits of fine- 
drawn wire, supporting the wee bit of a body. He looks 
nervously about him, pointing his long bill in every direc- 
tion, and sidles gracefully along his slender perch. Presently 
another male appears, with an equally ruby throat, and dash- 
ing at each other, they describe a swift zigzag, whirling about 
most perilously, squeaking like mice, and finally disappearing 
with a rapidity which the eye can follow but for a moment. 

About 3.25 long, this species is golden-green above, with 
a fine gloss, and white beneath, the wings and tail being a 
purplish-brown. The male has the metallic-lustrous ruby 
on the throat, which is wanting in the female and the young. 
The female has the sides of the tail white. 

The nest of this species, about the size of half a hen's 
egg, and saddled on a small limb, is made of a soft, vegetable, 
cottony substance, sometimes white, sometimes reddish or 
grayish, externally intermixed, perhaps, with the scales 
of beech-buds a sort of staple article in the nest of many 
kinds of birds seemingly to give it consistency, the whole 
structure being most elegantly covered outside with brightly 
colored lichens ; thus appearing so much like a natural 
growth or excrescence of the wood itself as generally to 
elude observation. It may be placed pretty well up in the 
tree in the depth of the forest, or lower down in the orchard, 
or on a currant-bush or rose-bush in the garden, or on a 
coarse weed-stalk in the vicinity. The two tiny oval-oblong 
eggs, pure white and translucent, lying on their bed of silken 
down, edged and surrounded with the gayest lichens, never 
fail to move the heart of the beholder as one of the rarest 
bits of natural beauty. 



366 THE HUMMINGBIRD, 

But the most wonderful characteristic of our Humming- 
bird, perhaps, considering his tropical relationships, is the 
great northern range of his summer habitat. Excepting 
several western species, which migrate along the Rocky 
Mountains and westward to a pretty high latitude, the four 
hundred species and upwards which make up the family 
of Hummingbirds, are found almost entirely in tropical 
America. They are creatures associated with the high tem- 
peratures and the luxuriant flora of the American section 
of the torrid zone. But our tiny wanderer goes all the way 
through Eastern North America to the semi-frigid regions 
of Labrador and Hudson's Bay. He is the great traveler 
of his family. And with what a magic and spirit-like stroke 
of the wing does he compass sea and land. He passes by 
the lumbering strokes of the Heron, the Wild Goose or the 
Eagle, almost like a streak of lightning, and sets at utter 
defiance all the humming, buzzing wings of the insect 
world. 

Our Ruby-throat is one of the plain and more diminutive 
members of his family. In this relationship of hundreds, 
while the unity binding them together is great, the strongly 
marked variation characterizing the different groups is still 
more remarkable. The Sabre-wings, the Coquettes, the 
Rackets, the Puff-legs, the Sylphs, the Thorn-tails, the Star- 
fronts, etc., have each their distinguishing peculiarities. 
Whether we contemplate the snowy down of the Puff-leg, 
the elegant crest of the Coquette, the pure white ruff of the 
Ruff-neck tipped with scintillating spangles, the suspended 
and fantastic patches on the tips of the long tails of the 
Rackets, the glistening surface of the long scissors-shaped 
tails of the Sylphs, the glowing points of the Star-fronts, or 
the burning lustre of the Fiery Topaz, we see that the high- 
est possible effect of both form and color is here attained. 



THE HUMMINGBIRD. 367 

Nor do these marvelous manifestations of beauty serve any 
necessary purpose whatever in the mode of their existence. 
The theory of "Struggle for Life" certainly affords no 
explanation of either their origin or their continuance. 
Here evidently are beauty and ornament for their own 
sake, and that of the most astounding and transcendent 
kind. And why should these "Glittering Fragments of the 
Rainbow " be found only in " the tropical forests " and 
" amid the rich drapery of the orchids " of the New World, 
if mere physical causes are to account for their origin ? As 
we gaze upon these tiny objects of the most delicate and 
flaming beauty, our aesthetic nature moving us to tears, let 
us acknowledge that the hand which made them is Divine. 

The European Sparrow (Passer domesticus), now so com- 
mon about our houses both in the city and in the country vil- 
lages, is so well known as to need no description in a work 
like this. Suffice it to say, it is not a favorite, and the 
utility of its immigration is doubtful. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

THE FIRST DAYS OF JUNE. 

WHAT greater charm has the forest than its extensive va- 
riety of ferns! What a highly- wrought thing of beauty 
is the pattern of each frond ! In that immense vegetation 
period in geological history called the coal-age, when no 
flower breathed its fragrance on the landscape, the immense 
numbers of magnificent ferns, which have left their imprint 
in the rocks, assure us, nevertheless, that the world was very 
beautiful. Of those continents of flowerless plants my 
imagination is striving to form some conception as I wade 
through the many varieties of ferns which adorn a low open 
wood north of the Ridge a place where I frequently go, 
these first days of June, in search of birds' nests. 

THE GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER. 

In the center of this grand fernery, the forest is a sort of 
open grove, letting in the sun with but little obstruction, 
and thus forming a very paradise for the study of oology. 
Most birds of the forest shun the gloom and dampness of 
its more shadowy parts, when locating their nests, and seek 
out the more or less open spaces, sheltered from the wind 
and warmed by the sun. Hence I lay me down here, in a 
fragrant bed of ferns, to listen and observe. On this bright, 
sunny morning, everything is astir. I am in the midst of a 
grand concert, which few performances of the human voice, 



THE GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER. 369 

even, can equal. Thrushes, Warblers, Vireos and Sparrows, 
all harmonizing finely; while the rumbling strokes of the 
wings of yon male Partridge and the shrill notes of the 
Crested Flycatcher come in like a drum and tambourine. 
I am giving particular attention to a fine, soft tone, sound- 
ing like tsway, dsay, dsay, dsay,, slowly drawn out, and remind- 
ing one of the leisurely and pleasing hum of an insect. It 
is the song of the Golden-winged Warbler (Hdminthophaga 
chrysoptera). Five inches long, the male is a fine slaty-blue 
above; crown and broad wing-bars, sulphur yellow; cheeks 
and throat, black; a white line over the eye, and one from 
the gape backward; under parts grayish- white; outer tail- 
feathers, marked with white; the female, with all the colors 
and markings more obscure. Arriving during the second 
week in May, this species resides with us until September; 
but it is not numerous, and the nest is by no means easy to 
find. As I watch the male, pretty well up in a second- 
growth maple, my attention is arrested by a sharp, chipping 
note in the thicket just below. Straining my eyes for some 
minutes, I detect a female Golden-wing, much excited, 
being in all probability the mate of the one singing. Un- 
derstanding the excitement and the sharp chipping note as 
certain evidences of a nest near by, I at once begin search. 
This is a Ground Warbler, and therefore the nest is, of 
course, on the ground. After breaking down the ferns and 
sadly spoiling the beauty of the spot in my thorough but 
useless search, I retire behind a tree to watch the move- 
ments of the still excited female. Very soon she drops 
down from the thicket into an undisturbed spot at the root 
of a little bush. On creeping up softly, I spy her tail over 
the edge of the nest, and clapping my hand over her, secure 
both without difficulty. The nest is uncommonly deep, not 
very neatly built, outwardly of dried leaves, then of long 
24 



370 THE GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER. 

pieces of rather coarse bark, then of fine strips of the same 
and stems of dried grasses, and lined with fine hair-like 
reddish fibers, which must be the inner bark of the wild 
grape-vine. The eggs, five in number, small, about .48x 
.60, scarcely the size of the Goldfinches, are creamish- 
white, delicately and sparsely specked with brown and lilac 
at the large end. 

Wintering in Central America, the Golden-wing's sum- 
mer range is to New England and Canada West, and west 
to the Missouri. Its nest has been taken as far south as 
Georgia. 

Similar to the last, but richer and darker in color, and 
having the black patch on the throat much larger, is Law- 
rence's Warbler (Helminthophaga lawrencei), of which two 
have been found in New Jersey. 

Very similar in size and form, as also in general colora- 
tion, to the Golden-wing, is the White-throated Golden-wing 
{Helminthophaga leucobronchialis], discovered by Wm. Brew- 
ster in May of 1870, in Newtonville, Mass. His description 
is as follows: " Crown, bright yellow, slightly tinged with 
olive on the occiput. Greater and middle wing-coverts 
yellow, not as bright as the crown. Superciliary line, cheeks, 
throat and entire under parts, silky-white, with a slight 
tinge of pale yellow on the breast. Dorsal surface exclu- 
sive of the nape which is clear ashy washed with yellow, 
as are also the outer margins of the secondaries. A narrow 
line of clear black passes from the base of the upper 
mandible, through and to a short distance behind the eye, 
interrupted, however, by the lower eye-lid, which is dis- 
tinctly white." 

At first it was thought by many to be simply a variety of 
the Golden-winged Warbler, but up to May, 1879, some 
nine specimens of the White-throated Golden-wing had been 



THE MOURNING WARBLER. ^\ 

identified, mostly in New England, thus fully differentiating 
it as a species. Its notes and habits in general are very 
similar to those of its near relatives. 

THE MOURNING WARBLER. 

Seating myself at another point in the vicinity, under the 
shade of a silky dogwood in full bloom, I study the song 
of the Mourning Warbler (Geothlypis Philadelphia]. This 
song, which varies considerably with different individuals, 
may generally be denoted by the syllables, free, free, free, 
fruh, fruh the first three being loud and clear, and the 
last two, in a lower tone, and so much softer and shorter 
that a moderate distance, or a slight breeze in the opposite 
direction, may prevent one from hearing them. Having 
every opportunity for the study of this song for the 
Mourning Warbler is a common summer resident in thickets 
and open places of the woods here I find little or no re- 
semblance between it and the melody of the Water-thrush. 

While I sit watching, the male leaves his place of song 
in the clump of spice-bushes, and, dropping into the top of 
some tall cinnamon ferns, meets the female. Well aware 
how great a desideratum is the nest of this bird, and that it 
builds on the ground, I begin search on hands and knees 
with much enthusiasm. I work hard for several hours, till 
the entire surface for many square rods around has been 
carefully examined, but find no nest. 

Mr. Burroughs reports a nest found "in a bunch of ferns, 
and about six inches from the ground. It was quite a mas- 
sive nest, composed entirely of the stalks and leaves of dry 
grass, with an inner lining of fine, dark-brown roots. The 
eggs, three in number, were of light flesh color, uniformly 
specked with fine brown specks. The cavity of the nest 
was so deep that the back of the sitting bird sank below 



372 THE REDSTART. 

the edge." This instance is quite representative of the usual 
manner of the nesting of this species. Sometimes, how- 
ever, the nest would seem to be less bulky. It is always 
well concealed among rubbish, fallen trees, and ferns. The 
eggs are some .68X-51, and have been found in this State 
as late as the 17th of July. 

Five inches long, the male of this species has the upper 
parts of a fine olive-green; head, a fine slate-color; throat 
and breast, black, crossed by delicate concentric lines of 
slate, caused by a fine fringe of that color on the tips of the 
feathers, making the dark spot look something like black 
crape, whence the common name ; the under parts, bright 
yellow; the female is similar, with the dark patch on the 
breast almost obliterated.* 

Wintering in the farthest part of Central America, and 
even in South America, this bird goes north, in the migra- 
tions, to the British Provinces, becoming rare, however, in 
Nova Scotia. It breeds in New York, New England and 
northward, arriving in Western New York about the middle 
of May. 

THE REDSTART. 

A few rods off, in a thicker part of the woods, I hear a 
bird-song, which at this time of year greets me through- 
out every forest. It is the song of the Redstart (Setophaga 
rutidlld)', and, except that it resembles that of the Yellow 
Warbler, I can compare it to no sound so well as to that of 
a circular tin-whistle with a hole through the center, which, 
when held between the lips and teeth and the breath is al- 
ternately drawn in and blown out, makes a noise with which 
every one is familiar. Simple as is this comparison, to my 
ear the song is decidedly pleasing. There is not a little 

* The female of one pair of these birds, taken along with the nest by Mr. Bruce, has 
the white eye-lids, supposed to differentiate Macgillivray's Warbler of the Rocky Mount- 
ains and the Pacific Coast as a species, thus suggesting the propriety of regarding the 
latter as a mere variety of the former. 



THE REDSTART. 373 

variety in the whistling tones, and the theme is always well 
modulated. Like all bird-songs, it contains immeasurably 
more than anything to which it can be likened. 

A view of this bird is even more gratifying than his song. 
Something more than 5 inches long, the male is black, sides 
of the breast, flanks, patches in the wing, and more than 
the basal half of the tail feathers, except a few in the cen- 
ter, reddish-orange, or flame-color; under parts from the 
breast down, white. The female is olivaceous-slate, the 
markings being bright yellow where the male has the flame- 
color. Though resembling the Warblers in almost every 
particular, the bill of the Redstart, in its flat, triangular 
shape, with notch and hook at the end of the upper mandible 
and its surrounding bristles, is like that of the Flycatchers. 
Its habit, too, in taking food, suggests a similar relation. 

Among the bright foliage of this luxuriant month, he is 
an object of uncommon beauty. How his glossy black sets 
off his fiery orange markings as he flits from point to 
point, spreading his tail with a jerking motion, and assum- 
ing a great variety of attitudes in rapid succession as he 
hunts his prey. 

The sharp chipping notes, mixed in with the varied com- 
binations of his song, remind me that on the 23d of May, 
about a week ago, I saw a female building her nest. As a 
rule among all species of birds, the construction of the nest 
is the work of the female. The male is the musician, the 
female the architect. How diligent was this little Redstart 
in the enterprise. Every few minutes she returned, her 
mouth full of materials, which she arranged in the most ex- 
pert manner. The outside completed, she would pitch into 
the nest to adjust the lining, and turning round and round, 
pressing her breast against one side and manipulating the 
other with her feet, a wonderful symmetry and perfection 



374 THE INDIGO BIRD. 

was secured in a short time. What human skill and patience 
could ever construct an object like this ? Placed in a crotch 
near the top of a young tree or sapling, sometimes between 
nearly upright limbs and the trunk, anywhere from 6 to 20 
feet high, it is compactly woven of fine fibrous materials, 
fitted together and often ornamented with vegetable down 
or cottony substances, not infrequently intermixed with the 
scales of leaf-buds, and lined with the finest of bark and 
grass-fibers. 

I have before me a nest, externally much taller than 
usual, since it contains two Cow-bird's eggs, successively 
deposited, and built out of sight at different depths, some- 
thing like the Yellow Warbler's nest described by Wilson. 
It also has several feathers, of some small bird's tail, stuck 
obliquely about half-way into the rim. The eggs, commonly 
4, averaging about .65 x -50, are white, more or less specked 
or spotted all over, but chiefly around the large end, with 
reddish-brown and lilac. 

Wintering in the tropics, the Redstart arrives here on the 
first days of May. It is common in Eastern North America, 
generally breeding northward. I found it very common in 
the latitudes of Manitoulin Island and Nova Scotia. 

THE INDIGO BIRD. 

As I reach a more open part of the woods, seeming almost 
like a thicket, I get down on hands and knees in a black- 
berry tangle, to explore its mysteries; and at once espy a 
bird's nest, built in the declined stems, and sheltered by the 
thickly-matted tops. At the first glimpse of it, the sitting 
bird drops down out of sight and skulks off; and as there is 
so often no certainty in identifying a nest without the bird, 
I lie down in this miniature arbor, and await her return. 
Very soon I have a number of calls. A fine male of the 



THE INDIGO BIRD. 375 

Mourning Warbler hops in very gracefully, scans me 
thoroughly, and leaves, without salutation, remarks upon 
the weather, or any expression of opinion whatever. Next 
comes a Yellow-backed Blue Warbler, equally curious and 
nervous in his movements, and perfectly reticent. Then a 
Song Sparrow, which, ever since my approach has been keep- 
ing up a constant racket, to the great alarm of the whole 
neighborhood, comes within a few feet of me, scolding and 
jerking his tail in a very unamiable manner. Like certain 
individuals of another species, he prolongs his call and his 
loquacity far beyond^ my pleasure. At length all is quiet, 
and the owner of the nest appears. It is the female Indigo 
Bird. A little smaller than a Canary, but almost precisely of 
the same form and structure, she is of a plain brown, lighter 
underneath, and dusky on the wings and tail. A fine voiced 
male, too, is singing near by, which is probably her mate, 
all unconscious of the peril of his family. His song is quite 
unique, and therefore easily recognized when once well 
noted. A sort of hurried warble, quite fluent, and yet 
seeming to stick in the throat a little, this melody is one of 
the most common in thickets, along the edges of forests, 
and about the borders of swamps. Its tones are musical, 
being loud at first, but growing faint at the last, as if the 
singer were exhausting his lungs; and it is as likely to be 
heard in the heat of noon as in the cool of the early morn- 
ing. 

The mature male, some 5.75 long, is blue, shading into 
dark indigo about the head, and tinged with greenish on 
the back; wings and tail black, edged with blue. This bird 
is generally finer in the bush, however, than in the hand. 
As the male requires several years to come to maturity, 
many are spotted, by the mixing in of dull brown or gray 
feathers, and so, on examination, appear quite shabby. 



376 THE GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER. 

Thus assured as to its identity, I examine the nest. Sev- 
eral firm, dried leaves are hung hammock-like to the 
branches of a forked stem of the blackberry bush, then a 
sort of bedding of skeleton-leaves being added, the rather 
thick wall of the nest is of fine rootlets and dried grasses, 
closely laid, and the lining is of fine bark-fibers and horse- 
hair. Another nest in the vicinity is placed in a low bush, 
and is similarly made, except that it is heavily ornamented 
with the bud-scales and dried staminate blossoms of the 
beech, and made hoary with webby material of various 
kinds; the lining, too, is of fine dried grasses and a large 
quantity of black horse-hair. The eggs, three or four, some 
.Y5X.55 of an inch, are white, generally more or less trans- 
lucent, and slightly tinged with blue said to be sometimes 
specked truly beautiful, especially when laid on a thick 
lining of black horse-hair. These birds are very uneasy and 
emit a loud and peculiar chink when the nest is approached. 
The species ranks with the Sparrows, and is called, in 
science, Cyanospiza cyanea. "Habitat, eastern Province of 
the United States north to Canada and Maine, west to 
Kansas and Indian Territory, south through Texas to 
Mexico and Central America, where it winters. Breeds 
throughout most of its United States habitat, from Texas to 
Canada." (Coues.) 

THE GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER. 

From a group of tall trees, there comes a bird-voice, 
which I find most imperfectly described in the books, namely, 
that of the Great Crested Flycatcher (Myiar chits crinitus). 
Its most common note, tweep though in a loud, spirited, 
whistling tone, given with a peculiar emphasis, and ab- 
ruptly closed is by no means a harsh squeak, as Wilson and 
Audubon say, but, as a mere note, is decidedly rich and 



THE GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER. 377 

agreeable, calling forth a fine woodland echo, and impress- 
ing one with the animation, courage and bravery of the 
bird. Scarcely less agreeable is his rapidly uttered twip^ 
twip, twip, twip, twip, or even his guttural rattling call, equally 
characteristic. Perched in the rather open top of a tall elm, 
he appears to the best advantage in the full light of the 
morning sun. Some 9 inches long, with the strongest out- 
line of that peculiar form which always marks the Fly- 
catcher ; standing in a spirited, upright attitude, with crest 
erected, his upper parts are a fine greenish-olive, throat and 
upper breast, ash; under parts sulphur-yellow; wings dusky, 
edged with greenish- white; tail dusky; outer edge of the 
primaries and under side of the tail, bright reddish-chest- 
nut. His frequent jerk of the tail, as he sits, otherwise mo- 
tionless, for some time on the branch, cutting an occasional 
semicircle in quest of his passing prey, as well as his struct- 
ure and generally pugnacious disposition all declare his 
character as a Flycatcher. This bird is so common in our 
forests that his notes seem almost identified with the sum- 
mer landscape. 

Observing that the greater part of the top of a tall elm 
in his vicinity is dead, I suspect a nest in some hollow of a 
broken branch, and putting on my climbers, ascend to the 
region of dead limbs. I have looked about me pretty thor- 
oughly without success, and am about to descend, when I 
notice, some distance .out from me, a broken limb about six 
inches in diameter, and stretching myself along its length, 
ten or twelve inches within its hollow end, I look into the 
nest, which contains 5 eggs. Jamming my hand down the 
passage with much difficulty, I secure the eggs one by one, 
packing them in leaves in the crown of my hat, and pocket 
the lining of the nest. So much, so good. Now I begin to 
descend, quite elated over my success. I get about half- 



378 THE GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER. 

way down the perilous height, when lo, some un- 
friendly bough knocks off my hat, and with a very un- 
pleasant sensation somewhere about my left side, I note the 
unlucky curves it makes adown the trunk. All my high 
satisfaction over my achievement is sinking to the soles of 
my boots, when, as good luck will have it, the hat closes up 
against the trunk, supported by an almost upright limb, 
thus making the entire contents secure. As suddenly my 
contentment comes back, and in a few moments, seated on 
terra firma, I examine my treasures. First the lining of the 
nest. Dried leaves, fibers of bark, wool, hair, feathers, the 
end of a squirrel's tail, and true to the never-failing custom 
of this bird, cast-off snake 's skin. I found a nest in a hollow 
limb in an old orchard a few days since, with similar nest 
linings the material, however, consisting largely of stubble, 
dried grasses, and pigs' bristles the different linings placed 
in the nest from year to year, lying one on the other like so 
many sauce-plates in a pile, thus showing the number of 
successive years the place had been occupied. Every lining 
had the cast-off snake's skin. The eggs, generally 5, some 
1.00 x .?5, are strongly differentiated in color. The ground- 
color being dark cream or buff, scratched and brushed in 
every direction, but more particularly lengthwise, as if with 
a pen or fine brush, with a rich brown and lilac. Sometimes 
the markings are thicker on the large end, but generally 
they extend equally all over, not infrequently running into 
blotches. 

Wintering on the Florida Keys and in the West Indies, 
this bird arrives in Western New York the first week in 
May. Common, more especially to the woods, occasionally 
residing in the orchard, it extends sparingly into New 
England, rarely beyond the Connecticut Valley, west 
to Eastern Kansas, northwestward to Cypress Hills in 



THE FIELD SPARROW. 379 

British America, and breeds throughout the Eastern United 
States. 

The local distribution of birds is very interesting. Each 
kind of locality has its own peculiar species. Around our 
residences, and in the orchard, we find a certain group the 
Chipping Sparrow, the Purple Finch, the Kingbird, the 
Phcebe, the Eave and Barn Swallows. In the open field we 
have another group the Meadow Lark, the Horned Lark, 
the Bay-winged Sparrow, the Bobolink ; in the thickets, yet 
another group the Field, or, more properly, the Bush Spar- 
row, the Indigo Bird, the Catbird, the Yellow Warbler ; 
the forest birds the Thrushes, the greater part of the 
Warblers and Flycatchersj and certain of the Fringillida 
are quite strictly confined to their peculiar abodes; the 
swamps afford a large variety, nowhere else to be found, 
while, as every one knows, the water-birds are more or less 
attached, by regular laws of distribution, to ponds, streams, 
rivers, lakes, or to the ocean. In no way is the instinct of 
birds more certainly made known than in the selection of 
their local as well as their general habitat. 

THE FIELD SPARROW. 

As I approach a thicket a slashing, as it is called here 
being a rough piece of ground where the forest has been 
recently cut away and where the bushes have grown up, I 
hear the peculiar song of the Field or Bush Sparrow (Spi- 
zella pusilld]. The notes may be pronouced free-o, free-o, 
free-o, free-o, free, free, free, free, fru, fru; the first four 
loud, well prolonged, and on a higher key, while the re- 
maining notes run rapidly to a lower pitch, growing softer 
and weaker to the end, the last being barely perceptible at 
a short distance. The song is quite constantly repeated at 



380 THE BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO. 

short intervals, and has a rather melancholy, but soothing 
and pleasing, effect, which sensitive natures readily recog- 
nize, and do not easily forget. It is the homely pensive 
poetry of the thicket that line of land where the culti- 
vated beauty and fertility of the fields end and the solitude 
and gloom of the forest begin. The bird is quite shy and 
retiring, and therefore but little known. A little smaller 
than the Chipping Sparrow, or some 5.00 inches long, and 
therefore the smallest of all our Sparrows, it has the usual 
colors and marking of that group over the back, lacking 
the bright chestnut on the crown, so peculiar to the Chip- 
ping and Tree Sparrows, and the striped crown and spotted 
or streaked breast, either or both of which are common to 
the rest of the Sparrows. It may therefore be readily 
identified. 

The nest, usually placed low in a little bush, sometimes 
on the ground, is a frail, loose structure which one can look 
through, mostly of dried grasses and rootlets, lined with 
the finest of the grasses, fine shreds of bark from the grape- 
vine, or horse-hair. The eggs, four or five, some .70X-50, 
are white, sometimes with a slight tinge of greenish or 
grayish, specked and spotted with a delicate, almost flesh- 
colored red really pretty. 

Wintering from the Carolinas southward, and breeding 
from the same point northward, these birds reach Western 
New York about the middle of April, and deposit their 
eggs late in May or early in June. Becoming rare already 
in Northern New England, it extends somewhat into the 
British Provinces. 

THE BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO. 

As I pass along, through the thickets, I hear the well- 
defined notes of the Black-billed Cuckoo chou, cJiou, chou, 



THE BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO. 331 

chou, and cuckoo, koo, koo, koo, koo, koo, and cuek-chou-ou, by no 
means musical, but quite pleasing as an odd variety. In a 
moment he glides by me. What a straightforward, regular, 
noiseless and graceful flight! 

It is difficult to get a satisfactory view of this bird amidst 
our thick summer foliage. He is so noiseless as he, " still 
hiding, further onward wooes you;" and if he stand stock- 
still, with head a little on one side, his color is so nearly like 
that of the bark of the undergrowth, or is such a com- 
promise between that and the foliage, as to render him ex- 
ceedingly obscure. No doubt he is very happy in his way, 
but he does indeed seem "as solitary and joyless as the most 
veritable anchorite." 

I creep up to the bush in which he lit, and find a nest, if 
indeed so slight and rude a structure be worthy of the 
name a few twigs laid criss-cross, bits of dried fern, and a 
few downy catkins of the willow on top how does the bird 
get off and on, and keep the eggs and young on this bit of 
trash? The eggs, some 1.12 x -83, are elliptical, and of a 
beautiful clear or somewhat clouded light green. Arriving 
after the middle of May, this bird seems to begin incubation 
almost at once. The callow young are indeed queer-look- 
ing objects; their skin, which is black as soot, is sparsely set 
with white thread-like down. The eggs appear to be laid 
sometimes at very considerable intervals, so that the same 
nest may contain the young eggs partly incubated, and 
others fresh. 

Nearly a foot in length, of which length the oblongly 
rounded tail constitutes nearly one-half, the upper parts 
are an elegant, glossy bronze-brown ; tail feathers, except the 
two central, tipped with white, which joins the main color 
in a black margin; bill and feet black, eye-lids vermilion, 
under parts white. Male and female are alike. The young 



382 THE YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. 

have the feathers above, tipped with white, and the white 
underneath grayish. Feeding partly on small fruits, this 
species is chiefly insectivorous. 

This Cuckoo (Coccyzus erythrophthalmus), abundant in this 
locality, is a great traveler. Breeding from the Southern 
States northward even to Labrador, though he may winter 
in Florida, he sometimes goes even to the valley of the 
Amazon. As a vagrant, he has been found in Europe. 

THE YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. 

The Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus] is about 
the size and form of the Black-billed; and, with the exception 
of its yellow under mandible, cinnamon edging on the wings 
and wholly black and white outer tail feathers, is precisely 
like it in color, habit and vocal performance. It is not very 
numerous here. Mr. Ringueberg occasionally finds the nest 
in the vicinity of Lockport, and almost every observer 
shoots one now and then. The nest is, if possible, even 
slighter than that of the former species, being, in one case 
at least, merely a "cotton rag, which was firmly caught in 
the thorns of a barberry bush." (Minot.) The eggs are a 
little longer, larger and lighter green; the notes are generally 
regarded as harsher. The intervals between the depositing 
of its several eggs are remarkable. Audubon once saw a 
nest, containing different grades, from young ones ready to 
fly to eggs perfectly fresh; and ascertained that eleven young 
cuckoos had been successfully raised from a single nest in 
the vicinity. It would seem that the Cuckoo is especially 
noisy during meteorological changes, hence it is called, 
quite commonly, the " Rain Crow." 

The Yellow-bill is a more southern and western bird than 
the Black-bill, breeding throughout the United States, but 
becoming rare, or absent entirely, as we approach our north- 



THE NIGHT HA WK. 383 

ern limits. It is also rare on the Pacific Coast. Though 
said to winter in Florida, it goes even to Buenos Ayres in its 
migrations, and has accidentally strayed to Europe. 

Both our Cuckoos are somewhat nocturnal in their habits. 
I have heard the loud notes of the Black-bill in the orchard, 
a few rods from my study window, at a very late hour of 
the night. The American Cuckoo is not usually parasitic, 
after the manner of its European congener. 

The Mangrove Cuckoo (Coccyzus semiculus), found in 
Florida and the West Indies, is a little smaller than the 
above species, and similar in its marking and coloration 
to the Yellow-billed Cuckoo, except that its lower mandible 
is pale orange-brown, and its outer tail feathers are not 
tipped with white. 

THE NIGHT HAWK. 

As I emerge from the thicket into the open pasture, a so- 
called Night Hawk (Chordeiles virginianus) flies up, almost 
from under my feet, and moving in an irregular, zigzag 
manner, alights lengthwise on the fence. In this near prox- 
imity, both in flight and in repose, he is a weird looking 
object. His odd way of perching lengthwise is supposed 
to be an accommodation to his feet and legs, which would 
seem too small and weak to support him crosswise. As 
he starts from the ground and darts this way and that, as if 
somewhat confused, the large, clear white markings of his 
wings and tail are very conspicuous, and sharply defined 
by the dark mottling of his general color. By no means 
abundant in this locality, the Night Hawk may be found 
from early in May till early in autumn, about the low 
grounds north of the Ridge. In Northern New England 
and in the British Provinces it is very abundant, and be- 
comes a most conspicuous object in the summer landscape. 
Mr. Samuels reports it so numerous at a place in Maine, 



384 THE NIGHT HA WK. 

called Wilson's Mills, that " in the space of every four or five 
rods, a female was sitting on her eggs." Indeed, one of the 
most vivid impressions received in many parts of that north- 
ern latitude, on a summer's evening, is that of the loud 
peeping and booming of vast numbers of these birds. This 
evening flight is really fine. The regular beat of the long 
pointed wings, now faster, now slower, the bird mounting a 
little higher, and uttering its characteristic/^ with each 
accelerated beating of the wings, is somewhat like that of 
our smaller Hawks, the Sharp-shinned, for instance ; while 
the graceful tipping of the body from side to side, as it 
moves in a continued series of curves, affords a still further 
resemblance. Notwithstanding this analogy to Hawks in 
flight, however, the Night Hawk in structural affinity is no 
Hawk at all, but a sort of crepuscular Swift, flying earlier 
indeed in cloudy weather, and sometimes even in the bright- 
est sunshine, but generally retiring during all the fore and 
middle part of sunny days. 

Its flight is generally rapid and high, sometimes seeming 
to be almost among the clouds, where its frequent motions in 
the capture of insects show how elevated a part, at least, of 
the entomological world is. The most characteristic act in 
the flight of the male is his loud and indescribable boom- 
ing, as he drops head foremost from his more or less ele- 
vated position, and, with stiffened wings, the tips pointing 
downward, cuts a long, abrupt curve. This sound, which 
Wilson compared to " that produced by blowing strongly 
into the bunghole of an empty hogshead," he thought was 
caused " by the sudden expansion of his capacious mouth 
while passing through the air." Audubon thought it was 
somehow produced by the wings. The latter would seem 
to be the more probable conjecture, as one can always see 
a change in the wings as the noise is going on. The exact 



THE NIGHT HA WK. 385 

manner of producing the sound, however, we shall never 
know till some ethereal personage can take his point of ob- 
servation high in air, and, without alarming the bird, note 
exactly its method. The booming is mostly confined to 
the breeding season, though it is sometimes heard in 
autumn. 

These birds do not confine themselves to insect-food ob- 
tained in the upper air, but also search the ground. Wilson 
shot them on the 14th of August, with their stomachs al- 
most exclusively filled with crickets. From one of them 
he took " nearly a common snuff-box full of these insects, 
all seemingly fresh swallowed." I have also good evidence 
that in the more northern localities, they regale themselves 
on ripe currants. 

Nine inches long, the Night Hawk is black or dusky 
above, variously mottled with brown and brownish-white, 
with narrow black and whitish rings below, the male having 
white markings in the wings and forked tail, and a rather 
large triangular or crescent-shaped white spot on the breast, 
the female having smaller white markings in the wings only, 
and a reddish mark on the breast. 

The two eggs of the Night Hawk, placed on the ground 
in some open pasture or thicket a burnt spot seems pref- 
erable, as harmonizing best with the color, alike of the eggs 
and of the bird without a nest sometimes on the flat roof 
of a house in a city, are about 1.25X-88, elliptical, the 
ground of grayish or creamy-white, being thickly specked 
and spotted all over with a greenish-brown and several shades 
of lilac. The eggs are generally laid early in June, but I 
have seen the young, not yet fully fledged, as late as July 
21st, thus indicating, perhaps a second brood. 

The summer range of this bird is from Central North 
America to Hudson's Bay, while its winter migrations may 
25 



386 THE WHIPPOORWILL. 

extend to the West India Islands and Brazil. It does not 
winter within the Union. 

THE WHIPPOORWILL. 

The gorgeous hues of sunset have faded into the deep 
dusk of twilight. I have been listening to a grand concert 
at this close of day, in and around a large tract of wood- 
land on these low grounds north of the Ridge. As the 
songs of Thrushes, Warblers and Finches die out, the still- 
ness is broken by a loud call, commonly described as 
"Whip-poor-will" but which to my ear sounds more like the 
syllables, chick-koo-rhee. The call is rapidly and earnestly 
repeated a number of times, the first syllable, but more 
especially the last, being emphasized. The vocal perform- 
ance is kept up at intervals during the night, and starts up 
afresh about day-break. 

Strictly local in its distribution, and partial to swamps 
and low lands, the Whippoorwill (Antrostomus vociferus] 
must be numerous here, for I can detect its weird call in 
some half-dozen directions about the thicket, and in the 
edge of the woods which it skirts. I creep stealthily 
in this direction and that, as nearly as I can locate the 
sound, hoping to get a glimpse of this strange bird of the 
night, before daylight is entirely gone. I seem to hear him 
exactly in that red osier bush covered with its snowy blos- 
soms, and strain my eyes to define his form, but in vain. 
I move up a little closer, but presently the sound ceases at 
that point, and starts up somewhere else. Thus I am tan- 
talized, like one following the will-tf-the-whisp. I spend days 
in succession about this spot, but cannot get the first glimpse 
of the bird, nor any sound of it, except at night. 

Nine inches and a half long, the Whippoorwill bears so 
strong a resemblance to the Night Hawk, that they were 



THE WHIPPOORWILL. 387 

once supposed to be the same. The difference is mainly as 
follows: The Whippoorwill is some half an inch longer, 
has a rounded tail, whereas that of the Night Hawk is 
forked, has a much longer and more pointed wing than the 
latter, and has a plentiful supply of long bristles protrud- 
ing from the inside of the mouth. " It lays on the ground, 
in the woods, constructing no proper nest, and depositing 
only two eggs. These are elliptical, nearly or quite equal 
at both ends, about 1.25x0.85, and are curiously scratched 
and mottled all over with brown surface markings and paler 
purplish-gray shell colors upon a whitish ground. The egg 
is quite variable in amount of intensity of coloration, some 
specimens being heavily marbled, while others appear as 
if faded or bleached, from indistinctness of the tracery." 
(Coues.) 

This sly bird of the night inhabits Eastern North Amer- 
ica generally up to 50, wintering from the Gulf Coast south- 
ward, and breeding in most of its summer range. 

Chuck-will's-widow (Antrostomus carolinensis) is a closely 
allied member, along with the Night Hawk and Whippoor- 
will, of the CapHmulgtdce family, and is found in the South- 
ern States generally. It is similar to its relatives just de- 
scribed in color and general appearance, but is nearly twice 
as large. 

Our Night Hawk, Whippoorwill and Chuck-will's-widow, 
belong to the Caprimulgidce. family, which, in its broadest 
sense, includes quite a variety of structural peculiarities 
and is represented throughout the world, particularly in 
South America; but, in the more restricted sense of the 
sub-family, Caprimulgina^ is well represented by our two 
genera, Antrostoimis and Chordeiles. It is this latter group, 
therefore, which we shall especially notice. As we have 
observed, they are, for the most part, creatures of the 



388 THE CHIMNEY SWIFT. 

twilight and of the night, and as such, to some extent, re- 
semble the Owls; as in the size and shape of the head the 
very diminutive and weak bill excepted in the soft, loose 
texture, and sombre colors of the plumage, and in nocturnal 
habits; while zoologically, particularly in the shape of the 
wing and mouth, they are more closely allied to the Swifts. 
Thus combining crepuscular and nocturnal habits with 
great swiftness of flight, and a bat-like quickness in their 
evolutions, as also a most capacious mouth, extending to the 
sides of the head and in most cases thickly supplied with 
long, stiff bristles, these Night Swallows or Swifts are 
especially adapted, as they " quarter the air " in every 
direction, to the destruction of nocturnal insects. From 
an erroneous notion in respect to the habits of the European 
representative of this class of birds, the English call it 
" Goatsucker," in accordance with its old Latinized Greek 
name, Caprimulgus. The French, however, call it by a name, 
which means wind-swallower, and also by another, which 
means flying toad. 

Thus from some fact or resemblance, fancied or real, the 
various objects in natural history are made to bear names, 
which, both in common and scientific nomenclature, sig- 
nalize them, either truly or falsely, for many generations at 
least, and perhaps through all time. 

THE CHIMNEY SWIFT. 

Returning home near night, by way of the Ridge, just as 
a severe rain-storm is setting in, I come to the pass of 
Oak Orchard Creek. Here is a large stone building 
which was once a distillery. Around the top of the enor- 
mous brick chimney, which towers up from this building, is 
an immense cloud of many hundreds, perhaps thousands, 
of Chimney Swifts (Chatura pelagicd). They are whirling 



THE CHIMNEY SWIFT. 389 

and gyrating in swift evolutions, the whole body moving 
in the same direction like a feathered whirlpool, their 
wings beating with astonishing rapidity, and the volume of 
their sharp twitter being almost deafening. As the black 
cloud keeps whirling, becoming more dense as it nears the 
chimney-top, every few minutes a section of the great host 
drops into it. I watch them till by far the greater number 
have thus disappeared. This is a common scene about the old 
distillery, and may occur from the time of the arrival of 
these birds, about the last of April or the first of May, till 
the time of their departure in September. Thinking that 
this chimney must be a breeding place, I kept watch of it 
from an opening below, which gave a full view of the w r hole 
interior, but not a nest could I at any time detect. Evi- 
dently it was only a grand place of rendezvous, such as 
these birds occasionally discover in various parts of our coun- 
try. Both Wilson and Audubon cite instances of immense 
numbers, even millions, resorting to some large hollow tree 
as a lodging place, and issuing from it at the break of 
day, in clouds, making a noise like thunder. 

This Swift was formerly called a Swallow, on account of 
certain general resemblances. In its more important details 
of affinity, however, it is now regarded by ornithologists 
as coming between the Whippoorwills, and the Hum- 
mingbirds. This arrangement in classification may show 
the general reader how wide and deep are the gaps between 
some of the families of our birds. 

As the chimney of the old distillery continues to be the 
rendezvous of the Swifts throughout the season, although 
in diminished numbers during the time of nidification, I con- 
clude that it is a place of general resort for the males, and also, 
perhaps, for such females as are not engaged in reproduction. 
This view, I find, accords with that of ornithologists in general. 



390 THE CHIMNEY SWIFT. 

In the uncultivated condition of the country, this bird 
placed its nest in a hollow tree, but, being one of those 
birds which have taken advantage of the conveniences of 
civilization, it now resorts to the chimney, where, though 
perhaps somewhat discommoded by soot and occasionally 
by smoke, it is the freest possibly from all its enemies. 
Look in, through the stove-pipe hole of that large, old-fash- 
ioned chimney, and behold that cute little basket of a nest! 
About the size of one-half of an ordinary sauce-dish, it 
seems tipped up against its sooty wall, and holds long, 
translucent white eggs (.80X-48), of which the fresh yolks 
appear most elegant through the shell, and close up to it. 
How pretty they look on those freshly-broken twigs, severed 
from the tree by the bird in flight, and glued together with 
saliva! Scarcely could they have a finer setting than is 
afforded by that exquisite bit of rustic architecture, remind- 
ing us, in the midst of our artificial civilization, of the free 
elegance of primeval life. 

Never shall I forget how I was startled from a sound 
sleep, one black night of a fearful thunder-storm, by a nest 
of full-grown Swifts which had fallen to the bottom of a 
bracket-chimney, and were squalling and beating their 
wings against the wall-paper, stretched like a drum-head 
across a stove-pipe hole. It sounded like a flock of winged 
imps in the central space of the room. 

"The glue-like substance," constituting so important a 
part in the nest-structure, is a viscid matter secreted by 
glands in each side of the head of the bird and mixed with 
its saliva. This is a common product of the Swifts, and is 
especially noted in the case of the edible nest of the Sea 
Swallow of the Malay archipelago. " It gathers from the coral 
rocks of the sea a glutinous weed or marine fuscus, which it 
swallows and afterward disgorges, and then applies this 



THE CHIMNEY SWIFT. 391 

vomit with its plastic bill to the sides of deep caverns, both 
inland and on the seacoast, to form its nest. When com- 
plete the nest is a hollow hemisphere, of the dimensions of 
an ordinary coffee-cup. When fresh made it is of waxy 
whiteness, and is then esteemed most valuable." This in- 
sipid thing of Chinese soups is gathered, at a fearful peril 
of life, from the caves of the coast of India, and sold as a 
government monopoly, sometimes at the enormous price of 
$35 per pound, or even twice its weight in silver. 

But to return from this digression; wherever I go, one of 
the most distinctive associations of the early days of spring 
is the Chimney Swift. Flying so high, that he appears like 
one of the smallest of birds, the short, quick beat of his wings 
and his sharp tsip, tsip, tsip, tsip, so rapidly uttered, readily 
distinguish him. On handling him, you observe that his 
tail, which appeared so short when in flight, has the quill of 
each feather extended beyond the web, in the form of a 
sharp spine. This aids him in alighting on the wall. The 
Swifts are supposed to fly at the rate of a thousand miles 
in twenty-four hours. They seem to spend nearly the 
entire day on the wing, and when caring for their young, 
often spend a great part of the night in bringing them 
food. 

Some 5.35 long, the Chimney Swift is brownish-black, 
lighter on the throat. Wintering south of the United States, 
and residing in summer throughout Eastern North America 
from the Southern States northward, it reaches Western 
New York the first week in May, and leaves early in October. 

LAKE VIEW. 

Oak Orchard Creek is the principal water-course of 
Orleans County, N. Y. Rising in Tonawanda Swamp, 
which is partly in Genesee County, it makes a curve of 



392 THE LONG-BILLED MARSH WREN. 

nearly a half circle in the southwestern part of Orleans 
County, and enters Lake Ontario a little east of the center 
of the shore line which bounds the county on the north. 
The stream is beautiful, especially at its mouth, which is 
called Lake View. A drive along its gracefully curving 
banks, from the Ridge to the lake, is a never-failing source 
of pleasure. Some forty or fifty feet high, these banks may 
be abrupt walls of dark-red shaly sand-stone, not infre- 
quently streaked with bright green, sometimes entirely 
bare, but more frequently ornamented with a great variety 
of beautiful vines and shrubbery; or they may be a fine 
system of river-terraces, showing the different breadths of 
the stream at certain periods of the later ages of geological 
history. 

THE LONG-BILLED MARSH WREN. 

In the sedges and cat-tails, which border the placid cur- 
rent as it approaches the lake, are the breeding haunts of 
quite a group of birds which frequent the water and its 
vicinity in this locality. As one glides along these waters 
in a light skiff, on a fine June morning, admiring the trees, 
shrubs, vines and wild flowers which adorn the graceful curves 
of the bluff on either side, from out the sedges and cat-tails 
there comes the sharp metallic twitter of the Long-billed 
Marsh Wren (Telmatodytes palustris). You strain your eyes 
to get a glimpse of the utterer of these weird notes, but he 
is completely concealed in the tall, thick growths, and 
dodges about so mysteriously that you can scarcely keep 
the direction of the sounds. There! Now he is in plain 
sight, clinging sidewise to that huge cat-tail overtopped by 
its candle-shaped blossom. What a wee bit of a bird he is, 
seeming scarcely larger than the end of one's thumb, 
though, from the tip of the bill to the extremity of the tail, 
he measures some five inches or more; but the ^iead is so 



THE LONG-BILLED MARSH WREN. 393 

thrown up, and the tail so thrust forward, that he assumes 
almost the shape of an irregular ring or triangle, and so 
quite deceives one as to the length of his slender body. 
Brown above, shading almost into black on the crown and 
middle of the back; tail, barred; under parts, line over the 
eye, and streaks on the back, white; sides, brownish he 
bears a strong resemblance to the rest of the Wrens, but is 
readily distinguishable by his white breast. His flight is 
short, and every motion is exceedingly quick and nervous. 

In the tall bleached sedges of the previous year, this Wren 
is very easily seen in May or early in June. Then he is 
especially lively, hanging sidewise to the smooth perpen- 
dicular culms, or grasping two opposite ones, one in each 
wiry foot, his legs stretched apart in a horizontal line; or 
tossing himself up several feet into the air, with head and 
tail up, he will drop down, with a light and graceful flut- 
ter, making his very best attempt at a song as he thus de- 
scribes an abrupt curve. That song begins with a rather 
harsh screeping note, followed by a rattling twitter, and 
ends in a note very much like that with which it began. 

Pulling the boat somewhat into the sedges, we wade among 
them half way to the knees in water. Here is the nest! 
About the size of a common cocoanut, it is woven and in- 
terlaced by the dried and discolored leaves of the sedges 
and marsh-grass, intermixed with vegetable down, and 
sometimes with an abundance of green moss, so as to make 
the walls quite thick and firm, and is lined with finer mate- 
rials perhaps the down from a vacated Duck's nest in the 
neighborhood, or the feathers of a Coot devoured by the 
Marsh Hawk; it has a hole in the side, so beset with down 
as almost to close it up the artistic structure being hung 
to the green or dried sedges or marsh-grass only a few 
inches, or sometimes three or four feet from the water. These 



394 THE BITTERN. 

nests are often found in large numbers in the same locality, 
the greater part of them being unoccupied. "This has 
occasioned the surmise that more nests are built than are 
actually used; the idea being that the nervous, energetic 
little creatures keep on building, while the females are incu- 
bating, to amuse themselves, or because they have nothing 
particular to do and cannot keep still." (Coues.) It has 
been well suggested, however, that the durability of the 
old nests may largely account for the many unoccupied 
tenements. The eggs, some five or six, about .60X-45, are 
a reddish or chocolate-brown, with still darker brown spots 
and specks clouded and wreathed around the large end. 
The eggs are laid late in May or early in June, and again 
late in July. 

The food of these birds consists of such insects as inhabit 
their aquatic haunts, and "diminutive mollusks." "Win- 
tering along our southern borders and southward," their 
breeding habitat is from the Southern States to Massachu- 
setts. They are not reported from Northern New England, 
nor did I see any in the many marshes of the Manitoulin 
Islands. Reaching Western New York in May, they leave 
late in September or in October. 

THE BITTERN. 

Standing still in the border of the sedges, and surveying 
a large space of lily-pods, I spy a Bittern (Botaurus minor]. 
Standing stock-still in a clump of cat-tails, with body, head 
and neck in a nearly perpendicular position, he is almost 
as straight as a stake, and perfectly motionless. In this atti- 
tude he continues for many minutes, no doubt enjoying one 
of those contemplative turns of mind, or profound reveries, 
for which his shady and silent ways have given him such a 
reputation. His present attitude is scarcely more common 



THE BITTERN. 395 

to him, however, than a certain other in which he is often 
figured in portraits that of standing on one foot, the other 
being drawn up under him, and his neck so bent or folded that 
his head rests upon his breast, his eyes being nearly closed 
and his whole air that of drowsy .thoughtfulness. Tired of 
my own position, and finding that of the Bittern rather 
tedious, I clap my hands, when, with a sudden spring and a 
hoarse haurk, he rises to a slow lumbering flight, his wings 
beating heavily and his long legs dangling awkwardly be- 
hind. Flapping along just above the cat-tails, he drops 
down out of sight a few rods off. When he rises high, his 
flight is quick and graceful, and bears quite a resemblance 
to that of a Hawk. His form is that of the Heron tribe, 
but his color is peculiar to himself and his near European 
relative. About 27 inches long and about 45 in extent of 
wings, the male a little larger than the female, the top of 
the head is brown, the long, loose feathers falling from the 
back of the head, over the upper part of the neck, being 
yellowish-brown; throat, white with a light brown streak 
through the center; fore-neck, loose feathers on the breast, 
and under parts,broadly streaked with reddish and yellowish- 
brown; sides of the neck black; back, rich brown mixed 
with black, and streaked with yellowish and grayish; wings, 
rich dark brown, with coverts of light yellowish-brown; the 
whole upper parts being delicately penciled with darker 
shades; eyes, yellow. The general impression of the bird, 
upon the eye, is that of a yellowish-brown. The colors are 
deeper in autumn than in spring, being enriched with red- 
dish-brown shades. The young lack the deep black on the 
sides of the neck. At any time the Bittern is very beautiful. 
Shy and solitary, dwelling in reedy marshes and their vicinity, 
he feeds on the smaller mollusks and crustaceans, frogs, 
lizards, little fishes and snakes, and such insects as frequent 



396 THE BITTERN. 

his watery abodes. Like the Herons in general, he prefers 
the twilight and the night for his excursions, but may be 
seen abroad at any time of day. 

Though by no means as noisy as his European congener, 
in the breeding season, especially morning and evening, the 
male has a peculiar and startling vocal performance, which 
once heard can never be mistaken. It may be at least sug- 
gested by its names, Dunk-a-doo or Stake-driver, the former 
word imitating the note, the latter naming an act which resem- 
bles it in sound. Nuttall, the great interpreter of bird notes, 
has rendered it by the syllables, pump-au-gah. I can recall 
it by the syllables, ponk-ah-gong, or kunk-ah-whulnk. On St. 
Clair Flats, where this bird breeds in great numbers, these 
weird notes, sounding in every direction, are characteristic 
of the evenings in spring and early summer. The stake- 
driving begins about three or four o'clock in the afternoon, 
continues on into the night, and the notes occur again dur- 
ing the early hours of the morning. 

As to the nidification of the Bittern, our early ornitholo- 
gists, even Nuttall and Audubon, knew little or nothing, and 
the latest authorities are by no means unanimous or satis- 
factory; some affirming that it breeds in communities, others 
that it nests singly, a pair to a bog; some that its nest is in 
a bush or a tree, or in a tussock of grass; others that the 
nest is always on the ground; while others still assert that 
it lays its eggs on the ground without any nest whatever. I 
took a nest the 7th of June, 1881, on Lacloche Island in the 
northern part of Georgian Bay. A few rods from the water, 
on a rather rocky rise of ground, and in the edge of a grove 
of small white birches, it was placed on the ground among 
weeds and ferns, and made of small sticks, coarse weed-stalks 
and dried leaves; raised about two inches from the ground 
and 12-14 inches across, it was perfectly flat and contained 



THE LEAST BITTERN. 397 

three brownish-drab eggs, measuring 1.90-2.00 X 1.38-1.40, 
pointed ovate; incubation being well begun. I found no 
other nests or birds of the kind in the vicinity. In my 
recent studies on St. Clair Flats, where the nests were very 
common, I found some nests built of the dried leaves of the 
cat-tails, placed on the water and anchored among the 
sedges, after the manner of the Coots, while others consisted 
merely of the tops of the marsh-grass matted and flattened 
over the water, so slight and flat that one wondered how 
they could retain the eggs and sustain the weight of the 
bird. The nests were not found in community. The eggs, 
generally four, sometimes five, some 1.95 x 1.39, are a brown- 
ish or greenish-drab, generally quite dark, and always dis- 
tinguishable from any other egg. The nest is well hidden 
in the tall grass or sedges, and the bird, sitting with her bill 
pointing almost straight up, is loth to rise, sometimes almost 
allowing one to touch her. The long down, in patches on the 
young, is brownish-yellow, obscurely streaked with brown, 
and as it is quite long and plumose, standing straight up 
on the head and back, the little creatures are odd 
enough. 

The Bittern ranges over all North America to 58 or 60, 
breeding from the Middle States northward, and wintering 
in the Southern States and beyond. Dr. Coues found it at 
Washington in January. It breeds abundantly in some parts 
of Maine. Reaching New York and Massachusetts in April, 
it leaves in October. It is a good deal smaller than the 
European Bittern, but bears quite a general resemblance to 
it in color. 

THE LEAST BITTERN. 

I continue my rambles among the sedges. What is that 
yonder, climbing up the cat-tails after the manner of a 
Rail ? Having captured a moth, it settles back into the 



398 THE LEAST BITTERN. 

shallow water again, and walks along sedately, throwing its 
head forward at each step "as if about to thrust its sharp 
bill into some substance." It is a Least Bittern (Ardetta 
fxilis). About a foot long or more, wings only 4-5 inches, 
the male, which is slightly crested, has the crown and back 
glossy greenish-black; hind neck, greater wing-coverts, and 
outer webs of secondaries, bright chestnut; lesser wing- 
coverts and sides of the neck, brownish-yellow; fore-neck 
and under parts, light-yellow or yellowish-white; eyes, bill, 
and feet, yellow. The female has the crown and back brown 
and the fore neck and breast streaked with brown and 
brownish-yellow. Otherwise, she is like the male. Like the 
Common Bittern, they have long feathers on the breast, but 
do not have the long, narrow feathers on the back, after the 
manner of the Herons. This is the diminutive or pigmy of 
its race, having indeed the form of a Heron, but to some 
extent the habits of a Rail. So narrowly can it compress 
its body, that it has been made to walk between two books 
set on edge, only an inch apart. On startling it I see that 
its flight is similar to that of the Common Bittern, and like 
the Herons in general, when it rises high for a long pull, it 
folds its neck upon its breast and stretches its long legs out 
straight behind. Like the rest of the Herons, too, its note 
is a sort of qua, and its food such reptiles, insects and fishes 
as are found in its habitat and come within its capacity. 
It breeds rather commonly in the marshes of this locality, 
generally nesting on some pile of matted sedges, but some- 
times tying its nest in a bush or clump of cat-tails or sedges, 
some 18 inches or more from the ground. The nest is flat- 
tish and rather roughly laid of sedges, dried grasses and 
debris, containing from three to five eggs, elliptical, about 
1.22 x 1-93, white, delicately tinged with green. The eggs 
may be found late in May or early in June, and there is very 



THE VIRGINIA RAIL. 399 

good evidence that in some cases, at least, a second brood 
occurs about midsummer. 

Resident in the extreme Southern States, this bird breeds 
from thence northward. 

THE VIRGINIA RAIL. 

Reaching a new territory of the sedges, I hear a sharp, 
rough note, kreck-kreck-kreck-kreck-kreck, which I recognize 
as that of the Virginia Rail (Rallus virginianus] . Squatting 
down in the thick growth, and remaining perfectly still, 
they soon come within a few feet of me. There are two, a 
male and a female. Turning the head in various positions, 
they eye me very closely, but do not seem at all afraid. I 
have a good opportunity to study not only their elegant 
form and colors, but also their attitudes. They are 10 
inches long, and 14 from tip to tip of the wings; the rather 
long bill is red shaded with black; cheeks and line over 
the eye, ash; throat white; crown black; whole upper parts 
black streaked with brown; a chestnut spot on the wings; 
whole under parts rich orange brown; flanks and vent black, 
delicately marked with white. The female is a little smaller 
than the male, and not quite so brightly colored. As is the 
case with the Rails generally, the young are black when in 
the down. This species is readily distinguished from the 
Common Rail, not only by its color, but also by its long 
and slender bill. Arriving here late in April, and extending 
northward into the British Provinces, this bird remains with 
us in considerable numbers until October, breeding quite 
commonly about our marshes. The nest, placed on a mat- 
ted tussock of sedges, is neatly laid, and well edged up, 
containing some 8 or 10 eggs, 1.25 X. 95, creamy white or 
dark cream, specked and spotted all over, but more especially 
at the larger end, with reddish-brown and lilac. 



400 THE KING RAIL. 

THE KING RAIL. 

The Virginia Rail is indeed simply the "miniature" of 
the beautiful King Rail (Rallus elegans), which is some six- 
teen or more inches in length, and is a rather southern 
species, reaching only the Middle States to the eastward, 
but extending even to Washington Territory on the Pacific. 

I have taken it in a marsh on the southern border of Lake 
Ontario. It is found on the south side of Lake Erie and 
along Niagara River, and is very abundant on St. Clair 
Flats. It is a most elegant bird, whose size, rich colors and 
stately movements may well designate him as king of his 
kind. The coloring may be identified by that of the Vir- 
ginia Rail, described above. The voice, too, is similar, 
ordinarily sounding like geek, geek, geek, geek, being especially 
audible at night, about the ponds and sluggish streams 
around which the bird takes up its abode. When alarmed 
or its nest is disturbed, it emits a loud cry, like cairk, cairk, 
cairk. The nest of this species is elegant. Placed over the 
water in a large tuft of marsh-grass, the bottom in the 
water, the top some eight inches above it, and eight or ten 
inches in external diameter, the whole is neatly laid of dried 
grass well edged up, and gracefully sheltered and concealed 
by the drooping tops of the tall marsh-grasses to which it 
is fastened. 

The eggs, ten or eleven, some 1.62x1-20, are roundish 
ovate, of a rich roseate cream, sparingly and very distinctly 
spotted and specked with reddish-brown and lilac. The 
nest is easily identified, as the bird sits closely. The eggs 
seem a little larger, brighter, and more ovate than those of 
its marine congener, the Clapper Rail. This species is very 
shy. Though one may hear its sharp notes almost con- 
stantly from its reedy coverts, it may require much patient 
watching to get a good view of it. 



THE KING RAIL. 40 j 

The King Rail, again, is very similar to the Clapper Rail 
(Rallus crepitans, or longirostris}, simply a little larger and 




THE CLAPPER RAIL. 

brighter, and more beautiful in color. The notorious noise 
of the latter, so common to marshes of the Atlantic States 
to New York, is very much like that of the guinea-fowl, 
while its nidification is similar to that of the virginianus and 
elegans. The Clapper Rail is not only noticeably smaller 
than the King Rail, but the upper parts have a more ashy 
and colder coloring, while the lower parts are duller and 
more yellowish. 

How perfect is the law of adaptation in nature, and how 
wonderful are family traits. The natural world is not a 
medley, but a system, in which families and orders are 
grouped in beautiful consistency of place, structure and 
habit. Among the sedges and cat-tails of our marshes is 
this strongly marked family of birds, the Rails; with wings 
apparently too short and weak for extended flight, and yet 
performing wonders in the time of migration; not only with 
a body proportioned and balanced for running, but capable 
of compression to the narrowness of a wedge, in order 
26 



402 THE COMMON GALLINULE. 

to pass readily through the thick growths of the marshes, 
as also to aid them, perhaps, in their peculiar habit of walk- 
ing on the bottom under the water in search of food; with 
large feet and long toes, in order to support their steps on 
soft mire and floating vegetation, and with legs long and 
muscular they run like very witches in their reedy maizes, 
and were it not for their sharp cackling voices, their pres- 
ence would scarcely be detected, though the marshes swarm 
with their gregarious multitudes. 

The three Rails here mentioned, virginianus, crepitans and 
elegans, constitute the genus Rallus; feeding on animal food, 
which they take out of the water, they have longer bills than 
the genus Porza?ia, which feeds more particularly on float- 
ing vegetation. 

THE COMMON GALLINULE. 

Rowing further up stream to another tract of sedges, I 
am attracted by a spirited cackle something like that of the 
guinea-fowl, cray, cray, cray, cray; and cow, cow, cow, cow, cow, 
the first syllable of each strain drawn out, and the rest 
quite rapid, while occasionally there is something like a 
musical shake on a reed instrument, decidedly pleas- 
ing. Concealing myself as much as possible, I strain 
my eyes in the direction of the sound, and presently 
see the Common Gallinule (Gallenula galleatd) leading 
about her newly-hatched brood. The water is about a 
foot deep, and they are all swimming around in the more 
open places among the sedges. Some 12-15 inches long, 
and so nearly the shape of the Rails as to be placed in the 
same family with them; head, neck and under parts, grayish- 
black; upper parts, black tinged with olive; bill and frontal 
piece extending up from the bill, bright red this bird 
looks like a small dark-colored hen. The newly hatched 



THE COMMON GALLINULE. 403 

young might easily be mistaken for black chickens, both 
from their appearance and from their notes. A more care- 
ful examination of the Gallinule reveals a little white on the 
under tail-coverts and on the edges of the wings and flanks, 
while the greenish feet and legs are ornamented by a red 
ring, just below the feathers of the thigh; and the toes are 
margined by a membrane, more or less lobed, somewhat 
after the manner of the Grebes and Phalaropes. As to food 
and general habit, this bird is very similar to the Rails, 
while its color, frontal plate, and lobed toes clearly differ- 
entiate it. 

A little later in the day, as I approach a long reach of 
lily-pods surrounded by sedges, I discover a pair of 
Gallinules on a log partially out of water. They are sta- 
tioned one on each end of the log, with nine little black 
chicks strung along between them; and these latter the 
parents are busily feeding with something which they take 
from the water. A beautiful sight is this happy family in 
their own quiet haunts! Without any malicious purpose, 
but simply to get nearer, I get into my boat and row rap- 
idly toward them. As I press closely upon them the parents 
fly for safety, and the little ones, just hatched, leave the log, 
run for some distance on the lily-pods, then take to swim- 
ming, and, finally, as my boat glides among them, they all 
disappear as suddenly as young Partridges in the woods. 
Backing out, I quit the spot as soon as possible, and retak- 
ing my point of observation, watch the anxious parents 
return with coaxing notes and gather together the scat- 
tered family, which, readily responding to the call, come 
peeping from their hiding-places in different directions. 

These birds, which swim, dive or run upon the lily-pods 
with equal ease, are to be associated with still waters, 
and with that queen of our ponds and lakes, the sweet- 



404 THE COMMON GALLINULE. 

scented water-nymph. No infant of a royal household 
ever sported under a more beautiful canopy than is found 
by these Gallinule-chicks, beneath the snowy wreath of 
odorous petals and central crown of gold, standing like an 
elegant sun-shade in that quiet nook which mirrors the 
bluff and the surrounding landscape. 

The nest of the Common Gallinule is usually built on 
shallow water, among the sedges and marsh-grass to which it 
is fastened. About 10 or 12 inches in diameter, and continued 
6 or 8 inches above the surface of the water, often with an 
inclination on one side, like a platform, for walking up from 
the water, this elegant raft, made of the leaves of cat- 
tails, sedges and marsh-grass, is neatly hollowed like a 
saucer on the top, and contains 9-14 eggs, 1.75x1.20- 
1.85 X 1.25, more or less tinged with light-brown and specked 
and spotted, especially around the large end, with a shade 
of reddish-brown, often resembling iron-rust. 

Arriving here, from the region of the Gulf Coast, in April, 
they remain until October, breeding abundantly in suitable 
places. They are very abundant on St. Clair Flats, and on 
Fighting Island, south of Detroit, and are common resi- 
dents in Western New York ; but I do not think they 
extend regularly far north of the south shores of the lower 
Great Lakes. In Maine and the Maritime Provinces, they 
are simply accidental. 

In the South Atlantic and Gulf States, but sometimes 
straggling even to New Brunswick, is the beautiful Purple 
Gallinule (Porphyrio martinica) , described by Dr. Coues as 
follows : " Head, neck and under parts beautiful purplish- 
blue, blackening on the belly, the crissum white ; above, 
olivaceous-green, the cervix and wing coverts tinted with 
blue ; frontal shield, blue ; bill, red, tipped with yellow ; 
legs, yellowish. Young, with the head, neck and lower 



THE COOT. 405 

back brownish, the under parts mostly white, mixed with 
ochrey. Length, 10-12 inches." The habits of this elegant 
bird are, without doubt, similar to those of its plainer rela- 
tive just described. 

THE COOT. 

Somewhat larger, but very similar to the Gallinules in 
structure and habit, and strikingly like the Common Galli- 
nule in color, is the Coot (Fulica americana). In color it 
differs from the Common Gallinule, however, in being 
blacker about the head and neck, and lacking the olivaceous 
tint on the back. Its bill, too, is white or light flesh-color, 
with a tendency to a dark or dusky ring near the tip; 
and the tibia lacks the red ring. Quite common in the 
migrations, it arrives here in April, and returns south in 
October.* Its breeding habitat is from Northern New 
England, the Great Lakes and corresponding latitudes, 
northward. It breeds in such abundance as to be the char- 
acteristic bird on St. Clair Flats, where they are as common 
as hens in a farm-yard. The nest is in reedy pools or shal- 
low water about rivers, lakes and ponds, composed of dried 
grasses and sedges, after the manner of the Rails and Gal- 
linules, sometimes tied to the tall clumps of sedges, and yet 
resting on a mass of floating debris; sometimes resting on 
the dry ground near their watery abodes. On St. Clair 
Flats it is a floating nest anchored to the cat-tails and 
sedges, resembling that of the Common Gallinule, but gen- 
erally placed further out in the flooded marshes, toward the 
channels and the lake. Some 12 inches in external diameter 
and rising about 8 inches above the water, it is almost 
invariably built of the dried and bleached leaves of the cat- 
tail; the saucer-shaped interior being often lined with fine 

* It is said to appear in the Mississippi in thousands during the migrations, and to breed 
in immense numbers in Northern Minnesota and Dakota. 



406 THE COOT. 

marsh-grass. Like that of the Gallinule, the nest often has 
a gradual inclination on one side, forming a convenience 
for the bird to enter from the water. So free is the motion 
of this nest, that it may rise and fall with the changes of 
water-level, or rock in the storm with perfect safety. The 
eggs, some 9-14, 1.87X1.27-2.00X1.30, are slightly tinged 
with brown, being very minutely specked and spotted all 
over with black or dark brown, and so nearly the color of 
the bleached material on which they are laid, as scarcely to 
be discernible at any considerable distance. The bird does 
not sit very closely, but running on the debris or water for 
a few feet, takes wing with a peculiar splatter, never rising 
high or flying far. When swimming, the Coot will often 
allow an approach within shot-range, then starting on a 
run on the water, it will rise into the air gradually with a 
spatting, splattering noise, which soon becomes very familiar 
and distinguishable to the ear. Often shaking the large 
lobed feet when clear of the water, it flies with the bill 
pointing down and the feet bending upward, its broad 
wings differing much from those of the Ducks; and its near 
splash into the water being about as peculiar to itself as is 
its noise on rising. Very properly do the western hunters 
call this bird the " Splatterer." When the black clouds of 
a near thunder-storm are overhead, his white bill, in front 
of its black head, becomes very conspicuous, fairly 
gleaming for whiteness. It is decidedly a noisy bird, its 
coo-coo-coo-coo-coo being heard both day and night, the first 
note being prolonged on a much higher key, while the rest 
are somewhat accelerated. It will often squack similar to 
a Duck, and has other notes too unique and difficult of 
description to be given here. The Coot is quite playful on 
the water, and when the male stretches his neck forward, 
partly elevates his wings like the Swan, and spreads his 



THE COOT. 40? 

tail, showing the white underneath, he is quite a beauty, no 
doubt, in the eyes of the female. 

In walking, and often in swimming, its head is moved 
backward and forward like that of the Common Hen, so 
that it frequently appears, while swimming, as if walking in 
the water. The young are black, with a tinge of rust-red 
about the head and neck. 

As the food of this bird is similar to that of the Rails 
and the more edible Ducks, it is in fair demand for the 
table. Dall reports it from Alaska, and Reinhardt from 
Greenland, while its winter habitat is in the Southern States, 
and may extend to the West Indies and Central America. 
South America has a closely-allied species. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 
GEORGIAN BAY. 

C* EORGIAN Bay lies northeast of Lake Huron, and has ex- 
^J tensive communication with it between Great Manitou- 
lin Island and Cape Hurd, as also about the mouth of St. 
Mary's River to the north. This bay is nearly as large as 
Lake Ontario, and contains islands almost innumerable, 
Great Manitoulin, some eighty miles long, leading in size, 
and the rest presenting every variety of extent down to 
mere rocky shoals. Having pitched my tent at Little Cur- 
rent, a village and steamboat landing on a northeastern point 
of Great Manitoulin, I make excursions in a small boat to 
various points of interest in the vicinity, to identify the 
plants and to note the fossils in the lower silurian rocks 
of these islands, but more particularly to study the nidifi- 
cation of the birds in the locality. Fossils are abundant, 
and there is such a variety of wild flowers, that many of the 
islands appear like immense flower gardens, very many of 
the plants being different from those of Western New 
York. 

THE GOOSANDER. 

Here I find nearly all the Sparrows, breeding, especially 
the White-throat; the Thrushes are very well represented; 
our beautiful family of Warblers is varied and numerous; 
both the Ruffed Grouse and the Spruce Partridge breed 
here; the Eagle's nest is not uncommon; and some of the 



THE GOOSANDER. 409 

Gulls and Terns breed in immense numbers. I am disap- 
pointed, however, in respect to the Ducks. Excepting the 
Dusky Duck, very few kinds spend the summer on the bay. 
Our three kinds of Merganser breed here, however, the 
Goosander (Mergus merganser), quite commonly. During 
this month of June there is scarcely a day in which the con- 
spicuous female does not fly out from some nook or point 
as the boat passes; and occasionally a group of males are 
seen, which, as in the case of the Ducks proper, leave the 
female after incubation commences, and spend their time 
in small flocks in the most leisurely manner. In a very few 
cases male and female are surprised together. Probably 
these are instances in which incubation has not yet begun, 
or, some accident having befallen the sitting female, she 
has managed to recall her mate preparatory to a new litter 
of eggs. 

The male of this species, about 24 inches long, has the 
slightly crested head and the upper half of the neck glossy 
green; back, tertiaries and primaries, black; the rest of the 
wing white, with a black bar nearly across the coverts, and 
the secondaries edged with black; lower back, beautifully 
penciled gray; tail ashy; lower neck and under parts white, 
the latter delicately and richly tinged with salmon; bill, iris 
and feet, bright red. The female is a little smaller, has the 
more crested head and upper half of the neck, a light chest- 
nut red; upper parts generally ashy gray, with less white in 
the wing; under parts resembling the male, but with a 
lighter salmon. As she flies, the red head and the white in 
the wings are especially noticeable. 

In nidification, the Goosander seems to have a partiality 
for small islands, of which Georgian Bay and the St. Law- 
rence River, both favorite breeding places of this species, 
are so full. The nest, sometimes on the ground among the 



410 THE GOOSANDER. 

rushes or sedges, and near the water, is rather bulky, made 
of dried weeds and grasses, finished with fibrous roots, and 
lined with the bird's own soft down. 

In the Georgian Bay region, as also throughout Canada, 
and I think also in New England, the Goosander generally 
breeds in holes in trees, after the manner of the Wood Duck 
and the Hooded Merganser. In Norway and Sweden, the 
fact that this species breeds in the above manner is well es- 
tablished. Having been misled by Audubon's statement, 
implying that its nest is invariably on the ground, I lost 
much time in my earlier searches for it. 

The eggs, generally 7 or 8, some 3.00 X 2.00, are oval, 
smooth, and of a rich cream color. As in the eggs of all 
the Mergansers, and also those of the Ducks, the smooth 
finish and clear creamy tint are strongly characteristic. As 
soon as the young are hatched they are led to the water, as 
is the case with all the swimming birds. They are an ele- 
gant little flock, having the exact colors of the female 
chestnut head and ashen gray upper parts while yet in 
their softest down. How gracefully they swim at once, and 
dive like little witches. When they are a few weeks old it 
will puzzle any boatman to capture them. Nothing can 
surpass the assiduity of the mother bird in caring for them. 
How gently she leads and feeds them, teaching them as soon 
as possible to secure their own food. 

Migrating in small flocks, as the winter approaches, the 
Goosanders, Sheldrakes or Saw-bills, for they are known by 
all these names, spread throughout the Union,many, however, 
going just far enough south to secure open places in the 
streams for feeding. Here they will come from time to time 
during the coldest weather, and take their repast, sometimes 
showing but little of that fear of man so characteristic of 
the swimming birds in general. The bright red of their feet 



THE GOOSANDER. 411 

and bills is suggestive of suffering cold, amidst the snow 
and ice, but their feet and legs contain no carneous or fleshy 
substance, only white, bloodless tendons, nearly void of feel- 
ing; so this color, reminding one of chilblained hands, is only 
a delusion. The best cow-hide boots and woolen stockings 
could scarcely make our feet more comfortable than are those 
of a Goosander on the coldest winter day, while his closely 
imbricated feathers, with a heavy coat of down at base and 
well oiled at the surface, far surpassing any suit of rubber, 
keep out every drop of water. At this time of year male 
and female are generally seen together, though it is not al- 
ways easy to distinguish the latter, as it takes the male some 
two years to reach the final colors of his sex. In the early 
spring, flocks consisting entirely of the old or mature males 
may be seen about our lakes and streams. They are then 
probably on their way from the south, and, as is common 
with many other birds in the migrations, are preceding the 
females. The bright salmon of their under parts gives 
them almost a rosy appearance as they rise from the water 
amidst snow-banks and floating ice. About this time, 
however, many may be seen in single pairs, the sexes 
having, for the most part, chosen partners for the season. 
Though the Goosander can walk and run well on land, 
his home is on the water. Here, as an expert diver, he pro- 
cures his food, of small fishes, little mollusks and crustaceans, 
and frogs, of which he devours great quantities. For capt- 
uring fishes, which he raises out of the water and swal- 
lows head foremost, the sharply and backwardly serrated 
edges of his bill are particularly adapted. This bird is 
fond of plunging beneath rushing currents for its food, and 
should it encounter a raft of floating rubbish or an ice- 
cake, it will readily pass underneath it. It swims so deeply 
as to afford the gunner but a small mark, and dives so 



412 THE HOODED MERGANSER. 

quickly at the snap or flash of his gun, that he stands but a 
small chance of killing it. 

On being surprised, the Goosander may rise directly out 
of the water, but more commonly pats the surface with his 
feet for some yards, and then rises to windward. A whole 
flock, thus rising from some foaming current, affords a 
spirited scene. Once on the wing, the flight is straight, 
strong and rapid. 

Though Richardson reported the Goosander as abundant 
in the fur countries, Audubon did not find it in Labrador or 
Newfoundland, where its congener, the Red-breast, breeds 
in abundance. Though it is common alike to the salt and 
fresh waters of North America, Europe and Asia, never look 
for it in turbid water. Its voice, which is simply a hoarse 
croak, is rarely to be heard except from the female as she 
rises from her nest on being surprised, or seeks to extricate 
her young from some sudden danger. 

THE HOODED MERGANSER. 

During this month of June, I occasionally see the ele- 
gant Hooded Merganser (Mergus cucullatus) on the more 
open parts of this northern extremity of the bay. Here 
it is so exceedingly shy that I am obliged to study it in 
the distance, with the aid of a glass. What an elegant 
creature the male is ! About 18 inches or upward in 
length, he has a large semicircular crest of long, loose 
feathers, so compressed, laterally, that it assumes a thin 
edge, thus giving the head a large circular appearance 
from the side, and making the slender bill, so peculiar to the 
Mergansers and differentiating them at first sight from 
the Ducks, to appear particularly diminutive. The head, 
neck, back, two crescents in front of the wings, and two 
bars in the speculum are jet-black; crest, excepting the 



THE NASHVILLE WARBLER. 413 

black edge, speculum, stripes in the tertiaries, and under 
parts, white; sides, dark chestnut, finely penciled with 
black; iris, yellow. The female, somewhat smaller, has 
the head and neck brown; upper parts blackish-brown, 
many of the feathers being edged with lighter; the small spec- 
ulum and under parts, white. The young are brown; and as 
they swim, their motion is so rapid that "their pink 
feet are like swiftly-revolving wheels placed a little in the 
rear," " and the water is beaten into spray behind them." 

In habit, as well as in the structure of its serrated bill, 
this bird is a genuine Merganser. It is an expert diver, and 
feeds principally on fish. It is partial to fresh waters, and 
therefore is rather rare on the Atlantic Coast, while it is 
abundant on the fresh waters in the interior of Florida in 
winter, common on our lakes and streams in migration, and 
very abundant on the great water-courses of the northwest. 
In winter it has about the range of the preceding, and it 
breeds more or less from the Southern States northward into 
the fur countries. 

Its nest is in holes in trees, after the manner of the Wood 
Duck, and is similarly composed. The 6-10 eggs, about 
2.12 x 1.72, are smooth, rather spherical, and of a creamy 
white color. This species breeds abundantly in some of 
the Western States in the vicinity of the Mississippi. The 
flight of this bird is so swift that it is very difficult to 
shoot it on the wing, and it has occasionally been found 
in Europe. 

THE NASHVILLE WARBLER. 

About four miles and a half east of Little Current is 
Strawberry Island, comprising about three thousand acres. 
Having heard that certain Ducks breed there in the marshes, 
I make an excursion thither on the 7th of June. Scrambling 
along the edge of a marsh, where the thickly strewn wind- 



414 THE NASHVILLE WARBLER. 

falls of cedar make my way exceedingly difficult, as I stum- 
ble and nearly fall, striking the muzzle of my gun on the 
fallen timber, a Nashville Warbler (Helminthophaga rufica- 
pilla) flutters over a pile of rubbish with that peculiar 
tremor of the wings which every oologist well understands. 
Knowing that this is a ground-builder, I make diligent 
search for the nest throughout many square feet around me, 
but all in vain. Meanwhile the bird lingers in the thick 
bushes in the immediate vicinity, uttering the soft, whistling 
tsip, quite peculiar to itself. Fearing lest I may crush with 
my foot the hidden treasure for which I am searching, I re- 
tire a few rods and hide in the bushes, hoping to detect the 
nest by means of the bird's return. Presently she ceases 
her soft alarm-note, and, flitting coyly along, drops down 
out of sight very near the place where I first saw her. 
Slowly and softly I approach the site, but again she is on 
the wing before I can detect her starting point, and again 
I fail to find the nest. Once more I go back, and, hiding in the 
bushes amidst a tormenting cloud of mosquitoes, await a 
much more tardy return of the bird. But I see now, very 
nearly, where she settles into the nest, and dropping gun 
and all, and approaching with the utmost stealthiness, 
I take into my eye the little tract of ground which must 
contain the mystery, and clapping my hands by way of 
alarm, I discover this time exactly where the bird flies out. 
Parting the dried grasses which trail thickly along by the 
roots of a little bush, I find the nest a frail, shallow, little 
affair, of fine dried grasses, lined with bright-red stems or 
pedicels of moss-capsules, and a black vegetable production, 
looking as if plucked from a man's beard perhaps old 
moss-pedicels blackened from the weather; evidently no an- 
imal product, from the manner in which it burns when held 
in a flame. This slight structure is tucked away in a thick 



THE NASHVILLE WARBLER. 415 

bunch of hypnum mosses, so that I take up the moss as a 
part of the nest. The 5 eggs, well on in incubation, about 
.62X.50, are clear white, sparsely specked and spotted all 
over with light-red and reddish-brown, the markings thick- 
ening into blotches at the large end. 

This instance of nidification agrees remarkably, especially 
in the size and appearance of the eggs, with two instances 
of that of the same species reported by Mr. Allen, from 
Massachusetts, with others, more recently, by Mr. Peckham, 
of Rhode Island the characteristics being that the nest, 
which occurs early in the season, late in May or early in 
June, is on the ground, and well concealed, having the eggs, 
some .62X.50, milk-white, and moderately marked with 
reddish tints. 

The song of this species is common about Manitoulin 
and Strawberry Islands, and does not resemble that of the 
Chestnut- side, which may be heard in contrast with it at 
almost any time. The song of the Nashville Warbler is a 
composition, the first half of which is as nearly as possible 
like the thin but penetrating notes of the Black-and-white 
Creeping Warbler, while the last half is like the twitter of 
the Chipping Sparrow. As such a composition, its discov- 
ery has been exceedingly interesting to me; and may be 
imitated by the syllables, ke-tsee-ke-tsee-ke-tsee-chip-ee-chip-ee- 
chip-ee-chip. 

About 4.50 long, olivaceous above, yellow beneath, head 
slate, somewhat obscurely crowned with dark chestnut, its 
slender and very sharp bill, without notch or bristle, declares 
it to be one of the Helminthophaga genus. The sexes have a 
very close resemblance, the female being simply a little 
lighter and more obscure in color and marking. 

Seeming to winter in Mexico, this species passes through 
Western New York as a common migrant the first week in 



416 THE ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER, 

May, and breeds from New England northward to high 
latitudes, going casually even to Greenland. It is also 
reported from the Pacific Coast. 

THE ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER. 

Belonging to this same genus, and very similar in size 
and coloration, is the Orange-crowned Warbler (Helmin- 
thophaga celata). But while it is difficult to distinguish the 
immature birds, in complete plumage, the difference is quite 
appreciable. In the case of the Orange-crown, the oliva- 
ceous of the upper parts, and especially the yellow of the 
under parts, is not so bright as in the Nashville Warbler; be- 
sides, it lacks the ashy on the head, so conspicuous in the lat- 
ter, and instead of dark chestnut, the crown is a rather pale 
orange. Sometimes this latter mark is entirely wanting. On 
the whole, Orange-crown appears a little the larger of the 
two. Common in Florida during the winter, it migrates but 
rarely into the Northeastern States, but becomes common 
to the west and northwest, and even abundant along the 
Pacific Coast. 

"A nest of the Orange-crowned Warbler, taken June 12, 
1860, by Mr. Kennicott, at Fort Resolution, Great Slave 
Lake, was built on the ground inside of a bank among 
open bushes, and was much hidden by dry leaves. It con- 
tained five eggs. This nest is built outwardly of fibrous 
strips of bark, interiorly of fine grasses, without any other 
lining. The eggs are very finely dotted all over thickly 
about the large end, more sparsely elsewhere with pale 
brown. They measure about .67 X-50." (Coues.) 

The Tennessee Warbler {Helminthophaga peregrind) is a 
delicate beauty, bearing some resemblance to the last two. 
It is quite rare in these eastern regions, but common to the 
westward, even abundant, in the migrations, along the Red 



THE BLUE-WINGED YELLOW WARBLER. 417 

River of the north. Some 4.50 long, it is olivaceous above, 
becoming a delicate ash on the head and neck, the lores being 
shaded with dusky, and the ring around the eye, and the 
line over it, being whitish; the under parts are white, some- 
times slightly tinged with yellow. In the female and young, 
the ash of the head and neck is more or less olivaceous. It 
breeds far to the north, its nest having been found at Michi- 
picoton on Lake Superior. In all stages of plumage it may 
probably be distinguished from the two former by its wing, 
which is some 2.75, and therefore from .25 -.50 longer. 

THE BLUE-WINGED YELLOW WARBLER. 

On the 18th of May, in Northeastern Ohio, I took a 
bird of this genus, the Blue-winged Yellow Warbler 
(Helminthophaga pinus). That seems to be about the north- 
ernmost limit of this rather southern species. I detected 
it from its feeble and drowsy song, sounding like the sylla- 
bles, swee-e-e-e-e-zree-e-e-e-e, in a decidedly insect tone, and 
the latter part in the falling inflection. It is quite suggestive 
of the song of the Yellow-winged Sparrow. About 5 
inches long; yellowish-olive or light-green above; forehead 
and entire lower parts bright yellow; bill and strip through 
the eyes, black; wings and tail alight slaty-blue, the former 
with two bars of white, the latter with white blotches in the 
outer feathers. All the colors are particularly delicate and 
beautiful. Female and young similar. Though but an 
humble musician, this bird is very beautiful to the eye. In 
keeping with the rest of its genus, its nest is on the ground. 
" The eggs, of the usual shape, and measuring about .63 X 
.48, are white, sparsely sprinkled, chiefly at the great end, 
with blackish dots, and few others of lighter dirty-brownish." 
(Coues.) 

Mr. S. N. Roads, of West Chester, Pa., found two nests of 
27 



418 SUNSET ON THE WATER. 

this species in 1878. One found the 12th of June contained 
young about two days old. The nest was " in the midst of 
a clump of tall swamp-grass, on the outskirts of a forest 
where there was a good deal of weedy undergrowth not 
over two feet high. The nest rested slightly on the ground, 
and was quite bulky for the size of the bird; the cavity 
was nearly three inches deep by two inches in width. The 
structure was composed externally of beech and oak leaves 
of the preceding year, which seemed to have been care- 
lessly strewn and stuck in as if to form a barricade around 
the brim. The lining consisted of fine strips of grape-vine 
and inner bark of the oak, together with some straws." 
Several other nests were found in the same locality. 

Wintering in Mexico and Central America, this species 
has never been reported from New England, except by Mr. 
Samuels. 

The peculiarities of this strongly marked genus, Helmin- 
thophaga, are its very sharply-pointed bill, almost like the 
point of a needle, and without notch or bristles; the exposed 
nostril, and the rather long-pointed wing. 

Having spent a very profitable afternoon, my company 
and I leave Strawberry Island for Little Current, about sun- 
set, our eyes full of the reminiscences of beautiful flowers 
and our ears full of the songs of birds. The evening is 
perfectly calm, the scene one of the finest I have ever wit- 
nessed. In front of us to the west the departing sun is 
closing behind him his gorgeous and many-colored portal 
of clouds. In the immense sheet of water of glassy 
smoothness, every tint of purple, crimson and gold, with 
the grand arch above, and the tiniest fleece of cloud, are 
mirrored to the minutest perfection. Away to the right 
rise the mountains of Lacloche, their grand heights of snowy 



RETURN HOME. 419 

quartz reflecting the many colors of the evening; and in 
the foreground, the dark pines of Lacloche Island and the 
elegant landscape of the Island of Beauty, are attracting 
the sombre shadows of night. To the left are the green 
mountains and sloping hills of Great Manitoulin; and so 
perfect is the mirror of the waters that the landscape, as 
well as the sky, is double. We are speechless with the 
impressive and sacre'd beauty of the scene. Only the muf- 
fled plash of our oars and the ripple of the boat are heard, 
and we recall that the meaning of Manitoulin is Island of 
the Great Spirit; and that many other names of places in the 
locality are associated with the Indian name of the Deity. 
Does not the innate consciousness of a God, as revealed in 
the beauties and the forces of nature, dwell even in the breast 
of the savage? We are reminded, too, of certain passages 
in Revelation: "And there were seven lamps of fire burn- 
ing before the throne, which are the seven spirits of God; 
and before the throne, as it were a glassy sea like unto 
crystal. * * * * And I saw as it were a glassy sea 
mingled with fire; and them that come victorious from the 
beast, and from his image, and from the number of his 
name, standing by the glassy sea, having harps of God. 
And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and 
the song of the lamb, saying, great and marvelous are thy 
works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are 
thy ways, thou King of the ages." 

At dark we reach our tent on the lawn of G. B. Avery, 
Esq., to whose personal kindness, as well as that of his wife 
and family, we are greatly indebted. 

Our next move is to Lacloche, a fur-trading post of the 
Hudson's Bay Company, nestling at the foot of the mount- 
ains on the north shore. After careful instructions as to the 
route, we thread our way through the labyrinth of islands, 



420 A THUNDER-STORM. 

by way of Flag Channel, some dozen miles, and are in full 
sight of the neat white group of buildings, when all sud- 
denly a tempest sweeps across the bay. In the heavens 
above the storm-forces are marshalled in terrible array; the 
troubled waves reflect the inky blackness of the sky; the 
blinding lightnings quiver along the sombre crests of the 
low clouds; the sonorous peals of thunder echo from the 
clouds and the mountains; the rain falls in torrents, lash- 
ing the angry billows into a white foam. Our heavily- 
loaded boat rocks dangerously in great troughs of this 
surging sea, and the waters dash over us from bow to 
stern. Pointing our boat to leeward, we drive swiftly 
toward a small island some half mile away. We reach it in 
safety, but the rain has run through every thread of our 
clothing and filled our boots. 

After an hour or more the rain subsides, but the wind 
continues, and we are obliged to set up our tent for the 
night. In due time our canvas house, thickly overshadowed 
by the trees, is ready for lodging, and we are preparing a 
comfortable evening meal over that convenient tenting 
appurtenance a kerosene stove. The ground is thoroughly 
saturated, but by the aid of plenty of spruce boughs our 
bedding is kept dry, and we sleep a dreamless sleep, amid 
the hoarse tones of waves and breakers. On awaking in 
the morning, I detect the sun-light through the trees, and 
turning towards my nearest comrade, spy a toad sitting 
placidly on his rosy cheek. As I send the reptile sprawling 
on the ground, the eyes of my friend open wider than 
usual at the sight of its upturned under parts; and those 
facial muscles, which, under certain emotions, raise the 
corners of the mouth, shorten the cheeks and fashion a cir- 
cle of cheerful wrinkles about the eyes, work with peculiar 
effect. 



THE OLIVE-BACKED THRUSH. 421 

THE OLIVE-BACKED THRUSH. 

In every direction over the island we hear the songs of 
Warblers. Here is the song of the ever-present Yellow- 
warbler (D. (Estiva), the hurried melody of the Canada 
Warbler, the drowsy notes of the Black-throated Green, 
and the slender ditty of the Black-and-white Creeping 
Warbler. Amidst them all I hear the song of a Thrush. 
To an inexperienced ear it might pass for a poor perform- 
ance of the Wood Thrush, but it is decidedly inferior in 
capacity, and the tones are not nearly so loud, liquid and 
penetrating. I hurry out and look around, but cannot detect 
the singer, which becomes silent on the least disturbance in 
his vicinity. During breakfast we hear him again, and are 
as much puzzled as before. Searching the trees and bushes 
around the tent, I find a nest in a small balsam-fir, placed 
on a limb near the trunk and about eight feet from the 
ground. It is the nest of the Olive-backed Thrush (Turdus 
swainsoni). While yet in the tree I hear its alarm note, 
quit, quit, quit ; the syllables being uttered several times, 
with a pause of a few seconds after each articulation. The 
alarm note, like the song, bears a striking resemblance to 
that of the Wood Thrush, except that in the case of the lat- 
ter, the sharp syllable is uttered a greater number of times 
and in rapid and spirited succession: quit-quit-quit-quit-qttit. 
In size, however, about 7-7.50 long, the Olive-back is nearer 
Wilson's Thrush and the Hermit; but it is always to be dis- 
tinguished from the former by its darker upper parts, which 
are of a deep olive-brown, becoming reddish on the rump 
and tail, and by its larger breast-markings, and from the 
latter by its creamy breast and cheeks, as well as by its 
more dusky mantle. The creamy breast shades into the 
white of the under parts, and the black spots become more 
obscure on the lower parts of the breast. 



422 THE OLIVE-BACKED THRUSH. 

In the trees and tall bushes along Lacloche Creek, which 
has a rapid and noisy run of about half a mile from a lake 
in the mountains to the bay, I hear the song and notes of 
swainsoni quite commonly; but, except in the migrations, 
when it spends much time on the ground, it keeps for the 
most part pretty well up in the trees and bushes, and is so 
shy that only occasionally can one get a glimpse of it. In 
this locality the similarity of its song to that of the Wood 
Thrush can be well studied, for they both sing very com- 
monly in closely adjoining haunts, and were it not for the 
greater brilliancy and marvelous expression of sentiment in 
the performance of the latter, the Olive-back would rank as 
no mean artist. 

For two successive years Mr. Frank H. Lattin, of Gaines, 
Orleans Co., N. Y., has found the nest and eggs of the 
Olive-backed Thrush within a short distance of his residence, 
thus proving a remarkably southern extension of its breed- 
ing habitat. One found on the 2d of June, 1880, contain- 
ing 4 fresh eggs, was about 4 feet from the ground, in a 
small elm sapling standing near the woods in a bushy field. 
Another taken June 1st, 1881, near the -same spot, and hav- 
ing 3 fresh eggs, with one of the Cow Blackbird's, was in a 
slim maple sapling, and about 10 feet from the ground. 
One of these nests, now before me, is composed of dried 
weeds and grasses, and lined with rootlets. It is frail and 
loose, resembling that of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak or 
Scarlet Tanager. Had it not been so well identified, I 
should doubt its genuineness; for the nest of the Olive-back 
is generally more bulky and substantial, and very well lined, 
though it contains no mud. The eggs, some .90 or .92 X .62, 
are green, finely specked and spotted with several shades of 
brown. 

Concerning that variety of the above species called Alice's 



THE HERRING GULL. 423 

Thrush (Turdus swainsoni almce), Coues says: "Similar, 
but without any buffy tint about the head, nor yellowish ring- 
around the eye ; averaging a trifle larger, with longer, slen- 
derer bill. Much the same distribution, but breeds further 
north. Nest and eggs similar." It is sometimes called the 
Gray-cheeked Thrush. 

THE HERRING GULL. 

The most characteristic bird of Georgian Bay is the Her- 
ring Gull (Larus argentatus). In Collingwood harbor it 
sails among the masts of schooners and the smoke-stacks 
of steamers almost as fearlessly as if no one were present, 
seeming to understand that that city has a special law for 
its safety. Any bit of offal is eagerly gobbled up, and the 
large quantities of refuse-matter cast overboard by the fish- 
ermen are readily devoured by these elegant scavengers. If 
a steamboat starts out, numbers follow in her wake, to take 
advantage of anything edible which is thrown into the water; 
and until the distant port is reached, scarcely a minute are 
they out of sight. One may amuse himself by the hour 
throwing bits of cracker or meat overboard for them.. Quite 
a distance off they will detect a mere crumb on the surface, 
and, screaming with delight, pick it up on the wing. Should 
the cook throw overboard a dish of remnants, a considerable 
number will alight on the water and take their repast at 
their leisure. Should one discover a particularly large or 
desirable morsel, he will seize it and rise to leave, pursued 
by several of his eager squalling comrades. All along upon 
the rocks and shoals they stand like snowy sentinels; here 
and there they float lightly on the water; or they fly 
low over the surface in search of prey, or soar majesti- 
cally against the clear ether or the sombre cloud; the entire 
snow-white figure of their under parts reminding one fore- 



424 THE HERRING GULL. 

ibly of the purity of the elements around. The length of 
this species being 2 feet or upwards, and its spread of wings 
some 4% feet, it compares well in size with the larger birds 
of prey, and its strong steady stroke of the wings, as well 
as its spiral soaring, is very suggestive of the grand flight 
of the larger Buzzards. Pure white in maturity, with yel- 
low bill and red gonys, a light bluish-gray curtain over the 
back and wings, ends of the primaries jet-black tipped or 
spotted with white, feet a delicate flesh color, this bird is 
an object of great beauty in whatever attitude one meets it. 
On clear sunny days of April I have seen it flying leisurely 
northward, overland, so high up that it appeared at first 
sight like a bit of stray down floating in the atmosphere, 
and only as the eye adjusted itself to the distance could its 
outline be defined. 

The Herring Gull breeds in community in a number of 
places about Georgian Bay, sometimes a dozen or fifty 
appropriating small rocky islands or shoals, sometimes very 
large communities taking possession of larger islands, 
or even groups of them. One of the most extensive breed- 
ing places is the island called the Half-moon, lying between 
Cape Hurd and the east end of Great Manitoulin. Here 
the fishermen sometimes obtain hundreds of dozens of the 
eggs at a time. The nest, generally placed in the most 
exposed situation on the bare rocks, sometimes under shel- 
ter of the bushes, is a promiscuous pile of trash and dirt 
consisting largely of moss and lichens gathered from the 
rocks, of small sticks and dried grasses, of almost anything 
to be picked up in the vicinity pretty well heaped up, and 
with a considerable depression in the center. The eggs, 
the full complement of which is three, are about 2. 75-2. 83 x 
1.80-2.00. The color is greenish or brownish drab, with 
dark brown and light grayish-brown spots, blotches and 



THE HERRING GULL. 425 

scratches, extending more or less over the entire surface, 
but frequently thicker at the large end. The thick and ele- 
gant down of the newly-hatched young is nearly the color 
of the egg. As these birds occupy the same site for breed- 
ing, from year to year, it becomes generally known in the 
vicinity, or if the spot be remote it is visited by fishermen 
and adventurers from a distance; and the nests are robbed 
most unmercifully, often until late in summer, the Gulls 
continuing to lay in a very prolific manner. The disastrous 
consequences of this cruel practice, thus kept up from year 
to year, must be very great, rapidly reducing the number 
of these birds, so useful as scavengers and so highly orna- 
mental to the landscape. It is probably in consequence of 
this continued disturbance that whole colonies about the 
sea-shore have resorted to the trees for nidification. 

Visiting Seal Island, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, 
last June (1883), I was most intensely interested in study- 
ing the nesting of these Gulls on trees. A great part of the 
island, as also of other islands in the vicinity, is covered 
with a peculiar growth of black spruce (Abies nigra) ; rather 
low, as if stunted by the cold foggy atmosphere, the branches 
are very thick and numerous for the height of the tree, as if 
made dense by the shortening of the trunk; and the broad 
top is as flat as a Chinese umbrella. Climbing to the tops of 
these trees, one seems to have reached an immense level plane 
of dark green, across which a squirrel might run with all 
ease. Indeed, it almost appears to the eye as if a man might 
traverse it at least with snow-shoes. My first survey of 
this scene was just after a bright June sunset. All over 
this expanse of dark verdure, hundreds of Gulls were 
alighted, singly, in pairs, and in groups, their chaste white 
figures most elegantly tinted with the rosy hues of the lin- 
gering sunlight, while many others were describing their 



426 THE HERRING GULL. 

grand and noisy circles overhead. In the open spaces, where 
fire had destroyed the trees, a good many nests were on the 
ground, built as described above; but many more were 
on the almost level tops of the trees, and were constructed 
precisely like those on the ground. In foggy weather this 
immense colony of birds, much magnified by the mists as 
they describe their maize of circles in the sky, are a 
weirdly grand sight, which cannot be surpassed even by 
that of the hundreds that sail through the mists arising from 
Niagara Falls in winter. On searching the above locality 
for nests, one is well convinced of the increased security 
resulting from this change in the manner of nesting; and 
one is not a little surprised at the sagacity of the bird, 
which has availed itself of so evident an advantage. 

Their breeding habitat on the Atlantic is from Northern 
Maine and Nova Scotia northward. 

At their breeding places these Gulls are quite noisy. 
They have a loud, clear note, sounding like chee-ah, every 
now and then repeated, and a shorter nasal hunk, kunk. 
These notes are uttered in a very spirited manner, as they 
describe their circles high overhead when their nests are 
being disturbed. They are also accompanied by a harsh 
rattling sound kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk. 

" How many kinds of Gulls breed on these shoals?" I in- 
quired of an old gentleman, as the tug was nearing one of 
the well-known breeding places. " Two," was the answer, 
" White uns an' gray uns." So might any one think who is 
not acquainted w r ith the history of these birds; but the fact 
is that the white ones and gray ones are all of the same 
kind, the young birds, in their gray plumage, requiring sev- 
eral years to reach the mature coloration. 

The old gentleman in question must have mistaken, how- 
ever, the appearance of the birds later in the season for 



THE RING-BILLED GULL. 427 

that of the breeding time; for the immature specimens, 
though seen in leisurely flocks all summer, farther south on 
the Great Lakes, never appear on the breeding grounds in 
spring. The colonies resorting thither are all in the full 
purity of their final summer plumage, and thus their beauty, 
as a part of the landscape, is greatly enhanced. Like the 
Gull family in general, this bird has two moults, one in the 
spring and one in the fall, and during winter the mature 
bird has the head and neck streaked with gray. 

From its name, one might suppose that this bird subsists, 
mainly at least, on herring, but it captures with equal read- 
iness any fish of proper size, dashing at the surface, or drop- 
ping into the water, a few moments, to secure it, but rarely, 
if ever, plunging after it. It also feeds on various 
kinds of miollusks, holding the shell in its claw, after 
the manner of a Hawk, and breaking it with its bill in order 
to secure the contents. Dr. Coues " once found remains 'of 
a Marsh Hare in the stomach of one of these Gulls." I 
have seen it pick up the newly-skinned body of a Common 
Tern, thrown on the water, and gulp it down at a mouthful, 
scarcely retarding its flight. In fact, it will feed on almost 
anything, and in certain localities is an excellent scavenger. 

THE RING-BILLED GULL. 

Observing the Herring Gulls, on Georgian Bay, one will 
notice certain individuals very much smaller than the rest, 
while their form and color, as well as their general habit, are 
precisely the same. On shooting one of these, however, it 
will be discovered that the bill is greenish-yellow at the 
base, followed by a broad band of black encircling it at the 
gonys, while its tip is bright chrome; the angle of the 
mouth and part of the cutting-edges of the bill being red, 
and the legs and feet of a dusky green. On measuring 



428 THE RING-BILLED GULL. 

it, it is found to be only 18-20 inches long and some 48 
inches in extent; thus being much smaller than the Herring 
Gull, while the colors of its bill and feet fully differentiate 
it. From the dark ring around its bill, it is called the 
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis). It has nearly the 
same diet and habitat as its near relative, which it so closely 
resembles. 

About 44 miles northeast of Collingwood, and somewhat 
north of the route from that city to Parry Sound, are the 
Western Islands. They are in two thick groups, the largest 
islands containing several acres each, the smallest being 
mere rocky shoals. One of the largest has a few trees, 
most of the rest contain a few shrubs, and more or less 
small vegetable growth and grasses on some of the ledges 
of rock. They are many miles from any human habitation, 
resting quietly in the grand solitude of this waste of 
waters. On one of the larger islands of these groups, the 
Ring-bills breed in immense numbers. As one nears the 
shores they literally swarm with many hundreds, if not 
thousands, of these elegant birds. The rocks and the 
waters along the shore are literally white with them. Ap- 
proaching still nearer, they take alarm, and rise like an 
immense living cloud. The very air, rustling with the noise 
of their snowy wings, seems alive with them^ and still they 
rise from the more distant parts of the island, until their 
numbers are overwhelming. Rising high overhead, the 
great mass spread out somewhat, and describing their 
graceful circles, intersecting each other at points innumer- 
able, form most complicated and animated figures of huge 
dimensions against the sunlit ether or the thick veil of 
dark clouds. Now they become very noisy, their voices 
being quite similar to that of the Herring Gull. Presently 
the great excited mass separates into sections; several 



THE RING-BILLED GULL. 429 

large groups drop into the water near by, and whiten its 
surface for some distance; others continue their flight far- 
ther away, while not a few still linger near to watch the fate 
of their treasures, and keep up an uneasy chattering di- 
rectly overhead. The nests on the island are found to be 
almost numberless, some of them being so close together, 
that the sitting birds must almost touch each other. In 
the style of the nest, the shape, color and number of the 
eggs, and the color of the newly-hatched young, there is 
the greatest resemblance to the nidification of the Herring 
Gull; only, in accordance with the diminished size of the 
birds, both nests and eggs are much smaller; the latter 
being 2.07-2.50 x 1.63-1.70. On the whole, the marking of 
these eggs tends more to blotches than is the case with the 
eggs of the near but larger relative. Also the bills and feet 
of the young are noticeably darker. Passing by many 
nests containing newly-hatched young, and others with 
eggs, through the shells of which the peeping chicks have 
already thrust their bills, one may gather a sufficient sup- 
ply of eggs for study, scarcely affecting the number on the 
whole. 

The full-grown young, on through its years of gradual 
change into the maturity of coloration, bears a close resem- 
blance to the Herring Gull of corresponding age; in fact, 
in shades and markings is about identical. The resem- 
blance of these two species also holds good in respect to 
the mature birds in their annual changes of plumage. 

The Gulls proper are a well-marked subdivision of the 
Gull family in general, that family including Jaegers, or 
Skua Gulls, Gulls proper, Terns and Skimmers. Some of 
the differentiating characters of the Gulls proper are: 
the rather long, deep and much compressed bill, well 
hooked toward the point, with peculiar enlargement at the 



430 THE RING-BILLED GULL. 

gonys, and sharp cutting edges; tail generally even; body 
thick, and wings broad, as compared with the Terns, for 
instance, while they are usually of larger size; feet and legs 
stout for birds of their class; and the bouyancy with which 
they float on the water, on account of their small bodies as 
compared with the bulk of their plumage. In form, gener- 
ally, the whole sub-family are so similarly moulded, that 
any eye of moderate discrimination can recognize them. 
In size and color they are subject to great variation. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

TENTING ON THE NIAGARA. 

THE Niagara ranks with the most interesting rivers of the 
world. Its great gorge, cut from Queenstown Heights 
to Niagara City by the constant recession of the falls, is 
not only grand in itself, but affords the most important 
data for reckoning geological time, and also a most ad- 
mirable illustration of the rock strata of the upper Silurian 
age; while the falls are not second to any of nature's won- 
ders. Indeed, from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, the river 
is throughout an object of varied beauty. As this work is 
written especially from Western New York as a point of 
view, I have thought it necessary to spend time on this 
grand water-course; and that time has been passed mostly 
in tenting. For this kind of recreation no locality could 
be finer than Buckhorn Island, which is separate from 
Grand Island by Burnt-ship Creek. Here I once pitched 
my tent, in the middle of August, under the shade of a 
large maple in the edge of an open grove with a green 
sward almost equal to a lawn, which, undermined along 
the margin of the river, dropped over the low bank to the 
water's edge like a fine terrace. Thus located on the very 
brink of the river, the east end of the tent opened toward 
Tonawanda, the west toward Niagara City and the Falls, 
which were some four miles distant and in full view. 
Directly north was the village La Salle, and the fine country 



432 TENTING ON THE NIAGARA, 

along the river. The waters of this river being the outlet 
of one great lake into another, and therefore wholly unlike 
those rivers which drain alluvial soils, are remarkably pure. 
Hence, the sheet of water east of Buckhorn, about a mile 
in width, and breaking into the rapids to the south and 
west, is an ever changing scene of great beauty. In certain 
hours of the day, when the sky is bright, the color is a deli- 
cate green, compared with which the clearest sky looks 
dark and inky. In no other waters, of river, lake or ocean, 
have I ever seen so bright and beautiful a tint of green. 
When tossed by the wind this sheet of green is ornamented 
with large snow-white crests of foam. Again it assumes a 
deep purple or a cold gray, or almost a deep black, when 
frowned upon by a darkly clouded sky. The roar of the 
falls is nearly as distinct as it is in the immediate vicinity, 
and the mist, which rises constantly, is ever changing, both 
in quantity and appearance. Sometimes it is barely per- 
ceptible, or even disappears entirely; again it is a thick 
column, and forms a dense cloud. Generally it is about the 
color of steam; sometimes it is like a column of black 
smoke against the gaudy tints of sunset. I occasionally 
see it, toward the close of day, of a delicate rose-tint and 
once after a heavy storm, as the sun, nearing the horizon, 
threw a flood of light from behind the black cloud formed 
above the cataract, the mist, as it rose, was a bright flame- 
color; and, rolling among the trees on the Canadian side, 
seemed like a raging fire. The city was wrapped in a 
golden cloud, and the whole landscape to the. east was 
bathed in a rosy mist. 

Next to the sweet and simple pleasures of childhood are 
those of tenting out. O, the delicious quiet and freedom, 
as I recline on the grass with my good and companionable 
friend, to partake of the simple but palatable meal which 



THE SPOTTED SANDPIPER. 433 

our own hands have prepared; or bend over the side of 
the boat and wash our few dishes of bright tin; or sit in 
the tent door at the close of day reading or watching the 
birds on this grand water-course. It reminds one, too, of 
the ancient, patriarchal days when Abraham, Isaac and 
Jacob dwelt in tents; and thus carries us back from our highly 
artificial and complicated age of living, and gives us a 
glimpse of the quiet peace and simplicity of the olden 
times of the sweet infancy of human history. What an 
object of beauty is a new wall-tent almost as white as 
snow upon the clear roof of which, through the ever mov- 
ing trees, play, by day, the shadows of the sunlight, and by 
night, the shadows of the moonlight. My carpet, too, of 
rich green-sward intermixed with a variety of small plants, 
is a real study in botany. Here I rest sweetly on the very 
bosom and near the heart of nature. 

THE SPOTTED SANDPIPER. 

The most constant bird-note along the river and the shore 
is the rapidly uttered/^/, weet, iveet, weet, weet, or wreet, wreet y 
wreet, wreet, of the Spotted Sandpiper (Tringoides macularius), 
a most common and characteristic bird throughout North 
America; unlike most of its tribe, which go far north 
for nidificatiori, it breeds from Texas to Labrador, and as 
abundantly along the waters of the interior, as in the vicin- 
ity of the sea. Its well pronounced notes express the very 
soul of sweet content and cheerfulness. Who could be the 
victim of care or melancholy, nesting in the quiet haunts 
enlivened by such sprightly tones ! Scarcely less melodious 
are they than the tender utterances of the piping Plover. 
Indeed, but few of the sylvan songsters can render their 
strains more suggestively pleasing. On the ground or in 
the air, it is exceedingly graceful. As the bird alights and 
28 



434 THE SPOTTED SANDPIPER. 

begins to run, the passage from one kind of locomotion to 
the other is so easy, one can scarcely see where flight ends 
and running begins. 

It has, moreover, two distinctive habits of motion, which 
may keep time with its notes, and really become a part of 
the landscape of its haunts about lakes, ponds and streams. 
The first, pertaining to its flight, is the tremulous vibration 
of its long-pointed wings, curving downward after certain 
regular strokes. The second is the perpendicular sweep- of 
the tail and hinder part of the body, so rapid and constant 
while the bird is alighted as to give it the common name, 
Tip-up. Both these motions are exceedingly graceful, and 
add greatly to the character and charm of this gentle, con- 
fiding bird, the most common of all our Waders. The peculiar 
note, and the motion while on the ground, are both assumed 
by the young about as soon as they leave the shell. 

Arriving in this district, and in the Middle States gener- 
ally, about the middle or twentieth of April, it is exceed- 
ingly sprightly and musical on all our water-courses, retir-' 
ing to the fields, late in May or early in June, for nidification. 
The nest is on the ground, in any cultivated field or past- 
ure, or about barren shores, generally near, but sometimes 
rather remote from water, and ordinarily consists of a 
loose arrangement of dried grasses or straw, but it seems to 
increase in bulk and elaborateness of structure as the bird 
extends northward. In Labrador, Audubon found these 
nests " made of dry moss, raised to the height of from six 
to nine inches, and well finished within with slender grasses 
and feathers of the Eider Duck." In this locality they 
are found, also, well sheltered beneath shelving rocks. As 
its breeding habitat is so extensive, its time of nidification 
varies with the locality. In Texas, Audubon saw the young 
" well grown " by the fifth of May, while in Newfoundland 



THE SPOTTED SANDPIPER. 435 

they were "just fully fledged" by the eleventh of August. 
The parent leaves the nest with much reluctance, and man- 
ifests the greatest distress as she hobbles and flutters along, 
or even prostrates herself on the ground, at a short distance, 
uttering the most plaintive notes. The 4 eggs, 1.35X.92, 
are a grayish cream, specked, spotted and heavily blotched 
with dark brown and also a lighter tint. Like the eggs of 
the Waders in general, they are quite pointed, and large for 
the size of the bird. When in the down, the young are 
gray, having a black stripe over the back, and one behind 
each eye. 

This bird spends the winter in the Southern States, but 
extends also through Mexico and Central America to South 
America. It is 7.00-8.00 long ; bill about 1.00, and grooved 
nearly to the tip; head and neck slender; color above, a 
bronze-olive, much like that of a Cuckoo, with fine central 
lines or wavy cross-bars of black; eye-lid, line back from the 
eye and under parts, pure white in the mature birds, and 
finely spotted with black, the young lacking the black spots. 

The Solitary Sandpiper (Tetanus solttarius), some 9.00 long 
and 17.00 in extent, is "dark lustrous olive-brown, streaked 
on the head and neck, elsewhere finely speckled with whitish; 
below, white, jugulum and sides of neck with brownish 
suffusion, and dusky streaks; rump and upper tail-coverts 
like the back; tail, axillars and lining of wings, beautifully 
barred with black and white; quills entirely blackish; bill 
and feet blackish ; young, duller above, less speckled, jugu- 
lum merely suffused with grayish-brown." This "shy, quiet 
inhabitant of wet woods, moist meadows, and secluded 
pools, rather than of the marshes," is not gregarious, and 
is often found singly. Its nidification is but imperfectly 
known. An egg from Vermont, well identified, was de- 
scribed by the late Dr. Brewer. Mr. Jas. W. Banks, of St. 



436 THE BANK SWALLOW. 

John, N. B., found a nest containing 3 eggs on the shore of 
a lake in the suburbs of that city, July 3d, 1880. It was 
" about 200 yards from the edge of the lake, on a dry spot 
in the midst of a rather swampy patch of meadow." Mr. 
Maynard gives the following description of a set of eggs well 
identified,from Utah. Dimensions from .95 X 1.35-1.00 X 1.40; 
varying from creamy to pale buff in color, spotted and 
blotched with umber-brown of varying shades, with the 
usual pale shell markings. 

THE BANK SWALLOW. 

Just above the tent where the bank curves gracefully and 
is quite a little above its ordinary height, a community of 
Bank Swallows have selected their summer residence. A 
grand sheet of water is this for them to skim, in their grace- 
ful aerial evolutions. In every way a most delightful 
summer resort do they find this. Five inches long, dull 
or grayish-brown above, with pectoral band of the same, 
and white underneath, like the Swallows generally, the 
Bank Swallow (Cotyle riparia) reaches us late in April or 
early in May. In communities about river-banks, or quite 
as readily in sand pits remote from the water, excavating 
eighteen inches, or two feet, into soft, sandy earth, they place 
in an enlargement, at the end of the burrow, a nest consist- 
ing of dried grasses, loosely arranged, and containing four 
or five white eggs, some .68X.50. A first set is laid late in 
May or early in June, and a second may follow later. 

Breeding in North America generally, and spending the 
winter from our southern coast southward into the West 
India Islands, Cotyle riparia is found also in Europe. 

The Bank Swallow is easily mistaken for the Rough- 
winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis); very similar in 
its general appearance and habit; but the latter can be dis- 



THE KINGFISHER. 437 

tinguished, when flying towards one, by the absence of the 
pectoral band of the former; and when in the hand, it is 
found to be a little larger, not so clear white underneath, 
and lacking "the curious little tuft of feathers at the bottom 
of the tarsus," so characteristic of the former; while the 
recurved outer web of the primaries, in the male, equally 
differentiates it, as well as secures its common name. It, 
too, generally breeds in banks, though "it has been found 
breeding about the piers and abutments of bridges, etc." 
(Coues.) It is "distributed, during the breeding season, 
throughout the United States exclusive of New England." 
(Maynard.) 

The Bank Swallow, unlike the Swallows generally, seems 
unaffected, in its habits of nidification, by the introduction 
of civilization; but both it and the Rough-wing seem less 
noisy and less musical than their congeners. 

THE KINGFISHER. 

Never did I see anywhere so many Kingfishers as on the 
Niagara River. At my tenting ground, on Buckhorn 
Island, they were almost constantly in view, and never before 
did they seem to me to be so fine an ornament to the land- 
scape. Their flight, as they passed up and down those 
lovely waters, moving in long curves, caused by a more 
rapid beating of the wings every few yards, and thus throw- 
ing themselves up at intervals, was really graceful. Their 
forms, too, seemed especially graceful; their long wings, so 
finely marked, as they opened in flight, with a long bill and 
crest overtopping the pure white neck, all added to the 
pleasing figure. The Kingfisher can hover as elegantly as 
any Falcon, while he eyes his prey in the clear depths; and 
his adroitness in plunging head first into the water, utterly 
burying himself in search of his sprightly game, and again 



433 THE KINGFISHER. 

emerging and putting off with an air of real pleasure, is very 
animating to the beholder, to say the least. One almost 
feels like clapping his hands at the success of the feat. I 
watch him with interest even as he alights upon a stake or a 
limb over the water, intent upon his prey beneath, occasion- 
ally jerking his tail, or repeating his peculiar rattle, often 
compared to the whistle of a night-watch, but sounding 
really musical in this pleasing solitude. 

Reaching this locality as early as the 18th of March for 
they barely go far enough south in winter to find the streams 
clear of ice they are already prospecting for a nest by the 
first week in April. The nest is near the inner extremity of 
a hole in the bank of a stream or pond, some 4 or 5 feet 
from the entrance; often near the surface, but if the bank 
be high, it may be a number of feet below. The nest con- 
sists of a few sticks or a little straw, with some feathers; 
and contains some half-dozen pure white eggs, about 1.32X 
1.05. Incubation, which is performed by both parents, lasts 
about two weeks, and the young receive the best of atten- 
tion. When they are disturbed, it is said " the mother 
sometimes drops on the water as if severely wounded, and 
flutters and flounders as if unable to rise from the stream, 
in order to induce the intruder to wade or swim after her, 
whilst her mate, perched on the nearest bough, or even on 
the edge of the bank, jerks his tail, erects his crest, rattles 
his notes with angry vehemence, and then springing off, 
passes and repasses before the enemy with a continued cry 
of despair." 

About a foot long, the Kingfisher (Ceryle alcyoii), is slaty- 
blue above, including the long crest and band across the 
breast, the shafts of the feathers black, spot in front of the 
eye, collar around the neck, and under parts generally, pure 
satiny white, quills and tail-feathers mostly black, spotted 



7 HE MARSH HA WK. 439 

with white, wing-feathers and wing-coverts often tipped 
and specked with white, the long bill black, toes much 
joined together; the female, with a chestnut band across 
the lower breast, just below the one of slaty blue, has also 
chestnut along the sides. 

The fish-diet of this bird makes it very disagreeable to 
the taxidermist. It is a most characteristic bird of North 
America, reaching to Central America and the West India 
Islands. About the valleys of the Rio Grande, Colorado 
and southward, there is a beautiful green species but 8 inches 
long, called Cabanis' Kingfisher. These make up the King- 
fishers of our continent. 

THE MARSH HAWK. 

While the northern or front side of Buckhorn Island is till- 
able upland, affording a profitable fruit farm and an elegant 
grove, the southern part, along Burnt-ship Creek, is an exten- 
sive marsh, with an abundance of tall grass and sedges, 
elegantly ornamented with wild flowers, and an occasional 
group of alders. Here I take a stroll, gun in hand. A 
quieter spot it would be difficult to find, but oh ! how trying, 
to a sweet temper even, to traverse these hummocks! They 
are scarcely larger than a man's hat, and afford such a luxu- 
riant growth of tall marsh-grass, that one can scarcely 
force the foot through it, while all the interspaces are a bot- 
tomless soft mire. I make my perilous way, catching hold 
of the grass to support my uncertain steps, and unable to 
observe anything, when lo! I am startled by putting up a 
fine female of the Marsh Hawk or Harrier (Circus cyaneus 
var. hudsonius). She rises but a few feet ahead of me, and 
on reaching the spot I find the feathers of the Common 
Rail, the late quarry of the startled bird. These Hawks 
are so plenty as to be almost constantly in sight about this 



440 THE MARSH HA WK. 

marsh, being about as common here as on the salt marshes of 
New Jersey. With long wings and tail, they always fly rather 
low, often near the ground, and never very swiftly. Accus- 
tomed to pass and repass while searching thoroughly a given 
locality, they generally sail, with a few occasional strokes 
of the wings to gain a new impulse. Either the clear bluish- 
gray male, or the mottled and streaked reddish-brown female, 
each having the conspicuous white spot on the rump, may 
be readily recognized. When the mature male passes 
over you, excepting a few dark markings near the throat or 
breast and the black points of his wings, he appears almost 
pure white. This species has indeed " a queer owlish physi- 
ognomy, produced by the shape of the head, and especially 
by the ruff of modified feathers, which in its higher develop- 
ment is characteristic of the Strigida" or Owls 

The female is very noticeably larger than the male, being 
some 20-21 inches in length, while the former is but 16-18 
inches, and somehow appears more frequently, in migratory 
periods at least, in the low flight which this bird makes in 
search of its lowly prey of insects, mice, snakes, and frogs. 
Of the latter, Circus is said to be especially fond, so that one 
writer affirms that "these goggle-eyed and perspiring creat- 
ures suffer more from the Harriers than from all the school 
boys that ever stoned them of a Saturday afternoon." It 
will readily be seen that this bill of fare necessarily attracts 
them to marshes and bogs. In these "watery preserves" 
they may not infrequently feast upon a Rail or a small 
Wader. In every case, like the Buzzards in general, they 
drop upon their prey and devour it on the spot, thus 
differing greatly from the Falcons, which dash upon their 
victims in the swiftest flight, and from many of the Rap- 
tores^ which convey their prey to fancied places for con- 
sumption. 



THE CAROLINA RAIL. 441 

The nest, placed on the ground in some marshy spot, and 
more or less neatly arranged of dried grasses, sometimes 
resting on a slight bed of sticks, is about a foot in diameter 
and three or four inches in depth, and is sometimes partly 
sheltered by shrubbery. It contains some four or five 
greenish-tinted eggs, some 1.85x1.45, sometimes obscurely 
marked with brownish or lavender. This species generally 
breeds in May or early in June. Arriving here in April, it 
leaves for the south rather early in the fall. 

Of this species, variety hudsonius, is found throughout 
North America, variety cyaneus in Europe and Asia, while 
cinereus belongs to South America. 

THE CAROLINA RAIL. 

But for the feathers of this Carolina Rail (Porzana Caro- 
lina], left after the meal of the Marsh Hawk, the stranger 
to ornithology might not suspect its presence in this marsh; 
for they may abound, in one of these sedgy, reedy localities, 
and yet be so closely concealed as to elude all ordinary 
observation. They are abundant, however, in the marshes 
and about bodies of water, throughout the middle districts 
of our Union, and far to the north, from April till late in 
October, disappearing, it would seem, on the approach of 
cold weather. If the observer will carefully hide himself in 
these marshy resorts, near the close of day, he may 
hear their queep-eep-ip-ip-ip-ip-ip-ip, or quaite, quaite, peep, peep, 
kuk-kuk-kuk the first two or three syllables in long- 
drawn, coaxing tones, and the remaining syllables shorter 
and more hurried representing the vocal performance of 
this species. Here, too, especially if he be near the 
border of some sluggish pool, he may have frequent 
glimpses of Porzana, as it runs with tail erect upon 
the lily-pods in search or its food of small aquatic 



442 THE CAROLINA RAIL. 

animal, as well as vegetable life, but particularly the seeds 
of weeds. 

How gracefully it walks along that floating log, moving 
its head forward and backward in dainty dove-like jerks to 
keep its center of gravity, and also jerking its tail forward 
with a quick spreading motion. Leaving the log and trav- 
ersing the floating debris, it slumps in and wades or swims 
for a short distance without the least inconvenience. 

While traversing a marsh, in the beautiful days of Octo- 
ber, one may every now and then see it start up from almost 
under foot, and flying with apparent feebleness just above 
the tops of the grass, with legs dangling carelessly down- 
ward, drop suddenly out of sight again, to be put up a 
second or third time perhaps, but finally depending 
upon the strength and facility of its legs, rather than upon 
its more feeble wings, for safety. Its body, too, becoming 
almost as flat as one's hand at pleasure, can wedge its way 
through sedges and rushes, almost with the ease of a mouse. 
It is equally expert as a diver, clinging with its feet for 
some time to the reeds under water, or, when compelled to 
breathe, hiding dexterously under floating herbage, merely 
protruding its head or bill above the surface. Being in 
good requisition for the table, it has been extensively hunted, 
especially about the marshes of Delaware and Chesapeake 
Bays, where it is very numerous. Wilson gives a full 
account of the manner of capturing these birds in his day 
a general slaughter, decidedly repulsive to good sense and 
humane feelings. 

The nest, built here late in May, in its favorite localities, 
is placed on a matted tussock of dried sedges or grasses. 
It is quite basket-like, tied just above the water, neatly laid 
of fine materials, well edged up, and having the tops of the 
grasses elegantly woven together as a canopy over the nest. 



THE CAROLINA RAIL. 443 

It contains 7-12 eggs, some 1.20X-90, of a rich, clear brown- 
ish drab, with scattered and distinct specks, and large spots 
of dark umber and light gray. The young, looking like 
diminutive black chickens, with a bit of red under the chin, 
run about as soon as hatched. 

Some 8-9 inches long, with the short, round wings, short 
pointed tail of soft feathers, and long slender toes, common 
to all the Rails, but with the shorter, stouter bill, common 
to the genius Porzana, it is olive-brown above, spotted with 
black and streaked with white; space around the base of 
the bill, and stripe down the throat and breast, black; sides 
of the head, neck and breast, ash, shading into the olive- 
brown above; flanks crossed with white and black or brown- 
ish-gray; belly, white; under- tail coverts rufescent. The 
young have the markings, especially those about the head, 
somewhat obscure. 

These Rails may move with prolonged and steady flight, 
sometimes in flocks, spending the winter in the Southern 
States and beyond. They have alighted on vessels far out 
at sea. 

In this genus Porzana, distinguishable from the genus 
Rallus principally by the shortness of the bill, are the Yel- 
low Rail (Porzana noveboracensis) and the Black Rail (Porzana 
jamaicensis). They are both very small, about 5.00-6.00 long, 
the latter being an extremely southern species, in fact, be- 
longing more particularly to Central and South America, 
and the former a rather rare one of Eastern North America, 
sometimes going as far north as Hudson's Bay. It is occa- 
sionally found in Western New York. The general color is 
blackish, marked or varied with ochery-brown, the nar- 
row white edges of the feathers appearing like semicircles, 
while there are also narrow transverse bars of white, the 
breast being ochery-brown and becoming light on the belly. 



444 THE WOODCOCK. 

Audubon reported this little Rail as abundant in the ex- 
treme Southern States, but it is now regarded as rather rare 
throughout its range. The above author gives its nest as 
made in a tussock of grass, and its eggs as white. Dr. 
Coues describes a set of the eggs in the Smithsonian Insti- 
tution as " rich, warm, buffy- brown, marked at the great 
end with a cluster of reddish-chocolate dots and spots. 
Size 1.15 x- 85 to 1.05 x. 80." 

The rare eggs of the little Black Rail, which have been 
found .as far north as New Jersey, "are creamy- white, 
sprinkled all over with fine dots of rich, bright, reddish- 
brown, and with a few spots, of some little size, at the great 
end. * * * Dimensions 1.05X.80." 

The head and under parts of this bird are grayish-black, 
the upper parts black, speckled with white, the lower neck 
and upper back being dark chestnut; feet, yellowish-green. 

The general habits of these two species would seem to be 
like those of the rest of the family. 

THE WOODCOCK. 

As I traverse this marsh about Burnt-ship Creek, on these 
hot, dry days of late August, I every now and then start up 
a Woodcock. Rising a little above the tops of the grasses, 
it appears but for a few seconds and then drops out of sight, 
so that it requires a remarkably quick and good aim to 
shoot it while describing its short and sudden curve, slow 
as its flight appears. Probably no bird is so well known to 
the sportsmen of Eastern North America as the Woodcock 
(Philohela minor'). Its flesh is in great requisition for the 
table, and, as it shelters itself closely, lies well to the dog, 
and affords a tempting shot on the wing, its capture is a 
most agreeable excitement. Its habit, too, of changing 
place according to the weather makes the finding of it a 



446 THE WOODCOCK. 

study; while its sudden appearance in large numbers, or its 
entire disappearance all at once, gives its capture the air of 
chance. Reaching Western New York about the first of 
April, this bird resorts to the swamps, low woods, thickets, 
or the hill-sides. 

In this region the nidification of the Woodcock occurs in 
the latter part of April. The nest is on the ground, in some 
low woods or thicket, sheltered by a bush, or bunch of grass, 
or ferns, is formed, quite indifferently, of dried leaves or 
grasses, and contains four or five eggs, some 1.51 x 1.19, and 
"much more oval than the eggs of allied birds. They are a 
light creamish-brown, pretty well spotted, especially around 
the large end, but not heavily blotched with reddish-brown 
and lilac. I have now in my possession an egg of this 
species which is almost round. 

The young, nearly the color of brown chickens, run about 
as soon as hatched. When in Nova Scotia last June (1883), 
riding with a friend through a rather open woods, about the 
15th, a female Woodcock rose from almost under the car- 
riage wheels. Looking down I spied five half-grown young 
ones squatting motionless within a few feet of the wheel- 
track. Stopping the vehicle, I jumped out and went almost 
near enough to touch them, when they rose and left in 
haste, about as well able to fly as the parent. How did 
they learn to "play 'possum" in this manner? 

How the Woodcock feeds in the dusky twilight, or at 
night; how neatly he bores the soft ground in quest of 
earth-worms, or turns the leaves in search of his food; what 
immense quantities he consumes; how he changes place, 
from the swamp to the woods, to the hill-side, or to the 
grain-fields, according to the weather or the season; how he 
leaves us for the south when frosts set in all this has been 
frequently and well noted alike by the ornithologist and 



THE WOODCOCK. 447 

the sportsman; while the manner in which his haunts have 
been studied and scoured with dog and gun, merely to 
gratify the palate, or the love of shooting, is too well known 
to need either note or comment, except by way of earnest 
deprecation. 

The shape of the Woodcock is unlike that of any other 
bird. Some eleven or twelve inches long the male being 
quite a good deal less with a bill nearly three inches long, 
and deep and strong at the base, his legs and tail uncommonly 
short, his whole body, including head and neck, thick and 
bulky, and his large black eyes so near the back of his 
head, complete the oddness of his personal appearance. On 
the whole, he makes one think of a short, thick man in a 
swallow-tail coat; and his eyes are so placed that he can see 
above and behind about as well as before. Did the Creator 
locate his eyes in anticipation of the merciless manner in 
which he is hunted down? The Woodcock is far from being 
unpleasing, however, in his general appearance. The light 
chestnut feathers of the under parts, delicately fringed with 
lighter; the white patch on the throat, shading into the adjoin- 
ing tints; the bright drab on the head, the sides of the neck, 
and mixed in with the fine pencilings of wings and tail; the 
velvety black from the eye to the mouth, and below the 
former, on the back of the head, and adown the back, 
scapulars, and tail, all so finely tipped and penciled with 
drab and light red as to appear fairly illuminated all these 
render the bird an object of no common beauty. 

Differing from the European Woodcock in size being ^3 
less, also in marking and in structure, particularly in the 
narrowness of the first three primaries, our Woodcock is a 
common bird of the Eastern United States, and extends 
quite commonly, as a summer resident, into New Brunswick 
and Nova Scotia. Audubon did not find it in Newfoundland 



448 THE PIGEON HA WK. 

and Labrador, but was told that it bred in the former prov- 
ince. Though found in the middle districts, even to South- 
ern New England, in winter, this species generally finds its 
home at that time in the sunnier climes of the Southern 
States, and even there it is said to almost disappear, in any 
locality, on the occurrence of a sharp frost. It also 
breeds quite commonly in most, if not in all, parts of the 
south. 

THE PIGEON HAWK. 

On the 28th of August, as my friend and I are seating 
ourselves in the boat for a trip to Chippewa, Ontario, I have 
no sooner removed the caps from my gun, for the sake of 
safety, than a pair of beautiful Pigeon Hawks (Falco colum- 
barius) make their appearance. First the one and then the 
other hovers over us, just near enough for a good shot, but 
before I can get ready they are gone. How provoking ! 
Moral be always ready for a shot. Columbarius is, for the 
most part, simply a rather common migrant in this locality, 
though I am inclined to think a few breed here, as they are 
supposed to do in Eastern Massachusetts. With notched 
and toothed mandible, long pointed wings, having the outer 
pinions narrowed on the inner vanes, tarsus more or less 
feathered above, after the manner of the genus Falco, this 
bird is 11-12 inches long; extent, 24.00; wing, 8.25; tail, 
5.50; bill, .75; the male, the smaller, after the manner of the 
birds of prey, is dark bluish-slate above, every feather hav- 
ing a shaft-line of black; primaries black, tipped with 
whitish; tail, light bluish-ash, nearly white on the inner 
webs, tipped with whitish, with a deep subterminal band, and 
several other narrower bands of black; forehead and throat 
white; under parts and wing-linings, pale buff, streaked with 
brown. Female similar, but tinted with brown above, and 
having larger and darker markings below. 



THE PIGEON HA WK. 449 

Following them in their migrations, columbarius subsists 
mostly on the smaller birds, capturing them on the wing. 
His northward movements are in April, and his southward in 
September and October. Ensconced away in the bushes, 
you may witness his deadly chase, as with astonishing speed, 
darting to the right and left, he pursues some Thrush, Spar- 
row, or Blackbird, or even a bird near his own size; striking 
his claws into its vitals, on overtaking it, and devouring it 
near the place of capture. He does not hover like the Spar- 
row Hawk. Always taking his prey alive, he prefers an 
open pasture or grove for his swift pursuit. Here he may 
sit on his perch quietly awaiting his victim, and if he change 
place, flying up a little when about to alight, he will turn 
about and face his late site or route, and presently dropping 
down, skim the ground almost as low as a Buzzard; not 
in the same sailing manner, however, but with frequent 
and nervous strokes of the wings. When, occasionally, he 
does sail, it is in an uneasy, tipping style, which distin- 
guishes him almost as readily as does the mottled appear- 
ance under his wings. When he is satiated with his prey, 
his destructiveness ceases; and those birds which are usually 
his victims may disport themselves around him in perfect 
safety. 

The Pigeon Hawk's general breeding place is to the north- 
ward. The nest, which may be on a rock, but more com- 
monly in the hollow of a tree or in its branches, is made of 
sticks and grasses; sometimes strips of bark are added, the 
lining being of moss or feathers. The eggs, 4 or 5, some 1.65 
X 1.30, are sometimes quite roundish, and again even elon- 
gate-oval. u Coloration ranges from a nearly uniform deep, 
rich brown (chestnut or burnt sienna), to whitish or white 
only, marked with a few indistinct dots of dull grayish or 
drab." (Stearns.) 
29 



450 THE GREAT BLUE HERON. 

THE GREAT BLUE HERON. 

In the late dusk of evening, we are sure to see a pair of 
Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) pass up the river, 
but a few rods out, and alight in the shallow margin of the 
river just above our tent, thus affording a good view of a 
very shy bird. They present an odd figure, as with enor- 
mous spread of wings, legs dangling far out behind, and 
neck extended, they fly just above the surface, hanking 
somewhat after the manner of Wild Geese. Sometimes 
they may be seen on this same spot in the clear light of 
early morning, wading about and seizing and swallowing 
their prey, apparently without the least circumspection; 
sometimes standing at ease on one leg, the other being 
drawn up, and the long neck folded closely on the breast, 
while the eye gazes intently into the water. Quick as 
thought the attitude is changed. The body is thrown forward 
and the neck extended, while the head darts into the water; 
the ill-fated fish which he brings up, impaled on his long, 
pointed mandibles, disappears down his capacious gullet 
with a few jerks of the head. How graceful is every atti- 
tude and motion of this gigantic bird. And yet, when slain, 
how ungainly he appears. Some 4 feet and several inches from 
the tip of the bill to the end of the tail, and a foot longer 
from the tip of the bill to the ends of the toes, the general 
color is a delicate bluish-ash, the neck slightly tinged with 
brown, and having a spotted or streaked throat-line adown 
the front; the long, slender, almost thread-like, scapulars 
and lower feathers of the neck, white; plumes of the head, 
of which two, in the mature state, are long and filiform, 
black; crown and throat, white; thighs and wing-shoulders, 
brown; under parts, black, streaked with white; eyes and 
bill, yellow. Male and female are alike, except that 
the latter is smaller. The young are similar, lacking 




THE GREAT BLUE HERON. 



452 THE GREAT BLUE HERON. 

the long ornamental feathers, and having the neck 
spotted. 

As this bird rises out of the water, it seems immense, and 
requires many strong beats of its wings before obtaining 
an easy flight. Once well on the wing, it moves majestically, 
with a firm and regular stroke of the great wings, the neck 
folded into a big lump, and the long legs extended behind 
like an immense tail. Occupying, in summer, " entire tem- 
perate North America," it ornaments the landscape of Nova 
Scotia and New Brunswick about as commonly as that of 
the Middle States, and occasionally puts in an appearance 
even as far north as Hudson's Bay; thus differing from the 
Herons in general, which incline to the tropics and warm, 
temperate regions. 

The food of herodias is fish, for the most part, but may 
consist of frogs, mice and insects. Commonly breeding in 
communities, sometimes singly, however, the nests are gen- 
erally placed in the tops of tall trees, often in swamps 
almost or quite inaccessible, and often in immense numbers. 
Sometimes the communities of nests are placed in pine 
forests some miles from any swamp or body of water, or 
they may be near, or even on the ground. Along the Col- 
orado River, where there is a lack of the large trees neces- 
sary to support the immense bulk of the nest, these Her- 
ons breed on the ledges of the gigantic walls of the can- 
ons. In the Southern States Audubon often saw them on 
cactuses. 

The nest, some two feet in diameter, is of the platform 
style, the lower part of sticks, the surface of a rather thick 
bed of grasses, weeds and mosses. The eggs, two or three, 
are about 2.50x1-50, elliptical, clear pale-greenish. These 
Herons often fly immense distances to their feeding grounds, 
and having selected certain places, seem to adhere to them 



THE WHITE-HEADED EAGLE. 453 

throughout the season. In the Southern States, where 
these birds spend the winter, they often congregate in great 
numbers. Here they also breed abundantly early in the 
season.* 

THE WHITE-HEADED EAGLE. 

As in the days of Wilson, the White-headed Eagle 
(Haliaetus leucocephalus) is still a common and character- 
istic bird of Niagara River throughout the year. Now, as 
then, he may be seen soaring majestically in the great cloud 
of spray ever rising from the cataract, or reconnoitering 
the rapids, rushing along the sublime gorge, in search of 
the ill-fated animals or birds which have perished in these 
waters; or sailing serenely above the broad and beautiful 
expanse of the river, from Queenstown Heights, to Lake 
Ontario. Not infrequently he appears in the vicinity of my 
tent, alighting in the adjoining grove, or flying low over 
the troubled waters. 

In appearance at least, this is, perhaps, the most magnifi- 
cent bird of our continent. Closely allied to the Buzzards, 
both in structure and in grandeur of flight, his rich, dark- 
brown figure, adorned with snow-white head and tail, is 
simply incomparable, while his great size and gigantic 
spread of wings give him a peculiar majesty, whether he 
beat the air in regular strokes, or sail in sublime repose. 
Look at him, and reflect on human imbecility, as he soars 
into the heavens, till he becomes a mere speck against the 
ether! Imagine the extent of landscape of which he has 
in very deed a "bird's-eye view." According to Audubon 
he can sail entirely out of sight without a single stroke of 
the wings. 

* Similar to the former species, but several inches longer, and proportionately larger 
every way, is the Florida Heron (Herodias wurdemanni). Its habits, too, are quite sim- 
ilar. Its habitat would seem to be the Florida Keys; possibly it strays, occasionally, to 
the mainland. "Known from the preceding species by th*; naked tibiae; white-top to 
head; black forehead, and white under parts. (Maynard.) 



454 



THE WHITE-HEADED EAGLE. 



Next to the Osprey, in his preference for a piscivorous 
diet, he is ever to be associated with great bodies of water 
broad rivers, immense lakes, and the roar and foam of the 




ocean. Unlike that noble bird, however, he does not gen- 
erally plunge into the wave for his prey, but is content with 
the carcasses which float upon its surface. In the absence of 
fish, he is satisfied with any animal food, and that, even in 



THE WHITE-HEADED EAGLE. 455 

the condition of carrion. Many graceful evolutions have I 
seen him perform over the putrid carcass of a horse, floating 
down the river. He has another noted habit, which not 
only betrays a low taste, but a flagrant dishonesty that of 
pilfering the hard-earned prey of the Fish Hawk. Mark 
this king of birds, so high uplifted above all others of his 
kind, that he seems enthroned among the clouds. One 
would think him wrapt in the sublimest meditations, and 
all unmindful of the hosts of feathered tribes which occupy 
the ground and the different strata of the lower air; but, 
lo! no sooner does the Osprey emerge from the waters with 
his struggling prey, than that piercing eye detects him from 
afar, and swoops upon him with terrific speed; and, not- 
withstanding the swiftness and the splendid evolutions 
achieved by Pandion^ he is soon so sorely pressed as to be 
compelled to drop his prey and make off, saving nothing 
but his disgust and indignation, which are riot infrequently 
expressed by strong and significant cries. Meanwhile the 
fish has scarcely escaped the talons of the Fish Hawk when 
it is grappled by those of the Eagle and borne away for 
destruction. 

It is decidedly against my inclinations to disclose these 
unseemly facts concerning the Eagle, especially as he has be- 
come the symbol of our great nation; but as a narrator 
of facts in natural history, I cannot be excused. The truth 
is, that in niceness of habit, our sublime bird is by no 
means the equal of many of his kindred Raptores; and, 
while in general appearance he may fitly represent the glory 
of a nation, on account of the manners above named, he is 
by no means altogether suggestive of noble principles. Nor 
is he always brave. Hence Dr. Franklin was not wholly in 
favor of his adoption for our national seal. Sometimes, 
however, glaring faults are quite thrown into the shade by 



456 THE WHITE-HEADED EAGLE. 

great virtues and gigantic proportions of character. In 
later years, the history of a certain individual of our Hali- 
aetus has fully vindicated the adoption of the Eagle to sym- 
bolize the national glory of the United States, as well as the 
adoption of its kind, for a similar purpose, by various na- 
tions from the most ancient times, including Rome and 
France. The famous Wisconsin Eagle, called " Old Abe," 
has a history which fills a volume, and justly renders him 
immortal. Taken, by the son of an Indian Chief, from a 
nest in the northern part of the State, where an extensive 
net-work of lakes and streams find their outlet, in the Chip- 
pewa River, and reared by the same, he was sold, when two 
months old, to a resident of Eau Claire, in August, 1861, for 
a bushel of corn. This gentleman afterward sold him to 
the Eighth Wisconsin Infantry. He was formally sworn 
into the service, provided with a perch and bearer, and 
passed three years in the hottest of the late war ; and pass- 
ing through 36 battles and skirmishes, was brought back by 
a mere remnant of his company, to his native State, un- 
harmed. The intelligence he evinced in this grand career 
was surprising. Avenging every insult, or even unwarrant- 
able liberty, in the most signal, and sometimes ludicrous, 
manner, he recognized friends with the utmost appreciation; 
seeming to understand and sympathize with every move- 
ment of his regiment. He would drop from his perch, when 
the men lay down under a heavy firing from the enemy, 
and mount it again when they rose. He would whistle in 
expression of approval, and flap his wings at each round of 
cheers or peal of music ; and, snapping asunder the cord 
which bound him to his perch, would soar above the smoke 
and din of battle, cheering his regiment with loud and most 
significant screams; and afterward alighting on its standard, 
would seem to participate in the joy of victory. After his 



THE WHITE-HEADED EAGLE. 457 

return from the battle-field, he was on exhibition in various 
places where funds were being raised for suffering soldiers and 
their families, and by September 25th, 1865, had been the 
means of securing a fund of $25,000. The sum of $20,000 
has been offered for him, and at the Centennial Exhibition 
of 1876, at Philadelphia, he was an object of universal ad- 
miration. Here he would stand on his perch in. such per- 
fect repose as to puzzle a stranger to determine whether 
he were a living bird or a specimen of taxidermy. In 
this attitude, he reminded one of one way in which the 
Eagle generally spends much of his time, namely, perched 
on some conspicuous limb of a tall tree by a large stream 
or body of water, and remaining as motionless as if wrapt 
in profound meditation. We regret to say that Old Abe 
has recently passed away. 

The White-headed Eagle is about 3 feet long; body dark- 
brown, tinged with golden, many of the feathers being 
elegantly tipped with golden-yellow, strongly contrasting 
with, and delicately shading into, the darker parts; head and 
tail, snow-white; eyes and feet, bright yellow. The epithet 
"Bald" has no foundation except in appearance, as the 
head is well covered with long, pointed feathers. The 
young have little or no white, and reach the mature plum- 
age about the third year, or in some instances, it is thought, 
not till some ten years. According to Coues, " the imma- 
ture birds average larger than the adults; the famous 'Bird 
of Washington ' being a case in point." 

In structure and in general appearance the Eagle must be 
regarded as the most perfect ideal of the birds of prey. In 
repose or in motion, gracefulness, combined with strength, is 
expressed to perfection. Whether associated with the gliding 
stream, the placid lake, the tempest-tossed ocean, or the rug- 
ged mountain, he is ever a grand ornament to the landscape. 



458 THE WHITE-HEADED EAGLE. 

The nest from which "Abe" was taken, found on a pine 
tree near some rapids in a curve of the Flambeau River, 
and big as a washtub, made of sticks, turf and weeds, and re- 
moved to the Indian village to rear the young bird in, which 
served as a plaything for the pappooses, may be regarded 
as representative of the Eagle's nest in general. The two 
eggs, about 3.00 X 2.50, are a dull white, and are laid very 
early in spring, probably not later than the latter part of 
March or the first days of April. In Michigan, I have seen 
the young nearly as large as their parents, and about ready 
to leave the nest by the last days of May. A curious 
instance of nidification on the part of this species was 
recently described to me by Mr. Herbert Macklem, of 
Chippewa, Ontario. 

On the bank of Niagara River, and owned by this gen- 
tleman, was a farm which had not been occupied for several 
years, and which was some miles distant from the nearest 
residence. A missing board from the end of the barn giv- 
ing access to a large quantity of straw in the mow, the 
Eagles had arranged a nest there, which contained young 
when discovered by the owner of the property. 

The solicitude of the Eagle for its young cannot be 
surpassed even by that of the human species. One or the 
other of the parent birds seems to be constantly reconnoiter- 
ing the neighborhood of the nest; and, on the least approach 
of danger, they fly about with a most nervous and excited 
beat of the wings, yelping like young puppies. Every now 
and then they will alight in a tree by the nest, very soon 
to drop down in an angry swoop toward the intruder. 

As an instance of the attachment of the parent bird to 
the young, Wilson gives the following: "A person near 
Norfolk informed me that, in clearing a piece of wood on 
his place, they met with a large, dead pine tree on which was 



FORT ERIE. 459 

a Bald Eagle's nest and young. The tree being on fire 
more than half way up, and the flames rapidly ascending, 
the parent Eagle darted around and among the flames until 
her plumage was so much injured that it was with difficulty 
she could make her escape, and even then she several times 
attempted to return to relieve her offspring." 

The White-headed, or Bald Eagles, common to all North 
America, and mating, in all probability, for life, are resident 
throughout the year wherever the streams and bodies of 
water are sufficiently open to afford sustenance. Eagles in 
general have a remarkable longevity, reaching a hundred 
years or upwards, even in confinement. This one, as well 
as certain others of the world, is said to attack young 
children occasionally. Wilson cites "a woman who, hap- 
pening to be weeding in the garden, had set her child down 
near, to amuse itself while she was at work, when a sudden 
and extraordinary rushing sound, and a scream from her 
child, alarmed her, and starting up, she beheld the infant 
thrown down and dragged some few feet, and a large Bald 
Eagle bearing off a fragment of its frock, which being the 
only part seized, and giving way, providentially saved the 
life of the infant." 

FORT ERIE. 

Changing the location of my tent to the government 
grounds of Canada, near the remains of old Fort Erie, opposite 
the city of Buffalo, I spend many days watching the Shore 
Birds in their migrations. It is a beautiful spot, fanned 
constantly, during these last days of dry summer heat, by 
the most refreshing lake breezes. Here, too, where once 
was all the roar of artillery in war, and in later times all 
the rumble of a grand railroad terminus now removed, it is 
most delightfully quiet. To the westward I look out 
upon the broad expanse of Lake Erie; in the southern hori- 



460 FORT ERIE. 

zon rise the distant mountains towards Pennsylvania; and 
directly east is the city with all its mingled scenery. In 
the morning a dense fog along the river and lake, like a 
thick curtain, may shut off the view of the city entirely, 
the din and noise of the great stirring community seeming 
only the nearer for this obscurity. Later in the day the air 
and sky are clear, beautiful and balmy; in the twilight, the 
harvest moon hangs like a great fire-ball over the center of 
the city; and in the evening, the lights of streets and dwell- 
ings mark out a complete outline of the town. Day and 
night I listen to the voices of the birds, most of which are 
described elsewhere in this work. I have many fine views 
of the earlier migrations of the land-birds, but am specially 
interested in the movements of the little Waders, the differ- 
ent kinds of which are about as well represented here as they 
are on the sea-coast. 

In the last days of August a flock of some nine of the Red- 
breasted Snipe (Macrorhamphus griseus] appears, sometimes 
called Gray Snipe, Brown-back, or Dowitcher. It is some 1 2.00 
long and 19.00 in extent, the legs long, and the bill pre- 
cisely like that of the Common Snipe; in summer the gen- 
eral color is dark-brown, the feathers edged with reddish; 
underneath dark-red, edged and mixed with dusky; tail and 
coverts banded with black and white. In winter, gray above 
and on the breast; the belly, eye-brow and lower eye-lid, 
white. It is always distinguishable by its white shaft in the 
outer primary. The nest is after the manner of the Snipe, 
the eggs also being similar in color, and about 1.65X1.12. 

About the same time, and for some six weeks later, an 
occasional flock of the Pectoral Sandpiper (Tringa maculatd) 
appears. Some 9.00 long and 16.50 in extent, the upper 
parts are dark brown, the feathers generally edged or tipped 
with yellowish or reddish; the brown tail, being darker in 



NIAGARA RIVER AND THE DUCKS. 461 

the center, is tipped with white or whitish; the neck, breast 
and sides, yellowish-gray, with dark streaks; legs greenish. 
The breast marking is differentiating. It is sometimes 
called the Jack Snipe. 

Of very frequent appearance during these days is the 
Sanderling or Ruddy Plover (Calidris arenarid). Some 7.50 
long, it has the rather short, straight, grooved bill, and the 
plain-colored tail of the Sandpipers. The upper parts are 
light ashy, streaked with black, and edged with reddish in 
summer, but not in winter; the under parts, from the neck, 
are pure white, making each member of the flock a gleam- 
ing white point in the landscape, as it tips up in flight. This 
Beach-bird, as it is often called, is rather silent, appearing 
singly or in flocks. Its flight is beautiful, and it walks, 
wades and runs most gracefully on the shore. These Sand- 
pipers, like their relatives, breed far to the north. 

On a gray October day, a flock of some half-dozen little 
Brown Titlarks (Anthus ludovicianus) alights in the shallow 
water on the rocks and wash themselves. Some 6.50 long, 
ashy-brown above, tinged with olive, the centers of 
the feathers darker and the edges lighter; the outer tail- 
feathers white; the eyelids, curved line on the cheeks, and 
under parts, brownish or creamy-white ; the breast and 
sides streaked with dusky-ash. This dainty, dove-like 
walker, having a peculiar jerking, tossing motion of the tail, 
breeds in Labrador and northward, and down to Colorado 
in the Rocky Mountains. The 4-6 very dark-colored eggs 
are laid " in a mossy nest on the ground." This bird passes 
us early in May in its northward migration, and in October 
southward. 

NIAGARA RIVER AND THE DUCKS. 

Niagara River is a good place to study the Ducks in the 
times of migration, or even in the winter. As it does not 



462 NIAGARA RIVER AND THE DUCKS. 

freeze over, some species remain from fall till spring. In 
March, or early in April, about Grand Island, Buckhorn 
and Navy Islands, the Golden-eye, or Whistler, is one of the 
characteristics of the locality. It may be seen in fair-sized 
flocks, or in immense ones of many hundreds, diving about 
feeding places, after its usual manner of obtaining its 
favorite cray-fish, the claws and other remains of which are 
always to be found in its gizzard; to which diet it may add 
small mollusks, frogs, tadpoles and fishes. When thus 
engaged, and not in fear of molestation, they are indeed 
a merry company, the very picture of soul and energy, 
and thrifty contentment, each one staying under the 
water a half minute at a time and remaining above only 
about seven seconds. What a charm there is in watching 
a Duck dive ! Every pulse of the observer is quickened as 
the sprightly creature plunges under. Very frequently the 
whole flock is under the water at once. Generally several 
sentinels remain on guard. Every now and then, on 
coming up, the male will throw up his head and utter a 
low, guttural chuckle. This is probably his courting note, 
and is the only vocal performance one hears from these 
birds during their stay. They like to dive in swift currents 
for their food, and then gradually work upward in the 
stream. They are particularly at home in streams and 
rivers, and visit the smaller as well as the larger currents. 
The Golden-eye decoys well, especially any stray one which 
may be flying about; but it is exceedingly shy and keen- 
eyed. When the shot misses it on the water, or it is sud- 
denly alarmed, it dives readily, darting out of the water in 
a few seconds with surprising velocity. It is one of the 
swiftest of all the Ducks in flight. Audubon estimated its 
speed at ninety miles an hour. One is always advised of 
its flight by the sharp whistling sound of its pointed wings, 



NIAGARA RIVER AND THE DUCKS. 463 

which afe almost of metallic firmness. Choo-choo-choo-choo- 
choo-choo, given as rapidly as possible, may recall the start- 
ling sound, which soon becomes very familiar, and may be 
heard distinctly some half a mile or more. The beat of the 
wings is so rapid that, as the bird flies from you, the white 
secondaries form a hazy semicircle on each side of the dark 
posterior of the body, the black primaries adding still 
larger semicircles beyond. When flying past, the oval spot 
of white at the base of the bill of the male, contrasting 
with the dark, glossy green of the head, and the white 
neck, the body being black above and behind, readily differen- 
tiate the species. The female, having a dark-brown head 
without the spot at the base of the bill, and having a light- 
gray neck and darker gray or dusky pectoral band, is 
known by her relation to the male, and is much smaller 
than her more striking consort. The body is short, the 
bill short and stubbed, almost as nearly like a lamb's 
nose as a Duck's bill, and the head is rather thick. The 
golden-yellow iris is a striking mark of the bird, and the 
orange feet with dusky webs soon become familiar to the 
eye. The food of this species is such as not to render it a 
favorite on the table, though it is generally eaten. Dimin- 
ishing in numbers already in the middle of April, a few 
linger in New York as late as the 20th of May; and except 
in the case of stray birds, the breeding place is far to the 
north. Mr. Fortiscue reports it as breeding in trees along 
Nelson River, and it is said to breed in a similar manner 
in Newfoundland and in Northern New England. The 6-10 
eggs, spherical and ashy-green, are some 2. 38 x 1.78. The 
annual range of the common Golden-eye (Bucephala clan- 
guld) is throughout North America and Europe. 

Barrow's Golden-eye (B. islandica) is now well differen- 
tiated as a closely-allied species. For this conclusion much 



464 THE LONG-TAILED DUCK. 

credit is due Dr. Gilpin, of Halifax, N. S., whose patient 
investigation was so satisfactory in its results. The data of 
determination are: 1st, difference in size; the common 
Golden-eye (the male) being some 19 or 20 inches in length, 
while Barrow's Golden-eye is several inches longer; 2d, 
marked difference in the shape of the bill and head; that of 
islandica being noticeably high at the base, short and 
pointed; 3d, in marking; the white spot at the base of the 
bill in clangula being oval, while it is triangular or crescent- 
shaped in islandica, with a difference also in the wing mark- 
ings; 4th, and, particularly, in the shape of the trachea; the 
peculiar and irregular enlargement so marked in clangula, 
being much moderated in islandica. (See "the Golden-eyes 
or Garrot's in Nova Scotia," by Dr. J. Bernard Gilpin.) 

Islandica was first found in the Rocky Mountains, but has 
since occurred frequently on the Atlantic Coast in winter, 
even as far south as New York. 

THE LONG-TAILED DUCK. 

Most common, from fall till spring, on the Niagara River, 
is the sight and sound of the Long-tailed Duck (Harelda gla- 
cialis] alias, Old Wife, South-southerly Coween, or Ha-ha-we, 
as the Indians at Hudson's Bay call it. Though almost use- 
less for the table, on account of its molluscous and fishy 
diet, its beauty and individual peculiarities always render 
it an object of interest to the sportsman. Its body, so short 
and thick that it is almost round, bill unusually short and 
small, neck thick, and central feathers of the tail long, the 
form is well characterized; the black bill banded with 
orange near the tip; the iris of bright carmine; the head 
and neck well down upon the back, white; cheeks and fore- 
head of light drab running into a large black patch on the 
sides of the neck, which patch shades again into brown; 



THE LONG-TAILED DUCK. 465 

breast and upper parts, except the dark chestnut secon- 
daries and bluish-white scapulars and tertiaries, elegantly 
elongated, black; pointed tail feathers, except the four elon- 
gated central ones, and under parts, white; sides, light drab; 
feet and legs, dark slate all these striking contrasts in 
color render the male, in winter plumage, conspicuous and 
beautiful. In summer the head and neck become dark, 
and the scapulars and tertials black, edged with chestnut. 
Late in April or early in May, some may be found scarcely 
changed from the winter habit, and others may be almost 
conformed to the summer dress. 

The female, with shortened tail feathers, being but 16.00 
long, is grayish-brown, many of the feathers being edged 
with whitish; spot around the eye, sides of the neck and 
breast, grayish-white, the latter becoming clear white on 
the belly. In winter the head and neck of the female may 
be nearly white. This species spends the winter as far north 
as ice and snow will permit, and is our only Duck which, like 
certain other birds and certain animals of the north, whitens 
with the winter and becomes dark again in summer; hence 
the propriety of its name glacialis, or hiemalis, meaning 
Winter or Ice Duck; and the name commends itself to us 
especially, as we see it swimming and diving, as if perfectly 
at home, in the midst of floating ice and driving snow- 
storms. 

Its feet placed far behind, an accommodation in diving, it 
keeps to the deep channels of the river, drifting down the 
rapid current as it dives deep down incessantly for its food, 
and then flies up the river to test the ground over again. 
The third day of last April (1882) was one never to be for- 
gotten. Perfectly calm, and with a cloudless sunshine, the 
air was so warm as to cause a white vapor over the whole 
surface of the river, rendering the scenery just above Niag- 
30 



466 THE LONG-TAILED DUCK. 

ara Falls particularly soft and beautiful. Above the monot- 
onous roar of the cataract, and loud and clear in every di- 
rection, could be heard the peculiar notes of the Old Wives; 
and as they were very numerous, the rather musical clamor 
was quite impressive. Now a flock would appear at one 
point, whitening the river and making the air resonant for 
many rods around them; and then, as they disappeared be- 
neath the smooth, silvery current, another flock, emerging 
in the vicinity, would attract equal attention. At any time 
many flocks might be within range of the eye. Nothing in 
the way of sound could be more strongly characterized than 
the vocal performance of this bird. To my ear it does not 
recall the common name " South-southerly," given it on 
the Atlantic Coast, but is well expressed by an epithet given 
it by the Germans about Niagara River, who call it the 
*' Ow-owly." Ow-ow-ly, ow-ow-ly, ow-ow-ly, frequently re- 
peated in successsion, the first two notes considerably 
mouthed, and the last syllable in a high, shrill, clarion tone, 
may suggest the queer notes to any one whose ear is fa- 
miliar with them. Not infrequently the last syllable is left 
out of the ditty, the bird seeming somewhat in a hurry, or 
the note becomes a mere nasal ah, a/i, ah, rapidly uttered. 
The great enlargement in the wind-pipe of the male has 
been supposed to account for these loud tones; but the 
female, which is regarded as much the noisier, is without 
that peculiarity. Always accounted a sea Duck, and not re- 
ported by Coues from the northwest, it would appear rather 
strange that it should be so common on the Great Lakes, 
unless we regard this region as the winter habitat of those 
spending the summer about Hudson's Bay. It will not al- 
ways decoy for the sportsman, but with a little caution he 
may row or drift upon it near enough for a shot, and as it 
flies but a short distance when alarmed, and then drops 



THE RED-HEADED DUCK. 467 

into the water again, he may continue to steal upon the 
flock till he has satisfied his disposition for slaughter. Mr. 
James Fortiscue, my very interesting correspondent at 
York Factory, Hudson's Bay, says that in that locality these 
birds breed " on islands in lakes." 

The nest is similar to that of the Scoters; the eggs, about 
2.12X1.56, being "pale, yellowish-green." 

Wintering with us as far south as New Jersey, this species 
ranges throughout the northern hemisphere. 

THE RED-HEADED DUCK. 

On the 30th of March (1882), while Niagara River was 
lashed into a tempest by a raw west wind, I saw from the 
north side of Buckhorn Island a flock of hundreds of Red- 
heads (Fuligula ferind] riding down the middle of the cur- 
rent in the most perfect repose. Nearly every one had the 
head resting on the back, the bill under the scapulars. 
Only occasionally was there one which seemed to act as sen- 
tinel. Several Widgeons also, whose white crowns rendered 
them quite conspicuous, were in the flock. There was 
something very impressive in this long line, many abreast, 
of living creatures, rocked and tossed on the foaming 
breakers, and yet reposing as sweetly as if on some quiet 
inland lake. Long did I scan them, and much did I admire 
them, as the field-glass brought them just before me. 

A more complete study of these interesting Ducks was 
reserved for me, however, on St. Clair Flats. Here they 
are very abundant in the migrations, and not a few remain 
to breed. In the bright, hot days of June, small flocks may 
be seen diving leisurely for food, along the deeper and more 
rapid channels, thus procuring their fare of small mollusks 
and fishes, the larvae of aquatic insects, and the roots and 
leaves of certain aquatic plants. Not infrequently the 



468 THE RED-HEADED DUCK. 

males are quite noisy, loudly uttering their deep-toned 
me-ow, which is the precise imitation of the voice of a large 
cat. The female, especially, if rising from her nest or out 
of the water, has a loud, clear squak, on a higher tone than 
that of the Mallard or Dusky Duck, and so peculiar as to 
be readily identified by the ear, even if the bird is not in 
sight. The gray aspect of the wings in flight is also very 
characteristic of this species. The nest is generally built 
in the thick sedges over the water, and consists of the 
leaves of the cat-tail and of various kinds of marsh-grass, 
a slight lining of down being added as incubation pro- 
ceeds. The eggs, generally about 9 or 10, but sometimes 
as many as 15, some 2.45 X 1.75, are nearly oval or 
oblong-oval, having a very smooth, firm shell, and being 
of a rich light-brown tinge, sometimes slightly clouded; 
scarcely if ever tinged with blue or green. When moist- 
ened a little and rubbed with a dry cloth, they are sus- 
ceptible of a high polish. The young, in the down, has 
the crown of the head and the upper parts, generally, of 
a clear, olivaceous green, the cheeks and under parts, bright 
yellow. The eggs are fresh, or nearly so, the first week 
in June. 

A stately and beautiful bird indeed is the male, as, with 
head well up, he rides upon the water. A little over 20 
inches in length, the bill, which is about as long as the head 
and rather broad, is blue, shading into dusky or black at 
the tip; the male has the head and more than half of the 
neck brownish-red, with a violaceous gloss above and behind; 
the lower part of the neck, the breast, upper and lower 
parts of the back, black; beneath, white sprinkled with 
gray or dusky; sides, scapulars and space between, white 
and black in fine wavy lines of equal width, giving a gray 
effect in the distance; wing-coverts gray, specked with 



THE CANVAS-BACK DUCK. 459 

whitish; speculum, grayish-blue; iris, orange. Female sim- 
ilar, with the head and neck grayish-brown, and the breast 
more or less mixed with gray or whitish. 

Resembling the Canvas-back, it is quite distinguishable 
by its shorter, broader bill,depression at the base of the bill, 
absence of black on the head and back of the neck, and 
broader lines of black in the penciling of the back. Abun- 
dant on the sea-coast of the middle districts, but becoming 
less common northward and southward, it breeds in the in- 
terior northward, moving southward in October, and return- 
ing north late in March or early in April. 

THE CANVAS-BACK DUCK. 

Perhaps the most celebrated of all American water-fowl, 
to the sportsman and to the epicure, is the Canvas-back Duck 
(Fuligula vallisnerid). Lacking the brilliancy of the Wood 
Duck, and the striking contrasts in color of certain others 
of our fresh water Ducks, nor possessing the diving accom- 
plishments and the wealth in down of the Eider, its great 
desideratum and interest consists wholly in its flesh, sup- 
posed by many to possess a peculiar juiciness and delicious 
flavor, especially after having fed for a time on its favorite 
v&llisntria, a fresh water plant, very abundant in the waters of 
the Chesapeake and its tributaries, and also in the Susque- 
hanna. Some think, however, that " the fine flavor which 
the flesh of these Ducks is said to possess is probably due 
partly to the imagination of those who pay high prices for 
the privilege of eating it," its flesh being even " dry and 
fishy " when it has been deprived for a time of its favorite 
food, and obliged to resort to the more common bill of fare 
for most other Ducks small mollusks and fishes, with an 
occasional tadpole or leech. 

About 2 feet long and 3 in extent, the high crown 



470 THE CANVAS-BACK DUCK. 

slopes gradually with a slight curve upward to the tip of 
the rather long and narrow bill, thus strongly characteriz- 
ing the head as compared with that of other Ducks. The 
bill is greenish-black; at the base of the bill, on the crown, 
and down over the back of the rich brownish-red head and 
neck, is a dusky effect, deepening into fine black in the zone 
about the breast and upper back; upper parts and sides, 
white, or grayish-white, with delicate zigzag cross-pencil- 
ings of black; secondaries darker, but similar; underneath, 
white; posterior, dark; feet, bluish; iris, carmine. The 
female is similar, with colors less bright, and markings less 
distinct. 

Diving deep with utmost readiness, swimming rapidly, 
straightforward and swift in flight, and exceedingly wary, 
this species is not easily captured. Rare in New England, 
and not abundant in the extreme south, its chief winter 
resort is that famous rendezvous of water-fowl from fall 
till spring the Chesapeake Bay with its many rivers. How 
the Canvas-back is shot here in immense numbers as well 
as hosts of other Ducks from points during flight, by 
"tolling in " with the aid of dogs running up and down the 
shore, and thus enticing the birds in from curiosity, from 
batteries and by paddling stealthily upon them during the 
night, many writers, among sportsmen and ornithologists, 
have fully described. Very exciting, indeed, it must be to 
lie concealed on shore, and see the "rafts" of Ducks slowly 
enticed in, while the little bright-colored dog, aided, it may 
be, by a red or white handkerchief tied to his tail, runs up 
and down the bank; or to watch the floating decoys from 
the box-like battery, sunken to the water's edge far out from 
shore, and then to fire into the immense flocks, hovering or 
alighting, as they fly up and. down this concourse of waters! 
The latter mode, however, would seem to be too much like 



THE RUDDY DUCK. 471 

slaughter, to be approved by that gallant sportsmanship, 
which always seeks to give the bird "a chance for its life." 

The great thoroughfare of the Canvas-back in migration, 
like that of many of our river Ducks, is along the interior 
of our continent; and its breeding habitat is in the great 
northwest, especially about the cool waters in the higher 
latitudes of the Rocky Mountains and vicinity. 

Early in spring or late in the fall, or perhaps even in mid- 
winter, it is sometimes taken on Niagara River, and for a 
short time in the spring and fall migrations it is common 
on St. Clair Flats. This is particularly an American species, 
resembling, however, our Red-head and the European 
Pochard. 

THE RUDDY DUCK. 

Common, and sometimes abundant, on Niagara River 
during the migrations, is the Ruddy Duck (Erismatura 
rubidd]. An anomaly of its kind is this little creature. 
Some 15 long and 21.50 in extent, it has a peculiarly short 
and almost round appearance; the long and gradual curve 
of the crown, joined to a bill rather short, broad and much 
depressed, is a marked feature; the rather long and broad 
tail, with scarcely any coverts above or below, is decidedly 
out of order for a Duck; the broad tip of the wing, so ap- 
parent in flight, would seem more in place for a Coot or a 
Gallinule; the striking seasonal change of plumage in the 
male would do for a Gull or a Grebe; the large egg, with 
granulated shell, might be mistaken for that of a Goose; 
while its diving propensities would do credit to a Dabchick. 

Look at that elegant male, as he floats on the smooth sur- 
face of some fresh-water channel in the breeding season! 
Almost as motionless as a wooden decoy, he holds his large 
and full spread tail straight up, often catching the wind 
just in the right direction, and thus using that appendage 



472 THE RUDDY DUCK. 

for a sail. Jet-black over the crown and down the back of 
the neck, cheeks clear white, the remaining upper parts a 
bright, glossy dark-red, he is a well-defined object even in 
the distance. The female which the male resembles pre- 
cisely, from fall till spring is a dark brownish-gray, the 
throat and broad stripe through the eye lighter, both sexes 
being white, or white mottled with gray, underneath. The 
young are a little lighter than the female. Except in its 
sojourn in the south in winter, where it may be seen in im- 
mense flocks, especially in Florida, it is generally in small 
flocks after the manner of the Buffi e-head. When rising 
from the water, it runs on the surface for some distance, 
and generally against the wind. If it cannot command a 
fair open space for flight, it will dive, using its tail either as 
a rudder or as a paddle in a vertical motion, and will hide 
itself away among the grass and sedges. When on the wing 
it flies low along the surface of the water, with a rapid beat of 
its broad wings, making a short, plump figure quite uncom- 
mon for a Duck; and it generally flies quite a distance 
before alighting. 

Though not averse to the molluscous and piscatorial diet 
of the sea Duck, and often found on bays and marshes of 
the sea shore, its principal range is in the interior; and it 
prefers, as a diet, the leaves and roots of certain aquatic 
vegetation, for which it dives after the manner of the Fuli- 
gulin<z. 

Not a few of this species remain on St. Clair Flats through- 
out the breeding season. The nest, built some time in June, 
is placed in the sedges or marsh-grass over the water; and 
may contain as many as ten eggs, remarkably large for the 
size of the bird (2.50x1.^5), oval or slightly ovate, the 
finely granulated shell being almost pure white, tinged with 
the slightest shade of grayish-blue. The nest may be quite 



THE RUDDY DUCK. 473 

well built of fine colored grasses, circularly laid, or simply 
a mere matting together of the tops of the green marsh- 
grass, with a slight addition of some dry flexible material. I 
found one nest on a hollow side of a floating log. It con- 
sisted of a few dried grasses and rushes laid in a loose cir- 
cle. Indeed, the bird inclines to build a very slight nest. 

As well try to catch a weasel asleep as to see this bird 
leave the nest. Mr. W. H. Collins, however, a well-known 
taxidermist, of Detroit, Mich., to whom the credit is due 
of first discovering the nidification of this species in our 
neighborhood, after carefully identifying the absent bird 
by the feathers in a well incubated nest, afterwards saw 
her leave it. She scrambled off like a mud-turtle from a log, 
and diving from the edge of the nest, which, as usual was 
over the water, swam in clear sight under the bow of his 
boat. From personal investigation I have satisfied myself 
of the accuracy of his painstaking observation. The Ruddy 
Duck is nearly noiseless, occasionally uttering a weak 
squak. Its habitat is North America at large. 

The Gad wall or Gray Duck (Chaulelasmus streperus), a 
species of almost world-wide distribution, is about the 
rarest river Duck on the Niagara. Indeed it is particu- 
larly a species of the western interior, being abundant 
in Missouri, and in the regions of the Mississippi generally. 
As with most others of our river or non-diving Ducks, 
Audubon satisfied himself as to its breeding in Texas, and 
there is pretty conclusive evidence that its summer habitat 
does not extend to the extreme north. Probably the re- 
gions of the upper Mississippi and Missouri are its principal 
breeding grounds. Its nest is made on the ground, in marshy 
places, and is composed of sticks, weeds and grasses; the 6-10 
smooth, elliptical, cream-colored eggs measuring about 
2.00X1.50. 



474 THE SHOVELLER. 

Some 20.00 long and 30.00 in extent, most of the plumage 
is finely barred with black and white, giving a general 
gray effect; middle wing coverts, chestnut ; greater ones, 
black; speculum, white. The species may always be differ- 
entiated by the wing. 

THE SHOVELLER. 

A highly specialized form, in nature, is a Duck's bill; and 
so completely do form and function correspond therein, that 
it may be impossible to conceive of adaptation more per- 
fect. The head, or the entire body, being immersed in the 
act of feeding, and that often to a great depth, or in turbid 
water, the food, which itself is often found in the mud, 
must be selected in great part, at least, without the aid of 
sight; the sensibilities of touch and taste, therefore, are 
particularly requisite. To render these faculties of percep- 
tion as acute as possible, the soft, fleshy tongue, the carne- 
ous interior of the mouth in general, and the soft, sensitive 
exterior of the bill are well supplied with a complicated 
system of nerves, thus enabling the bird to detect its food 
by the sense of feeling, and probably even by the sense of 
taste. The broad bill, with its, finely lamellate edges, serves 
as a sort of sieve or strainer, to retain the proper articles of 
diet, while the foreign or extraneous matter is allowed to 
escape ; the Duck thus feeding somewhat after the manner 
of the Baleen or Right Whale. Though constructed on the 
same general plan, the bills of the various species of Ducks 
include a great variety of patterns. Some, as those of the 
Old Wives and the Pintails, are quite small, whereas, 
in many of the river Ducks, the bills are large and broad. 
The most exaggerated, both in size and form, is that of the 
rather small river Duck called the Shoveller {Spatula clypeatd). 
Though but little larger than a Teal, its bill is quite a little 



THE SHOVELLER. 475 

longer than that of the Mallard or the Eider, and nearly twice 
as broad at the tip as it is at the base, thus giving the spe- 
cies a very peculiar and almost awkward appearance. The 
tongue, and a prominent ridge along the deeply concave roof 
of the mouth, are well provided with large and rather pecul- 
iarly formed papillae, in order to augment the sensitiveness 
of touch and taste. The large lamellae along the edges 
of the immense bill give the bird a peculiar grinning 
aspect. 

The comparatively long measurement for the weight, 
nearly or quite 20 inches, is due partly to the slender body, 
but more especially to the long bill and tail. The bill is dark; 
the head and upper part of the neck, blackish, with green 
and purplish reflections; the color by no means pure, how- 
ever; the lower neck, upper breast, anterior scapulars, longi- 
tudinal stripes in the long posterior scapulars, patch on each 
side of the rump, and band towards the tail, white ; stripe 
down the back of the neck, and the back, gray-brown, the 
feathers edged with lighter; rump and upper tail coverts, 
greenish-black ; outer edge of the long tertials, and the 
smaller wing-coverts, ultra-marine-blue; speculum, violet- 
green; the rest of the wings, dusky; tail feathers, white, 
with brown line along the shaft; under parts, dark chestnut, 
lighter and somewhat spotted and barred on the sides; iris, 
yellow; feet, orange ; the mature male, thus described, is a 
conspicuous and pleasing object on the water. Female, 
brown above, each feather edged with lighter; the throat, 
sides of the head, and under parts generally, light-brown. 

The nest of this species is on the ground near the water, 
and is built of the coarse materials commonly used by 
Ducks. The eggs, some 8 or 10 in number, and about 2.07 
XI. 47, are a dark-cream or light-brown, not infrequently 
tinged with ashy-gray. 



476 THE BONAPARTE GULL, 

This fresh water, or river Duck, occurring sparingly in the 
east, is abundant in the west, breeding from Texas to 
Alaska. 

THE BONAPARTE .GULL. 

Here let me mention a very conspicuous and beautiful 
bird, which appears on the river along with the Ducks in 
spring and also in the fall the Bonaparte Gull (Chroicoceph- 
alus Philadelphia). Some 12-14 inches long, with a bill as 
slender as that of a Tern, the mantle is an elegant pearly or 
silvery-gray; head dusky-slate, appearing black in the dis- 
tance; the eye-lids marked with white; bill, black; neck, under 
parts, tail and front of the wing, white; the wing having 
the outer web of the first primary, also the edge of the 
second or even the third, and the ends of the primaries gen- 
erally, except the extreme white tips, black; feet, orange. 
In winter there is no hood, but a gray spot on the side of 
the head. The young are mottled with brownish or grayish 
above, having a dark bar on the wing, and a black band on 
the tail. 

Appearing about the middle of April, this species some- 
times becomes very abundant for a month or more, flying 
leisurely up and down the river in larger or smaller flocks, 
and subsisting on small fish which they take by dropping 
lightly on the surface. The flight is easy and graceful, each 
stroke of the long, pointed wings throwing the body up a 
little, while the bird peers this way and that way in quest of 
its small prey. If it fly towards one, the white front of 
its wings, added to its white breast and neck, gives it the 
appearance of a white bird with a black head. It often has 
a noticeable way of turning partly around or cutting back- 
ward, as it drops down in securing some object suddenly de- 
tected on or near the surface, thus making it appear decid- 
edly lithe and agile on the wing. Occasionally it may alight 



THE BONAPARTE GULL. 477 

on objects along the shore, and often rides down the cur- 
rent on floating bits of board, sometimes ten or a dozen 
standing closely side by side in a row. Then they utter an 
occasional soft conversational note, as if quietly enjoying 
each other's company, and affording a most beautiful and 
instructive picture of happy contentedness. Not infre- 
quently they swim, or rather float, literally on the water, 
their light forms scarcely pressing below the surface. The 
harmony and effect of their chaste colors, in such pleasing 
contrast, when compared with the bright green tints of our 
beautiful river, are strikingly elegant; and never is the Ni- 
agara so charming as when ornamented with clouds of 
these gentle, graceful, little creatures. The immature birds, 
some of which spend the summer on St. Clair Flats, linger 
here some time after those in mature plumage have gone 
northward. Some light has lately been thrown on the nid- 
ification of this species, a matter on which the books have 
heretofore been almost silent; notwithstanding the common- 
ness of the bird on the sea-coast and in the interior during 
the migrations. The annual report of the Canadian gov- 
ernment for the Department of the Interior, issued 1880, 
gives Gull Lake, north of Cypress Hill and Bullrush Lake, 
as localities where this Gull breeds commonly; and Mr. 
Fortiscue reports it as breeding on Hudson's Bay. 

It was the 18th of October last (1883), that the fall flight 
of Ducks fairly set in on the Niagara. The ripe brilliancy of 
our autumn scenery had just reached its climax. The 
groves on Grand Island were like bright bouquets of many 
colors. The top of the large soft maple, under which I had 
placed my tent on Buckhorn Island, seemed like a crimson 
flame; and it was surrounded by every shade of scarlet, 
orange, amber, and gold, and even the rich green of sum- 



478 THE SURF DUCK. 

mer. The river was in its most placid mood, its waters of 
half a continent moving on with a quiet force, that did not 
stir the smallest ripple on its surface. The sky was veiled 
in a soft hazy curtain of gray, and the air was motionless. 
The river, like a great mirror, doubling the gorgeous land- 
scape, reflected immense flocks of Ducks, flying high, now 
in long lines and varying angles, and now in graceful curves. 
Only occasionally did a flock drop down within shot-range; 
then, as they rushed by our boat in the sedges, their many 
wings sounding like a storm-sough in the trees, they almost 
invariably proved to be Red-heads. 

THE SURF DUCK. 

But the Ducks were not all in the air. Here and there 
on the glassy surface small flocks would appear as if by 
apparition. Among these were many of the Ruddy Ducks, 
whose passage would seem to be about as much by water 
as through the air. This coming up out of the depths at 
any point adds a great mystery to the coy life of certain 
species. Every sense is on the alert, for you do not know at 
what moment some strange thing may "turn up." So it 
was on this morning of the 18th. There appeared sud- 
denly, almost under the bow of my boat, three dark-colored 
Ducks, of a form wholly new; the most striking feature 
being the large head, and long bill thick at the base. They 
were young birds, and so tame, that it seemed as if I might 
row my boat up to them and take them in my hand. They 
proved to be the Surf Duck (GELdemia perspicillata), which are 
not uncommon on these waters in the autumn; occasionally, 
indeed, being found here even in spring. It also occurs 
quite commonly as a transient autumn migrant on the 
beautiful lakes of Central New York. It is, however, par- 
ticularly an ocean Duck, feeding on small mollusks and 



THE SCOTER. 479 

fishes, for which it "dives almost constantly, both in the 
sandy bays and amidst the tumbling surf," sometimes " fish- 
ing at the depth of several fathoms," and " floating buoy- 
antly among the surf of the raging billows, where it seems 
as unconcerned as if it were on the most tranquil waters." 
In winter its dark figure is common along the whole Atlan- 
tic Coast, it being often abundant about Long Island and 
southward. Taking up its northern migration early in 
spring, it breeds from Labrador northward, and also on 
Hudson's Bay; in the latter locality, according to Mr. Jas. 
Fortiscue, "on islands out to sea, hatching on bare rocks 
close to water." 

Some 20 inches long and over 30 in extent, the male 
black, brownish below; the upper part of the upper mandi- 
ble, including the gnarl, bright orange; iris, brown; feet, 
brownish. The female, several inches shorter than the male, 
with scarcely anything of the gnarl at the base of the bill, 
which is- all black, is light sooty-brown above, and brownish- 
gray, with dusky specks, below. The nest is placed in a 
tussock of grass, in some marsh a few miles from the sea, 
and is made of dried weeds and grasses, the eggs being 
some 2.30X1.60, and creamy-white. 

THE SCOTER. 

On the same day other flocks of strange, dark-colored 
Ducks appeared. I saw them in the water more frequently 
than in the air, and they were very expert divers. Some- 
times the smaller flocks seemed almost to alternate with 
the immense flocks of Red-heads, at other times they were 
mixed in with them, so that a shot into a flock would bring 
down both kinds. The strange kind proved to be the young 
of the American Scoter (CEdemia americana); no mature 
birds at any time being detected among them, I think, 



480 THE VELVET DUCK. 

though they do occasionally occur here in the spring. 
Some 20 inches long, and about 32 in extent, thus only of 
a medium size, the male is black throughout; eyes, brown; 
feet, greenish; top of the bill, orange, the mark being 
broadest by the gnarl at the base of the bill. Female and 
young, brown, the sides of the head and the under parts 
lighter, obscurely spotted with dusky. 

This is another of the winter Ducks, sometimes appear- 
ing in great numbers along the whole Atlantic, perfectly at 
home in the stormy surf of the winter winds, feeding mostly 
on small bivalves, for which it dives incessantly and with 
the greatest address. It flies low over the water, but moves 
with great momentum; and is so attached to the sea, that its 
appearance on fresh waters would seem to be but casual, 
during its transits of migration, or while the most tempest- 
uous storms are raging along the coast. The note of the 
Scoter in spring is like whe-oo-hoo, long drawn out. 

Nesting similarly to the Eider Duck, it breeds from 
Labrador northward; the eggs, 2.00x1.60, being yellowish- 
white. 

THE VELVET DUCK. 

During all last fall's shooting of Ducks on the Niagara, a 
fine pair of mature Velvet Ducks (CEdemta fusca) remained in 
perfect safety, though fired at more or less continuously. 
They never dived to escape the shot, but had the happy 
faculty of rising out of the water just before one came within 
ordinary range for a shot. They seemed so perfectly self- 
assured and at home, that up to that point of approach, one 
might study them with all impunity. How buoyantly they 
swam, and how large and lusty they looked as they flew low 
over the water. The male, nearly 2 feet long and nearly 3 in 
extent, of brownish velvety black with white secondaries, caus- 
ing a clear white bar across the wing when closed, and a long 



THE EIDER DUCK. 481 

white spot under the eye, was indeed one of the larger and 
more robust Ducks on the river. In the mature male, the 
red or bright orange bill has the base and the sides black; 
the iris is yellow, and the feet are dark red. The female 
and the young of the year, are dark brown or dusky, with 
two spots of whitish on the cheek, white bar on the wing, 
grayish under parts mottled with dusky, and black bill. In 
the latter part of September, I have seen these Ducks in 
large flocks on Lake Ontario. Their large black form, with 
snow-white patch at the base of the wing, cannot be mis- 
taken in flight. The Velvet Duck (CEdemia fused) breeds 
from Labrador northward. 

The three species last described constitute a group of 
Black Sea-Ducks, known on the Atlantic Coast in winter as 
Coots. A curiously formed or fancy bill, swollen at the 
base, broad and variously modified at the tip, and bright 
parti-colored, is a marked characteristic; the plumage is 
soft and velvety; the legs are placed far back in accom- 
modation to their expert diving habits; and though emi- 
nently Ducks of the ocean, diving for mollusks or fishes, 
and seeking bays and estuaries only in the severest storms, 
breeding from Labrador northward, they locate on fresh 
waters a short distance from the sea. Like that of most 
ocean Ducks, their flesh is not very palatable; and like our 
more northern birds in general, they are common to both 
the Old World and the New. 

THE EIDER DUCK. 

Our large rivers, bearing more or less north and south, 
are all great highways of migration. So inviting an 
avenue to the south is the great St. Lawrence, that in 
the autumn, even the Eiders may be tempted to take that 
route into the interior. The young of both the Common 
81 



482 THE EIDER DUCK. 

and the King Eider are occasionally found here on the 
Niagara, and a mature male of the latter was once taken 
here in April. 

Let no one think that the brilliant birds are confined 
to the south. On our northern oceans rides the King of 
Ducks, and also his still more stately cousin, the Common 
Eider. The lower parts, and the crown from the base 
of the bill, black; the upper parts, including a line into 
the crown, white; back of the head and neck, ice-green; 
the breast a most elegant rosy-cream, the male of 
the Common Eider (Somateria mollissimd] is a very ideal 
of chaste beauty. The darkness of the deep beneath him, 
the snow of the mountain above him, the ice beneath his 
crown, and the rosy tint of the aurora borealis on his 
breast, he is the symbol of our most intensely startling 
and beautiful ideas of the north. 

Extending their winter habitat along our northwestern 
coast to New York,, the Eiders reach Labrador, in their 
northward migrations, by the first days of May, two weeks 
or more before the ice is out of that region. For the next 
three or four weeks their low flight, in long drawn-out lines, 
is a feature of that rough and forbidding landscape. The 
sexes are already united in regularly chosen pairs, the dark 
colored females contrasting strongly, as they alternate with 
their snowy consorts in the lines of flight. To the residents 
of Labrador, shut in by the long, bleak winter, their appear- 
ance now is about as pleasant as is that of the Robins to 
us in the raw days of March. After disporting themselves 
for several weeks in the happy reminiscences of their former 
summer haunts, they begin nidification about the last of 
May or the first of June. Breeding in communities, some- 
times in immense numbers, in this respect differing notice- 
ably from most Ducks, they appropriate the rocky islands 



THE EIDER DUCK. 483 

and islets along the coast for several sometimes five or six 
miles out, and along the mainland and inward for a mile. 
Thus their nidification becomes a striking characteristic of this 
great ornithological breeding-ground. The nests are placed 
about clumps of grass, in fissures of the rocks, under the 
low spreading branches of the stunted firs, and along shelv- 
ings of the shore not far from the water's edge. Often 
they are so numerous as almost to crowd upon each other, 
six or eight being found under a single bush, or arranged 
in lines along the grassy clefts of rock. Well sunken into 
the ground, they are made of dried twigs, sea-weeds, and 
mosses, so well placed and interwoven as to give the cavity 
a neat and pretty appearance. As is the case with Ducks 
generally, there is no down in the nest when the eggs are 
first laid; but when they are deposited, 5-7, or perhaps as 
high as 10, oval, smooth-shelled and pale clouded or mot- 
tled olive-green, some 3.00X2.10, the female, now aban- 
doned by her mate, begins to pluck the celebrated down 
from her breast, and continues to do so as incubation pro- 
ceeds, until the roots of the feathers of her under parts are 
about entirely bare of this commodity. The nest, now con- 
taining about a hat-full of loose down, which approximates 
an ounce in weight, is elegantly lined, and may afford an 
entire covering to the eggs in the absence of the bird; and 
thus their warmth may be preserved for some time, while 
the lone and forsaken female seeks recreation and food. 
Now the dark reddish-brown birds, elegantly marked with 
black and with two narrow white cross-bars on the wings, 
may be seen standing on the rocks leisurely preening their 
feathers, or floating on the waters in the vicinity. At the 
same time the bright colored males may be seen in large 
flocks, disporting themselves in entire freedom from care, 
among the outer islands and sand-bars. The immature 



484 THE EIDER DUCK. 

males, variously spotted and piebald it taking four years 
for them to reach mature colors are meanwhile finding 
seclusion with the sterile females. I recently found quite a 
number of these Ducks breeding about Mud and Seal 
Islands, Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia, and am told that 
a few still breed about Grand Menan. 

Early in July the first young appear, and by the 20th 
they are about all hatched. Heavily clad in a dark mouse- 
colored down, they are the objects of the closest vigilance 
and care on the part of the mother. If the nest be far 
from water, they are at once conducted thither through 
every difficulty; if it be about rocks over the water, the 
mother will transfer them in her bill, after the manner 
of the Wood Duck. For the next three weeks or more, 
the Eider is the most faithful of mothers, leading her 
brood, in close flocks, about shallow waters, where they are 
taught to dive for their food. If they become fatigued, 
she swims deeply among them, and takes them all on her 
back till they are rested. If a Jaeger or the large Black- 
backed Gull appear in search of a tender meal, croaking 
fiercely and beating the water with her wings, she will raise 
a lively spray, the young meanwhile disappearing under 
water; or she springs out of the water, and attacks the enemy 
"tooth and nail " so fiercely, that he is glad to make good 
his retreat. Now see her mount that rock, and coax her 
scattered brood together around her, as they emerge from 
the water here and there along the shore ! 

The males, free from domestic cares, moult several weeks 
before the females, and also leave their summer habitat 
some two weeks in advance of the females and young, but 
are happy to mingle with them again after all have reached 
our coast to spend the winter. Here, toward spring, the 
males have a queer note, sounding like moo-moo-o-o-o-o; and 



THE EIDER DUCK. 485 

resembling the moaning of the seals in the harbors. The prin- 
cipal food of the Eider is shell-fish, small gasteropods and 
mussels, for which it will dive 8 or 10 fathoms, or even 
more, arid the shells of which it can break easily. Though 
its flesh is not the most savory, it can sometimes be eaten 
with relish. Audubon cites a case of its successful domes- 
tication. Its colors, its great size some 25 inches in length 
and 40.50 in extent, and its broad-based tapering bill, 
feathered well down along the ridge fully differentiate it. 

In Norway and Greenland, for the Eider is also a denizen 
of the Old World, this species is half domesticated. The 
natives, pursuing a humane and most commendable policy, 
do not allow it to be molested. Hence it breeds in great 
numbers, even about their premises, under up-turned 
boats, slabs, and about out-houses, the female allowing her- 
self to be lifted from the nest while the eggs are handled. 
After the young have left the nest, the down is gathered as 
an article of commerce; and thus it is secured in the 
greatest quantity. Islands appropriated as breeding-places 
thus become good, sometimes notable, sources of income to 
the owners. 

The King Duck (Somateria spectabilis], a near relative of 
the former, but of considerably smaller size, is more arctic 
in its habitat. Very common about the Magdalen Islands 
in winter, and so tame that it can be killed with a stick, 
it seldom migrates as far south as New England. Probably 
its tameness in winter is due to its breeding so far north as 
to be disturbed but little by man. 

Some 22.50 long and 41.00 in extent, the male is brownish- 
black, having the chin, neck, upper part of the back, stripe 
lengthwise on the wing, and a spot on each side of the base 
of the tail, white; an elegant gray-drab hood over the 
crown; cheeks delicate ice-green; border around the bare 



486 THE HARLEQUIN DUCK. 

red patches on the sides of the swelling at the base of the 
bill, and fork-shaped spot on the throat, black; breast, dark- 
cream. The female is reddish-brown, marked with black, 
with a little white on the wings. The species can always 
be determined by the downward curve of the long scapulars. 
The Labrador Duck (Somateria labradoria), an arctic spe- 
cies, formerly found from New Jersey northward in winter, 
is now so rare as to be regarded almost extinct. Some 20 
inches long and 30 in extent, it has a long patch along the 
crown and down the back of the head, collar around the 
lower neck continuing and enlarging over the back; the 
primaries and the under parts, black; the other parts are 
white; thus making a very strongly marked species. 

THE HARLEQUIN DUCK. 

The most fantastic of all our Ducks is the Harlequin 
{Histrionicus torquatus], or Lord and Lady, as the two- sexes 
are called on the coasts of New England. About IV inches 
long and 27-28 in extent, bill short and small, tail rather 
long and pointed, the male has the head and neck of dusky- 
ash; upper breast and shoulders, bluish-ash; under parts, 
dusky-brown; triangular-crescent spot at the base of the 
bill, in front of the eye and extending up on the crown; a 
narrow line on the back of the crown, a spot back of the 
ear, a long one on the neck, a narrow ring around the lower 
neck, large epaulets; markings on the scapulars, tertiaries, 
wing-coverts and sides at the base of the tail, white; the 
white generally margined with black; a streak on each side 
of the crown, and the long feathers on the sides, chestnut- 
red or brown; rump, tail, and under- tail coverts, black. 
The female is dusky-brown, with whitish markings in 
front of the eye, and a clear white spot back of the ear. 
The young males are several years in coming to maturity. 



THE HARLEQUIN DUCK. 487 

In Audubon's time this species was common, in winter, 
from Boston northward, and bred as far south as Grand 
Menan; at present it is doubtful if it breeds farther south 
than Labrador and Newfoundland, and is not very plentiful 
there; while in respect to their winter habitat, Mr. E. Smith, 
of Portland, Maine, says they are " not very common, but 
of regular occurrence along the coast in winter, frequenting 
the outermost islands and ledges;" also that they are "very 
active, expert divers, and generally wary, and as their haunts 
are not easily accessible, but few of the birds are shot." 

About Mud and Seal Islands, Yarmouth Co., Nova Scotia, 
this species is still found in considerable numbers through- 
out the winter, there being sometimes as many as a hundred 
in a flock. They keep about the rocks and ledges, feeding 
on the small crustaceans called sand fleas, and on small gas- 
teropods. Shooting the " Rock Ducks," as they call them 
here, is the rarest sport of the season. An attractive sight, 
indeed, is a flock of these strikingly marked birds, on a sol- 
itary outlying rock, on a bleak winter's day. The males 
are said to be particularly, proud in their manner, stretching 
up their necks and bowing to each other when a number of 
them alight together, and emitting a peculiar soft whistling 
note, not unlike that of the Common Partridge or Ruffed 
Grouse. They generally arrive in November and leave in 
April. For these interesting facts, I am indebted to Mr. John 
Crowell, of Seal Island, who is not only a gentleman of 
great generosity, but one of the most accurate observers of 
nature that it has ever been my pleasure to meet. 

It is now pretty evident, that this species breeds in holes 
in trees, like the Wood Thrush. It is so reported from the 
interior of Newfoundland. 



CHAPTER XX. 

BIRD-LIFE IN NOVA SCOTIA. 

NOVA Scotia is especially favored with the Warblers. 
The beautiful and musical Yellow Warbler (D. astiva) 
is as common here as in New England, and with its usual 
familiarity, may build its nest in the rose-bush by the 
front door. From almost every clump of evergreens comes 
the peculiar ditty of the Black-throated Green Warbler 
(D. virens). The sprightly whistle of the Black-and- Yellow 
Warbler (D. maculosd) is quite common to the evergreen and 
mixed forests; the musical twitter of the Yellow-rump (D. 
coronatd) is often heard in the pine groves; the soft shrilling 
insect-tones of the Yellow-backed Blue Warbler (Parula 
americana) is nearly as common as in New England; the 
conspicuous little figure of the Black-and-white Creeping 
Warbler (Mniotilta varia) is frequent on the trunks of the 
lowland forest-trees; the Black-throated Blue Warbler (D. 
ccerulescens] is not rare; the Maryland Yellow- throat (Geothly- 
pis trichas] delights in the swamps and numerous wild 
meadows; the Redstart (Sttophaga ruticilld] flashes among 
the foliage; the Chestnut-side is to be found occasionally; 
Audubon reports the nest of the Blackburnian from this 
locality; and Mr. Andrew Downes regards the Yellow Red- 
poll as a common resident. All of the above no doubt breed 
in the numbers there indicated, while the echoing chant of 
the Golden-crown (Seiurus aurocapillus] is frequently heard; 



THE BLACK-POLL WARBLER. 439 

and its near relative, the Water Thrush (S. noveboracensis), 
is at home in the bogs and swamps. 

THE BLACK-POLL WARBLER. 

I do not remember hearing the Black-poll (D. striatd) on 
the main-land of the peninsula, but on the Mud and Seal 
Islands, about fifteen miles out at sea, nearly in range with 
the county-line between Yarmouth and Shelburn counties, 
they are positively abundant throughout the breeding season 
so abundant that, while wandering among the evergreens, 
one is at no time out of the reach of their song, and often 
several can be heard at once. That song, though one of 
the most slender and wiry in all our forests, is as distin- 
guishable as the hum of the Cicada or the shrilling of the 
Katydid. Tree-tree-tree-tree-tree-tree-tree-tree y rapidly uttered, 
the monotonous notes of equal length, beginning very 
softly, gradually increasing to the middle of the strain, 
and then as gradually diminishing, thus forming a fine 
musical swell may convey a fair idea of the song. There 
is a peculiar soft and tinkling sweetness in this melody, sug- 
gestive of the quiet mysteries of the forest, and sedative as 
an anodyne to the nerves. The chaste little figure striped 
in half mourning and capped in jet-black, every now and 
then reaches the tip-top of some evergreen, stretches him- 
self up in song in full sight, and then darts into the thicket. 
As one nears the nest, the female may be seen beating her 
wings along the branches in the utmost distress, or one 
may still hear her sharp chipping note of alarm as she dis- 
appears in the almost impenetrable growth of small black 
spruce. The nest is very uniquely placed. Generally within 
reach from the ground, often quite low and on a limb 
against the trunk of a small tree, it is a bulky structure, 
about five inches in external and two in internal diameter, 



490 THE BLACK-POLL WARBLER. 

about one inch in depth internally and three in depth 
externally, and is composed of the small spray of the ever- 
greens, dried weeds, moss and wool, the lining being of 
fine dried grasses and a few feathers. The materials are all 
rather roughly laid; and the wool may be peculiar to the 
locality under consideration, as the hundreds of sheep kept 
here throughout the year leave tags of their fleece on 
almost every bush. The four eggs, about .75X-53, are 
grayish-white, slightly specked all over, and spotted in a 
wreath around the large end, with several shades of brown, 
and still more with subdued lilac or neutral tint; the whole 
being intensified with here and there a distinct blackish 
spot or scrawl in the wreath of spots or thickest part of the 
marking. The eggs of the various species of Warblers 
differing greatly in size for birds so similar in measurement, 
those of this species are among the larger specimens. 

In color and in habit the Black-poll is strongly differen- 
tiated. Male, 5.50 long and 8.50 in extent, has first primary as 
long as the second, thus making the wing quite pointed, and 
the tail emarginate. The upper parts are light bluish-ash 
streaked with black; crown, jet-black; wings and tail, dusky, 
the former edged with greenish, the latter edged with white, 
and having patches of white on the inner web of the three 
outer feathers toward the end; tertiaries edged, and wing- 
coverts tipped, with white; cheeks and under parts, white, 
with spotted lines of black from the bill down the sides. 
Female similar, with colors and marking not so bright, gen- 
erally more or less tinged with greenish-yellow. 

The mature male, moving among the dark foliage, much 
after the manner of a Flycatcher, also capturing insects 
with a sharp snap of the bill, is as conspicuous in his 
strongly contrasted colors as the Black-and-White Creeper 
or the Black-capped Chickadee. Appearing in the very 



THE HERMIT THRUSH. 491 

tail of the migration of its family, it is scarcely to be looked 
for in Western New York till the middle or latter part of 
May, and Audubon found the eggs of the species in Labra- 
dor as late as the middle of July. But if the Black-poll 
seems to be a laggard, let it be remembered that it is a great 
traveler. Wintering in Central America and the West In- 
dies, and traveling, perhaps, largely at sea, it does not slacken 
its migrations till it reaches the oceanic islands off north- 
eastern Maine and Nova Scotia; and breeding commonly in 
Labrador, it extends even to Alaska and the Arctic Ocean. 
Nebraska seems to be about its western limit. 

THE HERMIT THRUSH. 

One of the most charming items to a naturalist, visiting 
Northern New England or the Maritime Provinces in 
spring, is the song of the Hermit Thrush (Turdus pallasi). 
I reached Paradise, in the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, 
during the night, and, early the next morning climbed the 
South Mountain to listen to the birds. It was the beau- 
tiful morning of the second of June, 1883. As I passed 
through a swampy tract of alders, on nearing the foot of 
the mountain, I was greeted with the divine song of the 
Hermit. It had been familiar to me in the days of child- 
hood, and I had often recalled the unutterably sacred feel- 
ings it used to awaken; but never during the many years of 
my ornithological studies had I heard it, though I was quite 
familiar with the bird in its migrations. Stimulated by 
anticipation, and with a vague conception formed from the 
descriptions of authors, and the analogous songs of other 
Thrushes, I was prepared for the happiest impression. It 
was a moment never to be forgotten. The song begins 
with a note not unlike the vowel O, passing through several 
intervals of the musical scale in a smooth, upward slide, and 



492 THE HERMIT THRUSH. 

in a tone of indescribable melodiousness, and continues 
in a shake which gradually softens into silence, thus giving 
a most pleasing diminuendo. Put into syllables, it is well 
represented by Mr. Burrough's phrase, " O-o-o-o, holy-holy- 
holy-holy :" and I sometimes thought I heard it say, O-o-o-o y 
seraph-seraph-seraph-seraph. Again I could discover no sug- 
gestion of articulate language, but only that soul-language 
of pure melody, which speaks directly to the heart without 
the ruder incumbrance of speech. With short pauses, this 
diminuendo is repeated any number of times, but always 
on a different key and with a different modulation. Now it 
is on the main chords, now on the intermediates, and now 
on the most delicately chosen and inspiring chromatics. 
When pitched high, the shake is through a shorter interval, 
and in a weaker tone The lower-toned modulations are 
always the sweetest. Sometimes the tones are so soft as 
to sound far away, though the bird is quite near; and again 
the notes are very penetrating, and may be heard for quite 
a distance, especially when aided by the enchanting echoes of 
tall, dense forests. The tone of the melody is neither of flute, 
nor hautboy nor vox-humana, but something of inimitable 
sweetness, and never heard away from the fragrant arcades 
of the forest. "Spiritual serenity," or a refined, poetic, 
religious devotion, is indeed the sentiment of the song. He 
whose troubled spirit cannot be soothed or comforted, or 
whose religious feelings cannot be awakened by this song, iu 
twilight, must lack the full sense of hearing, or that inner 
sense of the soul which catches nature's most significant 
voices. It is a voice which should always direct us heaven- 
ward. 

Notwithstanding its retiring habits and its celestial song, 
this bird is decidedly lowly and humble in its nidification. 
The nest is not placed in a bush or small tree, as is the case 



THE CANADA JA Y. 493 

with the Wood Thrush and the Olive-back and its allies, nor 
on a pile of brush or dried leaves near the ground, after the 
manner of the Wilson; but it is sunken into the ground, 
among the forest plants or ferns, the rim being about level 
with the surface. It is somewhat bulky, and quite substan- 
tially built of dried weeds and grasses, slightly intermixed 
with moss. The lining is of similar but finer material, 
sometimes brightened with the glossy red or black capsule- 
stems of mosses. The eggs, of clear bluish-green, are 
about .85-.90 X .62-65. 

The alarm-note, or breeding-call of this species, is a soft, 
quee-e-e-e-eh, somewhat resembling the call of the Vireos. 

All in all, this is about the most boreal of the Thrushes. 
Wintering in the Southern and occasionally, it would seem, 
even in the Middle States, it breeds from Northern New 
England far to the north. The variety nanus seems pecul- 
iar to the southern Rocky Mountains, as is auduboni to the 
regions beyond. The Hermit breeds in the high altitudes 
of the above mountains, even as far south as Colorado. 

Early in April, the russet form of this Thrush is seen, 
frequently, on the ground, among the faded leaves of our 
forests in Western New York, on its way to the north; and 
again in October, or perhaps as late as November, when the 
first snow falls, it appears again, quite commonly, on its way 
south. Like the rest of the Thrushes, it feeds on the 
ground, running briskly, and often dropping down from 
the branches, between the strains of its song, to pick up 
some favorite morsel, spied in the distance by those large, 
dark eyes, so common to the family. 

THE CANADA JAY. 

On the 9th of June (1883), in a wild meadow in Lunen- 
burg County, N. S., I was much amused watching a female 



494 THE CANADA JA Y. 

Canada Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) feed her full-grown 
young. So great is the difference in color of the old and 
young of this bird, that Swainson, in the " Fauna Boreali- 
Americana," figured the young as another species. About 
11 inches long and 15 in extent, the mature bird is dusky- 
ash, the feathers over the back and wing-coverts, tinged 
toward the tip with reddish; forehead, throat, ear-coverts, 
front and sides of the neck, and tips of the wing and tail 
feathers, white; under parts, light reddish, tinged with ash; 
bill and feet, black. Male and female are alike. 

The young are deep dusky-ash, with the head blackish; 
streak from the base of the bill across the ear-coverts, tips 
of the greater wing-coverts and of the wing and tail 
feathers, and the vent, white; bill, bluish-white, tipped with 
black. Thus the young are so much darker than the parent 
as to appear like another species. 

The brood referred to were full-grown, and yet were be- 
ing fed as assiduously as if they had been callow nestlings. 
Their noisiness, when the mother-bird arrived with food, 
first attracted my attention, the noise being a sort of hiss- 
ing squeal, loud enough to startle anything in the neighbor- 
hood. The parent also had a squealing note, and another 
sounding like choo-choo-choo-choo, the note, perhaps, which 
Audubon compared to light strokes on an anvil. 

The Canada Jay, or Meat Hawk, or Whiskey Jack, or 
Carrion-bird, may be most readily allured by its stomach. 
Ordinarily shy and distant, like other Jays, it will come so 
near as to appear almost domesticated, wherever there is 
some suitable food to attract it. Butchering-day among 
the farmers is sure to bring him. Perching on the nearest 
available object, and closely eying the whole proceeding, 
he will frequently drop down almost within reach to pick 
up a fresh morsel. The fisherman on some inland lake or 



THE CANADA JA Y. 49.5 

stream, may discover him in the other end of his boat, pil- 
laging his bait; the camper-out will be most sure to receive 
a call from him as soon as his quarters are taken up, and 
every stray crumb or bit of offal will reveal the motive of 
his visit; he seeks out the lumberman in the deep forest, 
and, in the emergencies of winter, will even take food 
from his hand. Audubon describes a rather cruel amuse- 
ment of the lumbermen with this bird. " This is done," he 
says, " by cutting a pole eight or ten feet in length, balancing 
it on the sill of their hut, the end outside the entrance being 
baited with a piece of flesh of any kind. Immediately on 
seeing the tempting morsel, the Jays alight on it, and while 
they are busily engaged in devouring it, a wood-cutter gives 
a smart blow to the end of the pole within the hut, which 
seldom fails to drive the birds high into the air, and not 
infrequently kills them." 

Exceedingly plain in color, and repulsive, rather than 
pleasing, in its vocal performances, the Canada Jay is decid- 
edly graceful, however, in its movements. How emphatic, 
and peculiar to itself, is that nod of the head as it alights, 
and there is a peculiar jerk of the wings and tail. When 
alighting in one of the lower branches of a tree, it will 
sometimes ascend, hopping jauntily from one limb to 
another, round and round the trunk, thus reaching the top 
as if by a winding stairs. Its flight, too, is showy, resem- 
bling that of its gay relative, the Blue Jay. 

True to its membership in the Crow family, it is said to 
be a devourer of the eggs and young of other birds, not 
sparing even the eggs of the Crow itself. Some competent 
writers say that its sagacity extends even to hiding and 
hoarding food for the winter. 

Like some other hardy birds, it begins the breeding pro- 
cess very early, even in February or March, thus bringing 



496 THE RAVEN. 

out its young before most other birds begin to build. In- 
deed, these young Jays are already flying by the time most 
of our migratory birds arrive. The nest, placed in the 
thick part of a tree, is built of twigs, hay arid moss, and is 
lined with fine fibrous roots, like that of the Blue Jay. 
The eggs, about 1.20X-?0, are gray or grayish-white, marked 
all over, but more especially at the butt, with several shades 
of a neutral tint, and with spots of dark olive-brown. This 
species breeds from northern New England to 39, and 
down in the Rocky Mountains probably to Colorado. It 
sometimes strays to the Middle States in winter. 

THE RAVEN. 

A very common bird-voice, in Nova Scotia, is the hoarse 
croak of the Raven (Coruus corax]. This bird is much 
oftener heard than seen, however, for it is too shy and wary 
to make its appearance except in the distance. Then it is 
readily distinguishable from the Crow by its much greater 
size. Occasionally, especially if you are riding in some 
conveyance, it will perch near by and in full sight, when its 
size, its loose flowing plumage, and its thick, gull-like bill, 
mark it unmistakably. In flight it may differ very materially 
from the Crow, soaring high and majestically, after the 
manner of the large Buzzards or the Eagle, though its ordi- 
nary beating flight is quite crow-like. 

For the most part the Raven is a bird of the north, and 
is partly migratory. Retired woodland lakes and streams, 
solitary cataracts, rushing rapids in deep ravines, forest-clad 
cliffs of great rivers, wooded islands out in the ocean, and 
lonely beetling crags about the sea, are the haunts of this 
majestic and mysterious bird. Perhaps from a natural 
aversion to man, but more probably from being constantly 
persecuted by him, it disappears entirely from the more 



THE RAVEN. 497 

cultivated parts of the country. For instance, about Niag- 
ara Falls, and along the south shores of Lakes Erie and 
Ontario, where Wilson reported it as abundant in his time, 
it seems now to have entirely disappeared. 

Though its dignified proportions, its color of magnificent 
black, and its distant, wary and stately ways, as well as the 
inscrutable mystery with which superstition has always 
invested it, give it a very high, aesthetic regard, many of its 
habits are by no means pleasing. In respect to diet, it is to 
a great extent a carrion-eater, feeding especially on dead 
fish which float up on the shores. Not only does it destroy 
birds and their eggs and weakly young lambs, but also the 
tender young of animals generally. 

This magnificent bird may have much said in his favor, 
however. One who was most familiar with the habits of 
birds says that "the Raven destroys numberless insects, 
grubs and worms; that he kills mice, moles and rats, when- 
ever he can find them ; that he will seize the weasel, the young 
opossum, and the skunk; that, with the perseverance of a 
cat, he will watch the burrows of foxes, and pounce on the 
cubs." Even his carrion-eating propensities have their 
utility; so that it is highly probable that the Raven, not- 
withstanding all that may be said against him, is much more 
useful than injurious. Indeed, he is possessed of so much 
character, and has filled so large a place in history, that the 
world would seem incomplete without him. He is the first 
bird mentioned in the Bible. When the flood began to decline, 
Noah "sent forth a Raven, which went forth to and fro until 
the waters were dried up from off the earth." "That is," says 
Tristram, the celebrated English writer on the natural his- 
tory of the Bible, " the Raven kept going and returning to 
the ark, resting on it, but not entering into it again, and 
finding its food in the floating carcasses. No other bird 
32 



498 THE RAVEN. 

was so well adapted to obtain its subsistence amidst the 
scene of desolation; and the fact that it did not return into 
the ark would afford Noah a sign that the first stage of the 
subsidence of the waters was accomplished." 

The poets of all time have made the Raven, with its 
hoarse, guttural tones, and its supposed untimely flight, the 
sign and symbol of the darkest coming evils. Has the 
night given us a mysterious and awful idea of darkness ? 
The Raven has furnished our most beautiful and poetic 
conception of blackness. The peculiar majesty of his form 
and color is a dark point in nature's picture, most essential 
to its completeness; the absence of his weird tones would 
greatly detract from the harmony and significance of bird- 
music; and what a noticeable break in our literature would 
come with his departure! 

Audubon assigns the nest of the Raven to some inaccessi- 
ble cliff, and such no doubt is its most natural location; but 
in the absence of suitable rocky cliffs, it is placed in a tree. 
On the Mud and Seal Islands it is built in the flat-topped, 
low spruces, so common to the locality. Generally placed 
under a canopy of thick, broad branches, it is made of 
large, crooked, weather-worn sticks, closely and artistically 
laid, being rimmed up with finer material and well lined 
with wool; the same nest being repaired from year to year. 
Thus, in course of time, it becomes quite bulky, like that of 
the large Buzzards or the Eagle. The eggs, 4-6, and some 
1.75x1.40, are bluish-green, spotted all over, but more at 
the butt, with brown and pale purple, the ground color being 
much lighter or darker in different specimens, and the extent 
of marking being subject to great variation. The nesting 
begins as early as March, in Nova Scotia, and the whole 
family are abroad in June. 

The Raven is of almost world-wide distribution; and that 



THE CANADA GROUSE. 499 

of America, though slightly larger, probably is not specifi- 
cally different from that of Europe. 

THE CANADA GROUSE. 

Nova Scotia is fairly within the habitat of the Spruce 
Partridge or Canada Grouse (Tetrao canadensis) ; and it may 
be found there, commonly, in all suitable places evergreen 
woods and swamps, and uncleared tracts of more or less 
barren land. As with the Grouse generally, this species is 
not migratory, its habitat being from the extreme north of 
New England to Labrador northward, and to the Rocky 
Mountains and Alaska westward. About 16.00 long, the 
general color of the male is black, the under parts being 
more or less barred and spotted with clear white, the 
upper parts waved with gray or reddish-brown, and the 
quills variegated with light brown; the black tail is ter- 
minally banded with bright reddish-brown; naked space 
over the eye, bright vermilion; legs feathered to between 
the toes. Female a little smaller, the black being less clear, 
and much variegated with brown and white, the tail band 
less bright. 

This is a bird of gentle, retired ways. Never does it 
make itself common about fields and pastures, piping from 
fence-stakes, like the Quail; nor w r ill it expose itself in the 
open and by the roadside, even as much as the Ruffed 
Grouse. It is the aristocrat of its family, stepping daintily 
on its moss-carpeted and deeply-shaded apartments, feed- 
ing in summer on such berries as may be found in the 
forest, and in winter being content with even the leaves of 
the evergreens. Its flesh, being dark and unsavory, is not 
much in favor. 

Its simple nest is generally well concealed on the ground, 
and contains some dozen quite pointed eggs, 1.65 1.70 x 



500 THE GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET. 

1.151.25, brownish-cream, spotted and more or less blotched 
with dark-brown. 

The note of this species is a soft chuck, and it has not 
the jaunty jerk of the tail when walking, so noticeable in 
the Ruffed Grouse. In every way its manner is less self- 
conscious and gay. It is equally attached to its young, 
however, and will seek their safety with similar arts of simu- 
lated distress. Ordinarily it is so tame and unwary, that it 
may be taken by a noose fastened on the end of a stick. 

Mr. Everett Smith, of Portland, Me., says: "The Canada 
Grouse performs its * drumming' upon the trunk of a stand- 
ing tree of rather small size, preferably one that is inclined 
from the perpendicular, and in the following manner: Com- 
mencing near the base of the tree selected, the bird flutters 
upward with somewhat slow progress, but with rapidly beat- 
ing wings, which produce the drumming sound. Having thus 
ascended fifteen or twenty feet, it glides quietly on the wing 
to the ground, and then repeats the maneuver. Favorite 
places are resorted to habitually, and these ' drumming trees ' 
are well known to observant woodsmen. I have seen one 
that was so well worn upon the bark as to lead to the belief 
that it had been used for this purpose for many years. This 
tree was a spruce six inches in diameter, with an inclina- 
tion of about fifteen degrees from the perpendicular, and 
was known to have been used as a ' drumming tree' for 
several seasons. The upper surface and sides of the trunk 
were so worn by the feet and wings of the bird, or birds, 
using it for drumming, that for a distance of a dozen or 
fifteen feet the bark had become quite smooth and red, as if 
rubbed." 

THE GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET. 

Having heard the song of the Golden-crowned Kinglet 
(Regulus satrapa) to the very last days of June, and having 



THE GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET. 501 

seen the female at different periods of the month, and finally 
with food in her bill, in Nova Scotia, I infer that it breeds 
commonly in that province. This accords with the fact, now 
well authenticated, that it breeds from Northern New Eng- 
land northward. Its song, sounding like te-eet, te-eet, te-eet, 
te-eet, te-eet^ te-eet, in a soft whistling tone, is somewhat 
monotonous, indeed, but a pleasing melody in the soft sough 
of the evergreens. Nor is this song of the breeding time to 
be confounded with its soft lisping conversational notes 
heard throughout the year. Smallest of all our birds 
except the Hummingbird, only 4-4.50 long, so hardy that 
it can spend the winter in our Middle States, and even in 
Southern New England this is one of our first and most 
abundant migrants. From early in March till the middle 
or last days of April, its spirited flitting motions whether 
most like those of the Warbler, Flycatcher, or Titmouse, it 
would be difficult to say may be observed in the woods, the 
thicket, or the orchard. A charming sylvan ornament is this 
tiny, elegant, and gracefully moving songster. Dark green- 
ish-olive above, grayish-white below, outer webs of the 
dusky wing and tail feathers, light green, wings marked 
with white and black, crown, bright flame-color, margined 
with yellow and again with black, the male is truly a king 
in all but size, and therefore may fitly be called a King-/^/. 
The female is like the male, lacking the flame-colored 
center in the crown, her crown being simply yellow, mar- 
gined with black. 

The nest of this species was found by Mr. H. D. Minot, 
of Boston, July 16th, 1875, it having been tracked out by 
observing the female in the act of conveying food to her 
young, of which it contained six. It "hung four feet above 
the ground, from a spreading hemlock bough, to the twigs 
of which it was firmly fastened; it was globular, with an 



502 THE R UB Y-CRO WNED KINGLE T. 

entrance in the upper part, and was composed of hanging 
moss, ornamented with bits of dead leaves, and lined chiefly 
with feathers." An egg, found in Labrador, is said to be 
small and pretty, with clay-colored spots on a white ground. 
Notwithstanding the immense numbers of this little insec- 
tivorous species, the study of its nidification still invites the 
ornithologist. 

THE RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET. 

Who has not seen the Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus 
calendula) in the thick migrations of spring and autumn ? 
Who that visits the grove, the thicket or the orchard in 
April or October can fail to hear its soft whispering tse-tse- 
tse, as if the wee sprites, almost invisible but for their ner- 
vous flitting motion, were confidentially lisping their secrets 
in the thick branches overhead? Occasionally in the very 
last days of its spring migration, one may hear its song. 
Such was my privilege the first day of May (1883) a calm 
sunny day, when every inch of atmosphere was calling to 
swelling buds and springing grass, when every breath was 
rest and inspiration. The place was a beautiful park-like, 
open grove near Niagara River. The song came from out 
of a thick clump of wild thorns, and was so loud and 
spirited that I was led to expect a bird at least as large as 
a Thrush. Chee-oo, chee-oo, chee-oo, chee-oo, choo, choo, choo, 
tseet, tseet, tseet, tseet, te-tseet, te-tseet, te-tseet; again, tseet, tseet, 
tseet, tseet, choo, choo, choo, choo, chee-oo, chee-oo, tsit, tsit, tsit, 
tsit, may represent this wonderful melody, the first notes 
being strongly palatal and somewhat aspirated, the latter 
slender and sibilant, and more rapidly uttered; the first 
part being also so full and animated as to make one think 
of the Water Thrush, or the Winter Wren; while the last 
part sounded like a succeedant song from a slender-voiced 
Warbler. Could all this come from the throat of this tiny, 



THE RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET. 503 

four-inch Sylvia ? I was obliged to believe my own eyes, 
for I saw the bird many times in the act of singing. The 
melody was such as to mark the day on which I heard it. 

In size and color the species is in every way like the 
former, except the clear ruby crown, often concealed by 
the surrounding loose feathers, and sometimes probably 
in the case of birds less than two years old not found 
at all.* In habit it is regarded as more southern, than its 
near relative, for it winters even in Mexico and Central 
America, and is supposed to breed as far south as Northern 
New Jersey and Western New York. Indeed, it is claimed 
that the young have been found in the nest in the latter 
district; and there is good evidence that it breeds among 
the most elevated forests throughout the Rocky Mountains, 
as also northward through the Maritime Provinces and 
Labrador. 

The nest and eggs of this species, however, are a great 
rarity. The only clear account of them is furnished by W. 
E. D. Scott, who found them at Twin Lakes, Col., June 
21st, 1878, the nest being in a low branch of a pine tree. 
"On the 25th," he writes, "I took this nest, containing five 
fresh eggs. It was built at the very extremity of the limb, 
and was partially pensile, though the bottom rested on some 
of the leaves just below. Like most nests of this region, it 
was composed in part of sage brush, but as only the smallest 
twigs were used, the entire structure is exceedingly soft and 
delicate. It is very bulky in proportion to the bird, and 
very deep. Inside it is lined with fine grasses and a few 
feathers. The dimensions, as follows, will give an idea of 
the size external and internal: Outside four inches deep, 
three inches in diameter at top, and but little smaller at 
bottom; inside three inches deep, two inches in diameter 

* It may be that the female will yet be proven to be without the ruby crown. 



504 THE PILE A TED WOODPECKER. 

at top, and narrowing a very little. The eggs, which are 
large in proportion to the bird, are a delicate cream-color 
before being blown, and white after." 

Cuvier's Kinglet, Audubon gave on the authority of one 
specimen from near the Schuylkill; and as it has never 
been duplicated, it is supposed to have been some peculiar 
specimen of the Golden-crown. A peculiar structural mark 
of the Kinglets is the booted tarsus. 

THE PILEATED WOODPECKER. 

In the dense evergreen forests of Nova Scotia, visited only 
by the lumberman or the hunter, may be found that giant 
of his race, the Pileated Woodpecker, or Logcock, or Black 
Woodcock (Hylotomus pileatus) . Some 18 or 19 inches long, 
and 28 in extent, supporting himself against the tree with 
a tail 6 inches long, the huge form is brownish-black; chin, 
stripe under the eyes, down the sides of the neck, and ex- 
panding under the wings, also a large patch at the base of 
the primaries, white. In the male, the head and pointed 
crest, and moustaches from the lower mandible, bright 
scarlet; bill and feet, bluish-gray; iris, yellow. The female 
has simply the crest scarlet. In flight, the white in the pri- 
maries is especially conspicuous. 

The loud hammering of this large and vigorous bird on the 
sonorous dried trees, compared with which the tapping of 
the smaller species is but a weak noise, very soon becomes 
familiar to the ear of the woodman; and may designate 
the bird at a long distance. The old adage, " A workman 
is known by his chips," certainly affirms much for the in- 
dustry of this bird. In his search for insects, for which he 
attacks the dead and dying trees, he will denude great 
spaces of the trunk and larger branches in a short time, 
heaping up the chips and strips of bark on the ground in 



THE PILE A TED WOODPECKER. 505 

an astonishing manner. Very useful, indeed, must this bird 
be in preserving our primeval forests from the ravages of 
insects. Whether one notes his strong, undulating flight, 
his elastic bounding and springing along the trunks of the 
trees, the effective chiseling of his powerful bill, or his sono- 
rous cackling, one is particularly impressed with the spirit 
and immense energy of the bird. 

The natural habitat of the Pileated Woodpecker is the 
wooded regions of all North America, but in the slightly 
wooded prairie regions, it is but rare or casual; and in the 
more cultivated parts, it disappears, like the North American 
Indian, before the onward move of civilization. In Western 
New York, where it was once abundant, it is now of but 
rare occurrence. Its eggs were taken, however, about a 
year ago (1882), in a wooded tract near the large park of 
the city of Buffalo. About 1.25X1.00, they are small for 
the size of the bird. The species is very shy and wary, 
keeping for the most part to the tall tree-tops, and making 
off on the slightest disturbance or alarm. 

Just here, association of ideas brings forward a species 
closely allied to the above, the Ivory-billed Woodpecker 
(Campephilus principalis). Inhabiting the South Atlantic and 
Gulf States, its huge form, bright colors, loud notes, and 
the immense piles of bark-chips that mark the sites of his 
work, in search of insects in dead and decaying trees, are 
the constant accompaniments of the great pine forests of 
that region. Some 21 inches long, it is even larger than 
the above species; and its white ivory-colored bill, white 
secondaries, scapulars, forehead, lines down the back, and 
spots in the primaries, as well as the deeper and more 
glossy black of the body generally differentiate it clearly 
in color. Its clear white eggs are very large, " as large as 
a pullet's, and equally thick at both ends." 



506 THE YELLOW-BELLIED WOODPECKER. 

THE YELLOW-BELLIED WOODPECKER. 

Very common in Nova Scotia, as also in Northern New 
England and Northern New York, is the Yellow-bellied 
Woodpecker (Sphyrapicus varius). Some 8.50 long and 15.25 
in extent, the general color is black, with small white 
markings nearly throughout; the crown and throat are red, 
the latter white in the female; the white belly, with fine 
arrow heads of black along the sides, is tinged with lemon- 
yellow, and the white stripes on the sides of the head 
are often tinged with yellow. This species has some 
peculiarities, both in structure and habit. The tongue is 
shorter and less extensile than in the rest of its kind; it also 
lacks acuteness and hardness, and is bushy at the end. 
The species is, moreover, migratory, thus differing from 
most Woodpeckers. It has a noted habit of puncturing the 
bark of living trees, in patches, while the sap is flowing, 
thus tending to injure the tree. These wounds it continues 
to visit afterwards, perhaps to drink the sap, but more 
especially to capture the insects which gather about it. It 
passes through Western New York, from the middle of 
April into May. There is nothing peculiar in the nesting of 
this species, the eggs being about .90 X .75. 

Another species not altogether uncommon in Nova Scotia 
is the Banded Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides americanus}. 
Some 9.25 in length and 15.25 in extent, the upper parts of 
this species is deep, glossy black; maxillary line, line from 
base of bill down sides of neck, mark back of eye, spots in 
wings, interrupted band down the back, and outer tail feath- 
ers, white; under parts the same, with bars of black on 
sides; yellow patch on the top of the head; base of the 
lower mandible and the feet, bluish. Female similar, lack- 
ing the yellow spot on the head, which is slightly spotted 
with white. Exceptionally to the rest of the Woodpeckers, 



THE GOSHAWK. 507 

this and the following species have but three toes; yet the 
one hind toe seems to be as good as two, for these birds 
move along the bark of the trees about as readily as the 
rest of the family. Dr. C. Hart Merriam records a nest with 
eggs, from the eastern border of Lewis Co., N. Y. It was in a 
spruce tree, about 8 feet from the ground, the cavity being 
some 10 inches deep. " The eggs are cream- white, and of a 
texture like those of other Woodpeckers. They are strongly 
ovate in outline (the largest diameter being near the large 
end), and measure respectively 23. 8 X 17.2 m. m., 23.6X17.8 
m. m., 23.8X17.9 m. m., and 23 X 17.8 m. m." This species 
resides from Northern -New York and Northern New Eng- 
land to the arctics. It does not appear to be numerous, how- 
ever, at any point. 

Of about the same habitat, only inclined, perhaps, to wan- 
der further south in winter, is the Black-backed Woodpecker 
(Picoides arcticus). In size it is about the same, and also in 
color, except that it lacks the white band on the back. This 
species is rather more numerous than the former; and, like 
it, has a very rough rattling note. They keep strictly to the 
deep forests, but do not appear to be very shy. 

THE GOSHAWK. 

The Goshawk (Astur atricapillus], or Blue Hawk, as it is 
called there, breeds not uncommonly in Nova Scotia. 
Female, some 23.00 in length, and 45.00 in extent; male, 
some 21.00 in length, and 41.00 in extent. In color the 
sexes are quite similar; bluish-ash above, the feathers cen- 
trally lined and edged with sooty-brown; wings very dark, 
outer webs of secondaries, and somewhat in the primaries, 
bluish-ash; inner webs of the primaries, and in parts of the 
secondaries, broadly barred with whitish; tail barred with 
spots of dark-brown and edged with white; uniform bluish- 



508 THE GOSHAWK. 

white beneath, every feather streaked in the center and 
barred irregularly with slaty; top of the head and line back 
of the eye, black; eye-brow, and concealed patch on the 
back of the head, white; iris, reddish orange. 

In full plumage, with its fine uniform upper parts, and its 
delicately penciled under parts, this is about the most 
beautiful of all our Hawks. Swift in flight, arboreal in its 
habits, very expert in winding its rapid course among the 
trees, and able to turn about almost instantly, it captures 
squirrels, rabbits and grouse with the utmost ease. 
Indeed, the capture of the last is so characteristic, that in 
some parts of New England this species is known as the 
Partridge Hawk. It may skirt the fields in search of the 
smaller birds; may follow the water-courses in pursuit of 
the Ducks, making even the Mallard its prey; or it may 
come, rarely, even into the farm-yard, at the peril of the 
common poultry. 

Audubon relates an interesting instance which he wit- 
nessed on one of our great rivers, of the chase of a flock of 
Crow Blackbirds, by this species: " The Hawk approached 
them with the swiftness of an arrow, when the Blackbirds 
rushed together so closely that the flock looked l-ike a dusky 
ball passing through the air. On reaching the mass, he, 
with the greatest ease, seized first one, then another, and 
another, giving each a squeeze with his talons, and suffering 
it to drop upon the water. In this manner he had procured 
four or five before the poor birds reached the woods, into 
which they instantly plunged, when he gave up the chase, 
swept over the water in graceful curves, and picked up the 
fruits of his industry, carrying each bird singly to the shore. 
Reader, is this instinct or reason ? " 

Its nest, placed in tall trees, built of sticks and weeds 
and lined with grasses and bark-fibers, contains some 3-4 



THE GOSHA WK. 509 

eggs, " rather spherical in shape, of a bluish-white color, 
either immaculate or finely mottled with pale reddish- 
brown; the size 2.30X1.82-2.32X1.92." (Maynard.) An 
egg in my possession taken in Lunenburg County, Nova 
Scotia, is 2.25X1.75, about the size and shape of a common 
hen's egg, bluish-white, slightly smirched all over with pale 
dirty-brown. 

Audubon reports a nest from the gorge of Niagara 
River and the great pine forests of Pennsylvania; but at 
present its breeding habitat does not appear to extend far 
south of Northern New England. In winter it roams, more 
or less commonly, throughout the Middle States, and may 
stray even into the south. 

Whether the Great Gray Owl (Strix cinered), more boreal 
even than the Snowy Owl, breeds as far south as Nova Scotia, 
has not yet been determined ; but as it is an occasional migrant 
into New England, having been taken once at least as far 
south as Connecticut, and is supposed to breed possibly in 
Northern Maine, its nidification in Nova Scotia may at least 
be conjectured. This gigantic bird seems to be a stranger 
to observers of every locality. Even my excellent Hudson's 
Bay correspondent simply records him as a resident, with- 
out note or comment. Without any further information, 
therefore, of vocal capacity and habits, or diet, or nidifica- 
tion, we may presume that in all respects he is exceedingly 
owlish, and in every way worthy to be the giant of his 
race. 

Having no specimens at hand, I copy a description from 
Mr. Maynard, who is always very accurate in such matters: 
" Form, robust; size, very large; sternum, stout; the mar- 
ginal indentations are quite deep; tongue, thick and fleshy, 
horny at the tip, which is rounded and slightly bifid. 



510 THE GOSHAWK. 

Color adult above, including rump and upper tail 
coverts, sooty-brown, mottled and transversely banded with 
ashy-white; wings and tail, dusky-brown, transversely 
banded with ashy-white; under parts, including under 
wing and tail coverts, ashy-white, longitudinally streaked 
with sooty-brown, the streakings being more numerous on 
the breast, with transverse bands of the same color on the 
abdomen and under tail coverts. The face is grayish, 
barred with dusky, and the eyes are nearly surrounded by 
a ring of the same dark color." 

Similar to the above, in form and general appearance, is 
the Barred Owl (Strix nebulosd). About 18.00 long and 
40.00 in extent, the upper parts are brown, barred with 
white and tinged with reddish; the lower parts, which are 
lighter, have the markings crosswise on the breast, and 
lengthwise or barred below. This hooting species, inclining 
to disappear with the breaking up of the large tracts of 
forest, seems rare in Western New York. It is quite com- 
mon in New England, and to the eastward generally, from 
Newfoundland to Florida. The nests are in a hollow or 
crotch of a tree, the white egg being about 2.00X1.70. 

It may be proper to mention Richardson's Owl (Nyctale 
tengmalmi) in this connection. As an occasional migrant 
into New England, like the former, having been taken once 
even in Connecticut, being reported by Mr. M. Chamber- 
lain as taken in New Brunswick in August, and its nest 
having been found by Mr. Perham in the Magdalen Islands, 
we may fairly suppose that it breeds in Nova Scotia. Mr. 
J. Matthew Jones, of Halifax, some time since, reported 
it as found in the province. This is one of our smaller and 
most hyperborean Owls. "Above, olivaceous chocolate- 
brown, spotted with white; beneath, white, spotted and 
streaked, and streaked with a brown similar to the back, but 



BICKNELL'S THRUSH. 511 

a little darker; disk, white; a white spot between bill and 
eye; wings and tail with white spots on both webs, the latter 
with from 8-10 pairs; bill, light yellow; iris, yellow; tarsus 
feathered; * * * length, 10.00; extent, 21.00-23.00; 
wing, 7.25; tail, 4.50." (Stearns.) 

The nest, found in the Magdalen Islands June 13th, by 
Mr. Perham, "was placed in a hole of a dead birch tree 
not far from the ground, and contained four young and one 
addled egg." Eggs, four to five, rather spherical, pure 
white, very smooth; dimensions, 1.06X1.28-1.10X1.32. In 
every way this species would seem to be quite similar to 
the Acadian Owl, except that it is notably larger. 

BICKNELL'S THRUSH. 

Off the southwest end of Nova Scotia, opposite Yarmouth 
and Shelburne counties, are a large number of islands one 
for every day in the year, they say. On leaving the harbor 
of the city of Yarmouth, off to the westward and well out 
to sea, are Green Island and Gannet Rock. Then come 
the Tusket Islands, many in number, and of varied size, 
form and appearance, some being partly cultivated, some 
wholly wooded, and the outermost almost as smooth as a 
lawn; these last are called the Bold Tuskets. Farthest out 
at sea, and very nearly on an extended line between the 
two counties mentioned, are the Mud Islands and Seal 
Island. These are almost entirely covered with a low 
growth of evergreens black spruce and balsam fir. Except 
the Robin, the Song Sparrow, the Snow-bird, and a few 
Redstarts and Winter Wrens, almost the only small land- 
birds breeding here are the Black-poll Warbler and Bick- 
nell's Thrush the last two being very abundant. 

This Thrush (the Black-poll I have described) was wholly 
new to me. My attention was first arrested by its call, or 



512 BICKNELL'S THRUSH. 

alarm note, which sounded like cree-e-e-e-eep, or quee-a, or 
cree-e-e-ee, on a rather high, fine key. It had some resem- 
blance to the call of Wilson's Thrush, but was unmistakably 
different; and as Mr. Brewster has noted (in Vol. viii, p. 12, 
Nuttall Bulletin), is very particularly different from the 
sharp liquid "//^, or peenk" of the typical Olive-back. The 
song tsiderea, tstderea, tstderea, sometimes tsiderea, raz, tsidrea, 
or some other modulation of the same theme, is similar in 
tone to that of Wilson's Thrush, but more slender and 
wiry, and therefore not nearly so grand and musical. In 
the solitude of the evergreen islands, however, it is by no 
means an inferior song, the sibilant strokes of the voice 
being finely relieved by the more prolonged liquid vibra- 
tions. A careful examination satisfied me that the bird 
was Bicknell's Thrush (Turdus alicice bicknelli}, lately iden- 
tified in the Catskills and in the White Mountains, and 
named in honor of its discoverer. It was so abundant, and 
not particularly shy, for a Thrush, that I had the most 
ample opportunity for the study of its habits; and several 
specimens were secured and retained. Next to its lesser 
size, in structural peculiarity, is its slender, depressed, and 
finely carved bill, compared with which that of the typical 
Olive-back seems thick and clumsy. While singing, which 
occurred throughout the day, but more especially in the 
evening twilight and early morning, the bird delighted to 
perch in the top of the evergreens, often on the very tip, 
where its bright brown figure with elevated head was quite 
conspicuous. On the ground, and in taking its food, its 
habits were precisely like those of other Thrushes. 

To find the nest of this species was my great desideratum; 
and, though the birds were very numerous, it was by no 
means an easy task. Many an hour did I thread my way 
through almost impenetrable evergreen thickets, every step 



THE BLACK GUILLEMOT. 513 

muffled on a dense carpet of moss, before I could secure my 
object. At last my search was rewarded by nests in con- 
siderable numbers, and all as nearly alike in location, struct- 
ure and materials as it is possible for nests to be. A few 
feet from the ground and against the trunk of an evergreen 
tree, it was composed, externally, of various kinds of mosses, 
including a few fine sticks, weed-stems, and rootlets, and 
was lined with fine grasses well bleached; so that, outside, 
the nest was as green as a bunch of fresh mosses, and the 
inside was light-brown. The eggs, some .87X.63, are light 
bluish-green, specked with brown. About the Mud and Seal 
Islands, dense fogs prevail almost continually throughout 
the summer. This excessive moisture, so productive of 
mosses, causes the moss in the walls of the Thrushes' nests 
to grow; hence, the nests of previous years, well protected 
from the weather by the dense evergreens, become elegant 
moss-baskets, finely ornamented within and without with 
the living cryptogams. I saw a number of such, which 
looked as if they had grown in situ on the trees. 

Some 7.00 or a little less in length, Bicknell's Thrush, as 
above found, is uniform deep olive-brown above; the sides 
of the white under parts being ashy-gray, and the sides of 
the neck and the upper part of the breast but slightly tinged 
with buff; while the neck and breast-spots are not so large 
as in the typical swainsoni. To my eye the bird does not 
appear so large as the rest of the Thrushes. 

THE BLACK GUILLEMOT. 

My first delight on reaching Seal Island was to study out 
the breeding of the Black Guillemot ( Uria grylle), or Sea 
Pigeon, or Sea Widgeon, as it is called on the Atlantic. 
Along the coast, where the rounded boulders are heaped up 
as if by giant hands in huge windrows above high water 
83 



514 THE BLACK GUILLEMOT. 

mark, the eggs were hid away; and the sitting bird Was, for 
the most part, entirely out of sight. Had it not been for 
my genial friend, John Crowell, and his fine Newfoundland 
dogs, I should have seen but little of the nesting of these 
elegant birds. As we scrambled along the immense ridge 
of water-worn rocks, now high above the sea, the dogs 
would every now and then halt and sniff eagerly among 
the boulders. This sign Mr. C. understood full well, and 
at once he would begin to roll away the rocks. Presently 
the trim, shy bird could be seen covering her two eggs on 
the sand or pebbles, and seemingly too much abashed to 
make much effort to get away. About the size of a small 
hen, 12-15 inches long, including the neck and bill, beauti- 
fully black, glossed with green and purple, with a large white 
spot in the wing-coverts, and webbed feet bright red this 
is a most beautiful and gentle bird of the sea. Its form is 
something like that of the smaller Grebes or Divers. In 
winter it loses the bright red on the feet, and becomes 
nearly white, merely retaining gray and dusky shades about 
the upper parts. When perched on the rocks, it stands 
almost upon end like a bottle; in spring it has a soft 
plaintiff note, like kee-a, kee-a. The flight is low over the 
water, straightforward and rapid. Like the rest of its 
tribe, it feeds on small species of marine life. The eggs, 
oval in form, 2.00-2.38 x 1.24-1.56, are delicate light-green 
or greenish-white, specked, spotted, and blotched all over, 
but especially at the large end, where there is sometimes a 
wreath or continuous blotch, with dark-brown or black, and 
pale lilac. This species breeds from Grand Menan and 
Nova Scotia northward, and extends along the New Eng- 
land coast in winter. 

The Common or Foolish Guillemot, or Merre (Lomvia 
troile), similar in form to the latter, except that the bill curves 



THE PUFFIN. 515 

more, is thicker, and has the nostrils more covered, is 16 to 
19 inches long, brownish-black above, the head and throat 
being browner; under parts, from throat in summer, from 
bill in winter, and in case' of young, white. This species 
breeds in myriads on the rocky islands of Labrador and 
northward, and used to breed as far south as Nova Scotia. 
It sits almost up on end like a bottle, on a single egg which 
is laid on the bare rock. The egg, 3. 00-3.50 x 1.96-2.12, and 
quite pyriform in shape, varies from white to dark green, 
and though sometimes plain, is generally blotched and 
streaked in every way with dark colors. This species is 
not nearly so common as the next on the New England 
coast in winter, and is also on the Pacific Coast. 

The Thick-billed or Brunnich's Guillemot (L. arra) is 
similar in form, color, habit and distribution to the former, 
but is always to be distinguished by its thick bill. It is very 
much more common than the former species on the New 
England coast in winter. 

THE PUFFIN. 

One of the oddest birds of the sea is the Puffin (Prater- 
cula arcticd), or Noddy; Sea Parrot, as it is called by the 
Nova Scotians. About 13.50 in length, short-legged, web- 
footed, and with a curiously formed bill, flatly compressed, 
it is blackish above and white underneath, the black above 
extending around the short neck like a collar, and the white 
on the cheeks continuing in a narrow line around the back 
of the head, and becoming dusky at the base of the lower 
mandible. The tip of the bill is red, streaked with yel- 
low and dusky, and the base is blue, margined with red. 
The callous at the corner of the mouth is yellow; the eye- 
lids are pink, with blue appendages; the feet red. It bred 
formerly in abundance on some of the Mud Islands, one of 



516 THE PUFFIN. 

which Noddy Island is named for it, and a few breed 
there still, as also on the Machias Ledge near Grand Menan; 
but mostly they have been driven northward, where they 
breed in great numbers. The nest is a hole in the bank, 
like that of the Kingfisher, only not so deep, and contains one 
egg, about 2.50X1.75, somewhat pointed, white or whitish, 
obscurely spotted. In some places the bird lays in deep 
holes and crevices of steep, rocky ledges. It belongs to the 
same family with the Auks, and is found also in the Old 
World. Its food is small crustaceans principally. 

The Tufted Puffin (F. cirrata), an extremely northern 
species, and belonging to the Pacific rather than to the 
Atlantic, and similar to the last in general form, is blackish, 
with a white face, and a long flowing bunch of loose yellow 
feathers on each side of the head. The bill and feet are 
red, and it is several inches longer than the former. The 
young do not have the yellow crest. 

The Razor-billed Auk ( Utamania tor da] also breeds spar- 
ingly on the outlying rocky islands of Nova Scotia, as on 
the Devil's Limb and Gannet Rock. About 18 inches long, 
with pointed-tail and flatly-compressed bill, this bird is 
brownish-black above and white beneath, the black bill hav- 
ing a white curved line, and the back part of the wing being 
edged with white. The feet are black, and the inside of the 
mouth is bright yellow. The eggs, which are abundant in some 
parts of Labrador, and are deposited singly "on the bare 
rock of sea-girt cliffs," are some 3.00X2.00, oval, white, or 
whitish, variously and heavily marked with dark-brown. 
This bird is common on the New England Coast in winter. 
Its food is small crustaceans and algee. 

The Great Auk (Alca impennis), once abundant on our 
northern coasts, and also on the northern coast of Europe, 
is now supposed to be extinct. Its presence was attested 



THE COMMON CORMORANT. 517 

by the earlier observers, and its bones are abundant in the 
shell mounds on the New England coast. 

The Sea Dove, or Dovekie (Alle nigricans), a very north- 
ern species, is common to the coasts of Nova Scotia in 
winter, as it is also to those of New England. This little 
Ice-bird, as it is called by the fishermen, but 8.50 long, with 
head and bill formed almost precisely like that of a Quail, 
and with a short pointed tail, is blue-black above, white be- 
neath, the mature bird having the throat and neck black in 
summer, with stripes in the scapular, tips to the secondaries, 
and spot over the eye, white. Several closely allied species 
on the Pacific Coast are variously ornamented about the head 
in maturity, as the Crested, the Whiskered, and the Knob- 
billed Auks. 

THE COMMON CORMORANT. 

On the west side of Seal Island, and about a mile out, is 
a high ledge of rocks called the Devil's Limb. Here a few 
of the Common Cormorants, or Shags, as the fishermen 
call them (Phalacrocorax carbo^, still attempt to breed. The 
rocks are thoroughly white-washed with their excrements, 
and the nests, placed in depressions and on shelvings of 
the highest peaks of rocks, are quite bulky, and constructed 
entirely of rock-weed, with which the ledge is heavily draped 
up to high-water mark. In a pretty deep depression in the 
center of the pile of rock-weeds are some 4 eggs, about 
2. 62x1. 75, oblong-elliptical, light bluish-green, more or less 
besmeared over with a white, limy deposit. No matter 
how long they are cooked, the white of these eggs will not 
become opaque. The rocky islands off the coast of Labra- 
dor and Newfoundland, are a favorite breeding resort of 
this species, as also of the Double-crested. Here in the soli- 
tudes of tempestuous waters, this Raven of the Sea* fishes 

* Cormorant, or the French Cormoran, is supposed to be derived from the Latin Corvus 
marinas, or Sea Raven. 



518 



THE COMMON CORMORANT. 



and flourishes 
in i mmense 
numbers, with 
less molesta- 
tion by man, 
than do those 
numerous 
kinds of water- 
fowl whose 
flesh or eggs 
are a desidera- 
tum. The huge 
rocks, white- 
washed and 
plastered with , 
excrements; | 
the dark piles 
of sea -weed, 
with their com- 
plements of 
eggs; the 
noisy growing 
broods of 
young of vari- 
ous sizes (these 
young always 
to be associated 
with decaying 
food and other 
filth); the im- 
mense dark 
figures of 
their parents, 
swarming in 




THE COMMON CORMORANT. 



THE COMMON CORMORANT. 519 

clouds and filling the air with their hoarse caws and croaks 
these all constitute a scene which must be witnessed in order 
to be appreciated. 

Strongly characterized is this bird both in form and 
color. The long, narrow body is greatly extended by 
the long duck-like bill and neck, and by the long, broad, 
fan-shaped tail, the entire length being about 3 feet. The 
rather slender and terete bill much hooked at the point, the 
naked space about the green eye, the white-bordered yellow 
gula pouch, the crest, the pointed feathers along the wings 
and back, the totipalmated feet, the backward position of 
the legs making it stand upright like the Grebes, and the 
use it makes of its tail in bracing itself like a tripod, or in 
supporting itself in woodpecker-style as it climbs over 
rocks and bushes all these give it an individuality in form 
which appeals strikingly to the eye. No less striking is the 
peculiar and rich attire of this species. Such lustrous 
black, such iridescence of violet-purple and green, with 
dark borders to the pointed feathers of copper and bronze- 
gray of the wings and back, would seem to indicate the 
tropics rather than the cold fogs of the north. This mag- 
nificent dark array is still further set off in summer by a 
white patch on the flank, and numerous long, filamentous 
white plumes on the head and neck. There are some 
peculiarities in the skeleton of this bird, as " the long, bony 
style in the nape," and the palate bones being not only 
united, " but sending down a keel along their line of union;" 
also "the interorbital septum is very defective." Though 
awkward on land, the Cormorant is perfectly at home in 
the air and on the water. Its flight is firm and grand; 
and diving from the surface of the water for its prey, 
it uses its wings as well as its feet in the submerged pur- 
suit, being capable of remaining under the water for some 
time. It is a most voracious eater, its diet consisting of fish 



520 THE COMMON CORMORANT. 

of all kinds. In winter this species strays southward along 
the coast as far as Maryland. The Double-crested Cormo- 
rant (Phalacrocorax dilophus) has about the same range as 
the former, and is even more numerous. About 30-33 
inches in length, it is a little shorter and smaller every 
way than the former. In color it is very similar, except 
that it has noticeably black shafts in the dark-edged 
feathers of the wings and back, and it generally lacks the 
white flank-patch common to the former species in sum- 
mer. In form it is well differentiated, not only by the 
double crest of curly black feathers, and of stray filamentous 
white ones over the eyes and along the sides of the neck, 
in the mature dress of summer, but by its gular patch, 
straight edged behind, while in the former it is heart- 
shaped, and by its 12 tail-feathers instead of the 14 of the 
former. The young of both species is plain dark brown, 
paler or grayish below. 

The Florida Cormorant (var. floridans) is simply a smaller 
and more southern variety of the Double-crested species. 
The bill, however, is as large if not larger, and it would seem 
that the white plumes are not developed; " Resident on the 
Floridan and Gulf Coast, breeding by thousands on the man- 
grove bushes; in summer ranging up the Mississippi Valley 
to Ohio, and along the coast to North Carolina." (Coues.) 

The Cormorants sometimes stray quite a distance from 
the sea on the fresh-water courses during the migrations. 
They have been taken on Niagara River.* 

*The manner in which a certain species of the Cormorant (P. Sznensis) fishes for his 
master is well known. Buffon says : " They are regularly educated to fishing, as men 
rear Spaniels or Hawks, and one man can easily manage a hundred. The fisherman car- 
ries them out into a lake, perched on the gunnel of his boat ; where they continue 
tranquil, and wait for his orders with patience. When arrived at the proper place, on the 
first signal, each flies a different way to fulfill the task assigned to it. It is pleasant on this 
occasion to behold with what sagacity they portion out the lake or canal where they are upon 
duty. They hunt about, they plunge, they rise a hundred times to the surface, until they 
have at last found their prey. They then seize it by the middle, and carry it to their 
master. When the fish is too large, they assist each other; one seizes it by the head, and 
another by the tail, and in this manner they carry it to the boat together. There the 
boatman stretches out one of his long oars, on which they perch, and, after being de- 
livered of their burden, again fly off to pursue their sport. When they are wearied, he suf- 
fers them to rest awhile ; but they are never fed until their work is over." 



THE GANNET. 521 

THE GANNET. 

About seven miles out at sea from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, 
on Gannet Rock, surrounded by the surging sea and acces- 
sible only after a long calm, the Common Gannet or Solan * 
Goose (Sula bassand) still breeds in considerable numbers. 
About 31 inches long, the long bill is stout at the base, taper- 
ing to a point, and slightly decurved at the tip, being cleft to 
beyond the eyes, and having the edges serrate or lacerate; 
the wings are long and pointed; the long, stiff tail is wedge- 
shaped and 12-14 feathered; and the feet are nearer to the 
center of the body than is common to the order. The gen- 
eral form resembles that of a Goose. The color of the 
adult is white with black primaries, and an amber-yellow 
wash over the head; lores and bill bluish or dusky, small, 
naked gular sack, and feet, blackish, the latter having the 
front of the tarsus and the toes greenish. The young, 
which are white in the down, become gray, with a triangular 
white spot in the tip of each feather, and in England and 
Scotland are taken in great numbers as food. 

Spread out in flight, the. snowy Gannet is a grand figure. 
Its movement is firm and steady, alternately flapping 
and sailing. 

Scarcely can the Gull, the Buzzard, or the Eagle cut finer 
circles in the air, and nothing is more characteristic of this 
bird than its manner of diving for food. It does not drop 
down upon the surface of the water, after the manner of the 
Gulls and Terns, nor does it dive from the surface like the 
Cormorants and so many other birds, but pitches straight 
down, headforemost, with almost closed wings, from a con- 
siderable or even a great height in the air, shooting out of 
sight with great force amidst the spray. Taking advantage 
of this direct and swift movement, the old countrymen 

* Solan is a corruption of Solent, the name of the narrow sea between the Isle of Wight 
and the main land of England, where this species is common. 



522 THE GANNET. 

place a platform under the surface of the water, fastening 
herrings or other fishes over it, so that the Gannets break 
their necks in striking it, or fasten themselves by their bills 
in the wood. They are ready detectives and close attend- 
ants upon shoals of fish, and so are of great service in 
directing the fishermen. No matter how high a point in 
the air the Gannet descends from, so complete is the adjust- 
ment of his eye, in the rapid passage of the distance to 
the water, that it seldom if ever fails to rise with its prey. 
It is also a bird of select diet, disdaining, unless sorely 
pressed by hunger, anything beneath a herring or mackerel. 

Though this short-legged species shuffles along awk- 
wardly on the ground, it swims buoyantly, aided by its 
highly aerated body even to the air-cells between the body 
and the skin, and by its totipalmate feet, the four long toes 
being completely webbed. 

Every careful observer must have noted a certain peculiar 
evolution of the Gannet in flight. When large numbers are 
pursuing a shoal of fish, circling like kites over the spot, 
they will keep forming into a broad perpendicular proces- 
sion downward into the waves, and shooting out of the 
water some distance off, will sweep up again into the mov- 
ing mass, to take their places in due time in the continu- 
ously moving column. The intersecting circles, against the 
sky, of the immense moving multitudes overhead, might 
suggest a monstrous snow-storm; and no whirl of winder 
water could be grander or more precise than this circulat- 
ing mass of spirited living beings. The same grand 
evolution may be seen about the bastion-like rocks 
in the wild ocean, where they breed in almost count- 
less numbers. Filling the air by thousands and tens of 
thousands, and moving out, up, and back, they will pour 
down over the huge cliffs to the surging, roaring sea, 



THE CAN NET. 523 

like an immense living torrent, the stentorious volume of 
their hoarse croaks and screams becoming almost terrific, 
mingling weirdly with the sound of the waters. No 
bird is more gregarious than the Gannet, hence this im- 
mense concentration of numbers at their principal breeding 
grounds. The bulky nests, of sea-weeds and rubbish gath- 
ered from the sea, are placed along the shelvings and tops 
of the rocks at regular distances and sometimes in peculiar 
order. Audubon likened them to rows of corn, and the 
fishermen say they are built like a town. Mr. Maynard 
thinks these regular distances are determined by the 
quarrelsome disposition of the Gannets, keeping the im- 
mense numbers simply beyond fighting distance. In this 
degree of proximity, they sometimes cover large spaces of 
ground, so that one writer speaks of seeing a quarter of an 
acre of Gannets on their nests. 

The ordinarily single egg, about 3.15X2.00, oval, plain 
greenish-blue, and encrusted with a lime deposit, appears 
to be incubated by both sexes, they being, however, indis- 
tinguishable in color. They are not easily driven from the 
nest, and on being disturbed will disgorge their undigested 
food. The young are said to take with their pointed-like 
bills the partially digested food from the open throats of the 
parents. 

Diving fiercely at other birds which may come in their 
way, the Gannets, also, fight furiously among themselves, 
will clasp each other by the bill, and roll down the heights 
into the sea, all unconscious of everything around them. 

Gannet Rock, near Yarmouth, and another Gannet Rock, 
near Grand Menan, are the most southern breeding resorts 
known; while Bird Rock, near the Magdalen Islands, and 
the Island of Bonaventure, near Gaspe, are the principal 
breeding grounds in the north. In winter the birds are 



524 THE PIPING PLOVER. 

common along the coasts of New England, and may stray 
even to the Gulf. The species is common also to Europe, 
breeding in great numbers about the Hebrides. 

THE PIPING PLOVER. 

In suitable places on Mud and Seal Islands, as also at some 
other points along the shores of the province, the Piping 
Plover (/Egialites melodus) is a summer resident in small num- 
bers. It seems entirely to avoid rocks and mud, and never 
leaves the sea for even the most inviting shores of our great 
rivers. Clean sand-beaches of the ocean are its chosen resort. 
Here it attracts attention both by its appearance and by its 
voice. Of all our little shore birds, this is, perhaps, the 
most graceful and rapid runner; its tiny feet spinning along 
the sand, and its light-colored body shooting on in a straight 
line, so that its form becomes lost to the eye, and only a 
gliding white spot is visible as the observers along the 
shore say "like a snow-ball rolling on the sand." The 
Waders, as a class, are distinguished by their whistling 
notes; hence the hunter, imitating the voice peculiar to each, 
" whistles them down," as it is said. The Piping Plover, 
however, cannot be called a " whistler," nor even a "piper," 
in an ordinary sense. Its tone has a particularly striking 
and musical quality. Queep, queep, queep-o, or peep, peep, 
peep-lo y each syllable being uttered with a separate, distinct, 
and somewhat long-drawn enunciation, may imitate its 
peculiar melody the tone of which is round, full, and 
sweet, reminding one of a high key on an Italian hand- 
organ, or the hautboy in a church organ. It is always 
pleasing to the lover of nature's melodies, and in the still 
air of the evening, it is very impressive. As the Piping 
Plover is abundant about the dunes along our more south- 
ern Atlantic Coast, and may be found even to the Gulf of 



THE PIPING PLOVER. 5^5 

the St. Lawrence, its melody may be regarded as character- 
istic of those shores; and strangely in contrast with the 
harsh, guttural, rattling voices of the sea fowl in general, it is 
the most melodious of all bird-notes along our ocean. 

About 7.50 long and 15.50 in extent, this species ranks 
among our smaller Waders. In form, it is distinctly 
a Plover. Bill, orange at base and black at tip ; upper 
parts pale brownish-ash, often almost ashy-white ; under 
parts neck and forehead, white; streak across the forehead 
above the white, and ring around the neck broader on the 
sides, and almost obliterated above and below black; 
wings light-brown, inner edges of the secondaries and outer 
edges of the primaries, white, tipped with brown; coverts 
tipped with white; the nearly even tail is white at base, 
outside feather white, the next white with a spot of black- 
ish, the rest brown; ring around the full, black eye, yellow; 
legs, orange; claws, black; under side of wings, pure white. 
The general appearance of the bird when in motion is 
almost white, and so lighter than the sand-beaches on which 
it runs; but it is scarcely discernible thereon when it 
is standing still. Its flight is rapid and often prolonged, 
being performed both by continual flapping and by gliding. 

The nest of this bird is a mere hollow in the sand on the 
open beach. Sometimes it may be sheltered by the scanty 
vegetation found on the sand. The 4 eggs, about 1.15X-97, 
are pointed, light-brown or dark cream, distinctly but finely 
specked and spotted with dark-brown or black, there being 
an under marking of pale-ash. On ordinary summer days, 
the eggs do not need anything more than the warmth of 
the sun on the sand to secure incubation; but in chilly or 
wet weather, and at night, the female adheres closely to the 
nest. The male is never far from the nest, and should you 
approach it, night or day, he will at once report himself as its 



526 THE WILLET. 

brave defender. Like the young of other Waders, the little 
Pipers are precocious, running as soon as they are free from 
the shell. They are covered with a gray down, mottled with 
brown, and their soft notes at once resemble those of the 
parents. As is the case with all the little precoces, they are 
ever on the alert for any alarm note given by the wary 
parent, . and will squat so closely on the sand, which they 
resemble in color, that it is almost impossible to detect them. 
The food of the Piping Plover consists of small crusta- 
ceans, and marine insects in general; and being commonly 
in good condition, its flesh is very savory. It is found in 
winter from South Carolina to Florida Keys, and is abund- 
ant at this time in the West India Islands, where a few 
probably remain to breed. 

THE WILLET. 

That large and elegant wader, the Willet, Humility or 
White- wing (Totanus semipalmatus), breeds in the marshes of 
the Chebogue and Tusket Rivers, in Yarmouth County, 
Nova Scotia. Mr. Benjamin Doan, of the City of Yar- 
mouth, had the young in the down from the former locality; 
and I was credibly informed that they are quite common 
in the latter. 

This bird, which I find occasionally on Niagara River in 
the migrations, is some 14.50 in length, wing 7.50, tail 2.75, 
bill 2.25. The bill and feet are light blue, the former dusky 
at the tip. In its summer plumage, the head and neck are 
brownish-gray streaked with dusky; the upper part of the 
back, and the scapulars, also brownish-gray, the feathers 
being centered or barred with dark-brown; the lower part 
of the back, olivaceous-gray; wing-coverts gray, the centers 
lined with dusky; the basal half of the dusky primaries is 
clear white, the white secondaries adjoining making a large 



THE WILLET. 527 

white patch in the extended wing; the throat, a band over the 
eye, the breast and sides and tail-coverts, are white, the sides 
and tail-coverts having bars or undulating lines of dusky; 
the tail, having the central feathers a little longer, is gray, 
becoming white on the sides, and spotted with brown or 
dusky. In the winter the upper parts are more or less 
marked with yellowish-white, and the under parts are finely 
barred with brown; the axillaries also are brown. A 
characteristic feature of this species is its semipalmated 
toes, enabling it to swim quite well when it has occasion to 
take to the water. Indeed, it seems much more fond of the 
water than most shore-birds, frequently wading up to its 
belly, or taking a plunge-bath as it stands in the water. 
Writers of the best authority attest to its alighting on the 
branches of trees. Large and robust, it appears to the very 
best advantage in its flight, which is firm and rapid. Ordi- 
narily it is a very noisy bird, \\.s pill-will-willit, will-willit,pill- 
will-willit, being frequent and loud, both on the ground and 
on the wing. In the breeding time, however, it becomes 
rather silent, unless disturbed; then the neighbors join in 
angry vociferations, as they circle over the head of the in- 
truder. The bird has also a soft and rather mournful note 
while standing on the ground. 

The Willet does not belong to those birds which make 
their nests on the open beach by simply scooping out a 
little hollow in the sand. It seeks the shelter of the marshes, 
building quite a bulky nest in some tussock of grass; the 
nest being raised, sometimes, as much as five or six inches, 
and composed of dried rushes and grasses. As it is pretty 
well rimmed up, the four pyriform eggs, lying with their 
points together, seem almost to stand on the points, pre- 
senting their larger ends to the body of the bird. The 
eggs, about 2.00X1.50, are brownish or greenish drab, gen- 



528 THE PURPLE SANDPIPER. 

erally pretty dark, but sometimes lighter, pretty largely and 
distinctly spotted with dark brown and neutral, the mark- 
ings sometimes forming a blotched and scrolled wreath 
around the large end. The young are gray, with dark 
markings. 

The Willet is a rather southerly species, breeding, 
indeed, from the West Indies to Labrador, but being 
much more abundant to the south. Nor is it confined to 
the sea-shore, as was formerly supposed. Dr. Coues says: 
" I have found it wherever I have been in the United States. 
There were a few on the Upper Rio Grande when I crossed 
that river in June, 1864, and during the same month I saw 
many more westward, in New Mexico, especially along the 
Zuni River, where I am sure they were breeding. Some 
resided in a marshy tract near Fort Whipple, in Arizona. 
Others occurred to me in June and July in Eastern Dakota." 
They are also officially reported from the Northwest Terri- 
tory, as "frequent on the borders of salt lakes and ponds." 
The Willet has never been found, however, in very high 
latitudes. 

In respect to the food of the Willet, it may be said, once 
for all, that all the Waders feed on small mollusks and crus- 
taceans, aquatic insects, and sand-worms. 

THE PURPLE SANDPIPER. 

A common winter resident about the rocky shores of 
Nova Scotia, and particularly those of outlying islands, is 
the Purple Sandpiper (Tringa marittma). It is especially 
common, in flocks of considerable size, sometimes as many 
as a hundred, on Mud and Seal Islands, where they arrive in 
December, and remain till May. These Rock Snipe, as 
they are sometimes called, will crowd together, a whole 
flock on a single rock, thus affording an excellent mark for 



THE TERNS. 529 

the sportsman. When flying, and also when gleaning their 
food, they have a fine whistling twitter, which appeals 
readily to the ear of the trained hunter. 

About 9.50 long and nearly 15.00 in extent, this species has 
the head, neck and breast dusky-gray, the feathers of the 
latter tipped with white; wings and tail, dusky; the second- 
aries, tertiaries, and coverts of the former, edged with 
white; belly, vent, and wing-linings, white; back, dark, 
glossy-purple, edged with gray; eyes, dark. In this com- 
plete plumage, the bird is simply elegant. In winter, "the 
lower parts are pale gray, while the upper have the purple 
tints much fainter, the white edging substituted by dull 
gray." (Audubon.) 

The Purple Sandpiper, chiefly a bird of the coast, but 
sometimes touching the Great Lakes in its winter tours, 
and reaching the coast of the Middle States, breeds to the 
far north. The egg " is of the usual pyriform shape, and 
measures about 1.40 by 1.00. The ground is clay-color, 
shaded with olivaceous; the markings are large, numerous 
and distinct, of rich umber-brown of different depths and 
intensity, occurring all over the shell, but being most nu- 
merous as well as largest on the major half. With these 
spots are associated shell-markings of pale purplish-gray 
and light neutral tint." (Coues.) 

THE TERNS. 

Outside of Mahone Bay, on the south shore of Nova 
Scotia, are several islands of interest in respect to orni- 
thology. Flat Island, near Tancook, is a grand resort for 
several species of Terns. It comprises about a hundred 
acres, is clear of trees, and, as its name implies, is compara- 
tively level. Ledges of slate crop out here and there, how- 
ever, forming low ridges, with marshy patches intervening. 
34 



530 THE TERNS. 

As one approaches the rocky shores, large numbers of Terns 
are seen scouring the surface of the water for food. Of all 
the birds of our northern seas, these are the most elegant 
and graceful. Mackerel Gulls, the fishermen call them, but, 
though nearly related to them, they are no Gulls at all. 
Bearing a resemblance in almost every point to these larger 
and more bulky birds, they are of a much more slender 
and delicate mould. Small and light-bodied, fork-tailed, 
with slender pointed bill, long pointed wings, and small 
webbed feet, they are the very ideal of a swimming bird of 
flight. In no respect are they divers, but birds of the air, 
which delight to sport on the surface of the waters. Their 
color, too, is at once the most chaste and elegant. The soft 
silvery-gray of the upper parts harmonizes finely with the 
sea and sky. The lighter tints, or white of the under 
parts, is pure as the snowy crests of foam; while the crowns 
of glossy-black, and the bills and feet of coral-red, are 
points of bright and pleasing contrast. What a powerful 
leverage in the air have those long pointed wings, raising 
the light body several inches at every stroke, and serving it 
as a well-trimmed sail before the wind. How lightly this 
bird drops upon the water for its food of tiny fishes, 
being too light and airy to dive out of sight, and often 
carrying its prey like a toy for some time, as if it fished for 
sport rather than from hunger. Occasionally a group of 
Terns will play together with a little fish, one seizing it in 
the air as another drops it, and so passing it from bill to bill, 
apparently for the sheer sport of catching it. As the Tern 
flies low over the water, its downward-pointing bill moving 
this way and that, it seems to be fishing in earnest; and 
again it gyrates high in air, light, agile and airy as a Swal- 
low, and so suggests the propriety of one of its names 
the Sea Swallow. 



THE TERNS. 531 

It is on their breeding grounds, however, that the Terns 
may be studied to the best advantage. As one lands on Flat 
Island, the air in every direction seems alive with them. 
They rise beyond gun-shot, the great mass intersecting their 
snowy circles against the sky, and the aggregate of their 
hoarse ter-r-r-r-r-r, ter-r-r-r-r-r, becoming almost deafen- 
ing. As one approaches the nesting places, which are here 
and there all over the island, some will drop down and 
hover noisily .only a few yards above one's head. Then it 
is that the pure under parts, the gracefully spread tail, the 
bright eyes, and the bills and feet of bright carmine, appear 
to the best advantage. In all their varying attitudes, this 
moving cloud of lithe and elegant creatures is a most pleas- 
ing and animating study. 

In this dense moving mass, the species far the most nu- 
merous is the Arctic Tern {Sterna macrurd). Length, 14.00- 
17.00; extent, 28.00-30.00; tail, 5.00-8.00; bill, 1.20-1.40; 
tarsus, .50-. 6 7. This kind is a little more bulky than the 
Wilson. It is also generally distinguishable by its darker 
under parts and its bill of clear carmine, but is invariably 
so by its short tarsus only a half inch or a little more. In 
winter, and during the second summer, the fore part of the 
crown is white, as it is also in the young of the year in its 
mottled plumage of gray and brown, which was once called 
the Portland Tern. The young have the bill and feet black 
and the under parts white, even into the second summer. 
Habitat: Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, generally, 
south to the Middle States, and on the Pacific Coast to Cali- 
fornia. Breeds from Massachusetts northward. 

Next in number, but few in comparison with the former, 
as is also the case in all the breeding places of the Terns 
visited on the coasts of the Province, is Wilson's, or the 
Common Tern {Sterna hirundo). Length, some 14.00; extent, 



632 THE TERNS. 

about 30.00; tarsus .66-87, and so, noticeably larger than 
that of the Arctic, except in the points noted, the two species 
are very similar, even to the voice. In habitat, however, 
the Wilson belongs to the whole Atlantic Coast, breeding 
more or less throughout its range. In New England it 
breeds the most commonly of all its family. The black cap 
is retained during the winter, but is more or less imperfect 
in the young, which are also beautifully mottled with gray 
and light-brown, with more or less dusky on the wing coverts 
and tail. As in the young of the former, the under parts 
are white, but the base of the bill and the feet are yellowish. 
I found this species breeding in large numbers on one of 
the Western Islands in Georgian Bay, and a few laying 
their eggs on the muskrat houses on St. Clair Flats. I think 
they breed in the higher regions of the Great Lakes, gen- 
erally. 

Among the flocks of Terns on Flat Island, I was not a 
little surprised to find a few of the Roseate Terns (Sterna 
paradised). From what I had learned in the books, I should 
have scarcely expected to find this species as far north as 
Portland, Maine. Even on the wing it was readily distin- 
guishable from the rest of its kind. Some 12.00-16.00 in 
length, and so a little less than Wilson's Tern, its tail is at 
least an inch longer, and its entire form is more slender and 
graceful, so much so as to be noticeable even in the distance. 
Other Terns appear almost clumsy in comparison with it. 

The bill is black, except, perhaps, a slight patch of orange 
at the base below; the silvery curtain above is lighter and 
more exquisitely delicate, even, than in the rest of the Terns; 
the black cap extends well down the nape; the feet are dark 
orange, and the under parts are white, tinted throughout, 
even including the tail-coverts, with a delicate rose, the 
texture and color of the plumage being such as scarcely to 



THE TERNS. 533 

be rivaled by the most exquisite rose-tinted satin. The 
newly shot specimen is simply charming, but the brightness 
of the plumage is not retained after death. Indeed, all the 
Terns seem to lose their highest beauty when cold, their 
extreme delicacy of color being consistent only with the 
warm glow of life. A bird is a highly specialized and 
beautiful object, especially the more chastely colored birds 
of the sea ; but what on the whole Atlantic can equal the 
graceful form bill and crown of ebony, back of burnished 
silver, hoary dark-tipped wings, and breast of blushing rose 
of this Roseate Tern ? The more gorgeous birds of the 
tropics compare with it, only as the dahlia and the peony 
with the rose and the water-nymph. In motion it is no less 
charming, its flight being peculiarly airy and dashing, the 
slender pointed wings and long forked tail being the most 
graceful possible. 

The note of this Tern always advised me of its presence. 
I could not make out the " hew-it, repeated at frequent in- 
tervals," but only essentially the same ter-r-r-r-r, ter-r-r-r-r, 
as given by the other Terns, only on a lower key and in a 
rougher, hoarser tone, or occasionally in a much higher 
tone, as if aspiring to a fine falsetto. Muskegat Island, near 
Nantucket, seems to be the principal breeding place of this 
species. 

I did not see Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri} in Nova 
Scotia. New England ornithologists testify to its rarity 
on their coast. Its place of breeding is believed to be in 
the upper regions of the Great Lakes. Only a few nest, 
like Wilson's Terns, on the muskrat-houses of St. Clair Flats. 
Mr. Maynard informs me that they have bred in large 
numbers on Cobb's Island, off the coast of Virginia. About 
the size and form of Wilson's Tern, this species seems to be 
the counterpart of that, the under parts being pure white 



534 THE TERNS. 

instead of drab, and the tail silvery instead of white, the 
outer vane of the long outer feathers, white, and the inner 
darker Jjhan the rest of the tail. In the winter plumage it 
is distinguishable by the disappearing of the black crown, 
except a black stripe on each side of the head. Its note is 
similar to that of the Common Tern, but noticeably on a 
lower key. 

The nesting of the four species of Terns above given is 
quite similar, and under certain circumstances quite 
variable. Commonly, the nest is a depression in the 
ground, with a slight arrangement of dried grasses. If the 
nest is in the grass, it may be quite well built up; if on the 
shore, it may be only a slight hollow in the sand; or fine 
pebbles or bits of slate may be circularly arranged, after 
the manner of the Killdeer; or the egg or eggs may be laid 
directly on the green sward. The complete number of eggs 
is most commonly two, often one, sometimes three. About 
1.74x 1.13 and regularly ovate, they are some shade of light- 
green or light-brown, variously specked, spotted ,and 
blotched with dark-brown and neutral, the markings pre- 
dominating at the large end. 

In some breeding places near the southwest end of the 
province, I could identify none but the Arctic Terns; and 
so could feel very well assured that I was examining 
nothing but Arctic Terns' nests; but where several of the 
above species of Terns breed in community, I do not see 
how the eggs and nests can be specifically determined, 
their similarity is so great, and the birds invariably leave 
the nests before one comes near them. From eggs well 
identified, I should think that possibly the ground-color of 
the eggs of the Arctic tends rather to green, and that of 
the Wilson to brown. More than that I could not affirm, as 
to any appreciable. difference in the eggs of these two species. 



THE LAUGHING GULL. 535 

The Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia), a much larger species 
even than the Royal Tern of the South Atlantic, must be 
found on the coast of Nova Scotia in the migrations, for it 
breeds far to the north, and "must be considered a regular 
visitor every season, and one by no means uncommon," 
on the New England Coast. 

THE LAUGHING GULL. 

Amidst the clouds of Terns on Flat Island could be seen 
some eight or ten Black-headed or Laughing Gulls (Larus 
atricilld]. They generally arose from and kept near a slaty 
ridge which ran lengthwise through the island, and from 
their greater size, more robust form, and complete black or 
dark plumbous head, were very conspicuous among their 
smaller and more delicately formed neighbors. Its digni- 
fied, buzzard-like sailing, too, amidst the constantly moving 
wings around it, marked it as a Gull. From the hoarse 
clatter of the Terns, one could distinguish its long-drawn, 
clear note, on a high key, sounding not unlike the more 
excited call-note of the Domestic Goose; and every now 
and then it would give its prolonged, weird laughter, which 
has given rise to its common name. To one who has heard 
it, it might be imitated by the syllables, hah-ha-ha-ha-ha- 
hah-hah-hah, all of which are uttered on a high, clear tone, 
the last three or four syllables, and especially the last one, 
being drawn out with peculiar and prolonged effect; the 
whole sounding like the odd and excited laughter of an 
Indian Squaw, and giving marked propriety to the name of 
the bird. I was much surprised to find this so-called 
southern species so far north. Mr. Everett Smith, of Port- 
land, Maine, had given me no encouragement as to finding 
it about the coast of that State; and Mr. J. N. Clark, of 
Saybrook, Conn., thought it but an uncertain resident in 



536 THE LAUGHING GULL. 

his district. How eager was I to find the nest of the 
Laughing Gull in Nova Scotia. The gentleman who ac- 
companied me, though no ornithologist, caught my enthu- 
siasm, and having a keen eye, and being a natural hunter, 
he soon descried a nest with two fresh eggs. It was quite 
a nest, composed of weed-stems, small sticks and dried 
grasses. The eggs, some 2. 20 X 1.60, were rather dark oliva- 
ceous-brown, almost the color of a Loon's egg, variously 
spotted and blotched with dark brown and neutral. The 
eggs of this species are commonly much lighter, resembling 
in color and form those of the Gulls and Terns generally. 
The nest under consideration was placed on one side of the 
slaty ridge referred to, at its base, just where a marshy flat 
with low shrubbery began. Indeed, it was under the edge of 
the first row of alder bushes. 

The Laughing Gull is about 18.00 long; wing, 12.00; tar- 
sus, 2.00; middle toe and claw, 1.50; bill, 1.75; tip decurved 
and pointed; gonys prominent and sharp; mantle clear, dark 
silvery-gray; head, slaty-black; eye-lids, white; first primary, 
nearly all black; the black decreasing on the following 
primaries to the sixth; the few white tips small or wanting; 
bill and feet, dusky carmine. In winter, head white, with 
grayish spots about head and neck; the feet and bill, dusky. 
The young are brown above, and grayish or whitish below. 

This is particularly a bird of the sea-coast, breeding but 
sparingly along New England, but becoming more common 
southward, and breeding in great numbers along the South 
Atlantic States, and even to the Bahamas. When associated 
in great flocks, and circling high in air, their pure white 
under parts, with the head and wing-tips like black specks 
against the sky, give a peculiarly novel and beautiful effect; 
while their social nature, high grade of intelligence, and 
striking vocal imitation of human laughter, bring them near 



LEACH'S PETREL. 537 

to our sympathies almost into communion with human 

ideas. 

LEACH'S PETREL. 

About five miles beyond Flat Island, and farthest out at 
sea of all the islands in this locality, is Green Island, as it 
is called in the vicinity, or Grass Island, as set down on the 







LEACH'S PETREL. 

maps and charts. Comprising about twenty acres, it is sur- 
rounded by bluffs of rock, these being, no doubt, the out- 
croppings of its solid foundation. The surface is a beauti- 
ful bright green an oasis in this ocean desert. The soil is 
a soft, brown, vegetable mould, appearing like bog- turf, 
and showing that the position of the island was once very 
different a swamp, perhaps, in the midst of the sea. A 
number of islands along the coast of the province have this 
appearance, and there are several at different points bearing 
the name Green Island. Having secured a fine little sailing 



538 LEACH'S PETREL. 

yacht at Mahone Bay, I had some difficulty in finding men 
willing to make the trip to this island so far out at sea, and 
where it is possible to land only in calm weather. The 
day chosen was delightful, the sea smooth, and the 
wind so favorable that we sailed out and back without 
tacking. 

The'great desideratum in visiting this spot was the study 
of the breeding of the Petrels, or Mother Carey's Chickens. 
I was not a little surprised when one of the company told 
me I could smell the birds before we reached the island if 
the wind were in the right direction. I protested that he 
was simply practicing a joke on my credulity, but he seemed 
veritably in earnest. Very truly, on approaching the island 
on the leeward side, and while yet several rods distant, the 
peculiar musky odor of the Petrels was in every breath of the 
wind. The long swells carried our small boat, towed out 
for landing, well upon the huge rocks, where we were 
most cordially received by the keeper of the light-house 
which the government has stationed here. The same Terns 
which we found at Flat Island were breeding here, also, on 
the ledges of the rocks, but in moderate numbers; and a 
few of the Puffins, or Sea Parrots as they are called here, 
had found a breeding place in the deep crevices of the rocks. 
The Petrels, however, were the marvel of the place. Nearly 
every square yard of turf was completely honey-combed 
with their nesting burrows; and everywhere the air was 
laden with their peculiar odor. Here and there the ground 
was strewn with the wings and tails of the birds which 
had been dug out and eaten by the dog belonging to the 
light-house; the dog being kept without feeding, and obliged 
to support himself entirely by this enterprise. The bur- 
rows of the year were readily distinguished by their fresh 
appearance and by the excavated dirt newly thrown out. 



LEACITS PETKEL. 539 

Down on hands and knees we went to work, digging for 
the sitting birds. The reddish mould, staining hands and 
clothing of the operator, was quite mellow; and following 
the sinuous course of the burrows, generally several feet 
in length, the birds, each with its single egg, were soon 
brought to light. Occasionally the burrow contained two 
birds and no egg, the pair probably cohabiting previous to 
incubation. On being unearthed, the birds seemed per- 
fectly astounded and stupid dazed, perhaps, from having 
the light of day thus suddenly let in upon them. Some- 
times they would sidle off the egg; often they would per- 
mit themselves to be taken without any effort to escape. If 
thrown into the air they would come down again almost or 
quite to the ground, striking against any object which might 
happen to be in their way. Only after a few seconds could 
they command their wonted agility and swiftness of wing. 
Frequently, if taken in the hand, or flying against a bush 
or a stump, they would vomit the clear yellow oil from 
which their peculiar odor arises, and which is common to 
the whole family of Petrels. This was Leach's Petrel 
(Cymochorea leucorrhod), which breeds commonly along the 
coast of Nova Scotia, and also on the northeastern coast of 
Maine. About Mud and Seal Islands, N. S., their nests 
could be found all through the woods in the ground, in 
rotten logs and stumps, and under the roots of trees. 
About 8.50 in length, 18.50 in extent, with wing 6.25, tail 
3.25, bill .72, and tarsus 1.02, the color is sooty-brown, 
darkest on the wings and tail, the wing-coverts ashy, and the 
tail-coverts white. About 1.30X-95, oval, both ends alike, 
the egg is white, with a wreath of delicate light-red spots 
around one end, the spots sometimes clustering about the 
point, or the egg may be pure white. As it is laid on the 
damp earth, or at most on a few rootlets still retaining the 



540 LEACH'S PETREL. 

red mould seldom on a few dried grasses it is generally 
quite soiled. 

On approaching the breeding grounds in day-time, not a 
Petrel is to be seen. Those which are not in their burrows 
are far out at sea. As night comes on those in their bur- 
rows sally forth, and those out at sea come in; and where 
they breed in large numbers, the whole night long till the 
dawn of day, the air seems alive with them. They hurry- 
skurry near the ground, and cut through the air higher up, 
passing and repassing each other, and uttering their pecul- 
iar twitter, until their clatter and noise become a positive 
nuisance. The night is, indeed, their time of rendezvous. 

Out at sea their flight is truly beautiful, very much re- 
sembling that of the Swallow. But for its conspicuous white 
spot on the rump, the unpracticed eye might easily mistake 
the species fora Black Martin. Tossing and dashing hither 
and thither, it seems to toy and sport with every breeze. No 
gale can overpower its vigorous flight. Playing on the 
very crest of the wave, ever and anon it will drop into the 
leeward of the heavy billows, to enjoy the temporary calm 
of those gorges and ravines of the sea. Noticeable to every 
eye is its patting the surface of the most troubled waters 
with its tiny webbed feet, thus, Peter-like, walking on the 
waves, and so acquiring its common name Petrel. 

In day-time it is nowhere to be found along the shore, 
but miles out at sea it is the constant companion of the 
fisherman; sporting under the bow or the stern of his boat, 
gorging itself with bits of liver thrown overboard, or tak- 
ing, perchance, the coveted morsel even from his hands. 
Great numbers accompany the fleets of fishing vessels on 
the banks. Ships at sea are followed for great distances 
by these little creatures in search of the bits thrown over- 
board by the cook . 



THE SHEARWATER. 541 

Wilson's Petrel (Oceanites oceanus] has very much the 
same range and about the same habits as the above, but is 
not known to breed so far south. Mr. Maynard had pretty 
good evidence of its breeding in the Magdalen Islands, 
though he did not find its nest. Some 7.25 long, and 13.30 
in extent, it is about 1.20 inch shorter than Leach's Petrel, 
though its tail is fully 1.75 longer. Except the white base 
of the tail feathers, and the yellow centers of the webs of 
the feet of Wilson's Petrel, the color of the two species is 
about the same. Its legs, however, nearly one-half longer, 
and the long tail scarcely forked, as well as the slender ap- 
pearance of the bird generally, sufficiently differentiate the 
Wilson to a discriminating eye. The egg is said to be 
some .82x1.12, chalky white, and occasionally spotted or 
wreathed with purplish. 

The Stormy Petrel (Procellaria pelagicd), so well known 
in the north of Europe, to say the least, is very rare on our 
coast. Messrs. Verrill and Boardman accredit it to Maine, 
and Audubon affirmed it to occur on the banks of New- 
foundland and off the coast. Mr. Maynard, however, has 
never seen it, and the late work on " New England Bird 
Life," by W. A. Stearns, edited by Dr. Coues, affords no 
personal attestation. The color of this species is very simi- 
lar to that of the two former, except the white axillaries or 
wing-linings, by which it may always be distinguished. It 
is also noticeably smaller, being only 5.75 in length, and 
13.50 in extent; and the tail is rounded. 

THE SHEARWATER. 

On reaching the coasts of Nova Scotia, many inquiries 
were made of me by the seamen concerning a bird they 
called the Hagdon or Haglet. After keeping watch for it 
several weeks, I finally met it some miles out, in a thick fog 



542 THE SHEARWATER. 

and on a rough sea. A large and odd looking bird, it 
was some 20.00 long and 45.00 in extent; the wings being 
very long, narrow and pointed, the tail very short, and the 
general color a brownish-gray, like that of an immature 
Gull. It was no doubt the Great or Wandering Shear- 
water (Puffinus major) , in form and habits strictly like the 
Petrels, a sort of giant among his diminutive brethren. 
This was no doubt an immature specimen, as the mature 
bird is white underneath, and, breeding far north, would 
not be likely to be found in this latitude in early summer. 
It is common, however, on the banks of Newfoundland and 
on the fishing grounds near Sable Island, accompanying 
the fishing vessels in search of the offal. In winter it is 
more or less common off the New England coast. Its 
breeding habits are said to be similar to those of the 
Petrels, depositing a single white egg in a burrow in the 
ground, or in some recess among the rocks. 

The Fulmar Petrel (Fulmar us glacialis], is occasionally 
found off the coast of New England, and as it breeds very 
far to the north, it must also be an occasional visitor at least 
off the coast of Nova Scotia. Nearly 20.00 in length, and 
32.00 in extent, it is a large species of its kind. Robust, 
back and wings bluish-ash, primaries brownish, head and 
under parts white, it bears a strong resemblance in color to 
the Common Gull. The young have also a gray plumage, 
similar to that of young Gulls. The Fulmar Petrels breed 
in holes of rocky cliffs, and feed their young, at first, with 
an oil which they vomit on the slightest provocation. The 
one elliptical, white egg is some 2.78X2.02. 

Mr. Stearns describes the Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus 
fuliginosus] as " dark sooty-brown, blackening on the quills 
and tail; paler and grayish below, usually with some whitish 
on the lining of the wings. * * * Length, 18.00; 



THE BLACK-BACKED GULL. 543 

extent, 40.00." He reports it as common off the coast of 
New England, where it is known as the " Black Hagdon." 
As its breeding place is far to the north, it must be at least 
a winter visitor off Nova Scotia. 

THE BLACK-BACKED GULL. 

Among the outer islands off Mahone Bay, I occasionally 
saw the Great Black-backed Gull, or Saddle-back (Larus 
marinus), flapping its immense wings most majestically just 
above the water. I am credibly informed by old settlers 
that this species used to breed quite commonly on the 
islands off the coast of Nova Scotia years ago, and I pre- 
sume a few breed still on the outer and less frequented 
ones, as it does on one island, at least, in the Bay of Fundy. 
Over 30.00 long, and some 65.00 in extent, the black- 
ish slate-colored curtain contrasting strongly with the pure 
white of the other parts of the body, this is a most strongly 
characterized and magnificent bird, and is so wary that 
it is difficult to come even within rifle-range of it. As is 
the case with the Gulls generally, the head and neck are 
streaked with dusky in winter. The ashy-gray young are 
lighter than the young of the Herring Gull. The nest is 
on the ground or on ledges of rock, pretty well piled up, 
after the manner of Gulls. The bluish or brownish-drab 
eggs, spotted and blotched with brown and neutral, are 
some 2.97X2.25. 

The large and elegant Glaucous Gull (Larus glaucus) , 
about the same size as the former, and occasionally found 
in New England in winter, is no doubt on the coast of the 
province at that time. Its chaste figure of pure white, even 
including the primaries, barely relieved by the light pearly- 
blue mantle, is readily distinguished. The young are 
streaked and spotted with ashy-brown. 



544 THE BLACK-BACKED GULL. 

Of similar habitat with this last is the White-winged 
Gull (Larus leucopterus}. Some 24.00 long and 52.00 in ex- 
tent, and precisely like the former in color, it would seem 
to be simply a noticeably smaller pattern of the same; and 
bears even a closer relation to it than does the Ring-bill to 
the Herring Gull. The White-wing is so nearly the size 
and color of the last as to be distinguishable from it in 
flight only by the white primaries. The young are said to 
be " pale yellowish-brown throughout, faintly mottled with 
darker, and with primaries dusky at the tips." 

Of course the noisy little Kittiwake (Larus tridactylus) 
must be here, for it breeds as far south as Bird Rock, in the 
Gulf of St. Lawrence, and frequents the harbors along the 
coast of New England in winter. Some 16.50 long and 
36.50 in extent, with tail slightly forked, and hind toe very 
short, it has the back and entire wing dark ashy-blue, becom- 
ing lighter toward the black tips of the primaries. Remainder 
white; bill yellow, and feet black. Head and neck tinged 
with ashy-blue in winter. The young are marked with 
black on the back of the neck, with a line through the 
wing, outer two-thirds of some four or five primaries, and 
tip of the tail. The nest is on the rocks. Eggs, 2.22X1.65, 
yellowish-buff, with round marks of brown or lilac. 



CHAPTER XXI. 
NEW JERSEY COAST AND THE OSPREY. 

QEVERAL summer vacations spent around Sandy Hook 
O and Barnegat Bay, on the New Jersey coast, left a vivid 
impression on my mind of that grand bird, the Osprey, or 
Fish Hawk (Pandion haliaetus). About 24.00 long and 
68.00 in extent, in structure and bearing this species is 
much more an Eagle than a Hawk. Rich dark-brown above 
and white beneath, the tail is barred with dusky, the sides 
of the head are white, with a dark band through the eye, 
thus marking the bird quite noticeably even in the distance. 
There is a band of light brown spots across the breast. 
The most differentiating feature, however, of the Osprey is 
the short, close feathers of the legs, thus leaving these 
large, blue, round-scaled members entirely without the long 
flowing tufts so characteristic of the legs of Hawks and 
Eagles generally. The long, acuminate, erectile feathers of 
the crown and the back of the neck are especially graceful. 
The younger specimens have the dark feathers above tipped 
or edged with whitish. Of world-wide distribution in its 
several varieties, our American representative may be found 
more or less throughout the continent, but especially coast- 
wise. Wintering in the south, its vernal and autumnal mi- 
grations along the middle districts of the Atlantic seem 
singularly coincident with the equinoxes. About the 21st 
of March, when some of the largest and most important 
35 



546 THE OSPREY. 

shoals of fish arrive on these coasts, this well known Hawk 
appears as a welcome herald to the fisherman; and about 
the 23d of September it departs for the south. 

Along the New Jersey coast the bird is very abundant, its 
flight over land and sea, but especially over the. latter, being 
a marked and beautiful feature of the landscape. From 
the waters alone it derives its sustenance. Though its early 
northward migration, while ice and snow may still abound, 
render its fishing precarious, it is never known to seek 
any prey on land. Sailing with almost motionless wings in 
grand easy circles, the great length and peculiar curvature 
of the wings readily designating the bird to the eye, its 
constant search for food would seem the mere play and 
poetry of motion. Occasionally its circles in flight are so 
small that it almost seems, indeed, to be turning "in the 
air as on a pivot." Frequently the flight is low over the 
water, but it may range to a very considerable height, the 
eye being keen enough to descry its prey at the bird's great- 
est elevation. In the act of capture it may drop lightly 
on the water, and almost pick up its struggling object in a 
gull-like manner; or it may shoot down from a consider- 
able height, and fairly plunging in swift pursuit, lift out 
a fish of six pounds or upwards. 

When several feet above the water, it seems to hesitate 
with a quivering motion, as if shaking off the water, 
spaniel-like, or perhaps to grapple its prey more firmly; then, 
moving off with a vigorous stroke and bearing its prey length- 
wise and head foremost, it seeks the land, more commonly 
some tree, on which to devour it. Not infrequently it may 
hover with a firm flapping of the wings in quest of its object, 
sailing on if disappointed; and again almost plunging -in 
eager pursuit, it may still fail of capture, but is never over- 
excited or disconcerted, seeming to know that there are 



THE OSPREY. 547 

plenty of fish in the water, and those as good as ever were 
caught. Is not the wide waste of waters at its command ? 
Is it not the most skillful of fishermen ? Why worry then 
over a mishap or failure ! Even if the Eagle, on the alert, 
swoop down upon it, and compel it to drop its well-earned 
prey, it will submit with comparative coolness. This rob- 
bery by the Eagle, however, probably does not occur nearly 
so often as one might infer from the books. 

There is no doubt that the Osprey sometimes miscalculates 
the size and strength of the fish he would seize, and strik- 
ing into it his sharp and much curved claws, is neither able 
to raise the fish nor yet to extricate himself, and so is 
drawn under to perish with his prey in his grasp, the rem- 
nants of both being thrown up on the shore together; or 
the surviving fish may be afterwards caught bearing the 
skeleton or remains of the Hawk on its back. 

The nest of the Fish Hawk is a common appurtenance of 
the landscape, along the coast under consideration. No eye 
can miss it, for it is an immense affair, built of sticks, 
coarse weeds and rubbish in general, lined with sea-grass, 
the whole being sufficient in quantity to fill a good-sized 
dump-cart. It is placed in a tree anywhere from 10-50 feet 
from the ground. If the tree be not dead when chosen, it 
does not long survive the huge wet pile, generally containing 
no small quantity of material from the salt water; and as 
the bulk is increased by repairs, not only in spring before 
incubation, but also in the fall before the birds depart, the 
foundations give way in time, and the unsightly mass is 
precipitated to the ground. I was informed of one of these 
nests being built on the top of an old chimney, after the 
manner of the European Stork. The eggs, generally 3, 
sometimes 2 or 4, are about 2.39X1.76, creamy white, 
sharply spotted and blotched with light-brown and umber, 



548 THE FISH CROW. 

the large end being often covered, or occasionally the 
ground-color of the whole egg obscured, by the markings. 
They are laid, in the Middle States, about the first of May, 
and the young, covered at first with a white down, are 
hatched early in June. They keep to the nest till full- 
grown, and are even fed by the parents in the air after 
flight would seem complete. 

THE FISH CROW. 

The nest being a common resort of the Fish Hawk 
throughout the season, my attention was one day especially 
called to an empty one on which a Hawk was unusually 
boisterous over a large fish. These birds are generally 
noisy when on land, but this time there was a particular 
significance to the loud squealing racket. A Fish Crow 
(Corvus ossifragus), readily known by his hoarse, guttural 
cawing, was perched near by in the tree. Being also, 
as his common name implies, of piscatorial appetite, he had 
come to dispute the right of the Hawk to the fish. How 
saucy on the part of this little specimen in glossy-black to 
put in a claim to the bill of fare so well earned by his stately 
neighbor ! How undignified in the Osprey to utter one 
querulous syllable in recognition of the sauce-box ! 

Some 16.00 long and 24.00 in extent, the Fish Crow is 
noticeably smaller than his larger brother, so well known 
here in the north. Also his coat has a brighter gloss, and 
his feet are proportionally smaller. A bird of our more 
southern sea-board, and found there in great abundance, it 
is more or less common about " the upper New Jersey 
coast, Long Island, lower Hudson Valley, and the coast 
line of Connecticut, and an occasional visitor to Massa- 
chusetts." Reported on good authority as migratory, 
pressing into our southern coasts in great numbers on the 



THE SEA SIDE SPARROW. 549 

approach of winter, it is now well made out by Mr. Wm. 
Dutcher and others to be a winter resident, even in its 
most northern habitat. Probably while the greater number 
migrate, some remain. This species may be found on rivers 
and other bodies of water more or less in the vicinity of 
the sea. It feeds quite commonly on dead fish, but also 
on any garbage found about the water, and is specially 
fond of certain lizards, which swim with their heads above 
the water, and which it captures alive, and it is also a vora- 
cious devourer of the eggs of other birds, especially those of 
the water-fowl breeding along or near the sea-coast. 

Its nidification is very similar to that of the Common 
Crow. Size of eggs some 1.45X1.10. 

THE SEA-SIDE SPARROW. 

From the sedges and the tall marsh-grass near the sea, I 
frequently heard the peculiar song of the Sea-side Sparrow 
(Ammodromus maritimus). The melody has but few notes, 
the first several being liquid but abrupt, and the last two 
or three somewhat prolonged. Generally the singer is 
hidden from sight, or can barely be seen as he swings in 
the moving tops of grasses and sedges; but occasionally he 
will toss himself up into the air, after the manner of the 
Long-billed Marsh Wren, his song then becoming a 
resonant twitter. The singer is always much excited, 
ruffling his feathers, spreading his tail, and shaking 
himself enthusiastically. About 5.50 long, the bill is some- 
what lengthened and slender, the tail feathers short, narrow 
and pointed, the wings short and rounded, and the feet 
very large. The color is olive-gray above, streaked with 
dusky; beneath, ashy-white, clearer on the throat and 
darker on the sides and flanks; sides of the head and rather 
obscure streaks below, dusky; line from the bill over the 



550 THE SHARP-TAILED SPARROW. 

crown, ashy; spot over the eye and shoulder of the wing, 
yellow. On the mud, among the tall growths of the salt and 
brackish marshes, they seek their food of tiny mollusks and 
aquatic insects; and the somewhat " gourd-shaped " nest, 
with a small opening on the top or side, is either on the 
ground or fastened to the coarse grasses near the ground. 
It is composed of coarse grass and lined with finer, some- 
times with fine rootlets, and contains 4-6 dull white eggs, 
finely spotted and specked with several shades of brown. 
Wintering in great numbers in the salt marshes of the 
Southern States, it breeds from the Gulf to Connecticut, 
coming north in April and going south before the ground 
freezes. 

THE SHARP-TAILED SPARROW. 

In similar situations and with similar habits to those 
given above, we find another species of this same genus, 
the Sharp- tailed Sparrow (Ammodromus caudacutus). " Rather 
smaller than the last, bill still slenderer, and tail feathers 
still narrower and more acute," the olive-gray upper parts 
are more sharply streaked with blackish and whitish; instead 
of the yellow spot above the eye, the eye-brows and cheeks 
are buffy or orange, and the lower parts are white, with 
breast and sides more sharply streaked with dusky. The 
nest is on the ground, pretty much concealed with dry 
grasses, of which it is also composed, and they breed some- 
what in community. The four or five pale-blue eggs .77 X 
.58, finely specked with reddish, are laid rather late in the 
season. This little Sparrow is exceedingly active, inhabits 
marshes farther from the shore than does the former, and 
extends its summer residence farther north, being common 
about the coasts of Massachusetts and even to New Hamp- 
shire. It has a very poor voice, its song being regarded as 
the weakest of all the Sparrows. 



THE PRAIRIE WARBLER. 551 

THE CAROLINA WREN. 

In tangled thickets, made almost impenetrable by the 
rank festoons of the common srnilax, I occasionally found 
the Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) . This rather 
southern species, though wintering commonly in Virginia, 
scarcely reaches, regularly, a higher latitude than 42. Some 
5.75 long, it is noticeably larger than the rest of our Wrens, 
which it resembles strongly in color, however, the most 
differentiating mark, in this respect, being the yellowish- 
white eye-brow extending down the sides of the neck.* 
The bill is considerably curved. In the extent and manner 
of its activity this species is every whit a Wren. All ob- 
servers have been impressed with its song, which is loud, 
voluble, melodious, and delivered at about all times of the 
year. The nest, generally in some cavity, often in build- 
ings, is a hollow ball, with an entrance in the side, composed 
outwardly of sticks, leaves, and coarse fibers generally, and 
lined with fine fibrous or grassy materials. The 6 eggs, .77 
X .58, are creamy-white, variously marked with reddish- 
brown and lilac, in a wreath or cluster at the large end. 

THE PRAIRIE WARBLER. 

In the pine groves of second growth I occasionally found 
the Prairie Wabler (Dendrceca discolor]. This pretty little 
species, only 4.50 long, is olive above, the back being marked 
with reddish-chestnut spots; sides of the head, yellow, with 
lores and a streak beneath the eye, black; throat and under 
parts rich yellow, with small pointed spots of black down 
the sides of the neck and under the wings. The female 
lacks the black line under the eye, and has the chestnut 
spots on the back, and the black spots on the sides, less dis- 
tinct. Breeding anywhere from New England to Key West, 
it occupies the bushy pastures in the former limit of its 

* Florida affords a larger and darker form of this species, var. miamensis. 



552 THE BLACK TERN. 

habitat, but the "hummocks," and even the submerged 
tracts of mangroves in Florida. The song is a unique trill 
on an ascending scale. The nest, set in an upright fork of 
a bush, or tied to several disconnected shoots, is compactly 
formed of coarse bark-shreds and weeds externally, bedded 
and lined with vegetable down and fine grasses. The 3-5 
eggs, .62 X 52, ratker large for the bird, are white, pretty 
heavily marked with light brown and lilac. 

THE BLACK TERN. 

Sitting under a screen, late in August, in some secluded 
nook in Barnegat Bay, every now and then one may be sur- 
prised by the dashing flight of a flock of Black Terns 
(Hydrochelidon nigra). In spring, notwithstanding the gray 
back, wings and tail, and white crissum, the more conspicu- 
ous sooty black of the head, neck and under parts, fully 
justify the common name; but during the late summer and 
autumn plumage, that name seems quite inappropriate, for 
then, except the dusky back of the head, and the ring around 
the eye, the black parts of the spring dress are white. 
Though reaching the sea-coast in the migration of late 
summer, this Tern, unlike the rest of its family, is not a 
bird of the sea-side, but of the flooded marshes about our 
lakes of the interior. I found it breeding in great numbers 
in June on St. Clair Flats. Its sooty form, finely set off by 
its silvery wings and tail the wings rather broad and the 
tail but slightly forked for a Tern was constantly in sight, 
as it fished along the channels; and its rather musical piping 
note was in hearing almost night and day. Here and there, 
among the vegetable growths in the flooded marshes, they 
nested more or less in community, where, if an intruder 
approached, their little breasts would be filled with rage, 
their loud notes then remindingoneof the screaming of the 
Robins under like circumstances of excitement. The nest 



THE BLACK SKIMMER. 553 

is a rude and slight arrangement of weather-beaten and 
partly decayed rushes, placed on a bit of floating slab, or 
on one of those compact, floating beds of debris, which be- 
come anchored in large quantity in the bends of the chan- 
nels, or among the sedges. On this water-soaked affair, the 
eggs, 1-3, are placed, some 1.32X.95, varying from brown 
to dark-green in color, spotted and blotched with several 
shades of dark-brown and neutral. Always dark, they 
vary greatly in form, ground-color and marking. This 
Tern, some 9.50 long, winters south of the United States. 

THE BLACK SKIMMER. 

On Barnegat Bay, especially about the inlet, I used to see 
occasionally some half-dozen Black Skimmers (Rhynchops 
nigra), flying closely as they skimmed the surface in search 
of their food of small fry. Length, 17.50; stretch, 42.00; 
upper parts black; forehead, tips of secondaries, outer webs 
of tail feathers, white, this species might pass for a large 
black Tern, were it not for its peculiar bill. The lower man- 
dible, some 4.50 long, is as. flat as a knife blade, the upper 
edge fitting into a groove in the upper mandible, which is 
about an inch shorter. With this strongly specialized mem- 
ber, it plows the surface of tfye water at flood-tides, when 
its food is most abundant near the surface. Few instances, 
even in bird-life, can furnish a more obvious evidence of 
design. Here is a species which, from the length of its 
wings and neck, the shape of its bill and its mode of flight, 
is evidently designed to take its food in a peculiar manner 
by skimming or plowing the surface for the small fry 
which approach it in flood-tides. In Florida, where it is 
found throughout the year, Mr. Maynard reports it as 
feeding mostly at night or in cloudy weather. Breeding in 
communities on the sandy beaches, as far north as New 
Jersey, the eggs, 2 or 3, are placed in a hollow in the sand. 



554 THE MARBLED GOD WIT. 

About 1.75X1.37, they are white, marked with dark brown 
and lilac, the blotches being clear-edged and strong, thus 
readily differentiating the eggs. 

THE MARBLED GODWIT. 

Occasionally during August, the gunners about the bay 
would take the Marbled God wit (Limosa fcedd). Length 
18.50, stretch 31.00, bill 4.05, it is dark brown, variously 
marked with reddish-yellow; the wings and tail reddish- 
yellow marked with brown; beneath, a fine light-red, light- 
est on the throat, and streaked and banded generally, ex- 
cept on the abdomen, with brown. This fine species is 
readily recognized by its color, its large size and slightly 
upturned bill. Though common in winter from the Caro- 
linas southward, especially in Florida, it is rare on the 
Atlantic Coast to the north in summer. It is abundant, 
however, west of the Mississippi, breeding in great num- 
bers about the ponds and shallow pools of Minnesota, 
Dakota and the Northwest Territory. The nest is a 
slight arrangement of dried grass, in a depression in the 
ground. The eggs, 2-4, 2.22X1.47, long-oval, are creamy 
or buff, rather sparsely marked and blotched with light- 
brown and neutral. This species is occasionally found on 
the Niagara in the migrations. 

The Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa hudsonicd), breeding in 
the arctics and wintering beyond our limits, is not uncom- 
mon on the Atlantic Coast in the migrations. Nearly 15.00 
long, and 26.50 in extent, the bill is but 2.25. Of a general 
resemblance to the former in color, the white in the wings, 
seen in flight, and that of the rump and in the base of the 
tail, strongly characterize it, giving it the name of " Spot- 
rump " or " Ring-tail," among sportsmen. The nest is sim- 
ilar to that of the former, but the eggs, 2.18 X 1.38, are dark 
greenish-brown, lightly marked with dark brown. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

AUTUMNAL DAYS. 

THIS twenty-first day of September (1881) is an ideal 
day of that delightful month of our clime. Cloudless 
and clear, warm but not hot, the air purified by recent 
showers, every breath is an aesthetic inspiration. Ensconced 
away among the bushes on the south shore of Johnson's 
Creek, just opposite the point formed by its oblique en- 
trance into Lake Ontario, I am watching the various 
water-birds as they alight, all unsuspectingly, on that point. 
The near sites are within gun-shot, and the furthest ones are 
easily reconnoitered with a glass. Supposing that you are, 
my reader, in spirit, at my side, I will try to interpret to 
you what we see. That little Semipalmated Sandpiper 
(Ereunetes pusillus) , moving hurriedly like a gray speck about 
the shore, is rather late in the season for him. He may re- 
turn to us from his breeding grounds, in the high latitudes 
of the north, as early as the latter part of July, and gener- 
ally is quite common on all our shores and water-courses in 
August. It is quite out of order, too, for this bird to be thus 
alone, as it is almost always in flocks, and not infrequently 
in company with its near relative, the Least Sandpiper 
(THnga minutilla). I have seen it in large flocks in the 
month of August, on Niagara River, alighting on the large 
rafts of logs on their way to the mills of Tonawanda. It 
is a graceful, active little Wader, reminding one somewhat 



556 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER. 

of the Spotted Sandpiper, only it h'as nothing of the teeter- 
ing motion of that species; and its notes, tweet-eet, tweet-eet, 
are more of a soft, subdued whistle, giving the bird a much 
quieter and less demonstrative appearance. 

Some 6.00 long and 12.00 in extent, this species may vary 
much in size; the black bill is an inch or more in length 
and slightly bent; the crown and upper parts are dusky, 
the feathers being edged with reddish and tipped with 
white, or simply edged with grayish; rump and tail-coverts, 
black; wings dusky, marked with white ; line over the eye, 
tips of the lesser wing-coverts, throat and under parts, white; 
legs and feet, dusky. Its diminutive size distinguishes it 
readily from all our birds of its kind, except the Least 
Sandpiper, which it greatly resembles, but from which it is 
strongly differentiated by its half-webbed toes. This species 
breeds from Labrador to the far north, having a slight 
nest on the ground, after the manner of other Waders; 
the 4 eggs, about 1.22X.84, being pale grayish or 
greenish-drab, or olivaceous, boldly blotched or marked 
with several shades of brown, mostly about the large end. 
Passing through the Middle States late in April or early 
in May, it returns from late July even till early October, 
feeding leisurely on insects, worms and diminutive mollusks. 
It is common to North, Central and most of South America. 
It would seem that it winters for the most part beyond 
our boundaries. 

As I view this little bird on the point, I naturally associ- 
ate it with its quaint little relative, the Least Sandpiper. The 
flight of this species, as of that of the above, is straight- 
forward and rapid; and it also passes these middle districts 
late in April or early in May, raising its young from the 
rocky coasts of Labrador northward. Here, its nest is 
found on " the moss-clad crests of the highest rocks, 



THE TURNSTONE. 557 

within short distances of the sea." This nest is a mere de- 
pression in the moss, slightly lined with dried grasses. The 
4 eggs, resembling those of the Spotted Sandpiper, are 
about .92 X. 75, light yellowish-drab, blotched and spotted 
with dark-umber. Like the rest of the Waders, these birds 
are greatly excited when disturbed in nidification, flying 
with a whirring noise, which resembles the wing-strokes of a 
startled Grouse. 

As it returns along the Atlantic Coast, any time from 
the last of July till October, it is sometimes seen in im- 
mense numbers, gyrating about brackish marshes, and 
appearing in the distance like swarms of bees in search of 
a place of settlement. Using their bills after the manner of 
Snipe, they search the soft mud and the debris for their fare 
of aquatic insects, worms and tiny mollusks. At such 
times their conversational peep, peep, pip-ip-ip-ip-ip-ip, or ptdee, 
pidee, dee, dee, is cheerily uttered, and suggests how great 
is the quiet joy of these little creatures in their natural 
haunts. 

Considerably less than 6 inches long, the color and gen- 
eral appearance of this pigmy of its race is very much like 
that of the Semipalmated Sandpiper, the general effect 
being darker; and its toes, which are not semipalmated, but 
divided to the base, are slender and wiry, and so render it 
readily distinguishable. Many spend the winter in the 
extreme Southern States. 

THE TURNSTONE. 

As I continue to gaze across the mouth of the creek I spy 
a pair of most dainty little walkers, treading their way 
along the pebbly shore, with an ease and elegance, and a 
pigeon-like motion of the head, most pleasing through the 
glass which brings them almost to the end of my nose. The 



558 THE TURNSTONE. 

species before me is the Turnstone (Strepsilas interpret), 
found in every continent of the world, and decidedly the 
most brightly colored bird of our shores. The gunners on 
the coast call it the " Calico Plover." About 9.00 long, its 
shape bears quite a resemblance to that of the Plover, ex- 
cept that its bill, which is shorter than the head, is stout, its 
tapering point turning up a little, that its legs are quite 
short, and that it has a well developed hind toe. The up- 
per parts are variously marked with black, rich brown, 
rufous, and a little white; the head and neck are white, 
thickly and pretty distinctly spotted with black; the fore 
part of the neck and the sides of the breast are jet-black; 
the throat, under parts, under sides of the wings, lower 
back, longer tail-coverts, base of the tail and the quills, 
clear white; feet and legs, bright orange. This is the mark- 
ing of the mature bird in summer, but it varies greatly with 
the seasons and the age of the bird, the colors and markings 
becoming quite obscure in extreme cases. The species can 
always be determined, however, by the peculiarities of form 
above noted. Of the two specimens now before me, one 
is quite strongly colored, while the other is very indistinct. 
Still looking through the glass, the birds seem just before 
me almost near enough to be touched and as they have 
not the slightest suspicion of my presence, they are acting 
themselves out fully. Some one has watched this bird be- 
fore me, as is evident from its name. Turnstone, indeed, 
it is, turning over, with its bill, pebbles, shells, small sticks, 
weeds, and bits of rubbish of all kinds, to find its food 
of insects, worms, small mollusks and crustaceans. Its 
stout bill makes a good lever, its short legs give it a strong 
purchase, and its long toes give it a firm and easy step on 
the most uneven surface. As it takes wing I notice that its 
flight and general appearance in the air is almost precisely 



THE BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER. 559 

like that of the Killdeer. It has also a loud, whistling 
note. 

This bird is found in small numbers along our inland 
waters. Its home, however, would seem to be more partic- 
ularly along the sea-coast. Breeding in high, northern lat- 
itudes, its nidification is so similar to that of our shore-birds 
in general as scarcely to need particular description. There 
are four pointed eggs, 1.50X1.25, "pale yellowish green, 
with a few black lines and irregular patches of brownish-red. " 
It is generally seen along the sea in small flocks of some 
half dozen, but sometimes it joins the Sandpipers. 

THE BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER. 

Flying along the lake shore, a flock of nine Black-bellied 
Plovers (Squatarola helvetica) alight on the farthest part of 
the point. They have a gamy, grouse-like look, standing 
thus at ease on the sand, preening their feathers; and one 
feels the propriety of their place in classification next to 
Partridges and Quails. Nearly cosmopolitan in their distri- 
bution, they strongly resemble the Golden Plover, but are 
readily distinguished, even in the distance, by their large 
head giving them the name Bull-head and by their stout 
bodies; when taken in the hand, they are found also to have 
a rudimentary hind toe, thus differing from all the rest of 
the Plovers. 

Nearly a foot long, and more than two feet in extent, 
this bird presents a rather imposing appearance for one of 
its kind. When in full summer plumage, the upper parts 
are variegated with black, yellowish-brown and white; the 
wings are deep dusky, with white markings; the tail white, 
crossed with blackish; cheeks, throat, fore-neck, breast and 
lining of the wings, jet-black; about the head and neck, ele- 
gantly bordered with chalk-white. They are then a strikingly 



560 THE GOLDEN PLOVER. 

beautiful figure. Such an one did I meet in June (1881), 
among the Herring Gulls on the rocky shoals of Georgian Bay. 
This species varies greatly with age and with the seasons. 
Its winter habit, of mottled brown and gray above, and 
white or whitish beneath, is greatly inferior to that of the 
summer. In all stages of growth it may be distinguished 
from the young of the Golden Plover by its much larger 
bill, and by the more extended webbing between the outer 
and middle toes, as also by its hind toe. A conspicuous 
feature of this bird is its large, bright black eye, with a 
white ring around it in summer, giving it the name Ox- 
eye among gunners. It has a loud, shrill, whistling note. 
Its food is insects, worms and berries. Audubon and Wil- 
son both give accounts, as from their own observations, of 
this Plover's breeding in the high inland regions of the 
Middle States, but at present its .nidification seems to be 
known only in very high northern latitudes. The 4 eggs, 
2.00X1.40, are brownish or yellowish-drab, rather heavily 
marked with brownish-black about the larger half, the rest 
of the surface specked with the same. 

THE GOLDEN PLOVER. 

Occasionally during the day I see moderate flocks of the 
Golden Plover (Charadrius fulvus var. virginicus) coming 
from their gleanings in the lately reaped grain-fields, or 
flying along the shore of the lake. Just as a most magnifi- 
cent autumn sunset is tinging the whole atmosphere with 
its varied hues, a flock of fifty or more coming off the land 
meet as many more coming in from the lake, and the con- 
joined flocks, blending completely, perform a great variety 
of most graceful evolutions. They cut circles above the 
point, make broad sweeps about the edge of the lake, now 
flying high, now low, now tipping their backs toward me, 



THE GOLDEN PLOVER. 561 

and now throwing up their under parts, the cloud-like figure 
of the mass changing form every few moments. With what 
a dashing swiftness they perform their flight, and how per- 
fectly each one keeps his place throughout all the changes, 
all performing precisely the same movement at the same 
instant, as if one spirit animated and guided them all! 
Which one is the leader of these swift forces ? How do 
they all manage to keep so on the alert for every signal ? 
Ah ! we only see the birds at a distance, after all, and know 
but little of what makes up their inner life ! As they near 
me in one of their gyrations, I give them the contents of 
both barrels of my shot-gun, bringing down enough for 
my purposes. The flock disappears, but for a long time 
their peculiar whistling notes linger in my ears. 

Nearly 11 inches long, and nearly 22 in extent, the present 
color of this bird is a sort of compromise between its beau- 
tiful summer habit and its plainer winter dress. The color 
of spring is brownish-black on the upper parts generally, 
each feather being elegantly spotted about the edge with 
bright yellow " old gold," if you please, and hence its 
common name ; the wing-coverts are marked with white, 
and the dusky tail is barred with the same; primaries of a 
fine brown; upper part of the forehead, space in front of 
and line over the eye, dull white; sides of the neck and of 
the body the same, spotted with brown and yellowish- white; 
breast and line in front of the neck, brownish-black, the 
latter margined on both sides with clear white. In the 
winter habit, the upper parts are similar, but less bright and 
distinct, while the under parts become light-gray, streaked 
with darker. 

A noted bird throughout the northern hemisphere is the 
Golden Plover, the species or varieties of the Old World 
being very closely allied to our own. Spending the winter, 
36 



562 THE KILLDEER. 

for the most part, beyond our limits, these birds pass the 
middle districts on their way northward during the latter 
half of April or early in May, at which time they have not 
yet reached the perfect beauty of their summer attire. 
They breed on the barren grounds of the far north and on 
the islands of the Arctic Seas. Dr. Dall found them com- 
mon along the Yukon. The 4 eggs, about 1.90 xl-37, are 
pale brownish-clay color, sometimes approximating to drab, 
or even approaching white. They are boldly marked and 
blotched with dark brown, especially around the large end. 
The nest is a mere depression in the ground, slightly lined 
with dried grasses or leaves feathers being sometimes added. 

These Plovers are among our most characteristic birds of 
passage, in the month of September, being as common in 
the west as in the more easterly regions. When passing 
from one point to another they fly high, with rapid and 
steady beat of their long pointed wings. Entering the 
fields, they fly very low, scouring the region thoroughly, it 
may be, before they alight. Whether flying high or low, 
unless the flock be very large, they generally move in lines 
of many abreast, forming as many curves and angles as so 
many Wild Geese. 

They may eat caterpillars or berries, but their chief relish 
is for grasshoppers, which they capture most adroitly. 
When in flight they may be easily " whistled down," and are 
frequently shot in great numbers. They are often very fat, 
and their flesh is delicious. 

THE KILLDEER. 

Our Plover the most familiar to every one, is the Killdeer 
(sEgialitis ew//mz), which I see almost constantly on the point 
of land under observation. In the sunny days of March, al- 
ready he greets us with his half-cheerful, half-plaintive note, 



THE KILLDEER. 563 

so well expressed by his common name, as scarcely to need 
further description. Then, even at midnight, while the 
snow is yet on the ground, you may hear his stirring call 
as he passes by for regions still farther north. And did 
you ever hear him without recalling the blooming meadow 
and the brook ? I admire his taste in locating his summer 
home, in the clover, by some rippling streamlet. Altogether 
unique, too, is the style of the nest. That circular arrange- 
ment of smooth pebbles, peculiar bits of wood, or fragments 
of shells, is wholly primitive, reminding one of cromlechs and 
cairns. Inside this little circle, at once so simple and so 
artistic, the four eggs are placed, the small points of the 
conical forms touching each other at the center. About 
1.45 X 1.05, they are of a dark, rich cream-color, well spot- 
ted and blotched with blackish-brown beautifully in har- 
mony with the ground on which they lie. Nest and eggs 
seem like a natural appurtenance of the field. Occasionally, 
however, the Killdeer seeks to be in fashion, and builds a 
nest of dried grasses, or, becoming careless, simply adopts 
a depression in the ground. Of all the maternal demon- 
strations so peculiar to Plovers and Sandpipers, none are 
more emphatic than those of the Killdeer. Fairly rolling 
and tumbling on the ground, the mother-bird will spread 
her tail and beat the ground with her expanded wings, cry- 
ing oh, dear, dear, dear, dear, till the hardest heart must 
relent under her beseeching tones. In this attitude she 
gives one the full impression of her beautiful colors. Fore- 
head, below the black band between the eyes, eye-brows, 
and entire under parts, white; upper parts yellowish or red- 
dish-brown; ring round the breast, and a broader one 
round the neck, jet-black; wings dusky, marked with white; 
the dusky tail, shading into black toward the reddish and 
white tips, and flanked with light red, white and dusky, is 



564 BARTRAM'S SANDPIPER., 

especially illuminated by the bright yellowish-red rump 
and tail-coverts; and not least, as a mark of beauty, are the 
bright red eye-lids. The young in the down are a faithful 
pattern of the colors of the mature bird. 

While your sympathies are being won by the sorrowful 
demonstrations of the female, the male is equally active, 
flying in circles about your head, running around you he 
is a very adept at running and joining most earnestly in 
the cries of the family. 

The young are true representatives of the precoces, run- 
ning well as soon as free from the shell. A nest containing 
eggs in the forenoon, in the afternoon may have nothing 
but shells. The young are reared in the same kind of low- 
lands and river-bottoms, as are chosen for nidification. In- 
deed, such localities are the home of the species. The first 
eggs are laid in May, and there may be another set in July. 

The Killdeer is well in favor with the farmer, not only 
because of his familiar notes and spirited antics, but because 
of his destruction of caterpillars and insects, and par- 
ticularly of grasshoppers. Wintering abundantly in the 
Southern and Southwestern States, it may extend even to 
South America, breeding from Texas far into British North 
America and to the Pacific. 

Plovers are a well-marked group of birds, differing from 
the more numerous Snipes, Sandpipers, Tattlers, etc., in 
the rather large head, the shorter bill and neck, and the 
marked pigeon-like form of the bill, but more especially, 
perhaps, in having only three toes, the exceptional hind 
toe of the Black-billed Plover being only rudimentary. 

BARTRAM'S SANDPIPER. 

By that powerful law of the mind the association of ideas, 
a bird always connected in my mind with the Killdeer, is 



BAR TRAM'S SANDPIPER. 565 

Bartram's Sandpiper (Actiturus bartramius] ; not from close 
structural affinity, indeed, for the last mentioned is a true 
Sandpiper, or still more properly a Tattler, but from the 
fact that I have so often found it breeding in some adjoin- 
ing locality. On the whole, Bartram's Sandpiper is a much 
more upland bird than the KilldeerT Its nest may be 
found even in dry, sandy fields, hence it is often called the 
Field or Grass Plover. Notwithstanding its grallatorial 
structure, it seems almost utterly to have forsaken the 
water, and to have become naturalized to the meadow 
and the pasture, along with Bobolinks and Sparrows. 
I generally find it on the rather high level grounds just 
north of the Ridge, which determines the famous Ridge 
Road of Western New York, but sometimes even on the 
Ridge itself. 

About 12-13 inches long and 22 or more inches in extent, 
with the rather long bill and legs peculiar to the Tattlers 
(the bill being less sensitive in that group than in the Sand- 
pipers), Bartram's Sandpiper has the crown dark-brown, 
with a median line of light reddish-brown; upper parts 
generally a rich dark-brown, with black markings or bars 
running obliquely across the vanings, the edges or tips of 
the feathers being brownish or reddish-white; the lower 
back clear brown, deep and glossy; neck, breast, and vent, 
cream-color; under parts, yellowish-white; the neck streaked 
with brown; pointed cross-markings on the breast, and the 
straighter cross-bars on the sides and axillaries, deep brown 
or black; outer primaries with much dull white on the in- 
ner vanes; wing-coverts quite light, crossed with brown; 
and the long tertiaries deeply edged with light brown, into 
which the black markings point conspicuously; legs, yellow- 
ish. The most elegant part of this bird is the tail, which 
shades from dark-brown in the center, through various tints 



566 BAR TRAM'S SANDPIPER. 

of rufous, to white on the sides, the whole being distinctively 
marked with black. 

Reaching Western New York late in April, and nest- 
ing in the latter half of May, its 4 eggs, some 1.82x1.25, are 
a warm light-brown, or drab, specked all over with brown, 
some of the marks about the large end being larger, others, 
all over the surface, being lighter. There is a noticeably 
warm effect in the entire coloring. The nest is a mere 
depression in the ground, generally lined slightly with 
dried grasses, and occurs here about the middle of May 
or later. Unless seriously disturbed, the birds are not 
particularly shy. I have known the female to be caught 
with the hand on the nest, and to continue sitting after 
some of the eggs had been broken. Indeed, when so 
alarmed as to refrain from sitting on the nest, she will lin- 
ger a whole night near the cold, wet eggs. The young in 
the down are white beneath, "finely mottled with black, 
white, and with brown above," and leaving the nest at once, 
grow rapidly, testing their wings already when only a 
month old. 

Quip-ip-ip-ip, quip-ip-ip-ip, spiritly and rapidly uttered, 
may represent the ordinary alarm note of this species; but 
when it alights on the ground, on the fence, or even in a 
tree, stretching or rather holding its wings straight up for 
a few moments, it utters a prolonged and peculiar note, 
sounding like chr-r-r-r-r-ee-e-e-e-e-e-oo-o-o-o-o-oo, the syllable 
ee being strongly on the upward slide, and the syllable oo 
in a marked falling inflection. This prolonged, mournful, 
mellow whistle, " more like the whistling of the wind than 
a bird's voice," may be heard even in the night, and is one 
of the most weird and never-to-be-forgotten sounds in na- 
ture. This bird is a swift and graceful runner, and a very 
adept at hiding in the grass. Its flight is regular, rapid, 



THE CROSSBILLS. 567 

and beautiful. Its diet is insectivorous, grasshoppers and 
crickets being its principal bill of fare here, while in some 
localities it regales itself on wild strawberries, and in others 
on the cantharides, the last making its flesh a violent 
emetic. 

Breeding in the Middle States generally, and reaching 
Maine or Nova Scotia in the east, the Saskatchawan, or even 
Alaska, in the northwest, and the Rocky Mountains west- 
ward, it gathers in families and flocks late in summer, mov- 
ing leisurely in its southward migration, which may extend 
even to Brazil. It has been found as a straggler in Europe 
and Australia. As it nears the south and the southwest in 
early autumn, it is often in immense flocks. It is said to be 
especially abundant in Dakota in the breeding season. Its 
flesh is generally excellent. 

* 

THE CROSSBILLS. 

Most curious of all the song-birds of the north are the 
Crossbills. Their most marked peculiarity in structure is 
indicated by their common name. The bill, which is quite 
long and deep at the base, is much compressed, especially 
towards the tips of the mandibles; and these are so abruptly 
bent the upper one downward and the lower one upward 
that their sharp points cross each other at an angle of at 
least forty-five degrees. The head is large, the stout jaws, 
so apparent through the feathers, giving it quite a chuckle- 
headed appearance; the wings are tolerably long and 
pointed; the short tail is deeply emarginate; the feet are 
rather large, and the legs are short and robust. Thus this 
little bird, some six and a half to seven inches long the 
mature male a mottled red and the female a mottled green 
bears a crude analogy to a Hawk or an Owl, or even to a 
Parrot. 




THE WHITE-WINGED CKOSSBILL. 



THE CROSSBILLS. 569 

On this continent we have the Common and the White- 
winged Crossbills two distinct species the latter of which 
is a little the smaller, having the red of the male noticeably 
brighter, with bars of clear white on the wings, some of the 
secondaries of which are also tipped with white, and the 
wings and tail blacker. The two species of Crossbills in 
Europe are quite similar to ours. 

In habit the Crossbills are about as peculiar as they are 
in structure. Breeding in the extreme north of New 
England and northward, they range, very irregularly, south- 
ward as far as Philadelphia. In Western New York, we 
may meet them, as winter stragglers, perhaps, once in four 
or five years. Sometimes they occur in considerable flocks 
in the bright days of autumn. The habits of the European 
varieties seem to be equally irregular, so that the celebrated 
naturalist, Dr. Brehm, used to call the Crossbills the gyp- 
sies among birds, attributing their movements to scarcity or 
abundance of their peculiar food. 

It is well demonstrated that in this country these birds 
breed in winter, or early in spring. Concerning the nest of 
the Common Crossbills, Audubon says : " Many persons 
in the State of Maine assured me that they had found it on 
pine trees in the middle of winter and while the earth was 
deeply covered with snow. The people employed in cut- 
ting pine timber at that season, when it is easier to remove 
the logs to the rivers in which they are subsequently floated 
when the ice melts, have very frequently told me that, on 
felling a tree, they have caught the young Crossbills, which 
have been jerked out of their nests." Mr. M. Chamber- 
lain, of St. John, New Brunswick, a gentleman held in 
esteem as a careful and enthusiastic observer, says in a 
communication to the Ornithologist and Oologist of May, 
1881 : "I think it was in the third week in January, 1875, 



570 THE CROSSBILLS. 

I was out moose-hunting and started a big buck, and, in 
the chase I found him making a circle, and cut through a 
bunch of trees to gain upon him. On my way through 
the thick wood, I stopped to adjust a strap on my snow- 
shoes, and found myself face to face with a White-winged 
Crossbill on her nest the high bank of snow under me 
bringing my head about level with the nest. As I ap- 
proached closer to examine it, she flew to a branch near by, 
where I was enabled carefully to examine and identify her. 
The nest was placed in a fork of one of the main limbs of 
the tree, and was composed externally of the long, gray moss 
( Usned) which grew in large patches on most of the trees in 
this vicinity, and so much resembled these patches of moss 
as to be difficult of detection. In the inside was a lining 
of softer moss; and between the lining and the exterior 
were small twigs interlaced. In the nest were three eggs, 
of a bluish-white ground-color, having dashes of red upon 
the larger end." Other proofs of these birds breeding in 
winter are not wanting. In the .latter part of April, 1875, 
after a severe winter, Mr. E. P. Bicknell found a nest of the 
Common Crossbill at Riverdale, N. Y., of which he says: 
" The nest was placed in a tapering cedar of rather scanty 
foliage, about eighteen feet from the ground, and was with- 
out any single main support, being built in a mass of small 
tangled twigs, from which it was with difficulty detached. 
The .situation could scarcely have been more conspic- 
uous, being close to the intersection of several roads (all of 
them more or less bordered with ornamental evergreens), 
in plain sight of as many residences, and constantly exposed 
to the view of passers-by. The materials of its composition 
were of rather a miscellaneous character, becoming finer 
and more select from without inwards. An exterior of 
bristling spruce twigs, loosely arranged, surrounded a mass 



THE CROSSBILLS. 571 

of matted shreds of cedar bark, which formed the principal 
body of the structure, a few strips of the same appearing 
around the upper border, the whole succeeded on the inside 
by a sort of felting of finer material, which received the 
scanty lining of black horse-hair, fine rootlets, grass stems, 
pieces of string, and two or three feathers. This shallow 
felting of the inner nest can apparently be removed intact 
from the body of the structure, which, besides the above- 
mentioned materials, contained small pieces of moss, leaves, 
grass, string, cottony substances, and the green foliage of 
cedar. The nest measured internally two and one-half 
inches in diameter by over one and a quarter in depth; being 
in diameter externally about four inches, and rather shal- 
low in appearance. 

"The fresh eggs are, in ground color, of a decided greenish 
tint, almost immaculate on the smaller end, but on the op- 
posite side, with irregular spots and dottings of lavender- 
brown of slightly varying shade, interspersed with a few 
heavy surface-spots of dark purple-brown. There is no ap- 
proach in the arrangement of these to a circle, but between 
the apex of the larger end and the greatest diameter of the 
egg is a fine hair-like surface line; in two examples it forms 
a complete though irregular circle, and incloses the princi- 
pal spots. In the other egg, which is the largest, this line 
is not quite complete, and the primary blotches are wanting, 
but the secondary markings are correspondingly larger and 
more numerous. In another egg there are two perfect 
figures of 3 formed on the sides by the secondary marks, 
one of them large and singularly symmetrical. The eggs 
measure respectively .74X-56, .75X-58, .78X-59." 

The curious bill of this bird is in special adaptation to 
its food and the manner of securing it. Those sharply- 
pointed curves of the mandibles serve as the most con- 



572 THE CROSSBILLS. 

venient hooks for getting the seeds of the pine, the spruce 
and the hemlock out of the cones. " On first glancing at 
the bill of this extraordinary bird," says Wilson, the 
great ornithologist, " one is apt to pronounce it deformed 
and monstrous; but, on attentively observing the use to 
which it is applied by the owner, and the dexterity with 
which he detaches the seeds of the pine-tree from the cone 
and from the husks that inclose them, we are obliged to 
confess, on this, as on many other occasions where we have 
judged too hastily of the operations of nature, that no 
other conformation could have been so excellently adapted 
to the purpose; and that its deviation from the common 
form, instead of being a defect or monstrosity, as the cele- 
brated French naturalist insinuates, is a striking proof of 
the wisdom and kind superintending care of the great 
Creator." The hooks of the bill are also used as instru- 
ments for climbing, after the manner of the Parrots, as is 
shown in the accompanying engraving. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

REMINISCENCES. 

IN my first ornithological studies in Northern Ohio, the 
most charming bird of all which attracted my attention 
was the Cardinal Grosbeak (Cardinalis virginianus.) Through- 
out the winter, almost every patch of woods near a corn- 
field of the year before contained a pair male and female 
but never more than a pair in the same vicinity. Indeed, 
the species seemed much more common in winter than in 
summer, and so was a sort of large, gay snow-bird. On 
approaching its haunt, I was advised of its presence by its 
loud, sharp, chipping note, quite distinguishable from any 
other sound in the woods. About eight inches long, and 
most elegantly formed, the most noticeable features of the 
Cardinal are the rather long and somewhat rounded tail, 
and the beautiful crest. The bright vermilion of the male 
the upper parts darker, and the feathers of the back fringed 
with bluish-ash renders him a most conspicuous object in 
the leafless trees and the snowy landscape. From a nearer 
point of view, the jet-black of his chin, front and lores, and 
the roseate tint of his thick bill, set him off to fine advan- 
tage. Every movement is elevated and stately. In form, 
color and motion, he is the very ideal of elegance and 
beauty. In form and gracefulness, the female is his exact 
counterpart. Of a fine yellowish drab on the breast and 
sides, and dusky-olive over the back; her crest, wings and 



574 THE CARDINAL GROSBEAK. 

tail, tinged with vermilion; her chin, front and lores, deep 
dusky if less brilliant, she is scarcely less beautiful than 
her gay consort. 

The loud, sprightly, and somewhat varied whistling, 
which constitutes the song of the Cardinal, has always 
commanded admiration. In those southern climes where 
the species finds its most congenial home, and where 
it is an abundant resident throughout the year, it is in 
song from March till September. Nor does it render a 
mere matin or vesper hymn, but may fife its loudest, clear- 
est melody at almost any hour of the day. In the breed- 
ing season its song is almost as full of enthusiasm and ges- 
ticulation as that of the Purple Finch. His shy ways, in 
the northern limits of his habitat, as he hops slyly about 
the thicket in winter, or retires to the deep forest in the 
breeding season, are strangely in contrast with his familiar 
ways in the south. There he may dust himself in the high- 
way till you almost trampled upon him, may build his 
nest as near human dwellings as does the Thrasher or the 
Mockingbird, or visit the farm-yard in company with Spar- 
rows, Jays and Turtle-doves, to share the food of the com- 
mon poultry in winter. Everywhere his bright figure and 
sprightly ways render him welcome. Being readily caught 
in a figure-four or trap cage, and thriving on almost any 
kind of food, he is in great favor as a cage-bird of beauty 
and of song. In the early history of our country he be- 
came almost a commercial item, being carried to the Old 
World in great numbers, where the admirers of his sprightly 
melody called him the Virginia Nightingale. 

The nest of the Cardinal is in a bush or tree, somewhat 
after the manner of the Catbird, in the north, or the Mock- 
ingbird, in the south; and is made of dry leaves, small 
twigs, strips of bark from the grape-vine, and coarse grasses, 



THE TUFTED TITMOUSE. 575 

the lining being of fine grasses carefully laid. The 4-5 
eggs, 1.00X.80, are white, sometimes tinged with green or 
gray, more or less spotted with light brown and lilac, and 
sometimes heavily marked all over. 

This species, so abundant in the south and southwest, is 
found, more or less commonly, as far as the south side of 
Lake Erie. In Western New York and to the eastward, 
north of Virginia, it is but an occasional straggler. It has 
been found, however, even as far north as Nova Scotia. 

THE TUFTED TITMOUSE. 

Among my first happy surprises in ornithology was the 
Tufted Titmouse (Lophophanes bicolor) t it also being a com- 
mon winter resident, or rather resident throughout the year 
in Northern Ohio. About 6.00 long, with a rather long and 
finely formed tail, it has that most elegant of bird orna- 
ments a crest. It makes up therefore in graceful form and 
sprightly carriage what it lacks in brilliancy of color the 
upper parts being leaden blue, and the under parts grayish- 
white, with forehead black, and sides tinged with yellowish- 
brown. The most striking characteristic of this species is 
its vocal performances. Now it lisps, twitters and chatters, 
as if in intelligent conversation with its companions; again 
it squeaks like a mouse, or whines like a puppy, or frequently, 
and still more strikingly, it whistles like one calling a dog. 
More than once did I follow this latter performance for long 
distances through the woods, wondering much what sort 
of bird or beast its author might be. On the whole, there 
is much compass and variety, and not a little of a certain 
grade of music, in these numerous notes and rather loud 
melodies, and they are all suggestive of a sly quaintness or 
a vigorous energy. 

Scarcely less interesting than its voice is its manner of 



576 TOWHEE BUNTING. 

moving and feeding. Its concave wings and tail, after the 
manner of the Titmice, are suitable to its short, flitting, jerky 
manner of flight. Its manner of perching is proud and 
sprightly, with crest erect. According to universal testi- 
mony, as also in conformity with the habits of Titmice and 
Nuthatches in general, the nest of the Tufted Titmouse is 
in some hole in a tree either a natural cavity suitable for 
the purpose, or the vacated nest of the Downy Woodpecker, 
or sometimes the bird will dig out a cavity for itself in a 
perfectly sound tree. In any case the cavity is well lined 
with various soft and warm materials, closely felted together. 
Thus the nest is at once a very comfortable and a very safe 
one. The eggs, some 6 or 8, about .72X.57, are clear 
white, specked and spotted with red at the large end. In 
the case of the eggs, as in that of the nests, there is a marked 
similarity in the whole group of Titmice and Nuthatches. 

Common in the Southern, and even numerous in the Mid- 
dle States, this species seems to find its northern limit in 
the Connecticut Valley in the east, about the south shore 
of Lake Erie and in Nebraska westward, and it would seem 
that it does not extend farther than Kansas in the west. In 
this western limitation, it is unlike the Blue-gray Gnat- 
catcher, to which it is so similar in the northern boundaries 
of its habitat. The Tufted Titmouse is resident through- 
out its range, thus showing how readily the same species 
may adapt itself to different latitudes; and as it is a very 
hardy bird, spending the coldest winters in its northern 
limits without any apparent inconvenience, there would 
seem to be no cause in itself why it might not thrive still 
further north. 

TOWHEE BUNTING. 

An abundant species, associated with my early studies, 
both in Western Pennsylvania and Northern Ohio, is the 



TOW HER BUNTING. 577 

Chewink or Towhee Bunting (Pipilo erythrophtkalmus] . 
About 8.50 long, and 11.00 in extent, the male is black 
above, the color extending in rounded outline over the 
breast; the sides are chestnut; the belly white; the vent 
pale reddish; there is a white spot at the base of the prima- 
ries, and an oblique white mark about in their middle; 
there is also some white on the tertiaries; the long tail has 
the three outer feathers finely marked with white. In ma- 
turity the iris is bright red. The female is brown where 
the male is black. Thickets, bushy pastures and barren 
tracts on the higher grounds are the favorite resorts of this 
species. It comes early, reaching the Middle States in 
April. The bottom poles of an old rai